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By Sarah Hapgood

“This really is a confounded nuisance”, said Adam, standing with Joby at the bottom of the quarterdeck steps, looking like pinny-wearing reception committee “I had agreed to let Farnol bake some biscuits later, he was looking forward to it”.

“Well he still can”, said Joby “I’m buggered if that lot are gonna disrupt us any more than is necessary”.

“Quite right”, said Bardin, emerging from his cabin after Bengo had helped him into his trousers “We shall say we’re still on Spiritual Retreat, and we can only spare them the minimum of time. I shall try to put it as democratically as I can”.

“Oh I’m sure you’ll do it beautifully, old love”, said Adam.

“I can’t run around after them anyway”, said Bardin, who was moving awkwardly “I can’t run around after anyone at the moment! I’m going to sit in the dining-room, and Cloris can come and chat to me there”.

“I’ll fetch the cushion for you”, said Bengo.

“Make it two cushions”, said Bardin.

The yacht pulled up alongside them in the grey gloom, and Jane and Cloris were helped aboard. Jane stayed up on deck to chat to some of the others, whilst Cloris came below. When she walked into the dining-room, Bardin was surprised to see that she was wearing a life-jacket. She still kept it on when she sat down to talk to him.

“I would not have intruded like this”, she said “If you hadn’t wrecked your damn wireless set! I am astonished that you haven’t fixed it yet”.

Bardin narrowed his eyes, and tried to stop himself from speaking too sharply, but he resented her bustling on board and lecturing him in this way.

“Is there a problem, Cloris?” he asked.

“Yes you could say that”, she replied “We have had an air-buggy flying over us recently. I am absolutely amazed you haven’t seen or heard it”.

“So am I”, said Bardin “But we seem to be perpetually swathed in grey cloud and sea-mist here, so perhaps that’s why”.

“And you haven’t heard anything either?”

“I’m not sure. I heard a strange buzzing noise last night, but we haven’t been able to trace it to anything. It sounded more like it was coming from on-board, but we have found nothing out of place”.

“That might have been it I suppose”, said Cloris, loosening her jacket.

“Why don’t you take that thing off?” said Bardin “You don’t need to wear it below deck anyway. We’re not planning to sink any time soon”.

“Where do you keep your lifejackets?”

“God knows, down in the hold somewhere I suppose”.

“Down in the hold?!” Cloris exclaimed “That doesn’t surprise me, I’ve never seen you wearing one. It seems very irresponsible if you ask me”.

“I didn’t ask you!” Bardin thundered.

“OK OK you two, let’s calm down shall we”, said Julian, coming into the room “I can’t believe Cloris would have bothered us if she didn’t think the situation was very serious”.

“Thank you, Julian”, said Cloris, who did at least remove her lifejacket.

“I do not take kindly to being lectured about health and safety on board!” said Bardin.

“Well I guess you can take the girl out of the Ministry, but you can’t take the Ministry out of the girl”, said Julian.

“It’s just that the air-buggy buzzing us has made us all a bit on tenterhooks”, said Cloris “I ordered the wearing of lifejackets just in case there was trouble, that’s all. We’ve abandoned Hy Brasil, with a heavy heart I can tell you, but it doesn’t feel safe anymore. We are a pack of fugitives, but we don’t know what we’re hiding from”.

“That’s been the way for quite some time”, said Julian “The Evil that runs amok in this world has an annoying ability to keep regrouping itself, like a worm when it’s been cut in half”.

“You can hide on this side of the island with us”, said Bardin “We’re much less exposed here, and as I said, we seem to be permanently blanketed in mist and cloud at the moment. It would make it much harder to be detected”.

“Thank you”, said Cloris “I do appreciate that”.

“We’ll set up a signalling system”, said Bardin “Using half-shuttered lanterns. Perhaps our Watch could check in with yours on a timed basis, say every 2 or 3 hours. We were planning to move on soon, when our Spiritual Retreat was up. Very possibly heading to the New Continent. That might well be the best place for you to make a fresh start. It’s huge, and we could all get lost there if we chose. There are strange things there, but frankly, they can’t be anymore intimidating these days than what we’ve left behind”.

“Wasn’t there some plan of yours to go to the third island?” said Cloris.

“We’re still not sure about that”, said Bardin “It’s more plain nosiness that entices us at the moment”.

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea”, said Cloris “We uncovered some old books in a trunk in the cottage on the island. There are wild old stories about cannibals on that island. Of course they could be just stories, but the way things are at the moment, nothing would surprise me”.

“We’ve still got a few days to run on the Retreat”, said Bardin “Shall we agree to stay here for that time, and then decide what’s what? You can then tell me more about any other information you’ve found”.

“Bard”, Rumble appeared “There’s a really thick fog coming down. A proper peasouper”.

