Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13 , 14 & 15
The muted sound of music and the murmur of voices, together with the clink of ice in crystal glasses, filled the vast room. Here and there an occasional laugh rang out. Yet none of these things appeared to disturb the thoughts of the tall, elegantly dressed mature Sime, who stood beside the open glass doors that lead out onto the terrace. As still as any statue, he stared unseeing at the extensive gardens flooded by moonlight.
The expression on the hard but handsome aristocratic features did not alter, as he turned slowly to accept the drink from the silver tray, his renSime major-domo silently held out to him. Two tentacles thanked and peremptorily dismissed the man. Even as he did so, he looked passed him to where his other obsequious servants moved silent and surefooted, as only Simes could, amongst his many guests. Satisfied that they were well supplied with drinks, and anything else they might require, his dark eyes moved to survey those guests.
The men in their fashionable eveningwear all exuded that indefinable "something", that fairly screamed affluence and authority. Whilst the women, dressed in every colour of the rainbow, flitted between them like so many butterflies. Each vying with the other to display the jewels that proclaimed both their own, and their man's wealth, and social status.
Maxwell sought and found his own wife. A smile touched his lips as his eyes rested with satisfaction on the rope of large flawless blue diamonds that encircled her swanlike neck, and rested on her ample breasts. (For a slender renSime, she was surprising well endowed in that department.) He had given them to her tonight as an anniversary present. They had cost him a king's ransom, but no other woman in the room was better adorned, and that fact alone in his estimation, justified the expenditure.
'Maxwell - a great party, as always.' Denni a small bald renSime had moved to stand beside his host, 'I hear the prodigal son returns.'
'Only on a visit.'
'Sasha tells me he's bringing a Companion with him?' His interrogator pressed, curiosity swirling through his nager.
'Yes.' The reply was short, drawing the conversation to an abrupt halt. Maxwell himself although a Channel, was only a second, but even so he was surprisingly sensitive, and knew that Denni was revelling in his undoubted discomfort.
Thankfully Maxwell was also extremely adept at keeping his own feelings from seeping into the ambient in the room. For the thought of having a Gen under his own roof was not pleasant, but his Son had made it abundantly clear, that if his Companion was not welcome in the family home, then neither was he.
Maxwell, like other men in his strata of society, openly denigrated Householders and their traditions, whilst tolerating the Tecton as a necessary evil. Also again like his friends and business associates, he paid the Tecton well, for every dynopter of selyn that he needed each month.
To his way of thinking, there was no valid reason why Vidal should not do the same. Money had never been a problem in the Trent family, and as Maxwell knew, it still spoke all languages, even in today's increasingly egalitarian society. So why the young fool had saddled himself with a penniless Gen, he quite simply, did not understand. Vidal after all, still enjoyed a privileged position in life, which even today was not enjoyed by many.
It was of course true, that Vidal had never touched any of the family fortune. Although he was still destined to receive his fair share, along with the rest of his family, when the time came. Maxwell's lip rose in a sardonic smile, as he conceded that there was of course no necessity for his Son to touch Trent money. After all, Vidal's own personal wealth left to him by his Grandmother, was substantial, and wisely invested, and did not include the generous salary that he received from the TIB.
However, as Maxwell was well aware, Vidal still chose to wear hand tooled shoes, together with clothes designed and sewn by the best tailors. He preferred to stay at top class hotels, travel first class, and indulge in only the finest food and wine. He also knew very well that all these habits, once acquired, were extremely hard to give up.
Then of course there was Jason Devere, his son's Companion, who accompanied him everywhere he went.
Maxwell was already aware of the Gen's financial status, family background and obligations. For he had had Devere very thoroughly investigated, as he did any outsider who came into contact with his family. He therefore had little doubt as to who paid the piper in their relationship.
His handsome face grew colder still as he recalled the many disappointments Vidal had heaped on him over the years. The worst of all of course, was the fact that his arrogant son had been asked to join a Household. Not just any House! He had actually been asked by Sectuib Jordan Farris himself to join Zeor - and what had the simpleton done? He had turned it down!
Maxwell was well aware, that however much his personal wealth and the undeniable position in society that his family enjoyed might grow. There were still doors in certain parts of the establishment that were closed, and always would be closed, to outsiders like the Trents, who were not Householders.
