Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
Jordan stepped back from the small gap that Blake had made in the front wall of the dwelling. 'I can zlin only two people out there watching, one male one female, both Sime. There may be more behind the rock walls at each side, I cannot tell, but I doubt it.'
'Well that settles it then, one of us has to go out the back way, make our way around them and either warn Vidal and Tony to stay away from here, or bring them here via the back entrance.' Jason stated. 'I take it that the back entrance does lead away from the front of this place?' He asked their host.
'Yes.' Blake nodded. 'Turn left and you come out near the front, but turn right and you come out on the next level down. It's a bit steep in places and the floor is rough, so be careful.'
'I think in the circumstances it would be unwise for either of us to remain here, or to come back here either.' Jordan said and looked across at Blake. 'Any suggestions as to where we might go?'
'There's a bar near the main entrance, where you picked up the Comcab when you first arrived. The fellow that owns it is a Zapod, name of M'Turr.'
'I've only ever met one Zapod, they look humanoid but are in actual fact reptilian, right? They're cold bloodied with webbed feet and hands.' Jordan stated, with a slight frown of concentration on his face as he recalled the few facts that he had read long ago.
'Correct. He keeps a number of rooms above his bar for travellers, and as far as I can gather he's not too particular who he takes in, just as long as they can pay. You could try there.'
'And if he's full up?' Jason asked.
'Then contact me again and I'll arrange something through one of the other cells.' Blake replied. 'You'd better leave most of your things here, just take what you'll need in the next day or so. I'll arrange for the rest to be brought to you later.'
Jordan smiled. 'Thanks Blake. I only hope we haven't caused you too much trouble with the Guard.'
'Don't worry about it, life was getting a little dull around here anyway; and it does make one realise why we're here living among the Distect in the first place.' Blake assured him.
'M'Turr's bar, what's it called?' Jason asked as he went with Jordan to collect what things they would need, remembering to push in some clean clothes for Vidal and Tony.
'Strange name for a Zapod to choose,' Jordan observed as he picked up a bag and put the wide strap over his shoulder.
'He didn't. The previous owner named it. M'Turr just didn't bother to change it,' Blake replied as he helped Jason to lift the other bag into position.
'Shen it, I'm not going to be able to get to my knife, with this lot on my shoulder,' Jason muttered, as he tried yet again to adjust it, but without any real success.
'Jason, you already have a disruptor on your hip, a throwing knife in a sheath on each forearm, and a fighting blade on your other shoulder. Not counting the switch knife that I know you have strapped to your ankle! Surely that's enough, without worrying about the other knife?' Jordan demanded. 'After all without tentacles, you can only use one or possibly two at any given time.'
Blake grinned. 'He's a walking arsenal! Even the Guard would be impressed. Of course the big question is, can he use them?'
'Oh yes, he can use them,' Jordan admitted almost reluctantly, and Jason merely scowled at both men, as he led the way towards the rear entrance.
'Now that you've both had your fun, perhaps you'd like to tell me if we're going to head straight for the Oasis and try to secure rooms, or go to this Devil's Paradise place and warn Vidal and Tony not to come back here?'
'I think the sensible course would be for one of us to arrange for the rooms, and one of us to go to the shiltpron parlour.' Jordan replied after a moment's consideration.
'Sounds fine to me, you can arrange for the rooms, and I'll go and meet the others and bring them back there.'
'Now hold it right there Jason. I never said which of us would do which task.'
Blake bit back a smile, as the Gen turned to look at the Channel, a completely innocent expression on his handsome face. 'Didn't you? Well never mind, I'm obviously the best one to go and fetch them. After all, much as I hate to labour the point Sectuib, I do have more experience than you.' He said sweetly.
'That's not in dispute. But you're also recovering from a serious injury, or have you forgotten?' The Channel asked blandly.
'Zlin me! Go on zlin me. I'm perfectly fit now, and you know it.' Jason replied.
'Er... excuse me for interrupting this little discussion, but I would suggest that you both make your minds up quickly, and decide what you intend to do. It's growing late, and if your friends come back now, they are going to walk straight into the Guard.' Blake reminded them, and then went on to observe.
'If it helps you to decide, the Oasis always has some vacancies, being near the main entrance people are coming and going all the time. So why don't you both go to the Devil's Paradise? Besides, it might well cause comment if only one of you arrives at the Oasis to book rooms for himself and three "mysterious" others, who are to come along later. Far better if you arrive as two pairs who don't know each other.'
