Saturday, October 17, 2009

If *I* Had Written The Sevenfold Crown

[A murky twilight world. Avon runs through some ruins, gun in hand. A Federation trooper appears out of the gloom, carrying a rifle. Avon fires. The gun doesn't work. He tries again. The trooper slowly advances on him. Avon turns and retreats, but more troopers are moving out of the darkness towards him. Avon flees through some rubble onto a plain. There is the sound of wolves howling. Avon pauses, but is about to continue when a spotlight snaps on, transfixing him. He is surrounded by armed troopers. A booming voice echoes.]

Voice: You are completely surrounded. Your weapons are useless. Surrender.

[Avon considers his options, then throws away the useless gun, surreptitiously activating his teleport bracelet.]

Avon: Scorpio...

Servalan: Not this time, Avon.

[Avon whirls around to see Servalan standing behind him, smiling.]

Avon: No. This is another trick. You died above Terminal.

Servalan: Oh, Avon. I'm hurt you have so little faith in my survival instinct.

Avon: The Liberator exploded and you were trapped aboard with no way off! How exactly could your overdeveloped survival instinct save you?

Servalan: Divine intervention, perhaps?

Avon: Perhaps?

Servalan: Why not, Avon? You don't really think you're on the winning side, do you? Oh, how much do you have to lose before you accept it?

Avon: I'll let you know.

Servalan: No, I think I should let you know.

Avon: All knowledge is valuable.

Servalan: Your pathetic excuse for a new ship has been destroyed in orbit. And what few of your associates who have survived are now in custody. The defeat of such notorious criminals can only put me back on the path of power...

Avon: A path you wandered from rather recklessly.

Servalan: Not as reckless as you, Avon. That's why you can't stop me. That's why you will never stop me.

Avon: Change is inevitable.

Servalan: And the change has happened. I've won. You've lost. Do you want to beg for mercy now?

Avon: I might if I thought you possessed any.

Servalan: Indeed. It's all over, Avon. The rebellion is finished, as we always knew it would - or did you really think you ever stood a chance?

Avon: If I didn't, why do you go to such lengths to stop me?

Servalan: [shrugs] It passes the time. Goodbye, Avon.

[Servalan raises her handgun and fires. Avon glows red and collapses, writhing.]

[Scorpio. Avon is lying in one of the bunks, writhing. Dayna approaches.]

Dayna: Avon! Avon, wake up!

[Avon opens his eyes.]

Avon: What? Dayna?

Dayna: You were having a nightmare. It's all right.

Avon: I don't have nightmares.

[Vila wanders over.]

Vila: Of course not. What self-respecting bad dream would want to get caught in your head, anyway?

[Avon sits up, getting his bearings.]

Avon: Servalan was there...

Vila: Ah, well, she's not the sort to appear in respectful bad dreams, so that makes sense. It's not like we'll see her anywhere else.

Dayna: Vila! I saw her - you think I could be mistaken?

Vila: Yes, I do, actually! You saw her in the middle of a gloomy jungle, at night, while running a gauntlet of brainwashed thugs. It's not as if anyone else saw her, is it?

[Tarrant and Soolin are at the controls.]

Tarrant: I did.

Vila: Not anyone exactly reliable then.

Soolin: Then how do you explain it, Vila?

Vila: Like Orac said, there could be dozens of explanations.

Avon: Such as?

Vila: A body double. For a President like Servalan, she was bound to have a couple - or get some poor girl's face cosmetically-altered to make one. Now Servalan's dead, the body doubles are out of work and you saw one on Helotrix.

Tarrant: She seemed to recognize us.

Vila: You said she just told you to put down your guns. It was hardly, "Oh, afternoon Dayna Mellanby and Del Tarrant, fancy seeing you here! We haven't chatted since Terminal", was it?

Dayna: It was her.

Vila: It couldn't have been.

Dayna: She got off the Liberator somehow, maybe she used the teleport...

