Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
The Sun was getting lower in the sky when Neil and Jordan arrived at the Silent Oasis, and the Sectuib wondered why he was not really surprised to find that the noise level was only a few decibels lower today, than it had been the previous night; even though it was now just approaching five o'clock.
'He's not here.'
'We're early,' Neil reminded him. 'Let's grab a drink and sit down over there.' Suiting the action to words he led the way across to a small empty table set back in an alcove. Jordan sat with his back to the entrance, while Neil sat facing him.
An hour dragged slowly by. 'I'd say he's not coming, wouldn't you?' The Channel finally stated.
'Sylvie promised me he'd be here. She wouldn't have said that, if he didn't intend to turn up.'
'So how long shall we wait?' Jordan demanded.
'Let's give it another fifteen minutes then I'll contact her again and see if she knows what's happened to him.' Neil said and both men relaxed back in their seats to wait. The Sime's eyes stared over Jordan's shoulder towards the door.
Moments later he sat bolt upright. 'He's here.' He stated, although his observation was superfluous, because Jordan had already zlinned him.
What Neil did not know, was that the Sectuib had also zlinned someone else almost directly behind Jay Lynn. Someone that made him want to turn around in his seat to verify with his eyes, what his Sime senses were telling him.
Surely he must be wrong? Although he had never before doubted his zlinning abilities. Was it perhaps wishful thinking? How could Vidal possibly be alive? Let alone here in this bar and walking towards him?
Jordan knew that Jason had never given up hope, but in all honesty, he himself most certainly had.
Finally curiosity got the better of caution and he turned slowly to stare passed the young Gen who had just reached their table and was speaking to Neil, to meet the dark eyes of the handsome Sime who could well be his twin.
'Vidal!' Jordan mouthed the name as the other Channel smiled down at him.
'I thought you were dead,' he admitted softly.
Vidal shook his head ruefully, 'you were almost correct.'
'I thought I might be. Look Vidal, I want to hear about everything that's happened to you but not right now, we'll talk later. Come and sit down and let me introduce you to Neil.'
Vidal nodded his head as he said quietly, 'I have to ask one question first,., where's Jason, is he all right?'
'He's been worried sick about you, as have we all, but apart from that he's safe.' The Sectuib assured him quickly.
'Thank God.' Vidal closed his eyes and sighed with relief.
Moments later after introductions had been made all around, Vidal sat back in silence as Jordan turned to look searchingly at the young Gen, Jay Lynn.
'I'm sure you've been wondering why I asked to talk to you,' he began, 'and that being the case I must first assure you that I have absolutely no connection whatsoever with the Organisation; and as far as going to Peridot is concerned, well that's entirely your affair and not mine.'
'So why do you want to see me?'
'I'll try to explain. But first I'd like you to answer one question for me.' Jordan paused and his voice dropped almost a whisper as he asked, 'are you a shape-shifter?'
The Gen gave a brief laugh of derision, but to all three Simes it had an edge of fear to it as Jay Lynn stated firmly. 'No I'm not, and I don't know what the shen you're talking about either.'
Jordan smiled gently across at him, 'thank you, you've answered my question.'
'Look just because there are shape-shifters on Peridot and I want to go there, doesn't mean I'm one of them!' He blustered.
'Jay, keep your shenning voice down.' Neil warned quickly as he zlinned the surrounding area.
'Tell him to stop talking crap, and I will!'
'Jay you've lived amongst Simes long enough to realise that we all know when you're telling us an outright lie.' Jordan reminded him softly before he went on. 'So now we've established what you are, can we also assume that the others in your group are the same as you?'
'I'm not saying another damn word; so you can leave my friends out of it, who the hell are you anyway?' Jay asked belligerently and made to stand up.
Vidal wrapped his tentacles around the Gen's arm and kept him in his seat as Jordan went on.
'I'm someone who can help you more than you realise, I'll try to explain. But forgive me if I can't be as open with you as I might wish. There are others involved who I, too, must protect.'
