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 FIVE

After much discussion, it was finally agreed that while Jason was at the Complex, Neil would take Jordan to a nearby tavern.

The renSime also informed them that he knew quite a few people who both worked at the Complex and frequented the tavern, which meant that with luck they might just pick up some useful gossip or information.

Jason arranged to meet them there when he finished work at the Complex; but if they had already left, he would make his way back to what he had come to think of as - Cassandra's place.

'You'd better tell me how to find this tavern Neil.'

'I doubt you'll miss it, it's only just around the corner from the side entrance of the Complex.'

Jason nodded as he asked, 'what's it called?'

Neil grinned. 'Hellsgate!'

Jason could not stop his eyes from opening wide with surprise. 'Well I suppose it's quite appropriate when you consider where it's situated,' he finally conceded, returning the Sime's grin.

 

Arriving at the Complex Jason was soon kitted out with a grey one piece coverall that denoted his position on the work team; and as far as he could tell he came pretty close to bottom of the pile in the pecking order.

For the first few hours he was unable to escape from the Gen woman called Iris who was instructed to show him the ropes; although Jason had little doubt that her other task was to keep a close eye on him and assess his capabilities, which was fair enough.

Thankfully by the middle of the shift she appeared to be satisfied with his progress, and said as much as she accompanied him to where the other workers had gathered to drink and talk.

Jason listened carefully to the buzz of conversation around him; but heard nothing of any interest. He would have liked to ask a few questions himself, but knew that it would be both foolish and dangerous to do so; especially on his first shift, when he was under such close scrutiny.

When they finally resumed work he was pleased to find that Iris left him to fix a number of the units entirely on his own. Most had broken down in various corridors, which meant he had to use a tracing device to find them.

Picking up the pace he quickly repaired the machines on his list, and then raced off up the corridor to begin his search. He knew he was taking a chance, but in the circumstances he had no alternative, for the chances of finding Vidal still alive were already extremely slim, and were deteriorating fast, and every minute that ticked by lowered the odds even more.

Surprisingly he found that most of the empty rooms appeared to be unlocked. When he looked inside them they turned out to be either store rooms or offices, and those that were in use were occupied by workers who were obviously not much higher than him in the chain of command.

It quickly dawned on him that he was definitely in the wrong part of the building, and was in fact a very long way from the notorious Sector C that Neil had told him about.

Sighing with frustration he began to retrace his steps; his shift was coming to a close and he had to get back before Iris returned and found him gone. In this however he was to be disappointed.

'Where the shen have you been?'

'Sorry Iris, I finished here and went looking for you. But this place is so big, I took a wrong turn and got myself completely lost.' He gave her a winsome smile as the lie slipped easily from his tongue.

In the past his brother Mike had often said, where women were concerned his younger brother could charm the birds from the trees. Jason had always denied the assertion, but for once he was pleased that his brother was proved correct as Iris, who was a tall buxom red head fluttered her hazel eyes at him and then blushed furiously.

'I got lost a few times myself when I first started, you'll soon get used to it.'

She assured him as she accompanied him to back to the changing rooms.

'Have you worked here long?' He asked tentatively.

'It feels like I've always been here. 'She said with a rueful smile. 'But in real time? Well it must be all of seven years now.'

'That long! I suppose there's not much you don't know about this place by now?' Jason probed carefully.

'You could say that.'

As he quickly changed into his own clothes Jason's mind raced, as he wondered whether he should ask Iris to go to the tavern with him for a drink. After all, if she had been working for the Organisation for seven years then she would undoubtedly have all the information he would ever want to know about the inner workings of the Complex. Of course he would have to be careful, but it was worth a try, and might save him endless nights of searching and disappointment inside the building itself.

To his surprise Iris agreed to his suggestion without any persuasion on his part; and they both stepped outside the Complex into a light rain, which gave Jason the excuse he was looking for to grasp her hand as they both began to run in the direction of Hellsgate.

Arriving at their destination Jason followed her inside. It was immediately obvious that she frequented the place often, as she called to one of the men serving behind the bar by name.

Jason ordered drinks as his eyes skimmed around the tables. It was at times like this that he really wished he could zlin, for he would then have been able to establish if his two friends were still here, without the necessity of scanning the crowd, and taking the chance that he might draw attention to himself.

'Looking for someone?' The red head asked as she accepted a drink and lead the way across to a small table.

