Published as a part of A Companion In Zeor #13, 14, 15 & 16
'How do you feel?' The voice was only vaguely familiar, but Jason answered anyway.
'You don't want to know.'
'Try me.' The laugh that accompanied the words sounded genuine.
'Okay you asked for it. My head is splitting open, my eyes hurt and my mouth feels like I've been on a three day drinking spree! Bloody shen what's happened to me? I can't remember a damn thing.'
'You asked what happened to you. I've just told you, PL2 happened. I've administered an antidote, it works quite quickly, but it doesn't stop the after effects of the original drug. Sorry about that.'
'So am I.' Jason screwed his eyes apart and peeped at the man who was speaking to him. 'I wasn't sure I recognised your voice. You're the doctor from the freighter aren't you? How did you get down here?'
'I'm not down anywhere. I don't make house calls. They brought you up to me.'
'You mean I'm back on the freighter?'
The doctor nodded, 'Afraid so.'
'I don't know. Down on the planet I would suppose.'
'He didn't come with me?'
'Apparently not, but don't worry about it. I expect the Captain will explain everything when you're feeling better.'
'I am better, and I'm starting to remember what happened so he doesn't have to explain anything.' Jason attempted to sit up as he spoke, and fell back down again.
'There, let that be a lesson to you, lie still and try to go back to sleep.'
'I have to speak to the Captain right away doctor. Vidal's still missing and Jordan is on his own down there. I can't afford to just lie here.'
'I'll tell the Captain you're asking to speak to him, but I can't promise anything. However, in the meantime - rest - Doctor's orders.'
Jason began to nod and then changed his mind. 'Thanks. By the way, how's Tony?'
'Physically he's healed surprisingly well.' The Doctor said slowly. 'But in other respects I'm not very happy. I wish his Sectuib was up here. I have a feeling he can do more to help him right now than I and all my medicines can.' He smiled ruefully as he spoke.
Jason stared up at him as he demanded. 'Are you saying that he's not a hundred per cent compos mentis?'
'I wouldn't go that far, but he is acting strangely.'
'In what way?'
'Look, I shouldn't be discussing another patient with you,' the doctor reminded him.
'Perhaps not, but believe me when I get down to the planet and Jordan asks me how his Companion is doing, and I can't tell him every single detail. He won't be a very happy Sime.' Jason said bluntly. 'So please doctor tell me, in what way is he acting strangely?'
'Very well, I suppose you're right, the Sectuib will want to know everything.' It was the doctor's turn to sigh as he went on. 'To be frank with you there are times when Tony doesn't seem to be fully aware of exactly where he is or even why he's here. Not all the time, mind you, just occasionally. Unfortunately I'm just an ordinary doctor and mental problems are not my area of expertise. I can only treat the symptoms that are clearly visible to me, anything else will have to be left until the Sectuib is back on board.' He smiled ruefully as he admitted. 'Channels are excellent all round physicians you know. I often envy them.'
Moments later Jason was asleep, his dreams however were disturbed and far from pleasant, and when he finally woke it was to find the Captain standing beside him.
'How long have I been asleep?'
'I've no idea.' The Captain confessed. 'I suggested waking you an hour ago but the doctor over-ruled me.'
'I wish you hadn't let him do that. I must return to the planet.' Jason began.
Jason looked at him in surprise. 'You do? I expected an argument.'
'Two hours ago you'd have had one.'
'Something's happened to change things hasn't it? Jason said quickly, 'what?'
'I'm afraid my other patient has jumped ship.' The doctor stated.
Jason looked from the doctor back to the Captain. 'Tony? You mean Tony has gone down to Damus Two? How? He can't fly a shuttle and there's no other way unless he jumped. My God, he didn't jump did he? You said he was acting strangely.'
'No no, of course not,' the Captain gave a harsh laugh. 'As far as we can ascertain he must have hidden himself on the shuttle that we sent down to fetch you. I know it's ironic, but it's the only feasible explanation that we've come up with.'
Jason closed his eyes in relief. 'I can't delay any longer I must go back down and start looking for him. Jordan's going to be frantic.'
'I realise that.' The Captain said. 'The doctor has ordered something from the pharmacy for you to take before you leave here.'
'It should help you with the tiredness you're still experiencing.' The doctor observed quietly.
Jason glanced across at him, 'thanks doc.'
