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They charted an air-buggy to Krindei, otherwise the trip would have taken too long, which unfortunately meant they couldn't make a low-key entrance. The Governor had sent them effusive messages that his residence was at their disposal (he had a soft spot for Kieran for having introduced him to Lady Red), but the Indigo-ites said tactfully they would prefer to take advantage of Krindei's glorious climate and bivouac. Governor Kredd said he would arrange it all for them.
Kredd was a simple man, with a love of the good things in life. As such, he distrusted extremists like the FFF, and didn't see how forcing people to live in an exact way was going to benefit anyone. He found Hillyard to be a bit too flighty for his tastes, and distressingly unconcerned about business, but he preferred him to the moody, intense Noah and his crew anyday.
"It says here", said Julian, who was occupying part of the flight by reading a wad of Krindei newspapers Ransey had ordered to be sent down to them in adanve "In an exclusive interview with Noah, head of the Family First Foundation, that he believes he has many qualities to offer the world. For instance, unlike Kieran, he doesn't walk around naked out of doors, and also unlike Kieran, he is completely faithful to his lifelong partner".
"What is his lifelong partner?" said Joby "Male or female?"
"Animal, vegetable or mineral?" said Adam.
"Vegetable probably", Joby grunted.
"He doesn't specify", said Julian "Perhaps he hasn't worked it out yet!"
"You've trimmed too much off my hair!" Tamaz squawked, after a lengthy perusal of his reflection in a hand-mirror.
"The way you had hysterics everytime I went near you with the scissors I'm amazed I got any taken off!" said Finia.
"It's a vast improvement, Freaky", said Adam "We can see more of your extraordinary face".
"That should have a few people running for cover!" said Julian.
"But I want to arrive as a girl", said Tamaz "I want to dazzle everyone. After all, the last time I was in Krindei I was locked up in that stupid cage".
"Happy days", said Julian.
"Hang your dress up now", said Finia "Or the taffeta will be all creased by the time we get there".
Tamaz proudly unveiled his new "arriving frock". A magnificent garment with a strapless beaded black bodice and a full green skirt.
"You are going to look like a tart in a Western in that!" said Julian "A saloon moll!"
"I'm wearing it", said Tamaz, stamping his foot.
"Fair enough, but don't go bawling your head off when everyone keeps staring at you", said Julian "Now come and sit next to me for the rest of the journey".
Although Ransey had stressed that they were all on holiday really, he got the ball rolling very early on, by arranging an alfresco dinner-party that very night with some of the town's leading businessmen. It wouldn't have been practical for all of the Indigo-ites to attend, so only the 4 eldest ones went, Julian, Adam, Ransey and Hillyard. At first Hillyard had failed to see why they had to start so soon, but it quickly became obvious. Men relaxed on full stomachs, after imbibing good booze, and tended to start letting their opinions trill forth. In an affluent place like Krindei, where even the most strident of opinions rarely got contradicted, this was especially true. It was a good way to find out early on who their most likely supporters and opponents would be. Anyone with even the slightest leaning towards the FFF wouldn't be able to stay hidden in the woodwork.
Kieran wasn't invited to the bash. The men of Krindei had only ever paid lip-service to him. They didn't understand him, some quite openly dismissing him as a religious crank. "Sure there's a need in the world for his beliefs", they said "But he knows nothing about money and business". As the evening progressed, and the men's opinions started spilling out, Ransey was more glad than ever that he hadn't invited him. Kieran would have insisted on challenging many of them to a philosophical debate, which was all very admirable, but it wouldn't have helped them in their endeavours.
Towards 11 o'clock a sticky moment occurred, when one of the Krindei-ites began spouting forth that more control was needed over breeding, that the FFF's idea of a "breeding programme" was to be applauded. Those of the "underclass" (quite who this was referring to exactly remained unspecified) should be sterilised, otherwise they would outbreed everyone else like rabbits. "We must ensure the next generation is as strong and healthy as we can make it", the Krindei-ite went on "Physical supremacy, with the best of intellects. No room for the sickly or retarded".
