The Blake's 7 Super Test



Blake's 7 Super Test
Blake's Legacy
Blake's Progress
Naming Blake
"Avon: A Terrible Novel"?
Birth Of The Federation
The Blake's 7 Formula
To Kill Or To Stun
The Blake's 7 Drinking Game
Blake's Chicken
Blake's Parrott
DeLiberation
CHEQUERED PAST

{B7 S5 E8}

[Opens with a space battle between the Liberator and a motley group of mis-matched vessels. The lead one fires twice and misses with both shots. In return, the Liberator destroys it with a single green beam. The rest mill about uncertainly before continuing the attack and the Liberator simply accelerates away leaving them standing! Action cuts to flight deck. Soolin is piloting and Nial is at the weapons console, Avon standing beside him.]

NIAL: [Laughing] I rather enjoyed that.

SOOLIN: It is good to be back in action again.

NIAL: This team is certainly starting to shape up. Don't you agree Avon?

AVON: A ship as advanced as the Liberator prevailing against a group of down trodden pirates? I would hardly call that a cause for congratulation.

NIAL: Well I would. We worked hard together down there, we finally proved we could co-operate. I think congratulations are definitely in order.

[Vila enters the room as Nial is finishing his speech.]

VILA: [To Soolin] You're expecting? That's nice, I like being an uncle. Did you know I've got five sisters? Three brothers too. Well, four I suppose, if you count Gerrin but we don't usually. My father said he...

NIAL: Vila! Soolin is not expecting anything, except that you'll run out of breath eventually.

SOOLIN: [Darkly] Hoping not expecting and make that permanently.

VILA: Oh...never mind, better luck next time.

[She looks as though she's about to move and Vila hurriedly crosses to stand on the other side of Avon.]

VILA: What are we congratulating then?

NIAL: Our spectacular escape from Huildar.

AVON: Which would not have been necessary in the first place, if you had listened to reason.

NIAL: Be fair Avon, we only went there to get components for your teleport beacons.

AVON: MY teleport beacons?

NIAL: Okay, so they're not strictly yours but you have to admit that this one is definitely your baby.

VILA: There he goes again bringing kids into it. Watch out Soolin, I think he's trying to tell you something.

[This time she advances wrathfully but is prevented from reaching him by the entrance of Mags and Garus.]

GARUS: All checks completed Nial. The systems are fully functional.

MAGS: And the cargo is exactly as promised.

GARUS: Except cheaper, as we didn't actually pay for it.

AVON: We almost did. If Orac had not been monitoring their communications we would be sitting there still, waiting patiently for the Federation to collect us.

VILA: How was Nial to know that they'd try to double-cross us and claim the bounty?

AVON: They are a pack of mercenary cut-throats.

VILA: Exactly, so they should have been on our side.

[Avon gives him a withering glare.]

NIAL: It's getting to be a problem, our increasing notoriety...

GARUS: ...and impressive bountys.

NIAL: Which are also impressively increasing!

MAGS: We're hardly likely to find a place where we can trade in anonymity, are we?

AVON: Except Freedom City.

NIAL: Where?

GARUS: Freedom City...wow!

VILA: It's a gamblers paradise...[hurriedly]...so I've heard.

NIAL: And we wouldn't be recognised, or they just wouldn't care?

AVON: They say, you can buy anything in Freedom City, if you can afford the price.

MAGS: Well we certainly can now, thanks to ‘King' Restal.

[Vila swells with pride as he acknowledges her bow and a cheery salute from Garus.]

SOOLIN: [To Avon] Did you get that information out of the memory banks?

AVON: In a manner of speaking.

SOOLIN: [Suspiciously] Have you been there already?

AVON: [To Nial] It is a traders haven. Most items in the known universe can be bought legally or illegally within the city.

NIAL: You didn't answer her question.

AVON: Blake went there on business. Jenna and Cally went with him. Vila and I were left minding the ship.

NIAL: So they won't know either of you and I never heard of the place before today, what about everyone else?

SOOLIN: No.

MAGS: I've heard of it but only in passing.

GARUS: And I always wanted to go there.

NIAL: That's settled then, Freedom City here we come!

............................

[Liberator recreation room. Avon is tapping his fingers impatiently on the table as he waits for Orac to complete a computation. Vila peers furtively around the doorframe then sidles into the room. Avon watches him quizzically.]

VILA: Are you alone?

AVON: Do you see anyone else in here?

VILA: Only Orac and he doesn't count as anyone.

AVON: Then I'm alone.

[Vila closes the door behind him as he advances further into the room.]

VILA: What are you playing at Avon? You know we can't go to Freedom City! Krantor will have us vaporised as soon as we set foot in the place.

AVON: Krantor will never know.

VILA: He had eyes didn't he?!

AVON: Relax Vila. You will draw adverse attention to yourself if you carry on behaving as though you were about to be executed.

VILA: That's exactly what'll happen if Krantor catches us!

AVON: WE are not going down there.

VILA: You think if you ask nicely, Nial will leave the two of us unsupervised on board the Liberator?

AVON: Mags will stay behind.

VILA: [Shaking his head] I heard him ask her to keep an eye on Cray. He won't leave him in Freedom City unsupervised...and before you suggest it, Soolin won't leave Nial unsupervised anywhere!

[Avon leans back in his seat and steeples his fingers together as he ponders.]

AVON: You will stay alone on the ship, with Orac to operate the teleport. Soolin will go with Mags and Garus as back up. Nial and I will make contact with the appropriate Traders.

VILA: You'll be recognised.

AVON: Not necessarily. We will not be visiting the Casino. Freedom City is a big place, Krantor can not be everywhere. The chances of meeting him are negligible.

VILA: Unless you're a follower of Murphy's Law...you know, 'anything that can go wrong will go wrong'.

AVON: I have never been one of life's 'followers'.

VILA: That's true but what if...

AVON: Vila. I would hardly be going if I thought there was an unacceptable risk level now would I?

VILA: Well, no but...

AVON: Besides which, Krantor barely noticed me. He was too busy watching you. It is your head he wants, not mine.

[Vila rubs the back of his neck nervously.]

VILA: You know how to make a point! Okay, I'm convinced. Now you just have to get Nial to agree.

AVON: He will do as I suggest.

VILA: What makes you so sure?

AVON: He is young. He relies too heavily on the judgement of others.

VILA: Like yours.

