This was the first script I ever wrote (that I can find - there may be earlier ones forever lost). It was for a playwriting competition run by the local amateur theatre group, Skipton Players, in 1998, in an effort to promote membership. It is based on the award winning computer game Frontier (written by and © David Braben), which I was heavily into at the time.
It didn't win. (If you want to see what did win, click here)
The date is 5th March 3205
The plot basically consists of trader Commander Jameson taking on a passenger, for whom his new crewmember has just taken out a contract on, on his behalf. They don't realise until they've already started on their journey. Then things get interesting.
The play starts as Commander Jameson's trade ship arrives at Daedalus, an orbital city above Mercury. The set is basically a square room decorated to resemble the interior of a well-used trader ship (grey metallic walls, the occasional dark-coloured control panel, a general patina of dirt, etc.). In the centre of the STAGE RIGHT wall is a door with two or three steps up to the cockpit. At the front of the opposite wall is the other exit, to the rest of the ship and the airlock. Immediately behind this door is a square protrusion of the wall into the cabin - it is on this that most of the consoles should be found (including a vending machine-style slot and a comm panel). The only furniture is three plain folding metal chairs - they can start in any position (folded up against the back wall, unfolded around the cabin, etc.). The curtain opens to the sound of the main engines whining down, and the docking airlock cycling. As the first part of the cycle completes, PAUL CAITLIN speaks from OFF RIGHT.
Paul (Off) Well done boss, another successful docking.
Jameson (Off) (Non-committally) Yeah. When we're through the airlock, get the cargo off-loaded, then get me a printout of the bulletin board. (He enters from the cockpit and heads for the vending slot. He continues, mainly to himself) And don't call me "boss".
Paul (Off) Okay boss!
The airlock finishes cycling. Jameson gets a plastic cup of a drink that is supposedly coffee - it isn't. He takes a sip, winces, and kicks the machine. He stands next to the console and we get a good look at him. He is in his mid-twenties, but has a look of world-weariness about him. He dresses to match his ship - in dark, oil-stained and torn clothes, steel toe-capped boots, and a loose donkey jacket (also dark). He glances towards the cockpit.
Jameson (Calling) Tell me again why you wanted a job, Paul!
Paul (Off) I invalidated the warranty on my ship, then it got shot down. When my escape capsule got to Powell High, they wouldn't give me a new ship.
Jameson (To himself) Idiot.
PAUL enters from the cockpit, holding a sheaf of paper. He is about ten years older than JAMESON, but looks much fresher-faced. He dresses like JAMESON, but an important difference is the laser pistol at his belt.
Paul The cargo's off, here's the listings.
He goes to the machine, but JAMESON stops him.
Jameson I wouldn't - it's playing up again.
Paul You ought to get this thing serviced. (He gets a chair, places it against the back wall and sits) Found anything?
Jameson Not yet. Go and check the starboard thruster, I think it was mis-firing.
Paul (Getting up and heading out STAGE LEFT) Okay boss.
JAMESON glares after him, then takes his seat. The intercom chirps. JAMESON goes over to the comm panel (near the vending machine) to answer it.
Greg (Off) Nice to see you back, Commander. I've got a message for you, has to be hand-delivered she said.
Jameson Alright then. I'll open the lock for you. See you in a tick, Greg.
He presses a button, and the ship's airlock cycles. After it finishes, GREG, a dock worker in a boiler suit, enters from the LEFT.
Greg Long time, no see, Commander. Where've you been?
Jameson The Empire. Participated in a little democratic re-election.
Greg Anyone I know? (He goes to the machine and gets a cup)
Jameson Senator McCarthy, Achenar system.
Greg That's the Imperial Seat! How did the Imperial Guard take it?
Jameson Not bad, considering. Netted ¢20,000 from it though. (He watches GREG take a sip of his drink) Good coffee?
Greg Yeah, not bad. Why?
Jameson You actually got coffee out of that thing? How'd you do it? Come on, how?
Greg What, still playing up, is it? Let's have a look at it.
He gives his coffee to JAMESON, who puts down the listings to take it. GREG fiddles about with the slot for a few seconds, then stands back. He picks his spot carefully, then gives the console a kick. He takes his coffee back, and JAMESON somewhat sceptically gets a cup. It is coffee.
Jameson So what was wrong with it?
Greg Trade secret. You ought to get the ship serviced anyway, it's nearly a year since I've had a chance to really go over this ship.
Jameson Good. What's this about a message? (He puts his old drink down next to the listings, while GREG fishes a grubby note out of his pocket. JAMESON reads it aloud) "Commander Jameson. I request this service of you like this because I would rather not publicly advertise my predicament - I have waited in fear for my life for you to return, for only someone of your reputation can help me in complete safety. I request passage on your ship to the Barnard's Star system, particularly Anderton Depot Starport. I will pay you ¢3,500. Patricia Vincent."
Greg Damsel in distress eh? What've you been up to get offers like that?
Jameson Just my job, Greg, just my job. Three-and-a-half thousand, eh? Well, it'll certainly cover the cost of installing the cabin and ripping it out at the other end. Can you contact her?
Greg I'm the only one who can.
Jameson Good. Tell her I accept, half cash up-front, and to get down to this bay ASAP. I'll go and arrange the equipment transfer.
Greg (Taking the letter) Right boss.
Jameson Don't you start! It's bad enough having him calling me "boss" all the time, without you calling me it.
Greg What, Chekov? I thought you'd told him about being called "boss"?
Jameson No, not Sean Chekov. Didn't you know? He died in the line of duty near Wolf 359. I gave him a full-honours burial. Then I had to hire some idiot called Paul Caitlin, who managed to invalidate the warranty on his starship before losing it to pirates, so he can't get another.
Greg Oh yeah, I heard about all the pirate activity up round there. The Navy's chasing a cartel or something, aren't they? Poor Chekov. (Pause) How'd he invalidate the warranty?
Jameson God knows!
Greg Couldn't he afford a new ship?
Jameson It was a new ship he'd lost. Just bought it, then, pouf! Up in smoke. Part exchange, the best he could afford would be a Gecko, but without the warranty - nothing.
Greg Geckos are tiny! What'd he blown it all on?