'No, just curious, I've never been in here before.'

'Doesn't really live up to its name does it?'

Jason's eyes flicked around the large room again, and he had to agree with her observation. For apart from the fact that the walls were painted with what someone obviously thought were scenes from hell; which included what the artist obviously thought were typical devils with pointed ears and horns, cloven hoofs long tails and forks. On top of which they all appeared to be chasing voluptuous virgins with large breasts. But apart from this, there was little else of interest.

Nothing else appeared to carry on the theme of Hell. Indeed the rest of the dÈcor was totally modern and utterly mundane. In many ways it was a total disappointment, because he had been expecting - what? He could not really answer his own question, but certainly more than this.

'I agree with you,' he admitted finally, as he glanced across at her again and picking up his glass sipped at the golden liquid.

Then his eyes were drawn over her shoulder and he found himself looking straight at Jordan. The Channel was facing him whilst Neil was sitting opposite him, which meant that Jason could only see his back.

He had little doubt that both Simes had zlinned his presence the moment he had entered the room.

The Channel looked straight at him a question written large in his dark eyes. Straight away Jason frowned and shook his head slightly as he dropped his eyes back down to the table, and studied his half empty glass.

Would Jordan understand the message he was trying to convey? He knew that Vidal would have done so in a heartbeat, but then Vidal was a lot more experienced at this type of game than Jordan.

He had visions of Neil turning around to look at Iris, and then either one or both of them coming across to his table and.he just had to take another look! The Channel's dark eyes immediately met his and then slid away again; and Jason released the pent up breath he had not realised he was holding.

'Hey, are you listening to me?'

'No, I'm sorry,' he admitted at once. 'I was wool gathering. I guess I'm more tired than I thought. I'm not used to working nights.'

She laughed softly. 'Correct me if I'm wrong, but I bet you didn't get any sleep before you started at the Complex this evening did you?'

He smiled sheepishly across at her. 'You're right, I didn't.'

'I'm a bit tired myself,' she confessed.

'Burning the candle at both ends?'

'I wish! No I'm afraid we had a bit of trouble at the Complex yesterday. I had to put in an extra three hours on top of my usual shift, before I could get away.' She confessed.

'Does that often happen? I mean, is it something I have to expect?' His heart was starting to pound with excitement. Perhaps he was on to something here.

'No it's unusual. The last time was three years ago. Luckily I wasn't on duty at the time so I didn't get roped in.'

'So what happened?' He asked quietly; when he really wanted to grab her shoulders and shake the story out of her.

'Well I suppose it's all right to tell you. After all you're working at the Complex now, so you're bound to hear it from one of the others; besides its fairly common knowledge among most of the people in the town who have friends or relations working there.' Iris replied, and then making her mind up she went on. 'One of the prisoners from Sector C escaped. They made us search every square inch of the place before we could go home.'

'Was he found?'

'No. But it's only the second time anyone's got clean away from the place. They reckon he must have had inside help. God help them if they get caught.' She said ominously, and then whispered. 'I wouldn't want to be in their shoes.'

'Any idea who the prisoner was?'

'I heard he was Sime, and rumour says he might be from Rior. Not that anyone really knows. They don't tell us very much.'

'Why would they hold someone from Rior a prisoner?' Jason asked curiously, and then went on tentatively. 'As I understand it the Organisation and Rior have always co-operated and worked together, haven't they?'

She stared at him and then said, 'I keep forgetting that you've only just moved here from Aryanous. Now I don't know how things are there Jason, but here it's a fairly open secret that Rior and the Organisation have been at logger heads for years. Don't ask me why, because I don't know. Politics I guess. Lots of speculation of course, but I've learned during my time at the Complex that people stay a lot healthier if they don't indulge in idle gossip; especially where the Organisation is concerned, if you get my drift?'

Jason nodded, yes he got her drift all right; and he was now eager to find out what if anything Jordan and Neil had found out tonight. It might shed some light on what he had just learned from Iris.

Luckily he discovered that she only lived a short distance from the Complex; which meant he was able to walk her home and return to Hellsgate quite quickly, using tiredness as the excuse to leave her there on her own.

Jason knew that the two Simes had zlinned him the minute he re-entered the tavern.

'Hey that was quick work, who was she?' Neil demanded to know, almost before he had had a chance to sit down.

