The lift was completely dark; it was not completely silent. Everyone was trying to talk at once and the tension level was rising.
"Someone hit the emergency call button," a woman with a cultured voice said.
"I can't see it," a man by the emergency panel said.
"Isn't there supposed to be emergency lighting?" a man with a scratchy voice asked.
"I hate lifts." This voice came from an irritated sounding woman.
"Who screamed?" said the cultured voice.
"What if we get stuck in here?" a nervous young man's voice said.
"Don't be silly. They have procedures for things like this," said an older sounding woman.
"I think it's the man who was sick," answered the scratchy voice.
"Someone will get us out," the older woman said confidently.
"I really hate lifts," the irritated woman stressed. No one could mistake that she liked lifts by now.
"Is he okay?" asked the cultured voice.
Cally was not paying attention to any of these conversations as they were happening. She was more concerned with Avon who had screamed and was now collapsed against her. She was trying to hold him upright. The lift had been too crowded for him to fall to the floor.
There was no response.
She shook him gently. "Avon."
Avon groaned. "What happened? Why is it dark?" he asked. His knee was in great pain; much more than normal.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
"My knee. Something is wrong with it."
"Is that the knee you will not allow me to examine?"
There was a pause.
"Are you going to tell me now?"
"Later. When we return to the Justice."
"I can't help you if you do not tell me."
"You would not be able to help even if I told you."
Cally did not understand why Avon did not think she could help with his injured knee.
There must be something else, she thought.
"Can you stand on it?"
Cally could feel Avon shift his weight and then a stifled groan. He leaned against her again.
"It appears not," said Avon.
"I pressed the emergency button but nothing's happening," the person by the emergency panel said. "The comm doesn't seem to be working either."
"The management is going to hear about this," said the irritated woman.
"Let me take a look," said Avon in his normal impassive voice.
Cally whispered in his ear, "Are you going to be alright? You were having problems before."
"Yes, Cally. High stress situations appear to focus concentration quite nicely," replied Avon also in a whisper. It also increased adrenaline production, giving him a shot of renewed energy.
Cally helped Avon over to the panel while the others tried to shift out of his way.
Once there, Avon removed a tool he normally kept hidden on his person. Like Vila, he was also prepared for opportunities, though not the same ones. He removed the panel and examined the inner workings by touch. The opened panel had released a smell he recognized. He did not hold high hopes of being able to fix the lift from here.
"There is nothing I can do," said Avon. "All of the components have received a circuit overload. The parts would have to be replaced."
"What about the equipment you bought? Can you use the parts from there?" asked Cally.
Avon always appreciated Cally's ability to think further than most people.
"I have already considered that," said Avon. "I would only be able to replace some of the damaged circuits. Not enough to fix the problem. Unfortunately there is also a larger concern. There is no power. The alert signal, emergency lighting and communications run on an independent power source and are entirely separated from the main system. But they have failed as well."
"What is the chance of that?" asked cultured voice. "For both the main and the backup to fail like that?"
"High enough for it to have happened to us," answered Avon.
"They must know we're stuck by now," said the older woman. "They're probably trying to fix the problem now."
Avon said, "If it is a power failure in this section of the building, then the building sensors would have informed them of the problem. If it is a general power failure, they will have larger concerns and may not consider us a priority."
"I don’t want to be stuck here," said the young man in a very nervous voice. "I have a problem with small enclosed spaces. There's a name for it. I forget what it is."
Avon thought that he sounded a lot like a younger version of Vila.
"Isn't there something you can do?" the irritated-sounding woman asked in Avon's direction.
Cally noticed that Avon had automatically taken on role of someone everyone else depended on.
It was like that on the Liberator and the Scorpio too, thought Cally. You liked people looking to you as the expert but you never wanted the responsibility of leadership.
"There are two options. There is a manual door release," said Avon. "If we are fortunate enough to have stopped on a floor. If not, there should be a maintenance hatch just above us."
They all looked up in the darkness towards the hatch above them; not that they could see it.
"I don't know why they put those things way up there. How is anyone supposed to reach them?" This new voice was male and sounded as irritated as the other woman.
Avon felt for the manual door release on the lift door and found it just a little above his head. He set to work on it with one of his tools.
In a typical display of tech logic, Ture whacked the small square computer unit on the desk with his fist. The screen in front of him stayed dead and he only managed to hurt his hand. The computer unit had flashed and gone dead while he was three deep into the security protocols of one of the Federation's main computer networks. He was nearly singed by the sparks.
This was not a welcome happening. It meant that he would have to start over again once he got the computer working again. He checked the optical leads and pressed the reset button on the unit. It was dead.
"I don't think you'll get it working," said Allren, who had been looking out the window. He was amazed that his friend had not noticed that the room had suddenly gone dark and they were only managing by the dim light coming in from the window.
