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Gabriel went on a progress during the first few months of his reign. Wherever he went he expected to be hailed like a king, and generally he was, at least until he began his customary walkabouts. It was then that he learned that his people only wanted to know one thing, was there any news of Kieran? Hurt and dejected, Gabriel would hide behind his hats and scarves and head back to his train or air-buggy. He had almost convinced himself that Kieran was dead. There had been no news from Isaac for some considerable time, and his elemental had reported nothing of any significance either. Gabriel happily assumed that Kieran was now either dead or too far away to be of any relevance whatsoever.
The new President was obsessed with cleaning up the City. He believed that the air could be contaminated by the people who breathed it, and set about at once removing those whom he felt were unclean or impure. The first convict ship set sail for Miracle Island shortly before Christmas, with a large contingent of the mentally-ill on board as well. Gabriel planned it to be the first of many such voyages. Deep in the real soul of him, buried at the heart of his madness, Gabriel had a violent desire to be loved by people. He didn't want to be regarded as a cruel dictator, but as the father of his people, the man who would cherish and look after the human race in its declining years. The things he did were done with what he felt were the best of intentions. By beginning to eliminate these unfortunate people from their midst he believed he could make the City a better place to live in. He didn't bargain for the hostile reaction his actions got. The sudden disappearance of the weak and the sick from society gave too many people disturbing reminders of what life had been like under the vampires. So the first convict ship set sail serenaded by a large picket of protestors at the harbour.
Gabriel found this hard to understand, but he was convinced everyone would see his point of view more clearly as time went on. He turned his attention next to the eunuchs. Festival days were cancelled, brothels were shut down, and it suddenly became an imprisonable offence for eunuchs to appear in public wearing female clothing. This was hard, as most eunuchs felt robbed of their identity. A hardened minority of society, who had long condemned the eunuchs as an abomination, applauded this action. The great majority were saddened though. The eunuchs had added much-needed colour and diversity to City life, and their sudden erasure meant they were much missed.
Tintally protested that the cost of keeping most of the eunuch population at the Assizes Court would land the Ministry heavily in debt. Gabriel was alarmed by this. He knew that executing the eunuchs or putting them in the Cage wasn't the answer, at least not until he'd been in charge a lot longer, and so he set his own guards to work torturing them, in the hope that the eunuchs would then kill themselves out of sheer desperation. At night their screams could be heard out in the streets surrounding the Assizes Court. The newly-appointed City bishops tried to drown out the noises by ringing the recently installed bells in one of the towers at the Ministry Headquarters. To some this didn't alleviate the pain of what they heard though and so they sneaked and threw bricks and stones through the windows of the Assizes Court in frustration.
By the time of Gabriel's first Yuletide as President the City was no longer the place the natives had known. Life there was already intolerable.
They had worked hard all that first winter, building a home for themselves on the nameless island at which they had arrived. There was very little fuel left for the yacht, and it would have been sheer madness to have attempted to sail any further, and they might not get so lucky with their choice of accommodation again.
It wasn't a halcyon existence, there were too many unknowns to be faced for that, but at least here they were free. Apart from the odd monsoon the weather was perfect, and they soon established that there were no hostile natives lurking in the undergrowth. The island was two miles wide by seven miles long, and they had it to themselves.
They built a fairly substantial shelter out of driftwood from the beach, and canvas from the yacht. It was weatherproof, which was all that mattered. They worried constantly about running out of food, but they were highly fortunate that the island had been inhabited some time in the past, and by people who had settled there from elsewhere, because they had introduced rabbits, ducks and wild boar to the island. These had since flourished rather better than their human counterparts had obviously done. Joby found the remains of a vegetable garden planted by the previous occupants. He held out little hope that it could be resurrected, but he set-to with energy, dedicating every waking moment to its care. He was rewarded the following Easter by his first crop of potatoes. He put this achievement on a par with the first time had made love to Kieran.
