There was loud shouting and sounds of fighting coming from the main commercial avenue.
"That's the signal," said Palty. Under Avon's instructions, the young thief had arranged for some of his friends to provide a diversion so they could get out without being seen.
"Let's go," directed Avon. They all quickly exited the alley they had been hiding in and followed Palty.
Avon leaned heavily on the cane as he walked. His whole right side seemed to be sore. It wasn't just his shoulder anymore.
He wished he had been able to take Cally's advice and gotten some rest. It was a good thing he hadn't. None of the others would have recognized the danger they were in. Avon was intimately acquainted with the type of manhunt the Federation Security forces were currently carrying out.
Their new hideout proved to be a large storage facility not far from the main commercial avenue. It was filled with large furnishings of various shapes and sizes which conformed to the physiology of the user.
"I've heard of these. They're supposed to be smart furniture," said Vila excitedly as he made himself at home on a large brownish-silver bed.
"Oh." Vila jumped up with a startled yelp when he started sinking into its surface. "It's trying to eat me."
"It may be smart, but I can't say much for its taste," said Avon dryly.
Allren had been trying out one of his own. "This is really comfortable," he remarked. His body was half immersed in one of the beds. "You stop sinking in once it conforms to your body."
"Hmm." Vila tried out his brownish-silver one again. He sighed contentedly. "I could get used to this. I think we could do with some of these on the Justice. Those bunks are really uncomfortable."
"Your priorities never cease to amaze me," said Avon as he observed the others trying out the beds.
"Don't knock it," said Vila. "There's nothing more important than a good night's sleep."
Avon stared at Vila for a moment before he walked away. He wouldn't know; he couldn't remember what it was like to have a good night's sleep.
Cally paid the young thief before he left.
"I did good?" he asked.
"Yes. You did. Thank you, Palty. And thank your friends."
"Oh I will. They like fighting anyways. I'll come by with some food tomorrow morning."
"That would be much appreciated. But careful."
"Don't worry. I will."
Before he left, Palty approached Avon. He handed him a small round disk. "Ture said that you wanted one of these."
Avon took it from his hand and studied it. It was a vid-disk normally used by Federation security forces to contain holographic images of targets of interest. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it. It was nothing. See you tomorrow."
Avon looked at the bio-injector in his hand and then laid it on the table in front of him. There was time for sleep later. He had some things to do first. Reaching into the pocket of his tunic, he pulled out the flat vid-disk which Palty had given him earlier.
Checking that the others were still asleep, he pressed the bottom of the disk. A three dimensional image flickered into view just above the disk.
It was, as he had feared. It was an image of him. He pressed the disk again. Another image appeared. This one was of the psychostrategist, Sester. Further explorations revealed no other images.
Avon was starting to get very annoyed. He was tired of being a target for everyone.
With the Justice in orbit around the planet and Federation ships overhead, it had not been difficult to guess that Servalan would be looking for him. He needed to get off this planet and away from her. He was not going to allow her to take him again.
I would rather die first. Avon was not about to give up yet. As long as his mind was still functioning, he would still have a chance.
Avon wondered what was happening with Argus. Since the ship had not been destroyed, Argus was most likely still onboard. He wasn't sure how it was possible but Argus must have found a way to stay alive without giving the Federation what they wanted.
Given the amount of time which had elapsed, the majority of the ship's systems should have been repaired. The Justice was his best chance of surviving. He had to get back onboard. Avon wondered if Argus had tried to contact them already. If he used the comm unit, he would only have contacted Jenna; since it was one of the things she had confiscated from them earlier. Avon doubted if Jenna would risk contacting Argus. If she did, he wondered what kind of story she would have told him.
I need to fix the teleport bracelets.
Avon reached into the equipment satchel and pulled out Cally's bracelet which he had been working on earlier. He took out some other tools, laid them on the table in front of him and set to work.
"Are you alright?" Sester brought over a mug of imitation coffee and handed it to Reya. She was at her normal spot by the window, staring outside into the morning sky.
Reya missed being outside; missed the feel of the wind, the warmth of the sun and the smell of living things around her. Whenever she came back from a mission, she would always spend some time out by the lake at her brother's headquarters. It was her refuge from the artificiality which pervaded their lives.
"Don't worry about me," said Reya as she took the cup. It smelled good and she really needed one this morning. She took a sip of the hot liquid and made a face. "This is worse than field rations."
"Well, it is a Federation facility. I don't think creativity in the culinary arts is an important consideration."
"Are you trying to cheer me up?" she asked.
"Is it working?"
"Then. Yes. I am trying to cheer you up." He gave her a slight grin.
"I appreciate the effort. But you don't need to."
After what they had shared the previous night, Reya didn't want to become that close to Sester. She recognized that he had an easy charm that tended to draw people in.
"Yes. I know. You're alright. And I don't need to worry about you. Well, let me worry about that."
"Are you still trying to be funny?"
"Hmm. I guess I'm doing a bad job of not being funny now?"
"Only a little." She gave him a brief smile. It was hard not to be nice to him when he was trying to help her.
"Now who's trying to be funny?"
"Is there any food that comes with this poor excuse for coffee?" she asked him.
"Right this way." He took her hand in his and led her to the table where the breakfast had been laid out.
"It looks like real food. Of course, this looks like real coffee too," remarked Reya as she sat down opposite Sester and put the mug on the table.
"Yes, you would think that if they took the trouble to make it look and smell like real coffee that they would actually go all the way and make it taste like it too."
As they began eating, she asked, "Do you think you can convince them to let me take some exercise outside?"
Sester glanced at one of the security monitors which always observed their activities.
"It should be easier after last night. They have fewer reasons to suspect us now," he told her. "I'll ask Dayto the next time he sends for me."