Jordan saw the stubborn expression on the Gen's face and felt his intransigence in his field. With a sigh he grasped gratefully at Blake's suggestion. 'Right then, we'll do that. Now if you've no further objections?' He looked at Jason and was unable to keep the note of sarcasm out of his voice.
'No, none at all, that's fine by me.'
The Sectuib met Blake's eyes, which were brimming with laughter, and shook his head in defeat, as he followed Jason towards the rear entrance of the dwelling.
Jason pointed to the route map displayed in the Comcab for their benefit. 'It looks like Devil's Paradise is just up ahead.'
'Well at least we won't have to start hunting around for Tony when we get there.' Jordan murmured with satisfaction.
'How do you know that?'
'If you recall, he's waiting for Vidal outside.'
The Comcab drew to a halt and the door clicked open. Jason jumped out, calling over his shoulder. 'There may have been a slight change of plan,' then quickly walked towards the entrance.
Jordan followed even more quickly and placed a tentacle on the Gen's shoulder, immediately stopping his progress, as he then turned Jason round to face him. 'What did you just say?' He demanded quietly.
'I said he might not be waiting out here,' Jason replied as he looked around the forecourt. 'Looks like I was correct doesn't it? He's not here.'
'You knew he would not be here!' The Channel stated looking far from pleased as he quickly zlinned the whole area.
'Well, not exactly. Let's just say I wasn't altogether - surprised,' the Gen hedged.
'Do not lie to me, Jason!'
'Okay, Tony asked what I would do if I was going instead of him, and I said there was little point in him hanging around out here, because they could easily take Vidal out through another exit, and that if it was me, well I'd er... I'd go inside.'
'Yes, and that is just the sort of irresponsible thing you would do. I thought Tony had more sense.'
'Shen it Jordan you're starting to sound just like Vidal.'
'I am beginning to take that as a compliment!' Jordan retorted, and then his mouth snapped shut as he realised they were almost shouting at each other. Thankfully there was no one around to hear them.
'Look the Neels' know what you look like don't they? Perhaps you'd better wait out here while I go in.' Jason suggested.
'Why not, or do you want them to recognise you?'
'Of course not, but I shall zlin them before they see me, and anyway I shall project myself as an ordinary renSime.'
'Okay it's up to you.' Jason capitulated with a shrug. 'So are we going to go inside or just stand out here arguing all night?'
Without a word the Channel spun around on his heel and led the way to the entrance in silence.
Jason found he had to almost run to keep up with him, and both men were more than angry with each other by the time they were inside the premises. Jordan came to a sudden halt as he zlinned the jostling occupants of the room, and Jason almost ran into him, swearing softly under his breath.
'Are they here?'
'I didn't think they would be.'
'Well they're hardly likely to sit here in a room full of people and discuss anything really important are they? Far too many prying eyes and ears everywhere, which is precisely the reason that I told Tony what I did.'
'Well since you believe you have all the answers, where would they have taken him?' Jordan asked sarcastically as he leaned against the bar and ordered two glasses of porstan.
'This is a cathouse Jordan, use your imagination. One thing they won't be short of is empty rooms!'
'No, I suppose not,' the Sime conceded slowly. 'Shall we stay here or go and sit down?'
'I'd say we stay put, we can see the whole room from here, and we might also over hear something.' Jason advised, as he drank from the glass.
'Hello there, looking for company?' A female's head appeared between them, her voice had a strange hiss as she spoke. She had long black hair, which hung like a curtain to her waist, and her skin was the very palest green. Jason knew which planet she came from, but for the moment he couldn't remember its name.
'No, not at the moment thank you,' Jordan said at once, and Jason shook his head at the expression on the Sime's face.
Biting back a grin, Jason turned to look into the young woman's pale yellow eyes. 'I must apologise for my friend. He's just had a row with his girl friend and isn't feeling too happy at the moment,' he placed a hand on her arm. 'Perhaps later?'
She nodded and smiled at him, before hipping her way back across the floor.
'There was no need to prevaricate such an excuse Jason, what I said to the girl was quite adequate.'
'Oh yes, it most certainly was! Why do you think men come into a place like this, on their own, without women? It's certainly not for the stimulating conversation; I can assure you of that!' Jason muttered. 'If I'd left it to you, she'd have gone straight across to her friends over there, and in no time at all they'd have been speculating as to what we are doing in a place like this, if we're not seeking company. Either that or we'd be chin deep in men!' Jason sighed. 'The last thing we need is to draw attention to ourselves with idle gossip.'
'All right, you've made your point.' Jordan replied at once. 'So tell me, how do we find out where Vidal and Tony are?'
