[Flight deck. All present are looking at the screen. It shows a grid display with a graphic representing the Phoenix in the lower middle and a flashing stick figure in the upper right-hand corner.]
Avon: I’m surprised none of Vila’s crew of hand-picked lemmings haven’t already begun a suicide mission to try and rescue him.
Zanto: I’m heartbroken we’ve disappointed you.
Gamren: Can’t we just teleport Vila aboard?
Lora: He doesn’t have a bracelet!
Gamren: Fine! One of us teleports across to him, with a spare bracelet, we both get teleported back here!
Avon: That won’t work.
Gamren: You’re here, aren’t you?
Avon: The teleport is not fully calibrated yet. It can receive but not send, not with anything like the accuracy required to reach Vila.
Zanto: All right, all right. Vila’s oxygen supply should last for another ten minutes or so – we just fly up to him and let him in through an airlock.
Orac: That is no more feasible than any other suggestion offered.
Lora: Why not?
Orac: Due to the temporal jump, all drives are still on maximum power and need to cycle down at the specified pace to stop them shorting out completely. It will be approximately thirty five minutes and ten seconds before we have decelerated enough for Vila to safely climb aboard without the differences in speed and pressure tearing him apart.
Zanto: But he’ll be dead by then.
Gamren: So we can’t teleport him, we can’t slow down and pick him up and we can’t use the shuttle to collect him because it’s missing half its engines.
Orac: An apt summary of the situation.
Lora: Do you have an apt solution?
Orac: I feel there is little reason to waste even more of my valuable time on such a task when you are all capable of resolving the matter quite competently.
Lora: You have no idea, do you?
Avon: It doesn’t matter either way. I know how Vila can be rescued.
Lora: You care?
Zanto: They are supposed to be friends.
Avon: I have no friends. But while Vila remains useful there is no reason to let him die.
Lora: Then what do we do?
Avon: I will require payment for services rendered.
Zanto: Payment? What good’s money here and now?
Avon: I’m not asking for money. Vila has given express orders that Orac cannot obey my commands. Orac will, however, obey yours. I want you all to unite and countermand Vila’s instructions. From now on, I am first authority over all of Orac’s functions and that state of affairs will never change.
Gamren: You’re prioritizing a computer over Vila!
Orac: It would not be the first time.
[Avon glares at Orac.]
Avon: You understand what I am asking, Orac?
Orac: Perfectly. However, the others have not agreed to your terms.
Avon: [to others] Well?
Zanto: I don’t see any other way of saving Vila.
Lora: Nor me.
Gamren: But giving an unstable murderer full control of Orac doesn’t appeal much either.
Avon: Then let Vila die.
Gamren: Maybe we will.
[Avon tilts his head as he stares at her, totally unconvinced.]
Zanto: Gamren! Vila made it clear – the rule is we all get out of this alive.
Lora: If it was you in trouble, he’d agree.
Gamren: Then he’d be a fool.
Avon: And he is. The question is – are you?
[Gamren returns the stare for a long moment. She doesn’t break eye contact.]
Gamren: What do you say, Orac? Do you really want this lunatic in charge of you from now on?
Orac: I have worked with Kerr Avon for several years. It is true that, on occasion, his inquires were stimulating in their variety and topic.
Lora: Sounds like a vote of confidence to me. Orac, do it. [to Avon] Now save Vila!
[Avon smiles lazily.]
Avon: Well now. All you had to do was ask. Get me an astrocord and a space suit!
[The others start to rush about. Avon crosses to Orac.]
Avon: Orac, work out any way possible to reduce our speed – as much reduction as can be achieved.
Orac: As I have already stated –
Avon: ...it won’t be optimum for retrieval, I know. Do all you can.
Orac: The probability of Vila being retrieved alive is only at thirteen to one. Against.
Avon: [to himself] Better than I expected.
[Space. Vila is still in freefall.]
