"I'm getting very impatient, psychostrategist
. I have given you more than enough time to produce some results."
Dayto had summoned Sester to his office again.
"I thought you might be," said Sester. He didn't sound very concerned.
"I expect to hear something useful today," Dayto said menacingly.
Sester thought, It's a good thing for you that I'm escaping today. Though it may have been amusing seeing you try to use the strategy I've devised for you.
Sester wondered if Dayto had used the information he had given him. Given the senior controller's nature, he wouldn't be surprised if he did. The man was predictable in his use of every advantage. He couldn't help himself. If he had, it wouldn't take long for the information to filter back to Servalan. Then the fun could begin.
A siren sounded outside.
Dayto hit the comm button on his desk. "What's going on?" he asked the security duty officer.
"The female prisoner Reya has escaped, sir," the duty officer reported.
Dayto looked sharply at Sester. He gestured the guards over. They positioned themselves on either side of Sester.
"When did she escape?" Dayto asked.
"We're not sure."
"What do you mean, you're not sure?" he said angrily.
"She was taking her exercise outside and she disappeared. It wasn't discovered immediately."
Dayto was livid. This kind of incompetence was inexcusable.
Sester heard the door slide open behind him. There were two phase pistol blasts. The two guards collapsed to the ground.
Dayto's eyes widened in surprise. He immediately reached for something under his desk. Sester didn't know whether it was a secret panic button or a weapon but he was ready. Reya had briefed him well. The moment he heard the weapons fire he was on the move. He lunged forward and hit Dayto square in the chest, knocking him backwards and away from whatever he had been reaching for. Sester rolled to the side to give Reya a clear aim.
It all happened in the space of a few seconds. The door slid closed. The alarm was still sounding.
"I wouldn't move, if I were you Senior Controller. I'm a perfect shot from this distance," Reya's voice was cold and professional.
Dayto had been trying to reach forward again. He froze.
"Actually she's a perfect shot from any distance," remarked Sester as he stood up.
"Hello dear," he said to her with a smile.
"Well, not every distance. I'm sure there are a few where I do miss occasionally. Nicely done by the way," she told him.
"I have my moments," said Sester modestly.
"We'll make a soldier of you yet."
"And have to wake up as early as you do? No thanks."
"Wimp." There was a slight grin on her face.
Sester checked the pockets of the guards and released himself from the restraints.
While he did this Reya said, "Now Senior Controller, I want you to direct your people to turn off the alert and report that I have been apprehended. One wrong word and you will never be leaving this facility again."
"You don't dare kill me. You need me alive to get you out of this complex," said Dayto.
"Need? Not really. It will just be less messy. I do hate gratuitous killing. But as you have just seen, I am very good at it. Now. If you please." She gestured to the comm panel on his desk.
Dayto activated the comm and did as directed. The alarm was silenced.
"Very good. You get to live a little longer," she told him.
"You're very scary like this, you know," said Sester with admiration.
"Stop flirting with me. I'm still working."
"Your next task is to arrange transport for us out of this facility," she told Dayto.
"You're not getting out of this complex alive," he told her angrily.
"Considering how easy it was for me to neutralize your guards, do you think that threat has any credibility? Now arrange transport or you will be the one who is not getting out of this complex alive."
She raised her pistol to his head. "Don't make me repeat it again."
Dayto did as directed.
"The assault troops are in position, Madame President," reported senior agent Gorman. "They should be entering the complex within the minute."
"Make sure my psychostrategist is not harmed. I would be very annoyed if I had to replace him," said Servalan.
"Of course, Madame President. You have my guarantee."
"I will hold you to it."
There was heavy banging on the door of the storage facility. They recognized the pre-arranged sequence.
"That's Allren," said Ture as he activated the door panel and opened the door.
Allren, in his old woman disguise, rushed in.
"We have to get out of here!" he told them. "I saw Jenna. She's on her way here! There's a group of people with her."
"Vila, take ORAC," directed Avon.
"I hope ORAC appreciates this when you finally fix it," grumbled Vila. He took hold of the case and began sliding ORAC into it.
There was a rush of motion as they all packed up and got ready to go.
"It's a computer, Vila. It has no feelings. Though programming some appropriate responses into it might be amusing," said Avon as he put in the last of the tools he had been using into the equipment satchel and closed it up.
"You mean, like Slave?" asked Vila. He shouldered the case with ORAC in it.
Avon handed the satchel to Ture who was standing nearby to take it. "Maybe not that amusing. Sycophancy can get annoying after awhile."
Checking that they were already, Avon headed towards the exit.
"Let's go," said Avon when they were all ready. He drew his hand gun with one hand and gripped the cane in the other. He led the way. The others also readied their weapons and followed him out.
Sester got into the driver's seat while Reya held their prisoner in the back.
"Drive at a normal speed. We don't want to raise any suspicions," Reya told Sester.
"Right." Sester set the controls for direction and speed and guided them forward.
He was now wearing the uniform of the driver who had come with Dayto's personal vehicle. The driver had been knocked out and was currently tied up in Dayto's office.
As they approached the exit, there seemed to be a line up at the gated energy barrier.
One of the guards at the gate recognized Dayto's personal transport and came over. Reya held her phase pistol against Dayto's side so that the approaching guard would not be able to see it.
"Find out what's going on. Don't do anything suspicious," she told him. "Remember, we don't really need you alive. But I would like to avoid bloodshed if possible."
The guard said, "Sir."
"What's going on?" asked Dayto.
"Not sure, sir. There's a hold up of some kind on the other side of the barrier."
"I can see that. What's the hold up?"
"I don't know, sir."