It was a life fraught with difficulties. They couldn't afford to get complacent for a moment. Everyday brought fresh chores to be done, more worries bout their ongoing survival. Adam sometimes lay awake at night worrying about what might happen if any of them fell seriously ill, as even appendicitis would mean certain death. On the whole it paid not to dwell on these problems too much. And in spite of these worries the island brought them peace, which was something they all badly needed.
On one afternoon in particular, after they had been on the island for ten months, Hillyard and Ransey went hunting in the interior. Adam took his sketch-pad to the far end of the beach. By clambering onto a large rock he could see the tips of a submerged mountain far out to sea. He settled down to draw this extraordinary sight, but ended up simply gazing at it, and idly speculating where it might have been in his own time. For the first time he gauged some idea of the sheer calamity of the Warming. That the sea had risen and engulfed an entire mountain was awesome to contemplate, possibly throwing up the island they were now on as a contemptible sop to on-going civilisation.
Back at the shelter Joby and Kieran took advantage of their privacy by going to bed. They now lay close together on the mattress they had taken from the yacht (still moored in the cave), and talked.
"I wonder what happened to the people who were here originally", said Kieran "Everywhere I walk I catch odd traces of them. Oh I don't mean psychic impressions, but just remains of them, like your garden for instance. I unearthed an old hunting-knife the other day. It had the initials 'JD' carved on it".
"Perhaps they just got fed up and moved on", said Joby "Perhaps they were a load of jaded City businessmen who came out here wanting to play Robinson Crusoe, and then got bored. It was always happening in our time. Everybody wanting a dream, but not prepared to work for it. Still they did me a favour, planting the garden, so I can't be too hard on 'em".
"How long do you think we'll be here?"
"Dunno", Joby shrugged "I don't care if it's forever really".
"You don't miss the City at all?"
"Not really. After all, I'm doing here largely what I did there. Gardening, getting fed up with Hillyard, sleeping next to you at night. All with the added bonus of no freezing cold winters to get through".
"I sometimes worry what Gabriel's doing, if he really is in charge that is. But perhaps he's alright. I mean, power can do funny things to a man. It can even shock them into having some sense".
"He can't be any worse than the vampires were", said Joby "And I know it's selfish, but at least here I've got you safe. Anyway, if Gabriel gets too big for his boots, they can get rid of him. As you said to me at Mundaba Heights, he hasn't got much support really".
"No, but he has got the forces of darkness on his side".
"Well the City'll have to deal with 'em then! Make them stand on their own two feet, stop expecting you to sort everything out. Or did you want to be President?"
"Only to stop the likes of him. but I'm sure I'm not the only one who can manage that, and I was pretty pitiful up against him at Mundaba Heights".
"Don't think about that, it just upsets you".
"I'm alright", said Kieran.
He picked up Joby's hand and held it against the sunlight spilling through the open doorway. Joby's wrists and arms were thin but capable. Kieran could get a boner by simply stroking them. He leaned over and kissed Joby's stomach, working his way down slowly to his penis. He gently pinned Joby's hands to his side whilst he did so, and Joby squirmed with delight.
"You do things to me!" Joby cried out.
"I'm glad to hear it", said Adam, temporarily blocking out the sunlight from the doorway.
"What the fuck are you doing back?" Joby roared.
"This is mean, Addy", said Kieran "Joby wouldn't interrupt you".
"Yes he has, loads of times", Adam dumped his painting-kit onto the plank table Ransey had constructed.
"It's still mean", Kieran snapped.
"I thought you'd be finished by now", Adam protested.
"We were but ..."
"We were going on for a sequel", said Joby, sulkily.
"You are a right little goer on the quiet aren't you, Joby?" said Adam.
"At least I'm not old and completely fucking potty like you".
"Oh charming", said Adam "Anyway, I've come to claim my pleasure now".