The Gen tried to release his arm from Vidal's grip, but finding that he could not do so, he finally sat back. 'Okay, if you say so. But how do you reckon you can help any of us?'
'If you'll just keep quiet for a moment I'll try and explain. First as you've no doubt gathered I am not, nor have I ever been a member of the Organisation.' Jordan paused as he allowed the significance of his words to sink in before he went on. 'I actually come from off-world.'
Jay laughed out loud as he said sarcastically. 'I suppose you're now going to tell me that the bloody Tecton are making us an offer? You must think I'm a complete moron to fall for a load of garbage like that! Don't tell me, this cubicle is wired and the Insiders will be coming through the door at any moment, right?'
Jordan glanced across at Neil. 'Insiders?'
'They're a special force who work inside the Organisation, even their closest associates don't know who they really are.'
'And you think that we have something to do with them?' Jordan asked the young Gen, unable to keep the smile off his face.
'Are you denying it?'
'Of course I am. Look Jay, it seems obvious that at the moment I can't convince you that I genuinely want to offer help to you and your friends. So we'll just leave it like this. Go to Peridot. Do whatever it is you intend to do there, and afterwards when you leave there - and I'm assuming that you do intend to leave there again? Contact Warren at Rior, he'll get in touch with me and we'll discuss all this again - right?'
'Which means you want to use us, just the same as the Organisation does.' Jay demanded, his lip curling derisively. 'I'm right aren't I?'
'No, not the same as the Organisation; in fact what we actually want to do is to keep all of you as far away from them as possible!' He stared at the young Gen, willing him to believe the veracity of his words before he went on.
'Jay, we want to do this for one very simple reason. Because they would use you, all of you, and make you do things for them that you would hate, things that would take away both your dignity and your self respect.'
'He's speaking the truth Jay,' Neil said quietly.
'Assuming Neil's correct, why would you want to do this for us? And don't pretend it's out of the goodness of your heart because that won't wash with any of us.'
Jordan laughed softly. 'No I won't insult your intelligence by telling you that. To be brutally honest with you the people I work for fight the Organisation on every level. Sometimes they win, sometimes we do. Usually all we manage to do is maintain the status quo. But if they start to bring people like you into the equation, then it'll stack the odds against us, and in favour of them. Which putting it bluntly means, that while we'd love you to work for us; we're just as happy to help you live your lives quietly somewhere, where they can't get at you. Than have you work for them and against us.'
'I guess that makes some sense.' Jay said thoughtfully, 'but what about the PA's? You do know about them don't you? As far as I can see they'd be far more useful to the Organisation than us.'
Jordan smiled, 'ah, now that's another story.'
'You mean you intend to approach them too?'
'I didn't say that.'
'At times like this I wish I could zlin.'
'You're not doing too badly.'
'If you say so; and does that mean I can go now?' Jordan indicated with a tentacle that Jay could leave if he wished to. The Gen turned to look at Neil. 'Is it still on for tomorrow night?'
'Of course, Sylvie has all the details and knows how to contact me if she has to.' Neil said as Jay stood up, eager to be off.
'One last thing,' the young Gen turned to look down at Jordan his eyebrows raised in query. 'Speak to the others, because even if you decide not to take up my offer, perhaps one or more of them might.'
All three Simes watched as Jay Lynn walked out of the bar before they, too, left, making their way back to Cassandra's house.
Dawn was fast approaching, although it was still quite dark outside, when Neil entered the room with yet another tray of trin, placing it on the small round table, he pushed the plate of untouched honey biscuits to one side asking, 'I don't suppose anyone is interested in one of these?'
Vidal grinned as he shook his head in negation. 'While I was staying at Rior I seemed to do little else but eat, now my appetite's non-existent.'
'That's what a room full of Gens will do for you.' The Sectuib observed as he stretched his tentacles.
For the last few hours they had been sitting here drinking endless glasses of trin while filling each other in on what they had been doing since they had last met. Neil listened politely but contributed very little to the conversation carried on by the two Channels.
