"How is the war progressing?"
Sester smiled. "Don't tell me that you contacted me, just so that you could avoid reading my daily reports?"
"Reports are such tedious things. They are nowhere near as interesting as the person who wrote them."
"Perhaps some illustrations would help?" Sester was very used to this game by now; on some levels, he enjoyed them.
"I'm sure you have quite a few in my file. Or would you prefer a recent one?"
"That might be helpful. While you're about it, why don't you include one of Argus as well?" she suggested casually.
It was not often that someone could surprise him; Servalan and Avon were among the few. He had to be very careful. Sester kept his face neutral as he asked with mild curiosity, "Argus?"
"Yes. I understand that he and the Justice are on their way to Sector Ten."
"You mean Avon and the Justice." When did you start developing an interest in Argus, Servalan? This new shift was disturbing. Anything new which Servalan did immediately raised alarms. It meant she was up to something. Not that she wasn't always; but Sester preferred being able to track her deviousness.
"Of course, I meant Avon and Argus are on their way to Sector Ten."
Sester studied her face. Servalan was as unreadable in her false pleasantries as he was in his controlled charm but she was also being deliberately transparent in her lack of subtlety.
She continued, "I want you to act as my personal liaison to the Justice crew during this conflict. It is time the war in that Sector ended. It is time to send a message to the alien intruders in our galaxy that their efforts will not succeed. Make the Federation forces in that sector available to the Atholians."
"You must know how Avon feels about what I did to him. Sending me as a liaison would not be the wisest choice if you want him to work with the Federation," said Sester reasonably.
"Perhaps not. But you are my choice. You will serve my purposes very effectively," said Servalan.
Is it possible that you know about Reya? thought Sester. This was something he had been afraid of. Having Servalan know, put him at a distinct disadvantage in their dealings; but so far she had not shown any indication that she was aware of what happened.
"Then you must have purposes which you have not stated," said Sester.
"Don’t I always?" asked Servalan with an alluring smile.
"Would you care to tell me what they are?" pressed Sester.
"What would be the fun in that?" asked Servalan. Her tone changed and she ordered, "I also want you to find out what Avon is doing there. Make contact when they arrive. Servalan, out."
The communication abruptly terminated before he could say anything else, leaving Sester staring at the blank screen.
"Wearing a pink shirt would have been less embarrassing," muttered Argus under his breath as he followed Reya. He was holding her hand and she was dragging him towards the flight deck.
"What did you say?" asked Reya, as she looked back at him.
"Nothing. I just said that…nothing." Argus decided not to repeat what he had mumbled and said instead, "They’re going to make fun of me."
"They’re not." Reya thought about it for a second. "Well, maybe just a little. You are the one who suggested this, remember?"
"I know. I know. I did," said Argus. “But does everyone have to be involved in this? Can’t it just be the two of us?”
“It’s tradition among my people to do it this way.”
“Are you trying to back out?”
“Well…does it have to be so embarrassing?”
“It is not embarrassing. It’s supposed to be serious.”
He pulled back on her hand, causing her to stop and look back at him again. He drew her to him and put his arms around her in a hug. "I'm very sorry for what happened before."
"You've said that many times already," said Reya. "You don't have to keep saying it. I believed you the first time."
"Before we do this. I want to make sure you know what you're getting into. I have a dark side that comes out sometimes. You saw it. I don't want it to. Sometimes it has to because it's useful. Sometimes it changes me in a way that scares me. It hasn't happened in a long time. I thought that it had finally gone away. I hoped it had. Reya, I need you to promise that you will stay away from me when that happens."
"Argus. You know I can't do that. I want to help you. You don't have to do this alone. We'll find out what's causing it. There must be a cause."
"No, Reya. There is no cause. It's just a side of me that I hate. I was a fool to think that it could just go away. It's a part of me."
"I don't believe that. That darkness is not you."
"You don't want to see it. But that is who I am, Reya. I wanted you to be very clear about that before we take this next step."
Reya looked into his eyes. She refused to believe that it was part of him; but it didn't matter. She told him gravely, "I love you. I will always love you, no matter what happens. I want to take this step with you."
"I don't deserve you," he told her. He leaned forward and kissed her. "And I will take this step, even if everyone does laugh at me."
When Reya and Argus arrived at the flight deck, Avon, Vila and Cally were already there. Seeing them, Argus had a strong urge to run. He tugged on Reya's hand and whispered into her ear, "Is this really necessary?"
