Avon was breathless and leaning heavily against Servalan as they neared the bench by the lake in the garden of Residence One. The Federation President insisted on this exercise at least twice a day since he had become strong enough to walk again. That had been three days ago and he still was not able to make it to the bench without being held up by her at least part of the way.
"Here sit down," said Servalan.
"This would be easier if you didn't give me the drugs. Or have my hands restrained behind me," Avon said with difficulty as she helped lower him to the bench so he could sit. By now he was gasping for breath.
"You are always looking for an advantage," remarked Servalan as she sat down beside him. Her voice was expressionless. It indicated that she was unmoved by the fact that it took a major effort for him to do something as simple as walking.
"Aren't you doing the same?" asked Avon, with his characteristic lack of emotion. "That is why you are playing this game?"
"And what game are you playing Avon?"
"I only want to survive."
That is all I want too, Avon. "You repeatedly say that we are not alike," said Servalan. "You are fooling yourself Avon."
Avon's breathing was finally returning to normal.
"You always think we are alike, Servalan. But we are not. Why are you fooling yourself?"
Servalan laughed. My dearest Avon. I have missed you.
"Are you capable of anything other than games?" Avon asked when she did not answer him.
I do not know, thought Servalan. In her life, everything had been become a game to acquire power; and she was a detached player with other people's lives.
She could barely remember a time when it was not that way. Just barely.
"There was a time," she began tentatively. She wasn't sure why she was telling him. Servalan realized that he was the only one in her life she could tell.
"I was young and foolish. And I was in love with a man named Don Keller."
Avon found it difficult to believe that this woman was capable of loving anyone other than herself and power. But there was a note in her voice he had never heard before. A vulnerability. And a loneliness.
She continued to tell him about herself and Don Keller; peeling back the layers of her life.
When Avon had asked her that question, he had never intended that she would tell him this kind of information; but it had been something he had wanted to know.
Argus paced the flight deck restlessly. Reya and the two infiltration teams had not returned yet. It had been half an hour since they had breached the access hatch of the enemy command vessel. He knew he still had a long wait.
Operations procedure demanded that there be a communication blackout until it was over; or if anything went wrong. He didn't know whether he wanted to hear Reya's voice over the comm or not.
In his mind's eye, he could follow the progress of the teams. The teams had entered the ship through a disused access hatch. The smell would have been immediate upon entering the room. On a ship where everything was sanitized, this was one of the few areas which had a disagreeable smell.
Argus knew that Reya would have not paid any attention to it. She was focused when on a mission.
That's one of the things I admire about you, he thought.
The teams would have split up immediately. Each was to enter into one of the interconnected waste management and maintenance tunnels which ran the length of the ship. They would have to climb them and avoid the waste packets.
The tunnels were the only way to avoid detection. The ship's security would not be expecting infiltrators while in space. The battle being fought outside the ship would be the focus of all of their attention.
Argus imagined Reya's team climbing the tunnels. Her team had the farthest distance to climb. Anyone not in good condition would be in bad shape by the time they reached their destination.
Argus admitted grudgingly, You were right not to let me come with you. I would have slowed you down. It was not something he would ever admit to her.
While the other unit was headed for the engineering deck, Reya's team was headed for a main power conduits junction. Once the charges were blown, it should set up cascading explosions throughout the ship.
Argus smiled to himself, You always loved the explosions. He had never quite met a woman like her before.
Once they reached their destination, Reya's team would have to exit the tunnel system. Then would have to cross several corridors undetected before reaching the conduits. This was the most dangerous part of the boarding operation. Reya had insisted on being part of this team.
It was something he would have done.
We are very much alike, thought Argus. That's probably why we fight all the time. This time he smiled and forgot that he was not alone.
"Argus." Reya's voice sounded over the comm system. Her voice calling his name instantly produced joy, anticipation and fear; all at the same time.
Which will it be?
The next sound over the comm was that of weapons fire.
All emotion disappeared; replaced by calm determination.
