[Phoenix flight deck. Gamren watches as the shadows carry out the corpses.]
Gamren: What will you do with the bodies?
Taihyr: There is a use for everything. We waste nothing.
Gamren: Very practical. You know, your enemies have a very low opinion of you.
Taihyr: If they respected us, we would not be at war.
Gamren: Yes, but they think you’re savages. Luddites, barbarians, whatever.
Taihyr: Because we live in caves? When our sun died, there were two groups. Those who knew that we could no longer survive above ground, and those who refused to accept it. They were the ones who remained, adapting and changing themselves with science...
Gamren: [rolls eyes] And you haven’t?
Taihyr: We retreated below ground. We harvested crops of fungus and warmed ourselves with the planet’s core. Our adaptations were natural. In the dark of the caves, eyes became of little use. Our other senses compensated. We forged a new civilization, in far harsher conditions than the surface-dwellers. They... are not pleased at this. Knowing they are not superior. If anything, they are inferior.
Gamren: And that’s the excuse to wipe them all out?
Taihyr: We did not start this war! We fight to survive only!
Gamren: So do they, apparently.
[There is a pause, as though Taihyr is calming itself down.]
Taihyr: Did the city-dwellers tell you of their new sun?
Gamren: Yes. Sounds like a good idea.
Taihyr: It is more than a good idea. It is genius. It will bring this planet new life – by destroying the old.
[Gamren tries to remain impassive.]
[Guest chamber. Nreeshi is present. The crew are examining large reflective visors. Zanto tries a pair, then takes them off, turns them around and tries them again.]
Lora: I don’t want to sound pessimistic...
Zanto: Heaven forbid.
Lora: ...but if Gamren is in this enemy bunker, still alive... how are we going to get her out?
Vila: Well, these shadow things aren’t bullet-proof. Are they?
Lora: Great. We kill them all. I feel so much better about myself.
Avon: You can let them destroy Gamren if you want to keep the moral high-ground. A surprise attack should be feasible, as long as you don’t give the enemy enough time to use the nerve gas.
Vila: Oh, you don’t want another whiff of that. Can cause all sorts of nastiness.
Zanto: That’s rather the point.
Vila: [not listening] Your eyes stop working, you drool, convulse, lose control of your bowels...
Avon: Yes. Perhaps you should take up ingesting nerve gas instead of alcohol. It sounds like much time will be saved as a direct consequence.
Nreeshi: ARE YOU PREPARED TO DEPART?
[Lora and the others put on visors.]
Zanto: Yes. The bracelet communicators should still work, shouldn’t they, Orac?
Orac: [sighs] Of course they do.
Zanto: Just checking.
Orac: [offended] That implies my information is unreliable!
Zanto: Oh, infer what you like. Gamren’s in trouble. Lead the way, Nreeshi.
[The hatchway opens, Nreeshi walks into the light and Zanto and Lora follow. The hatch closes.]
Vila: Right, Orac, keep monitoring their status.
Orac: Very well. I feel it should be pointed out that Gamren is still within the Phoenix.
Orac: The fact is recorded in the Blake computer. She is present along with approximately thirty of the shadow beings, and appear to be conversing in a civilized manner.
Vila: Why didn’t you mention that earlier?
Avon: Because Nreeshi was here and I doubt it would guarantee Gamren’s safety.
Orac: Indeed. The chances are a full-scale assault would be made upon the Phoenix and the probability of Gamren surviving an exchange of fire is five to three against.
Vila: But Zanto and Lora are heading into a city on a fool’s errand!
Avon: Of course they are. You’re the fool that sent them there.
Vila: [patiently] This isn’t helping, Avon.
Avon: I agree. The most logical course of action is for us all to retreat to the Phoenix and leave this planet immediately before hostilities escalate any further.
Vila: Oh, genius. And how exactly are we going to do that? The shadow people have the Phoenix and Gamren, while Lora and Zanto are heading to their stronghold, and we’re stuck in here!
