Behind The Mask

The cackling madman scurried around the control room, Number Six in pursuit. Six knew this had to be yet another deception on the part of his captors-the only other conclusion was one that he had been unwilling to consider: Had this all been just in his own mind?

At any rate, Number One (whoever or whatever he was) had disappeared. Six would remain true to his own ideals to the last, no matter what the situation was. He set the rocket to launch, its warhead to explode (but not until he was sure that everyone who could evacuate the Village had been given plenty of time to do so).

It was a running battle to the truck. The quiet, always efficient servant got behind the wheel, and he celebrated with Number Two and Number Forty-Eight as they drove down the highway, towards London…

Six months later, the man who had been known as Number Six had retaken his own name: John Drake. He'd testified against his former superiors; the ensuing trial had been held in secret, but their lives and careers were over. Now he was back in his old flat, looking at himself in the mirror.

The servant brought him some hot tea. The little man never said a word but always seemed to be at his elbow, ready to carry out his wishes, just as he'd done with all the old Number Twos. Drake never asked where he went when he wasn't working for him. He had helped him gain his freedom, so Drake let him keep his old routine.

He'd kept in touch with the last Number two, now back in Government service, no doubt helping to clean up the mess left behind by the Village's creators. Number Forty-Eight had simply disappeared, reportedly gone to America.

Drake fingered the short beard he'd grown. Few of the people from MI6 would recognize him now. That was the way he anted it. Anonymity had been kept from him in the Village; here in the "Real world," it was more precious to him than gold. He'd spent all that time in the Village looking for the man behind the mask. Now he was wearing one of his own, but he didn't mind.

Number One's mask had represented conformity and imprisonment, even for him. Drake's "Mask" represented freedom.