Argus woke with a start and immediately looked at the main viewscreen. It was still displaying the same star field. He looked at the military grade chronometer on his wrist.
He had almost forgotten that it had been damaged during the EMP wave. For some reason he had never taken it off.
"Zen, what is the current Federation military time?" asked Argus as he absently slipped the chronometer from his wrist.
"Current Federation military time is zero nine fifty two."
It was only an hour since the last time he checked. He sighed heavily. Servalan had cut the vid feed on him four hours ago but there was no point in getting any more rest. He kept expecting Servalan or one of her minions to wake him up. Besides there were things he needed to do before Servalan made an appearance again. He couldn't afford more rest.
Argus stretched and got up. He grimaced. His ribs were still painful.
"Thank you, Zen. Any ship movements in sensor range within the past hour?"
"Negative. No ship movements within detector range."
Argus grabbed a nutrient bar he had taken from the dining area earlier and bit into it.
"I want a complete status report on all ship's systems routed to my terminal."
"Confirmed. Information is now available at requested station.
Argus began to scroll through the report. It was good. The status was at least seventy percent on all major systems.
"What are you doing, Madame President? What devious game are you playing?"
He could not believe that Servalan had allowed him time to repair the ship. From what Avon and the others had told him of Servalan, she had an ulterior motive for everything she did. He was not about to let her win.
There was a series of buzzes at the door; a coded sequence. Jenna opened the door and one of the rebels entered.
This was the sixth place they had retreated in the last two days in order to avoid the Federation sweeper teams. They were all tired from the constant stress and the need to run.
"We have to go," said the rebel who had just come in.
"Not again," groaned Vila. "I just got comfortable."
Cally said, "Jenna, we can't keep running. There must be another solution. Avon will not be able to keep this up much longer."
Avon was seated on a bench and was leaning tiredly against the wall. His face was pale. He said, "You don't have to worry about me, Cally. I can manage."
"You heard him. He said he can manage," said Jenna coolly. Her attitude had not changed towards him. "You had better be right, Avon. None of us are going to carry you. Get up."
"I'll give you an adrenaline shot first," said Cally as she reached into the equipment satchel she was holding.
"No. We should save it for when we really need it," Avon told her.
Cally thought he needed it now but the hard and determined look on his face stopped her. She nodded reluctantly.
Avon got up slowly from the bench, grimacing at the pain from his knee. It had gotten progressively worse over the last two days. Cally handed him the makeshift cane.
"You don't need that. I've got something better," said Vila. He reached behind him and pulled out something from the corner. Vila came over and handed it to Avon.
It was a walking stick.
"How did you manage to get this?" asked Avon as he accepted the cane. He studied it. It was a dull black metallic material that did not reflect any light. Etched into the handle was a depiction of an ancient mythological creature; it resembled a white dragon.
"Trade secret," said Vila with a grin. "Just say thank you."
Avon nodded. "Thank you, Vila." He tested his weight on it.
"How very nice," said Jenna sarcastically. "Maybe you won't be that much of a liability after all. Though I doubt it."
Avon turned towards her with a complete lack of expression on his face. He had stopped reacting to her baiting comments. It was not worth the effort. He could not afford to expend the little energy he had in pointless verbal battles.
"Why are you letting her get away with saying these things to you?" Vila asked him. "You never would have in the old days." He refused to accept an Avon who no longer seemed able to defend himself.
"If you haven't noticed, these aren't the old days anymore," said Avon.
"No. You made sure of that," Jenna said to Avon. She addressed Vila, "Don't waste your time on him, Vila. He's not worth it anymore. If he ever was."
Avon stared at her for a moment. He was tired of her continued barbs which went nowhere.
"If you insist on pursuing this, I doubt you will like the outcome," said Avon.
"Is that meant to be a threat?" asked Jenna sarcastically.
"No. Threats are more your department," said Avon scornfully. "But unless you want these to be our last words, I suggest we get out of here first."
The rebel who had just come in said urgently, "We don't have time for this, Jenna. We have to go now!"
Jenna nodded. "Alright." She turned to Avon, "This is not over."
"I didn't think it would be," said Avon.
Sester was finally recovered enough to be released from the care of the medical attendants.
"Where is Reya?" he asked when Dayto came to speak to him again.
"Is that her name? She never did tell us," said Dayto. "She must love you very much. She went through a lot in order to protect you."
"Where is she?" demanded Sester again.
"Such impatience. I promised that she wouldn't be harmed as long as you cooperated. You should learn to trust me."
"You hold all the advantages; can I afford to trust you?"
