Script for Orbit

by Robert Holmes

Director: Brian Lighthill

(c) 1981 by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Series created by Terry Nation. This is a complete dialogue transcript for research purposes and is not for sale under any circumstances. Format (c) 1992 by Micky DuPree and Neal Smith.

Dramatis Personae

Kerr Avon
Vila Restal
Del Tarrant
Dayna Mellanby
Egrorian - John Savident
Pinder - Larry Noble

(Scorpio is approaching a planet and shuts off engines.)

SLAVE[V.O.] We are now stationary, Master, ten miles above the planet Malodar.

(Cut to internal shot on Scorpio)

AVONWhat is the surface analysis, Slave?
SLAVENitrogen, methane, and argon predominate. Also traces of free ammonia and sulfur compounds. It is unsuitable for your illustrious life form, Master.
VILAHe thinks it stinks, too.
SOOLINI make the surface temperature minus ninety to a hundred.
TARRANTCold at night.
AVONYou can tell us when you get back.
TARRANTThe message was for you!
AVONI get chilblains, Tarrant.
TARRANT[Resigned] Oh, why not?
DAYNAShouldn't he have some kind of backup, Avon? That kind of environment...
AVONI was hoping you would volunteer.
DAYNAAll right, I'm a volunteer. [Tarrant and Dayna leave the flight deck]
AVON[Looking at Vila] Do I hear 3? No, I didn't think I would.
VILAYou know I like to stick with you, Avon, where it's safe.

(Surface of a planet. We see a barren landscape with a domed building. Cut to inside dome. Pinder is alone, watching a monitor. Scorpio appears on the monitor.)

PINDEREgrorian? Egrorian? They're here! Come and see. [Egrorian enters. He slaps Pinder away from the monitor. They look at the monitor and laugh hysterically.]

(Back on Scorpio)

VILAI still think that message was a phony. Egrorian hasn't been heard of for ten years.
SOOLINI've never heard of him, ever.
AVONSaid to have been a genius. Scientists are still trying to understand the Egrorian theory of parallel matter.
SOOLINWhat happened to him?
VILAHe disappeared, along with a few million credits from the Space Research Institute.
SOOLINSo he's a criminal.
VILAAren't we all? Except he pulled off a big one. Which is why he's NOT sitting on Malodar.
AVONIt is a good hideaway.
VILAHideaway? Avon, if I got my hands on that kind of money, I'd have gone somewhere I could enjoy it. What is the point of having money if you have to exist on a hole like that!
AVONYou are forgetting, there is a big difference between you and Egrorian. HE has a brain.
VILAOh yeah? Well, if you had one it might have occurred to you this could be a Federation trap.
AVONWell, of course, it's occurred to me. Why do you think I'm sending Tarrant? [They look at him.] On the other hand, the message could be genuine, in which case Egrorian may want to do a deal with us, and from a man like that any kind of offer of a deal might be interesting.
AVONWhat is it, Slave?
SLAVEMy humble apologies for interrupting your noble thoughts...
VILAJust get to the point.
SLAVESome inferior person is attempting to communicate on the audio.

EGRORIAN[V.O.] Calling Scorpio, this is Egrorian in Malodar command, calling Scorpio.
AVON[Softly] Egrorian. [Switches on communicator] Egrorian, this is Avon in the privateer Scorpio, calling Egrorian in Malodar command. We are receiving you, Egrorian, go ahead.

EGRORIAN[V.O.] Thank you, Avon. I will now give you your instructions. Listen carefully. Failure to follow them to the letter will, I fear, have fatal consequences.

(Cut to planet, internal to dome. Egrorian is talking to communicator.)

AVON[V.O.] Oh, that sounds unpleasantly like a threat.

EGRORIANIt is a threat. Like you, I have a price on my head. So, having revealed my little sanctuary, I cannot allow you and your colleagues to leave. Not, at any rate, until we've reached an agreement.
AVON[V.O.] The Federation gave up looking for you a long time ago, Egrorian. You are a forgotten man. [Pinder laughs. Egrorian looks annoyed.]

EGRORIANPossibly, but I have not forgotten them. Now, your instructions. [Cut to Scorpio. Tarrant and Dayna are entering the flight deck wearing spacesuits.]

EGRORIAN[V.O.] I am dispatching my autoshuttle. It will dock with your ship in six minutes. You will board the shuttle alone. It will bring you to my biodome. You will carry no armaments.
AVONBut we don't need the shuttle. This ship is equipped with a teleport system.

EGRORIAN[V.O.] I'm well aware of your ship's capability, but I insist that you use the shuttle.
AVONAnd if I don't agree?

EGRORIAN[V.O.] You will agree, Avon. I have explained the alternative, I cannot let you go. Besides, confess that you are intrigued. Otherwise you wouldn't have traversed three star systems to be here. [Avon cuts off communicator.]
SOOLINHe's bluffing.
AVONPossibly. But somehow, I don't think so. And he's quite right, we've come rather a long way to find out what he has to offer. [To communicator] All right, Egrorian, I'll take the shuttle, but I never travel alone.