“OK, that should give us some cover for a while”, said Bardin.

When Cloris had returned to the yacht, Bardin accompanied her onto the main deck (he said afterwards it was to make sure she left). He then climbed back down the quarterdeck steps in a rather more stately fashion than was usual for him, due to his ongoing sore behind.

“Hey now, take it steady there, Bardin”, said Kieran, who was standing at the bottom.

“Oh yes, I want a word with you”, said Bardin “About this fog. Is it your doing?”

“Why sound so accusatory, Bardin?” said Kieran “You make it sound like a cursed thing!”

“Can you never give me a straight answer? All I want to know is if it’s natural, or something you’ve bought on”.

“What does it matter either way? Just take it as one of the great wonders of the Universe”.

Kieran walked away. In exasperation, Bardin kicked him in the seat of his pants, and then had to grab hold of the steps to stop himself falling over.

“Now be careful exerting yourself Bardin”, said Kieran “In your delicate condition”.

In the galley Adam was having a guilt-induced moan.

“We should have realised that the rest of the world is not going to switch off just because we’ve gone on Spiritual Retreat”, said Adam.

“Oh don’t start all that”, said Joby “It does my head in. Everyone’s entitled to some time out now and again, even us, and it’s done us the world of good. Anyway coming here has given the yacht somewhere to hide. Peat Bog Island - as Kieran calls it - makes for a good camouflage”.

“I shall nip over to the yacht this afternoon and see Glynis”, said Adam “I might even take her some of our rock cakes”.

“Hasn’t she been through enough lately?!”

“Very funny. Dig out a little tin for me to carry them in. And when I get back I’ll whip Bardin’s butt again, very soundly”.

“Should be fun”, said Joby.

Glynis greeted Adam and took him into the dining-room of the yacht, which was rather more elegant and swish than the one on the galleon.

“We can chat in private in here”, she said “It’s only used at meal-times”.

Adam kissed her on both cheeks.

“It was so good of you to come and see me”, said Glynis.

“Always nice to see our old neighbour”, said Adam, as they sat down.

“I often think of those days”, said Glynis “When we lived on the waterfront at Toondor Lanpin. I know the world was far from perfect then, but ye gods, it was nothing compared to now. We used to have such fun. Do you remember Persephone’s Bar?”

“I sure do, and Hawkefish’s Little Theatre. The clowns used to perform there sometimes. That was how Bardin found us, I think”.

“He was always a funny little thing wasn’t he. So sort of upright and repressed”.

“And yet vulnerable at the same time”, said Adam “I’ve always found that an intoxicating combination. But I knew from the word Go that he would be good for Bengo. Bengo needs someone to ground him, otherwise he can end up flitting around like a lost soul”.

“They were good days weren’t they?” said Glynis, wistfully.

“There will be good days again, old love. Nothing stays the same forever, not even this horrid dark tunnel we’re all in at the moment”.

“I am scared stiff of the Evil finding us all. It’s keeping me awake at night”.

“You poor thing, I wish I could reassure you more”, said Adam “I’m pretty damn confident of one thing and that’s that we won’t let them catch us easily. When you come over to us, we’ll take you to the top of the island, and see if you can see the pink mountains on the New Continent. That’s ultimately where we’re heading”.

“A chance of a new life?”

“It may be the best option. Either that or finally find this elusive desert island we’re all seeking for”.

“God, that would be perfect”, said Glynis “I can rather see myself as a beachcomber. How is Joby?”

“Joby is Joby”, Adam laughed “No he’s fine. Nowhere near as crotchety as he used to be. I think that’s because Patsy has calmed down too. Kieran doesn’t go off into his gloomy little fugs the way he used to. I think that makes life a lot easier for Joby”.

“You all seem remarkably well-balanced, considering everything’s that happened”, said Glynis “It must be Kieran’s Magic Whisky Bottle”.

“That, plus the fact this Spiritual Retreat is doing us the power of good”, said Adam “We haven’t done anything like this since Snow Lake, and I dread to think how many years ago that is now. Could you tell Cloris that the main reason we disconnected the wireless set was to stop our location being detected”.

“It’s alright, I think she’s worked that out now”, said Glynis “We may even disconnect ours for a while. It does seem like a sensible idea”.

“And you can also tell us more about the cannibal rumours on the third island. I think that might be rather important!”

“She seemed rather lonely”, said Adam, when he got back to the galleon, and was removing his oilskin jacket in the galley “But I can’t in all honesty feel justified in asking her to move on here with us”.

“I should bloody well hope not!” said Joby, draping the coat over the back of a chair “Look, don’t get me wrong, I like Glynis, she’s an old friend, but I’ve got enough on my plate without fending her off as well!”

“Fending her off!” Adam spluttered “Joby The Incredible Sex Machine”.

