Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13 , 14 & 15
The three boys sat on the side of the harbour, their legs dangling down towards the icy looking water, where it lapped against the sea wall far below.
‘Well I dinna believe it. My Da’ says there aren’t no such things as Zombies.’
‘What does your Da’ know about anything Morgan? Your family have only lived on Dunedin for a few years, and the closest he’s been to Spooky Island is on the Ferry!’
‘You don’t know where my Dad’s been Fletch. Besides your Da’ is only a farmer, and so’s yours Ian. Mine’s been off world.’ Morgan bragged.
‘You’re a liar!’
‘No I’m not!’
‘Shut up the pair of you. The only way we’re going to settle things is if we go and look for ourselves you ken?’
‘What’re you talking about Ian?’ Fletch demanded.
‘Aye how can we go and see for ourselves? You know we canna get near the island ‘cause of the force field.’
‘Huh, a lot you know Morgan. I heard my brother Jason talking to Vidal, he’s the Sime we’ve got staying with us, and he said that that sea lion colony living on the rocks near Spooky Island, means there must be a way through.’ Ian said triumphantly.
‘Well if that’s right, where is it then? I’ve never seen it, nor’s anyone else.’ Fletch retorted at once.
‘That’s ‘cause it’s under the water you idiot.’
‘Dinna you call me no idiot Ian Devere.’
‘Shut up Fletch! Ian - you got any ideas about how we can get through the force field?’ Morgan asked, picking up a stone and skimming it across the top of the water as he spoke.
‘Jason didna say.’
‘Pity.’ Fletch muttered, not sounding altogether sorry.
‘I know how we can find it.’
Ian and Fletch turned to look at their friend, a question in both sets of eyes. Then they both spoke at once. ‘How?’
‘We watch for the Seals, and follow them!’
‘Aye, I suppose we could.’ Ian agreed slowly as he looked from Fletch to Morgan. ‘But can we swim good enough?’
‘You’re dafter than I thought Morgan! We can’t hold our breath as long as Seals can.’
‘Holy hell what’s the matter, you frightened of a few zombies Fletch?’ Ian demanded at once.
‘Puss puss puss - who’s a scaredy cat now then? Miaow!’ Morgan taunted, and then pulled a face at his friend as he dodged Fletch’s fist.
‘I ain't scared of no zombies!’
‘Prove it then, come with us.’ Ian interrupted their argument.
‘When?’ Both Morgan and Fletch turned to stare at Ian.
‘Tomorrow. It’s not a school day. Let’s say three o’clock tomorrow morning, what d’you say?’
‘That’s more than an hour before dawn.’ Morgan reminded him.
‘It’ll still be dark.’ Fletch added.
‘I know, but we canna very well go during the day. We’ll be seen from Dunedin and Spooky Island, they might even see us from Tay, you ken?’
Fletch was eleven and Morgan was thirteen and a few months older than Ian, but even so Ian usually managed to take charge of the trio.
‘How do we get there?’ Fletch asked, hoping that he could find an obstacle. That would perhaps postpone the trip for some considerable time, if not forever.
‘We’ll use Raine’s sailboat. It’s only wee you ken, but it’s big enough for the three of us. He’s bosun on the Seagull and they’re going to the Isle of Mull tomorrow, so he’ll be away for three days. My sister Sharon told Mum so.’
‘Where’s he keep it?’ Morgan asked.
‘Ulst Bay. He pulls it up above the shoreline. The three of us can get her in the water easily enough.’ Ian glanced across at his two friends. ‘Well, are you up for it or not?’
‘I’m up for it.’ Morgan said stoutly, while Fletch simply nodded his red head, as Morgan asked, ‘you sure you can handle her Ian?’
‘Ock I’m sure. James and Niall have both taken me out and given me sailing lessons. There’s nothing to it. We’ll manage just fine.’ He assured his two friends with far more confidence than he actually felt.
