"Take this tray up to the tenth floor," Alain told her, handing her a tray full of food and mugs of beer.
"The tenth floor?" Cally repeated in a confused voice. There were only nine floors in the building. At least, the lifts only went up to nine.
"Take the lift in my office."
Oh. Something was happening now.
"You killed all of them?" Reya asked Argus. They were standing in the clearing in the woods where Argus had killed Ellis Reve's soldiers and buried them. "You didn't even think to leave one of them alive so you could question them?"
"I was busy trying not to get killed," said Argus. Inwardly though, he was kicking himself. I should have thought of that.
This woman always went out of her way to make him feel inadequate and the fact that she was right this time didn't make things any better.
She looked at him with a critical eye.
Why is it that she always makes me feel like I'm naked? Argus was very annoyed. It was bad enough that being in this clearing brought back unpleasant memories.
"You're the hunter. What do you propose we do?" asked the annoying woman.
Argus and Reya had decided to come out on this hunting mission alone. Hunting was much better done in small groups. A hand-picked group back at the castle was waiting for their signal once Argus found the infiltrators.
Actually Argus had preferred to hunt alone but Reya insisted on coming. He had to stop himself from saying that he did not need a babysitter. It was clear she still wasn't sure about him.
"The other group went off in air-cars so there is no way to track them on the ground."
"Wonderful. Then why did you drag us out here?" she asked.
"The group I killed had communications equipment. They reported in everyday. We just need to dig it up and get the frequency. That way you can have your people keep a tracer on the frequency and track it the next time it is used."
Reya was about to say that at least it wasn't a total waste of their time but refrained. She had been trying hard not to laugh; she knew that this man was becoming increasingly frustrated with her attitude towards him. She didn't want to push him too far.
Argus walked over the ground, looking intently for tracks. There was something he was looking for; something he didn't find. He went back towards Reya. She had been watching him as she sat on one of the fast air-cycles they had used to get here.
"Time to dig up the comm equipment," he told her.
She handed him the shovel.
Without a word, Argus took it and began to dig. He doubted if she was going to volunteer to help. The heat of the day soon forced him to remove his jacket and shirt; as he had done before when he first dug the grave. His back was to the annoying woman but he could feel her watching him.
Reya watched appreciatively as Argus kept digging. His back was strong and muscled; and rippled as he moved. He was built more like a dancer or an acrobat than a strongman. Well, perhaps a little more muscled than that but his movements had the same fluidity and grace. There was no wasted motion; only an economy of power. She had liked this man the moment she saw him but she would never let him know that. This kind of self-assured man could very easily overwhelm and did it without thinking about it; she was not about to let him do that to her. It had been fun playing with him but she knew she had to be careful; it was like playing with fire. She wished he would turn around; she wanted to see what the rest of him looked like.
At that moment, as if he had heard her thoughts, Argus straightened up and turned towards her.
"I forgot to tell you. I would keep an eye out for visitors," he told her.
She's staring at me again, he thought with annoyance. It was bad enough that he was half-naked now without his shirt and jacket.
"There are no traces that anyone has been here since I left," said Argus. That had been what he had been looking for before. "That means no one has come to see why they are no longer responding."
I should have thought of that, thought Reya. I knew I was right to keep my distance. Even like this, you're too much of a distraction.
She nodded. Argus turned around and kept digging.
Reya set the perimeter sensor on her scout cycle and then pushed both cycles into the underbrush, concealing them.
"Here." Reya threw a water bottle to Argus.
Argus caught it deftly in one hand. He dropped the shovel, flipped the top on the bottle and drank thirstily. He could have sworn that she had thrown the bottle at him, not to him. If he had been any slower, it would have hit him.
"I'm going to take a look around," Reya told him, "don't go anywhere."
"Vila." Jenna's voice sounded over the ship's comm system.
"Vila here. Is that you Jenna?" Vila had made it to the rendezvouz over Athol Prime with minutes to spare. He was ready.
"Yes. How have things been up there?"
"Nothing exciting. How are things down there?"
"Cally is undercover and Argus is off with Borel's group. I'm doing some coordinating with Rane."
"Argus isn't with you?" Vila asked with concern in his voice.
"No, he's not back. He reported in yesterday to say that he wouldn't be able to make the rendezvous. That's why you're getting me. He says to keep the Justice concealed behind the moon for now and to set up a three-day rendezvous cycle."