Adam stripped like a snake shedding its skin. His penis was already erect, and he climbed with difficulty into the middle of the mattress.
"This is immoral!" Joby exclaimed, when he realised Adam's intentions.
"We've got hours before the others are due back", said Adam "And I've made no secret that I've wanted this for some time".
Kieran was giggling. Joby was torn between feeling that three in a bed wasn't quite right, and an urge to get on with it.
"Anyway, what's immoral about it?" said Adam "We all love each other and we've all had each other before. What's a bit of fun between the Vanquisher and his Consorts?"
"Yea, but I didn't think we'd all be in together", said Joby.
"Just close your eyes and think of turnips Jobe", said Adam.
Kieran rolled onto Adam and kissed him slowly. Adam responded eagerly, almost crushing him in his arms. Joby sighed in exasperation.
"If you're going to keep that up Joby", said Adam, breaking off reluctantly "Then I advise you clear off".
"Well what am I supposed to do? I can't just lie here and watch, I'll get bored".
"Patsy, have you any objection to me sorting him out first?"
"Be my guest, if it'll stop him complaining".
"I still don't think it's right", said Joby "My gran would have heart-failure if she could see me now".
"So would Gabriel", said Adam "Isn't that a nice thought!"
"This is like some old soft porn video", Kieran laughed "I keep expecting to hear naff supermarket music in the background".
"No", said Adam, rolling Joby over "Just waves crashing on the shore. How romantic".
It took some while for Joby to overcome his embarrassment at the situation he now found himself in, but when he was threatened with expulsion from it, he fought down the conventional side to him. They lay on the mattress like a human sandwich. Kieran held Joby close and kissed him soothingly, whilst in turn Adam rogered the dark-haired boy.
"This is everyone in the world's favourite fantasy", said Kieran, softly "To have two lovers attending to him at once".
It was painful but exquisite at the same time. Adam repeatedly delayed ejaculation so that he could prolong the session. Joby felt as though he was making love to Kieran, whilst at the same time enjoying the helpless feeling that Adam always induced in him. Afterwards he lay to one side, exhausted, whilst Adam sucked on Kieran and caressed his ribs.
During the late afternoon they left the hut and strolled along the beach. Joby felt re-generated by the session that he had previously branded as immoral, and was stimulated by the thought of all the different permutations they could eventually work out between them. Adam dived into the warm sea, whilst the two boys sat on the rock he had sketched from earlier.
"He's built like a stallion isn't he?" said Kieran, casting an admiring eye over Adam, as he stood in the water, relishing the feel of it against his skin.
"Is it wrong do you think?" said Joby "What we're doing?"
"Who's to say?" said Kieran "Stuck out on this island like this. We're not offending anyone, as there's no one here to see, and as Adam said, we all love each other".
"Does love excuse everything then?"
"Look Joby, it's not the first time you and me have found ourselves in a threesome. The difference is, this time, we've all agreed to it. There's no deception involved".
"You can still make me feel ashamed of that", Joby mumbled "Even after all this time".
"Silly old Joby", said Kieran, affectionately.
It was but two nights later that something happened that was to alter their way of life. A violent storm had blown in from nowhere, whipping the sea up into a frenzy, bending the trees and shrieking around the outside of the hut like a banshee. The hut had withstood such storms before, but it was still a nerve-wracking time. At first, when they heard the ship's hooter in the distance, they had thought it was some trick of the wind. But the noise got louder and louder, as the convict ship drew nearer.
"Who the fuck is it?" said Joby, more out of annoyance than fear. He had resigned himself to staying on the island now, and didn't want anyone from the outside world to come intruding. A feeling enhanced by that afternoon's activities when he had hit upon the idea of massaging the backs of both Adam and Kieran with ducks feathers. Adam had called him a 'horny little beast'. He had enjoyed that title very much, but had a feeling that if they returned to civilisation he would go back to being Joby The Clot again.
