Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
Later that night they all gathered in the kitchen while Dave and Tony ate their supper, and the Channels each nibbled on a biscuit, together with nuts and sunflower seeds.
Milly had volunteered to sit with Jason, who was sleeping. He was fine, but knowing his Companion, Vidal did not want him to wake up and start wandering around in the middle of the night. On past experience he knew it was something that he was quite likely to do.
'So you put the proposition to Neels and his cousin?' Dave said in between bites.
'Only the basic outline of what is proposed.' Vidal replied, surprised that he was eating a second biscuit, he had not been hungry when he sat down.
'How did they take it?' Tony asked as he accepted a third hot cheese scone from the plate that Dave was offering.
'Surprisingly well considering,' Vidal smiled. 'They wouldn't commit themselves of course, but they were definitely interested in the whole concept, and didn't just dismiss it out of hand.'
'Both Vidal and I are certain that they're genuine.' Jordan stated.
'So what are they going to do?' Dave asked, as he tried to decide whether to eat another scone or not.
'They're going to speak to someone else they think might be sympathetic. According to Amanda Neels this friend, who is also on the Area Committee, may be interested enough to help' Vidal informed him. 'At least it's some progress.'
Jordan nodded, 'Graham Shorne got called away from the meeting, which was another piece of good luck for us; because according to both the Neels, he has personal reasons for hating both Earth and the Tecton.'
'You know Jordan when I think of it. coming straight out with the real reason we're here to two Distect Committee members, was a fairly dangerous strategy,' Tony murmured. 'They might well have wanted nothing to do with it, and could even have called the Guard and turned you both over to them.'
'Yes, they might.' Vidal admitted reluctantly.
'So?' Tony's eyebrows rose as he looked from one Channel to the other, as he pressed. 'What would you have done if they had?'
'Luckily for us, and them, that didn't happen,' Vidal said softly glancing across at Jordan.
'But surely you don't mean...?' Tony stared across at the Sectuib for an answer, but was interrupted.
'Just drop it Tony, we'll discuss it later.'
'No Jordan, he's asked a legitimate question, he deserves an answer.' Vidal replied.
The Channel shrugged. 'Very well go ahead, tell him.'
Vidal's dark eyes turned to look searchingly at Tony. 'If things had not gone the way we wanted, then I would have been quite prepared if necessary, to fight our way out of there,' he admitted honestly. 'Jordan didn't agree so I gave him the option of leaving before I spoke to them. He chose to stay.'
'Are you saying you would both have been prepared to - to injure them?'
'Tony I know how difficult it must be for you to accept all this. Neither you nor Jordan have been put into a situation like this before, but if we all want to come out of this alive, we have to face facts,' Vidal said harshly, 'Sometimes we're going to have to make choices, hard choices that we can't afford to make on ethical grounds only. Just as long as everyone remembers that, we'll be fine.'
'I've already had this discussion with Vidal.' The Sectuib said quietly, 'and I've told him, that we will do all that's necessary to complete this assignment, and to keep us all alive.' He looked across at his Companion. 'Agreed?'
For a moment both Dave and the two Channels thought the Gen was going to argue the point, but then he sighed and nodded his head slowly. 'I've disagreed with you before Jordan, as you know. But in the final analysis you are my Sectuib and I took an Oath unto Zeor. I might not agree with you on every minor point, but I will follow your orders. I just wonder if the end really does always justify the means.' He challenged.
For a few moments Vidal sat in silence, before he looked across at his two colleagues, his eyes finally moving past Tony and coming to rest on Jordan. 'As I said before my friend, I think that's a question you can answer for Tony, far better than I, and I'm sorry if you still feel I'm hitting below the belt.'
Dave and Tony both looked confused, while Jordan merely looked down at his tentacles, and then gave a bark of derisive laughter, before he admitted. 'I wonder if I'll ever be in a position to defend myself over that particular question.'
Vidal smiled, 'Just remember that I'm not attempting to judge anything that happened in the past. I merely use it now to illustrate a point.'
