[Model shot. Dawn breaks over the mining complex.]
[Conference hall. Boorva, Keer and Kella are gathered around Orac. Vila sits on a table, looking out the view port at the sunrise. Avon stands beside him, hands behind his back, silent.]
Vila: It feels just like Gauda Prime all over again. Remember? That first day? Like disaster’s swallowed us up when we weren’t looking and we just haven’t noticed we’ve already lost...
Avon: Vila, please, to the uninitiated you might sound worried about our chances of success.
Vila: [gloomy] It’s our chances of failure that bother me.
[Lora approaches, rubbing her tired eyes and stifling a yawn.]
Lora: Orac’s come up with the goods. Course coordinates, corrected speed calculations, spatial distances... everything’s ready.
[She hands them some print squares.]
Avon: About time. The fleet is scheduled to launch in just over half an hour.
Lora: Lots of last minute adjustments to the plan, apparently. [to Vila] Watching another sun rise?
Vila: Yeah. Might never get another chance. [increasingly annoyed] Hey, have you seen what we’re actually going to be doing in this madcap scheme of Orac’s?
[He waves his square at the others. Avon continues to study his own.]
Avon: [reading] It’d be difficult to miss.
Vila: Typical! What are we? Architects of the rebellion! Members of Blake’s original crew! And what role do we get in the alliance? Decoy fodder!
Lora: It’s the safest job around. Remember, we have the stardrive.
Vila: Yeah, we had it on Scorpio and a fat lot of good that did us.
Avon: Scorpio was an antique transporter that burned out every time we used the drive. The Pheonix is powerful enough to withstand the acceleration.
Vila: Is that a vote of confidence?
Avon: Only a vote that your objections are as ill-informed and contradictory as ever, Vila. You chose to pick up the baton and continue the crusade. Did you really expect never to be in danger again?
Vila: [sulky] I didn’t expect to be diving face first into it when it could be avoided.
[He moves off to talk to Boorva and Kella. Avon calls after him.]
Avon: Then you’re an even bigger fool than... than those who went before you.
Lora: You can’t say his name, can you?
Avon: I don’t know what you’re talking about and frankly could not care less.
Lora: Blake. Go on then. Say his name. Blah-aike.
[Avon glares at him and speaks without any difficulty.]
Avon: Blake. Satisfied?
Lora: No. And I don’t think you are, either.
[Phoenix flight deck. Gamren sits in the pilot chair, feet up on the table, watching the screen. The planet is silhouetted below the rising sun, which lights up the flight deck. Zanto enters]
Zanto: Nice view.
Gamren: I was thinking of making a recording. A collection of sunrises across the galaxy. Might sell well.
Zanto: It’s all in motion. There’s no stopping it now.
Gamren: I know.
Zanto: No, I’m not sure you do, Gamren. This is our last chance. We’ve staked everything on it, every drop of credit and aid Blake could browbeat out of people. And if it fails...
Gamren: Then it’s over. For good. But we’re not going to lose, are we?
Zanto: Aren’t we? Maybe if Blake was still alive... [sighs] I don’t know. When he was around, it all seemed so easy. That there was nothing to be scared of. All the plans and strategies we worked out, and yet, now he’s gone, and I’m scared. It feels like a stupid, impossible dream.
Gamren: [nods] Good.
Gamren: Well, we’ve got to attempt the impossible every now and then. How else did Blake become a legend in the first place?
[They smile to each other.]
Gamren: Still scared?
Zanto: [giggles] Terrified.
Gamren: [chuckles] Oh well. Can’t fix everything.
[Conference hall. People are heading out. The air is quite busy. Keer is heading for the exit while speaking to Avon as they go.]
Keer: My associates have finished modifying their internal relays as per Orac’s instructions. The entire fleet will be able to confer without fear of messages being intercepted. Oh, and your teleport bangle things? I assume that their communication range is enough to keep in constant contact with Soolin?
Avon: With Orac working as a relay, it’s an immutable certainty.
