Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13 , 14 & 15
Jason lowered himself into the bath, and sighed with relief as the hot water immediately eased his aching body and feet.
The mare Vidal had picked out for him this morning had been quite gentle, but as he had not been on horse back since his time on Regis 9, he had not been surprised to find that he still had many painful muscles that he had forgotten about, until today.
'You're pleased about this aren't you?'
His partner had looked the picture of innocence as he helped to saddle both horses. 'Meaning?'
'Meaning. You decided to go swimming yesterday. I didn't force you, did I?'
'Of course you didn't. However, correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't see that I am coercing you into riding Fleur today.' One expressive eyebrow rose in query.'All right you win. Let's just get this over and done with shall we?' Jason prepared to mount. Then mentally crossed his fingers and placed one foot in the stirrup as he endeavoured to swing his other foot over the mare's back, only to find that she was shying away from him. To his chagrin he then found himself both hoping around on one foot, as he tried to follow her erratic movements, while at the same time attempting to make her stand still.
Vidal laughed at the Gen's antics as he left Casey, a big black gelding who had only been a foal the last time he had seen him, to move quickly to Fleur's head, and calm her down. Grasping her bridle he stroked her nose and whispered soothing words in her silky ear. 'Take it easy Jason, stop hopping around like that, you're upsetting her.' He chided gently as she finally came to a halt, still looking skittish.
'I'm upsetting her? You must be joking! Just keep her still while I get on board.' He ordered, and then sighed with relief as he finally settled himself into the unfamiliar saddle.
Vidal stepped up onto his own mount and trotted across to where Fleur stood waiting placidly. Seconds later the mare followed the larger horse out of the stable yard and away from the house, towards the woodlands in the distance.
'What time will your brother and his family arrive?'
'They're already here. I zlinned them before we left the stable.'
'And what about Sheldon and Vicky?'
'Knowing Sheldon's aversion to coming here at all, I would say as close to 7.00 p.m. as possible.'
'Is that the time we eat?'
'No, it's the time we have drinks. Dinner will be served at 8.00 p.m.' Vidal informed him, and then went on with a whimsical smile. 'I've been wondering how Sheldon's parents took the news.'
'And more to the point, have they accepted Vicky into the family? You know you could have contacted Sheldon and asked him about it, before we left the house.' Jason pointed out as they entered the dappled shadow of the trees, his attention suddenly captured by the blue carpet spread out before them as he enthused. 'Vidal look, Bluebells! Beautiful aren't they? They're my mother's favourite flowers.'
Even as the words left Jason's lips, a rabbit suddenly broke cover and raced across in front of the two horses.
Vidal sat his horse well, and the gelding felt his master's firm hand as the Sime swayed gracefully in the saddle, as Casey registered his annoyance, but then quickly settled down again.
Fleur meanwhile bucked wildly to show her own protest. Immediately the Channel bent swiftly forward and caught the mare's bridle close to the bit - before the Gen could even react to the situation - and an iron hand brought the mare down and under instant control. Jason relaxed as he realised he was still sitting in the saddle and was apparently unharmed.
'Thanks Vidal, she's a bit lively isn't she?'
'Just a little skittish - nothing more. There's no real malice in her.'
'I'll take your word for that.'
During the next hour or so Jason realised they were riding gently up hill. It was not a steep incline, but he was still not surprised when they broke out of the cover of the trees into the bright sunlight, and he found himself at the top of a plateau. Down below there was a valley, through which a stream meandered slowly.
'Does all this land belong to your family?'
'Yes. The actual boundary is beyond the far horizon. We won't go that far today.'
'I thought we'd make our way down into the valley, and follow the stream back home.' He turned in the saddle, one hand resting lightly on his thigh. 'I know you're hungry, we'll eat in about thirty minutes, okay?'
Jason glanced at his partner's horse; he could see nothing that could possibly contain food, apart from a water bottle.
However, before he could ask where the food was hidden, Vidal merely turned and rode on, with Fleur keeping pace beside him.
'I take it you've got a magic wand.' Jason called to his partner's straight back, but received no reply, that he could hear. As he was contemplating whether or not to shout even louder to ask if Vidal was going deaf? The familiar whoosh of a small shuttle - certainly not Vidal's - suddenly skimmed low over the two men and disappeared beyond the range of trees. 'Was that more visitors arriving?' He yelled.
The Sime raised his arm and used his tentacles to signal "no".
'Well thanks for nothing.' Jason grumbled and fell silent.
A short while later they had arrived at the stream, and turning slightly to the west, began to follow along the bank as the water flowed slowly towards the sea. Less than five minutes later Vidal signalled they were stopping, and quickly dismounted to disappear into a small copse of willow and bushes.
For several seconds Jason simply sat, preparing himself to dismount. Glad that Vidal had apparently gone to relieve himself, and would not have to see him sliding down ignominiously off the mare's back. However, as his feet finally touched the soft grass his legs almost gave way under him, and he had to grab the saddle to keep from falling down onto his knees.
'Do you want a hand?' The familiar voice interrupted his thoughts, and looking up he saw Vidal appear from the thicket, carrying a large insulated box.
