[Liberator is leaving orbit around a planet.]
[Liberator Flight Deck. Tarrant is piloting, with Kyben and Soolin at their stations. Vila sits in the pit. Orac is switched on.]
TARRANT: Zen, set a course for the frontier, standard by six. I don't want to be in hostile territory any longer than I have to.
SOOLIN: There's no other space traffic in the system.
TARRANT: At the moment, there isn't. Pursuit ships are faster nowadays, so they can attack from further away.
KYBEN: But the truce should still hold, shouldn't it?
SOOLIN: That was when the universe was about to be destroyed.
TARRANT: Yes, now it's safe, there's nothing to stop the Federation reneging on the deal.
KYBEN: But Johnson gave us his word...
TARRANT: It's amazing how often people give their word when there's a gun at their head. It's whether or not they can keep their word when the gun is taken away that matters.
SOOLIN: And I thought I was cynical.
TARRANT: When was the last time you tricked your comrades into shooting unarmed prisoners?
SOOLIN: About the last time you did.
[Vila, who has been listening with a grave expression, rises and heads for the exit.]
KYBEN: Vila? Where are you going?
VILA: I want to have a word with Blake.
[The planet Tarl in space. It is a foggy white world, with no moons, further out from the sun. It is snowing over its major city. A large domed building looms on the cliffs overlooking the main settlement - its dome is marked with a swirling infinity-symbol. Inside, three black-clad guards wearing the same symbol on the backs of their uniforms, are dragging a bowed figure in a cowl through a cathedral-style chamber. Eerie music echoes through the halls. A robed man stands looking a huge version of the symbol on the wall. He holds something in his hands.]
GUARD: Lord Boorva, sire, we have Darnel.
[Boorva does not look away from the symbol.]
GUARD: He has a communication link direct to Serrus. He was using it when he was caught.
BOORVA: Has he spoken since then?
GUARD: No, sire.
BOORVA: Bring him closer.
[Boorva turns to face Darnel as he roughly dragged upwards towards the dais.]
BOORVA: Darnel? Darnel, can you hear me?
BOORVA: Who were you communicating with? The ruler of Serrus? Were you talking to Sorlai? Were you betraying us to him, Darnel?
[Darnel is silent.]
BOORVA: I sent you as an emissary to the Federation for one reason, Darnel. Not because you have a gift for diplomacy, or natural cunning but because you are loyal. And when they twisted your mind to obey them, I hoped that you of all people would be able to resist. Your loyalty is not stronger than the Federation. I misjudged you, Darnel. And I ask your forgiveness. I know they will have conditioned you not to confess, to die rather than reveal their plans, even under torture. But you might break beforehand and I must take that chance. [to the Guards] Take him away. Do whatever is necessary. He does not need to survive any longer than it takes him to reveal his secrets.
GUARD: Yes, sire. Come on, you scum, move.
[Darnel glares at Boorva, but its dragged off by the guards. He struggles to no avail.]
BOORVA: It seems it is time for desperate measures to be taken.
[Boorva opens his hands to hold a Scorpio teleport bracelet.]
[Liberator corridor. Vila crosses to a door and presses the comm-button beside it.]
BLAKE: [VO] What is it?
VILA: It's Vila.
BLAKE: [VO] I can hear that, Vila. What's wrong?
VILA: I want to have a word.
BLAKE: [VO] You can have two. Go away.
[Vila is silent for a moment.]
VILA: Fine. That does it. The word I wanted to have, Nij, was 'goodbye'.
[Scowling, Vila turns and heads down the corridor. A second later, the door opens and Blake emerges, clearly not quite awake yet and tugging on a shirt.]
BLAKE: What? Vila! Hey, where are you going?
VILA: [doesn't look back] Away.
BLAKE: Very amusing, Vila, now let's be serious...
[Vila stops and looks back at Blake.]
VILA: I am serious. I'm leaving.
BLAKE: Leaving the Liberator? Why?
VILA: If you don't know, Nij, then I better get going now.
[He turns and walks off. Blake shakes his head to clear it and jogs after him.]