“Don’t give me that, you know what I’m on about. Life would be even more stressful than it already is”.

“It wouldn’t be very practical”, said Adam “And it would severely curtail many of our little pleasures, and I’m not just referring to spanking Bardin. I’m not feeling in the mood to be all Christian and self-sacrificing”.

“I’m bloody relieved to hear it!” said Joby “We’re not living in an old Hollywood movie”.

“Good grief, no”, said Adam “I would no doubt have to be the leading chick’s lovable gay friend, who is always giving her life advice with snappy one-liners, and coming out with things like “I wouldn’t choose those shoes, girlfriend!” or some such nonsense. God, I used to hate that sort of thing. It seemed to be the only time they were truly comfortable showing gay characters”.

“Blimey, how long have you had all that bottled up inside yer?”

“Only since this afternoon. As I was leaving Glynis said something along the lines of how much more nurturing I am than Cloris. I didn’t say anything, but I did find it mildly irritating, as if I would be advising her on colour schemes next”.

“Well you are nurturing”, said Joby “I wish you wouldn’t take it as an insult. Just because you still think you’ve gotta be all macho, which is bloody ridiculous”.

“Psst!” Bengo poked his head round the door.

“Who is?” said Joby.

“Do you want me to drag Bardy in here and get his trousers off him?” said Bengo.

“Yes, I would like that very much”, said Adam “It sounds heavenly”.

“Damnit, I have been waiting all day for this, you took your damn time”, said Bardin, lying face down on the sofa in his cabin whilst Bengo gently rubbed cream into his posterior.

“Well we’ve had interruptions haven’t we, and I’ve been busy”, said Bengo “Adam wanted me to stay in the galley and keep an eye on Farnol whilst he made his biscuits. I hope you’re not objecting to that”.

“Personal Masseuse and Clown Supervisor”, said Bardin “You are really adding to your range of talents at the moment”.

Bengo smacked his firmly on the his backside.

“Ow!” Bardin yelped.

“Serves you right”, said Bengo “It makes a change for you to be slapped on your bare rump. Kieran always says you’re a complete wuss because you get to keep your shorts on all the time”.

“Kieran can get knotted!” said Bardin “Either that or I shall kick him in the pants again the next chance I get”.

Bengo smacked him again.

“Ow!” said Bardin “Damnit, I’m getting another boner, I can’t believe it”.

His erect penis was rubbing against the cushion, which had been placed underneath him so that his bottom stuck slightly up in the air.

“If I come all over this, Toppy will grumble like hell”, he said.

Bengo deftly turned him over, and then dived down, cramming his penis into his mouth. Bardin let out a moan, and again felt the same pulling-upwards sensation he had felt on the island, when they had seen the strange sea-creature. He grabbed a handful of Bengo’s hair and pushed his face further into his groin.

“Holy shit”, said Bardin, when Bengo was finally allowed to surface “I can’t remember the last time we had it like this. Sometimes I was wondering if we were going to become a celibate order!”

“Very unlikely, Bardy”, said Bengo, wiping his own mouth “It’s just we haven’t had much time lately. I’m usually working, and you’re usually running around the ship, yapping at everybody. This pause-for-breath is releasing everything we’ve had to hold in for a long time. Kieran said that earlier, and he’s absolutely right”.

“Maybe, but I think I’ll still kick him in the pants for the shorts remark”, said Bardin.

He lay, breathing heavily, for a moment. He had ejaculated only a short while earlier as well, onto Adam’s legs, whilst Adam had been walloping him. He felt that whatever he was releasing was skyrocketing out of him, like some corny old jokes about exploding bottles or fountains. It had come out of him gloriously, whilst Bengo and Joby had watched. That, combined with the sound spanking, had made him feel like he was releasing every muscle and resistance in his body. All the grievances against the world and what it had done were leaving him, like a tide ebbing away from the shore.

Bengo gently turned him back onto his front, and resumed the massage.

“You were always really sexy”, said Bengo “At least I don’t have to hold it in these days. I had to really hold it down when you used to get all covered in whipped cream on stage”.

“Kinky little clown”, said Bardin.

He braced himself for another smack, and wasn’t disappointed when it came. Both of them giggled.

“It’s a shame we can’t do that as well”, said Bengo “Have a food fight I mean”.

“Yeah, I can’t see Adam agreeing to that one somehow”, said Bardin “Can you imagine it? ‘Ooh do you mind if we plunder the food stores, so that me and Bardy can cover each other in gooey stuff’?! He’d hit the roof”.

“Oh well, perhaps one day”, said Bengo.

“I’m supposed to be doing one of the evening shifts on deck”, said Bardin “God knows how”.

“You’ll be alright, you just won’t be able to sit down much that’s all”.

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