Jameson Expensive equipment that didn't work, apparently. In a Cobra.
Greg Shame, Cobras are nice.
Jameson Yeah. Anyway, musn't keep the lady waiting! She'll be wondering where you've got to.
Greg Yeah, right. (He starts to exit towards the airlock) If all things go well, she'll be here in about five minutes.
Jameson Good, just long enough to get loaded up.
They both exit, JAMESON to the cockpit, GREG to the airlock. After a few moments, as the airlock starts cycling, PAUL enters, STAGE LEFT. He sits on the chair, sips JAMESON's discarded drink, winces, and picks up the listings to read. Almost immediately, something catches his eye. He goes to the comm panel and switches it on.
Paul Lazlo. (Pause) Hello? Removal required: Patricia Vincent needs removing from the Sol system, will pay ¢15,000. What information can you give me?
Voice 1 (Off) What's your Elite Federation Combat Rating?
Voice 1 (Off) Not much further up from there, is there, Commander..?
Voice 1 (Off) I see. Very well. As yet, we do not know which ship she is leaving on, but we do know she is on Daedalus, above Mercury, and will be leaving within two hours for the Barnard's Star system. Do you think you can handle it?
Voice 1 (Off) Very well. The contract must be carried out as soon as possible - she must not be allowed to reach Barnard's Star safely. We will await your return.
Paul (After a short pause) And goodbye to you.
He gets up and goes to the vending machine, thinks better of it, and heads towards the cockpit. As he is about two feet from the steps, JAMESON calls out
Jameson (Off) Caitlin!
Paul Yes boss?
Jameson (Off) Don't do that!
He enters and glares at PAUL
Paul Do what?
Jameson Sneak up on me and call me "boss". Especially don't call me "boss"
Paul Why not?
Jameson 'Cos I don't like it, that's why. Now, how's the starboard thruster?
Paul It's fixed.
Jameson What was wrong with it?
Paul I think one of the main driver coils had pulsed, causing the timer chip to short. I put a new one in, and re-calibrated the backup.
Jameson Which main coil?
Paul Starboard top.
Jameson Not surprised. Right, I've got us a charter - we're taking a passenger to Barnard's Star.
Paul Oh good, I was just going to ask if we could go there.
Jameson Well, never mind that now, we've got to load the cargo after fitting a passenger cabin. That means you've got to be outside riveting hull plates back after the techies have left, while I wire up the support systems.
Paul (Heading for the airlock) Well as long as you don't wire it into that coffee machine, or they'll be breathing methane.
As he exits, the intercom chirps. JAMESON answers.
Greg (Off) The cabin's in. You may want to send the lad out with a welder to re-seal the hull.
Jameson He's on his way now. (We hear the airlock cycling) Any sign of our guest?
Greg (Off) No, she'll try to arrive when the bay's empty - most likely when the hull's still being welded.
Jameson Okay, I'd better get on with fixing the support systems.
He exits LEFT, and comes back a few seconds later with a toolkit. He opens a panel in the side of the console protrusion and starts fiddling around. After about ten seconds he drags out a maze of wires. He gets a chair and sits on it while fiddling with the wire. He does not hear the airlock cycle, or PATRICIA come in. She is a young woman, about the same age as JAMESON, and dressed in a light jumpsuit, carrying a holdall over her shoulder. She waits a few moments, then coughs politely.
Jameson (Without looking up) If that's you, Caitlin, no you can't have a raise.
Patricia That must mean you're the famous Commander Jameson. I'd never have believed it.
JAMESON looks up, and is nonplussed.
Jameson Are you Patricia Vincent? (She nods) Somehow I thought you'd be better looking.
Patricia I beg your pardon?
Jameson Normally people who are in trouble deep enough they have to send messages by hand offering to pay seven times the going rate for fast ship passengers, it's usually because either they've done something terrible, or because someone is about to do something terrible to them. In womens' cases, they've usually committed adultery, or have seduced a political figure.
Patricia Speak from experience, do you?
Jameson No. Only the experience of a thousand pilots café meals with the rumours flowing like water - except on desert planets, of course. There the rumour flows like sand. (He goes back to the wiring) Take a seat. I'd offer you some coffee, but I doubt if you'd get any with me poring over the works like this. Did I tell you it's half up-front?
Patricia I was told. Here. (She hands him a small rectangular object) Credit chip for ¢1,750, straight to your account.
He drops it on the floor
Patricia Where's my cabin?
Jameson Still being fitted. The hull plates need to be welded back after being moved to allow it to be fitted, and what I'm fiddling around with here is the means of letting you have air, food and water once you're inside.
Patricia (Sitting facing JAMESON) How long will it take?
Jameson (Shrugs) A couple of minutes.
PATRICIA looks round, noting the general state of dilapidation with a look of disapproval
Patricia Somehow I imagined it'd be cleaner.
Jameson Another stereotype. Trader ships are almost never sparkling. The exceptions are when they're brand new, and immediately after a complete systems overhaul.
Patricia (Indicating the cockpit entrance) What's through there?
Jameson (Looking up) The cockpit. (He goes back to the wiring)
She stands up and goes towards it. JAMESON puts down the wires and hurries after her. He grabs her arm.
Jameson Where do you think you're going?
Patricia To get us out of here, before someone finds me.
Jameson And you can handle a two-man craft on your own, can you?
Jameson You're a pilot with the Navy. I can recognise a Navy uniform with the rank and regiment insignia torn off! Do they still teach starship recognition at the Academy?
Patricia Of course they do! How did...
Jameson Then you'd know that this is an Asp Explorer - it needs two people to fly. While one does the piloting, the other has to almost constantly keep a check on things to make sure nothing goes wrong. I'm busy there, my crewman's busy outside, and you think you're going to fly this ship to Barnard's Star without us? Think again!
He lets go of her arm and walks back to his seat. PATRICIA stays where she is.
Patricia How did you know I'm a Navy pilot?
Jameson I can see the stitches where your rank patches were sown on. What do you fly? Falcons? Hawks? Kestrels? Eagles?
Jameson (Looking up suddenly) That's a Police ship!