BLAKE: Vila! VILA!
[Liberator flight deck. The others look up as Vila enters the chamber quickly and crosses to the pit area and starts pocketing some of the junk around there. Blake runs in.]
SOOLIN: What's going on?
BLAKE: Vila's going to desert.
KYBEN: "Desert"? Vila, what are you doing?
VILA: I'm leaving, Kyben. It's what sane, ordinary people do when presented with fatal danger - they head in the opposite direction as fast as they can. It's not safe on the Liberator.
BLAKE: Is this more drunken paranoia? Zen, status of the Liberator?
ZEN: Liberator is on course for the Federation frontier at standard by six. Estimated time of arrival, five hours and twenty three minutes. All systems are functioning normally.
[Vila crosses to the gun rack and takes out a gun and belt and proceeds to don it. The others abandon their stations and cross over to him.]
VILA: No, that's why I'm leaving, Nij.
BLAKE: Why are you calling me Nij?
VILA: It's your name, isn't it? I'd rather call you that than Blake. After all, you don't exactly take after him, do you? Nij Servalan would be a better name. You take after her, all right. Your little booby-trap was just the sort of thing she'd think up.
BLAKE: That 'little booby-trap' saved your life, Vila, and everyone else here.
SOOLIN: He's right, Vila. Without that transmitter, Smith would have killed us all without a second thought.
VILA: Since when was that a good enough reason to kill people who are unarmed?
TARRANT: We didn't KNOW they were unarmed. [glares at Blake] Our fearless leader saw fit not to tell anyone about his 'little booby-trap'.
BLAKE: We had more important things to worry about at the time.
VILA: And what about now? You were going to execute all those troopers in the hold, just flush them out into space - even when they hadn't broken the deal.
BLAKE: Smith broke it first.
VILA: Oh yeah, that justifies all of it! If you're so superior, stop blaming other people. The fact is, Nij, you were going to slaughter hundreds of people even though you knew it was wrong!
BLAKE: I didn't.
TARRANT: You were going to!
BLAKE: I said I was going to. There’s a difference.
SOOLIN: It wouldn't be the first time you'd killed a former ally like that.
[Blake looks at her, shocked at the criticism.]
BLAKE: I'm being lectured to by a professional killer now, am I? I threatened to empty the hold, and as a result we now have an ally on the inside. Between that and saving the universe, I thought I'd done a good day’s work, made a proper account of myself.
TARRANT: But you haven't, have you? You're keeping us all in the dark and expecting us to blindly obey you. We are supposed to be trying to defeat a dictatorship, not live with a different one. And let's all be honest, if you had killed the troopers, not one of us would be surprised.
[Blake looks at the others. Kyben avoids his gaze, Soolin nods sadly and Vila finishes plugging in his gun and picks up a lockpick hidden behind the dome in front of Zen.]
BLAKE: THAT is what made it convincing.
VILA: Well, I'm sick of these games, Nij. I've been on board the Liberator longer than any of the rest of you, even Orac. So, as the senior here I am asking you to tell us the truth from now on.
BLAKE: This is my ship.
VILA: Who says?
BLAKE: Avon left me in charge of it.
VILA: That's another thing. You know what happened to Avon. So tell us.
[Blake shakes his head.]
TARRANT: If you won't tell us the truth, why should we trust you?
BLAKE: Have I let you down so far?
VILA: [Thinks] Yes. Yes you have. Remember Jain? You let her down.
BLAKE: You think I wanted it to end like that?
VILA: You did leave her on that mudball bleeding to death once she got the crystal for you.
SOOLIN: He what?
VILA: Jain told me. He went back for her, but then I notice the next chance he got he let her get choked to death by some barbarians!
BLAKE: Shut up, Vila!
VILA: And then if he'd actually stuck to orders, hadn't followed us done when we were caught by the ESD, Jenna wouldn't got shot! And who was it who caused the wonderful new Federation laws that mean any time we do something, a passer by could be executed for not stopping us?
BLAKE: And just think, Vila, if you'd never been born, things could have been different! And they would have been - but they aren't. I'd have thought that after the last six years you would have understood that.