Avon: I am aware of that Vila. Orac, you’ve studied these creatures. The interference preventing safe teleport travel is generated by the process both sides use to make themselves invisible, correct?
Orac: That is so.
Avon: And are you capable of harnessing this interference?
Orac: Manipulating the energy fields is possible. What do you require?
Avon: Project the interference onto the three of us in this room. Make us invisible.
Vila: Isn’t this confusing enough already?!
Avon: The shadow beings can hide from Nreeshi and the others, then we might be able to avoid detection. Once invisible we can get out of the city and contact the others.
Vila: What about the shadow people on the ship? They’re not going to let us go, are they? They think they can use our vocal chords to smash the city – and who’s to say if we still need to be alive for them to do that? They might kill us anyway!
Avon: Perhaps Gamren can state our case. It’s all academic until we leave this cell. Orac?
Orac: I strongly advise remaining on this planet for further study.
Vila: Your advice is noted, now just do what you’re told!
Orac: Very well. Manipulating interference patterns... now.
[A pale grey-blue shroud engulfs the three of them.]
Vila: I can still see you.
Avon: We’re inside the same field. Step outside and we’d disappear.
[Avon picks up Orac and they all move to the doors.]
Avon: Send the impulse to open the hatch.
[The hatch opens and the trio emerge into the glare.]
[Flight deck. As before.]
Gamren: So the weapons they use are the same crystal that the city is built out of?
Taihyr: Yes. The crystalline pattern absorbs, store and magnify the energy their bodies release. The shard can release those energies in a concentrated beam.
Gamren: A laser weapon?
Taihyr: The city dwellers made themselves glow to sustain life – but that light can destroy far easier than it can nurture. The same principle is being used on their new sun.
Gamren: You mean, it’s actually a bomb?!
Taihyr: Both. Once in orbit it will light up this world as a sun would, but its light will destroy all life on the surface except those of our enemies. There are few plants and animals left, and the city-dwellers are willing to sacrifice them. They will be the only survivors, the only life forms that can survive on this planet, to colonize as they wish.
Gamren: But... wait. The light can’t reach you, your people live below ground.
Taihyr: Yes. But we have little room left. We need to expand onto the surface.
Gamren: Can’t you be happy with what you have?
Taihyr: It is not down to us, Gamren. The light-people will not be satisfied. They will want to take over our cities, colonize our settlements. Once they control the surface they will start to burrow underground and destroy us.
Gamren: There must be something you can do to stop it.
Taihyr: There is – but we need your assistance.
[Gamren is about to reply when Blake activates.]
Gamren: [distracted] Huh? What is it, Blake?
Blake: The main detectors have picked up a group leaving the city.
[The screen lights up showing Lora and Zanto moving across the plain.]
[Outside the Phoenix, the scene continues.]
Lora: It’s very sweet.
Lora: Just, you know, seeing you so worried about Gamren.
Zanto: I’m not worried about her.
Lora: You’re being very diligent then, aren’t you?
Zanto: She’s a very good pilot. And Vila’s got a chip on his shoulder about losing any more friends. So we need her alive. It doesn’t mean I personally give a damn whether she lives or dies and, to be honest, a galaxy without Gamren in it would be an ideal utopia as far as I’m concerned.
Lora: You like her, don’t you?
Zanto: I can’t stand the woman. [looks at her] And I’m rapidly going off you as well, Lora.
Lora: Tough. You need my back up.
Zanto: [grumbles] You’ve got my back up... [louder] You and your friends still around, Nreeshi?
Nreeshi: [vo] YES. WE SHOULD NOT COMMUNICATE FURTHER, LEST WE REVEAL OUR STRENGTH TO THE ENEMY. WE REMAIN OUT OF SIGHT AND OUT OF SOUND.
Lora: But not out of mind.
Zanto: You still haven’t said how your people can help us rescue Gamren.
Nreeshi: [vo] ONCE YOU FIND HER, THE RESULTS WILL SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES.