'A work colleague; I thought it might be expedient to ask her to have a drink with me.'

'And was it?' Jordan demanded, 'expedient that is?'

'Yes, I think so.' Jason said and then gave his report missing nothing out, as he repeated what she had told him about the escape, word for word.

'Well that confirms the few bits of information that we've learned tonight,' Jordan informed him.

'I take it you've not heard anything new then?'

Neil shook his head. 'No, we heard that there had been an attempted escape. If you're certain the man got away and that he was Sime. Then that's far more than we've been able to find out.'

'Iris thinks he might have come from Rior.' Jason reminded him. 'And by the way Neil, what do you know about the trouble between Rior and the Organisation?'

'Like your lady friend said, only speculation and gossip.' Neil admitted. 'I've never put much store by any of it myself. On most Distect planets you hear a hundred such stories every week. There's never been much substance in any of them, not as far as I know.'

'All right so we'll put a big question mark against it,' Jordan stated, 'but we'll still bear it in mind.'

Jason nodded. 'That's fine by me. Just as long as we don't dismiss it out of hand. It could prove important.'

Jordan raised his eyebrows; 'in what way exactly?'

'I was thinking of that old saying - the enemy of my enemy is my friend. If the Organisation and Rior really have fallen out with each other, then Rior might be far more inclined to listen to us - about a lot of things.'

'You could be right,' the Sectuib admitted softly.

'Are you two talking at cross purposes, or have I missed something here?' Neil asked looking from one to the other, as he drained his glass and placed it back on the table.

Jason smiled, 'nothing important. Now I don't know about you two, but I've been working, and I'm tired. Shall we go?'

'Count me out.' Neil said at once. 'As I told Jordan I've still got to meet some of the kids who want ferrying to Peridot. He wants me to tell them that there's an unexpected delay to the timetable, and it'll have to be postponed for a few days. Will two days be long enough Jordan?'

'Perhaps we should make it three just to be on the safe side.' The Channel said at once. 'Besides I've been thinking. Would you mind if I went with you?'

'No, I don't mind. Care to tell me why?'

Jordan leaned closer his voice dropping lower as he asked. 'Do you remember we were discussing the possibility of some of them being shape-shifters?' Neil nodded. 'I'd like the opportunity to zlin them. There is the chance I might be able to sense something different about them.'

'I've zlinned them every time we've met. They seem perfectly normal to me.' Neil informed him.

'No offence Neil, but don't forget that Jordan is Sectuib in Zeor. He might just pick up on something that you've missed.' Jason said softly.

'That's possible, but I doubt it.' Jason opened his mouth to dispute such an assertion, when Jordan broke in and said consolingly.

'Then indulge me Neil. Whether I zlin anything or not, it won't do any harm if I try, will it?'

The young Sime shrugged, 'No I suppose not. But let me do all the talking. They know who I am and they don't know you. A stranger might worry them.'

'That's fine by me.' Jordan turned to Jason as he asked, 'will you be all right making your own way home?'

Jason took a deep breath and opened his mouth to deliver a tirade along the lines of - I'm not a child - and then decided not to bother. What was the point anyway? So he merely nodded his head and stood up stifling a yawn as he did so.

Funnily enough if it had been Vidal who had said such a thing to him, Jason knew he would have got the sharp edge of his tongue. But somehow Jordan, perhaps because he was also Head of the House of Zeor and therefore could not really be expected to know any better, could be excused? Jason smiled to himself as he went over his thoughts again, attempting to put them in order.

Vidal after all had had to learn the hard way that sometimes he had not only to allow, but actually to send his partner into danger. Whereas Jordon was still in the process of learning and then accepting that difficult fact!

This meant that on occasion he would still try to shield his own Companion and indeed any other Gen, including himself, from harm.

As all three men stepped out into the cool night air Jason was pleased to find that the drizzling rain had stopped; which meant he could walk home and remain dry. Neil silently handed him a card to enable him to get into the house.

Then Jason watched as the two Simes turned and walked in the opposite direction away from him, making their way towards the place where they could hail a comcab to take them to their destination.

In a way he wished he could go with them, but apart from the fact that the people Neil was meeting tonight might well feel that two strangers was just a tad too much for them to cope with; he did indeed feel tired.

Luckily he did not have far to go. So he quickened his footsteps, thinking only of going to bed and not being bitten to pieces in the process.