EGRORIAN[V.O.] Alone, and unarmed, those are my conditions.
AVONAre you alone, Egrorian? (Cut to inside biodome)

EGRORIANYes. [Looks at Pinder] Apart from my assistant.
AVON[V.O.] Then I shall bring my assistant to watch yours. That is MY condition.

EGRORIANYou are in no position to make conditions, Avon.
AVON[V.O.] Egrorian, you sent me a message asking for this meeting. Therefore you want something from me. I believe that gives me some power.

EGRORIANVery well. One colleague, unarmed, and remember, Avon: I designed the weapon detection scan we have here. That means it's infallible. (Back to Scorpio)
AVONOh, I'm sure it is. One other thing, Egrorian: have you also developed an infallible video transmitter?

EGRORIAN[V.O.] Naturally, yes.
AVONThen switch it on. I want to be certain you are who you say you are. (Egrorian appears on viewscreen)

EGRORIANYou are a cautious man, Avon.
AVONWell, that's a habit I'm hoping to live with. (Egrorian's image disappears from viewscreen)

EGRORIAN[V.O.] I, too, am cautious. The Federation monitor video signals from all parts of galaxy. The autoshuttle is leaving now. (Sound of communicator turning off.)
AVONPressurize the rest of the ship.
SOOLINRight. [Applies some controls.] The forward section's pressurized.
AVONAll right. Vila, let's get to the airlock.
AVONWell, who else? After all, you always say you feel safe with me.

(Scene: Interior of shuttle flight deck. Avon and Vila are walking into the shuttle.)

VILAI'm not the type for this sort of thing, Avon.
AVONWhy not?
VILAThis Egrorian, you said he was some kind of genius.
AVONThey said he was supposed to be some time back.
VILAWell, that's what I mean. Living alone all these years, you don't know what he's like now. These superbrains often go pop, don't they?
AVONThat's true.
VILAHe could be dangerous, Avon.
AVONThere is a chance, I suppose.
VILAThis guy's gonna need careful handling. You want someone with tact. I mean, you know me.
AVONOh yes, I think so.
VILABlunt, always speaking my mind, I'm just the sort to upset him.
AVONWell, you'll just have to try not to, won't you.
VILAYou should take one of the girls, Avon. Hey, why not? A girl might... you know, interest him. He's probably forgotten what they look like.
AVONVila, if I didn't know you better, I would think you were trying to get out of this.
VILAI'm only thinking of what's best. Besides, if I stayed on Scorpio I could keep an eye on Tarrant. You need someone you can trust. [Notices Scorpio moving on viewscreen] What's that?
AVONThat's Tarrant following orders. Egrorian wants the ship to stand off in deep space.
VILAHe didn't waste much time ditching us, did he? Anyway, I don't see the point of it.
AVONWell, presumably Egrorian wants the ship out of teleport range. He does not trust us.
VILAThat's mutual.
AVONYes of course. But I have brought a little insurance. (Pulls out a gun).
VILAGet rid of that thing, you heard him say he's got a weapons scan!
AVONIn the biodome, not in here. [Stows gun in a panel.] Just in case we need it.
VILAYou really think things through, don't you, Avon? If we do need it, we won't have time to get it.
AVONWell then, let's hope we don't need it. [Smiles]

(Scene: Scorpio)

TARRANTFar enough, I think. Slave, shut down the drive and stabilize on these vectors.
SLAVEIt will be my humble pleasure. I exist only to serve you, illustrious sir.
TARRANTThank you.
DAYNAIt doesn't exist, it just functions!
TARRANTStill holding the shuttle, Soolin?
SOOLINYes. Not too easy, at this range.
TARRANTYeah, well don't lose him. We need to get a precise fix on Egrorian's base.
DAYNAWhy? You think we might have to drop in on him?
TARRANTHeavily. I did a course at the Space Institute not long after Egrorian disappeared. The rumor was that he'd been helped in his getaway by someone at the very highest level.
DAYNAServalan? But why should she want to help Egrorian?
TARRANTWhy should Egrorian want to see Avon?
DAYNAYou mean there could be a connection?
TARRANTWhen Servalan does anyone a favor, she wants repaying with interest. I'm just wondering if Avon's the interest.
SOOLINShuttle's landed, Tarrant. I've got the coordinates.

(Avon and Vila approach entrance to biodome. Pinder and Egrorian watch on monitor)

EGRORIAN[V.O.] Stand in the cylinders, please. [Cut to interior biodome]

EGRORIAN[To Pinder] Well?
PINDERIt's... green.

PINDERI've forgotten.

EGRORIANNo, you haven't forgotten. (Egrorian starts to pinch Pinder's shoulder.) Red is dead... green is?

