by Flaulus

Chapter 10

"I know I've dumped a new problem on us, but I don't like Cousin Robin involving my mother." Rick said, "I think Justin is another questioning like Ryan. According to Steve, Ryan seems to be getting more interested in girls but from what Justin said on the boat, just asking about gay feelings gave his dad an excuse to bail on him. OK, I get what you're saying but it's the setup. People seem more worried I don't act like a Lord than being gay, but could it be why people are finding me?"

"Perhaps you're right. Mrs Burnaby is certainly acting unprofessionally but maybe she's following your lead. This probation officer should have spoken to me, but he seemed more interested in your story. It's your decision and so far, your friends are assets. Do you see anything of Alan?"

"On the beach along with Mary. Charles spends time with Mr. Forbes and Jimmy, so I see Paul there as well. Steve and Ryan seem to have long serious discussions about stuff and Will and I are doing the business side, so we're still friends but doing our own thing."

"I'm just getting an idea of where we stand. My dealings with authority usually involve tax and planning applications. I'm not used to social workers and probation officers but I daresay I'll learn. Go and find your friends."

"How did your Mum take it when you told her you were staying."

Justin shrugged, "She set us up, so she can't complain. Thanks for all this and I'm glad it's helping you."

No problem. It might be tactful to stay off the pontoon, especially when the ferry's leaving."

Justin grinned, "I'm banned from malls. Do village shops count?"

"I'd wear shorts. The chances are everyone knows about you anyway. If anyone asks, tell them what your Dad said and how it confused you. We'll go and see Mrs Marcher tomorrow. She's retired, but she's dealing with Will's and my cases. We'll see if she can deal with yours."

Justin nodded. Suddenly, he felt very tired. In the LGBTQ spectrum, he was questioning and his father's reaction had devastated him. His bad behaviour had been a reaction to cover his doubts and fears, but all the tension had now evaporated. His mother had been surprised by his decision to stay, but she was also relieved.

Breakfast was now Sebastian's favourite meal as he sat listening to the cheerful chatter of the boys and their plans for the day. He was a little concerned about sleeping arrangements but Justin seemed happy with a sleeping bag in a tower room.

"I get four-poster beds with curtains," he chuckled, "I needed the toilet a couple of times but I didn't disturb them."

"We'll sort something out because professionally, I think your mother would disapprove." Sebastian said, "What are your plans for today."

"If I'm allowed I'd like to help on the railway."

"At this time of year, I think it'll mean shovelling coal and getting covered in ash." Sebastian replied, "If you stick to it, no-one will notice your tag though, just you settling in. By the way, Richard. That's another problem we need to deal with. Coal and heavy goods come in an old landing craft complete with a JCB. It's getting old and needs replacing."

"I'll ask Charles." Rick replied, "He can work with Jimmy, the railway and the boatyard to figure what we need. Is that a new committee?"

"Yes, indeed it is. Why Charles?"

"He's a mainlander and the harbour's secretary. It seems to make sense."

"I agree. I'll leave it to you then." Sebastian said.

"Me!" Rick exclaimed, "I'm the Earl, aren't I? Are you sure though?"

"You're assembling a committee who knows what's needed. Leave them to it, while we examine budgets and contingency funds. I have a hospital appointment today, so I have to go. Use your training period to discuss it with Mrs Wilson."

Justin was aware of tourists staring at his ankle tag, sensing a little caution and hostility but locals just greeted him. It felt odd walking out of the castle as if he belonged there, so it was all strange enough for him to forget to be scared of his feelings. He was happier than since he had spoken to his father about them and something was new; he was looking at other youngsters, not embarrassed in feeling attracted to someone, and enjoying just looking. He noticed both boys and girls which puzzled him but before, it had scared him. Questioning. That's how Rick described him, and it's what he could now do and in this place, it could be fun.

Sebastian was right though. He was welcomed into the station, shown how to drive a little diesel and left to drive the coal train down to the slip where the landing craft had just landed. Justin did not do any shovelling but it was still hard work as he released the hoppers on the trucks, locked them back into place and returned to the slip. He was filthy, covered in coal dust and had blisters on his hands, but he was even happier. He had been entrusted with his little train, and he had done the job. He just hoped his mother was not going to spout about child labour laws.

Another volunteer, not much older than him, guided Justin to the shower where he peeled off the overalls he had been given, stripped and showered. As he turned the water off, he saw the youth watching him, smiling.