'Stay here.' Jason stood up.
'Where are you going now?' Jordan demanded unable to keep the exasperation out of his voice.
'To powder my nose,' Jason said facetiously, 'I won't be long. Just don't do anything I wouldn't do while I'm away,' and he winked cheekily at the Sime as he left.
Returning to the bar a short while later, Jason saw that Jordan was sitting on a stool, and was talking to an older female. He was not really surprised to see that the Channel did not look very happy about it.
'Sorry to have kept you waiting.' He smiled as he commandeered the next stool.
'Ah so this is the young man you've been waiting for. Now I can understand why you aren't interested in any of my girls. Such a pity, but if you need a room later, ask any of my people they'll arrange it for you. Of course if you should change your mind.' Her eyebrows moved up and down suggestively, and she walked away from them, her hips swaying provocatively.
'Really Jordan, I can't leave you alone for a minute can I?' He teased. 'Now what was your wife's name again?'
Jordan sighed and then had to grin. 'Are you blackmailing me by any chance?'
'Not really, she trusts me implicitly.'
'Lucky you,' Jason murmured and Rosina suddenly popped into his mind, which was strange, since he hadn't thought of her in well over a year. He remembered that she had even been jealous when he went to see his brother Mike, especially if he went without her.
Picking up his glass he drained it, before he turned to Jordan. 'Vidal met up with two Simes and a Gen in the bar here, then another Gen joined them. >From the description it could have been Tony, and they all went to one of the rooms at the back.'
Jordan stared at him in surprise, and then demanded. 'How did you find that out?'
'Would you believe, the attendant in the male rest room? They don't have much to do, except talk to the drunks, or listen to other people's conversations you know.'
'I'll remember that.'
'Anyway, as I was saying. I also went and spoke to the Manager, and said we were waiting for some friends of ours, and described old Vidal to him. He remembered him at once, one of the good things about being so damn good looking I suppose,' and he grinned at Jordan who was moving uncomfortably on his seat, for the two Channels could easily be mistaken for brothers. 'He told me they booked the Rose Room for the remainder of the evening.'
'So how do we find this Rose Room?'
'Don't get too excited, the rest of the news isn't good.' Jason warned. 'The place was raided less than an hour ago, and they, together with all the other guests who were using the rooms out back, left in rather a hurry. 'The attendant seemed to think they were involved in something nefarious, possibly gambling or something like that. Gambling is legal, but you have to pay tax on your winnings, which is why people do it in places like this so they don't have to pay. According to him it goes on a lot, but the club turns a blind eye; which is also why they get raided so often.'
'Shen and Shid! If they've left here they could be back at Blake's by now.'
'If they are we'll be too late, they'll be under arrest.' Jason replied, and then pointed out bluntly, 'although if they hadn't finished their discussion, the Neels' might well have taken them on to somewhere else, where they could do so.'
'Let's hope you're correct.' The Sime said, 'Not that it helps us very much.'
'From speaking to the Manager I got the impression that he knew the people who were with Vidal quite well. If I'm correct, he might very well have some idea of where they went when they left here, but it'll cost us to find out.'
'Give him whatever he wants.' Jordan said at once.
'Okay, if you say so. This little outing tonight is proving to be quite expensive.'
'Why?' The Channel asked with surprise, for he had paid for everything since they arrived at the club.
'How do you think I got the information from the attendant? My winsome charms alone wouldn't have got me very far.'
'Now that I can believe! But pay what you have to, and see what you can find out. Good luck.' He watched as the Gen began to weave his way between the tables, and realised that if he had had Tony with him and not Jason, he would have found out nothing. The two of them would probably have simply sat here and waited till the club closed, and they were thrown out.
Not that it was his Companion's fault of course, because it wasn't, but Jason really did have the experience that his own Gen lacked. He sighed as he acknowledged that he would have to try and remember, that Jason had some justification when he hinted that neither he nor Vidal recognised the fact that he was a fully-grown adult male, and as such did not deserve to be treated like a reckless teenager.
Unfortunately even today, as Jordan would be the first to accept, Channels still tended to guard their Gens and tried to keep them out of danger. Of course, inevitably, some Gens like Tony, still needed that protection. Then again there were others, like Vidal's Companion, who most definitely did not; and who was justified when he said that he should be treated as an equal, even if it meant sending him into danger, where his life would be on the line. It was a brand new concept that he would have to think about.
