Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
The three Simes and three Gens who were ranged on one side of the huge rectangular wooden table in the Conference Room were all members of Zeor. The single Gen facing them, who had given her name as Felicity Parker, was not. She sat square on to the table her well-shod feet neatly together her bag resting on the floor beside them.
In her hand she now held a metal scribe that she had taken from her pocket, to enable her to write on the pad/recorder that she held in her other hand. During the entire time she had sat at the table talking, she had played with the electronic pad, moving it round and round between her fingers.
Now having made her final point, she suddenly became aware of what she was doing and placed the scribe on the table in front of her, before replacing the pad almost self-consciously back into her pocket. With a brief smile she clasped her hands together then turned to the Sectuib in Zeor, her eyebrows raised.
'Do you have any further questions? If not, can I assume that we are all agreed that we will convene again next week?'
Jordan zlinned his colleagues carefully before turning to look at the shadowy Gen once more. Felicity Parker had obviously donated in the last eight hours, or as she was a member of the Distect, perhaps he should more correctly say, she had given transfer.
She was a well-built woman possibly in her early thirties. She was dressed in a smart navy blue outfit. Her long straight black hair was caught neatly into the nape of her neck by a matching navy blue ribbon. Her face, which was discreetly made up in the modern fashion, was not unattractive Jordan decided, as he turned to address her once more.
'We have no further questions at this time, and I believe we are all agreed on the venue?' He glanced around at his assembled officials, 'Good. Then I think that's all.' At once murmured good-byes broke the silence, as they all pushed back their chairs and prepared to leave.
Jordan decided once again that there was definitely something slightly uncomfortable about Felicity Parker. Perhaps it was the fact that he could not for the life of him zlin beneath her façade. Of course, as he would be the first to concede, there was no rule or law that said a Sime should always be able to zlin the field generated by a Gen. However, even today, Zeor was a conservative and a conventional Householding, which meant that he, like most other Simes "expected" to be able to do so; which was of course a completely different matter.
'I'm sorry you can't stay for a meal Sosu Parker.' He felt her wince as he spoke the words, and realised he had forgotten the request she had made when they had first met this morning. His tentacles emerged as he immediately apologised for the error.
'Apology accepted.' She smiled tightly, still giving nothing away in her almost invisible nager. Shen, it really wasn't natural Jordan thought yet again as she went on. 'As I said before, only those who have joined the Distect in recent years, still use such archaic forms of householder address. Most of us prefer those used by our own ancestors.'
'I understand.' Jordan forced a smile. After all he thought silently, the Distect had as far as anyone alive today knew, been started by Rior, and Rior was the House which Hugh Valleroy the first Gen head of a House had founded centuries ago. Therefore, what better reason was there for the Distect to follow the Gen custom, and not the Sime tradition?
Also he conceded honestly, if perhaps a little cynically, the use by the Distect of the Gen form of address rather than the Sime one simply allowed another difference to fester between them and ultimately grow out of all proportion. After all, who really cared one way or the other what title was used when addressing them, a bigot might, but certainly no one else.
Then, of course, there was the question of Channels like himself, for they were still not given the position in Distect society, that they received in the Tecton dominated one. Although he understood that in recent times most, if not all Distect members, now looked upon Channels like himself as physicians if they chose to follow that profession, but not all of them did of course. Quickly he pushed these thoughts to one side to be considered later, as he turned once more to his guest.
'I must thank you again Ms. Parker for coming all this way to discuss this with us today. Perhaps you'll allow me to escort you to your shuttle?'
'I'd be grateful if you would. This place is a veritable rabbit warren isn't it?' She smiled almost nervously, her eyes encompassing both Jordan and his Companion who was standing discreetly to one side, everyone else having filed out of the room. It was obvious that she was eager to leave now that the meeting was over.
Tony ambrov Zeor watched his Sectuib exit the room with the Gen female, then walked across to the window and stared down at the courtyard far below with its formal fountains and flowerbeds. The small shuttle that had brought the lone Distect representative to Zeor, was parked outside the main entrance to the massive building.
Turning to leave the room his eyes spotted her bag still lying under the table where the woman had placed it. She was lucky that he had not left when the others did, otherwise the bag would not have been noticed until the automated cleaner arrived during the night hours.
Bending to pick it up, he also noticed her metal scribe lying amongst the others on the table. Grinning wryly, he thought silently that he was not the only Gen who was forgetful, and still smiling he hurried across to the elevator; at least he could return her belongings to the shuttle. It would save her a trip back up to the Conference Room, when she remembered that she had left her bag behind, as she doubtless would.