Lora: Do your people find those ominously cryptic remarks reassuring? Because they don’t work on us. I mean, I’m trying not to be insular...
[They move off.]
[Flight deck. This is shown on the screen.]
Taihyr: They seem to be alone, but are they really?
Gamren: Not sure. Blake?
Blake: The detectors aren’t suitably calibrated to be certain on that point, but there seem to be several invisible creatures accompanying Lora and Zanto.
Taihyr: [impressed] Fascinating. Your craft can detect the enemy.
Gamren: [surprised] There’s no way for you do it?
Taihyr: No. As they cannot see us, we cannot see them.
Gamren: But you can see us? Human beings, I mean?
Taihyr: Of course. You are not hidden.
Gamren: [swallows] I’ve just had a very, very nasty idea.
[The plain. Lora and Zanto are now standing outside a small cave-like opening in the ground.]
Zanto: This is it?
Nreeshi: [vo] YES. YOU WILL GO FIRST.
Lora: As scouts?
Nreeshi: [vo] WE WILL BE DETECTED. THEY DO NOT KNOW OF YOUR KIND.
Zanto: Except they took Gamren.
Nreeshi: [vo – getting impatient] GO NOW.
Nreeshi: [vo] I GUARANTEE YOU WILL BE ASSISTED AS AND WHEN NECESSARY.
Lora: Still being cryptic, huh.
Zanto: Come on, Lora!
[They enter the cave, guns still drawn.]
[Tunnel. The two move down through the dark.]
Lora: [sotto] Pity we can’t use torches.
Zanto: [sotto] Yes. Pity we’re down here at all, too.
Lora: [sotto] So much pity, so little time.
[Despite himself, Zanto laughs.]
Zanto: [sotto] Come on.
[Cautiously, the pair move down the path and finally the tunnel opens up into a ledge overlooking a cavern. They duck behind some rocks and peer over it. Before them is a bustling concourse carved finely and neatly out of the rock. Steps and walkways lead deeper into the caves. Canisters and crates are neatly stacked around and the (visible) natives are gathered around a spit where a strange animal is roasting. This provides almost all the light in the cavern. Others patrol back and forth, clearly on watch. Gregorian-style chanting and sitar music are heard.]
Lora: [sotto] They’re not invisible.
Zanto: [sotto] Why should they be? They only turn invisible when they’re sneaking around on the surface, as camouflage. They’re in their natural habitat down here, at least as natural as they can manage.
Lora: [sotto] Still, this doesn’t look like a bunch of savages to me.
Zanto: [sotto] No. Quite civilized, really.
Lora: [sotto] It’s a whole city underground.
Zanto: [shakes head] Uh-uh. This is just a barracks. For the teams that attacked the Phoenix.
Lora: [sotto] So this is just a taste of what the shadow people can do? [Zanto nods] Nreeshi must be in denial if he thinks they’re primitive. A whole race of invisible people can’t see what’s under their feet. If you get my drift.
Zanto: [sotto] I see your meaning, yeah.
Lora: [sotto] Invisible jokes! [grins] We’re bonding, I can tell.
Zanto: [sotto] Bond later. Let’s find Gamren.
Lora: [sotto] Where do you think the cells will be?
[A guttural whisper behind them. They look around and a shadow detaches and advances on them, resolving into the true shape of the cave-dweller. It carries a gas weapon.]
Lora: Uh, Nreeshi?
[The guard whispers angrily and aims the weapon at them.]
Lora: Nreeshi! Now would be a good time to help...
[Other cave dwellers in the concourse have been alerted. The ones on patrol run for the steps that lead up onto the ledge, all of them armed.]
Lora: [sotto] What’s keeping that invisible idiot? We need help!
Zanto: Oh no. Don’t you see, Lora? We’re not scouts – we’re bait!
Gamren: Nreeshi’s people can’t detect you, but they can detect Lora and Zanto. They can monitor them. Once your people make contact, Nreeshi will know exactly where they are...