EGRORIANAh, there you are, you see, you haven't forgotten. [to monitor] Come in please. [They turn to face door.] (Avon and Vila enter)

EGRORIANThis is a great honor for us. Don't we feel honored, Pinder? See? Pinder is quite overwhelmed. I fear he's not adept at the social graces. Merely a gauche adolescent when I took him under my wing, weren't you, Pinder?

EGRORIANJust a callow youth, but with a mind of great promise. Truly original mathematicians, unhappily, soon burn themselves out on the anvil of creation.
PINDERI'm pleased to make your acquaintance, ma'am.
VILA[To Avon] I think he's talking to you.

EGRORIANThank you, Pinder, go back to your place. I fear language doesn't come easily to him. He thinks mostly in symbols.
VILADoesn't he have symbols for men and women?

EGRORIANApparently not. Can I offer you some refreshment? Everything here is reconstituted, of course, but it remains palatable.
AVONWe came here to talk, Egrorian.

EGRORIANAnd so we shall. Do sit down. We'll have to clear a place, I'm afraid. [He glares at Pinder, who takes some books of of a chair.] There. Which one of you is Avon?
AVONI am. That... is Vila.

EGRORIANSurprisingly, you don't look like the ruthless desperados of legend. But you have, of course, killed a great many people.
AVONOnly in the pursuit of liberty.

EGRORIAN"O Liberty! O Liberty! What crimes are committed in your name!" Do you know the source?

EGRORIANNo, why should you? Natural leaders are rarely encumbered with intelligence. Greed, egotism, animal cunning, and viciousness are the important attributes. Qualities I detect in you in admirably full measure.
AVONI didn't come here to be... flattered.

EGRORIANYou came here out of curiosity and because you scented there might be something in it for you, mm, am I right?
AVONClose enough.

EGRORIANNow, then, Avon. What would you say if I offered you mastery of the galaxy?
AVONOh, I would say thank you.
VILAFor a whole galaxy? Oh, come on, Avon, show the man some gratitude.

EGRORIAN[Laughing high] Do you think my mind is addled?
VILANo, no, it's just we don't get offered galaxies every day of the week.

EGRORIANPinder, prepare the demonstration. [To Avon] Do you know anything about tachyons?
AVONTheoretical particles that travel faster than the speed of light.

EGRORIANThey are not theoretical anymore. Come, I'll show you. [He leads Avon to a piece of equipment.] This is a tachyon funnel. I realized the potential of such a machine during my early research into the behavior of parallel matter. It's taken me half a lifetime to build.
AVONWhat does it do?

EGRORIANIt destroys things. Instantly and completely and at any range. It is the ultimate engine of destruction. [indicates viewscreen.] You are now looking at a lunar satellite of Porthodos, which is in the next constellation to this one, some seventeen light years distant. That is our target, and this is the destruct button. [He points. Pinder reaches toward the button, but Egrorian slaps his hand away and presses the button himself. The planet on the viewscreen disappears in flash of purple light].

(Exterior view of the base)

EGRORIAN[V.O.] Now then, Avon, what do you say? Perhaps the idea of ruling the galaxy doesn't seem quite so absurd.

(Inside the base)

AVONWhy are you offering it to us?

EGRORIANBecause I want to see the Federation crushed, Avon, and you would do it ruthlessly.
AVONWith a weapon like that, you can destroy it yourself.

EGRORIANSimply destroying it is not enough. [Makes Pinder get up. Gestures for Vila to sit down.] Nature abhors a vacuum. It must be replaced by another command structure. As leader of the anti-Federation alliance, you will be in a position to take over the channels of command, something in which I have no interest, let alone ability.
VILAThen what are you getting out of it?

EGRORIANSatisfaction. Revenge. Do you imagine I wanted to spend the prime of my years in this grinding desolation? No, it was those jealous parvenus of the Science Board resentful of my success and my achievement who forced me to abscond. They voted against funding my tachyon funnel project, and so I want to see them brought low, I want to see them rot.
VILAI can fix that. I'll personally nail 'em to posts and send you the pictures. [Pinder wanders to a game that looks something like a chess board and starts to fiddle with it.]

EGRORIAN[Egrorian laughs, a high, nervous, laugh] Thank you, Vila. But when the Federation is broken, I shall return to earth to continue my work. Oh, there's one other thing I'd like from you.

AVONSorry. That computer is a vital part of our defense. It keeps us one step ahead of the Federation.

EGRORIANBut with the tachyon funnel you won't need a defense. Come now. The ultimate computer in exchange for the ultimate weapon.
AVONWhy do you want Orac?

EGRORIANBecause I have other projects under development. It would be an invaluable help. I've no doubt I could design an Orac myself, but duplicating the work of others is a waste of time. I've got much to do.
VILAAvon, it's got to be a good deal.
AVONI know.
VILAListen, all we have to do is point this thing at somebody's head. We can have anything we want.. anything!
PINDERCheckmate, Egrorian!

EGRORIANHow dare you!
PINDERCheckmate... checkmate...

