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By Sarah Hapgood

“I always failed with Angel”, said Kieran, back in his cabin “I’ve fought demons. The so-called great Vanquisher of Evil. But I could never help him defeat his”.

“He was always a stubborn little bastard”, said Joby, handing him a glass of whisky “Sometimes I think he was afraid of anything good just because it’s different. I can’t imagine that’s the last we’ve heard or seen of him somehow”.

“Probably not”, said Kieran “I can see how easy it would be to be tempted by his ideas. To find somewhere for us to retreat to. Do we really want to keep uncovering these pockets of evil?”

“Trouble is, if we retreat now”, said Joby “We’ll keep wondering what was so fucking special about Sleet Cold! We might as well find out I spose”.

“Joby, you’re so English”, Kieran laughed.

“Yeah, funny that”, said Joby.

“I have just found a large turd stain on one of the wash-towels”, said Adam, walking into the galley a short while later.

“You can always rely on us lot to be classy”, said Joby, drinking tea with Hillyard at the table.

“Someone’s obviously had a bad reaction to that stew you made for lunch”, said Hillyard.

“Yeah thanks, Hillyard!” said Joby.

“Oh don’t start winding Joby up, Hilly”, said Adam, pausing to stroke the cat, who was curled up on the chair by the stove It’ll only put him in a bad mood”.

“Well, as I can’t be trusted to speak”, said Hillyard, getting to his feet “I’ll go and chat to Umbert in the dining-room”.

“I do wish you wouldn’t rise to his bait quite so readily”, said Adam, once Hillyard had gone.

“Bit late to tell me that after all these years”, said Joby “God, I wish I had a newspaper to read. It’s driving me nuts not knowing what could be going on in the outside world”.

“Angel’s visitation has stressed you up?”

“He’s always playing bloody games. Bent as a bloody corkscrew”.

“I think there’s one thing in our favour though”, said Adam “I’m pretty certain he’s as peed off with the Evil running rampant in this world as we are”.

Ransey appeared in the doorway.

“Adam”, he said “Cloris is on the wireless. Come and speak to her quickly before it goes again”.

“Crikey”, Adam rushed into the room next door. Joby followed, and stood in the doorway.

“Cloris, old love, how wonderful to hear you again”, said Adam, enthusing into the microphone.

“Adam, we’ve had some new refugees arrive at Hannah’s”, said Cloris, breathlessly “They’ve fled from the City. They saw a new regime has seized control there”.

“Oh lor”, said Adam.

“They guys are really bad news”, said Cloris “They say they’re going to clean up everywhere, purge it of Evil. I think by that they mean anyone who’s not like them. Apparently they’re holding mass executions in the City centre. Bodies strung up everywhere. But it’s ordinary people they’re killing. It doesn’t take much to get on the wrong side of them. I don’t think they’re any different to the Satanic lot that have gone before. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it IS them, reinventing themselves in another form”.

“That sounds quite possible”, said Adam.

“I’ve contacted you because it’s highly important you lot stay hidden”, said Cloris. She adopted an evasive tone “Stay in the region where you are. You know where I mean. I think you can evade them there”.

“Yes but …” said Adam.

“Adam, I can’t stress that enough”, said Cloris, insistently “They see Kieran as a heretic! That’s why I’m contacting you. They’re after him. They say he’s secretly in league with the Devil. I don’t think they really believe that themselves, it’s just a public excuse so they can turn everyone against you, and destroy Kieran”.

Her voice trailed off as the line went dead.

“Damn!” said Adam “I didn’t get a chance to warn her to be careful”.

“I think she can grasp that one for herself, Adam”, said Ransey, replacing the headset on its hook “I shall search the airwaves for anything I can pick up. But I’ll have to be careful we’re not detected”.

“By this region she meant this forest”, said Adam, when everyone was assembled around the dining-table a few minutes later “She’s right. It’s so huge we can probably lose ourselves here”.

“A lot might be wary about following us into it”, said Umbert.

“I’m amazed there’s anyone left in the City for them to kill!” said Julian, hacking off the heel-end of a loaf of bread.

“People might have started going back”, Kieran mumbled.

“Bloody hell”, Joby sighed “I wish all religious nutters were like you”.