"You did OK for a mainlander." the youth said, "You don't look so bad for one, either."

"Oh!" Justin gasped and the boy laughed.

"It's OK. It's just a compliment. If ever you're interested, come and find me."

"Oh!" Justin gasped again, and uncertain what to do, got dressed only to look at his clothes.

"What's wrong?" the youth asked.

"The fucking coal dust got everywhere. I can't walk into the castle like this, it's bad enough walking past those 'No Admittance' signs without me looking like a tramp."

"Mum, runs the shop, she'll kit you out."

Justin glanced down at his ankle before replying, "I don't think I'm allowed in, and I don't have any money."

"T-shirt, shorts, trainers. We'll bill them to the castle. You tell Mrs Wilson when you get back, and she'll sort it with your mother. You're with me, so no-one is going to complain."

As Justin learned about island life, Sebastian was listening to his doctor.

"The good news is, the deterioration has slowed," the doctor said, "The bad news is, it's still happening. I'm glad you feel able to rest more, because it's making a difference. I was beginning to think in terms of months, but you could still have years in front of you."

"But only if I walk away from Bovaline."

"You're too used to it. Even if you're sitting in the castle grounds sunbathing, the underlying stress is still there. You need a break."

"Young Richard is doing better than I could have ever hoped." Sebastian said, "If Mrs Wilson becomes his responsible adult, I could go to a rest home for a month after the summer season, though it may be a problem when his mother recovers and assumes parental control again."

"I appreciate you have some unique problems, but try to rely on your team more and seriously consider the rest home."

That evening Sebastian asked to speak to Rick and Will alone.

"Strictly speaking this is just a family matter, Will." Sebastian said, "However, I can't imagine Richard planning anything without you."

Sebastian recounted his visit to the doctor, concluding, "I can't come between you and your mother and as things stand, you're going to have to choose."

"Yeah! It's been bothering me." Rick said, "But it's not about her and the island, it's about her and me being gay. Guess what? I want another committee: maybe, Mrs Burnaby, Mrs Marcher and the solicitors we got for Will. Oh yes. Let's have the Wardens of the Watch involved. I do have to follow the charter."

"Yes, you do." Sebastian replied, "I wouldn't worry too much though. Your custody hearing, will probably be the only one ever to wait for the College of Arms. It's an ancient title which only passes through the male line, there's the charter, and you're a major shareholder of the company. Once our resident spy, Ryan, warns his father you're not panicking but instead, you're shoring up your defences, I think this particular attack will fizzle out. However, while it is going on, you are setting yourself against your mother, and I am concerned."

"So am I." Rick admitted, "Before I came here, I'd asked the garage where my Dad worked about an apprenticeship, but they weren't interested. There's not the work, and they couldn't afford to train anyone. A supermarket looked at the amount of school I skipped and said I was too unreliable. Even the army is choosy these days, so I don't have many options, but I'm not a noble. Could you imagine me giving a speech in the House of Lords?"

"Well yes, I could." Sebastian replied, "I never bothered to take my seat but you're as entitled as any other noble. I gather you have been thinking about your future and maybe worrying about being trapped here."

"I'm stupid, aren't I? I'm rich and I live in a castle. It's fantastic so why should it worry me?"

"You weren't born here so you don't take it for granted." Will said, "You've got a dream job but it was dumped on you, and you're not choosing it. I'd call it being trapped."

"And I think I want to be trapped here." Rick said, "I'm just being silly."

"No." Sebastian said, "I'd say it was a reaction to events. You're entitled to have doubts but would considering Will's best interests make the problem easier or harder?"

"It's something else that bothers me." Rick said, "Surely the Earl should be a family man with a wife and lots of children. Shouldn't she stand beside me when celebrities or something visit? What would happen if I wanted Will standing beside me if the Queen visited?"

"We haven't had a royal visit in two hundred years, but I understand. My answer would be, it would probably make sure we won't have one for another two hundred years so go for it. The island tends to stay neutral and as in the Civil War, will slaughter both sides with equal abandon. Nowadays, political party activists may find themselves thrown into the harbour just as impartially. The island supports you, Richard because you support it. It will be annoyed with Will if he doesn't support you as well."

"It's all scary." Rick said.

"Of course it is, but is it too scary?" Sebastian asked.