EGRORIAN[To game board] Recall the last six moves. [Computer replays a sequence of moves]
PINDER[Sighing] Oh...
AVONHow can he tell the king from the queen?

EGRORIANWhat? You miserable little cheat... [He takes Pinder and starts to twist his arm.]

EGRORIANCan you feel your extensor muscle tearing? Can you feel your humerus grating against your radius? Hmm.? Just a little more... a little more... now you're feeling it, aren't you? [Pinder groans with pain]
AVONAll right, Egrorian, it's a deal.

EGRORIAN[Releasing Pinder] I'm so pleased.

(On Scorpio)

SOOLINTarrant, we've got a heat flare on the ground observation screen. It could be the shuttle.
TARRANTOr a missile. Here, keep a scan on.
SLAVESir, your most illustrious colleague Avon wishes to communicate.
AVON[V.O.] Tarrant, we're coming up. Bring the ship down to rendezvous with us at three hundred miles.
TARRANTOn our way.

(On the shuttle)

VILAIt certainly takes some getting used to.
AVONWhat does?
VILAKnowing we've finally cracked it. All I want now is to find a way of living forever.
VILAAll we have to do is knock out a few planets for target practice, then name our own terms. We can have whatever we want! Think of it.
VILAI'll have an imperial palace with solid diamond floors, and a bodyguard of a thousand handpicked virgins in red fur uniforms. Vila's Royal Mounties.
AVONYou're dreaming again.
VILAA man has a right to dream. Anyway, what's to stop us? I suppose it will get boring after the first fifty years, eh? [Notices Avon's expression] What's the matter with you?
AVONI was thinking about Pinder, and the way he said "pleased to make your acquaintance, ma'am".
VILAIs that worrying you? Listen, if it'll set your mind at rest, I never thought you were a woman.
AVONHe said it as though it were a phrase he had been taught.
VILAMaybe Egrorian gives him lessons in etiquette as well as judo.
AVONOr maybe he has been taught that that was the way of addressing a stranger. Servalan, for instance.
VILAServalan? She wouldn't do any deals with Egrorian. He's like us, outside the Federation.
AVONWe know how much she would like to get her hands on Orac.
VILANot enough to hand us a weapon like the tachyon funnel.
AVONNo. That's why this time, Vila, I think we have to play this one very cagily.

(In the biodome)

EGRORIANIt went well, Highness.

SERVALANIt did not! That fool of yours made Avon suspicious.

EGRORIANHe accepted it as a simple slip of the tongue.

SERVALANAny slip is dangerous when one is dealing with Avon.

EGRORIANBut he took the bait! He's bringing Orac here. After that, my plan is infallible.

SERVALANI hope so, Egrorian. I've waited a long time for this.

EGRORIANHis death is a mathematical certainty. The product of a simple equation.

SERVALANIt would be so easy now to train the tachyon funnel on Scorpio. They'd be dead in a millisecond.

EGRORIANBut Orac would be destroyed, too. My scheme gives you possession of both the computer and the tachyon funnel.

SERVALANWith both, no dream is impossible.

EGRORIANSupreme ruler again, Highness, with me constantly by your side. Your most loyal and dare I say it... loving consort.

SERVALANWhen I regain power, you will be well rewarded. I shall appoint you my Chief Minister for Science.

EGRORIAN[Kneeling] Servalan, my steel queen, my empress, the only reward I crave is a place in your affections.

SERVALANBut you already have that, Egrorian! Ten years ago I risked my position to help you continue your work.

EGRORIANAnd not a day has passed since then that I have not yearned for the time, when I would be able to repay your trust by laying all the world and the galaxy at your feet.

SERVALANOh, get up!

EGRORIANAll I wanted in return was a little kindness.

SERVALANSo, you wish to barter the tachyon funnel for a partnership.

EGRORIANA connubial partnership, Servalan. Why not? Alone you are formidable enough, but together we would stand like mountains.

SERVALANI have never shared power with anyone.

EGRORIANThe tachyon funnel is power, and I don't have to share it with anyone, not even you. But I am a man of generous nature, especially in matters of the heart.

SERVALANIt will be time enough to discuss the future, Egrorian, when you deliver both Orac and the tachyon funnel. I, too, can be generous. But just remember: I punish failure as quickly as I reward success.

(On Scorpio. Vila is on the flight deck with Soolin and Dayna.)

VILAI could see Avon was out of his depth, so I said, tachyons are particles that travel faster than light. That shook him.
DAYNA[Smirking] Oh, I can imagine.
VILAOh yes, once he realized he was dealing with someone who knew a bit about the subject his manner changed completely.
SOOLIN[Striving to keep a straight face, and failing.] How does this, um, tachyon funnel actually work, Vila?
VILAHow does it work?
VILAWell, unless you can grasp the laws of parallel physics, it's not easy to explain. [Dayna giggles.]
SOOLINI see. Tell us about the laws of parallel physics, Vila.
VILASoolin, the only thing you ever grasped was a gun. Do you want to get brain damage?
SOOLIN[Serious] The way I see it, if you can understand parallel physics, anyone can.
VILAUnlike some people around here, I don't boast about my abilities, I keep them hidden.
DAYNAOh, you certainly do.