'I know. In some ways I wish you were being judgmental.' He stood up. 'If we are to make an early start tomorrow, perhaps we should all get some rest.'
Vidal nodded his agreement before he said, 'I'm not expecting any complications from Jason's injuries, but I think I'll sleep in his room tonight.'
'And in view of what's happened, we'd better stand watch tonight too.' Dave said as Milly entered the room.
'Good idea,' she smiled. 'Jason is sleeping like a baby, so if you're going to stay in his room Vidal, I'll take first watch.'
'And I'll take the second,' Jordan agreed as he walked to the door accompanied by his Companion.
Tony followed Jordan into his room well aware that there was something not quite right with his friend tonight, but not exactly sure what it was.
The Channel turned and smiled briefly at his Companion, seeing the slight frown on the Gen's face as he stood there studying him.
'I can't fool you can I?' Even as he spoke the Channel dropped his defences and Tony almost took a step backwards as the pain Jordan had been hiding all evening hit the Gen like a physical blow, and made him gasp.
'Entran! Why didn't you say something earlier?' He demanded almost angrily.
'We're among friends here you know, no one would think the less of you for admitting you were in pain.' Tony stepped closer to the Sime as he spoke holding out his arms and Jordan eagerly grasped hold of him.
'You were exhausted, and it has only got this bad in the last hour. Besides, I know I'm being foolish, but I did not wish to show weakness when Vidal does not appear to show any.'
Tony snorted, 'Vidal has never been a true working Channel, besides which he's been in near dormancy for years. You can't say the same thing.'
Jordan sighed softly. 'I know, and I'm sorry.'
'So you should be,' Tony replied, not giving an inch. 'And what's all this macho business about anyway? I've already agreed that on this assignment I'm totally out of my element, and that compared to Jason, I'm just this side of useless. If I can admit that, and still hold my head up, then you can do the same, especially when it's over something like entran!'
Several minutes passed before the Sime said, 'You're right of course.' Jordan released him and went to sit on the side of the bed. 'I'm fine now, thank you.'
'You're welcome; just don't let things build up like that again.' He scolded, and then sighed. 'But I'm sorry I didn't notice there was something wrong earlier.'
'It wasn't your fault.' The Sectuib admitted wryly. 'After all I was doing my utmost to hide it from Vidal, and with a Channel of his sensitivity, believe me that takes some doing.'
'Why didn't you offer to heal Jason tonight? You know that would have helped, and Vidal would have let you, especially if you'd simply told him why.' Tony scolded.
'I did offer initially, but Jason responds so well to Vidal that I didn't really like to press the point,' Jordan admitted.
Tony grinned. 'Oh well, it's not all bad, but you do realise that Vidal may well require some assistance from you to come down into dormancy again, especially after working on Jason tonight?'
'Yes he may.'
'And I wonder if he will have the good sense to ask for your help?' Tony asked his friend, as his eyebrows rose in query.
'Perhaps, unless he's as stubborn as me; that is what you were thinking isn't it?'
Tony laughed softly, but did not bother to answer the question his Sectuib had raised.
It was Dave who woke the house in the early predawn hours, having received a warning from a "ghost" that the Guard were on their way, and would be there at first light.
While they threw their few belongings into bags, Milly contacted another cell and arranged for them to go there straight away. She then instructed Jason how he could alter the computer reading on the Comcab, so that it would give a false destination reading, should the Guard try to trace them through the vehicle's log.
'What about you and Dave?' Vidal asked as they finished piling their luggage into the Comcab and then climbed in themselves.
'We'll be fine don't worry about us. We're registered to take in visitors remember. I'll just say you received a call during the night, after which you packed and left straight away, and as you'd paid till the end of this period, why should we worry?'
'And you're sure they'll buy that?' Vidal demanded.
'Why shouldn't they? It's the truth as far as it goes. Now don't hang around, Blake will take good care of you. Just don't get it touch with us again in case we're being watched. Good luck.'
