"Absolute nonsense,"Sadie grumbled to herself as she slipped her feet into her favourite high heeled shoes. What could Global security have to do with her family? Her dead husband had been a space adventurer, the captain of a spaceship; his maverick tendencies getting him into scrapes he was quite capable of getting out of, much to the frustration of his commanding officers. Granted, one of his adventures had resulted in Tadik's arrival on Earth, but the boy had proved such a darling, she had forgiven Tadikon when she realized he was telling the truth about his captivity and being forced to sire the child, and possibly many more. Surely that incident could not have caused a breach of security!
She wiped away a tear as she thought of her stepson experiencing the same horror as she had in prison. "I'm still convinced, in my heart, he could not have killed that girl; being such a gentle natured boy."She checked her appearance once more in the mirror conveniently placed beside her bedroom door, straightening the collar of her blouse and smoothing the pleats of her skirt. Satisfied, she took a deep breath, ready to face her breakfast conference with Sir Jeffus and her parents. On opening the door, she found a servant, in formal black waistcoat, waiting to show her to where Sir Jeffus waited. She followed him down a grand Italian marble staircase, to a black and white tiled entrance hall. From there they turned to the right, down a corridor lined with paintings and into a room with its French windows open onto a large patio overlooking an expanse of garden full of flower beds surrounding a neatly clipped lawn. A large table with comfortable dining chairs graced the patio where Sir Jeffus and her parents were seated, talking quietly.
"Ah! There you are, at last."Sir Jeffus rose to his feet and smiled at her. "Come and sit down, my dear. Banks, would you bring fresh tea and toast for Mrs. Jute?"Sir Jeffus pulled out a chair facing the garden and helped her be seated. Once Banks returned with the tea and toast, Sir Jeffus dismissed him with a nod. "Thank you, Banks; we'll serve ourselves and call you if we need anything. Please make sure we are not interrupted and tell my secretary to hold all calls until further notice."Banks nodded and went back inside, and Sir Jeffus encouraged Sadie to fill her plate from the various heated dishes in the middle of the table, even though Sadie insisted she was not all that hungry. She just wanted to get this meeting over and join her babies at the far end of the lawn where Ajek sat in a deeply padded garden chair, presiding over a picnic breakfast with the help of a nanny.
Her father noticed her frown at the scene on the lawn. "It's alright Sadie, your children are having a wonderful time out there with someone who doesn't mind them crawling all over him. I suggest you eat your breakfast before it goes cold."Sadie started eating without really tasting anything, determined not to accept what Sir Jeffus had to say without solid evidence to back him up. Her eyes strayed often to her children. They laughed a lot and seemed to be eating well, something she had always had trouble getting them to do without tantrums and tears.
Sir Jeffus laid his knife and fork down and poured fresh tea for everyone before sitting back in his chair. "I know most of what you have already heard and what you are about to hear now, will seem hard to believe but I can only tell you the truth of what is going on and hope you will accept it. For many years now, this world of ours has lived in global harmony, each country in complete accord with its neighbour; border disputes forgotten as governments banded together in the name of peace. Unfortunately the best ideas always have their faults, and this time the biggest fault is complacency. We have been so used to living in a peaceful environment; we failed to see that trouble would come from outside quarters."
Sadie paused in her eating to glance across the table at him. "You mean another world is threatening us."
"Yes, but not in a manner of attack we can deal with. They intend to manipulate our minds."
"And just who are THEY?"
"That's just it, we just don't know for certain, but Tadik is the key."
"Nonsense, he's just a boy."
"He may be just a boy to you, Sadie, but you have to remember he is only half human, and whose mental abilities are beginning to manifest themselves as he matures. You had a taste of it the day he fell off his bike and would have bled to death had he not had the ability to stem the flow of blood from his wound. It was fortunate for Tadik that whoever sabotaged the brakes on his bike did not know his abilities had already begun to materialise. He has a twin and the two together will have the power to change the Universe in ways no one has seen before."
Sadie shook her head. "That I find very hard to believe. Fantasy and Sci-fi stories went out of fashion many years ago. If what you say is true, where is this twin?"
