Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
Jordan stood in the middle of the room they had just entered and watched as Jason tossed his bag onto the nearest bed. 'I'll take this one if that's okay with you.'
The Sime nodded as he zlinned the small room but made no effort to move.
'What's the matter?'
'This room is filthy.' The Channel's nose wrinkled with disgust as he spoke.
'Yes. Most of these places are.' The Gen said cheerfully as he went on bluntly. 'They're only meant for transients. Besides we're less likely to draw attention to ourselves in a dump like this, than in a more classy place.'
'I agree, but surely there must be a place more.' Two tentacles emerged to wave slowly in the air as he spoke.
'More what? Cleaner or comfortable? This is how a lot of people live all the time Jordan, at least we know it's only short term. Come on put that bag down and let's go and get something to eat I'm starving.'
The Channel nodded. 'You're right of course. It was a foolish thing to say in the circumstances.'
Jason grinned. 'You're not doing too badly for a relative beginner you know. I wasn't with Vidal when he first started out, but I bet he had some surprises before he got used to things.'
'I'm sure you're right. But I don't feel like eating here, not if the kitchens are anything like this.' He shook his elegant head in disgust as approached the other bed and stared down at it.
'Cheer up. It could be worse, just be grateful we're not setting up home here.'
'Heaven forbid.' The Channel shuddered as he placed his own bag on the faded cover and then moved over to stand by the door as he waited for the Gen to join him.
Jason grinned wryly and then stopped as he realised the Sime was zlinning the room yet again. 'What's up now?'
'Nothing, except this room appears to have an extremely high insect and rodent population, although whether they are related to their counterparts back home on Earth?' He shrugged grimly, 'is anyone's guess.'
'Thanks very much, believe me I could have done without that amount of information!' Jason growled the words as he elbowed passed the Sime and opened the door to lead the way outside into the dimly lit corridor. 'Just remember to look for bugs before you jump into bed.'
Jordan merely shuddered as he chose to ignore the warning and set off at a rapid pace, leaving Jason to follow as quickly as he could.
Before they left the rooming house where they were staying, Jordan spoke quietly to the Clerk on duty in the small reception area. Jason saw a number of credits change hands before he was told, 'wait here, I won't be a minute,' and the Channel disappeared through an inner door.
A short while later they were both sitting at a side table in one of the many bars that served the residents on this part of Damus Two. They each had a glass of the local ale in front of them, and Jason also had several thick slices of bread together with a large piece of red cheese and a thin pink skinned fruit cut into slices that looked and tasted vaguely, but not completely, like an apple.
When they had first entered the bar, one or two of the other occupants had given them a cursory glance before returning to their drinks. Jason knew that Jordan was projecting renSime, and as he himself had only given transfer recently they had no problem as far as his field was concerned either.
'So, what was all that about back there?' He demanded at last.
'The Clerk allowed me to use his communication panel.'
'To what end?'
'To look up the call number of a friend,' the Sime said laconically.
'Friend? Do we actually have a friend on this godforsaken planet?'
'Zeor has friends on most planets.'
'Okay very funny. So come on stop playing around and tell me what the shen is going on?'
Jordan smiled briefly. 'I got in touch with someone who has lived on Damus Two for a few years now, and he really is someone that I know through Zeor, though to be honest not all that well.'
'Can we trust him?'
'I believe so, but again it's a chance we have to take.'
'And you think he might be able to help us?'
Jordan nodded, 'he's coming here to meet us, so we'll find out.'
'Is that wise? I mean, what if someone was listening in when you spoke to him?'
'I'm not stupid Jason, believe me the conversation we had was entirely innocent.' The Sime replied and then watched as the Gen filled his mouth once more and chewed slowly.
For the next twenty minutes they sat in silence as Jason steadily munched his way through the pile of food on the table, and the Channel surreptitiously zlinned the other customers.
