The woman on the screen was a vision in white. Her smile lit up the screen but there was nothing friendly about her smile.
"Do you really think I'm going to tell you where Avon is, Servalan?" asked Argus.
"Drel Argus. How did you know who I am?" asked the woman on the screen.
"Avon said that you were a beautiful poisonous snake. You seem to fit the bill," said Argus.
She smiled and said, "You seem to have broken your ship.”
"Are you going to be a good space traveler and offer to help me fix it," said Argus with heavy sarcasm.
"I imagine you have the ship set to autodestruct the moment I show any interest in it."
"Correct." There was a calm resolve in his voice.
"You sound very serious about it."
"Would you like to bring your ship closer and test that seriousness, Servalan?" Argus's voice remained deadly calm.
"I don't doubt that you will do it, Commander," said Servalan.
"I'm not a Commander anymore."
"My mistake. I had forgotten. You deserted." Servalan seemed determined to get a rise out of him; to break his calm.
"I did not desert," said Argus coldly. "I quit my commission."
"Yes. I remember now. You were a coward. You ran before you could be court-martailed for killing the civilians on Zircaster."
That hit too close to the truth for Argus; even if what she said was not exactly true. His stomach twisted in guilt. His jaw tightened.
"Stop wasting your time, Servalan. I'm in no mood for your games."
"Given the condition of your ship, there is not much else you can do."
"I do not believe you came all the way out here, away from your base of power, just to play games."
"Oh but I did Commander."
The way she said this instantly made Argus suspicious. He knew that there was one person she had an obsession in playing with.
"Leave Avon alone, Servalan. Haven't you done enough to him already?"
"I only want to talk to him."
"Somehow I don't quite believe you."
"It is irrelevant what you believe because Avon is not on the ship, is he?"
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to. That must mean he is on the planet." Servalan smiled again. It was the smile of a huntress anticipating the chase. "And what shall we do with you, Commander? And your ship?"
"I told you not to call me Commander. I no longer serve the Federation. And if you make a move to take this ship, I will destroy it."
"We all serve the Federation, Commander. One way or another. You should know that."
"I'm tired of this. State your intentions."
"Such impatience, Commander." Servalan smiled; a smile calculated to annoy even more.
"Avon didn't mention that you lacked subtlety."
She laughed. "Very well. I have no intentions towards your ship. Avon is a much more valuable prize. With him, I don't need the ship."
"I thought you said that you only wanted to talk to Avon?" he said with a strong tone of cynicism.
I cannot let Servalan take Avon.
"It will be different this time," said Servalan.
"Avon also did not mention that you were delusional."
"Now who is lacking subtlety?"
"As you insist on pointing out, I am ex-Federation military. I am not concerned with subtleties."
"No you wouldn't be."
Argus realized something. "You never said what your intentions are towards me."
"Oh, didn't I? I'm so sorry." Somehow when Servalan said these words it had the opposite effect. "I have no intentions towards you but I am afraid that my people do. Central Security seems to think that you know the names of the top level Federation military officials who have helped the rebel alliance. I don't know where they got that idea."
Argus's jaw tightened. "Are you trying to offer me the same choice that you gave to Avon?"
"No. I'm not. I just wanted to point out how easy it would be, given your character."
Avon hit the switch causing the life capsule hatch to spring open. Smells of woods and the myriad of odours, which could only come from a natural environment, filled the open capsule. Avon had never noticed how many different smells there could be. It was almost nauseating.
Now that he had a little time to examine his environment in a calm atmosphere, he noticed a vague awareness of the panic he once felt. His mind had been too preoccupied lately to pay any attention to his surroundings.
Mixed with the smells there were also many sounds; some natural and some definitely not.
Avon listened carefully.
Woodland sounds of wind rustling through trees. Indistinct animal noises indicating life of various forms. He was not interested in these.
It was the unnatural sounds of humanity which piqued his interest and instantly put him on the alert.
It isn't safe here. Someone must have spotted the capsules coming down. Must find the others.
He climbed out of the life module and nearly fell as his compromised knee nearly gave out. Avon grimaced in pain and stifled a groan. He clung onto the side of the capsule as he righted himself.
Avon looked up into the clear sky. There was no sign of the Justice. From orbital distance, the explosion would have been visible along with any debris trails.