‘And dinna you go having no belly ache when you get home Fletch, and not turn up, you ken?’ Morgan said, prodding him with one finger, as he warned him ominously. ‘We’ll get the ghouls who feed on the dead bodies in the graveyard to come and get you if you do laddie!’
‘Stop prodding me Morgan! I ain't no coward.’
‘Make sure you’re not.’ Ian snapped, ‘and bring your telescope, and you can keep a watch out for them zombies.’
‘Or vampires.’ Morgan whispered, his eyes suddenly round like saucers.
‘No they’re zombies right enough.’ Fletch insisted. ‘I saw ‘em. I told you so. And if I’m bringing my telescope you two can bring the food and drink. We willna have time for breakfast.’
‘I’ll get the food, you can bring the water Ian. So where are we going to meet?’ Morgan asked, ignoring Fletch and looking at their friend.
‘At the top of the cliff path, just above Ulst Bay. And dinna be late either of you. We dinna want to be seen by any of the fishing boats, and they’ll be setting sail before dawn like always.’ Ian reminded them.
Jason said his good-byes to the other passengers, and was informed by Dot, who had taken the trouble to look in Shay’s cabin that she was sleeping like a baby. There were a lot of things Jason could have called Shay, but baby was not one of them.
With a small slight smile he handed Dot a credit note to be given to Shay. Not a gentlemanly way to act perhaps. He had little doubt that Vidal would never have done such a thing, but then he was not Vidal, and like any wounded animal, when hurt, he tended to bite back - hard!
Jason then took his leave of his two brothers as soon as the Montrose tied up in the harbour on Fife later that day. They had seen him disappear with Shay below decks, and were both fairly bursting with the questions that brothers always wanted to ask at such a time - questions that for the moment at least - if ever - he had no intention of satisfying.
It took the best part of five hours for him to get back home, for he had to take two ferries, first to the mainland, and then across to Dunedin. During the wait for the second ferry he called into the Sime Centre to leave a message for Vidal to the effect that he was no longer aboard the Montrose, but was returning home. He had no wish to speak to his partner directly at the moment that would have to wait till later, when he had gained some control of his temper.
‘I’m sorry Sosu Devere, but Hajene Trent is not here.’ The young Sime who was manning the enquiry desk informed him. ‘I’ll see he gets your message if he does come here of course, but I can’t guarantee anything.’
‘Of course. That’s fine, just make sure he gets it. Have you any idea where he might have gone? Because I understood he was coming here to meet Hajene Jordan Farris.’
The Sime sat up straight at the mention of the Channel’s name. ‘I’m sorry Sosu you must be mistaken. I can assure you Hajene Farris has not been here. I would most certainly know if he had.’
Jason frowned slightly. He had little doubt that the renSime was speaking the truth, as he perceived it to be. But Vidal had been quite clear in his note. He had to get this cleared up now. ‘Look, can I see the Controller?’
‘He’s in a meeting with various Department Heads at the moment. But if you’d like to wait, I’ll see what I can do.’
‘I’ll wait. But my time is restricted, I have to catch the ferry in 45 minutes.’
Half an hour later Jason was shown into Controller Putting’s office. It was the first time he had been here since his school days, and he looked around with interest. The tall, almost painfully thin Sime looked vaguely familiar. Jason introduced himself, and then asked. ‘Hajene Putting. I believe Hajene Trent came to see you the other day?’
‘Yes he did. Can I be of assistance? I understand you were under the impression that Hajene Trent had come back here?’
‘Yes.’ Jason lifted his arm and touched his chronometer. He left the following message for me on Tay. He played the few short sentences out loud to the Sime. ‘Vidal is not the sort of man to say one thing, and then do another. At least, not without informing me first. As you may be aware Controller, I’m his Companion.’
‘Mm so I understand. Well I’m sorry but there’s obviously been a mix up somewhere along the line. Hajene Farris has not been to this Centre recently, no matter what Hajene Trent told you. And I can assure you that if he had, I would most certainly know about it. Believe me neither my staff nor I would be likely to forget a visit by the Sectuib in Zeor. Now if there is nothing else?’