'Where did that come from?'
'The shuttle. I arranged for it to be here at Noon, and if I am not mistaken.' He had placed the box on ground and was reaching down into the stream. 'Ah yes, good, they are here,' and his hand appeared again grasping two bottles of pilah wine. 'Just the right temperature. Come here and help me.'
Jason found his voice. 'You actually had lunch brought here - by shuttle - just for us?'
'Of course. You're hungry aren't you?'
'No "buts", let's see what the Chef has packed up for us.' As he spoke Vidal threw off the lid, and an assortment of wonderful smells assaulted Jason's nose and taste buds. Hurrying forward he watched, his mouth watering, as the Channel unpacked freshly baked bread rolls wrapped in napkins to keep them warm, a pot of butter, warm savoury nut patties, cream cheese, crisp green salad, plump tomatoes and several large nectarines, together with a bowl of luscious black cherries.
'Now that's what I call a picnic.'
'I hope it tastes as good as it looks.' Vidal replied as he turned both horses free to drink from the stream and crop the lush grass. 'They won't wander far.'
'Vidal, you aren't what I would term prejudiced in any way, yet you were brought up by your father, who is. How come?' Jason asked as he piled his plate high for the second time.
'When I was young, right up in to my early teens actually. Like young Tomar, I did follow his doctrine. It was only as I grew older and finally went to College where I met Jordan that my education was broadened, and my attitude to many things began to change.'
'It was lucky he sent you to that particular College. Didn't he know that Householders sent their youngsters there too?'
Vidal chuckled. 'Of course he knew. However, it's also the best College around, and the most expensive. As a matter of fact it's actually run by Householders. I think, if he was brutally honest and had his time over again, he would not have sent me there.'
'Probably not. But I'm glad he did.'
Vidal reached out and wound two tentacles around the Gen's hand. 'So am I.'
It was almost an hour later before Vidal said they had better start heading towards home, as he had an appointment with his father later that afternoon.
'You see him by appointment?' The Gen asked as he helped to deposit the debris of their meal back into the box.
'Yes of course. Leave the box Jason; it will be collected later. Come I will help you mount up, ' the Sime moved to hold Fleur's head, so that his partner would be able to swing himself up into the saddle.
'Don't bother with that Vidal. If we're going to follow the stream back, I'll walk - but you don't have to.'
Vidal zlinned him carefully. 'You can return by shuttle if you prefer. I'll wait with you till it arrives, and then take Fleur back with me.'
'No way. I'm not injured. I'm just not used to riding. You know that, but I can walk just fine. So let's get started.' Jason had no intention of accepting Vidal's suggestion. After all, the last thing he wanted was for Maxwell Trent to see him return to the house in the Shuttle looking like a wimp! Shen, he could just imagine the derision on the older Sime's arrogant face if he did.
Now, hours later, lying here in the bath and soaking his blistered feet, he wondered if he had allowed pride to win out over common sense. He simply hadn't taken his new riding boots into consideration; they had rubbed his feet raw. He was a damn fool! But then, what else was new?
He finally got dressed in the new clothes that had been delivered that morning, deciding to leave his feet bare till the very last second. Thankfully, just as he was preparing himself for the torture of his brand new foot wear. A brief knock heralded Vidal's arrival.
'I'm almost ready.' He forced a brief smile on his tired face.
'I could feel your discomfort even through the insulation my father has installed in his study, and throughout the rest of the house too. I have little doubt that everyone else can feel it.' The Channel said bluntly. 'To be honest I felt it before we got back this afternoon, but, as I had to see father. I could do nothing about it, till now.'
'Sorry about that. As a matter of fact, I thought I was hiding it rather well.'
Vidal barked with disdain, and quickly set to work on the weeping blisters.
'Were you in with him for long?' Jason asked, as he lay back on the bed and relaxed.
'I left him less than an hour ago.'
'That long? He must have had a lot to say.'
'He did. Which is why I spoke to Shelly before I came up here. There, how is that now?'
Jason stood up. 'That's great. Thanks Vidal. Oh shen it to hell!'
'What's the matter now?'
'I forgot, I'm fully dressed, and I just lay down on the bed!' Standing in front of a full-length mirror he began to try and flatten out the creases he had made in his pure silk midnight blue evening tunic, using only his hands. He had been assured it was the height of fashion, but the salesman had not told him how quickly it would crease.
'That's not going to work.' Vidal sighed. 'It's too late to do anything about it now. Father is a stickler for time, and it's three minutes to 7.00 p.m. Come, you'll just have to leave it.'
'Perhaps he won't notice.' Jason said optimistically.
Vidal shook his head at the Gen's naivete. 'No chance. In fact, there's more chance that he'll forget you're a Gen, than not notice your crumpled appearance.'
'Agreed. Now come, we must go. With luck, Sheldon's bombshell might just distract his attention from you.'
Jason followed his partner's straight back down the corridor, wondering why these catastrophes always seemed to happen to him, and not to Vidal? Then he wondered if the Channel was joking? And why life was so unfair? At this moment, he would give anything, anything at all, to be able to zlin!