VILA: Since I met you, Nij, Roj Blake died. And Dayna. And Jenna. And Jain. And now Avon. AVON! Now, can anyone here imagine just what could have killed Avon? Actually killed him? And not destroyed the Liberator and most of the galaxy as well?
KYBEN: It wasn't poison, suffocation, electrocution or any kind of weapons fire.
VILA: You see? Somehow, something got onto the Liberator and killed Avon without leaving a mark on him. It could still be here, just waiting for us.
TARRANT: You're just winding us all up, Vila...
VILA: Am I? Go on then, Nij. [folds arms] Put me straight. Explain what really happened.
BLAKE: What do you want me to say, Vila? That we're all safe and sound on this ship? We're not. Not while every pursuit ship in the galaxy is after us. Not while the Federation exists. Not while we are mortal. Now, I have kept all of you alive, haven't I? But I can't make you invincible. I would do anything if it brought Jenna back, if somehow Jain could survive. And I miss Avon too, believe it or not. But he is dead. We have to accept it. And he left me in charge.
TARRANT: We only have your word for that.
BLAKE: Have I lied to you?
SOOLIN: You are a touch too secretive for our liking.
BLAKE: So was Avon.
TARRANT: And whenever he got secretive, it always ended badly.
BLAKE: Forgive me, but are we living in some kind of fantasy land? The world doesn't just stop because Avon's dead. Nothing can change that, even if I tell you what happened. Yes, I know what happened, and no, I'm not going to tell you. Now you four are going to obey without question.
[Vila casually draws his gun and points it at Blake.]
VILA: No. We're not.
BLAKE: Try it, Vila.
VILA: And you'll kill me, too? That's why I'm leaving, Nij. I can't trust you.
BLAKE: You trusted Avon. You trusted Roj Blake.
VILA: And that says more about you than it does about me, doesn't it?
BLAKE: Where do you think you're going to go?
VILA: Why should I tell you?
TARRANT: He's right. You haven't been spectacular as leader and you're not exactly pleasant company to be around. I think I might take my leave as well.
SOOLIN: Tarrant, just calm down...
TARRANT: I am calm.
SOOLIN: You'd seriously abandon being pilot of the most powerful ship in the galaxy?
TARRANT: It's becoming more trouble than it’s worth.
BLAKE: You're not going to leave. Either of you.
TARRANT: Don't try and stop us, Blake.
BLAKE: You forget. Remember the Dream Master? I've seen inside your souls! You're not going to abandon the Liberator.
VILA: I am. Because I've seen into YOUR soul, Nij.
VILA: There was nothing there.
[Furious, Blake lashes out and grabs Vila's gun, twisting the barrel to face Vila. Tarrant and Soolin grab Blake and try to wrestle him free. Vila is unable to simply let go of the gun as it is jabbed in his chin. Kyben looks on helplessly as they struggle.]
KYBEN: What do you think you're doing? You'll get someone killed!
[Blake finally manages to fling Tarrant and Soolin away. He now has the gun aimed at Vila, who swallows but does not back away. Blake moves his finger to the trigger. A pause. As everyone watches, Blake starts to calm down and turns the gun around, offering the handle to Vila.]
BLAKE: Whatever I've said, and whatever I've done, I've never betrayed you. Any of you. And if you can't accept that, if you can't believe I want us all to survive this and not just survive but win... well, maybe you should leave.
[Vila takes the gun, clearly no longer so angry. Everyone is still for a moment.]
ORAC: If I might interrupt at this point, I have received a coded message for the immediate and exclusive attention of Avon.
KYBEN: But... Avon's dead.
ORAC: That is why I am informing the rest of you. Such a conclusion is so patently obvious I would have assumed it not to be worth mentioning, but yet again--
TARRANT: [Interrupts] Who's the message from, Orac?
ORAC: It originates from the planet Tarl and is set on the specific frequency that Avon gave to the Warlord Boorva for further discussion of the Rebel Alliance.
[Vila, Soolin and Tarrant exchange a meaningful look, while Blake and Kyben are baffled.]
to be continued...