Jenna, Vila, Cally and the two tech mercenaries, Allren and Ture, were gathered around Allren's bed again. After acquiring the necessary equipment for Allren to study, they were finally ready to contact Zen.
Allren made a final adjustment. "That should be it. Are you ready?"
"Go ahead," said Jenna.
Allren pressed a control. He nodded his head to Jenna.
"Zen. This is Jenna Stannis. Confirm my identity and respond along this relay channel."
"Jenna Stannis voice print identity confirmed."
They all reacted excitedly.
"I never thought I would be so happy to hear the sound of a computer," said Vila.
"Zen, is Argus available for communication?"
"There has been no communication access with Drel Argus since disruption by an advanced EMP wave."
"That must be the same one that affected us down here," said Ture.
"But I thought an EMP wave is supposed to knock out all technology? Why is Zen still functioning," asked Vila.
"It may be that the technology on your ship is not as susceptible to EMP disruption," said Allren.
"Zen is that true?" asked Jenna.
"It is partially true. Drel Argus also performed a manual shutdown prior to the EMP wave impacting the ship. This reduced damage to the ship's systems."
"Zen, are the autorepair units functioning?"
"Autorepair function is currently at fifteen percent of capacity. Information. There have been unauthorized repairs on the ship's systems by intruders."
"Intruders?" exclaimed Vila with alarm. This was what they had all been afraid of.
"Identify the intruders, Zen," said Cally. "This is Cally."
"Voiceprint identity of Cally is confirmed. There is no information available on the identity of the intruders."
"Is there any indication whether Argus or Reya are still alive or where they are being held?" said Jenna.
"There is no information," reported Zen.
Cally asked, "Zen, have the intruders been able to gain access to your computer systems?"
"Negative. The intruders have been unable to interface with this control unit. Attempts to bypass security protocols set up by Kerr Avon have been unsuccessful."
"Well, thank the heavens for that," said Jenna. "Zen, report status of essential ship's systems."
For the next few minutes, Zen gave them a brief report.
"Well, at least the engines and life support are functioning. And the navigation computers. That means that once we get back on the ship, we can try to escape," said Jenna.
"Yes, but the teleport is still out," said Vila. "We can't even get back on the ship yet."
"That's not our only problem," said Jenna. "Our teleport bracelets don't work anymore either."
"How are we going to get back on the ship then?" asked Vila.
"Do you really think you should be moving around?" asked Avon.
"I'm fine," said Argus. He attempted to get up in order to prove his point; grunting at the effort and grimacing in pain.
"Yes, you look and sound like you're fine," said Avon sarcastically.
"I do not like sitting around doing nothing," said Argus. He tried to get up again.
"I'm sure that our hosts are more than willing to send in some challengers for you to beat up. If you want some exercise," said Avon.
"That's not funny," said Argus.
"Neither is watching you trying to get up," said Avon.
Sester watched this interaction with amusement.
The cell door slid open. All three men turned towards it, they had not been expecting anyone. Normally during a sleep cycle, they were left alone.
A red uniformed technician entered the cell.
"Reya!" Argus exclaimed as he recognized who it was.
"Argus." She nodded to Avon and Sester.
"Reya?" Now that Argus had a good look at her, he wasn't quite certain.
"Yes, it's me. I needed the disguise to infiltrate the ship." She felt very self-conscious at her male appearance now that she was facing Argus.
"You look strange." Argus's first reaction had been to hug her, but her masculine appearance made him uncomfortable.
"Thank you for that assessment," she said dryly. "Do you have any other helpful comments?"
"No?" He said with uncertainty. The look on his face indicated that he had no idea how to take her appearance.
"Don't worry, it's not permanent," she reassured him. Reya wondered if he was feeling uncomfortable because of what the bio-tech had been doing to him.
For some reason, whenever Argus was with her, words did not come that easily. He turned to Avon and Sester, "You see, I told you she would come to rescue us."
There was great pride in his voice. All feelings of pain and discomfort were ignored at his joy in seeing her.
"You knocked out the guards in the surveillance booth?" Avon asked Reya.
"Yes. And the ones in the corridors along here. I've hidden them in a supply room. It's a sleep cycle right now so they shouldn't be discovered until their shift change. But the sooner we get back on your ship, the better."
"I take it the ship has been repaired then?" asked Avon.
