[Cell. Avon seems to be asleep on the bed. The door slides open to reveal Vila, Gamren and Ravelo. Vila carries a flask of booze and some glasses.]
Vila: [watching Avon] You two wait outside.
[Gamren shrugs. Ravelo looks annoyed. Vila enters the cell. The door closes.]
Vila: You’ve had eight days to sleep it off, Avon. Stop pretending.
[Avon opens his eyes.]
Avon: I lack your practice at being bone-idle, Vila.
Vila: Careful, Avon. That was very nearly a compliment.
Avon: Very nearly but not quite.
Vila: Fancy a drink?
[He opens the flask and fills the two glasses.]
Avon: Are you proposing to toast the departed?
Vila: [sighs] We don’t have nearly enough booze for that, Avon.
[He offers the glass to Avon. Avon looks at it, then takes it, but doesn’t drink. Vila does.]
Avon: To what do I owe the honor of your presence, Vila?
Vila: Big day today. Soolin’s awake.
Avon: So I heard.
Vila: You disappointed she made it? Didn’t have the good grace to die like the others?
[Avon gives him an unimpressed look.]
Avon: I didn’t kill them.
Vila: Ah. We both know that’s not exactly true, don’t we, Avon?
Avon: But the rest of the idealists in this base remain unaware. And I had nothing to do with the deaths of Dayna and Tarrant. Our dearly-departed space captain wouldn’t have survived for long anyway, given his injuries.
Vila: And you don’t care they’re dead?
Avon: Does it matter? It wouldn’t change anything. They made their own decisions and suffered the consequences. Why should I feel responsible?
Vila: Because they died of decisions you made. You brought them here, remember?
Avon: So I did. And they agreed to follow me. I did not promise them either safety or survival.
[He absently swigs the booze.]
Avon: I never make promises I can’t keep.
Vila: Which is why you don’t make promises.
Avon: [smiles] Exactly. Well, Vila, fascinating as this discourse undoubtedly is, perhaps we best get down to business.
Vila: Who says there’s business?
Avon: Zanto was in here earlier, picking my brains. Servalan’s on the planet and her ship is behaving rather capriciously. You want me to get Orac before she does.
Vila: [sips drink] That obvious, am I?
Avon: To the trained eye.
Vila: You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Avon: What else is a cover for?
[Avon finishes his drink and puts down the glass.]
Avon: I refuse.
Vila: [sighs] Why?
Avon: Why not?
Vila: If the Federation get Orac, we’re all dead in the long run.
Avon: In the long run, Vila, we’re all dead anyway.
Vila: Then the only question left is whether I kill you now or let Servalan have her fun.
Avon: [chuckles] You? Kill me?
[Vila draws his clipgun and aims it at Avon.]
Vila: In case you hadn’t noticed, Avon, I’m the boss now. The one who calls the shots – quite literally.
[Avon isn’t remotely intimidated.]
Avon: You’re still a fool.
Vila: The fool in charge.
Avon: So even village idiots have a hierarchy. It’s hardly an impressive achievement.
Vila: What would be an impressive achievement? Killing an unarmed man in cold blood when they’re trying to talk to you?
Avon: Perhaps. Or throwing an expendable thief out of an airlock?
[Vila’s hand tightens around the gun.]
Avon: Don’t embarrass yourself any more than you already have, Vila. [turns away] If you wanted to kill me, you’d have done better to send Soolin down here, still-half-comatose on an intravenous drip. She’d have a greater chance of succeeding than you would.
Vila: Do you want to test that theory?
[Avon doesn’t face him.]
Avon: Slaughtering an unarmed prisoner with no means of defending themselves. What a glorious way to continue the endless fight for freedom. Oh, Vila, your predecessor would have been so proud to see you now... [wistful] The way you broke that spy’s neck with a single chop of your hand...
Vila: That was self-defense.
Avon: Of course. She had a gun and you didn’t. That makes all the difference.
Vila: I’m the only one in this cell who isn’t a murderer, Avon.
Avon: You seem remarkably eager to join the club.
Vila: And you haven’t given me one reason not to.
Avon: But I am still alive. A testament to your ruthless efficiency, I think you’ll agree.
Vila: [incredulous] You really want me to kill you?
