"Vila, slow down! You’re not making any sense,” she told him. Having her arm yanked along was not the most pleasant sensation.
"We can’t! He’s going to die!” said Vila frantically. "We have to hurry!”
In the past, the only time Vila was this panicked was when his life was in danger. They arrived in the medical bay with Vila out of breath and Cally still trying to understand what had happened to Allren.
"Cally!” Ture exclaimed with relief. He was standing by Allren’s side, looking down on his friend with anxious concern.
The sight of Allren's bleeding and ravaged body lying on the bio-bed shocked Cally.
"Cally,” said Reya in a calmer manner, when she saw the Auron arriving. She apprised her of the situation, "Allren's received numerous cuts, some deep and he's lost a lot of blood. A couple of vital organs have been punctured but only shallowly. I don't think their intention was for him to die quickly. I’ve been able to stop some of the bleeding. But the rest will need you.” Cally immediately went over to the medical readout station to assess Allren's condition.
Reya saw the look on Ture and Vila’s faces and knew that neither one of them were going to return to the flight deck until they knew Allren was fine. Cally obviously couldn't. With Argus and Avon down on the planet, the ship could not be left unattended. Someone had to be available in case either one of them needed to be brought up quickly. Reya sighed; civilians had a disturbing habit of acting on emotions and not being able to see other concerns.
"Take care of Allren,” she told them, even though she knew they were too preoccupied to pay attention. "I’ll watch things.” Reya left to go to the flight deck. None of them registered her leaving.
Cally was horrified by what she was registering on the readings. She had never thought anyone was capable of such cruelty except the Federation. There was no time for an emotional response. Reya was right; the most urgent need was to stop the blood loss.
Cally took up various instruments and began to work quickly. The ship had various healing pads to heal external injuries; but before she could use those, she had to seal off the internal wounds. As she began to treat Allren, Cally tried to find out what happened.
"Who did this?” asked Cally as she worked. Ture was reluctant to get out of her way. "You have to move if you want me to help him, Ture." Ture looked down at his still bleeding friend and then at Cally. He nodded and stepped back.
Vila replied, "Sevisia. It was his men who did this to Allren.” He was hovering nervously.
"Sevisia? Why does that name sound familiar. And why would he do this to Allren?” asked Cally as she applied a suction tube to remove some of the blood.
"It’s all my fault,” said Ture miserably. "If it weren’t for me…” He had started inching towards the bio-bed again.
"I don’t understand,” said Cally. "Vila said he was responsible.”
"We both are,” said Vila, also sounding miserable. He was pacing back and forth at the end of the bed. The distress and guilt was clearly etched on his face.
"What happened?” asked Cally. They both looked guiltily at Allren and then Cally as she began using a tissue binder to seal the more serious gashes.
Vila and Ture looked uncomfortably at each other. "We figured out a way to cheat the casino,” explained Vila.
"Oh Vila!” said Cally. She looked up at both of them in consternation; she could guess what had happened. People had a universally bad reaction to being cheated out of lots of money. To do that to a casino was asking for trouble. Cally knew that Vila was a thief. It was in his nature to try to obtain money in illegal ways. She was surprised at Ture though.
"I know. We shouldn’t have done it,” said Vila. He managed to look ashamed.
"We didn’t mean to hurt anyone,” said Ture said remorsefully. "I never meant for Allren to get hurt," his guilt-laden voice tailed off. His eyes had never left his friend's pale face.
"If it weren’t for the new management partners. We probably would've gotten away with it without anyone getting hurt,” said Vila. His voice was a mixture of a whine and anger.
"What new management partners?” asked Cally. This was the first time she had heard of them.
"That’s what Allren said Serella told him. There were new management partners and they were dangerous. Then we found out it was Sevisia,” said Vila. “If I’d known he was here. I’d never have tried it. I would’ve said, we should get as far away as we could,” said Vila forcefully.
"It’s too late now.” Ture was angry at himself. Allren was his best friend and he was suffering again. Maybe Allren's right. He's right to be angry at me. I don't cause him anything but trouble.
Cally saw the stricken look on Ture's face. "You don’t have to worry,” she reassured him. "Most of these wounds were not calculated to kill, only to cause pain and discomfort. The only dangerous part was the bleeding. Reya fixed some of it already and I’ve just sealed the remainder.” Cally began applying various healing pads to the external injuries. She could feel the heat rising from them as they did their work.
"He’s not going to die?” asked Ture with tentative hope in his voice.