Vila: Oh, clever. So where could she have gone? Terminal, that's where. There were no other planets, and the only spaceship around blew itself up. And so did Terminal itself. We were the only ones to get off that planet, so unless Dorian found her first and hid her in a supply cupboard before we met, she's dead.

Soolin: Whether she's Servalan or not, she's still our problem.

Tarrant: Commissioner Sleer's pacification police has almost rebuilt all the damage from the civil war by itself. All the old colonies are being reconquered.

Dayna: Apart from Helotrix.

Avon: Orac - what is the situation back on Helotrix?

Orac: The Magnetrix Terminal has been totally destroyed, cutting Helotrix off from the rest of the galaxy. Last reports suggest that the remaining rebel columns had begun a planet-wide revolt. The Federation are making a complete strategic withdrawal from the planet.

Tarrant: Hunda managed it. Helotrix is free.

Vila: For the moment.

Dayna: For a while, surely. The Federation don't know about the immunity - and if they do, they don't know only a few soldiers have it. They don't dare make a move until they find out the truth.

Soolin: And with the Magnetrix Terminal destroyed, they're not going to do that any time soon. And Helotrix is too important for them to destroy.

Vila: So at best it's a delay.

Avon: One which we can make indefinite. Orac, was Commissioner Sleer listed as one of the casualties on Helotrix?

Orac: No. She is coordinating the retreat back to the Central Pacification Control.

Avon: Which is?

Orac: The planet Ferno.

Tarrant: Ferno. That's a Federation supply base, it's a fuel dump.

Orac: It has been requisitioned by the Pacification Police as a base of operations from their creation some six months previous.

Avon: Perfect. Slave, set a course for Ferno at maximum speed.

Slave: At once, Master. It is my pleasure to carry out such a task, as always.

Tarrant: Hang on, Avon, we can't head there - especially if it is Servalan's HQ.

Avon: Did you have something better planned for the night?

Vila: Living till morning, is that good enough?

Dayna: Look, Scorpio's fuel reserves are low enough. We should get back to base while they last.

Avon: Are you seriously suggesting we lose this chance to catch Servalan?

Vila: Even if we get there in one piece, there won't be any fuel for us to escape, will there?

Soolin: Why not? It is still a fuel dump, isn't it, Orac?

Orac: Correct.

Soolin: There. We head to Ferno, refuel Scorpio, kill Sleer and leave.

Vila: Even if she isn't Servalan?

Dayna: Even if she isn't, she might as well be. She's in charge of Pylene 50, and the chances are she'll make sure no one else can take over.

Tarrant: Get rid of Sleer, get rid of the problem?

Dayna: Precisely.

Vila: We'd be walking into a death trap!

Avon: The Pacification Police use medical lasers with Pylene 50. Tarrant and Dayna have already proved the immunity drugs work. Their weapons will be useless, unlike ours.

Soolin: It's probably safer than being on Xenon.

Vila: I wouldn't want to put that to the test!

Avon: We can refuel the Scorpio, sabotage the Pacification Police and make sure Servalan is dead once and for all. Does anyone else have a more useful method of passing the time?

[Vila opens his mouth.]

Avon: Anyone worth listening to?

[Vila rolls his eyes.]

Avon: Then let's go.

[Scorpio hurtles through space.]

[The crew are at their positions, the screen showing a planet.]

Vila: Been a while since we were at a planet with three moons.

Dayna: Trust you to admire the scenery.

Avon: It's a valid point. It allows us more cover from their detectors.

Tarrant: Slave, I want a matching orbit with the largest of the moons. Fifteen kilometres from the surface of the satellite.

Slave: I'm deeply sorry, sir, but my humble navigation circuits are unable to compute the approach curve.

Vila: What are you talking about? Just do it.

Soolin: Orac. Interface with the Slave computer. He needs your help.

Orac: The inferior system should be replaced.

Vila: Half this ship needs to be replaced, Orac, just too it before they spot us and blow us all out of the sky.

