A New Beginning 
Part 7
FRIENDS AND ENEMIES

by
D. DaBinett 

Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16

 

CHAPTER ONE

The door to the office opened. Gregory Carleton stood in the opening his head turned to one side as he stared back down the corridor.

David Marston looked up and sighed. He had of course zlinned the Gen's approach but had hoped that he would only be passing by, and would not enter his office. It seemed he was wrong.

'Greg make up your mind, come in or get out, but shut the shenning door.' He growled angrily.

'They're just removing the body, I didn't realise he was dead.' Carleton observed as he entered the room and moved to sit down opposite the Sime, his face displaying his disappointment at the news.

David Marston studied the short Gen; the man had so many muscles that it made him look deformed he thought dispassionately, then bit back a shudder. 'No one expected it to happen. He seemed healthy enough, but he just stopped breathing.' As he realised what he had said a slightly humourless smile momentarily touched his face, only to disappear as quickly as it had appeared.

'Are you going to ask Staedtler to come over and look at the body? He'll be able to tell why he died far better than anyone else here.' Carleton said with a grimace of distaste.

'Hardly seems worth the effort. He was going to end up dead anyway, and Staedtler hates carrying out,' Marston's voice dropped a couple of decibels as he almost whispered, 'Channel duties.'

'Well he is one - can't deny that. Mind you I can't blame him for not wanting to shout about it, I wouldn't if it was me. I hear tell he's a sensitive too.' The Gen's bushy eyebrows rose in query.

'If you mean he's what the Tecton call a First, then you're right.' Marston said, and silently agreed with what Carleton had said. After all he wouldn't want to shout about it if fate had decreed that he too be born a Channel like Staedtler.

Suddenly Marston shuddered and froze with horror as he realised he had almost zlinned the short Gen, whose nager he knew from bitter experience was not unlike touching ice water. In all honesty there was quite simply no feeling in the man at all. Which was of course (though uncomfortable to both him and his fellow Simes), what made Gregory Carleton an ideal operative as far as the Organisation's hierarchy were concerned.

Carleton moved his head from side to side as he tried to ease the tight muscles in his neck, due to far too much working out in the gym, as he asked bluntly. 'Did you get anything useful out of him?'

'Very little. These Riorites can be stubborn when they want to be.' The Sime admitted. 'I was going to let you have a session with him this morning, see what you could do,' Marston shrugged as he went on. 'Too late now.'

'Pity you didn't call me yesterday.'

'True. But it would have made little difference. He obviously had something wrong internally - maybe his heart.' The Sime said dismissively, 'he'd only have died that much sooner, and we'd still have learned nothing new.'

'You sure it was his heart? Who searched him when he arrived? It wouldn't be the first time they've used poison.'

'I know, but whatever it was makes little difference now does it, dead is dead. Knowing why he died isn't going to alter that.' Marston said logically.

'Guess not.'

The Sime again avoided zlinning the Gen as he asked pointedly, 'I take it you came to see me about something more important than Rick Leeman's sudden demise?'

The Gen grinned without humour, 'I got a message from one of our intelligence units on Vitta. They've intercepted a number of messages in the last few days linking the TIB and Zeor.'

Marston leaned forward suddenly interested. 'We know the TIB have been sniffing around, but where does Zeor fit in to all this?'

'Search me, but I thought you should know.'

'You're thinking our new prisoner might be a Zeor operative?'

'Could be, he looks Farris but...'

Marston laughed harshly, 'as do quite a few Riorites!'

'Tell me about it.' Carleton agreed sourly.

'Trent may very well be from Rior of course, but I doubt they would send another one in till they've found out what happened to the last one.'

'Do you want me to leak out what happened to Leeman?

Marston studied Greg's face for a few moments before he spoke; it was always difficult for him to tell what a Gen was feeling without zlinning him; but it was the wrong time of the day to subject himself to Carleton's field, although if he were honest with himself anytime of the day would still be wrong. 'I've put a complete blackout on the whole affair as far as our own personnel are concerned, and details have been expunged from the computer,' he admitted finally.

'It's your decision. You want me to have a session with Trent?'

