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“I expect everybody’s wondering now why I don’t have these powers”, said Kieran, as he lay with Joby in their bunk early the next morning.
“Well you do have some pretty phenomenal powers, Kiel”, said Joby “Anyway, it wouldn’t be much good to us if you could just go around whisking things out of thin air all the time. We’d all stop trying for a start. There’d be no grit in the oyster. We’d all just lounge around on silk cushions, barking orders and getting pissed all the time. We’d all turn into Julian!”
“It would have been useful sometimes though”, said Kieran “Like when Adam’s getting worried about the lack of fresh food when we’re in the middle of nowhere. Trouble is, it takes up huge amounts of energy for me. When I fixed Bardin’s lip I had to build up to it for ages beforehand, and I had to be absolutely sure it would be positive for him. Sometimes things are meant to be the way they are”.
“And fat lot of good it’s done old Pabbio anyway!” said Joby “Racketing around in that weird big house all on his own. Never having to try at anything, never having to learn anything, no novelty. No wonder he looks so out of it all time! I mean it’d be great at first, but you’d soon get sick of it. It’d be like playing the roulette table and always knowing your number’s gonna come up. You’d get bored with it in the end, there’d be no point in playing”.
“We can’t be too hard on him though”, said Kieran “He is helping us. He’s going to be an invaluable friend”.
“That’s if we can trust him”, said Joby, darkly.
“Now Joby, we had all this out late last night”, said Kieran “If I can trust Pabbio, then so can you. After all, at first I wasn’t too pleased with him, to find he’d shut himself away here all these years. But he does genuinely want to help us. I think he wants redemption”.
“Can’t you stop thinking like a bleedin’ Catholic for 5 minutes!”
“Only if you stop being so cynical and distrustful all the time”.
“Cynical and distrustful?!” Joby exclaimed. He was interrupted by the ship’s engines starting up.
“Bardin’s moving us round to the hidey-hole at the back of the island”, said Kieran “It means Pabbio won’t have to keep us shrouded in fog all the time”.
“Go easy on that black pepper, Joby”, said Adam, as they were preparing lunch in the galley.
“Why?” said Joby “If we run out Pabbio can rustle us up some more”.
“That’s not what I meant, and if you intend to take that bratty attitude”, said Adam “I can see I shall have reprimand you severely”.
“I’ve already had Kieran doing that today”, said Joby “I don’t need any more of it”.
“So stop grumbling then!” said Adam.
“I know we’re supposed to be in this cave now”, said Bengo, finishing lighting a lamp which was standing on the draining-board “But it does make everything really gloomy in here”.
“Oh I don’t expect we’ll have to be in here all the time”, said Adam “Just now and again”.
“Everyone’s talking as if we’re going to be on this island for years”, said Bengo.
“Well if that’s what it takes I suppose we’ll have to adjust to that”, said Adam.
The door was flung open and Bardin came in, looking huffy.
“Is there any sign of Toppy anywhere?” he asked “Our cabin is a total tip. When was the last time he tidied it?”
“I dunno”, said Bengo “It doesn’t bother me”.
“Well of course it doesn’t bother you”, said Bardin “It wouldn’t bother you if the ceiling fell in!”
“It might if it was raining”, said Bengo.
“Bardin, I know this is a revolutionary concept”, said Adam “But have you considered doing your own housework?”
Bardin gave him a piercing look and flounced out of the room. Almost immediately he flounced back in again.
“If anyone’s interested”, he said “Pabbio has given us open-house. He says we can roam all around his house anytime we want”.
“How jolly decent of him”, said Joby, sarcastically.
“I think you should go and have a look round, Joby”, said Adam “It might help to calm you down and reassure you!”
Hillyard took Joby over to the house after lunch. Julian watched them depart from the gloom of the main deck. The cave was eerily beautiful in the dim light thrown by the lanterns that Pabbio had decorated all around it, plus the sound of the water gently lapping against the boat. Even so, the lack of any proper daylight on the island was slowly beginning to get to everyone.
“Are you going over as well?” Julian asked Ransey, when he appeared.
“Yes”, said Ransey “More to get some exercise than anything else. You could probably burn up a couple of miles just walking around that place”.
“Take Hoowie with you, if you will”, said Julian “He’s itching to see over more of it, and I can’t get up the enthusiasm. He’ll behave himself, he’s under strict orders to do so”.
When Hoowie wasn’t hell-bent on behaving like a zany prankster, Ransey enjoyed his company. He found Hoowie’s childlike approach to life both relaxing and refreshing at the same time. In some ways this was because Ransey had never been able to be a child himself, not even when he had officially been one.
“I don’t feel very inclined to look down there”, said Ransey, shining his torch down a broad steep incline which ran down to the nether regions of the house.
