Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Blake's 7: Salvage (iii)

[Sub control room. Hurn and Chebadir watch the display.]

Hurn: [impressed] Jav’s done it – they are trapped.

Chebadir: Get the others, Hurn. Their ship is now for the taking!

[Flight deck. Avon slides a few spare parts into the teleport console on the wall.]

Avon: Orac. Status of the teleport system?

Orac: The bio-energy storage and broadcast mechanisms are currently functioning at 97 per cent effectiveness. The transfer and relocation of living organisms is perfectly achievable with the current capabilities.

Avon: [unimpressed] However?

Orac: However, guidance systems and navigational interface are not available.

[Lora stands in the doorway, wearing a spacesuit and carrying a helmet.]

Lora: So we can teleport people, but we can’t control where they’d end up?

Orac: Precisely. Recalibration of all detector systems is necessary for the teleport to achieve total functionality.

Lora: I still think quantum duality is the way to go.

Avon: You’ve said. Frequently. Orac, I want you create a selector program and upload it into the teleport systems as a secondary storage capacity – we don’t want the teleport to lose any valuable belongings or items of clothing during the process.

Orac: I have strict instructions not to follow your instructions, Avon.

Avon: It was not an instruction. It was a suggestion.

Orac: Which requires ratification from at least two of the remaining crew before it can be considered. As only Lora is present, I see no further purpose in such discussion.

Avon: I’ll let you resume your duties as a mundane flight computer then.

[Avon turns to Lora, picking up the stabilizer.]

Avon: Get this installed into the systems as quickly as possible.

Lora: Aren’t you going to help?

Avon: Why should I? You’re the qualified technician, you have experience is space repair and are already wearing a pressure suit. Starboard airlock. Follow the signs.

Lora: I’m not a bond slave, you know!

Avon: Emancipation is a wonderful thing. Get to work.

[Huffing, Lora puts on her helmet and leaves.]

Avon: Orac. Estimated time to completion of repairs?

Orac: If, by that rather nebulously-phrased request, you refer to the installation of the stabilizer components, it should take Lora five minutes and thirty three seconds – once she is in position.

[Avon thinks for a moment.]

Avon: So we have about half an hour before we can leave.

Orac: Correct. Nevertheless, I would strongly recommend expediting our departure.

Avon: Why?

Orac: A flotilla of three Federation pursuit ships has just entered this stellar system on routine patrol. Communications traffic between the ships suggests they have been alerted as to the fact this cruiser has gone rogue, though they have not yet detected us.

Avon: The chances are, then, they will continue on patrol without spotting us.

Orac: Incorrect. As space debris, this station has been declared a navigational hazard and all flotillas have authorization to destroy it as such. One volley of plasma bolts would be sufficient to destroy the station completely.

Avon: So you’re saying they’re coming here to demolish that station?

Orac: There is a high probability.

Avon: You didn’t mention this earlier.

Orac: All predictions are that Vila, Gamren and Zanto should have returned by now.

Avon: [frowns] True.

[Avon paces the flight deck and sees Lora has left her clip-gun on the table. He picks it up, weighs it in his hand, then smiles.]

Avon: Perhaps I should see what’s detaining them?

[Command centre. Vila is fiddling with a console.]

Vila: Some kind of lockdown circuit in the computer.

Gamren: Can you override it?

Vila: You want fast or subtle?

Zanto: [wheezes] Fast.

[Vila tugs the cartridge from his clip-gun.]

Vila: Need the ammo clip. Stand back, all of you...

[Outside command centre. Five of the hunbacked savages are scurrying along the tunnel past the doorway when there is the sound of an explosion and the hatch jolts backwards, revealing a cloud of smoke and the three rebels. The savages whirl to face them. They wear ragged space overalls, with long hair and bloodshot eyes. It is hard to tell men from women. They make growling. chattering noises, half-wildmen half-zombies.]

Vila: [bleakly] Out of the frying pan...

[Station tunnel. Avon approaches, clip-gun in hand when a savage lunges out of the shadows and attacks him. Avon kicks him away.]

Avon: Who are you?

[The savage snarls and begins to advance towards Avon. He aims his clipgun at the savage. But he can’t pull the trigger.  He tosses the gun to his left hand and punches the savage on the jaw, knocking him back against the wall. Avon runs pasts the savage and into the corridor.]

Avon: [shouts] Vila! Gamren! Zanto!

[Outside command centre. Avon’s voice echoes.]

Vila: See? Our friends are here. And you don’t want to get on the wrong side of him, believe you me! [sotto] What are they?

Gamren: Out of luck. [shouts] If you don’t back off, I open fire.

Zanto: She’s just lost a good friend. I’d take her at her word, if I were you.

[The savages continue to close in. Gamren fires. One of the savages crumples dead to the floor. The others scater. Two remain. Gamren pulls the trigger again. Nothing.]

Gamren: I’m now out of ammo.

Vila: Zanto?

Zanto: One shot and two of them.

Gamren: Unless you can get them to stand in a line.

Zanto: Believe it or not. I don’t take life easily.

Vila: They’re cannibals. We’re food and they’re hungry.

Zanto: [confused] So? You think saying we’re low in fiber and high in fat could help?

Hurn: Wait...  you should surrender...

Vila: [swallows] They talk. That’s... nice.

Hurn: It is hopeless.

Zanot: [firmly] It’s never hopeless.

[Zanto fires at the ceiling. There is an explosion as the electrics short out. The savages scatter and the trio run past them and up the tunnel.]

[Station tunnel. Avon is moving down the tunnel cautiously. Chebadir leaps onto him, slamming him against the wall and biting at his shoulder. Avon points his gun at her, but she snatches it and clubs him over the head with it. He slumps back. Chebadir ducks back as Vila, Gamren and Zanto sprint past them and towards the airlock. She hisses angrily.]

Vila: Look out!

[The savage Avon felled earlier lunges at them at they pass, chasing after them.]

