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The journey back up the Great River to the City took the rest of the summer, but whilst the Ministry chafed at the slow progress of the Indigo and Lady Red's yacht, the passengers and crew concerned didn't mind in the slightest. Codlik and his cohorts flew back to invent more regulations for their already rule-beleaguered world. Meanwhile the two boats and their occupants dawdled.
Lady Red's enthusiasm to reach the City had abated somewhat after she'd been forced to endure too many press calls in Krindei. She was fed up with having her perspiring bosom dabbed with a powder-puff by over-fussy make-up technicians. Dolores was equally tired of constantly being asked to remote her spectacles. The last straw came when rumours reached them that one newspaper was offering a king's ransom for a full-frontal nude shot of any of the women on Red's yacht. Kieran sympathised with them, but warned that things would be many many times worse in the City.
And so the Indigo was as happy to dawdle as Red was. The unsavoury attention of the media on the women's bodies was equally matched by their keenness to see Tamaz lynched. It got so bad at one point whilst they were still in Krindei that the Indigo-ites didn't dare unlock his cage door, in case the press rushed in and pulled him out. It was a well-known fact that they were anxious to hang Tamaz in the public square, and film it live for broadcasting worldwide. Until they left Krindei therefore they kept the cage-door locked, and operated by pushing the food through the bars, and commiserating with him for his unemptied lavatory bucket. For good measure Julian walked around with the keys secreted in his underpants.
For several weeks Julian was as happy as he'd ever been. The press left them alone for a little while, and the living was easy. He himself felt like a sultan with his own personal harem. As well as Adam across the corridor, he had Bengo and Hillyard (now almost back to full conjugal rites) to choose from in his own cabin. Toppy lived in there too, to give Ransey and Finia continued use of the "bridal suite", but it was emphatically put about by Julian that Toppy must Remain Pure. In fact Julian was becoming dangerously obsessional on the subject.
Adam warned him time and again that Toppy would eventually become a sex-crazed, greedy smelly beast just like all over men, but Julian would have none of it. As far as he was concerned Toppy would remain the doe-eyed freckle-faced boy, whose white front teeth stuck out slightly, and who giggled and sobbed with equal ease. Adam bided his time, and hoped the moment would come when he could break it to Julian gently that Toppy was already changing rapidly. He had walked into the heads one day to find Toppy examining Lonts's genitals with almost scientific scrutiny and detachment. Adam remembered from his schooldays that this was a phase most boys went through, a stepping-stone in their sexual development, and that as such Toppy was just being a normal, healthy boy. Adam knew though that as regards Toppy, Julian would bizarrely see it as the worst form of perversion.
"That doesn't make sense", said Joby, when he was discussing it with Adam in their cabin one day "You can't tell me you and Julian didn't do that kind of thing when you were at school".
"We were a lot younger than Toppy", Adam confessed "By the age of fifteen we were sneaking into each other's beds and exchanging hand-jobs".
"With me it was trying to spot the girls who weren't wearing bras", said Joby, nostalgically "And glimpses of their pubic hair when they climbed out of the swimming-pool. God, I was even more of a sad git then than I am now".
"Nonsense, we are all here to enjoy each other", said Adam "You can do all that again now!"
"Yeah", Joby smiled "Don't tell the wife though will you! Not that it matters. He's practically a woman himself these days. Must be an excess of religion that does it".
They were a few days away from City waters when things began to get seriously difficult. The press hired yachts of their own and came patrolling round them at all hours. Lady Red and her female crew members became prisoners below deck. Tamaz was repeatedly insulted in the most depraved verbal ways, and Kieran couldn't appear on deck without getting yet more pressure to resume the presidency, wrenching it by force if necessary from the vastly unpopular three-man ruling committee.
The unending aggression of the media men was a bitter portent of what they could all expect in the City. Kieran sat in his cabin and cursed himself for not insisting they all stayed behind in Toondor Lanpin. Their decision to go to the City had been a terrible mistake, of that they were daily becoming more and more aware.
