[Medical unit. Ravelo stands, arms folded, beside a bed surrounded by life support equipment. Vila enters and joins him.]
Vila: How is she?
[On the bed lies Soolin, a ghastly pale. Tubes connected to her arm and throat.]
Ravelo: Dozing in and out... sir. She hasn’t tried to kill me yet.
Vila: Must be your lucky day. Get out.
[He doesn’t even look at Ravelo as he speaks.]
Vila: Aren’t I just? Go.
[He leaves. Vila makes sure he’s gone, then closes the door and sits down beside Soolin, letting out a huge sigh of relief.]
Vila: It’s all right, Soolin. Just you and me now. In more ways than one.
[Soolin opens her eyes and speaks in a weak, brittle voice.]
Vila: [smiles] You remember me!
Soolin: I thought... you were dead.
[Flashback: Vila picks up Arlen’s gun, then is shot down by a new-arrived trooper.]
Soolin: I saw them shoot you.
Vila: They missed.
Soolin: [coughs] Lucky you. They didn’t miss me.
[Flashback: Soolin shoots the trooper, but a second trooper shoots her in the back.]
Vila: Don’t blame yourself. Not everyone has my amazing reflexes.
Soolin: Is Dayna...
[Vila shakes his head slowly.]
Soolin: Pity. And Tarrant? Where’s he?
Vila: Gone the way of all flesh. He lasted about ten seconds longer than you...
[Flashback: as Soolin falls, Tarrant shoots her assailant. A moment later he’s shot.]
Vila: He was already in a bad state when we found him, remember? We’re pretty sure he was dead before he hit the ground.
Vila: Don’t panic. They’re the good guys. Blake’s people.
Soolin: [frowns] And they saved us?
Vila: Like everyone else in this lonely forest, they got the wrong end of the stick. They fought off the Federation and found us surrounding Blake’s body, with you-know-who standing there, gun in hand. They all think that spy shot Blake, Avon snatched the gun off her and held off the troopers until help arrived.
Soolin: And is that what happened?
Vila: Why bother correcting them on fiddly little details? They got us out of there alive. We’ve in their fallback base in the mountains. We’ve been here for a week or so, and you’ve been in intensive care the whole time.
Soolin: A week... what about Avon? Did he survive?
Vila: Course he is. Even death has standards.
Soolin: If he’s alive, where is he?
Vila: Upset he didn’t come to visit you with some flowers and grapes?
Soolin: [wearily] Vila.
Vila: He’s in the base, don’t worry.
Soolin: Don’t worry? We’re on GP, the others are dead, we’re trapped with no ship and no teleport and the Federation are closing in – and you say don’t worry.
Vila: You can if you like. But there’s not much you can do about it, is there?
Soolin: [sighs] There speaks the voice of experience. Did Blake’s people appoint Avon their new leader?
Vila: No. They threw him in a padded cell and threw away the key.
Soolin: [dryly] Really?
Vila: Of course. It’s what I told them to do.
[Corridor in base. Zanto heads down some steps and comes to a door. He drops a card into a reader, as though clocking on. The door slides up to reveal a small grey cell with a bed and table. Avon lies on the bed, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling. He shows no reaction to Zanto’s arrival.]
Zanto: Good evening, Avon.
Zanto: I thought you might like to know. Soolin’s regained consciousness. Seems the emergency surgery was successful. She should be fully-recovered soon.
Zanto: Perhaps you’d like to see her? [beat] Very well. Before I go, perhaps you could help me with a problem that has arisen in the last few hours?
[Avon blinks, but gives no other signs of even being aware of his surroundings.]
Zanto: A Federation cruiser landed in Plantation Five an hour or so ago, right next to the ruins of Scorpio. I’d assume it was a salvage mission of some kind except that the ship took off almost immediately, not collecting a single fragment. Instead, it placed itself in orbit and then fired a single escape pod back down to the surface. I can’t find any logical reason as to why that would happen. Can you?
[Avon smiles slightly. His voice is croaky from disuse.]