Keer: Oh good. I’d hate for either of us to lose touch in the middle of all this. [tilts head] Tell me something, Avon, what are your long-term plans when this is over?
Avon: To still be alive.
Keer: [chuckles] How very enterprising of you. If you need a position in the new regime, don’t hesitate to ask – I’m sure there’ll be plenty of work for a man of your singular talents.
Avon: I’m sure I will find working with the Consortium of Trau very rewarding...
Keer: ...assuming you survive. You know, I’m surprised you care about this at all.
Avon: Are you?
Keer: Am I wrong? You don’t have any friends or relatives left, do you? So what do you care if the Federation conquer the galaxy as long as you’re not in danger? They’re welcome to every stinking atom of cosmic dust! It’s not as if you’re unable to hide beyond their reach.
Avon: Perhaps. But I’ve wasted enough of my life running. The Federation have... done things... that must be answered for. The administration has existed for too long and supporting this alliance is the only means by which I can do something about it.
Keer: [understanding] You don’t want this all to be for nothing?
Avon: [cold] It has been all for nothing. Every drop of blood, every massacre, every desecration and every corruption – they’ve all been for nothing. But Blake made a difference. With just a handful of criminals who listened when he talked. Destroying the Federation won’t justify anything – but that does not mean we can’t destroy it.
[Keer leaves. Only Boorva and a few rebels remain. Avon takes one last look around and then activates his recall unit. The conference hall swirls and melts away to be replaced by the Phoenix teleport bay. Vila and Lora have already joined Gamren and Zanto.]
Avon: Well. Today seems as good a day as any for one last, futile gesture.
[He assumes his position.]
Zanto: Aren’t you worried?
Avon: About what?
Zanto: About dying a meaningless death!
Avon: All death is meaningless. At least if we perish in this attack, it shall be ironic.
Vila: Yes. We’ll have survived all the times it didn’t matter but not the one time it did.
Vila: [gloomily] For as long as I can remember it’s felt like there’s a sword above me, dangling on a thread that could snap at any moment. And now it’s time.
Lora: Yeah, but look on the bright side. This is best-planned rebellion since the New Calendar began...
Gamren: Not that that says much.
Zanto: Was that directed at me?
[Gamren glances at Avon.]
Gamren: Not entirely.
Lora: Look, if we are all doomed, can we at least spend the last few hours left to us not sniping?
Gamren: Might as well die trying something new.
Vila: Might as well not die at all.
Zanto: Get the ship moving, Gamren.
[Lora folds her arms and looks at him.]
Zanto: [sweetly] Please.
Gamren: Activating main drive...
[She adjusts controls and the room sways. Dissolve to:]
[Space. The Phoenix is part of the fleet moving between planets. A vast amount of ships resembling smaller versions of the Quicksilver accompany the armada.]
[Phoenix flight deck. Everyone is sat at their station. The main screen blinks between different views of the armada. The atmosphere is very tense.]
Lora: So many ships...
Vila: Good thing they’re friendly.
Avon: Don’t delude yourself. They purport to be our allies, no more.
Zanto: [tense] Oh, for once in your life, stop bitching!
Lora: [sighs] Well, that ceasefire was nice while it lasted...
Zanto: I’m sorry, Lora, but things are bad enough without our resident doommonger going on back there! Avon, your idea of a rebel uprising was to hide in a cave for four years and then kill Blake! We’re actually about to get something achieved, and for all your pessimism you haven’t come up with a single better idea!
Avon: You only had to ask.
Gamren: We won’t.
Vila: If he did have a better idea, he would have mentioned it by now.
Avon: If that’s what you want to believe. I at least would not use this ship as a sacrificial lamb at the front of the fleet for maximum exposure to danger.
Zanto: No other ship has as good a chance at distracting the convoy and getting away. That much is certain.
Avon: In a major battle, nothing is certain. We may be able to predict how the Federation will respond, but their actions cannot be guaranteed.
