A New Beginning 

Part III

Grasp The Nettle

Chapter Six 


D. Dabinett 



Suddenly Hahn-Vey came back into the room. ‘Everyone is assembled outside - Henri-Vey says you are all to attend him, at once.’

Lucy turned to glare at the slave. But having delivered his message, he immediately left the room.

It was obvious to both Vidal and Jason that she did not like the idea of being ordered around by the Tarlexian-Vey leader. As she opened her mouth to say so, her two colleagues began cajoling her into co-operating, reminding her that it was not wise to upset their alien colleagues at this stage of the proceedings.

While this was going on, Jason concentrated his attention on the Channel, and was gratified when he looked across at him, his eyebrows raised.

‘Be ready.’ He mouthed, and glanced across at the guard. As Jason had expected the Vey’s attention was now on the three Sanctuairians who were arguing amongst themselves.

It was the opportunity he had been waiting for - and Jason acted! One step took him close to the guard, and his hand chopped the Vey’s wrist, so that the weapon he held fell from his numb fingers. Vidal under slight augmentation picked it up before it even hit the floor, and levelled it at the three scientists. Immediately Jason’s booted foot kicked Cowry-Vey full in the face, and without a sound he collapsed to the ground.

From the inside of his other boot Jason then drew out the small tube he had hidden there. He was glad that he had decided to bring the spray with him, as it was an instantaneous anaesthetic. He was also grateful it was not a power weapon, or the device used on them by the Vey, would have detected it at once. Without compunction, Jason sprayed the odourless liquid into each human face. Watching with satisfaction as Giles and Ludvic slumped back down into their seats, and Lucy joined the guard on the floor.

‘Where did you get that?’ Vidal demanded.

‘Would you believe Gavin’s cousin Ralf? He suggested I might like to try it. Come on let’s go, we haven’t got much time,’ and he raced out into the passageway. ‘Can you zlin if there is another way out of this place at the back somewhere?’

‘Yes, there is - this way.’ Vidal took the lead zlinning his way ahead. ‘I wonder why Ralf suggested it?’

‘I don’t know. Maybe he didn’t think I was all that good at self defence, and needed some help.’ Jason stated with a deprecating laugh, as he raced to keep up with the Sime. ‘Anyway you must admit, it was a good thing I had it with me. After all, I didn’t see you coming up with any bright ideas. In fact if it had been left to you we’d still be prisoners!’

The Channel, if he heard the comments at all, ignored them. ‘Follow me. We’re lucky the guards are all out the front.’ Vidal reminded him, as they exited the back of the building and made for the safety of the dunes.

‘We shall have to circle round to where we left the Sandfly.’

‘Agreed.’ The Channel slowed his pace slightly as he continued speaking. ‘We shall only have a limited time till Henri-Vey gets tired of waiting for the others to join him, and discovers what’s happened to them. They’ll then start to search for us, and if we’re not careful we’ll lead them straight to the shuttle. Under the very best of circumstances, it’s going to take us twenty minutes to effect lift off from the surface.’

‘In other words we’re not going to make it. So what do you suggest?’ Jason asked, trying not to pant.

‘We head for the mountains over there. There are many places we can hide, and evade detection. They’ll give up searching eventually, and we can then make our way back to the shuttle.’

‘Fine, anything you say, but let’s hurry.’ Seconds later he wished he could retract the last request, as Vidal began to race across the sand.

‘Watch where you step Jason, keep close behind me.’ He yelled over his shoulder.

‘What do you think I’m doing?’ His partner gasped as he pounded along in his footsteps.

‘They’re after us!’ Vidal called, just as Jason heard shouts behind them, accompanied by the unmistakeable sounds of pursuit.

The Channel stopped abruptly beside the Sandfly. Without a word he mounted the machine and Jason got on behind him. Seconds later it was skimming across the black sand, Vidal using the rise and fall of the dunes to hide them from their pursuers.

Once they reached the foothills Jason yelled to Vidal to stop. ‘I have an idea.’ He said, as soon as his partner turned to face him.

The Channel studied his nager for several seconds before he sighed deeply and then spoke softly. ‘I don’t believe I wish to hear about this idea of yours.'

‘Well you’re going to have to, because it suddenly struck me. It’s a fair bet that apart from the three Sanctuairians, and perhaps one or two slaves guarding their ship, all the other Vey will be out looking for us.’

‘Yes, that’s logical.’ The Sime agreed slowly.

