Sometimes you can wake up and hate mornings. At other times you would actually have a legitimate reason to want to head right back to bed and hope it was all a bad dream.
As the sun rose over the main commercial city of Papos (which also coincidentally had the same name; the Paposians had never been original in the naming of their cities) its citizens wished that they could all go back to sleep, and wake up in a city which was not now under martial law.
Of course, the likelihood was that none of them had gotten any sleep since the invasion began the night before.
From the perspective of the citizens of the city, the loss of technology meant they were isolated. But they still had hope that they would be rescued. All they needed was for someone, from somewhere else on their planet to realize what was happening and send help. Not one of them understood the scope of the invasion or how helpless they were to these invaders. No one, except the invaders knew that the entire planet and all ships within close visual scanner range had been taken over.
Some on Papos expected their new Federation masters to come in to save them. None of them knew that the Federation had no idea they were in trouble. With senior controller Dayto's help, the Federation still received the expected periodic communications and reports they normally did.
In fact if Servalan had not been so paranoid in keeping checks on Sester, no one would even suspect that something was not quite right on Papos. And unfortunately, for the invaders, no one suspected that anyone would need to keep such close tabs on a psychostrategist.
There was one other thing the invaders underestimated; the trouble-making capacity of nine strangers in their midst.
The Federation President was still not convinced that everything was normal on Papos; despite all the regular reports coming in from Space Command and Border Command. Of course these reports were usually several days old, as they had to be routed via several communications relay stations.
"Corry, I want to speak to Controller Tarvin of Central Security again," the President instruction her assistant using the vidcomm.
"Yes, Madame President," acknowledged her long-suffering and handsome young assistant. "Do you want me to wake him again or can this wait until morning?"
"Now," said the President firmly. Despite the lateness of the hour, she did not see why anyone else should enjoy sleep when she still had several hours more work to do. Servalan was about to close the connection when she added, "Oh Corry. You can go home after this. I won't need you until tomorrow."
"Thank you, Madame President," her assistant said in appreciation. "Are you sure, you don't want me to wait until after your meeting with Controller Tarvin?"
"Yes. You look tired. Good night," said Servalan as she closed the connection. She sighed. At least someone will get some sleep tonight. But someone else has to find out what is really going on, on Papos. We can no longer rely on second-hand reports. A ship must be sent there.
Part of her hoped that they would also find out some news on the Justice and Avon. Since the loss of Drel Argus's tracer signal, they could not be certain that they were still at Papos; but Servalan had a feeling they were still there.
Servalan found that she missed Avon; missed the talks she had with him. She never realized how alone she was until after he left her. Servalan sighed. Not time for such thoughts.
She took another drink of her coffee and brought up the next report. This one was on the trafficking of shadow by the Terra Nostra. The Federation President had always hated the moral decadence of places like Freedom City and had always been averse to the trade in shadow. Unfortunately it was a reality had she inherited as Federation President. Servalan was determined to do something about it.
She knew that it was an uphill battle, especially with the Terra Nostra. They would definitely not agree to the erosion of their base of wealth and power.
"CITIZENS OF PAPOS. STAY IN YOUR PLACES OF RESIDENCE UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. YOUR CITY IS NOW UNDER MARTIAL LAW. THERE IS A CURFEW IN EFFECT. COOPERATION IS APPRECIATED. RESISTANCE AND DISOBEDIENCE WILL BE DEALT WITH IMMEDIATELY AND WITHOUT MERCY."
The message blared loudly on a continuous loop.
"How is anyone supposed to get any sleep with that going on all the time," said Vila. He sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"Then you'll be glad to know that it's your turn to take the next watch," said Ture from the window.
Vila gave him a not very pleasant look, but he got up to take his turn. "I don't understand why we have to keep up this watching. We can't even go out there now with the curfew."
Jenna, who had also not been able to get any sleep, rolled over and said, "That is why we are going to do it at night, Vila."
"But I thought…"
"You thought that something like a curfew would stop us?" she asked, as she also sat up.
