Sounds came to him in confusing jumbles. He was so exhausted. For some reason, his vision was blurry.
"Reya." His bewildered mind only knew one thing. He needed to see her; to make sure she was alright.
He could vaguely register that more people were coming through the hatch. Everything sounded too loud. There appeared to be lots of shouting and running about.
One of the field healers bent down to examine him. Argus tried to push him away but for some reason, his arms were no longer cooperating. There was something more important he needed to do.
"Reya," he called her name again and tried to get up. Argus groaned. His shoulders felt like they had when the torturers had almost twisted them from their joints. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall. The pain was fast becoming unbearable. He vaguely realized that the painkiller he had taken before going to rescue Reya, had worn off; along with the stimulants.
"She's fine Commander. They're bringing her to the med unit now. We should get you there too."
This information made him feel less anxious. Argus remembered there was something else he needed to do. "We need to leave. Tell them to…" Something. He could barely concentrate now.
The field healer guessed what his concern was, "It's alright Commander. Captain Mayner already has us underway."
What about the charges on the command ship? That was what Argus tried to think next; tried to communicate next. But all that came out was, "Ship…charges?"
"It worked sir, the command ship was destroyed. Now let's get you to the medical bay."
At that point, with his main concerns satisfied, Argus started to black out.
His last thought before he lost all consciousness was, Now I know why Ellis has become so powerful.
"You are sure?" asked psychostrategist Vorshell.
"You wish proof?" asked Sester. It was nine hundred Federation standard time the next day. All of the psychostrategists were meeting aboard Sester's observer craft.
"No. I would never question your psych-casting," said Vorshell. Unfortunately, you have never been wrong. "But without proof, you cannot present this kind of information to the Federation President or the Council," Vorshell warned him.
"I know," said Sester. The senior psychostrategist had already started developing a psych-strategy since his flash of insight the previous day. Some of it he would tell his fellow colleagues. Some of it he would never tell them.
"How did you know?" asked Lambrin.
"Something has been playing at the back of my mind for days. But I wasn't able to identify what it was until yesterday. It has to do with this Sector," explained Sester.
"Sector Ten?" asked Tace.
"Yes. It has to do with the location of this Sector."
"Ahhh," psychostrategist Lambrin expressed. He nodded his understanding.
I knew you would get it right away once I mentioned that, my friend, thought Sester.
Tace and Vorshell looked at the two of them with puzzlement.
"Can someone illuminate things for the rest of us?" asked Vorshell. He did not like being one of the uninformed.
Sester did not like illuminating things for people. Unless they were the Federation President.
Knowing this, Lambrin decided to help out. "It is next to Sector Eleven."
Insight entered puzzled brains.
"This is not good," said Tace.
"We have to find some proof," said Vorshell. Once the danger was identified, they were all united in finding a solution.
"What can we do in the meantime?" asked Lambrin. "Do you have a plan?"
Lambrin knew that since Sester had identified the threat at least twelve hours ago, he had to already have the sketch of a plan.
"We need to convince Kameron Reve to enter the conflict. But we have a serious problem."
Sester nodded to Lambrin to explain what had happened to the commando unit sent in. Or rather Lambrin explained what should have happened but did not.
"That almost proves it," said Vorshell.
"As much as can be proven without any physical evidence," said Sester.
"It's too bad not everyone can think like a psychostrategist," said Tace. "Or they would not need to be convinced."
Vorshell looked at Tace as if the man were insane. The young man was very proud of being a psychostrategist; and loved the privilege it gave him. He was a very young psychostrategist.
"How is Borel doing?" Sester asked the young man.
"I was sure that he had had it several days ago," Vorshell reported. "But he keeps surprising me. And that man that you had released. He managed to take out the command ship. That saved the day until the reinforcements arrived. It was very useful putting a tracker on him. We were able to follow his every move. Though I think he hurt himself again. He has been in the med unit for several days at Borel's castle."
Yes, Argus is proving very useful, thought Sester. He is going to be needed as well.
"So Borel can hold out a bit longer," asked Sester.
"Yes. But we all know that once his losses reach critical mass, he will lose. No matter how brilliant a tactician he is or how much help he gets from Argus."
"I want the three of you to find a way to convince Kameron Reve."
"And where will you be?" asked Lambrin.
"I am returning to Earth. I will try to convince the Federation President to send troops in." And there is also something else I must do.
None of them relished his task.
"Even if you do, it will take them days to assemble and weeks to get here," remarked Vorshell.
