[Liberator flight deck. Kyben and Vila are at the controls. Anders enters, closely followed by Blake, Tarrant, and Soolin. Tarrant heads for the pilot console.]
VILA: How long have we got left, Orac?
ORAC: You ran out of time approximately eight seconds ago.
TARRANT: Don't panic now, Vila. Breaking orbit.
[He operates the controls.]
ZEN: Information. Hull sensors indicate Liberator has been scanned by detector beams.
KYBEN: They know we're here, they're probably already on red alert!
BLAKE: Tarrant, get us out of here!
[Anders chuckles, amused.]
[Space. We see the Liberator and, not too far away, the space station in orbit over Earth.]
[Space Command HQ. Several flight controllers are at stations around the room. Fleet Warden Poulton is in command. A red light flashes over the scene.]
POULTON: Has Patrol Ship 7 confirmed the intruder's identity?
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Yes, maam. Initial scans confirm it IS the Liberator.
POULTON: Launch all available fighting ships! Find out what the hell the Liberator was doing in Earth orbit!
FLIGHT CONTROLLER: [Harassed] Maam. Pursuit 3 moving into engage.
[Space. Liberator moves away from Earth. A pursuit ship swoops in from another direction.]
[Liberator flight deck.]
ZEN: Nearest enemy ship will be in strike range in ten seconds.
BLAKE: Zen, once we're clear of Earth orbit, set escape course at standard by seven!
ZEN: Plasma bolt launched.
[Space. The pursuit ship opens fire.]
[Liberator flight deck. Soolin grabs Anders by the scruff of the neck, preventing him from falling as the room shakes with the impact.]
[Space Command HQ. A second flight controller is talking to Poulton.]
FLIGHT CONTROLLER 2: We've put a general call, Fleet Warden. All ships within one hour transit time of Earth are returning here at best possible speed.
POULTON: Has Pursuit 3 opened fire on the Liberator?
FLIGHT CONTROLLER 1: Yes, maam. No attempt to return fire.
POULTON: Of course not. If they do, the delay will allow the other patrol ships to reach them.
[Liberator flight deck. Light smoke is hanging in the air]
ZEN: Two hits from plasma bolts, one to aft section, the other to engineering.
KYBEN: That ship's powering down. Some kind of malfunction?
TARRANT: Hardly - they're shutting down their defensive systems so all the power resevers can be used firing plasma bolts.
ZEN: Information. Second pursuit ship moving into attack. Liberator will be in plasma bolt range in three seconds.
VILA: Clear the main neutron blasters for firing. Activating the radiation flare shield.
BLAKE: [Sarcastic] Could be a good idea.
[Space. Liberator is leaving Pursuit 3 behind. Liberator fires on another pursuit ship directly in front of it. The Pursuit Ship is destroyed. Liberator accelerates away.]
[Space Command HQ.]
FLIGHT CONTROLLER 1: The Liberator is now beyond detector range.
POULTON: It was unlikely we'd stop them, but it was our only chance. Secure from red alert. Assign all ships to close patrol around Earth for the time being. [To Flight Controller 2] In the meantime I suggest, flight controller, you find out how they got into orbit WITHOUT being detected.
FLIGHT CONTROLLER 1: Maam, launch from planet Earth to the station.
FLIGHT CONTROLLER 1: It's the Deputy Supreme Commander. Requesting permission to dock.
POULTON: [Grim] Permission granted. I hope everyone realizes we could all be shot under the new law? Then use what time remains to us to find out exactly what happened. If he's in the mood to listen, we might be able to survive the Deputy's visit.
FLIGHT CONTROLLER 2: And if he ISN'T in a mood to listen?
POULTON: Then we're all dead, flight controller. Is that clear?
[Liberator flight deck. As before.]
ZEN: No further Federation pursuit.
VILA: [Sighs in relief] We got away. We did it.
BLAKE: [Grins] Did you ever doubt it? [To Anders] Why don't you sit down, Mister President?
[Blake indicates the side of the pit furthest from the console.]
ANDERS: Your hospitality is overwhelming. [sits] Presumably I'm not allowed to move out of this seat?
BLAKE: You could try, but I wouldn't recommend it. Niether would I recommend putting your hands where Soolin can't see them.
[Soolin sits in the pit opposite Anders. She smiles.]
ANDERS: Or else she'll shoot me?
SOOLIN: Somewhere very painful.
ANDERS: But not fatally. As I said, if you were going to kill me you could have let me die in that little incident of mass murder. Did you bother to let your crew know you were going to kill the entire Federation High Council.
BLAKE: [Smiles] Believe it or not, it was their idea.
ANDERS: Yes, you clearly have the moral high ground in this battle. You could have taken me prisoner, but killing twelve unarmed men and women was clearly the more sensible option.
TARRANT: An opportunity too good to miss.
ANDERS: Opportunities for more bloodshed. I'm surprised you went along with it, Dr Kyben.
KYBEN: [Darkly] Are you?