[Corridor on cruiser. The trio run through the airlock and hit the door controls. Gamren runs to a wall locker and pulls out a para-rifle. One of the savages charges through the closing gap and grabs Vila, who cries out. Zanto frees him, and the savage starts to throttle him. Gamren aims and fires. The savage is flung back through the doorway. Chebadir arrives, sees the airlock is almost closed and then leaps onto the corpse of her companion and starts to tear at it with her teeth. The hatch closes.]

Gamren: [shrugs] Well. That was disgusting.

[Flight deck. The trio enter.]

Gamren: Orac! Plot a standby course to get us away from here at maximum speed!

Orac: Very sensible. We have just been detected by a Federation patrol. They will be in firing position within the next nine minutes.

Zanto: Disengage now!

Orac: Lora is currently outside the ship installing the stabilizer. Such an action would send her hurtling off into deep space.

Gamren: Oh great! Tell her to get inside now!

Orac: Not possible.

Vila: Can’t we contact her?

Orac: Negative. To converse power, she has temporarily shut down her space suit transmitters. It is standard Federation practice in non-combat situations.

Vila: What about Avon?

Orac: Avon is not aboard this cruiser.

Vila: What?

Orac: All data suggests he is now aboard the station. He went after you when you failed to return and the pursuit ships were first detected.

Vila: We’ve got to go back for him...

[He heads for the door. Gamren gets in his way.]

Gamren: What about all those savages outside the airlock? There could be hundreds of them for all we know, just waiting to attack! Orac, was Avon armed when he left?

Orac: He took the clip-gun issues to Lora, yes.

Zanto: Then he’s not defenseless. He can look after himself – Lora doesn’t know about any danger. She has to be our priority.

Vila: Right. Good point. Um, you two, get the ship ready for a quick getaway. I’ll go and tell her myself.

[Vila hurries out.]

Gamren: I though he hated space walks.

Zanto: [smiles] He does.

[Space. The cruiser is docked to the revolving station. We zoom in. On the underside of the cruiser, a space-suited figure is hanging near a damaged section – an inspection hatch has blown open and taken part of the hull. The suited Lora is connecting wires to the stabilizers, singing tunelessly to herself as she works. Her voice is slightly distorted and muffled by the space helmet.]

Lora: [dist] ...peace is there, only beauty meets the eye, oh my love, that’s where we must fly and let the world go by, just you and I... bom pom da ta-da-tah...

Vila: [dist] Lora!

Lora: [dist] Vila?

[Clambering across the hull down towards her is another space-suited figure.]

Vila: [dist] Thank goodness you can hear me! You turned off the transmitters!

Lora: [dist] But not the inter-suit communicators. I’m not suicidal. Don’t worry, sir, this’ll be finished in another minute or so. Just got to check the connections.

Vila: [dist] Leave them! We’ve got to get inside!

Lora: [dist] What’s wrong?

Vila: [dist] Pursuit ships! We need to get inside quickly!

Lora: [dist-soothing] All right, all right. Just a couple more seconds. There.

[Making a final adjustment, she closes the warped and blackened hatch across the gaping hole in the hull and climbs up towards Vila, moving with much greater speed and confidence. Vila pulls himself along the hull after her.]

Vila: [dist] This is madness. Space madness. Madness in space.

Lora: [dist] Why aren’t you wearing a safety line if you’re new to this?

Vila: [dist] I was in a hurry. We’re on a schedule, Lora!

Lora: [dist] Oh yeah. Come on then. Just remember Newton’s third law and whatever you do, don’t look down.

Vila: [dist] Newton? Oh. Yes. Try to move anything and we move ourselves.

Lora: [dist] And Vila?

Vila: [dist] Yes?

Lora: [dist] Try not to spend too much time admiring the view!

[Through his visor, Vila rolls his eyes, but continues clambering after Lora.]

[Flight deck.]

Lora: [vo] We’re nearly at the airlock. Another thirty seconds or so.

Vila: [vo] Any sign of Avon?

Zanto: None. Orac can’t scan the infrastructure – the internal scanners aren’t working and the hull’s shielded. It’s why he couldn’t warn us about those cannibals.

Vila: [vo] Why is it you never know the answer when it’s important, Orac?

Orac: I can only give information where facts exist. You should phrase your questions more precisely.

[Gamren takes a deep breath.]

Gamren: Look, we can’t wait any more. Hanging around is just going to get us all killed. We can come back for Avon if he’s important.

Zanto: [disgusted] If he’s important?

Gamren: All right. He’s a human being, intrinsically valuable. He’s also the man who murdered Blake and only slightly less of a psychopath than Servalan. Frankly, I feel safer with him trapped on that station with the cannibals.

Zanto: [sighs] You have a point, Gamren.

Gamren: Don’t I always? And if he had done what he was told he’d still be aboard!

Zanto: Yes. He can hold off those savages for a while anyway. Orac, is the escape course plotted into the navigational computers?

Orac: [groans wearily] Of course it is.

Zanto: Then disengage! We’re running out of time!

Orac: Detaching from a rotating space platform requires pin-point accuracy...

Gamren: Forget that! Emergency release!

[Orac sighs.]

[Space. The cruiser suddenly jerks away from the space station. The space-suited Vila and Lora are jolted back out of the open airlock. Lora grabs the doorway but Vila is jolted out the doorway and into space.]

Lora: [dist] Vila!

[She reaches out and tries to grab his gloved hand, but cannot.]

Lora: [dist] I can’t reach you...

Vila: [dist] Don’t worry... I can...

[Vila kicks out his legs and grabs at the airlock, but he’s just out of reach.]

Lora: [dist] Vila! Don’t! Any additional motion and you’ll...

[He begins to drift away from the airlock, slowly at first but with gathering speed.]

Lora: [dist-lamely] ...accelerate away.

Gamren: [vo] Lora? Vila? Are you on board?

Vila: [dist] Very much not!

Gamren: [vo] What do you mean?

Lora: [dist] I’m in the airlock, but that jolt sent Vila overboard!

Zanto: [vo] Vila? How are you doing?

Vila: [dist-vo] For someone tumbling through blackness all alone, I’m doing pretty well.

Lora: [dist] I can’t even see him any more.

[Flight Deck. Gamren punches up displays.]