The doors of the elevator opened onto the black marble floor of the reception area, and Tony looked around the massive chamber, but could see neither Jordan nor Felicity Parker. Breaking into a run, even though he knew it was against the rules for Simes or Gens to do so whilst inside the building, he raced to the doors, worried in case she should leave before he could reach her. The doors opened automatically, and standing at the top of the steps he looked down at the empty shuttle.
The fact that it was empty meant that Jordan had obviously taken the Gen to either meet someone else, or perhaps he had talked her into having a drink before she left. The Sectuib in Zeor could be very persuasive when he chose to be, and Jordan had said earlier that he would try to develop a good working relationship with the Distect representative, if at all possible. Either way, Tony knew he could not wait around here for them to arrive back. He glanced at his chronometer; he was already two minutes late for his next meeting, which was very near the top of the huge complex.
Sighing with frustration, he approached the small Z-class shuttle, which had its roof down, allowing the bright sunshine to warm the interior. Leaning in he dropped the bag behind her seat where she would find it, and placed her scribe on the passenger seat. Then turning quickly, he hurried back the way he had come, pausing only to ask the receptionist to inform their visitor that he had returned her bag, and in turn, received a rebuke for breaking the rules about running inside the building from the elderly Gen.
Twenty minutes later Tony was sitting in another office listening to yet another long-winded discourse on a new report that was to be published soon by the Tecton. The elderly Sime droned on and on, and Tony found his eyes straying to the bright blue sky outside the open window. It was reminiscent of when he was at school, when he had often wished to be outside playing, rather than inside learning.
The whole building both the old part and the new was of course air conditioned, but even so most of the Simes and Gens who worked there still opened the windows. Most preferring the warm sweetly scented fresh air, to the more sanitised variety offered by the machines.
The Committee, who were responsible for both the running and the administration of the building, in an endeavour to put a stop to the expensive window opening habit, often suggested that all the windows be changed to the non-opening variety. But this was always voted down as a matter of course, whenever it came up before the committee.
Far below Tony heard the low whine as the Shuttle engine was started up. Seconds later it came into view outside the window and he could see the outline of Felicity Parker who was piloting herself through the clear sides, the roof had now been raised and locked in position.
'Sosu Tony. Did you hear me? I was asking if...'
Tony drew in a deep breath as he formulated an apology for the elderly Sime, together with an explanation for his tardiness.
Even as he opened his mouth to speak his eyes still did not leave the Shuttle as it hovered in the warm summer air, then sped towards the borders of Zeor before finally turning towards the City at the bottom of the hill. Tony knew that if he was to walk to the window, it would remain in view for some time yet, but forced himself to remain seated.
He turned his head around to look at his colleague, 'I'm sorry I...'
The explosion that drowned out his next words shattered the calm of the pleasant afternoon. The shock wave hit the side of the building with great force, but luckily the craft was far enough away that no damage was done to the Zeor complex itself.
It was several minutes before Tony managed to beg himself free from the old man's grasp, by assuring him that the danger was past, and that neither he nor anyone else, as far as he was able to tell, had been injured.
Once free Tony rushed to the window and stared out to where he knew the Shuttle should be. It quite simply was no longer there! His horrified eyes scanned the grounds that stretched to the horizon but the small machine had disappeared - as though it had never existed in the first place.
Almost straight away normality settled once more on the scene. The Sun shone just as brightly in the blue sky, the water in the fountains in the garden far below still danced in the warm air, and the birds sang sweetly in the trees.
If Tony had not heard the explosion for himself, he might well believe that he had imagined the whole thing. Then as he began to shiver with shock, his ears suddenly caught the sound of raised voices far below, and he knew that someone was already organising a team of rescue workers to go to the scene. But Tony already knew that their efforts would be futile.
Jason tossed round and round, sweating profusely, his naked body entangled in his sheet was becoming even more entrapped as he fought to release himself. Shen it, why couldn't he get to sleep?
Tired of lying there awake he finally managed to claw his way out of the clinging bed clothes and grabbed a robe, fastening the cord around his waist almost savagely.
As he passed the chronometer set high up on the wall he glanced up at it, and noted with a grimace that it was 3.30 a.m. Swearing softly under his breath, he padded on bare feet across the carpet to make his way towards the kitchen.
He was not really surprised when just as he was about to make himself a mug of hot chocolate, the door to his partner's office opened, and the Sime came out fully dressed. He was, of course, still working.
'What's the matter - couldn't sleep?'
'No. Join me? I'm making some hot chocolate.'
'Not for me, thanks.' The Channel advanced across the room. 'Sit down before you fall down, you still look half-asleep. I'll fix the drink.'
