The flight deck was quiet. Which was odd considering there were two people currently occupying it. Argus and Reya were supposed to be having a conversation. In most civilized societies, conversations usually involve at least a few words. To be fair, there had been some words at the beginning. There had been nothing since; mainly because they were now angry.
They had decided to take advantage of the time the crew had arranged for them to spend time alone. The purpose was so that they could resolve their problems. Obviously it had not worked.
"Can you give me a clue please?" asked Argus. Reya ignored him. At least she seemed to be. She was sitting on a couch in the conference area, busy reading something from a datapad.
"Look. I'm really trying. But I don’t know what to do," he said. He hoped that she was only pretending to ignore him.
Argus left the pilot's station and came down to where she was sitting. He sat down beside her. His body posture reflected his uncertainty; he sat awkwardly next to her, wanting to touch her but afraid to.
"Talk to me please," he asked her when there was still no reply. A note of desperation was creeping into his voice.
Argus knew he had done something wrong. He knew that the whole situation was his fault. When he had decided to push Reya away in order to save her from himself, he had not known that he was communicating to her, that he did not trust her enough to allow her to decide for herself. He had decided for her.
Until she had mentioned it, he had not known it. When she did, he finally realized how his own self-focus had blinded him. It was a serious mistake to have even considered excluding Reya in a decision which affected her life. He had tried to take the decision away from her; something which he had once accused her of.
I didn't like it when it was done to me. Why didn't I learn?
Under the Investigator's influence Reya had proven how wonderful she was. He had always known that. And he had shown what a fool he was. And I still am.
He had no idea how to fix things between them. He had tried and nothing seemed to have worked; everything he did had only seemed to make things worse. He was angry at himself for not knowing what to do; angry that he was letting Reya down.
Damn that Investigator! Why couldn't he leave things alone? thought Argus.
Reya was angry at herself. She had never heard such desperation in Argus's voice before; she had never intended to push him to this point. She knew he deeply regretted what he had planned to do and that he was at a loss to know what he needed to do next.
You are so insecure about yourself in these situations. So unlike the leader that you are.
She hated herself for having done this to him; even though that had not been her intention. Reya had wanted him to learn some responsibility in their relationship. She knew he was capable of it; knew he wanted to do it. He just didn't know how.
When he was making love to her, he was considerate and sensitive; he seemed to instinctively know what she wanted and knew how to fill it. For everything else in their relationship, he was woefully inexperienced. They both were. They were so important to each other that they wanted to get it right; and being unable to caused a great deal of distress and made them angry at themselves. And that tended to lead to more mistakes.
I need to say something or this is going to get worse, Reya thought. We both made mistakes here.
"I'm sorry," she told him.
This made Argus even more confused. He had no idea why she was saying this to him when he knew everything was his fault.
Are you saying sorry, because you're calling our relationship to an end? Because you can't stand someone who is so hopeless? The thought filled him with dread.
"Please don't say that," he pleaded with her. "I'll do anything; just don't say that it's over."
There was such a devastated look in his eyes that this made Reya even angrier at herself. What she just said had only seemed to make things worse. Argus was trying so hard that it made her want to cry. No one had ever loved her this much before and she was only making him miserable.
I do not cry, she told herself, but tears started streaming down her face.
This horrified Argus; he started to panic. Everything he said or did seemed to be the wrong thing. I made her cry. How did I do that? Why can I not get this right?
He reached forward to put his arms around her but stopped; he was afraid she would not want him to touch her. Argus let his arms drop. He was not a man who gave up; but he did not want to hurt her anymore.
"I'll go if you want me to," he told her in a quiet voice; thinking that was what she wanted. It hurt so much to say it, that it almost made him ill. You are better off without me, he thought. You need someone who will not make you cry.
This was definitely not what Reya wanted. She desperately wanted to say something, to tell him that it was her, not him who was making it worse. But she was afraid to say anything now.
So they sat silently next to each other, miserable and alone.
