Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
The next day, Jason stood and watched as the Professor entered the back room of the Bar that Dave had rented for their rendezvous. Although obviously Sime, he looked more than a little bemused as he looked around him with interest.
As Dave had explained, the use of the Bar for the meeting was necessary for no one cell knew the exact whereabouts of another, and only the cell member who was in charge, knew how to contact the other cells. It was a complex system that for many years now had apparently worked extremely well.
Ian Patel looked nothing at all like any of the Professors that Jason had met over the years. Most of whom he had always found to be pompous and full of their own self-importance, and had always given him a far from easy ride when he had attended their lectures. Which he readily acknowledged had probably helped to formulate his adverse opinion of them.
However, the first thing he did when he arrived and was introduced was to ask that they call him Ian. He looked to be in his mid to late thirties but could well have been older. He was short and slim, which was not surprising, as he was a Sime. But he also had the beginnings of a small spare tire around his middle, which was surprising, for the same reason. His face too was clean-shaven and was surprisingly round, whilst his complexion was pink. His bright blue eyes were never still, moving from one thing to another in the room rather like a bird, before finally coming to rest on Jordan.
'How may I help you?'
In a few short succinct sentences Jordan explained their dilemma.
'Mmmm, very well, I'll see what I can do.' He turned abruptly to Jason. 'Perhaps you'd be good enough to move away from the others, and sit over there young man? Good, good. Now tell me in your own words, exactly what you saw and felt the other night? Miss nothing out, nothing at all.'
Jason obliged, aware that there were four sets of eyes trained on him, and that three of them were also zlinning him.
'Most interesting,' Patel sat for a few moments, his bright blue eyes closed, before he went on. 'Now, these flashes of clairvoyance you have experienced in the past. You say they've been vague? Tell me, when you've felt these flashes, have you ever tried to look further into them - concentrated on them, that sort of thing?'
'Pity, so many people who have psychic abilities do tend to ignore them, especially when they first become aware of them. There are very few of us who are lucky enough to simply wake up one morning and say "I'm a clairvoyant." If we're lucky, we find we have a slight ability in that direction, and if we're sensible, we find out more about it, and if we are very, very lucky, we find someone who can help us to develop the skill.'
'Develop it, in what way? To be honest, I just want to get rid of it. It seems to be far more trouble than it's worth.'
'Clairvoyance is much like any other ability. If it's ignored rather than used, it begins to atrophy.' He began to rummage in the small bag he had brought with him. 'However, before we go any further we must first ascertain if you do indeed have any talent in that direction. This is not foolproof of course it's merely a place to start.'
'Now turn your chair to one side, I don't want you to be distracted by anyone else in the room. Good. Sit back, relax and make yourself comfortable. Place your hands on your knees palms facing up.' He waited while Jason complied with his instructions.
'Tell me Ian, why is this happening to me now, here on Aryanous? I've had vague flashes before in the past, but last night was totally different, far more substantial. Yet there was no feeling of impending disaster or anything like that. It was just an increased awareness, the hairs on my body standing on end, and that damn wind. I'm sorry, I know it must sound crazy to you.'
'No it doesn't, far from it. Both this planet and it's sister planet Damus Two are two of the most psychically charged places that I have ever encountered in my entire career.'
The Professor smiled. 'I have found that there appear to be areas on all planets in the Galaxy, that one might call "hot spots." Places of psychic awareness. At least half of this planet is covered by such areas, whilst the whole of Damus Two is. Now close your eyes please. I'm going to place a series of objects into your hands, and I want you to tell me what if anything, you feel about each item. This is the first one.' He placed a wooden peg in one hand and a small lump of rock in the other. 'Take your time. Tell me if you feel anything at all.'
'Nothing, not a thing,' Jason admitted feeling strangely deflated. Was he just causing a lot of trouble over nothing? Vidal seemed to think so, although he hadn't actually spoken the thought out loud, but the expression on his face sometimes spoke louder than words, at least as far as his partner was concerned.
'Never mind, we'll try something else. Sometimes when one is just starting out, some things are easier to read than others.' The Professor said consolingly.
'Any idea as to why all my body hair stood on end last night?'
'If magic was being used, you may well have felt it.'