"They're very close", said Adam, lighting extra lanterns "We'd better go out and warn them about the rocks. The last thing we want is someone running aground in our back yard".
The five of them strung out along the rocks waving the lanterns like a row of synchronised glow-worms. The ship though showed no inclination to come any nearer. It sat a little out to sea as though trying to sit out the storm through endurance alone.
"The visibility's terrible", said Ransey "On top of everything there's another of those weird fogs coming down. A fog in a storm! It doesn't make sense".
The ship gave another blast on its hooters and lurched suddenly landwards.
"The stupid bastards are going to try and drop anchor", Joby cried.
"It's time we laid claim to this territory", said Adam "We'll call on them. Demand to know their business".
The yacht had been used very little in recent months, except for the occasional small jaunt, when they did complete circuits of the island. There was still a little fuel inside it, and Adam felt that by taking it out to meet the intruder they would be laying claim to their own island. He ordered Kieran and Ransey to stay behind and act as lighthouses, and chugged out of the cave where the yacht was kept moored, with Joby and Hillyard on-board.
They lurched about wretchedly on the sea, soaked to the skin from the lashing they were getting from the rain. The moon had been completely obscured by the clouds and the ever-growing mysterious fog, which defied all rationale, and it was getting frighteningly difficult to see even the bulk of the ship. The water had never before looked so terrifyingly black. They eventually came up alongside the ship, and Adam bellowed above the din of the elements for a ladder to be lowered down to them. He was quite pleasantly surprised when someone heard him and actually agreed to his request.
"Joby, you wait here", he said "It we're not back out in half-an-hour, get back to the island".
"I can't just leave you here", Joby protested, swallowing rain as he did so "Anyway, how do I know when half-an-hour is up? I've left my watch behind".
"You can be very argumentative at times. Alright, just wait here, in case we need to make a quick getaway".
"This ship has a human cargo of convicts. If it was to be known at the Ministry that we had taken civilians on-board we would be in grave trouble".
Adam stared contemptuously at the man facing him in the wheelhouse. He was sandy-haired and pale-skinned. His voice had an exaggerated precision, which Adam accurately guessed to be a cover for a weakness. His suspicions were confirmed when he caught a glimpse of a bottle of liquid morphine tucked inside his jacket pocket.
"The Ministry aren't likely to find out", said Adam, testily "Unless you tell them. We have simply come to warn you that you are approaching our territory. Where is your planned destination?"
"Miracle Island", said the jittery Captain "Another three or four days sailing due south-east of here".
"This is Ministry policy now is it?" Adam exclaimed "Sending out convicts on ships captained by junkies?"
"Adam", said Hillyard "This isn't our concern. We've told 'em they're in our territory. Let's leave it at that".
"Gabriel's orders", said the Captain.
"I might have known", said Adam.
"Let's go back now Adam", said Hillyard "Joby'll be nervous".
"We don't just have crims on board", the Captain leaned forward in a conspiratorial fashion "We've got some of the biggest screwballs in the City on this tub. For a small fee I could let you look at them. Real genuine nutcases from the loony-bin. For an added small fee you can do more than look. Some of them aren't unpresentable, if you get my drift. Just spaced-out".
"Thanks, but no thanks", said Adam, and turned to leave. To his surprise though Hillyard was standing rooted to the spot, looking not unlike a startled rabbit.
"Do you have anyone on-board called Lonts?" he said.
"You did so Cunts didn't you?" the Captain giggled again, in an infuriating way that made Adam want to slap him.
"Lonts!" Hillyard roared "If you've got him here you'll know about him. He's the Kiskev Survivor".
"Oh the cute little one", said the Captain "I'll charge you extra for him. He's not just pretty ... but pure. Completely barking of course. He's on the punishment deck. Wouldn't take his pills, such a naughty little boy".
"Adam!" said Hillyard, imploringly "We've got to do something!"