“Religious nutters like me?!” Kieran couldn’t help but give a smile “I don’t believe these are religious nutters. I think Cloris was right. They’re the remnants of the Satanic brigade who’ve regrouped and found another way to satisfy their blood-lust. And they can combine it with turning everyone against me too”, he gave a sigh “It’s quite clever really”.

“Do we have to keep going on to Sleet Cold, Bardy?” Bengo asked.

“Yes, of course we do”, said Bardin.

“But why?” Bengo exclaimed “You heard what Cloris said. We need to hide in the forest”.

“From what I can ghat, Sleet Cold is in the forest”, said Bardin “It’s at the Northern extremity of it”.

“But they can’t kill you, Kieran”, said Lonts.

“They know that”, said Kieran “I suspect they want to lock me away somewhere. Removed from sight. Hidden in the darkness. Forever”.

“Well that’s not a nice thought”, said Julian “At some point we have to destroy that City. Do like you did with Lixix”.

“We haven’t got the scope for that at the moment”, said Kieran.

“We will have. One day”, said Ransey “Which makes it even more important that we take evasive action now. We’ve got to start making plans on that”.

“Oh don’t worry, Ransey”, said Kieran “I’m not going to jeopardise us by doing something silly. We have to hide in the shadows until we’ve got what we need. We’re fugitives. A resistance movement, if you like”.

“Not the first time we’ve been on that kick”, said Joby.

“Come on”, Kieran got to his feet and tapped Joby’s shoulder “Let’s go to our cabin. I need to be alone with you for a moment”.

“Well at least he’s being sensible”, said Ransey, after Kieran and Joby had gone “Or at least I hope he is! And he’s not going to do underhand things, like his out-of-body stuff”.

“Oh now don’t start getting all paranoid”, said Adam “Patsy wouldn’t be so foolish as to jeopardise all of us. I know he can be pretty reckless with his own safety, but he wouldn’t do it with the rest of us”.

“He also knows the sense in what you said just now”, said Julian “We will have to destroy that City one day, it’s the very heart of the rottenness. I don’t know what lurks at Sleet Cold, but the very heart of the rottenness has always been the City”.

“It always has been”, said Hillyard.

“Kieran can be annoyingly fey sometimes”, said Julian “But he knows what may have to be done”.

“And the right timing is essential”, said Bardin.

“I really should have known something like this would happen”, said Kieran.

He and Joby were naked, wrapped in a blanket, lying on the sofa in their cabin. Both of them were on the whisky again.

“Oh come off it”, said Joby “It’s bloody hard to try and stay one step ahead of Evil. Crafty little sods”.

“Ransey’s right, we do need to cleanse that place”, said Kieran “Wipe it off the face of the Earth”.

“And even that won’t get rid of ‘em completely”, said Joby.

“No, but it’ll wreck much of their power”, said KIeran “I’m in league with the focking Devil! Jeez. I’ve bumped into Angel occasionally, that’s all”.

Joby laughed.

“They’ve almost robbed the world of hope”, said Kieran “And just when we think we might be turning a corner, they stamp on the last vestiges of it”.

“Hey come on, the Fat Lady hasn’t sung yet”, said Joby.

“Hell is a place without hope, Joby”, said Kieran “And they’re turning this entire planet into Hell. God has no place in Hell. They’re going to extinguish the spiritual light completely”.

“I don’t believe they can”, said Joby “I know they want to. That more than anything they want to get their hands on you. Shame you. Lock you away. But we won’t let ‘em”.

“Joby, I’m afraid”, said Kieran, softly “Between you and me, I am afraid. The thought of being deprived of all hope, of being removed from you all. In the darkness …”

“Now look, you’ve gotta be strong, Kiel”, said Joby “What message is it gonna send to the others if you go all moody on us eh? Lonts and Bengo will be so confused it’ll probably kill what few brain-cells they’ve got!”

“Ach now Joby …”

“No I’m being serious It would do them in if you lost the plot. Bardin’d start turning into Toppy, and counting the tea-spoons or summat. Adam’d be distraught … God, life wouldn’t be worth living. And there’s only so many cups of tea I can make! No come on, behave yourself”.

“I promise”, said Kieran “I’ll up the spiritual content around here. Give us all some more psychic protection”.

“Julian’ll be delighted”, said Joby.

“Julian won’t have a say in it”, said Kieran “He shall be completely silent on the subject”.

“Now that I can’t wait to see!” said Joby.

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