A sudden commotion at the far side of the room where a mixed group of Simes and Gens were drinking and partying together drew his attention. He had noticed them when he and Jason had first arrived. He had been zlinning the patrons in search of Vidal and Tony, and had noted that more than one of the young Simes sitting at that table were approaching need. Add to that shiltpron music, alcohol and young Gens, and you had a very dangerous and volatile mixture indeed.
Back on Earth they would never have been allowed to enter a place like this in their condition, but then this was not Earth, this was the Distect. He had to remember that, and so he had dismissed them from his mind, first because there was nothing he could legitimately do about it, and secondly because he had more important matters to think about.
Jordan began to rise from his stool as he realised that two of the Simes were arguing about a young Gen woman, and zlinning the other occupants of the table he knew that the situation could turn nasty very quickly indeed.
Even as he accepted the unpleasant fact that there was nothing he could do to alleviate the situation, the two young Simes almost flew through the air as they jumped quite literally at each other's throats. Chairs went flying and the table got pushed back as the two protagonists fell to the floor kicking and punching with augmented speed and dexterity, as only a Sime could.
Jordan began to move forward not realising that he was doing so. Suddenly something almost akin to a brick wall appeared in front of him, immediately cutting him off from the melee across the room. He stopped at once feeling dazed.
'Jordan calm down, NOW!' Jason's voice penetrated into his brain as the Gen used both his field and voice, while he threw his arms around the Channel's shoulders projecting serenity into the ambient around his friend.
Jordan's tentacles were already half extended, and he quickly retracted them again, as Jason began to hustle him towards the exit.
The Channel suddenly gave a strangled gasp and froze momentarily as he felt rather than saw the flash of a blade, and knew when the other Sime fell to the floor dead, the knife buried deep in his windpipe and his neck broken. Simes fighting with knives, he knew that it happened, had even read about it, but this was the first time he had actually zlinned it.
Almost simultaneously with the death, the other Sime had grabbed the young female and drew from her, it was over in seconds. People resumed their seats, the music started up again, and things went on as if they had never been disturbed.
Jason glanced across at the scene, shock on his face to equal Jordan's. The Manager was busy organising his staff to remove the body as though it were so much rubbish.
Jordan looked up at Jason his eyes wide open. 'My God, tell me I'm wrong - did that really happen?'
'Unfortunately yes, and there's nothing you or I can do about it, so pull yourself together,' the Gen said harshly as he released his shoulders. 'That, my friend, is what we have to accept and turn a blind eye to, if we're to negotiate with them. Are you all right now, can you walk?'
The Sime took a deep breath and nodded his head slowly. 'Yes. I believe so.'
'Good, then let's get the shen out of here. I have a good idea of where we should go next.'
The Channel did not argue, but pulling himself together as best he could, followed the Gen outside the club, still feeling too stunned to even think clearly. Glad for the moment to leave the decision as to where they should go to the Gen walking beside him.
Jason stood beside Jordan watching him carefully as they waited for the Comcab that he'd summoned. Jason knew that both he and Vidal had been in a lot of difficult situations during their time together, but he had never seen his partner react in the way that the Sectuib was reacting at this moment. It was almost as though the Channel was in a self-induced trance.
The Comcab finally arrived to Jason's great relief, and he bundled Jordan inside with little ceremony, and then waited until they were underway before he broke the growing silence.
'Jordan as far as I can see there are two courses of action open to us. Hey, are you listening to me? Are you taking this in?' He demanded turning to stare at his colleague. The Sime nodded his head, still looking straight ahead his eyes glassy.
'Good, I hope you are, because I want you to wait outside while I go into the building and try to locate Vidal and Tony,' Jason paused fully expecting the Sime to argue with him, but he remained silent. 'If you prefer of course, you can always go straight on to the Oasis and book us in. It's your decision.'
Jason bit back a sigh, and then hoped he was provoking some sort of reaction, for a slight frown now touched the Sime's face. Slowly he turned to look at the Gen, almost as if he was waking from a deep sleep and was trying to make some sort of sense of what he was being told.
'What did you say?' He asked, and Jason repeated himself more slowly. 'Don't be ridiculous.'
'I'm not being ridiculous. You're in shock,' he said bluntly, 'And to be honest with you, at the moment you're no use to anyone, not yourself and certainly not me. You'll blow the entire mission sky high if you come along while you're in this state, and I can't allow that.'
The Channel was silent for a moment, and then seemed to mentally shake himself before he spoke again. 'I admit I was surprised at what happened back there. Even though I suppose I should have expected something like that to take place sooner or later. But that's all it was - surprise. I'm fine now, and I have no intention of letting you go on without me.'
