I didn’t sleep for hours. I just tossed and turned. In a few hours everything had changed. I had lost the kind patronage of Llywarch and slipped into the hands of these cunning villains. Yet, they hadn’t behaved as villains so far. Corporal Bowen had spoken to me quite respectfully, and even Captain Steel hadn’t been as cruel as I might have expected. He was a fanatic, of course, but only because he believed so passionately in his cause. I didn’t think he would hurt me just for the pleasure of hurting me. He had seen that I could be useful to his cause, and the cause, to him, was the most important thing there was.
I turned again onto my back and stared at the ceiling. The inhuman thing was that they were forcing me against my will. Forcing me wisely, and kindly, as far as they could. But forcing me nonetheless. And no-one has the right to force anyone else by locking them up. If Llywarch had known that I was here, I was sure that he’d stop at nothing to rescue me. But he didn’t know. There was no way he could know. Nobody knew.
I began to say farewell to Tegid and Dr. Heinkel. And my work, and my friends in the office. No-one knew I was here, and Captain Steele was going to keep me here. To keep me here until everyone believed that I’d gone back to my own age. And then… shoot me? Very possibly. He could safely shoot me in two or three weeks. Or strangle me, or poison me… anything, and then bury me or burn me in acid, without anyone being any the wiser. Llywarch would believe I was back in 1953, Tegid and Dr. Heinkel would believe I had stayed in 2033. They’d grieve a bit, mourn for a while, and then forget all about me. Captain Steele was my master.
I can’t remember when it was that my mind clouded over and I went to sleep. I remember making a pretty earnest prayer; I remember a big lump in my throat. More that that I can’t remember. I don’t remember anything until I heard the door open and someone calling my name.
It was Corporal Bowen, the sun on his purple shirt, standing above my head and calling my name.
“Mr. Powell, it’s half past seven and time for you to get up to answer questions.”
“Uh…? Answer questions?”
“Come. There’s an electric razor for you on the table, and a clean towel by the washbasin.”
“Oh.. OK…” I rolled off the bed and rose unsteadily to my feet.
Corporal Bowen was still standing there.
“I have a piece of paper here, Mr. Powell.”
“It’s a television contract for the programme tonight. If you put your name to it, and sign to confirm that you’ll play the part that has been asked of you, I’ll bring you breakfast.”
My head was thick with tiredness and I couldn’t think clearly. I came very close to taking the pen from the Corporal’s hand and writing my name. But half understanding what I was doing, I pulled back my hand and shook my head.
“I can’t do it, Corporal.”
“You are a fool, Mr. Powell.”
“That’s very possible, but I can’t do it.”
The Corporal picked the form up off the table, and made for the door.
“You understand, of course,” he said, “no signature, no breakfast.”
I nodded my head. He added,
“You’ll be sorry by midday.”
And he went out and slammed the door.
I washed, and shaved, and sat on the bed to think. But I had already thought enough. No light came from thinking. Perhaps no light at all would come. From anywhere.
Soon, the silence was broken by the sound of footsteps in the corridor outside, and some muffled voices. The door opened and Captain Steele came in. There was another man with him, a big corpulent man with three stars on his shoulder-strap just like Captain Steele’s.
“Good morning, Mr. Powell,” said Steele. “This is Captain Lewis-Sharpe, the owner of this land and the chairman of the cooperative company that farms it.”
The new captain nodded perfunctorily, sat down in a chair and lit a pipe.
“I understand, Mr. Powell,” said Captain Steele, “that you have not changed your mind this morning either.”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Aren’t you hungry?”
“Why, then, are you being unreasonable?”
“I won’t do it, Captain Steele, I won’t do it.”
Captain Steele spread out his hands and crossed over towards the window.
“Over to you, Sharpe,” he said in English.
Captain Lewis-Sharpe pulled his pipe from his mouth and eyed me.
“You have heard,” he said, in Welsh, “the punishment that awaits you if you do not take part in the television programme tonight.”
“You’ll be kept here and prevented from returning to your own time.”
“So I understand.”
“But you can’t keep me here,” I said. “I must go back…”
“Back to what? To the hell that it used to be under the English government?”
I stared at him.
“It’s much better in Wales today than it was in your own time – that’s what you said to Captain Steele last night.”
“Yes, much better.”
“So, surely you don’t want to return to your own time.”
“Well… because my mother and father are there, and my friends, and my work…”
“So your own age was better than today.”
“Yes, for me…”
“You’d choose your own time in preference to today.”
“Well, I would, naturally…”
“What are you trying to get me to say? Wales is a much better land to live in today, for the people who do live in it. And it’s a pity that I wasn’t born and raised in it myself. But everyone who is dear to me lives in my own age.”
“You want to go back.”
“But you can’t.”
“Yes… Look, you’re getting me mixed up…”
“Mr. Powell.” The big man had tilted his head like a bull ready to charge, his two eyes like flame beneath hid eyebrows. “I’m going to give you one last chance to change your mind of your own free will. As you now know, we have other methods, technological ones, of changing men’s minds. But we don’t want to use those unless we have to. All you need to do is appear in front of a camera for seven minutes tonight, talk about your family and your friends and your interests in your own age, say how happy you were, and how safe you felt under the protection of England’s armed forces…”
“Safe? You have no idea of the fear and uncertainty we lived with every day, hearing nothing on the news except the H-bomb morning, noon and night…”
“You won’t do as we ask?”
“I will not. I can’t tell lies.”
Lewis-Sharpe turned to face Steele.
“Impossible, Steele,” he said in English. “He won’t see reason. We’ll have to try PX300.”
A cold shiver ran down my spine. Lewis-Sharpe rose and emptied his pipe in the ashtray. Steele came towards me and said,
“You are a fool, Mr. Powell.”
The two captains went out together, and closed the door behind them with a terrifying slam. I sat there, thinking about the conversation we just had, about my empty stomach, and about the treatment to come. What in the world was PX300?