Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
Archer sat on the edge of Warren's desk one leg swinging freely as he read through the list of names he held in his hand. His cousin was still in a meeting being held by the Education Board, and had been for the last hour and a half, which was why he had been delegated to look after the three visitors who were on their way up from reception until such time as the Administrator could arrive.
Archer glanced up and smiled across at Vidal as the door opened and he was ushered into the office, followed by two other men one Sime who was already zlinning him, and one Gen both of whom were strangers to him.
'Archer, I'm grateful Warren agreed to see me on such short notice.' Vidal strode across the room his hand extended.
The young Gen hopped down from the desk and accepted the offered hand.
'Warren sends his apologies for not being here to greet you himself. He's in yet another tedious Meeting, but he'll be here as quickly as he can.'
'I'm sure he will. In the meantime, let me introduce my two friends. This is Jordan Winter and Jason Devere.' The Gen immediately shook hands, much to the Sectuib's amusement.
Meanwhile Vidal who had of course zlinned his friend's amusement, nevertheless carried on making the introductions.
'Please everyone, take a seat.' Archer waved his hand towards the chairs and resumed his own place on the edge of the desk. 'Would anyone care for trin?'
Minutes later an automated tea trolley entered the room accompanied by a middle aged Sime woman who immediately began to pour out the tea and hand it round before she then offered a plate of small cakes. The two Channels waved them away with a word of thanks, whilst the Gens both accepted. Before she left the room the woman placed the rest of the cakes where the two Gens could easily reach them.
'I hear you spoke to Jay Lynn.' Archer said looking directly at Vidal.
'Yes. I take it he told you all about it?'
'Of course, he's my friend.' The Gen bit into one of the small cakes before he went on his voice dropping to almost a whisper. 'You realise of course that Warren is not privy to any of this?'
Vidal paused before he replied softly. 'I am now. Perhaps you'd care to tell me why he shouldn't know?'
The Gen chewed contemplatively on a piece of cake for a moment or two and then swallowed before he observed, 'because of who and what he is. If he knew what Jay Lynn and the others planned, then my cousin would feel it incumbent on him to try and stop them.'
'And you don't think that he might well be right?'
'In this instance no.' Archer leaned forward to pick up another cake, before he went on earnestly. 'No one on this planet can do anything to help people like Jay; and that means that their only hope for anything like a normal life lies with the indigenous population on Peridot, and what they can teach him.'
Vidal met the Gen's eyes for a moment or two before he nodded slowly. 'Very well then, I give you my word that none of us will mention Jay Lynn or what he intends to do, to your cousin.'
The others had been listening in silence to the conversation, and Jordan now looked at his friend his eyebrows raised in query. 'Vidal?'
'Please Jordan, for the moment do as I say. We'll discuss it later.'
Even as the Sectuib nodded his reluctant agreement the door of the office opened and Warren swept in.
'Sorry to have kept you all waiting,' he said as he moved to take his seat behind the large wooden desk, and Vidal once again made the introductions.
Warren's eyes narrowed as he studied Jordan closely before he observed. 'And Mr Winter I take it is another who, despite his looks, has nothing whatsoever to do with Zeor.' Vidal merely smiled but remained silent, as the Administrator went on, 'so how can I help? I take it that that's why you're all here?'
Vidal's smile broadened as he began to explain what had happened to Tony and how Archer might be of help.
Jordan meanwhile was zlinning the Administrator, surprised both by the Gen's outward appearance and his casual manner as he sprawled back in his chair as he spoke to Vidal.
Yet the Sectuib could also tell that despite his relaxed attitude Warren was also intelligent and keenly observant, as was demonstrated when he broke off his conversation with Vidal and levelled his turquoise eyes on Jordan's face as he asked pointedly. 'You've been zlinning me for the last several minutes Mr Winter, may I ask what conclusions you've come to?'
The Sectuib could not hide the smile that ran across his handsome face as he confessed. 'Forgive me if I've committed some kind of faux pas. But I have to admit that you're the first high ranking Rior official that I've had the privilege of meeting.'