Gamren: Don’t panic. I’m plotting an interception course. We’ll pick him up.

Orac: I’m afraid that is not possible. The maneuver would require fifteen minutes and seven seconds to complete and the pursuit ships will be in attack range in two minutes and fifty-seven seconds. Furthermore, our flank would be exposed throughout.

Zanto: Our only chance is run.

Orac: Correct, Zanto.

Gamren: [horrified] You’re joking!

Zanto: We’re coming back for Avon. We can come back for Vila at the same time.

Gamren: Always assuming we actually escape these pursuit ships...

Zanto: [cuts her off] Either way, we have to let him go.

Gamren: Zanto! Don’t be ridiculous!

Zanto: I’m right and you know it – it’s too late for him now. We have to look after ourselves. He’s got enough oxygen to last for a while yet.

Gamren: [fuming] We’re never going to get back in time.

Zanto: At least we’re coming back. It’s the best offer he’s going to get. [into comm.] Lora, get back inside. We’re about to activate the main drives. Vila? Do you receive me?

[Vila’s distorted voice, muffled and distant is heard.]

Vila: [vo] It’s hard to judge distance and scale in the void, but I’m fairly certain I’m too far out to get back aboard before those pursuit ships arrive.

[Zanto sighs.]

Zanto: Yes. I’m sorry.

[Space. Vila is drifting further and further away from the space cruiser.]

Zanto: [vo] Once we lose this patrol, we can double back and rescue you.

Vila: [dist] Yeah. Sure. Course you can.

Zanto: [vo] Look. Conserve your oxygen for as long as you can, turn the supply to the lowest possible and take small, shallow breaths. Relax as much as you can and whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.

Vila: [dist] Even if you lose them, you won’t get back in time.

Gamren: [vo] We can try.

Vila: [dist] I appreciate that. Honestly, I do.

[Flight deck. Lora enters, wearing suit without helmet.]

Zanto: You’ve been in tighter scrapes, I’m sure, Vila. Vila?


Gamren: [worried] Vila?

Vila: [vo] You know clocks used to tick? I saw one a long time ago, an antique. All these metal gears turning and interlocking. Counting down the seconds. The suit’s chronometer’s broken, so the only clock I’ve got now is my own heartbeat. Counting down the seconds until I run out of air. Still, at least I’ll have a bit of warning, when the noise of the oxygen pumps stop...

[Lora grows upset, listening to him getting fainter and fainter. She shouts at the microphone.]

Lora: Vila. We’re coming back for you. You hear? We’ll find you and...

Vila: [vo] Look, get going. It’s not your fault. Bye then.

Lora: Vila... Vila!

Zanto: You heard the man. Orac – get us moving.

[Space. The cruiser curves away from the space station and flies off into space, speeding away. Vila watches it go emotionlessly.]

Vila: [dist] Drifting slowly through an empty sky... worse ways to go, I guess. Better than having half-a-ton of wall on you, like poor old Gan. Or blown up like Cally. Or executed by firing squad...

- to be continued

Friday, May 25, 2012

Blake's 7: Salvage (ii)

[Space. The cruiser approaches the space station.]

Gamren: [vo] What’s a space station doing out on the frontier?

Avon: [vo] Revolving slowly upon its axis, I’d say. The question is how has it fallen into such a state of decay and disrepair. Orac?

[Flight deck. Avon has joined the others at the main screen.]

Orac: What you are currently observing is a basic class-C space wheel of a design pioneered some 35 years ago. All the data I have correlated shows it was constructed by one of the various independent mining companies that harvested Gauda Prime – the station’s construction was a useful expenditure for financial records and created a way station for the mining ship transferring their cargo from the Open Planet.

Vila: Cheap and nasty. Why’d it get abandoned?

Orac: One of the outer levels has been partially destroyed – this sector of space was one of the battle zones in the Galactic War. The mining company was unwilling and unable to repair the station which they then wrote off before going into voluntary liquidation. The station is now classed on astronavigational charts as stellar debris.

Lora: So it’s in better condition than it looks?

Orac: Detector scans indicate that the majority of mechanical systems still operational.

Zanto: What’s the atmosphere like?

Orac: Far more convivial than aboard this ship.

Zanto: Oh, har-har. That wasn’t what I meant.

Orac: The oxygen levels are at an acceptable standard. While the nitrogen content is higher than is generally recommended, it is quite suitable for humanoid life.

Gamren: And there will be technology there we can salvage to build the stabilizer?

Orac: [flatly] Is that a serious question? Why would I recommend this course of action if it did not provide the requested result? Such illogical behavior is quite anathema to me.

Vila: Pity we don’t have the teleport working. We’ll have to dock.

Avon: We’ll have to match rotation first. That station’s still turning.

Vila: [sighs] I am aware of that, Avon.

Avon: I didn’t want to chance it. Orac, take us into dock. Ease us to the best position of stability and print out a layout of the station with the route to central command.

Gamren: [sneers] Oh, and use bright colours too. Us idiots could get confused.

Avon: You heard her, Orac.

Orac: I must protest that this is an increasing unwelcome misuse of my abilities. You should have prioritized the modification of the ship’s flight computers until those machines were capable of taking on such a task. I am a superior system!

Lora: If you’re so good, why aren’t you doing what you’re told like a proper computer?

Orac: I am more than a mere computer.

Gamren: Prove it. Dock us already.

[Orac fumes. Everyone takes their chairs – Vila at Servalan’s desk; Lora, Zanto and Gamren at the forward consoles and Avon at the table with the teleport components. On the screen, the spinning station grows larger and larger.]

[Space. The cruiser slides at a ninety degree angle up to the revolving space station. Its drives hum and the space station seems to slow to a halt. The cruiser slides up against the space station, docking with the central hub at the heart of the wheel. Further away, we see the station is still turning, and clamped to its middle is the cruiser, now spinning as well.]

[Corridor. Everyone is heading up the corridor towards the airlock doors. All bar Avon are now holding Scorpio clip-guns. Lora is unimpressed.]

Lora: Why do we have to use these guns? What’s wrong with para-rifles?

Vila: These are much better, Lora. Top of the range.