Cally went to get a blood transfusion unit. She said, "No. He’s going to be fine. It will take some time for his injuries to heal completely but this ship has excellent medical facilities. He should make a full recovery.” She inserted the unit into Allren’s arm and strapped it into place.
Vila had stopped pacing and was at the foot of the bed. There was a look of relief on his face. He asked, "When is he going to wake up?”
"I have him heavily sedated. His body needs time to heal,” said Cally.
"I’ll stay with him,” said Ture.
"Call me if anything changes on the monitors,” said Cally.
"I will,” said Ture.
Cally got a chair and put it next to him. "In case you want to sit.”
"I’ll stand here,” said Ture. He had positioned himself next to the bio-bed again and was looking down at his sleeping friend. "You’re sure he’s going to be fine?”
"Yes, Ture. He's in no danger now.”
Ture nodded. "I won’t let anything happen to him. Not anymore,” he said. There was a look of serious resolve on his face. He stood guard over his friend.
"Vila. Let’s go to the flight deck. Let Allren get some rest,” said Cally as she tugged on Vila’s arm.
Vila followed her reluctantly.
Sevisia. The name struck terror into the hearts of those who knew his name. The man was a monster who ate people alive and loved to wake to the screams of those who dared to cross him; or so the whispered rumours about him said. No one dared to say his name out loud.
Most decent people had never heard of him before. Those who had, wish they could forget it. His greatest power was among those in the under-reaches of Federation society. He preyed on people who did not have the power to resist or those too afraid to. He had a cadre of crimos working for him. Men almost as cruel and ruthless as he was; intelligent monsters and frightening in their callous brutality.
This was the man Servalan wanted Argus to kill. Assassinate.
Argus was in a concealed position as he watched his prey going about its business of spreading terror and misery. With a listening device provided by Laxon, he was able to hear what his target was saying. Everything Argus heard made him want to kill this man faster. He adjusted the sight on his rifle and spotted his target. His finger was relaxed on the trigger guard as he waited for his opportunity.
"What do you mean the arms shipment is late?” Sevisia’s voice sounded angrily over Argus’s earpiece. "I want the troops to have the new weapons now! I will not accept a delay! They want what? How dare they demand more gold! They obviously don't know who they're dealing with. What? That's true, they don't. Give me time to make some arrangements. Contact me in an hour.”
Sevisia had a pale, almost sickly complexion. Incongruously, his long face was like that of a friendly old academic. His manner was dry, like a desert sand, which in the fierce storms of anger, could strip off exposed skin. When he looked at you, it was with eyes which burned with a fierce and terrifying intelligence. One never knew if he was contemplating interior decorating, or some horrifying act of vengeance. He loved watching his own people commit abhorrent acts as much as he liked the personal touch. Monster was too mild a word for what he was. Vila had been right to think that he was the champion of the crimos.
Arm’s shipment? Troops? What is going on here? thought Argus. This does not sound like an ordinary crime boss.
A man in a dark brown jacket came into the room. "What do you want done with Smithson?”
"Has he transferred the rest of the ownership to me?” asked Sevisia.
"Yes. He’s very cooperative now.”
"Does the staff of Pleasure City know that we’ve taken over?”
"Only a few but we've dealt with them. All of your men are in the key positions now. We’re in full control and no one knows that the management has completely changed.”
"Good. Good. Excellent work, Verant.”
"Thank you, sir.”
"We don’t need Smithson anymore. Get rid of him,” said Sevisia.
Verant smiled. "In the usual way?”
"Let the boys have some fun. Tell them that he annoyed me. Think of something creative. I hate having to pretend to be nice to nice people.”
"Well if you plan to expand your power base, Sev. You’re going to have to learn to be a politician,” said Verant.
"Yes. I can kill them all later,” said Sevisia. "Make sure the boys don’t block the camera this time. I want to see everything.”
"They do get carried away when they're having fun. I’ll let them know,” said Verant. "Anything else?”
"I hear that those security idiots lost the two who were cheating the casino? They escaped from a locked room?” asked Sevisia.
"The idiots will be punished,” replied Verant.
"Escaping from a locked room intrigues me," said Sevisia. He liked curious puzzles. "I want to know how it happened. Start an investigation. Do we know the identity of the ones who escaped?”
"I’ll find out.”
"It sends a bad message, Verant. We can’t let people think they can get away with cheating me.”
In his hiding place, Argus sighed. His team seemed to have an untapped potential for aggravating the wrong people. It was one thing to risk their lives helping someone else. Risking it for fun and profit seemed to be a stupid reason to him.
"No one will think that after we find those three again,” Verant assured his boss.