AVON: Precisely.

............................

[Freedom City, playground of the degenerate. The planet outside F.C is uninhabitable to humanoid life and the base is actually a completely enclosed, climate controlled, grounded space station. Cut to interior, docking bay. It is quiet and gloomy. Nial, Avon, Mags, Garus and Soolin emerge from the hatchway of a shuttle.]

NIAL: So far so good. [Glancing at a sign] Docking bay sixteen. We'll meet back here in four hours. Any trouble and you can make that sooner. [He grins] Just don't leave without us.

MAGS: You can use your bracelets though, can't you?

NIAL: We can but I'd prefer not to draw attention to ourselves by teleporting about unnecessarily. We'll keep the bracelets 'emergency only' on this mission.

AVON: We will need to return to the ship with some samples for analysis before we can complete a deal.

NIAL: I think we can make a small exception for that trip.

MAGS: Will you have enough time to find a dealer?

NIAL: Four hours should be ample to find a suitable party and strike a reasonable bargain, I hope!

GARUS: Where are you going to start looking?

NIAL: We think most of the dealers will be hanging around the refreshment areas.

GARUS: Great. Whilst you and Avon are plying the bars, we'll be playing the Wheels. Lead me to the Casino! [To Nial and Avon] See you later guys.

............................

[A bar on level twenty; Nial and Avon wander in nonchalantly, trying not to look out of place. The room is fairly busy. The clientele are an undesirable looking lot and there are several pieces of broken bottle littering the counter.]

NIAL: [Quietly] This looks more like it. We may get lucky here.

AVON: [Glancing round dubiously] We may get more than that here.

NIAL: I'll get the drinks in, you grab a table...preferably one that's still upright.

AVON: I always find it fascinating that a couple of drinks can turn anyone into a comedian.

NIAL: A couple! This is the fifth bar we've been in over the last hour. [Wobbling slightly] Um, I take your point, perhaps I'll stick to vitazade from now on.

AVON: A wise decision.

[Cut to Krantor's ' inner sanctum'. He is watching the bar through his mirror/vis-screen. Abruptly he waves his hand downward to terminate the connection.]

KRANTOR: Not so for you my friend. Did you think Krantor would have forgotten by now? [Turning from the mirror] You were right Toise, it is him. Maybe the other one is in the city somewhere. Re-circulate the vis-plates. I want every member of security on alert and have Fabian pick those two up immediately. We wouldn't want them to rush off...[smiling as he selects a Pataki cake]...not when we have such diverting entertainments planned for them.

[Toise grins delightedly as Krantor feeds him the cake. View switches back to the bar. Avon and Nial have now been joined by a wiry man with a nervous disposition.]

MAN: Yer bin askin' round, bout certain 'merchandise'?

AVON: We have.

MAN: T'aint wise. If'n Krantor ears bout it, yer'll get pulled in.

NIAL: Why? Surely he'd want to encourage Traders. It makes good business sense for his bars and clubs.

MAN: All trade gorra go thru Krantor now, coz of t'taxes. No sich thin' as Free Trade no more...not round ere.

AVON: But you are prepared to talk to us?

[The man looks round uneasily before leaning closer to them. He then passes a crumpled piece of plas-film with a map on it across to Avon.]

MAN: If'n you make it to ere, m'be I am.

[He shuffles away speedily and Avon scoops the plas-film up as he rises from his seat. Nial follows and they quickly leave the bar. As their table is taken by other customers, a burly man in a grey uniform bursts in from a secret entryway at the rear of the bar. He is accompanied by two other uniformed men. They smash their way across to the table to the horror of its current occupants.]

FABIAN: Gone. I told that clown we shouldn't waste time dishing out the vis-plates first but...[in a whining imitation]..."Krantor always knows best". Some day I'll settle with Toise, once and for all.

GUARD: What do we do now?

FABIAN: They can't have gone far, we'll spread out and search. Anyone finds them, they call for back up first...got that?

[The guards nod and all three men leave in the same direction taken by Avon and Nial. Cut to Big Wheel Casino. Garus is amassing a pile of credits at the wheel. An ever-growing crowd is cheering him on whilst Mags and Soolin watch in disbelief.]

SOOLIN: How's he doing that? It's uncanny.

MAGS: Cray does seem to be riding his luck at the moment. He's drawing quite a crowd. [Suspiciously] I wonder...

[The next spin of the wheel falls on zero and the croupier sweeps the table clean. Garus shrugs good naturedly as the crowd groans. Krantor enters the room wearing an outrageously over the top Edwardian style outfit embellished with emeralds.]

GARUS: Life is just a game friends. It's only money.

KRANTOR: [Zealously] Well said Sir, you are indeed a noble gentleman. Here is one who understands the rules of life. Watch him closely my genial patrons, he will undoubtedly go far! [Gesturing to a waitress] A drink for my esteemed acquaintance. On the house of course Sir...Krantor is ever generous to his special friends.

[In the background, Toise squirms with petty jealousy and Soolin watches him coldly. Mags is busy watching Garus as Krantor steers him to another gaming table.]

KRANTOR: I think you'll find this game especially to your liking...[he pauses]

GARUS: Cray.

KRANTOR: Cray...a most delightful name, oh I feel you and I are going to be such compatible companions. Gather round my friends! I am superbly certain that Cray will amaze you with his skills at Spiral-rune...but who will take on my fledgling champion? [The crowd surges forward] Plenty of room fair ladies and gentlemen!

No wager is ever refused in Krantor's house of enjoyment. Drink, play and be merry for, as this dashing young man so rightly said..."Life is just a game"!

[The view switches to show a similar pleasure palace yet this one is of slightly seedy splendour. The host there is a portly man, almost as flamboyantly dressed as Krantor but with rather less style! He advances to meet his guests with a beaming grin.]

SLEER: [Quietly to her guard] This place is even worse than Freedom City.

HOST: Commissioner, how wonderful to see you again! We met at the regatta...[she stares at him blankly]...on Bhja. You must remember...Porthos?

SLEER: [Smoothly] Porthos, of course, how could I forget. You must excuse my slip. It has been a trying day.

PORTHOS: Of course Commissioner, I understand. You are here to see the damage?

SLEER: With your gracious approval.

PORTHOS: Anything for you Madame Sleer. I have long been a devout admirer of your pacification policies.