(Avon and Tarrant enter flight deck)

AVONOrac is loaded, Vila, and we're ready to go.
DAYNAOh, Avon, is it really worth losing Orac for this new weapon?
AVONI don't see that we have a lot of choice. If we say no deal, Egrorian can destroy this ship faster than you can snap your fingers.
SOOLINAnd how do you guarantee he won't anyway once you've delivered Orac?
AVONWe have no guarantee. But if he tried that he must know that we would kill them.
DAYNABut you've no guns.
AVONYou haven't seen those two. They are old and they are decrepit, especially Pinder. Vila could handle him on his own.
TARRANTPinder's old?
VILALate seventies. Why?
TARRANTAfter you'd gone, I got Orac to do us one last service. This is a printout from Central Records, all that's known about Egrorian.
AVONInteresting reading?
TARRANTYeah, very interesting. After he vanished, they started finding the bodies. He was never a simple scientist, Avon.
VILAWhat was he?
TARRANTPower mad from his earliest days. He was at the center of a conspiracy to take over the Federation.
AVONThis is the man who says he wants to spend the rest of his life in the advancement of science.
TARRANTThe other interesting thing is Pinder.
VILAWhat about him?
TARRANTHe was a mathematical prodigy apparently. He was eighteen when he disappeared with Egrorian ... ten years ago. Now I'm not a mathematical prodigy, but it seems to me that makes him twenty-eight.

(Servalan's ship. Communicator dings.)

SERVALAN(To comm) Yes?

EGRORIANAll is well, Highness. The shuttle has just separated from Scorpio.

SERVALANGood. I'll be watching on the monitor when they arrive. [She switches on a monitor, showing the interior of the biodome.]


EGRORIANIs everything prepared?

EGRORIANIncluding the loading bay program? Has that been checked?
PINDERYes, Egrorian.

EGRORIANYou're SURE, Pinder? The automatics must work perfectly. Once they've arrived we shall have no opportunity to make corrections.
PINDERI am SURE, Egrorian. Nothing can go wrong.

EGRORIANNothing can go wrong. Everything is planned to the last decimal place. Then why, suddenly, do I feel uneasy?

(Shuttle, flight deck. Avon and Vila are en route to the planet.)

AVONSomehow, some way, he is going to double-cross us. His whole history proves it.
VILAThen let's not give him the chance.
AVONWhat's in your mind?
VILAHit first. We carry Orac in, then jump them. We break their necks, grab the tachyon funnel, and out.
AVONHe will have thought of that. We touch that thing before it's disconnected, it is liable to blow up in our faces.
VILADo you have any better ideas?
AVONNot at the moment.
VILAThen start thinking. We touch down in four minutes.
AVONThe last time we landed, we came in on the ancillary pad. The main pad is on the other side of the dome.
VILASo? Nearly all these survival stations were designed with two pads.
AVONBut the main pad is more convenient. Especially when handling cargo.
VILAWhat are you getting at?
AVONI'm just wondering if the main pad is already occupied. That could account for the fact that we were directed to the ancillary.
VILAWell, if it is, you won't see much. These things kick up far too much dust. You're thinking of Servalan again.
AVONSHE is never far from my thoughts.

(On Scorpio)

DAYNATarrant! There's a second ship down there!
TARRANTWhat! Are you sure?
DAYNAYes, I just picked up a latent heat trace, and it wasn't from the shuttle.
TARRANTThen Egrorian's got company.
DAYNACompany that arrived before we did.
SOOLINThe Federation?
TARRANTSomehow I don't feel that's likely, not after reading his record.
DAYNALook, was his connection with Servalan mentioned in there?
TARRANTWell, it was just a rumor at the time. If it ever got on the record, it's been erased since, she'd have seen to that.
SOOLINBut you still think she could be behind Egrorian.
TARRANTIf she is, Avon's walking into more trouble than he's bargained for.

(Servalan's ship. Servalan is watching biodome on monitor. She sees Pinder watching monitor of entrance.)

PINDERUnarmed, Egrorian.

EGRORIAN(softly) Admit them.
VILA[On monitor] Hello, Pinder. How's the arm?


EGRORIANCome in, my friends! Pinder, answer the question.
PINDERAhh, well, thank you for asking.

EGRORIANVery good! Splendid! Yes, his arm knitted perfectly after a few minutes in the therapy chamber.
VILAGoes in there regularly, I suppose.

EGRORIANNaughty boys must be punished, mustn't they, Vila! Is that Orac?
AVONIt is.

EGRORIANOh! Smaller than I imagined, nevertheless you should have put it on a cargo loader. Come and put it over here. Now you realize, I must satisfy myself that it is the genuine machine.
AVONBefore we do that, I should like to see the tachyon funnel disconnected.

