[Flyer. This is the reverse of Lora’s flyer, with the controls on the other side of the cockpit, which is a different colour. Gamren is driving, Avon is in the passenger seat and Ravelo sits in the back.]
Ravelo: I don’t want to sound even stupider than you already assume I am...
Avon: Little chance of that.
Ravelo: But what is Orac anyway? I mean, from what I heard from Blake, it sounded like a glorified portable computer with a basic artificial intelligence.
Gamren: “Transistorized pain in the neck” were the exact words he used.
[She smiles at Avon, who does not react to the joke.]
Gamren: So why is this thing so important?
Avon: Of itself, Orac is as you say, a basic data storing and gathering device with behavior protocols convincing enough to give it a personality. However, its databanks are totally unlimited. It is an oracle, so to speak, that knows everything.
Ravelo: That’s impossible.
Avon: Far from it. The man who built Orac designed tarial cells, the fundamental component of all computers used by humanity for the last forty years – Orac can used those cells to enter any file, any database, any record. The vast amounts of data have given it an even bigger superiority complex than it was initially designed.
Gamren: So it could read any computer? Nothing is secret from it?
Avon: More or less. As you can imagine, it is the one thing that can keep us ahead of any Federation stratagem. They can’t hide anything from us, as tarial cells are part of the basic design concept of computer technology. The occasions they have tried to organize themselves without computers have ended badly enough without our help.
Ravelo: I take it back. Orac is worth this. Just imagine what we could do with something like that, Gamren – cause spaceships to crash into each other, send conflicting orders to Federation Security. We could cripple the Empire overnight!
[Avon glances at them both, unimpressed.]
Avon: Yes. We never once considered using Orac in such a way. The best part of a decade running for our lives, dodging plasma bolts and burying the dead and it never occurred to us to fight back using a super computer.
Ravelo: [smirks] I’m a man of rare insight and vision. Aren’t I, Gamren?
Gamren: No, Ravelo, not particularly. [to Avon] So, why couldn’t you do it?
Avon: Orac’s basic programming by his creator.
Gamren: Ah. Mad scientist, was he?
Avon: Very mad. Criminally insane. He was a dedicated pacifist.
Ravelo: [nods] An idealist.
Avon: Like I said. Criminally insane. [beat] These are the coordinates. Take us down.
Gamren: [sigh] Whatever you say, Avon. Whatever you say.
[The flyer turns down towards the ground.]
[Security room. Zanto is studying a display of isobars and moving dots. Vila and Soolin enter, the later in a uniform like the others, but too large for her.]
Vila: [as they arrive] ...you should be resting!
Soolin: I’ve rested for eight days, Vila. And I want to know what’s happening.
Zanto: Torbin and Mikarl shot down the flyer that “Sleer” was aboard. They couldn’t stay to confirm a kill but she never made it to the silo, that’s for sure.
Vila: [grimly] Should be able to buy us some time.
Zanto: Is she really Servalan, sir?
Soolin: [annoyed] You think we’d be making this much of a fuss if she wasn’t?
[Soolin gratefully sits down in a chair.]
Soolin: What about Avon and others?
Zanto: Coming into land in Plantation Three. [frowns] Can we trust him?
Vila: No. We can’t.
Zanto: [shrugs] Just checking.
[Forest. It is night. The wind whistles eerily through the trees. Avon, Gamren and Ravelo are heading up a path. Gamren and Ravelo carry weapons. Avon stops by a tree, examines it and then keeps moving.]
Ravelo: Maybe we should have done this during daylight.
Gamren: Oh yes, I’m sure the opposition will give us another eight hours’ grace.
[Avon checks another tree. It has a mark scratched into it. He looks around for a moment, then heads off through the bushes.]
Ravelo: How many more of these trees do we have to find anyway?
Gamren: Keep it down, Ravelo.
Ravelo: [grumbles] Find a scratch, follow seven pine trees to the west, find another scratch, thirty pine trees to the east... we don’t have all night!
Gamren: I know. Unlike you, I can retain information for more than thirty seconds...
[Avon stops. The others catch up.]
Gamren: What is it now?
Avon: A problem.
[He points. We see the crashed ruins of Lora’s flyer burning in a freshly-made clearing.]
Ravelo: We can go round that, surely?
Avon: That’s not the problem. The layout of the landscape has changed. The tree I marked might have been destroyed, and each tree has the information to lead to the next in the sequence. Take out one, and the pattern is lost.