'I see, so I'll ask you again, what conclusions have you come to?'
'That you Sosectu Warren, like practically every other Head of a Household that I have ever met, are a very complex man.'
Archer gasped as Jordan finished speaking, and his cousin froze momentarily with surprise before he stated, 'We don't use Tecton or Householder terms - in the Distect. Please remember that I am not, nor have I ever been Sosectu! To use such a title here in Rior is - insulting.'
Dark eyes met turquoise in a silent duel, but it was turquoise that blinked first as Jordan said softly, 'my apologies if I've upset you Administrator. But believe me it was not done intentionally, indeed it was meant to be a compliment.'
The Gen's body relaxed as he nodded slowly and then explained. 'In that case no harm has been done. I'm sorry if I seem techy about such a small point, but as I explained to your friend Vidal; Rior and all it stands for is at the moment under siege. We are being constantly undermined by the Organisation.'
'Good.' Warren turned back to Vidal once more. 'So you wish Archer to go with you so he can enter the Complex to try and ascertain in which part of the building your friend is being held?'
'Yes, and I assure you he won't be expected to do anything more than point us in the right direction.' Jason said quickly.
'And if your friend is in there, how do you intend to rescue him?' Warren asked. 'Because believe me as Vidal knows, it is not an easy place to escape from.'
'As a matter of fact I've got a job there, repairing the computerised equipment, so I should have no trouble getting inside.'
'But you haven't been back there since your first shift Jason. I know its not that long ago, but they'll certainly want an explanation if you just turn up there again.' Jordan pointed out.
Jason smiled. 'I've learned not to burn all my bridges. I called in sick after my first shift; just in case I had to go back.'
Warren's piercing gaze fell on Jason as he stated, 'not just a pretty face it seems.'
Vidal looked with pride at his Companion as he silently agreed with the Gen's comment.
Archer met his cousin's eyes as he murmured, 'wouldn't Tammy perhaps be of more assistance to them?'
Warren nodded. 'Yes she would. But I had to send her to Seagate a few hours ago; she won't be back for several days. She asked me to tell you but I didn't have time before.' He turned to Vidal as he explained. 'My cousin is referring to his twin sister. She would doubtless have been able to help you far more than Archer, but unfortunately she's not here. And knowing the Organisation's methods as well as I do, I won't suggest that you wait for her return. The sooner you can extricate your friend from their clutches the better. Even a few hours delay could well prove fatal.'
A short while later and they were all on their way to the Complex in transportation driven by Archer, who asked, 'do you have a plan?'
'Not really,' Jordan confessed. 'We thought we would walk the perimeter to give you time to locate, if possible, where they're actually holding Tony. Once we know that, then Jason can report for work.'
'I'm hoping that they're so short staffed that they'll be pleased to let me work, and not ask too many awkward questions.'
'Yes, from what I've heard about the Complex, you're probably right.' Archer agreed. 'However, unlike my sister I won't be able to locate your friend until I'm inside the Complex. I suggest therefore that we decide on a part of the corridor that you feel confident that you'll be able to find easily. I'll then teleport through the outer wall and meet you there, and we'll try to find him together.'
'Are you sure you want to do that?' Jason asked at once, and then went on quickly. 'I didn't want you to get too involved. Because I don't have to tell you just how dangerous it'll be if we get caught.'
Archer smiled. 'Thanks for the concern, but I assure you it isn't the first time I've laid my life on the line inside that place, and I doubt it'll be the last.'
Vidal glanced across at him. 'In that case, we're grateful.'
Archer parked the flitter several streets away from their destination and they all walked quickly towards the Complex.
'I don't see Neil.' Jason said as he looked up and down the long street.
'I can zlin him approaching from that direction,' Jordan replied as Vidal nodded his agreement.
Jason turned to Archer with a slight frown on his handsome face. 'You know I hate to admit this, but I'm totally lost. I have no idea at all what the inside layout of this place is like, not from out here anyway.'
