Argus decided against saying, "Take me to your leader" or any variation thereof; after what happened the last time.
This brought up memories of another set of soldiers who now lay buried in the grave he had dug. He had a great sadness but there was no guilt. They were soldiers, they had chosen to do their duty and he had made the only choice he could make.
The rebel leader strode up confidently but carefully, making no suspicious movements.
"I have a message for General Reve. For his ears only," said Argus.
"Who is the message from?" said the guard on the left. He was a burly man with a nose that had seen too many fights.
"This should tell him." Argus held up the ring which Olean Rane had given to him as an identifier. The guard took the ring and studied it for a few seconds. He then tapped a small square communicator unit which was in front of his left shoulder.
"A messenger wishes to see the General," the guard reported. He held the ring up.
Argus could still not see the security cameras but from the position of the guard's hand, he could guess where they were.
"Search him and send him in," an answering voice instructed.
Argus held up his hands as the guard made a brief but thorough search. The soldier obviously knew what he was doing. The rebel leader was starting to form an impression of Borel. One could tell a lot from the actions and attitudes of someone else's subordinates.
"You're not armed," the guard remarked.
"Do I need to be?" Argus asked.
The burly guard handed him back the ring and stood aside.
"You can go in. Someone will direct you once you're inside."
Argus went through the gate.
Once Argus entered the gate another set of guards searched him again, then two of them escorted him into the castle. Security was tight everywhere and armed soldiers were very visible. Inside the main building he was put through a particle scanner. They were all professionally polite and very serious.
Something must have happened to warrant all of these security precautions, thought Argus.
His guard escort led him deeper into the bowels of the castle until they reached a set of heavy double doors which were guarded by two sentries.
"Messenger to see the general," said one of his escorts.
"He's expected, go on in," said one of the sentries as he opened the door.
Argus walked into a huge command centre flanked by his two escorts. The medieval nature of the room was in full contrast to the vast array of communications equipment, vidscreens, and control panels. In at the centre of the room was a huge table. Floating above it was a large detailed holo-starmap. Clustered around the table, wearing the same black and green fatigues as all of the other soldiers he had encountered so far, were a group of older men who appeared to be in deep discussion.
Argus and the two escorts stopped short of the table and waited. No one appeared to pay any attention to them.
Tactics? Wondered Argus. It couldn't be a deliberate insult; they don't know who I am yet.
At that moment, a young man came in through a side door. He was also dressed in the same fatigues but everyone snapped to attention the instant he entered the room. He walked quickly and with confidence towards the table. Right on his heels, almost running to catch up were a man and woman, also wearing fatigues.
"Gentlemen, what have you got?" the young general asked the moment he got within earshot of the table. When he got closer, Argus saw that even though the man was young, the lines on his face and his manner made him seem much older. Borel had the strong jaw which characterized all the Reve men. He was of medium height and build and when he moved, he radiated a bright strength and power.
'Borel," the uniformed woman called the man's attention.
The young general looked towards her and she nodded her head in Argus's direction.
"Oh yes, the messenger. Almost forgot." He reached his hand towards the woman and she placed Olean Rane's ring into his hand.
"Rane has a message for me?" Borel asked as he turned the ring over in his fingers.
"It's for your ears only," replied Argus.
"He was always a secretive old bastard. Alright, come with me." Without waiting to see if Argus was coming, Borel turned on his heels and headed towards a side door. Argus followed after him. Neither of Argus's two escorts made any move to accompany him but the woman followed behind them.
All three entered a small office. The woman closed the door behind them.
Argus looked at the woman and then at Borel.
"It's for your ears only," he stressed to Borel. "No offense," he told the woman.
She looked at him without responding or any indication that she was going to move. Argus got the uncomfortable impression that she was trying to assess whether she should take him down or not.
"She's alright," said Borel. "What I hear, she hears. Besides she'd kill me if told her to leave. She's my bodyguard." The young general smiled at the slightly annoyed face the woman had made at his words. "And she's my beloved sister."
"I thought that the Overlord only had sons," said Argus.
"He only talked about his sons," said the woman. There was no emotion in her voice; no bitterness, anger or recrimination. Only a statement of fact. She was not a beautiful woman but neither was she plain. She did not share the strong jaw of her brothers, but she had a strong and interesting face; a face that did not take any nonsense from anyone. Like her brother, she had a bright energy but it was much more subdued.
"Now now Reya" said her brother in a light tone, "our father was a brilliant man."
"Just not much of a father."
"Face it, you loved him even more than the rest of us," said Borel.
"Can we get back to business?" said Reya.
Borel's tone became serious, though there was still a light playful look on his face, "Sorry, I tend to get like this when people try to kill me."
"I'm not here to kill you," Argus assured him.
Reya laughed, "If we thought you were, you wouldn't have gotten this far."
"That explains the elaborate security precautions," said Argus.
"Yes, someone tried to kill me this morning," said Borel, almost cheerfully, "but thanks to my bodyguard here, he didn't even get close. Now what message do you have from my father's old chamberlain?"
"Rane sent me to help you. The name's Argus," Argus told him.
"What is a Federation commando officer doing working with Olean Rane?" asked Reya, surprising both of them with her question. "And don't tell me you're not one."
Argus looked at the woman with interest. Will have to be careful of this woman.