It was therefore Jason who jumped in surprise as a slight figure slid into the seat opposite him, beside Jordan. The man was a renSime and about his own age. He was tall and thin even for a Sime, though wiry might have been a better description. His hair was short and very blonde, and Jason wondered if it was dyed. Although then again perhaps he was wrong, for the Sime's eyes were a true sky blue, like a summer day on Earth. If he were female and not male, he could best be described as pretty.
'Neil, it's good to see you again.'
'Same here, but I hardly recognised you from behind and I certainly wasn't expecting you to be projecting renSime.'
'Sorry about that but in the circumstances...' The Channel's voice trailed away as he shrugged his shoulders.
'Understood, so who's your friend?'
'Of course, you haven't met. Neil Heyer this is Jason Devere Jason Neil.'
The two men assessed each other as they made eye contact and then nodded slowly making no effort to touch.
'So how can I help?' He asked as Jason ordered another round of drinks.
In a few terse but concise sentences Jordan explained the bare bones of their mission. 'Well if you're sure he was brought here, then there's only one place he's likely to be - the Complex - it's the Organisation's main Headquarters on this side of the planet.' Neil said quietly.
'Have you any idea how we can get inside?'
'Shen, you're not asking much are you?' He paused as the drinks arrived.
'Neil I simply want to know if it's possible?' The Channel pressed him.
'It's possible I guess. Anything's possible. Let me think.' He accepted the drink that Jason had ordered.
As the two Simes spoke together, Jason sipped from his own glass and surveyed the room silently. Thankfully no one seemed to be paying the three of them any undue attention, and as far as he could ascertain from looking at the Simes sitting close to them, no one was zlinning them either.
Neil suddenly broke his silence as he observed, 'well I suppose the best way for one of you to get inside would be to apply for work there. I understand they're always looking for general workers in the cleaning department and the kitchens. Being the Organisation of course everything's fully automated, but they're always after techno people to run and fix things. Are either of you any good with computers?'
The sound of his name brought Jason's attention fully back to the two men opposite him. 'Have I missed something?'
'I'll tell you later Jason. Go on Neil.'
Jason scowled at the Channel and then for some reason found that his eyes had moved back to the main entrance where three men, two Simes and a Gen had entered. Instinct told him that they spelled trouble. They had that indefinable something that almost screamed "muscle." He had seen many similar types in the clubs and bars that he had visited on various planets. Not counting his undercover work as a singer and member of a group, to know exactly what he was now looking at.
Of course he had no reason to think that the trouble they were obviously seeking had anything to do with either him or Jordan, but they were already scanning the room as though looking for someone in particular.
The three men stood in line abreast of each other, before they began to advance almost as one. The Sime on the right pushed a customer unceremoniously out of the way as they moved down the room.
Instinctively under cover of the table Jason dropped his hand down to rest on his blaster, it was already pointing in the direction of the three men.
Jordan's attention immediately switched to the young Gen as he asked quickly, 'what's the matter Jason?'
He told the Channel without taking his eyes off the men, and then went on, 'don't look around I've got them covered, just carry on as normal.'
'I've already zlinned them, but I very much doubt they're looking for us.' Jordan replied soothingly.
Neil coughed almost apologetically. 'I think they're looking for me.'
'You? Why?' The Channel demanded at once.
'It's a long story. Look I may have to leave here in rather a hurry. I'll try and catch up with you both later.'
Jason glanced to his left at the rear entrance and saw that a tall Sime female had now entered the room and was standing directly in front of the narrow doorway. She stood with her arms hanging loose at the front of her body, one hand clasping the wrist of the other arm.
'It looks like there's no way out Neil. There's three at the front and one to the rear.' Jason stated calmly.
'Shen!' Neil almost spat the word as he zlinned the room and came to the same conclusion himself.
Jordan sighed, 'so much for keeping a low profile!' He murmured with resignation.
'It's Big Daddy!' Neil said softly, 'so it is me they're after. If you two just get up and leave I guarantee they won't stop you.'
