Reya was angry as she observed the vidscreens monitoring the circular cell. For two days, she had watched as Argus suffered the ministrations of the bio-tech. She could not imagine how hard it was for him to remain passive and unresisting.
The man seemed determined to make Argus respond to him and for some reason, Argus was cooperating.
You must fear for the lives of your companions if you refuse.
She knew he preferred the beatings to what the bio-tech was doing to him.
Reya could see the softness in Argus's eyes when his body began responding to the bio-tech's touch. It was a look she was very familiar with; it was the look he had when he was with her. There was also a faraway look which indicated that what he was thinking of was somewhere else.
Are you thinking of our time by the lake? She was sick that so intimate and private a memory could be tainted by a man who lusted after Argus's body.
We're going to have to build many new memories when we're done here.
Reya was determined to help him forget. She wished that they could both wake up from this nightmare and find that it was not real.
It won't be long Argus. I know I keep saying it but they've finally gotten the weapons systems up now. I'm just waiting for the shields.
Unfortunately without these basic systems, she knew that any chances of surviving an escape were minimal. She had already seen the ships. There was more than one besides this one.
The enemy techs had already exceeded her conservative estimates. Reya wished ORAC were functional. With it she knew that she could have helped speed up the repairs.
"This device didn't require a stronger power unit," said Allren to the gathered group.
Jenna, Cally, Vila and Ture were arranged on various pieces of furniture around his bed. They were listening to his report on the comm unit that Avon had adapted.
"But it didn't work," said Cally.
"How do you know that?" said Allren.
"We couldn't raise the Justice."
"The problem is not with the comm unit. It is fully functional and has more than enough range to reach any ship in orbit." Allren had been very impressed with the adaptations that Avon had made. The injured engineer had to admit that it was not something he would have been able to do.
"Are you saying that the message did reach the ship, but for some reason no one was able to respond?" asked Jenna.
"Yes," replied Allren guardedly. The engineer was still not sure of Jenna. It was her actions that had led them all into danger.
"Have you tried again?" asked Jenna.
"No. Cally asked me not to," said Allren.
Jenna turned to Cally and asked, "Why not?"
"They came for Avon shortly after we used the comm," explained Cally. "It seemed a prudent precaution."
"You think the two are related?"
"There is no way to be certain. But it is a possibility."
"How would they even know that Avon was here?" Jenna pointed out.
"The ship is up there," said Vila. "If the ship is here, they must have assumed that Avon was here too."
"That is assuming that they were able to take over the ship and find that Avon was not onboard," said Jenna. "But out of all the millions of people on this planet, how would they know that it was Avon who was using the comm? They could just be targeting anyone who was able to get a message off-planet."
"The man who took us in said that soldiers who came knew who Avon was. They called him by name," said Cally.
"That doesn't make any sense. We didn't even know we were coming here," said Jenna. "This was just the closest place with the supplies we needed."
"Can we get back to the part where no one was answering from the ship?" asked Vila. He had been fixated on this piece of information since Allren had suggested this possibility. It worried him; and it worried him that no one else seemed to be worried about this. He hoped that for once someone would take his concerns seriously.
"You're right, Vila. We have more pressing concerns than debating the reason why the invaders would want Avon," Cally said to Vila, though she was looking pointedly at Jenna.
The Federation President was toying with the idea of having Senior Controller Tarvin demoted for wasting her time. She had Tarvin send a ship out to Papos over a week ago, in order to investigate the possibility of irregularities there. Servalan had just received a report from him. She immediately had him called in to explain the report.
"Are you telling me that everything is operating normally on Papos?" asked Servalan. "But there is still no word on the whereabouts of psychostrategist Sester?"
"Yes, Madame President. The agents on the scout cruiser have reported that they have made an assessment of Federation Security forces there. They have found nothing unusual. Security controller Dayto reports that Sester left Papos days ago. It appears a report from Sester was relayed to my office through the normal channels," reported Tarvin. "I have had a copy forwarded to you."
Something is definitely wrong then, thought Servalan. Tarvin did not know that Sester sent all of his reports directly to her under a coded signal.
This means Sester is in trouble. Or likely dead.
"What about the presence of the Justice? Your report says that the ship left shortly after it arrived and there is no indication where it is currently?"
"That is correct, Madame President. The tech specialists from surveillance division suspect that there has been a malfunction in the tracer implanted in Drel Argus."
"Have your agents been able to establish what the Justice crew was doing on Papos?"
"It appears that they were on a supply run to pick up some equipment," said Tarvin.
Servalan knew that Avon had an infinite capacity for causing her trouble. She did not believe that he would have gone to Papos for such a mundane reason. And having Drel Argus's tracer malfunction just when psychostrategist Sester had gone missing was too much of a coincidence for her.
Obviously sending agents to Papos is a waste of time. They all reinforce the same information. Information that I know cannot be correct. There must be something about Papos that is not allowing the truth to be told. It is time to take more forceful action.