Adam usually made a point of going over every evening to Lady Red's yacht when they both docked at sunset, to check how morale was amongst the women. On this particular evening, three days journey from the City, it was at its lowest ebb. The constant attempts by the press to get pictures of the women mean that all the curtains and blinds on Lady Red's yacht had to be kept closed at all times. The women were now reduced to stumbling around in the Stygian gloom like over-sized moles.
"None of us blame you, or Kieran, or any of the Indigo-ites", said Red, when Adam apologised to her for this dreadful state of affairs "After all, we took the decision to follow you. We only have ourselves to blame. I feel such a terrible responsibility, Adam. All the women on this ship are under my care. If anything should happen to any of them ... But I expect you think I'm a wimp for coming out with such things".
"Hardly, old love", said Adam "Julian and I have had the same thing all along with our lot".
"I expect Julian blames me for all this".
"He blames Codlik actually", said Adam "He thinks the wretched man should be doing more to discipline the press, and I fully agree with him. So does Patsy".
"Patsy? Oh you mean Kieran".
"You must believe me, we didn't realise it was going to be like this. We knew there'd be a heck of a lot of interest, but we all wanted your arrival to be a joyous, festive occasion. And instead that bunch of vultures are going to turn it into a fox-hunt! Standards seem to have deteriorated in people in recent years. We had no problems like this when we first came to the City, and Patsy's arrival was a pretty big event! But the press were courteous, they left us alone largely. I don't know whether to blame the re-invention of television, or the government not having any balls, or what".
"Would Kieran have allowed this sort of behaviour when he was our leader?" asked Red.
"No he wouldn't", said Adam "He'd have had the worst culprits banged up in the Assizes by now, no messing. But Codlik and his merry men are always too busy apologising about everything to do anything so forceful".
"I gather you don't like them!" Red laughed.
"Not from what I've seen of them", said Red "That Codlik in particular with his ridiculous smiles. There's a bit more to leadership than plastering a grin on one's face and hoping everyone will like you".
"Trouble is", Adam sighed "I don't think he's capable of doing anything else!"
He kissed Lady Red's hand before leaving and went up on deck, where she had positioned two men with firearms to ward off intruders. Adam got back onto the Indigo to find the deck deserted, apart from Julian who was pacing up and down like a Fury.
"Where the bloody hell have you been?" he roared "Don't answer me, I'm not in the mood for your smart-aleck replies. Get below at once".
"Oh Jules, isn't it sad?" Adam wailed, emotionally "A beautiful evening like this, and we're all cooped up below because of the vultures. It's so unfair".
Julian grabbed his arm and dragged him below deck.
"The whole thing's a nightmare", Julian ranted, once they were in his cabin "A fucking nightmare. Ransey caught two of them hiding in our skiff earlier. What the hell are we going to do?!"
"We must all stick together, that's what we must do", said Adam "It's all we can do. All we've ever been able to do".
"At least Red's not a fool, I'll give her that", said Julian "She won't take any risks where the other women are concerned. God damnit, we should've stayed in Toondor! What an idiot I've been to think we could live just as easily in Magnolia Cove!"
"W-Well we're just going to have to improve life for ourselves, aren't we?"
"Adam, if this is one of your whimsical turns, I'm warning you I'm not in the mood".
"No I'm being serious, Jules. Patsy doesn't want to be President again, and I don't want it for him either, but we can still start running things to our own advantage. Why are we allowing ourselves to be tormented by these creatures? They're just silly little men who think hounding people for a living counts as a proper job. We don't have to put up with it, nor with Codlik's politically-correct nonsense either. We're going to storm into the City and kick ass, as the Americans used to say. We're going to live our lives as we want to, as we always have, and we're not going to let beaurocrats and media twats live it for us. Us Indigo-ites and Lady Red's babes are going to do it entirely our own way".
"Good", said Julian "Then we'll start by all having supper on deck now. Oh and invite Lady Red's babes to join us. And if the press are very good we might deign to chuck them a few scraps!"
The women came over enthusiastically. Tired of living their gloomy existence below deck they were only too happy to brazen it out in company. Most of them didn't bother to dress and wafted over in their silk and lace nightwear, much to the astonishment of the watching vultures, who couldn't get enough of the spectacle. Lady Red in particular looked at her best in a green silk robe, trimmed with coffee-coloured lace. Her abundant red hair hung loose around her shoulders.