Orac: I am already currently engaged in attempting to verify Commissioner Sleer's identity, the possibility of Servalan escaping from the Liberator as well as the layout of the Pacification Control Centre.

Dayna: My heart bleeds! Just do it, Orac!

Orac: Very well. The efficiency professionalism of this group has been severely reduced by the loss of the Liberator.

Avon: Yes, we all disapprove of the galactic recession as well, Orac. We need to stand off at the maximum teleport range as well. I want the coordinates set for the quarters of Commissioner Sleer. Tarrant and Dayna should make for the fuel store.

Tarrant: The teleport will actually work on the high-capacity energy cells, then?

Orac: There is 49.8 recurring probability of success.

Avon: Which is the best offer we're getting. Set the coordinates.

Slave: Designated orbit established, Master.

[Avon, Dayna and Tarrant cross to the teleport bay.]

Vila: If Servalan is down there and she finds out about us, you'll all be liquidated before you could snap your fingers.

Avon: Such insight. Perhaps you'd care to honor us with your presence?

Vila: Me? No chance. Someone's got to mind Scorpio.

Tarrant: Soolin can do that. Are you coming Vila?

Vila: You sure you've fully-woken-up, Avon? You don't think that maybe a talented gunslinger could be of some use?

Avon: Possibly, but I'd want to keep her in reserve.

Vila: And why not me?

Dayna: Because Servalan knows us. She doesn't know about Soolin and neither does the Federation.

Avon: It's best we keep our advantages in reserve.

Vila: Aren't I an advantage?

Dayna: Well, come with us, Vila, and we can all find out.

[Grimly, Vila puts on a bracelet and joins the others.]

Vila: You'd only mess it all up without me, anyway...

[Tarrant and Dayna materialize outside a factory.]

Dayna: [into bracelet] Down and safe, Soolin. We're going to try and get into the stores.

Soolin: [over comm] Understood. Scorpio out.

Dayna: Nothing but rocks and machinery.

Tarrant: It's a refueling base, Dayna, no one cares about the landscape.

Dayna: I would have thought Servalan would.

Tarrant: I doubt she had much choice. Whether she survived the Liberator or not, she's a deposed president on the losing side of a civil war - it's presumably why she's set herself up as Commissioner Sleer.

Dayna: And she's unlikely to run into anyone here that could recognize her.

Tarrant: Yes. Come on, it's freezing out here...

[They move on.]

[Vila and Avon materialize inside the base.]

Vila: Where are the others?

Avon: At the fuel store, it's on the side of the main complex opposite from the living quarters.

Vila: Spoils the view, does it?

Avon: And the fact the fuel cells are highly flammable.

Vila: So this is the Bungalow of the Supreme Empress, is it? How the mighty have fallen.

Avon: So you concede Servalan is here?

Vila: Concede nothing, you're convinced she is. And that seems to be all that matters nowadays, isn't it?

Avon: Was it ever otherwise? The Helotrix evacuation is still underway according to Orac. So if Sleer is returning home we still have an hour or so before she is due to arrive.

Vila: You don't think maybe you should have caught up on your sleep before we tried this, do you? It's not like things have gone wrong the last time you tried to tackle Servalan while suffering sleep deprivation, is it?

Avon: I'd cope better than you.

Vila: Oh come on, Avon. Was your nightmare really that bad?

Avon: Yes. [Vila is surprised] It was unlike any dream I've ever had. It was so vivid it could have been a memory of a real event.

Vila: Maybe it was.

Avon: As you are all still alive, Scorpio in one piece and Servalan on the run, I doubt it.

Vila: Oh, you had a nightmare about something bad happening to us? I didn't know you cared.

Avon: You still don't.

Vila: So, since the last time we met Servalan she was controlling your dreams, you think it's her again?

Avon: Possibly.

Vila: She'd be a fast mover, considering she is in the middle of an evacuation and didn't even know you were still alive. She only saw Dayna and Tarrant. Always assuming it was really her in the first place.

Avon: So what's your explanation?