The Sime could almost taste the Gen's eager anticipation, even without zlinning him, and whilst he knew that interrogation and torture were sometimes necessary evils, it was nevertheless distasteful to him how much Gens like Gregory Carleton seemed to love their job.

Although to be fair, he also knew of one or two Simes who felt the same way. In any normal society including parts of the Distect, they would be considered to be pathologically sick and would be receiving treatment for their undoubted affliction. In the Organisation of course they were viewed as a distinct asset, and treated as such.

He pushed the unsavoury thoughts firmly to one side and turned his attention back to his very unwelcome visitor.

'I zlinned him a couple of hours ago he should be recovered enough for you to spend a little time with him. But not too long Greg.' He warned grimly.

The Gen grinned across at his superior. 'I'll see what I can get out of him,' he rubbed his hands together in eager anticipation as he promised. 'He won't be able to talk quickly enough by the time I've finished with him.'

The Sime somehow doubted the veracity of the boastful assertion but kept a discreet silence as he ordered, 'I don't want him dead - at least, not straight away, so don't do any permanent damage. Is that clear?'

'Anything you say boss.' Gregory stood up and flexed his oversized biceps as he walked purposefully towards the door. The Sime watched him. Short men should never develop their upper body to such an extent he thought quietly. It only made them look top heavy, similar in many respects to the gorillas that used to live on Earth. Indeed in Carleton's case if his arms were just a few inches longer his knuckles would undoubtedly touch the floor. He was definitely one of the ugliest Gens, both physically and mentally, that David Marston had ever had the misfortune to encounter.

'Greg.' Carleton turned and looked across at him as he opened the door his cold eyes staring back at him in query. 'File a full report this time.' He ordered, and acknowledged the Gen's brief nod as the door closed behind him. Swallowing back a sigh the Sime rubbed his eyes with his tentacles before he returned to his seemingly unending work.

***

Vidal opened his eyes briefly and then closed them again. Every part of him ached, for he had been tortured systematically from the moment he had arrived on Damus Two. Only his tentacles and one or two other important and sensitive areas had remained untouched, which meant they did not want him to die too soon. It was probably also the reason that Simes and not Gens had inflicted the damage, for they knew exactly how close they could go to vital organs with the torture sticks they used, before they inflicted irreparable damage on his body.

However, just as this moment in time, he was more worried about what had happened to Tony. He had, after all, witnessed the way they had treated the young Gen on Aryanous, before they had left him there in the warehouse lying in his own blood to die.

He also knew that the likelihood of anyone, especially Jordan or Jason finding the Gen before he died, were close to zero. As were his own chances of escape or rescue now that he had been brought to this other Distect planet in the Zhariot System.

Vidal had but one germ of hope and comfort to cling on to as far as his own position was concerned. He knew that Jason would not give up hope and would continue to look for him, long after others had given up and gone home. His Companion was a very stubborn man, as he had learned to his cost during their time together, but it was that very stubbornness that would not allow his partner to abandon his search now, not until all hope was well and truly gone - and perhaps not even then.

Zlinning around him he realised that he was for the moment at least alone in this large empty room. The small area in the centre of the room where he was contained was enclosed by force fields on all four sides from floor to ceiling. He was also still wearing his own clothes which were virtually intact, for unlike Tony who had been beaten by fists and clubs, he himself had endured the torture sticks that caused injuries far deeper and in a much worse manner on his Sime body than any physical abuse might have inflicted. Yet did not damage, tear, or shred his clothes,

He also knew that Tony had been attacked in kill mode and stripped of his selyn, but for the moment at least it was not something that he could face with equanimity, and so he chose not to think about it. Many he knew would think it a cowardly decision on his part, but until he could find some way to come to terms with it, if indeed he ever could; then it was best ignored, for it made him feel physically sick.

A plate of plain uncooked vegetables and a jug of water had been left inside the force field for him, but his transfer with Jason would soon be overdue, and his present state of need made even the thought of food, anathema to him.

Suddenly his eyes flew to one side as the force field was lowered and a short stout Gen who looked rather like a flat-faced gorilla stepped inside.

Unfortunately Vidal was far too weak to take any sort of advantage of the few brief seconds before the force field sprang back into place again. As soon as the man stepped inside the energy barrier Vidal automatically zlinned him, and immediately regretted it, for he met only a deep dark icy - nothing.