'Jordan, talk sense! What if something similar occurs in the next few hours, are you trying to tell me that you're up to that? If so, then you're not only lying to me, but to yourself as well.'
'I said I'm fine, and I have no intention of reacting like that again - honestly.' Jordan smiled weakly. 'I also have no intention of falling apart. Perhaps I shouldn't bring this up, but as Vidal has reminded me on several occasions, on Rockall I was responsible for signing the Death Warrants on any number of Gens under my control, and even more important, I had to witness the final act.' He hesitated and then went on. 'Don't you perhaps think that I more than most, am better able to at least accept if not condone, what happened back there?'
Jason finally nodded his head slowly as he confessed. 'Yes, I agree. Which is why I was surprised at your reaction, it seemed out of character somehow.'
'I think it was the suddenness more than anything else that caught me unawares. It was the last thing that I expected to happen. I know it shouldn't have been, considering where we are, but it was.'
The Gen studied the Sime's face closely before he spoke again. 'Okay, if you're sure you're okay now?' He asked, uncertainty still in his voice.
'Yes I'm fine. Now tell me, where exactly are we going?'
'A meeting house in the north of the sector called La Porte - the doorway.'
'And you're sure that's where they are?'
'Not absolutely, no. But from what I was told back there, it does seem quite likely. At least it's a place to start, and the only lead we've got.'
The Channel nodded his dark head and they both fell silent for a short while until the Sime murmured. 'If I remember correctly Wil Harris told us that these meeting houses are widespread and very popular?'
'Yes they stay open night and day, but they don't sell any food, just non-alcoholic drinks.'
'And drugs,' Jordan reminded him.
'Yes of course, drugs too. Roy said there's very little that isn't available here if you're willing to pay the price, even the more exotic drugs from the far reaches of the Galaxy.'
'Well this is the Distect after all, as I'm constantly being reminded.'
Dark eyes met green and they both laughed softly.
'It's the free use of so many different drugs that causes the Distect so much trouble; and is the reason why the Distect pay the inhabitants of Oxis money to allow them to use the smallest of their Moons.' Jordan said as though lecturing. 'Not that the Moon is worth anything to the people of Oxis of course, so renting it to the Distect does give them a source of income they would not otherwise have. After all Oxis is a very poor planet, and they need all the revenue they can get to...'
'Hold it! I'm sorry Jordan but I'm not with you on this - just what are you talking about?' Jason asked frowning slightly, 'Why do the Distect want a more or less barren Moon?'
'Did you not listen to anything Roy and Wil said?'
'Yes of course I did! Well, to be honest, not really. I tend to tune out the boring bits.' The Gen looked sheepishly at the Channel. 'Sorry about that.'
The Sectuib bit back a scathing reply and said instead. ' The Distect use the Moon as a place to put members of their population who have quite literally been driven crazy by some of the drugs that they use, and who even turn to murder. Not to feed their addiction, but because there minds are burned out, and they start to act like animals. There is no cure, the brain damage is irreversible.'
'What a charming prospect,' Jason murmured. 'Mind you I don't agree with you about the animal part. I've never seen any animal turn mad, and then start to murder other animals, have you? Unless they'd rabid of course, and then it's not their fault.'
'Of course I haven't, it was just an expression, a phrase to explain what I meant.' The Channel retorted as Jason sat grinning at him.
'Sorry Jordan, but you and Vidal are so damn literal, I can't help myself.'
Jordan closed his eyes momentarily and then went on in a long-suffering voice. 'The Distect have caused the drug problem themselves of course. It comes as a result of not providing safe drugs for recreational use, as we do.'
'Well when you consider they don't really have any true leaders not as we would understand the term, or anyone in overall charge. It's not really surprising that they've got no strategy on anything at all, let alone drugs, is it?' Jason retorted, and Jordan silently agreed with him.
The small vehicle finally drew to a halt at their destination and the two men stepped out and walked slowly through the wide opening in the rock walls towards the entrance. A small notice to one side informed visitors that this was La Porte.
Jason glanced across at the Channel walking beside him. 'You're sure you'll be all right if we go in here?'
'Stop nagging. I thought you said it was Vidal who had the monopoly on that?' Jordan said softly. 'I shall be fine. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't sure about that, I would never intentionally endanger your life.'
Jason smiled his acknowledgement of the statement as he stepped forward and the door slid open before him. 'Let's go find out if they're in here.' He stated, and led the way through the opening, before warning the Channel. 'This place is much smaller than Devil's Paradise, so if you zlin either Vidal or Tony keep your back to them, and remember to project as a renSime.'
