[From the bushes, Lora watches, completely bewildered. She retreats back through the bushes to where the pilot is waiting.]
Pilot: [weak] What’s going on?
Lora: Your Commissioner... whoever she is... is just over the hill.
Pilot: [worried] What?
Lora: Yeah. Seems a bit busy as far as I can tell. Maybe we should get moving?
Pilot: Maybe we should. And she’s not a Commissioner, she’s...
Lora: [interrupts] Doesn’t matter! Just move!
[She helps him up and they hurry away. The stand-off continues.]
Servalan: Why should we both die when we can rule together, Avon?
Avon: I’m getting rather tired of these offers you make.
Servalan: Doesn’t my persistence suggest the offers are genuine?
Avon: And don’t my repeated refusals suggest I’m not interested?
Servalan: There’s a thriving rebel movement on this planet, Avon. Imagine how powerful they’d be if they had access to Orac... and myself. And you too. Do you seriously imagine the current regime could stand a chance? Your alliance of warlords has stopped the Federation in its tracks. This is the moment we can move in for the kill.
Avon: And reshape the galaxy? Restore it to your private playground?
Servalan: Why not? The present administration is the weakest on record. I gave them a weapon that could destroy free will and still they failed in conquest! I’m increasingly of the opinion that for the Federation to succeed, it must make use of the opposition.
Avon: As what? Target practice?
Servalan: Far from it. Making compromises will be cheaper than outright suppression – a willing populace is always preferential. Imagine a galaxy where independent planets ask to be associated with the Federation rather than being conquered... isn’t that what Blake would want? Especially with you to help him understand the practicalities of what he seeks to achieve. Changing political structures is never easy or simple, but it can be done. Maybe not a new Federation, but a reformed one.
Avon: He isn’t interested any more.
Servalan: I don’t believe it.
Avon: [laughs] You really should.
Servalan: Let me put my case to Blake himself. If you’re so confident.
Avon: I am afraid, beloved Sleer, that it is not possible even for your charisma to work on a heap of ashes. And even if it could, the conversation would be very one-sided.
Servalan: [confused] Blake is dead?
Avon: That’s what you told me, remember?
Servalan: It’s what I believed at the time.
Avon: Oh, of course. As if you would ever lie.
Servalan: The Federation forces on Gauda Prime were convinced he was active here.
Avon: Yes. And now he is inactive here. And will remain so.
Servalan: How did he die?
Avon: Surrounded by comrades with the name of a friend on his lips. According to the Auronar, that is the best way anyone can hope to end their lives – not alone and silent. Like so many of them were when you destroyed Auron. [frowns] How odd. I keep finding reasons to want you dead but none to keep you alive.
Vila: The philosophy of Kerr Avon in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen.
[At the ridge stand Vila and the other rebels, guns trained on them both.]
Vila: Put those guns down, both of you.
[Avon doesn’t look up.]
Avon: Do you mind, Vila? I’m currently negotiating a mutually-beneficial suicide pact.
Servalan: And doing a poor job of it, all told. He’s gone mad.
Vila: You don’t know the half of it, Servalan. [reassuring] Oh don’t worry, I let them all in on the secret ages ago. Well, we’re all enemies here, aren’t we?
Gamren: Are we just going to trade witticisms or do anything?
Vila: You never know with those two. Avon – put the guns down.
Avon: [amazed] You actually want her alive?
Vila: Not in the least. But those guns you’re holding won’t kill her. They’re set to stun.
[Avon glances up at the rebels. Gamren glares at him.]
Avon: So it would appear. How ironic, Servalan. You had the upper hand all along.
[He throws both guns to the ground, then scoops up Orac. Servalan turns to face the rebels, their guns aimed at her. She turns the gun around, offering it to them.]
Servalan: I’m not here to betray or kill any of you. Orac and I have made a deal, an exchange for mutual survival. We’re both worth more to each other alive and I can pay for it with some valuable information. Let me speak to your leader.