ANDERS: Indeed. A loyal Federation citizen like you? Now condoning mass slaughter. I would have thought a medic like yourself had some kind of oath. But you betrayed those as much as you betrayed society.
VILA: Murdering families does that to people.
ANDERS: As long as you have a good reason. An eye for eye, Kyben, makes the whole world blind.
SOOLIN: Eye humor isn't popular on this ship.
ANDERS: But mass slaughter is?
KYBEN: We want the Federation crippled.
ANDERS: You've destroyed the shipyards and taken away the main source of berite. Isn't that enough?
BLAKE: Not even a start. We've taken out a few vital nerve centres. And now we've cut off the head.
ANDERS: You've... 'cut off the head' of the Terran Federation, have you? By killing twelve councillors?
VILA: You know what they call the execution of the Federation High Council?
TARRANT: "A damn good start."
ANDERS: [Shakes head in disbelief] You really don't understand us, do you? Oh, of course, something like that will cause disruption, that is uncontested. In a month's time, that MINOR disruption will have been resolved. You'll barely be able to tell anything happened. Apart, of course, that you've sacrificed the Earth Resistance.
KYBEN: What do you mean?
ANDERS: The ones who turned off the teleport scrambler. There will an investigation into the explosion and that investigation will discover your agent your friends have inside the Administration.
SOOLIN: You're very confident.
ANDERS: I have reason to be. You are the ones who are deluded into thinking you've done any real harm. The Federation will bounce back from today quite easily.
TARRANT: But by then, you'll be dead.
ANDERS: So I don't even get a trial?
BLAKE: When this is over, if I can find the time, perhaps. Assuming we don't tire of you beforehand.
ANDERS: Oh, well, then I shall stay quiet. Just don't expect me to be impressed by your hit and run tactis.
SOOLIN: We haven't finished yet.
ANDERS: For your sakes, I hope that's the truth.
[Space Command HQ. The Deputy Supreme Commander enters followed by two guards. Poulton and the others leap to their feet, snap to attention and salute.]
DEPUTY: At ease, Fleet Warden. Snappy salutes are not going to impress me now. Make your report.
POULTON: Sir. Initial analysis indicates that patrol ships were diverted by a program entered from outside the main computer system. We believe it's origin may have been the Orac computer. The program opened a hole in Earth's defences that allowed the Liberator to enter orbit. They were in orbit for one point eight minutes before they were detected. I immediately ordered all ships to red alert and attacked with everything we could get into range in time.
DEPUTY: You still failed to stop the Liberator from leaving. And you lost a ship in the process.
POULTON: Yes sir. I accept full responsibility.
DEPUTY: Really? I'm not inclined to blame you ENTIRELY, Poulton. This was clearly a carefully-planned attack, co-ordinated between the Liberator and Earth-based rebellion. Some of the blame shall be saved for Intelligence and Security - after all, they failed to warn of an attack and stop the sabotage respectively.
POULTON: [Relieved] Sir.
DEPUTY: Clear the room.
[The flight controllers and the guards leave.]
[Liberator flies through space.]
BLAKE: Soolin, be so kind as to take President Anders to his room.
SOOLIN: My pleasure.
[She indicates Anders with her gun. He rises.]
ANDERS: There is no need for euphemisms - you are going to lock me away somewhere until you need me.
BLAKE: If you like.
[Soolin and Anders leave.]
VILA: You all right, Kyben?
KYBEN: Suppose so. President Anders was never going to be the greatest guest to have.
TARRANT: You don't think he was talking sense, then.
BLAKE: Oh, wake up, Tarrant. Words are the only thing he's got left. What did you expect him to do? Say the scales had fallen from his eyes and that he was always on our side?
VILA: He managed to overthrow Servalan and get away with it. In my book, he's clever.
KYBEN: So he managed a coup. YOU threw Servalan out an airlock. Did Anders do that?
VILA: Good point.
BLAKE: Zen, continue on preassigned course, standard by four. Time for auto repair to fix the battle damage?
ZEN: Repair computers estimate nine hours to restore systems to full capacity.
BLAKE: Just enough time.
TARRANT: I don't suppose you'd let us in on your next move.
BLAKE: [Smiles] You know me so well, Tarrant.
[Space Command HQ rotates in orbit. Inside, the Deputy and Poulton stand alone in the empty room.]
DEPUTY: This information is being kept strictly secret at the moment.
DEPUTY: It seems that Blake and his rebels attacked a meeting of the High Council. We believe they kidnapped the President and murdered the rest of the council. The remains are being checked by a forensic team but there is little real doubt.
POULTON: How could they have done that, sir?
DEPUTY: Someone there allowed the rebels to teleport into the council chamber. Based on what we know of teleport function it's highly likely they marked the chamber with a transmitter to give the Liberator an accurate fix.
POULTON: Then there must be a traitor in the Administration facility.
DEPUTY: [Nods] The entire staff is under arrest and subject to interrogation.
POULTON: Sir, with respect... Why are you telling me? I don't need to know ANY of this.