'I don't have to be reminded Jason!'
Vidal, Tony and the other three Distect members had all arrived at La Porte some time before Jordan and Jason put in an appearance. It was also of course the first time either of them had been inside a meetinghouse, and the interior décor of the place surprised them as much as it would later surprise both Jordan and Jason.
The walls, roof and floor were all plain natural rock. Long wooden scrub top tables were more or less strewn around the place with wooden benches at either side of them. The interior was lit only by candles, the flames casting both light and shadow on the walls and roof.
Tony sniffed the sweet air appreciatively, and raised his eyebrows at Vidal.
'The flowery smell comes from the candles,' Vidal murmured and then warned, 'It's also slightly hallucinogenic, so be careful. Don't put your nose too close.'
Tony ordered fruit juice, whilst Vidal and the three others all drank wine. Quin was the only one who purchased a drug. Tony had no idea what it was, save that it looked like a small black jelly sitting on its saucer. Quin carried it back to the table and proceeded to eat it, using a tiny spoon to place a few grains at a time onto the back of his tongue.
For the next hour Vidal endeavoured to answer all the questions raised by the others as best he could, while Tony sat and listened in silence studying with interest the rest of the more colourful clientele sitting around him. Most were humanoid, although he could not always be sure, but many more from their mere appearance, were obviously not.
Vidal suddenly placed a tentacle on Tony's hand, although he went on talking and the Gen glancing at his face was surprised when the Sime inclined his head very slightly in the direction of the door. Moments later Tony let his own gaze wander over there, and just stopped himself from exclaiming in surprise as he saw Jordan and Jason standing there and looking around, although the Channel had his back to them.
Tony realised at once that Jordan would have zlinned both Vidal and him the moment he had entered the place, possibly even before, unless the rock walls on either side had thwarted him.
But how, he also wondered, had they found their way here? It was a question that would have to remain unanswered for the time being. Quickly he looked around the room again, and then watched surreptitiously as the two new arrivals sat down at a table a short distance from their own, and ordered trin.
Neither man even so much as glanced in the direction of Vidal and himself. He could however see Jason's face, but Jordan sat facing away from them, and once the tray of trin had arrived they both leaned forward onto the table their heads close together, as they talked quietly to each other. After a few minutes Jordan rose to his feet and headed towards the male rest room and seconds later Vidal excused himself from the others at the table, and headed in the same direction.
'I see you're a listener rather than a talker,' Amanda said addressing Tony for the first time since they had arrived here.
The Gen felt a blush cover his face from his neck upwards, and swore silently to himself. 'Vidal is far better at answering questions than me,' he managed to finally blurt out and fell silent once more, as he tried to think of some other topic of conversation.
Then a short while later he suffered a moment of panic as Quin suddenly got to his feet, and it was obvious he intended to head in the same direction as Vidal. Shen, what should he do now? Attempt to stop Quin or try to just delay him perhaps; would Vidal or Jordan really expect him to do that? It was a dilemma to which he had no answer.
Desperately Tony tossed any number of ideas around in his brain before to his horror his mind suddenly went totally blank, for he could conceive of no way at all that he could carry out any of the mad schemes he had come up with. Such as shouting "fire," or wrestling the other Gen to the floor, or even drawing his disruptor and ordering everyone "not to move!"
Then it was too late, for Quin murmured an appropriate excuse before he walked away from the table, and Tony just stared at his retreating back with dismay.
However, as Quin drew level with the table where Jason was sitting, the Gen rose to his feet and somehow they seemed to collide, it was neatly done, and looked like a complete accident to anyone who might have been watching, although Neels ended up on his back on the hard rock floor.
Jason made a great show of apologising as he helped him to his feet, and dusted him down before insisting on buying him a drink by way of reparation.
Tony smiled to himself as he watched the performance, and realised that Jason in his own way was just as persuasive and charming as Jordan when he chose to be. Quin Neels certainly fell under his spell, as he graciously accepted the offer of a drink and the two men ambled slowly across the room to place their order.
Tony took a deep breath as he settled back once more on the hard bench as the drama drew to a close, and ran his hands through his hair. Then he bit back a sigh, because he now knew for certain, that he really was not cut out for this type of undercover assignment where you had to quite literally think on your feet.
After all he had had the same amount of time as Jason, to decide how he could stop Quin from following Vidal, and he had failed miserably. While Jason on the other hand had done exactly what was necessary with split second timing, and there lay the real difference between the amateur and the professional he conceded.
