Bardin decreed that the first thing they had to do before heading out into the ocean was to pick up fresh supplies, and the most difficult part of this idea was finding somewhere which actually had the supplies. This stretch of the coastline was remarkable for being absolutely devoid of any kind of human life, apart from their own. There was a unanimous, unspoken wish that they hoped they wouldn’t have to travel too far.
A couple of days travelling south from the headland though brought them to a tiny settlement. The main part of it lay further inland, but near the shore was a ramshackle hut which seemed to serve as the community stores.
“This has to be done as quickly as possible and with the minimum of fuss”, said Bardin, for the umpteenth time “We can’t afford to attract any unnecessary attention”.
“We’re bound to attract some”, said Joby, glumly “We’ve got a bloody great fuck-off galleon here. I can’t imagine this place sees too many ships like this”.
“That can’t be helped”, said Bardin “We go in, we do our business briskly, and we leave again”.
Behind him Bengo rolled his eyes, as he’d been hearing this speech since first thing that morning.
“Now”, Bardin helped up the whistle which he habitually wore around his neck, and which was the bane of life for everyone on board the Indigo “What happens when I blow this?”
“We throttle you with it?” asked Joby.
“No”, said Bardin “It’s the signal to leave IMMEDIATELY”.
“How many more times?” said Bengo, crossly “You’ve been giving that direction for hours, we should have absorbed it by now”.
“After a lifetime of working with you”, said Bardin, with forced patience “I have found that directions have to be given over and over again. Now come along. And there shall be no hanging-about”.
The cove was a sleepy little place. The only noise that could be heard was waves lapping on the shore, and the wind gently whistling through the scrubby bushes near the beach. The store was run by a rather goofy young man who went by the name of Christmas, because that was when he had been born. He was lanky and amiable, and spent most of his time dozing in a corner of the room.
The main problem the Indigo-ites had was how to pay for the goods they required. Cash money seemed to have slipped off the horizon in recent years, and in fact they couldn’t remember the last time they had ever used it. It was also hard to believe that he would be terribly interested in any of the remaining Starhanger jewels, which were still kept in the hold of the ship. There probably wouldn’t be much use for them here in such an isolated place.
“Goods”, Adam had said, scouring the cupboards “We’ll have to take a selection over there and see if we can barter with them. There might be things we have that he might be interested in”.
To Adam’s surprise it was tins of curry powder and jars of fruit jam which excited Christmas.
“It’s that kind of thing we can’t get much of out here”, he said “We’ve got seafood coming out of our ears”.
By cobbling together a few of these items from the ship’s cupboards Adam was able to replenish the flour stores, something which had been bothering him for some time. Joby was also able to add to his garden seeds supplies. He still harboured a hope that one day they would settle somewhere and he could use them properly.
Adam roped in Hillyard to bring a sack-truck over from the ship to help him move the bags of flour and sugar.
“Are you going out to sea?” asked Christmas.
“Well we think so”, said Adam “We’re very much taking it as it comes, seeing how the wind blows as it were”.
“Bardin still can’t make his mind up in other words”, said Hillyard.
Adam gave a quick glance round to make sure that Bardin hadn’t overheard this, but fortunately he was still outside the store, with Mieps, looking over some piles of pots and rope.
“There’s an island I’ve seen on the horizon sometimes”, said Christmas “On a good day, when the weather’s clear. I don’t know if that’s worth heading to, I know nothing about it”.
“Does no one round here do much sailing then?” said Hillyard.
“Only for fishing”, said Christmas “They take the boats out to catch some mackerel, and lobster-fishing. A while back some patrolled along the coast to see if they were any other survivor settlements, but there was nothing”.
“Do you know much of what happened, Christmas?” asked Adam.
“Only bits and pieces”, said Christmas “We’ve had the odd visitor appear, and they’ve always seemed pretty shaken. Often they stay here. I get the impression there simply aren’t many settlements left now. This world’s mad. I’ll never understand what happened, or why people let it happen. I hope we never see anything like it again. Do you guys know much?”
“Only that the population’s been pretty much decimated”, said Hillyard “The City’s gone, although frankly good riddance to that one”.
Bengo, who had been loitering behind Adam and Hillyard, listening in, looked nervous. He was worried that they might let it slip that Kieran had been behind the Storm which had deluged the City.
“I think the future might be down to the likes of settlements like this one”, said Adam.
Christmas, who knew all too well the bare bones on which his village existed, felt that, if that was the case, then this didn’t hold out much hope for the world generally. They relied almost entirely on what they could salvage from the sea, and the few odds-and-ends of cattle they had grazing around.
“I strongly suspect you’ll get more visitors”, said Adam, who seemed to have guessed what he was thinking “Some will bring fresh skills with them”.
“If they could bring some new supplies as well, like you lot have done”, said Christmas “I’d be just as pleased!”
The new goods were efficiently being stockpiled in the main downstairs corridor of the galleon for the time being. Proper homes would be found for them once the voyage was underway.
“Is this everything?” said Bardin, sidling past them.
“Not quite”, said Adam “Ransey and Hillyard are bringing a few more things over now, and then we should be done. You can’t complain, old love. These are all vital supplies”.
“Did I say I was complaining?” said Bardin.
“No, but you were probably about to start, knowing you”, said Bengo.
“Look, I’m not daft, Bengo”, said Bardin.