These doors could never be opened by mere money alone, but they would have been thrown open wide, if the young cretin had simply accepted the Farris offer! After all, Maxwell might well despise what the Householders stood for, but he was not averse to using them, in order to further both his personal and business interests if he could. Shen it, what had he ever done to deserve a son like Vidal!?
Maxwell ground his teeth together in frustration, and only just managed to stop his tentacles from emerging to lash out uncontrollably, and publicly display his anger. A breach of etiquette he could not permit in front of his peers.
He sipped his drink, working to mask his irritation from all the other Simes in the room, as he zlinned his wife's approach. He turned to face her as she reached his side. 'Well my dear?' He smiled indulgently, pushing his unpleasant thoughts regarding his son to one side, to be considered later in private.
She glanced up at him. 'Everything is going well Maxwell. Come, help me cut the cake.'
He placed his empty glass on the silver salver that his hovering major-domo held out. Then accompanied his wife across the room to where his Chef stood proudly beside the huge two tiered anniversary cake, with the legend "Maxwell and Sasha - Happy Anniversary" written on it in dark blue sugar icing.
'Leave your bags there, I'll carry them down.'
'Stop fussing. My shoulder's just fine. I can hardly feel it'
'I've knitted the bones and tendons that's true, but there's still a weakness there that I am not happy with.' Vidal replied quickly. 'I'm glad we've got this R & R. It will give you the complete rest you require, to enable your wounds to heal properly.'
'I suppose you're right. Look Vidal, I've been thinking. If you've been at odds with your father for so long - are you sure you want me along? I can always stay at a hotel close by. In fact I've found out the Whittaker Budget Group have a hotel on the outskirts of the City, and they're well within my price range. We can still meet up each day, and you can show me around your old haunts.'
'Don't be ridiculous. I've told you Jason, where I go - you go.'
Vidal wondered what his Companion would say if he knew that the TIB usually expected them to travel by the cheapest method, and always stay at budget hotels, unless their cover called for something different?
Jason was totally unaware, that it was Vidal who upgraded their travel to first class, and booked them into the best hotels, and it was Vidal, who paid the difference. Shen, he could just imagine what his partner would say if he ever found out! One thing for sure, he would never hear the last of it. Indeed, if he knew his partner - and he did - he would probably insist on repaying every credit, and Vidal knew the Gen could not afford to do so.
The trouble was, that Vidal was used to having the best. And whilst he had more than enough money to pay for it, and would never miss it anyway. He could really see no reason why he should have to "rough it", just to appease his partner.
'And if I'm not welcome in your home?'
'Then neither am I. So let's not have any more of this kind of talk, okay?'
The Gen sighed. Reading between the lines, he doubted very much if Maxwell Trent would welcome him into his Household with either open arms, or tentacles come to that.
In fact Jason had been worried enough to call Vidal's cousin Sheldon on two occasions. The first time ostensibly to ask if he and Vicky had enjoyed their climbing holiday. Even though he knew they had been back from that vacation for over eight months, whilst he and Vidal had only just returned from their last assignment.
However, during the conversation, he had managed to glean a little information about the elderly Sime, in whose house he would be both an unwelcome and unwilling guest. I hope Vidal appreciates the things I'm prepared to do for him, Jason thought fondly.
On the second occasion he had asked Sheldon outright for his opinion of his Uncle. The response had not been good, and the fact that Sheldon did not want to say anything at all, did not bode well as far as Jason was concerned. His silence speaking far louder than mere words.
Finally, after Vidal had explained in slightly more detail about his own family background. Jason had consulted the TIB reference library looking up the Trent name. What he had discovered there, had not settled his mind at all, far from it. However, he had to make the best of it for his partner's sake.
If things got too bad he could always decamp to the nearest hotel, or perhaps get his brother Mike to ring and ask him to return home on some pretext or other. Although he doubted that he would ever get such a blatant subterfuge passed Vidal. Unless of course, he was allowed to get away with it!