"Most of the systems. The enemy techs did it. I had to wait until they had fixed enough of the systems so that we would not be helpless when we do regain the ship. That's what took me so long. Other than this command ship, there are four other of their ships out there. Fortunately they haven't been able to override your Zen computer or I may have had to take more drastic measures. Here, take these," Reya handed each man several caplets.
"What are these?" asked Avon.
"Pain blockers and adrenaline pills. I thought you might need them. I can't carry all of you out of here," said Reya. "I have also set up large sonovapor canisters on the Justice to knockout the enemy soldiers onboard. But I need one of you to instruct Zen to release it throughout the entire ship."
"That was excellent work," said Avon.
"I told you she's good," said Argus. The pride was still evident in his voice. He couldn't stop grinning.
"So you did," said Avon. He looked at Reya with interest; he was beginning to see why Argus was so fascinated by her. She appeared to be a woman with great intelligence and ability. Someone very formidable in her own right and not given to overly emotional displays. He was impressed with her foresight.
"She is impressive," agreed Sester as he put both of the pills in his mouth.
"She is, isn't she?" said Argus proudly as he did the same with his.
"My condolences," said Avon. He identified the pills in his hands before he swallowed his. They were familiar ones.
"What is that supposed to mean?" asked Argus angrily.
There was a hint of a smile on Avon's face. Argus scowled at him but didn't pursue it. Now was not the time.
Instead he asked, "Are the weapons and shields systems operational now, Reya?"
"Yes. Those were the last ones I was waiting for," said Reya. "Although I cannot guarantee how well the enemy techs were able to repair it. They seemed quite confused by the alien nature of your ship's technology. And I did not have access to your Zen computer to ask for a status."
"With access to your ship, as well as weapons and shields, this gives us more powerful options," said Sester.
"Agreed," said Avon.
"We might be able to send a more decisive message now," said Sester.
"Are you able to expand on your psych-strategy and build a stronger end scenario?" Avon asked Sester.
Sester smiled. "My strategies always make provisions for the unexpected."
"Here put these on," said Reya as she handed each of them a red uniform.
She said, "I'll check that the corridors are still clear. I'll be back in a few minutes."
All three began to strip off their clothes and put on the uniforms. It took longer than they thought because none of them was in good condition and it was too early for the drugs to have taken effect yet. Argus had the most difficulties though he refused any offers of help.
Reya returned just as Avon and Sester were putting on the final touches. Argus had barely managed to get his pants off.
"Do you want some help?" Reya asked Argus. She really did not want to embarrass him but she knew how stubborn and proud he was when it came to asking for help.
She added, "We really need to get out of here as soon as possible."
Argus was about to refuse but Reya knew that by adding the sense of urgency, he would rather be embarrassed than let them down. He nodded.
She carefully helped Argus into the red tech uniform, trying to be as gentle as possible.
"She's very helpful, isn't she," Sester remarked to Avon.
Even though this was the first time Sester had met Reya, he could immediately identify that there was something very deep between her and Argus. He was fascinated; he had never seen two people so hopelessly in love with each other and who were also so totally unprepared to handle it.
"Yes, he needs it more," said Avon dispassionately. He tested his weight on his weak knee while Sester watched with concern. It was still painful but much less so now.
"I do not!" said Argus.
"Are you three quite finished?" asked Reya. This kind of male bravado applied to her relationship with Argus made her feel uncomfortable. "Or do you want me to wait outside until you're done?"
All three men looked at her sheepishly.
"You're right," said Avon.
"My apologies," Sester said to her.
"And you?" Reya asked Argus challengingly as she finished helping him.
"Lead the way, Commander," Argus said meekly. He realized that Reya felt uncomfortable; he had not intended to do that to her. She had a tendency to go on the offensive when she felt vulnerable or exposed. Their relationship always made her feel that way. She still didn't know how to handle it.
Reya said, "Let's go." She went to the hatch and checked the corridor.
"It's clear," she said as she led the way out through the exit.
"I see what you mean," Sester said to Avon. The psychostrategist had an amused look on his face as he positioned himself so that Avon could lean on him if he needed to. Avon looked at him coldly and started moving towards the hatch on his own.
Sester sighed and followed after him.
"How would you both like a black eye?" said Argus as he brought up the rear.
"You might be able to take one of us on but in your condition, I doubt you could tackle us both," said Avon over his shoulder as he and Sester exited the cell.
"How would you like to find out?" challenged Argus as he followed them out. He closed the hatch after him.