Sester read the reports from the tech minders. Avon was progressing well on the anti-detector screen. He had asked for additional resources for his experiments. The minders indicated there were no dangers in allowing him the additional items. Sester added his approval for the ordering of the materials.
Sester turned on the vidscreen on his desk. The screen showed Avon's cell again. The analyst was being given three hours of free time after his work sessions now.
Avon was pacing his cell restlessly even though it clearly caused him pain to walk.
Sester smiled. Servalan was due to arrive back on Earth tomorrow.
This will be interesting, the psychostrategist thought.
He brought up the report from the three psychostrategists currently working in Sector Ten. They had been tracking the additional unknown factor. In the immediate timeframe, it was proving to be a disruptive influence on their respective strategies; specifically to psychostrategist Tace, who was supporting Ellis, and Vorshell, who was undermining Borel. Several undercover agents had disappeared without warning. Borel was threatening to be an effective force again. The six month timeline which the Federation President had given them was in danger. This new force appeared to have skills which they had not yet seen in this region.
Psychostrategists did not like disruptive influences they did not control.
Argus and Reya were having an argument. Borel was having fun watching the two of them. Blood had not yet been spilled; but that may only have been because there were witnesses.
"Don't patronize me," Reya said to Argus. Her voice was low and had a cold anger.
Borel knew that tone of voice from his sister. He had been on the receiving end of it before. It was not a good tone to be at the wrong end of.
"I am not trying to patronize you," Argus said. His voice was also low.
Be careful, my friend. Or she will eat you for breakfast, and have bones left over, Borel thought. He had learned long ago that having an argument with someone as intelligent and as capable of damage as his sister was, was asking for trouble. The young general realized that perhaps he should step in and play referee but stepping between these two may not be a safe thing to do. Besides, he was having fun being an innocent bystander.
Borel had been watching the relationship developing between his sister and Argus over the past weeks. It had been fascinating. He could see their frustration with each other and their fascination. Even though Reya never stopped insulting him and Argus never let her get away with anything, they were constantly together; even when they didn't need to be.
Operation-wise, they were a formidable team. Together they had neutralized over half a dozen threats in the space of four weeks; some of which would have been very damaging. Borel was beginning to regain control of many of his military units.
In addition to their original hand-picked group, Borel had also assigned them a small fleet of his most heavily armed pursuit ships.
"What you did was dangerous," said Argus.
"And you were being too cautious," said Reya. Her tone clearly equated 'too cautious' with a lack of courage; which was highly unfair when applied to Argus. She knew that.
But Argus had countered her command to take their ships into the war zone in pursuit of a group of Ellis's ships. The ships had been disrupting Borel's supply lanes for months and had been masquerading as Borel's escort fighters.
Reya had been very angry at having her orders countermanded. No one had ever dared to do that to her before.
Reya had always been known for daring and luck; she had never lost.
"We had three ships, they had six," said Argus.
"We could have taken them," said Reya. "We've done it before."
"Yes, but they were heading into dangerous space. They were probably leading us into a trap. They broke off their attack when they had the tactical advantage. There was no reason for them to do that."
"We don't know that."
"And we don't know that they weren't." Argus refused to give her any quarter.
"How did your commando units ever achieve the successes you claimed if you're not willing to take risks? Did you have help?" she asked.
Argus bristled at her accusation.
"You have no idea what you're talking about," his voice was getting dangerously colder and lower by the minute. "I take calculated risks. I have never lost."
"And neither have I," she countered. You should have just trusted me.
"I was not about to risk our units on your recklessness. It was not worth the risk. We had already identified the threat."
That made her even angrier.
"And was it a calculated risk when you killed those defenseless civilians on Zircaster?" Her words were like weapons, designed to cause as much damage as possible. "And you ran away before they could court martial you for it."
Reya instantly wished she could take back what she had just said. But he had made her so angry that she wanted to hurt him. She did not take well to having her orders countermanded.
Reya had her security people check Argus's background the first day he had arrived with a message from Olean Rane. She had known Argus's history from the beginning.
It had also been reported to her that the Federation's account of what happened on Zircaster may not have been entirely accurate. She had always wanted to ask Argus about it but their relationship precluded that kind of closeness.
After having worked with Argus over the past month, she had come to know his character well; and she respected him a great deal. She could not believe the Federation's claims about the crimes committed by the rogue military units, particularly not Argus's commando units. She could not believe that he would have been capable of what they had accused him of.
