Argus, Cally and Vila followed after Dannon. The urgency in his voice urged them to move faster. "We have to get there before anything happens!"
Argus grabbed Dannon's arm and yanked him to a stop. "We will not move a step further until you tell us what the rush is."
Dannon was highly agitated. "It's the President. I think they're going to kill him!"
Argus said angrily, "You mean the President who just nearly let my security officer get murdered on your public viscast service?"
"You don't understand. It wasn't the President. It was someone else and that someone is trying to assassinate the President! Please! You're the only ones I can trust. I don't know who else to go to."
Cally asked, "Why should we believe you?"
Vila asked as well, "Yeah, why should we? You might be one of them. Or maybe you had something to do with what happened to the Commander and you're just leading us all into a trap!"
Dannon was nearly frantic but he explained, "I didn't have anything to do with that. I swear it! I was just as horrified as you were when I saw what was happening!"
Argus asked, "How can we trust you?"
"I…when I saw what was happening to Reya, I ran to the Presidential observation booth, it's on the fifth floor. The announcer broadcasts from there. I thought, I might be able to do something. Get them to stop it. But..." There was panic in his eyes. He pleaded, "Please, you have to hurry! I'll tell you everything later."
Argus was not to be deterred. They were in unfriendly territory and he did not want to walk into something without understanding what was happening. With a steely voice and equally hard eyes, he said, "No. You will tell us now. But we can move towards the lift while you explain."
Dannon said, "There's a special one that goes up to the fifth floor. It's just ahead over there."
Argus told Dannon, "Hand me your pistol. Go slow and keep ahead of us. Cally, Vila keep a 360." He made eye contact with Cally. She nodded.
As they pushed their way to the lift, Dannon, keeping his voice low, told them the rest of the story. "When I got near the Presidential booth, I saw guards wearing the Presidential seal. They were dragging the body of another Presidential guard into the observation booth. There was blood on his uniform. I could tell that he had been shot."
Vila said, "That doesn't sound good but maybe he was the one who tried to assassinate your President and the guards got him."
Argus said, "Vila has a good point. If that was all you saw…"
Dannon said, "Yes. It was all I saw, but not all that I heard. I couldn't see anything inside the booth but just before the door closed, I could hear the President's voice shouting. He was angry. He said 'How could you do this to…' and then someone was hit. I think it was him because he suddenly stopped saying anything. The guards were busy and I ducked out of their sight in time so they never saw me. I got out of there as fast as I could."
Cally remarked, "So either the guards were fakes or they were part of this coup against the President?"
Dannon said urgently, "Yes! I didn't know what to do or who I could trust. Who knows how many people are involved. The only ones I knew I could trust were all of you."
Argus kept his eyes on Dannon but tilted his head and asked, "Cally, what do you think?"
Cally had been listening with all of her available senses while Dannon was talking. She said, "I have no impression of deception. He appears to believe what he's saying. Beyond that, I'm not getting any specific details."
Argus said to Dannon, "Alright, say that we believe you for now. How many guards did you see?"
Dannon looked nervously at Cally, "She can read my mind?"
Cally reassured him, "I cannot 'read' human minds. I can only get sense impressions."
Argus said, "If Cally could read minds, we wouldn't have to ask you anything. We'd already know."
Dannon was still looking guardedly at Cally as he said, "I guess not. It just feels…what kind of impressions?"
Vila sympathized with Dannon's nervousness. He had the same feelings when he first learned that Cally had psi abilities. It hadn't seem natural to have someone who could know how he was feeling, even if she couldn't read his mind; and it took him a long time to be convinced that she couldn't.
Argus said, "Well, don't worry about it for now; unless you have something to hide, we need to save your President. How many guards did you see?"
On the fifth floor, Argus checked out the situation in front of the President's observation booth. He took a quick peek around the corridor and then he went back to where Cally, Vila and Dannon were waiting. Cally was holding her gun at the ready.
Argus noted that Vila still held his nervously in front of him in both hands, even though Reya had said that his aim had improved considerably. Vila must be one of those that would never feel comfortable with killing anyone face-to-face. He hoped that one day, Vila could be able to go back to a much less violent life; he hoped that all of his people could. For now, Argus appreciated that Vila chose to stand with them, even in this.
Argus was sick of the violence and killing too even though it had been his profession for most of his life. He was resigned to the fact that he would probably never be able to get away from it. There was too much blood on his hands for him to escape, but he hoped he would be able to do something to help the others to be free from it.
He told them, "There are two guards at the door. The rest must be inside. There's no telling how many are in with the President."
Vila asked, "What do we do?"
Argus handed Dannon's gun back to him and then he said, "We need more help." He pressed the comm button on his teleport bracelet. "Lt. Dain. Have you secured your location?"