Jason studied his partner surreptitiously from under his eyelashes. It was well over a week now since Vidal's turnover, and he had not had a good turnover this time. Which was unusual for his partner, who rarely displayed many outward signs, at least as far as the casual observer was concerned. This time however, he had, and Jason was sure it was because of their imminent visit to Maxwell Trent. It had obviously been praying on his partner's mind too.
Shen it, was it really worth going at all if it was going to affect both of them in this manner? Vidal was expecting them to stay at his family home for over a week, which meant the Channel would have to take transfer whilst they were there. In actual fact Jason found that he was not exactly happy about the prospect of taking transfer under Maxwell Trent's roof. But he didn't know why. With any luck, he might just get Vidal to agree to their using the facilities of the Sime Centre in Capital City. At least he could try to come up with a good enough reason, for them to do so.
Jason sighed; he really would have to pull himself together. Vidal was obviously not feeling on top of the world. Therefore, if he too started feeling depressed about things it would show in his field, and he knew that that could send Vidal into a fit of the "blues", that it would be near impossible for him to come out of before they took transfer.
Jason's trepidation about this visit solidified, as he looked down on the magnificent white edifice below him, which consisted of a main building with two wings off at each end. Rather like a giant capital E with the centre bar missing. Its extensive grounds laid out as colourful gardens and grass lawns. Various gaming courts and a large swimming pool were tucked away on one side of the building. The formal gardens close to the large house, giving way to sweeping hills and dense woodlands in the distance.
At the rear, the house looked out to sea, and their shuttle had swept silently in over the high cliffs, circled around the impressive building, and settled down on the landing pad at the far side, close to what were clearly riding stables.
'Be it ever so humble.' Vidal broke the silence as he turned off the power and turned to smile at his Companion. 'Welcome to my home, what do you think of it?'
'I'm speechless.' His green eyes turned to meet the Channel's dark ones. 'I expected - I don't know what I expected - but certainly nothing like this.'
'When all is said and done, it's only a place to live and sleep, a little larger than most I'll grant you. After you've eaten, I'll give you a guided tour. I warned Thorne, my father's major-domo, to get in extra supplies.'
Jason squirmed. 'Did you have to do that? They're going to think I do nothing else but eat!'
'And you don't!?' The Channel laughed indulgently as they climbed out of the shuttle.
Jason was very aware that no one had bothered to come and welcome them. Perhaps it was not the done thing at this level of society? But to him it seemed strange, especially if one of the guests was a member of the family.
'I trust, since you learned to ride Rosebud, that you haven't forgotten how?'
'From that remark am I take it that you expect me to ride?' Jason demanded his head on one side challengingly. 'Do I have to?'
'It's by far the easiest way to get around the place. It covers many square kilometres you know.'
'Okay, if I must, I'll give it a go. Just don't give me anything too lively.'
'Agreed. Now come this way. I expect Sasha, my stepmother, will have arranged for us to eat alfresco.'
'What are we, about twenty kilometres from Capital City?'
Vidal glanced over Jason's shoulder before he spoke. 'Yes, about that. We can use either a flitter or my shuttle to go into town, or if you prefer, my father does have his own private transmuter on the premises. It's connected to all the major city outlets worldwide. We could have used it to come here today, but I thought it best to bring my shuttle. Besides, I wanted to show you the place from the air.'
'Did you say your Father has his own transmuter? You mean right here, on the premises?' Jason stared at his partner, his eyes like saucers. 'Hell Vidal, your family must be worth millions!'
'Billions, in actual fact. I see you are well Vidal.' A deeper voice broke into their conversation.
'As always, Father. I'm glad to see that you too are in good health.' Both men were zlinning each other as Jason, blushing furiously at being caught discussing the Trent fortune, stared in fascination at the older version of his partner, and then watched as they formally touched tentacles. An elegantly dressed, middle aged renSime woman, suddenly appeared from behind her husband to greet Vidal.
Turning quickly the Channel introduced Jason, who inclined his head as he returned their acknowledgement, remembering not to offer his hand. Vidal had warned him, that his father would not appreciate the gesture.
'We did as you requested Vidal.' Sasha said softly. 'Only two of the servants were anywhere near approaching need. We sent them to our Highgrove Retreat in the mountains this morning, they can use the Sime Centre there and return later.'
'Thank you. I'm grateful.'
'We're not used to catering for Gens Vidal.'