Even as he fled quickly away from it into the safety of his own mind, it still sent a shiver down his spine as he stared in shocked surprise at the Gen. Indeed in many respects it seemed like he had touched an unholy hell, and was somehow unclean because of it.

Gregory knew the effect he had on most people, but more especially on Simes, and revelled in the fact that he could repulse them with nothing more than his own nager.

'So you're Vidal Trent.' He smiled grimly at the Sime. 'Let me introduce myself. I'm Gregory Carleton. You and I are going to have a little talk and you're going to tell me your life story.'

'And if I decline?' Vidal murmured quietly.

The smile that was not a smile left the Gen's face as he said in little more than a whisper. 'My friend believe me, you don't want to know what will happen to you if you don't.'

Vidal felt another shudder of fear run down his back at the uncompromising words. This man both terrified and frightened him far more than any of the other Simes had managed to do. They at least had understood his anatomy, and he had known that even as they tortured him, they would not do irreparable damage to his body. Unfortunately he did not have that much comfort now; for when he looked at his repulsive tormentor he knew that this malevolent Gen would take great pleasure in inflicting all manner of pain on his vulnerable body, irrespective of how much harm he might ultimately do in the process.

Carleton laughed softly as he watched the fear the Sime was unable to hide sweep across Vidal's handsome features. 'Good, I see we understand each other.'

Vidal stared helplessly into the Gen's pitiless eyes as he went inexorably on.

'I find that co-operation is so much better; it does save so much time. However,' an evil smile spread across his flat features, 'I do enjoy a challenge - I really do, so don't make it too easy for me will you?' He moved closer to the Sime. 'Now Vidal, I'm sure you don't mind if I call you Vidal? Let's start at the beginning shall we? Tell me, on which planet were you born?'

A female Sime hurrying along the corridor outside the room, shivered involuntarily as she felt the scream of pain that erupted from the Channel's throat even through the insulated walls of his cell and the force fields that surrounded him. Quickly she swallowed back the bile that filled her own throat, and hastened her step till she was almost augmenting away from the unholy sound.

***

Archer looked across the wide businesslike desk at Warren the Administrator of Rior who also happened to be his cousin. Not for the first time he was struck by the unusual combination of silver hair and turquoise eyes that somehow took your attention away from the fact that Warren was very short for a man, and far from slim. 'I wish Tammy were here.' Archer said finally, voicing his thoughts out loud.

'I agree. However, she'll not be back for several days, and we can't wait for her return. We have to assume they have Rick, and to delay might result in his death. Tammy will not thank either of us if we sit here waiting for her return and do nothing to help him.'

'I know, but she's so much more sensitive than me. She'd know at once if he's still inside the Complex, and lift him out if he is.'

'We know what your twin is capable of Archer, but don't put yourself down. You aren't without some considerable talent yourself. Besides, you are here now and she is not.' Warren reminded him. As long as Warren had known his cousin he had always lacked confidence, unlike his twin sister who seemed to have an over abundance of it. Perhaps it was the fact that everything about Archer was so - ordinary. From his mouse coloured hair, his pale brown eyes set in a plain face to his very average height.

'Why do we have to play this cat and mouse game with the Organisation Warren?' Archer demanded, not for the first time. 'I think I speak for over eighty per cent of Rior when I say we're all fed up with it. It just wasn't meant to be like this was it?'

'No of course it wasn't.' Warren sighed deeply as he studied his cousin's earnest face.

They both knew that in the beginning Rior had helped to create the modern Distect and as time had slowly passed by the Organisation too had eventually come into being. In a strange way it had been almost inevitable. A necessary evil that had once served the Distect well, but in the course of time the Organisation had become so powerful that they now called the tune until today even Rior, like all the other members of the Distect, danced to it.

Only in recent years, since Warren had become the Administrator of Rior had they begun to fight back in a small way, to try and get at least some autonomy over their own destiny.

Rick Leeman who was Tammy's lover had volunteered like many before him, to infiltrate the Organisation to try and find out how they could undermine and perhaps one day, hopefully in Warren's lifetime, find a way to break it down and redefine the parameters under which it operated.