"But…" Vila said. He was going to ask about the alcohol but decided against it. This was between him and Argus. He was resolved to get those dispenser codes from ORAC by any means. He refused to be outsmarted by a big-booted ex-Federation thug. He had had enough of that with Tarrant.
"Alright, we will communicate again in three days, same time. And one additional thing. Argus said to release the liquor code to you. He said it's the same as the last one, but backwards. Jenna out."
Vila stood frozen. He couldn't believe that Argus had released the dispenser code to him. He was sure it was a trick. There'll probably be .2 percent of alcohol now, he thought.
"Zen, go back to where we were before, behind the Athol moon. Standard by six."
"Confirmed," the computer replied.
Picking up ORAC, Vila went to the dining area.
"ORAC, the dispenser code is released. Six seven seven beta."
"Very well," said the computer unit irritably.
Vila filled a glass with the green liquid. He put it up to his nose and sniffed.
Smells the same. He steeled himself and took a sip. A big grin spread across his face.
"There is a message from Argus."
Oh no. I knew this was too good to be true, thought Vila.
"How can there be?" asked Vila.
"The message is part of protocol eighteen and was to be communicated with the release of the dispenser code," replied ORAC.
Vila was starting to hate the word protocol. Alright, let's see what he's cooked up now.
"What is the message?"
"The message is in the form of a question. Argus said to ask when you finished the two bottles of alcohol he left for you in his cabin. Message ends."
Vila stood frozen again.
"Who are you?" That had been the first thing the man in the room had asked her the moment Cally entered the room.
When Cally found that the lift in Alain's office only went to one place, she realized that she must be getting closer to her goal.
It is no wonder that I couldn't find out anything.
No one went into Alain's office except by invitation. She had never drawn enough attention to herself to warrant such notice. And Delik had been very insistent that she remain passive and allow the action to come to her.
When the lift doors opened, it was to a darkened room. Someone immediately took the full tray from her hands and someone ran a scanner wand over her from top to bottom. Before she could even act outraged, she was led to a chair in the middle of the room. It was setup like an interrogation. The darkness in the room was such that she could not make out the faces of the people in the room.
"I'm Cally," she told the questioning voice. Her voice was shaky and unsure. There was no harm in telling them her name. No one knew who she was. She tried to look suitably confused and frightened. At the edge of her consciousness she could feel that the atmosphere was one of suspicion, not threat.
"Who are you?" the man's voice asked again.
Cally expanded on her previous reply, "I'm one of the barmaids from downstairs. Boss Alain told me to bring food and drinks up. I'm sorry. Did I do something wrong?" She tried to use the vocabulary and speech patterns from some of the girls downstairs at the bar.
She looked around and nervously tugged down on the edges of her skimpy outfit. Cally could still not make out any faces.
"May I go now please?" she asked. "The boss will get mad at me if I don't go back downstairs." Cally hoped she was giving a good performance. She had never been involved in the theatrical arts back on Auron.
"Don't worry. No one is going to harm you," another voice reassured her. "Just answer the questions." This voice was kind and had a bass quality. It reminded her of someone.
"Alright," she replied, still looking suitably nervous.
"Who sent you here?" the first voice continued to ask questions. In contrast, this voice was gruff and meant business.
"Who sent me here?" she repeated the question as if the question confused her. "The boss sent me here with food and drinks. Who are you?"
The person she really wanted to ask that question of was the one with the kind bass voice; something told her that he was someone important. Perhaps he was the person she had been hoping to find.
I have to remain passive for now. Cannot act too curious. They might get suspicious.
The gruff voice ignored her question. "I'm asking the questions. You're new here. Who sent you here to work at the bar?"
"No one did. I needed a job. A friend of mine knew one of the girls here. She put in a good word for me." The emotional atmosphere of the room had not changed; there was still no feeling of threat here.
So far so good.
The questioning voice continued to question her, trying to find out more about her.
It's good Delik set up a good background cover for me, Cally thought.
She wondered how well the cover would hold if these people chose to check up on her story.
Before they had let her go, there was one final question which surprised her.
"Do you have a sister?"
Cally had many sisters; identical cloned twins, exactly like her. But they were all dead now, killed by the plague Servalan had unleashed on her planet. Cally knew that was not the source of their question.
She answered, "No. I'm an only child." She felt a pang of sorrow at how true that was now.