Bithot saves a fisherman.
Bithot brought Anne aboard before she hit the water.
"If they find out we will both be finished," Ekurb said. "We will end up at the Sulether mines. Madness, absolute madness."
"Do not keep on about it, Ekurb, or I may see to your transfer there myself."
"This is nothing humorous; suicide is against all the laws."
"She is alive so she has not committed suicide. It was not her will because I prompted her. She would never have done it otherwise, would she?"
"That is manipulation, you cannot do that."
"Where does it say that? You have a lot to learn, Ekurb, and if you do not learn by watching then you will never become a selector. Now we must find her a suitable partner. I think we will head out to sea in this squally weather there is bound to be an isolated incident somewhere."
A young Scottish fisherman had fallen from a trawler in the North Sea. His companions were unaware and his cries for help were unheard. He was far away from the boat and by the time his presence was missed he was about to perish in the cold rough sea. Bithot scanned him and found that his brain pulses were compatible with Anne's, so he brought him aboard the craft. Bithot was happy with his work, but Ekurb was still not so happy.
"Now let us put on our breathing masks and get some rest, Bithot said. "It will be a couple of days until we get home".
"Yes, home to interrogation by the Screeners," Ekurb said.
"Do not worry. I am sure all will be fine. They probably will not even notice a problem. I almost forgot; we have to gather some sparrow birds."
It was early afternoon and Ruth had been on an early shift at the garden centre. She was catching up on her ironing ready before an evening out with her friends. She heard a motorcycle pulling up outside the grocer’s shop but thought nothing of it until the street doorbell rang. She went down the stairs and looked through the small square glass panel. It surprised her to see Dennis standing there wearing a crash helmet and she opened the door.
“Hello Dennis,” She said. “It's so good to see you. Have you decided to take your old job back at the shop?”
“Not really, I’ve come to see Anne. Is she home yet?”
“No. You’d better come in and I’ll make you a drink, you look a bit chilled.”
Dennis walked up the stairs, into the flat and sat on the sofa. “Where is she then?" he said. "I really need to talk to her.”
"She went out last night after I told her you had left because of Craig. She was in a bit of a state and to tell the truth, Dennis, I’m really worried that she might do something stupid.”
“No, I don't think she will. She’s a strong-willed girl. She will be about somewhere, and I will search until I find her. I’ve got to find her before I go to the army training camp.”
“You got in then?”
“Yeah, next week. I have had time to think and I know I still love her, Ruth. I’ve got to find her, I’ve got to. I don’t know why she agreed to go with Craig in the first place, but I am sure she didn’t mean anything to happen. I know her so well.”
“So you would forgive her, in spite of...”
“I would forgive her for anything because I love her so much and I want to tell her that. I want to hold her in my arms and give her a cuddle." Tears were forming in his eyes. "You must think I’m a right cissy.”
“You are not a cissy, Dennis, and Anne is lucky to have someone like you to care about her.”
Dennis finished his coffee and stood up. “The thing is will she forgive me? Seeing us in bed together must have been a terrible shock and must have hurt her. And you probably got in trouble with her too.”
“Don’t worry about that. We go back a long way Dennis and we had sex many times when we were courting. But what we did the other night was not just about sex, it was comfort and we were there for each other.”
“Yes, comfort that turned into a disaster. I’ll call back in a couple of days to see if she has turned up.”
“Are you going back up north now?”
No, I know where she came from in London. I’ll go down there and ask about, in case anyone has seen her. If she does show up here though can you tell her; well you know?”
“Don’t worry, I will tell her. Wait a minute though, Dennis. Before you go I have to tell you something. Anne has always longed to go to Spain, but she didn't want to go with Craig.”
"Now there are tears in your eyes,” Dennis said. “What is the matter?"
"I am so sorry, Dennis. Jane did not really want to go, she really didn’t. But I kept on to her and convinced her that it was a good idea. This is all my fault, Dennis, and I'm so, so, sorry."
"Thanks’ for telling me that, Ruth. I'm sure it will all work out in the end. I will find her you know. I'm sure of it."
Ruth went down and watched Dennis ride off. She went back up and sat in her armchair with a terrible feeling that Anne just might have done something silly, and she would never see her friend again. She was overcome with guilt because she had encouraged Anne to go on the trip with Craig and also because Anne had seen her in bed with Dennis. She realised that this could, indeed, be all be her fault.
As Dennis rode off Craig passed driving his sports car in the other direction towards the garden centre. Dennis turned and followed him. He dismounted as Craig got out of his car.
"So, Craig, come here looking for another conquest, or are you looking for Anne?"
"Just come for a coffee, Dennis. But don't worry. I've had my fun with Anne so you can have her back now."
Dennis punched him on the jaw.
Craig retaliated with a flurry of quick hits but they were not effective.
Dennis just stepped back and then came forward with a powerful right hook and straight punch combination which sent Craig tumbling backwards onto the ground. He leaned down to hit him again.
"No, no," Craig pleaded. "I've had enough and I am really sorry about taking Anne from you."
"You're pathetic," Dennis said. He took the keys from the sports car. "If you want your keys back you'll find them in the canal. he said, and rode off on his motorbike."
Anne woke with a jump and pulled herself into a ball under the bed sheets as if to protect herself. She felt warm in the comfort of the bed and felt relieved when she thought that she had only been dreaming. She was naked and wondered why she hadn't put any nightclothes on. She never slept naked and was surprised at how she enjoyed the feel of it, but she realised that it was not her bed and she threw the covers back. The sight that greeted her gave her a shock as she looked up through the clear ceiling to the sky above. Her mind was in turmoil, had it all been a dream, was this bit a dream, was she dead? She thought of the infidelity with Craig, the voices in my mind, and the plunge from the bridge. Now she woke in a strange bedroom wondering what she was doing there. She pinched the back of her hand and then her lip. She felt for her pulse, this bit was no dream and she was not dead.