As always when he had nothing to occupy his thoughts, his mind turned back to Vidal. Where was he and was he still alive? With each hour and day that passed it became less of a possibility. Yet even now he could not give up hope, because he felt that to do so would be letting his partner down, and that he would never do.

In some strange way, although he knew it was impossible, he felt that he would "know" when Vidal was no longer alive. Totally ridiculous of course, and he could just imagine what Jordan or even Vidal would say about the idea if he suggested such a thing to them. Yet still he could not shake the certainty that Vidal might well be alive and was perhaps somewhere not too far away.

Continuing on from this, he suddenly allowed the thought that he had been almost to frightened to think about to enter his mind. Could the escaped Sime prisoner have possibly been Vidal?

Just as quickly as the thought entered his mind, it was wiped away again as a new one took its place. He slowed his footsteps as the idea manifested itself more clearly and he became more and more certain that someone in the shadows ahead was watching him. Of course he could not zlin, so he really didn't know how he could be so sure that he was right, he just knew he was.

The hairs were already standing up on the back of his neck and he desperately wanted to break into a run. But knew that to do so would only alert whoever was there, that he or she had been spotted. Yet Jason still had no idea at all where the watcher might actually be hiding.

Could it be that someone was out to rob him? If that were indeed the case, then they would not get much. He had no more than perhaps a few dozen credits in his pocket.

Then just as quickly as he had formulated the idea of a robber, he dismissed it again. Hadn't Neil just been telling both him and Jordan that the Organisation made certain that petty crime did not pay on this planet? Which meant he was back once more to wondering who it was that was watching him, and for what reason?

He walked on at a slightly slower pace, making his way from one pool of darkness to the next. Jason did not want to let whoever was out there know that he was aware of them so he did not turn his head; instead flicking his eyes from side to side as he tried to catch a glimpse at the very periphery of his vision, of whoever it was who was hiding in the shadows. His night vision had always been excellent, but this time, he was still unsuccessful.

Then suddenly as he approached a corner, a familiar figure stepped out in front of him, and he recognised one of the Simes who had been with Big Daddy the other evening.

'Hello there! I see Daddy's let you off your leash tonight.' The Sime looked far from happy with his remark and immediately took up a defensive stance. Jason sighed, when would he learn to keep his mouth shut?

For several seconds they simply stood and looked and each other, and Jason wondered if he could draw his blaster before the Sime would be on him? Somehow he very much doubted it, for he knew just how quickly a Sime could augment into an attack if it was deemed necessary; and at the moment both he and the Sime were far too close for comfort.

Disconcertingly the Sime still stood in silence facing him square on, as Jason asked. 'Is it safe for you to be out on your own?'

Even as the words left his lips his body froze as a trickle of ice cold certainty ran down his back, and he knew without looking that someone was standing right behind him.

Deciding almost straight away that he couldn't just stand here and wait to be hit from behind, he turned his head slowly, to find himself looking into Big Daddy's grinning and sweaty face.

'Hello there, I was just asking your friend if you allow him out on his own.' He stated, and then noticed that there was a large dressing across the Gen's bulbous nose. It reminded him yet again that he was on a Distect planet, because on most planets where humans lived such minor injuries would have been fixed by a duty Channel at any hospital.

Jason could not help smiling. 'Does it hurt?' The words left his mouth almost unbidden. But when he was nervous, like now, he always became lippy. Vidal had warned him to be careful often enough.

The big Gen merely stared arrogantly down at him.

'Always good to see a job well done,' the words had hardly left his mouth when a huge fist hit him in the stomach like a sledge hammer and he doubled over as another one hit him in the eye. Luckily he was immediately unconscious so was unaware when Big Daddy's enormous boot smacked three times into his defenceless body lifting it clear of the ground on each occasion.

'Pick him up.' He tossed the order at the Sime as he waddled away satisfaction written all across his fat ugly face.

Vidal arrived at Rior well within the time he had set himself. Standing outside the tall gates he was surprised to see that they were locked. Whenever he had visited a Household before, and he had visited many, the gates during daylight hours at least had always been thrown wide open as a sign of welcome.

Just to one side he saw a small gatehouse and walking closer he zlinned the building and was pleased to find there was a young renSime woman inside. Even as he became aware of her presence the window half way up the wall of the gatehouse slid open and she looked out at him.