Vila: You are speaking to him.
[Servalan tries and fails to suppress a snigger.]
Vila: Field promotion when all the other generals got themselves killed – and Avon wasn’t in a fit state to lead a chorus line, let alone a revolution.
Servalan: There’s the theory of natural selection disproved.
Zanto: He was with Blake on the Liberator. From the very beginning. And he’s still alive.
Ravelo: And he just caught both of you psychopaths unawares.
Gamren: And reclaimed Orac for the rebellion.
Vila: [confused] What are you lot doing?
Gamren: You know. Backing you up. Showing confidence in you.
Vila: Oh. Yeah. Right. Sorry, I don’t get that much.
Avon: For good reason. Vila. I’m impressed – how did you manage to find me?
Vila: Made that Carthenis whiskey radioactive enough to show on the scanners. The whiskey you drank before heading out on this mission. I knew you’d make a break for it and try and run off with Orac. Needed someway to follow you.
[Avon stares at him.]
Avon: Which you also drank.
Vila: I know. It’s harmless, Avon. It’ll wear off in forty-eight hours or so.
Avon: And in that time both you and I will stand out like beacons on any and all basic tracking equipment!
Captain: I couldn’t have put it better myself.
[The Captain stands on the hill, aiming a gun at them. Behind him stand Lora and the pilot. More troopers start to emerge from the trees on all sides. They are completely surrounded. Servalan rolls her eyes and drops her gun.]
Avon: Your reign continues to be an inauspicious one, Vila.
Vila: Oh, shut up, Avon. [to Captain] Are you one of those types who think surrender is an excuse to open fire? Or are you smart enough to take us all prisoners for the bounty?
Ravelo: I’m getting my doubts about you, sir.
Zanto: Too late for that, Ravelo.
Captain: [thoughtful] Vila Restal. Kerr Avon. And the imposter Sleer. Yes. I agree you’re worth more alive. And the others can lead me to Blake. [louder] Drop your weapons.
Vila: Do as he says.
[Vila and Zanto do so. Then so does Ravelo. Gamren scowls, and follows suit. The troopers close in from all sides. Only Avon is unafraid.]
[Dissolve to tracking gallery. Troopers march through, escorting Servalan and the rebels. The Captain pauses in the lower area as the troopers carry off Zanto, Ravelo and Gamren leaving Avon, Vila and Servalan. Vila calls after them.]
Vila: Don’t worry, everyone. My attack plans are very flexible.
Gamren: [rolls eyes] Very reassuring, sir!
Vila: This certainly brings back memories, doesn’t it, Avon? This is just like the last time we were down here. There was a backstabbing Federation psychopath aiming a gun at me then too, remember? Even though I was unarmed! [to Captain] Do you know what happened next?
Captain: [bored] No.
Vila: Neither did she.
[Lora is supporting the pilot.]
Lora: [weary] Captain, Pilot Ateno is determined to tell you something before he lets me take him to the surgical unit to get patched up...
Captain: Ah yes. Pilot Ateno.
Pilot: Captain. That woman... [coughs] she isn’t Commissioner Sleer...
Servalan: Oh but I am. Even a cursory security check would confirm that.
Captain: Which indeed it did.
Pilot: [pained] She’s lying! It’s a false identity! There was a message from this planet, it said who she really was!
Captain: Really? And do you know her true identity?
[The pilot lets out a painful sigh of relief.]
Pilot: Yes! She’s really –
[He gets no further. The Captain has drawn his pistol and shoots the pilot in the chest at point blank range. He flies back into Lora’s arms and she cries out in horror as he goes limp and dies in short order. The Captain blows the smoke from the gun barrel.]
Captain: I didn’t ask.
Lora: [shocked] You... you just, just killed him! He didn’t do anything and you just shot him! I did everything I could to keep him alive and...
Captain: [casually] He didn’t tell you Sleer’s true identity, then?
Lora: [shakes head] No, he never got the chance, everything was...