Vidal stopped outside the doors leading to the sitting room. 'Cheer up Jason, it's not that bad, ' he warned softly with a lopsided smile. 'You'll throw everyone in the house into a state of depression if you aren't careful - so watch your field!'
'Yes, I suppose you're right.' And then, before he stopped to think, he went on. 'At least he can't kill me for it.'
Shocked dark eyes turned to look into the Gen's green ones and Vidal began to shake with laughter, as he gasped out. 'No, no he can't. But only because I wouldn't let him!'It was only then that Jason realised what he had said, and he too began to grin. At that moment the doors were flung open, and Maxwell Trent stood there glowering at them.
'Well, do you both intend to stand out here giggling like a couple of teenagers all evening, or are you going to favour us with your company?'
'Apologies father.' Vidal swept passed with an arrogance equalled only by the older Sime. Whilst Jason, still trying not to laugh out loud, kept pace with him, aware that Maxwell Trent was zlinning him, whilst his dark eyes also bored into his back, like lasers.
They were half way into the room when Jason realised he was also being zlinned by the six other Simes in the room. Whilst two sets of Gen eyes were trained on him. One set belonged to Vicky, who was elegantly dressed in a deep cream satin sheath dress that complimented her ebony skin and black hair beautifully. The other set belonged to a boy who appeared to be a couple of years younger than his brother Ian, and had fair hair.
Sheldon was the first to recover, and as he approached.
He winked at him. 'Hello again Jason. You don't know my parents do you?' He quickly introduced Isaak and Lyna to the Gen.
Sasha realising suddenly that it was her duty as hostess to do the necessary introductions, and not her nephew's, quickly took over from Sheldon. Introducing Vidal's brother Jerome, his wife Margot, and their eldest son Tomar, who was eleven. Margot a quiet rather meek woman, explained that their three younger daughters were already in bed, having eaten earlier.
As the quiet buzz of conversation resumed, Jason caught Sheldon's attention. 'Everything okay?' He murmured in an aside.
'Still a little fraught.' He confessed wryly. 'My parents are getting used to the idea, but Uncle Maxwell is still registering his disapproval. I'm only glad Vicky can't sense fields.'
'I sometimes wish that I could, but not at this precise moment.' Jason confessed, as he accepted a drink from a passing servant. 'Vidal was in with his father for most of the afternoon. I don't know what they were talking about, but he didn't look very happy afterwards. '
'I know, and I don't envy him either. I don't think anyone has a more acerbic tongue than Uncle Maxwell. I saw both of them when they came out from the office. They were doing their usual double act, both trying not to look like thunderclouds! In actual fact, I think even a Gen with the sensitivity of a rock, would have known there was something wrong! The ambient around them was worse than a throbbing toothache.'
Sheldon said quietly. 'Of course, once Vidal told me what they had been talking about, I could see what was troubling him.'
'I guessed there was something not right as soon as I saw Vidal. The trouble is I have to drag everything out of him, he never volunteers anything.' Jason retorted, and then squirmed as both Vidal and his Father, turned to look across at him, both men obviously sensing his frustration in the ambient.
'That's our Vidal. Tighter than a clam! He's his own worst enemy.' Sheldon said softly. 'Did he not tell you what they had been discussing?'
'No. Although I gather he had a few comments to make about me. I don't think your Uncle's too happy having a Gen actually residing under his roof.'
'He isn't!' And Sheldon suddenly looked up and smiled at Vicky who had been talking to young Tomar, and was now walking across to stand beside him.
'Would you believe, I'm the first Gen that boy has actually held a conversation with? She demanded, and shook her head in disbelief.
'It doesn't surprise me. Jerome wouldn't allow him to associate with Gens, not if it was likely to annoy Uncle Maxwell.' Sheldon observed sourly. 'I've always wondered why Jerome is such a jellyfish, and Vidal who is younger than him, has all the backbone.'
'Too much backbone sometimes, if you ask me.' Jason muttered prosaically, and emptied his glass as they all began to file into the dining room.
A servant threw the elaborately carved doors open wide. The room it revealed was vast, and surprisingly, in such a modern building, it was both decorated and furnished in the old style. The walls were hung with pale blue watered silk, tapestries and gilt ormolu. A rich Zeor blue wool carpet covered the floor, and a huge table cut from a single piece of dark highly polished hard wood dominated the room, together with matching chairs upholstered in pale blue.
The table was set with glittering glass and silver ware. While the room itself, was lit only by the flickering light of dozens and dozens of candles set in the many candelabra on the table, the candle holders on the walls, and in the four huge crystal chandeliers hanging from the high ceiling.
Jason found himself sitting with young Tomar on one side of him, Margot on the other, and Vidal opposite. Apart from the candelabras, there were three very large flower arrangements down the middle of the table. Consisting mainly of white and blue orchids. He was just able to see his partner's dark eyes opposite, glittering through the dark green foliage. Jason had the distinct impression that he knew exactly what he was thinking, and was highly amused by it.
Unlike his own cheerful family at mealtimes, conversation around the dinner table in the Trent Household, appeared to be limited to trite remarks and platitudes, interspersed with polite requests to pass various items - like the cruet.