SLEER: [Eyeing his outfit disdainfully] It is refreshing to meet a man with such obvious taste as yourself Porthos.

PORTHOS: [Enthusiastically] I do my utmost to please, Commissioner. I designed all my properties to reflect my undeniable sense of style. Perhaps you would care for a short tour of this establishment before commencing your inspection?

SLEER: Regrettably my time is short. The pressures of power...[gesturing around her]...you understand, I'm sure.

[He nods and leads her away chattering amiably. Cut to Liberator flight deck. Vila is slouching at a console. He almost jumps out of his skin as Avon and Nial stride noisily into the room.]

VILA: I wish Orac would let me know before he does that! I thought you were aliens or something.

NIAL: Or something.

AVON: Any trouble while we've been gone Vila?

VILA: Quiet as a corpses social calendar.

NIAL: That's an interesting expression! Your social calendar must have taken you to some nice places.

VILA: Places like Freedom City? [Slyly] Any trouble while you've been gone Avon?

[Nial looks between them both suspiciously.]

NIAL: Were we expecting any?

VILA: Avon always expects trouble.

NIAL: Yes, I've noticed.

[He glances at Avon who is trying to appear bored but is most studiously avoiding his gaze.]

NIAL: The only trouble I had was understanding anything the Trader said.

VILA: He was from one of the outer planets?

NIAL: No, it was more a dialect problem.

AVON: His ancestors were probably rural Terrans.

NIAL: Whatever they were at least he is willing to deal with us.

AVON: [To Vila] It seems that Krantor...their Governor and ruler of Freedom City... has put a tax on trading.

VILA: That's criminal!

NIAL: A deal the size of the one we propose would incur a tax of almost fifty percent of the man's profit.

VILA: But that doesn't make sense, it'll drive the Traders away.

NIAL: No, it just limits the money they earn. Krantor only penalises deals with profits above a fixed level. His people also pay an annual "Business Tax". With that they buy the right to deal in what they want with whom they want, all legal and above board.

VILA: It never used to be like that...[lamely]...so I've heard.

NIAL: It all changed a few years back apparently. Krantor was conned out of a huge amount of credits, ten million would you believe?! Anyway, he took it out on everyone and tried to get it back out of everyone!

VILA: [Miserably] Nice chap.

AVON: [Pointedly] We wouldn't know. We never met him.

NIAL: Hopefully we never will. I take it we are going ahead with this black-market deal?

AVON: I see no reason why not. We have adequate funds and Orac has confirmed that the crystals are of usable quality.

NIAL: As long as Jedd can collect enough of both types without drawing suspicion.

AVON: I'm sure the man knows his job.

NIAL: I'll start getting the payment ready. You go down and fetch the others back in the shuttle. Then we can transport the money in and the merchandise out.

AVON: The others.

NIAL: Yes...Mags, Cray and Soolin remember? They went to the Casinos.

AVON: I know. [He pauses] I'll contact them on the communicators. They can bring the shuttle back.

NIAL: And draw attention to ourselves and the bracelets? Why don't we just ask Krantor himself to put a call out for them?! We are trying to be as inconspicuous as possible Avon.

AVON: Then I would prefer that you went to fetch them.

NIAL: I'll bet you would. If you think I'm leaving the pair of you alone on the Liberator you are fooling yourself Avon. Now, unless you are prepared to give me a very good reason for your sudden reluctance to depart, the plan stands as it is.

[Nial waits but neither Vila nor Avon offers an explanation.]

NIAL: Fine, then I'll expect you back here with the shuttle in about thirty minutes.

[Scene changes to show a cosy bar-room in opulent, if gaudy, surroundings. Sleer and her guard are seated with Porthos in a secluded corner.]

SLEER: And you are certain it was the Liberator?

PORTHOS: Yes. Well, I didn't actually see it myself but what other ship could do so much damage with a single strike?

SLEER: There were many casualties?

PORTHOS: The rooms were full. Luckily that meant only a capacity of around three hundred people, my main Casino caters for over a thousand.

SLEER: Some of those people survived the attack?

PORTHOS: Oh yes. Some were thrown back into the main building by the force of the blast before the air-seals came down. Not many survived though.

SLEER: Good. [He stares at her in shock] Obviously I mean it is good that even a few of them survived this atrocious attack.

PORTHOS: Of course Commissioner, please forgive my foolishness. My nerves have been somewhat frayed since the event.

SLEER: [Charmingly] I quite understand. You have my complete forgiveness. Now, if you could send one or two of these eyewitnesses to my ship, I would be most grateful. Time is pressing and I do have important business elsewhere.

PORTHOS: I...I can't do that.

SLEER: You would refuse me a simple request?

[He swallows uncomfortably and takes a moment to compose himself as he waits for a group of rowdy patrons to pass by. Sleer's eyes narrow. She frowns at him coldly.]

SLEER: I thought you and I were friends Porthos.

PORTHOS: Oh of course Madame, we are, indeed we are but...I would need permission.

SLEER: Ah I see...from the Terra Nostra.

PORTHOS: You know that they rule here?

SLEER: Who does not? However I only wish to speak briefly with the witnesses, it is hardly worth troubling the Terra Nostra with such a trivial matter.

PORTHOS: You only want to talk to them?

SLEER: I seek merely to confirm the statements already given to the authorities concerned. It is my personal desire to ensure only that the information is accurate and complete. Justice must be served and be seen to be served.

PORTHOS: I...I suppose that would be acceptable.

SLEER: [To the guard] Accompany my dear friend Porthos to the residential sector and help him to convey our guests safely to the ship. I shall return to await them.

PORTHOS: Commissioner...

SLEER: You have been most helpful Porthos. I will not forget your co-operation.

PORTHOS: [Bowing] Commissioner.

[The two men walk away and Sleer watches them leave before turning to exit the bar. The view switches to the docking bays. They are deserted and silent. Sleer enters. As she passes quickly through, a figure with a gun steps out to waylay her.]

SLEER: Officer Arlen...a most unexpected encounter.

ARLEN: Considering you thought I was dead, I'm sure it is.

SLEER: You were a soldier, you knew the price of failure.

ARLEN: AM not were. Arlen is still a soldier.

SLEER: How delightfully pedantic you are. Can I presume you have a reason for this meeting? That it is not simply to prove your longevity.

ARLEN: I'm here to kill you.

[Sleer sighs loudly and appears bored by the conversation.]