Jason shook his head in negation. ‘I suppose I’ll just have to wait for Vidal to contact me, but if he does come back here, you’ll see he gets my message?’
‘Of course.’ Putting stood up, dismissing his visitor.
‘Ah Controller, there is just one other thing. Have we ever met before?’ He had to know.
‘Perhaps, I’ve been here for many years. I do know of your family of course, although my other Channels usually take the islanders donations. However, I don’t recall our having met - why?’
‘I just wondered, you seem - familiar. Well, thank you for your time.’ Jason hurried out of the squat building and headed quickly down to the harbour.
The ferry was half way across the strait on its way to Dunedin when Jason remembered where he had seen the Controller before. He had been on an organised school visit to the Sime Centre and had just been informed that he had established.
He had been fascinated by the new high-tech computers employed by the Sime Centre, and whilst the others had been taken on a conducted tour, he had remained behind to look at the computers. Controller Putting had been the man who had screamed abuse at him for daring to touch the new equipment, although whether he had in fact been Controller back then, Jason did not know. Nor did he care.
He stood against the rail of the ferry and stared at the horizon. So, his nemesis had been a Sime after all, he had often wondered. Perhaps it had been his turnover day? Many Simes suffered at such a time he knew, or maybe he was simply approaching transfer, or maybe he was just plain bad tempered? Jason smiled to himself.
Now that he was older he could look at the incident through the eyes of a man and not a boy. Suddenly the event, that had been so very traumatic to him for so many years, began to fade, and he knew it would soon become a distant memory.
It was already dark when he arrived back home. His mother, looking worried, smiled across at him as she entered the room. ‘It’s you Jason. I thought it might be young Ian. He hasna been home all day, that laddie will be the death of me, just wait till he gets home.’ She bustled out again, still muttering to herself.
‘He’ll be back for his supper, I’ve never known him miss a meal before.’ His father called after her.
The delicious smells emanating from the kitchen made Jason’s stomach rumble with anticipation.
Gail and Rachel arrived home, and went upstairs to complete their homework. Then Áaron and his sister Sharon entered the family room, and both were asked if they had seen Ian.
Sharon shook her head. ‘Clarrie’s been at the school all day, finishing up some of her work. You don’t think Ian’s with her do you?’
‘No.’ Her father dismissed the notion at once.
‘What about that friend of his he’s always talking about - Fletch isn’t it? Perhaps he’s spent the day at his house.’ Jason suggested
‘Aye. There are two laddies he hangs around with - Fletch and Morgan. I might just give them a call and.’ His father stopped as there was a brief knock, and the door opened and two Gen’s walked in, minus their boots that they had left outside.
The shorter of the two men spoke first. ‘Simon, sorry to interrupt at suppertime. We’re looking for our two laddies. Could you ask young Ian if he’s seen them today?’
‘I would if I could Frank, but our Ian’s not here and.’
‘And we’re starting to get worried,’ his wife interrupted as she came out of the kitchen. ‘Go and keep an eye on the food for me Sharon,’ she ordered as she moved to stand beside her husband.
‘I expect they’ve just got held up, you know what Ian’s like Betty.’ Her husband said soothingly.
‘Away with you Simon, that laddie would never miss a meal especially dinner. He’s like Jason as a child, he loves his food. Besides, he hasn't been back for any other meal today either.’ She retorted. ‘But I noticed some chocolate bars were missing this morning, so I didna worry too much, till now.’
‘Aye I’m a thinkin’ we’d better start a search for them Betty. Trouble is, they could be anywhere.’ Stephen stated, his tone was worried, and no one knowing Fletch, could ever have doubted that this man was anyone but his father.
‘I’ll go to the top of Mount Elg, they might just have taken it into their heads to try going up the south face, and that’s a difficult climb.’ Jason joined in, with a quick glance across at his mother. He didn’t want her to worry too much, but the possibility that perhaps one or more of the boys had fallen, could not be discounted.