He really was far more of a hindrance than a help, and it was a sad fact that he had to accept and face before he did any real harm to the mission. When they finally did get away from here, he would have to speak to Jordan about it.
Then Tony saw that Quin was again heading for the male rest room, and he let out the breath he had not known he was holding, as he saw Vidal emerge from there and start walking back towards them.
By the time Vidal had sat down again, Jordan had also appeared and had walked back to join Jason.
Sitting down beside the Gen; in a few brief sentences Jordan told him what he had learned from Vidal. Then went on, 'As soon as you finish your trin we'll leave. I told Vidal what happened at Blake's, so we're to go to the Oasis and Vidal and Tony will join us there later.'
Minutes later the two men got to their feet and left, neither even so much as glancing towards the other table. Stepping outside and turning into one of the main tunnels, neither of them was sorry to leave the sweet almost sickly smell of the candles behind them.
Looking around they both saw the Comcab hailing point more or less at the same time, it was only about twenty five metres away, but along this part of the tunnel there had been a fall-in at some time in the past and several huge boulders were strewn here and there, most having been pushed to one side to clear the path. Without a word the two men turned automatically in that direction and began to walk.
'Tired?' The Channel finally asked, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.
'Not really.' It was a lie and they both knew it, so they fell silent once more.
Half way to their goal Jason thought he saw a slight movement behind a rocky outcrop ahead of him. He tripped and almost fell, making it look quite natural to an observer, knowing that the Channel would not let him injure himself, and sure enough Jordan pulled him upright again before he had got anywhere near the hard floor.
'Are you all right?' Jason nodded and then using the moment to advantage he mouthed near the Sime's ear. 'There's someone hiding up ahead.'
'I thought I zlinned something, but I wasn't sure!'
'I only saw a slight movement in the shadows. It might just be a drunk.'
Jordan did not argue with him, as he advised. 'Walk on, but be prepared.'
Stepping closer to the Sime, Jason used the cover of his body to draw a knife out of his wrist sheath and into his hand. He had contemplated drawing his disruptor, but it seemed a little overkill when it might turn out that their hidden assailant was no more than a drunk, who was perhaps using the rocks as nothing more than a makeshift toilet.
As they drew closer, Jason's attention was concentrated on where he had seen the shadow, his eyes straining for the slightest movement, feeling but not seeing the Channel almost stalking along at his side, like the predator he undoubtedly was.
'Look out!' Jordan shouted the warning and turned simultaneously.
'What the shen?' The expletive left Jason's lips as a hard body hit him squarely from behind and he was knocked to his knees before he too could turn to face his assailant, dropping his knife in the process. Then an arm wound itself around his neck, the forearm pressing against his windpipe.
At the same time Jason heard footsteps running towards him and guessed that it must be whoever had been hiding behind the rocks up ahead; obviously coming to help the men who had attacked them from behind.
Without consciously thinking about it, Jason jabbed his elbow backwards, and had the satisfaction of hearing the grunt of surprise as he caught the man in the stomach.
He was aware that Jordan was fighting somewhere alongside him, but dare not turn to look.
Then another pair of hands grabbed his legs and he was taken down to the floor and pinned there. Panting with the sudden exertion Jason punched and kicked wildly, as he tried desperately to free himself.
As he struggled, his hand touched cold steel, and he knew at once that it was the knife he had dropped. Closing his fingers thankfully around it he struck out blindly, and had the satisfaction of hearing a grunt from close beside him as the blade found its home, and the arm around his throat that was still attempting to slowly choke him, was instantly removed.
Gaining strength quickly, now that he could breathe more easily, Jason who was still on the floor lashed out with both his legs, pleased that he was connecting with something or someone with each kick.
At the same time he slashed again and again with his blade, then suddenly found that he was free, as he rolled to his feet his body still crouched. He immediately saw that his two assailants were Gen. While Jordan, who was fighting two Simes, was more than holding his own.
Even as his eyes took all this in, he moved the blade from his right hand to his left and drew his disruptor at the same time, releasing the safety catch and pointing it in one smooth movement at the Gen in front of him.
Practice, thank the Gods for practice! A boring exercise at the best of times as Jason would be one of the first to admit, yet it was only at times like this that you realised just how essential it was.
Then he fired and the scream of his disruptor echoed through the tunnels, but before Jason could tell if he had actually hit his target, the other Gen slammed into him knocking him to one side as he grabbed for the hand that held the disruptor.
Without a thought Jason stuck the slim blade he now held in his left hand into the side of the man's neck, pushing the body away from him and watching dispassionately as the now dead weight slid to the floor.