Patricia I'm a Squadron leader in the Counter Insurgency unit. I've been leading the action against the Direlli pirate cartel. We've got most of them pinned down in the Wolf 359 system, and now all I need to do is get the assistance of the squadron of Kestrels that are based at the Anderton Depot to flush out the last of them.
Jameson And all that stuff about being in fear of your life?
Patricia (Sitting down) Perfectly true. Direlli got wind of the final phase of the operation. The Empire has a dossier on me as big as they do on you...
Jameson (Surprised) Me!?
Patricia Yes, you. Your swift rise through the ranks of the Elite Combat Federation, your monetary success, not to mention the various assassinations you've pulled off against Imperial citizens in the last five years - it all adds up.
Jameson Nice to know someone cares. (He finishes with the wiring and begins bundling it back in the protrusion, closing the panel when he finishes) There, done. As soon as Caitlin gets back, you should be able to go to your cabin.
Patricia Thanks. Anyway, Direlli gave them another page to add to my dossier, something that revealed my location and plans. One minute I'm firing at a Cobra, next, there's an Osprey on my tail, and you only find those in the Empire.
Jameson Still at Wolf 359 then, were you?
Patricia Yes, about a month ago. I managed to cripple the Cobra, but by then the Osprey was getting rather too close, so I jumped to here, set my ship to self-destruct, and ejected. I reached here 17 days ago.
Jameson And the Osprey?
Patricia (Shrugging) I don't know. It may have had it's attention fixed on the Cobra.
Jameson So why not just requisition a ship or something here?
Patricia You don't know then?
Jameson I'm Ross 154 born and bred, I know nothing about the Sol military.
Patricia In that case I'd better tell you. You'd think that as the Federation capital, Sol would have some military ships, wouldn't you? Uh-uh, not here. To stop the population worrying about restless military minds, the nearest squadron is Alpha Centauri, and that's only half a dozen Hawks to patrol a million cubic AUs of space.
Jameson Stretched a bit too thinly for your needs, eh? Why not finish them off with your Vipers?
Patricia The radar signature's too big. If we use Kestrels, there's a chance we'll be mistaken for debris.
Jameson So why not advertise for passage on a ship in the normal way?
Patricia You think Direlli's thugs won't be able to find me on an orbital city when I advertise my presence, when they can find me in 900 cubic AUs of system space without trying?
Jameson (Shrugging) Just asking. (We hear the airlock cycling) That'll be Caitlin back now. You can go to your cabin, we'll launch immediately.
Patricia (Standing up) Thanks. I'll drop my bag off then come up front to see whether you're worth your rating.
She exits LEFT
Jameson Anything you say, Squaddie. (He takes the credit chip, gets up and begins walking towards the cockpit, muttering) Red Leader to Base, I'm in need of assistance! Red Leader to Red 2, get your ship cleaned this minute!
PAUL enters LEFT as JAMESON exits RIGHT
Paul Boss? Can I have a word?
Jameson (Off) In a sec, Caitlin, we're about to launch.
PAUL exits RIGHT. The door to the cockpit closes after him. After a few seconds, the engines start to whine into operating mode, and PATRICIA enters LEFT. She goes to the cockpit, but the door won't open. As the engines cease whining and the docking airlock starts cycling she goes to the machine and gets a coffee. With a roar, the ship launches, the acceleration almost causing her to spill her drink. Seconds later, PAUL enters from the cockpit - the door remains open. He walks over to PATRICIA and sits near her.
Paul Hi, you must be the charter.
Patricia That's the first time anyone's ever called me a document. Shall I take it as a complement?
Paul The passenger who chartered us.
Patricia Yes, that's me. You must be Caitlin.
Paul (Extending his hand) Got it in one - Paul Caitlin.
She does not shake it.
Patricia You're supposed to add "at you service".
Patricia Because that's what you're supposed to say.
Paul Alright then. (He extends his hand again) Paul Caitlin at your service.
She still does not shake it.
Patricia Charmed I'm sure. I got the impression you were a bit of an idiot.
Paul From the boss? Oh, he's always doing that, he doesn't mean anything by it.
Patricia Not from him - from you.
PAUL gets up, brushes past her, and begins stalking back to the cockpit
Paul Huh! Nice, I must say.
JAMESON enters from the cockpit
Jameson We're on auto. We'll jump as soon as we're not mass-locked by the station any more. Now, if you'd excuse us a moment, Squadron Leader, but me and Caitlin have to have a little chat, and you can't hear a thing unless you shout in the cockpit.
Patricia (Getting up) In that case, I'll have a shower. There is one aboard, I take it?
Jameson Next to the engine room. Just follow the corridor.
She exits. JAMESON and PAUL sit
Paul Right boss, I was wondering whether we could...
Jameson Caitlin, if you call me "boss" once more, I'm going to rip your head off, and use it as the ball in the next Merchant Fleet Inter-Academey Old Boys Rugby Match
Paul Okay, sorry! Now, I was wondering whether we could, sort of, hang around, at the other end of the jump.
Paul Well, where are the listings? (JAMESON points to them. PAUL picks them up and shows them to JAMESON) Look what it says there.
Jameson (Reading) "Removal required: Patricia Vincent needs removing from the Sol system, will pay ¢15,000. Contact Lazlo." So?
Paul I, er... I took it for you. (Hurriedly) You said as how after that business in the Empire...
JAMESON springs up and grabs PAUL by the collar. He pushes him up to the wall and the following conversation is nose-to-nose
Jameson You - did - what?
Paul I took the contract.
Paul Because after you did Senator McCarthy, you told me, you were looking forward to taking out another gimp for ludicrous amounts of cash!
Jameson I have three rules aboard this ship! One - Don't disobey orders, just follow them to the best of your ability. Two - Don't call me "boss". And three - Never, under any circumstances, negotiate a deal for me, even when I am unable to get to a comm link and we need the money to pay for last night's berthing charge within ten minutes!
Jameson No buts! I have a specific rule for contracts. Anyone, in any system, can offer them to me, but the target must be in a system under Imperial jurisdiction, and must be on a ship that can't out-jump this one. If that is broken, I face prosecution by more than one police force, and more than one criminal record. An addendum is that if the offering system is also in the Empire, then the fee must cover the fines that I'll have to pay in order to collect! Now, have you just broken Rules number two and three, as well as both parts of the contracts rule? Yes you have! And do you know who the contract is for?