"I know", Adam slammed the Captain against the brass compass, causing it to clang loudly "We want to see him, and don't witter on about fee. If you don't take us to him I'll break your neck".
"I only have to say the word", said the Captain "And I could have every officer on this vessel waiting for you outside the wheelhouse".
"From what I've seen of this floating travesty I find that hard to believe. They're probably all as doped as you", said Adam "Now take us to see Lonts".
Hillyard lifted a hatchway in passing and found, several feet below him, a nest of bodies, manacled and blinking in the dim light he let through. They groaned in unison when the hatch was opened, obviously expecting something unpleasant to happen.
"He's not in there", said the Captain "We wouldn't put such a prize as Lonts down there".
The main room on the punishment deck was lined with what appeared to be outsized potter's wheels. On each of them a naked body was strapped face downwards. Most bore the distinct marks of beatings. The noise of their tormented cries and wailing was deeply upsetting. Lonts was strapped to one at the far end. His body was mercifully free of lash-marks, but the leather binds were cutting into his flesh cruelly.
"You bastards!" Adam cried "He's not much more than a baby!"
"I told you", said the Captain "He's been naughty. Keeps hiding his pills. He had to be taught a lesson ... what are you doing?"
Adam and Hillyard were unstrapping Lonts, who was too doped and exhausted to register their presence.
"Find him something to wear", Adam ordered the Captain, whilst Hillyard hugged the dazed boy close to him.
"You can't just take him away. He's a prisoner!"
"No he is not", said Adam "He was committed voluntarily to hospital by us because he needed help. He wasn't put under arrest. He is not serving a sentence. There is no reason at all why he should be on this fucking bondage ship to start with! I am now voluntarily discharging him again, and taking him into our care".
"I think this is his, Adam", said Hillyard, retrieving a crumpled regulation-issue nightshirt from the floor at the foot of the potter's wheel. He stuffed Lonts into it as though he was covering a cushion.
"And were you going to offer his body up for buggery to the highest bidder?" Adam went on "I think not! Come along, Hillyard".
They re-traced their steps to the wheelhouse, with a gibbering Captain in tow. Out on the deck the air was clogged with fog, and the lanterns on the shore were but dim pinpricks of light.
"I will warn you of this for the sake of the other poor wretches you have on-board here", said Adam, as they prepared to leave "Be careful which south-easterly route you take from here. There's a bloody great submerged mountain lying in your path. You run aground on that and you'll be ripped in half".
"There is no such thing marked on any of our maps", said the Captain "Nor has it been picked up on our scanners".
"You wait until this fog clears and you'll see part of it for yourself".
"The Ministry will hear what you've done".
"Oh yes? And what terrifying retribution will they exact? Are they really going to come all the way out here just to give us a ticking-off!"
"I could have you arrested and thrown into the hold".
"By whom?" said Adam, looking around him "Throughout our walk around this mockery of a ship we haven't seen a single guard that's been mentally on this planet".
"You don't know what it's been like", the Captain wailed "This whole voyage has been cursed from Day One. The men are demoralised. Miracle Island is at the end of the world. No one wanted to come here. Even the prisoners are too demoralised to start any fights".
The ship gave a violent lurch as a wave hit them like an iron battering-ram. Lonts moaned softly and muttered under his breath. Hillyard glared at Adam to cut short his heated conversation.
Out on the yacht Joby had been kicking his heels, and growing more terrified by the minute. He couldn't understand how it could be foggy and stormy both at the same time, and knew this could only be due to Gabriel's influence. He clung to the rail to stop himself being sucked over the side. He almost collapsed with relief when Adam shouted at him to be ready to receive them.
"Are we taking in lodgers now?" said Joby, noticing the slim young boy that Hillyard had slung over his shoulder.
"Don't you recognise him?" said Adam, and gently took Lonts from Hillyard's grasp.
"Oh fucking hell", Joby groaned "That's all we need!"
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