Argus and Reya were still in each other's arms on the flight deck, but somewhat seated on the couch now.
"One of these days, I've got to figure out how you do it," said Argus as he broke off their kiss.
"Get my jacket and shirt off so fast that I don't even notice it."
Reya smiled as she enjoyed the feel of his bare chest under her hands. "Your attentions are usually elsewhere."
"I wish one of them would come back soon," Argus said, referring to the crew who were still on Papos. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly as she continued to caress him. "We had better stop. We've already let it go too far."
The flight deck was not the place for any further physical intimacy; even if they were alone. They were both too professional to allow that to happen.
"You're right," said Reya. She sighed and removed her hands from his chest.
Argus picked up his shirt from where Reya had dropped it.
"I like you with your shirt off," she said teasingly as she watched him.
"I know you do," he replied as he put the shirt back on. When he was fully dressed again, he pulled her to him.
"I thought we agreed we should stop," she told him.
"We should," he said. "I just want to hold you for awhile."
"You know that's going to drive me crazy."
"I know," he said with a mischievous smile on his lips.
"You're very bad," she told him.
They both smiled.
*Urgent* Zen spoke up. Normally the ship's computer had a tired quality, but not this time. The "urgent" had an urgent quality to it.
"What is it Zen?" asked Argus immediately, as he let go of Reya and walked over to the visual interface.
*An enhanced electromagnetic pulse wave is approaching from the planet Papos* reported Zen. "There is a high probability that it will damage the systems on this ship."
"Zen, get us out of here," directed Argus. "Maximum speed." Argus may not have known what to do in his relationship with Reya, but he certainly knew what to do when there was danger. He became calm and controlled. His mind immediately jumped into overdrive.
They could both feel the energy build up as the ship immediately shifted from an orbital position into a powered course away from the planet. On the visual display, they could see the planet receding.
*Speed is currently standard by twelve.*
"Zen, at maximum speed, will we be able to outrun the pulse wave?"
"At the current speed, the Justice will be overtaken by the pulse wave in eighteen seconds."
"We need more power," said Argus thinking aloud. "Zen, route all available power systems, except emergency ones, to the hyperdrive engines."
Reya kept silent. Her senses were also on high alert and her mind was sharp. She knew Argus's capabilities and she trusted in his instincts. He knew the ship, she didn't. She would not say anything unless she had something to contribute.
The engines, which they normally did not hear, began to strain.
*Speed is currently at standard by fourteen.*
"Zen, will we able to outrun the pulse wave now?"
*At present speed, the pulse wave will reach the Justice in one minute forty-two seconds.*
Argus crossed over to ORAC's position and slipped the activation key into the slot.
"ORAC, are you aware of the situation with the EMP wave?"
*I have been monitoring* replied ORAC.
*There is nothing which can be done. You have already achieved the maximum speed which this ship is capable of.*
"This is not helpful ORAC. Will it make a difference if we shut off all power when the wave hits?"
"But you don't know for certain."
"If we shut off all the systems on the ship and assuming the engines are still operable after the wave hits, can we restart them?"
"A manual restart is possible. But the probability that shutting off…"
"I don't want to hear the odds ORAC. I want a hard copy printout of the instructions immediately. Then start doing a printout on all parts on the ship which will need to be replaced and instructions starting with the most critical ones."
*Very well. The requested instructions are being printed.*
"Zen, how long before the wave hits?"
*The pulse wave will reach the Justice in fifty seconds.*
"How long for a full shut down of all ship's systems?"
*A controlled shutdown of all ship's systems will require fifteen minutes.*
"I don't want a controlled shutdown. Is there an emergency shutdown?"
*There is a manual emergency shutdown switch in the engine room.*
Argus looked towards Reya briefly. She nodded. No words were needed between them. Argus ran up the steps and raced towards the engine room.
While Argus was gone, Reya crossed over to ORAC.
"ORAC, once the power cuts out, how long can we survive without a functional life support system?"
This was the first time Reya had used ORAC. She wasn't sure if the computer unit would answer her question. She knew that Zen would not; since her voice pattern had never been added to the authorized command list.
Since this was a logical question, ORAC responded.
*You are Commander Reve?*
"Very well Commander. There will be sufficient oxygen remaining to sustain two humans for four hours, ten minutes and thirty-eight seconds."
"Thank you ORAC."
At that moment the ship was plunged into darkness as all power shut off.
At the roof-top restaurant on Papos, Avon and Cally were in a line-up waiting for the lift. They needed to go back down to the ground level in order to find a quiet area so they could teleport back up to the ship. The wait area was crowded and noisy and Cally debated whether they should risk using the teleport because Avon did not look good.
Avon was fighting to maintain control but it was a losing battle. The panic was threatening to overwhelm him.
"Is your mate alright?" a dark-skinned woman in a neon hat in the line ahead of them asked.
Avon was too preoccupied with his own struggles to be able to pay attention to anything other than the approach of the lift.
The question puzzled Cally until she realized that the woman was mistaking Avon for her bond-mate.
"We are not bonded," explained Cally. I don't know what we are, thought Cally.
"My mistake," said the woman. "He looks ill."
"Yes, that is why we are trying to return to our residence," said Cally.
The woman looked at Avon again. He was perspiring and his eyes did not appear to be focused on what was in front of him.
The woman said loudly to everyone in the line, "This man is ill, let's let them go down first."
To Cally's surprise, all of the people in the line nodded or waived them forward.
The lift came and Cally and Avon entered with a crowd of others. As the doors were about to close, Cally nodded in acknowledgement to the people in the line who had been so generous.
