"Sester, go and get Reya. Tell her to release the tunnel link. Then I need her on weapons up here." Argus was sitting at Jenna's main pilot station.
Sester raced out.
"Psychostrategists may not crawl, but this one does seem to be able to run," said Avon sarcastically. He was sitting at his operations station. "He may survive working for Servalan after all."
"Can you stop being hard on him until after this crisis?" asked Argus.
"Don’t worry about him. He's a survivor," said Avon.
"We're nothing alike." Avon tested the response of the various controls on his panel.
"You seem to be not like a lot of people, Avon." Argus was doing the same at his pilot's console.
"Do not try to psycho-analyze me, Argus. You're not very good at it."
"Just giving you my observations."
"Observe something else."
"Do you think you can keep up with the calculations?" Argus tested the movement of the manual flight controls.
"You think that my mind is still compromised?"
"No. I just don't think you're a machine."
Avon smiled ironically. "I know many people who would disagree with you on that. Do you think you can handle the piloting? You're not as experienced or skilled as Jenna is."
"I'm well aware of that. Fortunately it doesn't take precision flying to do this."
"Let's hope not."
Sester came back onto the flight deck. He was out of breath from running.
"Reya is releasing the tunnel now. She will be here when she's done," he reported.
"You do realize that you don't have to run," said Avon dryly. "We haven't started yet."
Sester smiled wryly. "I suppose not."
Ever since Sester had made his decision, everything seemed to have taken on an additional urgency.
"I need you to keep an eye on shield status and the energy banks," said Argus, pointing to the bank of panels directly in front of Avon's station. Sester nodded and crossed over to the indicated spot.
Once he was in position, Sester asked Avon, "Have you calculated our chances of surviving this?"
"There isn't one," said Avon.
"You mean no chance? I thought you said that our chances are the same as those you faced at Star One?"
"But you survived that."
Sester was certain that Avon was playing games with him.
"You mean you survived against your calculated odds?"
"Against the calculated logical odds, yes."
"Before we begin this suicidal endeavor, would this help?" asked Reya as she stood at the top of the flight deck steps. She just arrived and had heard the last part of their conversation.
She held out a small control unit as she came down the steps and handed it to Argus.
"What is this?" asked Argus.
"It looks like a remote unit of some kind," remarked Avon as he looked over.
They all regarded the small device with interest.
"Yes, it's a remote detonator," explained Reya. "When I saw what they were doing to you Argus, I thought you might like a little revenge. So I rigged charges in key places on their command ship. It should make a nice satisfying explosion."
"You saw? Everything?" asked Argus uncomfortably.
"Yes," she told him. I'm sorry.
"How large of an explosion?" asked Avon.
Reya turned to him and replied. "It should effectively take out the entire ship."
They all looked at her with astonishment.
"This is your idea of a little revenge?" asked Sester.
"Reya, would it be large enough to take out any ships around it?" asked Argus.
"I set charges along their entire power distribution grid. The explosion should affect any ships in close proximity to it," replied Reya. "But they would have to be very close. Within two hundred spatials at most."
"Remind me never to cross you," Avon said to Reya.
"I was very angry," said Reya.
"We will have to adjust our tactics," said Argus.
"What do you have in mind?" asked Avon.
"I was thinking of a chase pattern in order to group as many of them as possible. Can you compensate?" asked Argus.
"We will save our shots for the remaining ships."
"This may not work. They must have proximity sensors which prevent the kind of close grouping we need," said Avon.
"It will depend on the maneuverability of their ships," said Argus.
"Well, let's hope they're slow," said Avon.
"Does this give you what you need then?" asked Reya.
"You have given us a much greater chance," said Avon. "Even if it only takes out the command ship. Losing that one would be a great psychological blow to the others."
"Have I said how wonderful you are lately?" Argus asked Reya as he took her in his arms and kissed her. It no longer mattered to him how she looked. He knew that this might be their last chance.
Without thinking, Reya immediately responded to him. For a few moments, it seemed as if there was nothing else except each other.
All too soon their mutual sense of duty reasserted itself and they reluctantly let each other go.
"I would kiss you as well, but I'm afraid Argus would dismember me," Avon said to Reya.
"And don't look at me, I would actually like to survive this encounter," said Sester.