Bengo gave a “harrumph” at that one.
“I know we have to be well-prepared”, Bardin continued “We have no idea how long we’re going to be at sea for”.
“We ARE going to be at sea then?” said Joby “We’re not heading down another endless river, or dawdling round the coastline?”
“No, I think we should head out in the ocean for a while”, said Bardin “It’s the best thing. We can come back again if we hear from Cloris or any of the others on the wireless”.
About an hour later Joby was having his bare feet massaged by Kieran in their cabin. All around them preparations were underway to set sail.
“I’ll breathe out when we’ve finally weighed anchor”, said Joby.
“Ach this little cove is harmless”, said Kieran “They seem like nice people”.
“It’s not them I’m bothered about”, said Joby “It’s the thought of anyone else turning up! I spose I don’t feel safe on the mainland at the moment. Either that or I’m desperate not to get stuck down any more friggin’ rivers for years on end”.
“Bardin’s taking us out to the mysterious island on the horizon instead”, said Kieran.
“It’ll be nice to have a change of scene”, said Joby.
“Joby, you sounded so English there!”
“Well I’m sick of the sight of forests and rivers”, said Joby “I’m not the only one round here who wants to get out on the ocean wave. All the others do too. Course, there’s no guarantee the island really exists. Christmas might have been on the local moonshine when he saw it”.
“I have a feeling it exists”, said Kieran “And if it doesn’t there will be others instead. We can go on an ocean cruise. And then you’ll complain you’re sick of the sight of the ocean, and want to get back on a river instead”.
“I can’t imagine that’ll happen for a good long while”, said Joby.
As Joby was walking down the corridor a short while later he got summoned into Julian’s cabin.
“Look I can’t stop, Julian”, he said “It’s nearly time to get on with the supper, and Adam will get all snarky if I’m late”.
“So what if it he does?” said Julian, coaxing him into his cabin “What’s he going to do? Fire you?”
“I sometimes wish he would”, said Joby “I could do with a rest”.
“Forget it, he’s not going to do that”, said Julian “He couldn’t run things without you. Sit down, I’ll pour you a sherry”.
“Why does that muck never run out?” said Joby “It’s like Kieran’s magic whisky bottle”.
“Oh stop bellyaching, and get it down you”, said Julian, handing him a small glass “I thought you’d want to celebrate, now we’re safely away from the mainland”.
“Hm”, said Joby “Trouble is, I’m not sure we’re gonna feel safe for quite a while”.
“Maybe not, but putting a big body of water between us and the mainland should help. If there are any of those creatures still around - which we strongly suspect - then they can’t cross water very well. The ocean should really put the kibosh on them”.
“That’s true, and the deeper out we go the less chance of any underground tunnels. If they can manage that, it’d still be difficult for them”.
“It won’t be a bad idea for us to vanish for as long as we possibly can”, said Julian “Even if the power of the demons is completely destroyed, then the rebuilding of civilisation is going to be a painful process. The survivors may even turn on Kieran for destroying the City. Crazy I know, as it broke the power of the demons, but there’s never any accounting for the irrationalities of the human race at times”.
“And some of ‘em will probably have swallowed all that crap the demons spouted about Kieran being an evil heretic”, said Joby.
“There is that possibility”, said Julian “Best to lie low and wait for the dust to settle for a while”.
“Blimey, you’re reading a newspaper!” said Joby, when he finally reached the galley.
Bengo was leaning over the table, scrutinising a crumpled page which Christmas had wrapped round a cabbage.
“Look I can read you know!” said Bengo “In spite of what that bunch of shits the other clowns might say!”
“Alright alright, anything interesting?” said Joby “I’m amazed there are still any papers being printed!”
“It’s very old”, said Bengo, indicating the faded brown paper “Nothing important. The sort of thing Finia likes. What colours you should wear to empower you, according to your star sign”.
“Yeah, that sounds up his street”.
“Me and Bardy should be wearing orange apparently, as it’s a ‘highly energising’ colour”.
“I’m not sure you two little bastards need highly energising!” said Joby.
“I don’t think the rest of us could take it, old love”, said Adam, coming into the room.
“And it would help us concentrate too”, said Bengo, continuing to read from the page “As we have trouble staying on focus. Adam, as a Scorpio, you should wear black”.
“What a depressing choice”, said Adam.
“Very appropriate for such a dark sign”, said Joby, in a forbidding voice.
“And what should crabby Cancerians wear?” asked Adam, tartly.
“White”, said Bengo.
“Oh how lovely and virginal, Joby”, said Adam, patting Joby’s lugubrious little face “The Bride Wore White”.
“Very funny”, said Joby.
“Gemini’s should wear yellow”, said Bengo “Ugh! Hoowie would look revolting in yellow”.
“So would Hillyard”, said Joby.
“Good heavens, the thought of Julian head-to-foot in yellow makes me feel quite queasy”, said Adam.
“Should I hang onto this?” said Bengo, folding up the page “For Finia?”
“Yes”, said Adam “Although I hope it doesn’t inspire him to start knitting jumpers for us all in our appropriate colours”.
Ransey appeared in the doorway.
“I’m going to start moving some of the goods into the wireless room”, he said “Extra storage space”.
“Have you thought of wearing aquamarine blue, Ransey?” asked Bengo “It’s good for Librans apparently”.
Ransey gave him a longsuffering look, and simply muttered “madhouse”.
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