'Apart from the tentacles, Jason is no different than you or I father.' Vidal couldn't hide his sarcasm, and didn't bother trying.
The older Channel opened his mouth to dispute the assertion, but his wife placed a tentacle on his hand, and as Maxwell stalked away, she looked at her stepson and forced a brief smile. 'If you would like to take your Companion up to the terrace you will find a smorgasbord has been prepared. I hope he will find something there to his liking.'
'I'm sure I will, there isn't much I don't eat,' Jason confessed with a friendly grin.
'You can speak directly to my Companion Sasha. He can hear, and speak for himself, strange as it may seem.' Vidal's voice, was ice cold.
His stepmother looked momentarily flustered, 'Of course, I'm sorry. I meant no offence.'
Jason opened his mouth to assure her that no offence had been taken. But before he could voice the words, Vidal's tentacles grabbed his arm, and he was hustled across the grass and up the sweeping steps and onto the wide terrace.
'Hey let go Vidal! What's wrong now?' Jason demanded, extricating his arm from his partner's grasp.
The Channel pointed to a chair with a tentacle. 'Sit down. We should never have come. That's what is wrong. I must apologise for my parents.' He said softly, as a servant brought a jug of iced Sangria, and poured it out. 'Time tends to make one forget, just how insensitive they can be.'
Jason sat down and surveyed the food on the table, before he spoke. 'Why? It's not your fault is it? You told me ages ago that they aren't used to entertaining Gens. So their attitude is understandable. Hopefully in time they'll get used to having me around. If not, well I can always keep out of their way. Otherwise, as a last resort, there's always the Hotel.' He looked fondly across at his partner. 'Forget it, I have. Now, I don't know about you my friend, but I'm starving.'
'I know you are.' Vidal flashed a smile, and then helped himself to savouries from several different platters and began to eat. His own appetite that seconds ago had been non-existent was suddenly awakened by his Companion's hunger.
'Hey I just remembered, we left our bags in the shuttle.'
'The servants will have taken them up to our rooms.' Vidal stated casually as he swallowed another mouthful, and then found himself reaching for more salad.
'I think I could get used to all this pampering.' Jason stated as he looked up to thank the renSime, who was filling their glasses with more iced sangria, that had slices of fresh pilah floating on the top.
'What do you fancy doing this afternoon?'
'Is there a way down those cliffs, and onto the beach that we saw as we came in?'
'Yes. There's also an elevator - if you would rather not clamber down the path.'
'But of course there's a lift! Now why didn't I guess that?' Jason asked facetiously. 'However, I'm not quite ancient enough to make use of it yet, and neither are you. We'll take the path. By the way is the tide in or out?'
'The tide is on the turn and should be coming in shortly. The beach shelves down gently, and there are no large rocks near to shore.'
'Good. Let's take our swimming gear with us.'
'Very well.' Vidal glanced at the hovering servant. 'I take it our bags have been taken up, and that my Companion has the suite next to mine?'
'Good. Come then Jason, I'll show you the way.'
'Vidal, why do the servants call you "N'Vet" and not "Hajene"?'
'My father prefers it. He's a second himself of course, but wild horses wouldn't make him admit to it.'
'He really is prejudiced isn't he?'
'Extremely. He tolerates the Tecton as a necessary evil, after all he would find it impossible to live without them, unless he joined the Distect.' Vidal grinned broadly. 'Householders however, in his estimation at least, are a different breed entirely - yet there was a time.' He paused briefly. 'I had been asked by Jordan to join Zeor, and had turned the offer down. When my father learned of it, he was beside himself with rage. I honestly thought for a moment that he would do harm to himself or me.'
'But why? If he hates Householders, surely he would be pleased that you had refused to join them.'
'You'd think so wouldn't you? But you have to remember that my father is first and foremost a businessman. So, no matter what his own personal views or prejudices might be, as far as he was concerned, there were opportunities to be made from joining Zeor. And these were lost when I turned it down. He didn't speak to me for six months after that.'
'Well I suppose that in his eyes, he had good cause. You're aware of course that most Households are extremely wealthy, and none more so than Zeor. More importantly perhaps, none of them ever do business with outsiders, if it can be avoided.'
