Number Six found his footsteps carrying him directly from Two's residence to the auto-matic door of the cottage marked Six; but he also found that he had moved from point to point without really seeing it, without watching his path or noting his surroundings in any way; for all the recollection he had of the grounds, he might as well have teleported.

The implications disturbed him. He did not want to be familiar enough with the Village to have it recede comfortably into the background of his mind; the moment the place became invisible through routine, the game was irrevocably lost.

This is not my home. I do not belong here. I will not be made to stay.

He paced, a creature of sharp elbows and glaring eyes, back and forth in the overstuffed plump luxury that was the living room of the domicile of Six. Certainly not to his taste, the furniture; nothing was to his liking. That lamp - an atrocious offense against the eyes. That rug - entirely the wrong color and texture. The chairs and couch were pronounced both lumpy and too stiff. They could have been imported directly from his long-lost flat in London and he still would have complained of them.

"A disappointment," he sniped aloud as he fretted over the floor, then pitched his voice high and tipped his head back to chide the invisible watchers he knew, surely, were observing him. "Trying to work on the cheap, are we? Budgetary reductions, perhaps?" He rolled his 'r's with the flourish of an actor on the boards at Stratford. "My sympathies. I've a way to save you a line item, close this place down!"

He knew it was pointless to say, of course. He felt close to destroying the settings, to ripping down the curtains and overturning the chairs and stomping on the tables until they cracked, but such tantrums (he knew) would have availed him of nothing but the momentary purging of his mood.

No, what he had to do was think.

What were the facts at hand? Six stalked to the writing desk, picked up pen and notepad.

An immediate change leapt at him. The omnipresent logo watermarking the paper was not the Victorian pennyfarthing he remembered. Instead, it appeared to be an umbrella. The logo was simpler, bolder, more obtuse in its obviousness, inviting less contemplation.

Six's mind leapt on the change, began to chew it over. A different village? Or the same one, viewed from another angle? There had always been a suggestion that 'The Village' was a network of unknowable size, global in reach. Had he escaped one outlet merely to find himself in another branch of the franchise?

He rifled briefly through the desk, expecting (and finding) the map, the diary, all branded with this alternative logo. And still, maps were local-only. "the sea". "the mountains". "the park." His photographic memory overlaid the original Village's map on the one before him.

They were not the same.

A different Village, then. But the same control room, the same path between their cells, the same Two, a man that Six knew was dead? The Two had acknowledged his own death, earlier, confirming their mutual memory, but he had also claimed Six had recently died. This was either a transparent absurdity or, knowing that Two, total honesty in an attempt to gain his trust. It was within the Village's power to raise the dead; Six had seen it with his own eyes.

Very well, a stalemate. He would probe Two for more detail on this point. Six wrote down 'Pawn?' on the notepad, added a colon, added '2' in firm writing.

There was also a key, with a tag, and the key appeared to unlock a drawer in the desk. Doing so, Six found a cellphone, and a small portable computer, both branded with the umbrella. "Local calls and mail only, I'm sure," he muttered. His initial impulse was to take the phone, but he thought twice, and set it on the desk instead, glancing around to confirm a thought. Ah, there was no landline phone here. So this Village, at least, had advanced with the times. Very well; it would stifle their attempts to herd him about, and possibly confound their tracking, if he refused to carry the phone. He carefully replaced it in the drawer, along with the netbook, and broke the key off in the lock.

Naturally, the phone chose that moment to begin ringing from inside the desk, as if in complaint of its treatment. Six smirked at the sound, feeling a moment of savage Luddite triumph.

"So sorry," he said, not sorry at all. "All communications with me will be conducted face to face only."

Six took the pad and paper with him as he left the flat to continue his exploration, based on the firm conviction that one should have first-hand experience of a thing in order to hate it.