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1997, October

            By the next day, Broots had managed to access some deeply-buried information. Miss Parker and Sydney crowded into his office to see it. Reading through a few memos, it became quite clear who Number One was.

            “So the Triumvirate was in control of the Village the whole time,” Sydney murmured. “I wonder how often they lied to us, how often they told us that a particular simulation’s purpose was to assist in some national interest or to oppose some criminal and in reality it was quite the opposite. I don’t blame Jarod for being angry when he found out the truth.”

            “Watch it, Syd,” Miss Parker said. “You’re in the Centre.”

            He glanced at her, wondering if her warning was driven by loyalty to the Centre or by concern for him. “Well, it seems that somehow Jarod has now found out the truth about the Village and Number Six. He wanted me to see it too.” To let me know how I, too, have been tricked and used?

            “Hey, look, here’s a recording,” Broots said. “Kind of strange that it’s here and not on a DSA.”
            “Ah, I remember this,” Sydney said as they watched the recording of people moving around the Village.

            “Weird place,” Broots chuckled.

            “Jarod was convinced they were working on mind-control techniques. Look, there’s Number Six.”

            They watched the man with the rapid, arrogant stride go into the domed building. When he entered the round room, though, he was a different man.

            “Jarod,” Miss Parker spat. “He put this recording here.”

            “And did a really good job of inserting himself into it,” Broots said admiringly. “Nice jacket, too.”

            Jarod was wearing a black blazer with a white stripe along the collar, his hair combed in a way they had never seen it combed before, much more reminiscent of the 1960s than the 1990s. Looking closely, they could make out the button he wore. Sydney chuckled.

            “Number Eight,” he said.

            “Eight?” Broots echoed.

            “Eight is Jarod’s favorite number.”

            “Yeah, yeah, upright infinity, we remember,” Miss Parker interrupted.

            Broots frowned. “I don’t remember.”

            The security camera zoomed in on Jarod’s face, dark, angry, and ominous. “I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own.”

            “Is that so?” Miss Parker muttered. “We’ll see about that.”

            As if in answer, Jarod turned and looked straight into the camera, his face triumphant. “I am a free man!”

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