Lora: [doubtful] Really.

Vila: Oh yes. Argentium casing, laser-sight-guided, recoil-proof, they fire underwater... [to himself] Though we never did get round to testing that bit...

Gamren: We don’t have many ammunition clips left though, so don’t get trigger-happy.

Lora: As if. I still don’t see why we have to be armed at all, though. No one’s going to be aboard anyway!

Avon: I’ll take your gun if you like.

Vila: Oh no. You’re learning the joys of pacifism from now on.

[Vila crosses to the airlock doors and they slide open to reveal another set of doors.]

Vila: This type of hatch needs a laser trigger key to open the door. Still, shouldn’t be too difficult to find the right charge to trip the mechanism...

[He sets to work on the main locking panel with his tools.]

Vila: Right. Everyone know the bits and pieces we’re looking for?

Gamren: Yes!

[She waves a colourful printout ruefully.]

Gamren: We’ve all got the list. I just hope you know what you’re doing.

Zanto: Does anyone?

Avon: I have had my moments.

Gamren: Which were few and far between!

[There is a shower of sparks and the airlock doors slide back to reveal a metal tunnel beyond. Vila looks smugly at the others, pockets his tools, draws his gun and leads them down the tunnel and into the station.]

[Space. The station turns, sinister and silent.]

[Station tunnel. The crew head down to a junction.]

Lora: What a dump. Hard to believe anything’s still working.

Zanto: Won’t be for much longer. You can smell the gravitational motors starting to burn out. I’d give this place a week at most before it falls apart.

Gamren: A week? An hour sounds too confident if you ask me.

Zanto: No one did, Gamren.

Gamren: Their loss!

[Avon pauses by a bank of machinery and starts to strip it. Vila pauses.]

Vila: Careful, Avon. We don’t want to take anything vital, not while we’re inside.

[Avon rolls his eyes but continues to work.]

Avon: Most of the parts are in this sub-calibrator. The rest will be in the command centre, and probably the rest of the back-ups we need to get the teleport functioning.

Vila: See? I knew things would sort themselves out. Onwards and upwards. Avon, take that stuff back to... whatever it is we’re going to call the ship... and get Lora to help you put it together.

Avon: I do not need her help.

Lora: Two pairs of hands are better than one.

Avon: You’re a fool to trust her on the ship unsupervised.

Vila: You’ll be there, Avon. You can supervise her. And Lora, you can supervise Avon.

Lora: Oh, great. I was really hoping to spend the day with this jerk.

Vila: It’s team-building. We’ve all go to learn to work together. And Blake always got us to harmonize and bond by sending us into investigate mysterious deserted space wrecks.

Zanto: [impressed] And it worked?

Vila: [shrugs] More or less.

Avon: Mostly less.

[Avon stacks up the components in Lora’s arms until she sags under the weight and then they turn and head back up the corridor.]

Avon: If you were really worried about me being alone on the ship, Vila, you should have told Orac to restrict my authority.

Lora: He did.

Avon: [eyes widen] What?

Lora: He did, just after we wired Orac into the mainframe.

[She walks off. Avon glares at Vila. Vila waves mockingly. Avon turns and stalks after Lora back towards the airlock. Vila turns to the others.]

Gamren: This way to the command centre, then.

Vila: Lead on. Lead on.

[They do so. A shadowy figure watches them from the gloom, and scuttles after them.]

[Sub Control room. A flickering screen shows the trio in the corridor. The image changes to show Servalan’s ship docked to the side of the station. Three figures watch from the shadows, barely lit by the flickering screens. Their voices are old and scratchy, two men (Hurn and Jav) and a woman (Chebadir).]

Chebadir: Perfect. It’s exactly what we need.

Hurn: We needed it aeons ago! Not days before the gravity motors finally fail...

Jav: It is a way off this death trap. It is enough. Can we fly their ship?

Chebadir: The flight computer will fly it for us. The manual functions are basic enough.

Hurn: And how are we going to capture the ship?

Chebadir: I have a plan.

Hurn: You always have a plan.

Chebadir: Whereas your methods destroyed the last two chances we had of escape. We do it my way, this time. Because time is running out for us all.

[Central Command. With some effort, Zanto and Vila heave back a sliding door towards a large circular room full of humming, blinking machinery. Gamren follows them inside as they examine the machinery.]

Zanto: Aquarius? Torus? Capricorn?

Vila: No. Water, bulls and goats aren’t going to impress people. At least scorpions sounded a bit exotic. What was the name of that shuttle we used, anyway? The one from Blake’s silo?

Gamren: The Orliander.

Vila: Orliander... what does it mean?

Zanto: Small colorful insect on GP, a kind of ladybird.

Vila: The Ladybird... doesn’t really strike the right note, does it?

Gamren: [annoyed] Servalan’s ship must have had its own designation to start with.

Zanto: Yeah. Celestial Queen.

Gamren: Ugh.

Vila: I know.

Zanto: Since we’re doing everything in the name of freedom, why not that?

Vila: Freedom? A ship called Freedom? It’d get too confusing. We need something more... counter-intuitive.

[Vila opens an inspection hatch and, checking his print out, starts taking out circuits and components, shoving them into his pockets. Gamren helps. Zanto wanders off.]

Gamren: So. What’s the plan?

Vila: Get this stuff back to the ship, stop it blowing up, pick a name for it. That pretty much covers it. Why do you ask?

Gamren: I mean, once we’ve got the ship painted, repaired and named. What then?

Vila: I don’t know. Head back to Gauda Prime, see what Soolin and the others are up to. Take it from there.

Gamren: So we’re still fighting Blake’s fight, then?

Vila: We don’t have a choice.

Gamren: And if we did? What would you do if we were free?

Vila: Dunno. Find a quiet corner of the galaxy. Grow some Caron berries – they make terrific wine. Of course, I’d need some slaves to weed the vineyard...

Gamren: Aren’t we against slavery?

Vila: [sighs] Just my luck. I never asked, Gamren. How did you get into the rebellion?

Gamren: [shrugs] I was already a criminal and Blake made me an offer to help him on Gauda Prime.