'And in the meantime I suggest you get dressed and be ready to leave shortly. Engineering is carrying out a final check on the shuttle, as we speak.' The Captain said as he made to leave.
Jason nodded his thanks to the Captain as he swung his legs over the side of the bed. 'Good, I appreciate that.' A wave of nausea washed over him as he stood up, but he fought it off in silence. Glad for once that his doctor was Gen and not Sime.
Archer watched as the first fingers of the Sun began to push away the darkness and brought dawn to the small planet on which he lived. He was almost ashamed to admit that he rarely saw this event. He was not an early riser much preferring to stay up late, and then to sleep in till the streets were well and truly aired, before finally dragging himself out of bed.
The reason he was up this early today was simple. He had found a message from Jay Lynn waiting for him in his quarters, when he returned there late last night.
Stretching his arms above his head Archer left the building and stepped into the lush woodland that he could see from his window. The Sun was already beginning to warm up the air, and he could smell the perfume of the many wild flowers that lived in the shadow of the tall trees that surrounded him. Every time he walked out through the woods like this he promised himself that he would do this again and soon.
Unfortunately it was a promise that was not easy to keep, for whilst the spirit was very willing, the flesh was not, and he knew without a doubt that unless something happened to change things. Tomorrow morning, if he woke up early, he would as always simply pull the covers up over this head to cut out rays of the morning Sun, and return to sleep.
A sudden movement to one side drew his attention, and he stopped to lean against the nearest tree as the large wolf like creature loped towards him.
He grinned as it stopped in front of him. 'Morning Jay,' he waited for his friend to change. It held a strange fascination for him, and was something that he never tired of watching.
The transformation began almost immediately, as the mahogany haired Zetta seemed to draw in on himself, the body hair disappearing as the bones and muscles of the animal receded and changed to those of a human. In less than a minute the metamorphosis was complete and the elegant naked figure of his friend rose up to stand before him.
'Good morning to you.' Jay grinned broadly, 'thanks.' He reached out and accepted the small bundle of clothes that Archer had brought for him to put on. 'You really don't have to bother bringing these each time. I'm used to running around in the raw.' He laughed softly, 'besides, I haven't given you the last lot back yet. I keep forgetting to bring them.'
Archer laughed back at him. 'Running around nude might not bother you my friend, but if anyone saw me running alongside you my reputation as a ladies man would be shot! Now tell me, what's so shenning important that you have to get me out of my bed at this godforsaken hour?'
'Apart from the fact that it's definitely the best time of day?' Jay asked, and quickly finished pulling on the clothes, before they both turned to continue their walk through the woods.
'Well?' Archer prodded, as Jay Lynn remained silent.
'You remember we spoke about my going to Peridot?' He asked, and Archer glanced across at him before he nodded his head in agreement. 'I leave tomorrow night.'
'That quick, are you really sure about this Jay?'
'I've never been surer about anything in my life.' He bent to pick up a couple of yellow mushrooms growing at the base of a tree and handed one to his friend.
'How many have decided to go with you?'
Jay bit into the small delicacy and savoured the nutty flavour before he replied, 'counting me, eleven; unless anyone gets cold feet at the last minute and decides to pull out.'
'Are they likely to do that?'
'I doubt it. We're all fairly committed. But you never know. The thought that we might all be caught by the Organisation can be quite a deterrent.' He admitted honestly.
'I wish you weren't going Jay, you know that. But the decision is yours. And truthfully if it was me instead of you, I'd probably make the same choice.' Archer heaved a deep sigh of resignation. 'So come on tell me. You said you wanted my help, what for?'
'Well, you said some time back that you were thinking of leaving here and perhaps head for Earth. Are you still considering it?'
Archer smiled. 'I'm no longer just considering it. I've already told Tammy that I'm leaving.'
'Good, I hoped you'd say that.' The young shifter stopped in his tracks and turned to look at his friend. 'I expect to stay on Peridot for about a year, no longer. If they haven't been able to teach me what I have to know by then I suppose I'll just have to accept the fact that for some reason, they can't.'
'I'm inclined to agree with you...so, what then?'
'Well obviously I don't want to come back here. Which means quite simply, can I stay with you when I arrive on Earth just till I get sorted?' He grinned. 'After all you've always been more organised than me.'
'Of course you can. But have you really thought this through? What about your family?'