Big Daddy? Jason digested the name silently as he glanced across at Jordan, before his eyes flicked back to the three men who were coming ever closer. He knew they could not leave the Sime to face these men on his own, no matter what the reason for their presence might be.
'I've got ah... Big Daddy and his two Sime friends covered, Can one of you keep an eye on the woman?' Even as he spoke the three men turned abruptly in their direction. 'Shen it they're coming straight for us,' he hissed softly.
Surprisingly it was the huge Gen who moved to stand at the end of their table. Close up he stood well over two metres high; his arms were bulging with muscle, and his gut, which hung over his belt rested on the top of the table in front of them. 'Do you mind?' Jason demanded and moved his glass out of the way before it was knocked over by the mountain of flesh.
'Look friends we're not interested in either of you, it's him we want. Right, Neil?' The Gen demanded with an ugly sneer, his eyes resting on the blonde Sime. 'So if you two want to leave quietly that's fine by us. Agreed?'
The two Simes with him nodded their heads in complete unison reminding Jordan of clockwork toys he had once seen in a museum.
Jason felt his lips twitch as he too watched them. 'Do you wind them up each morning or is it all done by thought control?' He demanded of the big Gen, and then shook his head. 'No, can't be thought control, you'd need a brain for that wouldn't you?'
'Jason please!' Jordan muttered the reprimand as Neil almost laughed out loud but managed to turn it into a cough.
'You trying to make a monkey out of me pretty boy?' The Gen demanded. Leaning over the table to stare menacingly into Jason's face, giving him a close up view of his yellow teeth and the bits of food that were still trapped between them.
'No you're managing that all by yourself, with absolutely no help from me,' Jason retorted, and smiled as he waved his left hand in front of his face to try and waft away the sour fumes that the Gen was breathing over him.
'What the hell?' His green eyes opened wide with surprise as he heard a low almost animal growl leave the big Gen's mouth. Jason had met men like him before of course and knew almost instinctively that now was the time to make their move. If they didn't, then Big Daddy would decide for them, and that he dare not allow.
He glanced across at Jordan and met the dark eyes with an open question in his green ones. The Channel briefly nodded his acknowledgement of the unspoken question as Jason under cover of the table moved his blaster from one hand to the other. Then leaning back on his seat he brought up his right hand and rested it against his heart, straightened his fingers as he had been taught by his instructors and paused. The Gen's sweaty face was almost nose-to-nose with him as he spoke, again wafting a cloud of foul air in his direction.
'We've got a little business to discuss with Neil. So are you and your pal going to leave or what?'
'No I think not. After all we were here first.' Jason replied softly as his hand flew towards the Gen and he chopped him across the throat with the hard flat side of his hand. The Gen had no chance to react as Jason's hand moved lightning fast to grasp him around the back of his neck and he slammed the ugly face down hard onto the top of the table, hearing the crack as his chin and nose connected, and Big Daddy slid slowly down to the floor, unconscious.
Neil was already tackling one of the Simes who had been standing behind the Gen, while Jordan augmenting had thrown himself across in the other direction to intercept the woman, who was so tall that she towered over him.
His blaster still in his left hand Jason lifted it above the top of the table where it could be seen and pointed it at the other Sime's stomach. The man had begun to make his move as soon as he realised what was happening to the Gen, but had had to get past Big Daddy's massive body before he could intervene.
'You know I really wouldn't do that if I were you,' Jason said softly. Thankfully it seemed that the Sime unlike Big Daddy, was not totally stupid, and Jason watched the Sime's eyes slide out of focus as he was zlinned.
Ascertaining that Jason meant exactly what he said, and would have no compunction at all in firing the weapon at point blank range if he moved any closer; the Sime froze, and then moved back slightly on one foot to resume his original pose. But his eyes still watched for the slightest opening.