'Magic?' Jason stared at the Professor in surprise. 'You're joking, right?'
'No, I am not joking, but then again I'm not saying that what you felt was magic. But there are some people who can actually feel when forces outside our understanding are being called upon. At the time you felt the wind on your skin, you saw the male dancer turn into a creature that was not human. Correct? Well, magic could have been used, I only say could, not that it was used.'
'It was more likely to have been a transmuter that he felt,' Vidal stated flatly.
The Professor smiled across at him. 'Yes, perhaps.'
By the time Jason had held the fourth item in his hands with no success at all, he was prepared to call it a day, and admit that he had no psychic ability whatsoever, and it had probably been nothing more than the alcohol that had affected him the other night. Damn it! One up to Vidal!
Jason bit back a sigh, for while he did not really mind finding out that he had no psychic awareness whatsoever, if that was indeed the case. He hated the thought of Vidal being proved right. After all it wasn't good for him to be proved right too many times, now was it? But then again, maybe he was doing the Channel an injustice?
His green eyes flicked in Vidal's direction, and he was sure he could see a smug expression plastered across his handsome face. Shen it, no! He wasn't doing him a bloody injustice - no way!
'Ian is it really worth continuing on?' Vidal asked, speaking for the first time.
Jason weighed the words in his mind, wondering if the Channel was really saying - "Didn't I tell you so? It's all been a complete waste of time."
'I only have two things left.' Ian replied, and placed a rusty key into his left hand.
'Not a damn thing.' Jason said flatly. 'Look, it feels like a key and it looks like a key, I don't honestly think any of us would say it is anything more than a key! Vidal's right, it had to be the alcohol.'
'Bear with me please.' And the Professor insisted that he hold the sixth and final item, a string of pale green beads - but again without success.
'Now, this doesn't mean that you didn't experience some form of psychic awareness the other night.' Ian informed him quietly. 'You could well have done so. By using the term clairvoyance, perhaps we're barking up the wrong tree. Mmm... yes, we have to find out exactly what form your ability takes.'
'No we don't!' Jason said purposefully. 'We've wasted enough time on this. I'm sorry Ian for dragging you over here. I was wrong to mention it in the first place. Let's forget it ever happened, okay?'
'You're sure you want to leave it there?' Jordan asked quietly, and Jason nodded mutely. 'Very well, but you'll have a glass of tea before you go Ian?'
Facilities were available for them to make trin should they wish to do so, and Dave had boiled the kettle and now handed the glasses around.
Jason was still wishing he had kept his mouth shut the other evening, and had accepted Vidal's suggestion that he had been affected by the alcohol. Instead of which he'd simply made a complete and utter fool of himself. But then, what else was new?
However, there was one thing that he did know for sure. Whatever happened in the future, he would never draw attention to either it or himself ever again. Indeed, if he should find himself sitting in a bar with a force ten hurricane raging around him, he wouldn't say a damn word about it to anyone!
'You go on ahead Ian, I'll carry your bag for you.' Jason said as the Professor stood up to leave. He could almost taste his friends' feelings as they looked at him. Even Vidal was doing his utmost to be understanding about the whole episode, which somehow made everything seem far worse. Sarcasm he could cope with, pity he could not!
Jason handed over the bag outside the Bar, said goodbye to the Professor and waved perfunctorily. Stepping back inside the Bar he made for the back room again, knowing he had to face the others without the Professor to act as a buffer between them.
He had taken two steps away from the door, when the wind he had felt last night suddenly blew around him again, but this time it was not cold, but red hot as though it came straight off a desert. The hairs on his arms stood up again as they had last night, but this time not from the cold.
The Professor a short while ago had told him he might feel a flash of awareness when something like this happened. He did not! Neither did he pass out as before, but he did have to put one hand on the wall to steady himself, and he knew that in some obscure way, it had to do with Ian Patel. The Professor was in some sort of danger.
His first reaction was to tell his friends what he had felt. His second reaction was to simply forget it. After all, for all he knew it was just a left over effect from the alcohol last night and he knew for sure that that was what Vidal would say. He also had little doubt that the others would believe that too, but at least they, unlike Vidal, would be far too polite to say it to his face!
