Michael tried to recover. It was general knowledge Jaguar spent a lot of his time in Joinstohm working with the Predgarian units. He should have fully expected the possibility that he’d be around.
‘Not at all,’ Michael tried to brush it aside. ‘Though I don’t think my visit warrants interrupting your busy schedule.’
Jaguar chuckled. ‘Really? The Pharollin don’t often come calling, a phoenix warrior even less. What can I do for you?’
‘I’ve lost someone,’ he admitted. ‘I was hoping your Predgarians could help me locate him.’
Jaguar leaned back against his desk. ‘I’m assuming there’s a reason why your own people can’t do that?’
Michael winced. Jaguar was sharp. ‘It’s an alien, well, he looks just like us, just a bit taller.’
‘He’s from a planet called Terra.’
Jaguar raised a hand. ‘I think I see where this is going. Does this happen to be the Terran tourist that’s been in the news? Let me think back,’ the general began to count places off on his fingers. ‘Unicia, Cuhain, Shamix, Rajiti-’
‘Ishetta,’ Michael muttered, shuddering to himself.
Jaguar chuckled again. ‘No one likes Ishetta,’ he agreed. ‘I’m surprised you took him there – and now you’ve lost him?’
Michael nodded. ‘We were supposed to leave today for Steiron, but he’s not in his room.’
The helmeted general didn’t speak for a few seconds.
‘Not in his room? You don’t think you might be over-reacting?’
‘General, my aura sweeps can stretch at least five miles before I’ve even activated my medallion.’
Jaguar grunted. ‘Ah. I’d forgotten the legendary strength of the Phain family. Very well, it seems your fears may not be unfounded, but you still haven’t explained why you’ve come to me.’
Michael sighed. ‘I’ve alerted the High Consul, but if we don’t find him quickly, well, it’s only going to be so long before the Asterion Court hear of it.’
‘Oh Light above,’ Jaguar murmured. ‘So you’re trying to find him quietly, so they don’t get wind of your…slip-up.’
Michael cast the general a hard stare. Was he amused by this? If they didn’t manage to find the Terran then Courin’s opposition at the court might take the opportunity to try and confiscate their medallions, the only reason they’d survived so long against the Sarpiens.
Michael didn’t say any of what he was thinking though. There was a threat much closer to home that he knew would ensure Jaguar’s co-operation.
‘I’d be more concerned as to how the Dakkonin will react.’
The seconds ticked by.
‘Clever,’ Jaguar responded eventually, sounding far from happy. ‘There’s a reason why they call the Blue Phoenix the best politician on Courin. You’re right, of course, we can’t give the Dakkonin an opportunity to send in their hunting units and battle-states.’
Michael nodded his agreement. ‘There wouldn’t be much left of Joinstohm afterwards. So you’ll help me?’
‘I was going to anyway…even before your threats.’
Michael smiled disarmingly.
‘Have you at least got some idea where in Joinstohm he might be?’
‘Lovely. This just gets better and better. Come on then, we might as well get started.’
Michael blinked in surprise. ‘We?’
Jaguar pushed off the desk with another chuckle. ‘I might as well tag along since I’m here.’
Dumbfounded, Michael watched as Jaguar strode past him.
‘You coming?’ He asked from the doorway.
Michael nodded silently and followed the Predgarian general out into the corridor. This day had taken a bizarre turn.
‘Do you have a plan?’ Michael asked as the big man led him through a door and another long corridor.
‘Yes. Since your aura sweeps have failed I intend to use my nose.’
Michael grunted disgustedly. Of course, the general was a Feline. He’d be able to track the Terran by scent.
The corridor led out into a large hangar, the far side already open to the air traffic. Jaguar directed him to a small, streamlined hover vehicle.
‘Can you use one of these?’
‘Of course, they’re not that different to motorcycles.’
Jaguar mounted the nearest and turned to look at him. ‘They’re a bit different,’ he disagreed, switching on the engine. The green hover-bike started to lift off the ground.
Michael hurriedly went to a second one situated directly behind. As he got on and turned the ignition he noted the huge broadsword strapped to Jaguar’s back.
The gleaming blade was legendary, but only because Jaguar wielded it. The sword alone wasn’t that special, it was the general’s titanic strength when in armour that made it so dangerous.
‘Lead the way,’ Jaguar told him. ‘I’ll be right behind you.’
Michael nodded and carefully piloted the small vehicle around Jaguar’s before increasing speed and shooting out into the open air.
He grinned as he veered and dodged between the larger traffic. He hadn’t ridden one of these in years. He’d forgotten how fast and manoeuvrable they were. Michael was taken back to his childhood very suddenly – when he and his siblings had used to race around on them in Phoenicia.
Michael grew serious. Times changed, he hadn’t spoken to any of his family in the longest time. He put his thoughts to one side, this wasn’t the time or place to dwell on that.
They made good time and Michael slowed, bringing the hover-bike to a stop on the platform where he’d first obtained a ride from the Iraji driver.
He waited and a matter of moments later, Jaguar joined him.
‘Can we leave these unattended?’ Michael asked as he and the General both hopped off the bikes.
Jaguar gestured to a pen-like device inserted into the handlebars of his vehicle. Michael was fairly sure that the ones in Phoenicia had never had such a device.
Jaguar took it out of its secure holder, pointed it at the bike and pressed the large button over the top of it.
The vehicle shimmered once and disappeared.
‘Huh. Camouflaged bikes, impressive,’ Michael took the device from his own and repeated the procedure.
‘Predgarians do much more fieldwork than Pharollin,’ Jaguar pointed out. ‘Since your Order spends most of its time cloistered in council meetings I’m not surprised you’re not familiar with them.’
Michael gave him another hard stare. Was that a jibe at the Pharollin? Probably, but what was he going to do? It wasn’t as if what the general had said was inaccurate.
He decided to just lead the way inside without commenting, though his shoulders did hunch a little when he heard Jaguar chuckle softly.
Michael clenched his teeth. He was rarely ever out of his depth, in anything. The Predgarian general was making him feel like a warrior fresh out from training.
‘When did you discover the Terran’s absence?’ Jaguar asked as Michael jabbed the button for the lift.
‘Not much more than an hour or so.’
‘Good, that’ll make him fairly easy to track.’
The lift doors opened and the two men stepped through, the space feeling tiny with the armoured general stood in it.
‘Have you any suspicions as to why he may have disappeared?’
Michael shook his head after he’d punched the number for the right floor. ‘I wish I did. He may have just gone sight-seeing without me, but he knows how dangerous this city can be. He’s been very sensible so far on this tour, I can’t see why that would’ve changed now.’
Jaguar nodded as the doors opened. ‘He wouldn’t have been picked as Terra’s first representative to other worlds if he wasn’t sensible. Take me to his room, let’s see if I can’t pick up a trail.’
Michael led the way. It was only a few turns along the wide passages, but the hair on the back of his neck rose when he came upon the door, torn off its hinges.
He glanced behind him as Jaguar unsheathed his massive sword.
Michael nodded and let him pass. He gathered his energy, making ready in case he needed to launch an energy ball at someone.
‘It’s empty,’ Jaguar informed him, putting away his overly large weapon.
Michael stepped in, inhaling sharply as he looked around. He shook his head disbelievingly at the toppled furniture. The Terran’s journal was now ripped into pieces and the bedsheets torn from the bed. His clothes had been scattered too.
‘You might’ve mentioned this earlier,’ Jaguar commented, his voice mild.
Michael gave him a sharp glance. ‘It wasn’t like this before I left.’
Jaguar returned his gaze. ‘Well, in that case, I’d say we’re not the only people looking for your friend.’