[A meeting room on Earth inside a bunker below the Federation Council Building. There is a long conference table with the twelve members of the Federation High Council, the highest Federation authority, seated around it. President Anders is at the end of the table. On the wall is a screen showing a planet.]
SUPREME COMMANDER: This is the planet Tertrel, until recently the Federation's main source of berite ore. The planetary crust has an unusually high concentration. When the workers rebelled, our space craft construction was set back by the loss of berite, a loss that has been unable to be replaced. The Pacification Police began their work on Tertrel a month ago. Two days ago, the Commissioner in charge sent in the following report.
[The screen shows a stern-looking man.]
COMMISIONER: Report from planet Tertrel to Federation Space Command. The situation on this planet is contained. The rebels have been destroyed. It is estimated the production of berite can be resumed in less than ten days. I hereby request the assignment of ten thousand labour grade slave units to this planet for work in the mines and a further thousand tech trained units for the processing plant. Full production will be resumed in one month, on those conditions. Request assignment of permanent garrison to this planet. Report ends. Transmit to Federation base for relay to Earth.
[The screen goes blank.]
SUPREME COMMANDER: Due to the distance, that report was received approximately two hours after it was sent. By that time an automated observation satellite was already transmitting this.
[The screen shows a wheel-like Space Command space station in orbit around the planet. Suddenly a streak of light flashes across the image and hammers into the station. The picture rapidly pans back along the missile's trajectory to show a second missile heading for the station, and the Liberator following it in. The camera follows the second missile as it enters the firestorm created when the first one exploded and detonates. The blast rapidly dissipates as the oxygen is used up and the station is completely gone. Liberator moves into position above the planet and fires a neutron blaster at the surface once.]
SUPREME COMMANDER: Hardly a planetary bombardment, you'll agree. But that single shot destroyed the pacification force's headquarters and much of their equipment along with it. The satellite picked up this immediately afterward.
[The screen shows Blake, smiling smugly.]
BLAKE: Warlord Morgon, this is Nij Blake. Orbital facility and surface base destroyed. You may start your landing. The planet's all yours. Blake out.
[The screen turns blank.]
SUPREME COMMANDER: It took approximately one hour for the Warlord Morgon to take possession of Tertrel.
ANDERS: And what about about our forces on Tertrel. They must have survived!
SUPREME COMMANDER: Yes, Mister President, however their command structure, supplies and heavy equipment did not. Intelligence believes there is still sporadic fighting going on but for all practical purposes Morgon has the planet. He's already bringing in workers to start mining.
ANDERS: And our men?
SUPREME COMMANDER: Being used as slave labour.
ANDERS: He can be selling refined berite on the open market in two weeks.
SUPREME COMMANDER: Morgon's fleet is hardly strong, but his forces are digging into the planet. We COULD retake Tertrel - but only after a long siege. By which time, Morgon will already have the berite supplies. If he heads straight into space craft construction, computer predictions state we have under a year before he is the most powerful man in that entire quadrant.
ANDERS: That is hardly our priority now.
[The other councillers ridicule this.]
MINISTER: Not a priority?
ANDERS: Yes. Compared to the assault on the Federation shipyards.
[Anders presses a control and the screen starts showing the final stage of the Liberator's attack on the shipyards. The expressions of those watching turn grave.]
ANDERS: Now we can start with the Minister of Production's latest projections.
MINISTER: Mister President?
ANDERS: On how much the destruction of the shipyard will hurt us.
MINISTER: Yes. Of course, sir. The loss is, of course, considerable. Space Command cannot continue its expansion of Federation territory without additional ships, and the building program is now on an indefinite hiatus.
SUPREME COMMANDER: And how will Federation expansion be affected by this one act?
MINISTER: Well, Supreme Commander, er, the delay will cause a considerable... slowing down of expansion.
SUPREME COMMANDER: By how much? Forty per cent?
MINISTER: No, a bit more than that.
ANDERS: [Bored] Minister?
MINISTER: [Swallows] Federation expansion has been brought to a complete halt.
[Anders is not upset at the news, unlike the rest of the council.]