'I've been thinking about it for over a year. I've got my new records in fact I got them from the same place you got yours.' His slim hand moved to touch his friend's shoulder. 'I'm asking for help Arch, not a lecture.'
'Shen it Jay, you know you can come and stay with me, that goes without saying. But you must tell your parents.'
'I've more or less told Mother, and I think she understands. But Dad? You know what he's like.' Jay shrugged expressively.
'All right, just as long as one of them knows where you are.'
They turned to continue their walk, and moments later Jay said, 'there's something else I want to talk to you about.'
Archer laughed out loud, 'What am I, your father confessor?'
'No, nothing like that I promise; but remember I told you about the Sime who's arranging the shuttle to Peridot for us?'
'That's him, you've got a good memory. When I met him the other night he had this other Sime with him. He looked a bit like your Uncle Silas, so he might be something to do with Rior.' Jay Lynn fell silent.
After a few seconds Archer pressed him, 'and? So what's the point you're trying to make Jay?'
'Well, it was weird. He hardly said a thing. Left all the talking up to Neil. But he was zlinning us the whole shenning time. No not us, it was me. He was zlinning me all the time!'
'You? Are you sure about that? You can be a bit paranoid you know. You tend to forget sometimes that you don't have a sign on your forehead that keeps flashing "shifter!" Much as you might think you do. Have you stopped to consider why this stranger would be zlinning just you? You're not unique. You were sitting in a group with ten others who are just like you.' Archer pointed out teasingly.
'How the hell do I know why? And no I'm not just being paranoid. His attention was centred on me the whole time and I didn't like it. You don't think he's something to do with the Organisation, do you? A spy perhaps?'
'I wouldn't think so. Besides the Organisation would be interested in all of you, not just you; and you did say that this Neil Heyer was trustworthy didn't you? Anyway it looks like you'll be off soon, so I doubt you'll ever see him again.'
'Ah, now that's where you're wrong. I got a message from Sylvie. She says Neil and the mystery Sime have asked to see me today.'
'The same place as before, the Silent Oasis.'
'I can't do that. What if I don't turn up and then Neil refuses to take me to Peridot with the others?' Jay demanded.
'Look if you're really worried about who this Sime is then you've got to make a decision haven't you? And I can't make it for you.'
'I know that.' Jay said as he picked up a small branch from beneath a tree and began picking the bark off to reveal the shiny black wood underneath. 'I don't have to be there till late afternoon, about five. In the meantime can you ask around and see if this Sime has anything at all to do with Rior? Perhaps speak to your Uncle Silas about family members?'
'Jay I can hardly go around asking if anyone knows of a Sime who looks like my Uncle can I? Be reasonable, they'd think I was crazy. Even I can think of at least half a dozen who look vaguely like Uncle Silas. And you don't even have a name for his man.'
'Yes I do. Neil gave it to Sylvie when he spoke to her yesterday.'
'Well come on tell me, don't keep it to yourself.'
'Winter - Jordan Winter.'
On arriving back at Rior, Archer entered the building glancing up at the antique clock high on the wall as he did so. He had cut it very fine. He only had minutes before he was due to meet his cousin; and if there was one thing that really annoyed Warren, it was tardiness.
Hardly surprising he acknowledged, when one considered that the Administrator was so busy that every single minute of his working day and sometimes beyond that, was accounted for. This meant of course that if one appointment early in the day began to run late, things would inevitably get steadily worse and worse as the day progressed.
Moments later Archer entered his cousin's office murmuring an appropriate greeting as he did so.
'Hello there. By the way I happened to be looking out the window a short while back, was that Jay Lynn I saw you talking to?' The turquoise eyes studied his cousin carefully.
'And?' Warren pressed him. 'What did he want? He usually wants something.'
'He's my friend Warren. Can't we just take an early morning walk together without you wanting to know every detail of our conversation?' Archer demanded.
'He's bad news Arch. You know that. You appear to be his only friend, which isn't surprising when you consider his general attitude. Why he's even at loggerheads with his own father.' The Administrator ran his fingers through his platinum hair, a sign that he was frustrated.
'And who's fault is that? Look Warren you don't know all the facts so don't go jumping to conclusions. Jay has enough to put up with, being a shifter and all that that involves, without you getting on his back too.' He tried to swallow his anger. 'I suppose, because I'm a PA myself, I can understand more how he feels. Now let's drop it okay, because if you haven't got anything more important to discuss, then I'll leave now.'