‘That’s a dangerous climb in the daylight, never mind at night!’ His mother stated, obviously torn between the safety of her two sons.
‘Jason knows what he’s about Betty,’ his father replied.
‘Aye maybe he does at that, but I dinna want to lose two of them Simon.’
His father’s eyes met his son’s and he shrugged helplessly. ‘You’re not going to lose anyone.’ Jason said firmly. ‘I know that mountain like the back of my hand, you know I do.’
‘Of course, they might have gone into the caves.’ Aaron suggested softly.
‘Aye, and that’s a possibility too.’ Frank agreed at once, but he refrained from stating what they all knew, that the tides along that particular coast were treacherous.
Clarrie suddenly entered the house; she was out of breath, having run all the way from the school two miles away. ‘Is Ian back yet?’ She managed to gasp as she collapsed into a chair.
‘No, what’s happened Clarrie?’ Her father demanded.
‘I’ve just been talking to Fleur, one of my pupils. She was talking to Fletch last night on the vidlink. He told her that he was going with Ian and Morgan to try and get onto Spooky Island.’
‘On to Rockall? How the hell can they do that?’ Frank demanded. ‘They know there’s a force field all around the damn place.’
‘Aye, but apparently Ian heard our Jason there talking to his friend Vidal.’ Clarrie looked across at her half brother. ‘You were talking about the sea lions finding a way through the barrier?’
‘Yes, that’s right. We did discuss that, and Ian came up whilst we were talking, but I didn’t realise he’d overheard us. Besides I thought he had more sense than to - how the shen does he think he can get there anyway?’
‘The same way the sea lions do obviously,’ Stephen snapped. ‘I thought Fletch had more sense. How the hell do they expect to get there in the first place?’
‘They "borrowed" Raine’s sail boat from Ulst Bay.’ Carrie replied turning her head to look at Sharon.
‘He’ll be angry about that,’ Betty whispered.
‘If I know my Raine, he’ll be far more angry that the boys have gone and put themselves in such danger.’ Sharon answered, moving to put a comforting arm around her Mother’s waist.
‘Well I know that Morgan knows hardly anything at all about sailing,’ Frank stated. ‘Apart from the ferry, the only boat he’s ever been out on, is a rowing boat.’
‘Our Fletch’s been out on quite a few different boats as you know, but he’s never been on a sailing boat. Not to my knowledge anyhow. What about Ian?’
‘Ian’s a bit like Niall and Jamie, mad about boats. I do know they’ve given him a few lessons, but no more than two or three. But he’s no where near experienced enough to go as far as Rockall on his own. He can’t navigate, and he’d never cope with the swell out there.’
‘There was a heavy mist this morning too, it didn’t even begin to lift till Noon.’ Frank informed them.
Aaron came back into the room, he had slipped out whilst they were talking. ‘Dad I’ve just called the Sime Centre to see if they can help, but the Seagull isn’t expected back for a few days I’m afraid.’
‘I could have told you that,’ Sharon told her brother.
Aaron shrugged. ‘Anyway Sam told me that the fishing boats aren’t expected back for a couple of hours yet. So I contacted Haan. His big boat is out of the water in drydock at the moment, but he’s coming round here straight away in his powerboat. But it’s only a wee boat so he can only take one of us with him.’
Simon nodded. ‘Good. Well I suggest that you go with Haan, Jason. You’re still the best swimmer on the Island, besides you’re more used to working alongside Simes than we are.’
‘I’ll tackle the South side of Mount Elg,’ Aaron offered at once. ‘Want to come with me and take the North side Frank?’
‘Aye I’ll do that lad.’
‘And I’ll search the caves and the beach.’ Stephen stated.
‘I’ll go with you,’ Sharon said at once.
‘Right well I suggest we make a move. You can wait for Haan at the harbour Jason.’ His father told him. ‘I’m going to drum up some more help in the village to search the flat land.’
‘What about me?’ His wife demanded.