ANDERS: A reasonable conclusion, Minister. Based on the facts you have.
SUPREME COMMANDER: There are other facts?
ANDERS: There are always other facts.
SUPREME COMMANDER: Then what are they?
ANDERS: Before we go further I must caution you all not to say a word of this to anyone outside this chamber. Do not discuss it even between those present in this room. This is classified beyond AA-zero level.
MINISTER: Why so secretive?
SUPREME COMMANDER: Are you worried about betrayal to the rebels?
ANDERS: Should I be?
SUPREME COMMANDER: We have no machinery to replenish our space fleet and no raw material either. Our battle fleet is now a finite resource and the rebellion is already starting to catch up. You may not be worried, Mister President, but I am.
ANDERS: Then you understand my desire for absolute secrecy?
SUPREME COMMANDER: Oh, stop grandstanding and get on with it!
ANDERS: I just wanted to clarify how extremely important it is that this information goes no further.
MINISTER: Understood, Mister President.
ANDERS: Very well. Not long before the Andromedan invasion, the President of the time decided that new and more powerful space craft were required. Thus, a secret research and development facility was constructed in deep space, with close access to everything that could concievably needed to create a new fleet of battle cruisers. Raw materials, mining and processing, the facility's location was chosen to allow it to produce all its own components.
SUPREME COMMANDER: That was before the Galactic War, years ago. Why haven't we heard of it since?
ANDERS: Nothing substantial came from the development. Following the destruction of Star One and the Galactic War, the facility was forgotten. Its existence was was carefully hidden and any information would have been lost in the civil wars. Not even Orac could know about it.
MINISTER: And how did you discover it, then, Mister President?
ANDERS: That information is irrelevant at the moment, Minister. The facility was not coming up with any new ideas for space warfare. Thus, I decided that it should restructure itself - start constructing normal star cruisers instead of trying to design new ones. Over the past two years, in absolute secrecy, that fleet of battle cruisers has been built. The operation was completed three hours ago.
[The councilors exchange surprised looks.]
ANDERS: The destruction of the shipyards and the taking of Tertrel are thus not the crippling blow you and the rebels may have believed it to be. The rebels will now concentrate on building up their own forces, and a surprise attack from the largest battle fleet in history I feel confident they won't have predicted. Now, Supreme Commander. Do we have ideas of what to do next?
[Space. The Liberator hurtles towards Earth.]
[Liberator Flight Deck. Everyone is at their stations.]
ZEN: Information. Liberator is now in geostationary orbit around the planet Earth. Teleport range for the specified coordinates will be achieved in twenty two seconds and reducing.
BLAKE: Orac, make sure that all the computer sensors stay within optimm.
ORAC: Of course I shall.
VILA: Just get it right, Orac. One wrong bit of code and we'll get the whole solar system on our back!
KYBEN: We all know that, Vila, stay calm.
ORAC: The Liberator will be completely invisible to the detector net for the next one hundred and seventeen seconds precisely.
VILA: We could use the next one hundred and sixteen seconds to get out, you know, Blake.
BLAKE: Not this time, Vila.
[Blake, Soolin and Tarrant cross to the armory to collect their guns.]
BLAKE: You realize what I am going to do down there.
SOOLIN: It would a bit difficult to miss.
BLAKE: Then you'll know I can't afford any arguments down there. Any squeamishness. This is the point of no return. Can I trust you two?
SOOLIN: [Nods] Of course.
TARRANT: The question is, can we trust you?
BLAKE: Shall we find out?
TARRANT: Vila, teleport duty!
[Vila nods and leaves his station, hurrying for the steps.]
VILA: We've only got eighty-two seconds left you lot, so come on.
[The others hurry after him.]
BLAKE: He's so eager.
SOOLIN: Ominous, isn't it?
TARRANT: Probably because he can still drink himself into a stupor in seventy-four seconds. Good luck, Kyben.
KYBEN: You too.
[Meeting room. As before.]
SUPREME COMMANDER: In summary, I believe - based on the evidence the President has supplied - the best course of action is to combine this new fleet with the rest of Space Command and move into the disputed territories. There, we shall deal with each warlord one by one. Ground troups sill complete training in the next week, and they shall be sent in to deal with each planet once the space forces are dealt with.
