The meal over and done with, Jali and Tollan were alone while the women were in the kitchen. Jali had a cigarette. The two shared the last bottle of wine between them, chatting of inconsequential matters until Jali broached the subject that was the point of the whole evening.
“Yes, I have it,” Tollan answered when Jali asked. “I looked though it several times, it’s pretty conclusive but…”
“I don’t like to say,” said Tollan. “I’ll give it to you before you leave, you can then see for yourself what it’s all about.”
“And after this?” Jali prompted, blowing smoke.
“After this we hand it over,” Tollan continued. “I wanted to do it sooner, but I knew you’d want to take a look at it first.”
“To Vantel?” Jali asked.
Tollan shook his head. “No, I'm pretty sure that Vantel won’t like it,” he said. “He may even try to stop it if he finds out too soon.”
“I see,” Jali nodded, drawing his own deductions. Does this mean that Vantel was behind my arrest? Jali thought. It was entirely possible, yet he couldn’t be sure until he saw the evidence himself. He stubbed out the cigarette.
Verda came in from the kitchen; she was holding Tollan’s comlink. “It’s Vantel,” she said.
“Does he even have a home?” murmured Tollan as he took the ‘link. “Antilles here… Yes?.... What… now? But I’m…yes…yes, sir…I’ll be right there.” He closed down the comlink and looked depreciatingly at Verda and Jali. “Have to go now, no arguments,” he said, getting to his feet.
“What’s going on?” Tira asked, coming in to the room.
“Got my marching orders,” Tollan explained.
Jali drained his glass and stood. “We’d better get going too.” He turned to Verda. “It was a lovely dinner, thanks.” He gave Tollan a nod.
Tollan recognised the nod. “I’ll just be a moment.”
But for some reason, Tira was just made aware of the late hour. “Jali, I think we need to be going,” she said. She sounded rather worried.
“Just one moment,” Jali reassured her.
“Jali, it’s getting late,” she reminded him.
“Yes, it is,” Verda agreed, she ushered them towards the door.
Defeated, Jali gave in to the women’s demands. “I’ll come around tomorrow,” he told Verda. “There’s something I still need to talk about with Tollan.”
“That’ll be fine,” Verda said with a nod. “I’ll see you then. Good night Jali, good night Tira.”
A few minutes later Tollan ran through the door and tried to find Jali, but they had gone.
He had asked Tira to stay but she had declined, explaining she had another early morning. So Jali went back to his apartment alone. It was still dark, and still dusty. He hadn't gotten around to buying a new cleaning droid yet.
Still in his clothes, Jali collapsed on his bed and was woken up hours later by the comm unit blaring in his ear. He fumbled several times on the bedside table until he finally found the right button. “Yeah?” It wasn’t the way to answer a call, but he was still half-asleep.
“Jali, it’s me, Verda,” answered a voice. “Have you seen Tollan?”
“No,” answered Jali, his eyes still closed. “Last time I saw him was at your place. Is there something wrong?”
“He didn’t come home last night,” Verda answered.
Jali was wide awake; that wasn't like Tollan. He sat up and tried to reassure her. “Did he call?”
“Yes,” she answered, “he said he had to go somewhere else first but he would be home.”
“Did he say where?” Jali asked.
“Something about a gas processing factory,” Verda said. “See-oh… something or other”
“Stars and moons, a CO² plant,” Jali murmured. He thought quickly. Did someone else find about the information? Did Vantel? Was Tollan trapped there…or somewhere else?
“Jali?” asked Verda’s worried voice. “Did I say something wrong?”
“No, no,” he answered quickly, pulling on his boots. “There’s nothing wrong, I just think it’s something that I should check out. Don’t worry, and try not to let anyone into your apartment.”
He ran out the door.
“But Jali, why are you telling me this?” Verda asked. “Should I be worried? Jali? JALI?”