EGRORIANYou really are an excessively cautious person, and so mistrustful.
AVONThat is because Orac has read your security file on Central Records.

EGRORIAN[Looks disturbed. Takes the file from Vila.] Disconnect the funnel, Pinder. [Looks at the file]

(On Servalan's monitor)

EGRORIANLies! All lies! Base and perfidious slander! I never conspired -- I, I swear this is nothing but a tissue of falsehood and calumny designed by my enemies to blacken my reputation. If Servalan has read this, I hope she --
AVONWhy do you mention Servalan?

EGRORIANWhat? [Turns]


Well, she was the head of Federation when these fabrications were compiled.

AVONDidn't you hear she was dead?

EGRORIANAh, yes. But then I was told she had assumed a new identity. One never knows what to believe these days. Anyway, this is, this... this is a load of distortion and rubbish, and when I return to earth, I will hound down those responsible, and...
VILABreak their arms?

EGRORIAN[gives nervous laugh] I suggest we get on. The tachyon funnel is disconnected. Place Orac here. [Avon does. Unseen by Egrorian, Avon flips switch on side of Orac.] Orac, what was the subject of my degree thesis at Belhangria University? [Nothing happens. Avon produces key and puts it in place.]

EGRORIANOrac, what was the subject of my degree thesis at Belhangria University?
ORACYour paper e stroke nine on stroke six zero four four was on particle physics and dealt specifically with the properties of rissions. It was marked Beta plus, Egrorian.
PINDEROnly beta plus, Egrorian?

EGRORIANPinder, you're to be seen and not heard, remember?
AVONIf Orac has a fault, it is a tendency to give more information than is requested.
VILAOr less information than requested.
AVONBut seldom just the information that is requested.
ORACThat degree was subsequently rescinded for gross misconduct.

EGRORIANThat's enough, Orac! [Avon removes key]
AVONHave you heard enough, or do you want to run another test?

EGRORIANNo. No, I'm... [clears throat] I'm satisfied that the computer does all that is claimed for it. Pinder, take the funnel down to the cargo loader.
AVONGive him a hand, Vila.

EGRORIANAre you still suspicious, Avon? A lesser man than myself might find that offensive.
AVONPinder doesn't look very strong. Is he really only twenty-eight?

EGRORIANAlas, yes.
AVONWhat happened?

EGRORIANAn unfortunate accident. You've heard of Hoffal's radiation?

EGRORIANAh... Hoffal had a unique mind. Over a century ago he predicted most of the properties that would be found in neutron material.
AVONNeutron material?

EGRORIANMaterial from a neutron star. That is a... a giant sun which has collapsed and become so tightly compressed that its electrons and protons combine, making neutrons.
AVONI don't need a lecture in astrophysics.

EGRORIANWhen neutrons are subjected to intense magnetic force, they form Hoffal's radiation. Poor Pinder was subjected for less than a millionth of a second. He aged 50 years in as many seconds. And my golden-haired stripling became a silver-haired dotard. [whispering] Sad, isn't it? But then one... one has to face such hazards when exploring new frontiers.
AVONSo neutrons are part of the tachyon funnel.

EGRORIAN[Lost at first, then clears throat] Um, eight of them ... form the core of the accelerator. Your shuttle should be ready by now, shall we see? [To comm] Pinder?
VILA[V.O.] He's gone for a lie down. All that walking exhausted him.

EGRORIANIs everything to your satisfaction, Vila?
VILAEverything's ready to go... including me.

EGRORIAN[giggling] There you are, Avon. Everything is safely stowed aboard and under the guard of the estimable Vila. Little morbid sense of humor, hasn't he? One could become very fond of that young man.
AVONOh, I'll tell him that.

EGRORIANPlease do. [Avon produces Orac's key and gives it to Egrorian, who laughs. This distracts Egrorian as Avon switches Orac off unseen. Avon grins and laughs.]

(On Servalan's monitor)

EGRORIANWhen the Federation is broken, tell him I'd like to renew our acquaintance in more pleasant surroundings.

(On Scorpio)

DAYNAThe shuttle's leaving!
TARRANTAlready? Well, I'll be damned. That means he's got away with it.
SOOLINGot away with what? You mean the tachyon funnel?
TARRANTNot just the tachyon funnel.

(On shuttle)

VILAMach six and rising. Dammit, Avon, we've done it, we've done it!
AVONYes, I really think we have!
VILAI'd have given odds Egrorian'd try to pull something! What's the escape velocity of this thing?
AVONI don't know. Why don't you ask Orac?
VILAEh? [Avon opens panel, revealing Orac on the shuttle]


EGRORIAN[To Orac] Orac, I want the names of all those who compiled central records file number fifteen stroke nine stroke eight hundred and thirty-four. [Servalan enters, followed by Pinder]

EGRORIANThat report was baseless, Highness. I've asked Orac to identify my traducers.