Jason however had no intention of giving him any such opportunity, as he spoke to Neil without even looking at him. 'Everything under control Neil?'
'No problem here.'
'Good. Then can one of you give me a hand?' Even as he spoke he became aware of Jordan standing beside him. 'Can you find something to tie this one up? I don't want to take my eyes off him. Rope's no good he'll snap it like paper.'
'I'm well aware of that!' Jordan stated indignantly as the Sime bartender without being asked tossed across a pair of special handcuffs that he kept behind the bar to restrain some of his more rowdy Sime customers. Only then did Jason allow himself the luxury of relaxing enough to glance around the room. He was surprised to find that the place was practically empty, for most of the customers had left as soon as the trouble had erupted.
The female Sime was sitting in a chair her head resting on the table as though asleep, where Jordan always the gentleman had obviously placed her after rendering her unconscious.
The other Sime was lying face down on the floor in a slowly expanding pool of blood, although Jason had no idea where he had been wounded or how. Then he saw that Neil was standing beside the body in the process of wiping a small stiletto on the man's shirt. 'Is he dead?'
Neil looked across at him calmly. 'He'll recover.'
The huge Gen still lying at Jason's feet was now making strange choking sounds, and was obviously in the process of coming around.
Neil studied the blade dispassionately and then replaced it in the sheath strapped to his ankle, before he spoke again. 'If you've both finished I suggest we get out of here.'
'Has the bartender called anyone?' Jason asked quietly.
'Not till we leave, then he will.' Neil answered authoritatively.
Jordan nodded. 'Right, let's go.'
By silent agreement Neil accompanied them back to where they were staying and no one spoke till they were safely ensconced inside the room.
'So tell me Neil, what was all that about?' Jordan demanded as Jason moved to boil a kettle for trin to settle his nerves if not theirs.
Neil followed him across the room to wash the blood off his hands in the small sink, before he replied. 'As I said before, it's a long story.'
'We've got all night and besides, since when have you carried a knife?'
The small man turned and grinned ruefully at him, 'times change.'
'That doesn't answer my question.'
'Look I don't want to interrupt, but how did you two meet?' Jason demanded as he spooned leaves into the pot. 'No offence Neil, but you don't strike me as the type of friend Jordan would normally have.'
'Once upon a time Neil belonged to Zeor sort of.' Jordan replied.
'Not any longer I take it. So what happened?'
Jordan smiled briefly. 'That's a long story.' He said as he worked the fields.
Jason poured the boiling water into the pot before he observed. 'Like you just said Jordan, we've got all night.'
'Hung by my own petard! Very well, I'll give you the condensed version of events, with Neil's permission of course?'
'Go ahead don't mind me.' The Sime accepted the glass of trin Jason offered him with a brief nod of thanks, but was careful not to touch the Gen.
'I first met Neil on Rockall.'
'Rockall? But did you work there too?'
'Jason please, do you want to hear this or are you going to interrupt all the time?' The Sectuib demanded.
'Sorry go on, I'm listening.'
'Neil was one of the unfortunates who killed in First Need,' he said bluntly as he sipped the hot tea.
'You cured him? I mean well, he wouldn't be running around loose if you. Sorry my lips are sealed. Promise.'
'There is no cure Jason, at least, not in the way that you mean,' Neil stated. 'To be frank, I was on Rockall for five years and then decided I'd had enough, so I left.'
'You left? Just like that!?' Jason turned to Jordan. 'I didn't know they could just leave if they wanted to.'
'They can't! Neil left without permission.'
'You mean he just jumped ship he escaped.'
Jordan sighed. 'Unfortunately yes, that's exactly what he did. You must remember that before we moved off world, we had two types of Simes on Rockall; those who had killed more than once and were then apprehended; and those who had killed only once, in First Need. Not much could be done for the first category, they could sometimes go for almost a year without a kill, but sooner or later they had to kill again. But a few of the second group, of which Neil was one, could with the aid of drugs and other therapies live a reasonable life without ever having to kill or,' he qualified quickly, 'very rarely anyway.'