"Argus. We've been discovered. Leave once team two returns. We will try to draw their attention away from the escape hatch." There was a paused and more weapons fire. They could hear an object impacting another object. Argus thought he recognized the sound of a body hitting a surface. Some cried out, "Commander!" The comm speaker crackled with static.
Argus's calm determination had become a deadly resolve. In his mind he was already making plans. He determined where Reya's team had reached given the time they had been away. Then in his mind he drew out the possible routes she had taken in order to do what she had communicated.
Reya's voice returned over the speaker, "Argus. Follow protocol and get out. Save our men and help Borel. The charges have already been planted. Reya out."
Her voice was cold, distracted and distant. Her message was professional. The comm went dead. He knew she would have turned it off at that point. It was something he would have done in her place. And she would have called him a fool.
Perhaps we are both fools. Argus headed towards the flight deck exit.
"Where are you going commander?" One of his men asked. They had all been frozen by the communication; each man locked in their own thoughts. Argus's movement towards the lift had stirred them to action.
"I am going after them," Argus said in a cold and resolute voice. He knew that Reya had probably left orders for the crew to stop him from following her if anything went wrong. In fact, the pilot had been readying the ship for an emergency exit.
"The only way you will be able to stop me; is if you kill me before I kill you," he warned them. They knew he was not that kind of man but looking into his cold eyes, they were not sure anymore. This was not the Argus who bickered constantly with Reya. This was not even their fearless commander whom they would follow anywhere. This was a man they had never seen before.
"Ready the ship for emergency departure," Argus ordered. "You heard Commander Reve. Once team two returns leave immediately. Command of the flight deck is yours Captain Mayner."
Argus turned around and left the flight deck. No one tried to stop him.
"We tried Kam," Cally tried to explain. "But someone got there before we did."
Cally and Jenna had returned to the tenth floor of the Heavy Cruiser bar to meet with Kameron Reve.
"The mansion was empty when we arrived. There was evidence of weapons fire," Cally continued.
"Do you know where she is?" Kam asked. They could see he was not satisfied.
"Unfortunately, we were not able to determine that," said Jenna. "There were no signs of what happened to her and we had no time to find out more. We barely got out alive before the entire place exploded. Whoever it was that took her, left a trap."
"You can't even tell me if she is alive, can you?" He was starting to become angry. "All you did was fail; and alert Ellis as a result."
Cally sensed a mixture of fear and the ever-present sadness; along with the anger emanating from him. This is the reaction we were afraid of, thought Cally.
"I'm sorry," replied Cally, "We can give you no information of comfort."
"Get out!" he ordered them. The anger now overrode everything else.
Jenna looked over to Cally. Cally shook her head imperceptibly. * He cannot be reasoned with in this state. * She communicated.
"We will continue to look for her," Jenna reassured Kameron before they left.
"I do not want any more of your help," Kam told her angrily. "I cannot afford it."
There was nothing more they could say or do. Jenna and Cally left.
* We will continue to help you. Even though you may not want our help. * Projected Cally as the lift doors closed; even though she knew he could not hear her.
Even though everything appeared to be going wrong on all fronts, there was one bright spot. Avon's modified ASP, under ORAC's instructions, had found what it had been designed to find on an a Federation ship orbitting Gaverin Three; one of the first planet's used to test the new virus on a large scale.
ORAC now had the antidote. Now it needed to find sources for all of the compounds required to produce the compound.
The computer unit had determined that the Justice's laboratory and medical facilities would be able to synthesize the required formulation. It could not do it on a large-scale but it was adequate for the needs of the crew.
Avon had ordered that the entire crew receive the antidote as an inoculation against future tampering by the Federation. ORAC had considered this a prudent measure.
ORAC added additional programming to the ASP and sent it off again. ORAC did a good imitation of a manager.
At least now that the crew was occupied on their various tasks, they had not bothered ORAC with frivolous requests; except for the occasional demand to operate the teleport. ORAC had been able to devote its time to fulfilling the coded orders left by Avon. Concurrently it was also formulating the conditions under which it would communicate the information to the crew; and it was generating a plan to rescue Avon.
It was a very busy computer.