[She realizes for the first time the Captain is aiming his gun at her head. The Captain smiles kindly at her, then holsters his gun.]
Captain: Good. Just what I wanted to hear.
[Lora stares at him in disgust and horror.]
Avon: [to Servalan] It seems you have allies after all, “Commissioner”.
Captain: [chuckles] Far from it.
Lora: You just shot a wounded and unarmed man who was also your own side!
Vila: [to himself] And people wonder why there’s a resistance movement!
Servalan: What game are you playing, Captain?
Captain: Games with the highest of stakes, Commissioner. And I intend to ensure my hand is the strongest – let me know if the metaphor wears a little thin, won’t you? [laughs] I shall hand over Blake, the Scorpio crew, Orac and whatever can be salvaged of their teleport system over to the Federation. The rewards, the prize money, promotion. I could be a planetary governor in the inner worlds this time next week.
Avon: Quite probably. They’re running low on mass-murdering bigots there, I’ve heard.
Captain: But what happens when they discover a senior official in Federation Security, the woman in charge of the pacification police program, is a lying imposter who might even be a rebel herself? A full inquiry will take place and no stone will be unturned.
Servalan: And you’ve got something to hide from your superiors?
Captain: Oh, we all have something to hide, Commissioner. But suddenly my mission here is far from an unqualified success. The Federation can be very generous when it’s in a good mood, but they’ll hardly have the time or inclination to reward us when the truth comes out – we could even be held complicit.
Vila: So you’re keeping the truth about the Commissioner here secret?
Captain: For as long as it needs be to cement my success, Restal.
Servalan: Then what, pray tell, will happen to me?
Captain: Commissioner Sleer will be an unfortunate casualty in our efforts to destroy Blake’s rabble once and for all, no matter what the cost. [insincerely] Sorry.
Servalan: [icy] You will be. Never doubt it.
Avon: [grins] How quaint. Sleer becomes an unfortunate casualty, like so many of her cohorts have done so before her. Perhaps there is some justice, after all...
Captain: Enough time’s been wasted. Time for Blake. Where is he?
Avon: [shrugs] That’s a very difficult question to answer. It all depends on whether or not you have a belief in the afterlife.
Captain: Afterlife? He’s dead?
Vila: Has been for a good eight days.
Vila: You want to tell them, Avon? Or should I?
Servalan: What’s he talking about?
Avon: [flatly] I killed him. I killed B... [swallows] I killed him.
Servalan: [scornfully] Very convincing. Have you gone mad?
Avon: But of course. How else could I have shot him down in cold blood?
Vila: It was a question I’ve been wondering too. You came here to meet him. You knew he was a bounty hunter and you knew we were five of the most wanted criminals in the galaxy! Even Tarrant thought a bounty hunter was a poor choice as allies go! If you thought for a second Blake had gone bad then why the hell did we even come to this hellhole in the first place?
Avon: [frowns] Vila. I’m surprised my reasoning was unclear. I never doubted Blake’s loyalty to his cause. I never suspected his dedication had wavered. Even as he lay dead at my feet, not once did I have reason to think he had turned his back on the resistance.
Vila: [shouting] THEN WHY THE HELL DID YOU KILL HIM?!
Avon: [still calm] Because he betrayed us, Vila. Not the cause. Not the good fight. Not the endless dream of freedom. You and I and Dayna and Tarrant and Soolin.
[Servalan, the Captain and the others present exchange looks. Avon and Vila have seemingly forgotten any of them are there.]
Avon: You knew what Blake was like, Vila, just as I did. He was always willing to die for the greater good – and he was willing to sacrifice us for the greater good. Else he would have abandoned the fight once Gan perished so needlessly. If circumstances demanded it, Vila, if the rebellion could stand a better chance of success because of it, do you really think Blake would even have hesitated before turning on us?
[A long beat.]
Vila: Yes. I do.
Avon: Ah, but you – as we have already established – are a drunken fool. [souring] Think about it, Vila. As you said, we were the most wanted criminals in the galaxy. If Blake had handed us over to the Federation, it would have made him rich. And as everyone knows, the rebellion always needs new sources of funding!
