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By Sarah Hapgood

At four o’clock in the morning they were all awoken by an almighty clap of thunder. The night-watch, up on the main deck, saw shafts of lightning on the horizon. The sea was rolling, like a cumbersome beast waking up from a deep and prolonged slumber.

“I’ll make some cocoa”, said Adam, coming out of the saloon and wrapping his dressing-gown around him “Farnol, run upstairs and bring the night-watch down. They shouldn’t be outside in this”.

“Kieran, this is your doing!” said Bardin, sitting up in his bunk, and shouting across to Kieran, who was on the sofa on the other side of the room.

“I can’t control the weather, Bardin”, said Kieran.

“Don’t lie!” said Bardin.

“If you two are gonna have a row”, said Joby, getting to his feet and struggling into his slippers “I’m going into the galley”.

“I’m going to see what’s going on”, said Bardin, disentangling himself from the bedclothes.

“Now don’t trip over your nightie, Bardin”, said Kieran.

Bardin grabbed the end of a blanket and chucked it over Kieran’s head.

“You might want to batten down the hatches”, Kieran warned “This could be the storm of the century”.

“I don’t know what’s the matter with you”, Bengo stalked Bardin along the main corridor of the ship “If the storm is going to be as bad as Kieran predicts, then it might finally destroy the miseries in the City, so does it matter if he’s responsible?”

“No”, said Bardin, stopping and turning to face him “But why does he have to be so damn underhand about everything all the time?”

“Because there is no law that says he has to stop and fully discuss everything with us first!” Bengo exclaimed, in exasperation “Why can’t you just trust him to do things for the best?”

“I do!” Bardin shouted, above the deafening roar of the sea and the thunder “It’s just …”

“It’s just NOTHING!” said Bengo “Just shut up!”

He marched away back to the galley.

“Damnit!” Bardin roared.

“He is the most irritating, exasperating, aggravating person who ever existed”, said Bengo, who was now helping Joby to make a round of hot drinks. “Oh ease up on him”, said Joby “Kieran can be pretty exasperating himself, and he’s too fond of springing sudden surprises like this”.

“IS the storm down to him then?” asked Bengo.

“All I know is I heard him say to Adam yesterday that a Lixix-style cataclysm on the City would solve everybody’s problems. He was doing a lot of sitting on the headland yesterday afternoon, looking out at the ocean. I didn’t take any notice of it at the time, as we’ve all been pretty mesmerised by the water since we got here. Now I’m starting to wonder”, said Joby “And something feels different about this storm. Don’t ask me to explain how”.

“I wonder how long it will go on for”, said Bengo.

“As long as it takes I expect”, said Joby.

By the time the storm reached the City it had grown to such a momentum that it roared in like a fearsome demonic beast. In no time at all the river had burst its banks, flooding the largely derelict and abandoned buildings on the shore. It seeped into the Ministry HQ and steadily began to rise through the levels. The remaining demons still there scattered into crevices in the stonework, and frantically swarmed up the steps to upper levels, in a futile attempt to escape it.

“It’s the Apocalypse!” screamed one.

“You wanted destruction”, came a soft, disembodied Irish voice in its ear “Well now you have it”.

“Will it get all of them?” Joby asked Kieran.

They were sitting at the top of the quarterdeck steps, drinking mugs of tea. Directly overhead of them the hatch was firmly bolted down, as the sounds of Mother Nature roared outside.

“No”, Kieran shook his head “But it will decimate them, and they weren’t in a strong position to start with. Some will go underground, but that’s a risk we have to accept. We’ll have only mavericks to cope with in the future. But what was left of their regime, and the City, are done for”.

“Good”, said Joby “It was a shithole anyway. I never liked it”.

“When we arrived there at the end of Father Gabriel’s reign of terror”, said Kieran “We knew could rebuild it. He had left a wreckage behind, but it wasn’t unsalvageable. By the time this storm has passed, the City will be beyond salvation”.

“You little bugger”, Joby smiled “I wouldn’t wanna get on the wrong side of you!”

“Joby, I can tolerate anything from you”, said Kieran “You don’t know how much strength you give me. I only do this sort of thing as very last resort. It was seeing the ocean again, that vast expanse out there, that made me realise something drastic had to be finally done. That this situation simply cannot go on”.

“Like the fire in Lixix”, said Joby.

“Mm yes”, said Kieran, who didn’t like being reminded of that one. He felt that, to resort to such destruction, made him no better than the Evil he was combating.

“So seeing the ocean changed your mind?” said Joby.

“I was sitting out there yesterday, and I suddenly had an image of that darkness that is enveloping the City”, said Kieran “I could see it all so vividly in my head. If that was allowed to spread, then the whole world would be like it in no time. Like the darkness of a nuclear winter blocking out of the power of the sun. It was time for the City to be consigned to oblivion”.

And so it was. By the time the storm had ended there was nothing left there but a watery mass. In one fell swoop the storm had torn down and flooded the rats maze that was the demon’s main lair. Gone forever were the old pleasure parks which they had turned into execution grounds, the grand old public buildings which they had converted into torture-houses glorified human larders, to keep them supplied with victims.

The epicentre of the Evil was gone.

It was a strange, muted light when the storm had finally passed. Metallic. Thick cloud, with a tinny sun trying to break through. A strong sea breeze moaned around the ship, as it rocked gently on the ocean waves.

For the first time since arriving on the coast, they heard seagulls overhead.

“That storm was quite something”, said Bardin, up on the poop-deck.

“Where do we go now?” said Bengo “Are we still going to sail out into the ocean?”

“I don’t know yet”, said Bardin “Don’t get your hopes up too much. We might have to go on a little reconnaissance. See what damage has been left everywhere by the Demons”.

“Not back into the forest again?” said Bengo, in dismay.

“No, not back there”, Bardin squeezed his hand “I think we’ve all had enough of that place. We might sail along the coast here. Up or down, I don’t know yet. But soon we’ll be heading out there onto the waves, away from the mainland for a bit”.

Bengo smiled, and they walked hand-in-hand back to the top of the main stairs.


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