‘Betty you’re better off staying here. What if the boy’s come back? Besides you’ve got Gail and Rachel to look after, and we don’t want to worry them too much do we? They’ll be down shortly when they’ve finished their homework, looking for their supper. I suggest you try to get them to go to bed once they’ve eaten.’ He kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand.
‘All right dear, but call me when you can wont you?’
‘Of course.’ Simon glanced around. ‘Right let’s go.’
Jason and his father made their way down to the harbour, where Simon left his son, whilst he went to seek extra help. Jason walked along to the harbour steps where he stood waiting for Haan to arrive.
He had only waited about ten minutes when the small power boat appeared around the harbour wall and coasted along at the side of the harbour before coming to rest beside the steps.
‘Hi there, I take it you’re Haan? I’m Jason Devere. Thanks for coming.’ He jumped down lightly into the small boat, studying the renSime as he did so, aware that he too was being studied in turn. There was no sign of need, and Jason guessed that the Sime had had transfer in the last couple of days.
Haan was small even for a renSime, and wiry like most of his kind.
‘Any idea where we should look first?’ He asked as he fired the engine, and turned the vessel towards open water again.
‘We think they might have been headed for Rockall probably in Raine’s small sailboat. He’s my future brother in law, but he’s bosun on the Seagull, and he’s away for a few days.’
‘I know him, and his boat.’ Haan replied at once. ‘What are they doing going out that way? There’s an isolation clinic on the Island for shen's sake, no one in there right mind would go there.’
‘They’re three boys. Who knows how their brains work, or even if they have any, there are times when I doubt it! Besides, my young brother Ian has been raving on about Zombies and such like for some time now. I suppose they decided to go and see for themselves.’ Jason smiled grimly, ‘I often wonder if I was as bad as that? Mind you with me it was Vampires.’
The Sime laughed. ‘As I recall, I placed my bet on ghosts!’
‘Sounds about right.’
‘I never wanted to go and find out though.’
‘Nor me. I was much too frightened. Maybe it says something about the kids today.’ Jason observed lightly, as he scanned as far as he could see. The trouble was of course, that the Moon did not stay out for long. It kept moving behind the clouds, and each time it disappeared, it threw the sea and the sky into inky darkness. ‘Do you zlin anything?’
‘No. Have any of them established do you know?’
‘I haven’t got a clue,’ Jason confessed. ‘But I would say it’s extremely unlikely, although two of them are thirteen. One of the thirteen-year-olds is my brother Ian. He hadn’t established a few days ago, I do know that, because I’m companion to Hajene Trent, and he’s been staying with my family. He’d have said at once if young Ian had established.’
‘I’m sure he would.’ The Sime agreed at once, nodding his head as he glanced at the Gen again. ‘Are the boys good sailors?’
‘No. The only one with any experience at all is Ian, and that only consists of a two or three lessons.’ Jason confessed.
Haan remained silent. Which to Jason spoke far louder than words. If the boys had indeed gone to sea in Raine’s small boat, the chances of finding any of them still alive became more remote, with every hour that passed.
The boat began to rise and fall in the heavy swell that was now running with the tide, and a brisk wind was coming up.
‘I don’t like the smell of this at all. There’s bad weather on the way.’ The renSime informed him at one stage.
Jason was aware that some sailors claimed they could actually "smell" bad weather before it came, and he had lived too long on the islands to disparage anything that someone of Haan’s experience told him. If he said bad weather was coming - then it was a fair bet, that he was right.
‘There’s Rockall coming up to Port.’ Jason looked over to where the Sime was indicating with one graceful tentacle.
‘No sign of the boys.’ He said softly, as though speaking only to himself.
‘It’s nigh impossible to zlin three boys out here. If only one of them had established I might stand some sort of chance.’ Haan informed him. ‘Take the wheel, I’m going to shin up the flag pole there and see if I can zlin anything from there.’
To Jason’s eyes the Sime’s position looked extremely precarious, perched as he was at the very top of the thin pole, staring out at the restless sea.