In the final analysis of course if this could not be achieved, then perhaps they could find a way to destroy it. Although this was rarely mentioned.

However, should both these endeavours prove not to be feasible, then perhaps they could find a way to force the Organisation to leave both Rior, and any other members of the ordinary Distect who wished to join them, alone.

Warren was well aware that in many respects it was a dream that could perhaps never be fully realised, but at least they had to try. For if they failed, then in time Rior would be forced to hand over to the Organisation what they most wanted. The gifted ones that they had found in their midst over the years; and he had little doubt that they would be put to a use that had never been intended. Warren shuddered to think what chaos might ensue if that should happen.

After all the Administrator like most of his contemporaries in Rior had long come to realise that the Organisation had moved well away from the path that it had originally been created to follow, and today was little more than a criminal syndicate.

He studied the note pad on the desk in front of him before he spoke again.

'You'll have to go inside the Complex this time Archer. I think we can safely assume that they must have discovered Rick, or he would have been in touch with us before now.' He paused and looking up stared across at his fellow Gen wishing not for the first time that he was able to zlin. 'Rick will be in dire need of a transfer by now, so you must get in there and serve him; and even if you can't bring him out, at least it'll buy us a little more time till Tammy gets back.'

'I know that! I can get in there easily enough, but where exactly is he? You know the size of that place; it could take me hours to find him. Besides you know what their security is like, there's any number of areas I can't just walk into.'

'Not walk perhaps, but you can get into them.' Warren pointed out.

'Agreed, but again I have to know roughly in which area he is before I make any attempt at all.' Archer retorted. 'After last time they could well have set up any number of traps to catch me; I can't just teleport myself from place to place aimlessly. Their technology is improving daily.'

'You're right of course. I'm sorry Arch I'm not thinking clearly. I was at that damn meeting most of last night, so I didn't get much sleep.' The Administrator grinned sheepishly across at his cousin as he stifled a yawn. 'The older I get the more I wish I was Sime. Jack and I were the only two Gens present last night, and Jack is so old that he doesn't give a damn what anyone thinks. He just leaned back in his chair, closed his eyes and snored happily for most of the night.' He laughed softly. 'He only woke up to register his vote and then went straight back to sleep. I just wish I had the balls to do the same.'

'Yeah I know what you mean. I gave up trying to keep up with Tammy years ago, but even so I still find myself trying to compete with her on occasion.' Archer shook his head. 'Are we crazy or what?'

'Far from it. You're like me Archer, and I've always said that when I'm too old to bother any more, then that's the day I buy myself a pair of soft slippers and retire. I can see us both sitting in our rocking chairs watching the end of day and reminiscing about the good old days!'

'Stop it Warren, now you're really worrying me. You're only 7 years older than me, and I'm not 23.' Archer smiled and then became serious once more as he went back to their main problem. 'I don't want to know specifics, but is there any way you can at least find out in which part of the building he's being held?'

'I'll try. There's someone who owes me a favour or two. Leave it with me. But either way you must go in tonight.' He watched the young Gen rise to his feet. 'Try to get a couple of hours sleep and hopefully I'll have some news before you go.'

'I'll do that.' A brief nod of his head caused his short mousy hair to bounce up and down as he exited the office and walked towards his sleeping quarters. Archer had no illusions about the difficulty of the task ahead of him.

Of course, as he had said to his cousin, he could get inside the building easily enough, that was not a problem. If he had an idea of where Rick was actually being held then he could find him and give him transfer. The hard part would be leaving him again, but he had no choice about that because unfortunately, he was not Tammy.

***

Entering his quarters he sealed the door behind him and pressed the panel on the wall that closed the drapes over the windows, shutting out the bright afternoon Sun. Removing his shoes quickly he lowered himself onto the contoured couch and closed his eyes; as always when he tried to rest during the day sleep eluded him, and his mind began to wander.

The trouble in a nutshell was simple. Rick was quite obviously in real trouble this time, and he could do next to nothing about it. Archer rubbed his eyes with frustration.

Not for the first time Archer wished that he had been born with his twin sister's abilities. After all she had been lucky enough to be born Sime hadn't she? Why did she have to have the best of the gifts too? He tossed from one side to the other on the couch as the usual arguments raged in his mind.

