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By Sarah Hapgood

“He’s starting to concern me with his obsession with the wireless”, said Bardin, chatting with Adam in the corner of the main deck a short while later.

“Umbert is quite intense on the quiet”, said Adam “I suppose most of the time we forget that”.

“As he gets lost in the noise”, said Bardin, bluntly.

“A bit like some of your clown friends”, said Adam.

“I’d be quite happy for them to get lost anywhere!” said Bardin “Anyway, we’re talking about Umbert, not them”.

“I don’t think we need to worry too much”, said Adam “Your trick of pulling the wires out seems to have some effect on him”.

“I’ve only disconnected it”, said Bardin “It’s not ruined”.

“No, I meant he seemed to relax once you’d done that”, said Adam “It was more psychological than anything else”.

“What are you two gossiping about over here?” Julian shouted, as he came up on deck.

“Never you mind”, said Adam “You don’t have to know everything that goes on”.

“Yes I do”, said Julian “And I don’t like furtive exchanges in corners. It’s not good for the equilibrium of the ship”.

“You do enough furtive stuff yourself, you old fool”, said Adam.

“Only where sex is concerned”, said Julian.

“Oh that’s alright then!” said Adam, sarcastically “We were just talking about Umbert that’s all. But I think Bardin shouting earlier has helped”.

“You should throw your weight around more”, said Julian to Bardin.

“Oh for goodness sake don’t say that!” said Adam.

“So you can bring me into line again is that it?” said Bardin.

“Not just that”, said Julian “Some of them, and Umbert’s one, expect it you know. The Captain’s word is law and all that”.

“I would if I thought it’d have any effect!” said Bardin “Sometimes I feel I’m just being humoured that’s all!”

Back downstairs again, Umbert asked to speak to Bardin urgently.

“I never got a chance to say”, he said “But Crowley said he was gonna arrange for you to be kidnapped one day”.

“Oh yes, and how?” said Bardin.

“You’ll be careful won’t you, Bardin?” said Umbert.

“Of course I will”, said Bardin, more to reassure a clearly agitated Umbert than anything else “If things get too much here, we can always move on. The advantages of living on a ship!”

After Umbert had gone Bardin decided he would go and talk things over with Kieran.

Kieran had been almost as unsettled by the latest wireless message as Umbert had been, and had taken to pacing restlessly. Before departing to help prepare the supper Joby had spanked him with the paddle, “to keep him in order”, and gave the explicit order that he wasn’t to leave their cabin before supper for any reason other than a trip to the heads. In gratitude for the spanking, Kieran had cried and kissed Joby’s hands.

Joby always got a bit embarrassed by these lavish, Catholic displays of penitence, but he knew they gave Kieran pleasure, so he went along with it. Kieran was lying on the sofa in his cabin, in a bit of an emotional heap, when Bardin knocked on the door.

“Come in”, Kieran called, sitting up awkwardly “Bardin!”

“Alright if we have a chat?” said Bardin.

“Yes of course”, said Kieran “You’ll have to excuse my state of half-undress”.

“Makes a change it’s not me who’s been de-bagged”, said Bardin, smiling.

“Your shorts are always in better nick than mine”, said Kieran “I’ll pour us a whisky. I don’t know how you keep your undies in such immaculate condition all the time”.

“Tender loving care”, said Bardin, sitting on the sofa “Although my trousers are staying firmly in place today”.

“Hah, I bet Bengo will have something to say about that later!” said Kieran, pouring the drinks.

Bardin picked up the paddle and turned it over in his hands.

“Was Joby cross with you?” he asked.

“A wee bit”, said Kieran, joining him on the sofa “I feel helpless with all Crowley’s antics, there must be something I can do. But Joby keeps telling me to stop meddling”.

“He’s threatened to kidnap me now”, said Bardin “It’s all bullshit, there’s nothing he can do. It’s posturing”.

“Ach, Crowley’s good at that”, said Kieran “He probably believes he can wear us down if he keeps up the persistence”.

“Do you think we should leave here, Kieran?” said Bardin “Perhaps the answer is to get right away. I’m reluctant to though. This area suits us. In all the months we’ve been here, we haven’t been bothered by anyone, apart from Crowley that is. And with all the unrest there seems to be in the outside world, well who knows what trouble there would be wherever we turned up”.

“I can understand your reluctance to leave”, said Kieran “Frankly I don’t see why we should unless Aleister makes the situation intolerable for us”.

“He’s slowly getting to that stage though isn’t he”, said Bardin.

“Bardin, do you trust me?” said Kieran, unexpectedly.

“You know I do!” said Bardin, taken aback by such a question.

“Would you come with me on the astral plane?” said Kieran.

“To Crowley’s place?” said Bardin, peering at him over the rim of his cup.

“Let’s go and have a spy, and turn the tables on him”, said Kieran “It’s dangerous I grant you, and perhaps I have too much faith in my own powers …”

“Your powers are pretty formidable”, said Bardin.

“But the cheeky thing is, I’m asking you to trust me that I’ll take care of you against Crowley”, said Kieran.

“It sounds pretty exciting”, said Bardin “What if we can’t get back into our own bodies though?”

“We will”, said Kieran “It’s going to be a very odd, disconnected, dream-like experience, not like being in the physical body at all”.

“Let’s do it now”, said Bardin “I take it you can put us into the appropriate state?”

Kieran got up and bolted the door. Then he put his trousers back on.

