Sunday, June 17, 2012

Blake's 7: Unity (iii)

[Space. The pursuit ship is descending towards the planet. Pull back to see the Quicksilver is hovering nearby, watching the descent. Its mounted weaponry activates and a spiral of multicoloured energy expands outwards, engulfing the pursuit ship. The Quicksilver fires again and again. Tiny explosions rip through the pursuit ship until it finally disintegrates in a fireball.]

[Conference hall. The windows light up as the distant shattering sound of an explosion is heard. Everyone bar Keer and his forces flinch at the noise. The rumbling explosion slowly fades into silence.]

Keer: Two words. Just two words. Surprise. Surprise.

Rebel: What was that? What’s happening?

Keer: The Quicksilver emptied all her ammunition tanks into the pursuit ship as they entered the upper atmosphere. I’d stay indoors for the next few hours, the weather’s likely to be... smoky.

Aide: [confused] You destroyed the Federation ship?

Keer: Well, who else was going to? [frowns] Now where was I? Oh yes. The alliance. I stand by my decision to join you. Otherwise I would hardly have stopped the Federation from atomizing this little rebellion in the bud, would I? However, since I am the one with the most resources to bring to the table, I want a corresponding amount of authority – and respect – within this organization. I am willing to be a partner but not an equal one. Remember, I saved each and every one of your lives tonight.

Avon: You were also the one that endangered them all.

Keer: You seriously think you weren’t in danger already?

Vila: [frightened] You’re mad!

Keer: [annoyed] No, my friend, you are the one who is mad if you believe the Federation could not infiltrate this meeting. I decided that I would be the one to betray you – that would make sure I was the one in control of what information your enemies received, and they would have no inclination to corrupt any other members of the alliance. Quite a clever strategy, really, don’t you think? I pretended not to know where you were holding the conference until the last minute, so they could only spare one pursuit ship.

Kella: This was all some kind of foolish prank?

Keer: [nods] A stunt to fool not only you but the Federation. It will be several days before they realize anything’s gone wrong – and I doubt they’ll suspect we know about their plans. I’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to keep this alliance intact. You can forgive an old man for some theatrics, can’t you?

Boorva: [scowling] Not necessarily.

Keer: [icy] Well you should, Boorva, because everyone present here tonight – with one possible exception – has underestimated me.

[He looks at Soolin. She notices. So do Vila and Avon.]

Keer: If I were not on your side, my friends, things would be very bleak indeed. But, you need have no fear, my little piece of misdirection is at an end – as is the day of the Terran Federation. Soon they will be driven from the universe, and we will be free once more.

Boorva: Then perhaps we can discuss the strategy to capture the particle canon.

Keer: At your leisure, dear warlord. At your leisure.

[He sits down at a table with his men.]

Keer: This is very friendly, isn’t it, Raymor?

Boorva: The gathering of ships above this planet takes in vessels from every one of the groups and systems that make up this alliance. The majority of some twenty attack Betafarlian kill-cruisers that have been sequestered for the exclusive use of the league of non-aligned planets...

[He continues talking in the background. Vila looks up and notices that Soolin is no longer there. He nudges Avon and Zanto. They realize she is gone and look around. The doors to the conference hall are sliding shut. There is a glimpse of Soolin before they close.]

Vila: [sotto] Soolin... [to others] Stay here, you two. Zanto, don’t annoy anyone. Avon, don’t kill anyone.

[They roll their eyes. Vila scrambles away from the table and away.]

[Corridor. Vila scurries down a silent passage. There is no sign of Soolin. His bracelet chirps.]

Gamren: [vo] Vila? This is Gamren. What’s going on down there?

Vila: Nothing. Don’t worry about it.

Gamren: [vo] A pursuit ship just exploded...

Vila: [impatient] Not now, Gamren.

Gamren: [vo] Vila, if the Federation...

Vila: I said, not now!