'Yes I've heard that, but even so, he shouldn't have treated you like that. And it doesn't say very much for his principles does it, not if he's prepared to turn them upside down just for the sake of profit.'
'I agree. However I think he would take the opposite view - that he wasn't allowing his personal prejudice to stand in the way of commerce and profit.'
Jason laughed. 'I never will understand people like him. He has this hang-up about Householders per se, yet he's quite prepared to forget all about it when it suits him. And I bet, if he knew what was going on at Rockall, he'd condone that too!'
'Of course. And as you know, with regard to that issue at least, I would have to agree with him.'
'Did I hear you right? I thought we'd had all this out the other night?'
'We did, and as I recall, we agreed to disagree.'
'You might have agreed that, I certainly didn't.'
'Then I stand corrected,' Vidal said quickly, realising at once that it was a subject they should not have broached, considering his Companion's uncompromising views on the matter, 'and that being so, perhaps we can now put the whole matter to one side? At least till we leave my father's house.'
'If you insist, but I don't know why we should.' Jason said grudgingly.
'Thank you. Here we are.' The Channel said with obvious relief as he ushered the Gen through the door and into a large room.
Jason surveyed the place with pleasure. The suite consisted of a sitting room, a bedroom and a bathroom. Each room was big enough to accommodate at least twenty people. Both the sitting room and bedroom had doors that opened out onto a balcony, with extensive views over the estate. There was also a communicating door in the sitting room between their two suites.
He was not surprised to find that his bags had already been unpacked, and the few clothes he had brought with him looked lost hanging in the large walk-in wardrobe. Grinning he pulled open several drawers till he finally found his swimming shorts.
Entering the bathroom, he inspected the marble facilities, including the sunken bath, sauna and spa. It was all the very last word in luxury. 'So this is how the other half live.' He murmured out loud. Then quickly changed into his swimming gear and grabbing a large towel, made his way to the communicating door. Vidal looked up as he tapped on it and entered.
'There's no need to knock, I zlinned your approach.' He reminded his partner.
'I wasn't sure about the insulation. Your home is fantastic Vidal.'
'By the way, I took this towel from the bathroom. Your stepmother won't object?'
'Of course not. I'm sure Sasha hasn't got the slightest idea where the Household linen is kept, let alone how many towels there are in the house.' He waved a graceful tentacle in the air by way of dismissal. 'But then again, neither did my mother. Wait while I fetch myself a towel.'
'Don't tell me that you're actually going to join me in the water?'
'Perhaps. But I promise nothing.' He paused, an eyebrow raised, as he suggested. 'Of course, if we did use the elevator there are changing rooms close by with showers.'
'No I don't think so. I need the exercise even if you don't. I haven't been able to get to the Gym for some time.'
A short while later they made their way down the rough steps cut into the steep rock path, dropping their towels onto the soft sand as they jumped down the last few feet.
Jason looked around the deserted beach. 'It's beautiful. I'm surprised there's no one else down here. There's an easy enough approach from the sea.'
'The beach is private. My father has the bay regularly patrolled by guards to warn off sailboats and yachts. Our neighbours of course, have their own beaches further along the bay.' Vidal said casually. Jason chose not to reply.
The water was warm, the waves gentle. Totally different than the sea surrounding Dunedin, and in some ways not quite so invigorating either, especially if one appreciated surf. But these conditions suited Vidal better, and after a few minutes the Channel decided to brave the elements, and joined his partner in the water.
'How is your shoulder?'
'Fine. Stop clucking. I'll give you a ten second start and race you to the shore.' They repeated the exercise several times till Jason had to reduce the handicap time from ten to five seconds to enable him to continue winning. Laughing they both finally staggered out of the sea, and then fell to their knees in the shallow water, gasping for air.
'You're in pain.'
'No, the shoulder's just a bit stiff that's all, nothing to worry about. The exercise is good for me.' Jason ran back up the beach and picking up his towel began to rub dry.
Vidal joined him, more slowly, and pushed him face down onto the warm sand. 'You are in pain. No, don't argue with me. There, how is that?' He began to massage his shoulder with fingers and tentacles.