Jason knew he should feel more badly about it, and years ago when he had first started out on this career he knew he had done so, but time and difficult situations where either his or Vidal's life had been on the line, had changed all that; and besides, the man lying on the floor in front of him had been trying to murder him!
Dismissing the Gen from his mind, and still unsure as to whether he had actually hit the other Gen with his disruptor, Jason went automatically into a low crouching position as he looked quickly around for him; his green eyes searching both the area in front and behind him for any more attackers.
Then he saw the other Gen lying face down on the cold rock floor the red blood looking almost black in the dim light as it billowed out on to the man's tunic through the exit hole in his back.
Turning quickly Jason saw that one of the Simes Jordan had been fighting was lying on the ground on his back, his head at a funny angle, while the Channel was still fighting the other. For a few moments longer they looked equally matched.
Then suddenly the Sime appeared to realise that he was now outnumbered, and pushing Jordan roughly away he turned to run.
Moving quickly forward Jason lifted his disruptor and tried to get a clear shot at the Sime, whilst not hitting Jordan. Yet even as he fired he knew the bolt had gone wide as it hit the rock wall and not the fleeing figure. Taking careful aim again he suddenly gave a yelp as the Channel hit his arm and the shot was deflected, and again hit the rock wall.
'What the hell! Why did you do that?'
'He was running away.'
'Exactly, and now he'll be able to attack us again at some time in the future. Shen it Jordan, haven't you learned a damn thing?'
'It would seem not.' The Sectuib conceded softly, as he moved forward to examine the two Gens before returning to where the Sime was lying. 'There is nothing I can do for any of them.'
'I'd say we were damn lucky.'
'You don't seem pleased.'
'Pleased? That is not the word I would have used to describe this, this carnage.'
'What are you babbling about? They were attacking us you know, not the other way around!'
'I am fully aware of what they were doing. But I still don't see that anything justifies this.'
Jason snorted derisively, 'Jordan, even Vidal would say they got what they deserved. They were doing their best to murder us for shen's sake!'
'Perhaps, but I have never taken anyone's life before.'
Jason stared at him and then shook his head, 'No I don't suppose you have, not personally anyway. It's not very nice is it? The only real satisfaction to be got from this whole affair is the fact that, because of what we did, we're still alive and they aren't.'
Jordan turned to look at him. 'How can you be so uncaring?
Jason did not even attempt to answer the question, but looked up and down the tunnel instead; relieved that there was still no one in sight, who might have seen the fight. 'What do you suggest we do with the bodies? After all apart from the Guard, there's no real authority for us to notify.'
'No I suppose not.' The Channel conceded unhappily. 'Help me move all three of them behind that rock.'
'Sounds good to me,' Jason replied quickly, and bent to drag the nearest Gen towards the large rock that the Channel had pointed out to him, before he reminded Jordan. 'We'd better get away from here as quickly as we can before that Sime comes back with his friends. I've had more than enough fighting for one day.'
'Indeed.' The Sectuib agreed quietly, and then said. 'I'm wondering if we should find some way of warning both Vidal and Tony to take care when they leave La Porte.'
'Well only one of the attackers got away, the other three are dead. Whoever they are, I can't see them mounting another ambush tonight can you? Besides there will be five of them when they do leave the meetinghouse, not two.' Jason reminded him. 'I think if we try to warn them, we could do more harm than good. The three people with them might think we're spying on them.'
'Yes, that's a possibility.' Jordan conceded and fell silent once more.
Like the Channel, Jason did not enjoy the fact that between them they had undoubtedly slain three men tonight. Yet unlike Jordan he was more than thankful that it was not them who were now lying there dead.
Sometimes he really did not understand the Sectuib in Zeor. After all for years he had watched and more or less condoned an untold number of Gens being slaughtered month in and month out, just to keep a few Simes alive.
On numerous occasions both Jordan and Vidal had said that they would never understand the way Gen minds worked. As far as Jason was concerned, that was more than true the other way around. Stifling a sigh, Jason looked down at the three bodies for one last time, before they both turned to walk away.
'They were trying to murder us you know.' Jason said again.
'We had no other choice.'
'There are always choices, if we choose to look for them.'
'Oh there are, is that right? So what did you expect me to do? Smile and shake their hands and wish them better luck next time?' He demanded sarcastically.
Jordan did not bother to reply, and they both walked away lost in their own thoughts.
Read Chapter 13
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Companion in Zeor is Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 by Sime~Gen Inc.
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