Adam was engaged in a different conversation at the other end of the table, but Julian was alarmed that he might hear any of this. His protective attitude towards Lonts was so acute that even the most general of references could spur him into a rage and upset him for days.
"Hillyard", Julian whispered "This idiot looks like he might be unstoppable. It might be best if we got Adam out of here. See to it".
"Sure", Hillyard got to his feet and then paused "How?"
"Just get him out of here", said Julian, through gritted teeth "Use force if you have to. And do it quickly!"
"What if he won't come with me?" said Hillyard.
"Don't take no for an answer", said Julian "Do I have to do everything myself?!"
"Alright!" said Hillyard, defensively.
He walked down to the end of the table, and plucked Adam out of his chair, dragging him away from the table before Adam was fully aware of what was happening.
"Hillyard, what the hell are you doing?" Adam cried "You've completely embarrassed me!"
"Don't argue", said Hillyard, pulling him towards their horse-drawn carriage "Julian told me to take you back to camp".
"Why?" said Adam "Stop hauling me about like a sack of potatoes and give me an explanation!"
Hillyard actually picked him up and carried him the rest of the way to the carriage.
"Strewth, I think you're putting on weight!" he said.
"I want an explanation and I want it now!" said Adam, once he had been deposited in the carriage.
Hillyard got in after him and threw himself at him like a man who had been starved of lovemaking for quite some time.
"I got the impression I had to keep you occupied until the others were ready to come home", said Hillyard, when they had all got back to their little camp by the river "And that was the most enjoyable way I could think of doing it!"
"Don't twitter on about it, Ada", said Julian, wearily "I expect you enjoyed it really. We all know how you like a bit of masterful behaviour".
Infuriated, Adam swiped Julian across the face, causing great consternation amongst the other Indigo-ites, who had all gathered outside their large communal tent in a state of great confusion.
"Adam!" said Lonts, stamping over to him with Snowy under his arm "Ransey's just told me everything. How that man at the dinner was going on about how people like me should be exterminated".
"I didn't put it quite like that!" said Ransey.
"And how Julian just wanted you to leave before you got too upset", Lonts continued "And all you can do is hit him! You should be ASHAMED!"
"Damnit Lo-Lo!" said Adam "How was I supposed to know any of that? One minute I'm sitting there engaged in polite conversation, the next I'm being dragged away from the table like an unwelcome gatecrasher! I was completely confused. Anyway, I'm not made of bone china, I don't need constantly protecting".
"Yes you do", said Joby "You always did. You get too worked up for your own good sometimes".
"And you still hit Julian", said Lonts, sternly.
"He was teasing me!" Adam protested.
"I'm always being teased", said Lonts "And called names. Joby calls me pond-life, but I stay dignified, I don't go smacking him in the face!"
"Good job too", said Joby "I'd never recover!"
Julian, by now sporting a lurid red mark on his right cheek, marched into the tent. Finia scurried after him, to attend to him with the First Aid box, which was what he was doing when Adam finally plucked up the courage to follow them in there a couple of minutes later.
"This will be a bit sore I'm afraid", said Finia, dabbing at Julian's cheek with iodine.
"Not half as sore as Adam's going to be when I get my hands on him!" said Julian.
"Anything like that can wait until the morning", said Finia, firmly.
"Yes, I'll have plenty of time on my hands now", Julian spat "After all, I can hardly go to any top-level business meetings looking like a superannuated prize-fighter now can I!"
"They didn't need you there anyway", said Finia "It only requires Ransey and Hillyard".
"Thanks, you've made me feel a lot better", said Julian "Misunderstood, unappreciated, bashed-up and useless, that's me!"
Finia tutted, rolled his eyes and left the tent.
"This takes us back doesn't it, Jules?" said Adam, placatingly.
"What, you inflicting your nasty little temper on me you mean?" said Julian.
"No, all this", Adam swept his arms wide to indicate the spacious and comfortable tent "It reminds me of that Rudolph Valentino-style tent you had at Pepuaah. Do you remember that?"
"Of course I remember it!" said Julian "You're the one that's senile, not me!"
"Jules, it wasn't my fault", said Adam, beseechingly "No one had told me what was going on".
