[Phoenix flight deck.]
Lora: On top of everything else, we’re right between them and the rest of the fleet.
Zanto: We’ve got the stardrive. We can run for it.
Avon: Not any more. They’re already in position to flank us. There’s no optimum escape route!
Gamren: The plasma bolt launchers are nearly exhausted, we could only take out two of those ships at most – and we don’t have time to recharge them.
[On the screen, the pursuit ships get larger and closer.]
Vila: Any ideas?
Vila: I suppose we’re past the point of surrender.
Lora: Pretty much.
Vila: Remember that trick I told you about? The one Tarrant always wanted to try?
Gamren: [eyes widen] You want to try that now?
Lora: I’m getting the impression that this trick, it’s dangerous?
Zanto: The question is: is it more dangerous than six plasma bolts?
Avon: It’s a close run thing.
Vila: Just like everything else we do.
Avon: Vila – you can’t mean you’re going to try and blast our way out on main drive.
Vila: Can’t? Don’t tell me what I can and can’t mean!
Avon: After the stunts we used on the patrol ships, we don’t have anything like the main thrust required!
Gamren: Not yet. [sets controls] Zanto, I want all main drives shut down on my mark. Lora, set the forward thrusters to maximum burn on the same mark.
[They start setting controls. Vila hurries back to his console.]
Lora: Unless the plan is to blow ourselves up before the Federation can do it, this is a bad idea.
Zanto: I’ve had worse. And we survived all of them.
Avon: Is this mutual appreciation society really necessary?
Lora: Oh, don’t bring the mood down, Avon!
Zanto: Flotilla now entering attack range.
[Lora and Zanto slam down controls simultaneously. The lights dim and everyone is flung back in their chairs as the flight deck starts to flip end over end.]
[Space. Phoenix is heading for a string of six pursuit ships. Suddenly it stops and back-flips over and over, spinning on spot like a coin. The pursuit ships draw closer and closer.]
[Flight deck. Everyone is strained as the centrifugal force presses them into their seats.]
Lora: [gritted teeth] Is the plan for them to die laughing at the sight of us?
Vila: That’s plan B!
Zanto: Very reassuring!
[Space. The pursuit ships close in on the spinning Phoenix.]
Captain: [vo] Execute attack plan.
[Flight deck. Gamren struggles to focus on a display. Two pursuit ships roll into view and away again as the camera spins. Her shaking hands reach for a set of controls.]
Gamren: Here we go...
[Another few spins. The next time the pursuit ships appear on the screen, she hits the control.]
[Space. The engines of Phoenix explode in a burst of red-orange light. The cruiser hurtles off into space, leveling out, as behind it the damaged pursuit ships collide and finally explode in fireballs. Phoenix finally slows down further away.]
[Flight deck. The room levels out and the lights brighten. Everyone looks unwell.]
Vila: [groans] There. You see. Worked like a dream. A very nauseating dream.
Avon: Just to restate, Vila, you were using a plan that even Tarrant thought was suicidal insanity.
Gamren: Good point. Where is Tarrant? Oh, wait, he’s dead. Says a lot for his judgment, doesn’t it? [to Vila] Good plan. But go for something less punishing to the internal organs next time, huh?
Vila: It’s at the top of my “to do” list.
Avon: What’s our status now?
Lora: The good news is we’re clear of the battle. The rest of that flotilla’s ignoring us and going for the fight. The fleet should be ready to take them on. Maximum strategic advantage and all that.
Zanto: And the bad news?
Lora: [shrugs] Well, there’s some damage to the upper hull...
Gamren: Forget that. The main drive’s shut down. Plenty of other minor systems have failed as well. [flipping switches] Automatic failsafe to prevent a blowback. The point is, until we reactivate it, we’re stranded out here.
Vila: Could be worse, I suppose.
Avon: [sighs] Could it?
[Quicksilver office. Keer and Soolin watch on the wall-scanner.]
Keer: Firing and ramming... So predictable.
Soolin: They’re also arriving far too early. If it weren’t for Vila and the others we’d have been taken completely by surprise.