Arriving at their destination, Blake, a small but well built Gen, welcomed them, and helped to carry their bags inside. 'I'm not registered for visitors, so I don't have the rooms that Dave and Milly have.' He explained and led them to the back of the dwelling where there was a hidden opening in the back wall. 'We only finished building this a couple of months ago for use in an emergency. Never expected it to be put to use this quickly though.' He grinned. 'There are only two rooms back here, so you'll have to share.'
'That's fine,' Jordan assured him at once, as he stepped through the opening and looked around.
'We've got a back entrance too it's over there, so you won't have to use the front, just in case we're being watched.' Blake explained. 'I haven't noticed anyone, but you can never be too sure. The history of the Distect has made them into a strange society from our point of view. Whilst on one side you get more freedom living here than you would ever get on Earth. On the other hand, you know you're under constant surveillance wherever you go and whatever you're doing.'
'Can't have everything I suppose.' Jason said with a wry grin, glad that he was now feeling such a lot better, although he still couldn't walk without assistance.
'That's true, anyway I'll leave you to unpack. If you need anything, just yell.' Blake smiled and left them, closing the entrance behind him.
The two rooms allocated to them were both the same size, and once they had unpacked the essentials, Vidal called a conference.
The two Channels sat on Vidal's bed, both men sitting side by side upright against the wall, their legs straight out in front of them. Vidal's hands were clasped behind his head, whilst Jordan's hands were clasped in front of him.
Jason on the other hand to ease his injured shoulder, lay sprawled on his stomach across his bed, his head resting on his arms, and Tony sat on the very edge of the bed, his feet resting on the floor, his hands on his knees.
'Do you think it was one of the Neels' who notified the Guard about us?' Tony asked the question that was paramount on all their minds.
'If not one of them, then possibly someone they've spoken to,' Jordan replied, glancing across at Vidal for his confirmation.
'I think you're right. I can't really see any other alternative.'
'So where does that leave us?' Jason demanded. 'If you get in touch with them today, as you agreed to do, we could land ourselves in a lot more trouble. Not much of a choice is it?'
Vidal nodded. 'I agree, but unfortunately we don't have any other options open to us. We have to take the chance.'
'You mean you intend to meet them again, knowing you could be walking into a trap? That's just plain mad, Vidal!'
'And what's the alternative Jason? Close shop and go home?'
The Gen was silent for a few moments, then sighed as he admitted defeat, 'There isn't one is there? We knew it wouldn't be easy.'
'Exactly.' Vidal said quietly, but without any satisfaction in his voice. He glanced across at the other Channel before he voiced his next thought. 'However, I do think it would be foolish for both of us to go.'
Jordan nodded. 'Agreed, what do you propose?'
'We get in touch with them as promised. Then if Amanda has already spoken to someone else on the Area Committee, and they want us to meet, we'll arrange to do so.'
Tony looked across at Vidal, 'And if Amanda has spoken to someone else; you do realise that that person could well be our informer?'
'Tony's right, it does seem foolish to trust just anyone after what's happened. We know that someone must have called the Guard, and the list of possible suspects is very small.'
'No one's disputing that Jordan, least of all me.' Vidal stated, 'but as I just said to Jason, what's the alternative?'
Jordan waved two tentacles in the air in defeat. 'Very well, I accept your argument that only one of us should go and meet with the Neels' and this unknown committee member. However, I also believe that that someone should be me.' He touched Vidal's hand with one tentacle as the other Channel opened his mouth to speak. 'No, let me finish please. I think we would all agree, if we were being brutally honest with ourselves, as Tony and I were last night. That he and I are not only the least competent members of this team, we are also at this moment, the most expendable. That being the case, common sense dictates that I should be the one to go, then if anything goes wrong, you can still carry on.'
Vidal shook his head, and grinned. 'Don't put yourself down Jordan. After all, you can't expect to become proficient at everything overnight even if you are Sectuib in Zeor. Besides it's more an attitude of mind than anything else. The arguments you just raised, are the very ones I would use to make the opposite case. I've been in situations like this before, more than once. I know what to look for, and I can also sense trouble sometimes before it even arrives.'