"We couldn't", said Julian "What was I supposed to do? Shout down the table to you, 'Adam leave at once, there's an idiot here wanking off at the mouth and you'll get upset!' I was thinking of you! And then I get smacked in the face for my pains!"
"Oh Jules", Adam threw his arms round him "I'm so wretchedly sorry".
"Looks like we've moved onto the kiss-and-make-up stage at last", said Hillyard, standing outside the tent with the others , shivering in the night-time chill "We'll be able to go in now, it should be safe".
"Perhaps we should give them a little longer", said Lonts "To make sure they're really friends again".
"Brilliant idea, Lonts", said Joby, sarcastically "We stand out here freezing our nuts off, whilst they have a night of passion!"
"Ah good", said Julian, as everyone filed in "Now we're all here I've got something to say".
"Is it gonna take long?" said Joby "I'm knackered".
"In order for Ransey's little sting to work", said Julian, sternly "The rest of us have to be on our best behaviour".
Everyone looked at him in total astonishment.
"Believe it or not, even in a town like Krindei", said Julian "There are some men who put principles above money. In order to get them on side, it is not enough for us to simply raise more money than the FFF to buy them out. From everything I've been reading it appears that the FFF cultivate a whiter-than-white image".
"Intimidating people, bullying women, laying siege", said Hillyard, facetiously.
"Regardless of that they put it about that they lead wholesome, God-fearing lives", said Julian "And in a place like Krindei, this will carry a lot of weight, believe me. The men here are powerful, disgustingly rich, and are cossetted from birth onwards. They are notoriously impatient with any kind of human weakness. There are some men who will support the FFF, no matter how many carrots Hillyard offered in return. Some of the opinions I heard this evening would have brought a warm glow to Goebbels! We have to show them that we have moral values too. It is not going to be very convincing though if Noah and his chums act at their most pious and shiny-faced, whilst we're being our usual selves! Now admittedly we haven't got off to a very good start. Not with Adam and I brawling like a couple of degenerate old sailors on shore-leave!"
Adam looked suitably stricken and penitent.
"This is crazy!" said Tamaz "Why have we got to pretend just to please this bunch of jerks?"
"Very simple", said Julian "If the FFF succeed in their quest for world domination, you can bet your sweet arse that we are all going to end up in concentration camp, and that's if we're lucky!!!"
"You'll never win wholehearted support from them with Tamaz and me here", said Mieps "Perhaps we should leave for a while?"
"And what good's that gonna do?" said Joby, angrily "They already know you're with us".
"It's an absurd idea", said Julian, as angry as Joby.
"I think it's a good one", said Toppy "Tamaz can never be trusted to behave himself".
He tailed off, quailing under Lonts's ferocious glare.
"I was just saying", said Toppy, resigned to the inevitable.
"Shut up, Toppy!" said Lonts, inevitably.
Hillyard shaved Julian before heading off with Ransey in the morning. Julian felt secretly apprehensive at his imminent departure. He suddenly had the bizarre idea that Hillyard was too wholesome and innocent to be thrust into the world of sharp finances. Bizarre or not, this was in fact true. Hillyard didn't possess a devious, manipulative or greedy bone in his body. Julian had long since held the belief that Hillyard would make a good king. He was handsome, affable and tolerant, had the common-touch, and wasn't possessed of a dangerously high intellect. He liked to have a good time, and he wanted everyone else to have one too, perfect qualities for a ruler.
"Are you going to get dressed?" said Julian, touching Hillyard's bath-robe "Or are you going to turn up in this?"
"You can imagine it can't you!" Hillyard laughed.
"But you will be alright won't you?" said Julian, with concern.
"What do you think's going to happen to me?" said Hillyard, taking off his robe and proceeding to get dressed "Anyway, all I have to do is sit there like a grinning scarecrow. Ransey'll do all the talking. I just hope they don't keep us in too late this evening".
Once Hillyard was dressed, Julian followed him outside, where the horse-drawn carriage was waiting. As was Ransey, who was standing next to it with a forbiddingly-large stack of papers under his arm.