'So, Tony and Jason are now up on the freighter.' Vidal said finally, and Jordan's tentacles waved a casual acknowledgement. 'Good. I feel better knowing they are both out of danger, at least for the time being.'
Even as the words left his lips an unexpected chime from the front door drew the attention of all three.
Neil got to his feet.
'Expecting someone?' Vidal asked quietly.
Neil shook his head. 'Not as far as I'm aware. No one even knows we're here.'
'It could be one of Cassandra's friends,' Jordan suggested.
'Unlikely at this time, besides she told everyone she was away.' Neil said positively.
The sound came again.
'Well whoever it is they're getting impatient,' Vidal observed. 'I suggest you go and see who's there, before they wake up the neighbourhood.'
The Sime nodded and left the room.
Seconds later Jason burst into the room. His eyes went straight across to Vidal and as the Channel rose from his chair the Gen flew towards him, the expression on his face a mixture of both surprise and relief.
'You're alive! Thank God!' Even as the words tumbled from his lips, his arms encircled the thin Sime body and he hugged him enthusiastically.
Vidal laughed softly, 'yes I'm most definitely alive Jason, thanks mainly to Rior I must admit. What are you doing here? I understood you were still up on the freighter?' He zlinned him deeply as he asked, 'are you sure you're all right? Jordan told me what happened at Two Paths Meet.'
Jason laughed. 'Then you can tell me, because I can't remember what happened back there,' he confessed honestly, 'and what do you mean Rior saved your life? How did that come about?'
'One of their members helped.' Vidal confessed. 'Actually it was a young Gen by the name of Archer. I was incarcerated by the Organisation in that place they call The Complex. He gave me transfer and then showed me the way out.'
Jason sat down on the floor beside the Channel, 'so go on tell me everything.'
'Patience,' Jordan said as he interrupted the flow of words between his two friends. 'First I'd like to know what you are doing back down here? As Vidal said we all assumed you were safe and sound on the freighter, what's happened?'
Jason sighed. 'Yes you're right of course. Priorities! The doctor wasn't very keen on my leaving so soon, but the Captain agreed with me that I should come down here and tell you.'
'Tell me what?' Jordan pressed before Vidal could do so.
'It's Tony. He's jumped ship.' He picked up one of the honey biscuits without asking and bit into it.
'Tony's what? Why would he do such a thing? What's happened? Surely he's not well enough to even contemplate coming down here to help us?' The Sectuib jumped to his feet as he spoke and ran his tentacles through his thick black hair in obvious agitation. 'And what do you mean, jumped ship?'
'Calm down Jordan, let's hear what Jason has to say shall we?'
The Channel looked down at his friend, 'You're right of course Vidal. It's just that I feel responsible for him, he's so young and - and naive. He doesn't have Jason's experience, and I thought he was safe up there.' He turned to the Gen. 'Tell us everything.'
A short while later Jason had told them all that he knew, and while Neil and Jordan poured over a map of the City trying to decide where best to begin their search. Vidal filled his Companion in on everything else that had happened both to him, as well as Jordan and Neil while he had been up on the ship.
'I feel like I've been away months!' Jason murmured as he helped himself to the last biscuit on the plate.
'There's a cupboard full of food if you're hungry,' Neil informed him without looking up.
'No, I'm fine thanks.' Jason said as he turned to look across at the other two Simes. 'Have you worked out all the routes yet Neil? Remember, if we each go alone we'll cover far more ground.'
'That's true. But Jordan feels that as you're not fully recovered you and Vidal should go together, and Jordan and I will split up and go separately.' Neil informed him.
'Now look here, I'm perfectly okay. Besides as far as I can see all we're going to be doing is searching the streets. Hardly what you'd call a dangerous assignment is it?' Jason demanded as he looked from one Sime to the other.
Vidal caught Jordan's eye and shrugged expressively before turning to his Companion. 'Jason please, just this once - humour me.'