“Psychology”, he smiled “Joby did me a favour with that spanking. It’s made me relaxed enough to attempt this”.

“He’ll be furious when he hears that!” said Bardin.

One thing Bardin hadn’t anticipated was how quickly the whole experience would go. He had envisaged it as being somewhat languid, almost slow-motion. But instead they had flitted about like insects. Kieran took him on a whistle-stop tour of Crowley’s house, but it was like seeing each room through a thick, opaque, glass wall.

All the rooms seemed to be as sparsely furnished as the hallway in which they had met with him before. What furniture there was seemed to be confined to the absolute bare essentials required. The only rooms that were well-stocked were the library (“I’d expect Crowley to have a plentiful supply of books”, said Kieran, afterwards “It’s one of his few redeeming features”), and the wine-cellar. There was a small chapel which, to Kieran’s surprise, didn’t appear to contain anything of a blasphemous nature.

There were a handful of women dotted around the place, none of whom seemed to be in a particularly healthy, well-nourished, state, and all were engaged in doing menial jobs, such as cleaning and tending to fires. Crowley himself was in the library, writing something at the desk. Bardin found it disconcerting when he looked up sharply when they came in. But after a moment he shrugged and went back to what he was doing.

Kieran had insisted that they linger a little while in the library, but this wasn’t because Crowley was there. It turned out that he was fascinated by a small portrait which was hanging on a wall near the desk. It depicted a young man with fair hair and blue eyes. At first Bardin had thought it was Kieran, until he realised there was nothing soft and tender about the eyes. These eyes were flinty, cynical.

“That was Angel”, said Kieran, when they had returned to normality in his cabin “You never saw him as he once was, only the grotesque creature he’s become”.

“That was weird”, said Bardin “I’d heard he was good-looking once, but I didn’t expect him to look quite so much like you. You could’ve been cloned!”

“Thanks Bardin”, Kieran laughed “I think we need another whisky after that. You’ll be very tired tonight. That kind of thing is very exhausting”.

“Alright, stupid question I know”, said Bardin “But why has he got a portrait of Angel in his house?”

“He’s up to something”, said Kieran “And we need to go there again. But properly this time”.

“O-ho”, said Bardin “The others won’t like that. They’re going to be furious enough at what we’ve done as it is. I was amazed we weren’t seen at all. I kept expecting to be”.

“In some environments we might have appeared as small balls of light”, said Kieran “Orbs, as they used to be called. But not in those daylight conditions. Crowley did sense something”.

“He looked up”, said Bardin.

“Yes”, said Kieran “But fortunately he was too engrossed in whatever he was doing to pursue it”.

“I didn’t see anything there to really cause alarm though”, said Bardin.

“That portrait of Angel alarms me”, said Kieran “Crowley meddles in things, dangerous things”.

“Would Angel bother with him though?” said Bardin.

“That depends what Crowley is offering him”, said Kieran “And that’s what I want to find out. What I NEED to find out”.

There were a few dramatic scenes after everybody else found out about their little adventure. Julian called Bardin and Kieran into his cabin, yelled “shut up!” at them repeatedly, and closed by chucking the ship’s logbook at Kieran. Kieran complained that it could have deafened him, to which Julian retaliated that he was damn lucky he didn’t take the strap to him, and he damn well would if Joby couldn’t be guaranteed to give him a hard time about it.

Joby, meanwhile, sat in the galley with a tea-towel draped over his head, opining that all was useless.

“Even when I tell him to stay in the cabin, he gets up to mischief”, he said “And this was AFTER I’d given him a good hiding as well! I give up! Ad, can I sleep with you tonight?”

“Well of course if you want to, old love”, said Adam “But I think it would be better if you stayed and kept an eye on Patsy”.

“And a fat lot of bloody good that’ll do!” said Joby.

A short while later Adam ordered a distraught Bengo to go and make it up with Bardin.

“Call him all the names you want”, he said “But let’s not have this bad atmosphere lingering for any longer than is strictly necessary”.

Bengo went into their cabin, where he found Bardin standing, hands on hips, staring at all the boots and coats, which were still heaped on the sofa.

“Absolutely ridiculous no one’s found somewhere to put these yet”, said Bardin.

“We could shove them all up your bum”, said Bengo, crossly “One by one”.

“Not very practical”, said Bardin “Though I’m sure you’d find it very satisfying no doubt”.

Bengo seized him by the shoulders and shook him like a rag-doll.

“Do you feel better now?” said Bardin, breathlessly “What’s all the damn fuss about? No harm’s been done, and it was actually quite useful”.

“Oh Bardin!” Bengo cried, in exasperation. He went over and leaned on the chest of drawers “I feel like running away”.

“What, AGAIN?” said Bardin, joining him at the chest of drawers “I shall save you the bother. Yes if you did I’d be very distraught, like last time. OK?”

“It was dangerous what you two did”, said Bengo “What if you’d got stuck there, on that astral thingy?”

“Kieran knows what he’s doing”, said Bardin “He took Tamaz on it once, years ago. He’s stronger than Crowley. He’s given us youth and immortality, and he cured my lip. It was all very interesting. Like having a very strange, vivid dream”.

“But dangerous if you do too much of it, surely?” said Bengo.

“Yes”, said Bardin “Which is why we won’t be. I promise you. Now don’t give Kieran a hard time about this”.

“When do I ever give Kieran a hard time!” said Bengo.

“Good”, said Bardin “He’s already had the log-book chucked at him, and it’s bigger than him!”

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