FYI: This is probably not going to be particularly funny - or even make much of any sense - to those of you who don't watch (or just don't like) Top Gear. Sorry about that. The good news is, you can certainly get by without it when Symphony No. 5 continues. Enjoy! --G.

I have a message from another time...

Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

Undocumented Features Future Imperfect
- Symphony of the Sword No. 5 -

Road Film (With Fighting)

Benjamin D. Hutchins

© 2009 Eyrie Productions, Unlimited

/* The Art of Noise feat. the BBC Ethereophonic Orchestra
"Jessica (Top Gear Theme 2408 Revised Edition)" */

Clarkson (VO): On tonight's Top Gear: James's monocle falls out!

JAMES MAY, at the controls of a car with a red interior, looks down in astonishment at the instrument panel. Outside the windows, the background is going by... rather quickly.

May: God in Heaven!

Clarkson (VO): Richard does some chiropractery... on himself...

RICHARD HAMMOND, at the controls of... something (it's not really clear what, as it's jouncing rhythmically up and down so violently that the camera's nearly come off its mounts), looks resigned.

Hammond (slightly garbled): The ride quality's... not brilliant. If I'm honest.

Clarkson (VO): And I use the Force.

JEREMY CLARKSON leans out of the passenger window of a car to speak with an armored EARTHFORCE TROOPER, while THE STIG sits at the wheel looking straight ahead and MAY and HAMMOND try without much success to look inconspicuous and calm in the back.

Clarkson: Hi. Um. These aren't the journalists you're looking for.

Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. CLARKSON stands in the middle of the studio floor.

Clarkson: Hello! Hello and welcome to Top Gear. Now, I know you're all eager to see the film where we all get stuck on another planet where we're wanted criminals. You've been hearing about it on the Internet for weeks and it all sounds jolly exciting. And it is! (Smiles.) Which is why we're going to make you wait until after the news to see the first half of it, so you don't all watch it and then bugger off to watch So You Think You Can Jarflbgzt on channel 2,437.


Clarkson: But in the meantime, here's James May with the Antiques Roadshow!

Ext. Day. Top Gear Test Track. It's a foggy morning and we're treated to some arty shots of various bits of a large black car, never quite with the camera far enough back that we can tell what it is: a tail fin with integrated taillight; a narrow-slit headlamp; a massive chrome bumper stanchion; a whitewall tire mostly contained in a fender skirt; a badge depicting the scarlet rays of a half-risen sun in a golden sky over a chrome horizon.

May (VO): Here in the twenty-fifth century, there are cars that have heart-wrenching beauty. There are cars that have eye-popping luxury. And there are cars that have jaw-dropping performance.

But in the twenty-first century, there was one car that was said to have all three.

The camera pans slowly across the rear of the car; at the righthand edge of the decklid a discreet chrome badge reads Mk II. CUT TO

MAY stands next to a very long, very wide, very low black car. It has an ornate hood ornament in the shape of a mythic beast, half lion, half eagle, and the center of its imposing silver grille looks like a jet intake.

May: Here it is: a 2042 Sunrise Griffon Mark II. (Holds up a finger.) I know what you're thinking right now, too. You're thinking, "Oh, here comes another glacial glide around the test track with Captain Slow," but hold on. There's much more to this car than meets the eye. (Turns and regards the car.) And you have to admit that what does meet the eye is quite something.

Climbs into the car.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin.

May: By modern standards, we might say there's something vaguely Neo-Soviet about the inside of this car, it's all... (Gestures.) Red and brown leather and black Bakelite. It seems entirely at odds with what we think of as the usual design language of a Salusian car today. But there's a very good reason for that: This car was designed specifically to appeal to one particular man, and he rather liked the whole Socialist Machine Deco thing. (Sits with hands on wheel, looks around with satisfied smile.) And so do I, actually. This is fantastic.

Pan around the cabin, which is extremely roomy and retro. The steering wheel is huge by modern standards, and emerges from a curved dash padded in brown leather that contrasts with the deep red of the seats. The instruments clustered above the base of the steering column are analog. A sleek center console contains a single video screen flanked by buttons and switches, all of them unmarked. The console ends in a simple but somehow indestructible-looking manual gearshift lever in between the two front seats.

