Table of Contents [Report This]
Printer Chapter or Story Microsoft Word Chapter or Story

- Text Size +

1997, October

            Sydney opened the manila envelope and pulled out a button of the pinback sort used in campaigns. It was white and had a tiny picture of a strange bicycle on it, the old-fashioned kind with a huge front wheel and a tiny back wheel, this one with a cover like an old surrey. A red 2 was printed in the center of the large wheel. The whole button itself looked old and ragged, and the pin no longer clasped.

            As he sat staring at it, trying to decide why it was familiar, Miss Parker burst into his office, followed by Broots, who looked bewildered as usual.

            “Syd, what does this mean?” She dropped something on his desk with a clank.

            He picked it up. It was another button like his, complete with red 2, but this one was new and shiny. He handed over his own.

            “You got one, too?” Broots said. “Why didn’t I get one? I just got a question.”

            “A question?”

            He gave Sydney a piece of paper on which was printed, “Who is Number One?”

            “What’s Wonder Boy up to this time, Syd?” Miss Parker demanded. “Why the bicycles?”

            “They’re called pennyfarthings, because of the proportion in sizes between the wheels.”

            “I don’t care about their botanical classifications! What is it about?”

            He sat staring at the buttons and the question, the memory niggling the back of his mind. “Who is Number One? Who is Number One! I have it! Jarod wants us to find out who Number One was.”

            What is Number One?”

            “Years ago Jarod did a series of simulations dealing with the imprisonment of a Russian spy by the British government in a prison called the Village. All the prisoners were given numerical designations. The Russian’s was Number Six. Number Two was the warden of the prison. Number One was the person in charge, but no one ever knew who he was.” He looked up at Miss Parker sharply. “Jarod’s job was to keep Number Six from escaping. In the end, he failed. Later Jarod learned that Number Six was no Russian spy at all but an innocent man falsely imprisoned in a place that merely wanted to take advantage of him. And Number Two was his nemesis.”

            Miss Parker picked up her badge with a smirk. “That’s me, I suppose. Nemesis to Jarod’s Onisius.”

            “And what does that make me?” He compared the two badges. “Mine is old and no longer works properly.”

            “A comment on your encroaching senility, perhaps?”

            “That wouldn’t be like Jarod. No, it’s different than that. You see, Number Two was not a single person but a series of people, men and women, whose job was to use Number Six, break him, keep him from escaping. If one failed, a new Number Two would take the place of the old Number Two.” He snapped the pin off the back of the button. “Jarod doesn’t seem me as Number Two anymore. That is you, Parker.”

            “But who’s Number One?” Broots asked. “I mean, he sent me the question. He can’t think I am?”

            “Don’t be stupid, moron,” Miss Parker snapped. “You’re the computer whiz. You get to find out who Number One is. Look for Centre files on this Village prison.”


You must login (register) to review.