Both men were trying not to smile.
"You're just jealous," said Argus.
"Amazing, he's finally figured it out," said Sester.
"He is slow sometimes," said Avon.
Reya decided to nip this in the bud. She turned to the two men, "Do the two of you actually have a strategy or do you just plan to entertain the enemy with your comedy routine?"
With various responses of "Sorry, Commander" and suppressed smiles from Avon and Sester, the three men turned serious again.
Argus touched Reya's arm briefly, "Weapons control, Reya."
She nodded and went over to Vila's neutron blaster station.
Argus instructed, "Zen, battle and navigation computers on-line."
"Confirmed. Battle and navigation computers on-line."
"Have the battle computers calculate all probable vectors of ships currently in visual scanner range until further notice and route them to Avon's terminal."
Avon began working quickly on the panel in front of him as the data began streaming into his station.
Reya knew what the two men were about to do. It was something which had never been attempted before. It was something Avon had developed while watching Argus during the challenges on the invaders' ship.
In physical combat, Argus's strength was predicting strike patterns and choreographing opponent positions. These abilities were what kept him alive during the challenges in the cell. But when applied to space combat, they were useless.
Shortly Avon said, "Additional vectors calculated."
Argus's abilities were useless, unless someone could provide him with the probabilities and vector strengths of ship opponents rather than human opponents.
Argus looked down at his own panel. "I see them. These are much better."
Reya knew that the battle computers provided such information. But battle computers were logical machines, hampered by a lack of creativity. If they had been asked to recommend a course of action, she knew that they would have suggested that they surrender. They did not possess the insightful genius which Avon possessed; the genius to be able to calculate the vectors which the computers could not imagine. Vectors which would give them the edge to win against overwhelming odds.
"Let's show our 'friends' what their real odds are like, shall we?" Argus smiled.
Reya remembered this smile. It was not the kind of smile he would direct at her. It was a smile reserved for those he was about to destroy.
"Zen, position us at grid reference D-10272. Speed standard by two," said Argus.
"That got their attention," said Avon. "They're powering up shields and weapons."
"Avon, you're the one they consider a legend. Go ahead and make contact," said Argus.
"Zen, establish a communications channel with the command ship and route to main viewscreen," said Avon.
"Confirmed. Channel established," Zen responded.
Avon hesitated then looked over at Sester, he nodded. Sester crossed over to stand by Avon.
"This is Kerr Avon. I believe you should be looking for me."
After a few moments, the main viewscreen showed a man in a blue uniform.
The blue uniformed leader did not look pleased.
"You will surrender immediately and submit to being boarded," he demanded.
Avon smiled. It was the kind of superior smile which Vila would have immediately responded to with a biting remark; under his breath of course.
"Let's not waste our time with threats we both know will not work," said Avon dryly.
Reya watched Avon as he spoke. She knew his reputation and was aware of his current weaknesses; but she also knew that Argus trusted him.
"I noticed that you did not question how we were able to escape and regain control of the ship," said Sester.
"You must have had help," said the leader.
"Yes. But what kind of help?" said Avon. "You searched this ship. Did you find anyone onboard?"
"Is it feasible that someone could have hidden from you for so long?" Avon asked cynically. "What are the other possibilities? How do you think we escaped?"
Very clever, Avon, thought Reya appreciatively.
"Would you like some help with those possibilities?" Sester asked the man on the viewscreen. "You expressed an interest in how psychostrategy works. Shall I give you an example?"
Avon addressed Sester, "He may not like what you have to say. I know I wouldn't."
"You never like anything I say," said Sester.
"That much is true."
They could see that the man on the screen was starting to get angry.
Reya suppressed a smile when she realized what the two men were doing. It was a deadly version of their comedy routine.
Avon asked the blue leader on the vidscreen, "Do you remember what I told you on our first meeting? That it would be a more useful test if you gave me a ship?"
The blue leader frowned and replied, "Yes."
"You have been testing all of us in order to make a decision. The decision on whether your people should invade this galaxy."
The man on the screen hesitated then said, "That is correct."
"That wasn't a question," said Avon with a cynical smile.
"What do you want?" the leader asked. They could all see that he was suspicious.
"It is not a matter of what I want. It's a matter of what your people need from you," said Avon.