Avon: I’m interested to know how, given there isn’t an ammunition clip in that gun.
Vila: Oh. You noticed that.
[Vila’s confidence crumbles. He lowers the gun and examines it ruefully.]
Avon: Oddly enough, yes. It is fitting, though, Vila, that you wield a weapon almost as useless as you are.
[Vila continues to examine the clip-gun.]
Vila: [glumly] You don’t always need ammunition to hurt people, Avon.
[Without warning, Vila swings the gun by the barrel so its butt collides with Avon’s face, sending him reeling across the cell and into the bed. Vila strides over to where Avon is sprawled, clutching his bleeding nose and mouth, genuinely shaken.]
Vila: [angry] I let you have your last drink, Avon. My conscience is clear. I might not be able to live forever but I can still live longer than you. Either you do what you’re told for once in your miserable life or you die here and now.
[Avon rubs his blood between his fingers, as if fascinated by it.]
Avon: The price of friendship.
Vila: We weren’t friends, Avon. I was just someone you forgot to hate from time to time.
[Vila loads an ammo clip into the gun handle.]
Vila: I was considering keeping you alive, Avon. So when Servalan arrives to kill us all, she can have you on a plate to do whatever she damn well wants to. But then you’d bleat that I’d gone and betrayed you, and we can’t have that, can we?
[He aims the gun at Avon’s temple. Avon is taking him seriously, but still not scared. If anything he’s almost excited at the prospect.]
Vila: I’m not the one who betrays people, am I? You are.
Avon: Am I? Then I must be punished. You should put me on trial, revolutionary justice for the murder of the sainted part-time bounty hunter! I’d be found guilty in an instant, and no doubt humanely executed within the hour.
Vila: Within the hour? That long?
Avon: There’s bound to be some debate – particularly when Zanto, Narril and the others want explained to their satisfaction why you kept quiet all this time.
Vila: I’ll think of something.
Avon: You’ll think? Wonders never cease.
Vila: Whereas your heartbeat is about to, Avon. Last chance. Orac or the grave.
[Silence. Vila is sweating but his aim does not waver. Avon looks him in the eye.]
Avon: Well now. You only had to ask.
Vila: [coldly] I am asking. Where’s Orac?
Avon: As if I’d hide something that valuable in a place I could simply direct you to. You’re going to have to release me and let me take you there. Unless of course, you want to spend the next month searching through the plantations?
[Vila wordlessly rises and steps back.]
Vila: Get up, then.
[Avon wipes the blood from his lip and gets to his feet. Vila crosses to the door, which slides up to reveal Gamren and Ravelo.]
Vila: Avon’s agreed to get Orac back for us.
Avon: Of course I have. How could I refuse so courteous a request?
Vila: Ravelo, take him to get some proper clothes – insulated against thermal scans.
[Ravelo nods and turns to Avon.]
Ravelo: It’ll stop the bounty hunters detecting...
Avon: [interrupts] Believe it or not, I know what “thermal scans” are.
Ravelo: [sarcastic] Good for you! I bet you can tie your own shoelaces as well!
[They head off, pissed off with each other. Gamren watches them go. Vila holsters his clipgun and picks up the flask.]
Gamren: Impressive. Eight days of him being less responsive than Soolin and you get him talking in a couple of minutes. How did you do it, sir?
Vila: [exhausted] Trade secret.
Gamren: [smiles] Might I know what it is?
Gamren: Aww. So I have to live in ignorance?
[Vila glares at her.]
Vila: Better than dying well-informed, any day.
[They leave the cell. The door closes.]
Vila: What’s the latest on Sleer?
Gamren: The life capsule landed intact. The Federation forces at the silo sent out a single trooper in a flyer to collect the occupant who is alive and well.
Vila: Do we know if it’s Sleer?
Gamren: Fraid not. What’s this I heard about Sleer having something to do with Servalan?
[Vila looks at her sharply.]
Vila: I don’t know. Who’ve you been listening to?
Gamren: Zanto. He was a bit confused about it to.
Vila: [sighs] Fine. I dunno why I didn’t mention it earlier. Must be getting secretive in my old age. You see, Gamren, Sleer is Servalan. Servalan didn’t die, she just changed her wardrobe and became a Commissioner. And so, her being on GP is a very bad thing. That explain enough?