Vila: You've finally lost your mind.

Avon: Do you really believe that?

Vila: It's just as possible... even more possible... than Servalan deciding to give you nightmares. And if it is something to do with that conditioning she tried on you, this whole thing might be a trap. She's lured us here.

Avon: And I'd hate to disappoint her.

Vila: She could be controlling you right now.

Avon: So why aren't you running?

Vila: ...That's a question I ask myself all the time.

[Outside the fuel store, Dayna and Tarrant are prowling.]

Dayna: Are you sure this is the only way in?

Tarrant: Yes. It saves manpower, only needing to guard one door.

Dayna: We haven't seen any doors.

Tarrant: These stories are built to a pattern, so it should be nearby.

[They duck down as a trooper walks past.]

Tarrant: Damn.

Dayna: What? He missed us.

Tarrant: But the door will be keyed to the palm-prints of the regular guards. I was hoping to use him to unlock it.

Dayna: Great. We'll just have to get Vila.

[She reaches for her bracelet, but Tarrant stops her.]

Tarrant: Or we just wait for that guard's relief.

Dayna: Assuming he is going to be relieved. How long are the shifts here?

Tarrant: If they stick to the pattern? Three hours.

Dayna: Oh, brilliant.

Tarrant: Come on, we've got an ambush to set up.

[They head off to where the guard came from.]

Dayna: We wouldn't have to if we had Vila.

Tarrant: Avon wanted him around when they confront Servalan.

Dayna: How's Vila going to be of help?

Tarrant: Apart from being a human shield? No idea. Maybe he wants to see Vila's expression when he finds out she's still alive.

Dayna: I'm starting to wish I was there to see it too...

[Avon and Vila are moving through an alleyway.]

Vila: I don't think this can be her base.

Avon: You don't think at all.

Vila: I mean, our Servalan is always dressed for a party. She couldn't have much of a ball in this poky little dome.

Avon: An ex-President in hiding is unlikely to be holding a ball, Vila.

Vila: Servalan didn't let an alien invasion stop her, why should a civil war?

Avon: Maybe you should have stayed on Scorpio after all. You and Slave get on so well together.

Vila: You trust Soolin not to do a runner on us though.

Avon: She's a mercenary. She can't get paid with us dead, can she?

Vila: Oh, yes, Avon! Brilliant! Not like she's going to get rich off our bounties, is she?

Avon: You were the one that suggested we let her join in the first place.

Vila: Yeah, but you're the one that agreed! This is all your fault!

Avon: Vila, it may have escaped your attention, but things have changed. We don't have the upper hand in this galaxy any more. No more Liberator, no more Zen, no more Blake...

Vila: [sadly] No more Cally.

Avon: Beggars can't be choosers. We have to take risks, Vila. We don't have a choice any more.

Vila: That's what's scaring me.

[They duck and hide as there is a roaring from above. A space craft moves across the sky.]

Avon: The Commissioner's ship. This is taking too long. We have to find her quarters now.

Vila: She wasn't supposed to get back this soon! Orac said...

Avon: Then Orac was wrong.

Vila: Then who knows what else he was wrong about? Avon, let's chalk this down to experience and get out of here while we can.

Avon: Tarrant and Dayna haven't found the fuel cells yet, so we can't escape, can we?

[Avon walks off, Vila flaps his arms in despair.]

Vila: What does it, huh? What does it take?

[Outside the fuel store, a guard approaches a door. Tarrant steps out of the shadows, hands raised. The guard, surprised, raises his gun, but Dayna, still in hiding, shoots the guard down.]

Tarrant: Thank you, Dayna.

[He bends down and hauls the guard over to the door. The guard groans.]

Dayna: He's still alive!

Tarrant: I should hope so. You just have a stun clip. Unless he's got a weak heart...

[Outraged, Dayna checks her gun.]

Dayna: I thought we had plasma bullets!

