Reya felt like she was being shaken apart. She opened her eyes. For a moment she was disoriented. She was inside a capsule of some kind and there were instrument lights blinking at her.
"No!" she shouted out her anger. She was overwhelmed by the sudden realization of where she was and why.
Tears started streaming down her face.
Damn you, Argus!
She wished she could turn the life capsule around but there was no hope of that. Reya hit the sides of the capsule in anger and frustration.
Why, Argus? Why?
She knew why. He had told her before he did something to render her unconscious.
"I love you."
She could still hear his voice; could hear the love and sadness in his tone. She could still remember the touch of his lips on hers as he kissed her.
I should have known then what you were going to do.
She didn't know how she was going to go on without him. It felt as if her heart was being torn apart.
"I need you to go down with the others. They will need someone like you." It was his last request.
I think I always knew it would end this way. We both knew, thought Reya.
Reya saw that the landing indicators were now on. She didn't know if she could go on without Argus but she knew she had to.
I will do this. For you. I will take on this responsibility which was yours, she promised.
Argus watched on the main viewscreen as the Federation strike force approached.
"Information. Sensors register that the Justice is being scanned by detector beams."
What will their first move be?
Cally, Jenna, Vila and Ture were observing a pitched gun fight from a safe distance. They could see numerous people with rifles and handguns shooting at each other from various covered positions.
"Those do not look like the invaders," said Cally. None of the combatants they were observing wore the invader's uniforms.
"No. They don't, do they?" asked Jenna.
"Aren't those Federation Security troops? Why are they fighting each other?" asked Vila with a puzzled tone.
"There are many civilians with weapons as well," said Ture.
"Yes, those look like the projectile weapons the invaders were using," said Cally.
"I don't get it. Are the invaders gone or not?" asked Vila.
A projectile ricocheted against a wall near them.
"I thought you said this would be a safe distance," said Vila with alarm.
"There's bound to be some random fire which reaches us," said Jenna.
"That's not my idea of safe," said Vila with indignation.
"We need to get closer to take a good look at who these people are," said Jenna.
"I knew you were going to say that," said Vila. He was clearly not happy and getting not happier by the minute.
In his life capsule, Avon activated the landing controls. He noted that his module was slowly veering away from the other two.
That's all I need.
By now the Federation ships were close enough for visual identification. Argus had not bothered to ask Zen to identify them. It didn't really matter what they were. It only mattered that they were here.
Argus recognized them as mainly Starburst class pursuit ships. Built for range. It made sense that these had been the ones sent.
He was ready. Only two connections had to be made for it to be over.
So far there had been no communication from the strike group. He wondered why. They had been within communications range for quite awhile. He was not about to contact them. He wanted them to initiate the first move.
"Jenna. I think Vila should go back to the residence. He is still injured. It would not be wise for him to get closer to the conflict in case we run into difficulties," said Cally. There was a very meaningful look in Cally's eyes.
Jenna nodded. "You're right." She turned to Vila. "Vila, why don't you go back and wait for us? Can you manage that on your own?"
There was a look of relief in Vila's eyes. "I can manage." Jenna, Cally and Ture headed closer to the battle as Vila watched them go.
The Federation ships were right on the Justice now. They were so close that Argus could see the identifying markings along their hulls.
"Zen, what is the status of the ships on the viewscreen? Are their shields or weapons active?"
"Battle computers report shields and weapons are not active on ships within close scanner range."
They probably don't consider the Justice a threat. Their scanners must have told them we were harmless.
There had still been no communication from the ships. Argus was puzzled.
The lead ships went past the Justice. They're going to surrounding the ship.
The remaining ships also went past, on their way into orbit around Papos. Except for one. This one positioned itself directly in front of the Justice.
That's right. At this point it wouldn't take more than one ship.
Argus waited. He hated waiting but there was not much else he could do. With the Justice in the condition that it was, the sole action he was capable of would be his last.
He had no wish to hurry it, not unless he knew if there were really no other options available.
Argus smiled wryly. He remembered Sester saying something about options. It seemed like a long time ago.
Let's see if I can create my own options.
His body was beginning to remind him that what he needed most was rest. And lots of drugs.
I keep reminding Avon to not forget his. I should really add a reminder for myself.
He continued waiting.
This is getting very anticlimactic if they don't do something soon.
Argus was in a strange mood. Impending death always gave him an odd sense of peace but now he also had other emotions.
He had been trying to avoid thinking of Reya, but he couldn't help himself. He knew that she should have regained consciousness already. He didn't want to think how she must be feeling right now.
I wish we could be together. I wish it didn't have to end like this.
When Vila made it back to their hiding place, Allren seemed very excited.
"What's wrong?" asked Vila immediately. His danger sense was always active.
"Argus made contact earlier. He said he's sending Avon, Reya and Sester down in life capsules. He gave us coordinates."
"Avon? Where? When?" asked Vila.
"It sounded like right away. That was almost twenty minutes ago. They should be landing any minute now." Allren asked, "Where are the others?"
"They're taking a closer look at the battle," said Vila.
"And you didn't think it was a good idea?"
Allren smiled. "I wouldn't have either. That just leaves the two of us then."
"You can barely stand," pointed out Vila. "And I'm not carrying you."
"Alright, then that just leaves you."
"I'm injured. I won't be able to help much. Maybe we should wait for the others," said Vila instinctively. Even as he said it, Vila was already feeling uncomfortable.
I can't just leave Avon. He can't take care of himself yet. The commander can probably take care of him. But what if they run into trouble? What if someone sees their capsules come down and is waiting for them? But what can I do?
Vila felt like there was a battle being waged inside himself.
Avon needs me. He'll probably never admit it but he does.
Vila smiled. He's going to hate it.
"Tell the Jenna and Cally where I went," said Vila as he headed towards the door.
Argus did not have to wait long.
"Information. Communication being received."
"Put it on the main viewscreen Zen."
The vidscreen changed from a starfield view to that of a beautiful, elegant woman in a white outfit. She had a smile on her face.
"Where is Avon?"