"What's this, your memoirs?" said Julian "Are you going to bore them into submission?!"
"These are all Hillyard's assets actually", said Ransey.
"Good grief", said Julian.
"They're going to know everything about me after today", said Hillyard "Every bit of me will be laid bare".
"Not a pretty sight", said Joby.
He saw Hillyard and Ransey off on their journey into the unknown, and then went in search of Kieran. They were all camped next to an impressive marble pavilion, which was used sometimes for open-air concerts. On one side of it wide marble steps swept straight down to the river, where visitors could moor their barges and boats. Sitting near the bottom with their feet dangling in the water, was Tamaz and the clowns. Bengo on one side of him was gazing at Tamaz with near adoration. Bardin on the other wore his increasingly habitual expression of barely-controlled jealousy. Although it was difficult to gauge which one of them he was most piqued with!
"He's a wicked little hussy", said Kieran, who was sitting several steps up from them "He treats Bengo like a loveable old hound".
"Everybody treats Bengo like a loveable old hound", said Joby, sitting down behind him and running his fingers through Kieran's long, yellow hair "Mainly 'cos he is like one!"
Tamaz slid his wrap from his shoulders, exposing his breasts fully to the morning sunlight. Bengo was now practically slavering at the mouth.
"This must be what Julian meant last night by us setting a wholesome example!" said Kieran, almost helpless with laughter.
"Tamaz!" Joby yelled "Come here!"
Tamaz abandoned his wrap and came up towards them, clad only in his drawers. He wore his most mulish expression, thrusting out his bottom lip stubbornly. It was an expression that would have intimidated quite a few people, as it made him look like a particularly petulant young thug. To Joby though, it was nothing more than Tamaz's most brattish expression.
"I wasn't doing anything wrong!" Tamaz cried.
"Come with me", said Joby, firmly.
Tamaz gave a whimper as he followed him.
"Has Tamaz done something wrong?" said Lonts, who was cleaning out his pipe as they passed.
Joby didn't answer but led Tamaz into the tent.
"Put a shirt on and talk to me", said Joby, rooting in their luggage for one of Tamaz's garments "You were being watched from the other side of the river".
"From that posh boat", said Tamaz "You recognised it didn't you?"
"I've seen it before", said Joby "In Barlazzi. I remember thinking at the time that it looked too luxurious for that place".
"It's Noah's", said Tamaz, triumphantly "For all we know it might have been him watching me. In fact you're pretty certain it was".
"Put it this way, it wouldn't come as any great surprise", said Joby "His sort are boringly predictable. Anyone who spends their life going on about the evils of the flesh is bound to have some unhealthy obsessions".
"Then it's alright", said Tamaz "We've got him!"
"No we haven't", said Joby "We haven't got a damn thing, and I won't have you prancing around out there in your drawers, trying to get a reaction out of him. It's too dangerous Tamaz, and I want you to stop doing it".
"O.K", said Tamaz, wearily "But what about the little blonde guy? Do we tell him what we suspect?"
"He already knows", said Kieran, walking into the tent.
"Huh, we can't keep anything from you can we!" said Tamaz.
"As you and me are both psychic, very little", Kieran smiled "And I agree with Joby, you'll be the very model of decorum whilst Noah is anywhere within a 10-mile radius!"
"You think he's that dodgy?" said Tamaz.
"I suspect he's that dodgy", said Kieran "But I have no proof. I think the Family First Foundation could be a cover for something even more sinister than what we originally thought. Tamaz, for the first time in your life, when we say you have to behave, we really do mean you have to behave! If you go playing games with these guys, you could endanger yourself quite seriously and endanger a lot of other people too. Do you understand what I'm saying now?"
"Yes", Tamaz nodded.
"Good", said Kieran.
"Right, you two get your clothes off", said Julian, marching into the tent "We're going swimming".
"Eh?" said Joby "What, in the river?"
"Yes, in the river", said Julian "Strangely enough".
"I don't understand", said Joby "Last night you was saying we had to be all decent and respectable, and now we've gotta strip off outside!"