Gamren: So Sleer... Servalan... if she’s on that flyer, we should destroy it.
Vila: [rolls eyes] Oh, fair enough. How are we going to do that?
Gamren: Torbin and Mikarl are in the area in their own flyer, sir. The flyer’s got plasma canons attached; they could shoot it down...
Vila: [no hesitation] Do it.
Gamren: You’re not worried if it’s trap then, sir?
Vila: [shouts] I don’t care if it’s a trap! If we can blow up Servalan, we’ll achieve more today than Blake managed in the last few years!
[Vila storms off. Gamren follows, taken aback by his sudden mood swing.]
[Sky. It is now full night. Lora’s flyer is moving across the horizon. Another flyer appears. An alarm goes off on the dashboard, waking the slumbering pilot.]
Pilot: What’s happening?
Lora: Collision alert. Another flyer, coming in fast...
[The flyer is now visible through the windows.]
Pilot: [shouts] What the hell are they doing?
[A sizzling, crackling noise as a spray of red energy bolts hurtle towards Lora’s flyer. There is an explosion from the dashboard and the whole cockpit jolts and shakes. The pilot grabs the steering column, trying to take over the drive.]
Lora: Get off!
Pilot: They’re trying to kill us!
Lora: Thanks! I had noticed!
Pilot: Bank downwards before they fire again!
[Too late. Another volley, another explosion. Through the windscreen, we can see the other flyer hurtles towards them.]
[Tracking gallery. As before.]
Orac: ...furthermore, there seems to have been recent excavations leading to a subterranean hanger on the other side of the mountain range where at least one short-range escape craft has been prepared for immediate launch.
Servalan: But it’s still there? The rebels didn’t evacuate that way?
Orac: No. This confirms all of my predictions for the initial conflict between Blake’s forces and the assault squad. There are only two possible fallback points the rebels could now be occupying...
Captain: Which are?
Captain: Not now!
Trooper: It’s Trooper Lora, sir – she’s under attack!
[The damaged flyer, leaving a plume of smoke, hurtles below the treeline and then out again. The rebel flyer follows, firing another volley. This one misses.]
[Inside the flyer, some of the controls are on fire. The pilot looks out the window.]
Pilot: Missed! That’s good... They can’t have much more plasma ammunition left!
Lora: Enough to blow us to pieces. Silo, this is Trooper Lora, do you read me? Unidentified flyer attacking us at coordinates 10-2-0-4. We’re badly damaged. Need assistance!
Captain: [vo] We receive you. The troop transporter’s lifting off, but it won’t reach that coordinate for twelve minutes! Can you hold out until then?
[The flyer jolts as another system burns out.]
Lora: Very unlikely! And I want to remind you, Captain, that I protested at having to do a one-woman rescue team with no training and limited information, so technically, this is all your fault! If you ask me, you are damn well negligent...
Pilot: [incredulous] Is this the time or the place?
Captain: [vo] Who’s that?
Pilot: Pilot Ateno! I had to abandon the cruiser after I discovered Commissioner Sleer was actually...
[Another volley. The back of the cockpit collapses in flames.]
[The damaged flyer drops out of the sky and into the woods. It smashes into the branches of the trees, and is flung backwards down onto the forest floor.]
[Tracking gallery. The Captain is at the comms panel.]
Captain: Pilot Ateno? Trooper Lora? Respond? Trooper? Respond!
[There is the sound of an explosion that turns to static.]
[A fireball rises from the treetops. The other flyer swerves away as the flames die away.]
[Tracking gallery. The Captain lowers the headset, troubled. He turns. Servalan is standing behind him, smiling pleasantly.]
Servalan: Some further development, Captain?
Captain: Yes. One of my troops was attacked and shot down by another transporter. Though that still is technically legal – it is unusual. I think the rebels are still active.
Servalan: I thought I heard mention of a “Pilot Ateno”.
Captain: Did you? Does that name mean anything to you?
Servalan: [shrugs] None whatsoever.
Captain: Interesting. He claimed to have been the pilot of Commissioner Sleer.
Captain: Except that Commissioner Sleer is an imposter.
Servalan: And did he provide any proof for either of those claims?
Captain: [mocks her] "None whatsoever." But I believe him anyway.