"I don't think this is such a good idea," said Vila. Both he and Jenna were following a bearded, heavy-set man at a discreet distance. The man had bumped into Vila just as they were exiting the Free Trader.
"Starting to get nervous?" asked Jenna.
"Starting? I've been nervous since I found out what they were carrying," said Vila. He still had the heavy gun tucked inside his jacket. It seemed to be getting heavier by the minute. "I would feel better if Argus or the commander were here." Instead of me, thought Vila. Guns made him nervous; people with guns made him even more nervous.
"Where is your sense of adventure Vila? Besides we don’t know that anything is wrong. There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation for people carrying around ancient weapons. If they were really up to mischief, they would be carrying something faster and with a better range and more power than these old-style projectile weapons," said Jenna.
"You may be right," said Vila. He only sounded half convinced; he still could not shake the feelings of impending danger. "Then why are we following this man?" he asked reasonably.
"Because I need to make sure," replied Jenna.
Vila was about to reply that it was not their job but he knew that for people cursed with a sense of adventure, that was not a good enough reason to not do something. He sighed and trailed after Jenna; who was trailing after the bearded man.
Jenna woke up. It was dark. Her throat was dry and she could feel that she was seated with her back against a cold hard wall. Her wrists were secured by chains above her.
No! Not again. This is not funny. Jenna wondered if she was in a perpetual nightmare where she kept waking up in different cellars. She was starting to get very angry. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see that it was a completely empty room. Vila hung in similar chains next to her. He still appeared to be unconscious.
Well, at least that's different, she thought.
"Vila!" she called, trying to wake him up.
She received a groggy groan in reply.
Jenna could hear the clink of chains.
"Ow. What's going on? Where are we? What happened?" asked Vila in a nervous voice. Vila didn't want to ask the more interesting questions, like why and how. He didn't think he would like the answers.
Jenna wondered for a moment if she should tell him he was caught up in her bad luck. She could hear more rattling of the chains.
"Can you get us out?" she asked.
"I'm working on it," he replied. Vila was trying to reach for a tool he kept hidden for such occasions. Not that he normally expected to be locked up in cellars; but one could never guess what opportunities might come up which would require a good lock-picking tool.
Unfortunately the tool was in his shoe. Vila tried to lift his foot up far enough to reach it; and found that it was not going to be that easy. I should take Cally up on those stretching exercises when we get back to the Justice, he thought as he attempted to contort his body to a better position.
Despite the obstacles, no lock could hold Vila if he was scared enough. Right now he more than sufficiently scared.
The last thing Jenna remembered was following the heavy-set man with a beard and a brown jacket. The man had entered a featureless office complex and they had followed. She didn't remember anything after that.
They must have gotten us the moment we entered the building, thought Jenna. He must have discovered we were following him. And he must have friends.
"Something is seriously wrong," Allren told Ture. Allren had just come back from trying to arrange discreet transport off Papos. None of the people he had contacted were able to help him even after he offered to pay double the normal price, which was normally against his principles.
"What's wrong?" asked Ture distractedly; he never turned his head away from the computer screen in front of him. He was trying to break into one of the Papos government's central information banks, just for fun and for the practice.
"No one is willing to transport us," said Allren.
"Did you offer them more credits?" asked Ture absently. He was happily routing through some sensitive material after having broken into the information bank.
"I tried that. They all say that they can't get clearance or their ships are being held for inspection," said Allren.
Ture turned to look at him and said, "That sounds odd. Do you think they've been warned against us?"
"I did a couple of loop arounds just in case I was being followed," said the Allren. "But there was no one."
"We should get out of here and find another hiding place, just in case," said Ture.
"Yeah, good idea," replied his friend.
"I'll just do a check on the Central Docking Authority to see what's going on," said Ture.
"Don't take too long," said Allren.
Ture nodded and proceeded to hack into the Docking Authority computers. Half an hour later, he said, "That's odd."
