"I want my purchases packaged and delivered to my ship immediately." Servalan breezed into the holding chamber, the imperious queen, as Avon, Argus and Sester were dragged into her presence, their chains clinking musically together.
A pasted on smile and a haughty twinkle in her eyes were fitting accessories for the fitted white dress with the blood red flower at the shoulder.
Avon could smell his enemy as she drew near. "Ser-"
Her finger touched his lips. "It's Mistress Sleer to you." She bent close, her lips almost brushing his ear. In a quick whisper she said, "Don't be a fool, Avon. I am here to rescue you."
He pulled back but was yanked by the chain attached to the leather collar around his neck. His lips curled in a snarl. "You expect me to believe that?"
"I don't need you to believe anything, Avon." The look of rapacious amusement gave her the appearance of a hungry snake. "I expect my slaves to obey."
A low growl rumbled from Argus's chest and he pulled against his thick double chains, leaning forward to spring into action. "Leave Avon alone…Sleer."
The burly slaver-guards moved forward, pointing their pain sticks at him. These were seasoned men, used to meeting any kind of resistance with brutal efficiency, but there was wariness in their eyes.
Servalan ordered the guards back with an irritated little wave of her hands. "Enough of this insolence. Cooperate or I will have you drugged."
Unlike the guards, she wasn't afraid to step close and stare into his eyes. There was something in them she seemed to find fascinating. "What will it be?"
Argus glared at her and in his head, he heard the growl of the Wolf. His bare chest expanded and each muscle stood in relief beneath his skin.
"Argus." Avon's controlled voice made him turn his head.
There was a long pause, a struggle against natural instincts, before Argus leaned back, his fist-clenched hands opening.
"I want them transported to my ship immediately," said Servalan.
The prisoner transport was a dimly lit, closed vehicle with faulty shocks, little more than a box on wheels.
"I should have known Servalan was behind this," said Avon, feeling the long horizontal metal bar at their feet. Locked clamps attached their chains to it and their seats faced each other, Argus and Sester on one side, Avon on the other.
Sester's nose crinkled at the smells of unwashed prisoners before them. "She still seems to have an unhealthy interest in you."
Argus gripped the bar with both hands and bracing a leg against the opposite seat, pulled hard. "What did she whisper to you?"
That produced a sneer from Avon. "She claimed she was here to rescue us."
"Oh?" Sester tilted his head in amusement, both at the answer and the sight of the bulging muscles next to him.
"Servalan lies as easily as breathing," said Avon.
"Yes, but at least a plausible lie," said Sester. "Not one so transparent."
Argus paused in his battle with with the metal bar. "Are you saying she was telling the truth?"
"Truth…" They were flung forward as the transport jerked to a stop. Avon banged his head against the front partition separating them from the driver. Sester grabbed onto the only solid object near him, Argus's arm.
"You all right?" asked Argus.
"Just fine." Sester grinned, only letting go when Argus glared at him.
"Not you. Avon."
With his hands chained, Avon couldn't touch the sore spot growing on the side of his head, just above the ear. "I'm fine."
There was a sharp phaser rifle bark and an explosion that shook the transport. It was a full-scale assault as dozens of weapons fired, some blasts thudding against the back of the transport.
"We're being attacked!" Argus pulled on his chain, stretching towards the sounds behind them.
The vehicle sped up and turned sharply. Sester squished into Argus and Avon flattened himself on the seat. There was a quick turn the other way and a sudden jerk to a stop. They all fell forward in a tangle of limbs, Argus crushing Sester against the front partition.
More gun blasts. One very close.
The transport started moving again, shaking erratically as it picked up speed.
Avon rubbed a sore shoulder. "One of the wheels must have been hit."
The vehicle barrelled along as blasts hit the back door. The window in the partition slid open.
"Servalan!" Avon snarled.
"Quickly." The harried Federation President thrust something through the opening. It clattered to floor of the transport. Servalan's hair was dishevelled and a dirt smudge dared to grace her cheeks. Her face disappeared from the partition.
Argus's eyes widened as he snatched up a pistol. Next to it was an electronic key on a ring. "I don't understand. It's a gun and keys for the cuffs." He immediately released himself, throwing the handcuffs and chains away.
"Servalan said she was here to rescue us," said Sester.
"What does she want?" said Avon. He held up his hands as Argus fitted the key into the slot and depressed the button to release the coded lock.
"I'll find out." Holding onto the sides of the transport, Argus moved forward and poked his head through the partition left open. The vehicle was careening wildly through a thickly wooded area and…Servalan was driving. He stared at her a moment, surprised she knew how to operate one. "What's going on, Servalan?"
A huge truck appeared ahead, coming towards them like a battering ram.
"Watch out!" warned Argus as Servalan swerved the wheel frantically. He lost his balance but grasped onto the partition, which would have kept him upright if the transport hadn't been driven onto the sloped shoulder. The vehicle tipped over and its occupants banged against the sides.
Smoke filled the transport. Eyes watered and there were hacking coughs. Sester groaned, holding his knee, his hands still chained to the bar that was now twisted.
"We have to get out of here!" Argus lifted Avon up, holding him by the shoulders. The impact had cracked open the back door; he kicked it the rest of the way and saw Servalan kneeling, firing at three men hiding behind the truck that had tried to ram them and two behind the trees.
Shots kicked up dirt and they ducked as one hit the side of the transport.
"Get out and help me!" Servalan glanced back at them. "Don’t just stand there!"
"Better them than you," said Avon, his voice cold as they crouched low.
"Don't be a fool, Avon! These are slavers!"
Sester groaned as he rolled his trouser leg up. The knee was swollen red and blue. "Argus." He rattled the chains. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
"Sorry." Argus tossed the key to him. "Stay here, both of you." He jumped out of the transport, slamming the door closed behind him and keeping his head down.
"Good of you to join me," said Servalan, her voice biting as she fired off two quick shots. A man yelped as he fell to his knees, his rifle flying.
Argus snapped off two of his own. A man fell, hit in the chest. "What's going on?"
"I would think that would be obvious."
They ducked as shots whizzed past their heads.
"You're rescuing us?" Argus turned to her with a disbelieving stare even as he raised his gun and fired back. Another man fell.
"You make it sound like such a shocking idea," said Servalan, also returning fire.
Craning his neck, Argus saw moving shadows to the right. "They're trying to get behind us. Draw their fire." He crawled off without waiting for Servalan's reply.
"Wh-" Servalan shook her head and began firing wildly, spraying a hail of energy blasts towards the enemy.
* Cally. * Avon bowed his head, concentrating as hard as he could. He felt strange, light-headed, with a slight twinge of discomfort.
"You can't reach her?" Sester hissed as he stretched his knee.
"No." Avon placed an ear to the door, listening to the battle outside.
"They must have an jammer for psi signals. They don't want you to escape."
Loud bursts of phaser fire erupted.
"I wonder what Servalan is doing here."
"I intend to find out." Avon felt around his neck, trying to remove the collar but it was locked. "Try the key."
"I have. None of them work on the collars."
His sensitive fingers felt every stitch and stud. "There doesn't appear to be a trigger device."
"Not this time." He angled his head. The shots had stopped.
The door creaked open.