Tarrant: I know. Sorry about that. But the scanner detects if they're alive, so I couldn't risk you shooting him dead. Besides, a spark in a refueling base is something to be avoided at all costs.

[Tarrant pulls off the guard's glove and presses his hand to the door. It slides open. Tarrant lets the guard slump.]

Dayna: So why didn't you tell me?

Tarrant: You wouldn't have enjoyed shooting him half as much if I had, would you?

[Dayna shrugs and nods, then follows Tarrant inside.]

[Avon and Vila are now inside the base. They close a hatch.]

Avon: Are you coming?

Vila: You only ever ask when I don't have a choice.

Avon: It invariably saves time.

[Inside the warehouse, Dayna and Tarrant are looking through shelves of machinery.]

Dayna: Well, these are the energy cells. Which ones will be compatible?

Tarrant: Search me.

Dayna: You're supposed to be a pilot!

Tarrant: A pilot, not an engineer. These cells are supposed to have adapters to be suitable to different ships...

[Outside, two troopers are passing when they spot the body of the trooper. They rush over to examine him, and spot the glove. They turn in unison to face the closed door.]

[Inside, Tarrant and Dayna are still searching.]

Dayna: So what do we do? Ask Slave?

Tarrant: You honestly think that computer's going to be any help?

Dayna: Orac then?

[There is the sound of the door opening.]

Tarrant: No time. Get to the 5A section and get the largest storage possible.

[They hurry through the shelves as the guards enter and start searching. Dayna and Tarrant remove two large batteries from a shelf as the guards spot them.]

Tarrant: Don't fire! Or you'll set off a chain reaction!

[The guards hesitate.]

Dayna: Soolin, teleport now!

[The duo vanish.]

[Tarrant and Dayna teleport onto the flight deck of Scorpio.]

Tarrant: Thanks.

[Dayna carries her battery over to Orac.]

Dayna: Orac, are these cells compatible with Scorpio's main drive unit.

Orac: Of course they are! The green switch on the casing needs only to be depressed and the cells fitted into the unit.

Dayna: Pity your intellect doesn't allow you to do it yourself, Orac.

Orac: It is a menial task to which you are far better suited.

Soolin: Such tact.

Slave: Sir?

Tarrant: What is it, Slave?

Slave: I must humbly point out that these cells are rated 35 thousand, whereas the drive unit of Scorpio is calibrated no higher than 14 thousand.

Dayna: You can compensate the extra power, can't you?

Slave: Well... yes... but might I point out...

Tarrant: No. Soolin, how's our energy levels?

Soolin: Down below the three percent mark. You better get them fitted quickly. If we're spotted...

Tarrant: Then this all becomes academic. Slave, switch all life support and communications to auxiliary power and pressurize the drive room.

Dayna: I'll help.

[Tarrant and Dayna leave.]

Slave: Er, madam, is the chance of us being spotted particularly high?

Soolin: Before the Commissioner was back on Ferno, we had the chance they'd mistake us for her ship - but now they'll know we're intruders.

Slave: I just wish to remind that while the energy cells are being replaced, Scorpio will not have sufficient energy to either operate the teleport or maneuver the craft itself.

Soolin: I'm aware of that, Slave.

Slave: I apologize most sincerely, madam. I did not want to state the irritatingly obvious.

Soolin: You failed, Slave.

[Avon and Vila approach a door.]

Avon: Commissioner's private quarters. Get us in.

Vila: Easy.

Avon: I don't need a critique of the lock.

Vila: It's not locked. Look.

[Vila presses the control and the door opens.]

Avon: "Sleer" must be very confident in her security.

[They enter the lavish quarters.]

Vila: Ex-Empress or not, she's done well for herself.

Avon: I'm not interested in her taste in wallpaper.

Vila: Well, it's not very tasteful, is it?

[There is a growl from the corridor. The two of them whirl around.]

Vila: What the hell was that?

Avon: More importantly, how did it get into this base without anyone noticing?

Vila: Maybe it's Sleer's pet...

[Another, louder growl.]