"Yes." I had hoped that, thought Vila. He wondered what was taking Avon and Argus so long. Vila was starting to worry that one of them may have tried to make contact but didn’t know where to find them.
Why did I make that promise to help, thought Vila. He realized it had been a mistake almost the moment he had said it.
"If we don't get that communications equipment, we're stuck here," said Jenna. She turned to Ture. "Have they changed their patterns yet? Do you see anyone travelling alone or in a small enough group that we can ambush them?"
"No. There has not been any change," said Ture. "They're still travelling in large groups."
"Damn. I thought they would have eased up a bit by now," said Jenna.
"What are you thinking?" asked Allren.
"We can't wait," said Jenna. "Who knows how long it will take before they feel safe enough to travel in smaller numbers."
"Why can't we wait?" said Vila. "Does everyone forget? We only have one weapon. Even if there are only four of them and four of us. They still outnumber us with weapons. And the moment we shoot our one weapon. More of them are going to come running."
"Impersonating the enemy soldiers is still a good idea," said Jenna. "If we can't use real uniforms. Let's make up fake ones."
"Fake ones?" asked Allren. "How?"
"There were clothing shops in the commercial avenue. We should be able to find something."
"But that still means we have to go out during the curfew," grumbled Vila. "Didn't you hear? They will shoot whoever they find outside."
"I agree with Vila," said Allren. "It's too risky."
"Not if we're careful and we only travel at night. I was watching their movements during my shift. They are very methodical but regular. If we move fast enough, we should be able to elude them," said Jenna.
"I agreed to help," said Vila. "I didn't agree to help you commit suicide."
"Jenna. Shouldn't we wait a bit longer? Maybe we can come up with a better idea," said Ture. So far he had stayed quiet. He agreed with Jenna that they had to do something; but he did not think this plan was a good idea. Unfortunately, he didn’t have an alternative to present her. That was why he had stayed silent.
"Don’t you see. Every minute we wait, the more entrenched they become. And the less chance we will have. Alright. If none of you want to go, then I'll go get the clothes myself. You wait here," Jenna checked the weapon and headed towards the door without waiting to see if anyone was following.
Vila grimaced; his stomach was starting to bother him. He shook his head and followed her out. "It's like Blake all over again," he mumbled under his breath.
Ture looked at his partner.
Allren said, "Don't look at me. I'm not going. What they're doing is crazy and we're not getting paid for it."
"True," said Ture. "But they're going to get killed, if we don't help."
"When did you start risking your life without getting paid?"
"Suit yourself. I'm going to help them," said Ture. He followed Jenna and Vila.
Allren stood alone in the empty room. After a few moments he muttered, "I know I'm going to regret this." He followed them out.
A little later, the small band of four had avoided all of the enemy soldiers and made it to one of the side streets off the main commercial avenue.
"Vila, can you get this lock open?" asked Jenna, pointing to a shop door. She, Allren and Ture had arranged themselves in lookout positions.
Vila bent down to look. "Of course. It'll take a few minutes."
"The fewer the better," said Jenna. They all felt very exposed. Other than the brown uniformed soldiers, they had seen no civilians.
"Don't hurry me," said Vila. Fear always made him work faster. In less than two minutes, he had it open.
"Quickly, everyone inside," said Jenna.
They all entered the shop as another enemy soldier group came down the avenue. The four of them stayed still until the soldiers passed.
Once it was clear Jenna said, "Look for something we can use for uniforms."
They all started looking through bins and shelves of clothing.
"I'll keep a look out," said Allren. He stayed by the door.
After going through almost every shelf and bin they finally found enough clothing to make up three passable uniforms.
"We're just guessing the colours, in the dark," Ture pointed out to Jenna.
"We're only going to move in the dark," said Jenna. "They still only have limited lighting, even in the Security building. We just have to move fast and not let them take too close a look at us."
"What happened to you Jenna?" asked Vila. "When Blake used to take these kinds of chances, you used to be almost as vocal as Avon. We used to do it, but none of us liked it, not even you. What changed?"
Vila didn't know what made him speak out like this. He never did with Blake.