[He wrenches off the bracelet and is about to throw it away, when he thinks again and puts it back on before resuming the search. He passes a counter where some rebel guards are chatting. Further down the corridor is a triangular bay with a raise platform leading to an upper level. There Soolin stands, leaning against a safety rail and gripping it tightly, trying to calm down. Vila runs to her, slowing down as he grows nearer.]

Vila: Soolin... there was no need to run away, you know.

Soolin: [wound up] I can do what I like, Vila. Didn’t they mention that in the discussions of the Galactic Code of the Individual Rights?

Vila: [shrugs] It’d be nice if you had a reason?

Soolin: Maybe I’m finding this conference tedious.

Vila: This isn’t just a bunch of boring speeches, Soolin. It’s an epoch-making moment in history!

Soolin: [bitterly] You’ve got that right.

[Conference Hall. As before, Boorva is speaking.]

Boorva: ...while efforts have been made to destabilize the Federation from within by promoting dissent but recent reports from the inner planets suggest that ordinary citizens themselves are now being pacified...

[Avon and Zanto watch from their table.]

Avon: [sotto] What do you make of Keer?

Zanto: [sotto] ...clever.

Avon: [sotto] How very helpful. Do you have an idea of dealing with him?

Zanto: [sotto] cleverer.

[Avon hangs his head in his hands.]

[Phoenix flight deck. Gamren is rewiring a panel.]

Gamren: There. Should keep the systems compensated.

[Lora is standing in the teleport, putting on a bracelet. She has a clip-gun.]

Lora: As long as no one crashes into us.

[Gamren rises, collects a clip-gun and joins Lora, who hands her a bracelet and activates a control on the side wall. A steady beeping fills the air.]

Lora: Timer control active. [doubtful] You’re sure the ship will be all right on its own?

Gamren: You can stay here if you like. I want to find out what’s going on down there. What was that pursuit ship up do? How much do the Federation know? Why won’t the others talk?

Lora: Well. Let’s find out.

[At the fifteenth beep, the teleport activates and Gamren and Lora disappear.]

[Stairwell. Soolin leans against the railing. Vila leans against them beside her, humming tunelessly. Rolling her eyes, Soolin moves along the railing. Vila follows her. She takes a deep, calming breath.]

Soolin: Do you have anything of interest to say to me, Vila?

Vila: [impressive] Plenty.

Soolin: Well?

[Vila checks no one is looking, then whispers.]

Vila: [sotto] My mother... once met the president’s aide’s secretary’s lover’s cousin!

[Soolin doesn’t laugh.]

Soolin: I’m thrilled for her. Now leave me alone.

Vila: Aw. I thought we were friends!

Soolin: [very annoyed] We’re not friends, Vila. We never have been friends. We were comrades in adversity, but I never offered anything except my skill – I have no friends, I have no family. And the one man that could have claimed otherwise was a 200-year-old serial killer who tried to sacrifice me to a monster in his basement. We’ve saved each other’s lives, lived on the same planets and ships, but don’t for a second, Vila, think that I give a damn about how you feel.

[Vila hides his hurt rather well.]

Vila: Well, fine. I’m employing you. I’ve come into some money recently and I’m hiring you. And as your latest employer, you can tell me what’s wrong. Why’d Keer scare you so much? You never met him before.

Soolin: What makes you say that?

Vila: You would have mentioned it before we got here.

Soolin: Quite. But then I didn’t know what Keer looked like, did I? Maybe he used be someone else.

Vila: Who?

Soolin: Someone I vowed I would murder no matter what.

Vila: And you never caught up with him?

Soolin: Of course I did. I put a plasma charge through his body cavity and left his corpse in the dirt of Gauda Prime.

Vila: Gauda... [eyes widen] You mean... he was one of the ones...

Soolin: Yes. My family died because of him. And he died because of them.

Vila: [nods] Right. So this is his brother or something? Identical twins, what is the alpha grade’s obsession with tinkering with embryos like that? You should have seen Tarrant’s older brother...