SLEER: I did hope for something a little more original. Do you have a specific grudge against me or is it to assuage your guilt over your bungling of the Gauda Prime mission?

ARLEN: That was not my fault! I did everything I was supposed to do. It was beyond my control. Arlen did not fail.

SLEER: Yes, Arlen did.

[Arlen grabs her gun more tightly as though to steady herself and points it at Sleer's face. She does not react at all.]

ARLEN: You let my parents die when you could have saved them! They should never have been charged, it was a mistake. They were innocent.

SLEER: Of course they were.

ARLEN: [In shock] You agree?

SLEER: However it was not a mistake. I needed one final element in my plan for Gauda Prime...you.

ARLEN: But I was already working for you when they were arrested.

SLEER: You were. I had to ensure your loyalty. It was a simple matter to find an envious neighbour who would testify to their guilt in return for their land. All I then had to do was delay their death sentence...long enough to convince you that by co-operating with me you could save them.

ARLEN: I thought you were going to help them...all along it was you...you framed them...you had them executed...you used me.

SLEER: And you functioned miserably. Did you expect gratitude? Rewards? A commendation for your actions?

ARLEN: Arlen did not expect to be murdered.

SLEER: Obviously Arlen was not...but rest assured, for that, somebody will be.

[Arlen has lowered the gun and seems dazed. Suddenly she glares at Sleer.]

ARLEN: My friends and colleagues were. You had them all killed! You blew up one of your own ships to make certain that none of that mess could be traced back to you.

SLEER: Squad carrier LX9.

ARLEN: You destroyed it.

SLEER: No, I did not. That was the work of the Liberator.

ARLEN: Liar! There were rebel prisoners on board. They wouldn't do that.

SLEER: Where have you been hiding yourself girl?! The Liberator has turned traitor. The crew of that particular ship is now wanted by both sides.

ARLEN: Federation lies.

SLEER: But Arlen, you are Federation.

ARLEN: No! Arlen belongs to no one but Arlen, not anymore.

SLEER: An understandable position, if a little na´ve. [She smiles coldly] You are still under my control...or why else would you be here? You can not follow someone halfway across the galaxy then deny that they have an influence over your behaviour.

ARLEN: [Angrily] I came to kill you.

SLEER: So you already said. I had no plans to visit this place; therefore you must have been following me, possibly since you escaped your death on Gauda Prime.

[Arlen relaxes her stance slightly and seems to swell with assurance. Sleer watches her with a lopsided smile of patronising amusement.]

ARLEN: I've been in your 'palace', on Delios.

SLEER: How nice for you. I apologise for not noticing your presence.

ARLEN: You'd already left.

SLEER: Then you should have called ahead. I'd have been happy to wait for you.

ARLEN: I know you would. Arlen is nobody's fool.

SLEER: I'm afraid that fact must remain open to debate.

ARLEN: Don't mock me! I have information, about you. Information that will destroy everything you've built up. After I kill you, I will smash your reputation and bring down all those who ever worked with you.

SLEER: And where did you obtain this 'information'?

ARLEN: From your own computers, the heart of your evil citadel.

[Sleer finally seems worried and appears to lose confidence.]

SLEER: How could YOU break into MY systems?

ARLEN: With the code you gave me, the code I used to complete my undercover mission. You ordered me killed. You never thought to remove a code that was known only to a dead soldier.

SLEER: A mistake I will never make again.

ARLEN: I won't give you chance to. You made a mistake in choosing to come here too. If you had carried on with your original flight plan, I wouldn't have caught up with you yet. I was still trying to get passage to Palmero when you left there and decided to detour to here. Luckily there is always a ship bound for Space City.

SLEER: [Dryly] How fortunate.

ARLEN: Not for you Sleer. [Raising the gun] Any last requests before you die?

SLEER: Just one...look behind you.

[Arlen gasps as a gun is suddenly placed against her ear and a harsh male voice snarls at her threateningly.]

MAN: Lower the gun or I'll drop you where you stand.

[Arlen's weapon falls from nerveless fingers and she stares wildly at Sleer.]

SLEER: My compliments, as ever, to the Terra Nostra on their excellent policing strategies. It is such a comfort to know that one can traverse the streets of Space City without fear of petty criminals.

MAN: This one won't be bothering anyone again. [To Arlen] Do you know the penalty for attempted murder girl? [She remains silent] The Terra Nostra will make an example of you, to discourage others from displays of aberrant behaviour.

SLEER: It is easy to see why there is no crime here.

ARLEN: [Finally cracking] Their organisation is riddled with it!

MAN: [Loudly] The Terra Nostra make the laws. They do as they choose and everything they choose to do is legal.

SLEER: And therefore, not a crime. [To the man] I trust you will deal appropriately with this person.

MAN: Yes Madame. She'll be held for public execution, unless she's stupid enough to give me any trouble. [Proudly] I have the authority to shoot to kill.

SLEER: That is very reassuring. I must thank you for your assistance in this most unfortunate matter.

MAN: Just doing my job Madame. You'd better be on your way. I have to hand this one over to the cells.

[She nods and strides away round the corner. Camera follows her as she makes her way towards the black ship. She has almost reached her destination when a single gunshot is heard. She stops and a satisfied smile spreads across her face. View cuts back to the Liberator flight deck. Vila is alone once more.]

ZEN: The shuttle has docked, do you wish voice contact?

VILA: [Unenthusiastically] No thanks Zen. All that worry for nothing. I should've known things would never go wrong for Avon...they wouldn't dare.

NIAL: [Entering silently] Who wouldn't dare what?

VILA: Do you have to creep up like that?! My nerves are bad enough already.

NIAL: Right that's it, I've had enough of this. I am not moving from here till you tell me exactly what is going on.

VILA: Going on?

NIAL: I'm not blind Vila. You and Avon have been acting suspiciously since we got here. It's about time you let me in on the secret. [He smiles dangerously] Before I start to get paranoid.

[At that moment, Mags enters the room and they both turn to face her.]

MAGS: Nial, we have got a really big problem.

VILA: Where are the others?

MAGS: Still in the Casino. Krantor has arrested Avon.

[Vila groans loudly and Mags glances at him in sympathy.]

NIAL: [Sharply] Vila! What the hell have you been up to?

VILA: [Miserably] We only played a little chess.

NIAL: I'll deal with YOU later. [To Mags] What exactly happened?