DEPUTY: Oh but you do. This latest incident notwithstanding, your career so far has been exemplary. I am changing your assignment and giving you that chance to redeem yourself.
POULTON: I'm listening, sir.
DEPUTY: Good. Then you are promoted from Fleet Warden to Fleet Admiral. Effective immediately.
POULTON: [Surprised] My assignment, sir?
DEPUTY: Command the Galactic First Fleet.
POULTON: FIRST fleet?
DEPUTY: It's a new command, assembled from the majority of existing Federation fleets. It represents the largest assembly of Federation firepower since the Intergalactic War.
POULTON: Thank you, sir.
DEPUTY: Don't thank me yet, Poulton. Your orders are to take command of the Galactic First Fleet. Pursue the Liberator and intercept. You will offer them one chance to release the President and surrender. Any deviation or hostile action you are authorised to terminate them and the President.
POULTON: And if they surrender?
DEPUTY: In that unlikely scenario you are to place a crew aboard the Liberator ensuring that they are given full command authority over the computers. You will transfer each prisoner to a different ship and return them to Earth.
POULTON: The Orac super computer?
DEPUTY: That and the Sevener starship are also to be returned separately. No chances can be taken.
[Liberator cabin. The door opens and Anders enters followed by Soolin. Soolin's gun is aimed at Anders.]
ANDERS: May I ask you a question, Soolin?
SOOLIN: You may ask. Whether I answer is up to me.
[Anders turns to face her.]
ANDERS: How much would it cost for you to kill Blake and the others?
[Soolin doesn't reply.]
ANDERS: You are an assassin, aren't you? A gun for hire? I want to hire you. How much?
ANDERS: I'm certain I can afford it.
SOOLIN: I'm not here for money.
ANDERS: Then what are you here for?
SOOLIN: You've read my central intelligence records, you tell me.
ANDERS: I have, it still doesn't explain why. You are an amoral killing machine, Soolin. Loyal only to yourself. You murdered human beings for money and money alone.
SOOLIN: Oh, not just for money, Mister President. Or did you skip the entry on my family.
ANDERS: I do apologize, Soolin. A handful of mercanies, smugglers and killers you killed for personal reasons.
SOOLIN: My family are dead because of the Federation.
ANDERS: Gauda Prime was declared an open planet. Your family had plenty of time to leave - they chose to stay, they knew the risks. It was criminals, criminals to the Federation, that killed your family. Blaming the Federation for it is rather obtuse. Why not blame the workers who provided those criminals with their weapons?
SOOLIN: The Federation knew what would happen and they didn't care.
ANDERS: You care, though, do you?
SOOLIN: What do you think?
ANDERS: I think you're insane, Soolin. Or else a terrifying hypocrite. The scum of the galaxy descended on your planet. Criminals, deserters, traitors, psychopaths... and who exactly have you been spending your time with of late? The type of animal of this ship are the the same type that murdered your family. And you help them, work with them, keep them alive... you've become just like them.
SOOLIN: Have you ever been to GP, Mister President?
SOOLIN: I have. I lived through what you're talking about. The statistics you've read. So what exactly gives you the right to judge me?
ANDERS: I'm not judging you, Soolin. I'm just curious. You say you're not killing people for money any more?
ANDERS: Then what ARE you killing them for? Ideals? Honor? Because young Blake tells you to?
[Soolin turns to leave.]
ANDERS: You're not the first, you know.
SOOLIN: [Not turning round] Not the first what?
ANDERS: Career criminal to give up their profession to start working for the good of all mankind. It's fascinating, isn't it? The way Blake seems to inspire people. Like Roj Blake before him. Almost like he's possessed you. Or conditioned you all.
SOOLIN: Blake doesn't force us to help him. We're here by choice. Can any of your followers say the same?
ANDERS: No, they're all working for me against their will, gripped with terror at what I might do to them if they rebel. So, it's rather moving seeing you brutally slaughter wave after wave of them. Just how many have you killed on this crusade, Soolin?
SOOLIN: It's a large number, Mister President.
ANDERS: I don't doubt it.
SOOLIN: And it will increase by one if you ever speak of my family again.
ANDERS: Blake wouldn't like that.
SOOLIN: He'd learn to live with it. Unlike you.
[She leaves and closes the door.]
[Space Command HQ.]
POULTON: The attack was hastily scrambled, but it did some damage to the Liberator after all. Patrol crafts have detected a trail of ionised particles on her last known course. They probably aren't even aware of it.
DEPUTY: And until it's fixed we can follow them anywhere.
POULTON: Indeed, sir. Even if they use their cloaking device.
DEPUTY: Then its time you began your assignment, Fleet Admiral Poulton.
[Poulton turns to leave.]
DEPUTY: One last thing, Poulton.
DEPUTY: Do not fail me. Failure is not acceptable. Fail and there will be a firing squad with you as target.
POULTON: No different to working here, then, sir.
DEPUTY: No. Good luck.
POULTON: Very good sir.
- to be continued...