Taihyr: [slowly] ...and take appropriate measures.
[Crystalline City Corridor. The main passage is lit by the glare as glowing shapes move back and forth. In a relatively-gloomy side chamber, Avon and Vila approach, carrying Orac. They are still shrouded.]
Orac: Alert! Alert!
[They both stop.]
Vila: [sotto] Keep it down, Orac. We’re invisible, not inaudible!
Avon: [sotto] What is it?
Orac: [sotto] While I have only managed a limited understanding of this technology in so short a time, it is clear that primary weapon systems throughout the city are being charged to full power.
Vila: [sotto] You sure they’re weapons?
Orac: [sotto] They are the only systems focused outside the city.
Avon: [sotto] And given the war on this planet, they’d only be used against the enemy.
Vila: [sotto] Where are the others?
Orac: [sotto] Gamren is still aboard Phoenix. Lora and Zanto now are located below ground.
[Vila looks at Avon nervously.]
Vila: [sotto] I think we should warn them.
Avon: [sotto] Go ahead. I’m not in charge, remember?
Vila: [sotto] Yes. I wish you would, though.
Avon: [sotto] You think I forget?
Vila: [sotto] Just act a bit more subservient and contrite, is that too much to ask?
Avon: [sotto] Yes.
Orac: [sotto] If I might intercede...
Avon: [sotto] Just warn them, Orac, through the bracelets if you must!
Orac: [sotto] Too late. Weaponry systems now activating...
Blake: Gamren! Something’s happening to the city!
[On the screen, the city is blazing with light, brighter than ever.]
[Plain. The city is now a bleached silhouette. A beam of the light suddenly explodes out of the silhouette and hurtles past the Phoenix and slams in the cave opening.]
[Cavern. Lora and Zanto are backing away towards the ledge as the shadow creatures advance. Suddenly a pinpoint of brilliant light appears behind them, rapidly building in size and intensity. Zanto grabs Lora and throws them both off the ledge. A split second later the upper level is flooded in the glare. The guards scream and burn in the glare. Explosions rip through the upper level.
On the ground, Lora and Zanto are sprawled at the bottom of the mini-cliff. The natives are crying and running in panic. The whole cavern is lit up now. Explosions tear through the walkways. Bodies start to drop, smoking and twisted. Lora pulls on her visor and helps Zanto with his. Crates burst into flames. The creature on the spit blackens as the fire below suddenly goes out, then explodes. Lots of the surviving natives are turning to shadows and running for their lives. As the light scours the cave walls, other shadows revert back to their true forms and collapse, dead. Debris start to rain down from above.]
[Outside. The light beam blazes around the cave mouth.]
[Flight deck. Gamren watches on in horror.]
Gamren: What will that thing do?
Taihyr: Destroy all life it comes in contact with. Some of my people may survive if they escape into the lower levels, but those still in the annex will be annihilated.
[Gamren stares at him.]
Taihyr: Well what?
Gamren: Do something!
Taihyr: No. Enough of our forces are aboard this ship to make a strike.
Gamren: But what about the people down there?
Taihyr: What about them? The losses we suffer today are pinpricks compared to the death toll if the city-dwellers complete their plan.
Gamren: You sound like a fanatic. And believe me, I know fanaticism when I hear it.
Taihyr: This is not fanaticism.
Taihyr: This is survival.
Gamren: Tell that to my two friends who are down there!
[Gamren is advancing on Taihyr, when shadows force her back into the chair.]
[Cavern. More rocks are falling. A walkway collapses. More explosions. Under the ledge, Zanto and Lora are out of the deadly glare. They shout over the noise.]
Lora: What are they doing?
Zanto: I said we were a trap! Nreeshi used us to lure the shadow people close and then used a weapon on them! They’re no better than the Federation!
Lora: You know, not all Federation personnel are that bad!
Zanto: The ones that matter are!
Lora: Oh, thanks!