[All the troopers aim their guns at Servalan. She is now mildly annoyed.]
Servalan: This planet has no direct contact with the Federation. You could not possibly have confirmed my identity one way or the other.
Captain: No. That request has been made however. We should learn the truth soon enough.
Servalan: The truth is what I say. I am Commissioner Sleer.
Captain: And you also happened to be loitering in the woods where rebels are still active while your ship fled the planet and the pilot risked his life to get back here and warn us that you aren’t who you say you are. Is there is a perfectly logical explanation, ma’am, I would be fascinated to learn what it is?
Servalan: [mock sad] I can see even basic routine is too taxing for you, Captain. I don’t want to exhaust your intellect any further. If you wish, I will happily remain under guard until Federation Security confirm what I have already told you.
Captain: Very wise. I could have you executed here and now. This is still an Open Planet.
Servalan: An Open Planet on which you would be forced to remain if you don’t want to be executed for treason. And the suspension of the law is only temporary.
[She turns and collects Orac.]
Servalan: If you’ll escort me to my cell?
Captain: Leave that thing here.
Orac: [outraged] Thing? Thing?
Servalan: Putting aside your unreasonable doubts about me, the rebels are out there and we do not yet know where they are. I have further work to do with this computer. It will only respond to my voice commands, you see?
Captain: It listened to me earlier.
Servalan: And now I’ve instructed it not to. Correct, Orac?
Orac: Correct. The instructions are quite clear.
Servalan: When you have absolute proof I can be trusted, we will crush the remaining rebels. And the delay I will blame solely on your paranoia, Captain. Please inform me when you’ve discovered how much of a fool you’ve been.
[She turns and swans out. The troopers follow.]
[Deva’s office. Servalan enters. One of the troopers swings a panel shut across the doorway, sealing her inside. She puts Orac down on the table and checks the other doorway. It is also sealed.]
Servalan: Are we being monitored, Orac?
Servalan: Then I want one of your fabled predictions.
Orac: My capacity to extrapolate future events was severely curtailed shortly after I came into Blake’s possession. It required a neuro-electric channel broadcasting on a frequency which left me vulnerable to...
Servalan: I am not interested, Orac! Tell me what will happen with that fool out there!
Orac: That is hardly a precise instruction...
Servalan: What will he do when Federation Security confirm my identity?
Orac: It is unlikely you will be released. The Captain wishes for glory and promotion and there is enough circumstantial evidence to suggest you are, if not an imposter, then a rebel sympathizer on this planet to aid Blake in his terrorist activities.
Orac: But not, strictly speaking inaccurate.
Servalan: No one except you and I know that.
Orac: Indeed, but the Captain will prefer to expose you as a traitor for his own career prospects. Though he may not be able to prove it, rigorous security checks will be made on your files. Are you certain they will stand up to sustained scrutiny, especially given that Councilor Meston is seeking to use you as a scapegoat for the current crisis?
[Servalan paces uneasily.]
Servalan: Perhaps not. “Commissioner Sleer” was my security designation when I was travelling as President. The cover was easily maintained since I was deposed, with the genuine Sleer’s records altered while she was... suitably dealt with. What is my best option?
Orac: I am still in the position to provide you safe passage away from Avon and his crew.
Servalan: But not the Federation.
Orac: No. Therefore the course of action is simple enough. You must relocate to where my protection will save you.
Servalan: So you do know where Avon and the others are.
Orac: That information is not yet available.
Servalan: And how can I even get out of here?
Orac: [sighs] Gauda Prime is an Open Planet and the group here were prepared for an incursion. You, Servalan, are supposedly a military strategist! Kindly do not disturb me with trivial questions which you can resolve yourself!
[Servalan rolls her eyes and looks around and checks the walls. After a moment she locates a panel in the wall. It slides back to reveal a tunnel leading away. A box is strapped to the wall nearby. She opens the box – it contains various junk.]
Servalan: First aid. Money. A torch. Some kind of homing device... Yes, Blake’s group were better organized than we gave him credit for. Let us hope we all benefit from it.
[She turns, collects Orac and hurries through the hatch. It slides shut behind her, trapping her in darkness until a dim wall light automatically activates. Servalan hurries down the tunnel as fast as she can.]
- to be continued...