Sibling rivalry! It was something both he and Tammy had always suffered from, for while he envied her and what she was capable of doing; surprisingly he knew that she also envied him because he could teleport himself around and she could not. She could bring people and things physically to her, but could not reverse the process and take herself to them.

There were at least a hundred people some Sime and some Gen that Archer knew of personally, who had been born with various abilities, and more were being discovered every year; especially now that the new regime to search and find them was in place and working well.

In Rior they were known as PA's - people who have Psychic Abilities. One or two PA's had over time even been found among various other members of the Distect who were not householders, but Rior appeared to have more of them than most of the other groups.

Some geneticists were of the opinion that this might be due in part to the fact that there was undoubtedly more interbreeding in Rior, and even though in recent years relationships outside the household were becoming more and more prevalent, many still chose to marry and have children within Rior itself.

As far as Archer and Tammy were concerned, as seemed to be the case with most other PA's, their abilities had come to light only when she had changed over and he had established.

In the early days they had both wondered why they had been blessed with such different gifts. Indeed some of the scientists had suggested that it was because they were mixed twins; and had hypothecated that if they had been identical twins then they might have been born with each of them possessing all the abilities; or then again, which seemed just as likely, perhaps none at all!

Indeed the scientists had also reasoned that the twins were extremely lucky, because the gifts they each possessed might well have been manifested in only one of them, and not both. But in the final analysis of course, no one, not even the scientists really knew what caused it or why. Many were working to try and find an answer to the myriad of questions that the condition raised; but with the Organisation breathing down their necks and watching their every move much necessary research quite simply could not be carried out in safety and was therefore abandoned.

At some point during these ruminations Archer had finally fallen into a restless asleep.

Some time later he awoke with a start and glanced up at the chronometer glad to see that his own "internal" clock had not let him down. He did not have a Sime's ability to always know the exact time, but like most Gens he could still wake up within a few minutes of the time he wished to wake. It was of course an acquired ability, rather than an inherited one.

Rolling off the couch he made his way to the bathroom for a quick shower before pulling clean clothes out of the drawer.

A short while later Archer activated the panel that swept the long drapes silently to one side, and then walked across to the window. The sky was already darkening and the shadows were lengthening across the ground.

Suddenly his eyes caught a movement at the periphery of his vision, and he stared more intently at the dark shadows. He was not really surprised when he saw the mahogany coloured hair of a Zetta. It was an animal that looked vaguely like a terran wolf, but was indigenous on Damus Two.

In this instance however Archer knew that his eyes were deceiving him. The creature was not a Zetta, but Jay Lynn a Gen and a close friend.

Quickly he opened the window and leaned out whistling softly. The creature froze and then turned its face, its muzzle still clearly visible in the diminishing light, to look up at the window; moments later it loped away to be swiftly swallowed up into the gathering dusk.

Smiling Archer left the window and walked across to order a tray of food be brought to his room. A short while later a brief hum from the door indicated a visitor and he had little doubt as to who it would be.

The man who entered the room was the same age as Archer, and they were both the same height, but there the similarity ended. His visitor's hair hung down his back in a loose braid, it had neither curl nor wave. Indeed Archer knew that when loose it would fall like a straight silk curtain, the dark brown colour shimmering with deep red overtones.

The young man wore a dark brown jump suit and had a towel around his neck, indicating that he had taken a quick shower before he came up to Archer's room. Black eyes surveyed Archer as he moved to sit down, one leg draped over the arm of the large comfortable chair.

'Gossip says you're off on an assignment?' One slim eyebrow rose in query.

'I hope "gossip" doesn't say anything else?'

Jay Lynn grinned down at him as he admitted, 'no, when Warren puts a hush notice on something it usually stays that way.'

'True, but you had me worried there for a while.'

'I like to rattle your cage sometimes boy.' Jay chuckled and then became serious and for a moment the glowing green eyes of the animal that shared his skin peeped out through his own dark orbs as he asked, 'need any help?'

'Not this time, but the offer's appreciated,' and Archer explained the mission briefly to his friend.