Neil snorted rudely. 'And there speaks a Sime who has no idea at all what the shen he's talking about! It wasn't "living" Jordan, not by any stretch of the imagination. That's why I came here to live amongst the Distect. Here I can live a normal life. I can take transfer when I want with a willing Gen, I don't have to kill. Zlin me Jordan, have you ever seen me this well before? Well have you?' He challenged almost angrily.
Jordan shook his head. 'No I haven't; which is one of the many reasons why we're trying to do a deal with the Distect Neil, discounting the Organisation of course. Can you imagine what it would mean to others like you if they had somewhere else to go, where they could lead fairly normal lives?' The Sectuib asked passionately.
Neil looked down into his empty glass and then looked up again. 'Yes I do know. You're a good man Jordan, even if I don't agree with everything you say; but now you're talking my kind of language, so I'll do all I can to help you, you know that.'
'I never doubted it.' Jordan smiled. 'But first we have to see if we can find Vidal.'
Jason looked from one Sime to the other before he spoke. 'I agree with your priorities Jordan, but I'd still like to know who those men in the bar were, and what they wanted with Neil? After all, we could both have been badly injured tonight, and neither of us would have known why.'
'You're not going to let it rest are you?' Neil demanded as Jason and Jordan shook their heads. 'Okay. In the last few months I've been working with a small group of Riorites and Distect members.'
Jason who was now sitting on his bed leaned forward, his hands clasped between his knees as he asked eagerly. 'Riorites? I've never heard them called that before I take it they come from Rior?'
'Yes. One of the largest groups, if not the largest, lives right here on Damus Two. Mind you there are several factions living around this Sector who refer to themselves as being householders from Rior. Though the actual House of Rior on this planet can trace its origins further back than any of the others, and its run on more traditional lines too'
Jason looked across at the Channel. 'Vidal told me that there are small groups of Distect who still call themselves Rior, but I never really expected them to be organised did you?'
'Yes, as a matter of fact I did. Zeor's been collecting information on them from various sources for many years now.' He stated, then glanced across at Neil as the Sime continued.
'Tell me, have you ever heard of Peridot?' Jordan shook his head.
'You may know it as Argo. At least, that's what it's called on the star maps.'
'Why's it called Peridot?' Jason asked with interest.
'Because in the night sky from Damus Two it looks just like a pale green jewel.' Neil explained, and then went on. 'It's a closed world of course and totally out of bounds to both the Distect and the Organisation. But there's a small group of Gens mainly from Rior who want to go there. Now don't ask me why they want to go, because I've no idea. But I've been negotiating for the use of a shuttle on their behalf, and that's totally illegal of course.'
'Jason did you pay no attention to what Roy Peretti and Wil Harris told us back on Earth?' Jordan demanded.
'Roy and... Sorry I'd forgotten. Go on Neil.'
'Well the group won't tell me why they want to go to Peridot, and I have asked them on more than one occasion. But to be honest they're paying me a great deal of money to arrange things for them, and I'm in no position to argue. Suffice it to say I want the money.'
'And why's that, to pay off Big Daddy?' Jason asked astutely.
Neil laughed softly. 'No. As a matter of fact they're offering me even more money to deliver the group of them.'
'Why?' Jordan asked in surprise.
'Well now, promise me you won't laugh Jordan; but they reckon that these people have some of the same abilities that the inhabitants of Peridot are supposed to have. Of course they're talking a load of shen, we all know that, but I just don't like the idea of turning over a bunch of kids, and most of the Group are just kids, to hardened criminals like Big Daddy and his cohorts.'
Jordan saw that Jason was about to open his mouth, and quickly caught the Gen's eyes and shook his head slightly as he said. 'I could be wrong, but I rather got the impression that Big Daddy would not be working for himself.' The Sectuib ran his tentacles through his black hair as he asked. 'Neil doesn't he have any other name but "Big Daddy"? I hate calling him that.'