Avon: Why ask me?
Zanto: Because all the evidence we have says that cruiser belongs to Commissioner Sleer of the Federation Pacification Police – a woman you have encountered several times over the last couple of years. I was hoping you could shed some light on her character.
Avon: Were you? Did you ask Vila for his opinion?
Zanto: Yes. He was more interested in our leaving the planet before she makes contact with the Federation than trying to understand her actions.
Avon: And since Vila is now the commander in chief of all planetary rebel action, why are you talking to me instead of following his orders?
Zanto: You’re not jealous Vila was chosen as leader, are you?
Avon: Far from it. I am if anything somewhat reassured for positive proof that the rebellion has a deeply ingrained instinct for suicidal insanity.
Zanto: You did kill three of my comrades when we rescued you.
Avon: [to himself] Just the three?
Zanto: It was a confused situation. You’d just seen Blake murdered, you were under considerable strain – these things happen. [shrugs] I only agreed to have you confined like this until you calmed down from the shock of what happened.
Avon: Please, Zanto. Don’t continue. I may weep openly at further compassion.
Zanto: If you wish to leave this room and rejoin the others, you may.
Avon: If I wished to leave this room, do not imagine I would still be here.
[He finally glares at Zanto.]
Avon: You may have locked me up down here for my own wellbeing but Vila gave the order for a very different reason. He does not want me at liberty. If he finds me free, what is to stop him ordering my death?
Zanto: Vila’s not a murderer.
Avon: He doesn’t have to be. He has over a dozen faithful retainers to do it for him. And he has more than enough reason to want me dead.
Zanto: You were friends, to my understanding.
Avon: Your understanding, Zanto, is far from complete.
Zanto: I’ve never claimed otherwise. Unlike you.
[A long pause. Avon sobers slightly.]
Avon: I have no idea what Sleer is up to. From what you’ve described, I can only conclude some emergency drew her off world before a different crisis forced her to abandon her craft – always, of course, assuming she was on board the ship at all.
Zanto: Yes. That was the best I could come up with as well.
Avon: I’m flattered.
Zanto: [turning to leave] Oh, one last thing, Avon?
[Avon looks at him.]
Zanto: Where’s Orac?
Avon: No deal, Zanto.
Zanto: It was a question. Not a deal.
Avon: I am the only one who knows Orac’s location. It is my insurance against a righteous public execution carried out by Blake’s grieving followers – while I have that secret, none of you can afford to kill me.
[Zanto stares at him.]
Zanto: Well. Quite. But why would we want to kill you, Avon?
Avon: The fact you need to ask has already lowered my opinion of you, Zanto. I suggest you leave now while you still out-merit eternal solitude as an alternative.
[Zanto turns and leaves. The door slides shut. Avon’s face briefly creases in pain and despair, then vanishes as he calms down.]
Avon: [sotto] So, Servalan. You’ve arrived, fashionably late as ever. Now we can finally end all of this...
[Forest at dusk. Smoke is pouring up through the trees. Lora is moving through the bushes, with a gun and a tracking device.]
Lora: Yeah. None of the other patrols could ever have spotted that on their own. Definitely not. Best send in Trooper Lora, the one with the least combat experience, she’ll be perfect for a job like this. What could possibly go wrong?
[Grumbling to herself, she enters the glade where the smoke is coming from. The bullet-shaped capsule sits in the middle of smoldering ferns, a coughing and spluttering pilot staggering away from the open-hatch. Blood drips from his temple.]
Lora: Stay where you are!
[The pilot goes to draw his gun, but can’t as he doesn’t have it. Either way, the sudden movement causes him to over balance and cough even louder.]
Lora: [shrugs] Close enough.
[She hurries over to him.]
Lora: How bad are your injuries?
Pilot: [wheezes] Superficial... I hope.
Lora: Head wounds... nasty. Always bleed too much.
[She opens a small suitcase and gives a breathing mask to the pilot.]
Lora: Get that smoke and grit out of your lungs.
[He gratefully takes it as she tends to his head wound.]
