International 4-8818 is a friend of Equality 7-2521 because he possesses the same independent spirit as do the hero and heroine. Equality 7-2521 states that, “International 4-8818 and we are friends.” Both men recognize this fact and understand that they commit the “great Transgression of Preference.” They both know that they are required to befriend all equally, but neither care. They do not speak of it, for it is dangerous to express such personal thoughts, but their relationship is understood by both. “We know when we look into each other’s eyes.” Because of International 4-8818’s autonomous soul, he is a free spirited youth who possesses laughter in his eyes. Equality 7-2521 states that he cannot look upon his friend and refrain from smiling. International 4-8818 was not liked for his perpetual joy in the Home of Students, for in this oppressive society it is not permitted to smile without reason. He was disliked for a deeper reason, as well. He drew pictures on the walls with pieces of charcoal — happy pictures that made men laugh. But the authorities forbid drawing to all but those sent to the Home of the Artists, so International 4-8818 is punished for his transgressions. Because the authorities recognize his independent spirit, they are scared of him. As with Equality 7-2521, they seek to discourage International 4-8818’s autonomy of spirit, so they send him to the Home of the Street Sweepers. Here, he will not to be allowed to draw, as Equality 7-2521 is not allowed to perform scientific experiments. By taking from these heroic men the values they love, the state seeks to eventually break their spirits.
International 4-8818’s true nature is revealed in his most important action of the story — his role in the discovery of the abandoned subway tunnel. When Equality 7-2521 decides to explore the tunnel, which is clearly a remnant of the Unmentionable Times, International 4-8818 does not stop him. More telling is his friend’s response when Equality 7-2521 states that the tunnel belongs to him and is not to be reported to the authorities. At first, International 4-8818 covers his ears with his hands, for never in his life has he heard thoughts such as these expressed. But then Equality 7-2521 reminds him that if they report his solo exploration of the tunnel, the authorities will lash him to death before International 4-8818’s eyes. Equality 7-2521 asks International 4-8818 whether he would be party to this. International 4-8818 “stood straight of a sudden and they answered, ‘Rather would we die.'” He refuses to turn Equality 7-2521 in, though he knows that to cover up the truth is a major sin in this society. He reminds Equality 7-2521 that the will of their brothers is holy and above all other things. But if Equality 7-2521 wishes it this way, he says, then so be it. “Rather shall we be evil with you than good with all our brothers.” He stays true to his friendship with Equality 7-2521 through all the events of the story. He never breathes a word to anyone through the years of Equality 7-2521’s secret research when his friend slips away from the City Theatre for hours every night. International 4-8818, like Equality 7-2521 and the Golden One, possesses a mind and values of his own, and he refuses to betray them.
For this reason, Equality 7-2521 plans to steal back into the city and rescue International 4-8818. His good friend has managed to develop his own mind, and there is no place for him in the stifling collectivist society in which he is trapped. But in the free society that Equality 7-2521 seeks to find in the mountains, men will be able to pursue their dreams. There, International 4-8818 will be free to draw as he likes and to think for himself. He has abundantly earned the chance to live as a free man, and Equality 7-2521 intends to provide it for him. International 4-8818 will be the first to defect from the global dictatorship and find freedom in the new society. He will escape to liberty just as many have fled from such Communist states as Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, China, and various nations of Eastern Europe. International 4-8818 will not be the last to flee collectivism, for as news spreads that human beings again have a chance for freedom, the most independent among them will re-initiate the quest that had flourished centuries earlier: They will defect in droves and seek political asylum in the free country.