Rebellion. The term was alien to Number 58. Well, not alien, exactly, just…wrong. It was a foul word, an evil word, and a concept to be feared. It violated everything.

Outsiders usually tried it, but they were either broken in the end, a product of too much freedom, or taken for Social Conversion. The most extreme cases were never seen again. No one had ever gotten anywhere from it except into deep pain.

"Good morning!" The ever-cheerful tannoy brightened up 58's run with its promise of sunshine ("maybe a light shower in the afternoon") and the joyous music that followed. 58 grinned and increased his pace.

Life in the Village was, of course, perfect. There was no reason to want to escape, no reason why anyone would ever want to leave. 58 had lived here his whole life, and never once did he entertain the idea of being somewhere else. (59, his sister, had, and one time she'd actually managed to cause an orange alert. She wasn't doing that again.) Why bother living anywhere else?

Right now, 58 was doing his morning run, keeping in shape. His father, from an early age, had impressed upon him the importance of discipline, rules, regulations, self-restraint. It was something that 58 had adopted, too, as much a part of his life as the penny-farthing badge perpetually pinned to him or his number. Apparently, before coming to the Village, his father had been in a thing called an army. 58 thought that term only applied to ants, but he didn't really care. He was a good Village citizen now, followed all the rules, never made a fuss, never spoiled things. As for 58, he was a doctor. A damn good one, at that. He'd saved people, mostly the elderly or Outsiders so desperate to get out of the Village that they'd tried to take their own lives. It always bothered him to see that pointless blackness swirling inside the eyes of his patients. Why would they want to die when everything was handed to them on a platter? They didn't have to go the woods and kill animals for food, they cooked what they wanted, if they wanted, and there was never any danger of sleeping outside (and if you did, you were tempting Rover.)

As usual, the scenery was breathtaking. The mountains loomed over like the protective barrier they were, the shining sea below sparkling with warmth, and the breeze was cool in the morning, as always. 58 didn't know how long the Village had stood there, but it didn't matter—nothing before his own life mattered. The Village was just there, a constantly safe place to live and love. He finished his run just in time for the Village to get really busy.

58 hummed along with the minuet playing over the radio as he showered. His sandy-brown hair lathered easily, cropped short and wiry. He wondered whether or not he'd see a new face today, an Outsider that he'd get to know. Maybe a woman. Of course, 58 had plenty of girlfriends in his life, but he was always looking for someone new, a fresh blonde who was intelligent and whose laugh was like the sun. He'd dreamed of her once or twice, but didn't know her, so he kept up hope that soon, she'd come through the door, even if she were just on a gurney. He smiled as he rinsed himself off, remembering her gorgeously asymmetrical face, her tender touch. Why was she so vivid in his dreams?

He shaved, dressed, and moved on to the hospital, taking his morning tea as he went over the charts. 153 had broken his leg (he was only seven years old), 204 had passed on in the night (old age), 64 had tried to kill herself again (Outsider), and there was only one arrival today. 58 shared the arrival check-overs with several of the other doctors, making sure they hadn't had a bad reaction to the drugs that got them here, running baseline tests, generally making sure that the unconscious people coming to live a better life in the Village were going to be alright. 97, a shorter man with glasses, set his coffee on 58's desk, and smiled.

"Got a new one in today." 97 was an Outsider who had come to work for the Village. He could do with cutting back the size of his breakfasts, but he was as healthy and happy who lived here should be.

"Oh?" 58's eyebrows went up.

"Yeah, according to his file, he's a genius with an IQ of 190. You don't see that every day."

His file. Oh. "Really?"

97 smiled. "You get first crack at looking him over. Number 16."

The man was odd, both physically and, according to his file, mentally. He was already starting to wake up, muttering in one of the Underground languages, and his file mentioned past misuse of chemical substances. That was something else 58 couldn't understand, except that perhaps, they were looking for something that they couldn't find Outside, something the Village could bring to them. 58 sedated him again, but not before he caught sight of 16's strangely silver eyes opening. There was fierce intelligence in those eyes, and 58 saw that even in the half-second that 16 was awake, he was trying to gather as much information as he could on his surroundings. They looked straight at 58 and somehow he knew that 16 had, in that moment, figured out his whole life and stored it away as if he were a computer.

58 did not sleep well that night.