Soolin: It’s him. It’s not his brother, his father, his uncle... [rising horror] it’s him!

Vila: Soolin, the only person you’ve ever failed to kill was that trooper who shot you. And he’s dead too! The evidence is on that file if you don’t believe me.

Soolin: [almost hysterical] Then what is he doing here?

[Zanto approaches. Some other conference guests start to arrive and mill around.]

Vila: [cautious] What is it?

Zanto: [shrugs] We’ve broken for refreshments.

Vila: [quickly] Couldn’t be more pleased for you, Zanto,...

[Soolin hurries off and disappears into the growing crowd. Vila calls out after her uselessly]

Vila: Hey, Soolin! Wait!

[He sighs, defeated. Suddenly, Gamren and Lora run up the stairs behind him, guns drawn.]

Lora: Vila!

Gamren: What’s the hell’s going on down here? This is supposed to be a conference, not a game of interplanetary target practice!

Vila: You don’t need to worry about that. Hmm. Well. Perhaps you do. [urgently] Look, I’ve got to...

[Lora holsters her gun.]

Lora:’ve “got to” explain what’s happening. We’re sick of being out of the loop.

Vila: It’s a fascinating story, ladies, one that will sound much better told over a bottle of soma and...

[He trails off miserably and turns to Zanto.]

Vila: That’s never going to work, is it?

[Zanto looks at him, surprised that he’s even asking.]

Zanto: [shakes head] No.

Vila: [sighs] I guess Soolin can keep for a few minutes. All right, you two, here’s the situation...

[Model shot: the complex at night.]

[Keer’s quarters in the complex. A spartan, brightly-lit room that has clearly in the past been used as a research room, with charts and papers on the walls. Keer is wandering around, idly toying with the various junk he finds as one of his men, Raynor, stands to attention.]

Keer: And how long before our fleet arrives to join the armada?

Raymor: Not all the ships are capable of leaving the dockyards, sir.

Keer: [sighs] I know that, Raymor, you dolt. But we should have at least eighty cruisers ready to launch?

Raymor: [fuming] Of course, sir. We’ve had to allow nine hours travel time, given the asteroid field blocking the direct route to Mantobac. But they should all be here by dawn.

Keer: Good. Very good. And they have extra ammunition supplies aboard?

Raymor: Yes, sir. To replenish our tanks after destroying that pursuit ship?

Keer: No, I just felt generally insecure! Of course to replenish our tanks! Go to the Quicksilver, Raymor, and make sure all the systems are at full battle readiness. The time it took for you to attack the pursuit ship, one could easily think you were holding back out of some misguided morality.

Raymor: As if that could ever happen in the Consortium, sir.

[In a surly manner, he turns and leaves through the doorway. As he walks off, he is unaware that Soolin is waiting in the corridor and she nimbly slips through the gap before the door shut. Keer looks up from the junk he is playing with, showing only mild interest at her arrival.]
Keer: Well, well, well. It’s the galaxy’s most-wanted woman. Soolin. I preferred your original name.

Soolin: And I yours.

Keer: What’s wrong with Jorgan Keer? I think it sounds rather fashionable. And you can hardly start a new life with an old name, can you?

Soolin: I’m still surprised you have any life, let alone a new one.

Keer: I wasn’t expecting to see you here, either. I had no idea you were that famous gunfighter. Of course, it was obvious, but I’d never thought you of all people would be reduced to assisting a grubby, good-for-nothing gang of rejects not even Blake was willing to stay with. The mighty fall so much harder than the meek, do they not? Speaking of the meek, your parents would have been so proud about the choices you’ve made over the years...

Soolin: They’re avenged. Their killers are dead. And Gauda Prime is now free of the Federation.

Keer: Ah, Gauda Prime. A place of such epic, soul-crashing failures beyond any proportion – though there were a few, quiet victories. Though once enough time passes, even they dulled into more failures themselves...

Soolin: How did you survive?

Keer: You missed. [snorts] Obviously.