Zanto: And it’s all academic anyway! If that beam intensity increases, we’ll be fried!
Lora: Academic, remember! We can’t move from here!
[The light suddenly cuts out, plunging them into quiet gloom.]
Lora: [numb] Oh. That’s better, I suppose.
[They are lit up again. Nreeshi and the glowing figures are looming over them.]
Lora: Hello, Nreeshi. Not quite the backup we were lead to believe in.
Nreeshi: YOUR REFLEXES ARE IMPRESSIVE.
Zanto: Not that impressive. I think I’ve twisted my ankle.
Nreeshi: WE DID NOT EXPECT YOU SURVIVE THE BOMBARDMENT.
Lora: Obviously. You were prepared to kill us!
Nreeshi: THE POPULATION OF THIS STRONGHOLD WAS AWARE OF A WEAKNESS IN OUR DEFENSES. THEY HAD TO BE ERADICATED TO ENSURE OUR NEW SUN IS SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED. NOW THE ENEMY HAVE BEEN WIPED OUT, THE LAUNCH MAY COMMENCE.
Lora: And we were expendable?
Nreeshi: YOU WERE WARNED OF THE DANGER. REMEMBER THAT THE OTHERS WERE KEPT AT THE CITY TO ENSURE SOME OF YOUR PARTY SURVIVED.
Zanto: You didn’t mention the danger would have been you.
Nreeshi: WE WERE DEFENDING OURSELVES. THE ENEMY CANNOT BE REASONED WITH.
Lora: They’re sounding a lot nicer than you every minute that passes.
Nreeshi: YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH SAVAGES. THEN YOU MUST BE SAVAGES.
Zanto: Did the savages kill Gamren? Because there’s a good chance you did!
Nreeshi: YOU ARE UNSOPHISTICATED AND PURPOSELESS. IT IS CLEAR YOU HAVE ONLY ONE USE ON THIS PLANET.
Zanto: What’s that?
Lora: [swallows] You’re... you’re not going to dissect us, are you?
Nreeshi: NO. RISE. LEAVE THE STRONGHOLD NOW – OR WE WILL ERADICATE YOU HERE.
[Lora does so. She and Zanto are grubby and battered. Zanto tries and collapses, growling in pain.]
Nreeshi: MOVE OR DIE!
Lora: Let me!
[Lora heaves Zanto upright and together they hobble for a surviving staircase, followed by the glowing shapes of their captors.]
Zanto: [weakly] Thank you.
Lora: Don’t thank me. Even us unimportant personnel have morals.
Zanto: Sorry about that.
Lora: For future reference, you’re not the easiest person to deal with. No wonder you irritate Gamren.
Zanto: Past tense, Lora. She’s dead.
Lora: We don’t know that.
Zanto: [miserably] Why not? Everyone else is!
Lora: Oh, take a leaf out of Nreeshi’s book.
Lora: Lighten up.
[Zanto nods, not laughing. They start to climb the steps.]
[Flight deck. The screen shows smoke pouring out of the cave. Gamren is restrained.]
Gamren: There must be some trace, Blake!
Blake: The fallout of that energy beam, combined with the background interference have blotted all detectors. I’m sorry, but there’s nothing except visual... and we all know how unreliable that can be.
Gamren: I suppose there’s no way you can help me out, Blake?
Taihyr: If there were, the computer would have done so by now.
Blake: Afraid so, Gamren. Any counter measure would be as dangerous to you as them.
[A bitter pause.]
Gamren: So what’s the plan now, Taihyr? If you want to use this ship against the city, you need my help.
Taihyr: We don’t need your assistance, Gamren – though it would have been appreciated.
Gamren: [rolls eyes] Stop it, Taihyr, you’ll make me blush.
Taihyr: [bewildered] “Blush”?
Gamren: [sighs] If you don’t want to use Phoenix, what do you want?
Taihyr: We will use the ship. But you are not required to fly it.
Gamren: Oh, I am. There’s no other reliable way of moving this ship.