‘Now, while Giles was shooting his mouth off to us about that Weapon System. We know that the Vey were loading the damn thing back onto their Ship, because they wouldn’t be able to assemble it here as they’d originally planned. Sooner or later, whether they eventually find us or not, they’re going to take off and try to give the Diligent the slip. And as Giles said, they know this area of space a lot better than Captain Zackary. They might succeed.’

‘Unfortunately there is nothing we can do about that.’ His partner stated regretfully.

‘Wrong. If you take the Sandfly and can get the Vey to keep following you, they'll think we’re still together. But instead of that I’ll double back and disable their ship, and meet up with you again – you say where.’

Vidal starred at him. ‘Are you completely mad?’

‘No of course not. It’s not something I want to do Vidal. But think, we stand a good chance sooner or later of getting caught. I wouldn’t like to give odds on what our chances are of actually evading them indefinitely. That being so, we’re going to end up as prisoners on their ship, but with no possibility at all of disabling her. At least if we do what I am suggesting we stand some chance of stopping them, even if we do get caught afterwards.’

‘It still sounds crazy to me.’

‘If it was someone else making this suggestion, say Paul or Vicky, would you dismiss it out of hand? Or is it just because it’s me, and you are scared witless, that I might get hurt?’ Jason demanded softly.

‘Perhaps.’ The Channel admitted honestly. ‘However, I am more worried that you might end up dead, not just hurt.’

‘We all have to go sometime. At least this is a damn good reason to take the risk - none better. After all, it isn’t just the Tarlexians we’re talking about here is it? They’d be no great loss. But remember, the Sanctuairians if this test run goes accordingly to plan, fully intend to use this System of theirs on some other helpless planet. So basically it comes down to our two lives – against - millions.’ His green eyes caught and held the Sime’s dark ones as he made his point nagerically.

Vidal acknowledged to himself, that Jason was correct. But he had to make one last attempt. ‘Very well, but I will return, and you take the Sandfly. After all I can augment, and neither you nor the Vey can. I stand a much better chance of eluding them.’ He said triumphantly.

‘True. But how good an engineer are you? How exactly do you intend to go about disabling their ship?’ The Gen asked quietly, ‘and how long would it take you?’

His partner conceded defeat. Jason was in this instance he knew, the better man for the job. ‘Very well. If I am able to evade them, and you complete your task, and get away safely. We will meet.’ He zlinned the volcanic range. ‘See the fifth cone? It is the shortest.’ Jason nodded as his eyes looked where the Sime’s tentacle was pointing. ‘Can you see that slight plateau about fifty feet up? We will meet there. Take care my friend.’

Jason got off the machine. ‘You too.’

‘Stay close to the dunes, and watch out for the steam holes.’

‘Will do.’

Vidal’s tentacles were now drawn tightly up into their sheaths lest he grab hold of his partner, and refuse to allow him to go back. Then the Sime quickly turned the power on full, and he and the Firefly took off into the night, without a backward glance.

Vidal was already fighting himself on two fronts. First his instinct as a Channel, which was telling him to keep his Companion within tentacle reach - whilst his TIB training ordered him to let his partner go! Not for the first time duty, had to take precedence, over his personal reluctance.

Taking cover Jason waited for nearly ten minutes, watching as several of the Vey who were spread out across the dunes, raced passed his position. Some were on machines similar to the Sandfly, others were on foot. Then satisfied that his way ahead appeared to be free of any more Vey hunters, he made his move.

Keeping close to the scant cover afforded by the dunes, he retraced the route that he and Vidal had just taken in their headlong flight. At last stopping to study the horizon ahead, he was surprised and relieved to see that the alien ship was now lit up like a beacon, against the night sky. The Vey were obviously using it to help guide their own people back to their ship. At least he was not going to lose his way either, he thought wryly. For he knew that he had got lazy of late, relying on his partner’s unerring sense of direction.

The last part of the journey he covered doubled over, and keeping as close to the ground as possible. Hopeful that whatever Vey had been left on guard, would not see his outline silhouetted against the starlit sky.

Lying flat Jason looked over the top of a sand dune. The Tarlexian ship was now less than a hundred yards away from him. The ramp was down, but no one appeared to be on guard. He scanned the immediate area quickly and soon spotted two of the scientists standing outside one of the temporary buildings talking.

This was his opportunity. He might not get a better one.

The Sime Astrogator he dare not even think about, and could only hope that he or she was not on board, but was hopefully inside one of the structures. His one consolation was, that if Vidal, a Channel and a first could not zlin anyone inside those structures. Then it stood to reason that an ordinary Sime would stand no chance at all of zlinning him on the outside.