Paul Patricia Vincent.
Jameson Correct! You were shot down a month ago at Wolf 359 by a Viper, yes?
Paul Yes! And a ship type I'd never seen before!
Jameson Did the other ship have a cylindrical body, a tail fin and anhedral wings?
Paul Yes, yes! Why?
Jameson That was an Osprey sent to kill the Squadron Leader piloting the Viper! (Realisation begins to dawn on PAUL. He sags at the knees) The Osprey pilot was employed by the Imperial Guard, who in turn, were being hired by the pirate king Direlli, against whose organisation the Viper pilot was leading an attack! The Viper pilot made it safe to the Sol system, which we are just leaving. The Viper pilot hid out on Daedalus to avoid detection, and needs to get to Barnard's Star to utilise the squadron of fighters there to finish the job that her Vipers started. That Viper pilot's name was Patricia Vincent! And guess what the name of our charter is?
Jameson Vincent, yes! Now do you understand? (PAUL nods desperately) Good! Then you can appreciate that we may be going to battlestations at the other end, just in case Direlli has found some other people to put contracts out on her? Good!
He lets PAUL go, and walks halfway across the cabin. He stands, arms folded, looking into the cockpit. PAUL rubs his neck and stands up.
Paul Er... Commander?
Paul What... Er... What happens now?
Jameson I'm going to turn us around, and put you back on Daedalus. I'll hire another crewman at Barnard's Star, Patricia can fill your place until we get there.
He starts heading for the cockpit. Just as he reaches the door, the lights go out, and a bright blue light floods in from the cockpit. It only lasts a few seconds. JAMESON turns back to PAUL
Jameson Too late, we've jumped. Consider yourself lucky I don't put you in a cargo pod and let you take your chances with anyone who comes after us.
He exits into the cockpit. PAUL sits down numbly, breathing heavily. PATRICIA enters LEFT and notices PAUL on his own in a state of shock.
Patricia Before you tell me what's wrong, I'd better tell you that the shower doesn't work, at all. Now, what's wrong?
Paul I'm dead.
Patricia You look perfectly healthy to me.
Paul (Looking at her) You nearly killed me once, but this time, you'll do it for sure!
Paul Unless I kill you first.
Patricia Eh? What are you on about?
PAUL stands up slowly, draws his laser pistol, and slowly levels it at PATRICIA's head. He is having trouble with having to kill someone face-to-face. She begins to back away.
Patricia Caitlin? What are you doing? Caitlin! Commander! Commander!
JAMESON enters from the cockpit, sees what is going on instantly, and takes a flying leap at PAUL. They both go down. They roll about struggling for control of the gun for a few moments, until PATRICIA grabs a rivet gun from the toolbox and points it at them.
They stop struggling and stare at Patricia
Jameson That's a rivet gun!
Patricia It can still put holes in your skulls! Either of you! Now - throw the gun away. (JAMESON wrests the gun from PAUL and chucks it out the STAGE LEFT exit) Right. Stand up, slowly, and move apart. (They do so) Sit down, chairs either side of the cockpit door. (They do so. PATRICIA takes the third chair and places it next to the vending machine. She sits on it so that she can rest the rivet gun on the back as it points at the men) Right. Now, tell me what's going on. Start at the beginning, and one at a time.
Jameson It started little more than a month ago, when you found a reason to start shooting at this moron. In his Cobra at Wolf 359.
PAUL glowers at JAMESON, then takes up the story
Paul I'd just bought a new Cobra, and fitted it out with everything I could fit in. To get a bit of cash I decided to bounty-hunt the pirates that had been troubling the system recently. I managed to get hold of a military laser and fit it to my ship. That invalidated the warranty, but I didn't know that. So, I'm cruising around the outer reaches of the system, hoping to be attacked. It worked, I got a couple of pirates, low bounties. Then suddenly I'm being shot at from God-knows-where. I manage to get a look at it, and it's a Viper - but the computer can't provide an ID, so I assume it's the police come to arrest me for using a military laser. I try to surrender, but my radio gets hit before I can transmit. Then my drive gets damaged - which is strange because the Viper's in front of me, and you can only hit the drive from behind. I turn and I see this strange ship - an Osprey apparently. I'm caught in the crossfire of these two ships, so I eject. Next minute, the Viper hyper-jumps, and the Osprey gets taken out by my ship blowing up.
Patricia The drive went critical?
Paul Yes. I managed to get to Powell High in a couple of days, but it was there I found out I couldn't get a new ship. I didn't have enough cash to buy another ship, except the meanest of shuttles, so I advertised for a job.
Jameson Ten days ago, I gave him a job, because my last crewman had been killed in action evading pirate activity at Wolf 359. I buried him with full honours, then hired this complete prat to replace the best officer I ever knew. Then we went to Daedalus, and I got your letter from Greg, an old friend of mine.
Patricia I know. That's why I gave it to him. Go on.
Paul I read the bulletin board printout I'd made earlier. There was a contract on you for ¢15,000. I applied in his name and got it. I didn't know you were our charter! I didn't even know we had a charter at that point!
Jameson You arrived while pea-brain here was fitting your cabin in place. We launched, and only found out about you a couple of minutes before we jumped. I was going to turn round and put him ashore at Daedalus, and let you crew until we reached Barnard's Star. But I had to explain things first, and we jumped before I could turn us round, and now we only have enough fuel to get to your destination.
Paul I was still thinking about it when you came in, and then it hit me. If I creamed you and showed the body to Lazlo's agents...
Patricia Lazlo? He's my Lieutenant! The double-crossing, evil little..! I'll kill him myself if I can't get him to a Court Martial! Is Lazlo the one who placed the contract? (PAUL nods) Bastard!
Paul If I showed your body to Lazlo's agents, we could still collect, and get the hit money and your money for the charter.