'You want something Mister?'

'I seek succour for a traveller.' Even as Vidal made the formal request, he was aware of her blank expression as she looked back at him, so he added quickly, 'a bed for the night and perhaps a meal?'

'We're not a shenning hotel, there's a tavern on the way back to town.'

'May I speak to the Duty Channel?'

'The who?'

Of course this was Rior he had to remind himself constantly of the differences between a normal Household on Earth and this one. 'There must be someone who is in overall charge here, can I see that person?' He asked, 'Perhaps the Sectuib or someone under him?'

'The who?...Are you trying to be funny? Where the shen are you from anyway?' She demanded. 'Are you referring to the Administrator or his assistant?'

Vidal nodded his head meekly, 'yes I suppose I am.'

'Well if you take my advice you won't go calling either of them Sectuib. We don't use that type of language here, we're a decent House and don't you forget it.'

The Channel tried to look contrite. 'I'm sorry, may I see one of them, please?'

'Sorry are you? So you should be! But as to seeing either of them now this late in the day, they don't usually see outsiders without an appointment. I doubt they'll see you.' Vidal opened his mouth to plead his case again, but she spread her tentacles for silence and went on. 'No, don't say another word, just wait there and I'll see what I can do.'

She disappeared inside and Vidal stood and waited. The minutes ticked by and slowly became thirty, and Vidal began to wonder if she had forgotten him altogether. Then the door in the gatehouse swung open and the woman stood looking out at him again as she said brusquely. 'Come in then, what are you waiting for, a red carpet?' She laughed out loud at her own joke.

Vidal murmured his thanks and stepped inside.

'You're lucky, the Administrator says he can spare you a few minutes, he's got someone in with him right now, but if you're prepared to wait?'

'I'll wait, and thank you.'

She snorted rudely, 'follow me.'

Vidal obeyed as she led him through a building that looked as though it was some sort of teaching establishment. She gave him no time to look around as she hurried him out the other side, then across a large courtyard under a covered walkway to enter yet another building. Immediately Vidal felt his feet sink into the luxurious turkey red carpet that covered the floor. Without a word she lead the way up two flights of stairs, and at the top threw open a glass door.

'Wait here and someone will come for you.'

Then she was gone before he could offer his thanks.

The waiting room was furnished with everything a visitor might require, comfortable chairs, glass tables and two computer stations, together with facilities for making trin.

Vidal walked back out into the corridor and zlinned up and down; he found that the entire building appeared to be extremely well insulated, for apart from the vague movement of Gens and Simes in one or two of the rooms, he could sense nothing more.

Entering the waiting room once more he brewed a pot of trin, and then having drunk his second cup he settled down into one of the well padded chairs and finally closed his eyes.

He was comfortable and warm, and it was better to be in here than standing outside in the cold night air; and in any event he really did not mind waiting. After all he was well aware just how long even so called "short meetings" could inevitably drag on in a Household.

The Administrator. He had never heard such a title used by any Household before. The Sectuib who was in charge, would obviously do most of the work of an administrator, but Vidal had never before heard the name actually used.

Nowadays of course he like most other Simes, knew very little about the inner workings of the House of Rior. Many simply did not believe that it still existed, at least not as a viable House. Yet here he was in the very Head Quarters of Rior. It was a strange feeling, almost like stepping back in history.

Vidal sighed as he felt the tiredness once more creeping through his body. Which he knew meant that he had not yet fully recovered from his ordeal at the hands of the Organisation, hardly surprising when he considered the way that he had been treated.

Normally like most Simes he slept for less than two hours a night, if he was lucky. Just at this moment he felt he could sleep forever; which was not all that bad, for his body always healed more quickly when he slept.

Slowly his thoughts became more and more chaotic as the shadows lengthened across the courtyard outside until eventually the windows themselves grew black. Subtle lighting switched on giving a warm glow to the room as long drapes slid silently and automatically across the windows, and still Vidal slept on.

'Ahhh!' The Channel sat bolt upright and every nerve in his body tingled with the shock of the unexpected contact as a strange Gen touched him on the shoulder. Never before had anyone been able to approach him while he was asleep. Normally he would awaken the moment they entered his room! Even as the thoughts rushed one after the other into his mind, he suddenly felt soothed and comforted as his body relaxed back into the chair.