However, the boring discourse Jason could have coped with, but the lack of food was something else again. The two courses he had been offered so far, starting with a few spoonfuls of soup, did not even begin to fill his empty stomach.
On his left young Tomar was being served a meal, that was different from the adults food, and obviously suited the palate of a growing child. With a quiet sigh Jason wondered whether the next few courses would be any more substantial?
Glancing around, he wondered if Vicky was faring any better, and tried to see where she was sitting. However, he could only see the top of her shining black hair, for again she was hidden behind the exotic flowers, and was much further down the table.
Becoming ever more frustrated with the situation, he began to wonder if he dared to ask for "more". Realising that if he did not say something soon, he would be suffering hunger pangs all night long. He finally made up his mind to speak, and taking a deep breath began to open his mouth, when Vidal forestalled him.
'Sasha. In case it has slipped both your notice and father's too, we do happen to have two Gens sitting at the dinner table tonight. Of course I'm sure it's an oversight that the servants are only serving Sime size portions to everyone?' The Channel said softly, and then smiled to himself as he felt his partner's field suddenly register both relief and gratitude. He had of course, like all the other Simes sitting here tonight, felt Jason's rising irritation and hunger. But then, considering his growing field, it would have been difficult for them not to have felt it unless, like his father, they chose to totally ignore him.
Maxwell Trent's cold voice informed the room at large, that his Chef was not used to catering for Gen appetites. He somehow managed to make the words "Gen appetites", sound almost synonymous with glutton, but nevertheless he still gave orders to rectify the situation.
Seconds later, and to his intense relief, Jason found his plate piled high with food. Another battle won!
Back in the sitting room, with Sasha presiding over the trin for those who wanted a glass. Vicky sat down beside Jason with a quiet sigh. 'Thank heavens Vidal spoke up in there. Luckily I rarely need to diet, but if I did, I'd eat far more than was on my plate tonight.' She confessed. 'Sheldon was going to say something earlier, but I begged him not to make a fuss. Then Vidal jumped in. To be honest I feel completely intimidated by Maxwell Trent, and believe me, that's a first for me!'
'I know the feeling. I'd like to tell the old goat to shove his hospitality. After all, I didn't want to stay here any more than he wanted me to, but that would only upset Vidal. So I keep my mouth shut.'
His green eyes sought and found the Channel, who was talking to his brother and cousin. Maxwell was standing with Isaak, whilst Lyna, Margot and her son Tomar were all sitting next to Sasha.
'I can see this evening is going to be a barrel of laughs.' Vicky whispered, and Jason bit back a grin as he silently agreed with her. 'Sheldon was saying earlier that your nager is very powerful Jason, while mine apparently is only just about average.'
'I know. According to Vidal it's growing each month too.'
'Couldn't you try projecting a few home truths at the arrogant old lorsh.'
'I could. But it isn't done.'
'Why? You mean bad vibes will make him uncomfortable? So what? He's not bothered about how we feel is he?'
'No, that's true, but I'd upset all the other Simes in the room, including Vidal and Sheldon, and none of them have done anything to deserve that have they?'
'No I suppose not.' She agreed grudgingly, 'but it seems a damn shame, doesn't it?'
'And just what are you two gossiping about?' Sheldon asked, as he joined them. 'Do I sense some sort of conspiracy?'
'Yes. Although I have to admit Jason has far more principles than me.' Vicky said, and then told him of her suggestion.
'I know how you feel, but I have to agree with Jason. Much as I'd like to see my dear Uncle Maxwell given a dose of his own medicine. I'm afraid that unlike you, Jason is also my cousin's Companion, and as I said before, his nager is extremely powerful. He can't use it as a weapon Vicky.'
Jason nodded. 'The first thing a Companion is taught, is not to use his power to either hurt or upset any Sime that he might come into contact with. Even if he doesn't happen to like the particular Sime in question.'
'More's the pity! You've got more ethics than I have! I know I'd use my nager against the old goat if I knew how.' Vicky admitted honestly.
'Oh I'm not a saint Vicky, don't paint me as one please,' Jason begged with a grin. 'I admit that there've been times in the past, but not so often lately, when I've hurt old Vidal a lot, just by not controlling my nager as I should. But I've never done it on purpose.'
A servant approached with three glasses of trin, and Sheldon signalled their thanks to Sasha with a tentacle.
Turning to put down his hot glass, Jason found Tomar standing a few feet away from him and looking at him with the open curiosity of a child.
'Hello there, we didn't have much time to talk at table tonight did we? You're Vidal's nephew aren't you?'
'Yes, what's it like being a Gen?' The boy blurted out the question he had obviously wanted to ask all evening.
'What's it like being a boy?' He countered. 'I've forgotten.'
'Just normal I suppose, I've always been a boy, and will be, until I become Sime.'
'What if you don't become Sime?'
'I will - why shouldn't I?' He demanded, suddenly looking rather frightened and vulnerable, as his faith in his future, was momentarily put into doubt.