It’s possible that the ship is still up there. In which case, Argus failed to destroy it and the Federation has the ship. Or something else is happening.
Avon dismissed the first possibility. Although he had not known Argus long, he knew that Argus would never have allowed the Federation to take the ship.
This leaves the other possibility. Something has happened. I must find a way to contact the ship. But first I must find the other life capsules.
He looked around. There was no sign of the other two capsules. He remembered that his capsule seemed to veer slightly off the trajectory of the others as they were landing. Using what he remembered of the angle of the trajectory and the speed of the capsules, he began working out the possible direction and search radius.
Avon reached in and took out ORAC.
Too bad ORAC isn't functioning. A little matter reduction could be very useful right now.
ORAC had been place in a soft case with a strap to be worn across the shoulder. Avon adjusted ORAC into a comfortable position across his back before removing the equipment satchel from the capsule. He slowly put weight on his weak knee and grimaced in pain.
This is going to be slow.
He set out to look for the other two capsules.
When her life capsule hit the ground with a soft thud, Reya wasn't sure she wanted to get out. She wasn't sure she wanted to open the hatch. Opening it would mean letting in reality.
It was a reality she didn't know if she could live with. Safe in the confines of the capsule, she could fool herself that Argus was still on the ship instead of being scattered into a million atoms across the darkness of space.
I cannot believe you are gone. Not yet. You still seem so alive to me.
Reya touched her hands to her face; the tears had dried on her cheek. Physically she felt numb.
There was a surreal quality to everything; the numbness made it all seem unreal.
She remembered her promise. It had been Argus’s final wish to see the others safe. It was why he had stayed onboard. He had wanted to give them all a chance.
I will not let you die in vain. It was the only thing left she could do for him. She could not let him down.
Reya reached out and flipped the lever to open the hatch. It swished open.
There were too many people outside her capsule. They seemed startled by the opening of the hatch and immediately pointed laser rifles in her direction.
Maybe it would have been better to leave it closed, she thought wryly.
One of them indicated for her to get out. "Slowly."
The people surrounding her capsule were a mixed group; mainly civilians, plus two wearing Federation uniforms of lower rank.
None of them helped her as she got out. They all kept their weapons trained on her.
Some of them were opening another capsule. It was Sester.
"I think this one's dead," said the one who opened the capsule.
"No he's not, I think he's still breathing," said another who was examining the man in the capsule.
"It can't be very much. He seems pretty dead."
"We were ordered to find whoever came down in the capsules and bring them in for questioning. I don't think you can question a dead man."
"I guess we should get a med team here then."
The man examining Sester used a hand communicator and requested a medical assistance team.
Reya carefully kept her raised hands in full view of her captors even as she studied her surroundings. Her mind had automatically gone into tactical mode; trying to assess the situation, the odds of escape and possible avenues of escape. It was an instinctive ability and only took a few seconds.
At least they’re going to take care of Sester.
Reya had been worried about him. She knew that he was going to die unless he got help soon. He was lucky that he had survived the journey down.
It may be best right now to let them help him. But where is Avon?
Reya could not see a third capsule.
One of the men wearing a Federation uniform said to several others nearby, “You three, keep searching. There should be another one of these capsules nearby.”
Reya instantly reacted. She grabbed one of the laser rifles from a guard who was standing too close to her, and began using it as a club. She targeted the three men nearby who were supposed to look for Avon’s capsule.
It was so quick and unexpected that all three would-be searchers were unconscious and on the ground before the others could react. Without stopping she headed towards Sester’s capsule, weaving as she went as the others began shooting at her.
She shouted loudly, “Stay away from him. Stay away!”
The man in Federation uniform, who had been giving the orders before ordered loudly, “Don’t kill her! We need her for questioning.”
By using the rifle as a club, a non-lethal weapon, Reya had judged these captors would be more inclined to not kill her.
She reached the Sester’s capsule and began attacking ones who were there. The others reached her and it took half a dozen of them to finally disable her.
They held her down with her arms twisted behind her while another one secured her wrists with a set of restraints. Only then did she stop struggling. They dragged her to her feet and kept a careful watch over her this time.
It took awhile before things were settled enough before a search party was sent out to look for the other capsule again.
Reya hoped that Avon had been within earshot and heard her warning to stay away. She hoped that she had bought him enough time to hide or to get away.