As the Gen began to open his mouth in protest, Vidal waved him to silence with two tentacles. 'Let me explain. We've been apart for a considerable length of time, not by my choosing or yours that's true, but nevertheless it happened.
'Now I don't know how you feel about it, but speaking personally I want to spend some time with you. Not for any practical reason, except my own piece of mind.' His dark eyes stared into Jason's green ones, and it was the Gen's that fell first as the Channel whispered. 'Please.'
'I'm sorry Vidal, I didn't think.'
'Do I take it that's a yes?' Jordan asked quietly as he zlinned them both.
'Isn't that what I just said?'
'Was it?' The Sectuib looked in confusion across at Vidal before he admitted, 'I'll have to take your word for that.'
Neil hid a grin as he bent to pick up the tray, leaving Jordan to explain what area they had been allocated.
The route that Vidal and Jason were to cover was well away from the Complex. Neil had chosen this for them because as he had explained, Vidal had been a prisoner inside the Complex and might just be unlucky enough to be spotted by someone who could recognise him. Likewise Jason had taken a job there, and even though he had not returned after his first shift, there was still the chance that someone might see him.
A short while later they all left the house together to begin the search.
'You know Vidal, personally I feel that if Tony isn't feeling too well, he's far more likely to remain in the vicinity of the landing strip than wander off. And in either event, he's hardly likely to have walked all this way is he?' Jason asked as they walked the length of yet another row of residential dwellings.
'Why not? You said yourself that the doctor told you that Tony had not been himself since you and Jordan rescued him from Aryanous.' The Channel pointed out.
'He said he was acting strangely, and wasn't always aware of where he was or why he was there.' Jason admitted.
'Exactly, and that being the case he could be anywhere couldn't he?' Vidal pointed out. 'Besides Jordan's looking down all the streets that border on to the Complex, and Neil is visiting the clubs and taverns.'
'My point exactly! None of us is bothering to look anywhere near the landing field, and we should.'
'But we have no real idea what prompted Tony to leave the freighter and come down here on his own in the first place, do we? Yet as far as we know, that's exactly what he did.' Vidal pointed out. 'And that being the case logic dictates that he isn't going to stand around on a landing field for hours simply contemplating his navel, is he? Why would he?'
'Maybe you're right. But at the moment poor old Tony is a bit of a nutcase, so we don't know what he's likely to do, do we?'
'He's not a nutcase.'
'And he's not exactly normal is he? So I say if we haven't found him in the next hour, one of us goes to the landing field to see if he's still hanging around down there.'
'You're suggesting we split up?'
'Since you want to stay here and keep looking along empty streets, and I think that's a complete waste of time. Then yes, why not split up? At least that way we can cover twice the area.'
'Very well, we'll do as you suggest.' Vidal said with a sigh, 'but I will go with you.'
'You don't have to do that. I'm not twisting your arm.'
'Are you not? You amaze me.' Vidal began to augment his way up the next street that was slightly up hill, leaving Jason to run behind him, trying to keep up.
Half way up the hill Vidal realised what he was doing, and remembered that whatever he might say to the contrary, Jason was not fully recovered. Immediately he eased his pace.
The Gen stopped beside him, still panting furiously, 'what the shen was all that about? Where's the fire?'
The Sime bit back the apology that automatically rose to his lips, feeling that to say he was sorry at this moment, might in the circumstances be going just a little too far.
Sighing Vidal walked on in silence, as he admitted to himself that there were times when his Companion drove him absolutely crazy. Although if he were honest with himself, he would also admit that most of it was his own fault. It was after all only he who allowed the Gen to ruffle his feathers in this manner, and no one else.
They had now lived together long enough for him to know exactly what made his Companion tick.
With yet another deep sigh he also remembered that back on Earth he had decided that when his Companion was being his most exasperating and maddening self, he would simply ignore him. Now why had he forgotten that?
Jason's voice broke into his reverie.