[Quicksilver office. Orac is buzzing on the console. Soolin stands over the computer while Keer lazes in his throne. On the hemispherical scanner is a diagram of the battle fleet. The image zooms in on the diagram of Phoenix out in the lead.]
Keer: There are your friends. Only eighty thousand miles ahead of us.
[Soolin rolls her eyes.]
Keer: You have faith in that Delta grade not to mess this up?
Soolin: [folds arms] I have faith in nothing.
Keer: Oh yes. A poor choice of words. But is he reliable in this sort of emergency?
Soolin: He wouldn’t have survived this long if he wasn’t.
Keer: Good. Because, Soolin, if anything does go wrong, there is nothing we can do to stop them getting wiped out – and we’re probably doomed to be killed for no purpose soon after. The Federation will be more secure than ever, especially once we’re all dead.
Soolin: Have you considered a career in motivational speaking?
Keer: Yes, but I couldn’t stand the hours. The thing is, Soolin, if your wonderful comrades from Scorpio are so trustworthy and efficient as they claim – why are you hiding back here where it’s safe?
Soolin: Maybe I’m remembering the good old days when we worked together.
Keer: Your memory, Soolin, will work just as well on the Phoenix.
Soolin: Then it must be because I don’t trust you with Orac.
Keer: My question still stands. Any one of Vila’s crew could keep an eye on me.
Soolin: They don’t know you the way I do.
Keer: And, as we’ve established, you don’t know me as much as you thought.
Soolin: Then it must be the novelty to chat with a man I killed. You still haven’t explained how you survived.
Keer: I haven’t, have I?
Keer: My heart was always my weakness, Soolin, we both know that. It needed replacing long before you put a plasma bullet through it.
Soolin: That doesn’t answer my question.
Keer: Doesn’t it? Oh well, I’ll tell you all about it after the battle.
Soolin: [smiles] One reason to stay alive, I suppose.
[Keer puts on a look of mock hurt. Despite everything, she is enjoying his company.]
[Phoenix flight deck. A display lights up.]
Vila: It’s the convoy.
Zanto: If it isn’t, we’re going to need to rethink the plan every soon.
Gamren: It’s still a “plan”, then? I thought were in “fiasco” territory by now...
Lora: [furious] Enough of the bloody sniping already!
[Space. The Phoenix is shooting towards the convoy, the transporter framed by a grid of patrol ships with flat, X-wing style weaponry.]
[Quicksilver office. This is displayed on the scanner before Keer and Soolin.]
Keer: Ah. And so, we plunge into the most important battle of our lives... if not the last.
Soolin: Have I ever mentioned how reassuring I find your comments?
Keer: [thoughtful] No.
Soolin: There’s a reason for that, Keer. Orac, open a direct communication link to the Phoenix flight deck. Vila, are you ready to draw the fire?
[An image of Vila appears on the screen, forming out of cube patterns.]
Vila: [annoyed] Of course I’m ready. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here, would I? I just hope the rest of you are going to perform as well as we do, that’s all.
[The image breaks up again.]
[Phoenix flight deck. Vila lets out a near hysterical sigh.]
Vila: [to himself] Oh, I shall come out in a rash.
Zanto: Weapons system ready and online.
[Space. The Phoenix draws closer and closer to the convoy.]
Captain: [vo] Unidentified craft approaching from sector two. Prepare for interception.
[Phoenix flight deck. Lora listens to a headset.]
Vila: Anything interesting on the communications traffic?
Lora: They think we’re going to attack the convoy.
Vila: Oh. That’ll do.
Lora: They’re going to battle stations.
Vila: [trying to stay positive] Uh, good, good.
Lora: And something about “teaching us a lesson we won’t forget in a hurry because we’ll be too busy being blasted to oblivion”.
Gamren: Ugh! Pure clichés! Why can’t they just say “fire”?
Avon: I think they have. Two plasma bolts launched and running.
Lora: Impact in thirty seconds.
Zanto: Any of those ships in our strike range?