"No, but is it wrong to think all the adults are sick so instead of looking after me, I'm looking after them? It's Will and maybe Steve who're looking after me."

"No, because it's largely true." Sebastian said.

"OK! Then I'm Richard Blatcherly, Earl of Westmark and it's my duty to defend the island of Bovaline from its enemies. How's that?"

"It'll do." Sebastian chuckled.

Sebastian was right in that Robin decided that pressure from his mother would not get Rick away from the island, but he was not giving up. He was astute enough to realise that any sort of legal challenge would take every penny he had, unless he had a lot of support. To get the support, he would have to show Bovaline for what it was, but he would have to hurry because his creditors were getting impatient.

Rick's next visit to his mother was uncomfortable and awkward, and neither felt like talking about the issues between them, but it was just after, he got a strange phone call.

"Lord Westmark?" a teen voice asked, "My name is Malcolm Debrew and I run your fan site. I'm sorry to ring like this, but I thought I should confirm the arrangements."

"What arrangements?" Rick asked.

"It was in an email I got. I showed it to my Dad, and he thought it was a bit odd."

"I'm just about to go canoeing and others are waiting." Rick replied, "Can you quickly explain the problem, please?"

"I'm invited to a media event which is to be held the day after tomorrow. I'm to catch the 3.30 ferry and start filming before we land."

"OK! Thanks for telling me. Can I set up a conference call with you about 8pm tonight."

"Fuck yes! I mean, certainly My Lord."

"Rick will do." Rick chuckled.

The call ended and Rick joined the rest of the canoers, but that evening, briefed Sebastian and his friends before the 8 o'clock call. Malcolm had also forwarded a copy of the email.

"OK Malcolm, I've talked it over with my friends and Cousin Sebastian, and we all agree it's strange. If you plan on coming, could you catch a morning ferry, please? Yeah, and I've got this feeling you think you should be all formal so please dress as a holidaymaker."

"No probs, er …"

"Rick. I spoke to a guy who worked in TV, and he reckons you're being used to film a set up as an independent witness. Now I'm wondering if you could film whatever it is being set up."

"I get it, but can't you do it?"

"Yes but I owe you, and it might be fun."

"Yeah, thanks. Can I bring my boyfriend?"

"Yeah, it's cool. Is that why you chose me for a fan site?"

"Sorry! You're our local gay celebrity, but we get hits all over the world."

"It could be worse." Sebastian chuckled, "Their site is very good, and posts from the tourists could be ordinary beach shots though you should be more careful about holding hands there."

"We don't, at least it's just quick touches." Rick replied, "They make it seem a lot more, but I'm not going to worry about it."

"No. Do you think Dad is behind it?" Ryan asked.

"Whatever it is, yes and it fits. A couple of gays involved in some drama in front of cameras? Don't worry, he won't be there, and we won't be able to prove he's involved, so he's safe."

"And we're not like that, are we?" Ryan asked.

"Young Malcolm sounded very professional and used his head." Sebastian said, "My guess is, it's some media project for school or college. Yes, he's gay and his sexuality led him to make the project about Richard, but that's fine. It's your father's perceptions that are bigoted, and driving him into trouble."

Ryan nodded, tears in his eyes, but Steve pulled him onto his lap, and he soon cheered up.

Malcolm and his friend Terry proved to be about twenty-years old. When they arrived, Tim drove them up to the castle where they were greeted by Rick. Sebastian watched, guessing that Malcolm was fascinated by celebrities, not a snob like Charles's dad but in awe of anyone the least bit famous. He was decidedly uncomfortable with Rick's laid back approach while Rick of thought of Janet Caulson, a confirmed Royalist, respectful but still able to talk to him. Rick just threw on shorts and T-shirt, but he suspected Malcolm had spent hours choosing the right combination.

"I wasn't sure what time you were coming, or I'd have met you at the harbour." Rick said, "All my friends are curious but what do you think?"

"I don't know." Malcolm replied, "Don't you just send out a press release and the press shows up?"

"I've never done one." Rick replied, "I never thought about myself being in the news. I didn't think anyone was that bothered until I saw your site. How do we handle it?"

"I think cameras watching the pontoon, then if anything happens, I'll try to edit enough for this evening's podcast. If it's convenient, maybe I could come back and do an interview and a follow-up story."