MAGS: Garus was throwing dice, Krantor was fawning over him, Soolin and I were keeping an eye on Toise, Krantor's aide. Next thing we knew, a trio of security guards escorted Avon in. He didn't acknowledge us so we stayed quiet. The leader spoke with Krantor. Then they whisked Avon away to a cell.

NIAL: You saw where they took him?

MAGS: No, we couldn't follow them. Krantor told us where he was...

NIAL: Krantor knew you were with Avon?

MAGS: We're not that stupid Nial! If you just let me finish explaining, it might actually become a bit clearer.

NIAL: Sorry. Go on.

MAGS: After the guards took Avon away, Krantor made an announcement over the vis-cast system to the whole of Freedom City. He claimed that Avon and "an associate" had once cheated him out of a fortune and he asserted his right to "justice". Then he mysteriously and magnanimously offered "from the goodness" of his "beautiful soul", to give Avon "one last chance to keep his precious life".

VILA: Don't tell me, he wanted him to play the Klute at Speed-Chess.

MAGS: [In surprise] Yes. You've heard of the game then?

VILA: I've played it...and I won...well, actually, it was a draw...and it was really Orac who did it.

MAGS: How much did you win?

VILA: Ten million credits.

NIAL: [Sighing] How did I know you were going to say that.

MAGS: No wonder Krantor wanted Avon!

NIAL: And no wonder neither of you wanted to leave the ship...[glaring at Vila]...why didn't you just tell me?

VILA: Avon said...

[He stops as he realises that Nial is becoming dangerously irate.]

NIAL: Vila, I am in charge of this ship and Avon is not always right. In future I would prefer it if you did not go behind my back...I'd hate to have to view you as a traitor.

MAGS: [Gently] Nial, Vila is not the enemy. He and Avon have known each other a long time. This is obviously something they felt was better left in the past. Avon probably thought Krantor would have given up looking for them by now. No doubt he reasoned that there would be no problem, therefore he saw no need to inform us.

NIAL: Sounds like a fair assessment of his twisted logic.

MAGS: Well you can argue it out with him later. First we have to come up with a plan to get him back.

NIAL: You're certain he's in the cells?

MAGS: Almost certain. Krantor declared that Avon would be "lodged in a comfortably secure environment to await his destiny". We took that to mean jail. The game is set to take place in one hour's time. [She pauses] It's rumoured to be almost impossible to beat the Klute.

VILA: Without Orac's help Avon doesn't stand a chance.

NIAL: Presumably they took his communicator or he would have teleported back here already, so we have no way to contact him.

MAGS: Nial...if he loses, he'll automatically be electrocuted.

NIAL: Then we have one hour to learn the location of those cells and mount a rescue mission, before Krantor fries him.

[He moves across to the table and places the activator key into Orac.]

NIAL: Orac. I need you to tap into the central computer system on Freedom City and get me the plans of the main building. I have to know exactly where the prison area is and the best route into it.

VILA: The fastest route into prison is usually to get arrested. Why don't I...

NIAL: [Harshly] No thank you Vila. You've caused enough trouble today.

MAGS: What Nial means, is that you'll be safer if you stay on board the Liberator Vila. Let us worry about getting Avon out of there.

............................

[Corridor of the Liberator. Nial is loading boxes into the shuttle through a hatch. He seems lost in thought and Mags looks worried.]

MAGS: [Passing him a package] That's the last of the boxes. Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?

NIAL: I don't want Vila left on his own getting any heroic ideas.

MAGS: [Grinning] Do you realise what you just said?

NIAL: Yes, I must be cracking under the strain of leadership!

MAGS: I think you're doing okay Nial. [She smiles] Be careful you don't become overconfident though. Krantor's not as foolish as he pretends to be. He's a showman, he's playing to the crowd.

[Scene switches to the Casino. Krantor is watching over Garus as he plays a card game. His opponent flips a card face up, makes an exclamation of disgust, then pushes a pile of credits roughly across the table.]

KRANTOR: Now, now, my good Sir. Life is about learning to cope admirably with defeat...[He pats Garus affectionately]...and being magnificent in victory! Step forwards my friends! Come, challenge my valiant Knight to a duel of odds. Let Cray be a shining example to us all of the power of good fortune!

[Members of the crowd begin to wave their money at Krantor and he beams widely opening his arms as though to embrace them all. At the back of the room, Toise is fuming with jealousy and Soolin looks sickened. Nial enters and hurries to her.]

NIAL: I need your help. Come on, I'll explain on the way.

SOOLIN: What about Garus?

NIAL: He'll have to stay where he is for now.

[They exit as casually as possible then speed up once they are in the corridor.]

SOOLIN: So what's the plan?

NIAL: You and I will have to complete the deal with Jedd then infiltrate the cells. Orac has found a weak spot in their security. As long as there aren't too many guards, we should be able to break Avon out before Krantor goes back for him.

SOOLIN: I hope that leaves us time to get clear of this place.

NIAL: You read my mind, I was hoping the exact same thing.

SOOLIN: [Dryly] Then we'd better get a move on.

[Scene cuts to a dingy, run-down area of the city. It looks a dangerous place to hang about in but there is a man loitering there. He turns as Nial and Soolin approach.]

NIAL: [Cautiously] Jedd?

JEDD: [Moving into the light] Aye. Yer got the creds?

NIAL: Yes, back at the shuttle. You've got the goods?

JEDD: Nay problem. [He indicates a pile of sacking hiding two crates.] It were quiet enuff roun' ere. Most folks are in t'Casino, Krantor's got sommat on.

SOOLIN: We know.

NIAL: We've got something on as well so if we could...

GUARD: Hold it!

[Soolin whips round, her gun raised but the man shoots it out of her hand. She yelps in pain as blood flows from her fingers. Nial reaches his hand out to her and the guard puts a bullet through his too.]

GUARD: [Maliciously] Just in case you had any similar ideas mate.

[Nial glares at him in hatred, his left hand reaching unseen for his gun. The man grins and turns towards Jedd. Nial draws and aims. Suddenly his arm is crippled by a heavy blow from a metal pipe held by a second guard.]

GUARD 2: Luther you idiot! Couldn't you see he was left-handed? His holster was on the wrong side. Beats me why Fabian pays you.

LUTHER: Cos I'm a faster runner than you. Speed you move, they'd have been gone by now if I wasn't here!