'It's not certain Tomar, nothing is in this life. Having two Sime parents means you stand a good chance of being Sime yourself, but the final decision is not in our hands you know.'
'Whose hands is it in then?' He demanded, suddenly belligerent.
'I don't know for sure, some people say that it's in the lap of the Gods, some even say that it's fore ordained before we're born, but does it really matter what we become? Just as long as we lead useful and happy lives.'
'Yes it does matter. I don't want to be Gen.' The young voice was quite adamant and not a little angry too.
Jason sighed; there was nothing to be gained by upsetting the child further. 'I hope you get your wish.' He said quietly and picked up the glass of trin that had now grown cold.
'I will. Grandfather said I will.' The young boy replied quickly, as if the invocation of his Grandfather's name settled the matter once and for all.
Jason watched as Tomar scurried across to his Grandfather's side, as though the very presence of the older man would ward off some evil incantation that Jason had tried to place on him.
How, he wondered, could one fight such prejudice? And more to the point perhaps, did he want to fight it? Suddenly, he found himself staring at the older Sime with open disgust, for hatred would be wasted on him. He finally looked away when the Sime turned to stare at him. His eyes, as dark as his son's, momentarily opening wide as they met his green ones, and Jason had the distinct impression that Maxwell Trent would dearly have liked to take a step backwards, as though by doing so, he could escape from his presence.
'Everything all right Jason?'
He forced a smile as he looked up at his partner who was frowning slightly and nodded. 'Fine. My trin's gone cold while I was talking to young Tomar. He reminds me a bit of Ian.'
'He's not so well balanced or open as Ian I'm afraid. My father's fault, rather than Jerome's. Your brother Ian accepted me at once, almost without a qualm.' Vidal hesitated and then went on. 'A few minutes ago, I couldn't help but sense the feelings you have for my Father. I'm sorry he's like he is, but I doubt he will ever change now.' He signalled for a servant with a tentacle.
'There's no need to apologise Vidal. None of us choose our parents, do we?'
'True.' He looked up as the servant approached. 'More trin here please, this has gone cold.' The servant picked up the glass and disappeared quickly, to return moments later with a fresh steaming glass.
It was just ten o'clock when Margot excused herself and left the room with young Tomar, followed shortly by Sasha who asked pointedly if Vicky also wished to retire.
Jason bit back a smile as she refused politely, and Shelly reached across and touched her hand with a tentacle by way of support. 'I'm not in the least tired,' she said as she smiled around the room, ignoring the scowl on the older Trent's handsome face.
Maxwell obviously expected to hold court, and only wanted the male members of the family to be present. Vicky however, was having none of it, and she was a very formidable lady when she chose to be, as Jason well knew. So he decided to support her by staying put also, and stuff the old buzzard!
An awkward stillness fell as Sasha finally left the room, and it was Shelly who broke the silence. 'Is it correct that you have decided that we should back the Runzi Campaign financially Uncle?'
Runzi? Jason frowned as he repeated the word silently to himself. He had heard it before he was sure, but how and where; he really had no idea at all. He glanced across at Vicky to see if she knew, but her eyes were riveted on Maxwell Trent, as he answered his nephew's question.
'I see Vidal has already appraised you of my intentions Sheldon - that's quick, even for him.'
'You didn't say it was a secret father.'
'No I didn't, did I? No matter. You all know it has always been a subject close to my heart, and I had intended to discuss it with the family tonight. However, as that is not now possible. I suggest we leave it for another time.'
'Why? Vicky is to have my child, and is therefore a member of this family by any criteria you would care to use. As far as Jason is concerned, you are equally aware that he is Vidal's Companion, and can therefore claim to be as close to Vidal as anyone else here, including his brother.'
'Closer.' Vidal said at once, and met his father's eyes, challenging him to deny the fact. Neither he nor Sheldon made any attempt to read his nager, for both knew that although Maxwell Trent was only a second, he was extremely adept at keeping his emotions out of his field.
The older Sime finally capitulated wordlessly, as he peremptorily dismissed the remaining servants with a tentacle, before he picked up his glass and stared at the amber liquid in silence.
'Decisions regarding both business and all other aspects of the Company, are of course yours to make Uncle. In the same way that charitable donations, other than personal ones, are decided not by you, but by the Board as whole. However, as I understand it, the campaign that you have now decided to back and to finance has been authorised by no one - least of all the family.'
'Are you trying to tell me that I do not have the right to use my own Company's finances as I see fit Sheldon?'
'Yes, that's exactly what he's telling you.' Vidal snapped back. 'You know as well as I do that the company rules strictly forbid any member of the Board, including the Chairman, to utilise company money for any campaign of a political nature. Unless of course it is agreed and voted on by all the other members of the Board and that includes the family.'
'Crap! I will not be dictated to by either you or anyone else. I am the one who has built this business up over the years. When I took it over we traded only on Earth, as you all know very well. It was I who had the vision to take it to the Moon, and then to the rest of the Solar System, and now if all goes well to the Stars!' Maxwell stated angrily. 'And you DARE to tell me - ME! What I may or may not do!?'
'Father, no one is trying to belittle what you have achieved. But neither Sheldon nor I agree with this campaign.'