For once Jason didn't bother to argue with his clucky partner as he walked across to the icebox, and opened the door to glance hopefully inside. 'Hey, there's a big piece of pavlova left in here. Share it with me?'
Vidal glanced at the sugary and peach cream confection that his partner had placed on the table, and shuddered openly. 'I think not.'
'Good. All the more for me! Perhaps it'll help me to sleep.'
'It's more than likely to do the exact opposite!'
'No it won't, I've told you before, food is a very comforting thing.' Jason retorted as he placed the dish on the table and picked up a spoon, trying to decide whether to start first on the sugary meringue crust or the peaches and cream filling.
'I sensed that you were agitated before I heard you moving about out here. It's the double insulation in this place that stopped me from zlinning you before. Why couldn't you sleep?' The Channel turned to study the Gen bringing all his senses to bear.
'I don't know - haven't a clue.' Jason's green eyes closed with pleasure, his taste buds savouring the deliciously sweet confection as it melted on his tongue. 'You've no idea what you're passing up my friend.'
'Believe me, I do. Here, I've made you a mug of trin. It should help to wash down some of that sugar. How you can eat it now, at this time in the morning, I'll never understand.'
'I hate it when I can't sleep, the trouble is that my mind just seems to be so active that it's impossible to rest.'
It was on the tip of Vidal's tongue to remind his Companion that he only had to ask for assistance in getting to sleep, and he would be only too willing to oblige. But then he bit back the words, for he knew that Jason would never ask for help of that kind. So there was no point in mentioning it and causing an unnecessary argument.
'Perhaps you couldn't sleep because of that dreadful movie you dragged me along to see?' He suggested.
'Yes, it was just so bad, that it was good - wasn't it?' Jason grinned, and then watched as his partner sat down at the other side of the table, holding his glass of tea nestled in his tentacles, before he went on, 'I hope I can get to sleep soon or it'll be too late, if you see what I mean.'
Vidal didn't bother to mention, that as it was now almost dawn, trying to get to sleep again was a bit of a useless exercise anyway. After all, they both had to be at a meeting with Sam Betjeman at 8.00 a.m., and quite apart from that, the pavlova would probably keep him awake, no matter what he might say to the contrary.
'You have to admit Vidal that that movie really was hilarious.' Jason stated with a broad grin. 'I didn't expect it to be that good, did you?'
'Good!? You keep saying how good it was, you must have seen a totally different film than me.' Vidal muttered, 'And earlier on this evening I thought you said it was a drama, or was I mistaken?'
'It was supposed to be a drama, yes. But you have to remember it was made over two centuries ago by Gens, for a Gen audience.'
The Sime nodded agreement. 'As I said before, the technicians who managed to restore something of that age are to be congratulated. But I feel their efforts are of more benefit to historians, than for viewing by the general public.'
'Maybe; but you must admit that we've all become complacent about Gens and Simes living together nowadays. Films like that make us remember that it's only a few centuries since Simes were running around killing Gens just for the fun of it.'
'Hardly for fun - really Jason do you have to exaggerate all the time?'
'Only if you stop taking everything I say quite so literally!'
'Agreed but I don't see how they could possibly by any stretch of the imagination, call it a drama.'
'That's why it was so damn funny. I just loved those rubber tentacles the bad guys were wearing, didn't you?'
'And that's another thing. Why were all the villains Sime?'
'Because back then Simes and Gens didn't live together, not unless they belonged to a householding, you know that. Besides, they still had an in-territory and out-territory mentality. So in Gen eyes, Simes really were the villains! You must have read some of the Gen history books written around that time?'
Vidal looked across at him disdainfully and didn't bother to reply to what he considered a ridiculous question, as he went on. 'I just never fully realised how ignorant the Gens of that time were about Sime anatomy. Some of those actors had eight tentacles if not more! And why did they run with their arms stuck out in front of them like...like zombies?'
'I think it was for purely practical reasons. Would you want those rubber tentacles bouncing around close to you? If the actors weren't carefully, they'd probably knock themselves out or give themselves a black eye.' Jason began to laugh. 'I bet their arms were black and blue when they finished acting at the end of the day.'
Vidal snorted with derision. 'And where did they get the idea that a male Sime, who is attacking a female Gen for her selyn, is suddenly going to turn amorous - when he makes the final contact point? Believe me, it's the very last thing on his mind.'
'Ah now that's what's known in the trade as poetic licence. Gens used to call that the "the kiss of death", didn't they? I suppose the movie makers decided that sometimes they would look on it as a real kiss - but did you notice that the Sime who did the kissing, always got a knife in his back for his trouble?'