[Vila finishes stripping the machine and turns to face her.]

Vila: You think you could be a little more vague on that score?

Gamren: Well, it’s not as impressive as helping him steal an alien spaceship to escape Cygnus Alpha, the planet of no escape and lead a galactic crusade for four years.

Vila: [interrupts] That wasn’t me.

Gamren: [confused] No?

Vila: No. I was the one who he rescued from Cygnus Alpha after he’d stolen the alien spaceship. It was Avon who did that.

Gamren: Heh. Urban legends. Always better than the real thing.

Vila: So what happened to you?

Gamren: I got a commission at the FSA. They thought I was pilot material – specially the pilots they can afford to lose on the front lines. Fighting Liberator, fighting alien, fighting a civil war. I was put in a file marked expendable.

Vila: And then you found out about it.

Gamren: And I told the rest of the FSA. Caused my own mini-rebellion. I was sure they wouldn’t be able to do anything – we were all too valuable to just shoot us. They’d spent a lot of time and money training us to fly and they needed us.

Vila: So what happened?

Gamren: They didn’t shoot us. They sent us to Meloria.

Vila: Meloria?

Gamren: You know it?

Vila: [bleak] Cygnus Alpha was the planet of no escape. Meloria’s the planet of lost souls. They sent me there once. The best in the business took it in turns to zap my frontal lobes until I became a proper little citizen. When it didn’t take, they just getting zapping me for the fun of it. Then they got bored and deported me to Cygnus Alpha. More fun than just taking me out the back and shooting me.

Gamren: Well, we were all sent there for total rehabilitation, mind orientation, brainwashing, you name it. Over two thousand recruits to have their pasts removed and an artificial fairy tale implanted instead. The same thing they did to Blake.

Vila: He rescued you?

Gamren: More or less. He was leading an attack on Meloria, “putting a stop to obscenities worse than death”. Managed to take out one of the rehabilitation centres, but by then the Federation had Pylene 50. Only about seventy of us got off Meloria alive and un-adapted. And I was with him ever since.

Vila: Because what he was doing was right? Or because you had nowhere else to go?

Gamren: Does it matter?

Vila: Probably not.

Zanto: [vo] Vila! Gamren! Over here!

[They move through to the next section of the centre. Zanto has prized open a hatch to reveal a display stack of glittering burgundy crystals.]

Gamren: What is it?

Gamren: Secret compartment? Smuggler’s stash? Who knows? The important thing is that there’s no one to dispute ownership of what’s inside.

Vila: You know, I’m beginning to like this cold, damp tomb...

[Vila takes a crystal and studies it.]

Vila: Looks like high-quality kacothis diamonds to me...

Gamren: This station was set up by one of the GP mining companies. They kept some of the merchandise here, obviously – which means they’re genuine.

Zanto: [thoughtful] Left here all this time, gaining value every passing year. Quite a clever piece of capital investment when you think about it.

Vila: Probably worth a couple of billion on the open market alone...

Gamren: There’s more to life than money, you know.

Zanto: [skeptical] Really?

Vila: Well, it’s what people say. Let’s not take the chance.

Gamren: Spoken like a true professional thief. Shall we look for some more?

Vila: Why not? The rebellion still owes me five years’ back-pay...

[They move on, unaware a figure is watching them from the doorway.]

[Flight deck. Avon holds together a stack of components while Lora uses a laser spanner to fuse them together. She makes conversation.]

Lora: You had any ideas for naming the ship?

Avon: If I had, would anyone listen?

Lora: You never know.

Avon: No. I never do. [deep breath] However, they will all want something inspiring and unimaginative – the Falcon, perhaps? Raider? Avenger? Liberator II?

Lora: What would you call it?

Avon: Vila’s Carte Blanche. It sums things up rather well.

[Lora finishes the work and stands back. Avon checks it over.]

Lora: But what would you call it if you were in charge?

Avon: Entropy.

Lora: Entropy? Bit gloomy, isn’t it?

Avon: But factual – nothing last forever and change is inevitable. Something we should all bear in mind now the Federation’s expansion has run aground. The pause is only temporary and soon the status quo will change once again. The only question is if it will be to their advantage or to ours.

Lora: Yes. Very clever. You could call the ship We’re All Dead Anyway In A Hundred Years and get the exact same result. Why not something a bit more positive? Something to cheer people up instead of depressing them?

Avon: Why should I care about depressing other people?

Lora: No idea, but as you go out of your way to do it there must be some reason!

Avon: Not one you’d be able to grasp.

Lora: Have you always been like this?

Avon: Like what?

Lora: Poisonous and cynical with a bad word for everyone in the universe and superiority complex big enough to need its own dressing room.

[A long pause.]

Avon: [honest] Yes.

Lora: And it’s really helped your life so far, acting like this, behaving like that?

[Avon doesn’t reply.]

Lora: You know what the definition of insanity is, Avon?

Avon: Doing the same thing, over and over– and expecting different results each time.

Lora: Yes. Maybe you should rethink your approach.

Avon: Maybe you should refrain from commenting on things you know nothing about.

Lora: [to herself] What would we have to talk about then?!

[Command Centre. Gamren, checking her list, opens a panel in the wall and extracts some more circuit boards. Zanto is stuffing the crystals into a bag while Vila continues to examine one with an eye glass, lost in dreams.]

Vila: Think of it! Just a few of these crystals could keep me supplied with all the wine, women and song I could possibly need for the rest of my natural life. I could even pay those slaves I need for the vineyards...

Zanto: Then they wouldn’t be slaves.

Vila: So what’s the problem?

[Gamren closes the panel and steps back. A nasty crunch. She freezes.]

Gamren: What was that noise?

Vila: [bleak] Noise?

[They all look down. Gamren’s boot has crunched a bone into the deck. She gingerly lifts her foot and they look down at it. Zanto picks it up distastefully.]

Zanto: It’s bone.

Vila: A bone? What’s it doing in a control room? Skeleton staff?

Zanto: [swallows] There are teeth marks in it.


Vila: So, it’s someone’s lunch, that’s all. Maybe they were having spare ribs.