Jameson Only he didn't think about what might happen if you didn't arrive at the military base. You didn't have a shower - you sent a message squirt as soon as we emerged from the jump (PATRICIA looks surprised, but impressed). If you don't arrive in four days, the military are to destroy my ship, wherever it is, then complete your plan you started at Wolf 359. Also, he didn't think about what happens if Lazlo or another of Direlli's men sent out multiple contracts. We could be attacked by bounty hunters, all wanting their share of the ¢15,000. I hope you'll forgive me if the attack alarm sounds because we're targeted?
Patricia What's our flight status?
Jameson I've set the auto pilot to take us on a direct course to Boston Base. We should reach there in two-and-a-half days. I didn't have time to set the relativity bubble before you started yelling.
Patricia Do it now. (JAMESON exits to the cockpit. The other two wait in silence until he gets back. After a few seconds, the lights flicker briefly, and JAMESON returns shortly afterwards) How long will it take now?
Jameson Still two-and-a-half days, but it'll seem like a few minutes to us.
Patricia What happens if we're attacked?
Jameson The bubble will break, the attack alarm will sound, and we go to battlestations.
Patricia Battlestations? On this thing? This lumbering crate? What combat capabilities has it got?
Jameson Forward mounted beam laser, class five shields, radar mapper, battle-quality scanner. That do, Red Leader?
Patricia No - A determined attacker will easily slice through that! I'm amazed you've survived this long.
Jameson Remind her what my combat rating is.
Jameson The Elite Combat Federation have six ranks below that, and only three above. I got to be Competent by simply switching my engines off, pointing the nose at the attacker, and firing until the laser overheats. I've never been shot down, not even by Ospreys or Imperial Gunships.
Paul I'm an Average combateer, so I can take over in an emergency, and still be certain of getting us to base in one piece - or at most two.
Jameson What's your combat rating?
Patricia (With a sneer) Elite.
Jameson Bear in mind that you've been flying military-type ships since you started, you've probably flown more combat hours than both of us together, and you're used to having the best equipment the military has available at your fingertips all the time. It's not like that in the harsh world of the trader-combateer.
Paul It's seat-of-the-pants flying. Point and shoot, no more.
Jameson It's more luck than judgement at first, then more judgement than luck, but there's never any sign of auto-targeting, self-aiming turret guns, or any other of the technological marvels the military have. How well do you suppose your fancy rating will stand up in the face of that?
Patricia I don't know, we'll just have to see. Now, (She stands) until we reach the starport, there's nothing we can do about the contract except sit back and wait, so...
The lights flicker briefly, and she is interrupted by a klaxon. JAMESON and PAUL jump up. JAMESON exits to the cockpit, PAUL heads for the other door.
Jameson (Going Off) We're under attack!
Patricia (Moving to intercept PAUL) Where are you going?
He dodges past her and exits LEFT. PATRICIA stands caught between helping JAMESON in the cockpit, and going after PAUL. She is saved the choice as JAMESON re-enters.
Jameson It's all right - just an asteroid.
Patricia Are you sure?
Jameson I think I recognise a 5000 ton rock when I see one. Where's Caitlin?
Patricia He said engineering.
Jameson He'll be back any minute then, once he sees the alert light's off.
Patricia While he's gone, why did you set us on course for Boston Base? I need to get to Anderton Depot.
Jameson You'd prefer it if he knew? He's liable to call for re-inforcements at Boston if he thinks we're going there. I've really set the autopilot for Anderton Depot, but don't bet on landing there without any problems.
PATRICIA goes over to the vending machine, dropping the rivet gun in the toolbox as she passes. She looks at the machine carefully for a moment, then turns to JAMESON, who has sat down on his chair again.
Patricia Why only three choices - drink, snack, and meal?
Jameson That's all it can do. Drink's usually coffee, but don't bet on it. The snack's usually a badly-made pie, and the meal's usually burnt chicken and mash.
Patricia That's all? Oh yes, I remember, the myth of the trader-combateer. Why only "usually"?
Jameson The myth of the trader-combateer again. (PATRICIA taps a button and gets a badly-made pie) Why've you dropped the rivet gun?
Patricia (Examining the pie) It may have its own power supply, but not its own rivets. Any idea what the filling is?
Jameson Only by tasting it. It's generally pork, but you might get lucky and get apple.
She takes a bite. PAUL enters LEFT
Patricia And this is your diet? Pot luck coffee, bad-apple pies, and burnt chicken?
Paul (Moving past her to sit next to JAMESON) Hell, no. There's a fully-stocked galley just behind the laser mounting.
Patricia Thanks for telling me.
Jameson (Deadpan) You didn't ask.
Patricia Can I trust you not to kill each other or all of us while I get something to eat?
Jameson Go ahead. Why not get something good - it could be your last meal.
Patricia I'm not that morbid.
She exits LEFT. JAMESON stands.
Jameson You stay here, I've got to re-engage the relativity bubble.
He exits RIGHT. As soon as he is gone, PAUL looks to make sure he's busy in the cockpit, then scurries over to the console protrusion. He opens the panel JAMESON was working on as the lights flicker, takes the gun out of his jacket and puts it in, wedging it in the wires. He returns to his seat just before JAMESON re-enters.
Jameson Right, Einstein can't touch us now. (He takes his chair and places it near the middle of the back wall.) Why did you go to Patricia's room after Engineering?
Jameson You took too long coming back from Engineering. I'm guessing you went to Patricia's cabin. Why?
Paul I wanted to check her bags for weapons. She can't have stayed on Daedalus for so long in hiding without some kind of weapon, and all Navy personnel carry sidearms.
Jameson Scared she'll draw on you? Find anything?
Paul No, she must have lost it along with her rank badges. (Pause) I don't get it.
Jameson Get what?
Paul If Lazlo put out the contract on his superior on Daedalus, he must be in the Sol system. But Patricia acted as though he should be at Wolf 359 keeping the pirates in check.
Jameson Could be a different Lazlo. Or maybe he was sent to Barnard's Star to get the Kestrels, and was got at here.
PATRICIA enters LEFT
Patricia Or he could have deserted. I sent a corporal to Barnard's Star, just a few days after Lazlo stopped answering hails - I assumed he'd been killed. Now it's almost certain the corporal didn't get through. The gun's gone.
They both glare at PAUL, who contrives to look innocent.