'And what of you? Do you also have an opinion on this Jerome?' Maxwell demanded, his eyes turning to fasten on his eldest son, who squirmed under the glare.
'You know that I agree with you father.' His eldest son replied at once, his tentacles twisting agitatedly amongst his fingers which were clenched in his lap, his knuckles showing white.
His younger brother and cousin looked across at him with open disgust, but he made no effort to meet their eyes.
'Shelly, may I ask what this campaign is, that you're all arguing about?' Vicky asked quietly. Jason nodded; he had just been about to ask Vidal the same question.
'The campaign has been in the news quite a lot lately, though I feel it hasn't received the publicity that perhaps it should, in the circumstances. It's essentially a movement with decidedly Machiavellian overtones, organised by a bunch of Sime zealots.' Shelly explained, for the benefit of the two Gens present. Then as he saw his Uncle open his mouth to argue the point, he went on quickly. 'Their scheme at the moment is to get most of the Simes who think the same as they do to unite under the one banner. Once this has been achieved, it will then become a political campaign, in order to achieve power to further their ambitions.'
Vidal nodded. 'I agree. So far they have only campaigned for small changes in the law and society as a whole over the last few years. The very fact that they have been successful in several key areas, is what worries me the most.'
'Specify.' Vicky ordered quietly, her dark eyes resting on Vidal.
'The police for starters. You must be aware Gens now do all the administrative work, because the Runzi argued successfully that a Gen could not do the job on the streets anywhere near as good as a Sime.'
'And they can't!' Maxwell stated at once. 'A Sime can often zlin trouble long before it even happens. They can augment to catch a criminal who tries to run away, and whilst a Gen can only resort to the use of a weapon when facing a Sime criminal, another Sime can overpower him without recourse to such methods.'
'They make it all sound quite reasonable don't they?' Shelly murmured.
Jason looked intrigued. 'What else?'
'Well there's legislation before the Government, even as we speak, to ensure that all future Judges are Sime. This is argued on the basis that only Simes can read fields, and can therefore zlin whether a person is lying or telling the truth.'
'So can lie detectors.' Jason stated.
'Well I for one, haven't heard about that particular piece of legislation.'
'I'd be surprised if you had Vicky,' Sheldon admitted wryly. 'How many people are interested enough in politics to keep abreast of what the Government is doing in their name?'
'Very few I suppose.'
'Especially if vast parts of the news media are owned by the Runzi, which means they can order the programme makers not to give emphasis to such proposed legislation, or to bother with reporting government policy, except in the broadest terms possible. Ostensibly they can justify this by saying that the general public are not really interested, and therefore the ratings fall.' Vidal stated. 'Don't you recall that that programme "Politics Today" was dropped from the schedules last year? As far as I'm aware, no one even asked why, or complained about it.'
'I can't say I ever watched it.' Vicky said truthfully.
'And this is all ridiculous far fetched nonsense!' Maxwell almost shouted. 'I'm beginning to think Sheldon that you and my son are both suffering from paranoia!'
'It does seem a little over the top,' Vicky agreed slowly. 'Are you honestly expecting us to believe that a bunch of bigots are planning on changing society?'
'They're not only planning to do so Vicky, they're actually achieving it. I agree it's a long term policy, but every time they change an institution like the police or the judiciary, then more Simes who think the same as them, rally to their flag.'
'But why? Surely they don't think they can turn the clock back?'
'No of course not. Thankfully that at least, is not their intention. These people are both wealthy and highly educated. They agree on only one thing. That Simes are superior to Gens.'
'Vidal's right.' Shelly agreed. 'They have no intention of going back to killing and pens and all that nonsense. Put simply they want to turn Gens into second class citizens, with Simes in overall control.'
'I've never heard such utter rubbish!' Maxwell bellowed.
'Haven't you father? I wonder.' Vidal picked up his glass and drained it in one swallow, before he went on. 'You and I have never had a very high opinion of each other father, and we've always disagreed even over the fundamentals, but I never took you for a craven coward.'
'What the shen are you talking about now Vidal?'
'You know very well what I'm saying father, or don't you believe in your own propaganda?' Vidal taunted. 'Perhaps you're afraid to stand up for your convictions - is that it?'
'Very well, I admit it. I have nothing to be ashamed of, or to hide. Yes I most certainly do believe that we are superior to Gens,' and he began to tick off with a tentacle on his fingers. 'During our first year after changeover, we are able to learn at a rate that they can never hope to achieve. Because of augmentation, we're faster than any Gen athlete is, and on sheer muscle power, we're stronger too. On top of that all Simes can read the fields that surround all living things.' He leaned forward, his chin jutting out. 'So tell me, either of you. What can a shenning Gen do, that WE can't do a damn sight better?'
'They can produce the selyn that gives all of us life.' Vidal said softly.
'I trust you're not going to say you can do that too? And therefore we don't need Gens!' Shelly asked, and could not keep the wide grin off his face.
'I'm surrounded by imbeciles! What you've just said simply proves my point doesn't it? It's the same as saying that because animals supply food for Gens - as they supply selyn for us - then both cows and Gens are the same! They are not.
