The Sectuib left his office, deep in thought. He had just received the final Report from Bim, the Channel who was in overall control of Tony’s case. It seemed that both he, and Marlin were of like mind. Tony could now return to full time duty within Zeor, as of today.
However, it was also their considered opinion that he should not suffer the strain that active duty with the TIB either on or off world might well impose upon him. This was devastating news for both Jordan and Tony.
The Channel paused to look around the empty corridor, frowning slightly as his eyes slid out of focus and he zlinned ahead of him. Immediately he quickened his step till he was on the gallery that looked down onto the large expanse of black marble floor far below. The reception area with its banks of green plants and comfortable white couches with red cushions, and metal glass topped tables with magazines scattered on them, always managed to look welcoming even on the dullest of days.
It was early morning, and the place was empty save for Denis the elderly renSime who was in charge of reception during the long night hours. Even as Jordan watched the tall glass doors opened silently and a confident Gen entered. His eyes scanned the large area as he squared his shoulders and set out purposely across the wide expanse of floor towards where Denis was standing.
There was something vaguely familiar about the Gen, but Jordan could not immediately lay a tentacle on what it was. He was around average height but with broad shoulders. He was dressed in a navy blue T-shirt that showed his Gen muscles to advantage, and his tight denim trousers had a wide belt that sat low on his narrow hips. He carried a duffle bag over one shoulder. From his vantage point far above Jordan could see how the sunlight from the many windows glistened on his blonde hair that showed up so well against his lightly tanned skin.
However, the Sectuib only noticed all these things in passing, for it was the Gen’s nager that had attracted his attention, long before the man himself had even appeared. It was both powerful and disciplined, and it was immediately obvious to the Channel that he was trying his best to keep his strong, high field under some sort of control.
So, Jordan thought at once, he was trained; but who was he, and why was he walking around like this? Even in today’s modern world no sane Gen would allow his selyn to reach this level before he donated, for his own safety, if not for any other reason.
Still, at least he had had the decency to come early before the reception area was full of Simes and Gens arriving for work. Be grateful for small mercies he counselled himself dispassionately.
His dark eyes still on his quarry, Jordan descended the wide marble staircase to the floor below. He was only augmenting slightly, but to the casual observer he appeared to almost fly down.
Denis was holding the Gen’s Donor Card in two tentacles and looked relieved as the Sectuib appeared beside him.
‘I’ll take over here Denis,’ he said as he took the card. ‘You’ve come to donate?’
‘Yes. I’m a little overdue and …’
‘You certainly are, come this way.’ He did not look at the Gen as he hurried him away.
Seconds later the Sectuib ushered him into one of the many donation suites that lead off the reception area. Sitting down behind the desk he indicated with one tentacle that the Gen should be seated as he read the details on the card and froze.
‘Laurence Knight!’ He stood up abruptly staring into the Gen’s deep blue eyes for the first time. ‘I thought your nager was familiar, but it’s been years, what the shen are you doing here?’
‘It’s nice to see you to Sectuib,’ the Gen said with obvious sarcasm.
‘I am no longer your Sectuib.’
‘No you’re not. I take it you haven’t heard from Vidal? He was supposed to contact you.’
‘If it was in the last few hours I’ve been busy. My secretary probably didn’t deem it important enough to interrupt me and will have put a note on my desk…but what has Vidal Trent to do with you?’
‘Sam Betjman contacted me, and put Vidal and I in touch. I’ve done some work for Sam in the past. Anyway, to cut to the chase I was in Australasia and it was Vidal’s suggestion that I delay donating until I got here. I arrived by transmuter some twenty minutes ago.’
‘So, what the shen is all this about?’ Jordan demanded wearily.
‘I suggest you read the memorandum from Vidal first, and we can take it from there.’
Tight lipped the Channel called his secretary. The two men then sat in silence until a renSime messenger arrived and handed Jordan his friend’s communication. Opening it, the Sime quickly scanned the contents, and then jumped to his feet to move over to the large window where he stood gazing out at the grey, early morning sky.
After a few moments he blurted out. ‘This is ridiculous!’
‘That’s what I thought too, but both he and Sam can be pretty persuasive.’ The Gen smiled slightly, ‘I told both of them that you wouldn’t go for it, but Vidal said you didn’t have that many options open to you.’ He cocked his head in query as he spoke.
‘There are always options. I shall find one.’
‘Fine. In that case, suppose you take my donation now so we can both get on with our lives.’
‘I see they have you on Steremin.’ Jordan murmured as he consulted the Gen’s card.
‘Yes, it’s still experimental of course, but much better than any of the others. It means I can make a passive donation practically every month which helps to ease the pressure. Most of the other drugs don’t allow for that. However, if these trials are successful it means that for most people, both they, and the inhibitor will become a thing of the past.’
Jordan merely nodded, he was well aware of the potential of all the new drugs on the market.
Suddenly Jordan’s attention was drawn to a flashing red light, which meant someone was calling him urgently. Biting back an expletive he pressed the appropriate button to see if he could return the call later.