"We've got a lot of visitors at the moment, but if we can sort a bed, you could stay for a few days. Let's go and visit the local porn shop."

Malcolm was uncertain what Rick meant as he led the way to a seaside souvenir shop. He waited while Rick spoke to the shopkeeper until he was called over.

"Malcolm runs the website and does the podcasts." Rick explained, "I guess that makes him the director. I'll leave it to you to work it out."

While Malcolm was suddenly doing something he understood and enjoyed, Terry looked unhappy.

"Aren't you into film making?" Rick asked.

"I'm doing art and design. I want to be a fashion designer." Terry replied.

"I'm thinking about a gay pride weekend." Rick said, "Is it the sort of thing where people would dress up, you know, like a carnival."

Terry lost his bored look, suddenly very interested, "God yes! These clothes are so dreary."

"OK! I'll let you know, and you can relax, if you want to get comfortable. I call this a 9pm beach. If it's suitable for before 9pm on TV it's OK."

Terry pulled Rick into a hug, kissing him on both cheeks before hurrying off. Rick saw him on the beach a little later. He was wearing bright pink shorts and a hat that Greta Garbo would have been proud of.

It's sensible. Rick thought, It'll keep the sun off his head and shoulders.

Rick kept out of Malcolm's way to allow him to gain confidence in directing the filming, wandering onto the pontoon to chat to Charles and Jimmy.

"It's all normal but Tim's swearing a bit. He can't meet any of his uncles." Jimmy chuckled.

"I'm going to keep clear. Tim can phone me if anything happens.

Rick did not like Jeb Morgan. It was not that he was a staunch trade unionist; it was that he saw every problem as a chance to take on management. According to Sebastian, a couple of highly placed trade unionists had retired to the island, and when there had been a genuine problem, they and Sebastian had sorted it, sitting round a table in the pub.

"When the victims of my exploitation buy me a pint after the negotiations, I assume they're happy." Sebastian had said.

Jeb Morgan saw it as a sell out to the bosses and could not understand why no-one could see how they were being exploited. It was not surprising that Jimmy was immediately on his guard when Jeb strolled onto the pontoon, waiting for the ferry, but Tim also understood and was already phoning Rick who in turn spoke to Malcolm.

"Some guy is already taking stills, and video is ready." Malcolm replied.

As the ferry arrived, Rick watched from a distance as Jeb greeted some visitors. They unpacked equipment and the watchers could see they were also a film crew. Rick was a little puzzled because a trio of young men had also got off the ferry, and were just standing around, waiting.

Rick found Malcolm who said, "I think we were due on the next ferry. I reckon that film crew is going to interview your Jeb Morgan. It's harmless enough so far."

It all remained quiet until the ferry returned approaching the harbour. The film crew set up and positioned Jeb and the interviewer while the young men stripped off to the briefest of speedos, jumping around, whistling and yelling at the ferry. Rick could see the interview had been set up so the cameraman could shoot behind them and film the scene.

"I'm supposed to be filming that from the ferry, aren't I?" Malcolm said, and Rick nodded.

Jimmy's job was to ensure the pontoon ran smoothly and not even Rick's plans would spoil it. A group of his friends appeared and after a quick discussion, they linked arms and pushed the other group to the back of the pontoon. The trio fell silent, intimidated by Jimmy's line of friends and watched as Tim helped the visitors off the ferry.

Once the passengers had left, the film crew hurriedly packed, the youths scrambled for their clothes, and they all piled onto the ferry. Only Jeb was left, and there was something about his slumped shoulders which suggested his despondency.

"Now that was different." Malcolm said, "What's it all about, Rick?"

Rick noticed that Malcolm was too intrigued to be deferential as he replied, "Cousin Robin trying to ruin the island's reputation. Thanks to you, we were ready for him."

It was late evening before Rick's friends gathered together to discuss the day's events. Malcolm and Terry had finished their podcast and had gone home. Tim was spending the evening with his uncle but the rest gathered around Sebastian.

"I think we've got most of the story but let's make sure we all have the full picture. Justin, do you enjoy running your little coal train?" Sebastian asked.

Puzzled, Justin nodded, "I spend most of my time waiting for Jeb Morgan to fill the coal trucks. I reckon the boat could be emptied in a morning."

