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By Sarah Hapgood

“What are you dong here?” said Bardin, finding Hoowie loitering suspiciously around the gang-plank as they left.

“I was just thinking”, said Hoowie “Looking at all those people down there on the quayside. Imagine what we could get out of it if we suddenly told them who we was”.

Bardin looked like he was about to explode.

“Don’t even think about it!” he spluttered “All we would get would be nothing but sodding trouble! Now go below at once! Go and wash your hair, you’re looking skanky”.

“Yeah alright, no need for that”, said Hoowie, huffily, stomping off towards the quarterdeck steps.

“And don’t look at me like that, Adam”, said Bardin “I have to say these things. He is nothing but a worry when we’re in civilisation. He shouldn’t be allowed out”.

“I’m sure Julian will keep an eye on him, old love”, said Adam.

“He wasn’t just then was he!” said Bardin.

“Let’s get on with it shall we”, said Ransey “Or this will end up taking up all evening at this rate!”

The town was quiet on their short walk to the bar. Nobody seemed to be about, and the only sound was of a dog barking on the outskirts of the community.

“It gets creepier by the minute”, said Bengo.

“Keep a lid on your imagination”, Bardin ordered.

“You’re nervous too”, said Bengo “Or you wouldn’t have snapped”.

“That’s enough”, said Ransey.

There were a few people in the bar when they arrived, and a fairly pleasant hum of conversation. An immense man in a white apron directed them to what looked horribly like an interrogation room. They took their places.

“Now then”, said the landlord, breezing in, carrying a heavily-laden tin tray “I’ve brought you in some cider. It’s our local speciality”.

“I know, we’ve already had some”, said Adam “Jolly nice too”.

“I’m glad you came over”, said the landlord, once he’d finished dispensing the drinks “I don’t know where you guys are planning on sailing to next”.

“Neither do we”, said Bardin, with disarming frankness “We were hoping, whilst we’re in dock, to acquire some maps”.

“Oh that’s easy enough”, said the landlord “The reason I asked you over this evening was to give you a little friendly warning”.

“Warning?” said Ransey.

“Yes”, said the landlord “Don’t go near the City. We advise all our travellers of this. I can’t stress it enough. That whole area’s a no-go zone”.

“We’d heard about the civil unrest there”, said Adam.

“Oh that was a couple of years back”, said the landlord “There’s bee a new regime in since. They’ve imposed law and order”.

“Surely that’s good?” said Adam, although he had a strong feeling it wasn’t.

“It’s a terrible regime”, said the landlord “Repressive in the extreme. Some of the tales we’ve heard from people who’ve fled … well it’s mind-boggling. How human beings can do such things to one another beats me. Torture, extreme punishment, executions”.

“Who are they?” said Ransey “The regime?”

“Some extreme political group”, said the landlord “They were on the scene before the rioting started, but everybody thought they were a bunch of nutters. Didn’t take much notice of them. They were a joke. And then all the rioting and looting started. The lot in charge couldn’t seem to impose order, or do anything about it. And that’s where this lot seized their chance”.

“Sounds like they orchestrated the whole thing to me”, said Ransey.

“Anton said something similar”, said Adam.

“Well whatever the truth of the matter”, said the landlord “I’m advising you not to go anywhere near the place. Give it a wide berth if you can. We’ve got maps which show the full radius of their power. And we can let you have copies of them. I can’t say this strongly enough, don’t go anywhere near the place. Even outside the City there’s widespread famine, it’s pretty rough. Some have told us that some people are so desperate they’ve resorted to cannibalism. It’s madness. The whole thing”.

“Well”, said Bardin “As I said, we haven’t decided where we’re going yet. We’re trying to find somewhere to settle permanently”.

“Go anywhere but there”, said the landlord “And don’t, whatever you do, take Kieran there”.

“You know?” said Bengo.

“Yeah, some of us do”, said the landlord “Not everyone does. It’s an evil regime. I don’t want to even think what they’d do to him. Would you like some more cider?”

Julian was washing Hoowie’s hair in the galley sink.

“Skanky, he called me”, said Hoowie, when he surfaced in dripping disarray.

“Well I suppose it was a bit greasy”, said Julian, chucking a towel round his head.

“Maybe, but there was no need to call me skanky!” said Hoowie.

“Then you shouldn’t wind him up should you!” said Julian, smacking him on the bottom.

“I hope you’re not making too much of a mess in here”, said Joby, walking in wearing his dressing-gown.

“I’m only washing his hair”, said Julian “Not carrying out vivisection”.

“I love the way you say ‘hair’”, said Hoowie “Sounds like ‘hee-air’”.

“Trying to find where Adam’s hidden the cooking-brandy?” said Julian, as Joby began to throw open cupboard doors.

“I am privy to that secret actually”, said Joby, with lofty dignity “Being his first assistant”.

“So why haven’t you found it straightaway?” said Julian “You should be able to go straight to it surely?”

“He keeps moving it around”, said Joby.

“No need to hide it anyway”, said Hoowie “Now we’re in port, and Hillyard’s earning money, we can buy any amount of booze we like”.

“Well I wouldn’t go that far”, said Julian “But we don’t have to be quite so parsimonious as we have been”.

“Here”, Joby finally extracted the bottom from a bottom cupboard.

There was the sound of movement overhead, and murmuring male voices.

“Quick, pour it out”, said Julian “Before Adam gets down here and starts bellyaching”.

A late night pow-wow was organised in the dining-room, so that they could inform the Cave4 of everything that had been revealed at the meeting.