When Adam went below deck to begin preparing supper, she followed him, and whilst he opened tins in the galley, she walked around with a tumbler of whisky in her hand, inspecting things in a lethargic fashion.
"I understand it was all Julian's idea that we come over", she said "He never ceases to amaze me. I thought he was against us".
"Nonsense", said Adam, opening a tin of chopped tomatoes "You mustn't be fooled by the image he likes to give out. It's his way of camouflaging his vulnerable bits".
"What do you see in him, Adam?" Red hoisted her ample bottom onto the edge of the table "A sweet, sensitive guy like you involved with a bullying autocrat, I don't understand it. What's he got that keeps you so spellbound?"
"A big cock!" Adam laughed.
"I'm being serious".
"So am I. Believe me, I forget all about his autocratic behaviour when I see him in all his naked glory".
Suddenly Red was upon him, clawing at his clothes and kissing his hair and face, anything that she could press her lips into.
"Red, please", Adam tried to break free, but found the woman increasing her grip even more.
"Adam, I adore you", Red panted "You are so gorgeous, so sexy".
"Red, I'm sorry, but I thought you understood", Adam found himself back up against the sink "I'm gay, I've always been gay".
"But WE'RE here now", said Red, undeterred "I realise that you had to make other plans before, but all that can stop now".
"With some men that may be true, but not me", said Adam "I've always been gay, always".
"You can't mean to say you don't desire me", said Red.
Adam was appalled. He didn't know what to say for the best. He was too much of a gentleman at heart to deny any sexual feeling for her, and yet at the the same time it was true. Feeling that actions were better than words, he grabbed her wrist and pressed her hand against his penis, which had retreated into terrified hibernation.
"Ah but I can make things better", said Red, and she promptly stuck her hand down the front of his shorts.
"Stop that, now!" Julian roared, stepping into the galley "You abuse my hospitality, Red".
"Jules, please. It was just a misunderstanding", said Adam.
"Why is it that men with big pricks are so lacking in humility?" said Red.
"Stop it you two!" Adam cried "We're supposed to all be in this together, and nothing can be achieved if we all start in-fighting. I'm sorry, Red. You're an attractive, spirited woman, but I'm gay, and there's nothing more that can be said. You have simply got to understand".
"If a man was to behave as you were ..." Julian began.
"Jules!" Adam snapped "I insist that we forget this. Red, go back up on deck and let me finish preparing the supper".
"My apologies", said Red, collecting her glass of whisky on the way out.
"Don't say a word, Julian", Adam sighed, after Red had gone.
"Why not?" said Julian "If she was a man I'd have knocked her flat".
"I'm very glad you didn't", said Adam "For a start she's bigger than you! Oh how can we hope to be united against Codlik and his cronies when this sort of thing happens?"
He looked at Julian, and felt a great urge to abandon the conversation and simply collapse into his arms.
"This is only the tip of the iceberg where problems with the women are concerned", said Julian "Still, once we get to the City, the Ministry can take over all of the responsibility. Give them something to do for a change. If Red wants to act like a man she can take all the consequences".
"Oh Jules, I don't know where I'd be without you", said Adam, emotionally.
"Get on with the supper, we're all waiting", said Julian, slapping Adam's bottom "And remember, it's not for much longer".
The rest of the evening passed pleasantly enough, with Red determined to act as though the scene in the galley had never taken place. At the end of it Julian went below to the saloon and poured himself a double brandy. He found the constant chatter of the women about the expected delights of so-called civilisation wearying, knowing as he did that they could be anything but delightful. The women seemed to be labouring under the mistaken belief that they could claim all the best positions of power in a very short time with no effort at all. The Indigo-ites were too weary to disillusion them, and too aware of the fact that they had had to find their own way round their imposed life, and so the women must do the same.
"Hello Lonts", said Julian, when he realised that he was being watched from the entrance of the saloon.
"Did something happen between Adam and Lady Red?" said Lonts, walking across to him.
"Nothing that should give you a moment of concern", said Julian.
Lonts gave an exclamation of annoyance.