"It is customary in my culture for a pledging to be witnessed by those who are close to you," explained Reya.
"It's in case you chicken out," said Vila helpfully. He was carefully standing a distance away from Avon, trying not to look at him.
"Yes, apparently we are here to restrain you," said Avon with an almost expressionless face.
Argus glared at him and looked embarrassed at the same time.
"Don't listen to them," said Reya. It was her turn to glower at the two troublemakers. There was no embarrassment on her face, just a sternness that would not accept any more nonsense from either one of them.
Vila was grinning. Avon looked vaguely amused. There was an unreadable expression on Cally's face.
Reya instructed, "Zen, contact General Borel Reve's headquarters in quadrant five of Sector Ten, the Athol Prime System."
"Confirmed." After a few moments, Borel appeared on the main viewer.
"Reya. What was so urgent you couldn't wait until you arrived?" The young general was in his familiar Athol black and brown military fatigues.
Reya replied, "Argus has something he wanted to say to you." She pulled on Argus's arm so that he stood next to her.
Borel looked at Reya and then Argus with a puzzled and amused expression on his face. "I see that you managed not to do any permanent damage to each other, Commander. I'm glad of that. I would hate to have to send out the Elite Guard after you."
Argus shifted nervously on his feet; which was very unlike him. That Borel would bring up the topic of damage was unfortunate and made him feel even more uncomfortable. Reya poked him gently in the ribs.
"Reya wanted me to say, that I would like to make a formal petition of pledging between the two of us," said Argus.
Reya turned and stared at him.
Argus coughed and rephrased what he had said, "I meant I would really like to make a formal petition of pledging. We both would, that is."
Reya smothered a grin, put her arm around his waist and they both looked at Borel.
"I'm confused," said Borel. "Who would like to make this pledge?"
"That's not funny, Borel," said Reya.
"You take all the fun out of it sister," said Borel with an impish grin. "Alright, I'll get Kam. Give me a moment." They could see Borel giving instructions to someone off screen.
"What's going on?" asked Argus. The whole proceeding mystified him.
"He's going to get my older brother, Kameron. I'd forgotten. Since my father is dead, any formal pledging should go through him."
"I thought you said, all I had to do was tell Borel? I didn't realize this was going to be so formal," said Argus. "Unless you've forgotten to tell me something, and this is really the Atholian version of the bonding ceremony?"
Reya poked him in the ribs again, this time harder, "Would I do that to you?"
"What did you just do to my sister?" a deeper male voice sternly demanded from the vidscreen. They all turned to look and saw a stockier man standing next to Borel. He had the strong Reve chin and like his brother, wore a military uniform with rank markings of a general.
Argus winced and said, "Nothing. She was just making a point."
"Yes, she does have a tendency to make those," said Kam dryly. "You're Commander Argus?"
"Yes. You're Kameron Reve, Reya's older brother?"
"Yes. Now that the introductions are over, I would like you to explain why you have taken my sister away and not returned her," said Kameron with an unyielding tone.
"It was her choice, sir," said Argus. For some reason, Reya's older brother made him nervous. He felt like a young lieutenant standing before his first commanding officer, trying to explain why he had failed his first assignment.
"That's not a good enough answer, Commander."
"It's the only answer I have. I would have returned her, if that was her wish." Argus was confused at this turn in the conversation but he was determined to stand his ground, for both of their sakes.
"Then I want her returned now," Kameron Reve insisted.
"No, sir. Not unless she wishes it." Argus turned to look at Reya, she shook her head. Argus turned back to the screen, "She does not wish it."
"You would oppose me?" asked Kameron with a warning in his voice.
Argus stood up even straighter than he normally did, and faced Kameron, "Yes. I will not make her. And neither can you. She has her own will in this. I will stand by her decision, even if it means opposing you. But I hope it will not come to that."
Kameron Reve studied them both from across the screen and then said, "He is a good one, Reya. You have chosen well. I already knew that when you left with Argus, you wouldn't be coming back."
"You knew?" asked Reya.
"Borel told me," said Kameron.
Borel was openly grinning now. "I knew the first time I heard both of you fighting."
Kameron addressed Argus, "I believe you have something to say to me?"
Argus took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "I would like to make a formal petition to be pledged to your sister. It is something we both want."
Kameron said formally, "Your petition is granted, Commander. The Reve family recognizes that you are now pledged to my sister, Reya. We will have a feast to celebrate when you arrive."