Avon: Close the door.

[Vila cautiously approaches the door when there is an explosion behind Avon. Instantly a fire breaks out.]

Vila: What the... what caused that?

[Another roar.]

Vila: We're trapped. Avon we've got to get out of here! [into comm] Soolin, teleport us up, quickly!

Soolin: [over comm] Sorry, Vila. There's not enough auxiliary power.

Vila: Then use the main power!

Soolin: [over comm] We can't!

Avon: They must be fitting the new energy cells.

Vila: Hooray for them! That means we're trapped! We're going to burn to death!

Avon: Or are we? Vila, close your eyes tightly!

Vila: What?

Avon: Do it!

[Avon does also. There is another roar and the flames close in.]

Avon: Count backwards from ten, Vila, as loud as you can!

Vila: This is not going to be your cleverest of plans, Avon!

Avon: Ten! Nine! Eight!

[They both count backwards, the flames and heat dwindling. By the time they reach zero, there is no sign of the flames.]

Avon: Open your eyes.

Vila: [does so] What was that? Some kind of mirage?

Avon: Or a hallucination. It was all in our minds. A psionic game.

Vila: Servalan?

Servalan: [oov] Who else?

[They whirl to see Servalan standing by the couch with two Mutoids.]

Vila: Where did you spring from?

Servalan: Oh, we came in while you were learning to count with your eyes closed.

Avon: You're not surprised to see us.

Servalan: I saw Dayna and Tarrant on Helotrix. It wasn't difficult to conclude that you too managed to escape from Terminal.

Avon: Despite your best efforts.

Servalan: Incidentally, I didn't care at all for the state in which you left the Liberator.

Avon: Caveat emptor, Madam President. Let the buyer beware.

Vila: Course... you're not actually president any more, are you?

Servalan: A temporary obstacle. One you yourselves shall help me overcome. With your capture, I'll soon be ascending once again. It was very kind of you to deliver yourselves here personally.

Avon: We are not at your mercy, Commissioner. You are at ours. One word from us and the whole Federation will find out what happened to Servalan.

Servalan: I find that hard to believe.

Vila: Orac's programmed to spill the beans to every computer he can reach.

Avon: And as you know he can reach a vast number.

Servalan: Then you shall just have to order him not to, Avon.

[Avon aims his gun at Servalan.]

Avon: Be more convincing, "Sleer".

Servalan: You are quite literally in my power, Avon.

Avon: Am I?

[He pulls the trigger. Nothing happens.]

Servalan: Your interesting new weapons are quite useless, believe me?

[Vila checks his own gun.]

Vila: How did you manage that?

Avon: The same way she managed to booby trap this room with false images.

Servalan: As astute as ever.

Avon: Hallucinations, illusions... you seem to be running short of any material weapons nowadays.

Servalan: Oh, my weapons are certainly material enough to kill you both right now.

Vila: Oh good. I'd hate to be shot by a hallucination, I wouldn't know if I was dead or just pretending.

Avon: How exactly are you managing this?

Servalan: Divine intervention, perhaps?

[Avon is unnerved.]

Servalan: Drop your weapons.

[Vila does so. Avon looks pained, but does so as well.]

Vila: Why did I do that? I didn't want to!

Servalan: Have you heard of psychokinesis?

Avon: Enough to know you can't possibly possess it.

Servalan: But I do, Avon. I do. Kneel.

[Avon shudders but stiffly gets to his knees.]

Servalan: When I said you were in my power I meant precisely that.

Vila: Your Pacification Police aren't doing too well, I've heard.

Servalan: A setback, I agree. But only temporary. You and Avon are going to tell me precisely what went wrong and how to rectify it.

Avon: How? More illusions?

Servalan: Far from it. That would be diverting, but ultimately take up too much time. And your time is rapidly running out.

[Servalan turns to the guards.]

Servalan: Pacify the brains of these unhappy resisters.

[The guards fire their medical lasers. Avon and Vila are transfixed in a green glow...]

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