Gamren: [growls] Oh, brilliant!
Ravelo: Yes, because what are the odds of a crashing flyer on Gauda Prime during the Day of the Bounty Hunter, eh? Genius plan, Avon!
[Avon shrugs philosophically.]
Avon: I’ve made worse errors of judgment.
[Ravelo calms down.]
Ravelo: All right. You’re the genius, Avon. You must have some way to piece out a trail or something, mustn’t you? Some kind of Plan B?
[Avon thinks for a moment.]
Avon: I might be able to locate Orac, but not like this.
Gamren: Why? What’s stopping you?
Avon: You are, Gamren.
[Suddenly he yanks the rifle from her hand, turns it on her and shoots her at point blank range. The gunshot echoes into the night as Gamren collapses, shock on her face. Avon swings the gun to face Ravelo.]
Avon: Drop it!
Ravelo: What the hell are you doing?
Avon: Getting rid of the obstacles in the path. Now drop the gun, Ravelo or instead die wishing that you had.
[Ravelo does so. Avon darts forward and scoops it up. He aims both guns at him.]
Avon: [grins] Thank you.
Ravelo: We’re on the same side, Avon!
Avon: Are we? You mean you were going to kill Gamren as well to escape? I just happened to do it first, is that what you’re telling me?
[Ravelo stares at him, stunned.]
Ravelo: You’re insane!
Avon: Yes, all the evidence certainly points that way. I’m leaving you alive, Ravelo, because I’d hate for Vila to think anything had happened to me that wasn’t of my direct making. Do pass that on, won’t you?
[Grinning, Avon turns and ducks off through the trees. He disappears in seconds. Ravelo, shaking his head, bends over Gamren and checks her over. His horror turns to confusion as he realizes she’s still alive.]
Ravelo: Gamren? Gamren!
[She groans. Ravelo looks at the direction Avon took.]
Ravelo: What is he playing at?
[Elsewhere in the forest. The pilot is sitting on the side of a gulley, coughing badly. Lora, bruised but intact, is making a crude sling for his broken arm.]
Lora: Don’t worry, Ateno. The coordinates will be in the log. The transporter’s on its way. We’ve just got to survive out here for a few minutes and we’ll be all right. Worse comes to the worst, we can walk there. Not very far away.
[The pilot moans sickly and bends double, coughing.]
Lora: Yeah. I’m not convincing myself either.
[Lora hears a noise and whirls around. Avon stands on the hill behind her, guns aimed at both of them, lit by the fire. He looks very sinister. Lora swallows fearfully. Avon stares at her, expressionlessly. The pilot hasn’t noticed Avon. For a long moment there is silence, then Avon turns and ducks out of sight, leaving them alone. Lora lets out a sigh of relief, then turns back to comforting the pilot.]
Lora: I hate this job.
[Flyer. It is now parked on the forest floor. Gamren is swaying unsteadily beside the open wing-door, groggy and dazed. Helping her is Ravelo, who ducks into the flyer and activates the communicator.]
Ravelo: [panicked] Horizon Base. Horizon Base. Come in...
Vila: [vo] We hear you, Ravelo.
Ravelo: Avon’s gone crazy. He shot Gamren and ran off.
Vila: [vo] Don’t worry, it was a stun-gun.
Ravelo: Yeah, but the thing is... [frowns] How did you know?
[Security room. Vila rolls his eyes.]
Vila: You think I’d leave you alone with Avon and live ammunition? I knew he’d make a break for it, and if you were both carrying stun-guns at least he couldn’t kill you with them. And this way he thinks he’s in control.
Ravelo: [vo] Why didn’t you warn us?
Zanto: Sorry. But you might have given yourselves away.
Ravelo: [vo] Zanto? I knew it! This is another of your puppet games, isn’t it?
Vila: Actually, it’s mine.
[Flyer. Gamren slumps into the back seat, still groggy.]
Ravelo: [fuming] Sorry, sir. But Avon’s loose and we have no idea where he is!
Zanto: [vo] You might not, Ravelo, but we do.
[Security room. As before.]
Ravelo: [vo] How? Some homing beacon?
Vila: Too obvious. [smiles coldly] Let’s just say you should never accept a drink from someone you’ve tried to throw out an airlock...