GUARD 2: [Into comm] Fabian. We have the Trader and the other half of Krantor's 'delivery', plus a bonus package.

FABIAN: [V.O] Good work. Bring them all in. Krantor would like a word with citizen Jedd about black-market penalty tax.

[Jedd shuffles miserably and the guards laugh at him. They fail to notice Soolin reaching with her left hand for a fallen gun. Luther turns, too late, as she aims.]

LUTHER: What the...

[She blasts him and then rapidly takes aim at the other guard who is far too slow to react. He falls with the comm still to his lips.]

JEDD: That's right fancy shootin' Miss.

NIAL: You can say that again! I'm glad training to be ambidextrous finally paid off.

[Soolin glances worriedly at his wounds and her own still bleeding hand.]

SOOLIN: I hate to sound pessimistic but I think a prison break might be difficult.

NIAL: We'd better get back to the ship and think up a new plan...and quickly, we're running out of time.

SOOLIN: [Quietly] Avon is anyway.

JEDD: Reckon I'll cope wi t'crates by mi'sen. T'aint far t'shuttle bay. Guess I owes yer that much, for t'trouble.

NIAL: It wasn't your fault Jedd but thanks, we could certainly use a hand!

[He looks ruefully towards Soolin as she cringes at his attempted humour. Together they watch as Jedd begins to remove the sacking from the crates.]

..............................

[Liberator flight deck. Mags and Vila are pacing anxiously. Nial and Soolin enter. They both have a medi-pad on their right hand and Nial is resting his left arm against his chest as though it is troubling him.]

VILA: Took you long enough to get cleaned up! Well never mind that now, we think we've got the answer. Tell him Orac.

ORAC: In my earlier search through the banks of their computer system, I gained access to a number of interesting facts. Many of these related to the use of technology within the casinos, to support the inherently unfavourable odds of success against the house.

SOOLIN: Luck is stacked on the side of the casino, every gambler knows that.

ORAC: Will you remain silent! [He whirrs noisily] It is not a question of random fortune.

VILA: He's saying the games are rigged. Krantor controls them all.

NIAL: Then what we have to do is switch that control. How do we do it Orac?

VILA: [Smugly] The Klute.

ORAC: The being referred to as the Klute, is not in fact humanoid. It is a machine, a highly sophisticated android, programmed to be master of the game of Speed-Chess. As I am able to control any lesser machine, it will be a minor task to cause the android to forfeit the game.

NIAL: Great, now all we have to do is wait for it to begin. Can you tap into the vis-cast system and get us a visual, Orac?

[They all turn to the main screen. There is a lot of bleeping from Orac but no visual.]

NIAL: Orac?

ORAC: This is not possible! The system is rejecting my authority! It is refusing access to a superior machine. I am unable to make contact.

SOOLIN: Zen, analyse the vis-cast system on Freedom City, find out what the problem is.

[Zen's lights flash for a few seconds before he gives his report.]

ZEN: The system has been recently adapted. Original Tarriel cells have been replaced with the newly commercialised Sarien cell.

NIAL: Sarien cells? I've never heard of them.

MAGS: [Grimacing] I have. Fen, my first husband, was the man who invented them.

NIAL: How long ago was that? You've been married five times.

MAGS: [Wryly] More years than I'd like to admit to. Actually, I'm surprised they've managed to commercialise the cells at all. They were extremely powerful things and cheap to produce but we found them to be unpredictable and, more often than not, unstable. Fen advised against ever using them.

NIAL: Typical Federation response, if it's cheap enough it's safe enough.

VILA: That's where our problem lies then, Orac can only control other computers by using their Tarriel cells...no Tarriels, no trapdoor into the system.

[Nial suddenly turns a sickly shade of grey.]

NIAL: Orac...tell me there are Tarriel cells in the Klute.

[Orac whirrs softly then relapses into an unnatural silence.]

NIAL: Orac?

ORAC: There are none.

NIAL: [To Mags] What time is it?

MAGS: Time to panic.

[View switches back to the casino. Garus is playing the wheel again, surrounded by a hoard of merry followers. Krantor sidles away into his room, to confer with Toise.]

TOISE: It is almost time Krantor.

KRANTOR: I know. I am so looking forward to seeing our friend Avon get the fate he richly deserves. [He pauses and dabs theatrically at his brow] My only regret is that our dear gallant Vila isn't here to share it with him.

TOISE: You are certain he will lose?

KRANTOR: Oh absolutely certain Toise. He no longer has his communicator, Fabian saw to that. No. Poor, lonely Avon is unable to receive any outside aid.

TOISE: What if that wasn't how they did it? Maybe it was a brain implant. You did consider that, remember?

KRANTOR: [Peevishly] Krantor does not forget things Toise.

TOISE: Of course not Krantor. [Hurriedly] I only meant to ensure your success.

KRANTOR: OUR success Toise. You are with me in this, I trust?

TOISE: Oh yes Krantor, always. You know me.

KRANTOR: [Smiling] Indeed I do, my erstwhile companion. [He pauses] As to the matter of brain implants; Vila may have been gifted with one, it is an idea not without a certain merit. It is even possible that Avon has been similarly blessed. However, it is of no consequence to us.

TOISE: [Moodily] I fail to see how it can be so unimportant if it helps him win.

[Krantor waves his handkerchief at his companion in an expression of irritation.]

KRANTOR: Toise, where is your faith?! Where is your belief in the glorious rule?

TOISE: I don't understand...

KRANTOR: Toise, the Klute will win and Avon will be incinerated. [He pauses dramatically] Or, Avon will win and I will pay him a further ten million credits and return him to his ship.

TOISE: But Krantor...

KRANTOR: He will righteously celebrate his winnings and sooner or later, he will break open one of the sealed containers...[his voice becomes a vindictive snarl]...and blow himself and his pack of degenerate allies into ten million tiny pieces! [Laughing viciously] Krantor wins both ways, rule of the house.

TOISE: Ah, THAT glorious rule. Krantor, you can be such a wonderfully, dangerous adversary. You quite take my breath away.

KRANTOR: [Preening] I am marvellous, am I not. Oh Toise, why can more people not be as you and I...and Cray.

TOISE: Him?!

KRANTOR: He is absolutely charming, isn't he? I think I'll offer him a place with us. He'll make an interesting addition to our entourage. Don't you agree Toise?