ANDERS: It will mean leaving large sections of the Federation protected only by old ships and sub light fighters while the campaign is carried out. But I agree, Supreme Commander, the gains will be worthwhile.
SUPREME COMMANDER: On the basis of all provided data, a conservative estimate would place the galaxy under the complete control of the Federation in two years.
MINISTER: The rebels and their damage has been largely irrelevant then?
ANDERS: Indeed, Minister. All they have done is given us the tactical advantage.
SUPREME COMMANDER: Nevertheless, Space Command concluded some time ago that the destruction of the Liberator would be a major psychological blow to rebels, warlords and criminals. I believe it would be wise that the fleet's first task would be to elimate Blake and his ship.
ANDERS: Why not? One last decisive showdown with the Liberator followed by a campaign of conquest the like of which this galaxy has never seen.
MINISTER: [Doubtful] Putting the whole fleet against a single ship?
ANDERS: It has been over seven years, Minister, that the Liberator and her crew has been opposing us. Attempting to capture it would be time consuming and most likely a failure. Blasting it into the outer darkness before the warlords can get any of their hands on that alien technology is the only way.
MINISTER: As it pleases you, Mister President. But once the fleet's existence is well known, can I assume my deparment will take over the production facility?
ANDERS: The facility is my personal responsibility, Minister.
MINISTER: Mister President, with respect, that is unacceptable...
[The minister is cut off in mid sentence as Blake, Soolin and Tarant teleport into the room, guns already drawn.]
SUPREME COMMANDER: What the...
[Blake aims his gun at the Supreme Commander.]
BLAKE: [Mock reproving] Language!
[Soolin takes off the second bracelet she wears and, still covering him, slides it across the table to Anders.]
SOOLIN: Put this on?
BLAKE: If you like.
[Anders snaps the bracelet onto his wrist as Tarrant places a tube of Liberator explosives on the table, buzzing.]
TARRANT: Timer's on twenty seconds.
SOOLIN: And we still have fifty to work with. Vila, teleport.
BLAKE: Goodbye then. You won't be missed.
[Blake, Tarrant, Soolin and Anders teleport. The councilors exchange looks of confused at how fast things are happening. The Supreme Commander dives across the table as the Minister stares in horror.]
[The heavy metal doors to the meeting room shudder from a muffled explosion.]
[Space. The Liberator hangs above the Earth.]
TARRANT: [V.O.] Did I say twenty seconds? My mistake.
[Liberator teleport room. Vila is at the controls, Blake, Tarrant, Soolin and Anders in the bay.]
VILA: They're back, Kyben, engage the standby course!
KYBEN: [V.O.] On it.
[Vila heads from the teleport room. Blake holsters his gun. Soolin and Tarrant still aim their guns at Anders.]
BLAKE: Welcome to the Liberator, Mister President. Captain Del Tarrant will be looking after you, as my guest.
ANDERS: [Disbelieving] He's to take care of me, is he?
BLAKE: It's his number one priority.
TARRANT: If there is any trouble, Mister President, I promise to take care of you.
ANDERS: You'll forgive me if I'm not impressed, "Captain" Tarrant. If you wanted me dead, why bring me here? Why not leave me to be murdered with the rest of the High Council?
SOOLIN: Not murder. Execution.
ANDERS: How very moral of you. Did you have to go to much trouble? There is a teleport scrambler field around that facility. Well, there was.
BLAKE: The Earth Resistance shut it down.
ANDERS: That WILL have cost them dearly.
SOOLIN: They managed it though.
ANDERS: And no doubt to get through to Earth, you had your super computer rearrange patrol ship courses to leave a gap?
BLAKE: The rest was very simple.
ANDERS: [Smiles] For creatures like you, it would have to be. So, what is it to be? Force me to watch you make the winning move before I die?
BLAKE: Something like that. Speaking of moving, that way, please.
[Blake grandly gestures the exit. Unimpressed, Anders turns and goes where he is bidden.]
- to be continued...