Dain’s voice responded, "Yes, sir. All of the prisoners have been secured but the device was destroyed in the fight."
Argus said, "Damn. I was hoping we would be able to use it."
Dain's voice asked, "Sir?"
Argus replied, "A situation has developed. We seem to be caught up in the middle of a coup. Leave one man to watch the prisoners and I want the rest of you to teleport over here."
Dain acknowledged the command.
Argus contacted Avon. "Avon, stay put where you are and don't let anyone in. We seem to be caught in the middle of a coup."
Avon's voice responded, "Don't we have enough to do already?"
"We're caught up in it whether we like it or not. We won't be able to do anything with our primary mission if civil war breaks out."
There was a pause and then Avon's voice said, "Or perhaps this is part of our primary mission."
Argus asked, "You mean the aliens might have something to do with this coup?"
Avon's voice came back, "They might already have support here."
Argus said, "And they want that support to take over? That's possible. They did try to do that in the Athol Territories. Alright, we'll keep an eye out. Dain and his men are preparing to transfer over using the teleport. I want you to go up right after that and try to hack into the Chandarans' secured network. See if you can track this coup attempt. I want as much information as you can find. Argus, out."
After Argus told him to wait, Avon looked around the observation booth. There was a computer terminal in the corner that he had noticed when he first came into the room. The sides of Avon's mouth curled into a smile.
From Vila's spying assignment amongst the Chandarans, he was able to give them valuable suggestions in order to come up with a good plan to distract the guards.
Argus asked, "Cally, you're alright with your part?"
There was a determined look on her face. "I'll be ready."
Vila also had a determined look on his face albeit mixed with anxiety. When he was tense, his speech tended to be fast and rambling. "I'm ready. Did I tell you that I used to do a little acting in school? I used to be quite good. Even got a standing ovation once. Of course I was only playing a chicken. And I was only five. But still…"
"Well, this is your opportunity to move up in the acting ranks," said Argus. "Do it quick. Don't give them time to think about it. Dain and I will be right behind you."
Vila's old instinct to avoid danger of any kind made him want to un-volunteer himself.
I can do this. I have to do this. They’re all depending on me, he tried to convince himself. They need me. That's why I'm here. Not all of him was entirely convinced but it was no longer the part of him that he wanted to listen to. Vila just wished that the fear would go away but he doubted if it ever would. He remembered Avon's words about what the Federation tried to do to the Deltas. The thought gave him the resolve he needed. He might be scared, but he refused to be someone else’s puppet any longer. They made me afraid but they're not going to make me a coward.
Argus said "That takes care of the guards in front of the door. The tricky part will be getting into the room. It's a standard hostage scenario with only single access entry. Our only advantage is surprise. There's no subtlety involved. We have to get in there quickly and secure the President before they can kill him. Dain, are the men ready?"
Lt. Dain and the soldiers were all poised and eager for action. "Yes, sir. They know what to do."
Vila was beginning to think that these soldiers needed a bit more variety and colour in their vocabulary.
Avon's voice came over Argus's teleport bracelet. "Argus."
Argus responded, "What is it, Avon? Make it fast. We're about to go in."
"Have you thought of a way to enter the President's observation booth?"
Argus said, "We're going to rush in and take them out as fast as we can. Standard hostage scenario."
Avon's voice didn't sound too impressed, "That’s what I thought. These kinds of scenarios have a high risk factor."
"Yes. That's why it has to be quick. Avon, can you hurry this up? You obviously have something in mind."
Those who knew Avon could almost imagine the grin on his face.
"As a matter of fact, I do."
Vila had Cally’s arm twisted around behind her and was manhandling her down the hallway where the men were guarding the Presidential observation booth. She was unarmed and was struggling, trying to kick back at him. One of her kicks landed on his shin.
“Ow! Stop it woman. You’re going to pay for that!” He twisted her arm further up, causing her to grimace in pain.
Cally had a look of mad hatred on her face as Vila continued to push her forwards. “I’m going to kill you all!”
“Not if we kill all of you first!” Vila and Cally were near the booth now. The guards looked suspiciously at the struggling pair. Vila addressed them, “Isn’t that right? No woman can win over a man. We’re in control.”
One of the guards said with a sneer, “Yeah. That’s right. They have to be shown whose boss.” The guards were still eyeing Cally and Vila very suspiciously. The other one asked, “Who is this? What are you doing with her? What are you doing here?”
Cally tried to kick Vila again. He avoided her foot and cuffed her in the head. She made a sound like a wild angry growl.
Vila answered, “Didn’t you know? There’s more than one of them. It’s not just that one down there. She and her tamed men are trying to take over.”
The two guards looked at each other.
Cally said fiercely, “Yes! We’re going to control all of you!”
The guards did not like this at all. They were starting to get angry and moved towards her.
