A thud against the side of a ship could mean many things; some insignificant and some serious.
Argus and Reya looked at each other, neither of them had any question what this thud meant. They had both been on ships which had been boarded before. Argus had experience both boarding and being boarded.
The Justice would seem to be a derelict ship to any outside force; dead in space, unable to respond. It was possible that it was a friendly boarding party looking to see if there were survivors needing help, though these days, that was much less likely. Most friendly people learned that being helpful was equated with being an easy target.
It could have been opportunistic salvagers; but Argus and Reya's well honed sense of danger told them otherwise.
"We're being boarded," said Argus.
"You want me to hide, don't you? And rescue you later?" Reya asked, knowing his mind.
"Well, I could hide but you'd have to wait along time to be rescued," he said. "Don't keep me waiting too long."
"Don't die on me," she told him.
"I'll do my best, Commander," he replied. He reached out and touched her arm briefly. She nodded. They did not need any maudlin displays of love or teary farewells; they knew where they stood with each other.
Reya quickly left the engine room.
After she left, Argus began dragging himself painfully towards the exit. It would be much more believable that he was alone if he tried to do it himself. He gritted his teeth at the pain but kept going. Somewhere near the doorway, he passed out.
The next sensation Argus had was of someone feeling the muscles of his bare chest. His first thought was that it was Reya, but these hands were cold. He opened his eyes.
"Don’t move," a voice above him said. "You won't be able to get very far with that injury. So you might as well not try. Unless you like pain."
Argus looked around. He was still on the Justice, lying flat on a bio-bed in the medical bay. His jacket and shirt had been removed. Other than for the person near his head, there were two other people near the exit. Armed strangers in dark brown uniforms.
Argus was familiar with the uniforms of many different forces, he did not recognize these ones. It was not comforting to know that his and Reya's senses of danger were still very accurate.
The soldiers looked eager. Eager for what?
His back was still in considerable pain. He doubted if he could move off the bed without aid.
The one near his head, who had spoken but he could not see, was still exploring his body. Argus felt very uncomfortable but he doubted if he could do anything about it with the guards standing nearby. He very much preferred that these were Reya's hands.
Well, at least they don't plan to kill me first, thought Argus. Unless this is a prelude for preparing me as a main course.
Argus had the distinct impression that he was being admired, at least his body was.
"You are an excellent specimen. The mind is not bad either," the voice told him.
The owner of the voice came around to face him. He was a tall, willowy man who wore a uniform like the other two, but this one was green. The man reached further down and felt the defined muscles of Argus's abdomen.
"If you continue any further, I will move and I guarantee I will not be the only one hurting," said Argus. Guards or no guards.
The hands were lifted from his body. "I do believe you would be able to do that, despite the injury to your back. It might be interesting to continue just to see how you would be able to manage it."
Please do, thought Argus.
"You were right," said Cally. "There is nothing I can do for your knee. I do not even have anaesthetic drugs to alleviate your pain. And there do not appear to be any shops open now."
Avon refrained from saying "I told you so." He was tired. The effort of descending the stairs had exhausted him. He could barely stand the pain from his knee now.
"Leave me here, Cally."
"You know I will not do that, Avon."
"I would only slow you down. You have a better chance of finding the equipment without me."
"I would like to leave you here to rest but…" Cally began and then paused; she knew that what she wanted to say would only reinforce the idea of his need for someone else. After what he had just shared with her before, she knew how much he hated it.
"I would be too easy a target in my condition?" Avon said sarcastically, completing her thought.
Cally could sense his anger and frustration.
He continued, "I used to be able to provide solutions. Not be part of the problem."
"You are selling yourself short, Avon. If it were not for you, we would still be stuck in the lift," Cally pointed out.
Avon countered, "The best thing I can look forward to now is becoming both a burden and a solution."
"You have never been a burden," said Cally.
"Not to you perhaps," he said. "Since you insist on burdening yourself with me, then you wouldn't mind helping me up."
"I thought you hated being helped?" said Cally.
"I am a pragmatist. I may not accept that I need help but I cannot deny the physical reality."
"You hate that reality."
"Hating a reality does not make it less real."
"Now we are only playing words," said Cally as she helped him up. This caused even more pain. Avon gasped and fell back onto the bench.
"Do you want to reassess my status as a burden?" he asked.
Ignoring his comment, she said, "I am going to put a splint on it. It will give your knee more support."
Cally looked around them, the parkade trees afforded many splint-making opportunities. She quickly improvised one and applied it to his leg. This time Cally was able to help him stand.
"It is best to keep moving," said Avon. "We need to find a way back to the ship before I start having even more problems."
The Federation President wasn't sure how concerned she should be. The day had started out with the news that there was no news on the whereabouts of psychostrategist Sester. Then not only was there no word from Sester, Central Security seemed to have also lost track of its two agents on Papos.
Lost track of, usually means they are dead, thought Servalan. What is going on, on Papos?
Servalan had just finished a day of meetings with various admirals from Space Command, the heads of Federation Border Command and the Cooperation Project. There had been nothing of note to report. The Federation's plans were progressing as expected; even on Papos.
Every appeared to be fine; as fine as could be expected from a Federation still trying to rebuild its empire and hold onto what it already had.
Papos seemed to have two faces. But which one is real? thought Servalan. She brought up her assistant on the vidscreen.
"Corry, find Controller Tarvin and tell him I want to speak with him immediately," she directed him.
"Yes, Madame President."