"Well find out! Before I have you down-graded and sent to a labour colony," said Dayto angrily.
The guard almost visibly shrank under Dayto's anger. "Yes, sir. Right away, sir."
The guard went off.
"I don't think much of your people," remarked Reya.
Dayto glared at her. "Someone's head is going to roll," he said under his breath.
Without warning the barrier ahead of them exploded. Weapons fire could be heard. They could see black uniformed Federation soldiers streaming across the barrier. More explosions could be heard. These ones from other directions.
"Sester. Back up. Get us out of here," said Reya. Her voice was controlled and calm.
"It appears your little rebellion has been discovered," Sester said to Dayto as he maneuvered the vehicle around. "It was only a matter of time."
"Did you have something to do with this?" asked Dayto angrily.
"Now why would you say that?" asked Sester innocently. "What could I possibly do? You had me locked up, remember?"
"I think it's in all of our best interests to get out of this complex. You know this place. Where is the best place to go?" Reya asked Dayto.
Dayto looked at the both of them suspiciously, "Why would you want to get away from them? Aren't you both Federation?"
Reya looked towards Sester but he said nothing.
She wondered what he was thinking. Are you returning to the Federation after this? It would be simple for you to go back now. Have your loyalties changed? Are you saying nothing because of me?
She had been afraid of her increasing comfort level with this man. But the thing which scared her even more was the awareness that the feelings were reciprocated. It had been one of the reasons she had decided to take action now. She could not afford to spend another night with him.
Reya said, "In battle, weapons fire doesn't necessarily differentiate between friend and foe. Especially if they don't know we're here, I'd rather not take that chance. So can you get us out?"
Dayto saw the logic of the option she was presenting him. Anything was better than the alternative. He helped them all to escape.
"Did you know that Jenna Stannis is hunting for Avon?" Servalan asked Argus.
"You mean she's looking for Avon?" asked Argus.
"No. I mean hunting. Like a predator to a prey."
"I think you're describing yourself, not Jenna," said Argus sarcastically.
"Not at all. She does it with infinitely less class."
"What is your agenda here, Servalan?"
"Jenna has been very indiscreet. There have been some irregularities in the activities on the planet which my security people have been investigating. In the course of those investigations they have identified several suspicious groups. You may understand my surprise when I discovered Jenna Stannis was with one of those groups. They have been very active; which was why they were spotted so quickly."
"I asked her to look for Avon. She must have found some help. That's not surprising."
"I don't think she has the same motivations for looking for Avon as you have."
"You must be mistaken."
"One of my security people found an obliging citizen in her group. He told us many interesting things. Including Jenna Stannis looking to avenge Blake's death. She has had their group busy looking for Avon for the last few days."
Argus said, "Why are you doing this, Servalan? Do you think you can turn me against my own people? Is there any useful reason for sowing paranoia and suspicion? What purpose does this serve if you want us to help in fighting the aliens?"
"None at all." She stared at him. "You may not want to believe it, Argus but it does not change the facts."
"Your facts." Something was beginning to nag at Argus. The beginnings of doubt.
Did you never get over your obsession to kill Avon, Jenna? Did you only bury it until you could get the opportunity?
Now that he was thinking about it, Argus realized Jenna had been the only member of the crew who had not shown any interest in helping Avon when he came back. She had deliberately stayed away from him.
Servalan said, "The fact is. You should trust no one. Unless you can control them. It makes for fewer unpleasant surprises."
"I am not like you, Servalan," said Argus. "Tasteless megalomania does not appeal to me."
"Are you always this stubborn? I'm only trying to help you become a better leader."
"I could do without your kind of help. Stop trying to make me like you, Servalan. If I had to control my own people in order to have them follow me, then I really would be no better than you."
"You're an idealist, Argus."
"It's better than being a ruthless, bloodthirsty tyrant."
"You must stop flattering me."
"It really is useless trying to insult you."
"You already suspect that what I am saying about Jenna may be true, don't you?" asked Servalan.
Argus was silent. She was right. It was disconcerting that Servalan seemed to be able to read him so well.
"Assuming that it is true, why are you telling me? You must have a reason."
"My people are following Jenna's group. If she finds Avon first, we will not be far behind. I will protect Avon on the planet. You will protect him once I give him back to you."
Argus looked at her suspiciously, "What are you getting at Servalan? And stop trying to treat Avon as if he was an object."
"You will not allow Jenna back on your ship."
"You cannot order me."
"On the contrary. You already know I can. If you don't then I will keep Avon and our agreement is terminated."
"You wouldn't do that. It would not serve your purposes. You need Avon on the Justice in order to deal with the alien incursion. He would never work with you directly."
"I have many purposes. It would only require me to readjust my priorities. I am not asking you to do anything which is against your conscience. You must recognize that it is too dangerous for Avon if Jenna is allowed access to him."
Argus thought this over. Servalan did have a point but he had to find out for himself. He had to give Jenna a chance.
"I will keep Avon safe and I will deal with Jenna. If it does prove too dangerous to have her onboard then I will personally convey her to a safe neutral planet. But I will make that decision. Not you."
"You are stubborn. Very well. I trust you will make sure that this will not be a short agreement?"
"I told you, I will keep Avon safe."
"I don't doubt that. It is good to know that all of that Federation training will be used for our purposes again. But one day your belief in people will get you killed, Argus. Make sure it will not get Avon killed."
Argus scowled at the woman on the screen.
"Make sure that you keep your end of the bargain, Servalan. I expect Avon returned once you find him. And I will not do anything for you until you do."
"Of course." After all I have to persuade you to trust me if I'm going to use you effectively. And after the threat is over then it will be the time for Avon.