SERVALANDon't concern yourself, Egrorian. I encourage ambition.

EGRORIANI never conspired against you, I swear it! Orac, acknowledge my instructions. [Orac buzzes, but says nothing.] I don't understand.

SERVALANRemove the key. [Egrorian does, buzzing continues.] You pathetic fool. That isn't Orac!

EGRORIANHighness --

SERVALANLook at it!

EGRORIANI asked -- But I --

SERVALANIt's just a box of flashing lights! I warned you about Avon, and he still tricked you. I will kill you for this.


VILASo what was that we gave to Egrorian?
AVONOrac mark two. Just a replica I made a few months back. Contingency planning, Vila, and the contingency arose.
VILABut the thing worked!
AVONWell enough to fool Egrorian, anyway. It was fitted with a voicebox and a relay station, so that the real Orac could run it.
VILAYou could have got us killed! Why didn't you tell me?
AVONWell, I didn't want to make you nervous, Vila. I was nervous enough for the both of us.
ORACThe escape velocity of this vehicle is now confirmed at Mach fifteen. [Dramatic pause, while Avon and Vila sit] And unattainable.
AVONWhat do you mean, "Unattainable"?
ORACMach fifteen is unattainable on the present flight configuration.


SOOLINThere seems to be some problem with the shuttle!
TARRANTWhat kind of problem?
SOOLINWell, the ellipse of the flight path is three degrees lower than it should be. That's something like a mile!
DAYNASomething's gone wrong. That shuttle's not going to make it.

(Interior of biodome. We see Egrorian disassembling the fake Orac.)

EGRORIANA short range relay, now I see how they worked it.

SERVALANA bit late in the day, Egrorian!

EGRORIANNot so! It means that Orac is still on board the shuttle. We'll be able to recover it after the crash.

SERVALANDamaged beyond repair, no doubt.

EGRORIANDented possibly. But the lykenic plaques and tarriel cells are virtually indestructible. Fire is the only danger, and we've assured that that won't happen.


EGRORIANThe shuttle will run out of fuel in twenty minutes from now. It will hit the ground in a marshy area some two hundred and seven miles west of here. At the calculated impact speed of three hundred and ninety knots it will bury itself completely. There won't be a fire.

SERVALANAnd you say both Orac and the tachyon funnel can survive such a crash?

EGRORIANYes, even the shuttle will be reusable after a few repairs. Avon and Vila won't survive, of course. They'll be jellified-- [Breaks off laughing. Pinder joins in. Servalan rolls her eyes.]

(Shuttle. Vila and Avon have panels open and are working on various electronics.)

VILAThis had better work.
AVONHave you cleared the governors?
VILAI think so. Try it now.
AVONSwitching to manual. Maximum power on all drives.



EGRORIANThey've broken the autocontrol and switched to manual. We've allowed for that.

SERVALANSo, they realize the danger they're in.

EGRORIANThey'd be poor space pilots if they hadn't realized something was wrong by now.

SERVALANWhat a pity we haven't a link with the shuttle.

EGRORIANYes, it is unfortunate. Still, is it necessary?
PINDER[Faintly] Twelve and a half minutes, Egrorian.

SERVALANI should like to be able to see Avon.


AVONWhat's the position now, Orac?
ORACEscape velocity still unattainable. Elapsed flight time: nine minutes. Remaining flight time: twelve minutes.
VILATwelve minutes?
AVONFuel! [Flicks some switches]
VILAIt's no good. We're not going to get out of this one. Egrorian set us up.
AVONYes, but how? HOW did he do it?
VILAAvon, we're going to die.


DAYNALook, we've got to help them Tarrant, we must do something!
TARRANTThere's nothing we can do, Dayna, nothing at all.
SOOLINCouldn't we make an intercept?
TARRANTIn the atmosphere, with a shuttle at full drive? We have to be stationary for a docking.
DAYNALook, I'll go down with the bracelets and we can teleport back.
TARRANTBetween two fast moving points? It's not possible. You'd slip out of the beam and be vaporized. Even assuming we could set up first line coordinate, which we couldn't.
DAYNABut there must be something we can do. Some way we can help them.
TARRANTSuggest something.
SOOLINGo back to close orbit.
TARRANTWhat will that achieve?
SOOLINI don't know, but it can't be any less than we'll achieve by sitting here.


ORACRemaining flight time: ten minutes.
VILAAnd another five minutes before we hit. How do you spend your last fifteen minutes?
AVONWorking. Working like we have never worked before, Vila.
AVONIt's gravity that is holding us, right? We haven't enough engine power to lift us free. We must lighten the load somehow. We'll have to strip this shuttle down to its frame. Come on!
VILAWhere do we start?
AVONYou start in the cargo hold, I'll start up here. We have to jettison every last nut and bolt. NOW, VILA!


EGRORIANWhere are you going, Pinder?
PINDERTo check the main computer, Egrorian.