[Toise mumbles darkly as they exit the room and the view cuts to Garus, wearing a handsome grin as his pile of winnings grows. Large bets are placed beside his on the board and Krantor nods to the croupier. The wheel spins once more.]

CROUPIER: Noir. Black. Seulement ze 'ouse. Ze 'ouse takes all, everything. Pardon madames et monsieurs. Je regrette mon amis. Sorry.

KRANTOR: My friends, better luck awaits you next time...I guarantee it. But now I have for you a rare delight, a treat supreme, a sumptuous contest of skill!

[Garus looks up enthusiastically. Surreptitiously covering one wrist with his hand to depress the button on the bracelet concealed beneath his sleeve. Scene cuts back to Liberator flight deck. Krantor's voice can be heard through the comm channel.]

KRANTOR: [V.O] It is time, mon patrons, to welcome back to the chair the estimable Avon!

[Cheers can clearly be heard and Vila turns pale as he remembers exactly which chair Krantor is referring to.]

VILA: Do something Nial!

NIAL: Zen, is it possible to control Sarien cells? Can you do it?

ZEN: Manipulation of other systems is not permitted. Interference is the province of the one called Orac.

SOOLIN: That was an unusually helpful reply.

MAGS: But Orac can't control the new Sarien cells!

SOOLIN: Do any of those systems still have Tarriel cells in Zen?

ZEN: Many of the gaming devices contain cells of that type. The Speed-Chess computer is one such machine. It is a basic design model with modifications to the timing system.

NIAL: Orac, get control of that machine, now!

[Scene cuts back to casino. The game is already underway and Avon seems worried. The croupier is calling out the moves as they are made and the crowd is quietly waiting for a winner. Suddenly Avon stares at the screen, then at the Klute who appears baffled. He grins confidently and makes his move. The Klute presses his own button then seems even more confused. Avon moves again and suddenly it is over.]

CROUPIER: [In shock] Blanc! White is ze winner. Ze Klute is defeated!

KRANTOR: It can't be! [Recovering himself] I mean, congratulations mon frere, you have achieved the impossible! We salute your resounding victory. Though I most heartbrokenly mourn my own great loss. Yet it is, as our handsome champion Cray so wisely says, only money my friends!

[The crowd surges towards Avon, cheering wildly. In their midst he makes his way to the table which holds the two containers of credits and his teleport bracelet. Glaring suspiciously at Krantor he puts it on and presses the button.]

AVON: Bring me up.

[He takes hold of both boxes, then dematerialises. In the noise and confusion, Garus quietly slips from the room. Toise follows Krantor as he retires to his sanctum.]

KRANTOR: Toise, I have such a headache, it must be all the excitement. Close down the casino...[He grins nastily]...I've made enough profit today. Oh and fetch the delightful Cray to my chambers, I have a proposal to put to that one.

TOISE: [Smugly] He has already left Krantor. I saw him. He wandered away as the crowd dispersed.

KRANTOR: Then disperse Fabian and his men to find him! Toise, I want that young man in my chambers before he has a chance to leave the city. I believe we can persuade him to join us, for a more permanent arrangement. [Picking up a plate] In fact, I am absolutely positive he'll be thrilled at the prospect! After all Toise, the future is so uncertain these days. I do hope our dear friend Avon understands that.

TOISE: One moment you're a millionaire, the next...boom!

KRANTOR: Precisely Toise, precisely.

[He laughs and pops a Pataki cake into his mouth. Scene cuts to Liberator teleport bay. Vila is standing by the controls. Avon is removing his bracelet. As Nial enters the room, the comm chimes.]

GARUS: Garus here. I'm ready to come back chaps!

[Vila operates the controls and Garus appears in the teleport area.]

NIAL: A full house. We've certainly beaten the odds a few times today.

GARUS: And made a fair profit! [He pats one of the boxes.]

AVON: I wouldn't do that if I were you.

GARUS: Why not, aren't you planning to share it?

AVON: By all means...I'll take the money, you can have the bomb.

VILA: There's a bomb in there?!

AVON: I imagine so, or something similar and equally unpleasant.

GARUS: Now you mention it, Krantor did seem a bit too keen to pay up. [He grins] I played all afternoon but he made sure I left with nothing.

[Vila examines the containers and frowns.]

VILA: The seals are unbroken but the seams have definitely been tampered with.

NIAL: I can't see anything wrong.

VILA: You're not an expert.

NIAL: If there is a bomb, why hasn't Krantor triggered it already?

VILA: Probably can't. Not many remote activators would work at this distance. No. If I were setting it up, I'd have rigged them to explode when the lids were removed.

NIAL: Can we scan the boxes, find out for sure?

AVON: And risk triggering them?

NIAL: Maybe not. [He sighs] What do you suggest we do then?

GARUS: We can't just dump them, an innocent person could end up getting killed.

AVON: Then we will have to detonate them, in a controlled explosion.

[Nial turns towards Avon with a sly grin spread across his face.]

NIAL: No. I have a much better idea.

[Krantor's inner chamber. He is resting on a pile of cushions with his hand on his head as though in pain. Toise enters and coughs discretely to gain his attention.]

KRANTOR: Well Toise, what news of my wandering waif?

TOISE: [Spitefully] None. Your latest favourite has vanished completely Krantor.

KRANTOR: [Wailing] Nooo. He must be found. Did you see today's takings? Toise, he is my golden-haired goldmine...my charmingly cheerful credit-spinner! Did you not watch our clients flock to his side? I need him at mine.

TOISE: It is too late Krantor. You were more concerned with paying back Avon and his cronies than paying attention to the needs of the casino.

KRANTOR: Be careful Toise, one day very soon, I may decide I no longer need you in my casino.

TOISE: But not today Krantor. While you have been indulging yourself in here, I have been busy out there. I have rooted out your worthless thug Fabian and discovered that he has let matters slip through his callused fingers. However, be not dismayed, for I myself have located the errant Trader and enforced a well-deserved penalty tax on the wretched man and his lowly associates.

[He pats a grey box under his arm and indicates another on the floor.]

KRANTOR: He paid up, in full?

TOISE: In full Krantor. I warned you not to listen to their whining. Traders are a dishonest lot, they always have more than they claim. He easily managed to find enough credits...[smugly]...once he knew he had me to deal with.