Then Haan suddenly called something down, but the words were carried away by the wind that was becoming stronger every minute.
‘I can’t hear you!’ Jason shouted back, and then saw that the Sime was pointing to Starboard with his arm. Nodding his head, he turned the wheel on the small craft to the right, and the boat crept forward into the wind. One eye on Haan and one on the sea up ahead, Jason steered the craft through the swell.
Seconds later the Sime shinned down the pole again and appeared beside him. ‘There’s something in the water up ahead.’ He shouted in Jason’s ear.
The Gen strained his eyes to look through the spray. ‘Yes, I can see it now too. It’s…shen it’s a boat upside down.’ The words were forced out of his lips as his eyes were riveted on the small hull of the craft.
‘There’s someone clinging on to it.’ Haan called, and opened the engine up further to bring it alongside the wreck.
‘It’s one of the boys. I’m going in.’ And before Haan could speak, he had thrown off his waterproof coat and shoes, and dived cleanly into the dark waters.
A few strokes brought him alongside the small body. At that moment the Moon decided to appear once more, and in the pale light Jason saw at once, that it was not Ian. ‘All right son. Let go now I’ve got you. Can you get on my back and put your arms around my neck?’
The small head nodded just once. ‘Good, here we go then.’ Seconds later he was alongside Haan’s boat once more, and without hesitation the Sime reached down, and yanked them both out of the water. Thank God for a Sime’s ability to augment at a time like this, Jason thought, as they both landed in the bottom of the boat gasping like two beached whales.
Jason grabbed the wheel as the Sime pulled towels and blankets out of a small locker, he tossed one to Jason who draped it around himself, and then wrapped the small figure in the other one. Rubbing him dry and pummeling warmth back into his body.
To Jason’s surprise the Sime then pulled a small bottle of whisky out of another locker and poured some of it down the boy’s throat. It did wonders for the lad who had turned blue, and was shivering with the cold. Bringing at once, a healthier colour back into his lips and face.
‘Let me take over there, while you dry yourself.’ Haan instructed, and took the wheel. A few minutes later he handed Jason the scotch. ‘Here, get a swallow of this down you.’
Jason complied without argument. Then turned his attention to the small boy.
‘I take it you’re Fletch - Stephen’s boy?’ He asked gently.
‘What happened Fletch? Where are the others?’
‘They went in to follow one of the sea lions under the water. I couldn’t go ‘cause I can’t swim as well. They dropped the anchor but it didn’t reach the bottom, but they told me to stay and watch the boat. They said they wouldn’t be long, they just wanted to watch which way the Seal went. So I did. Then the winds got really bad, and the anchor was dragging and I think it must have got caught on something because the boat started to capsize, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.’ He began to cry, tears running down his pale face.
‘All right Fletch, take it easy now. No one’s going to blame you. Just tell me what you can.’ He put his arm around the small cold figure.
‘Then the boat went right over. So I just clung on to the hull, I don’t know how long for, but it was getting colder and colder, and then you came.’
Haan passed him more blankets and he wrapped Fletch up and then placed him in the bottom of the boat to rest. The boy obviously had nothing else to tell them, and was exhausted, and would soon be asleep.
Jason went to stand beside Haan again. ‘See that red buoy over there?’ Jason nodded. ‘Fifty yards or so beyond the buoy, is the beginning of the force field that surrounds the island. I’ll circle around for a while, but I don’t think we’re going to find much. I suppose we’re lucky to have found one of them. I’m sorry about Morgan and your brother.’
‘So am I. Both Morgan’s parents and mine are going to be devastated. Ian was their youngest.’ Jason stared moodily at the swirling water as he visualised Ian’s cheeky young face disappearing from his view under the waves. He was also grateful at that moment that the sea spray on his face was hiding the tears that were streaming down his cheeks from the Sime. Forgetful that Haan was well able to zlin, exactly how he was feeling.
Read Part 1 or Part 2 or Part 3--Comment to the Author and then READ Chapter 6 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.
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