A blind man and a lame one might be at a disadvantage against armed attackers but...
The transport door opened slowly. A streak of light entered.
"The chain," whispered Avon, angling his body and taking a cautious step back.
Sester picked up the chain that had been attached to his handcuffs, trying not to jangle it. The door opened further, the twisted metal creaking and scratching.
It couldn't be Argus. Twisted doors were no match for him; he would have yanked it open in one pull.
Sester grimaced as he balanced on his good leg, and lifted the bunched chain. It was too quiet outside, which was either a good sign or a very bad one.
A gun held by a gloved hand, and then a wisp of mussed hair appeared... He wasn't about to wait any longer, Sester hurled the chain with all of his strength and an accuracy that surprised himself and...hit Servalan in the head.
"What do you think you're doing!" An outraged Federation President stood silhouetted in the doorway with a hand over her battered right eye and her gun waving dangerously in their direction.
"My apologies, Madame President," said Sester, giving her a slight bow, and nearly tipping over while trying to maintain his balance. "But I'm a psychostrategist, not a soldier."
"Watch who you throw at next time." She eyed him with a one-eyed glare.
He held out his hands in an open gesture. "I thought you were the enemy."
"She is." Avon's frigid voice confirmed as he came forward.
"I am here to rescue you, Avon." Servalan lowered her gun. Her right eye was puffed, turning dark red, and her cheeks smudged. The front of her white dress was streaked with dirt from diving into the ground and one edge had an unbecoming tear. It didn't stop her from making a brief note that Avon in a leather thong was a combination to be repeated often.
Avon ‘stared’ at her, his stance closed and forbidding, communicating in silence what he thought of her statement. He said sharply, "Where's Argus?"
"He's checking the slavers."
Argus came jogging back. With only a leather thong on, every muscle rippled as he moved, something Servalan seemed to appreciate from the hungry-snake look in her eyes. Sester had something in his eyes, which he brushed off.
"They're all dead," reported Argus. He stuck his pistol in the band of his thong and went over to help Avon.
"It took you long enough," said Servalan. "But at least there's one person here who doesn't think I'm the enemy."
"And who would that be?" Argus took Avon's elbow and guided him forward.
"This is tiring," said Servalan in exasperation, her right eye was almost swollen shut now and she winced when she touched it. "But we don't have time for it. We have to get to my ship before they discover their plans failed."
"We are not following you anywhere," said Avon, taking a step down from the transport.
Servalan had been watching this activity with interest, and would have enjoyed the Avon-and-Argus-in-a-thong even more if she hadn't noticed something. She stared into Avon's face "What's wrong with your eyes?"
Argus placed Avon's hand on the side panel of the truck. He hesitated and stared at the silent Avon before saying, "You don't know."
"What don't I know?"
"Avon is blind."
There was genuine shock on Servalan's face, and if they bothered to believe it, concern. "Who did this?"
"None of your business," said Avon. His hard voice slammed a wall down on any further questions.
"We should get out of here." Argus went in to help Sester while Avon listened intently for any approaching danger.
"We can use their truck." Servalan was still staring at Avon's eyes, realizing why he was wearing the dark aviator glasses. She took a step closer.
"Unfortunately, the truck is out of commission," said Argus as he lifted Sester up and jumped down from the vehicle. He set him down to lean against the truck.
Servalan was looking intently at Sester, her eyes calculating and her hands fingering her pistol."This is intolerable. This is not the way it was supposed to be."
"Really," said Avon with a snarl.
Argus scanned the area. "We'll have to go on foot then. How far is your ship?"
"She should have a communicator to her ship," said Avon.
"I did have a communicator," said a disgruntled Servalan. She looked as if she'd rolled out of the wrong side of the bed and kept going downhill. "Unfortunately, when my men took the truck, it was broken."
"Convenient." Avon's voice dripped sarcasm.
"That was the first fire fight?" asked Argus.
"I took the truck while my men held the main force back. Unfortunately one of the trucks followed us."
"Not very efficient," said Argus.