'Sorry to disturb you like that,' the young Gen standing before him had the strangest turquoise eyes he had ever seen, which combined with platinum hair gave him a very striking appearance. To Vidal's eyes he looked as if he might be perhaps twenty, but not much older. 'You must forgive me; I forgot you were waiting in here.'

Vidal took a deep breath and glanced down at his extended tentacles, glad to see that they had stopped quivering under the Gen's obvious expertise, and he had little doubt that it was the Gen who was calming the ambient for him.

'It's all right, I was quite comfortable,' he said quickly as he zlinned the Gen and decided that the young man was genuinely concerned. Perhaps he was worried that he would get into trouble with his Administrator both for forgetting him in the first instance, and then for leaving him to wait so long.

Vidal immediately found himself thinking that it was typical Gen behaviour to just walk into the room and then touch him without so much as a by your leave. Then he bit back a smile as he thought of what his Companion would have to say if he could hear him - "that's typical Sime condescension Vidal!" - the Channel grinned despite himself, because Jason would be right, it was!

The Gen standing in front of him returned the smile, although he had no idea what the Sime was smiling about. 'Look, considering what the time is, I doubt you've eaten?'

Vidal shook his head as he stood up and stretched his tentacles before sheathing them again.

'Neither have I. Suppose we go along to the dining room and have a late dinner, and you can tell me what's so important that you waited all this time to see me?'

Vidal stared at him in surprise, as he wondered if protocol in Rior meant that he had to speak to this Gen first, who would then speak to the Administrator on his behalf?

'Oh by the way, I'm Warren,' and to Vidal's surprise he held out his hand in the Gen fashion. Even on Earth most Gen's did not usually offer to shake hands with a strange Sime during their first meeting.

The Channel automatically tucked his tentacles as far into their sheaths as he could get them before he offered his hand. 'Vidal Trent.'

Thankfully the Gen appeared to know enough about Simes not to shake his hand vigorously up and down, as had happened on one or two memorable occasions. Instead he simply held it for the required 2 to 3 seconds, and then released it again. Vidal released the breath he had not realised he was holding, as he followed the Gen from the room.

The dining room was on the next level up. Empty tables were scattered around the room, and Warren led the way towards one that was laid up with clean cutlery and glasses.

As soon as they sat down a young female Sime came across to them, told them quickly what was available, and they gave their order.

Warren waited until the meal of pancakes with roasted vegetables and cheese sauce was placed in front of them, and they each had the drink of their choice. Vidal had settled for trin, which seemed the safest option, as he had no idea what most of the others were, while Warren had a milky drink. The Gen ate part of the meal quickly, before he finally glanced across at the Sime.

'I was famished, I missed lunch entirely today,' he admitted, and then went on. 'So tell me Vidal, how can I help you?'

The Channel zlinned the Gen opposite him, as he tried to ascertain just how sincere the man was, when he offered his help to a stranger. Satisfied that he could zlin no deviousness in him; and since he had no real alternative anyway, he decided to trust him - but only to a degree.

'Forgive my ignorance,' he said quietly. 'but I'm unfamiliar with the way a Household like this operates. What position do you hold exactly?'

'What position do I hold?' The Gen looked amused as he said quickly. 'Once again, please accept my apologies Vidal for not making things clear at the outset, but I really thought you knew. I'm the Administrator of Rior, the Controller if you prefer. You look surprised?'

'I am.' The Channel admitted honestly, he was in fact astounded that someone who looked as young as this Gen could possibly hold such a position even in Rior. 'I must admit that I expected someone older.' He said truthfully.

Warren laughed out loud. 'I'm 29 this year and I feel every shenning year I assure you.'

'Then it's my turn to apologise, please believe me when I say I was not trying to undermine your authority, but you really do look so much younger than your age.' Vidal confessed.

'I'll take that as a compliment. Now please, I have another meeting in just over an hour's time so tell me, what can I do for you?'

The Channel sat back in his chair and quickly collected his thoughts to recall the story, part truth and part fabrication that he had decided to tell the Gen.

'First can I assure you that I have never done anything to harm Rior nor have I any intention of doing so.' The Gen nodded, as Vidal went on. 'However, I have to tell you that I'm a fugitive from the Organisation. In fact I was brought to this planet by them, totally against my will.'

'So you're the Sime who escaped from the Complex yesterday?'