Soolin: I never miss.

Keer: Yet here I am. Maybe our... history made you hesitate? Aim slightly off? Use the wrong intensity in the pulse charge? You loved me like a father once.

Soolin: You and the others took away the genuine article.

Keer: I never touched your sainted progenitors, Soolin. You know that.

Soolin: You’re still responsible.

Keer: And I didn’t make amends? I saved your life, Soolin. Right at the start. I gave you a chance, a skill, a chance to learn from the greatest sharpshooter in the known worlds. You’d have been turned into a mutoid like the others, or sold as slaves, if I hadn’t brought you under my wing. I went out of my way to make sure there was one less dead child on GP. [deadly cold] And you repaid me like this?

[Soolin shifts uncomfortably.]

Soolin: I had to do it. You know that I had to do it.

Keer: No. You didn’t.

Soolin: I made it as quick and painless as I could!

Keer: You’re squeamish about bloodshed nowadays? Oh, Soolin, I thought you took pride in your work...

Soolin: Oh, I do. You’re the only person I’ve shot who is still alive.

Keer: Oh, please. I know what you’ve been doing on Scorpio, Soolin. I heard the rumors and the propaganda and even some of the facts! All the murders. The disasters. The failures. But then, you are a failure, aren’t you, Soolin? A faded, hideous shadow of my greatest pupil. Truly, that woman had been a thing of beauty to watch. The smallest movement was all it took – one nod and an escaping peasant gets an electro-bolt to the belly, a wave of the finger and enemies promptly dispatched, our foes happily executed. You and I, we restored order across GP.

Soolin: Did we? We just killed people. I was nothing except your right-hand enforcer.

Keer: Oh no, Soolin. You were my right-hand. Until you lopped yourself away. And now you’re all shriveled and fail and useless. What did you do with yourself once you got your revenge, my friend? Because, whatever path it was you took, it has clearly broken you like a dry twig.

Soolin: No. It made me stronger. And, if possible, even angrier than I ever was.

Keer: Oh really? Then what happened to that regal sheen? The cool calculation and pure, beauteous disregard for human life? To look at you now – hard to believe you were ever so tough, so self-aware, so... useful. You’re actually less tolerable than that little girl in the woods, that half-drowned, half-dead animal swearing vengeance...

[Soolin listens in mounting rage. She draws her gun, but Keer draws his quicker.]

Keer: You were taught by the best. And I still am.

Soolin: I’ve been shot myself, Keer. I might be willing to risk it again.

Keer: You’ve killed me once, Soolin. What makes you think you’ll have any more success?

[Smiling, he puts his gun on the table. Soolin glances at it suspiciously.]

Keer: It’s been such a long time, Soolin. And I forgive you.

Soolin: [voice cracks] What?

Keer: For trying to kill me. You fulfilled your little blood oath. I survived. Let us call it even, and bury the past in the forest of Gauda Prime?

Soolin: You’re lying. This is a trick. The moment I lower my gun...

Keer: Soolin! Who am I to let an unhealthy lust for revenge stand in the way of friendship? And we were friends, weren’t we? Very, very good friends. And you know if I’d wanted you dead, I would have tried it before now. [takes gun back] Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must be off.

[Keer rises and heads for the door.]

Soolin: Off?

Keer: Yes. Off. Away. I’m pulling out, and I’m taking my fleet with me. Let these credulous and cretinous morons fight for their alliance on their own. I’ve decided to let the Federation do whatever they please with the unmitigated heap of garbage we call the league of non-aligned planets!

Soolin: You can’t be serious. You’re joking!

Keer: Do I look like I’m joking?

Soolin: [narrows eyes] Yes.

Keer: Well, not this time. This time, it’s deadly serious. The stakes are high, Soolin, higher than they’ve ever been. You need allies. I do not. The plans are in place. It’s starting all around us, my friend. It’s all perfect! Such promise, such accomplishments! The road to victory is easy and clear! Oh, such glory is there for us and things can only get better...