Shen it! No matter what it cost him personally, even if it did make him look like he was just a fool crying wolf all the time, he had to tell them. If they chose to ignore it, fine. At least he would have tried, and his conscience would be clear.
The trouble was of course, that the feeling as always was just so damn sketchy. After all what did it really amount to? He "felt" that the Professor was in some sort of danger. But he had no idea where the danger was, or when it might happen, or even how it might happen! Was it really worth making an even bigger fool of himself on such flimsy evidence?
'Jason I'm really beginning to wonder if you're becoming paranoid about this. I can sense in your nager that you believe what you say, as you did last night, but what exactly is it that you think will happen to the Professor?' Vidal demanded, as soon as Jason finished telling them.
'I don't know. I'm sorry I really am. But that's all I can tell you.'
'I hope nothing happens to him,' Tony murmured, looking worried, 'I liked him.'
'Dave I suggest we get back to your place as soon as we can; and it might be a good idea for you to contact the other cell and tell them to warn the Professor to be careful.' Jordan suggested, 'At least we know that Ian will not just dismiss it out of hand. Apart from that I'm afraid there's very little else we can do.'
Later that same night Jason stood staring at the night sky, the view was no less spectacular simply because he knew it was not real. He also knew the exact moment that Vidal entered his room, but for several seconds, made no effort at all to acknowledge him.
'Whatever you've come to say Vidal, don't bother. I'm not in the mood for any lecturing tonight.'
'You're feeling embarrassed. That's understandable.' It was a statement not a question.
'No I'm not. But I am angry. So just leave it alone, okay?'
'Jason we're partners and more than that you're my Companion.' The Channel said softly as he walked across to stand beside the Gen. 'Even after all this time, you do not react to a situation in the way I expect you to,' Vidal hesitated and then went on. 'Tell me, are you angry with me or yourself?'
'No of course I'm not angry with you. It doesn't always have to be something that you've done that makes me furious, you know. In this case it's me - just me.'
'You? Then I don't understand.'
'No of course you don't.' He turned to face the Sime. 'I've felt these strange feelings twice now in the last couple of days, and I don't know what to do about them. Perhaps I shouldn't do anything at all? I just don't know. Maybe it is just this place, this damn planet that's causing it. I feel so helpless.'
Vidal took a deep breath and placed one tentacle on his partner's arm. 'I'm only sorry I can't help you more.'
Jason smiled tightly. 'Even you aren't infallible Vidal. Forget it, I'll work it out. Now tell me, did you want to see me about anything else?'
'Jordan has suggested that we go back to Starless World tonight and attempt to finish what we started last night.'
'You mean see if we can make contact with one of the Council members?' Vidal nodded. 'Seems like a good idea to me.'
'Right, well I'll leave you to get ready. Jordan and Tony are waiting downstairs.'
'I won't be going with you tonight.' Jason said and bit back a grin at the expression on the Sime's face.
'May I ask why? You were adamant about accompanying us last night as I recall.'
'Look, if they have another floorshow like the last one, and I pass out again. Well, that isn't going to get us very far is it? 'He sighed and met the Channel's dark eyes. 'The three of you go. See what you can do without me hindering things for you. Just be careful. It might all seem very civilised and similar to back home, but it isn't. This is the Distect Vidal, we just haven't seen their bad side yet, but give it time and I'm rather afraid that we will.'
'I know. You're sure you don't want to come?'
'You're not feeling ill and trying to hide it from me?' Vidal zlinned him deeply.
Jason snorted with derision. 'No, of course not, and a fat chance I'd have of hiding anything like that from you or Jordan.'
'Right, well get some rest while you can. Things can only get more hectic in the next few days.'
Once the door had closed behind the Sime, Jason went to lie down on his bed, his hands clasped behind his head, his eyes staring up at the smooth rock.
How long he actually slept, he didn't know, but a hand shaking his shoulder brought him awake and he sat up with a start, 'What the!?'
'It's all right Jason, it's only me.' Milly stepped back and straightened up as Jason swung his feet to the floor. He had fallen asleep fully clothed.
'What's wrong?' He glanced at the chronometer on the wall, it was 3.00 a.m.
'I don't know. Dave is still out, he had to make a delivery, and your friends are not back yet. There's a Comcab at the door with a message from Vidal.'