Jason rested his head on his folded arms and sighed. 'That's fantastic. I guess it was beginning to ache just a little,' he finally conceded, which caused his partner to snort derisively.
Later, having taken a hot shower to wash off the remaining salt water. Jason emerged into his bedroom wrapped in a plain white cotton bathrobe that he had found hanging on a hook.
Lying down on the double bed he looked towards the window. The sky was still blue, but the Sun was now low in the sky as sunset approached. He yawned and stretched luxuriously as he wondered what time he could expect to have dinner? He should have asked, and he should also have asked Vidal if it was okay for him to dress casually.
The trouble was he simply hadn't thought to bring anything formal with him. Half expecting, whatever their different backgrounds, that his partner's parents would be relaxed. At least when in their own home, and amongst family. Having met them, he realised this assumption was a stupid mistake. But then, who would have guessed that Vidal's home would be anything like this?
He sighed. Tomorrow he would have to go and buy whatever was necessary in Capital City. Tonight? Well they'd just have to accept him in his casual clothes, and if that didn't suit them, he could always eat up here in his room. Shen it, Vidal really should have warned him.
Jason stood up and walked across to watch the dying rays of the Sun as it began to slowly disappear into the placid sea. He knew in his heart that he was wrong to blame his friend for not telling him about things, that Vidal himself, took for granted. No, it was up to him to think ahead, and watch for the pitfalls that faced him in this strange menage.
However, right now, the problem of formal wear had to be faced, so before he could change his mind, he walked purposefully towards the communicating door.
An hour later he and Vidal stepped out of the transmuter into the lively heart of Capital City. It was situated close to a cosmopolitan and popular restaurant called "Alien Nights", where Vidal had booked them a table. Much later in the evening, it became a night-club.
Vidal had already apologised twice, for not telling his Companion that his father was a stickler for formality at all times. Insisting that it was uncivilised, and an insult, for anyone to do less than at least dress for dinner.
As soon as Jason had explained about the matter of his clothes, his partner had immediately acted. Explaining the dilemma to Sasha, and arranging for them to eat en famille the following evening, when his brother and his family, would be back home from visiting his wife's mother. Tonight they would both eat out in town.
This respite would also give Jason time to do some necessary shopping. Although a small argument had ensued, when Vidal had tried to insist that he would pay for the unexpected shopping expedition. The Channel stating logically, at least from his point of view, that his Companion was being put to an expense that he would not normally have expected to incur.
Whilst Jason, his pride at stake, had refused point blank to accept anything from his partner. 'Vidal if I have to borrow from you, just till I get paid, then I will, but that's all.' He had insisted finally, and with that, his partner had had to be content.
The Trent name had ensured immediate attention in all the stores, and he was assured that his purchases would all be delivered in the next few hours.
This being Capital City, Jason had fully expected to see a lot more off-worlders walking around the streets than he was used to seeing, and he was not to be disappointed. Two Selavites passed them as Vidal led the way down the broad main street. They would have knocked Jason off his feet with their swinging cloaks, if Vidal had not grabbed him and pulled him to one side. The two lovely creatures went blithely on their way; unaware of the havoc they had very nearly created in their wake.
'What a pity they're wearing cloaks. I'd love to see their wings.' Jason said wistfully.
'The weather on Earth is much too cold for them, even in the height of summer.'
'Yes, I've read what happens to them - they moult, don't they?'
'It's not just the moulting that worries them. It's to do with reproduction too. On their planet, moulting inevitably leads to breeding.' Vidal stated.
'Of course, I've heard about that too. They copulate just about anywhere when the mating urge is on them. No wonder they don't want that to happen off planet!'
'Would you? Come, the restaurant is on the other side of the street as I recall.'
Jason followed his partner across the road, still deep in thought. He was pleased when they entered the establishment to find that here too, there was a fair sprinkling of aliens. Sitting down they ordered their meal. Then Vidal willingly spent most of the time whilst they waited for the food to arrive, identifying all the different and sometimes exotic races that surrounded them.
'That's a Hray.' Vidal said softly in answer to his partner's question. 'I'm not sure if it's male or female, it's difficult to tell. Their tongue is about a metre long. Don't stare! The Hray have been known to spit a rather disgusting mucus if they lose their temper.'