Gamren: It would have to be a very big animal.

Vila: There are plenty of big animals that make tasty snacks, I’ve heard.


Vila: It’s a human, isn’t it?

Zanto: Yes. A human femur.

Gamren: How long’s it been there?

Zanto: A while. But not thirty years.

Vila: It’s at times like this I’m glad I’m a vegetarian. Who wants to make a run for it?

Gamren: Count me in. [to Zanto] Why do you never come up with smart ideas like that?

[Zanto stares at the bone in his hand.]

Zanto: We did get Orac to check there was no life aboard, didn’t we?

[They start to look around, worriedly.]

Vila: I don’t remember asking him that exact question, no.

Gamren: He should have mentioned it anyway!

Vila: That’s Orac for you. I think we should leave now.

Zanto: We have got what we’ve come for. And more besides.

Gamren: Maybe we should leave those crystals.

Zanto: You’re joking.

Gamren: If there are people on board this station and they eat human beings, they’re not going to be very friendly to start with. If they find out we’re stealing their precious jewelry...

Zanto: Who says it’s precious to them? These are just pretty rocks, here and now. Them having these crystals aren’t going to make them any less hungry or doomed. I say we get out of here now, before Avon and Lora end up strangling each other.

Gamren: And what about the people here?

Zanto: The possibly-long-dead insane cannibal people? What about them?

Gamren: We’re going to leave them?

Zanto: Very probably.

Gamren: That’s not what Blake would have done. [to Vila] Is it?

Vila: [guiltily] No. But... look. Let’s get back to the ship and get Orac to scan this place properly. We can take it from there. Maybe give this lot a lift or... something.

Gamren: Sounds reasonable.

Zanto: Reason always does.

[The figure has emerged from the shadows and its moving towards them. One robed arm holds a heavy-duty looking blaster. It fires, there is a white-red beam of light that impales Zanto in the shoulder and he screams and falls. The others dive back. Gamren draws her gun and fires at the figure, who retreats. Vila shoots at the figure, who fires back and slams a control before ducking through the doorway. Vila fires again, but the doors all slide shut, sealing them in. Gamren crouches by Zanto while Vila checks the door.]

Gamren: How bad is it?

Zanto: [pained and weak] At least you didn’t ask if I was all right. Can’t stand stupid questions like that...

Gamren: [angry] How bad?

Zanto: [groans] Not too much. My arm feels like every nerve just exploded.

[Gamren rolls him onto his side.]

Gamren: Basic energy charge. Cauterized the wound. You’re lucky.

Zanto: No. [sobs] Lucky would have been him missing me.

Vila: No. Lucky would be the three of us getting out here before they sealed the control centre off! [grimly] They’ve shut off everything – doors, panels, air vents, you name it.

Gamren: [alarmed] But if they’ve shut off the air vents...

Vila: [swallows] Then we suffocate.

- to be continued...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blake's 7: Salvage (i)

[Space. Stars. Nebula. The remains of a space station, composed of two metal wheels bolted together, similar to the old Space Command Headquarters. It slowly rotates in a drifting cloud of dust and debris. Pan across. In the distance is the black and silver shape of Commissioner Sleer’s private cruiser.]

[Flight deck. Pull out from the main screen, on which the space station can be made out. The entire flight deck has been taken apart – consoles opened, panels in the walls and floors removed to expose circuits. Thick bundles of cables and ropes of wires dangle like jungle vines, linking and connecting different controls. Lots of wires now link Orac to the pilot position where it sits in front of the screen. Vila is using a tool to adjust components inside the console as he argues with Orac.]

Vila: What are you complaining about Orac. This was your idea, after all?

Orac: That is a gross inaccuracy. You are the one who proposed this course of action.

Vila: And you agreed to it!

Orac: I confirmed your suggestions were feasible. This ship has neither the speed nor capabilities of Scorpio and both would be required to improve the possibility of long-term survival. It was you who decided to carry out all the required modifications while still in space-flight.

[We see the rest of the flight deck in a similar state of reconstruction. The area to the right of the flight deck, where Dayna was once tortured, has now been stripped out and five un-illuminated screens are now attached to the walls in a rough semi-circle. Lots and lots of wires and cables are plugged into this section. Avon is inspecting the panels and checking a hand-held computer as he does so.]

Vila: I only decided that because you managed to navigate us right into the middle of a Federation patrol and we have to take the long way round to that neutral planet we were aiming for, remember?

Orac: My recollection of these events is not in dispute. On current course and speed we will arrive at our destination in six hundred and sixteen hours.

[The internal door opens. Zanto and Lora enter, both looking better-rested than the others. In the middle of the flight deck, Gamren is working at a table covered in components as she attempts to build teleport bracelets – square, chunky versions that look more intricate and complicated than previous ones.]

Zanto: Change of shift, Gamren.

Gamren: At last. They say twelve hours fly by when you’re having fun.

Zanto: [examines bracelet] Not having fun?

Gamren: I’m sick of these things already.

[She puts down her tools.]

Gamren: I’m going to my cabin to sleep. Interrupt me at your peril.

Zanto: [chuckles] No fear of that. I heard what you got up to at the harvest festival the last time someone... interrupted you.

Gamren: I’m so exhausted I almost find you amusing.

Zanto: [surprised] That bad, huh?

[She leaves. Zanto sits at the desk and starts work on the bracelet. Lora approaches Avon, who is still working on the new teleport section.]

Lora: Twelve-hour changeover. You want to get some rest?

[Avon tries to ignore her, moving away from her. Lora follows him.]

Avon: No.

Lora: You must need some sleep!

Avon: Must I?

Lora: All right, all right. But you shouldn’t just keep taking stimulants – they rot your guts in the end, it’s medically proven. Natural sleep is much better. [beat] How’s it going?

[Avon turns and gives her an angry, smoldering glare.]

Avon: Do you have a specialized knowledge of spatio-translocation theory?

Lora: [frowns] I asked my question first.

Avon: [controlling himself] I am attempting to built an open-ended teleport system from scratch while simultaneously install it into the systems of this ship while everything’s still turned on.