Vidal was surprised that he had heard of his escape as he admitted. 'Yes I am. Unfortunately I can't tell you the full story, but please believe me when I say that I have committed no crime that any ordinary court of law would convict me for. Neither am I a murderer or a thief.' He spread his tentacles in the universal sign of openness as he spoke.

Warren stared at him in silence as though he were trying to read the sincerity of the man sitting opposite him, finally he said in a serious tone, 'knowing the Organisation as I do, I believe you; and if you're trying to escape their net, then I feel truly sorry for you. The task you've set yourself is difficult in the extreme. Damus Two after all belongs to them, and I don't say that lightly. But I really don't see how I can help you.'

Vidal leaned towards the Gen as he said softly. 'I have no wish to bring any trouble to Rior, but I have only a few credits and I know no one on Damus Two. Can you at least give me a bed for the night?'

Warren nodded. 'Yes, that I can do, but little else. Even in Rior I cannot claim that every one who lives under our auspice is totally loyal to us. A small percentage pay lip service to us, but would still suffer not a second's worry about running behind my back to the Organisation to tell them what they knew about you, for nothing more than a small reward.'

'I understand,' and Vidal did indeed understand. In these modern times the old values were disappearing quickly as expediency took over, and all Households seemed to suffer from it in varying degrees, even such a prestigious House like Zeor, as his friend Jordan had just recently come to realise.

'Then I will arrange for you to be given a room for the night in our visitors wing. You may of course have a meal tomorrow morning if you so wish; and I will also see that you get more credits to supplement those you already have. But more than that, I can't do.'

'I'm grateful, and if I do manage to escape the planet, then I will repay the credits with interest.'

'That won't be necessary it comes out of our Charity Budget.' Warren said at once dismissing the offer, because both knew that the chances of Vidal actually escaping to repay the debt, were negligible.

The Channel paused momentarily and then asked, 'is there any way that you could get a message off-world for me?'

Warren considered the request as he helped himself to the last small chocolate cake from the plate that he had ordered. 'Possibly, but I must inform you that all transmissions from Damus Two by anyone at all, including Rior, are monitored by the Organisation. Tell me, to whom would this message be sent?'

'Zeor.'

Warren digested the information and then asked, 'and the content?'

'The Order is cancelled.' It was Vidal's own personal call sign arranged before they left. They had each been given one. To Jordan's people at Zeor who would receive it, the message would be clear. Vidal was alive and he required assistance, and since the message had originated on Damus Two they would also know where he was.

At least that was how it was meant to work in theory. He would just have to keep his tentacles crossed and hope that it worked in practice too; since it was the first time he had had to try it out in a genuine emergency.

'Cryptic. I take it whoever it is meant for will understand?'

'I hope so,' Vidal said honestly, and mentally crossed his tentacles.

'Well we do send hundreds of messages off-world every week, since we trade quite legitimately with any number of companies on planets that are not connected with Earth or her colonies, both Distect and otherwise. Perhaps a simple message like that which at first glance is merely cancelling an Order might just get through undetected, and if not, then perhaps it will not raise too many eyebrows.'

'So you'll do it?'

'Let me sleep on it. I must have time to consider any other ramifications that might arise from sending such a message. After all the safety of Rior has to be my first consideration.' The Gen said seriously. 'I promise to let you know before you leave us tomorrow whether I can help or not.'

'Well whatever you decide. Thanks for considering it.' Vidal said, 'and by the way, you didn't seem surprised when I mentioned Zeor?'

Warren smiled broadly, 'have you looked in the mirror lately?'

'I'm not Farris.'

'No, of course you're not.'

Vidal bit back a sigh, it was not the first time someone had mistaken who he was and would probably not be the last. A Sime could have zlinned the veracity of his denial, and he really did not wish to deceive Warren as to his true identity. However, since he had no proof apart from his own word, and Warren unfortunately was a Gen, it seemed that for the moment at least he would have to let the matter rest.

The quiet of the dining room was suddenly shattered as the door opened and a young dishevelled Gen who looked like he had been running, hurried into the room and looked around, his eyes coming to rest on the table where the Administrator and his guest were sitting. 'Warren I've been looking for you everywhere I.how the shen did you get here!?'

Vidal too was just as surprised as Archer, as he stared up into the face of his erstwhile benefactor.

 

 

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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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