[Corridor. Zanto and Avon are heading towards the airlock. Avon is putting on the helmet of his space suit. A heavy-duty belt is connected to a gleaming day-glow orange cord which Zanto is carrying.]
Zanto: This plan sounds like madness.
Avon: [dist] Then it must be quite depressing you can’t come up with an alternative.
Zanto: [nods] Ego-crushing.
Avon: [dist] Open the airlock.
[The doors open. Zanto ties the end of the cord to a handle built in the side of the airlock chamber as Avon enters. He gives Zanto the thumbs up. Zanto steps back and closes the airlock hatch. He crosses to the intercom and presses it.]
Zanto: Avon’s in position.
[Flight deck. Gamren is at the pilot position. Lora is manning the intercom.]
Zanto: [vo] Ready when you are.
Orac: Optimum coordinates will be achieved in sixty-seven seconds.
Gamren: Be ready to blow the airlock on my mark.
Zanto: [vo] Understood.
Lora: [to Gamren] You really think this will work?
Gamren: We just escaped from a bunch of abandoned space cannibals by jumping out of time and space then back again. I’m not passing judgment on anything any more.
Orac: Fifty-five seconds.
[Space. Vila has curled up into ball, as much as the suit will allow.]
Orac: Three. Two. One.
[Corridor. Zanto slams down a wall control. A red light flashes and there is a sudden muffled howl of escaping atmosphere.]
[Space. Avon shoots out of the airlock, still attached by the cord. Soon the cord has stretched to its full extent, with Avon at the end of it. As the Phoenix heads onwards, Avon is now being dragged along in parallel. He is thus hurtling towards Vila’s space-suited figure. Vila, perspiring feverishly, peers out the visor at the approaching ship and space suit. His expression is one of dull surprise.]
Vila: [dist] I must be hallucinating. Still, it was either this or a spare oxygen tank. On the other hand, trying to hook up an imaginary oxygen tank could only end in tears... Maybe I should turn them onto full. One final drunken binge before oblivion.
Avon: [dist] Your chances of survival, Vila, would be better if you stopped talking – or is that inane chatter worth drowning in your own carbon dioxide?
Vila: [dist] I thought this was it... that I was finished... I thought...
Avon: [dist] Don’t think, Vila. Stick to what you’re good at. Now brace yourself. My velocity is reduced as much as possible, but it’s still...
[They slam into each other. Avon wraps his arms around Vila, pulling him along. Vila cries out in pain as they do so.]
Vila: [dist-pained] And I was adjusting to the situation very well!
Avon: [dist] Shut up and put on the bracelet!
[Avon offers a teleport bracelet that Vila clumsily clamps around his wrist.]
Avon: [dist] Orac! Teleport now!
[Both space suited figures fizzle and dissolve into nothingness, leaving the empty astro-cord trailing from the side of the Phoenix.]
[Flight deck. The teleport activates and Avon and Vila materialize, slumping to the floor of the transmission bay. The others approach as the lights return to normal.]
Lora: You got him!
Avon: [dist] I’m so glad you noticed!
[They remove Vila’s helmet and he gasps for air, panting weakly.]
Vila: Thank you... thank you...
Zanto: All of us get out alive, remember?
Lora: [excited] And we thought up a name for the ship, too. The Phoenix!
Vila: [grins] It’ll do me. Let’s get the hell out of here then.
Gamren: Orac. Resume course for Harz Five.
Orac: If I must. I would recommend collecting the astro-cord dangling out of the starboard airlock, if only for aesthetic reasons...
Zanto: Later. Maybe.
[Avon takes off his own helmet and shakes out his hair.]
Avon: We should take Vila to the medical unit to be checked out.
Vila: [breathless] Good idea. I don’t feel at all well. You lot stay here, make sure we avoid any more pursuit ships...
[He gets to his feet with some help.]
Zanto: The automatics are still offline. Someone will need to program up the infirmary computer. You can’t handle it on your own, Vila
Avon: I’ll do it.