[Forest. Avon is moving through the trees, clearly unsure of where to go. He pauses at the top of a gully and looks around, then heads down into it. Over the hill comes Servalan, wearily carrying Orac in her arms.]
Servalan: [breathless] Well, Orac. Have you found anything interesting?
Orac: To me, Servalan? Or to you?
Servalan: Do you ever give a straight answer?
Avon: [vo] Only when it’s bad news.
[Servalan whirls around. Avon has her covered with both guns. She smiles, flirtatious as ever at seeing him again.]
Servalan: Avon. I have been looking everywhere for you.
Avon: I wish I could say the same. Put Orac down on the ground.
Servalan: If I do that, you could open fire with impunity.
Avon: Orac is more durable than you’d think, madam president. The damage from a plasma bullet is not irreparable. So I might just take the chance.
Servalan: Very well. Though I should point out your computer has promised me my safety in return for reuniting you both.
Avon: Then Orac is going to be very upset when I kill you.
Servalan: [smiles] We both know that’s not going to happen, Avon. There are... rules to our engagements.
Avon: On Gauda Prime there are no rules, Servalan. Anything can happen.
Servalan: Can’t it just?
[Laughing, she puts Orac down at her feet.]
Servalan: You’re not going to kill me, Avon.
[She reveals she is holding a gun of her own.]
Servalan: Not without dying in the process anyway.
[Avon grins back at her.]
[Forest. Another flyer descends as Gamren and Ravelo approach. The door opens and Vila and Zanto emerge, both armed.]
Vila: You’ve got the trackers calibrated?
Ravelo: Yes. Picking up both you and Avon.
Gamren: Why are you on the detectors, sir?
Vila: I had to drink some myself, to make sure he didn’t get suspicious.
[They head off.]
Gamren: So, er, you made that wine radioactive?
Vila: [grimaces] Yeah. Just enough to be detectable. Believe me, if it wasn’t harmless I wouldn’t have touched a drop. Now come on. Once we’ve got Orac, Avon is now classed as “expendable”.
Zanto: But I thought...
Vila: [cuts him off] You thought nothing.
Ravelo: I know we’ve got to stop him, but kill him? We’re better than that!
Vila: [brutal] Some people are beyond saving. Even Blake knew that.
[Forest gully. Servalan and Avon aim guns at each other.]
Servalan: Out of curiosity, where are the rest of your crew?
Avon: Fear not, Servalan. They’re not about to burst from the undergrowth to attack you – in fact, some of them will never bother you again.
Servalan: Ooh. I hope that’s as final as it sounds.
Avon: Oh, it’s positively terminal – to coin a phrase.
Servalan: But why are the survivors not dutifully at your side?
Avon: A mismatched collection of illogical fools would only slow me down.
Servalan: It hasn’t bothered you before.
Avon: It does now.
Servalan: You realize this means that there is no one to aid or avenge you when I shoot you down? Maybe it would be for the best if you surrender now and give me reason to spare your life.
Avon: “Surrender” isn’t a word either of us care for, Servalan.
Servalan: And “dying” is? I’ve been very patient Avon. Orac will attest to that.
Orac: If it brings this tiresome confrontation to a conclusion, then very well!
Avon: Yet somehow the urge to blow her head off remains undiminished.
Servalan: You have no crew, your ship is in pieces and these woods are swarming with Federation troopers and heavily-armed bounty hunters. Even that teleport bracelet on your wrist is useless. How exactly do you intend to escape this time, Avon?
Avon: [coldly] Who said I intended escape at all?
[Servalan’s confidence wavers.]
Servalan: What do you mean?
Avon: It would be very simple to end it all now. We count to three, open fire at the same time, blast ourselves into oblivion – two more corpses to add to the pile on Gauda Prime. Don’t deny its appeal, Servalan. It’s obvious you’re as much a fugitive on this world as I am. This way, at least, we both escape our pursuers for good.
Servalan: Suicide lacks a certain panache, I find.
Avon: Don’t delude yourself, Commissioner. How do you want to die? Old and alone, your looks faded, your power transient, with nothing and no one, waiting for the end? Even if you retake control of the Federation, enslave a billion worlds, murder a billion children and drug entire species into slavery, you’ll lose it all eventually. Save yourself the time and the effort and pain. End it cleanly. Here and now – while you can.
[Servalan stares at him in horror.]
Servalan: Avon – that is... insane.
Avon: [giggles] I know! [calm] Isn’t it wonderful?
- to be continued...