Taihyr: Greed is always reliable. And the city-dwellers are very greedy.
Gamren: What do you...
Blake: Brace yourselves, everyone! I’m detecting a gravitational anomaly all around the hull!
[The flight deck rocks and sways. The shadow people stumble but do not fall.]
Gamren: What is it? Something to do with the dying sun?
Blake: No, it’s some kind of tractor beam...
[More violent jolts. This time, Gamren and her captors are thrown to the floor.]
[Plain. Another beam is shining out of the city, but a field of sparkles rather than a solid ray. It stretches from the city and ends directly above the Phoenix, then turns a 90 degree angle to engulf the ship. The Phoenix jerks, sways and lifts off the ground and up into the main beam.]
[Flight deck. The room is jolting violently.]
Taihyr: It’s the city-dwellers! They want your ship and they will take it! Just as I knew they would!
Gamren: Do you want applause or what?
[Outside. The Phoenix is now inside the beam. It glides along it towards the city with gathering speed. It slows to a halt beyond a segment of crystal roof which opens up like a flower petal. A second vertical beam forms under the Phoenix, dropping into the opening. The Phoenix then descends the beam until it is inside the city itself. The beam shuts off.]
[Crystalline corridor. Avon and Vila hurry across a main passageway.]
Vila: [sotto] What was that?
Orac: [sotto] The Phoenix has now been relocated inside this settlement as Nreeshi planned.
Vila: [sotto] Who was flying it? Was it Gamren?
Orac: [sotto] No, the ship was brought here by a complicated series of tractor beams.
Vila: [sotto] Able to lift a whole spaceship? In this gravity?
Orac: [sotto] Indeed.
Vila: [grimly] Impressive technology.
Avon: [sotto] The word I would have used would be “fearsome”. Where have they put the Phoenix, Orac?
[Landing bay. A pentagonal chamber of crystal walls with prisms built into the corners aimed up at the opening in the ceiling. Archways lead away from the bay into the rest of the corridor. The Phoenix sits in the middle of the bay, and several glowing shapes are approaching the ship.]
[Flight deck. The shadow people are picking themselves up, as is Gamren.]
Taihyr: Computer. Use your detectors. I want this entire city mapped out.
Blake: Want what you like, Taihyr. I do not follow your orders.
Taihyr: [impatient] Gamren. Make it obey me.
Gamren: I refer you to Blake’s answer about me not following your orders.
[The shadowy figure advances on her.]
Taihyr: [coolly] The black smoke we use can be fatal in higher doses, Gamren. And you have had two small doses. How many small doses becomes too much?
Gamren: [cautiously] I have no idea.
Taihyr: Would you like to find out?
Gamren: I thought we were on the same side.
Taihyr: [reasonably] Then have your computer what I say.
[Gamren glares at them all.]
Gamren: [beaten] Blake.
Blake: Doing it now, Gamren.
Taihyr: Also identify the source of the beam that brought us here. We believe the same mechanism is used for their lasers. The city-dwellers could have left the beam on its primary setting and destroyed us all.
Blake: Displaying results.
[A diagram appears, resembling a cross between a flower and a snowflake, peppered with lights.]
[Outside the city gate. The bodies of the dead shadows lie where they fell. A group of glowing shapes escort Lora who helps the limping Zanto. Another glowing alien holds their clip-guns.]
Lora: ...but our ship was there! If it’s taken off...
Neeshi: IT HAS NOT TAKEN OFF. WE HAVE RELOCATED IT INSIDE THE CITY.
Zanto: [pained] It’s very generous. Do we have to pay for a parking space?
Nreeshi: IN A SENSE.
Lora: Payment? So this isn’t pure generosity. What’s in it for you where our ship is?
[The gate opens.]
Lora: Research again. It still doesn’t sound good.
Zanto: No, it doesn’t. [to Nreeshi] What exactly are you researching?
[The glowing guards shove the prisoners through the doorway.]
- to be concluded...