[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.]
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.
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.
[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!
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.]
- to be continued...