Vidal paused. 'On top of that as I've said to you before, I would be quite prepared to use force, if necessary, to get myself out of such a situation.' His dark eyes captured his friend's equally dark ones challengingly, as he demanded. 'Can you in all honesty, say the same?'
Jordan was silent for a moment, and then with a rueful expression, slowly shook his head.
'Then it's settled. I go.'
Jason nodded, 'I agree, it can't be the Sectuib. No, don't argue Jordan. Let's say you went, and got yourself captured. What would happen then? We'd end up trying to rescue you, which means we could all end up dead. No, much as I hate to agree with Vidal, he's right, it's got to be him.'
His partner smiled across at him in surprise, 'Thanks for the support.'
'Don't get carried away Vidal, I'd much rather it was me going, and not you, but I'm a stranger to them, and they've met you before. Besides which, while I'm feeling a lot better, I have to admit I'm not yet a hundred per cent. I really can do with another day's rest.'
And those words alone, told Vidal just how bad his Companion was still feeling.
Later that morning Vidal went out to contact Quin Neels, and Jordan went with him. They were back in a couple of hours, just in time to eat.
'Everything arranged?' Jason asked, as he piled his plate with hot roasted vegetables, poured a tangy sauce over them, and then broke off a huge chunk of warm, crusty, nut bread.
Jordan nodded. 'Yes, Vidal is meeting them this evening.'
Blake brought in a jug of iced fruit juice, as Vidal placed a spoonful of vegetables onto his plate, ignored the tangy sauce and bread, but accepted a glass of iced fruit juice before he looked across at Tony. 'Devil's Paradise.'
Jason swallowed a mouthful of vegetables and nearly choked as he looked across at his partner, 'The place we saw advertised in the tunnel?' He demanded.
'It's a shiltpron parlour,' Jordan said before Vidal could reply.
Blake snorted with derision. 'It masquerades as a shiltpron parlour, but in actual fact it's nothing more than a brothel,' he informed the table at large.
'Really?' Jason looked interested and grinned broadly, 'Perhaps I should go along after all. Just to make sure Vidal behaves himself.'
Everyone laughed, including Vidal, who looked across at his partner. 'I doubt I'll have the time to take in the sights, so you won't miss very much.'
'Just so long as you give us a blow by blow account,' Tony stated, and then blushed as he realised what he had said, and why the others were once again laughing at his expense.
Vidal placed one tentacle on the Gen's hand by way of comfort. 'Take no notice of them, Tony.'
Jason was still grinning. 'Joking apart, don't you think one of us should go along just to keep an eye on you from outside this place?'
Vidal chewed on a small vegetable meditatively, and then swallowed it before he replied. 'That might be a good idea, but it would have to be Tony. They've met Jordan already so he might be recognised.'
'Why Tony and not me?' Jason demanded.
'Because you just admitted you don't feel a hundred per cent.' The Channel said bluntly.
Jason opened his mouth to argue, and then with a sigh of resignation, shut it again, as he conceded honestly. 'Yes I did, didn't I?'
The rest of the day was spent with both Channels reminding Tony about the "do's and don'ts" of surveillance.
Jason lay on his bed watching the proceedings with a smug grin on his face, till the two Channels took themselves off to speak to Blake. 'What it all boils down to Tony, is this,' he offered as they disappeared from the room, 'Watch old Vidal at all times, keep an eye on the baddies, but don't let anyone see you doing it - simple.'
'I know all that. But what happens when Vidal goes inside? I can't watch him then, can I? And since they say I'm not to enter the place, I suppose I'll just have to wait till he comes out again.'
'The problem is, he might not come out again.'
Tony stared at him wide eyed. 'You don't mean they might...?'
Jason interrupted with a sharp laugh. 'No. I very much doubt if they will try to murder him in front of a club full of witnesses. But they may well take him out of there by another entrance, and you can't be everywhere at once can you?'
'That's what's worrying me!' Tony admitted grimly. 'What would you do?'
'Me? Oh no, I can't tell you to do what I would do, Vidal would throw a fit if I did that.'
'Why? Because quite frankly Tony, I'd ignore everything Vidal and Jordan just told you.'
'I can't do that!'