"Hang on Avon," Cally whispered. She took his arm in order to steady him. The lift descended swiftly. It would not take long.
Somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors, all of the power went out. The lift stopped and they were plunged into darkness. Avon screamed in pain and collapsed.
"You will help us against the Federation," Dayto told Sester.
"You must already have your own plan," said Sester.
"That's true. For the coup," said Dayto. "But you will apply your skills in developing a strategy which will anticipate what the Federation's response will be once we move into action. You will make it so that they will find it more beneficial to leave us alone."
Sester was still seated in senior controller Dayto's office. Two armed guards stood near the door. He was getting very tired of this man's constant demands and threats.
The restraints on Sester's wrists were uncomfortable and were cutting off circulation. He suspected that the guards had deliberately put them on too tight.
"You do realize that if the Federation considers you more trouble than you are worth, they will destroy this planet?" asked Sester.
"You will stop that from happening," said Dayto.
Sester responded by saying, "When you found out that a psychostrategist was coming, you thought that you would avail yourself of my skills," identified Sester. "That means you planned to detain me even before I got here."
Dayto had a very unpleasant look on his face. He did not like Sester; did not like that he was too smart. But it was this genius which they were planning to use. Everything for the coup had been prepared but they had not acted yet because they did not know what the Federation response would be.
The knowledge from Sester had confirmed some of the fears from other members of Dayto's group. Dayto did not like it, but it appeared that they could not move yet. At least not until Sester could come up with a strategy for them. That meant convincing the psychostrategist to help them.
Dayto had no problems with employing more expedient methods of persuasion. Sester was one of the enemy. He would just be the first of many enemy casualties.
Sester smiled. The man was pitifully easy to read.
The room was plunged into darkness.
"Thank you," Jenna said to Vila as he unlocked the last manacle from her wrist.
"It was nothing," said Vila.
"Shall we get out of here?" asked Jenna as she rubbed her sore wrist where the cuff had left an abrasion.
"I thought you would never ask," said Vila.
"They took our teleport bracelets. We will have to find them," said Jenna. "Can you get the door open?"
They went to the door and listened for noises.
"I don't hear anything," said Vila as he bent down to examine the lock. "This one is easy," he said as he began working on the door. "I don't know why they even bother with these kinds of locks."
"Not everyone has your skills Vila," said Jenna.
Vila looked up at his companion. Being praised was such a rare thing for him that he always appreciated it. "That's true," he said. He went back to work on the lock again. Within a few seconds, it was open.
The next room was also dark and seemed to be deserted. The only light came from the windows. It was a small office; other than the empty room they had been in, there was only the outer room which was arranged like an office.
They immediately spotted the teleport bracelets which lay among a pile of items on the desk near one of the windows.
Vila and Jenna went to get the bracelets. They were stopped by the sight of a body behind the desk.
"That's the man we were following," exclaimed Vila. "Why would someone kill him and leave us alive?"
"I don't know," replied Jenna. We need to find out, thought Jenna. This was no longer just about being knocked out and chained up by persons unknown. These unknown people were proving to be both mysterious and dangerous.
Jenna bent down to examine the man. She could not tell how he had been killed. A search revealed nothing.
"His pockets are empty," said Jenna.
"Let's get out of here, Jenna," said Vila.
"You may be right, Vila. I would like to be better armed and have backup before we go any further."
That had not been what Vila was thinking of. This mystery was already getting too dangerous for him when they were back at the bar.
Vila tapped on his teleport bracelet. "Argus. This is Jenna and Vila. We're ready to come up now."
There was no response.
He repeated, "Argus. This is Jenna and Vila. We're ready for teleport."
Still no response. Vila's nervousness increased.
Jenna tapped on her bracelet, "Argus. This is Jenna. Respond."
There was silence.
"Jenna, I've never known Argus not to be ready."
"Yes," said Jenna thoughtfully. She examined her bracelet. "I don't think our teleport bracelets are working," she told Vila.
"You mean someone disabled them when they took them from us?"
"Most likely. We have to find a way to contact the ship," she said. "We need to get access to some communications equipment."
"I don't like this," said Vila.
"I don't either Vila," agreed Jenna. They headed towards the door. Vila stopped suddenly and walked back towards one of the windows.
"What's wrong Vila," asked Jenna from the door.
"Jenna, come here," Vila waved her over.
Jenna come over to stand by the window and looked out. The entire city was dark.
Servalan flipped to the next report on her vidscreen and yawned. The coffee she had been drinking did not appear to be helping. The Federation President finally had time to go through the classified reports Sester was responsible for. She was skimming through them quickly and only reading the most important or urgent ones. The display was set on a slow automatic scroll.
The Federation President hit the button which stopped the scrolling. She leaned forward to read the report more carefully.
She activated the vidcomm button. Her assistant appeared on the screen.
She asked, "Corry did you contact Central Security and find out if they had an agent near Papos?"
Corry replied, "I have already contacted Controller Tarvin, Madame President. He said that they have two agents on Papos. He has instructed them to look for psychostrategist Sester."
"I want to speak to Tarvin first thing tomorrow morning. Arrange it for me," commanded Servalan.
Servalan closed the connection and read over the report again. It gave a list of tracer locations. Tracer ADA-7854 was reported to be transmitting from Papos. That was Drel Argus's tracer identifier.
What are you doing on Papos Avon? thought Servalan. She wondered if it was a coincidence that Avon and Sester were on Papos together. The Federation President did not believe in convenient coincidences.