"Three?" asked Sevisia. "I thought it was only two who were involved in the casino?"
"There was a third in their room. And at least another one named Argus on their ship in orbit."
Wonderful. These people are not going to stop until they've gotten their revenge.
"Do we know which ship?" asked Sevisia.
"They didn't bother to check."
Sevisia had an unpleasant look of disapproval on his face. "I don't like incompetence, Verant."
"No, sir. I'll have them find out right away. Or heads will roll."
When Sevisia's crimos said that, it wasn't just a trite expression. They liked to be very literal.
"Make sure they do," said Sevisia. Argus wasn't sure which he was referring to; finding the Justice or that heads would roll. From the little Argus had observed, he could have meant both.
Have to get back to the ship. Make sure we make provisions so they can never find out who we really are.
Sevisia changed the topic. "The arms shipment is in jeopardy."
"I knew those smugglers were a greedy bunch. They’re demanding more money for the advanced phase rifles."
"What are you going to do?” asked Verant.
Sevisia thought for a moment. "I’ll give them what they want for now. When they’ve completed delivery of the last shipment. Kill them all. Arrange it, Verant. Something spectacular. I want it to make all the galactic news services.”
Verant had a malicious smile. "I like my work being on the news.”
"We have to strike before the Federation regains more power, Verant,” said Sevisia. "I wish I’d thought of this right after the war. Rather than the piecemeal steps we've taken, we could have built our own force to take over entire worlds. It’s the perfect opportunity for people like us, Verant.”
"Yes, sir. So many worlds for the taking. Just begging for someone to help them to dig out from the mess left after Star One was destroyed. Just like here.”
"Exactly. And we have the perfect base here. A good jumping point to a dozen fat worlds.”
Both men laughed in anticipation.
So that’s what’s going on. You’re trying to expand your power base. You are taking advantage of the chaos left after Star One was destroyed, thought Argus. No wonder Servalan wants you dead. And so do I. You would be even worse than the Federation if you gained more power.
It was no longer simply a matter of killing Sevisia. His entire organization had to be destroyed. Argus removed his finger from the trigger. This required planning. The first thing he had to do was find out where that base was.
Verant left the room on his appointed tasks.
Smithson. Argus retracted the telescopic rifle and put it back into his jacket. He slid out from his hiding place and followed Sevisia’s lieutenant. I’m going to need the entire team on this. That means Avon will have to get his rest some other time. Damn.
Argus wished it had not been necessary but there was no other choice. Servalan left him no other option when she had chosen Sevisia to be his first assignment for her.
Argus smiled sardonically. You thought you had gained yourself another tool to do your bidding, Servalan. Well, this tool cannot be so easily controlled. We will take down Sevisia and his criminals; and help the people who have been suffering under him. We will leave them strong enough to resist both people like them and your Federation. I'm sure Sevisia has more than enough resources at his disposal, once we appropriate them.
Argus suppressed a smile as he anticipated Servalan's reaction. She had ordered him to kill Sevisia. There had been no instructions as to how and there had been no directives on what was to be done about his organization. Argus highly doubted that Servalan intended what he was about to do. He continued to follow Verant at a discreet distance.
"How is Allren?" asked Reya when Cally joined her on the flight deck. Reya was drawing on a data pad again.
"He'll be fine. I left Ture with him. I'm not sure where Vila is," Cally went over to her station to check a few readings. "How are things here?"
"It's been quiet. I just got an updated status from Zen a few minutes ago," said Reya. She put down the pad.
"Argus added you to the command list?" asked Cally.
"It's about time," remarked Cally.
Reya looked at Cally. "Why do you say that?"
"You've been one of us for quite awhile now," she replied.
"You mean because of Argus? I don't think he wanted to make that decision for everyone."
"If he wasn't going to, we would have," said Cally. "Where is he, by the way?"
"He stayed behind after we rescued Vila and Allren. He said he wanted to check out the people who had done this to Allren."
"He's angry about what happened. He can't stand his people getting hurt. When he gets like this, he tends to want to do things."
"Good," said Cally. "Something has to be done. What they did to Allren was monstrous."
"Argus will think of something."
Cally spotted the drawing which Reya had started. "This is an unusual headpiece," she remarked.
"It's an ancient knight's helmet from his culture."
Cally looked at Reya and said, "I don't need to guess whose face is underneath then."
Reya gave an embarrassed smiled.
Avon was contentedly exploring the inner workings of another piece of equipment when he began noticing whispered conversations amongst the scientists and technicians in the room. Without seeming to be interested, he strained to hear what they were saying. There was a tension level in the room which was not present before.