'Don't worry about it, I've been inside the place quite a few times myself,' the young Gen stated, and then went on. 'I suggest you go and sign on for this shift. Once you're inside make your way to where Corridors G and L meet. I'll join you there. Can you do that?'
'Don't worry, I'll find it.' Jason turned to go but Vidal grabbed him by the arm with a tentacle and stopped him.
'It might be a good idea if you wait for Neil to arrive first before you go inside, he might have something important to tell us.'
'Good thinking.' Jason looked up the street, but was still surprised when the renSime seemed to appear out of nowhere.
Vidal introduced him to Archer before he asked if he had any further news.
'As far as I'm aware he's still inside, but you'll have to work quickly if you want to try and get him out in one piece.'
'Why's that?' Jordan asked at once.
'Apparently they've got Gregory Carleton coming to interrogate him!'
'Who's Gregory Carleton?' Jason demanded looking bewildered.
Vidal answered before Neil could do so. 'He's not someone any of you want to meet. If he's on his way, then it's more urgent than ever that we get Tony out of there before he arrives.'
Jordan stared across at his friend shrewdly as he asked, 'I take it you've met him?'
Jason straightened his shoulders. 'Right then, I'd better go. All being well I'll see you inside Archer.'
'Wait!' Jason froze as the Sectuib spoke and then turned to look across at him his eyebrows raised in query. 'If you find Tony and manage to get him out of where ever it is they're holding him. How do you intend to get him out of the Complex itself?'
'Truthfully? I have no idea. But first things first, we've got to get him out of the cell, once we've crossed that hurdle - if we do - then I'll worry about the next step. In any event I very much doubt we'll be as lucky as Vidal was when he escaped from here.'
The Channel nodded at once. 'I agree. Everything was in my favour and fell just right for me. I'm afraid that won't happen again.' He said ominously, and Jason noticed that no one disagreed with him.
'Once we've get Tony out of his cell. You'll have to wait in there with him while I come back outside to tell the others.' Archer said. 'Perhaps by then one of you will have come up with a plan to get him past the Guards at the entrance.'
Jason gave a brief laugh as he said softly. 'Does anyone want to put credits on that?'
Moments later with a quick wave of his hand Jason strode away, not really surprised that no one had bothered to argue with him.
A short while later Archer led the rest of the group to where they were to wait while he, too, was inside the building.
'I'll give Jason another ten minutes to get in position before I enter,' he said glancing at Vidal. 'If you hear any of the alarms going off I suggest you all leave here at once. You can't help us, and remaining here will only mean your inevitable capture, and that's not going to help anyone.'
'At least you'll be able to get away.' Vidal pointed out.
'Hopefully. But don't wait around to find out. If I get out I'll make my way straight back to Rior. We can meet up again there.' Three heads nodded as one as Archer pressed his hands against the wall and began to concentrate. 'The corridor running along inside this wall appears to be deserted. I must take the opportunity now.'
Even as he spoke he stood closer to the wall and placed his hands together as though in prayer, before he closed his eyes. Moments later as the three Simes watched in amazement his body and the wall appeared to shimmer momentarily before he simply disappeared, and there was an almost inaudible pop as the air rushed in to fill the vacuum where his body had been only moments before.
'Shen! If I hadn't seen that with my own eyes I would never have believed it possible,' Jordan stated softly.
'I still don't believe it!' Neil admitted. 'How's does he do that?'
Vidal shook his head. 'I've no idea, and I very much doubt if he does either. But it is fascinating.'
Jordan rubbed his eyes with a tentacle before he spoke. 'You'll get no argument from me about that. But can you imagine what the Organisation could do if they had someone like Archer in their power?'
'I shudder to think.'
Neil suddenly chuckled as he asked, 'I'd like to know if it can be taught? I mean, could I learn to do that?'
'Why?' Jordan asked curiously.
'Oh I think I could find quite a few uses for such a neat trick.'
'I just bet you could. But I'm sorry to disappoint you, a gift like that is something you're born with. It can't be acquired.' Vidal informed him.
'What a pity.'