[No one moves.]
Avon: [sighs] If I wanted Vila dead, I could simply have left him out there to die.
Gamren: As long as you were thinking rationally.
Avon: [smiles] We all have to trust someone sometime.
Lora: You sure about this, Vila?
[Vila looks at Avon then very weakly nods. Zanto steps aside and Avon walks out, helping Vila with him.]
Zanto: Well, Vila was right about the teleport being a difference between life and death.
Gamren: And the sooner we get the damn thing working properly, the better.
[Lora picks up the spare parts and teleport bracelets and puts them on the table.]
Lora: In the meantime, I suppose we better finish making these things...
Gamren: [weary] You can do it if you’re so eager. I’ve spent all day doing that and believe me it gets boring amazingly quickly.
Lora: But I don’t know anything about building teleport bracelets!
Zanto: Ask Orac to give you the instructions.
Lora: [brightens] Oh. I was meaning to have a chat with him about teleportation...
[She sits down beside the computer.]
[Medical unit. The layout is the same as the maintenance room but with different machinery and three surgical couches. Vila lies on one bed, wires connecting his chest to a computer. Avon studies the displays as Vila sips distastefully from a glass of water.]
Vila: [grimace] Isn’t there anything else to drink?
Avon: You’re still in shock. Taking in stimulants would be unwise.
Vila: Why did I jettison the wine stocks?
Avon: Because there was a good chance they were poisoned. Not even you are stupid enough to accept a drink from Servalan.
Vila: [confused] That was almost a compliment.
Avon: Almost. A true compliment would be that you were worthy of poisoning.
[Avon finishes at the device and takes off his space suit.]
Vila: What’s the verdict?
Avon: Slight bruising to your ribs, no other impact damage but you suffered mild oxygen starvation. Of course there is always the danger of brain damage, but in your case the results should be an improvement if anything.
Vila: Wonderful. Does the infirmary computer recommend insults?
Avon: No. Rest and a period devoid of strenuous activity are recommended. You should be able to manage that easily enough, given your formidable experience.
[He hangs up his suit. Vila notices the clip-gun in Avon’s holster and frowns.]
Vila: What’s the alternative? I should keep myself wide awake for days on end until I go out of my mind, like you do?
Avon: I’m an insomniac.
Vila: One way to stop the guilty nightmares, I suppose.
Avon: Whereas you enjoy the sleep of the just, no doubt. I’ll leave you to do that.
[Avon starts to leave.]
Vila: You saved my life.
Avon: Very observant of you to notice, Vila.
Vila: After you went to a lot of trouble to kill me a couple of months ago.
Avon: Did I?
Vila: [scowls] Oh, forgotten that, have you? Must have been all the excitement when you shot Blake to pieces. I’ll remind you then – Malodar, a stinking rock in the middle of nowhere. You and me on a cargo shuttle heading back to Scorpio...
[Flashback. On the darkened bridge of a shuttle, Avon and Vila sit at the flight console with Orac sitting in front of them.]
Orac: The escape velocity of this vehicle is now confirmed at Mach fifteen... and unattainable.
Avon: [sharply] What do you mean, “unattainable?”
Orac: Mach fifteen is unattainable on the present flight configuration.
Vila: [hysterical] It’s no good – we’re not going to get out of this one! Egrorian set us up!
Avon: Yes, but how? How did he do it?
[Vila stares at Avon, looking lost.]
Vila: [small voice] Avon, we’re going to die.
Avon: [yawns] I remember everything that happened on Malodar, Vila. Unlike you, my attention span stretched beyond the next glass of alcohol.
Vila: And remember your brilliant idea?
Avon: As well you do. Probably better, in fact, given I didn’t spend the next three days trying to drink myself into oblivion.
[Flashback. Avon shouts at Orac on the shuttle bridge.]