'What's it say?' He stood up yawned and rubbed his eyes, trying to force himself to be more alert.
'Just that they want you to go to Starless World, the Comcab is waiting out front.'
'Okay I'll just use the bathroom and be right there.' He paused at the door, 'and get rid of the Comcab for me, will you? I prefer to order another.'
Milly looked momentarily surprised, and then nodded her head slowly. 'Good idea, you can never be too sure.'
Jason was surprised to find that Tony was also waiting for him.
'I thought you went off with the others?'
'When you decided not to go, Jordan decided it was best if I remain here as well.'
'I bet he did. Probably jumped at the chance,' Jason said cynically, 'and I suppose you stood for it like a good little soldier and didn't argue, right?' But the sarcasm was lost on the other Gen.
'Why should I argue?' Tony looked genuinely puzzled.
'Forget it. I'd better go. I'll see you when I get back.'
'I'm coming with you.'
'Did Jordan say you could?' Jason knew his voice sounded mocking, but he couldn't help himself. It had taken him a long time to finally break Vidal of the annoying habit of acting as if he had to keep him away from all danger, and he hated to see it happening all over again between Jordan and Tony. Of course they were both Householders, and Tony did accept things more easily than he ever would. But still!
'No, he didn't.'
'Mutiny in the ranks, surely not?' The words were out before he could stop them, and seeing the expression on Tony's face made him wish he could retract them again. What right did he have to disparage what others chose to do, as long as it did not affect him? It certainly wasn't any of his business.
'Sorry Tony, I'm a bad tempered bastard when I'm tired. If you want to come along then do so, but not till you're fully dressed.' He pointed to his empty holster.
The Gen hurried away and returned moments later, his disruptor snug in its holster, and he was also carrying a knife.
'Do I really need to bother with this? Its not like I'll ever use it.'
'Yes you do! Vidal told you that you have to look the part. Most normal people if they see someone bristling with weapons, automatically assume that they not only know how to use them, but are prepared to use them as well. Funnily enough it can actually help you to avoid a fight.'
'And sometimes it can have the opposite affect, and be like a declaration of war.' Tony said bluntly.
Jason conceded the point. 'True - you can't win 'em all.'
Apart from the fact that the normally bright lights outside had been lowered to assimilate night, very little else appeared to have changed in the massive complex. The huge machines that pumped air throughout the tunnels could still be heard whining in the background, but only if you cared to really listen for them. It was surprising how quickly the human ear could tune out unnecessary or superfluous noise that the brain considered irrelevant.
The new Comcab Milly had ordered for them sped away as soon as Jason had programmed in their destination.
Neither man spoke on the journey, but Tony closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the upholstery, while Jason stared out at the wide tunnels and watched the few maintenance workers and others who were walking to or from where they lived or worked.
A frown suddenly crossed Jason's face, and he looked more closely at the tunnel they were now entering. It didn't look familiar. In fact he would swear he had never come this way before.
'Tony!' Jason's green eyes moved to survey his colleague. 'Tony! Wake up!'
'What's up, have we arrived?'
'No we're still moving, but we should have been there by now. It might be nothing, but does any of this look familiar to you?'
Tony sat up rubbing his eyes. 'Nothing about this place looks familiar. Do you think the Comcab's malfunctioning or something?'
Jason sighed, 'Or something!'
'Pardon?' Tony looked out of the window at the rock walls on either side.
'Something's very wrong Tony. We seem to be travelling downwards, and this tunnel rather than getting wider, is actually becoming more and more narrow. The walls were never this close before, were they?'
Tony craned his neck from one side to the other. 'I agree. Can we stop it before we go any deeper?'
'I'm trying. The override just isn't operating. I'm going to see if I can get this cover off the control panel. Although I've nothing to use as a lever - here give me a hand.'
Tony complied, and then swore softly as he ripped one of his fingernails. 'So what do we do if we manage to get the cover off?' He demanded.
'We grab whatever is inside and rip as much of it out as we can!'
'Ah, the scientific approach.'
'Can you suggest anything better?'
Tony shook his head.