"That's what Tadikon Versont was on the point of discovering when he disappeared. The last communication from him was that he had found a clue to his other son's whereabouts, but he didn't say what the clue was. We don't actually know who's behind this problem, but we do know who is in their pay. Franklin Jute for one, and Ajek's mother was another. Did you know they were brother and sister?"
Sadie dropped her fork with a clatter as she stared in disbelief at Sir Jeffus and her parents. Her father nodded. "It's true, Sadie, and it didn't take Roseanna long to weave them into her web. When we made you leave home, she must have been more than a little miffed at the loss of her comfortable lifestyle as your companion. It took her years to find you again, but during that time she was not idle in her plans. She cultivated a friendship with certain people of ill-repute who included several aliens. When she found you, and you welcomed her with open arms, she drew Jute and his sister into her plans to bring you down and also to provide a monitoring service for the aliens who seemed to be more interested in Tadik than you.
"What they did not know was that I also have an alien contact; and one far superior to theirs. I also had someone playing their own game by monitoring them. Between us we have come to believe there are not one but two factions interested in getting their hands on Tadik; the first group is keen to find both boys and reap the benefits of their abilities, the other is more interested in killing Tadik before that happens; the latter being responsible for the sabotaged bike, which is why Tadikon sent in the special air unit to extract Tadik from a possible kidnap and brought him to safety. The young agent monitoring Quelina, the Jutes and the aliens was Ajek Torm."
"What!"Sadie let Sir Jeffus see the full fury in her eyes. "How dare you put a boy in such a dangerous position?"
Sir Jeffus smiled and shook his head at her. "It was not I who placed him in a dangerous position but Ajek himself."
"I don't believe that for one moment."
"Do you remember what Ajek said to you when he ran away from home the first time and his mother dragged him from Tadikon's parents' home? He warned you about Franklin Jute being a bad man; and he was right. The second time he ran away, Tesher and Dorit Versont begged me to look for him; a search I undertook personally. I found him living rough on the streets of London. I took him home and informed Tesher that Ajek was safe. He was suffering from Malnutrition; and he'd been severely beaten and raped several times. I cared for him as best I could and we slowly fell in love. He told me a horrendous story of living with Quelina and her alien visitors, and being almost a prisoner in his own home, but he put that time to good use by eavesdropping on their conversations. He also discovered that he also had telepathic abilities but not as strong as Tadik's. That is how he overheard their plotting to kill Tadik and anyone connected with him, including you and your other children. Where is Braidi, by the way?"
Sadie raised shocked eyes to find Sir Jeffus looking at her with a saddened expression. "I'm not sure; she wrote me a letter while I was in prison saying she didn't want to be associated with me anymore, and warned me not to try and find her. Do you think she might be in danger?"
"At this point, I rather think she is. Ajek knew he couldn't let them carry out their plans and set fire to the house. Unfortunately only the aliens perished in the fire; Quelina escaped and called the police. Ajek was caught and charged with multiple murder, and was locked up in a supposedly secure youth facility. But our little Ajek is a bit of a modern Houdini. Nothing holds him if he's determined to escape. That was when Tesher asked me to find him. I brought him to my London house and all was well with the world till Quelina placed a mole among my domestic staff. This person, who is no longer a member of my household, hid a camera in my bedroom which could be controlled from elsewhere in the house. When the house was raided by police after a tip off they found the camera and my court appearance was the result. I was thrown in jail and Ajek was once again locked up, this time in a high security facility from which there was no escape. But all was not lost; I had friends in high places.
"They helped him escape yet again, and they brought him here where, using my connections, we were able to send messages to each other. He begged me to find Quelina and do something about her or he would go and kill her himself. When I said it would be too dangerous, he disappeared again. He went back to the streets of London and bided his time till Quelina lost interest in looking for him, and carried out his threat."
Sadie felt a chill in her heart and her gaze wandered to where her own babies were happily playing with Ajek. "So he really did kill her."
"Yes, Sadie, he really did. He walked into her house with a gun and shot her, then walked out again. He would have given himself up to the police but he recognized one of the officers who came to the house. He turned out to be one of Quelina's contacts. He escaped from there and survived for several weeks in his old haunts, keeping one step ahead of Quelina's friends as they tried to hunt him down. The day I was due to be released, he was the first person I saw as I stepped through the gates to freedom. He was dirty, dishevelled, his clothes in rags, and suffering once more from malnutrition. I brought him back here and nursed him back to health, and no one could do anything to us as he was now of legal age.