The bedroom was old-fashioned but clean and nicely decorated. The furniture though pre-war was of high quality and looked impressive. Anne got out of bed confused and walked over to the dressing table. Her clothes were on a stool, clean and neatly pressed. She suddenly realised that someone could walk into the room and see her naked. She dressed quickly and in a panic and then left the room. Someone was cooking fried bacon and the aroma drifted along the passage making her feel hungry. She made her way slowly along towards the source of the aroma, stopped, and looked into what looked like a living room.
"Hello, lass, your breakfast is nearly ready."
Anne looked at the elderly man. "Who are you? What the hell's going on?"
"It will all be explained later. Sit down and I will pour you a cup of tea, and then after breakfast, you can have a fitting for your wedding dress."
"Wedding dress!" Anne gave a sarcastic laugh. "What are you talking about, wedding dress?"
It is all arranged, you are to marry, Jimmy, a young Scottish man."
"This is crazy, I'm marrying no one." She sat opposite the man as he poured her tea into a large bone china cup.
“You are lucky.”
Anne looked behind her. “Lucky; you must be thinking of somebody else.”
“You fell from the bridge, some say suicide, but we prefer to say you fell. And you would have drowned.”
“That’s ridiculous; I would never commit suicide no matter how bad things were.”
“You thought about it though?”
“All right maybe I did, but I would never do it.”
“Good, we must say you fell. But as I said, you would not survive in the river. We saved you from certain death and brought you here.”
Anne sat dumbfounded as he explained where she was and how she had got there.
A middle-aged woman walked in from the kitchen with two large cooked breakfasts on a tray and a young man strolled in behind her. The woman put the tray down on the table. "Hello, I'm Eve," she said. "I live next door. This is your partner Jimmy."
The young man looked at Anne and smiled, but she looked back at the old man and shook her head. "Oh no, I'm not having this. I want to go home. I've got to find Dennis." She stood up. "I'm not playing your stupid game. You said you could take me back, well do it then. I want to go home." She stood up, left the room and hurried back along the passage to the bedroom.
After Anne had left the room Eve looked at the young man. "You'd best go back next door while we sort this out. I'm so sorry about all this."
Jimmy gave an unconcerned grin. "Och, don't worry. Happens to me all the time back in Aberdeen. I'm just glad to be here. I thought my time had come when I was treading water in that cold North Sea." He gave a laugh and took his breakfast from the tray before setting off back to Eve's house.
"I do not understand," the old man said. "I have seen people take the news in all kinds of ways, but I have never known anybody who wanted to go back and face their own certain death. I didn't expect it from her and I wonder if she realised what I was saying to her."
"Well you can't bleedin' send her back, that would be barbaric."
"I do not know about barbaric, but it would be embarrassing. It has never happened before, we always say that people would be returned to the same time and place where we rescued them, but that is not true. We cannot put her back into exactly the same time and place, because that is in the past, and despite what you see in some of your films, time travel can only be achieved in a forward direction. Although we are capable of sending people forward in time, travel to the past or return from the future is impossible, what has gone has gone. We can get another partner for Jimmy easily enough, but what do we do with Anne? There would be no place for her without a partner, and our security people would never take the risk and allow her to return to your planet without using Option Twelve."
"So all those years ago when you said I would be blown up by a German bomb, you were telling me lies."
"Believe me, Eve, if you had insisted on going back; well, let us just say that some people believe Option Twelve to be a far worse fate."
"So what is this Option Twelve? They won't kill her will they?"
The man gave a look of disapproval. "Eve, we are not human, we would never dream of such a thing." He gave a long sigh. "It is my fault. I should not have brought her here and Option Twelve would be unfair because I put my feeling before logic. However, she is here, I am fond of her, and I do not want to lose her. There must be a way to resolve this. Go and talk to her, see if you can find out what has gone wrong." Eve was not aware of the implication of Option Twelve and the man was reluctant to mention it further.
* * * * *
Jarlut walked into the office of his superior and they both looked at Anne on the screen that was part of the desktop. "What are we to do about this girl, Anne?" Jarlut said. "She might deteriorate without a partner, and even if she does not, she will cause an imbalance, jealousy may breed amongst the others, there could be all sorts of problems. Bithot said that he could check on her friend Dennis, but I am not sure if it is the answer. Anne has caused a bit of an upset by rejecting her chosen partner."
Jarlut was pleased that Option Twelve had not been mentioned, but he knew that it might be considered if there was not a satisfactory conclusion to the problem. He was also aware that Bithot was concerned because he had put himself at risk of disciplinary action. No one had been rescued in such circumstances before and there was already talk that she was not a suitable person for the island.
Jarlut's boss was looking at him with one of his eyes, the other eye still watching Anne on the screen. His eyes worked independently, his brain having no trouble processing information from two sources. "I have just spoken to the selector, Bithot. He has a plan. First, he will find the one she pines for and send news of him, as you have said, but then he will observe the man for a while. If his plan works, then Anne will have her partner and you can relax again."
"And if his plan does not work?"
"Then it will be out of our hands. The Screeners will decide the human female's fate and the fate of Bithot and his crewman. I am afraid The Screeners are eager to deal with Anne and not because of any hostility towards her. It is more to do with their belief that Bithot overstepped his authority in the way he rescued the female. They are seriously looking to make an example of him. But maybe you worry too much Jarlut. We have time on our side and The Screeners cannot make a move until we are sure that Bithot's plan has failed."
Jarlut smiled as he bade his superior goodbye, thinking how Bithot's plans had always seemed to work, before. However, these circumstances were different and of great concern to Jarlut. Even if Bithot were successful, Anne could still be uncooperative.