Paul Don't look at me like that! I didn't pick it up, you couldnt've looked hard enough.
Jameson Stand up, against the wall, and spread 'em!
He goes over to PAUL and spins him into the position, then pats him down searching for the laser pistol. He doesn't find it, so spins him again and searches his jacket. Nothing.
Patricia Then I must have missed it. Pity, it was the only decent weapon on board.
Paul (Sitting) What about the rivet gun?
Jameson No rivets. (To PATRICIA) I thought Naval officers carried sidearms?
Patricia Counter-insurgency is under-funded. We need the capabilites of the Viper more than we need handguns. Instead, officers get knives, NCOs and other ranks, nothing.
Jameson So where's your knife?
Patricia In the chest of one of Direlli's men who tried to kill me on my way to your ship, back on Daedalus.
Jameson Why didn't you retrieve it?
Patricia He was high on Lyrae Weed - he was barely slowed down. I had to throw him down a waste disposal chute.
Jameson I happen to know that the waste disposal chutes on Daedalus don't work. All they do is lead to an empty docking bay. Once a month it gets boxed and lashed together, then's fired toward the Sun at high speed. Most of it takes a couple of months to get incinerated, but sometimes Mercury's gravitational pull captures it in orbit - then they get some Police ships to tow it back on course.
Patricia How do you know about that?
Jameson From Greg. He's the one who has to co-ordinate the Vipers when it becomes necessary. Did you hide in an air duct?
Patricia What? Yeah I did. Why?
Jameson As they're the only places to hide on Daedalus, I'm surprised you weren't found.
Patricia Just luck, I guess. I'm going to get a meal.
Jameson I'll look for the gun.
Paul (As they exit LEFT) I'll pray.
He waits until he's certain they've gone, then goes into the cockpit. JAMESON appears in the other doorway, and stands there. After a few moments, he leaves again. PAUL returns immediately after and returns to his seat. Pause, then JAMESON returns.
Jameson So how's God?
Jameson Doesn't surprise me. No sign of the gun.
Paul Oh. (Pause) So... What happens when we get to Boston?
Jameson We get paid, I fire you, I hire someone else, and sign on to escort a cruiser to mop up the pirates at Wolf 359.
Paul I thought they were using fighters to finish the job?
Jameson Yeah, but the Navy's not stupid enough to move in without serious backup. They're just as into intimidation as the Imperial Guard, and if...
He is interrupted by the lights flickering and the intercom chirping.
Voice 2 (Off) Boston Base control to BC-657. Automatic pilot permission to dock granted. Proceed to bay four.
JAMESON moves to answer it.
Jameson Say again, Boston Base?
Voice 2 (Off) Automatic pilot on vessel BC-657 requested permission to dock at Boston Base. Permission granted. Proceed to bay four on manual control.
Jameson Negative Boston control. Vessel BC-657 is merely en route to Anderton Depot Starport. Cancel clearance, please.
Voice 2 (Off) Docking charge of ¢3 must be paid.
Jameson Debit my account. (He taps in a code and turns to PAUL) Turn off the auto pilot and point us at Anderton.
PAUL stands, but does not move to the cockpit.
Voice 2 (Off) Account frozen. You must dock or face prosecution.
JAMESON glares at PAUL, who looks smug.
Jameson Affirmative. Prepare to complete docking procedure. (He clicks the intercom off) Get Patricia up here, tell her what's happened. Prepare to repel boarders.
JAMESON heads towards the cockpit, and PAUL heads for the other door.
Paul Are you going to dock this on your own?
Jameson Done it before. Now move!
They both exit. The cockpit door closes. Moments later, PATRICIA enters LEFT, followed by PAUL.
Patricia What's going on?
Paul We're docking at Boston Base. The boss' account's been frozen, we can't cancel the clearance.
Patricia Why do I get the feeling that you've got something to do with this?
Paul Because I have.
Patricia What have you done?
The docking airlock starts cycling.
Paul I locked the auto pilot to Boston Base, then overrode the remote transfer function on the computer. Lazlo's agents will be waiting, I'll just have to turn you over, and get my reward.
Patricia More like your just desserts.
PAUL shrugs. The engines start to whine down, and he retrieves the gun from its hiding place. The cockpit door opens, and JAMESON steps out. PAUL points the gun at him.
Paul Be careful what you do Commander. You might fire me, but if you try anything, I'll fire on you.
JAMESON stops in the cockpit door and raises his hands. The intercom chirps. PAUL gestures for PATRICIA to join him before answering it.
Dixon (Off) This is Brett Dixon, agent on behalf of Mr. Lazlo and Mr. Direlli. I believe you have a delivery for me.
Paul Oh, yes, I do indeed. I'm opening the airlock.
He presses a button, and the airlock cycles
Patricia I'm a delivery? Great! First I'm a piece of paper, now I'm a parcel!
The airlock finishes, and DIXON enters from the LEFT. He is in his forties, wearing a pinstripe suit, the bulge of a gun in a shoulder holster clearly visible. He stops in the doorway. He cannot see PAUL.
Dixon I'm Brett Dixon. Where's Squadron Leader Vincent?
Paul She's right in front of you.
DIXON steps forward so he can see PAUL round the bulge of the wall.
Dixon Commander Jameson, I presume?
Paul Not as such.
Jameson (Stepping forward) I'm Jameson. He's just the excuse for a person I used to employ as my first mate.
Paul I told you - quiet!
Dixon I take it things didn't go entirely to plan?
Paul You said it! Look, there she is. Pay me, take her, and go!
Dixon I can't pay anyone until I know who to pay. Commander Jameson took out the contract, and Commander Jameson is the one I'll pay, unless someone else completes the contract.
Paul Completes the contract?
Dixon She's still alive. (He takes a credit chip from an inner pocket) Commander Jameson! I believe the price was ¢15,000?
He prepares to toss the chip to JAMESON. PAUL jumps between them.
Paul Wait! I'd better explain.
Dixon (Pocketing the chip) Try me.
Jameson You'd better take a seat, Mr. Dixon. This could take some time.
Dixon I'll stand, thank you. (To PAUL) This had better be good.
Patricia It's very good, believe me.