The blue leader laughed, "You are the ones with the need."
"Is that why you have been testing us?" asked Sester. He could sound just as satirical as Avon. "Because we are the ones with the need?"
The man stopped laughing.
"Your people need you to understand," said Avon. His voice was cold but reasonable.
"You have not found out what you wanted to know, have you?" asked Sester. "Even after all the testing. Do you want to know why?"
"I doubt if they would understand even if you explained it," Avon remarked to Sester.
"Perhaps given time," said Sester.
"Which they do not have," said Avon.
The blue leader said angrily, "Stop!"
"I think it's time to show you what your real odds are against us," said Avon finally.
"You do not have the minefield to give you an advantage this time," pointed out the blue leader.
"I do not need a minefield this time. Not when I have Argus and Sester. We are going to show you why humanity will be a dangerous minefield for you, if you chose to invade."
"Avon," interrupted Sester. "Remember to leave them one ship."
Avon turned to look at the psychostrategist. Sester nodded.
Avon turned back to the screen, "I will permit you one ship. You can remove one ship from the conflict. Not yours. This ship will be responsible for carrying this message back to your people once it is finished."
The blue leader looked outraged. "How dare you make conditions?!"
"You know why I dare," said Avon coldly. "I will not make this offer again."
Avon closed the comm link. "Will it work?" he asked.
"There is a fifty percent chance," said Sester. "It depends on whether his responsibility is more important to him than his pride. And how much in awe his people are of you. They do not understand what you are doing. They do not like it when they do not understand. I imagine there are some heated discussions going on right now. Fear can do interesting things to people's rationality. Especially if they do not possess the ability you and Argus do when faced with danger."
"And if they don’t?" asked Argus.
"Then we are still better off than before. The fact that they are taking this long to discuss it already works in our favour."
A ship began moving out of position. It was moving out of the field of battle.
Avon began to work quickly on the panel in front of him.
"And now we have six," said Argus. "Very nicely done gentlemen."
Sester nodded. "I leave the others to the three of you."
"Avon?" asked Argus.
"New vectors calculated," said Avon. "Sending."
"Good." As Argus absorbed the information, he was visualizing himself as the Justice and each ship as the opponent.
He quickly made his own determinations on the best possible first move.
"With the explosives and one less ship, how are our chances now?" asked Sester.
"Three to one," replied Avon distractedly. He was making some additional calculations.
"Those are much better odds," said Sester.
"Three to one for making an effective point," clarified Avon as he finished his calculations. "Greater than zero for surviving."
Reya had been watching the interaction between Argus and Avon with interest. One was her lover; she trusted Argus with her life. The other she had only known for a short while and despite any difficulties Avon may have, Reya found she was starting to trust him too.
"What do you think they're doing up there?" Vila asked the woman who was standing beside him.
"I don't know, Vila," said Cally.
They were both looking up into the night sky, from the window of their hiding place.
"I imagine they are preparing for battle," she told him.
"But there's a whole invasion fleet up there," said Vila.
"Yes. That's likely," said Cally. Her voice was filled with sadness.
"How could they win?" said Vila.
"I don't know, Vila," said Cally. She could not think of anything to say which would help calm Vila's fears; when she felt the same herself.
Vila was glad that he was not on the ship right now. He had always hated facing dangers which got people killed; especially if that people included himself. But part of him also wished he could help.
I wish there was a lock I could open that would fix this.
Vila looked down at his injured arm. He had almost forgotten that he couldn't do that now.
Back during the alien conflict at Star One, Avon had been able to find ways to use the minefield to their advantage. That was how they had been able to hold out until the Federation forces arrived.
"Avon doesn't even have a minefield to help him now." Vila was very depressed.
On the Justice, all preparations were complete.
"Zen, bring up the force-wall. Activate the radiation flare shield," Argus ordered.
"Clear blasters for firing."
He took hold of the manual ship controls. "Enable manual navigation."
On the screen they could see the remaining six ships moving to surround them. The Justice was also shifting as Argus began to counter.
Avon was bent over the panel in front of him. His face was a picture of concentration, his fingers seemed to dance over the controls; he was applying his mind to find the vectors Argus would need in order to save all of their lives.
The battle had begun.