Reya had noticed his glance and nodded. "How are you getting on with your strategies?"
"Slowly. I don't have a real interest in helping them. I have discovered some interesting things in the information they gave me though," he told her as he tried to bite into a partially burnt piece of toast. There didn't seem to be anything on it.
"Oh?" She watched his attempt with the toast before deciding whether she wanted to try hers.
"I know why they weren't able to gain control after the invaders left. There's another rebel group that opposes this one. It seems that the invaders deliberately left both groups armed."
"How very equal-minded of them," said Reya cynically. She picked up a piece of fruit instead. At least it looked like a piece of fruit. She wasn't quite sure until she bit into it.
"It didn't really matter. The Federation forces arrived soon afterwards. It was quite a large group if their reports are correct. Dayto's people seem to have the upper hand right now. They have the Federation forces convinced that they have always been loyal and that it was the invaders who were making it seem as if everything was fine."
"It's odd that the Federation forces arrived so quickly."
Sester suppressed a smile. Reya didn't seem to need him to point out the salient details.
"Yes. Very odd. Unless they were sent here to check out something else."
"Such as?" she asked. "The fruit's not bad if you're tired of the toast."
"It depends on what story they told to cover up my disappearance."
Sester decided not to tell Reya that he reported to the Federation President directly and that she kept close tabs on him. He put down the offending piece of toast and picked up the fruit.
"Well, at least there's one edible thing," he remarked as he chewed on the fruit. "If they told them the wrong story but still kept up the pretence that everything was still fine, then someone may have gotten suspicious."
I can guess who that someone is, thought Sester. Though calling her suspicious might be too mild.
"I'd say very suspicious. Do they normally do that when you disappear?" she asked.
"I was sent here to check out reports of alien activity," said Sester.
"Whoever sent the Federation forces thought that your disappearance may have indicated that there was alien activity?"
Either that or Servalan is very angry and thought I had escaped her. Though this would be overkill I would think.
"Can you use this to our advantage?" Reya asked.
He smiled. "I've already built it into my strategy for our friend. If we stay long enough for him to implement it that is. But there are some things I can suggest to him which may help us in the meantime. Or at the very least raise some interesting questions in certain quarters."
"Who is this?" Senior Controller activated the vid-disk in his hand. Dayto was standing in front of his desk, next to Sester. He was watching the psychostrategist's reaction very carefully as the image appeared above the disk.
Sester allowed himself a small response to what he was seeing; a slight widening of the eyes and all other reactions quickly suppressed. He had been expecting this.
Dayto was not disappointed. He had noticed the reaction. He was certain that he would be able to get the information he wanted. Dayto hoped Sester would not cooperate that easily. He preferred that the psychostrategist be difficult. It was much more enjoyable having to apply the various methods of persuasion on him.
Forcing Sester and his lover to become intimate in full view of his security monitors had been immensely satisfying. Seeing the woman crying afterwards had added to the pleasure. Dayto had not expected that reaction from her, considering how tough she had been under interrogation.
"You cannot fool me Sester. You know who this is. I want to know why the Federation is looking for this man. What is his value to them?"
Sester considered his next words carefully. With the Justice in orbit, he had known that it would not take long for Servalan to start looking for Avon. He had no desire to have her find him again. And neither did he want Dayto to find him. Avon would become little more than a bargaining piece in the man's bid for power. Sester rubbed his wrist. It was starting to feel numb. The guards always put the restraints on too tight.
Sester said, "He's the other person who came down in the life capsules. The one you never found. He's a psychostrategist as well."
"They sent two of you?"
"Yes. Sometimes we work in teams."
Dayto contemplated this information, trying to asses whether he believed Sester or not. He pressed the bottom of the vid-disk again. This time the image changed to display Sester.
"You're fortunate. I am inclined to believe you because they appear to be looking for both of you."
"Psychostrategists are considered valuable resources in the Federation," said Sester.
"Yes. Well, at the moment you haven't proven very valuable yet. Though you have been intermittently entertaining. Especially last night."
If a glare had the destructive power of a plasma pistol, Dayto would have been dead. Sester was not normally a violent man; but he was considering something which would definitely qualify as violent.
"She really is shy isn't she?" said Dayto. He was still trying to bait Sester, trying to get him to lose control and react in anger. "I would never have thought it of her. But once she gets going… I wouldn't mind giving her a try myself."
"Don't you dare!" said Sester angrily as he lunged towards the senior controller. Dayto had been anticipating this reaction and punched him, knocking him down. Sester fell to the floor. Dayto put his boot against Sester's neck and pressed down, pinning him where he had fallen. He smiled cruelly and increased the pressure on the psychostrategist's neck, making it difficult for him to breathe.
"I can do whatever I want psychostrategist. Don’t forget that. If you try that again, it won't be you who suffers, it will be her. Do you understand?"
Sester gasped out an angry, "Yes."
Dayto removed the pressure. He ordered, "Get up."
Sester struggled to his feet and glared at the controller. He rubbed his neck but stayed silent. It had been a painful way to convince this fool that he could easily be manipulated. Dayto only seemed to understand and trust the application of force.
Dayto didn't like the superior attitude and controlled arrogance of psychostrategists. He really hated Sester. If they had not had the fortune of also capturing his lover, Dayto doubted if they could have forced him to help them so soon.
As it was, Dayto knew that without Reya, they probably couldn't control him. The last thing he needed was to deal with another difficult psychostrategist. At least with Sester, as long as Reya was their prisoner, Dayto had power over him. He did want to know about this new psychostrategist though. It could be information that may prove useful when dealing with his temporary Federation masters.
"Sit down," ordered Dayto.
Sester sat down again.
"Tell me what the other psychostrategist's name is."
When he spoke, Sester's voice contained a tight anger. "Drel Argus."