"You're treating me like a baby aren't you?" he said.
"No honestly, there really isn't anything to concern you", said Julian, reassuringly "The silly old trollop tried it on with him, but he didn't want to know. That's all. I hope I don't always treat you like a baby. I didn't in the orchard above Zilligot Bay did I?"
"That was wonderful", Lonts smiled "I wish we could do it again".
"Oh God, so do I", said Julian, with a heartfelt pang which he always felt when he noticed Lonts's beauty anew "But I don't suppose there's much chance of that".
"Well we could rescue the next woman president", said Lonts, with inspiring childlike simplicity "I told you about her, Julian. I saw her in the secret room at the brothel. The blonde woman that Rosaleen mentioned. I'm sure it must be her. I know it must be".
"You may have something there, Lonts", said Julian, gazing at him in wonder "Could we do it, do you think?"
"We must make plans", said Lonts, firmly.
"One thing at a time", Julian smiled "An adventure like this needs a great deal of thought, but I take it we're going to invite that old tart Adam along this time?"
"And Toppy", Lonts laughed "Don't you think so?"
"Ooh I know so", said Julian.
"25th September", Julian wrote in his log-book, a month after they had arrived in the City Harbour "Abominable behaviour of that idiot Codlik. For some time now he's been throwing endless cocktail parties at the Ministry H.Q so that various celebrity non-entities can meet Red and the other women. Needless to say none of us are invited, not even Kieran, as that would rather dent his proud assertion that HE was the one who engineered their arrival! It's not the first time he's lived in cloud-cuckoo land, in fact he seems to reside there permanently. He has this fatuous, wholly imaginary conception of how the City is these days, trumpeting at great length about what a delightful, fun place it is. It's not. It's cheap, vulgar, soulless and tacky. Everywhere there is an aggressive animal-like attitude towards the women. I'm not easily disgusted. I've witnessed some pretty immoral and bestial behaviour on the gay scene (in our time and in this) but this is just a relentless wall of it. There's no genuine warmth and passion for the women, no affection, and as for respect ... good grief, I feel like an idiot just writing the word. I must be getting old that's all, and I sincerely hope Red knows what she's doing. Kieran says he likes to think it will all subside and mellow in time, once everyone's got used to the women being back amongst us. But I can't see it at all. There's over a hundred years of repression and frustration bottled up inside this city of jackasses and it won't be quelled soon. I can see it all disappearing up its own anus".
"1st October. Pretty hectic few days. Codlik (we are not worthy!) ordered Tamaz to appear before the Grand Inquisitor (a pompous old fart in a red cassock). It's been written in the constitution for a few years now that Kieran can have the power to decide or over-turn verdicts in trials, and Codlik must be kicking himself like crazy that he never got round to having this changed.
Kieran took full advantage of this little privilege. He swanned into the chamber, looking like a miniature version of Garbo playing Queen Christina. Adam and I had a bird's eye view from the public gallery, and throughout all the long-winded preliminaries we kept ourselves awake by counting the number of chocolates that Lady Red consumed on the VIP bench.
Tamaz was brought in eventually, looking about twelve-years-old in a pair of regulation white pyjamas that he'd been put into five minutes before, after having been showered first. His hair has grown longer whilst he's been in the cage, and he looks quite girlish again.
The Grand Inquisitor brought in a verdict of Guilty (surprise surprise), and a recommendation that Tamaz be put to death by lethal injection. The cheers from the public gallery on hearing this were sickening, and I think even the Grand Old Inquisitor Far was shaken by them. But then Tinkerbell's moment of glory came. He sat regally on his carved chair (his feet didn't quite reach the floor but never mind) and ordered that Tamaz be returned to his custody. Tamaz would be kept under strict supervision at all times, he said, and he would take full responsibility for any future behaviour by the said psychopath. I need hardly describe the scenes that followed, but Kieran stubbornly rode out the storm as only a seasoned politician can, and Tamaz was released from his shackles. We have currently got him bolted into the hold of the Indigo, as Kieran fears one of the hang 'em and flog 'em brigade may try to shoot him".