Jordan shook his head. 'Not really, you'd always have someone after you to try and force you to work for them. Ask Archer, I'm sure he can explain things far better than me.'
Neil smiled wryly. 'I'm not a complete moron. I know what you mean. I was only daydreaming. To be honest I wouldn't want such a gift.' He paused and then went on. 'Something like that comes with a pretty hefty price tag, and I'm betting that it's not something I'd be willing to pay. I suppose it's one of the reasons that I prefer being a renSime and not a Channel. After all I can live my life to suit myself and not be at someone else's beck and call.'
Vidal looked across at him. 'You surprise me.'
'Why, because I can also see the drawbacks to things; not just the advantages?' He said quietly. 'I'm not a complete fool Vidal.'
'No, you most certainly are not.'
'Quiet both of you I can zlin someone approaching,' Jordan whispered.
'I believe there are two of them,' Vidal whispered back.
'And both are Gen.' Jordan agreed. Neil endeavoured to zlin anything at all but without immediate success.
A few minutes later the three Simes moved into the shadows to hide, until the two Gens had passed them by.
Jason had no difficulty in joining the work shift; in fact he was welcomed with open arms. However to his chagrin no sooner had he entered the Complex than he bumped straight into Iris. The red head greeted him like a long lost friend and insisted on being told why she hadn't seen him before this?
A quarter of an hour passed quickly by and he was still unable to get rid of her. Then suddenly another Supervisor came along who was senior to Iris and Jason breathed a sigh of relief as she sped away, and he was left once more to his own devices.
Arriving at the rendezvous point where he had arranged to meet Archer, Jason found he was not there. Jason whispered an expletive as he glanced up and down both corridors but without success.
'Jason, in here!' The words were hissed from somewhere behind and made him jump in surprise. Archer was standing in a partly opened doorway, and was beckoning furiously for him to go inside.
'I thought you weren't here.' Jason confessed.
'I thought the same about you; where've you been?' Archer demanded back. 'I had to hide. I didn't realise this corridor was used by so many people.'
'I got waylaid by a work colleague.' Jason murmured briefly. 'Where do you suggest we start looking?'
'Probably in the same part of the building where they put Vidal, that seems as good a place to start as any.'
'Agreed, and since you know the place far better than me, why don't you take point.'
Archer unerringly led the way to where Vidal had been held prisoner, but this time the room was empty.
Systematically they began their search up one corridor and then down the next.
On one occasion Archer had felt a presence on the other side of the wall, and had suddenly disappeared from sight as he entered the room to investigate. Leaving Jason alone in the corridor, to wait with what patience he could muster, but each time he drew a blank.
'Where the shen can he be?'
Archer shook his head. 'Come, we will look down here. There's a room at the end that they've been using as a morgue and...'
'You're not suggesting that Tony's dead are you?'
'Not yet I'm not, but it's an option we can't just dismiss out of hand.' Archer warned as he went on. 'However, as I recall there are several rooms on either side of the morgue. Your friend may well be in one of those. If he isn't, then truthfully I have no idea where he might be, and we could be in for a very, very long search.'
'Which means a much higher chance of being discovered,' Jason murmured.
'That's inevitable I'm afraid.'
It was as they approached the third room on the left of the morgue that Archer suddenly became more animated. 'There's someone in here.'
'From the body temperature I would say yes. But please Jason don't get your hopes up.'
Seconds later Jason was alone once more as Archer did his disappearing act and momentarily vanished from his sight; yet even after watching him do it on several occasions now, Jason still felt disorientated when it happened. Indeed in many ways the whole affair was starting to take on an almost dreamlike quality, as he began to wonder if he would suddenly wake up to find that the whole episode was just a fantasy and none of it was real.
Pressing his body against the opposite wall of the corridor he slid slowly down until he was sitting on the floor in the small amount of shadow available to him; his back against the wall and his knees tucked up under his chin.
As far as he could ascertain he was more or less in the centre of the corridor, which came to a dead end about twenty metres or so from where he was now. So theoretically at least, unless someone was actually coming to a specific room along this corridor, no one would see him sitting here.
