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When Gabriel took over the City he did so simply by flying in and proclaiming himself as President. There was no armed military coup, no intricate behind-the-scenes plotting, just the actions of a shrewd businessman who seized his opportunities at the exact moment most propitious for him. It helped him enormously that the Ministry was in turmoil. For some time now everyone had accepted it as a foregone conclusion that Kieran would succeed the President, so much so that no one else had been groomed for the post. And whilst Kieran was still officially missing, no one wanted it.
But nothing had been heard of Kieran in some time. He had last been seen disappearing into the jungle beyond Husgalonghi, and all attempts to trace him since had fallen on stony ground. Rumours were now rife amongst the disillusioned populace of the City that he had disappeared back into the ether from which he had emerged. Like an astute politician, Gabriel was careful not to comment on these rumours, and neither confirmed or denied it when the Ministry men asked him if it was possible Kieran had been murdered in the jungle.
Reluctantly the Ministry men conceded that Gabriel was now their best bet for the post of President. He had intelligence, charm when needed, considerable experience of the demands of public life, and most importantly, he had a great deal of money. The Ministry coffers could always do with more.
Gabriel insisted on ordering a lavish state burial for his predecessor, and extended the official period of mourning by one week. A move that didn't go down well amongst the businessmen of the City, but who conceded nonetheless that it was a shrewd piece of public relations, because Gabriel knew he had enemies. One of whom was the Elite Squad of the City Guards, a proud body of men whose duties were mainly ceremonial, but who could prove formidable if they took a dislike to the President. Gabriel replaced them with his own guards, simply by ridiculing the Elite Squad. When the Squad did their customary lunchtime march around the Ministry Square, Gabriel planted his supporters in the crowd who swamped the Squad en-masse and ripped off their uniforms. As a means of public humiliation it worked beautifully. The Elite Squad were now a laughing-stock, and Gabriel replaced them with his own.
He was officially proclaimed President from the balcony of the Ministry Headquarters on the last day of August. His reception from the crowd below was muted but not hostile. With still no news forthcoming from Kieran many had given up hope of him ever returning. Gabriel looked rapturously happy. He promised the people he would give them back the life that was rightfully theirs. And to start with he would restore religion.
This did not worry the Ministry unduly. Religion had been a rapidly growing underground movement for some time, and had increased markedly since the vampires were destroyed. No one saw what harm could be done by making it official, particularly as it might help to control the wandering missionaries who were capable of causing so much trouble sometimes.
Gabriel's next move was to begin planning his inauguration ceremony. As he would be paying for it the Ministry raised no objection to his lavish plans. What became increasingly apparent though was that his ideas weren't so much for pomp and ceremony, but a "tidying-up" of the City.
He said he wanted children from the camps to line his processional route, the last generation honouring the last ruler. The Ministry men thought this idea was probably too morbid for public consumption, but agreed to it when Gabriel promised them the children would all get new uniforms for the occasion. When hearing by chance that some of the children had learning difficulties or behavioural problems, Gabriel decreed that only the very brightest and most handsome of the children were to take part in the celebrations. Children such as he had been. All the rest were to be confined to the camps for the day.
Gabriel then toured the City Assizes Court. Tintally, the Minister for Justice, had been confident that Gabriel would not be able to find fault. The cells were all kept spotlessly clean, and the prisoners adequately cared for at not too great an expense.
"Of course all this is only temporary until the new penal colony is finished on Miracle Island", said Tintally, escorting Gabriel into his office at the end of the tour.
"And when is it estimated to be completed?" said Gabriel.
"Spring of next year, if all goes to schedule. I am very pleased with the progress so far. Our men there are doing a splendid job".
"And why couldn't the old buildings at Henang have been used?"
"B-Because the late President agreed with the general consensus that it was better to close the book on Henang and start afresh elsewhere. It held too bad a reputation and too many bad memories".
"I wasn't under the impression Tintally, that prisons were meant to hold good ones".
"I agree, but we all felt", said Tintally, awkwardly "That it was best to start afresh somewhere completely different".
"Well as it's nearly finished there's not much I can do is there?" said Gabriel, petulantly.
From that moment on though Gabriel became obsessed with the upkeep of what he termed the "general dregs of society". He undercut Tintally's authority, and demanded to see every invoice for every nut and bolt, tin of paint, even saucepans, that were ordered for Miracle Island. And he queried the exact necessity for each of them. He dearly wanted to bring back the Cage, but even he could see he would have to bide his time on that one before floating it with the Ministry.
Next he visited the Mental Health Centre. He came away from there even more angry than when he had left the Assizes Court.
"There are men in that place who are violent criminals", he hissed at a cowering round-table of Ministry men "They should be in prison, not tucked up in bed and fed expensive drugs".
"Your predecessor was very proud of our standards on the treatment and care of the mentally ill", Gorth began, bravely.
"I am not my predecessor", Gabriel spat, circling the table like an angel of death hovering over a potential corpse "I want a full report on who in that place is considered a danger to himself or society in general, and then I want them transported out to Miracle Island along with the other criminals".
There was a universal outbreak of protest around the table.
"The mentally-ill are an abomination against myself and the Lord", Gabriel went on "They have no place in a civilised society. How could anyone think of building an asylum for the insane within the City walls? Have you no concern for the well-being of the general public? No, as soon as the camp is finished at Miracle Island, I want them shipped out there next year. We cannot possibly build a last society worthy of all the generations that have gone before if we allow such people a prominent place in our midst!"
Kieran climbed under the sheet and sprawled over Adam's body. As far as Adam was concerned it was the best way he could imagine of waking up.