Jason heeded the warning with a grimace and a nod, and then went on. 'Yuk! Is that what I think it is?' The waiter had just placed a plate down in front of the Hray.
'I'm afraid so.'
'Shen, how can anyone eat - that?'
Vidal shook his head, before he spoke. 'With great difficulty, unless your tongue is adapted for it. I recommend you don't look.'
'I don't intend to! You know, maybe coming to this type of restaurant wasn't such a good idea after all. I'm starting to lose my appetite.' Forcing his horrified gaze away from the Hray's food, Jason's eyes scanned the room. 'Vidal, there's an alien in the corner that doesn't appear to have a mouth. Isn't that a Zolt'vhe? He must eat something I suppose, or he wouldn't be in here in the first place, unless he just likes to watch.'
Without turning his head to look, Vidal asked him. 'If I'm not mistaken he has a rather bulbous protrusion in the middle of his face?'
'Yes, now that you mention it, he does.'
'If we were sitting closer to him, you would see that it has a seam down the front of it, rather like the crease in a peach or nectarine. In actual fact, it opens and peels back, and that's where he deposits the food. I would imagine the Zolt'vhe do not masticate their food with teeth as we do. There is probably a very strong digestive acid in the stomach, which will dispose of it. But as I'm not familiar with the working of the Zolt'vhe anatomy, I can't really say. So that's pure conjecture on my part.'
'Charming! Is he able to speak?'
'But of course. Speech, if you can call it that, comes from a voice box located at the back of his neck. As a matter of fact, I've only spoken to one Zolt'vhe, many years ago, and must admit I found it extremely difficult to understand the guttural sounds it makes. To be brutally honest the noise reminded me somewhat of a pig at the trough.'
Shen it - you're right! His nose just opened! Move round a bit I can't watch that while I eat.' Jason moved his chair a little further towards Vidal so that his view of the Zolt-vhe was restricted. 'You know I'm really not all that hungry after all, are you?'
'Jason it's not his nose! I just explained to you - that's his mouth you idiot! His nostrils are between his eyes, higher up the head. It's a good thing you didn't decide to take up a political or a diplomatic career. You might well have had to sit beside a Hray or even our friend the Zolt-vhe over there, at a formal dinner, and make polite conversation during the meal too.' Vidal bit back a grin. 'If you take my advice you'll keep your eyes on your own plate and don't look around too much. I'd hate to tell you who or what is sitting directly behind you.'
'For once I won't argue, and no, don't tell me what's there please. And to think I used to make disparaging remarks about politicians and diplomats - I take it all back - well, perhaps not all of it.'
'Do you mind if we join you?'
'Vicky!' Vidal rose quickly to his feet and gestured with his tentacles for a waiter to bring extra settings and a Menu. 'I didn't zlin your approach!'
'Hey you didn't say you were coming to Capital City when I spoke to you.' Jason chimed in; looking pleased, as he stared up at Sheldon.
'A last minute decision, we decided to surprise you.' Vicky replied with a laugh.
'And the last few yards were the most difficult!' Sheldon broke in, grinning at Jason. 'I had to work hard to shield both our fields from my dear cousin. I expected him to turn around at any second. I wouldn't have managed it at all, if you hadn't been so engrossed in each other!'
'Actually the ambient is so mixed in here, that I have to admit to not paying very much attention to it.' Vidal confessed sheepishly. 'Also, we were discussing some of the less than appetising eating habits of some of the aliens sitting around us. And my companion's nager was letting off vibes that I was beginning to find every uncomfortable indeed. In fact, you will no doubt be surprised to hear that Jason was almost put off his food. I did say - almost!'
'But you are pleased to see us?' Vicky pressed.
'Of course.' Vidal assured them quickly as they all sat down.
'Am I allowed to ask just why you decided to come here? I assume that it wasn't simply for the pleasure of seeing us again?'
'No, that's true. But you are the first to hear our news. Vicky has consented to be my wife. As a matter of fact she's already - enceinte, so technically we're already married! I tried to explain that to her, but she's a stubborn Gen, and still insists on the whole Wedding bit!' He smiled indulgently down at her as she blushed, and whispered to him that he should not have said anything about that yet.
'It was a mistake.' She informed them softly. But didn't look very upset about it.