‘Jordan? Vidal here. Did you get my communiqué?’
‘Just a minute Vidal,’ he glanced across at the Gen, ‘Would you mind waiting in the outer office?’
‘What for? I know what this is all about. There’s nothing you can say about me that I haven’t heard you say before.’ Laurence grinned. ‘Look, you won’t hurt my feelings and neither will I be embarrassed.’ He sat back in his chair making it perfectly obvious that he had no intention of going anywhere.
The Sectuib sighed as he acknowledged defeat. ‘Vidal? Yes I got it, but not till he’d arrived. He’s sitting six feet in front of me now.’
‘So what do you think?’ Vidal demanded.
‘Believe me, you don’t want to know what I think. The answer is very simple - NO!’
‘And that’s final?’
‘Am I to take it you’ve got someone else lined up?’
‘No, of course I haven’t. Shen it Vidal, I only got the final report on Tony in the last few hours. I’ve hardly had time to think, let alone make any long term decisions.’
‘Sam and I only suggested Knight as a stopgap, not as a life long commitment. He’s well within your range. You admitted yourself, years ago, that he was one of the best when he was working. No. Please, hear me out Jordan. He’s prepared to come off the drug he’s on for the duration of the assignment. That’s one of the good things about this new generation of off-World drugs, and Steremin in particular. You can come off them for a period of time, and then go back on them again with no ill effects. In fact, it seems to help, rather than hinder the process. On top of that, he’s fully TIB trained, and you know what a help that can be.’
‘Vidal, I hear everything you’re saying but the answer is still no. I’m sorry. To be truthful with you, if it was anyone else but Laurence Knight...’
The Sectuib fell silent, and Vidal said intuitively. ‘This isn’t just a member of Zeor dropping out of your sphere of influence is it Jordan? It’s personal.’
The silence grew even longer till the Channel finally broke it as he forced one word from between his lips. ‘Yes.’
‘So there’s no chance at all that you’ll change your mind?’
‘I see. Well in that case, we’ll miss you Jordan. That goes without saying, but it can’t be helped. Next time perhaps?’ Vidal took a deep breath before he went on, ‘Right then, you’d better get someone to take his donation, then tell him to get back here immediately. I’ll organise a partner for him by the time he gets here.’
‘Hold it right there, Vidal. If you think you can blackmail me into changing my mind by using a cheap tactic like...’
‘Blackmail, Jordan? Now would I do that to you?’
Jordan snorted inelegantly, ‘Once I would have answered no to that question without a moment’s hesitation, but now?’
‘Look, I’ll be honest with you. Sam wants us on our way in the shortest time possible. No blackmail, Jordan. Either you’re in or you’re not. Sorry, my friend, I must have your decision now.’
‘Can you give me an hour?’
‘I had my own transfer just a few hours ago. To be truthful I’m not even sure I could take transfer from Laurence Knight next time, even if I wanted to.’ He glanced across at the Gen lounging back in the chair opposite him with a smile playing around his lips. ‘I’m going to take his donation in the next few minutes. Perhaps I’ll have a better idea of how things stand once I’ve done that.’
‘Okay. I’ll give you an hour, but no longer.’ Vidal warned.
‘I’ll await your call.’
Jason had been hanging over his partner’s shoulder as he talked to the Sectuib and now jumped back as Vidal stood up and walked with Sime swiftness to pick up his cold glass of trin.
‘Well?’ The Gen demanded, as Vidal moved to throw the tea away and pour himself a fresh one. ‘Do you think he’ll go for it? Vidal! I said do you think…’
‘I am fully aware of what you said Jason. Truthfully, I have no idea. However, I have little doubt but that he wants to go with us,’ he hesitated momentarily as he sipped the hot liquid and then went on. ‘I knew Laurence Knight had been a member of Zeor, and had left under something of a cloud. Everyone knew that. It was General knowledge. But, like everyone else I assumed it was due to normal House politics, I had no idea it was personal to the Sectuib. If I had…well there’s nothing I can do about it now.’ He smiled across at the Gen, ‘As you would say my friend, it’s all in the lap of the Gods, and whatever they decide, we shall know in an hour’s time.’
Jason digested what he had been told for several seconds before he said quietly. ‘In the circumstances, perhaps it might be better all around if the Sectuib decides not to accept this assignment. I mean, we could unleash a lot of trouble on ourselves if they really can’t get on.’
Vidal nodded, his tentacles acknowledging his friend’s comment as he said, ‘We can only hope that they are both professional enough to put whatever history there is between them to one side, at least for the duration of this assignment. I feel I can vouch for Jordan in that respect, but Laurence is an unknown quantity. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be in their position.’
The donation completed, Jordan removed his tentacles and released the Gen before he went back into the office and sat down at the desk to fill in the necessary forms.
