Argus opened his eyes. He was back in the infirmary, lying on the bed he had vacated several hours earlier. His whole body felt weak and his mouth was dry. Remembering there was a pitcher of water by his bed, he reached for it. And found that he couldn't.
His right hand was now shackled to the side of the bed. He pulled on the chain without any success.
"If you insist on this stupidity; and refuse to obey the healer's orders to stay until you are well enough to move; then we will help you to stay." Reya was standing on the other side of his bed. She had been waiting for him to wake up.
"Release me right now," he ordered her angrily.
"No. Not until the healer says you can leave." She was like an immovable object in this.
"You cannot hold me here."
"It certainly looks like we can. And if you do not behave, I will restrain your other hand as well," she threatened. "There will also be a guard posted at the door," she added. "And if that is still not enough, I will make sure you are sedated as well."
Argus wanted to say something but refrained. He knew that she was very capable of doing what she threatened.
"Nothing to say? Good. Now get some rest," she told him.
An outraged Argus she could handle. It meant he was recovering. He had really scared her earlier when he had collapsed.
"Can I at least get some water?" he asked.
"Of course, you only have to ask." She said pleasantly. He scowled at her. Reya filled a glass from the pitcher of water and handed it to him.
His hand was visibly shaking as he took the glass. He almost dropped it.
"What's wrong with me?" he asked as Reya took the glass from him and held it for him to drink.
"Your little stunt before put too much of a strain on your system. You've set back your own recovery."
Argus frowned and took a drink from the glass. He lay back on the bed. He felt exhausted. "I hate being like this," Argus told her as he closed his eyes and instantly fell asleep.
"I know. Now get some rest," she said softly. Reya knew how he felt. She had always hated the feeling of being helpless when her own body was not cooperating.
"Now why would anyone in their right minds want to go to Ventro," Delik Gell wanted to know. "Unless you're one of Ellis's people."
Jenna was meeting Delik in his music shop again. The shop held many interesting items. It seemed to specialize in numerous types of sonic wave manipulators in varying shapes and colours. Delik Gell was one of Jenna's many criminal contacts. He specialized in the selling of information; and he was a charming rogue and a perpetual ladies man.
"Or one of Ellis's enemies," Jenna told him.
"I see," said Delik, not really seeing. He still did not understand why anyone would want to commit suicide in such a faraway place.
"Well, do you have any resources there which could help us?"
"Aren't you afraid that I will sell you out to Ellis?" asked Delik.
"Not as long as I hold those incriminating holovids of you with the governor's wife."
"Now Jenna…" said Delik in his silky and most persuasive voice.
"Forget it Delik."
"I do have one possible source. But you might not like it," said Delik.
"As long as he can get us the information we need, I wouldn't even mind wearing one of those skimpy outfits you had Cally wearing."
Delik smiled. Jenna wanted to hit him with a rolling pin.
Avon re-entered Servalan's bedroom after taking a shower. It was early morning. Servalan always allowed him to stay with her until morning now. They would share a breakfast together before he was returned to the Special Detention Centre for the work day. It was almost domestic.
A delicious breakfast was laid out on the table.
"Why are you doing this?" asked Avon.
"I am hungry," replied Servalan. "I thought you might be too."
"That's not what I meant."
Servalan knew exactly what he had meant but she chose not to answer him.
"You do not need to know the reason for a breakfast in order to enjoy it."
"Most people don't. I do."
Servalan smiled. He would always be an analyst; he had an incessant need to understand everything. She knew that it bothered him that he did not know her true intentions. It made him nervous that she was being pleasant to him.
She did not want him to know the truth; that this pretense of domesticity was more than she ever had, or would ever have. She knew it was a silly dream but sometimes even Federation President's needed to indulge in silly dreams. As long as it did not interfere with the acquisition of power.
"Does that mean that you won't eat it?" she asked.
"I take that to mean that you are not going to answer my question?"
"Then I will eat it. But I will not enjoy it."
"Do you have the new numbers yet?" asked Dr. Garitas. Avon was back in the lab working on the phase-compression rifle project.
"Give me a few more minutes," Avon told him. Garitas was always impatient. He regarded the analyst more as a personal assistant than a valuable resource. The man still did not understand Avon's value. The doctor did not understand why it was necessary to do his research here rather than his own comfortable lab back at the Federation Central Research Facility. He had not liked being ordered to report here.