"My team were about to close on Quelina's gang when Tadik was arrested - and I don't believe for a minute that he killed that girl. Jacon Torm was still working as a prison guard, and heard from a contact that Jute was arranging for Tadik to be sprung from prison and killed. Ajek offered to go to the prison and give himself up so that Jacon could substitute him for Tadik. As a returning criminal with a death sentence over his head, Ajek would automatically have been transported to the punishment mines of Gpuchk. If the switch was successful, Tadik would be somewhat safe on board a spaceship, and Ajek would have taken his chances with Jute's cronies. When I heard what was to happen, I contacted my alien friend who happily agreed to take charge of Tadik once they were away from earth. I used my position as European chief of security to make sure he and Tadik were on the same ship.
"Jute's gang arrived at the prison and showed the guards their orders, which seemed genuine enough and they took Ajek from the prison. Unfortunately Jacon panicked and tried to stop them. My team were about to rescue Ajek, when a vicious fight took place, in which several of my team and Jute's cronies were killed. Both Ajek and Jacon were shot; Jacon is still in intensive care and the prognosis is not good. Ajek suffered injuries to both legs, but before he allowed us to get him to hospital he made us listen to what Jacon had heard at the prison. Plans were in place to remove you from prison to a place where no one would find you, and later probably killed. Thanks to Ajek we were able to extricate you literally from under their noses. Perhaps now you will feel differently about your nephew and understand what he has gone through to help your son and your family."Sir Jeffus pushed back his chair and rose to his feet with a look of pain. "My apologies, Dorit, Tesher; I seem to have lost my appetite."
While he walked away from the table, Sadie had to suffer the glares of her parents, and fixed her eyes on her host as he walked back into the house where Banks caught his attention and handed him a phone. He stood by the door leading to the hall, the phone to his ear. From the way his shoulders drooped, Sadie guessed he had received bad news of some kind. He handed the phone back to the butler and left the room. Moments later he appeared walking across the lawn to where Ajek sat. As he approached him, he signalled to the nanny to take the children into the house then knelt down in front of Ajek and took hold of his hands. He said something that made Ajek's head drop forward, and Sadie heard her mother give a gasp of horror. Sadie glanced up and found her father embracing her mother as she started to weep. Banks brought a fresh pot of coffee to the table and Tesher asked him to confirm that the phone call was from the hospital.
"I'm afraid so, sir. Mr Torm died ten minutes ago."
Sadie turned her attention to Ajek as she tried to make sense of her shattered feelings. Jacon had been Tadikon's favourite cousin; a strong supporter of the family even from his distant position as senior guard at the most hated of prisons. Poor Jacon; faithful to the end, and the one who personally made sure she was cared for during her short time at the prison.. Out on the lawn, Sir Jeffus rose to his feet and helped Ajek stand, and Sadie watched with growing dismay as Ajek placed a hand on Sir Jeffus's arm and began to walk, unsteadily, towards the house. Halfway across the lawn he sagged and Sir Jeffus swept him up in his arms and carried him the rest of the way, holding him gently in his arms as he would a small child. As all three stared at them, Sadie asked, "What happened to Ajek's legs?"When no one answered, Sadie turned her head to look at her father to find tears trickling down his face. "Daddy?"
Her father swallowed hard before saying, "They had to amputate both legs below the knee."
When D'vork was finally admitted to the suite allotted to the Quastorians, after a lengthy body search despite his rank, he marched up to where Plumser Otrall sat on a couch, sipping a blue coloured concoction. "Captain! We have certain things to discuss, I believe. Won't you sit down, sir?"
"Quit the political formality,"D'vork snarled, "and tell me why Inman feels I ought to talk to you."
"Ah, so the trigger has been activated."
"What trigger? I don't give a galaxy about your authority. I'm still the captain of this ship so just get to the basics, or so help me those animals you call guards won't stop me wringing your neck and dumping you into space with the garbage."Everyone knew that could never happen as intergalactic protocol saw to it that all garbage was recycled, or compressed to a minimum and stored till they were planet-side; the threat being just a figure of speech that implied the seriousness of the situation.