“Looks a bit grim don’t it”, said Hoowie “Hey, look at this though”.
He went over to a nearby fruit machine. By now they had got used to expecting the unexpected in Pabbio’s house, but even so, occasionally it could still throw up genuine surprises.
“What’s a fruit machine doing here?” said Hoowie, pressing a few of the buttons, but with no result as he had no tokens or money on him to feed into it.
“Perhaps he knows about Joby’s love of gambling”, said Ransey “Better not tell Kieran it’s here, he’ll be banning Joby from coming over again!”
At that moment Joby and Hillyard were on the next floor up, promenading down the long corridor which overlooked the southern end of the island. The fog was very slowly clearing, but it still created a strange unearthly light out here, exacerbated by the stark whitewash of the walls and balconies on the house.
“You don’t look happy, Joby”, said Pabbio, suddenly appearing out of a niche in the wall, like some pasty-faced genie.
“I’m alright”, said Joby, defensively.
“Joby rarely smiles”, said Hillyard “He’s got a naturally miserable face!”
“Thanks Hillyard”, said Joby.
“Is there anything I can do to my house to make you like it more?” said Pabbio “Tell me what it is you don’t like”.
Joby was flustered by the directness of all this. He found Pabbio’s desperation to impress them both embarrassing and unsettling. Kieran at that moment would have said he was acting very English, and that thought at least made him give Pabbio the information he seemed to crave.
“Well … it’s … not very homely”, said Joby, awkwardly “I mean it’s all very big and all that, and intriguing, but it’s not homely”.
“And there’s no garden”, said Pabbio “And I know that you are a gardener at heart. You wish for more greenery and flowers. Leave it with me. I shall see what I can do”.
“There’s no need …”, Joby began.
“Your scar”, said Pabbio, reaching out to touch Joby’s face “Why has Kieran never remedied it?”
This was too much for Joby. He found it an affront and an invasion of his privacy. He turned and walked briskly away.
Joby stormed into his cabin. Kieran, who had been pacing up and down the room awkwardly in his dressing-gown, looked at him with alarm.
“Joby, jaysus, man, what’s the matter?” he exclaimed.
“That fucking toffee-nosed bastard!” Joby roared.
“No, for once! Pabbio!”
Joby leant against the bunk, and put his head in his hands. He felt as he had done at school, when he would get himself into a state and know that at any moment the shout would go up “he’s going to cry! See! He’s going to cry!”
“Joby c’mon now”, said Kieran, trying to console him “Whatever is it?”
In between gulps and sniffs Joby blurted out what Pabbio had said to him.
“What the fuck’s my scar gotta do with him?! That’s what I wanna know!”
“Joby, it’s nothing”, said Kieran “It was just tactlessness on his part that’s all, but I don’t think it was any more than that”.
“It’s all got to me, Kiel”.
“I can see that”.
“How do you know we can trust him? He could do anything to us, the powers he’s got!”
“He won’t do anything bad to us”, said Kieran “Partly because I really don’t think he has it in him to be cruel, and partly because … well if he did, I could do things back to him”.
“Oh great, oh that’s just great”, said Joby “The battle of the vanquishers!”
“It won’t come to that”, said Kieran.
Joby suddenly noticed that Kieran was wearing only his dressing-gown.
“You’ve been to see Julian”, he said.
“He demanded to see me”, said Kieran “Gave me a right telling-off. Told me he wasn’t going to countenance me and Ransey going back to the City to try and throw over the new Ministry”.
“Eh?” said Joby “How does he think you’re gonna manage that?”
“Don’t ask me”, said Kieran “But he’s clearly got a bee in his bonnet about it. I’m glad you don’t think I’m as daft as he does! I wouldn’t endanger everybody that way”.
“I know”, said Joby.
Kieran seemed genuinely relieved by this reassurance.
“Are you OK?” asked Joby.
“Ach I’m fine”, said Kieran “I can handle a spanking, even one of Julian’s!”
“The physical one or the verbal one?” said Joby.
“The verbal one was worst”, said Kieran “It hurts that he thinks I would be such a reckless and selfish fanatic. Although I know I have been at times in the past”.
Before Joby had a chance to answer this, Hillyard bounded into the room, looking rather animated.
“Well thanks for that”, he said to Joby “Left me standing up there like a lemon, whilst you storm off in high dudgeon. It felt like being jilted at the altar!”
“You took your time getting back here though”, Joby pointed out.
“I’m not running after you all day like an idiot!” said Hillyard.
Bardin was just coming out of the heads at this moment. He glanced in at them disdainfully.
“Anymore of this high emotion round here and I’ll have to put down waterproof sheeting everywhere!” he said.
“Watch no waxworks don’t leap out and get you, Bardin!” Joby shouted after him.
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