However, he soon discovered that people were still passing by the entrance to the corridor; so sitting on the floor in the shadows did not seem to be a bad idea.
Meanwhile Archer was already inside the room where he had sensed a presence, and found that he was correct. There was indeed a young Gen tied up and lying on the bare floor. He was also unconscious, although whether this was due to illness, injury or medication, he had no way of telling.
Moving quickly towards the silent figure he could see that he did indeed fit the description that he had been given. This meant that in all probability he was looking down at the young Gen known as Tony Winter.
Crouching down beside him Archer saw that he was tied up tightly, rather like one would truss up a chicken, with no regard to his comfort. When he finally awoke the young man would find it extremely painful, for circulation had obviously been severely restricted to all his limbs.
Reaching inside his boot Archer drew out a small slim knife and quickly sliced through the thick twine that bit into the Gen's soft flesh; sending up a silent prayer of thanks that they had used rope, and not the usual chains and shackles that they used on Simes.
Replacing the knife Archer rubbed the man's wrists and ankles to help get his circulation moving again. In one respect it was lucky that he was deeply comatose, for the pain would no doubt be excruciating. On the other hand of course it could make their task far harder, especially if he remained unconscious for long and they were forced to carry him from here.
Realising that for the moment at least he had done all he could for the Gen. Archer stood up and moved to the door. Seconds later he teleported out and looked quickly along the corridor.
'I'm here.' Jason rose silently to his feet out of the shadows as he asked. 'Any luck?'
'Yes.' The Gen walked towards the door.
'So how do we get him out?'
'Like this.' After several seconds the door opened and Archer turned to grin at Jason as he waved him into the room.
'How did you do that?'
'Oh its an art!' He said airily. 'Come on, we have to hurry.' He pushed Jason further into the room and quickly followed him in.
Jason looked around the near empty room and then hurried to where Tony lay, dropping to his knees beside the still body. 'What's wrong with him?'
'I don't know. I found him tied up and I released him. But why he's still unconscious?' Archer shrugged. 'Whatever the cause we can't hang around here any longer; we have to get him out of here before the Guards come back. Can you carry him?' Jason nodded. 'Good, we'll take it in turns.'
Jason bent to lift him up, and Archer helped to distribute the dead weight evenly across the Gen's broad shoulders. Seconds later he led the way out of the cell, closing the door behind them before taking the lead.
Jason weighed more than Tony and had far more muscle than him, but even so he still found it hard to carry the slighter man, who because he was unconscious, now seemed to be twice as heavy as normal. Sweat began to run down from his hair into his eyes, but as it was now taking both his hands to hold his friend in position, he was unable to wipe it away and therefore had to stumble almost blindly along behind Archer.
'How much further is it?' He gasped the words as he stopped to hoist the body back up onto his shoulders from where it had begun to slip.
'Not far, I took the long way round. At this time this part of the Complex is less busy. Here let me take him for a while.' Jason did not argue as Tony was quickly transferred from him to Archer. Immediately the Gen took off again still leading the way.
A short while later Archer stopped abruptly and Jason almost bumped into him. 'What's up?'
'Nothing, we're here.'
'Where?' Jason demanded as he helped Archer lower his burden carefully to the floor.
'It's the place where I came in. The others should be waiting on the outside, right about here,' and he placed one hand on the wall as he spoke.
A frown spread across Jason's forehead as he asked, 'so what do we do now?'
'I have no idea. If you recall, this is where our plan of campaign ran out.' He sighed. 'Have you any idea at all how we should proceed from here?'
'None. What about you?'
Archer shook his head in negation, 'I'd better go and join the others and see what they've come up with.'
'Fine, but hurry, we've been lucky so far.' Jason paused and then went on, 'if I recall there's a storage locker room towards the end of this corridor, I'll take Tony and hide in there till you come back. Don't be long.'
'I'll try not to be.' The two men parted company and he watched as Archer disappeared once more through the wall. Yet even though he now had Tony with him, Jason still felt alone.
Read Chapter 12
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