Warren could see he would get no further today and quickly capitulated to his cousin's request.
Less than an hour later Archer stood up to leave, taking with him a number of tasks that he was to carry out that day. Walking to the door he slowly turned back to face his cousin. 'By the way Warren, have you ever heard of a Sime called Jordan Winter? He may be connected to Rior.'
'No. At least the family name's not familiar to me. Who wants to know?' He asked curiously.
'Oh it's not really all that important.' Archer said as he turned to leave.
Warren who was now feeling bad about having a go at his cousin over Jay Lynn, suddenly decided he would try to offer an olive branch, as he said, 'I'm seeing some of the elders later this morning. I'll ask if they've ever heard of this Jordan Winter. If I find out anything of interest, I'll leave a message.'
'Thanks Warren, I appreciate that.'
The meeting with the Special Contingency Committee Members that Warren had referred to had been underway for almost two hours. Vidal, who was also attending, was answering yet another question that one of the Gen Elders had put to him; when Warren stifling a yawn, tried to glance surreptitiously at the clock on the wall behind him.
The Administrator was already very hungry indeed, hardly surprising when one considered that he had been forced to skip breakfast yet again this morning.
Unfortunately for him however, according to the clock, lunchtime was almost over. Which meant that the food on offer, if and when he did eventually arrive there, would soon be dried up and uneatable.
Glancing back to the table, he found to his chagrin that all the Simes who were sitting there were now looking at him, the same question written large on each face.
Sven, a Sime who even at the age of seventy-eight was one of the most active of the Sime Elders, was the first to break the silence. 'I suggest that as our Administrator is quite obviously hungry, and is no doubt worried that the food on offer in the dining room will soon be uneatable, that we adjourn for an hour and return to our discussion after lunch.'
Warren grinned sheepishly as all the others quickly agreed with the suggestion. He knew it was no use trying to deny what had been said, because the others were just as capable of zlinning him and reaching their own conclusion as Sven was.
Immediately there was a shuffling of feet as chairs were pushed back and the Elders got slowly to their feet.
'Ah please everyone. If I may have your attention for just one moment before we break for lunch,' Warren requested, and they all turned to look at him politely. 'My cousin was wondering if any one here has ever heard of a Rior family member by the name of Winter? In particular a Sime called Jordan Winter?'
Vidal fought hard as he tried not to allow the shock he felt to escape into the ambient of the room. Realising that all the other Simes, even the old ones, would undoubtedly sense a change in his nager if he wasn't extremely careful.
In the meantime the Administrator was looking around at his colleagues, seeing that it was clearly evident that no one there could help him, as they all regretfully shook their heads. Well he had done his best. He would have to leave a message for Archer letting him know that he had at least asked them the question, even though the result had not been good.
Turning to Vidal he asked if the Sime wanted to accompany him to lunch, and moments later the two men set off side by side.
'Tell me Warren. Why does your cousin want to know about this Jordan Winter?'
'I have no idea. He didn't say. Why, do you know him?' He asked intuitively.
Vidal wrestled with the sudden conundrum that faced him; for without knowing why Archer was interested in Jordan, was it wise for him to reveal that he actually knew him?
'Look Warren, relative to what we were discussing earlier. Then yes, I may know him. But I have to speak to Archer first to find out why he's so interested in him, before I say anything more.'
'I see. Well I can understand your reticence. Come, if we're lucky he may still be in the dining room,' and even as he spoke Warren quickened his steps. Moments later they entered the room. It was much larger than the one Vidal had eaten in before.
Immediately the Channel zlinned the young Gen sitting at a small table in the corner.
Seconds later Warren spotted him too. 'Good he's still here. Come on,' and he led the way across the room.
'Archer, mind if we join you?' Without waiting for his cousin to agree or disagree, Warren pulled out a chair and sat down indicating for Vidal to do the same.
'How did the meeting go?' Archer asked, as he nodded a welcome to the Sime.
The Administrator grinned broadly. 'If you were really all that bothered I might tell you.'
The young Gen shrugged, 'just showing an interest, aren't you always telling me that that's what I should do?' Then he met his cousin's eyes knowingly. 'Okay so come on, what can I do for you? I'm not stupid enough to think you sought out my company just for my scintillating conversation, am I right?'