Both men laughed and congratulated them, and Vidal called for two bottles of special vintage wine, with which to toast the happy couple.
'I take it that your parents don't know yet?' Vidal glanced at his cousin, as he lifted the fluted glass to taste the golden liquid, the wine waiter had poured out.
'No. I could have called them, but I thought it best to break the news face to face. Though what Uncle Maxwell is going to say!'
He shrugged his slender shoulders expressively. 'If only he wasn't head of the family.'
'I expect he will shake his head and say that the World has gone mad. Having Jason under his roof was bad enough, when he finds himself entertaining a second Gen, who is also an actual member of his family. I doubt he will recover from the shock! Just don't expect him to congratulate you.' Vidal warned. 'What about your parents Vicky? Will they be pleased?'
'My parents died when I was small. My Granny brought me up, but she passed away a few years back.'
'Don't be. Having listened to the horror stories Sheldon has been telling me about his family. I'm rather pleased I don't have any relations to worry about.' She confessed honestly.
'I know what you mean. Your friends you can choose, but your relations you're stuck with.' Jason grinned, and then asked. 'By the way, how did you know where we'd be eating? We only decided to come here at the last minute.'
Vidal nodded his dark head. 'I too was wondering about that.'
'I rang your home and spoke to old Thorne.' Sheldon stated. 'He told me what your plans were for the evening, so we decided to join you.'
'Sasha said your parents will be coming to dinner tomorrow night.' Vidal informed his cousin. 'Do I take it you'll both be there too, now that you're home?'
His cousin sighed. 'I suppose we must, unfortunately.'
'Surely your Uncle isn't that bad Sheldon?' Vicky looked across at Vidal for confirmation of her assertion.
'Expect the worst.' Vidal said with a rueful smile, 'and you won't be disappointed. Just remember he can object all he likes, but he can't stop you - after all, you're already pregnant, and even he can't do anything about that. Technically, you're already married under old Sime Law, and Father always says that he prefers to recognise the old laws, so he won't have a leg to stand on.'
They all sat talking - while the two Gens ate enough for all four of them - till well after midnight, when a small combo starting playing and several couples got up to dance, as the lights were lowered.
'Vidal, I've often wondered, is your older brother very much like you?' Jason asked the question idly, as they listened to the music.
Sheldon choked back a roar of laughter at the words, 'Jerome? Similar to Vidal?'
'I didn't mean in looks - but in temperament and ways perhaps?'
'Surprisingly we don't even look alike. Where I, favour my father. Jerome looks more like our Mother.'
'He follows her in most other ways too.' Sheldon interrupted.
'Yes, that's true. Our Mother was a sweet and lovely woman. Sadly she was also a doormat for my father. She never argued with him, about anything. His word was law.' The Channel looked down into his glass for a few moments, and then went on. 'She was never very strong. After Jerome was born her physician warned her about getting pregnant again. My father decided he wanted another child. He was worried that if anything happened to Jerome there would be no other heir to inherit the dynasty. The fact that he has numerous nieces and nephews meant nothing to him. Sorry Sheldon, but it's the truth.'
'I realised that long ago.'
'Anyway, my father decided that my mother should chance her health, and endure another pregnancy. So I was born. From my earliest recollection, I can never remember a time when she wasn't ill or bedridden. When she finally died after decades of illness.' He paused, 'I can only say that it was a happy release for her.'
'And all totally unnecessary.' Sheldon murmured. 'After all, he now has four grandchildren.'
'Agreed. And Jerome, like Mother, being only too eager to please our father, will probably keep poor Margot pregnant for as long as nature allows.' Vidal replied wryly.
'Just don't expect me to do the same.' Vicky warned Sheldon. 'I have no intention of becoming a breeding machine for anyone.'
Sheldon picked up her hand and ran a tentacle down her soft cheek. 'Believe me, I'd never expect that of you. But you won't mind if I get in a bit of practice from time to time, will you?' He grinned at her wickedly and kissed the back of her hand, as she blushed furiously.
Read Chapter 2
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Companion in Zeor is Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
A New Beginning is copyright (c) 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
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This Page Was Last Updated by Karen 04/16/03 04:33 PM EST (USA)
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