It had gone far more smoothly than he had anticipated. There was undoubtedly still enough of the professional donor left in Laurence Knight to perhaps make this thing work at least in the short term if they both wanted it to. There was the rub, because even if Knight could indeed play his part, did he himself want to take transfer from this particular Gen, and more important than that, could he do so?
The Gen was grinning as he came to sit on the edge of the desk one leg swinging free as he observed, ‘It’s all over Sectuib. You can relax. And you didn’t catch anything either.’
The Channel ignored the comments as he signed his initials at the bottom of both forms and passed one to the Gen. ‘Hand this into reception before you leave.’
The Gen stood up and looked into the Channel’s dark eyes as he said softly. ‘So, you’ve made your decision Sectuib. It’s funny you know, but for all your faults, and you have many, I never thought I’d have to add "coward" to the list.’
The Sectuib gave a bark of humourless laughter, ‘Since we last met, I now have a wife and child as well as the full responsibility of Zeor on my shoulders. On top of that, and perhaps more importantly, I have no wish to die needlessly before my time – not for someone like you.’
For several seconds both men looked at each other in silence until the Gen finally broke it to say, ‘You really believe that I might kill you in transfer, don’t you?’
‘It crossed my mind.’
‘And mine too, at one time.’ The Gen admitted finally. ‘However, we were both young and foolish then and I at least have changed over the years – the question is, have you?’
‘You’re asking me to take a lot on trust,’ Jordan stated.
Laurence nodded his agreement as he said. ‘It’s not totally one sided you know. You’re much stronger than me and you are after all – Sime. The outcome of any confrontation between us is not a foregone conclusion, it never was. There you see, I really have thought about these things. I, too, have no wish to die prematurely.’
Jordan sighed. ‘Go to the visitors dining room on the first floor and I’ll meet you there after I have sorted one or two things out.’ He stood up.
‘You’re going to do it then?’
‘Perhaps. Let’s say the decision is not so easy to make.’ He admitted frankly as he watched the door close behind the Gen and then leaned back in the chair to begin running tentacles through his thick black hair.
Moments later he pushed all thoughts of Laurence Knight to the back of his mind as he went back to the problem of Tony. The Sectuib knew his young friend would not be happy with the decisions that had been made regarding his future.
However, he also knew that Tony ambrov Zeor would nevertheless accept it fully. Without too many questions. Although, there would undoubtedly be some.
The only bright light in an otherwise dark future was the fact that the Gen had struck up a friendship with a young renSime female who was Bim’s assistant. Jordan had little doubt but that their relationship would become much closer in the days ahead.
During the months since they had both returned to Earth he had only taken transfer from Tony twice, once about half way through his treatment and once towards the end. On neither occasion had it been really successful for either of them.
Unfortunately, it seemed that he evoked bad memories in Tony of his ordeal on Damos Two.
Oh, they had both tried hard enough, but the second time had made them both aware that it was simply not going to work. Tony had been distraught and had blamed himself, but Jordan would have none of it. As he pointed out it was no one’s fault, least of all Tony’s. If blame was to be apportioned then only the Organisation could truly carry that particular can. Therefore, as things now stood, and in light of this last Report, there seemed little point in their trying to regain their old working relationship.
The other two Donors he had used in the last few months had been more than just adequate. Gone were the days when Channels had to put up with Donors who were a poor match. The Sectuib in Zeor had several in-house that he could call on when needed.
However, neither of these Donors would he wish to have assigned to him full time. One was far too old to want to gallivant far from Zeor, and the other was a scholar who seemed to spend all his free time translating some of the oldest texts in Zeor’s archive. Hardly the type of person who would wish to undertake assignments on behalf of the TIB; and he did so want to return to working with Vidal and Jason.
The missions they undertook together were important and necessary. He had to admit to himself, that in all honesty, he enjoyed the excitement, and the freedom that these assignments gave him; especially after so many years cooped up running the outpost on Rockall.
He also knew that in the last six months, great strides had been made in the discussions between Earth Rior, and the general Distect.
However, his main priority now must be to find a Companion who could fill both the requisites that he knew would be necessary in the years ahead. One thing he knew for certain, it did not include Laurence Knight!
What a dilemma. Could he really accept transfer – even once – from this particular Gen after all that lay between them? If the answer was still no, then this assignment with Vidal and Jason would have to be abandoned.
The decision, as always, was his and his alone. Sometimes he dearly wished that he could delegate the responsibility to someone else, but as Sectuib in Zeor he knew could not. Then a slightly ironic smile touched his lips as he realised that he already knew what his answer would be. Likewise, he also acknowledged, if only to himself, that perhaps he had not learned quite so much wisdom over the years as he thought he had.
His mind finally for better or worse made up he pulled down his tunic, and flattened his hair with his hands as he headed towards the door. Seconds later he was instructing his Secretary to inform Vidal that his answer was ‘yes’, and that they would both be arriving at Noon.
Squaring his shoulders, Jordan headed towards the dining room, in the knowledge that the very last person in the world that he wished to see at this particular moment in time, was waiting there for him.
Read Chapter 2
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