"That is why it is essential you get Kameron Reve to enter the conflict."
"Very well," said Lambrin. Their goals were clear; at least to themselves.
The flight deck of the Justice was very quiet. This was odd, since they were supposed to be having a meeting. They had reached an impasse. Not one of them could figure out how they could convince Kameron Reve to bring his troups in to help his brother Borel.
ORAC had begrudgingly relayed newscasts about the battle currently being waged in quadrant five. They knew that things were grim even though Borel was holding out against the odds.
"That is not my function," complained the computer unit. It sounded annoyed, as it normally did. But it did as requested.
They needed to push Kameron Reve but none of them knew how. Even ORAC had no useful suggestions.
"What do we know about what we found out," asked Cally, trying to get the dialogue going.
She sounds like Avon, a bit, reflected Vila. Although she certainly doesn't look like him. Which is definitely a good thing.
"We didn't find anything," he said.
"That's not quite true, Vila. We found scorch marks indicating a battle had taken place," said Cally.
"Oh. And we found a trap; which we very neatly sprung," Vila got in the spirit of things.
"We found that someone had tried to make it look like no fight had taken place. Though that was probably so that we would fall into the trap," Jenna added.
"We know that Ellis Reve is not making any moves to indicate that he knows anyone infiltrated the mansion," said Cally. "Or that he knows the woman he was holding is missing." Cally and Jenna looked at Vila for his next input.
"Is it my turn again?" said Vila. "Do I get to pass?" He had run out of ideas already. The others had taken the ones he was going to mention. "Oh hang on. I picked up some green goo on my shoe." That has limerick potential, thought Vila.
"I had forgotten about that," said Jenna. Good old Vila. Always stepping into things. "Did you have the autocleaners take care of it?"
"Of course," said Vila. He made a mental note to himself to do that the moment he went back to his cabin. The sticky boots had joined a heap of discarded clothing in the corner of his room. He had been procrastinating. Vila hated doing laundry, even if it only involved walking it down to the autocleaner units.
"That is too bad," said Cally.
"Why?" asked Vila. He wondered if Cally had read his mind about the dirty laundry.
"I would have liked to have ORAC examine its chemical composition," the Auron replied.
"Why would you want to? It's probably just some food someone spilled accidentally."
"Among my people there is a saying. Even spilled food may have limitless possibilities."
"Either your people are hopeless optimists or you are just making these sayings up," remarked Jenna with a tone of light sarcasm.
"Do you really think it might be useful?" Vila asked Cally. He always liked to help pretty girls if he had a chance. Especially if that help did not extend to any life threatening situations.
"When you have run out of options, even examining green goo might give us ideas," said Cally. "But the question is academic, since you have already had it cleaned."
"Well, not cleaned exactly," said Vila.
"Vila, have you not been doing your laundry again?" asked Jenna. She remembered from their days on the Liberator that sometimes Blake had to remind him; else Vila would just keep taking new clothes out of the wardrobe room.
"I have all the laundry gathered in one place. I was just about to bring it down," said Vila defensively.
"Before you do that Vila, can you bring the boots?" asked Cally.
"I will do it right now," said Vila, rushing out. "And I'll bring the laundry over," he added over his shoulder.
"Do you need one of the big anti-grav carts?" asked Jenna jokingly right before he exited.
"Very funny," they could hear him remark under his breath.
Fifteen minutes later Vila, Cally and Jenna were all crowded around ORAC. Some of the sticky green substance had been scraped off and stuck on a clear glass plate by Cally. This had been placed on a sensor pad so that ORAC could scan it. It had just given them the chemical composition of the material. But the components had meant nothing to them as none of them were familiar with the chemical sciences.
"ORAC, can you put that in terms we can understand?" asked Jenna; who currently had the command control of the computer unit.
"Very well," it said as if it were a great imposition. "It is a bio-matter material which results from the decomposition of…"
"ORAC," Jenna interrupted it again. "Can you put it in other terms we can understand?"
ORAC thought that it had made things clear enough already. But clearly these humans were not Avon and perhaps required words of one or two syllables.
"It is the remains of a body," ORAC tried again.
"Oh," Cally exclaimed. She recognized it; now that ORAC had identified what it was. She had seen this kind of decomposing bio-matter before.
"An alien body which you encountered at Star One," ORAC continued explaining.
"Yes, I recognize it now," said Cally. "I saw these at the Star One base after Avon had shot one of them."
They all looked at each other. Each was at a loss for words but they all had a single thought.
What do we do now?