'No, I don't suppose you can.' He sighed. 'So you'll just have to wait around outside won't you? And hope that he comes back out alive, or that they don't take him out through another entrance to be handed over to the Guard. But never mind, at least you'll have the satisfaction of knowing that you followed orders.'
'Stop it, I'm more confused than ever.' Tony confessed.
'As I said before, the decision's yours.' Jason's green eyes narrowed as he looked across at the other Gen. 'Just remember that Vidal and Jordan would never contemplate putting any Gen in danger, no matter what they might both say to the contrary, which means.?' He waited patiently for Tony to answer him.
'I don't know what it means.'
Jason shook his head sadly, 'Which means, my friend, that sometimes we have to listen politely to what they have to say, agree with everything, and then simply ignore it.'
The two men sat in silence for several moments, till Tony cleared his throat and turned to face Jason. 'Can I ask you something?'
'Of course,' he waited a moment and then asked, 'What do you want to know?'
'I've never been inside a shiltpron parlour, let alone a brothel.' He confessed at last.
Jason laughed softly, 'Neither have I. At least, I've not been in a full-blown brothel; although I have visited a few clubs that I had my doubts about.'
'Yes, I thought you might.' Tony said with obvious relief.
'I don't know how I should take that remark.' Jason replied, 'So come on tell me, what do you want to know?'
'If I should decide to go inside the place, what do I do? I mean, I won't be expected to. You know.' and he made a rather obscene gesture with his fist.
Jason grinned. 'Make out with someone? No, not necessarily. There'll be plenty of willing bodies of both sexes wandering around the place, that's to be expected, so you can't be totally indifferent to them. But just remember, it's also supposed to be a shiltpron parlour, so don't let the music affect you too much or it'll take your mind right off what you're really there for. I've seen that happen, believe me.'
'But with Gens present, surely they'll only play the shiltpron in the audio range?'
'Tony, this is the Distect we're talking about here. Wake up! What do you think?'
'Exactly. Now, you wanted to know what to do in there? Keep an eye on Vidal as much as you can, without being too obvious. If they take him somewhere else, try to follow them, once again without drawing attention to yourself.'
'What do I say if they stop me from following him?'
Jason bit back a sharp retort as he wondered if he could possibly drag himself along there tonight, instead of Tony, but knew in all honesty that he couldn't. Because he realised that if there was any trouble and he had to run or fight, he would just fold up like a pack of cards.
'Just say you're looking for the bathroom, play drunk or say you're following a woman - improvise!' He retorted finally.
Tony nodded, his eyes not leaving his friend's face, as Jason went on.
'Hopefully they'll stay in or near the bar area with Vidal. If they do, then just sit down and order a drink. Stick to your fruit juice or something like porstan, especially if they're playing the shiltpron on anything other than audio. If some one comes over to talk, then talk. You can always say you're waiting for a friend, that when he turns up you'll want to make up a threesome, but at the moment, you're just looking.' Jason paused. 'Play it by ear. After all, you know how to chat up the girls don't you?'
Tony stared at the wall for a minute or so, before he confessed. 'Not really, no, I established in my early teens, and within a year I was assigned to work with Jordan. You know how the Sectuib works. I never had much time for going out with girls, and then when we were sent to Rockall, I had even less time.'
'Correct me if I'm wrong, but in Capital City, the night I got that phony message to meet Avon. Didn't you say you had a female friend at the Sime Centre you wanted to say goodbye to? Wasn't she someone special?'
Tony shook his head adamantly as he explained. 'You mean Judith? She's my cousin, and four months pregnant. Her husband is away finishing a contract on Mars, which is why I've been keeping an eye on her.'
Jason looked at the other Gen in surprise as an idea suddenly entered his mind. Surely he wasn't still a... no, no way! Besides, he couldn't possibly ask another man something like that, could he? He had to be wrong.
Jason was sure that it was Vidal who had once told him that households and even the Tecton, practically insisted that once their members either became Sime or established, they had to start indulging in some form of sexual activity? Something about being necessary for their physical and mental well being? So that being the case. Jason decided to continue on that premise.