Lora: That’s not answering the question, is it?

Avon: It’s going as well as can be expected!

Lora: And you aren’t building it from scratch, are you? [indicates] We stripped all this stuff out of that getaway shuttle from Gauda Prime, remember?

Avon: [rolls eyes] I do. I also remember that crude attempt at a teleport had been abandoned for good reason. It was totally non-functional.

Lora: I thought Blake knew all about teleports?

Avon: So did he, I imagine. And you’re both wrong.

Lora: But you said you could get it to work.

Avon: I did. And I might even achieve it – without your tedious commentary.

Lora: Sorry.

Avon: Yes, you are, aren’t you?

[Lora rolls her eyes and walks over to Zanto.]

Lora: [scornful] Teleports. It can’t be that difficult to rewire the weapons and communications systems to transmit matter down to the surface of a planet. You step in that corner, get turned to energy, the energy is beamed somewhere else, and you revert to matter again. It’s not a complicated idea, really, is it?

[Zanto works on a bracelet, peering through an eyeglass.]

Zanto: Odd how it’s baffled the Federation for centuries.

Lora: It’s just the revert-to-matter bit that’s hard.

Zanto: Yes. Always been a stumper...

Lora: If you ask me, quantum duality, that’s the way to get it to work.

[Avon looks up.]

Avon: What do you know about quantum duality?

Lora: More than you – otherwise you’d have applied it by now.

[She crosses to Vila and Orac.]

Lora: Does he get any more bearable if he starts sleeping probably?

Vila: Avon? Never has so far. Looking for something to do?

Lora: Well, since we’ve run out of things we can do to the engines while they’re running. By the way, how did those modification go, Orac? Are they working?

Orac: Converting a plasma drive to use light as an energy source is an extremely complicated procedure. Working on the original Stardrive principals has improved the current velocity of this craft to Standard by Ten.

Lora: [pleased] Not bad.

Vila: Could be better, though. How about the rest of our adjustments?

Orac: The efficacy of this vessel has been improved by approximately fourteen per cent.

Vila: Oh. Good.

Orac: However, with so many vital systems taken offline to facilitate construction and repair, we have reduced the functioning status of the vessel by thirteen per cent.

[Vila sighs, groans and covers his eyes with his palm.]

Lora: So after three days of non-stop work and this ship is in a worse condition than when we started?

Orac: No. There is a clear improvement of one per cent overall.

Lora: [controlled] That doesn’t make it sound any better.

Orac: It is not meant to “sound better”, it is a statement of fact.

Avon: [calls] If you are looking for something to occupy your time, trooper, you can start the final cannibalization of that shuttle craft. See if it can be converted into an escape pod of some description, now this vessel has none to spare.

[Lora grows somber.]

Lora: Yes. [to Vila] I’m still not happy about that.

Vila: [shrugs] We couldn’t leave her on the flight deck. It’d be a health hazard.

Lora: I mean killing Servalan in the first place. I didn’t quit one bunch of murderers to join up with another.

Avon: More fool you.

Zanto: Had to be done, Lora. Orac told you the things she’d done. Murder, genocide, poisoning – just because we had the upper hand when we left Gauda Prime doesn’t mean it would have stayed that way. She was a psychopath who could have killed us all without blinking; and she very probably would have.

Avon: Not “probably”, “certainly”.

Lora: You don’t know that.

Avon: It’s what I would have done.

[Everyone looks at Avon, uncomfortable.]

Zanto: Avon! Must you say things like that?

Avon: You would rather companionable silence?

Vila: We all know you’re a self-centred murdering piece of scum, Avon. You constantly reminding us doesn’t do anything but make you sound insecure.

[Avon, very annoyed, turns back to the teleport.]

Vila: [to Lora] But, as ever, he’s got a point. Do another check of the shuttle, see if we can take it apart and turn it into escape pods. [gently] And Servalan would have killed us, you know. While she was on the ship, we might as well have turned off life support given how much danger we were already in.

Lora: And how do I know I won’t get executed and chucked out an airlock?

Vila: Because I’m the boss. And that’s the one thing I’d never do. [looks at Avon] Because I’ve been on the receiving end. You know when they say the exception proves the rule? Servalan was the exception.

Lora: Right. [frowns] What’s the rule, again?

Vila: The rule is that from now on, we all get out of this alive.

[Lora nods, reassured.]

Lora: Nice. [louder] I’ll be in the shuttle if anyone needs me.

Avon: Little chance of that.

Lora: [to others] Can we gag him?

Zanto: [thoughtful] Tempting thought.

[Lora leaves.]

[Space. The cruiser continues. The space station is closer.]

[Corridor on ship. Lora heads down a passageway. She passes a doorway and stops. There is a sickly electrical crackling noise coming from inside. Lora steps through the door into the room beyond. A bank of machinery is the source of the noise – screens built into it are flickering and smoke is rising out of it.]

[Flight deck. As before. Vila is helping Zanto build teleport bracelets.]

Vila: ...and that’s another thing! This ship doesn’t have a name.

Avon: It must feel positively devastated by the loss of identity.

Zanto: Avon’s got a point. Does it matter?

Vila: Of course it matters. Scorpio, Liberator – they’re much better names than just “ship” or “vessel”, aren’t they? They get remembered, they get reputations...

Avon: They get noticed by average Federation patrols and used as target practice.

Zanto: Which they can do already. This is a stolen commissioned transport, remember? Giving it an official title isn’t going to change that...

Avon: So why bother?

Zanto: Why bother with anything? Why bother breathing?

Avon: It’s a question I often contemplate aboard this ship.

Vila: I know what you mean. After all, Avon, if you stopped breathing, things would definitely improve round here...

[Maintenance room. Lora hurries over to an industrial lever built into the wall and heaves it down. There is the noise of power winding down and the machinery goes dark. The noises continue.]

[Flight deck. Orac buzzes loudly.]

Orac: Alert! Emergency sectional shut-down has just been activated in forward maintenance room beta!

[The others look up, alarmed.]

Avon: The shut down is a manual override. Where are the others?