'I don't like the sound of it Arch, take care - after all you still owe me 300 credits and I want it back.' He grinned roguishly. 'By the way did Tammy appreciate her present?'

'She did, and I should be able to pay you back at the end of the month.'

'No hurry, you know that.'

Archer nodded and went to the door as the familiar hum heralded the arrival of his meal. 'I thought you might come on up so I ordered enough for two, join me?' He placed the large tray on the low table and glanced across at his friend who was now sitting down.

'I never turn down food you know that.' Jay got to his feet and sauntered across to the table to survey the fare laid out there. 'I've been practicing shifting all afternoon, it always sharpens the appetite.'

'Not surprising when you consider the amount of energy you expend, you know when you think about it, your body must burn up thousands of calories in the course of a day.' Archer pointed out as he too examined the food.

'So the experts tell me.' He paused. 'I still want to go and study on Peridot, it's where my Great Grandfather lived after all, but the elders won't let me.' Jay helped himself to a plate of food as he spoke.

'In those days neither Rior nor the Distect knew what the inhabitants of Peridot were capable of. I doubt whether your Great Grandmother or any of the others would have been allowed to have anything to do with them if they had.' His face became serious as he observed, 'the shenning Tecton knew all about them, but they never bothered to give us a warning.'

'Of course not, what do you expect? But that's hardly the point now Archer, is it? What's done is done and can't be changed. We've got to make the best of it. The people on Peridot have lived with this since their race first evolved on the planet. They know things we have no way of knowing, except by accident. My father never discovered his own ability till I was conceived you know. Everyone thought it had passed him by.'

Jay Lynn stared out the window at the inky black sky outside. 'I've been thinking about it for some time now. My mother nearly died that first time Arch.' He turned his head to stare into his friend's eyes, as again his creature moved restlessly behind his own jet black orbs momentarily turning the pupils to slits as though the animal he could become was trying to escape from it's confinement.

Archer swallowed hard as he whispered, 'you mean...?'

'He changed while they were making love for the first time? Yes. But don't ask me to go into details, I'll leave that to your imagination.' He sounded almost bitter. 'Let's just say she was badly injured, he broke her pelvis, and it stopped their love life stone dead. He dare not take the chance again. '

'Shedoni! I'm so sorry, I didn't know. So how did they have you? No forget I asked you that - I have no right to.'

'It's okay Arch, you're my friend after all, you have a right to know.' He laughed almost harshly, 'I guess they were both pretty fertile. Anyway once she healed they found she was already pregnant.'

'They were lucky.' Archer said softly not quite knowing what to say.

'Lucky? It's not exactly the word I would have used.'

'I'm sorry Jay but at least you're here and you have a life. I don't know what else to say.' He confessed quietly.

'That's one way of looking at it I suppose. But have you any idea what it's like? I'm frightened to even touch a female Arch. Look, I've told no one else, the only people who know all about it are my teachers.'

Suddenly he slammed his fist against the wall and Archer jumped at the unexpected sound. 'Teachers! Now that's a laugh. Most of the time it seems to be the blind leading the blind! Can you see now why I have to go to Peridot? I have to learn to be safe Arch, really safe.' He paused, 'I haven't had a woman yet, I haven't dared. But one day I want to set up home with someone and have kids, and I want to have them in the normal way.'

Jay closed his eyes momentarily and then went on. 'I don't think I'll shift at the wrong time, not like my father did - but I don't know for sure, and until I do know, I daren't take the chance.' He shrugged angrily. 'It's one of the reasons they've got me practising changing backwards and forwards. The idea is, that if I shift enough I'll learn total control. According to them the more I do it voluntarily, the less likely I am to do it involuntary. Well that's the theory anyway!'

'I've heard of at least a dozen like you, and there must be others too. What about them?'

'As far as I can ascertain, we're all in the same boat. The lucky ones die in childhood which keeps our numbers low.'

'Are any of them Sime?' Archer asked, as his curiosity peaked despite himself. It was something he had always wondered about.

'No. As far as the Rior scientists can tell the Sime body protects them and precludes it from happening to them - lucky bastards.'

'But all the PA's have found some advantages to their condition. Tammy and I certainly have, surely you must have too?' Archer asked, wishing he could do more to help his friend.