For a moment, he thought Jenna was going to answer him. There was a hardness in her eyes, which he had never noticed before. Instead she said, "We have to get going. Allren, is it clear?"
Without taking his eyes off the avenue, Allren nodded. They all exited the shop with their find of clothing and moved as quickly as they could without making any undue noise.
Unfortunately, at that moment, a group of enemy soldiers appeared at the head of the commercial avenue and saw them immediately. As the announcement had said, there was no mercy. The soldiers began firing at them.
Jenna immediately started firing back. "Run!" she told them, as she covered their backs.
Allren went down with a projectile to the back. Vila and Ture picked him up and raced on. They turned a corner and almost ran into another group of soldiers which had come running towards the source of the disturbance. Vila was shot in the arm by this second group. Backing up quickly the four ran down another avenue. By now, Jenna had run out of projectiles.
Fortunately they were running down a maze of small streets. It would have been more fortunate if they had been familiar with these streets.
They stopped for a few seconds to catch their breaths and get their bearings when it seemed that the enemy soldiers had lost sight of them.
"Over here," a voice whispered behind them. A door opened.
"It's better than bleeding out here," said Allren. He was pressing one of the brown clothing they had found against his wound.
They quickly went through the offered door.
"How many times do you need to hear this?" asked Argus. "I do not know where Avon is. I will not give you any ideas how to find him."
The booming voice finally fell silent. They had been asking him the same question repeatedly for hours.
The doorway which he had identified earlier, slid open. Twelve men entered the circular room. These men wore short-sleeves tunics and trousers; the same brown colour as the uniforms.
They surrounded Argus in a large, loose circle.
Good. Something different. I was starting to get bored, thought Argus.
One of the men came forward and stood in a fighting stance. Argus followed suit.
The man did not wait, he punched towards Argus's head. Argus shifted his head slightly and the man's punch missed widely. Before the man recovered, Argus had struck him in kidney area and the man went down. When he got up again, the man returned to his place in the circle.
I hope some of you are better than this. Or it's going to get boring again very quickly, thought Argus.
Each man in turn, took on Argus with the same result. After the twelfth man, all of the enemy soldiers were bruised in at least one area. Argus had not even broken a sweat. He was just getting warmed up.
Alright I am officially bored now, thought Argus.
Two men now approached him. Again the same result. And again, each man in the circle took their turns in twos. The results were the same as it had been with the single man combat.
When that was finished, three men approached.
I see. We're playing a numbers game. You want to see how many bad fighters it takes to bring me down.
"Why don't I save you all some time. Why don't you all come at me at once. All twelve of you," he offered.
They ignored him and continued their numbers game. When finally all twelve came at him, Argus was very bored. He dispatched them all quickly and left them lying on the ground.
"What was the purpose of this?" Argus asked loudly. He was certain that he was still being watched. That sense of being put on display had never left.
No one answered his question. The enemy soldiers got up and left.
Argus sat down to rest. Even though it had not been much of a challenge, it was always good to get rest.
He didn't get much rest. After a few minutes, another group of similarly clothed soldiers entered the room.
Argus got up and faced them as they ranged themselves in another circle. The same activity was repeated. This group was better than the last.
You plan to wear me out? You had better have much better fighters than these. I am still not going to tell you anything about Avon.
Argus did not understand what they hoped to achieve.
Sester had been feeling increasingly dizzy. The bearded leader had brought him to a medical building which had been appropriated by the enemy forces. He had been strapped to an examination table and left in the hands of a group of green uniformed soldiers.
Once there he had been submitted to a battery of tests. The ones they applied to his brain, were the ones causing the dizziness. None of them spoke to him and no one answered his questions.
The tests went on for hours. At times Sester was so tired that he fell asleep. They always woke him up. For some reason he needed to be awake for the tests.
A brown uniformed soldier entered the room. "The shuttle is here, sir," he reported to the leader of the green uniformed soldiers.
"Good. Take him." Two of the green uniformed soldiers unstrapped Sester from the table, reapplied the restraints and led him out to the waiting shuttle.