Paul (Turning on her) Shut it! Got that?! Shut! Up!
Dixon I am not a very patient man, Mister..?
Paul Caitlin. Paul Caitlin.
Dixon I am not a very patient man, Mr. Caitlin. Either you spin me this tale satisfactorily within the next two minutes, or I shoot everyone aboard and keep the money. (He unbuttons the jacket of his suit, so he can reach his gun easily)
Paul I take it you know about the operation at Wolf 359? (DIXON nods) And about the Imperial contract on Patricia Vincent?
Dixon Get to the point.
Paul I invalidated the warranty on my ship, just before I got caught in the crossfire between the Imperial assassin and Patricia. I had to eject, and couldn't afford a new ship when I got to Powell High. So I advertised for a job, and got hired by him, just back from assassinating Senator McCarthy, and pretty pleased with himself he was too. When we got to Daedalus, I noticed the contract on Patricia, and took it in Jameson's name.
Dixon That explains something, anyway.
Paul Before I took the contract, he'd already arranged to give her passage to Barnard's Star. I only found out who she was a few seconds before we jumped.
Dixon And I take it you have been trying unsuccessfully to complete the contract ever since?
Dixon I see. (He turns away, and starts inspecting the ship. PAUL follows him. JAMESON edges back towards the cockpit door.) I take it this ship has its own escape capsule?
Dixon (Spinning back towards JAMESON) Good. I know how this can be resloved satisfactorily.
He draws his laser pistol.
Dixon By the deaths of everybody aboard after the launch of the escape capsule.
Dixon Commander Jameson, if anyone should be using that tone of voice it is me.
Jameson This is my ship. I like to know these things.
Dixon (Smiling) Of course.
DIXON begins pacing the length of the cabin. As soon as he turns his back on JAMESON, and PAUL is no longer looking at JAMESON, JAMESON ducks into the cockpit momentarily, and returns slipping something in his pocket.
Dixon A ship this size cannot posses armament large enough to threaten the space station, although a broadcast of threat intentions, or an illegal weapon discharge will prompt the station authorities to launch Police Vipers to intercept and destroy the offending craft if the crew does not surrender. An escape capsule will not be harassed in any way. Once this ship has been destroyed, the Police Vipers will return to the station, and the escape capsule will be allowed to dock. I intend to secure Squadron Leader Vincent in an area far from the cockpit. I will then secure the payment chip in the cockpit. Then I will launch the ship and open fire on Boston Base. Commander Jameson, Mr. Caitlin, and I, will then participate in a struggle to force the other two out of the cockpit, seal it off, and launch the escape capsule before the ship is destroyed by the Police. It will be an entirely fair and amicable solution.
Jameson Except that that is no longer an option.
DIXON stops pacing and everyone faces JAMESON
Dixon To use your own words, Commander - Explain?
JAMESON takes the thing out of his pocket.
Jameson This is the master override switch for everything on board. It can operate anything remotely, from the engine coils, to the laser, to the escape capsule. If I do anything dangerous with it while in dock, we'll be swamped by station security in seconds. If it gets destroyed, nothing will work anyway. (He puts it on the floor, and puts his boot over it) It's quite fragile, I could crush it just by standing on it.
Dixon Are you serious?
Jameson Am I laughing?
Patricia If you destroy it, how are you going to get out before we starve or suffocate?
Jameson There are emergency manual overrides for everything, but they only work with the access codes that only I know. But don't bet on them working, because the ship hasn't been serviced in over a year. It's just waiting for an excuse to break down.
Dixon And you would risk the chance of instant death for almost certain suffocation?
Jameson It's my ship, I'll do what I want with it.
DIXON draws his gun and levels it a JAMESON.
Dixon You realise I could eliminate your futile threat by pressing the trigger?
Jameson Can you move your finger faster than I can put my weight down?
Pause. PAUL turns and levels his gun at DIXON.
Paul Put the gun away, Mr. Dixon. I'd rather listen to what the boss has to say.
Dixon Thinking of giving up ¢15,000, Mr. Caitlin?
Paul Thinking of living to spend it, actually.
DIXON lowers his gun.
Jameson You as well, Caitlin.
Jameson Drop it!
PAUL tosses his gun into the centre of the floor.
Dixon If you're thinking of diving for that, Commander Jameson, consider that I could shoot you before you could fire it, and you would leave the master control undefended.
Jameson It's a start.
Dixon You seem to make a living by stringing "starts" together, Commander.
Jameson Everyone's got to eat. Would you like a pie?
Jameson Caitlin, just get Mr. Dixon here a pie from the machine, will you. Nothing substandard, now, make sure you get a good one.
Jameson Now, Caitlin. It's hungry work, paying assassins, I expect.
Dixon Not especially hungry, but thank you anyway.
Paul (Shrugs) Okay.
PAUL turns to the vending machine and orders a pie. As he does so, JAMESON whistles a few bars of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". The pie emerges, and PAUL hands it to DIXON, who takes a bite. He starts choking, drops his gun, and clutches his throat as he staggers around, fighting for breath.
Dixon (Croaks) Help!
JAMESON moves forward and takes PAUL's gun, PATRICIA takes DIXON's, and delivers a vicious punch. DIXON collapses.
Jameson Thank you. Caitlin, better go and find the medikit.
Dixon (Croaks) Wha..?
Paul What's up with him?
Jameson The dispenser's rigged to deliver a small dose of liquefied nerve gas if it hears a few bars of "Ride of the Valkyries" while it's being operated.
Paul I'll get the medikit.
He exits LEFT.
Patricia Any other tricks in that machine I should know about?
JAMESON picks up the master control and pockets it. DIXON has succumbed to unconsciousness.
Jameson "Star Spangled Banner" releases a sedative, and the Merchant Academy Anthem, a steroid dose.
Patricia I see. Well, thank you for saving my life.
Jameson Don't thank me yet, we've still got to convince Caitlin.
Patricia I could shoot him.
Jameson Tempting, but no. (PAUL enters with a medikit) Make sure he doesn't die, we might need him later.
PATRICIA takes the credit chip from DIXON's pocket.
Paul Who're you gonna give that to?
Patricia I think I'll keep it, thank you.