"You always had a good eye Reya," said Borel, looking at Argus more carefully.
"I can smell Federation a mile away," said Reya. "And a killer."
"And the officer part?" asked Borel curiously, his eyes still appraising Argus.
Argus wondered if the woman could read his mind and if she knew about the incident in the woods. For some reason she made him feel uncomfortable.
"Do you both mind not discussing me as if I'm not in the room?" asked Argus.
Borel laughed, "Sorry that was rude. But I would like an answer to my sister's question."
The man's manner was still light but Argus got the impression that both brother and sister were listening intently to his answer. Argus thought it was better to tell the truth. He didn't know how good this woman was and how much she knew.
"She's right, I used to be a Federation commando officer but I left them. I work with the rebel alliance now."
"Why did you leave?" asked Borel.
"For personal reasons," said Argus. Like developing a conscience.
"That still doesn't tell us why," said Reya, clearly not satisfied.
"That's all the reason you're going to get," replied Argus. The look on his face invited no further questions.
"It's good enough for me," said Borel. He clearly had no interest in pursuing it further.
"Not for me," pushed Reya.
"Rane trusts him and I trust Rane," said Borel.
Reya nodded and fell silent. She deferred to her brother.
"Now tell us why Rane is going to risk his neutrality to step into this conflict and what he thinks you can do to help me?"
"Your brother tried to put pressure on Rane by kidnapping Jenna Stannis."
"Ahhh. Big mistake," said Borel understanding.
"It's not like Ellis to make that kind of move. Not unless he feels he has something considerable to gain from it," said Reya. "That's why Rane sent you, isn't it? He doesn't want to be seen to be helping us. But he has a vested interest in Ellis not becoming Overlord."
Argus noted that they didn't even ask which brother.
"Yes," replied Argus. Very perceptive. I really am going to have to be very careful around you.
"But I still don't see how an ex-Federation soldier can help us, even if you were with the elite commando force," said Borel.
"Can you show me the assassin?" asked Argus.
"Why?" asked Reya suspiciously.
"Just humour me," said Argus.
Reya was about to say something else but decided not to. Instead she turned to her brother, "Borel?"
"I don't see any harm," her brother replied.
"Alright come with me," she told Argus, "and don't get any ideas about going anywhere else." Her manner was brusque and contained all manner of warnings. Reya led the way out of the room.
I really am not going to like you am I? Thought Argus as he followed her out.
Borel looked at the two of them curiously as they left.
Reya Reve led him to a cold cellar in the castle which had been converted into a makeshift room for the dead. The would-be assassin lay on a metal table. He wore the familiar black and green fatigues of Borel's men. Even though the man's face was badly bruised, Argus recognized him.
"Was this your doing?" asked Argus.
"No one hurts my brother," said Reya coldly. "You know the assassin, don't you?"
"No. I have seen him before though," said Argus. "He's one of Ellis's men."
"But he's wearing one of our uniforms," said Reya. "That would mean…"
"Yes. We have to get back to your brother," said Argus. There was a sense of calm urgency in his voice. "Now." Whenever there was danger, Argus always became deadly calm.
Reya immediately led the way back to the command centre.
"You have infiltrators in your midst and they're wearing your uniforms," Argus said to Borel the moment they came back into the command centre. Borel was gathered around the holomap discussing strategy with his generals.
That announcement instantly produced a flurry of activity.
"What do you mean?" "What's going one?" "Who is this?" "Where?"
Everyone spoke out at once.
Borel held his hand up for silence. They all shut up.
"What is this Reya?" Borel asked his sister.
"This one says he recognizes the assassin as one of Ellis's men," she replied.
"The man was wearing one of our uniforms," Borel said.
"If he was one of Ellis' men then there may be others," she told him.
"Do you believe him?" Borel asked.
Reya looked at Argus, trying to decide whether she believed this stranger or not. Her instincts told her that he could be trusted, but they also told her that he was a dangerous man. It was always best not to turn one's back on a dangerous man.
"In this, yes," she said guardedly. "If he really does work for Rane then he has good reason to tell us. If he works for Ellis then it would be stupid of him to tell us. He seems reasonably intelligent."
"Thanks," said Argus sarcastically. He was finding this woman increasingly annoying and she seemed to be going out of her way to insult him. At her intense gaze, Argus almost felt naked.
"He's dangerous though. There's no doubt about that," she added. "It remains to be seen how dangerous." The look she gave Argus gave him the distinct impression that she didn't think he could possibly be dangerous to her.
"Do you always make it a habit of talking about people even when they're standing right in front of you?" Argus asked.
"Yes," she told him. Her eyes were unyielding and held a challenge.
Borel laughed. "I don't think she likes you my friend. Of course, she doesn't like most people so don't take it personally."
"I don't plan to," Argus told the young general. "Is she normally this disagreeable?"
"Do you both mind?" asked Reya when it seemed that her brother was beginning to side with the stranger.
Borel smiled. He had an infectious and mischievous smile and being in mortal personal danger always put him in a strange mood.
"And can you stop smiling? We have infiltrators in our midst, we need to deal with that," Reya chided her brother.
"You're right. What do you know of these infiltrators Argus?" Borel's tone and manner instantly became serious. As Argus told them of his encounter in the woods and Borel began to make plans, the rebel leader learned why Borel was respected by his men.