Otrall nodded. "Please, Captain, sit down and I will tell what I can. The rest is on a need to know basis and I'm afraid security states you do not need to know at this point."He waited till D'vork had settled into a chair, then said, "What I told you about accompanying Tadikon Versont onto the planet we now know as Seeker isn't entirely true. Now the trigger in Inmahn has been activated, I can tell you more of what is going on. To begin with, Tadikon Versont is a very dear friend of mine from way back when he was a cadet captain and I was attached to the Terran diplomatic corps. In fact, for a time we were more than just friends if you know what I mean."
D'vork nodded and indicated that Otrall should continue.
"It was a rather one sided relationship because he was due to be married to Sadie, and he thought it best for us to part; but there we are, I am digressing. The day Versont was kidnapped by the pirates, it was I who was the target; and I feel guilty that he should have been taken and not I. Versont was escorting my ship to an important meeting of the galactic heads of state, supposedly to discuss the possibility of helping Seeker eliminate the virus that plagued it. Our own president had other pressing engagements and I went in his place. We were aware that there might be a mole or even several among my staff; that is something we ambassadors have to bear from time to time as you well know. But I had another more personal mission to accomplish which only Versont knew about. He knew that my other mission was just as important, and so secret, he was the only one I could trust to keep me safe. Versont was my escort and placed his ship between me and the pirates, allowing me to escape. My ship was badly damaged but my crew and I reached Quastor before the support systems died."D'vork watched Otrall carefully as the Quastorian lowered his tear filled gaze to stare into his glass. "I am responsible for Versont's disappearance and have sworn to find out who betrayed me, and to find Versont and to keep his son safe. I have vowed that even to the death."
"And where does Inmahn come into all this?"
"While we were on Earth and you were absent from your ship, I had one of my technicians board the ship on the pretext of being one of the maintenance team. He managed to slip a chip into his brain so that he was under my control. I had Inmahn arrange to have certain files altered regarding Tadik and myself, and to get me safely on board. Knowing there was still a mole somewhere, possibly on this ship, I took the liberty of having my technician reprogram the android so that he was incapable of revealing anything should the mole try to extract the information, until it was safe and allowed the trigger phrase to activate the android and remove my control."
"But how did you know you could control Inmahn in this way?"
Otrall smiled. "Your parents gave him to you as a gift, did they not?"
"My parents! Otrall, if you've got them involved in anything dangerous -."
Otrall raised his hands and shook his head. "Quite the contrary, my dear D'vork. It was they who involved me, and in so doing, gave me the codes to program your android. They told me not to tell you unless the trigger was activated, indicating an emergency. Meanwhile I can verify all I have told you by calling someone on Earth, high up in the realms of galactic security. It won't take me a minute."
D'vork snorted. "I wasn't born yesterday. We both know we're out of range for any signal to get through without major distortion."
"With your antiquated equipment maybe, but take a look at this."Otrall rose from his chair and opened up the console built into the suite's system. As he switched it on, D'vork noticed a smaller device attached to the main keyboard that hadn't been there when he checked the ship over before it left Earth. Otrall's chubby fingers flew over the keys and the screen lit up to reveal a video of a man in a regulation Terran major's uniform. "Major Hall, this gentleman beside me is Gpuchkian Captain D'vork. Will you please put me through to your chief?"
The major frowned into the camera. "His Lordship is with his family, sir, dealing with a rather delicate personal matter. He left instructions not to be disturbed."
Otrall nodded at the screen. "I understand perfectly, Major, but this also concerns that personal matter. Please put me through."
The major hesitated, probably wondering if he would have a job tomorrow. "I'll see what I can do, sir."
The screen went blank and while they waited, D'vork took the opportunity to grill Otrall on his ability to contact Earth so easily and so clearly. "That piece of hardware sitting on that console is illegal, Ambassador, unless you have permission from someone higher than me to have it on board my ship. So, I think you need to start talking, sir."
"There is nothing to talk about, Captain. This is a new communications interface that is unknown beyond those whose orders I am carrying out. Ah! Here we are."He turned back to the screen and spoke to the handsome grey haired man who appeared on the screen. "Good day to you, Sir Jeffus, I trust you are well?"
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