"5th October. Kieran's been away for a few days, supervising the removal of Tamaz's children to Wolf Castle. At first we were concerned that the Ministry would do something unspeakable to the poor little sprogs once they were up there, shades of shooting the Romanovs at Ekaterinberg perhaps. But Kieran hit upon the idea of asking a couple of the women to go with them as their legal guardians. Phyllis and little Peyla volunteered, taking Peyla's baby with them too (she gave birth to a girl at the Ministry H.Q a couple of weeks back). Phyllis came to see us before leaving. I was disturbed to see that she was still as stuck on me as ever, but she said she'd get over it once I was permanently out of her sight!!! Adam said he hoped she wouldn't find it too remote up in the mountains, after the "delights" of the City (how you gonna keep 'em down on the farm etc etc), but Phyllis said she'd seen all she wanted to of the City, and she didn't want to see anymore. One can hardly blame her there!
Kieran has flown up with them all and is due back shortly. It won't be before time. Joby's been drifting around here like a lost soul since Kieran's departure, looking even glummer than usual. Even a surprise visit by the delectable Dolores yesterday couldn't raise his spirits. Dolores informs us that life at the H.Q is very comfortable, but she's not sure she wants to stay in the City. She misses the freedom of No-Name, she says, and is fed up with constant enquiries by the Ministry fat-heads as to when she would like to have a baby! She says she won't leave though whilst Red wishes to stay. I don't think the old trout deserves such loyalty, but I forbore to comment as it seemed a waste of energy".
"8th October. Tamaz getting above himself. He started tormenting Joby again this morning, with his usual smart-arse taunts about what great lovers they made. I went down to him and said if he didn't behave there were three options open to him (i) we handed him back to the Ministry for injecting with various deadly substances, (ii) we put him in the cage and let the public use him for target practice, or (iii) I flogged him senseless with the horsewhip. Wisely he stayed silent for the rest of the day, sitting in a corner of the hold nibbling on his fingernails like a demented squirrel. He's incapable of reforming or feeling any moral sense, but I guess we're stuck with him all the same.
Ransey has spent a couple of days in the Treasury Department of the H.Q, helping them to re-design their whole system or some such nonsense. It's been bliss having Finia to myself again. Quite like old times in fact. We went shopping and had lunch. He says marriage to Ransey is good, and fun (FUN?!), and I must be happy for him. With Ransey away I was quite happy to be happy. But he came back today, spewing accountancy text-books all over the ship, and ranting about having found a used condom in one of the filing-cabinets. He'd fired the person responsible, he told us gleefully.
"11th October. Kieran back from his travels. He said he had felt quite nostalgic on seeing Wolf Castle again, and it was sad to think it was no longer our home. He said he'd gone round all the rooms, absorbing the atmosphere we had left behind. I told him he was speaking mawkish nonsense, but he only gazed at me sadly with those penetrating blue eyes of his. He said the Ministry had bagged up a lot of our old belongings and stowed them in the cellar. These arrived by special courier this afternoon. It was undeniably nice to have our things back, but we haven't really got room for them here, and a lot can be sold for much-needed cash. I have been quite ruthless with my own things. I'm just going to keep some of the clothes, and a pair of silver-backed hairbrushes. The rest can all be sold. If I haven't missed them over the past two years, then I can carry on living without them".
"12th October. We've given up on the Magnolia Cove option. This is very sad but it can't be helped. We simply do not like, or can tolerate, the way things are in the City at the moment and the Cove is too close to it for comfort. We have the hideous feeling of being out of kilter with it, and the whole place is a living monument to the kind of sterile non-culture that Henry Miller once prophesied. We blame the Ministry, but at the same time the people have got to rebel against it at some point, or they'll all end up a bunch or Orwellian Winston Smiths, bowing to the system in return for a steady diet of lottery tickets and tasteless pornography (it's no good telling these brain-dead morons that stylish pornography is much sexier). They believe in Codlik's Code of Caring, but then scream for someone to be put to death, not realising, poor saps, that they are being manipulated all along the way. Am personally fed up with being told what we can say, read, smoke, eat, drink, watch or think. After two years away in the wilderness it's hopeless to think we can settle back into this insanity.
We're all going back to Toondor Lanpin".
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