EGRORIANWell? What do you say?
PINDEROh, please may I be excused?

EGRORIANVery well, run along. [To Servalan] Pinder worries too much. He's always checking and re-checking the figures. They're now sixty-four miles high and eight minutes flight left. Exactly as calculated.

SERVALANEgrorian, I've been doing some calculations of my own. Now, I came in a small L-type cruiser, which has a low fuel margin, and is designed only for a crew of two.

EGRORIANTwo. I know the specification.

SERVALANThere will be no room for Pinder. [Pinder walks in behind them, but they do not notice.]

EGRORIANYou mean Pinder must be abandoned.


EGRORIANSo be it. After ten years, quel dommage.
PINDEREgrorian. [Egrorian and Servalan turn with a start.] The shuttle has deviated from your predicted course by 5 degrees.

EGRORIANWhat! That's impossible.
PINDERThe main computer confirms the figures.

(Shuttle, cargo bay. Avon is putting the tachyon funnel into the airlock)

VILADo you have to get rid of that?
AVONWhat use is it to us now? [Closes door] Stand back! [Presses some controls.]
VILANow what? There's nothing left to throw out!
AVONLet's check with Orac. Come on!

(Shuttle, bridge)

AVONWhat's the position now, Orac?
ORACRemaining flight time: five minutes and forty seconds.
AVONHow much more weight must we lose before we can achieve escape velocity?
ORACSeventy kilos, Avon.
AVONOnly seventy kilos... Vila, strip off the insulation material in the cargo hold. [Vila turns.] Vila! [Avon takes some small object from a panel and hands it to him.]
VILABut that's plastic. It weighs nothing.
AVONGet rid of it anyway.
VILAA kilo and a half if we're lucky.
AVONDo it! We've got five minutes. [Vila turns and heads out.] Not enough! Not nearly enough! Dammit, what weighs seventy kilos? [The door can be heard opening.]
ORACVila weighs seventy-three kilos, Avon. [The door closes.] [Avon fetches his gun and gets a determined look on his face]
AVON[Whispering] Vila!... Vila? [Avon begins searching the ship for Vila.]
AVON[In "calm and reasonable" voice] Vila? Vila? Vila? Vila, are you here? I need your help. [Vila is curled up, hiding, in a small compartment] Vila, I know you're here, come out. Vila, I know how they did it, but I need your help. Please help me. [Stubs toe on something on the deck. Pauses to look at object.]
AVON[To himself] Plastic. High tensile plastic. Vila? [Tries to kick the object out of the way. It doesn't budge.]
AVONCouldn't possibly be that heavy. Unless there's something imbedded in it, and there isn't. Unless it's very tiny, in which case it wouldn't have... the weight! [Puts gun away, and shouts:] Vila, I really do know how they did it! It's a speck of neutron material, but I need your help to shift it. [He picks up the plastic object he handed to Vila earlier, which is conveniently nearby, and uses it to push the heavy object.]
AVONVila, help me! Vila, you have GOT to help me, come on! [Cut to Vila, still motionless in the compartment.]
AVONVila! Vila, WHERE ARE YOU? [With much difficulty, he pushes the object to the airlock and in. He manipulates the airlock controls and runs to the flight deck of the shuttle.]

(On flight deck)

ORACRemaining flight time: two minutes and thirty seconds.
AVONI know. I know!


EGRORIAN[Looking at the shuttle on the screen] How? HOW? There's no way for them to escape!

SERVALANBut they HAVE, Egrorian! You and your foolproof plan!


SERVALAN[cutting him off] You failed me, Egrorian. I told you I punish failure.

EGRORIANHighness, no, no... [he kneels pathetically before her]

SERVALANNo, I'll leave you to remember what might have been. [Servalan leaves.]

EGRORIAN[On the floor] No, no, no, no, no... Servalan, you can't leave me. I served you well! You can't abandon me!
PINDERYou were ready to abandon me, Egrorian. You and Servalan -- planning to leave me -- after ten years -- sixty of mine!

EGRORIANPinder? [Gets up off the floor.]
PINDERRed is dead, remember?

EGRORIANWhat are you doing?
PINDERI've reversed the fields!

EGRORIANNo, don't be a fool!
PINDER[Presses some controls.] Hoffal's radiation, Egrorian! Hoffal's-- [We see them age, and die; first Pinder, then Egrorian.]


TARRANTA neutron star?
AVONA microscopic fragment of one. It's the only possible explanation. It was unbelievably heavy.
DAYNASo how could Egrorian have planted it aboard?
AVONHe must have reprogrammed that automatic landing bay of his.
SOOLINAnd you moved it on your own?
AVONI couldn't find Vila.
VILAI'm glad about that.
TARRANTPity about the tachyon funnel, though.
AVONWe had no choice.
VILAIt's a trip I won't forget, Avon.
AVONWell, as you always say, Vila: you know you are safe with ME. [Avon and Vila stare at each other]

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