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By Sarah Hapgood

Rumble hurtled down the quarterdeck steps in the chilly grey light of dawn and into the Captain’s cabin. He threw himself at the bunk and shook Bardin awake.

“Bard! Wakey-wakey, come on mate”, he cried.

“What’s up?” said Bardin.

“There’s a huge amount of black smoke on the horizon”, said Rumble “Coming from the mainland. I thought you’d better see it”.

Bardin scrambled out of bed and clambered into his trousers.

Up on the main deck, the night-watch were leaning on the bulwark, looking towards the West, from where a thick pall of black smoke could be seen slowly spreading outwards.

“Reminds me of when we sailed up to the Big House”, said Bardin “And the bastards set fire to the land”.

“Looks like they’re doing it again”, said Hillyard.

Bardin swore under his breath, and then turned towards Bengo, who had followed him up on deck.

“Go down and wake up Ransey”, Bardin ordered him “And tell him to get on the wireless and see if he can get hold of Cloris. Tell her what we’ve seen”.

“Well go on!” he clapped his hands, and Bengo hurtled towards the steps on the far side of the deck.

Ransey had a tricky and fraught wireless conversation with Cloris. Fraught because the line seemed in danger of collapsing at any moment.

“I think I know what is happening”, Cloris yelled “We have heard talk that some people - good God, they must be deranged - have taken it upon themselves to cleanse the world, and thi is their bloody stupid way of doing it!”

“Oh no”, Ransey groaned.

“It makes me so damn angry!” Cloris cried “As if we all haven’t been subjected to enough calamity in recent years”.

“But who is doing this?” asked Ransey.

“Some bunch of fools who have set themselves up as a government”, said Cloris, crossly “We don’t know where they’re hiding out, or I’d go and bloody thump them myself! Now please listen, it is vitally important that Kieran and the rest of you don’t come back here. They blame him for everything apparently, it’s all so grossly unfair”.

“That wouldn’t be the first time”, said Ransey, grimly.

“Joby, will you stop pacing about”, said Kieran, who was sitting on the sofa in their cabin “You’re making me feel dizzy”.

“I can’t help it”, Joby paused, to run his hands through his hair in agitation “It’s the sheer bloody ingratitude I can’t get over”.

“That’s always been the way”, said Kieran, quietly “Right through history, and anyway, I don’t expect anyone to feel gratitude. When I flooded the City I did it out of desperation. I didn’t want to do it at all. Ideally, things should happen naturally, and now look what happens when I DO interfere!”

“None of this absolute stinking crap is your fault”, said Joby “Those bastards … those ungrateful bastards. After everything you’ve been through over the years. Look at that time you were covered head to foot in shit!”

“Yeah thanks for reminding me of that”, said Kieran “Joby, will you come and sit down and stop this frantic pacing. It won’t do you any good at all”.

He moved up so that Joby could sit next to him on the sofa.

“Promise me you won’t go over there”, said Joby “Not in any shape or form, not doing any of that bloody astral projection stuff neither”.

“I promise”, said Kieran “I think, for the time being, we should just concentrate on getting Cloris and the gang here and getting them settled onto the island. That’s enough to be going on with for now”.

“I think Joby’s more upset about it than I am”, Kieran said later, chatting up on the forward deck with Adam.

“I’ve often thought that Joby has a layer of skin missing”, said Adam “He feels things so much, and yet, at the same time he’s incredibly resilient”.

“People always equate sensitivity with weakness”, said Kieran “And yet it doesn’t always apply”.

They walked to the far side of the deck, and looked out towards the mainland on the distant horizon, which was overhung by a menacing thick pall of smoke.

“I’m defeated now, Adam”, said Kieran “I need to disappear for a while. Whatever collective madness this is has to be worked out by itself. Like waiting for a fever to break”.

“I think we should just concentrate on the ones we CAN help”, said Adam.

They turned away to walk back along the deck, to be met halfway by Farnol, who was looking disgruntled.

“Bardin’s called a meeting for first thing tomorrow morning”, he said.

“Oh Bardin and his meetings”, Adam sighed.

“This one’s particularly worrying”, said Farnol “He’s called it just for the clowns”.

“Probably just a new heads cleaning rota”, said Kieran.

“For once I wish it was”, said Farnol “But I think he wants us all to explore inside those bloody new doors on the island. I wish he’d leave things alone. To be honest, I’d rather clean the fucking heads!”

But it turned out that Farnol’s fears were ungrounded. Bardin in fact called the meeting to arrange a full cleaning and overhaul of the ship.

“Cloris and the crew could get here any day now”, he said “And I expect once they are here, they’re not going to want us lot hanging around for very long, so we need to make sure the galleon is completely ready for wherever it is we’re going next”.

“Oh”, said Farnol “I thought you were going to make us go into the island, y’know, through those mysterious doors”.

“If I was going to organise a venture like that”, said Bardin “Why in blue blazes would I take you lot?? You’d be rubbish”.

“Thank you”, said Farnol, too relieved to take offence.

“Sorry to interrupt this highly important board meeting”, said Ransey, coming into the room “But I thought you’d like to know, Bardin, that a vessel has been sighted on the western horizon. We think it’s the yacht”.

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