'I'm going to have to stop a minute Vidal. I guess I'm more out of condition than I realised.' Jason gasped the words out, and then suited the action to words by leaning against one of the comcab hailing posts at the side of the road. 'Who'd have thought that just a whiff of PL2 would affect me like this?'
A wave of contrition immediately swept through the Channel as he forgot all about his previous good intentions, and hurried back to his Companion's side. 'I'm sorry. I should not have rushed ahead like that. Perhaps I should carry you to the top?'
'I trust you're joking? From what I understand happened to you on Aryanous, not even counting here in the Complex; you can't be all that much fitter than me.' Jason pointed out logically.
'Perhaps not, but will you at least wait here while I go up to the top?'
'All right.' And those two words told the Channel exactly how exhausted his Companion was really feeling. After all, zlinning might tell him a lot of things about the Gen's body and the condition of any wounds he might have sustained, but it didn't really tell him how mentally exhausted the Gen might feel; especially since Jason was getting extremely good at hiding quite a lot of his feelings from him.
The Channel did not delay in reaching the top of the street and then returning down again just as quickly.
'I've called a comcab Vidal. It should be here in a couple of minutes.' Jason informed him as soon as he drew close. 'There seems little point in our covering the same ground on the way back as we did coming here. So we'll go straight to the landing field and take a look around there, okay?'
Vidal stopped the cab a few blocks away from their destination, paying over the required number of credits as they both climbed out.
'Now that's what I call lucky.'
The Sime glanced down at him, 'what is?'
'You having some credits; when I called for it, I never even thought about paying the fare.' he admitted honestly.
'Jordan gave me some credits before we left. But if I hadn't had sufficient we wouldn't have climbed on board.' Vidal replied as he zlinned both up and down the road where they were now standing, as he pointed out. 'The last thing we want is to be arrested by the Guard for trying to evade a comcab fare.'
Jason laughed as he nodded his agreement and pointed out. 'That's true, but at least one of us could have out run them.'
'You may not have noticed but the comcabs here on Damus Two are fitted with locks that remain fastened during the entire journey, right up until the moment when the credits are placed in the meter. If no credits are deposited, then the comcab drives its passengers straight to the end of the Complex where the Guards office is situated!'
'Shen! Not very trusting of their fellow citizens, are they?'
'It would seem not. Now come, we've been standing here long enough.' Vidal turned to lead the way towards the landing field.
The landing lights were on at the end strip, which indicated that a craft of some description was shortly due to land. While just behind the landing strip they could make out the shape of a small ship, it had no parking lights on and appeared to be in total darkness. Apart from that as far as Jason could tell the landing field was deserted. Vidal immediately confirmed this, having zlinned the area thoroughly.
'So he's not here.' Jason could not keep the disappointment out of his voice. He'd been hoping that his guess might be proved correct. 'Go on Vidal, say it.' He urged in a stage whisper.
'Say what?' The Channel spoke without taking either his eyes or his attention off the empty field.
'I told you so! You know you're dying to say it.'
'On the contrary, I assure you nothing could be further from the truth.' Vidal whispered back. He opened his mouth again to say that as far as he was aware, such a remark was usually attributable to Jason, rather than to him, but managed to bite it back.
His Companion sighed. 'Well, as we've drawn a blank here, I suppose the best thing we can do is return to the house.'
They arrived back to find that Jordan had returned and was about to leave once more. 'I was going to leave a message for you,' he said as he turned to follow them back inside the house.
'Isn't Neil back?' Jason asked.
Jordan shook his head. 'No. But we met up after I'd searched my designated area.'
'Did you find any sign of Tony?'
The Sectuib glanced at Vidal before he replied. 'In a manner of speaking yes, he's been found. An acquaintance told Neil that Tony's been apprehended by the Guard. It seems they've taken him to the Complex for questioning.'
'Shen!' Jason shook his head as he looked at the two Channels and demanded. 'Does anyone feel like I do?'
For a brief moment there was silence and then Jordan asked. 'And how do you feel?'
'I feel like this shenning assignment was doomed from the start. None of us should ever have left Earth.'