JAMESON snatches it from her, then sits at the intercom.
Jameson Thank you. Vessel BC-657 to Boston Base control. Deduct docking charge from the following account. (He reads the number from the credit chip as he taps it in) Also request police presence in docking bay 4 to collect up to two criminal elements.
Paul (Standing) Now wait a minute..!
Jameson I said "up to" two criminal elements. That means you still have a chance to redeem your miserable hide. Now get back to work.
Patricia And what happens to me? I've still got to get to Anderton.
Jameson One problem at a time. (He stands) Caitlin. We can only use ¢100 on this chip until the contract is completed. That means the death of Squadron Leader Vincent...
Jameson ...and until that happens, this chip is invalid. Do you understand?
Patricia You cheating, devious, utter...
Jameson Miss Dixon! This does not concern you!
Paul I understand. Will three hours be enough?
Jameson Better make it six.
He prepares a syringe with a carefully measured dose of something, then injects DIXON.
Patricia What did you use?
Paul A little concoction from the Empire. A delayed poison that only kills when it's all been absorbed into the bloodstream. He wont be able to talk because of the nerve gas, and by the time it takes effect, we'll be long gone.
Patricia And you think you can get away with this?
Jameson I have before. Part of the trader myth - know when to cut your losses, and how. That's why I make frequent trips to the Empire.
Patricia I'll never trust a freelance again.
Jameson We never ask you to. We just want to keep trading.
Patricia But what about the body's identity? He's obviously not me, I'm obviously not him.
Jameson Caitlin, I believe your resumé includes forgery?
Paul Yep. I've still got all the machinery, and all.
Jameson Thought so. How long will it take you to re-arrange some ID disks for Mr. Vincent, and Miss Dixon here?
Paul Ten minutes, easy.
Jameson Good Get on with it.
PAUL exits LEFT.
Patricia My Naval tuition has not allowed me to follow what you've been saying. What's your plan?
Jameson Your ID disk will be re-written so that corrupt Squadron Leader Mister Peter Vincent dies of nerve gas poisoning in hospital in six hours. His ID disk will be re-written so that Miss Brenda Dixon, attaché to the Counter-Insurgency Unit, will be received at Anderton Depot Starport in five hours by the Naval Base Commander. This credit chip is coded to release access to all funds when the ethernet reports the death of Squadron Leader Vincent. By the time the cases of mistaken identity have been sorted out, I'll have cashed the chip and gone to another system, and you'll have returned to Wolf 359 to finish off the Direlli pirate cartel. Clever, eh?
Patricia Very. Just two things - neither you nor Caitlin have got my ID disk.
Jameson Wrong. Caitlin lifted it just after he met you, on my orders.
PATRICIA checks her pockets.
Patricia But... It's... I never felt a thing!
Jameson Not many people do. What was the second thing?
Patricia Why six hours?
Jameson Anderton Depot is 16,000km away, it'll take three hours to get there, half an hour to dock, another half-hour to reload and refit, plus half an hour messing about at this end, is four-and-a-half hours, leaving 90 minutes for you to get to the Naval Base, and for me to hire another crew member, get to a bank, and arrange transfer of ¢7,500 to Caitlin's account, then cash the chip on the six hour mark, and we're away.
Patricia But until then..?
Jameson Naff all. D'you want a drink?
Jameson You didn't think I went flying without a bar on board, did you? I have only the finest beverages from the farthest corners of the Empire and the Federation.
PatriciaAny single malt?
Jameson Fifty varieties, at the last count.
Patricia When was that?
Jameson Last time I stopped off at Earth, a couple of years ago.
Patricia Has the collection grown?
Jameson Nothing else for it to do.
Patricia In that case, I'd love a drink.
Exuent STAGE LEFT. Curtain.
ON STAGE Three plain folding metal chairs.
VENDING MACHINE Styrofoam cup of coffee (x4).
Apple pie (x2).
STAGE RIGHT Bulletein Board printout.
STAGE LEFT Toolbox (With screwdrivers, pliers, rivet gun, etc.).
Medikit (With syringe, two vials of liquid, etc.)
PAUL Laser pistol at belt.
GREG Letter in pocket.
DIXON Laser pistol in shoulder holster.
Credit chip in inner pocket.
JAMESON Dark, oil-stained, shirt, trousers and donkey jacket. Steel toe-capped boots.
PAUL Dark, oil-stained T-shirt and jeans. Steel toe-capped boots.
GREG Oil-stained boilersuit.
PATRICIA Pale jumpsuit, with sewn-on insignia torn off
DIXON Grey pinstripe suit.
Jameson ...Patricia can fill your place until we get there. (BEGINS TO EXIT RIGHT)
Blackout. Bright blue light through the STAGE RIGHT door for 5 seconds. Blackout again, then normal lighting.
Patricia Do it now (JAMESON EXITS RIGHT. SHORT PAUSE)
Lights dim briefly, then back on full.
Patricia ...there's nothing we can do about the contract except sit back and wait...
Lights dim breifly, then back on full.
PAUL OPENS THE PANEL
Lights dim briefly, then back on full.
Jameson ...They're just as into intimidation as the Imperial Guard...
Lights dim briefly then back on full.
Jet engines winding down, and a large airlock cycling (two deep rushes of air).
Jameson ...See you in a tick, Greg. (HE PRESSES A BUTTON)
Small airlock cycling (three light hisses of air).
GREG EXITS. SHORT PAUSE
Small airlock cycling.
Jameson He's on his way now.
Small airlock cycling.
JAMESON FIDDLES WITH WIRING
Small airlock cycling.
Jameson Just asking.
Small airlock cycling.
COCKPIT DOOR CLOSES
Jet engines starting.
PATRICIA GOES TO THE VENDING MACHINE
Large airlock cycling, then jumbo jet taking off.
Red alert klaxon.
Patricia What have you done?
Large airlock cycling.
Patricia More like your just desserts.
Jet engines winding down.
Paul ...but if you try anything, I'll fire on you.
Paul ...I'm opening the airlock. (HE PRESSES A BUTTON)
Small airlock cycling.
© Brian Wakeling. Frontier is almost certainly © to and of David Braben