Lora: I’m Lora, by the way. Trooper in the planetary assault division based on this hellhole. You’re from Commissioner Sleer’s ship, right?
[The pilot coughs and nods, too weak to do much else.]
Lora: We’re based not far from here. Your Commissioner’s there, all safe and sound. We’re all kind of wondering what in the name of sanity is going on. Did you steal her ship for a joyride or something?
Pilot: [weakly] Something like that.
Lora: [laughs] Don’t tell Sleer that. You’ll get into real trouble.
Pilot: Sleer... she’s an imposter. She’s not really Commissioner Sleer.
[Lora stares at him.]
Lora: Well. I wasn’t expecting to hear that.
Pilot: She’s... [coughs] she’s...
Lora: An imposter. I got that bit. [worried] That smoke will attract bounty hunters. We better get moving before it’s full night.
[She helps him up and they start walking.]
Lora: This is totally outside my duty remit, you know. Just in case you were going to complain about me, I’m telling you that this isn’t my job. Someone else should be doing it, so don’t blame me for getting sent out here without proper training...
[Medical unit. With some difficulty, Soolin is downing a glass of green cordial.]
Vila: There you go. Drink it all up.
Soolin: [retches] It’s disgusting!
Vila: It wouldn’t be medicine otherwise. You need all the vitamin solutions you can get, you haven’t eaten or drunk anything for the best part of two weeks.
Soolin: How bad were my injuries?
Vila: Well... let’s just say you won’t be getting your clothes back.
[Soolin eyes him sideways.]
Vila: You lost a lot of blood. Repaired a lot of the organs in your body cavity. Bit of residual nerve damage to your right-hand side. Might not be as coordinated as you used to be. Not sure you’ll ever be up to professional gunslinger standards...
Soolin: You think I didn’t train to be ambidextrous?
Vila: You never mentioned it. [smirks] Though, I would have been surprised if you hadn’t. Still, either way, you’re doing better than Dayna and Tarrant.
Soolin: We’d given up Tarrant for dead anyway.
Vila: Doesn’t make it any easier though. I’m actually going to miss the arrogant bully.
Soolin: [sighs] He was one of us.
Vila: Yeah. Not any more though. Still, maybe he’s with his brother and Zeeona now.
Soolin: Maybe. Maybe Dayna’s with her family as well.
Vila: [trying to convince himself] It’s how she would have wanted it. Quick and violent.
Soolin: She never did get revenge on Servalan.
Vila: Maybe that was a good thing. She might have had nothing left. We both know what can happen when you finally find what you’re looking for.
Soolin: Speaking of missing objects... Orac. Where is it?
Vila: Haven’t the faintest idea. Remember, just before we went into the silo, Avon landed the flyer and then hid it out in the woods? Didn’t tell any of us where of course. I sent a couple of Blake’s people to search, but they haven’t found him yet. I thought, since Tarrant survived the crash, Scorpio might not be too badly damaged. [sighs] It was even worse than it looked. Just a pile of scrap metal. Teleporter, stardrive, even Slave – all smashed beyond repair.
Soolin: [bleakly] A mess.
Vila: A mess. And all thanks to Avon.
Soolin: Then Avon can get us out of it.
Vila: Don’t be stupid, Soolin. The only thing he can get us is dead – and he nearly succeeded. I’m not going to follow him, not after what he did to...
[He bites down the complaint, wary someone might be listening.]
Vila: After what he did.
Soolin: He’s the only one who knows where Orac is – he can sort that out at least.
Vila: [brightly] Oh thanks. I’d never thought of that. Never once occurred to me!
Soolin: You said Servalan was supposed to be visiting. If she gets Orac before we do, we might as well have died with Blake and the rest. And I can’t believe Avon is willing to sacrifice his own life, can you? Not when it means letting Servalan win.
Vila: [darkly] No. But then I couldn’t believe Avon would shoot an unarmed friend three times, either. Or throw another friend off a space shuttle to achieve escape velocity. He's full of surprises is our friend Kerr Avon, isn't he?