However, if the Sime was on board the ship, then the game was up. Not even the most insensitive Sime alive, could fail to zlin his field at this moment in time, for it was already high, and rising. Jason was of course trying not to broadcast his presence, but as he was probably the highest source of selyn on Apollyon at the present moment, he doubted he would be very successful.

Still bent over he sped across the open space, fingers crossed and holding his breath he did not stop until he was actually inside the ship. Once he had stepped over the top of the ramp, he stopped to listen. Silence. As yet, the engines had not been readied for departure.

Knowing instinctively that engineering would be in the rear of the vessel, Jason made his way in that direction. Running over in his mind as he went, all the different ways that he could disable the engines. He did not have a bomb or any explosives. Also he had no doubt that Tarlexian technology would be quite a lot different from anything he had encountered thus far. However, even the most alien of engines would have certain things in common with those that he was familiar with.

He smiled grimly to himself, for in past years one of the most interesting courses he had taken with the TIB, had been - sabotage.

A cursory glance around the spotlessly gleaming engine room showed that it was empty. His heart pounding he released the breath he had been holding, as he catalogued the various parts of the engine room that he recognised, including those that he could not readily identify, but could at least guess at their function.

Then he saw with satisfaction, what he had been looking for all along - the hyper drive, and beside it, the Astrogator’s domain.


He set to work as quickly and silently as he could. In some ways he actually felt sorry for the Vey. From what Vidal had told him about their masters, he would not like to be in their position. Indeed he could even sympathise with their desire to destroy their tormentors no matter how. But it would not end there.

If the System the Sanctuairians had devised was successful, then it was another innocent planet, that would ultimately suffer a similar fate. And that was something he had to try and stop.

Jason had spent many hours on board the Diligent talking to the Astrogator, whom he had learned was related to Vidal, and was a Channel, but a second. He had been trying to find a reason why the jumps effected him. But without letting on to the Sime, that he had a personal interest in the answers that he was being given.

The Astrogator informed him that he did make use of computers to help him check some of the minor and more tedious calculations. But the jumps themselves, were entirely under his control. Which they both knew gave hyperdrive ships their undeniable flexibility. Jason of course was aware of most of this, for his training as a space engineer had been very thorough indeed, and what had not been covered by his courses, he had read up on himself.


However, now being even more familiar with the way an Astrogator both operated and managed the jumps, it was therefore only a matter of minutes for Jason to call up and display the data that he required.

Quickly he isolated the field harmonics which showed him the exact place where the Astrogator gained access to the hyperdrive, which enabled the Sime to initiate the jump into hyperspace.

Taking great care not to engage this field himself, he began to decouple every alternate AVX relay, reconnecting each to its neighbour. This would divert power at the critical moment when it was required the most – as the jump was initiated. Simple, but hopefully very effective.

He sighed with relief as he completed the task to his satisfaction. Sabotage, he had been taught, to be truly effective, had to be carefully and subtly carried out. Just enough changes to the circuitry must be made, so that no one with just a cursory glance, would see that it had been tampered with.

There was no way that he could test it of course. He had to hope that the alterations he had made, which should instigate an explosion of some twenty isotons, would be more than sufficient for his purpose. But that too, was in the lap of the Gods.

As things stood now, unless the Vey initiated a complete systems check, followed by a full diagnostic of all the sub-routines, the changes should go undetected. He smiled grimly, for he was well aware that there was no reason at all for the Astrogator to carry out any such checks. Once they were underway, Jason had little doubt that the Tarlexian-Vey Captain would be looking for the Astrogator to make his first jump, as quickly as possible, in order to evade the Diligent.

The hardest part of his mission still lay ahead of him, to get off the ship undetected.

Moving silently towards the middle of the vessel where the wide entrance ramp was located he neither saw nor heard anyone. Still keeping alert Jason stepped out of the ship, his eyes looking this way and that in the light cast by the vessel, but could see no sign of movement in any direction. He strained his ears, but again was met with silence.

Jason was well aware that a Vey guard could be making a circuit of the ship, or even patrolling the perimeter just out of his sight. But there was nothing he could do about that. He had to take a chance, and make his escape now, luck had been with him so far after all.

Stepping away from the end of the ramp, he began to race for the nearest pool of darkness at the very edge of the landing area, now about fifty yards away. Reaching it, he stopped. He now had to move at an angle in the direction of the nearest sand dunes so that he could gain better cover.