[Vila looks sickened.]
Vila: And you really believe that? You actually claim to have two brain-cells to rub together in that head of yours and think any of what you just said was true?
[Avon clearly wants to speak but can’t.]
[Flashback: Blake approaches Avon.]
Tarrant: He sold us, Avon. All of us. Even you.
Avon: [shocked] Is this true?
Blake: Tarrant doesn’t understand...
Avon: Neither do I, Blake!
Blake: I set all this up!
[Avon closes his eyes.]
Avon: It was a trap. For us. Blake did betray us.
Vila: It was a test! You know it was a test!
Avon: A test? When we arrived they were beating up Tarrant, an unarmed man with hideous injuries and calling in the troops! It was a trap!
[Flashback: Blake approaches Avon.]
Blake: Avon, I was waiting for you –
[Avon grabs Vila by the scruff of the neck, almost foaming at the mouth.]
Avon: He betrayed me, Vila! And those who betray me come to bad ends!
Vila: Those who don’t betray you come to bad ends! It wasn’t Blake who got Dayna killed! Or Tarrant or Cally or Zen – when did we betray you, huh? Answer me that! When did any of us do anything to deserve what you put us through?
[Avon releases Vila, starting to zone out. Vila is beyond fury.]
Vila: You think Blake betrayed you? WELL YOU DAMN WELL DESERVE TO BE BETRAYED!
[Vila attacks Avon. The Captain and the troops leap onto them to separate them. Servalan is totally at a loss for words. Lora shakes her head and hurries away from the tracking gallery and follows the directions the others took.]
[Deva’s office. Gamren is kicking at the closed panel angrily. Zanto sits at the desk, reading Perspex squares as Ravelo leans against the barred grilles.]
Gamren: They’ve fused the circuits, the thing might as well be welded shut!
Ravelo: You think there might be some override?
Gamren: Only Deva would know that. [sighs] Oh, I miss him.
Zanto: Don’t we all?
Ravelo: Anything useful in his notes?
Zanto: Nothing so far. Did you know that Gauda Prime isn’t actually this planet’s real name? Yeah, it’s Darlon Four. The Federation renamed it to make sure the Open Planet designation worked; any legislation they missed now referred to a different planet entirely. [amused] Funny thing, the legal system.
Gamren: Hilarious. Point out the ironies when we’re being executed.
Zanto: Don’t panic, Gamren.
Gamren: Why not? Do you have a plan to get us out of here?
Zanto: Of course I do.
Ravelo: She means do you have a plan that will work?
Zanto: [irritated] I know what she means! Remember, Blake made sure we could destroy Decima Base totally to cover our tracks – there are carbines of volatizers built into the infrastructure, easily primed and even more easily triggered.
Gamren: Vocal command.
Zanto: Yes. And we all know what the command was...
Ravelo: I’m sorry, Zanto. I’m being stupid but it seems your brilliant plan to escape involves blowing up this silo and everything in it. How does that help us?
Zanto: As a threat, obviously. Leverage. Don’t you people play chess?
Gamren: We’ve never been that bored. So, the plan is that we threaten to destroy the silo in a futile but noble gesture?
Zanto: Yup. And as we also know, there’s a pre-fueled escape vessel in the main mine shaft, ready for an immediate launch.
Ravelo: They have flyers, transporters and plasma canons, Zanto as well as the most efficient tracking station on the continent. Where are we going to go they can’t follow?
Zanto: Straight up.
Zanto: Their transports only work in the lower atmosphere. Once we break orbit...
Gamren: ...we are immediately set on by the blockade gunships! [fuming] Zanto, how can someone as stupid as you still be alive?
Zanto: Blind luck. [grins] Don’t knock it Gamren.
[He nods past them. They turn. The grille has swung back to reveal Lora, holding a gun and looking very uncertain.]
- to be concluded...