KRANTOR: Excellent, excellent, ah Toise, my faith in you is as complete as ever. Hurry, open the boxes. I need to feast my eyes upon the gleaming coins, feel the currency that rules all our lives! Come my friend, my most loyal companion, let us savour the sweetness of victory!

[Toise grins in ecstasy and begins to break the seal of the container in his arms. Scene switches to Liberator flight deck. Nial and Soolin are seated in the pit with Mags. Avon and Vila are standing at one end of the seats with Garus at the other.]

GARUS: Go on then, tell us. What was so important that you risked another trip?

NIAL: [He grins wickedly] It suddenly occurred to me that Jedd might be in need of a little financial assistance.

SOOLIN: To pay his penalty tax?

VILA: [Smiling] You gave him the boxes didn't you?

NIAL: It was the least I could do, we wouldn't want to leave Krantor out of pocket now would we?

AVON: Not again. Not after the trouble it has cost me. [Pausing thoughtfully] I presume that it was Orac who controlled the game. The Klute did seem distracted.

MAGS: The Klute was actually an android and it was impossible to distract.

GARUS: How did you achieve the impossible then?

SOOLIN: Orac took control of the Speed-Chess console. You were playing as white so Orac manipulated the black pieces to let you win.

MAGS: [Grinning] No matter what the Klute pressed, the pieces moved themselves. It probably blew a fuse trying to work out what was happening!

[Avon looks at Nial with a resigned expression.]

AVON: I suppose you expect gratitude...and an explanation.

NIAL: No. The former would be nice but I don't expect it. We are a team now Avon and we look out for each other. That's the way it is, that's the way it has to be. As for the latter, it can wait.

VILA: But I thought...

NIAL: [Interrupting] It can wait until you choose to trust me enough to want to explain.

AVON: And what if that day never arrives?

NIAL: [Shrugging] Then that's your choice. We all have to live with our own decisions.

VILA: I don't mind the decisions, it's the consequences I can't cope with.

[Everyone, including Avon smiles and there is a general loosening of tensions. They all begin to move towards their flight positions.]

NIAL: Let's get out of here.

ZEN: Information. There is a priority message being beamed at the ship.

SOOLIN: From where?

ZEN: From within the main complex on Freedom City.

NIAL: It might be Jedd. Play it back Zen.

[Zen bleeps and the message is replayed on audio.]

AUDIO: Unidentified ship, I know you are carrying Avon and the two gunslingers. I have four laser cannons sighted on you. Switch to communication channel thirteen. If you attempt to run, I will destroy you.

GARUS: He sounds friendly. Perhaps he's one of Krantor's relatives.

AVON: He sounds like Fabian, chief of security and he is decidedly unfriendly.

NIAL: Then we'd better humour him. Open channel thirteen please Zen.

ZEN: Confirmed. Channel is now open for communication.

NIAL: [Loudly into the comm] This is Nial Blake, commander of the Liberator. What do you want Fabian?

FABIAN: [V.O] You know who I am and now I know who you are. I'm beginning to see how you managed it.

NIAL: I'm happy to have cleared things up for you. [Coldly] What do you want?

FABIAN: [V.O] Justice. I'm going to hand you all over to the Federation.

NIAL: You really think we'll let you do that? If you know who we are, you also know what this ship is capable of.

FABIAN: [V.O] Not even the Liberator could knock out four laser cannons at once.

[The crew look a little less confident and Nial seems stumped.]

SOOLIN: He's right. No ship is invincible.

GARUS: True enough but we're still less vulnerable than he is.

NIAL: I hope that means you've got an idea.

GARUS: [He grins] Half an idea.

MAGS: That's better than none...go on Cray.

GARUS: We've got a copy of the plans right? So tell him that. Tell him we know exactly where he is and can take him out with a single shot.

NIAL: He might choose to save his own skin and let us keep ours.

VILA: It's worth a try, surely?

AVON: It is only a bluff. Even we do not have a weapon accurate enough to target one man within a building that size.

SOOLIN: But Fabian doesn't know that. All you have to do is convince him that it's possible Nial.

[He shakes his head doubtfully but squares his shoulders and sets his jaw.]

NIAL: [Harshly, into comm.] Fabian, my patience is running out. We are leaving. If you refuse to let us go, we will send a neutron blast straight down your throat. We have the blueprints of your city and we can pinpoint your exact position.

FABIAN: [V.O] Nice try but this section was built recently, it isn't on the plans. Be a good boy and wait quietly for the Feds. I just called them, they're on their way.

[Nial turns from the console in frustration.]

VILA: What do we do now?

GARUS: I'll teleport into the city and deal with Fabian while you escape. You can come back for me when it's safe.

MAGS: There isn't enough time Cray. The Federation will be here before you've even found him.

AVON: We have no choice but to continue to bluff...Commander.

NIAL: [Irritated by his tone] If that's your best advice, fine but I'll do it my own way.

[He moves across to the comm button once more and presses it purposefully.]

NIAL: [In a chillingly soft voice] Fabian. You have sixty seconds to disarm your cannons or I will open fire on the main installation.

FABIAN: [V.O] You're bluffing. There are civilians in there.

NIAL: [Into comm] Fifty seconds and counting.

FABIAN: [V.O] I don't believe you're willing to kill thousands of innocent people.

NIAL: [Into comm] Forty seconds.

FABIAN: [V.O] You're a bunch of outlaws. Half those people are your supporters. You wouldn't hurt them!

NIAL: [Into Comm] Twenty five seconds. Don't you listen to the vis-cast news? We are no longer idealists. Fifteen seconds.

FABIAN: [V.O] All right! I saw what you did to Space City. With Krantor dead, this is my city and I intend to keep it. Go but don't think I'll forget that you killed two of my men...[He pauses then continues in a deathly voice]...you ever come back here and you will pay for it. I promise you.

[Nial glances down at his bandaged hand, then at Soolins similar wound and at Vila, white-faced with fear and stress. His expression becomes hard and he slams his left hand down on the comm button one more time.]

NIAL: [Into comm] We won't be back Fabian. We've had enough of your hospitality to last us several lifetimes. Keep your damn city...it isn't worth the trouble of destroying. [Releasing the button] Get us out of here Zen, maximum speed.

[He frowns murderously and the rest of the crew move silently to their flight positions. Avon and Vila exchange a subdued glance as the Liberator speeds away from the dark silhouette of Freedom City.]

[End Credits]

READER'S REMARKS