"Would you believe we're alone in here?" said Kieran, mischievously.
"Why, has everyone else fallen overboard?"
"They're all about their usual duties".
Kieran rubbed his penis against Adam.
"Perhaps it we're very quiet and stay under the sheet", said Adam "No one'll know what we're doing".
"That's asking the impossible", said Kieran, but pulled the sheet up over their heads anyway.
Up on deck Joby was going through the contents of his bag. At the bottom he found the fob-watch that Adam had given him for his birthday, wrapped up in handkerchief. He took the watch out and sat looking at it for some time.
"That's a good 'un", said Ransey, sitting down next to him "Pretty expensive too I expect. Where did you get it?"
"Adam gave it to me for me birthday".
"Can I have a look at it?" Ransey took it and turned it over in his hands "He must think a lot of you to have got you this".
"Yes", said Joby, quietly "It's easy to forget these things. Did you live alone in the City?"
"Apart from when I occasionally took in lodgers, usually friends that had fallen on hard times".
"What sort of place was it that you had?"
"Pretty average City place. Not enough room to swing a cat, but comfortable enough".
"Do you miss it?"
"Nah. I'm not a home-maker, me. That sort of thing drives me up the wall. A friend of mine stayed with me once who was always putting flowers everywhere, and sticking up washing-lines. Drove me mad. I was glad to see the back of him. I think even if I hadn't met you lot I'd have still jacked in all that cosy security".
"You don't regret it then?"
"No. Why, are you homesick?"
"Yea. I miss it as it was. Me with me garden, Adam had his painting, and Kieran would always be safe at home", Joby sighed "But it's no good asking my opinion. Adam once told me I'm probably the sort of bloke who's always happiest somewhere else. I spect he's right. But somehow I don't think it's ever going to go back to that, and I wish we'd had longer of it. Uh-oh, what's Creeping Jesus up to now?"
Joby watched as Isaac went down into the cabin.
"I don't trust him", said Joby "Do you know what to make of him?"
"Not really. I don't think there's anything bad about him, he just gets a bit fanatical at times. Typical zealot really. He gets fixated on one idea and there's no shifting him. He's not the sort of bloke who it's easy to make small talk with".
There was a sudden outbreak of yelling from the cabin, as three different voices erupted at once. Joby ran towards the din. Down in the cabin Adam was holding a bed-sheet around his waist and looking distinctly livid as Isaac ranted at him. Kieran was clutching his shirt to him and appeared to be close to tears.
"What the hell's the matter with you?" Joby bellowed at Isaac "Why have you upset Kieran?"
"Gabriel was right all along", said Isaac, breathing excitedly through his nostrils "Kieran is not the true Vanquisher of Evil. I was wrong to betray Gabriel. I was wrong to distrust his methods. Well I'll have you know that when Gabriel becomes President, he has told me he will force all practising sodomites to undergo medical and psychiatric treatment. They have pills you know, to stop this sort of thing".
"Oh get out of my sight!" Adam roared "At least have the decency to let me get dressed before you start picking a fight".
"To think that I could be so easily taken in by a ..." Isaac thought hard for the most contemptible phrase he could think of to describe Kieran "A cute little fairy! I will be up on deck from now on".
"Don't stop walking when you get there!" Adam yelled after him. He pulled on his shorts and singlet, muttering as he did so "He's not the only one to be taken in. I was under the mistaken impression that he was an o.k guy, in spite of the missionary zeal and the Honorary Virgin bit. Well there is going to be a scene now and no mistake".
"Let it go Ad", Kieran sniffed "We don't know how long we're going to be cooped up like this".
"I will not let it go!" was Adam's parting shot as he vanished up the cabin steps.
Joby sat Kieran down on their bunk, and then poured him a brandy.
"The joke is", said Kieran "Me and Adam weren't doing anything. I got into his bunk, and we fooled around a little. But then we both sort of dozed off! When Isaac came in I was lying on Adam, but I was asleep! We're not likely to start rogering each other with you lot always around or nearby anyway".
"You don't have to explain", Joby stroked his arms and urged him to drink the brandy.
"It's wonderful how you always manage to calm me down", said Kieran, after a while.
"I have my uses".
"I'm glad you've realised it at long last!"
"Cute little fairy!" Joby snorted with laughter "We'll have to get you a set of wings and a wand".
"Well Julian did call me Tinkerbell. I' better watch out come Christmas in case you start impaling me on a tree!" said Kieran "I hope Adam doesn't get too mad".
"He looked pretty mad to me".
"That's not good. We have to try and get along whilst we're on this thing".
"Six of us all holed up within a few feet of each other, there are bound to be problems occasionally".
"Yes but it's not as if you can go for a walk when someone brasses you off can you? Not like in the apartment back home. Here you're stuck with 'em".
"Adam'll sort it".
"Don't you ever do that to any of us again!" Adam was shouting at Isaac on the deck "God knows we have no privacy as it is on this thing. The least you can do is respect what space we do have. I don't object when you start praying do I?"
"Prayer is a form of communication with the Lord", said Isaac "It is not an unnatural act, such as you commit. Sexual intercourse was invented by the Lord as a pleasurable way for Mankind to procreate. As we can no longer procreate sexual intercourse is superfluous to requirements. And sexual intercourse between two people of the same gender has always been an abomination".
"Like it or not", said Adam "You are with us here now, until we reach land. What you do then is entirely your concern, but until then we are all stuck here with each other, so I suggest you start practising some of your renowned Christian tolerance. Like I'm having to do!"
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