"It could be something to do with him filming you being blackmailed and exploited." Sebastian said leaving Justin thoroughly confused as Sebastian continued, "Cousin Robin found a film company anxious to make a name for itself in documentaries and news. I won't say it's dishonest, but if no-one notices its crews taking shortcuts, it isn't too strict in verifying a story. We've tolerated Jeb Morgan because he's got licences for all sorts of machinery, so he is useful. However, no-one trusts him and he is watched. I don't know how to explain it but it was nothing formal, it's just information available if needed and of course, interest in him sky-rocketed today."

"From what Jimmy picked up from the pontoon, the piece was going to be about how we grab kids in danger of going to jail, maybe escaping from parents, all sorts of things and use them as child labour especially in the sex industry. It's supposed to be so blatant our local hustlers ignored the film crew to ply their trade. Add in Jeb's account and video of Justin and it would have been a devastating piece."

Sebastian paused, "Jimmy was worried about passengers being bullied so had his friends ready and I must say, he adapted brilliantly. Tim moaned to the passengers about daft scripts or something, so they think it was part of a film not news. Of course, we'd be in real trouble if Malcolm hadn't warned us."

"What happens now?" Will asked.

Sebastian grinned, "Unfortunately, once something is out on the Internet, it can't be cut off. Malcolm's podcast is going viral, and we sent copies to news agencies, the local press and the film company itself. I'm not sure anyone in the media will be interested in a story showing news being falsified because it'll reflect on the whole industry. However, if they try to peddle their story no-one will touch it either."

Sebastian paused, "I could be wrong but I think Robin may have seen the company as a first step to being a media magnate. If he did, and since it's likely to go bust now, he'll lose an awful lot of money."

"Good!" Will exclaimed.

"And it will make him more desperate." Sebastian responded.

"Is he likely to win?" Rick asked.

"Today's incident could have badly hurt us." Sebastian replied, "We rely on tourism, and it would have been terrible publicity. Once again, you've turned it around and it works to the island's advantage to make the media more wary. People retire to the island to rest and relax. They have contacts on the mainland, and we have stretched their help to the limits. We are in a castle, so I could say our ammunition is severely depleted, the battle damage is being repaired, and we've inflicted far more damage on the enemy. He might have the resources to prepare another attack, and no battle is ever guaranteed but our defences are strong in directions I never expected. Young Malcolm and Terry are assets to the community."

"I didn't think they were too happy when they left." Rick said.

"Their fun little hobby has turned into something mainstream with a lot of exposure. It can be scary and not so different to how you felt when you arrived. Anyway, it's enough excitement for me, so I'm off to bed."

Rick glanced at Will and decided an early night was a good idea too. Neither Charles and Paul, Steve and Ryan nor Justin and Jimmy seemed to mind either which puzzled Rick. Justin and Jimmy? Jimmy now had a room in the harbourmaster's house, and although Mr. Forbes was already packing, anxious to move, it was still his house. Rick shrugged. It was an unsettling time for all three, so maybe they were helping each other and it was platonic.

It was almost 3am, Will was stirring hoping that Rick was also waking up again when the phone rang. Rick stretched across Will, their bodies pressed together to answer it.

"Jeb Morgan's house has been attacked." Sebastian said, "Someone tried to burn it down. I should go but …"

"No!" Rick replied, "You worry about your heart. I'll do the Lord of the Manor thing."

"This may be beyond you." Sebastian said, "I was going to say I'll call Jeff because if feelings are running this high, there's going to be trouble."

"I'll go." Rick said firmly, "I've got to be in charge, haven't I?"

Will was also wide awake by now.

"Trouble?" he asked.

Rick quickly explained and glanced down to his now soft manhood, concluding, "I hope it doesn't happen too often."

Will smiled as they dressed and hurried off. Jeb's cottage was on the outskirts of the village so it was not far but by the time he got there, the fire was out. He looked around.

"Jeff!" He called out, "Take the family up to the cafe and make them hot drinks. Give the children something to eat."

"I don't need your charity." Jeb snapped.

"Jeff, take Mrs Morgan with you if she wants to go. What's the treatment for shock?"

Jeff nodded and looked to Mrs Morgan who glared at her husband. He remained silent and Jeff ushered them away.

"They'll need a place to stay tonight." Rick said, "The castle's full so can anyone help? Jeb, since you don't want charity, what are you going to do? Sleep on the beach? Jimmy manages so you should be OK and maybe, he'll lend you his tent."