Vila said, “Oh no you don’t.” He slapped her across the back of the head again. Suddenly Cally stamped hard on Vila’s instep, broke free from his grasp and ran down the hallway.
Vila said urgently, “We can’t let her get away! Come on!” He began running after her without looking back. The two guards glanced at each other and raced after him and the runaway woman.
They were halfway down the corridor when all of a sudden both guards fell to the ground, unconscious. Argus and Dain had snuck up behind them in the confusion and urgency of chasing after a phantom menace and knocked them out.
Vila and Cally came back while two of the soldiers tied up the guards and dragged them out of the way.
Argus said, “Nicely done you two.” He went over to Dain, who was listening at the observation room door.
Dain shook his head. “Can’t hear anything in there. It must be sound proof.”
“That’s good; it means they didn’t hear us either.”
Vila was rubbing his bruised shin as he hobbled over to them.
Cally said, “Sorry about that, I was trying to make it convincing.”
Vila mumbled in consternation, “All of a sudden everyone’s an actor.”
Argus said, “Vila, are you alright? I need you on the door lock.”
Vila hobbled over to the door and said, “Yeah, I don’t need my legs for that.”
Cally said, “I didn’t kick you that hard.”
Vila opened up his satchel and took a tool out. “Tell that to my shin. I think I’ve got a proper bruise there now.” He began working on the lock.
Cally said, “You were good. I almost believed you.”
Vila paused in what he was doing and asked, “Did I hurt you?”
“No. Just a minor concussion.” At the look of shock on Vila’s face, Cally said with a grin, “I’m kidding. You didn’t hurt me at all.”
Vila turned back to opening the lock again, “Well, that’s a relief. I would have felt terrible if I had. Sometimes, when I get into a performance…”
Cally asked, “Of a chicken?”
Vila grinned, “All of a sudden, everyone’s a critic.”
They all heard a slight click. Vila said to Argus. “See? It took no time at all even with a bum leg.”
“That’s good. Alright everyone. Get ready. The timing’s crucial.” Everyone put on their vision goggles and activated them and positioned themselves.
Argus tapped his teleport bracelet. “Avon, we’re in position.”
Avon’s voice reported, “I’m ready here.”
Argus ordered, “Cut the hall lights.”
They were plunged into darkness but with the night vision goggles, they could all see each other clearly.
Argus said, “Good. On my mark, Vila and Avon. Three. Two. One. Mark.” At the signal, Vila passed his hand over the door control just as Avon deactivated the lights inside the observation booth.
Argus, Cally and the soldiers rushed in while Vila and Dannon stayed by the door to make sure no one escaped. There was bedlam as the people in the room shouted in confusion and for the lights to be turned back on. By the time they realized that they were no longer alone, only one of them was able to get a shot off into the darkness. There were sounds of struggling and people being hit. Argus, Cally and the soldiers quickly and methodically disarmed and disabled the enemy.
It was all over in less than a minute.
Argus’s voice was heard, “Avon, turn the lights back on.”
The room was illuminated again. Argus and those who had the vision goggles on had no problems readjusting to the brightness. The goggles took care of it. The people in the room had no such aids and were temporarily blinded.
There were ten other men in the room plus the battered President Brent; and several bodies off to the side. The would-be rebels were now all subdued, disarmed and being herded into a corner of the room and watched carefully by the soldiers. There were angry and confused looks being directed at Argus and his crew.
Brent looked like he had been beaten up. His face was swollen and he held his arm protectively over his chest. He said gratefully, "Thank you, Argus! All of you."
Cally went over to tend to his injuries but he shook her off and said, “I’ll be fine. Can you see to my security officer, I think he’s still alive.” He pointed to what had looked like bodies laid out in the corner.
As Cally went to tend to Thenard, Argus asked, “What’s going on here?”
Brent winced at the pain from his ribs. “I was about to stop Gravis from trying to kill your security officer but they stopped me instead.” He indicated the sullen looking men in the corner. “They killed my guards and shot Thenard when he tried to protect me.”
One of them stepped forward and said with a sneer, “You’re all over, Brent! This doesn’t change anything. We have men everywhere. They should have the main Government complex by now.”
Argus, Cally and Vila turned with surprised recognition to the speaker. They all knew this voice. It was the announcer. He was a large, burly man with thinning hair and a grey-flecked beard.
After Avon turned the lights back on in the President’s observation booth, he began using the computer to see if he could access the Chandaran secured networks. It would be easier here than on the ship and it would save time. He heard the door slide open behind him and turned to see who it was. The door was supposed to be locked.
A squad of men rushed in with rifles pointed in all directions. For a moment they looked surprised to see the almost empty room. They recovered quickly and two of them rushed over to Avon as he brought his teleport bracelet up. They knocked him over the head and ripped the bracelet from his wrist.