Keer: Quite so. Well, Orac? Why wasn’t the flotilla on schedule?
Orac: That Federation squadron was on routine patrols. Had it responded to the convoy’s distress signal, it would not reach this system for another twenty-six point four minutes.
Soolin: So they were on their way here before the attack.
Keer: [nods] Which means someone has been talking.
Raymor: [vo] Leave it to a computer to state the obvious.
[They turn around. Raymor is standing in the doorway, gun in hand.]
Keer: [delighted] Well, what do you know? I thought I was the traitor helping the rebellion, but my second-in-command turns out to be the traitor helping the Federation.
Soolin: The Consortium of Trau is truly an equal-opportunity employer, is it not?
Keer: We try, Soolin. We try.
Raymor: [annoyed] Shut up, Keer. I’ve been working in your fleet for nine years now – nine long years and your company doesn’t improve with age!
Soolin: You don’t need to tell me that.
Raymor: Hands up, both of you!
[Keer rolls his eyes and raises his hands. Soolin moves in unison. They have, unconsciously, fallen back in their old partnership.]
Soolin: A secret agent. What a novelty.
Keer: You must have been so annoyed, Raymor, when I decided to contact the Federation on my own.
Raymor: It was... unexpected. Your betrayal of them, however, was not. I contacted pursuit command after you arranged that little stunt on Mantobac Alpha and kept them appraised of the situation.
Keer: Of course you did. Orac took that into consideration.
Soolin: [amused] And you didn’t bother to tell anyone?
Keer: Admit there was a traitor in my ranks? It’d ruin the air of control I’ve built up. We couldn’t have that. [to Raymor] You realize you’re on the losing side. We control the particle canon now and that flotilla will be destroyed by the armada in the next fifteen minutes. Just what are you going to do now?
Raymor: It’s not the only flotilla. Another one is approaching from the next sector.
Keer: Thanks for the warning.
Soolin: So the space battle goes on for another hour. So what?
Raymor: The Federation will triumph.
Keer: I still can’t see how you benefit from this?
Raymor: Because I have the most powerful ship in the fleet, attached to the convoy, so it’s also least likely be attacked. And once both of you are microwaved corpses, I can use Orac to contact the fleet and ensure my safe passage. The computer can also open every airlock and suck the rest of your oh-so-very-loyal crew out into the void, leaving me the only survivor.
Keer: [inhales sharply] Ooh, that could work!
Soolin: It does, however, rely on his still being alive in five seconds.
Keer: The traitor’s vanity always makes small but fatal mistakes.
Soolin: “Fatal” being the operative word.
Raymor: [sneers] Impressive threat for someone unarmed.
Keer: It is, isn’t it?
Raymor: Keer, if you make a move, I shoot your prodigy. And if you move, dear-heart, I shoot Keer.
Keer: You’ve overestimated our importance to each other.
Soolin: And underestimated me. I was shot not long ago. Nerve damage. I may never be the sharp shooter I once was. Which means there’s no point me carrying a gun...
[She goes for her belt, as if trying to get a knife. Raymor has his full attention to her, so Keer kicks out and strikes him in the stomach. Soolin runs to Orac.]
Soolin: Orac, is Phoenix still in teleport range?
Orac: Barely. However, I can interface with the bioenergy systems to stabilize feed.
[Keer brings his fist down on Raymor’s back and he collapses, dropping the gun.]
Keer: Then I suggest you get out of here, Soolin!
Soolin: That’s the plan.
Keer: [admiring] It’s always the plan.
[Soolin scoops Orac up in her arms and smacks the recall button on her wrist. Moments later, she teleports away. Raymor shouts in anger as she vanishes.]
[Space. The Phoenix is drifting.]
[Phoenix flight deck. Avon and Gamren hurry in.]
Gamren: Primary ignition systems reset. How long until we’re fit to fly again?
Lora: [checks clipboard] Fifteen minutes or so to get all the minor systems restarted.
Zanto: It would be quicker if we had a proper flight computer instead of those subroutines Orac built in.
Vila: Oh, yes. Forgot about that. First we...