“There was some awful political group from what I recall”, said Beatrix “We had some concern people might be stupid enough to vote for them, but fortunately they didn’t … although it rather seems now as if they did of course”.

“No one voted for them”, said Ransey “It was a deliberate coup from the sounds of things. They purposefully instigated trouble, and then seized their opportunity”.

“But what about the earthquake?” said Anton “The one that destroyed Nariba, our area? How could they have done that?”

“A very unfortunate coincidence, I suspect”, said Adam “Trouble often comes all at once”.

“Anyway”, said Hillyard “Jarvis, the landlord, says he’s got an old outbuilding going spare you can have if you like. It’s not brilliant, but it might do whilst you’re looking for a proper place”.

“I’m sure anything would be an improvement on the caves!” said Beatrix “And it would be so nice to be back in a community again. I mean, we have been in one on here, but we have rather been intruding”.

“They do seem like nice people”, said Adam.

“Oh”, said Beatrix, looking wistful “To be settled again”.

“Could that regime in the City be demonic?” Kieran suddenly started up.

“Oh no you don’t”, said Joby “Not at this time of the night. Come on, let’s go to bed”.

He escorted Kieran from the room, like a nurse wheeling out an awkward patient.

“Let’s all go to bed”, said Bardin “We can chew over it all properly tomorrow”.

The following day Adam took Beatrix over to meet Jervis, and so that she could inspect the accommodation that was on offer. Adam felt dismayed and embarrassed when he saw it, it was little better than a disused cowshed. Beatrix though was delighted. Anything would be an improvement after two years of living in a cave, but it wasn’t just that. As she had said, Beatrix was delighted at the prospect of living in the heart of a community again. She was a sociable woman, and two years of living in the middle of nowhere, and seeing only three other people all the time had been awful.

“I’ll be able to go the market everyday”, she said to Adam, eyes shining “And that dear landlord has said he could sometimes do with help in the kitchen. Oh I shall enjoy that. He said I would really enjoy the apples harvest in a few months time, the whole town gets involved”.

“It all sounds fun”, said Adam “I just wish the accommodation was better”.

(A lot better in fact, he thought).

“Oh that’s no problem”, said Beatrix “I’m sure Kitty will have some idea about how to make it more salubrious. Probably lots of scarves and wind-chimes around. I absolutely refuse to have Wesley’s still in here though, I don’t want the place blowing up. Not now we’ve just got it!”

“Well I shall leave you to talk things over with Jervis”, said Adam “See you later, back at the galleon”.

“Wait a minute, Adam”, said Beatrix, grabbing his arm “Why don’t you all anchor here for a while as well? The townspeople won’t give you away I’m sure, and well frankly I think you all deserve the comfort of a safe haven for a while”.

“Thank you, Bea”, said Adam “But I suppose it’s all down to our little Captain, and what he decides to do”.

Our Little Captain was at that moment delighting the owner of the chandler’s shop. He was a benign old cove, more reminiscent of a quietly-enthusiastic academic librarian, than someone you would perhaps expect to find in a shop selling shipping equipment. He was normally used to dealing with captains who communicated in terse grunts, so he was pleasantly surprised by Bardin’s starched efficiency, and yet, at the same time, outgoing manner.

Bengo, who had come over with his partner for the outing, was starting to wish he had stayed at home in the galley. He trailed behind him round the shop, being heaped with rolled-up maps like a pack-mule.

“Bardy, we can’t possibly need all these”, he complained.

“Yes of course we do”, said Bardin “Who knows where we shall go next”.

“And this of course is the largest-scale map I have”, said the old man “This one does go as far south as the City”.

“It’s quite some way isn’t it?” said Bardin.

“Indeed”, said the old boy “A good couple of thousand miles. We are quite nicely out of the way up here. Their reach doesn’t extend anywhere near this far”.

When they finally vacated the shop, Bengo found he was doing most of the carrying.

“Now just stop a minute”, he said, crossly, and he brained Bardin with one rolled-up map “You take a couple of these”.

“Clowns! Clowns! I hope you’re behaving yourselves!” said Adam. He had left Beatrix to talk things over with Jervis, and was now also on his way home.

“No, he’s left me to carry all this”, Bengo complained.

“How have you paid for all this, Bardin?” said Adam, relieving Bengo of a couple of the rolls.

“Paid for it?” said Bardin.

“Yes, payment”, said Adam “As in money, filthy lucre”.

“Oh I didn’t give him cash”, said Bardin, airily.

“Then how did you?” said Adam, sounding like a headmaster quizzing a wayward pupil.

“Yes, go on, tell him what you’ve offered as payment!” Bengo said to Bardin.

Adam by now looked somewhat alarmed.

“He wants to meet Kieran, that‘s all”, Bardin sighed “Just to shake his hand, that’s all. Look, would I even have agreed to it if I thought there was any danger to it?”

“Huh!” said Bengo.

“No I wouldn’t”, said Bardin “And if we’re staying here for a while, he’ll probably meet him at some point anyway, and Kieran keeps complaining we don’t let him out enough!”

He strode off, then turned to face them, his hands thrust in his duffel-coat pockets.

“I wish you’d trust me a bit more!” he snapped, before striding off again, leaving Adam and Bengo with all the maps.

“He needs a really good whipping”, said Bengo “I think you should do it, Adam. You can be much sterner than me”.

“Tell you what, old love”, said Adam “As soon as we’ve got our guest re-housed, we’ll start up the Club again”.

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