"I overheard your conversation", said Julian "And being all-knowing all-seeing and all-hearing, I have also noticed Noah's preoccupation with us, or rather I should say Freaky's tits, from the deck of his sumptious yacht. So, if he wants something to look at, we'll give it to him".
"Now I'm being told I have to tart around outside!" said Tamaz.
"You're staying in here", said Julian "It's Kieran and Joby who are coming with me".
"Why can't I come as well?" said Tamaz, indignantly.
"Because you have tits", said Julian "And I resolutely refuse to give Noah what he wants. If he wants tits, we'll give him dicks instead".
"I've got one of those as well!" said Tamaz, ignored by all.
"Are you sure about this?" said Joby "It all sounds a bit dangerous to me".
"What's dangerous about going for a dip in the river?" said Julian "Think of it as all part of our intimidation programme".
"I don't see a problem", said Kieran, to Joby's obvious astonishment "It's just a skinny-dip. We're not showing any aggression. Even the he-men of Krindei can't object to us having a bathe in the river. After all, it's all very macho really".
Julian brought Lonts in to keep an eye on Tamaz.
"We won't be long", said Joby.
Tamaz watched sulkily as the others all departed. Lonts kept his arm slung around his shoulders protectively.
"I'm surprised you want to stay in here", said Tamaz, as ecstatic whoops and laughter broke out from the direction of the river.
"Do that expression of yours again", said Lonts.
"Which one?" said Tamaz.
"Where you look confused", said Lonts "Your mouth drops open a little".
"I can't look confused to order!" Tamaz snapped.
"Shame", said Lonts, unabashed "You look like a little kitten then".
"With big claws", Tamaz aimed a mock-swipe at him.
It was virtually impossible for Tamaz to upset Lonts in any way though, and Lonts merely laughed indulgently.
"Isn't sex a funny thing?" said Lonts "I don't mean sex itself, I mean what sex we are. No one could tell, just by looking at your face, what sex you were, whether you were a boy or a girl".
"Probably because I'm both!" said Tamaz.
"And Noah fancies you, purely because you've got breasts", Lonts continued "If you hadn't, he wouldn't".
"I've also got a dick", said Tamaz, furiously "Just like all that lot out there! It's a good job I don't have to try and be one sex al the time, because you lot would never be able to make up your minds which one you wanted me to be! Anyway, it's not all to do with just what bits and pieces you've got. Look at you. Most people fancy you because you're beautiful, like Kieran. When you're as beautiful as that no one cares whether you've got tits or a dick, or both".
"Adam once said that's because everyone worships beauty", said Lonts "He said it probably would have been unthinkable for the Vanquisher of Evil to have been ugly".
"Mm", said Tamaz "Like the way evil people are often shown as ugly in films. I suppose they're shown as beautiful too sometimes, so I don't really know what I'm talking about!"
"You're beautiful", said Lonts, simply.
"I'm also ugly, I know that", said Tamaz "Where my looks are concerned it seems to depend entirely on how people want to see me. Whereas you and Kieran, no one could doubt you were both beautiful. It must be because you're both good".
"What about Joby then?" said Lonts "He either looks ugly, or really handsome. I can never work his looks out".
"Because he's both good and wicked like me", said Tamaz, teasingly "When he's with Kieran he's good, and when he's with me, he's wicked!"
"Tamaz, you are funny!" Lonts laughed "Mieps says you are fatal to anyone who falls in love with you. He says he sometimes feels so miserable from loving you he wishes he'd never met you".
"That's nice", said Tamaz, despondently.
"But I don't think he'd have it any other way", said Lonts, in a consoling manner "In fact I'm sure he wouldn't".
"So", said Hillyard, sitting down on the sun terrace of the hotel-cum-Governor's-residence "How did we do then?"
"Not too bad", said Ransey, putting the hefty wad known as Hillyard's Assets on the table in front of them "Not a complete success. I think we just have to face the fact that some of them don't like us. But hopefully we've dented the FFF's power, and even if we only manage that in a small way it's no bad thing".
"Have I got any money left?" said Hillyard "That was a joke by the way. I'm not casting any aspersions on your honour as an accountant!"