"I will not have my plans critiqued when I am the one here to rescue you." She waved her pistol at them.
"Not much of a rescue," said Sester, trying to stretch out his knee and grimacing at the sharp pain.
"Not up to your usual standards," said Avon.
Her eyes hardening, Servalan said, "I am going to shoot the next person who critiques my plan."
"You're very touchy about failure, aren't you?" Sester noted with a quirk of a smile.
She aimed her pistol at him and Argus stepped between them, his pistol already in his hand and pointed at her. "Servalan."
"Out of my way, Argus. He is a liability."
"I know he can be annoying, but that's no reason to shoot him."
Avon reflected how many times he had considered the very thing. Something told him they should get out of there soon.
"That's not what I'm talking about," said Servalan, "he is going to slow us down and we can't leave him here."
"That's not your decision, Servalan." Argus’s voice had lowered to a commanding rumble. "No one is going to die here unless you force my hand."
"You're a fool, Argus. A sentimental fool." She lowered her pistol, shaking her head. "He's going to get us all killed, or worse."
"We are not leaving him." Argus might be almost naked but his muscles were hard, like a steel barrier.
"She's right, I'll only slow you down," said Sester. He knew what had been on Servalan’s mind when she looked at him with such deliberation before.
"They're both right," said Avon. “And we don’t have time for this. We have to get out of here now.”
Argus said, "Avon, not you too."
Avon turned to face him, his face blank. For a few seconds he ‘stared’ at him. "You will have to carry him."
"I can do that."
“I will guide Avon,” said Servalan moving to take his arm.
Avon jerked back. “No.”
“Unless you’ve developed a way to see without your eyes, then I suggest you take my offer,” said Servalan.
“Avon, we don’t have a choice,” said Argus. He had Sester’s arm draped over his shoulders.
“Give me your gun.” Avon held out his hand.
Argus hesitated but handed it to him.
“Is this really necessary?” asked Servalan, eyeing the pistol pointed in her general direction.
“Give me your arm,” said Avon.
“What do you plan to do with it?” she asked.
“Shall we go or would you rather continue this delightful conversation from the back of a slaver truck?”
“Since you put it that way...” She held out her arm for Avon.
Someone passed a narrow tube under Reya’s nose and her mind instantly cleared. She sneezed several times, pushing the tube away. “Ugh, that’s strong.”
Colonel Strevins was receiving the same treatment. “Yes, whatever gas they used was very powerful.”
Reya held onto the table and pushed herself up, her legs feeling rubbery and her balance seemed to shift to the right.
The female doctor in a dark green uniform grabbed her arm, guiding her back into the chair. “You should rest until the effect has cleared.”
“I don’t have time. We have to find them.” She tried to get up again but her legs had stopped cooperating.
“You don’t have to worry. I have my men searching this whole compound,” said Colonel Strevins, her hand rubbing her dizzy head.
“I doubt if they’re still here. Whoever did this had it carefully planned. How is Sharp Eyes?”
“Who?” asked Strevins.
“The wolf. He may be able to help.”
The doctor bent down and touched the furry flank. “Unfortunately, he’ll be out for a while. He had a much larger dose than either of you. We have yet to identify the gas used so there is no counteragent yet.”
Reya tapped on her teleport bracelet. “Cally. This is Reya.”
Cally’s voice responded. “This is Cally.”
“Cally, Avon and the others are gone.”
“What?” the shock was clear in her voice, but she said quickly. “I’ll try to bring them up.”
There was a pause as they waited.
“Do you think it’ll work?” asked Colonel Strevins.
“I doubt they would make the mistake of leaving their teleport bracelets on, but stranger things have happened,” said Reya, looking at the bracelet as they waited.
“It’s no good,” said Cally’s voice, “And I can’t contact Avon.”
“They must have something blocking you,” said Reya.
“That was my thought. Do you want me to come down?”
“Yes. You might be able to help.”
Colonel Strevins stood, her legs wobbling slightly. “We will find them. I will go and check on the search.”
“We have to find them." The icy look on Reya's face left no doubts that she would and woe to anyone who stood in her way.