[The lights dim as the teleport section activates. Gamren draws her gun as Soolin and Orac materialize.]
Soolin: [breathless] Just passing by. We thought we’d drop in.
Vila: Soolin! What happening? What are you doing here?
Avon: [unsurprised] ...has betrayed us?
Soolin: No. His lieutenant betrayed him and has summoned flotillas of pursuit ships.
Lora: No problem. The rest of the fleet’s taking care of them.
Soolin: And the other one?
[A troubled beat and then Zanto checks the displays.]
Zanto: Ten of them! Coming straight for us!
Gamren: What? You’re saying we’re in the firing line – again?
Avon: Well, now, there are those who are born lucky and then there are us.
[On the screen, the pursuit ships appear.]
[Quicksilver office. Keer snatches up Raymor’s pistol and aims it at him.]
Keer: Not so fast, my friend. Sorry to burst your bubble, but we both know how this goes...
Raynor: Do we?
[Raymor produces another blaster from his belt and aims at Keer.]
Keer: Oh! Very good! You’ve spoilt my game! I’m such a blithering oaf.
[He turns his pistol and offers the handle to Raynor.]
Raynor: You’re surrendering?
Keer: An idiotic buffoon like myself does not deserve to win.
[Raynor warily takes the gun.]
Raynor: I’m no fool, Keer. This is a trick. What have you done?
Keer: [grins] Pull the trigger and find out?
[Raynor looks at the gun he took from Keer, then throws it away.]
Keer: [pleased] You’re learning!
Raynor: You’re not playing me any more, old man.
Keer: Oh, I’m bored now. Just kill me.
Raynor: You only had to ask.
[Raynor fires. Keer jolts and, stunned, looks down at his chest.]
Keer: Oh... [gasps] forgive me...
[Keer sways, as though about to collapse. But then he bursts out laughing.]
Keer: I honestly thought you wouldn’t fall for that.
[Raynor, incredulous, looks at his gun and fires again. Keer jolts, but is unharmed.]
Raynor: This gun is working! And you’re not wearing armor!
[He fires another two shots. Keer advances on him.]
Keer: Oh, I like this. Very good.
[Raynor fires again and again, backing away in terror. Keer is totally unharmed.]
Raynor: What are you?
Keer: I could tell you... but then I’d have to kill you.
[Suddenly his hand snaps around Raynor’s neck, lifting him up off his feet and slamming him against the wall. Keer grins, showing no effort whatsoever.]
Keer: Oh, what the hell? You’re going to die anyway.
[The terrified Raynor is sweating with fear. The hand tightens and he starts to choke.]
Keer: It might as well be fully-informed, might it not?
[Space. The pursuit ships are closing in on the Pheonix.]
[Flight deck. Everyone is standing around Orac.]
Vila: So we can’t run, we can’t fight, we don’t have enough power to withstand their attack and even if Orac here could tell the rest of the fleet what’s happening, they can’t get here in time to save us.
Orac: That is an efficient summary of the situation.
Lora: Can’t you make the pursuit ships crash into each other or something?
Gamren: [impatient] Why not?
Orac: Pursuit units no longer use Tarial Cells in their main navigation systems and furthermore...
Zanto: Can we teleport out?
Soolin: No. The Quicksilver is now entirely out of teleport range.
Avon: Speaking of ranges, the lead pursuit ship is now close enough to open fire.
[Quicksilver office. Keer is preening and dusting himself down.]
Tech: [vo] Particle canon ready for firing, Keer.
Keer: Stand by to engage target.
Tech: [vo] Which target?
Keer: Well, I think it’s only fair the honor go to the reason why we’re all here.
[He glances down at the crumpled, bloody mess that used to Raymor, then grins,]
Keer: Lock all systems onto the Phoenix.
[Phoenix flight deck. The pursuit ship fills the screen.]
Lora: [afraid] Last role of the dice.
Soolin: I think we’ve rolled the wrong dice too often.
Avon: No time.
Zanto: [awkward] Gamren... if this is it, I just want you to know...
Gamren: [finishes his sentence] You can’t stand me and wish I was dead.
