Bithot returns an offender to Earth under option twelve and then notices Anne.
Anne was in the garden centre yard placing out some new trays of pansies when Craig drove in with his MGA sports car.
He often called in to visit the cafeteria and always took an interest in Anne. He walked over to her. “So, Anne, when can I take you out?”
“I am already with someone, Craig, as well you know.”
Craig gave a laugh. “You mean the little orphan boy who works in the grocers?”
“We are engaged.”
“What a waste. How would you like to come into London for an evening at Ronnie Scott’s Club and a night at the Savoy? I can give you that.”
“And what else would you want to give me?” She said and started laughing.
“Whatever are you suggesting, you rude girl?”
Craig, I am quite happy with Dennis, thank you very much.”
“Well, have a think about this? My family owns a villa in Marbella. Next month I’m driving over and staying there for two weeks. You can come with me because I could do with the company. No strings, just as mates. Think about it?”
“I have thought about it. No thanks.” She turned and walked off.
“The offer stays open. You can have the time of your life if you want to,” he called after her.
That evening, Anne was sitting in the flat with Ruth.
“I saw that Craig was pestering you again today,” Ruth said.
“He’s got a villa in Spain and wants me to go over there with him for two weeks.”
“You lucky, jammy, sod.”
“I can’t go though can I? I don’t think Dennis would like it, do you?”
“Don’t tell him then. Say you are going on holiday with your sisters.”
Anne felt a bit troubled because she seemed to think it might be a good idea, but then thought it might not. She didn’t want to lie to Dennis, but she had always wanted to go to Spain, and this might be her only opportunity. She gave a large sigh. “No, I can’t.”
“Don’t be stupid, Anne. That Craig’s family are loaded. It won’t be a shit hole at their villa. You’ve got to go. Don’t worry. I’ll cover for you as well. You said you nearly went to Spain once. Got your own passport, have you?”
“Yes, but I don’t know, Ruth.”
“I know what I would do if I were you, engaged or not.”
"Well, you are not me and I am not going to Spain with Craig thank you very much."
The thought of a holiday in Spain excited Anne and she couldn’t keep it out of her mind. Craig said they would just go as friends. Could he be trusted though? Probably not. She knew it was a risk, but if he did try it on she was sure she could handle him. It was a dilemma because she felt so much in love with Dennis, on the other hand, there was no need for him to find out. He knew she had sisters so it was logical that she would go on holiday with them if it were not for the fact that she had told him earlier that she could not stand the sight of them.
The next day Anne loaded up the van for a delivery in Central London. She was happy with her relationship with Dennis and with her work but the holiday in Spain kept coming into her thoughts.
Ekurb was concerned for his friend Bithot. “Why do you think that Jarlut has summoned you?” he asked. “I have heard that he is angry because you criticise him for not allowing us back with the humans.”
“We shall see. I will meet you later in Pleasure Centre 44 and let you know, if I have not been sent off to the Sulether Mines that is.” Bithot laughed.
“That is not funny, Bithot, though I am sure it will not happen.”
Bithot walked into Jarlut’s office.
“Ah, good to see you, Bithot,” Jarlut said.
This put Bithot at ease. Jarlut was in a good mood.
“There is a problem.”
“If you have heard any comments made by me they were mainly in jest.”
“I have no idea what you are talking about, Bithot. The problem is; Buffer rescued a male human from Earth a short while ago. But the man has become a problem. Buffer made a serious mistake in his judgement and the man turned out to be a womaniser and a petty thief. The man has been creating problems on the island and after much discussion with the Screeners, he is to be returned under Option Twelve. Because of your experience, I recommended you to return the young man Buffer selected. Would you be prepared to undertake the Option Twelve task and find a replacement?”
“I would be most happy to do so, sir.”
“Not a problem.”
“Then, Bithot, you may leave as soon as you are ready.”
Bithot was eager to get going and they were soon on their way to Earth. They arrived over London and Bithot looked down to the streets. This was the first time he had been to this part of Earth since 1940, just before he took over control of the Anolaid people, leaving Buffer in charge of the selections on Earth.
"She is here," Bithot said. "I can feel her presence as if I were drawn to that very street."
"What does it matter? We are only looking for a male replacement."
"I have to make sure she is all right and safe."
"You are obsessed," Ekurb said. "Let us get the returnee landed and get on with finding a replacement. That is why we are here is it not?"
"Yes, we will leave him down there on the west side and maybe look up in Scotland for his replacement."
"We should go to Australia," Ekurb said. "I like the Australians."
"You complained because I wanted to visit London, now you are complaining again. It does not matter where they are from, does it, as long as they are right?"
"Yes, get your own way again."
"Just leave it, Ekurb, you better just leave it."
"All right, I will get ready to take him down," Ekurb said.
"No, Ekurb, I will take him down myself." Bithot walked over to two of the transparent tubes and raised them to the vertical position. The Option Twelve returnee, who was suspended in a deep sleep, occupied one of the tubes. Bithot programmed the other tube as a changing booth and he inserted the 'young man' module into his fleshy pouch. He stepped inside ready for the transformation and then the transportation down to the streets of London.
