Avon and Argus opened the door and found Sester leaning back lazily against a chair, playing a game of chess, with himself. He found it much more challenging than playing with the chess computer. He looked up as the two men came in. A slow smile spread across his face. "Are you here to play, gentlemen?"
"Stand up," said Argus.
Sester got up slowly from his chair and faced them. There was an expression of expectant amusement on his face as he took in both men's unfriendly attitude towards him. "You are here to play."
"Hold out your arm," said Argus coldly.
"Not until you tell me what you're going to do with it first," said Sester. He said this pleasantly which belied the monosyllabic antagonism being directed at him. "I do have my limits. I draw the line at losing body parts."
"Avon," Argus directed his partner to explain.
Avon took the bracelet from his pocket and showed it to Sester. "This is a positional tracer. It will monitor your presence on this ship." The Avon who spoke to Sester was the old expressionless Avon; hard and unyielding, with no trace of warmth or light.
"I take it that the other option is to continue enjoying the inside of this cabin?" asked Sester.
"Correct," said Avon. "Once you put it on, it cannot be taken off. Except by me. As you do not like losing body parts, I would not recommend tampering with it." He said this with a complete lack of expression, which somehow made it more menacing.
Argus said with a sound like a low growl, "I would highly recommend it."
Sester was fascinated by this interaction. Both Avon and Argus had different approaches to being threatening, one cold and matter of fact, the other passionate but controlled; but both were effective in their own ways. A lesser man would have been intimidated, but to Sester it was an intellectual study in human dynamics.
"What else?" asked Sester. He doubted if they were finished yet.
Avon continued, "There are places which will be off-limits to you. If you go near the computer core, the engineering section, the weapons store or storage rooms, the bracelet will give a warning charge. It will hurt. The longer you stay in the restricted areas, this charge will increase exponentially. Once it reaches the maximum setting, you will be incapacitated."
"There are several additional areas which are also off-limits, but you will discover those in time," said Argus unpleasantly.
Sester almost laughed. He could guess the purpose of these additional areas which Argus was deliberately not telling him about. The man was painfully obvious. Sester held out his hand for the bracelet; Avon handed it to him. Without hesitation, Sester snapped it to his left wrist.
"No questions? No objections?" asked Avon, his eyebrows lifted with a faint look of surprise.
"It's your ship. Your rules. As I said before, I will abide by them. I'm only a humble liaison," said Sester.
"I highly doubt that," said Argus cynically.
"That is somewhat unfair," Avon said to Argus. "I do believe that he is a liaison."
"I don't suppose you would tell me if you've also placed a listening device in this?" asked Sester, lifting up his newly-adorned wrist.
"Do you plan on saying something that you're afraid that we'll overhear?" asked Argus.
"The fear won't be mine," said Sester.
They were like adversaries throwing down a gauntlet.
"We shall see," said Argus.
"Did you put a listening device in the bracelet?" Argus asked Avon as they left Sester's cabin.
"It was fairly simple."
"Did you plan to tell me at some point," asked Argus. "And don't tell me that you just told me."
Avon smiled. "Of course."
"I do like to know these things, Avon," said Argus in an exasperated tone. He stopped walking and looked at the other man.
Avon returned the look with a puzzled expression. "Is there something wrong?"
Argus seemed to make up his mind about something. He said in a serious tone, "Look, Avon. We're both proud men, used to being leaders. It's hard for either one of us to follow anyone. Until now, we've never come to an agreement on who gives the orders on this ship. What I am proposing is a partnership. There are areas I am good at by nature of my military experience. There are areas where you excel that I can never hope to. I don't know if it will work. But I am willing to try."
Avon stared at him, not saying anything. There was an intense and unreadable look in his eyes. "Share the leadership?" he asked finally. "You would do that?"
"I would like to make it a formal understanding between us," said Argus. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you like the rigours of everyday leadership. You would rather leave that to someone else. What you are good is planning, strategy and analysis. I am too, but only on a military level. Someone like Sester is better handled by someone with your abilities, not mine. But this partnership will never work if you keep things to yourself all the time, and only tell me, when you think I need to know."