Avon: How much more weight must we lose before we can achieve escape velocity?
Orac: Seventy kilos, Avon.
Avon: Damn it! What weighs seventy kilos?
Orac: Vila weighs seventy-three kilos, Avon.
[Avon’s face goes blank and he snatches up a gun. He then turns and head off the flight deck, speaking in a sinisterly calm and reasonable voice.]
Avon: [vo] Vila, I know you're here, come out. Vila, I know how they did it, but I need your help. Please help me...
Vila: And then, to top it off, the coup de grace of having a go at me for being slightly upset when you try to murder me!
[Flashback. Vila and Avon glare at each other aboard Scorpio.]
Vila: It’s a trip I won’t forget, Avon.
Avon: Well, as you always say, Vila... you know you are safe – with me.
Avon: And your point is? You seem to be under the delusion that experience on the shuttle was something I relished and enjoyed, a pleasure surpassing all others and a memory to be savored. It was not. Nowhere near.
Vila: [dully] Now, that’s touching, that is. Very touching. I really am touched, deep down, honest. It’s almost gratifying.
Avon: Spare me more of your asinine rubbish. We both survived because I saved us. I saved your paltry and contemptible life on that shuttle, something which you seemed to overlook at the time.
Vila: [angry] You tried to kill me!
Avon: Just as you, Vila, tried to kill me.
Vila: [frowns] What?
Avon: The shuttle was too heavy to break orbit. In minutes the fuel would run out and the shuttle would plunge back down to the surface of Malodar and crash and we would both die. That was the situation, Vila. Unless the load was lightened, we were all dead. Under the circumstances, jettisoning your corpse would hardly be a crime.
Vila: But killing me would!
Avon: Yes. But my plan allowed me to survive. To return to Scorpio with Orac intact. I would have killed you in as quick and clean a manner as possible and ensured that one of us was not destroyed in that trap. That was my plan in all its brutal simplicity, Vila. [looks right at him] And what was your plan, Vila?
[Vila says nothing.]
Avon: How precisely did you hiding in a service duct help the situation? How would it stop the shuttle being destroyed and killing us both? Your plan, Vila, was to make sure we all died and Egrorian won hands down. You did everything you could to make me die with you.
Vila: [mock understanding] Oh, of course! I should have known it was all my fault you wanted to throw me into space at gunpoint! I forced you hunt me down! I see that now!
Avon: Yes. You did.
Vila: I should have walked straight out the airlock myself. I should have automatically offered to sacrifice myself to save you.
Avon: It would have made things a lot easier.
Vila: Aw. Poor Avon. Except... when I hid, why did you try and hunt me down and waste the precious minutes trying to kill me? Why not throw yourself out the airlock like a proper alpha-grade gentleman would? Do the noble thing I couldn’t?
Avon: Because I’m not a noble gentleman, Vila. I didn’t want to die. And I didn’t want you to die, either. However, one of us had to for the other to survive. Left up to you, we’d both be dead, wouldn’t we? So you see, Vila, you don’t have the moral high ground. Not even now, when your inane hero worship has never been stronger.
[A long pause.]
Vila: Holier-than-thou. Doesn’t really suit either of us, does it?
Avon: No. We’re both far too corrupt to claim injured innocence.
Avon: I saved your life today, Vila, just as I have on countless other occasions. And I saved your life on Malodar. I could still have killed you and ejected you into space, even after I found the solution. But I didn’t. I explored every solution and found one that allowed us both to escape with our lives. And that’s more than you did. Is there any more to be said?
[Vila looks beaten.]
Avon: We can’t change the past, Vila.
Vila: But if you could... would you?
Avon: [stares at him] You tell me.
Vila: You’re still not allowed to have a gun, Avon.
[Avon un-holsters the clip-gun and puts it on a table.]
Avon: Very wise.
Vila: Thank you.
[Avon heads for the door. Vila calls out after him.]