Allren didn't think he liked the sound of that.
Ture continued, "All flight clearances have been revoked. And not just the off-planet ones."
"Is it some kind of Federation thing?" asked Allren with alarm.
Ture did some more searching. "I can't tell," he told Allren. "I'm going to have to break into the Federation network here. This machine isn't powerful enough to do that and I need some specialized equipment."
"We have to get off this planet," said Allren. He was getting a very bad feeling. "Something is very wrong."
"I agree," said Ture.
They were about to exit the room when Ture asked, "Do you suppose it has something to do with that psychostrategist we saw at the security building?"
"I wouldn't be surprised," said Allren. "Otherwise, why would he be here?"
It's definitely time to get off this planet, thought Allren.
"Are you alright?" asked Cally with concern.
Avon and Cally were having a meal at a nice establishment on the top floor of one of the tallest commercial buildings on Papos. It had a nice view and boasted all natural ingredients. Cally had thought it a nice change to be able to see over the city, towards the mountain range nearby.
Avon had been able to chose his own food but Cally sensed that he was stressed at the myriad of unfamiliar choices. She was becoming aware that it may have been a better idea to return to the ship. Avon had looked increasingly pale as the meal progressed.
"I am tired," replied Avon. "It may be a good idea to return to the ship after our meal."
The effort to maintain a focused enough mind to block all the distractions of the sounds and the unfamiliarity of his surroundings was physically and mentally draining. As he tired, it was harder to keep the panic at bay.
"But you should finish your meal first," he told her. "It would be a shame to waste it."
Cally tried to rush through the last of the food on her plate. Avon no longer touched his.
"We may have to return to ground level to use the teleport," he told her as he looked around. "It is too crowded on this level. We would not be unobserved if we used it here."
Cally nearly choked in her effort to finish her meal.
"Take your time Cally. I can wait," said Avon.
This is ridiculous, thought Reya. We are better than this.
As leaders, Argus and Reya had already achieved more successes than most people would in a lifetime of trying. To stand against either one of them in one-to-one, or even one-to-many combat would be suicidal. They were both brilliant at their jobs and the people under their commands would follow them anywhere without hesitation.
It should not be this hard for us, she thought. We need to apply what we are good at to this or we will not stand a chance. She asked herself, What works for us?
Her mind went back over their relationship and their interaction together. She needed something which would break them out of this self-destructive spiral they found themselves in.
"Don't be silly," she said finally. There was a lightness in her tone.
"Where would you go? This is your ship. If anyone were to leave, it would be me. But I don't think I will," she told him. She sounded almost mischievous. It was totally incongruous to their current situation. Argus was confused.
"Don't look so surprised," she said.
"I am not surprised, I'm confused," he said to her.
"It looks the same. Your surprised face and your confused one."
"You're mocking me now," he said as he realized what she was trying to do.
"You're not mad at me anymore?" he asked with hope in his voice.
"I was never angry with you," she told him.
He had a confused and/or surprised look on his face again.
"I was angry at myself," she explained.
This did not help his comprehension.
"You were not angry with me?" he asked. He was still very confused.
"No. I should have told you. But everything I said just seemed to make things worse so I stopped."
"But you were crying."
"Yes. Because you're so wonderful." She reached out and touched his cheek.
"I still don't understand." He took her hand and gently pulled her towards him; afraid that at any second that she would pull away. When their bodies touched, it almost took his breath away. He held her lightly in his arms.
She said, "When you told me what you had planned to do, I wasn't happy. But I wasn't angry. I realized that our relationship needed work. I wanted us to get better at communicating."
"I didn't do a very good job at it," he said wryly.
"Yes. You are very bad at it," she agreed with a smile. "But so am I. At this kind of thing, I think we're both very bad at it. If Borel was here, he'd be telling us what idiots we are."
"Probably," he agreed. "Can I kiss you?"
"I don't know. Have you forgotten how?"
He needed no further encouragement.