'And yes Vidal, I am prepared to acknowledge that point. Gens can after all speak and do many functions that raise them above the level of cattle. But how you can possibly suggest that Gens are on a par with us?
'That is where history went wrong, and all thanks to Zelerod! Again I'm not saying he wasn't right in what he said, and the conclusions he came too, because he was! If we had gone on as we were, we would have eventually run out of Gens. No, it was we who made the error, not him!'
'You're admitting Simes can actually make mistakes - hallelujah!' Jason interrupted swiftly.
'SILENCE!!' The older Trent glowered, as he roared the order at him. 'Right at the very beginning, when the Tecton first came into being. We should never have allowed the Householders to gain such control. That was when we should have made damn sure that the Gens were kept under strict supervision. The Channels could still have taken their selyn to use for our benefit, but without killing them and causing a selyn crisis too. And that's exactly what we should have done!'
'Of course, I see it all now, don't you Shelly?' Vidal mockingly asked his cousin. 'Why didn't we think of it before? We should simply keep Vicky and Jason like a couple of cows, to be milked when required.'
'Hey who are you calling a cow?' Vicky grinned at Vidal, as Jason merely shook his head in total disbelief at what he had just heard Maxwell Trent espouse, and with such utter conviction. Unfortunately, it really wasn't funny at all. In a way, it was really quite frightening.
'I can see that neither of you are prepared to treat this matter seriously. I therefore intend to retire to my study.' Maxwell jumped up and strode to the door and then turned back. 'Jerome, I wish to speak to you - now!'
Four pairs of eyes watched the door close behind Maxwell and Jerome, who had scurried after his father like a frightened rabbit.
'Was he for real?' Jason asked in bewilderment, hoping someone would say that it was all an elaborate joke. 'I knew he didn't like me very much, but I didn't realise he was quite so biased against the whole Gen race.'
'Deadly serious.' Vidal replied with a sigh. 'Shelly, I believe you and I are going to have to take more of an interest in Trent business affairs in future. We've been far too lax.'
'I agree. I'd hate to think our money was going to help finance something like that. I must admit when you first mentioned it to me as a possibility. I didn't believe you. I honestly thought you'd finally gone crazy. I'm sorry.'
'How do you think I felt when Sam Betjeman first pointed it out to me, and then dropped the bombshell about my own father being involved with the Runzi movement? Shen it, I was bloody ashamed!'
'It's not your fault Vidal, anymore than it's Shelly's fault either. Now that the whole sordid affair is out of the cupboard, you can at least do something to stop Maxwell from giving them any company money, can't you?' Jason asked.
'I hope so. I suppose the least we can do is make it hard for him to do so. Although unfortunately, we can't stop my Uncle from giving them his own money. Still it does mean, that we'll have to find out when the next Financial Board Meeting is being held, and make sure that one of us attends.'
'You mean, instead of ensuring that when they do take place, we're always half a world away?' Vidal said with a tight smile, and then said quietly. 'Unfortunately, Jason and I may well be off-world for the next few months.' He met his cousin's eyes and nodded, knowing that no further explanation was required of him.
'Well in that case, it looks as though I'm nominated.' Sheldon said with a rueful grimace.
'Take care Shelly. According to Betjeman, members of the Runzi Campaign can be pretty ruthless, especially if they think you're standing in the way of Trent finance.'
'Don't worry. I'll make sure he's careful.' Vicky said firmly, and Jason had little doubt that she would do exactly as she promised.
'You do realise Vidal, that once your average Gen becomes aware of what is happening, there'll be trouble. I can't see anyone standing still while they're relegated to the status of second class citizens.' Jason warned.
'According to Sam a large number of Gens in high places are already aware that something is not quite right with the Runzi.'
'Good. And I'll make damn sure that the TIS know what is going on too.' Vicky informed them.
'I'd rather you didn't get involved darling.'
'Why? I won't just sit and do nothing about all this Shelly, you can't expect me to either.'
'There's no need for you to do anything Vicky.' Vidal interrupted. 'Sam Betjeman is taking care of it. I understand he's already had a word with his counterpart in the TIS. Although unfortunately until they actually do something that is outside the law - which they have not yet done. No one can do anything to stop them. This is a democracy after all.'
Jason snorted rudely. 'Let's say it's a democracy until the shenning Runzi change it! And by the way, I've heard the name Runzi before, but I've got no idea where. So where did they get the name from?'
'Go back to your history classes Jason. The Runzi raiders operated during the time that the territories were split between Gen and Sime, and Households together with the Tecton, were just becoming established. The Runzi usually operated near the borders capturing wild Gens, which were then taken to the choice auctions.' Vicky informed him.
'Oh yes I remember. But it still seems a strange name to call a modern day campaign, doesn't it?'
Sheldon shook his head. 'Not really. Forget the really bad aspects of that time, the killing, the pens and the capture and sale of people. They know they could never bring that back again - ever. Nor would they wish to. So just think about what they do hope to achieve. The dominance of Sime over Gen, as they believe it was back then.' He laughed briefly. 'The Runzi ride again! - I guess to them it all sounds rather romantic. They've forgotten the true significance of the name - Runzi.'