'Well stop exercising your brain; on past record it's not going to get us very far. Just concentrate on what we're trying to do. I think we've got it, it's moving - can you feel that? That's it, we've got it!' The panel cover finally came off with a sucking sound as the seal was broken, and Jason tossed it down onto the floor.
Almost immediately the Comcab drew to a halt.
'Did our taking the panel cover off cause that?' Tony demanded in surprise.
'It doesn't seem likely. Perhaps it was programmed to stop here anyway.' Jason retorted in a whisper. 'You know I got Milly to dismiss the other cab that Vidal sent because I didn't trust it to be safe - and now this happens! I don't understand it.'
'If you're right and someone did sabotage the other Comcab, then whoever did it might well have anticipated that you would send it away and order another one.' Tony suggested and then grinned humourlessly. 'In fact, this could well be the same one. Perhaps it simply came back again when Milly ordered another one. Wouldn't that be funny?'
'Funny? Shenning hilarious if you ask me,' Jason retorted angrily. 'But it hardly matters now does it? Let's just get out of the damn thing, and worry about the why's and wherefore's later.'
'I can't get the doors to open.' Tony whispered back.
'What the hell are you whispering for?' Jason suddenly demanded, as he put one foot against the door on his side, and kicked it hard several times. 'It's not shifting, not even a millimetre.'
'Jason shut up a minute.'
'Why? What's the matter? I don't see our sitting here in silence is going to help matters, not if...'
'For shen's sake SHUT UP will you? Now listen, can you hear that?'
'Hear what? Oh, you mean that hissing sound?'
'Yes. What is it?' Tony glanced around the interior of the small vehicle trying to locate the source.
'I haven't got a clue. Perhaps it's the air conditioning.' Jason started to dismiss it, turning his attention back to the door, when the hissing seemed to get louder. 'Oh Shen I hope I'm wrong, but can you smell anything? Flowers - no vanilla - that's what it is.'
'Yes, I can smell something sweet. What is it?'
'Relax Tony, just breathe normally there's nothing we can do about it, the stuff's coming in through the air vents.'
'Stuff, what stuff are you..?' Both Gens were unconscious before the question could be asked or answered; then moments later the Comcab set off once more on its journey, this time climbing steeply upwards, back the way it had come.
The lights were starting to get brighter, which was the nearest the underground complex got to daytime, when the Comcab they were travelling in drew to a halt, and the two Channels climbed out.
'Everything go okay?' Dave demanded as the door closed behind them.
'Couldn't have gone better,' Jordan said with quiet satisfaction.
Vidal led the way to the kitchen. 'We actually managed to speak to Quin Neels. Do you know him Dave?'
'I've heard of him of course, but I've never spoken to him. He's not very high up on the Council, but I believe he has friends on the Area Committee. He could prove useful.'
'We hope.' Jordan said, as he watched Milly pouring boiling water onto the tea leaves, and sniffed the refreshing aroma appreciatively. 'We have to see him in a few hours time, he's arranging for us to meet one or two others who may be helpful.'
'Do Tony and Jason want trin?' Milly asked as she set the pot to brew.
'I wouldn't think they're even awake yet.' Vidal said with a grin.
Milly looked at the two Channels and a slight frown appeared on her face. 'What do you mean, not awake yet? You sent a Comcab to pick them up, a little over two hours ago now.'
'We didn't send anything.' Jordan said quietly, and turned to Dave. 'Do you know anything about this?'
'No. I've been out most of the night - cell business. I got back about an hour ago, Milly never mentioned the Comcab to me.' He admitted, and glanced across at her his eyebrows raised in query.
'I simply never thought to mention it. It arrived with the message from Vidal and...'
'What did it say exactly?' Jordan interrupted.
'It said - "Dave, please ask Jason to come to Starless World. The Comcab that delivered this message will wait for him. Vidal." - that's all.'
'Whoever sent it obviously didn't know that I was going to be out tonight.'
Dave murmured. 'Mind you, I don't advertise my movements.'
'We didn't know that either,' Vidal reminded him.
'Well I thought the message was from you.' Milly stated. 'Although Jason wasn't fully convinced, he took the precaution of sending the Comcab away and ordered another one, just in case.'
'We're not blaming you Milly. But at least Tony's safe.' Vidal said, catching the Sectuib's eye.