Soolin: ...but only as long as you keep to your pledge.

Keer: You are the one that knows more about broken promises than I, Soolin. Doesn’t it feel sickening to realize you’ve put your faith in someone who turns out to be unreliable?

Soolin: I’ve made that mistake before.

Keer: With young Avon, I suppose?

Soolin: [frowns] What do you know about Avon?

Keer: Not enough. Not nearly enough. Which brings me to the price of my continued support.

Soolin: You want Avon? I’m sure you’ll be very happy together, with your mutual love of leather.

Keer: Very amusing. But you’re going to give me what I ask for, Soolin. Otherwise things are going to go terribly, terribly downhill. These pathetic resistance fighters will wish that pursuit ship had blasted them all to the other side of oblivion. Unless you give me what I want?

Soolin: You haven’t said what that is yet.

Keer: [mild surprise] Oh, I haven’t, have I? Well, I’ll do so. A couple of months ago, Blake – remember him? – contacted me and suggested a meeting on Gauda Prime. By the time I reached that system, I learned that he had died.

Soolin: It’s not exactly a secret.

Keer: But how did he die?

Soolin: His heart stopped beating.

Keer: In a very bad case of mutual misunderstanding?

Soolin: [frowns] I don’t know what you mean?

Keer: Oh, I think you do, Soolin.

Soolin: You want to know what happened to Blake?

Keer: I know what happened to Blake. I want... evidence. Proof. Incontrovertible proof.

Soolin: Why?

Keer: [shrugs] It’s been on my mind. And I really want to see the truth with my own eyes. [urgently] Come now, Soolin. Blake is killed, Blake’s followers flee his base – they would have taken all the computer data they could and Gauda Prime is a place where you monitor everything. There must be a recording of that last day, some security footage perhaps? Vila might keep it secret, but he couldn’t hide it from you, could he? Not with his weakness for the humanoid female form...

Soolin: You think I can provide you with that?

Keer: If you can’t, Soolin, I walk.

Soolin: It could take some time to get it to you.

Keer: I trust you. If you give me your word.

Soolin: My word?

Keer: Your vow. Your allegiance. The same dedication you gave to your late and unlamented family. Do that, ensure I get what I ask for... [smiles] and I’ll do everything this alliance asks for me, free of charge. If you don’t, then I suggest you make touching farewells to your doomed compatriots.

Soolin: You realize, if you cheat me, there’s nowhere in this galaxy you can go where you can hide.

Keer: Oh, I know, Soolin. I know. [beat] This is a one-off deal. I don’t require any other incentives, inducements, enticements... my commitment will be absolute. Would I ever lie to you, Soolin?

[Soolin closes her eyes, then takes the data file from her pocket.]

Soolin: There.

[Keer takes the fire, regarding it suspiciously.]

Keer: This is it?

Soolin: What you asked for. I would appreciate getting it back. You can copy the contents easily enough.

Keer: Oh, I believe you, Soolin. Just surprised you happened to have it on you.

Soolin: It must be your lucky day.

Keer: So it must.

Soolin: Pity there’s a storm is on its way.

[Keer toys with the file, grinning.]

Keer: I like storms.

Boorva: [vo] And so it begins

[Conference hall. It’s all busy now, a room where a war is being organized. Rebel techs rush back and forth, and other rebels are discussing and arguing. Boorva, Vila, Keer, Kella, and several others are standing around Orac.]

Boorva: ...the end of the Federation.

Vila: The beginning of the end. Or at least the end of the beginning of the end of the Federation.

Rebel: Only if this ridiculous fishtank of yours comes up with a viable strategy.

Vila: It will. The transistorized pain in the neck is the only thing giving us a fighting chance.

Kella: Vila, my people have done more for the rebellion than you have. We settled for more than the odd raid on a Federation base, the occasional scrap with pursuit ships.

Vila: [annoyed] Congratulations, you’ve done more worthwhile things over the last seven years than I have – but we weren’t stuck in a backwater trying to grow food to feed an army.