'That's if you believe that the Sime were completely dominant at that time.' Vicky interrupted. 'If I read my history books correctly, the Gens had quite a thriving economy going on their side of the border - as least as good as the Sime one, and in some respects even better.'
Jason nodded his agreement with her words, and then said bluntly. 'I'm not too worried that these Runzi can ever actually achieve what they're setting out to do. However, I can see them doing one hell of a lot of mischief as they try to accomplish it.'
'Who would have believed even a century ago, that Simes and Gens could live side by side as we do now? It really worries me that a group of idiots who should know a damn sight better, could ruin it all, and take us all back to square one. It really wouldn't take much to do it either.' Vicky shook her head. 'Worst case scenario of course, would be a civil war!'
Jason shook his head. 'I don't think it's ever likely to come to that.'
Vidal glanced at his three colleagues. 'Well, we'll just have to make sure that they don't achieve their aims whatever they are - won't we?'
Later that night Jason stood on the terrace outside his bedroom and looked up at the full Moon, and the myriad lights that moved so quickly across the night sky. Most were not planets or stars but space stations, each following the other in an endless chase, layer upon layer of them.
The lower layers easily visible to the naked eye, the upper ones not so easy to see.
That was the trouble with the Earth of today. The whole planet was getting more and more crowded. Big businesses fought over premises and space, and many now had their head quarters on their own space stations. It was more a matter of prestige, than for any practical reason of course. Although it was cheaper, than leasing land on the Moon. Most of which was earmarked for the Tecton, and various administrative or mining projects, connected with Earth's numerous Government departments.
Vidal had informed him that Maxwell, taking advantage of the fact that Sheldon, and both his sons, were all here together. Had called yet another meeting for the following day. Ostensibly to discuss a new venture that he wished to finance through the family business. 'Just a charade of course.' The Channel had admitted. 'He knows none of us would bother to argue against him about that.'
'Not even if you thought he was wrong?'
'He never is! For all his numerous faults, and as you know he's got many. He's a businessman to the very tips of his tentacles.' Vidal said simply. 'Unfortunately however, on past experience, the meeting is likely to take up most of the day. So if you wish to go into town, feel free. You may use my shuttle or one of the various flitters. But if you prefer to go somewhere else on the planet, you can always use the transmuter. I'll see you at dinner.'
Just like that! Jason thought wryly as he climbed into bed. Even a small hop from here into the centre of Capital City probably cost upwards of a thousand credits - and there was Vidal giving him carte blanche to go just about anywhere on Earth that took his fancy. He was greatly tempted to visit his family on the other side of the World, but dismissed the idea at once, with a wry grin. Someone more mercenary than he might well take advantage of his partner's largess, but Jason could not.
The next day found Jason, after a fairly light breakfast for him, skimming along the highway in a flitter, heading towards the centre of Capital City. The Trent business meeting had started long before dawn. All four members of the family were there. Together with various accountants and lawyers who had all transmuted in. All of whom helped to represent the vast Trent business interests, which now stretched across the entire Solar system and Earth colonies, and if Maxwell had his way today - far beyond that - out into the more alien parts of the Galaxy.
Jason had decided not to use the Transmuter for his trip into town. Not because it wouldn't have been both quicker and easier, but because he did not like the idea of using it on his own. If he was with Vidal or someone else, he could push the notion of disintegration to one side. For unfortunately he was blessed with a vivid imagination - or perhaps cursed was a better word to use?
Indeed if he was honest with himself, he had never been entirely comfortable with the thought of his body actually being changed into what was virtually the consistency of light. To enable it to be sent to the nearest portal to his destination, where it would be changed back into matter once again. He shuddered even now as he thought about it. Sometimes it was far better not to know, how these things actually worked.
He had been informed that Margot had already taken her Son into town, apparently using the transmuter. They had both gone, long before he came down to breakfast. Vicky was accompanying Lyna down to the beach with Margot's three young daughters. Which was how Jason came to find himself on his own.
If he was brutally honest with himself, he was looking forward to his own company for once. In many respects, at heart, he was still the loner he had always been. Although he could usually tolerate Vidal's company, for the Channel always seemed to know intuitively, when not to impinge on his partner's personal space.
He was of course well aware, that in all probability Vidal was only using his Sime senses to enable him to do this. But as a Gen, he preferred to call it intuition, rather than attribute it to something that he could never do himself, and therefore could never, try as he might, truly understand.
He spent the best part of the morning sight seeing and enjoying himself like any other tourist to Capital City. At one time he did catch a glimpse of Margot and Tomar as they were carried along the moving sidewalk from one massive shopping complex to the next.
After a sustaining lunch sitting outside a small café on the plaza, he set out with the aid of a direction stick that he had picked up from an information booth, to find the Valleroy Public Art Gallery. The building itself was modern, but the collection it housed covered a period in Earth's turbulent history that interested Jason far more, than more modern artists, ever could.
Read Chapter 3
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A New Beginning is copyright (c) 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
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