"Now you're beginning to talk like Julian!" said Ransey "Our house, and Woll's estate were always safe, I made sure of that. The last thing I want at my age is to be worrying about losing the roof over my head!"
"And we've always got Kieran's money anyway", said Hillyard.
"Yes, it'd make a change from Tamaz spending it all!" said Ransey "That kid would do very well as one of those deadly courtesans that ruin hapless men. Anyway, getting back to my main point, Leon's inheritence is safe. Even if the worst came to the worst, he should still have the big house and all the estate, which isn't exactly small potatoes on its own! I think many of our associates today were quite taken aback by exactly how much you're worth. After all, you don't exactly look like the average billionaire".
"I suppose you wonder what the hell Woll was thinking of leaving it all to the likes of me?" said Hillyard.
"How can you say that?" said Ransey, his anger startling Hillyard quite considerably "Is that what you think I'm like, hm, hm? I have never entertained that thought for one minute. All I've wanted to do these past couple of years is protect you, save you from the numerous pitfalls that having this kind of money can bring!"
Ransey was on his feet now, clutching the Assets to his chest. He seemed to have suddenly aged 30 years, and looked like an angry, bewildered old man.
"Ranz!" Hillyard cried "It was another of my pathetic jokes. Sit down and finish your drink. You're too tense, that's your trouble. You'll all wound up from it all. You need to relax a bit".
"O.K", Ransey mumbled and sat down "It's been rather an intense day hasn't it?"
"You can say that again!" said Hillyard "It's when they all start rolling their shirt-sleeves up that I felt like laughing. They all started doing it at once, like formation dancers!"
"That's an old trick", Ransey laughed "It's the 'right, we really mean business now' movement. Back in the City they would have had jackets to remove too, and that would have all been done in formation as well!"
"How did you ever take it seriously?" said Hillyard.
"Ah money is a very serious business", said Ransey, with mock-solemnity "And if it halts Noah and the FFF in their tracks, who are we gainsay that? If your legacy had never happened, and we were still broke, and the FFF had then started rising to prominence, we would have had to have sat there helplessly and watched them. Think how that would have felt".
"We would have found some other way", Hillyard protested "Like when we defeated Gabriel, we had no money then but we still managed it".
"The world's moved on from those days", said Ransey "Gabriel's kind of evil was more tangible, more obvious. No amount of money could have stopped his hocus-pocus and his zombie army in their tracks. This is different. Some people like Noah's attitude, they see it as in-tune with the New Era, which isn't good. Kieran's ways would be too ethereal, too philosophical, too old world for their tastes. They wanted him when the vampires and Gabriel need vanquishing, but the ungrateful louts don't want him now. They don't want to have to think anymore, they just want to breed, and breed as perfectly as they can".
"Why can't they think AND breed?" said Hillyard.
"You tell me", Ransey sighed "Kieran's thoughtfulness, his strengths, his weaknesses, all suited them when they thought they were peering into the abyss, but now, in this great New Era of peace and prosperity, everybody's got to be big and robust, healthy in mind and body, not prone too much to brooding on imponderables. No room for that now!"
"After everything he's been through", said Hillyard, sadly "I don't see how Noah and the FFF represent the New Era so perfectly. Whenever I see them hereabouts they're all dressed in black with grim faces".
"Expressions full of purpose and determination is how they see it", said Ransey.
"If you say so", said Hillyard "They just look miserable to me!"
They were both startled by a sudden noise, which sounded like a lion in pain. It rapidly became nearer and they realised, to their astonishment, that it was Noah. He was in a rage, barely-controlled. The other startling thing about him was his stark-white complexion, as though he'd served as a banquet for a host of vampires. It particularly stood out in a place like Krindei, where people were either olive-complexioned or sunburnt.
"I'm going to get that fucking demon!" he yelled at them "I'm going to prove to you bastards once and for all that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated! I'm going to teach it a lesson, and I want everyone to know about it! Everyone!"
"Who's he talking about?" said Hillyard, after Noah had departed again.
"One of us lot", said Ransey "And my guess would be Tamaz, he's usually at the centre of any trouble. Let's get back home. He looks like he might be capable of anything!"
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