"Have your agents continue looking for Sester," said Servalan. "He must be found."
"Yes, Madame President," acknowledged Tarvin before Servalan closed the connection.
It is time to send more than a few agents to find out what is going on there.
She depressed her comm unit.
"Corry, contact Space Command for me. I want to speak to Admiral Ves."
Psychostrategist Sester was undergoing his own testing. Or rather, he was undergoing pain. He had recognized the recent tests for what they were; an attempt to understand the basics of how the field of psychostrategy worked.
This had always been a carefully guarded area in the Federation. Psychostrategists were an elitist and exclusive group who did not reveal their workings to outsiders. As little was known about them as the Clonemasters; and like them, there was a mystique surrounding what they did.
Because the invaders were no longer testing his mental ability, and were specifically targeting his knowledge of psychostrategy, Sester had stopped cooperating. He refused to attempt any more puzzles or problems they had for him to solve.
This meant that his sessions were now filled with nothing but pain.
"It is such a simple thing. Why will you not do it?" asked the blond green uniformed scientist who sat next to him. The pain was turned up another level. Sester moaned but did not say anything.
The man's voice was reasonable. It always sounded reasonable, right up to the point when Sester passed out from the pain.
Though none of the scientists working on him was ever introduced, Sester had identified this blond man as the lead scientist. It came from his manner and the way the others deferred to him. He had a sharp intelligence in his eyes which reminded Sester of the blue uniformed leader.
"You solved all of the other problems we gave you before. Why have you decided to stop?" the lead scientist asked. "Tell me."
With each answering silence, more pain was added.
Has it reached the point where I have to make a decision? thought Sester.
As a psychostrategist, he had never been on this end of the pain before. Psychostrategy was a profession of the mind. It never required its practitioners to be involved on a personal level. In fact, it was discouraged. Objective detachment was a hallmark of the psychostrategist; as was viewing everyone as puppets to be manipulated.
Sester was always aware of the results of his psych-strategies; planning the outcome was as important as planning how to get there. He had always regarded it with an intellectual detachment.
But working for Servalan had changed him; working with Avon had changed him. For the first time, he had not liked the outcome of one of his own psych-strategies.
Now he was faced with even more change. This outcome would involve him personally.
It was no longer a game. It was not even a matter of whether he could hold out longer than Avon or Argus. This was no longer a simple contest of wills.
Has it come to that point? Do I have to make my own decision? What will I be willing to die for?
Sester knew why his companions back in the cell were doing it.
Argus had been easy to understand. The man was born to sacrifice himself for what he believed and for those he had made a commitment to.
Avon had been surprising, but also easy to understand. The analyst had made his decision long ago; way back at Star One.
Sester had not made his own decision yet. He had never had to. Until now.
"Argus, you need to get up," said Avon. "I know you're not asleep."
"Leave me alone, Avon," said Argus gruffly.
The two men were alone in the cell. Sester had been taken away to be tested.
Avon and Sester were concerned because Argus was becoming increasingly withdrawn. He was spending much of his time between challenge sessions sleeping instead of participating in their plans of escape. Avon decided to do something about it.
Avon said in a low tone, "No. I will not leave you alone. We need your tactical abilities."
Argus laughed. It was a painful sound, hampered by the injuries to his ribs. "When have you ever needed anyone?"
"It is not you we need. Only your abilities," said Avon.
"Well, if you can separate the two, you are welcome to them," said Argus.
"I would never have thought it possible." Avon decided to try a different approach.
"What? To separate me from my abilities? Has your logical mind found a way?"
"No. I never thought it possible that you could be defeated." Avon was using an idea from Argus's relationship with Reya.
"What do you mean? I have not been defeated!" said Argus angrily. He rolled to face Avon, grimacing at the pain.
"Really?" said Avon sarcastically.
"Is that a challenge?" Argus pushed himself to a sitting position. This was a painful procedure but he no longer felt the pain; adrenaline was flooding his system.
Avon smiled ironically at Argus's reaction. "Not a physical one, at any rate. And it worked."
Argus was looking confused now. He was angry and confused. "What worked?"
"This is a look you often have with Commander Reve," remarked Avon dispassionately. "Minus the anger of course."
Argus finally realized what Avon had been doing. He smiled wryly. "Yes, she does have that effect on people."
"Not on people. Just you." Avon found himself enjoying this exchange of words. It was adversarial but without the need to have to constantly protect himself; not like the guarded conversations he had with Sester.
"Thank you, Avon."
"I only did it because we need your abilities."
"Of course. My tactical abilities. Well, they are at your disposal now."
Argus appreciated what Avon had just done for him. It was the same thing he had done for Avon, during their therapy sessions on the ship. There was no need for unnecessary displays of concern; the two men understood that about each other. They had also avoided any embarrassing discussions about why Argus was having problems. It would have been easier for both of them to beat each other up than to do something that useful.
The two men began running through the probabilities of various avenues of escape.