Seconds later he set off moving parallel with the vessel towards the dunes. He was over three quarters of the way across the open space when he became aware of the sound of feet, other than his own, pounding along in his wake but still some way behind, and knew he had been seen.

He could however only hear one pursuer. Could he take on a Tarlexian-Vey and win? The Vey after all were well over six feet in height, and had hefty well built bodies. He had downed Cowry-Vey with a kick to the face it was true, but he knew that lucky and surprise, had played a large part in the outcome of that confrontation.

His pursuer was undeniably gaining on him and extremely fast, and he knew the Vey were far to big to enable one of them to be able to overtake him so quickly. He avoided the temptation to look over his shoulder, it would only waste precious time.

Jason put on an extra spurt, his heart pounding with the exertion, but in his haste he stumbled and almost fell. He recovered quickly, and was just getting into his stride again when he was caught him in a flying tackle. He crashed down onto the sand, kicking out as he tried desperately to get away from the clutching hands – and tentacles! SHEN!

Lurching to his knees his first thought was to entice the Sime into transfer, it would give him the opportunity to grasp the Astrogator’s arms, for he knew it must be he, and squeeze his tender nerves. For a moment he thought he had succeeded, as the Sime advanced towards Jason as though in a trance, zlinning the Gen in front of him. Then at the last moment the Sime shook his head, his eyes sliding back to normal, as with a growl of frustration he pushed his enticer away, and Jason fell to the ground once more.

It flashed through Jason’s mind to wonder if the man had recently had transfer, which would account for his rejection of what was being offered. Because Jason was well aware that to any Sime, his high field was a blatant invitation.


Staggering to his feet yet again Jason evaded the Sime, the instinct that Ralf had tried to drum into him taking over. Grasping the Astrogator’s wrist, his booted foot caught the Sime behind his knee as he endeavoured to trip him up. With a grunt of surprise his opponent landed on his back, momentarily winded.

Jason’s foot lashed out as he attempted to kick him in the face, but the Sime was ready for him and much too fast. Grabbing his boot he twisted Jason in mid-air tossing him almost effortlessly to one side, and Jason found himself spread eagled and staring up at the stars. Rolling quickly to one side he sprang to his feet, crouched and ready to tackle the Sime, who was already facing him. A snarl of pure temper twisted the man’s features, and made him look for a moment like the predator he undoubtedly was.

Then light from the ship glinted on something the Sime had in his hand, and Jason realised at once that it was a vicious looking blade. The weapon slashed through the air where he had been standing only moments before, as Jason danced around his much quicker opponent, advancing and retreating, and only just avoiding the knife.

Jason was surprised that a Sime would use such a weapon. Those he had met in the past, would have been worried in case they injured their own tentacles in error. But then, he had to remind himself, this was probably a Distect Sime that he was now facing, and their ideas and doctrines were far far different, from those of Vidal’s ilk.

Backwards and forwards they weaved, in some macabre dance of death. Then suddenly Jason saw an opening and dived for the wrist that held the weapon, his hand chopping down hard as he endeavoured to knock it to the ground. Unbelievably the Sime held on and refused to drop the knife.

In desperation Jason flung himself forward and grabbed the Sime’s wrist trying to reach further up his forearm so that he could grasp his lateral nerves. But the Sime guessed his intention, and realising that he dare not let this Gen get any closer, he quickly grabbed hold of him, his arm tight around his body. Jason found himself pulled back against his hard chest, one hand and tentacles holding him in position, as the other hand wielding the knife, began to press the blade closer and closer towards Jason’s exposed neck.

Holding onto the hand that held the knife, Jason punched and kicked the Sime’s legs, but it was like trying to kick down a tree trunk. He realised almost philosophically, that he was losing out to the superior strength of his opponent. Then the cold metal was actually touching the skin of his throat, and he felt the warm trickle of blood down his neck as the metal penetrated the soft skin.

His strength was finally giving out, and Jason knew he would not be able to stop the blade from completing its task, for many seconds more.

He could only hope that no one would discover what he had done to the Tarlexian ship, until it was too late. It would then all have been worthwhile, and in time Vidal too, would come to terms with his loss.

Slowly his hands began to slip away from the strong arms and tentacles that held him trapped, the blade pressing relentlessly against his windpipe.

Then thankfully he blacked out, as the Sime’s heavy body fell on top of him, and he collapsed onto the black sand.