Warren nodded briefly and then lowered his voice as he enquired. 'Tell me, Archer, what's your interest in Jordan Winter?'
'One of the Elders has heard of him! Who? What did they have to say about him?' The Gen demanded quickly, his food suddenly forgotten in his eagerness to know.
'Hold on there, first you tell me why you're so interested?' Warren demanded. Then as he waited for his cousin to respond, he turned to the Gen waitress to order his lunch. Afterwards she turned to Vidal, but he declined, waving her away with a tentacle as Archer answered his cousin.
'I'm not interested in him. Well that's not strictly true. Someone I know is interested, but only because this Jordan Winter has shown an interest in him.'
Warren quickly untangled the spate of words that had fallen from his cousin's lips, before he made an intuitive leap and said. 'It's Jay Lynn who wants to know isn't it? Why does he want to know Archer?'
'He doesn't. You only think it's him because you saw me talking to him this morning.'
'He's not telling the truth Warren.' Vidal said quietly.
'I realise that.' Warren retorted, his voice just as quiet as Vidal's as he went on. 'So tell me Archer. Why do you feel it necessary to lie to me?'
'I don't, but I promised I wouldn't tell. Besides he only wants to know because this Jordan Winter is interested in him.' Archer slammed down his fork and pushed his plate away from him across the table, as he suddenly scowled across at Vidal, but spoke to his cousin, 'you wouldn't have known it wasn't true, if he hadn't told you!'
Warren smiled briefly and shook his head. 'Oh yes I would. I've known you your entire life cousin. Do you really believe that you can tell me an outright lie and get away with it? I'm sorry, but I know you too well for that.'
'All right, I'm sorry I had to lie.' Archer said, and then paused before he went on. 'So are you going to tell me about Jordan Winter or not?
'It's not up to me.' Warren glanced across at the Sime. 'Vidal?'
'You say your friend asked you to find out what you could about this man, simply because he'd shown an interest in him?' The Channel asked.
Archer nodded his head sullenly.
'In what way has he shown an interest?'
'He wants to see him again.'
'Again? I take it that means they've already met?' Vidal said at once.
They all paused as Warren's meal arrived and he began to eat.
'So I'll ask you again, how did he show an interest in your friend?' The Channel pressed.
'How do I know? Maybe he fancied him.' Archer snapped back.
Vidal grinned. 'Since I happen to know the Sime in question extremely well, I very much doubt that. Now I'll ask just once more. Why did they meet, and why does Jay Lynn want to know about him?'
'I don't know.'
Vidal sighed. 'Yes. I'm afraid you do.'
'All right then, I do know, but I'm not at liberty to tell you.'
'Now that's very different.' Vidal said with a smile. 'But please, don't attempt to lie to me again, it only wastes time and achieves absolutely nothing.'
The Gen snorted rudely before he picked up his fork and began tapping it on the side of the plate.
The Channel bit back a sigh as he tried to decide what he should do for the best. After a moment or two of consideration he finally said, 'as I said before, Jordan Winter is a good friend of mine.'
'Now why doesn't that surprise me?' Archer demanded sarcastically, before he pressed, 'so? Is that all you're going to tell me?'
'Since you say that you can't answer my questions either then it appears we've reached a stalemate doesn't it?' Vidal said.
The young Gen remained silent.
Vidal looked ruefully across at him, 'very well. Then let us get things clear between us. I know that it is Jay Lynn who is making enquiries about my friend. However, you tell me that you are not able to say why he met Jordan in the first place. Nor can you tell me why Jordan would wish to meet your friend again. Am I right so far?'
The Gen dropped the fork as he nodded his agreement.
'Then may I make a suggestion? Will you ask your "friend" who we will presume to be Jay Lynn; if he will meet with me first, before he again meets with Jordan?'
'I'll speak to him. But I can't say whether he'll agree or not.'
'No of course you can't. But thank you for asking.' Vidal said politely.
'We should get back to the meeting,' Warren reminded him.
'But you haven't finished eating.' The Channel said at once.
'No, and it won't be the first time - nor the last. I'll grab a fruit bar on the way back.' Warren turned to his cousin. 'The meeting should be over in about an hour. It'll give you time to speak to Jay and leave a message for Vidal with my office.'
Archer watched sullenly as the two men exited the dining room, before he, too, rose to leave.
Read Chapter 10
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