Zanto: Oh. You knew. I never realized.
Gamren: Proves what I’ve always said. You’re an idiot.
Avon: I’m glad I met the pair of you, as recently death has somehow lost its sting.
Gamren: [swearing] Oh, get fu--
[Suddenly a strange screeching howl fills the flight deck. A brilliant flashing light dazzles.]
[Space. A beam slices through the dark, past the Phoenix and strikes the lead pursuit ship, bathing it in a cloud of crackling sparkles. The beam swings further across and impales each of the other pursuit ships in turn, until they all are surrounded by the sparkling interference.]
[Phoenix flight deck. The gang watch on.]
Zanto: What’s that?
Orac: The particle suppressor has been turned on the flotilla. All internal systems are shutting down now. The crews will be able to survive inside for several hours until the rebel forces deal with them.
Lora: [grimace] You mean execute them?
Orac: [haughty] That will be the decision of your allies.
Vila: Wait a minute. You mean, those ships were hit by the particle canon? The one on the convoy?
Orac: Of course! There is no other! We are receiving a transmission from the Quicksilver.
Gamren: Put it on the screen, Orac.
[An image of Keer is painted across the image of the pursuit ships.]
Keer: Two words – surprise, surprise.
Soolin: And there was I thinking I’d left you to your death.
Keer: Oh, Soolin, if you couldn’t kill me what chance did a pipsqueak like that have? No, my people were already unpacking the particle canon and setting it up for use on the first wave of pursuit ships as a safety measure. But I thought you could benefit it more.
Vila: It’s a good thing you missed us.
Avon: Assuming that was your intention?
Keer: Oh, ye of little faith! You think I joined this alliance so I could become supreme ruler of the universe once the Federation’s dealt with? You don’t know me at all. We need each other, Avon. And right now, I need you and Soolin to get this particle canon back to Gauda Prime. It’s the only place it can safely be hidden and I think I’ve drawn enough attention to myself for one day.
Vila: [unsure what to say] Yes. I suppose you have. [shrugs] It’s been nice working with you.
Keer: Isn’t it just. Goodbye, little people.
[Keer waves and the image disperses.]
Lora: Was he always like that?
Soolin: Oddly enough, no. But then, time has changed us all.
Avon: We best get back to work. Gamren, Lora, keep getting the ship up and running. Zanto, plot a course back to Gauda Prime, avoiding all the main patrol routes, and then you can also contact our people so they’re reading and waiting to collect the canon on our arrival.
Vila: Oi! Remember, you’re not in charge any more.
Avon: You have a better plan to carry out?
Vila: No. Admittedly, no. [to the others] Get on with it.
[With various looks of amusement and frustration, Gamren, Zanto and Lora do that.]
Soolin: I’m almost eager to go back.
Avon: [suspicious] ...what?
Soolin: Seeing Keer again. I think... that’s just it. I need to think. GP’s as good a place as any now.
Vila: [worried] Hang on. We just won. We took on the Federation... and we won. We went after a super weapon and actually got hold of it. And no one betrayed us. Well, no one important. We actually came out of this mess the winners. Undisputed victorious winners.
Zanto: [amused] I wonder what Blake would say if he was here.
Avon: Probably that he could have done better.
Vila: [to himself] Ooh, that reminds me...
[Vila starts to take some circuits from his pocket. Gamren approaches.]
Gamren: Excuse me, everyone? Even if Keer leaves the transporter neat and ready for us to latch onto, there is still the matter of slaving it to our flight systems.
Avon: No problem. Orac has already cracked the computer codes.
Gamren: Slaving the navigational systems is not the difficult part. Flying it back to Gauda Prime will require endless in-flight adjustments and corrections, and, in case anyone had forgotten, we don’t have a flight computer to sort it out for us.
Vila: Au contraire, Gamren. [waves circuits] Got the memory wafers right here. Get Orac to help you install them and the Phoenix will be ready to fly.
[Gamren takes them with a doubtful look and crosses to the console.]
Soolin: Memory wafers?
Vila: For the computer. It needs a personality.
Avon: It needs to do what it is told, not regale us with cocktail recipes and bawdy anecdotes.