'Perhaps you're right.' Jordan said with a slight grimace. 'But since we're here, and Tony requires our help,' he stopped and shrugged expressively.
'Yes, you're right of course sorry' Jason fell silent.
While the others had been speaking Vidal had been recalling his own stay in The Complex. 'He'll never survive it,' he said softly, but with utter conviction.
'Then the sooner we get him out of there the better.'
'You are forever the optimist Jason.' The Sectuib said with a slight smile, 'and just how do you suggest we go about it?'
'I think I can answer that better than either of you.' Vidal interrupted, and as the other two men turned towards him in surprise he went on, 'we ask Rior to help us.'
'I take it you're suggesting that we ask if one of their PA's can help?' The Sectuib asked intuitively.
'Why not? If you'd seen that young Gen just walk through that wall like I did you'd know what they're capable of.' Vidal stated.
'Yes, but will they help? After all we all know that relations between the Tecton and the Distect have never been what you would call - warm!' Jason pointed out.
'I know, but isn't that the main reason we came to the Zhariot System in the first place, to try and build bridges?' Jordan demanded.
'But I still wonder if it's wise to ask for their help,' Jason said. 'For all we know they might just inform the Organisation that we intend to try and get Tony out, which will blow all our plans out the window. What do we do then?'
'Vidal you've had more to do with Rior than any of us,' the Sectuib pointed out logically. 'I take it you still believe we can trust them?'
Vidal nodded his agreement. 'Yes I do, and after talking to Warren who is Rior's Administrator; I also believe him when he says that they're also prepared to consider separating themselves completely from the Organisation.'
'So our former enemy could become our friend.' Jason said softly.
'With luck. Nothing is settled yet, far from it. But in time if the diplomats on both sides get together, something may eventually be worked out.' Vidal replied and then went on, 'providing of course that the Organisation doesn't cause too much trouble.'
'Right so going back to your original idea, you think we should ask Rior for help?'
'Yes I do.'
'Then I suggest we all three go to Rior and test your theory.' The Sectuib stated firmly.
'And Neil?' Jason asked.
'He's keeping watch outside the Complex in case they decide to move Tony away from there. Neil also knows quite a few of the guards and he'll see what he can find out for us.'
'There's no necessity for all three of us to go to Rior,' Vidal observed.
Jordan smiled. 'Perhaps not, but I must admit I'm curious to meet with the Sectuib in Rior.'
'For shen's sake don't call him that!' Vidal advised quickly. 'I have to admit that I did, and he really didn't appreciate it; and by the way Warren is a Gen not Sime, didn't I tell you that? Oh and there's another thing you should know. Rior is run on very democratic lines. They have a Council of Elders most of whom are voted in. They decide all the big issues. Warren is only in control of the day to day running of the place.'
'I'll try to remember.' Jordan hesitated and then asked inquisitively, 'does he look Farris or Valleroy?'
'No. Not even vaguely.' Vidal grinned across at his friend. 'In a nutshell he's under 30, has platignum hair and the most unusual eyes I've ever seen - they're turquoise would you believe?
'He's not very tall either, and like most administrators that I've met, present company excepted, the only part of him that seems to get a lot of exercise is his voice!' Vidal stated.
Jordan looked surprised. 'He's fat?'
'No not really, just a little plump.' Vidal stood up. 'Right then, I think that's enough information for now, so if you haven't any more questions, perhaps we should get under way?'
The Sectuib looked sheepish as he met his friend's dark eyes and admitted softly, 'I've hundreds of questions, but they can wait. Tony comes first.'
'Can we please go?' Jason demanded to know.
Jordan zlinned the young Gen thoroughly as he asked, 'are you sure you're up to this Jason? You could wait here and...'
'I'm feeling fine, and strange as it may seem I really am just as interested as you are in meeting this Warren. Besides which, while we all stand here chewing the cud, I hate to think what they might be doing to Tony!'
As there was no immediate answer to that, all three headed for the door.
Read Chapter 11
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