Gamren: What does it matter? We’re in their strike range!
Lora: One of the escort ships is in range...
Vila: Then fire the main blasters before we leg it!
Gamren: Aye, aye, Captain.
[She slides a control to full.]
[Space. A bolt of red energy bursts out of the Pheonix and seconds later one of the escort ships explodes in a silent fireball of grey-white light.]
Avon: Evasive action!
[Gamren resets the controls and the ship lurches to the left.]
[Space. The Phoenix swerves out of the way, the blasts just missing them.]
Lora: [brightly] We’re still alive!
Avon: Keep it that way or I’ll never speak to you again.
Vila: Right, activate stand-by course for that asteroid. They’ll think we’re running for cover.
Zanto: That’s what we are doing!
Vila: So what’s the problem? Hit it!
[Space. Two of the patrol ships break formation and head after the Pheonix.]
Gamren: Another attack run...
Zanto: They’re opening fire.
Avon: Force wall! Full deflection!
[Space. One of the patrol ships opens fire. The Phoenix dodges two bolts but is jolted by a third.]
[Phoenix flight deck. There is a massive jolt. Zanto is thrown to the floor.]
Zanto: [winded] I’m all right!
Gamren: Whoopee for you!
Lora: Only two patrol ships are following us – that leaves the other five still defending the convoy!
Zanto: We didn’t get enough of their attention, obviously.
Lora: We can try another attack.
Gamren: If we turn around we’ll leave ourselves totally exposed.
Vila: And all the other alternatives will make the convoy even more suspicious!
Avon: Not necessarily. Gamren, can the main drive manage a full emergency stop without tearing us to pieces in the process?
Gamren: [smiles] I think I know what you’re asking for...
Avon: That makes a refreshing change. Do it!
[Gamren resets controls.]
Gamren: Taking her up to what they think is top speed.
Avon: Prime every weaponry system for continuous fire!
Lora: This sounds like it’s going to be spectacular...
Avon: Oh it will be.
Zanto: Just as long as we survive to appreciate it.
[Space. The Phoenix is hurtling towards a small moon. The two patrol ships are starting to catch up with it. Suddenly, the Phoenix stops dead. The patrol ships continue flying forward, past the Phoenix.]
[Gamren heaves the control.]
[Space. Volleys of red bolts shoot from the front of the Phoenix and spray across the patrol ships. They rapidly disintegrate and explode.]
Lora: Another patrol ship’s coming after us.
Avon: That leaves four to defend the convoy. Half of what was originally there and not enough to destroy the weapon before we can seize it.
Zanto: Keer and the others are closing in on it. Should go like clockwork.
Vila: That’s no good to us right now.
Zanto: We don’t have to hide our speed any more, though. Gamren, no need to hold back.
Gamren: Just what I like to hear.
[She resets the controls.]
[Space. A patrol ship advances on the Phoenix, which spins around and hurtles towards the patrol ship. A bolt blasts the attacker into a dust cloud the Phoenix passes harmlessly through.]
[Phoenix flight deck. Everything is calmer now.]
Vila: What’s happening?
Lora: The rest of the fleet is attacking. Two patrol ships blown. Looks like everything’s going to plan.
Zanto: We should go back and pitch in.
Vila: Why? We’ve done our bit!
[On the screen the Quicksilver destroys another ship.]
Vila: They’ll have the particle cannon long before the pursuit ships arrive. I say we pick up Soolin and head back to GP before the gods punish us for our hubris...
Avon: Either course of action must wait. A flotilla of pursuit ships have entered the system.
Vila: What? That’s far too soon!
Lora: He’s right. Six of them.
Zanto: They’re not due for half an hour!
Gamren: Perhaps you can tell them that. I’m certain they’ll retire until the time agreed!
[Space. Three pursuit ships move past a moon.]
Captain: [vo] Preparing to execute attack plan. All vessels are to concentrate on protecting the transporter. All non-pursuit vessels are viable targets. Standing by.
- to be concluded...