Kella: No, you were in a nice comfortable ship getting all the credit for the work of real people who fought and died. You’re not combat trained, you’re not a soldier, what do you know about fighting a war?

Vila: [cold anger] More than I want to.

Aide: [placating] What’s your strategy, Kella?

Kella: The steel fist.

Keer: Ah. Go for the classics.

Vila: [confused] Steel fist?

Keer: It’s a battle formation, unique to space warfare.

Kella: [nods] Twenty per cent of the fleet forming a fan ahead of the remaining sixty which forms a tight knot some forty spatials behind.

Vila: It sounds more like an open palm than a clenched fist.

Kella: It works. The Federation use it in campaigns all across the galaxy.

Boorva: Then it will be exactly what they are expecting!

Vila: When has that ever stopped us? Well, Orac, is it worth it?

Orac: I was not built simply to answer your philosophical questions.

Boorva: No, you were built to answer questions.

Orac: You are not asking questions. You are seeking my advice for an attack plan that you lack the wit to conceive on your own.

Vila: Orac, we’re not in the mood and we don’t have time for this!

Orac: I am not a tactical battle computer. I was designed to be an engine of intelligence rather than an engine of destruction.

Vila: Orac, if you’re so concerned, come up with a plan that makes sure the minimum number of people get killed on both sides. You can’t get a better moral victory than preventing bloodshed, can you?

[Awkward silence.]

Vila: [firmly] Can you?

Orac: Very well. I have begun calculating the best possible disposition of forces. With intelligent direction, victory can be assured at a probability of sixty-five percent.

Keer: And what is the direction?

Orac: Observe the screen.

[They look as a screen lights up. A stencil of a squat green shape surrounded by eight red shapes.]

Orac: The convoy has an escort of eight heavily-armed patrol ships arranged in a standard grid pattern that ensures that all possible approaches are covered by at least three patrol ships. Should the rebel fleet be spotted, the most likely outcome is that the patrol ships will destroy the particle canon to prevent it falling into the hands of the resistance. As possession of the canon is the only way to tip the current stalemate, this cannot be allowed to occur.

Rebel: Oh, brilliant. I’m glad this thing doesn’t charge by the hour.

Orac: It will be necessary therefore to eliminate a minimum of four patrol ships before the main attack takes place. The combined firepower of the remaining patrol will be unable to destroy the convoy.

Boorva: We need to destroy the rest of them before they send out a distress signal.

Orac: Not necessarily. If the initial attack appears to be down to a small pirate force, any reports that reach the nearest flotilla will lead the Federation to underestimate the situation. The pursuit ships will not be expecting a full fleet and easily be overcome.

Kella: Which brings me back to the fleet formation. If our ships are arranged the wrong way, a stray plasma bolt could lead to a chain reaction of explosions. Have you got an answer for that?

Orac: I am currently calculating the most optimum strategy to deal with these problems. Boorva is correct that the steel fist formation is well known – its strategic merits are outweighed by the familiarity Federation captains will have. Therefore a less-notorious arrangement of the fleet is required.

Kella: Which stops us all being a powder keg for the Federation to blow up.

Orac: Naturally.

Aide: Once you’ve worked out the plan, can you transmit it to the flight computers throughout the fleet?

Orac: Of course I can!

Keer: Then do so. Make sure all ships are kept updated with any alterations.

[Nearby, Zanto, Lora and Gamren are watching on, trying not to get in the way.]

Lora: I hope that lot know what they’re doing.

Zanto: Too late to worry now.

Gamren: Sounds very final.

Zanto: It is. This attack can’t be stopped now, the momentum will carry on one way or another, dragging everything in until it’s all over. Be thankful it’s actually being guided.

Lora: I would have thought you’d be right in there guiding it, Zanto. You being a puppeteer and all.

Zanto: There’s too much unknown to work out a strategy and this is all happening far too quickly.