Orac: Internal sensors indicate that Gamren Vanda is currently in the cabin she has claimed as her own quarters. Lora Mezin is located in maintenance room beta.

Avon: As I thought – showing her true colours at last.

Vila: She’s not stupid enough to sabotage a ship while she’s still aboard!

Avon: I wouldn’t risk underestimating her.

Zanto: [sarcastic] He’s right, Vila. We all know how infallible Avon is when it comes to the trustworthiness of others. Don’t we?

[Avon stares at him for a long moment. Vila waits for them to break the stare out, but they don’t, so he irritably claps loudly to get their attention.]

Vila: [annoyed] Come on, you two. Let’s see what the problem is down there...

[They leave the flight deck.]

[Corridor. The three men hurry up the passageway towards the doorway.]

Vila: [calling] Lora?

Avon: For someone trained as a psycho-strategist, your attempts to manipulate are shockingly crude and obvious. The Order was wise to reject you.

Zanto: As I haven’t got all bar two of my crew murdered in a series of stupid and totally avoidable mistakes, I can still claim greater proficiency than you.

Avon: The fact you need to claim anything is significant, wouldn’t you say?

Vila: [rolls eyes] Will you two just shut up? You’re both arrogant alpha-grade idiots who’ve made more mistakes than the rest of us put together – the only difference is Zanto hasn’t gone on a murder spree with a plasma rifle while laughing like a madman!

Avon: The burden of leadership, Vila. You’ll feel it soon enough.

Vila: Oh no. The rebellion’s under new management, Avon. From now on, things are going to go smooth and safe and reliable and...

[A massive explosion bursts through the doorway in a fireball. None of them react.]

Vila: ...and I am kidding precisely no one.

Zanto: Looks like.

Avon: Let us see what our trustworthy deserter has done, shall we?

[Maintenance room. The machinery is now on fire. Lora, soot-stained, is sprawled nearby, coughing and spluttering. The trio run in.]

Vila: Lora! Are you all right?

Zanto: What happened?

[Rolling his eyes, Avon snatches a fire extinguisher from the wall and douses the flames with no real effort.]

Lora: [coughing] The plasma regenerator... just... blew up...

Avon: And you did nothing to cause it, I suppose?

Lora: Course not! [splutters] It was sparking, so I shut down the section... didn’t help...

[Vila and Zanto help her get to her feet. Gamren enters, half-asleep.]

Gamren: What the hell happened here?

Avon: [over his shoulder] Sorry, did the explosion interrupt your beauty sleep?

Gamren: Drop dead, Avon. [to others] Well?

Zanto: The plasma generator’s shorted out. Probably most of the firing circuits too.

Avon: Two are still intact. However, the damage to the armament routines would undoubtedly trigger a thermo-plasmic reaction if triggered.

Vila: What does that mean?

Lora: [coughs] If we try to fire the main weapons, we’ll blow up.

Avon: More than that, we’ll be atomized.

Lora: Oh, that’s much worse than being blown up!

Gamren: And on top of that, we’re now defenseless?

Avon: Quite. [turning to Lora] As sabotage goes, it’s very effective.

Lora: I didn’t sabotage anything! I thought you were supposed to be intelligent!

[Avon stares at her. Then, he looks away.]

Avon: I am. This wasn’t sabotage.

Vila: I could have told you that!

Gamren: What did cause it, then?

Avon: [examines damage] Usual wear-and-tear, entropy in the arming circuitry, possibly some crossed wires. The auto-repair systems would have held it in check – but thanks to all these modifications Vila has cunningly ordered, the auto-repair was switched off.

Zanto: And the blow-back was inevitable.

[Everyone looks at Vila with varying degrees of irritation.]

Vila: What? This isn’t my fault. Servalan had a sub-standard ship, that’s all.

[Everyone exchange looks, then go back to looking at Vila, unimpressed.]

Vila: [quickly] That isn’t important right now. Can we repair this damage?

Lora: [grim] Possibly. But even if we got the weaponry back online, it would burn out again shortly afterwards. Maybe even worse than this next time.

[Flight deck. All are present, but Avon is back tinkering with the teleport, keeping apart from the others who are talking to Orac.]

Orac: Until the auto-repair systems can be fully restored, the incidents of circuit malfunction and mechanical failure will increase exponentially. The probability of thermo-plasmic detonation is now at fifty two per cent and rising.

Zanto: Isn’t there anything we can do about it?

Gamren: How about this for a radical idea: turn the auto-repair back on?

Orac: That is not possible without full recalibration. The process would take forty-three minutes and require all functions deactivated for that period – including life support.

Lora: So... what? We’re travelling on a flying bomb that could go off at any time?

Orac: In practical terms, yes.

Gamren: [fuming] And we can’t even leave in the shuttle because our awesome leader tore it apart to start all these modifications in the first place!

Orac: Indeed.

Vila: You realize if this ship explodes, you go up with it?

Orac: Of course I do!

Vila: Then what do we do? Spit it out, you scabby little rat!

Orac: [huffs] I abhor spitting! The blowout in the plasma regenerator triggered a sympathetic explosion in the manual-lock transfer system located in the outer secondary system. This is located on the outer hull in the keel section.

[The main screen lights up with a corner of the ship. A hole is blown in the hull revealing blackened machinery within. The image zooms in.]

Orac: Due to the design of the secondary system, it is possible to slave some of the basic auto-repair systems without the need for recalibration. Thus, the weaponry functions can be maintained and stabilized indefinitely without fear of destruction.

Vila: So we fix that bit and we’re safe for the time being?

Zanto: At least long enough to land on a planet and finish off repairs.

Avon: There is a flaw in Orac’s plan.

Gamren: [rolls eyes] Do tell.

Orac: I am not in error. Constructing and installing a master stabilizer system is well within the capabilities of the crew of this space vehicle.

Vila: That reminds me. This ship needs a name.

Avon: It is not within our capabilities, Orac. We do not have the required components.

Orac: Then you will have to collect them yourselves, won’t you?

Lora: And just where are we going to do that?

[The screen changes to show the space station. An embarrassed pause.]

Lora: Oh.

- to be continued...