Vidal led his pursuers backwards and forwards across the dark terrain. Time and again he evaded them as they closed in on him. Then using his zlinning abilities he enticed them to where the crust was thinnest, and those on foot screamed out as the sand crumbled beneath their feet. Many of them disappeared from view, as they were unable to scramble clear in time. However, Vidal knew that those on machines similar to the Sandfly, posed the most danger to him.


As he criss crossed the terrain, his thoughts kept returning to his partner. Had he got on board the ship – and more important – had he got safely off her again, his job completed? Perhaps he should not have given in so quickly to the crazy scheme, but what choice did he have? After all, that was why they were here, and why both he and his Companion worked for the TIB. If either of them had wanted a safe secure job, they would never have joined in the first place. The argument was an old one, and one that he had often had with himself over the years. It was a sound one too, but even so, he was still not fully convinced.

Of course the main trouble, if he was brutally honest with himself, was need. Transfer always on the horizon, was getting ever closer, and under normal circumstances no one would expect a Channel to do what he was doing at this moment in time. But then, these were not normal circumstances, and it was what he had been trained for, because there were times when he had no choice but to deny, the very thing, that made him Sime!

Duty! At times like this it had a very hollow ring to it, and he had to fight not to succumb to his natural inclination to say, "to hell with duty", and simply follow his gut feeling.

He turned the Sandfly between two large dunes and evaded a number of his followers. As he emerged on the other side of the dune a flying tackle knocked him out of his seat and he landed on the sand, his arms and legs tangled with those of his attacker.

With augmented speed Vidal exchanged a flurry of blows with the Vey, then seeing that the alien had a knife in his hand, and knowing he had to protect his tentacles at all costs. He grabbed the muscular body and still augmenting, heard a loud crack as the Vey’s back was broken, and he dropped the now lifeless body to the sand.

Vidal had only intended to render the slave unconscious. He didn’t think he had used that amount of force, but then he was not all that familiar with Vey anatomy.

However, it was too late now for an attack of conscience. In reality he had had little choice in the matter, for he had to defend himself against that vicious blade – it was after all, a Sime’s worst nightmare.

Climbing on board the Sandfly once more, Vidal began to weave a course in the opposite direction.

What if they had left more than one guard at the Ship? Hopefully his partner would avoid them, if he could. But if he could not? Perhaps he should not just wait up there on that plateau for Jason to come to him? After all, he now had the Vey literally running around in circles.

Although Vidal had little doubt that the Vey would soon realise that they were unlikely to catch their prey, and would call off the search. Before that happened, he had to make sure that Jason was safe.

Quickly Vidal zlinned the way ahead, and the way back, and then turning the Sandfly in a wide arc, he took a different route back the way he had come.

Long before the encampment or the Tarlexian built Ship came into view, the Sime knew that something was wrong. Frantically he zlinned ahead, and pushed the Sandfly along at a reckless speed as he realised that his Companion was in a life and death struggle - with a Sime!

As the two protagonists came into view, he leapt off the machine augmenting his way across the sand, feeling the sharp metal begin to slice it’s way into the Gen’s neck.

He literally flew the last few steps, his arms extended to grab the Astrogator, for he had little doubt who the Sime was. His tentacles retracted hard inside their sheaths to shield them from the impact, as he balled his fingers, and brought his fist down like a sledgehammer onto the base of the Sime’s skull. He watched dispassionately as the Astrogator fell forward onto Jason. The force carrying them both down to the sand.

Grasping the heavy body of the Sime, Vidal tossed it to one side like a rag doll, and fell to his knees beside his Companion. Fingers and tentacles prodded and poked as he zlinned the Gen deeply. Relief coursed through him as he found that he was virtually unhurt, and had only passed out from lack of air. The Gen’s heart was beating strongly, and the blood now running down his chest had come from nothing more deadly than a deep knife scratch.

‘Vidal? Is that you? I thought I was dreaming.’ The words were gasped out as Jason struggled to his knees.

‘Yes of course it’s me, and lucky for you that it is. Another few seconds and you would have been dead.’ Vidal muttered as he grabbed his partner by the arms and hauled him unceremoniously to his feet. He watched as the Gen touched his neck gingerly. ‘It probably feels worse than it actually is.’ The Channel stated. ‘Don’t worry I’ll fix it shortly, but we have to get away from here now. I have no doubt that the Vey will be on their way back very shortly.’

‘I hope he’s not dead.’ Jason gasped as he looked across at the Sime’s body.