Jeb stepped forward, raising his fists, but before Rick could move, two men were in front of him, facing Jeb. He stepped back again, dropping his arms.

"Fuck you all." he screamed, "You're all sheep being led by this nonce. You're fucking useless."

"Listen Jeb. This isn't the best time to tell you, but you're fired. I don't know all the legal stuff but in school it's called being excluded. You're excluded while we finish firing you."

"You can't do that." Jeb exclaimed, "I'll sue for wrongful dismissal."

"Fine, but leave on the first ferry, and we'll pay for accommodation on the mainland. Stay and you take your chances."

"Look at you two queer-boys. You can't leave each other alone, can you?"

Will was standing close to Rick, and without realising, Rick had taken Will's hand for moral support.

"Look around, Jeb. Who cares? Allowing Justin to run a little train that barely does three miles an hour may breach child labour regulations, but did you check that it was in full working order for him? Did you offer anything in the way of Health and Safety training? Did you do anything to look after him? You left it to others while you sneaked off for a cigarette or to film. That's what I care about. You should have been in charge of that train, but you left him to it. He doesn't mind because he'll get a good report for his probation officer, but you, you're fucking useless."

Rick sensed everyone agreed with him. He saw slight nods, heard soft grunts of approval and a couple of 'That's right'. Jeb heard it too and shuffled off, defeated. Leaving Rick to face the crowd and deal with them.

"OK! How do we find out who did this and how do we deal with them?"

No-one became hostile but many were puzzled, so Rick continued, "You get this sort of thing on housing estates though it's more like doors being kicked in and people being beaten up. Cousin Sebastian needs to check the procedures to fire someone and whoever did this is upsetting him. It's not right, so how do we deal with it."

A big man, dominating the crowd stepped forward and looked at Rick.

"We deal with things our way. He'll be gone tomorrow, and he won't be back."

"And his family? Sebastian's heart? How do they figure in your way, Tom?"

Rick was scared. Tom could kill him with a single blow. He thought of gangs on the estate. He was the leader here, and he had to deal with it.

The tension mounted but then one of Jimmy's friends stepped forwards.

"It was me. Jeb shouldn't have tried to do the island down."

"And did his daughter try to do the island down?"

The youth shook his head, "It wasn't meant to go up like that. Just a small fire on the doorstep."

"So we have a long dry summer, an old-fashioned wooden door, and you playing with matches. I do see a bit of a risk."

The youth nodded unhappily, so Rick added, "Jeb's likely to call the police and now the whole island has to lie for you."

Later, Will would describe how Rick sounded like their old head teacher, but Rick was genuinely angry, partly because he was jolted by the idea people could get hurt. Being Lord of the Manor was suddenly less of a game, but he had to settle it, so he turned back to Tom.

"I've spent all day keeping the media and Cousin Robin off our backs. Now all it's going to take is one phone call to the police." Rick said quietly, "How are we going to deal with it?"

Suddenly, Tom seemed less intimidating as he relaxed, "You're right, My Lord. We'll look after Jeb's family, and he won't be hurt. Let's see if the police are called before we deal with Ben or are you going to call them?"

Rick shook his head, "Not this time. Not if it's all dealt with. Let's keep gang violence to mainland council estates."

Rick suddenly stumbled and would have fallen if Will had not grabbed him. Just as quickly, he recovered.

"It's the second time I've felt faint. The first time, it was reaction to dealing with Robin. I guess I'm not much of a Lord, after all."

"You'll do." Tom said, "The sun's coming up and it's near milking time. You, young Will get him back to bed and do what you need to do. Today, the island will run like clockwork while you laze around like some lazy aristocrat."

"If Tom says 'you'll do' then he's really impressed." Sebastian said at breakfast, "Everyone there knew it was wrong, but it needed a leader to say it out loud. Is there much damage?"

"No, the front door is scorched and there's a bit smoke damage inside, but Ben only meant to scare them. When he saw the wind blowing the flames against the door, he tried to stamp it out."

"Right! Mrs Wilson will sort the paperwork out on Jeb's dismissal. I'll check to see if taking part in that video constitutes sabotage, grounds for instant dismissal. We'll have to find someone with all the right certificates to take his place, but we could offer a mainlander a temporary job while we train an islander. Now, I'm more worried about you fainting. I'm making you an appointment to see my doctor."

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead