Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13 , 14 & 15
During the evening Sharon had arrived with her fiancé, Raine. Why he should have been surprised to find that Raine was a thirty-year-old renSime he didn’t know, but for a brief moment, he was indeed, startled.
Once the niceties had been dispensed with Niall, James, Jason and Raine, all began talking about boats and the fishing catch that year, and the women started discussing the arrangements being made for Sharon’s forthcoming wedding. Apparently Raine was happy to leave everything to Sharon, and Vidal guessed that like most Simes he had no real interest in the festivities, and was going along with it purely for her sake.
Ian, complaining loudly, had finally gone to bed. Quickly followed by Gail and Rachel who informed the room at large that they were going to experiment with new hairstyles. From the sidelong glances he received from the two teenagers, the Channel guessed that this was for his benefit.
To his surprise, both Aaron and Simon began quizzing him on world affairs from the perspective of city dwellers like himself. Somehow he had not expected simple farmers to be that well versed in politics. Immediately he felt ashamed. Just because they chose to make their living from the land, did not mean they were either unscholarly or ignorant. He was making too many snap judgements lately. Indeed he had made the same mistake about Paul Demetrious, and been proved wrong. It was a fault he would have to rectify quickly, for it reminded him too much of his own father.
As the evening drew to a close he had been pleasantly surprised at the depth of understanding that both men displayed, and began to realise how his partner, coming from this unsophisticated background, had still become the intelligent and sensitive man he undoubtedly was.
A brief tap at the door drew his attention, and he was not surprised when Jason entered the room, for he had already zlinned his approach. To Sime senses the room was instantly lit by his partner’s selyn field, as he closed the door softly behind him.
‘We do have some modern conveniences you know.’ Jason touched the sensor in the wall beside the door and the room was flooded with light. ‘There you are.’
He walked across to the window to stand beside the Sime. ‘Looks like the rain has stopped, and the wind is dying down. Should be a nice day tomorrow. That’s how it is in this part of the world. One day hell, the next day heaven. I’ve told mother I’m taking you for a walk along the cliff road before breakfast, till you’ve seen a Sunrise from Dunedin, you’ve never seen one before. We’ll leave just before dawn, so I’m relying on you to wake me if I over sleep.’
Vidal nodded his agreement.
‘Have you got everything you want’ He looked around the large room. It had been a room in which they could all play when it was wet or snowing outside, at least till all the Deveres had grown too old to bother with such things. Now his mother had converted it into a pleasant guestroom, and decorated it accordingly.
Vidal nodded again.
‘Is anything the matter?’ The Gen asked studying his friend closely.
‘Nothing at all. I’m sorry Jason; I was merely thinking what a pleasant family you have. Unfortunately I was not so lucky.’ He confessed. ‘Don’t get me wrong. I missed out on nothing at all, whatever I wanted I got, at least materially. Money was never a problem for me.’
‘It wasn’t a problem for me either,’ Jason grinned. ‘I never had any!’
‘And I probably had too much. However, that no longer matters. At least it didn’t spoil me.’
‘If I wasn’t so tired, I might dispute that with you. However, as I’m exhausted, I’ll say goodnight and see you in the morning.’ Jason walked towards the door and then turned back hesitantly. ‘By the way, that garbage that young Ian was spouting tonight about Simes keeping Pens. It didn’t bother you did it? Only you seemed to go quiet for quite some time afterwards.’ He raised his eyebrows in query.
‘No of course not. I’m just not used to the open candidness of children. In a way it’s quite refreshing.’ And extremely disconcerting too, he thought ruefully.
‘Yes I know what you mean. Adults tend to dodge and weave all around the crux of the matter don’t they? While kids, especially my brother, just come straight out with it, and hit you between the eyes. By the way I noticed Rachel and Gail couldn’t take their eyes off that ugly face of yours.’
‘Everyone noticed. But don’t worry, Mum says it’s just their age, they both fall for every good looking man between sixteen and sixty who comes to the island. It’ll only be a five minute wonder till someone else turns up.’
‘Thank heavens for that. I didn’t want to be accused of cradle snatching.’
Jason grinned, and then yawned as he rubbed his eyes tiredly. ‘Anyway sleep well, you won't get ravished in the night.’ he murmured wryly, as the door closed softly behind him.
The next day the two men stood on the cliff top watching the golden Sun rising majestically out of the millpond that was now the sea. The sky was a soft hazy blue, broken only by small fluffy white clouds that were tossed around in the light breeze. Gulls were swooping and diving looking for their morning feed.
‘The air is so clean here. Looking out across there you’d think this was the very first Sunrise ever, wouldn’t you?’ Jason asked, his eyes not straying from the awesome sight that never failed to fascinate him.
‘You’d certainly never guess there was a force nine gale last night.’ Vidal conceded dryly.
‘You’ve got to have bad weather to appreciate the good.’ Jason argued, and then turned to point towards the peak known as Mount Elg behind them. ‘You can see all the islands in the vicinity from the top up there. But you can only see three of them from here.’ He pointed. ‘The nearest is Tay, the one slightly to the right but a little further off is Rockall, and the one in the distance, right on the skyline, is Fife.
‘So that’s Rockall.’ Vidal murmured, and then glanced behind him. He was sure someone was approaching, but could not zlin them.
‘Yes. Why, have you heard of it? There’s some sort of infectious disease clinic located there, has been for as far back as most people can remember.’
‘Yes I have read about it. I understand it has an exclusion field around it.’
Jason nodded. ‘Although how good it really is I don’t know.’
‘What do you mean?’ Vidal turned to look at his Companion in surprise.
‘Well there’s a colony of seals that live on the rocks near the end of the island, and that’s well within the force field. They don’t live there all the time of course, but swim in and out. So there must be a way through, although I expect it’ll be quite a way down under the sea. I don’t really know to what depth these force fields extend. I wouldn’t like to try and swim there myself. But when I was young, we used to tell all kinds of horror stories about the place. You know the sort of thing; vampires fly across from there to Dunedin at night, and grab you in your bed! The Gen laughed out loud at his childhood foolishness. ‘Mum would open my bedroom window, and I would get up and close it again!’
‘No, it’s not vampires Jason - it’s zombies!’ Another voice interrupted.
‘Ian what are you doing here, shouldn‘t you be getting ready for school?’ His brother demanded.
‘I’ve had my breakfast and I’ve got nearly an hour before I need to leave.’ He said with an engaging grin.
‘What makes you believe there are zombies on Rockall?’ Vidal asked curiously.
‘Fletch saw them!’
‘How could he do that? No one’s allowed anywhere near the island, you know that.’ His older brother stated at once.
‘Fletch was out fishing on his Uncle’s boat, and he had that new telescope he got for his birthday with him. The one I told you about last night. It’s a really good one Jason, I wish I had one. You could see a fly on top of Mount Elg with it, I swear you could!’
‘So how did Fletch manage to see anyone on Rockall? Apart from the exclusion field which makes it impossible for boats to get anywhere near the island. There’s a ten foot high wall built right around the whole perimeter, and you can see nothing inside that, whether you use a telescope or not!’ Jason stated, in a tone that was meant to finish the argument.
Ian was having none of it as he went on, with a quick look at Vidal, to see if he was listening. ‘Yes he did so, he’s not a liar! Fletch said there were three men walking along outside the wall, and he said they were like this,’ and Ian hunched his shoulders, his arms hanging limply at his side, and lowering his head to his chest, he began to shuffle along the path. ‘All of them were the same. Holy hell if that don’t look just like zombies to you, you tell me what does?’ He said with a defiant glare at his older brother, and then went on triumphantly, to deliver the coup de grace. ‘And he didn’t just see them once, he saw them the following day too, and the second time he saw a woman following them, she had long hair that was blowing about in the wind, and I reckon she was a witch!’
‘What makes you think that?’ Vidal asked with genuine interest.
‘Because she didn’t walk like they did, so she weren’t no zombie.’
‘Wasn’t a zombie.’ Jason corrected him automatically, and then chuckled wryly. ‘Well I suppose it’s as good a tale as any other. Dad once said that all the children who live on the islands make up some sort of story about Rockall. It is a fairly spooky place, even from a distance.’
‘That’s what Niall calls it - Spooky Island. He and James are taking a group of visitors around the islands today, and he says they all look forward to sailing round Spooky Island. James says it’s the highlight of the trip. I’ve been round it lots of times, and Niall says he’ll take me again in a few weeks time, when there aren’t so many tourists wanting to go, and he can find enough room for me.’
‘Good, that sounds fine, now don’t you think you’d better leave for school?’ Jason suggested. ‘It must be over an hour since you got here.’
‘Forty eight minutes.’ Vidal said automatically.
‘That’s near enough.’ His partner stated, and they both waved perfunctorily, as Ian sped off down the path, in the direction of the house.
‘Do you fancy a trip around the islands with Niall and James later in the week?’
‘As long as it’s a day like today, and is not blowing a force nine Gale. Then that’s fine with me.’ Vidal replied looking thoughtful.
‘A credit for them.’ Jason offered, and seeing the look of blankness on the Channels face, tried again. ‘A credit for your thoughts! You look worried about something.’
‘No, I am not worried, and my thoughts aren’t worth a credit believe me.’
‘Okay if you say so, but I’m starving, so let’s go and eat.’
‘If you insist.’ Vidal replied, and they both turned and began to walk down the path in Ian’s wake.
After breakfast, with a packed lunch in a rucksack on Jason’s back, both men set off along the path they had begun to walk that morning.
‘I think Raine was surprised to meet you last night. Apparently Sharon forgot to tell him you’re a Channel. Did he seem just a trifle over-awed to you?’ Jason asked with a grin.
‘No of course he didn’t.’ Vidal said at once, feeling irritated at the idea. ‘It’s just that living and working at a Sime Centre like the one on the mainland, he would rarely come into contact with a Channel who is also a first. He told me the Sime in charge over there is a second. He was merely curious as to why I’m not working for the Tecton I suppose. After all, like the rest of your family, Sharon and Raine have no idea that we belong to the TIB, and assume we are merely administrative officers. You must admit, if that was true, it would a very strange career for a QN1.’
‘Yes I suppose so.’ Jason conceded, and stared inland towards Mount Elg. ‘I wonder how Vicky and Sheldon are getting on with their climb?’
‘Fine I would imagine. Sheldon is a good climber, and so I understand is Vicky. At least they share a common interest, which must augur well for their future.’
‘Yes I suppose so. Although I must admit that under other circumstances,’ Jason paused and then went on. ‘I rather fancied Vicky myself. But you know that, don’t you?’ He glanced sideways at his poker faced partner who kept a discreet silence.
A mile or so further along the coast Jason scrambled down the cliff face to the sandy beach below, followed by Vidal.
‘We’ll sit here and have our lunch. Do you feel like a swim before we eat?’ Jason opened the rucksack and took out three cheese rolls, two apples and two apricot drinks. Then from the bottom of the bag he pulled out Vidal’s swimming trunks, and a single towel that they would have to share. ‘I put my trunks on before we left.’ He explained, as he tossed the trunks across to his partner.
‘The water looks a little too cold for me at the moment.’ The Channel said at once.
‘Oh come on now Vidal, don’t try and wriggle out of it. We both know you can regulate your body heat, I’ll feel the cold a lot more than you.’
‘Perhaps, but I still do not wish to swim in the sea today.’
‘Why I do believe you’re scared. That’s it isn’t it?’ Jason pressed with a broad grin. ‘You’re frightened of a little sea water.’
‘I have no intention of allowing you to "dare" me into the water.’ Vidal stated firmly. ‘But I am quite happy to wait here while you indulge.’
‘Okay, if you’re chicken, I’ll let you off the hook,’ he grinned wryly mixing his metaphors, ‘but be warned, I mean to get you into the sea before the end of this week. I taught you to swim, and I don’t intend for you to forget again. Besides, you need experience at swimming in salt water.’
A few minutes later Vidal leaned back on his elbows and watched as his Companion plunged into the icy water. The Channel shivered, and realised that he was zlinning the Gen’s ice cold flesh as he disappeared beneath the waves. Monitoring him carefully for a few moments longer, he was reassured that his partner was getting used to the cold temperature of the water, and duly relaxed his vigil. Jason was a very strong and powerful swimmer.
Shielding his eyes from the Sun with his hand, Vidal starred across at Rockall. He had little doubt that Ian’s young friend Fletch, had indeed seen people moving around on the island. Heavily drugged Gens would look just like zombies to the untrained eye. He could only assume that the woman following them, was doubtless either a Channel who was in charge of them, or a Sime guard. Perhaps they were being taken around the outside of the wall for exercise? But whatever the reason, they had no right to be there.
It was surprising how even the most rigid regime could gain a false sense of security, and get careless over a period of years. He would have to tell Sam Betjeman when they got back, so that he could warn the authorities on Rockall to take more care. At least Fletch had not suggested that his Uncle should take a look at the island through his telescope. If he had done so, then there might have been real cause for alarm. A child seeing zombies on a place known as Spooky Island was one thing, and could be laughed off. But an adult seeing the same thing - that would put an entirely different complexion on the matter!
Vidal was brought out of his reverie by his Companion who shook his head like a dog, and showered him with ice cold drops of sea water, before he picked up the towel and began to rub warmth back into his freezing limbs, his teeth chattering throughout the entire exercise.
Vidal pulled off his own sweater and tossed it across to Jason. ‘Put this on till you warm up.’ He ordered, and began to distribute the food between them, giving the Gen, the lion’s share of the repast.
‘You know there was a time when I’d think nothing of taking a dip in the sea along this coast, even in the depths of winter. I don’t think I’d like to chance it now.’ Jason admitted, and dug his teeth into a crusty roll, savouring the taste. No one baked bread quite like his mother. ‘I was a lot younger than Ian when I first swam over ten miles without a break. Mind you, it’s easier swimming in the sea than it is in a pool.’ He confessed.
‘From what I read about this part of the world, prior to our coming here. The sea temperature never rises much above what it is now, even in the very height of summer.’ Vidal stated, as he worked his way through half his roll, then sipped the apricot drink appreciatively.
Jason nodded his agreement. ‘Do you intend to eat the other half of that roll?’ He asked, and the Sime handed it over without comment. ‘Thanks. If we walk along the beach to the next cove, there are some caves there. The tide is still going out, so we should be able to see inside at least one of them before it goes on the turn.’
Having stuffed everything back into his rucksack and after taking a huge bite out of his apple Jason, now bare footed, lead the way around to the next cove. ‘The local kids are banned from coming anywhere near these caves,’ he stated. ‘Its so easy to get caught out, because once the tide turns, and that happens very quickly believe me, the caves are flooded. People have been drowned here in the past.’
Some time later, Jason having taken his partner into the main cave to show him the blowhole at the far end into which water rushed at high tide. Lead the way to the nearest cliff path.
Reaching the top both men lay down to watch the tide come rushing in, only to fetch up with a loud hiss against the bottom of the cliffs, several hundred feet below. The Channel’s eyes were suddenly riveted on a large bird circling high above their heads. The Gen’s green eyes followed his partner’s gaze. ‘That’s a golden eagle. The eyrie will be on the mainland, probably in the highlands to the north.’
He then changed the subject. ‘We’ll see if there’s room on the boat for us to go round the islands tomorrow with James and Niall, but if not, then I’ll take you up Mount Elg. It’s quite an easy climb and there’s a great view from the top. We can always go round the islands later in the week.’
As it turned out they did not go with his two brothers around the islands, nor did they climb Mount Elg on the following day. Jason’s father asked if he could have a look at the engine on his small boat, and Vidal received an invitation from the Sime Centre to pay them a visit. So he went over on the ferry early in the morning with Gail, who was going to high school on the mainland.
Arriving at his destination, Vidal found the Sime Centre to be exactly the same as many others he had visited both on Earth, and on other planets. Yet even this one, situated, as it was more or less at the back of beyond, was equipped with every piece of high tech machinery and computerised equipment that money could buy.
The Channel in charge of the facility had a typical Sime build, tall and extremely thin. He was obviously a Second too as Vidal already knew, but what surprised him the most was the way the Controller simply left the Gen he was talking to standing by himself in the corridor, as he hurried forward to introduce himself to his visitor.
‘I’m Controller Putting, and you must be Hajene Trent.’ He fairly gushed with bonhomie, and the Channel sighed and clamped down hard on his field, as he realised he was meeting a man who was obviously what he hated most, a sycophant! ‘I’ve been looking forward to meeting you Hajene ever since Raine told me of your arrival. Of course I’ve heard of your family - who hasn’t? And I.’
‘Hajene Putting I’m delighted to meet you of course,’ Vidal interrupted quickly, glancing at the Gen who was still standing further down the corridor waiting patiently but looking a little put out, ‘please, finish your business first. I don’t mind waiting.’
‘Oh it’s only Sosu Thorne,’ he said rudely and waved a tentacle at the elderly man, as he called. ‘Come back later when I’ve got more time. Now come this way Hajene. I understand from Raine you’re staying with the Deveres on Dunedin. Of course I realise you had little choice since there is no hotel on the island, but they are only farmers and live in the most rustic of conditions. Therefore I have taken the liberty of having a guest suite prepared for you here in the Centre. I’m sure you’ll find it far more comfortable and convenient and.’
‘On the contrary Controller. It appears you have been misinformed. Yes I am indeed staying with the Devere family, they are admirable hosts, and have gone out of their way to make me welcome.’
Vidal could sense the man trying to rescue the situation that he had managed to get himself into as he blustered on. ‘I meant no disparagement of your host Hajene, of course not. It’s just that I realise your standards, that is, like me you are used to far more civilised and refined surroundings and - as a matter of fact Hajene I happen to know Marj Saunders, your family lawyer I understand?’
‘One of them.’ Vidal’s voice dripped icicles, yet none of the cauldron of emotions burning inside him were visible, as he stared arrogantly into the Controller’s eyes, almost daring him to continue. If there was one thing that Vidal despised, it was men who tried to use him, to ingratiate themselves with his family.
Jason would not recognise the Channel who stood here confronting the Controller, and would no doubt consider him to be a total stranger. For there was steel in this man and a certain ruthlessness that he rarely allowed to surface. He always kept himself under strict control, an enigma, even to those who would call him friend. Only one man, Jason, had he allowed to penetrate that tough outer shell, and occasionally see more of the inner man than Vidal had ever allowed anyone else to even guess at.
‘Ah yes, quite, I’ll just call one of my administrators to show you around the Centre Hajene Trent. I ... er... I have work to get on with, I’m sure you understand?’ He began to turn away and then stopped. ‘If you should change your mind about staying at the Deveres.’ His voice trailed away as Vidal held up a tentacle for silence, ‘I take it you are not aware Controller, that Jason Devere is my Companion?’
The shock on Putting’s face almost made him smile, as the Sime stumbled on. ‘Oh well of course, that er... that is, no I didn’t realise Hajene.’
‘Of course you didn’t, otherwise you would not have been so crass.’ Vidal said softly, and then raised his eyebrows as he continued, ‘and I’m sure you have no intention of making any more disparaging remarks about my Companion’s family, am I correct?’
‘No, of course not. I wouldn’t dream of doing so Hajene.’ The words fairly tumbled out of his lips. The last thing he wanted was to upset this man, his family were far too powerful and influential, too high up the social ladder. Yet how could he possibly have guessed, that Vidal Trent would be tangled up so deeply with one of the Deveres? Dirt grubbing farmers all of them, indeed he had warned Raine against marrying Sharon Devere, but even he, had not got the good sense to listen to him.
‘Just as long as we understand each other Hajene.’ Vidal said softly, his voice like silk, as he zlinned the man deeply.
Jason, unaware of what was transpiring on the mainland, worked on the boat most of the day. In the middle of the afternoon he called Vidal at the Centre and arranged for him to pick up a couple of spare parts for the engine, and bring them back with him.
That night Jason went down to the tavern with Niall and James, and after a great deal of persuasion, Aaron agreed to accompany them. His father and mother elected to stay at home with the younger members of the family. Vidal had not arrived back by the time they left the house, and Jason guessed that he would be coming back on the Centre’s boat and not the ferry.
‘By the way we can fit you and Vidal in tomorrow,’ James stated during the course of the evening. ‘But it’ll be a three day trip, the party we’re taking want to stay for a night on Tay and Fife. Are you up for that?’
‘Too right, that’s great. I know Dad won't mind if I leave his boat for a few days.’
‘You can always take the Sea Sprite out later in the week, when you’ve fixed her.’ Niall suggested.
‘I may just do that, when the sea calms down a bit. At the moment I think Vidal will appreciate the comfort of the Montrose.’ Jason explained. ‘How many are you picking up tomorrow?’
‘Five - two women and three men. Apparently they’re doing some research around the islands, looking for suitable locations for a holoplay that’s being produced early next year.’ James explained, as Niall brought more drinks to the table.
The evening passed quickly, but his partner did not show up, and Jason wondered if Vidal had been pounced on by his father who loved to talk, and he knew his friend would be far to polite to just walk away.
It was a cloudless night as the four brothers walked back home. The Moon was high up in the sky, and the crisp clear air soon made Jason realise that he had had just a tad too much to drink. Nowadays he simply wasn’t used to the strong malt whisky distilled in the islands. Unlike his three brothers, even though his father maintained they had all been weaned on the stuff!
James began to sing, and by the time they arrived home even Aaron was joining in, though he could barely carry a tune. Which for some unknown reason, the brothers found to be hilariously amusing. Then they all began to shush each other as they approached the house, managing to make far more noise than if they had simply continued singing.
‘Will you boys be quiet? Everyone’s in bed apart from Vidal and me.’ Their father’s voice ordered in a loud whisper from the open door through which light was now streaming.
‘Sorry Dad.’ Aaron said at once, as Jason tripped on the bottom step and his other brothers grabbed him by the arms before he fell and bundled him into the house, trying to stifle their laughter.
Jason screwed his eyes up at the bright lights in the kitchen. ‘Hi Vidal, you got back okay then, why didn’t you come down to the tavern?’ He managed to slur out the question, as he collapsed onto the nearest chair, and looked up at his partner. The slightly surprised expression on the Channel’s face suddenly seemed very funny indeed, and Jason began to giggle helplessly but this time he couldn’t stop. Thankfully he remembered little else of that night.
The next morning to his disgust, James woke him up at daybreak, saying that Vidal and Niall were already up, and that he had told Vidal to pack for the three-day excursion around the islands. ‘Mum has already packed for you,’ he was informed.
His head pounding and his eyes heavy with sleep Jason finally managed to walk upright into the kitchen, but the smell of food immediately made him nauseous. ‘I’ll wait outside,’ he stated, and did a rapid retreat.
A few minutes later as he sat on the top step in the morning air with his eyes closed. Vidal appeared beside him and pushed a cup of black coffee into his hand. ‘Your brothers suggested a small dram as a cure, but I thought this would do you more good, and please, try not to broadcast your headache and upset stomach into the ambient quite so strongly.’ He begged.
‘Sorry, I suppose you must find it a bit uncomfortable.’
‘More than a bit. Here, take these painkillers. Aaron sent them, he seems an intelligent young man.’
Jason took a large mouthful of the hot coffee and swallowed the tablets with a nod of thanks that he immediately regretted, as pain exploded in his head.
Read Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3--Comment to the Author and then READ Chapter 3 NOW.
Companion in Zeor is Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
A New Beginning is copyright © 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
The Sime~Gen universe was created by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and is owned by Sime~Gen Inc. This story and its setting may not be reused without explicit permission of the Corporation. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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