‘No he isn’t, but more through luck than judgement.’ The Channel confessed brusquely as he zlinned the body. ‘Why?’ He demanded as he hustled his partner across to the Sandfly and they both got on.

‘Because even if the Vey ship leaves the planet without their Astrogator, they’d still never be able to make a jump into hyperspace without him.’ Jason explained, but his words were lost in the slipstream as his partner turned the small machine around, and they sped towards the volcanic range and safety.

Hiding the Sandfly amongst some large boulders, they scrambled and climbed up the rock face to the plateau fifty feet or so above them.

‘There’s no one coming this way, the Vey are all on their way back.’ Vidal stated, as he zlinned to the horizon. ‘Come, lie down here and let me tend to your wound. You can tell me what happened. I take it you did get into the Ship?’

‘Yes. It’s all taken care of.’ I hope, he added silently, as he lay down and exposed his neck to the Sime’s ministrations.

‘It’s only a scratch.’ Vidal murmured minutes later, retracting his tentacles, as he studied the slight red scar that now marked the place where the knife had cut into the vulnerable flesh.

‘Thanks for the house call, you’re an excellent doctor. But I guess this means I’ll have to treat you for entran later.’ Jason smiled weakly and went to get up, but was unceremoniously pushed back down. ‘I just love your bedside manner.’

‘Rest. We shall be moving soon enough. I want to give the Vey time to get back to their Ship. But I want to be back on board the Shuttle before they try to take off. For I have little doubt they’ll come looking for us again, once they find that they’re immobilised.’ The Channel grinned. ‘I wish I could see their faces when they discover that.’

Jason swallowed hard. He had forgotten that his partner assumed he had merely disabled the Ship. He would have done so if he could. But he had little time to make a decent job of it anyway, and besides, the Vey might have repaired the fault quickly. He had no idea after all, how good their engineers were.

He was just opening his mouth to explain, when the Sime who was looking up at the volcanic cone, many hundreds of feet above them, interrupted him. ‘I’m far from happy with our present location. I can zlin the constant movement of lava beneath us, and I’ve never been this close to so much volcanic activity. The sooner we put some distance between us, and this whole area, the better I shall like it. I’m sorry, you were going to say?’

‘I er that is, I haven’t disabled her.’ Jason blurted out.

‘You haven’t disabled? ... what the shen are you saying?.. after all that!? – I thought you said you had got on board?’ The Sime demanded. ‘Does that mean we’ll have to sit and watch them leave with the SB System intact?’ He jumped to his feet his tentacles emerging to grasp the air in frustration.

‘No! I don’t mean that. Will you be quiet a minute and listen! I didn’t have the time to make a good enough job of just disabling her.’ He refuted the idea angrily. ‘So I sabotaged her instead.’

‘Sabotage? You sabotaged her? You’d better tell me exactly what you have done.’ Vidal ordered, more quietly this time.

Jason explained in detail, and as he came to the end of his narrative, both men scrambled to their feet and stood in silence as the Tarlexian Ship suddenly rose up into the night sky. It was now ablaze with lights, and just as quickly as it had appeared, it disappeared from view.

‘I suppose that’s the last we’ll see of her.’ Jason said softly. ‘The moment they make their first jump.’ He left the words hanging in the air, as his green eyes met his partner’s dark ones, and he shrugged expressively.

‘When you undertake to do something Jason – you make a good job of it. I just hope we can justify our actions to the powers that be.’

‘Shen the powers that be!’ Jason almost snarled. ‘Our action – my action, saved millions of lives. You know that and I know it, and that’s good enough for me. If they don’t like it, I’ll resign from the bloody TIB! I’m the one that has to live with the consequences not them, and if I’m satisfied that I did the right thing.’ He clamped his lips together, as he realised he was upsetting the Channel. Dammit he’d forgotten that Vidal was getting close to Transfer. Would he never learn?

‘I know you did the right thing.’ Vidal replied quietly, and reached out to touch the Gen’s shoulder, wrapping his tentacles around his biceps to emphasise how he felt. ‘Come, we can delay no longer. We had better get back to the shuttle. I trust the Tarlexian-Vey did not discover where we left it. I wish to call the Diligent before she is out of range. If I know Captain Zackary he will have gone in pursuit of the Tarlexian vessel, and we don’t want him being too close when the Vey make their first jump, do we?’

The two men then made their way to the edge of the plateau. But before they could begin their descent, the ground began to shake beneath their feet, and the low rumbles that had been coming from the volcano immediately above their heads, reached a sudden crescendo.





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