'Ridiculous. The Sime would have zlinned his attacker before he was able to get within striking distance.' Vidal snorted, 'And another thing, why did the Simes all cross their eyes when they looked at the Gens?'
'They were supposed to be zlinning them you idiot!'
'I don't go cross-eyed when I zlin, do I?'
'No you don't. But just remember Vidal, the Gens who made that movie and acted in it too, had probably never seen a Sime up close in their entire lives! If they had, it could only have been a berserker, and they wouldn't have lived to tell the tale!' He grinned mischievously across at his partner. 'But I must admit when you zlin me and your eyes go out of focus, it does sometimes look - just a tad scary.'
Vidal was swallowing his last mouthful of trin, and nearly choked as he heard what the Gen was saying. Jason jumped up and thumped him on the back. 'Was that my fault? Sorry, I didn't think you'd react like that. Never mind; forget I said anything. I'm going to lie down again now, and see if I can't get a couple of hours sleep before it's time to get up again.'
The Channel glanced up at him. 'You know, joking apart, and I trust you were joking when you made that last remark. It was probably that toasted cheese sandwich you had before you went to bed that caused your insomnia.'
'Of course it wasn't the shenning cheese sandwich, you moron. Honestly! You make me wonder about you sometimes Vidal, you really do.'
'Well what else would have caused it?' The Channel demanded in a slight huff.
'I don't know do I? But I don't expect you to keep chuntering on about what I eat. I'll have you know I'm not fat, in fact at my last medical they said I was more or less the ideal weight for my height.'
The Sime sighed. 'Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall saying that it was your being over weight that caused your sleeplessness, did I?' Vidal snapped back, and picked up the two empty mugs, before saying sarcastically over his shoulder. 'If I am now saying things, without being aware that I am saying them, then perhaps I should call Gregory Rudd in the morning, and make an appointment to see him? Or maybe you feel a psychiatrist would be better?'
For a moment the two men stood glaring at each other with metaphorical daggers drawn, and then Jason started to laugh, and seconds later the Sime joined in.
'You know, if Gregory or Dagmar heard us carrying on like this, at this time in the morning, they'd think we were both crazy.'
'And they wouldn't be far wrong.' The Channel agreed. 'Go and lie down. I'll wake you in good time for us to get to the meeting with Sam.'
'Okay.' Jason walked to his bedroom door and then stopped and looked back over his shoulder, 'Night Vidal.'
'Good night.' The Sime watched his partner disappear into his bedroom, and then zlinned him until he knew he was safely lying on his bed once more. Sighing, he then went to bring some of his work out to the kitchen to complete. At least from out here he would be able to zlin his partner and would know if his sleep was disturbed any further. He swallowed a deep sigh as he wished yet again that sometimes he would accept his help when his sleep was being interrupted. But Jason, being Jason - Vidal shook his head as he dismissed the thought.
It had just turned 10.00 a.m. when Jason came flying out of his bedroom, his chestnut hair standing on end. 'Why didn't you wake me? I thought Sam was expecting us at 8 o'clock!'
'Calm down, the meeting's off.'
'Off? Why's that?' Jason walked to the table to feel the teapot to see if the trin was still hot enough to drink, and decided it was.
'He rang to cancel, and to give us new orders. Apparently we have a more urgent appointment to keep in Capital City. Jordan has asked us to go there a week earlier than was planned. I've booked us transmuter space at Noon today, so we've plenty of time. I've already packed for you.'
'Thanks. What's the rush all about anyway?'
'I have no more idea than you. Betjeman seems to think that something unexpected has happened, but he doesn't know what.'
Jason snorted as he poured out the trin. Lately he preferred coffee in the morning but what the hell? 'Even if he did know he wouldn't tell us.'
'Probably not, this assignment is top secret after all so discretion is the order of the day.'
'It always is with the TIB. But let's get our priorities right before we do anything else shall we? What's for breakfast?'
The doorbell sounded even as he spoke, and Vidal went to open it, calling over his shoulder. 'I believe it's just arrived.'
Moments later Jason was inspecting the tray of food that had been delivered. Porridge made with cream and dribbled with honey, a mountain of fluffy scrambled eggs on thick slices of hot buttered toast two huge succulent peaches, and a pot of coffee. Good old Vidal, he was beginning to learn just what constituted a good wholesome breakfast; at least as far as his Companion was concerned.
'Have you eaten?' He demanded suspiciously as he settled down at the table.
'Yes. I ate that half carton of rhubarb and ginger yoghurt that you left.'
'Good. I didn't like it much anyway. Remind me not to get it again.'
Vidal nodded meekly, and bit back a smile, as he collected his work off the table, and took it back into his study.