Vila: Avon! As if I would!
Soolin: At least you aren’t re-installing Slave. [worried] You’re not, are you?
Vila: No. I’ve had Orac help me out on this. I’ve got a genuine human personality profile, memory, vocabulary, voice patterns, all wired into a basic program that will do what we say, when we say, it’ll keep us safe, alive and above all... motivated.
Avon: [frowns] “Motivated?” Just which personality does the computer have?
Orac: Installation of memory wafers is now complete. Flight computer activates. Please register all voice pattern imprints.
Vila: I’m Vila Restal.
Lora: Lora Mezin.
Zanto: Call me Zanto.
Gamren: Gamren Vanda.
Avon: And I am Kerr Avon.
[A screen on the wall lights up with a green oscilloscope pattern that pulses in time as a human male, synthesized voice is heard.]
Computer: Submitted voice patterns are now recorded and stored. From now on, you are all authorized for command and operation of all Phoenix systems. The Pheonix is now operating at seventy per cent of optimum status and repair circuits are activated.
Vila: Go on, computer. Introduce yourself.
Computer: I’m the main flight computer of this vessel.
Gamren: You sound... familiar.
Computer: My personality interface program is based on a very specific individual. [cautious] You may have heard of him. His name was Blake.
[Avon’s eyes grow wide.]
Lora: [splutters] Blake?! Roj Blake?
Computer: The same. It seems Vila thought having another political criminal aboard would be a good idea.
Zanto: Perhaps... but running the ship itself?
Computer: My priority is the safety of Phoenix and its crew.
Gamren: But if you’re supposed to be Blake, don’t you want to bring down the Federation?
Computer: [quiet] Yes. I do – very much so, in fact. But I am programmed to settle for making suggestions to you rather than actually carrying them out myself.
Lora: [to Vila] This was what took you so long? Creating an artificial Blake?
Vila: Not as good as having the old one around. But this way he can at least try to keep us on the straight and narrow. Besides, I couldn’t miss an opportunity to see the look on Avon’s face.
[Vila breaks up laughing, a slightly cruel look in his eye. Avon is still gobsmacked.]
[Conference Hall. Boorva, Kella and several other rebels are present. Boorva paces while the others are sitting around, drinking and recovering from a hard day.]
Boorva: We have struck a great blow in this war against our enemies. The Federation might keep today’s humiliation secret, but they are aware we beat them. Their authority over the cosmos has never been so bluntly challenged.
Kella: Once they realize what we’ve done, they’ll come at us with everything they still have.
Rebel: Which isn’t enough. We have the particle canon and our forces are scattering as we speak.
Boorva: Scattered for now. But once the Gaudans have the secrets of the new weapon we will strike again. Kella. Will you return when the call comes to arms?
Kella: [deep breath] Yes. We did more together today than we have before. We might even be able to break the stranglehold the Federation has over mankind.
Rebel: I still want to know what we do in the meantime?
Kella: Lie low. Keep our heads down. Stay quiet.
Boorva: No. Not quiet. Spread the word, through your men, your contacts, every way you can. We must ensure that the galaxy at large learns of what happened. Let them discover the Federation’s defeat, but more importantly, tell them of our victory.
[Quicksilver office. Keer is at his desk console, staring absorbedly at a screen built into it.]
Boorva: [vo] Whispers and rumors and doubts and fears... let the people know the truth before the Federation does. Let them know the alliance has given them an ultimatum. We are united. We no longer blunder in groups, but work together to repay them for the crimes they have committed against us.
Kella: [vo] You mean, press home what little advantage we have?
Boorva: [vo] Quite. And our advantage is not little, Kella – for, as we are all aware, knowledge is power.
[We can now hear a familiar droning alarm from the screen. Keer is watching the final confrontation on Gauda Prime play out in monochrome.]
Roj Blake: [dist] I set all this up!
Avon: [dist] Yes...
Roj Blake: [dist] Avon, I was waiting for you!
[Shots ring out. Keer, who has been watching without any expression, suddenly gives a wicked smile.]
END OF EPISODE