[Tracking gallery. Orac now sits on Klyn’s console. A screen shows the countryside.]
Captain: So this computer of yours can calculate the probable routes the rebels took?
Orac: Simplicity itself.
[The Captain is taken aback.]
Captain: You never said it could speak.
Servalan: Believe me, Captain, I intend to remedy that in due course. What have your investigations uncovered so far, Orac?
Orac: This base was specifically chosen because of its surrounding mine workings, which provided a useful pre-existing network of escape tunnels and thus allows an almost instantaneous evacuation procedure.
Captain: I could have told you that.
Orac: Your input, Captain, is unnecessary or else you would have discovered the whereabouts of the fugitives by now! If I might be permitted to continue, there is clear evidence that there is a secondary rebel encampment less than a day’s travel by foot. It would not be possible for the entire staff of this facility to evacuate used flyers to traverse the distance, so the remainder would have walked there, using the cave system as partial protection from the heat sensors of bounty hunter patrols.
Servalan: Any further data about the whereabouts of this base?
Orac: Very little. All computer records and system data were destroyed by the rebels to ensure no information could be recovered, but I am piecing together relevant facts from secondary sources. There are several references to “Horizon Base” and its links to this silo, the “Decima Base”.
Captain: Those codenames, do they mean anything?
Orac: Of course they mean something! They would not be used otherwise!
Servalan: Tell us to what they refer.
Orac: They are references to events in the life of Roj Blake. Only his immediate colleagues aboard the Liberator would recognize the names for their connection to Blake. It was a deliberate clue to his former companions of his presence on this planet.
Captain: [confused] I thought the Liberator was destroyed years ago, the Federation used a corrosive weapon to wipe it out!
Servalan: Something like that. The crew, however, survived and joined a second cell of outlaws on the Scorpio. Didn’t you notice the crashed planet hopper in the forests outside?
Captain: [glaring] So, to summarize, not only is Blake on this planet but so are the rest of his little personality cult?
Servalan: [smiles] Yes, Captain. And if we can capture them alive, your daydream promotion will be the least of the rewards the Federation will bestow upon us all!
[The Captain smirks greedily to himself.]
Captain: I’m beginning to like Gauda Prime more and more.
[A chirp from one of the control panels. A trooper checks it.]
Trooper: Communication from Trooper Lora, Captain.
[The Captain nods and crosses to the panel. Servalan continues to study the screen. The Captain puts on a headphone-mike.]
Captain: Report, trooper.
[Cut to flyer. The pilot sits in the passenger-side, exhausted but bandaged and still sucking oxygen. Lora is flying.]
Lora: I checked out the landing site for the capsule, sir. One occupant, a space pilot, superficial injuries but I’m bringing him back to the silo for a proper checkup.
Captain: [vo] What was he doing abandoning the cruiser in orbit?
Lora: How should I know?
Captain: [pained] You could try interrogating him, trooper.
[The flyer skims over the treetops.]
Lora: He’s too weak for that, sir and I’m not comfortable torturing people at the best of times. But he did tell me that the woman he brought here isn’t really Commissioner Sleer.
[The Captain’s eyes widen.]
Captain: Repeat that, trooper.
Lora: She’s not Commissioner Sleer. He was very firm on that point. In fact, the word he used was “imposter”. I don’t know, maybe the real one’s back on that ship, maybe she killed her, but that woman is not who she says she is.
[The Captain looks back at Servalan.]
Captain: Where are you?
Lora: [vo] Above Plantation Four. We should be landing in a few minutes.
Captain: Right. I’ll have the medic standing by. Silo out.
[He takes off the headset and returns to Servalan’s side.]
Servalan: There are several potential bolt-holes. The computer is establishing the most likely candidate. Then perhaps you can organize a more successful raid than the last one you managed, Captain.
[She turns back to the screen, contemptuous of his past failure.]
Servalan: At least we still have the element of surprise...
Captain: [grins] Yes, we do, don’t we, Commissioner?
- to be continued...