This was the last thing Avon had expected to be dealing with in the middle of the corridor. He wondered if he was fated to work on relational issues with all of the members of the ship. The ones with Cally and Vila were already draining enough for him.
But this one was something different.
"I am not used to sharing information. Or people willing to share leadership," said Avon.
"Are you saying that you're rejecting my offer?" asked Argus.
"No. I'm saying that I am not used to sharing information. But I will try."
Argus held out his hand. "We're agreed?"
Avon looked down at the offered hand and then he clasped it with his own. "Agreed."
"Now let's talk about Sester," said Argus.
After his two nemeses left, Sester sat examining the tracer bracelet. Even though he was allowed to leave the cabin now, he wasn't quite ready. There was some planning to do first.
He had a pleased smile on his face. This piece of technology was meant to hamper him and place restrictions on his movements and activities on the ship. They misjudged the real danger of a psychostrategist.
First he had to get a good idea of everyone's habits and schedules onboard the ship. He would be the well-behaved and proper guest; the helpful and competent liaison. Sester hoped that there was a listening device in the bracelet; it would be much more entertaining.
Psychostrategists were not used to taking direct action. They were always above the puppets they manoeuvred. It was much easier to remain objective that way. But these past two years, because of Servalan, he had developed a taste for more active personal participation. He found the element of danger added spice to what was usually only an intellectual exercise.
He paused in his thoughts and remembered his last conversation with Servalan. She had hinted at something interesting. There was no question that she knew about Reya and his interest in her.
Sester shook his head. Reya was not a bargaining chip or an incentive; he would not allow Servalan to play with her life. He wanted her to come to him willingly, or not at all. Sester got up; he needed to get out of this room and take a walk. This kind of speculation always threw off his objectivity; he couldn't afford that while on this ship. It was time to start gathering information.
The Justice entered the marshalling zone for Borel's forces. Neatly arranged formations of attack ships were waiting for orders. Large battle cruisers, nasty looking warships bristling with weapons and smaller scout ships zipping amongst them. Functionally ugly logistical transports were docked with various vessels in order for them to stock up on provisions and supplies.
"It's all so…orderly," remarked Vila. "If it were a contest of neatness, they would win hands down."
Argus, who was feeling right at home with the military order, explained, "Its necessary, Vila. With this mass of ships, everything has to be carefully orchestrated during the preparation stages. Once the battle begins though, it's not the order which determines who wins, but who can adapt to the chaos."
Zen reported, "Information. Incoming video communication's signal is being received from the flag ship of General Borel Reve."
"Put it on the main viewer, Zen," Argus instructed.
The young general in full Athol brown and green battledress appeared on the screen. His face was solemn and he was bursting with the energy of anticipation.
Borel said, "Welcome, Commander. I am looking forward to working with you again."
"Likewise, General," responded Argus. Although there was a relaxed atmosphere between them, there was also a formal gravity. They were both professionals in the eve of battle. "How can we be of assistance?" Argus also seemed to radiate energy. Both men were born for combat.
"It's actually a personal request from my brother, Kameron. Your associates, Cally and Jenna made a promise to help him rescue someone who was being held by my brother."
Cally spoke up, "Yes, that's true. I had almost forgotten. Jenna and I promised to rescue Galena."
Argus said, "Alright. We will keep this promise."
"Excellent. As you can see, we are preparing a major offensive against Ellis and the alien forces here. We hope that this will be the turning point in the war. It should tie up most of Ellis's forces so that you can make a quick strike behind the lines and rescue her. We can't do it. All of our forces are tied up in this assault but I can spare one of the special units you trained when you were here before. I will have them transferred to your ship along with all of the information we have gathered so far regarding her whereabouts."
"Good," said Argus. "Tell your brother not to be concerned. We will rescue Galena. Good luck, General."
"And to you, Commander."