At first the analyst had been puzzled by the inclusion of Professor Ekron in this project. Ekron's area of expertise was advanced propulsion theory. Avon soon found out why he had been included. It had nothing to do with the research.
It became very apparent that Professor Ekron had had his memory of his previous visits to the lab erased. Ekron had no recollection of ever having met this nameless but brilliant prisoner. Avon wondered how far the memory erase extended. He guessed that the others had also shared the same fate.
"Well?" Garitas asked again. He was looking over the prisoner's shoulder as he worked on the calculation stream. Avon never liked people looking over his shoulder but here at the Special Detention Centre, there was always someone monitoring his work.
"Here," Avon sent the new calculation model to the holographic display.
"Are you sure it is supposed to work this way?" Dr. Garitas asked.
The man was a fool. Avon had just made a huge breakthrough for him by solving one of the major design flaws. Garitas was an imaginative researcher but he did not have the courage to start over again when it appeared that his own work was wrong. Avon did not have that problem.
"I see what he has done," Professor Ekron suddenly spoke up. "You have applied the energy compression model of propulsion theory to that of the rifle?"
Avon nodded. The inclusion of Professor Ekron had given him a flash of inspiration. The two applications were completely different but the compression theory itself was very similar. He had adapted one to fit the other and his models had indicated that it might work.
Ekron did not understand but he felt an instant rapport with the nameless prisoner, even though they had never met before. Even though the analyst had not explained, Ekron had immediately understood where the prisoner's mind had been going.
"Just try it," suggested Ekron.
Dr. Garitas reluctantly headed to the test firing range in order to make the new adjustments to the prototype weapon with the engineer.
The tests were a great success. By the end of the day, Garitas understood the value of the nameless prisoner.
"I want to make sure Argus gets out," Reya told her brother the moment she entered his office just off the command centre. Since her contact with Jenna Stannis, she had been having this thought. She wanted Argus to be safe. In his condition, he would not be able to help them and he would not be able to defend himself.
The conflict with Ellis was reaching a critical point. Both forces were poised to strike. Borel and Reya knew that they only had a slim chance.
From Ellis's actions the past few months, they knew that he was determined to destroy them, regardless of whether they were his brother and sister. He would give them no mercy.
Borel and Ellis were closer in age and had once been close; many years ago. They had often teamed up to annoy their older brother when they were young. But once they were old enough to understand that one of them would one day become Overlord, the relationship had changed between the brothers. This had been encouraged by their father; who thought that they would become stronger through competition. Ellis and Kameron had changed the most. Borel still loved his brother, but he soon learned that he could never turn his back on him.
Borel's forces were fiercely loyal to him and would stand by him until the very end. He was never one to give up; that was one thing they loved about him. He never gave up and he never gave up on them.
The young general was a brilliant military tactician who had faced overwhelming odds in the past in defending the Athol border against marauders. He always won. But he would need extraordinary luck as well as his exceptional tactical skills in order to win against the overwhelming odds they faced.
Borel did not understand how Ellis could have become so powerful. He knew that part of the reason was because of the inaction of his brother Kameron. This also the young general did not understand. Becoming Overlord had been Kam's overriding goal in life. It overshadowed everything else; but for some reason, his older brother's forces had been dormant for months; freeing Ellis to bring the full weight of his forces against Borel.
But that did not explain all of it. There was something very strange about how powerful Ellis had become. Borel could not expend energy to think about this mystery.
"What did you say?" asked Borel as he returned from his reveries.
"I want to put Argus on the next available transport to Athol Prime. I want to get him into neutral space."
"He's not going to like that," said Borel.
"I don't care what he likes," said Reya. "He's going even if I have to have him sedated and I carry him on the transport myself."
Borel regarded his sister with interest. The relationship between Reya and Argus was a constantly changing exercise in frustration and attraction. Their constant bickering had been a source of amusement for him. Everytime he saw them after they had gone on a mission together, their relationship seemed to change. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse; but the fireworks were always there.
He knew that this new idea of her sister's was bound to cause trouble. And not the kind of minor trouble which could blow over in a few hours. Borel sighed. He would not interfere. He had too many important things to attend to, like trying to save them all from total destruction.