Dayto laughed cynically. "Don't worry, you'll be able to see her soon enough. For the time being. I just wanted to remind you of our agreement."
"You've reminded me. Now where is she?"
"The guards will take you there. You'll be given some time with her. But I expect you to start working on a plan against the Federation tomorrow."
"Of course," said Sester.
"Remember, I'll be watching you. Both of you. If I find that either one of you is planning anything or if I find anything suspicious from either one of you, I will kill her. There will be no questions first."
"So we both know where we stand."
"As you said, I hold all the advantages. But I know the reputation of the psychostrategists. I know it's not enough to hold all the advantages. You also need to know that I am very serious in getting what I want. There will be no mercy."
Sester had a disturbing thought. What would happen if you find out that Reya and I are not what I have told you? Would you still consider her enough leverage on me to keep her alive?
The guards brought Sester to a room in the third level of the secure facility.
"Get in," gestured one of the guards.
Sester stepped through the opened doorway, the door slid closed behind him.
It was a spacious room with a large bed at one end and a sitting area with a desk at the other. Unlike the rest of the facility which was depressingly grey, this one managed to look like it was meant for habitation; though whoever had decorated it obviously had not much experience beyond prison décor. The only indication it was a prison was the door which he knew would only open for his captors and the numerous security cameras positioned around the room.
Reya had been standing by a window when he entered the room. A flash of energy across the pane indicated that it was secured by an energy barrier. She turned around and came towards him as he entered the room.
"Reya." Sester approached and put his arms around her. He could feel her body tighten and then relax; for a split second he hadn't been sure if she would accept his actions or break some part of his anatomy. He kissed her. There was no cooperation on her part but neither did she try to draw away.
"It's good to see you," there was great relief in his voice. "Are you alright?"
Reya replied, "You don't have to be careful about what you say. They only have vid security monitors. Not audio. I checked."
"That's something. It's not very intelligent of them though," replied Sester. "I was serious. How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," she told him. "You don't have to worry about me. How are your injuries?"
"Mainly healed. The interrogation division med units tend to be very efficient." Sester smiled. "You're a lot like Argus. You don’t like anyone worrying about you."
Reya's face suddenly lost all expression. Sester was still holding her; he could feel her body tense.
"What's wrong?" he asked in alarm.
"He's dead. Argus is dead." Her voice choked. Part of her refused to believe the truth. Her mind told her that it was only her heart that could not accept it.
"What happened?" he asked in shock. He had not noticed before but now he could see the sadness and pain reflected in her eyes; and a deep loneliness. Sester didn't know how he had missed it or if she had just hidden it well.
"I don't want to talk about it." She pulled away from him and walked towards the window. He followed after her.
"Is there anything I can do?" he asked. He doubted she would accept comfort from him but he wanted to do something for her.
"There's nothing you can do." Reya had her back towards him and was staring out of the window again.
"Alright." Sester's mind had many suggestions of things he could do but he knew that she didn't want any of them.
"I know that it's not a good time but later when you're ready, I need to know what happened. I have no memory before the battle."
She turned around and faced him. Sester put his arms around her again.
"Don't get any ideas," she warned him as she accepted his embrace.
"That was not my intention. But we have to keep up appearances for the monitors," he told her.
She nodded. "I'm sorry. It's just the wrong time for me to have to do this."
"I understand. I don't want you to tell me now. It can wait."
"No. It won't make much difference," she told him. No matter when she did it, she knew it would always be hard.
Reya began telling him what happened.
Sester had witnessed many forms of courage in the past week; both Avon and Argus had exhibited more than their fair share. What he was witnessing now was an emotional courage which he had never seen before. The play of emotions across Reya's face and the strength and fragility he saw there fascinated him.
She came to the end of the account. "Argus stayed onboard to activate the self-destruct manually. The rest of us came down in the life-capsules. When we landed, we were already surrounded. I don't know where Avon's capsule ended up. I haven't seen him."
Sester leaned forward and kissed her. This time she cooperated. Just a little.
Reya's description of the events had been factual and dispassionate. It had been easier to detach herself emotionally in order to give an account of events. She wasn't sure if she could have done it otherwise. It was still too hard to think about Argus. Her emotions always threatened to overwhelm her when she did.
"Thank you. I know that was hard for you," Sester told her when he pulled back. He had meant for both the account and for the kiss.
"Don’t be. You needed to know. And neither of us have a choice," said Reya.
"I didn't know I was that transparent," he said wryly.
"You're not. It wasn't hard to guess though."
He suppressed a smile and let go of her. "Have you discovered anything about this facility yet?"