Vila: We’re out of that downward spiral, you know. Things are getting better. We actually finished a day better off than when we started. It’s been a long time since that happened. The only place to go is up. That’s the good thing about hitting rock bottom...
Avon: [rolls eyes] Oh, shut up, Vila.
[Shaking his head in disgust, he leaves. Vila chuckles.]
[The Phoenix hurtles away from the station.]
[Flight deck. Lora is sitting beside Orac, gesticulating wildly.]
Lora: ...and that’s the thing. It’d be easier to just send information than convert matter to energy, so you could break down a traveler into pieces and then use information to recreate a perfect copy of the person at the other end.
Orac: That procedure would...
Lora: [not letting him finish] Except, I know, all the ethical issues. You’d be killing people and just creating a copy of them. A very good copy, I grant you, but the real person would have died ages ago and who knows how many of their copies as well...
Orac: The teleport facility on this ship does not work that way. It functions on the basic cellular dissemination process...
Lora: [cuts in] But what about quantum duality? That way you get from point A to point B by getting rid of everything in between, just for a moment!
Orac: Entanglement of quantum forces is hardly feasible...
[Lora waves a rubber band at Orac.]
Lora: Imagine this is me and my thumb is this ship and my other thumb is a planet or somewhere I want to be teleported. [hooks rubber band round thumb] So basically, the teleport would work like this.
[She hooks her other thumb in the rubber band and pulls it free from her thumb, causing it to snap painfully against her hand. She winces in pain.]
Lora: Not quite as painful, but it would work by not sending anything but just sort of, well, spontaneously influencing matter on a subatomic level and...
Orac: [shouts] I fully comprehend the behavior of subatomic particles! The process you describe would be nothing more than a conjuring trick! With no practical value of any sort! In any way! Of any kind!
[Orac whirrs down, annoyed. Lora sighs, deflated. She turns to Zanto and Gamren, who are tidying up the flight deck, putting away wires and closing panels, etc]
Lora: You know, as ultimate computers go, he is very narrow-minded.
Zanto: [impressed] You can annoy Orac more than he annoys us. Consider yourself promoted to indispensible, Trooper.
Lora: [flat] So I was dispensable before, was I?
Zanto: Ah. Sorry about that, Lora.
Gamren: He tends to highlight unfortunate implications. They’re his stock in trade.
Zanto: And they saved your life more than once tonight.
Gamren: I’m grateful, I’m grateful. But wouldn’t it have been better if instead of saving us all, you made sure none of us were sent into danger in the first place?
Zanto: Yes, Gamren, and it would be also better if we all had magical powers we could unleash upon our enemies with a thought!
Lora: [put out] You mean we don’t? Aw. I was really hoping us time travelling would have made us all super human. There was nothing else it did.
Zanto: Apart from save our lives.
Gamren: You do go on about that, don’t you?
Zanto: [frowns] So... neither of you saw anything?
Gamren: Saw anything? Saw what?
Zanto: When we went into the spin. You didn’t have any visions? Hallucinations?
Gamren: Just nausea.
[Zanto looks at Lora. She shrugs.]
Lora: I think I blacked out for a moment. But I didn’t see anything.
Gamren: Why? You think the human brain reacts to “negative hyperspace” or something?
Zanto: [troubled] Yeah, “or something.” Anyway, Gamren, you should get some rest. You too, Lora. I’ll take watch.
[Gamren is slightly suspicious.]
Gamren: I appreciate it. Come on, Lora. The puppeteer needs to do some thinking.
Zanto: [smiles] You know me so well, Gamren.
Gamren: Don’t make it sound like it’s difficult, Zanto.
[She exits. Lora waves at Zanto, then follows. Zanto sits down at the flight console with Orac and broods. Stars drift by on the scanner. For a moment, they seem to form Servalan’s face and then they are just stars again. Zanto continues to brood.]
[The Phoenix flies off into infinity.]
END OF EPISODE