They arrived in the alley and Bithot acted the part of a concerned human, leading the man out into the main street. He went to a telephone box to call for an ambulance, but the man started to wander off so he returned to restrain him from walking into the road. It was then he spotted the garden centre van approaching, and knew it was her. Even from a distance, something was attracting him to her. As she got nearer, he concentrated all his thoughts towards her and caused her to look over at him. She would have passed by without even noticing, but he managed to influence her and she stopped when she saw him holding onto the man and trying to stop him from stepping out into the road. She got out of the truck and walked over.
"Are you all right?" she asked. "Can I be of any help?"
Bithot looked at her and knew he was right about her and she was the descendant of his pet Martha. "You are the daughter of Marvin," he said.
"I beg your pardon."
"Sorry, sorry," Bithot said. "I thought you were someone else."
"Yeah, well I am."
"Look, I have just found this man wandering about and I need to call an ambulance, but he keeps wandering off into the road. Could you just hold onto him while I make the call?"
"Not dangerous, is he?"
"No, of course, he is not."
Bithot used the telephone and then called over to Anne. "The ambulance is on the way."
Anne nodded, but looked away for a few moments, feeling unnerved by the young man smiling and staring at her. When she looked back, Bithot was gone. "Shit. Where the hell?" She looked at her watch and gave a large sigh. She had already lost time after stopping at a cafe earlier for a coffee and a sandwich. Now with this further delay, she would be in trouble because her deliveries were going to be late. "Great, how am I gonna explain this to the manager." Anne stood holding onto the man's arm as she waited for the ambulance. The man stood in a daze, just staring ahead and not attempting to move off while Anne held his arm as if a kind of contentment had filled him.
It took quite a while for the ambulance to eventually arrive and when they did the attendants thanked Anne for her help.
What is the matter with him? Anne asked. “He looks so distant.”
“It seems like Belper Syndrome,” one of the attendants said. “It is very rare but can occur anywhere in the world. It was first recorded in the eighteenth century up in Derbyshire.”
“Is it treatable?” Anne asked, feeling quite concerned for the young man.
“Oh, yes,” the attendant said. “It’s like a severe case of amnesia. If it is Belper he will have no knowledge of anything. He won’t be able to talk, read or write. Instinct and reaction will make his bodily movements, but not memory. It’s as if his memory has been irreversibly wiped clean and he would need to be taught everything as if he were a baby. But we won’t know if it is Belper until after some tests.”
Anne looked at her watch. “Shit,” she said. “Is that the time? I’ll have to get going.” She dashed to the van and set off in a panic.
Bithot looked at the screen onboard the bullet-shaped craft, all the time watching Anne until the ambulance and the delivery van set off on their separate ways.
"You know you cannot have her," Ekurb said abruptly. "She is safe and she has a safe job. She is not in any peril, you can forget about her."
"I know, I know all that thank you, but I would like to watch her to see she is always safe. I owe it to my old pet Martha."
"You owe the human nothing. You saved her from death and permitted her a long and happy life on an island that was paradise to her. She also had offspring on the island so you can follow the bloodline there if you want to."
"Not the same, this one is special. I can feel a bond towards her."
Ekurb shook his head. "Why not just get a Smonjo pup like everyone else. You will probably never see the human again. We are not in charge here anymore."
"We are! Since when?"
"Buffer has been reprimanded for his mistake and has lost his status. Jarlut wanted me to take over the Earth operations and give Buffer the Anolaid people back. I was not sure it would be good for us and I told Jarlut I would let him know on our return."
"Great, and thank you very much for keeping me informed."
"I am sure now. I have decided to work with the humans again."
"That is the best news in the universe. No more smelly repugnant Anolaids. Thank the stars for the girl." Ekurb's eyes smiled. "Shall we whizz to Australia?"
"Whizz where you like, Ekurb, I now feel content."
Bithot was skilful in his observations and soon found a more suitable replacement in Australia. He was pleased with the situation and knew he would now remain in control of Earth, as long as he made no mistakes with his own selections. The Australian surfing enthusiast had got into trouble and was drowning but now he was sleeping in one of the transparent tubes. Bithot and his companion were happy with the completion of thier work and began to breathe the gas that would put them into a deep slumber for the duration of their trip back home.
Bithot was eager to return to observe Anne some more. He felt a strong bond towards her. But how could he return if there were no good reason? He thought of the nature study group and how Eve had already suggested that there should be more different species of birds on the island.
He would go and see Jarlut to make the suggestion.
It seems a good idea," Jarlut said. "If what you say is true." Jarlut instantly contacted the group and spoke to the leader. It was not long before he looked over to Bithot. "It seems you are indeed correct, Bithot, but there is to be another rescue so you can gather the birds on the same visit. You must speak with the group and they can advise on which birds to gather."
Bithot was disappointed wishing he had kept the bird gathering to himself. If he had waited to learn of the rescue first, then he would have perhaps gained an extra visit to Earth to gather the birds.