Jay gave a humourless laugh as he shook his head. 'You forget my friend we're not like you and the others. We have no psychic abilities. Our affliction - and be under no illusion, it is an affliction, has come about through interbreeding with an alien race on Peridot.' He hesitated momentarily and then ploughed on, 'The general consensus on the PA's seems to be that you're just another step up the evolutionary ladder. No one can say that about us.'

Archer placed a hand on his friend's arm and felt the tenseness in his muscles. 'I don't know what to say. I didn't realise you felt like this about it. Sorry just sounds so inadequate doesn't it?' He admitted softly.

'It's only in the last few years that I've come to realise just what it means to be a shifter.' Jay replied, 'but I'm not looking for sympathy from you Arch. When the time comes, I may want your assistance.' He turned and grasped his friend's slim shoulders, as he asked earnestly. 'Put simply, can I rely on you or not? I have to know.'

The two friends stared into each other's eyes as Archer slowly nodded his head as he murmured. 'You know you can.'

***

Less than an hour after his conversation with Jay Lynn, Archer found himself back in the Administrator's office. For the moment he had to push to one side the conversation he had had with his friend, and the promise he had made to him; as he listened intently to the information Warren had managed to glean from one of his informants inside the Organisation itself.

'It's not much I know, but at least it gives you somewhere to start.' Warren stated quietly as he stood up and studied the other Gen, who grinned as he too rose from his chair ready to leave.

'I'll do my best. Wish me luck?'

Warren nodded as the door closed behind his friend, 'of course,' he said softly, and thought briefly about whether he would see him again. Each time he sent someone out into the field he would think the same thing.

Administrator of Rior was a pretty thankless position for anyone to hold at the best of times, it always had been, and Warren often wondered when he was alone, like now, why he didn't just pack up and leave the damn job to someone else? He shook his head sadly, perhaps one day he would...perhaps.

He moved slowly to the window and stared out at the velvety darkness for several minutes before he reluctantly returned to his desk and picked up the next urgent file from the ever growing pile that he still had to deal with.

So began the long wait. Warren was well aware that another sleepless night lay ahead of him as he waited patiently for news about his cousin. In many respects he felt like a General sending his troops to War; then he sighed deeply, because in a lot of ways that was exactly what he was.

Minutes ticked by before he forced himself to open the file he had picked up and take out the computer disk. Then giving himself a mental shake he slipped it into his machine, and began to read.

***

Archer stood outside the Complex that housed the Organisation on Damus Two, and concentrated on the inner corridor of the building. Unlike his sister he could not 'see' inside the entire structure. He could only sense the long corridor and knew that it was dimly lit and empty. At least, nothing alive was in there; for he could sense no body heat or heartbeat. He had no idea how he knew that this was the case. Indeed all he knew for certain, was that it was a feeling totally unlike all his other human senses.

He had once tried to explain it by saying that if the average person were blindfolded and could only touch with their fingers, they would know the difference between the feel of a rough hewn plank of wood and the top of a polished table. Then in much the same way he was able to tell if a room or corridor contained life or not.

Taking a deep breath Archer concentrated on that inner awareness, his hands pressed together as though in prayer, his head bent and his eyes closed.

Inside the building in the corridor itself a casual observer might well have felt a sudden coldness as he or she experienced a minute drop in temperature, and the inner wall seemed to shimmer as though someone was blowing it inwards like a giant bubble. Then almost at once the quivering air solidified and the wall returned back to normal as Archer's body suddenly popped silently into existence.

For a brief moment he stood plastered against the side of the corridor as he listened for movement in either direction and detected nothing.

Warren's informant had intimated that classified prisoners, as Rick Leeman would undoubtedly be called, were now kept in cells leading off this corridor. All he could do was 'look' with his inner eye into the various rooms and if he detected either body warmth or heartbeat he would then have to enter the room to see whether or not it was Rick.

Unfortunately unlike Tammy he could not see exactly who was beyond the wall, and neither could he tell if the occupant was male or female.

In the same way he could only tell the difference between Sime and Gen if there was one person present.