'Believe me Tony, you'll have no trouble at all sweet talking the girls. You must have some experience, after all you spoke to them in school didn't you, they aren't a separate race are they? And from what I've heard Householder females are rather accommodating in that direction, right?'
'Not you as well Jason?' Tony took a deep breath and swallowed back his frustration. 'Ask Jordan to tell you about "Householder females" as you call them. I think he will explain things far better than I ever could. Suffice it to say that they provide a necessary emotional service for some of our people who, for various reasons, are completely unattached.'
'Well isn't that what I just said?'
'They're not whores Jason!'
'I never said they were. Oh hell, forget I spoke okay? Just act naturally with the girls at the club and you'll be fine,' and he mentally crossed his fingers as he spoke.
'I hope you're right.'
'I am, trust me.' Liar, liar, pants on fire! The chant from his boyhood on Dunedin, suddenly came back to haunt him.
It was at Jason's suggestion that Tony left about half an hour before Vidal, taking a Comcab to Devil's Paradise. By arriving first it was decided, he could look around and familiarise himself with the area, and also find a place to conceal himself while he waited for Vidal to arrive. It would also hopefully give him an opportunity to see if anyone else was also watching for the Channel's arrival.
It was just under an hour later that Vidal stepped out of the Comcab and looked around, pleased that he could not see Tony. Nor could he zlin him, so he assumed he was hidden behind one of the rocky outcrops that abounded within the complex.
As Vidal had freely admitted to Jordan, he had had his doubts about asking the young Gen to act as surveillance for him tonight, but there had been no one else, and it would have been foolish in the extreme not to have had someone on watch.
Tony might not be able to stop an abduction if one was attempted, but at least he would be able to tell the others what had happened. He might even be able to tell them in what direction he had been taken. After all in such circumstances, any information was better than none at all.
Above the double doors that led inside the club, the name Devil's Paradise was written in large neon letters, while above the name a row of equally bright devils cavorted in a rather grotesque dance, some holding women partners and others playing shiltpron. With a grim smile Vidal entered the dark interior.
The inner vestibule led through another set of doors into the club itself.
There was no direct lighting inside, instead coloured lights flashed on and off in an almost constant ripple under what appeared to be a glass floor. Above his head more lights swirled backwards and forwards across the roof, and cascaded down from the centre of the ceiling to the outer walls, giving the impression of constantly moving coloured waters.
The walls themselves were draped with a midnight blue material that rippled and reflected the colours emanating from roof and floor. Small black tables were dotted around the room, each surrounded by black velvet couches, and jewel coloured cushions. The clientele were very much as he had expected, except he was surprised at the large number of off-worlders who were present. He counted people from at least seventeen different planets that he could name, and many more that he could not.
His inspection of the décor complete, Vidal zlinned the place for the Neels', ascertained that they weren't present, and then walked towards the bar deciding to have a drink while he waited for Amanda and Quin to arrive.
Moments later as he stood leaning against the bar with a glass of wine held in his tentacles, he suddenly noticed that the colours coming from the floor had somehow been lifted up as though by an invisible hand, and were now being tossed around the large room bouncing off the walls to spin away in all directions, as if they had a life of their own. With a shock Vidal realised he was slipping into hyperconsciousness. What the shen was happening to him?
Almost in a panic he quickly pulled his emotions back under his control, as he realised suddenly what was causing the phenomena. A female Sime was now playing a shiltpron sitting on a small stool in the middle of the room, her laterals vibrating in the sound waves given off by the instrument. While at the same time two female Gens and a Sime male, were positioned at three points of a triangle around the room facing her; and as she played the ancient instrument they each picked up the sound with their fields and tossed it randomly around the room, creating the ribbons of colour.
Vidal thought of every adjective that described how he felt about the performance, it was fantastic, vibrant, exotic, wonderful, marvellous and slightly obscene, because it was being performed here in such mixed company.
Vidal quickly sent a prayer of thanks to a whole plethora of gods, that Jason had not come with him tonight. For he knew, that unlike Tony his Gen would have insisted on accompanying him inside the club, and would never have agreed to wait safely outside.