The Sime grinned at his friend. 'If he does, I don't know what it is. But if you mean do they answer to someone else? Then yes I agree with you they're just the hired help, nothing more.' Neil replied. 'To be brutally honest they're too "thick" to be anything else.'
'And you've no idea who this other person might be?'
The Sime shook his blonde head decisively. 'No.'
Jordan stood up and walked across to lean against the small window as he looked up into the dark night sky. 'Neil, can you delay taking this group to Peridot for a few nights?'
'Probably, to be honest I'm more worried about Big Daddy and his gang finding me but why delay taking the kids?'
'Well correct me if I'm wrong, but I wouldn't be surprised if the people they're working for are connected to the Organisation.'
'I tend to agree.' Neil stated at once, 'although like I said, I've got no proof either way.'
'Which means my friend, that if they can't get to these youngsters through you; they'll try to hijack the shuttle when it's en route to Peridot.' Jordan stated. 'Failing which they will doubtless attack it and attempt to destroy it completely.' Jordan observed.
'You're kidding! Why would they want to destroy them?'
'I wish I knew Jason. But consider this. As far as we're aware the Organisation have been looking for these people for quite some time.' He held up a tentacle for silence as Neil opened his mouth to interrupt. 'If I'm not mistaken, and I have no reason to believe that the information Glory has accumulated over the years is incorrect, then these kids as you call them are the result of interbreeding with the indigenous inhabitants of Peridot.'
'My God Jordan, you really believe they're shape-shifters don't you?'
The Sime began to smile and then stopped as the Channel nodded his head soberly.
'Not only that Neil, but consider, if they're taken alive they'll be able to tell their captors where any others like them, are to be found.'
'Others? You think their might be others?' Neil asked.
'Possibly. I very much doubt that this Group constitutes all the shape-shifters on Damus Two. On top of that of course there may be others who have more shall we say, extraordinary abilities living elsewhere.'
'You're talking about people like Ercy Farris aren't you?' Jason said joining in the conversation.
'Ercy Farris?' Neil repeated, a slight question in his tone. 'Am I to take it you're referring to the Ercy Farris mentioned in the history books? What does she have to do with these kids?'
'Nothing at all Neil,' Jordan assured him, 'it's just the way that Jason's strange mind operates. Ercy, who as you know was an ancestor of mine, also had various rather unusual abilities. But that is all.'
'Oh for goodness sake Jordan tell it like it is. Ercy Farris was able to use telekinesis Neil, and she also had pyrokinetic capabilities, and could teleport things around, including herself at least that's what we're told.' Jason explained bluntly. 'And old Jordan believes some of the Rior people might also have some if not all of these talents. Right Jordan?'
The Channel sighed as he nodded his dark head in agreement.
'Hey, you're serious about this aren't you?'
Jason smiled, 'yes. It takes a little getting used to doesn't it?'
'I can see why you wouldn't want any of them to end up in the Organisation's hands.' Neil cocked his head to one side like a bird, as he went on. 'Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm thinking there's more than one reason why you want me to hold off on ferrying these kids to Peridot am I right?'
Jason glanced at Jordan before he said, 'yes, you're right. As Jordan said before, we believe that Vidal Trent, who also happens to be a Channel, is being held by the Organisation. When they took Vidal, they almost killed Jordan's Companion, and left him for dead.' Jason paused and then went on his voice down to a whisper. 'Vidal is already in need, and I have to face the fact that it might be too late to help him, but I have to try Neil, can you understand that?'
'Priorities again!' The Sime said intuitively. 'You're this Vidal's Companion aren't you?'
'And you say that they almost "killed" Tony, the Sectuib's Companion? You mean that literally?' Jason nodded silently.
Neil turned to Jordan. 'I liked Tony he was a good man Sectuib. If I can help I will.'
Read Chapter 3
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