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By Sarah Hapgood

Even so, it was still a pretty emotional farewell when the appropriate time came. Nobody knew when they would see each other again. It might be never. They were going to try and keep in touch as much as possible via their wireless sets, and - when possible - to keep each ship posted of every change of whereabouts.

“For goodness sake be careful in the City”, Adam told Cloris “Who knows what’s happened there. I remember what it was like when we arrived at the end of Father Gabriel’s reign of terror”.

“Sometimes it amazes me how long you guys have been around”, said Cloris.

“It amazes us too!” said Hillyard “Well apart from old Jobe, who’s always going on about how old he feels”.

“Probably ‘cos you keep calling me Old Jobe”, said Joby.

“It really does feel like we’ve sailed into Eternity now”, said Bengo, as the yacht sailed out of sight around a bend in the lake.

“You’re doing it again aren’t you?” snapped Bardin, standing next to him on the main deck “THINKING! What have i told you about that before?”

“I think Bardin’s being very unfair”, said Adam, when he and Joby got back down to the galley “I rather like the idea of Bengo the little clown philosopher”.

“Yeah, bit weird though innit”, said Joby.

“Not at all”, said Adam “It’s just that Bardin ….”

He had to stop abruptly as Bardin himself walked into the room.

“I’ve had an idea”, he announced.

“Oh blimey”, said Joby.

“There is nothing to be gained by hiding on the ship all the time”, said Bardin.

“No, nothing but safety”, said Joby, sarcastically.

“It’s not good for the horses to be cooped up all the time for one thing”, said Bardin “And there are other practicalities, like hunting, and seeing what’s going on”.

“Yeah alright, we get the message”, said Joby “Give it a rest”.

“You’re being really boring, Bardy”, said Bengo, drifting in.

“You are sounding a bit like Codlik, Bardin dear”, said Adam.

“Codlik?!” Bardin exclaimed “Right, the Usual Six will be going on a recce first thing after breakfast tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, Julian and Mieps are arranging a hunting-party for the same time, OK??”

And he swept out again.

“Well that told us”, said Joby.

Adam conceded that he was glad a hunting-party was being arranged though. “I was embarrassed at what we served up this evening”, he said to Joby, in the galley after dinner.

“Most of it was rice”, said Joby.

“An injection of fresh protein would be very welcome right now”, said Adam.

“Let’s hope they can find summat that’s safe to eat”, said Joby.

As they sailed into another large lake though they had a terrible surprise. Dead bodies were floating in the water. Bardin cancelled any plans to go ashore, and directed that they sail slowly but steadily through this tragic flotsam.

“We’ll get more of that I suspect”, said Joby, grimly.

A total embargo on using water from the lake was in force during this part of the journey. None to be used for either drinking, cooking or washing, at risk of contamination. There was no way of knowing for how long they would be wading through this grim destruction.

“What a time to be alive”, Joby sighed.

“What if we end up the only ones alive, Joby?” said Lonts, who was sitting next to him on the settle in the saloon.

“Oh blimey, don’t tell me you’ve caught this thinking disease off Bengo”, said Joby “Anyway, how can we be the only ones alive? There’s Hannah’s Sanctuary for a start. And I’m sure we’ll meet more pockets of people around, like Matthew and Limal, let alone who’s left in the City”.

“Yes, but some dreadful disease could come along and wipe everyone out”, said Lonts.

“Good old Lonts, and people say I’m a pessimist!” said Joby “No wonder you lot all tried to top yourselves in Kiskev!”

“Toppy said it could happen”, said Lonts “Contaminated water causes awful diseases, he said”.

“Remind me to wring Toppy’s scrawny little neck sometime”, said Joby.

“But it’s true, Joby”, said Lonts.

“Yes it’s true, but we’ll take precautions won’t we”, said Joby “Like we are doing. The world’s a big place, Whatever happens it won’t wipe out everybody”.

Lonts folded his arms, as if about to deliver the devastating parting-shot in an argument.

“Look what happened on the New Continent”, he said.

“Right, that’s it”, said Joby, getting to his feet “I came in here to get a bit of peace and relaxation, as Kieran’s praying in our cabin, but I can see I’m not allowed a moment’s peace ANYWHERE!”

He stormed off down the main corridor, pursued by Lonts.

“What on earth’s going on now?” said Adam, accosting them halfway.

“Leave me alone!” Joby bellowed “Everybody, just leave me alone!”

He thumped into the galley.

“It’s alright, Lo-Lo”, Adam hastened to reassure a distraught-looking Lonts “He’s just having one of his little turns. He’ll calm down once he’s ranted a bit”.

Julian walked into the galley.

“What’s up Joby? Time of the month?”

“Oh very funny”, said Joby, who was now ensconced by the stove with the ship’s cat on his lap “What are you doing here?”

“I came in to brighten your day”, said Julian.

“Oh great”, said Joby, with a marked lack of enthusiasm.

“I heard all the yelling in the corridor”, Julian moved over to the chair opposite him “Sounded like you were having a bit of a crisis”.

“It’s nothing. I just got brassed off with Lonts telling one of his And Then They All Died stories. That was all I needed”.

“It’s that dark Kiskevian soul of his”.

“You can say that again! And now no doubt Ad will spend the rest of the day chewing my ear off for being horrible to poor little Lo-Lo”.

“Oh I don’t think so. He knows the strain everyone’s under. He might ask you to soothe Lonts, but it shouldn’t be terribly difficult for you to bring him round. Lonts seems to think the sun shines out of your porthole most of the time”.

“God knows why!”

“For all your grumpiness you’ve always taken notice of him”, said Julian “Talked to him etc. He must have had a lot of being kicked aside and ignored in his younger days. Dismissed as irrelevant. You’ve always taken notice of what he says”.

“Then more bloody fool me! That’s all I can say!”

“There are a lot who wouldn’t even deign to make any attempt to engage with him”.

“He makes me laugh, a lot of the stuff he comes out with is funny. I’ve always said it’s a marvel how his brain works sometimes!”

“Exactly. As I said, at least you acknowledge he’s actually got one”.

“Yeah, he’s got one alright, it just doesn’t operate on any normal level!”

Bengo came into the room, looking slightly nervous.

“Shall I make some tea?” he asked.

“Yeah, get on with it”, said Joby “And before you ask, yes i’m fine”.

“Bardy said I should stay out of your way”, said Bengo, picking up the kettle “As I’d only irritate you even more, but I thought you’d like a cuppa”.

“I’m glad you ignored him”, said Joby.

“Oh it’s always a pleasure to ignore Bardin”, said Bengo “I’m glad you didn’t chuck me back out though, or I’d have had to put up with him being all I-Told-You-So-Didn’t-I”.

“Joby has to put up with Kieran all the time, I’m sure he can cope with you”, said Julian.

“Kieran’s easy enough to cope with most of the time”, said Joby.

“Unlike Bardy, who’s never easy”, said Bengo.

“He can’t be all bad, you’ve put up with him this long”, said Joby.

“Somebody has to look after him”, said Bengo “He’d go to pieces without me”.

“Funny”, said Joby “I’ve heard him say that about you!”

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