On a jarring note the music suddenly came to an abrupt halt, and a gasp escaped from more than two hundred throats and ran around the room. Vidal was grateful that it had for the moment finished, even he had found himself being sucked into the sheer seductiveness of the music that was played on so many levels.
Moments later two Gens one with a small hand held organ and the other with a guitar joined the shiltpron player who was now playing on audio level only, in a medley of tunes. The Channel had little doubt that this was only a brief respite before the shiltpron was once more evoking the emotions of both Simes and Gens alike. After all it was the main attraction of the Club, apart of course, from the sex.
Vidal was just in the process of smiling regretfully and charmingly at yet another willing female, when he saw Amanda Neels enter the club. She was closely followed by another Sime, a Channel, who he knew must be the other Committee member that he was to meet here tonight, while Quin Neels brought up the rear.
Amanda immediately zlinned Vidal and made her way towards him followed closely by the other two. 'Sorry we're late. Shall we all sit over there?'
Once they were seated around the small table she had indicated, and had drinks in front of them, Amanda introduced him to Aubrey Butler. He was a small almost insignificant man, slim in the Sime way, with rather long greasy hair that was a dull mouse colour. His clothes looked as though he had slept in them more than once, and under Vidal's critical gaze he came across as rather "seedy."
They formally touched tentacles, and Vidal immediately felt the man's power. He knew that Aubrey Butler was a Channel, he had known that from the moment he had entered the club. But he had not realised straight away that he was a First, and that quite possibly he was Vidal's equal! Now that did surprise him. He could only hope that like most Distect Simes he would be almost totally untrained. Although if he was wrong, then neither he nor Jordan would have an edge against this man, and at some point in the future they might well require just that!
'I have already filled Aubrey in on the gist of what you told us,' Amanda smiled across at him as she spoke. 'If I had not done so, I doubt if he would have come tonight.'
'Quite correct my dear.' Aubrey turned to look across at Vidal. 'What I can't understand, is why you've come to us with this - proposition?'
'Who else is there?' Vidal asked honestly. 'As I understand it you don't have a President or a First Minister, you don't even have a formal Government.' He spread his tentacles, and shrugged his shoulders eloquently.
'True. We don't believe in bureaucracy, not like,' he hesitated and his voice dropped down a degree, before he went on, 'Earth and the Tecton?' Vidal confirmed the man's assessment of where he came from, with a slightly formal nod of his head.
'Good, now that is clear. Let us say for argument's sake that I am prepared to believe who you say you are, and also what you tell me.'
'You're a First Aubrey, you know I'm speaking the truth.'
The Channel winced at being called a First, and then said. 'Perhaps, but I've heard all about Tecton trained Channels and what they're capable of. I'm not such a fool, nor am I so arrogant as to believe that I can't be fooled by someone like you.'
Vidal gave a silent sigh. He had not expected such a powerful Channel to doubt the veracity of his words, not when he could easily read the truth in his field. 'If I were to bring you a Gen, who would tell you the same thing that I have, would that satisfy you? After all, he would not be able to deceive you, since that appears to be your primary concern.'
'Possibly, I would have to meet him first, before I could decide. Excuse me a moment please, there's someone over there I know, I must pay my respects.'
Vidal glanced across at Amanda and Quin as the other Channel left the table. 'He's not very confident of his own abilities is he?'
Quin stared across at him as he emptied his glass and placed it back on the table. 'Look at things from his point of view. Should he take your proposition forward, and it turns out to be false, and you have a hidden agenda or you merely wish to infiltrate the Distect, for whatever reason. Have you any idea what would happen to him?'
Vidal shook his head, 'I've an idea yes, but that's all.'
'He would be executed' Quin replied bluntly.
'By attrition.' Amanda added quietly.
The Channel's eyes opened wide. 'But surely even the Distect doesn't still entertain such barbaric practices?' Vidal was truly shocked, but the identical expression on the two faces opposite him, answered his question far better than mere words ever could.
Read Chapter 11
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Companion in Zeor is Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
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