'No, I'm afraid he isn't.' Milly admitted with a sigh. 'He went with Jason.'
'He went with...but I don't understand.' Vidal said. 'The message asked specifically for Jason, did it not?'
'Yes it did. But Tony was awake when the Comcab came, and he insisted on going.' Milly informed them.
'Are you sure it wasn't the other way round?' Vidal asked grimly. 'Knowing Jason, he probably took him along just for the hell of it, he never could follow orders.'
'Oh no, when Tony said he was going, I heard Jason ask him if Jordan had said it was okay for him to go.' Milly told them.
'That's what I mean. He probably taunted Tony into going with him.' Vidal stated. 'With Jason it's not what he says - it's the way that he says it!'
'Vidal, please. Surely the important thing at the moment is to find out where they are? Post mortems can wait.'
Vidal waved two tentacles in the air by way of apology, ' Sorry, you're right of course.'
'You're worried about your Companion, that's only natural, so am I. But at least Jason can take care of himself. Unfortunately, and I would never say this to his face and hurt his feelings, Tony cannot.' He sighed. 'Now what do we know for sure?'
'Not very much,' Vidal replied. 'They've obviously been abducted, I think there's little doubt about that, we just don't know by whom. Except whoever they are, they must have something to do with the Organisation.'
'Perhaps they only want to talk to them, pass on a message to us or something like that.' Jordan suggested almost naively and without much conviction.
'I very much doubt that,' Dave said as he passed around the glasses of trin that Milly had poured out for them.
'It's strange that Jason gave us that warning yesterday about the Professor being in danger. But instead of Ian, it was him and Tony!' Milly stated looking around.
Vidal shook his head slowly. 'There seems little point in getting visions - or whatever he calls them - if they're so wrong.'
'No.' Jordan held up his tentacles for silence. 'I think we may have been doing Jason an injustice. He obviously got some feeling of danger that was to do with the Professor. Naturally he would then believe it was Ian Patel who was in danger.'
'So?' Vidal tried to follow his friend's reasoning. 'Jason himself said it was the Professor. I don't see where this is leading.'
'Think Vidal, what if it was a warning about danger not to the Professor as Jason assumed, but danger from the Professor to someone else!?' Jordan's dark eyes moved around the table, from one to the other.
'You're suggesting that Ian Patel is not...'
'Is not who he professes to be? Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying! Doesn't it seem strange that within a few hours of him coming here, Jason and Tony are abducted?'
'We don't know that for sure.' Vidal retorted.
Dave jumped up. 'Just in case you're correct, I'd better contact the cell where he's staying and warn them again about the Professor.'
Jordan nodded his agreement.
'Assuming that you're correct, I still don't understand why they should want Jason? And from the way the message was worded, it would appear to be only him that they wanted. On top of that, how did they know that we were out and he was on his own here?' Vidal asked.
'That's simple enough, we booked a table for two tonight and any one could have seen us, we didn't hide our arrival.'
Vidal conceded the point. 'But I still don't understand why they should want Jason? What can he possibly tell the Organisation that they don't already know?' He ticked off on his fingers with a tentacle. 'For starters, they know who we are, why we are here and now they even know where we are staying and our movements! Shen it, this whole thing is falling to pieces about our ears!'
'We knew that long before we came here Vidal. After all they made a couple of attempts on all our lives before we even left Earth. Our main priority now has to be to find out where they've been taken.'
Dave came back in and sat down looking tired. 'Well I've warned them about the Professor. They're going to contact who he was staying with on Damus Two, and find out what they know about him that we don't, if anything.'
'The only thing that might help us at the moment is the Comcab.' Vidal stated, 'Any ideas about that?'
Dave nodded. 'They're all fully computerised and monitored, so there'll be more than one record kept of each journey made. Milly knows the exact time it left here last night, and I know a couple of people who may be able to help us. Leave it with me and I'll see what I can find out.'
'Look I don't want to interfere, but until Dave comes back, there's nothing either of you can do for the moment. Why don't you both get some rest?' Milly suggested, sounding far more like a mother than an undercover agent.
Neither of the Channels bothered to go to their beds, she had never really expected them to, but they did at least close their eyes and catnap for the next hour or so, as they awaited Dave's return.
Read Chapter 8
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