Later that morning Vidal was far from serene, as he frowned furiously across at his partner. 'Shen it - we've been cancelled out! The Zeor HQ transmuter is too busy to accept us. There's a large delegation arriving from overseas, and they've been given top priority! Well I don't intend to wait till they've cleared all that lot through, it could take hours! We'll just have to go via the nearest public transmuter. Let's see, that's three blocks away from Zeor's HQ. Could be worse I suppose.' Even as Vidal spoke, he was ushering his Companion out of their apartment.
Stepping out of the transmuter at the other end, Vidal arranged for their luggage to be forwarded to Zeor's HQ. Then quickly took the lead, with Jason trying to keep up. A light drizzle was starting to fall, and the sidewalk was crowded with shoppers and business people all hurrying to their various destinations and like most City dwellers, equally busy ignoring each other.
Jason dodged past an elderly woman, and then lengthened his stride to catch up with two men in business suits in front of him. He endeavoured to keep Vidal in view, feeling certain that he must be augmenting slightly, for he was rapidly disappearing amongst the crowds. Shen him!
Side-stepping yet another woman, Jason found himself only a couple of feet behind the two businessmen. He was just positioning himself ready to push his way between them, when he was suddenly knocked unceremoniously off his feet as all shen broke loose around him, and he realised that there had been an explosion close by. In fact, much too close by for comfort!
Then as often happens when something unexpected happens, everything seemed to slow down before it speeded up again, and before Jason could even begin to stagger from his knees to his feet, he became aware almost subliminally that something was coming straight towards him. Automatically, almost as though he was playing a ball game, his hands went out to catch or ward off whatever it was that was approaching him.
'What the shit?!' A string of expletives left his lips as he found himself looking down into a pair of pale blue eyes! Even in death, the face had an expression of shocked surprise frozen on its quite ordinary features.
'YUK!' He grimaced, and instinctively threw the severed head to one side, realising even as he did so, that it must have belonged to one of the two businessmen who had been walking in front of him. Shen! If he had indeed pushed his way between them - that could just as easily have been him with his head blown off! He shivered in horror at the unsavoury thought, for only a microsecond had separated him from certain death.
Then another explosion tossed him like a rag doll against a shop's holographic window and display, both of which immediately shimmered out of existence as his body broke the selyn circuit. Even as he crashed face down onto the floor, the windows higher up in the building shattered and glass rained down onto both him and the sidewalk.
Unable to move he could feel the power of the selyn circuit running through his body, the current itself was fairly low, but if he was not pulled clear quickly, it could eventually prove fatal. He was of course immediately aware of the danger that he was in at this moment in time, but he also knew that without help, he had no chance at all of escaping on his own.
Jason sighed, aware of his dire predicament as he waited for help to arrive. Realising that there was little else he could do but be patient, as for the next few seconds absolute chaos reigned.
Then suddenly Jason felt someone grab his ankles, and he was dragged unceremoniously clear of the window and the deadly circuit. Twisting his head to look up at his rescuer, he found himself staring into Vidal's worried eyes as the Sime began to zlin him deeply, ignoring both the noise and confusion and the dust laden air.
'Shen it, you're covered in blood where..?'
'Relax. It's not mine! And be careful of your tentacles, there's a hell of a lot of broken glass lying around here!'
Quickly kneeling down beside him, his partner zlinned and examined him as best he could with fingers and tentacles prodding through his clothes. 'You don't appear to have broken anything,' he said with obvious relief.
'No, I'm just a bit bruised and shocked that's all, and you?'
'I too, was lucky.'
'Give me a hand.' Jason tried to stagger to his feet.
'Lie still. I could well have missed something.'
'You didn't miss a thing.' Jason stated as he finally found his feet and grabbed hold of Vidal's arm for support. They both glanced around at the broken glass on the ground.
Vidal zlinned the area around them, and announced that thankfully apart from one or two notable exceptions, most people seemed to have got away with cuts and scratches and very little else. All of them were now being attended by paramedics from the Hospital a hundred metres or so up the road, and also by Channels, who had converged on the scene even before the dust had begun to settle, from both the Sime Centre across the road, and from the Zeor HQ building.
'I should never have allowed you to fall behind me like that.'
'Don't you dare start blaming yourself for this.' Jason snapped angrily. 'What was it anyway - there were two explosions - did something blow up?'
'I have no idea. Come, Zeor HQ is not far, and I can examine you properly when we get there. Are you able to walk or should I carry you?'
Jason merely scowled at him.
The Channel sighed as he pulled the Gen's arm across his shoulder, and they made their way as quickly as they were able, around the piles of debris, broken glass and dust, towards Zeor's HQ.
Read Chapter 2
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