By Sarah Hapgood

Throughout one long, very hot Summer, they had stayed moored on a river, not far in fact from Aimee’s old inn. At first this would seem a bizarre choice of stopping-place, considering that the area had previously been rife with people who had made it clear that they didn’t like them. There were the Cyanide Sisters to consider, and the descendents of Aimee who had opened fire on them the last time they had encountered each other.

But something in the area had changed. For one thing they had no idea how much time had passed whilst they had been travelling, then holed up in the abandoned house, and then the burning down of the Moss Palace, the demon house. Very occasionally, they received jangled reports over the wireless set, which spoke of untold calamities in the more populated areas of the world, such as extreme freak weather, and what appeared to be outbreaks of total insanity, with people going on killing and looting rampages. It was all very unsettling.

“I think we’re better off taking our chances where we are”, said Adam, and the others were in general agreement on this.

There was a brief moment of unease when Kieran, alarmed by some particularly disturbing reports from the City, got it into his head that they should go and investigate.

“He wants to go and save them all you mean!” Julian exploded “Has he gone completely mad, once and for all?! What’s got into him? It sounds like everybody’s gone round the twist enough already, without him appearing like bloody King Arthur with his sword, and tipping them right over the edge!”

Joby lost his temper with Kieran up on the main deck, and threatened to toss him over the side.

“And I could do it too”, he said “A skinny little bastard like you!”

Fortunately even Kieran saw sense occasionally, and he genuinely repented.

“Everybody’s right”, he said “We would cause mayhem if we turned up. The whole of civilisation seems hysterical enough as it is”.

“Of course it’s all pointless getting all worked up about this”, said Bardin, standing in the galley, waiting for a cup of tea to materialise “As no one on this ship goes anywhere without MY say-so”.

“If you say so, old love”, said Adam.

“Well I am Captain!” said Bardin.

“If you say so, old love”, Adam repeated, infuriatingly.

Bardin threw himself into the chair by the stove, and stared at the fender as though he’d like to rip it out with is bare hands.

“All I’m say ….” he said.

“We know what you’re saying, Bardy”, said Bengo “Now shut up!”

“I think it would be very hard for any of us to ever forget that you are Captain, Bardin dear”, said Adam, patting him on the head.

“It’s all Ully’s fault”, said Bengo, referring to their old boss at The Cabaret Of Horrors “He gave him too much say and responsibility when he was little”.

“Because I was the only clown with a brain that’s why!” Bardin retorted.

“Oh I don’t know”, said Adam “Rumble’s quite sensible”.

“He hasn’t got much charisma though has he”, said Bengo.

“You can have too much damn charisma if you ask me!” said Joby “Bardin’s got too much, and so’s Kieran! Too much charisma only leads to too much trouble!”

Apart from that little kerfuffle, the rest of the Summer was spent in as low-key a way as possible. Sometimes the heat was so intense it was impossible to do otherwise. On one occasion Umbert managed to wring a news item out of the wireless set, which reported that in some areas the temperature had been at over 45 degrees centigrade for over 100 days now.

The Indigo-ites spent their time either on the galleon, or over at the tiny, abandoned riverside settlement they had moored close to. The settlement comprised of a dusty yard, a long, barn-like building with a raftered roof, a tiny room at the top of a creaky flight of stairs, and an outbuilding which, at some time, had been used as a kitchen, containing as it did the remains of an old stove and a stone sink. The settlement was bordered on the other three non-river sides by dense forest.

Occasionally, to escape the claustrophobic heat of the ship’s galley, Adam would take Joby and Bengo over to cook in the outbuilding. It all enabled the hens and the goats to roam freely, where they could safely keep an eye on them.

“It’s too bleedin’ hot”, Joby complained one humid afternoon, for the umpteenth time.

“Well I’m sorry old love, but the air-con’s broken”, said Adam, sarcastically.

“I wonder what happened to all the technology in our time”, said Joby “It’s really weird to think it all just disappeared. I mean, nobody back then had bargained for that did they!”

“I sometimes wonder if we did move into the future at all”, said Adam “And that we didn’t in fact step sideways into some parallel universe”.

“Don’t like the sound of that”, said Joby “It’s as if all this has been imaginary. I have a really horrible fear of waking up back in our time, and finding that all this has been a big, extravagant dream”.

“It’s strange how in old Hollywood films and sci-fi series that’s what we would have been hoping for”, said Adam “We would have been desperately trying to get home all the time”.

“Instead of avoiding it like the plague!” said Joby.

“Oh don’t talk like this”, said Bengo “It makes me think I’m just a figment of your imagination!”

Bardin sashayed into the room.

“My imagination’s not that good!” said Joby “I couldn’t have invented him!”

“And if you’d never come into this time”, Bengo continued, now sounding quite distressed “It would have all been different for us too. I would never have married Bardy!”

“Every cloud has a silver lining”, said Joby.

“Don’t be stupid, Bengo”, said Bardin, briskly “You don’t know that”.

“I do”, said Bengo “You’d have stayed all locked in on yourself”.

“I wish you wouldn’t have these kind of conversations in front of him”, said Bardin, pointing at Bengo “His brain can’t cope with it, it just upsets him”.

Adam dealt Bardin a couple of firm smacks on his behind. The noise of it, in that raftered outbuilding, was very satisfactory.

“Blimey”, said Joby “A new spanking room. I’ll have to bring Kieran in here!”

“As soon as this damn weather reaches a more civilised temperature”, said Adam “I’ll put Bardin across my knee in here and give him a proper damn-good spanking”.

“What’s the temperature got to do with it?” said Bardin.

“Well we want those sacred starchy shorts of yours to stay nice and crisp, old love”, said Adam “It wouldn’t be the same if they were all sodden with sweat”.

“I’m gonna be watching the thermometer closely from now on!” said Bengo.

“This sherry is disgusting, Jules”, said Adam, early that afternoon, taking a post-lunch break on the window-seat in Julian’s cabin “Filthy stuff”.

“I know”, said Julian “But Ransey keeps all the decent booze under lock and key down in the hold. I’m sure I could have a go at picking the lock, except he always seems to be hovering around”.

“Oh for heaven’s sake don’t go nicking any”, said Adam “It’ll throw all his inventory lists out, and then he’ll get so distressed. Oh I do wish this heat would ease, it feels like it’s going to be around forever”.

“It won’t be”, said Julian “We’re too far north for tropical winters up here. I bet you anything you like that when it does change, it’ll virtually happen overnight. I wouldn’t be surprised if the temperatures suddenly plummeted about 10 degrees all at once”.

“I can’t wait for that glorious day to happen!” said Adam.

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