He bit back a sigh as he moved to the far end of the corridor and began to work his way back. Every few metres he pressed his hands against the walls and concentrated as he threw his awareness against and then through the thick rock walls. He was more than half way along the narrow hallway when he finally detected someone, and was almost certain from the raised body heat, that whoever it was, might be Sime. Unfortunately as far as Sime and Gen were concerned, he was not always right. After all what he did as he would be the first to agree, was not a precise science, and he had made many mistakes in the past.

In fact on one memorable occasion he had mistaken a Gen who was ill with a high fever for a Sime. He smiled ruefully as he recalled the event, and hoped it would not happen again. While on another he had popped into existence to find a loyal member of the Organisation staring across at him. He had quickly reversed the procedure, and had learned afterwards that the unfortunate Gen had called the Guard saying he had seen a ghost. Only to find he was suspended from duty for drinking on the job!

Concentrating he took a deep breath pressed his hands together and began to project.

***

Vidal lay on the hard floor inside the force field that still surrounded him like a cage. His tormentor had left nearly an hour ago and still he could not move. Concentrating all his energy on ignoring the pain in his limbs and the need he felt growing in his body he tried to meditate. He knew that the pain would eventually subside as his need grew ever more demanding, but for the moment at least there was little more that he could do.

Suddenly his eyes opened as he scanned the wall in front of him. The wall was actually shimmering almost as though it were disintegrating, and yet at the same time it remained solid. Was he hallucinating or was it just the dim light in the cell or were his eyes playing tricks?

Quickly he tried to zlin through the force field and the outer wall but in vain, something was definitely wrong, but he had no idea what it might be. In some strange way he could almost sense the presence of a Gen in the corridor beyond his cell and yet at the same time, he could not. The feeling was unsubstantial, almost as if he were sensing a shadow or a wraith.

Shen it, he was obviously more injured than he had realised. Slowly he unsheathed one tentacle, grateful that unlike his upper arms it seemed to be unhurt. Carefully he rubbed his eyes then looked again at the wall, this time using only his eyes. Quickly he drew in a breath as he stared at the Gen who was now standing there. Where had he come from?

'Damn it.' The two words broke the silence of the room. 'You're not Rick!'

Vidal frowned as he stated the obvious. 'No,' and then demanded. 'Where did you come from?' Even as he spoke he tried to zlin the Gen through the force field, but found to his dismay that it was still almost impossible. Although whether this inability was caused directly by the force field, or one of the cocktail of drugs that had been pumped into his system during the last few days, he really had no sure way of knowing.

The young man ignored him as he stated, 'you're in need!' It was not a question, but Vidal answered it anyway.

'Yes and I'm a prisoner too, can you get me out of here?' He asked the question eagerly, but without any real hope. The fact that the unknown Gen was obviously aware of his need, appeared to have escaped him totally. A sure sign if any were required that neither his brain, nor his body were functioning properly.

Archer shook his head regretfully. 'Sorry my selyn's spoken for. Have you any idea where they're keeping Rick Leeman?'

'I've seen no one except guards and interrogators since they brought me here.' Vidal replied honestly, and then bit back a moan of pain as he tried unsuccessfully to move his body to a more comfortable position on the hard floor.

'Look, I'd help you if I could. But I have to go.'

'Wait please. Don't go!' Vidal saw his one hope of salvation preparing to leave, although he could not see any trace of a door or opening near where the Gen was standing, yet strangely his hands seemed to be clasped together as though in prayer.

'I'm sorry I have to go, I must find Rick.' Even as the words left the Gen's mouth he quite simply - disappeared.

Vidal stared at the spot where his strange visitor had been standing only moments before. 'Shedoni!' A cold sweat broke out on his body as he wondered briefly if he had really seen an apparition, or was he perhaps going totally mad? Then, his questions still unresolved, he slid with a sigh of relief into blessed unconsciousness.

 

 

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Companion in Zeor is Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002   by Sime~Gen Inc.   

A New Beginning is copyright 2000, 2001, 2002 by Sime~Gen Inc.  

The Sime~Gen universe was created by Jacqueline Lichtenberg and is owned by Sime~Gen Inc. This story and its setting may not be reused without explicit permission of the Corporation.  Email: simegen@simegen.com 







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