Allren was always astounded that his friend could be so focused on the computer stuff that he barely noticed anything else. Not even being plunged into total darkness, thought Allren with amusement.
"Why?" asked Ture. He turned around to face Allren and finally noticed that the lights were out. "Why is it so dark in here?"
"Now you notice," said Allren. "I think you're computer not working is the least of our problems."
"Is the power out?"
"Yes. It appears it's out everywhere."
"The whole city?"
"The emergency systems should kick in soon," said Ture.
"It is odd that it's out everywhere," said Allren. "I thought that they're supposed to have dedicated power grids so that things like this will only affect one area."
"Maybe Papos isn't as up on Federation utility standards yet. They are new."
"The entire power grid seems to have been affected," said Jenna as she and Vila made their way through the darkened avenues to the nearest communications complex.
"I don't like the dark," said Vila. "It's too dark."
"There is something even odder," said Jenna. "It's completely dark."
"Well, it would be if the power is out," said Vila.
"There isn't even any emergency lighting."
"Maybe they don't have any."
"That's not likely," said Jenna. "But even if it were, some people must have personal power sources, even if they're only hand torches. But there's nothing. It's like something disabled all the power. In everything."
"If you're trying to scare me, Jenna. You've succeeded," said Vila. "Lets get to that communication centre so we can contact Argus."
"It won't do any good now," said Jenna. "There isn't any power. No one has any power."
"Then what do we do?" said Vila. His voice had raised in pitch.
"We have to find Avon. He may have some ideas," said Jenna. Jenna would have preferred not to ask Avon for anything; but she knew he may be their only chance.
"Yes. That's a good idea," said Vila. His face brightened. "Avon will know what to do."
"Assuming he and Cally haven't gone back to the ship yet," said Jenna.
The expression on Vila's face dropped.
There was a loud sharp crack, followed by several others in a random jumble.
Vila said, "What was that? That sounded like a…"
"It's a projectile weapon," said Jenna.
"Yes, like the one you stole," said Jenna.
"Borrowed," Vila corrected out of habit.
"I think we've landed in the middle of a take over of some kind. Someone planned all this with the power and the weapons."
"I don’t understand. What does one have to do with the other?" Vila asked. "Why would anyone use these kinds of weapons for a real take over? Wouldn't energy weapons be better?"
"I'm not sure. But it's too much of a coincidence," said Jenna.
"Let's find Avon and Cally so we can get out of here," said Vila.
"Good idea," said Jenna.
Finally, thought Vila.
"You might want to keep that gun handy," said Jenna.
Vila reached into his inner pocket, took out the gun and gave it to her.
"It's handier with you," he explained.
Jenna grinned as she took it from him, "You never did like weapons, did you, Vila. Cally and Avon are supposed to be looking for medical supplies. I think I spotted some in the avenue we first came down on. Lets try there."
When the lights went out in senior controller Dayto's office, it went completely dark and stayed dark. There were no windows in this room. Dayto was highly paranoid and did not like the exposure windows would provide.
Sester stayed in his seat, waiting for the emergency lights to kick in or for the others to do whatever people normally did in order to restore some lighting.
"Damn. Nothing's working." Sester could hear Dayto saying. There were sounds of movements from Dayto and from where the guards were standing by the door.
"One of you, get some torches." Dayto directed the guards.
After a few moments, one of them said, "The door isn't working sir."
"There should be a manual release," said the other guard.
Sester could hear some sounds and then sounds of the door opening slowly.
It appeared to be pitch dark outside as well. Sester could hear one of the guards leaving the room. He knew the supplies area was several corridors away. In the dark, it would take awhile for the guard to find a torch and come back.
The psychostrategist made an instant assessment of his situation. He got up from his seat silently and moved to the wall between two corners of the room. In his mind, he had a good layout of the room.
"Check the prisoner," commanded Dayto.
You should have thought of that before, thought Sester. Now the fun begins.
Sester knew there was one guard and Dayto in the room. Dayto had spoken so he knew where the controller was approximately. Sester could hear the one remaining guard approaching the chair from the doorway. Sester waited.
The guard banged into the chair. "He's gone sir!"
"He's headed for the door!" said Dayto. "Quick! Intercept him!"
Logical assumption, thought Sester. But the psychostrategist was after more than just a quick exit.
Sester could hear the guard running back towards the door and bang into something. "Ow."
"Did you get him?" asked Dayto. His voice was now by Sester's chair.
"No sir, I just hit the side of the door."
Clumsy and not very good spatial perception, thought Sester as he walked towards Dayto's desk, keeping near the wall.
"He must have been waiting right by the door. Go after him." The controller's voice was still by Sester's chair.
Sester heard the guard leave the room.
Lateral thinkers. They have such little imagination, thought Sester as he picked up the keys for his restraints from the top of Dayto's desk. He could hear Dayto moving back towards his desk. Sester kept well away from him as he silently left the room, holding the keys.