Gamren: [tutts] Excuses, excuses.

Zanto: [defensive] Look, I’m better with people rather than battle fleets. Like my idea to terrify the Federation with Servalan, that’s the sort of thing I’m good at. I might be able to work out which resistance leaders would be best doing what, but knowing how to take on pursuit ships? There’s no strategy for dealing with a plasma bolt.

Lora: [frowns] Yes there is. You don’t let it hit you.

Gamren: [laughs] Out of the mouths of Beta grades.

[Vila approaches, talking to Avon.]

Vila: Looks like we’re going to be in another space battle. I’ve had enough of them on Scorpio.

Avon: Do tell Boorva and the others that, and I’m sure we’ll all be allowed to sit this one out. What else has been decided?

Vila: Since all the coordination of Keer’s fleet is happening on the Quicksilver, it might as well coordinate the rest of the fleet entirely. And they need Orac as well.

[They have reached the others by now.]

Lora: [shocked] We’re just giving up Orac?

Vila: I know. I’ve dreamed of this day for years.

Zanto: If we survive, we can have it returned, I assume?

Vila: Soolin’s volunteered to go on the Quicksilver as well. Despite what that electric pest claims, he’ll listen to any one of us before one of the other rebels here. Soolin’ll be able to override anything Keer tries with Orac, and if he tries anything with her...

Zanto: [grimly] Let’s hope for his sake, he doesn’t.

Avon: He survived her attentions once.

Vila: Whatever mistake Soolin made, it won’t happen again, Avon. You know that.

[Avon nods, conceding the point.]

Gamren: Hang on. But we need Orac to help fly the Phoenix!

Avon: We can do without it.

Gamren: Can we?

Avon: If you’re not confident, Gamren, then I am quite capable of piloting a ship under manual control.

Gamren: [snorts] You’d fly like a computer, crunching numbers and theories. Real piloting is about grace and instinct, a sure sense of what can and can’t get away with... exhilaration.

Avon: Spare me the adrenaline-fueled philosophy. We do not require Orac for this mission. Either you fly the Phoenix or someone else will. Nobody is dispensable.

Gamren: That doesn’t give you the right to go round dispensing with them.

Avon: I do what is necessary to secure my own freedom.

Gamren: You’ve been all over the galaxy. That’s freedom. And you didn’t even enjoy it! [to the others] I’m going back to the Phoenix, like a proper dutiful pilot. Contact me when they’ve sorted out the plans.

Zanto: [nods] Will do.

[Gamren activates her bracelets and teleports out. The others watch her go.]

Zanto: She might have a point.

Avon: About behaving like a tourist instead of a fugitive criminal?

Zanto: About leaving Orac behind. It’s not exactly the usual operating procedure.

Lora: This isn’t the usual situation we operate or proceed in.

Zanto: Even so... can we trust Keer with it? And can we trust Soolin to keep an eye on him? You saw how shaken up she was just by seeing him across a crowded room...

Avon: It’s an unavoidable necessity. But why ask me? [to Vila] What’s your opinion, oh fearless leader?

[Vila blows out his cheeks wistfully.]

Vila: You know, many years ago, someone gave me a little piece of advice. They said to me, “Vila,” they said, “you really must try and be a little more trusting.”

Avon: And just who told you that pearl of wisdom?

Vila: Servalan.

[Avon, Lora and Zanto stare at Vila incredulously, and then break up in laughter.]

[Model shot. The lights of the complex against the night. Above hangs the Quicksilver. A crackling, distorted voice is heard – totally unrecognizable.]

Voice: [dist] Consortium Vessel Quicksilver to Federation Pursuit Command. Priority Message, triple-encoded. Rebel alliance organizing a fleet to attack particle canon convoy. Fleet launch estimated in six hours, full interception estimated within seventeen. Urgent call to all Federation pursuit ships in sector nine to defend the convoy. Ambush this fleet and we can destroy the rebellion totally!

- to be continued...

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