"You do not know what you are talking about," said Argus, pronouncing each word slowly. The tone of each word conveyed a dangerous warning. Argus was angry at her for bringing this up; but he was even angrier at himself. The mention of Zircaster had brought up memories he had not thought about since the incident in the woods. Along with them came the familiar feelings of guilt which were never far away.
I'm sorry. Reya wanted to say that to him. I never meant to bring it up. Forget I said it.
Neither one of them would ever apologize to the other; neither of them would back down. They both had a great deal of pride.
Borel could almost see the wall rising higher between them.
Reya and Argus had both stopped talking. The air was so frigid between them now that only the most foolhardy would have stepped in between them.
It was surprising but there was no hatred. There was only a great deal of anger; though anyone who had just witnessed the confrontation between them would have thought they had just become mortal enemies.
Borel had watched with horror as the previously entertaining argument had rapidly deteriorated to almost the point of no return. It had been like watching two battle cruisers slowly moving towards each other on a collision course; each refusing to move out of the way of the other; even after they crashed.
The young general knew he had to do something. The teaming of his sister and Argus had proven to be an invaluable force that he refused to lose. If they had not neutralized so much of Ellis's infiltration strategy, Borel knew that his days as an effective force against his brother would have been numbered.
One was his sister. The other was someone he was beginning to consider a friend. He did not want to see either of them like this.
"I will not bother you with my unwanted presence then. I will leave as soon as I can arrange transport," said Argus.
"Stop it! Both of you," Borel ordered them. He almost wanted to tell them to go to their rooms and cool off.
Of the three of them, he was the youngest. But he felt like the adult between two bickering children; children who were in the process of tearing each other apart. He knew it was the strong feelings between the two of them which had caused this explosion of anger and damaging words.
It was already too late to tell them to stop; before they said something they would both regret. Borel still hoped to salvage the situation. The only way was to force them to face the truth about each other. He applied his brilliant tactical mind to the problem.
First he signalled to the sentries at the door. There were sentries inside the room as well as outside now. It had been part of the new security precautions.
"Leave us. And lock the door from the outside. Do not let anyone out without my permission."
One had to remember that Borel was first and foremost a military tactician; and a man.
"Yes, sir." Both sentries departed.
"What are you doing, Borel?" said Reya. The cold anger was now directed at her brother.
"Both of you will stay and fix this or I will not let you leave this room," Borel told them. His voice had the quality of hard steel. He was a general; he expected obedience. Even his sister deferred to him once he had made a decision; regardless of whether she agreed or not.
"You cannot order me," Argus said. "I am not one of your men." Argus's cold voice was also directed at him now.
Borel suddenly felt outnumbered. This is not starting out well.
He needed them focussed on each other, not on him.
"Look. Both of you. I have been watching you drive each other crazy for the past month. I don't know what is really going on between the two of you. I know you will only tell me to mind my own business. And fair enough. But I do know that when you work together, you are the most effective and dangerous team I have ever seen. You have both enabled me to stay in the battle against Ellis. I will not let you destroy this team just because the two of you refuse to admit how you feel about each other. I am going to leave the two of you alone now. When you have resolved things, then I will let you out."
Borel did exactly as he had threatened. He left them alone.
Argus and Reya were not looking at each other. Borel's speech had left them both rebellious and embarrassed.
Now that they had cooled down, they did not know how to face each other. The words they had thrown at each other lay as a barrier between them. They stood in silence, each buried in their own thoughts, unsure of what to do next.
"Do you really want to leave?" Reya broke the silence. Her voice was quiet.
Argus had an instant answer; but he didn't know that he wanted to admit it to her, or to himself. He was never one to be easy on anyone though, least of all himself.
"No," he replied, also in a quiet voice.
"Do you think he's right? Have we been fooling ourselves?" she asked. Borel always did know me better than anyone else. But he can't be right about this.
"No. He's wrong," replied Argus. He has to be wrong.
"Of course. If it were true, we would both know. Wouldn't we?"
"Yes, we would. But he is right about something. We do make a good team."
"Yes, we do," agreed Reya reluctantly.
"It would be a shame to break up that team."
"Yes, it would. My brother needs both of us."
"We will never mention this again," Argus offered.
"Agreed. We will never speak of it again. We are professionals. I can work with you, even if I don't like you."
"And you do nothing but annoy me. But as you said, we are professionals."
It is amazing how well two very determined and intelligent people can deceive themselves once they set their minds to it.