May: It's time for the Griffon's first surprise. You've no doubt noticed the manual gearshift. But when I turn the key... (He does so, and the car fills with the unmistakable sound of a jet engine spinning up. MAY's face breaks into a delighted grin.) It's a turbine! A turbine-driven car with a manual gearbox. No one else ever did that. And again, it was because this car was built with a specific person in mind.

He puts the car in gear and pulls away.

May: So by now you're thinking, "Hold on, a man who the designers thought would be specifically drawn to a black car the size of a destroyer, with a red leather Socialist Realism interior and a manual gearbox on a turbine powerplant? That must be one seriously peculiar chap." And you'd be right. Because they made this car for one of the founding Wedge Defenders.

Montage. A vintage clip of the Eight-Ball Squadron in action at an airshow in the 2030s, with particular attention paid to a shot of GRYPHON climbing out of Eight-Ball One on the flightline.

May (VO): The year 2042 was the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Wedge Defense Force, and Sunrise - who are, as you may recall, coachbuilders by appointment to Her Majesty the Queen of Salusia - wanted to do a little something to commemorate the occasion. They'd already built a car to order for the WDF's number-two man - here he is - one Benjamin Hutchins, a Valkyrie fighter pilot better known by his callsign, "Gryphon". That car, built in 2017, was a one-off supercar affair, sort of a cross between a Pagani Zonda and an atomic bomb. We drove it on a previous version of this program and it was bloody terrifying. I'm not joking, Richard Hammond was afraid of it, and in his life he's owned ten Zondas and one atomic bomb. Though not all at the same time.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The black car cruising around the track in a sedate and poised sort of way.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. MAY is driving casually, one hand on the wheel, while he exposits.

May: It was the first car Sunrise built with the "Griffon" badge, though - spelled differently for reasons we don't need to get into right now - and so when they came to make this one, they retroactively decided that the terrifying Zonda-ish thing had been the Mark I, making this, officially, the Griffon Mark II.

It's a car that's hard to classify by modern standards. For a start, it's so big and long, and so obviously luxurious, that you'd be tempted to call it a limousine - but look closer. It's only got two doors. This is a car that was intended to be driven by its owner, not for him. It's the biggest coupé I've ever seen.

And once you're in here, at first glance it doesn't look like it can really be much of a luxury barge. It's comfortable, yes - these might be the best seats in the history of motoring - but the console looks almost barren compared to today's S-class Mercedes-Benz, for example. But don't be fooled. That center display and the controls around it can do almost anything. It's a video telephone; it's a radar-assisted park-and-cruise system; it's the onboard management system for everything from the fusion turbine to the electromagnetohydrodynamic suspension to the inertia-damping brakes; it even controls the weapons.

MAY gives the camera a slightly dark sidelong grin.

May: That's right. I said "weapons".

Ext. Day. Test Track. WEAPONS PODS deploy from the GRIFFON'S front wings, showing off the muzzles of a pair of repeating blasters and the warheads of compact missiles. They remain out for a few seconds, then retract smoothly back into place.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin.

May: Sadly, I can't demonstrate them for you because of some fiddly local regulation about the use of military-grade weapons on our test track, but I assure you, hand on heart, they are genuine and they do work. This car holds a Class One agent vehicle certification from the International Police Organization. And it isn't just weapons. It also has infrared and ultraviolet headlamp modes with adjustable filtration in the windscreen, full armor plating - this glass (raps on side window) isn't glass, it's the same material they make starfighter canopies out of - and something called "ultrasonic terrain recognition", which I'm not quite sure I understand but it sounds jolly good. And it can do this.

MAY reaches down and turns a knob near the video display.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The GRIFFON suddenly changes from black to a bright Ferrari-ish red.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. MAY grins and turns the knob again.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The car changes from red to a medium blue.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. MAY, grinning more widely, turns the knob again.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The car turns white.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin.

May: By default, there are six colors available - black, blue, red, yellow, white, and British racing green, which I have to say would be a bit ghastly with this interior. But never mind. If you're willing to go into the depths of the computer's menus, you can set it to any hexadecimal triplet you like. You could be the first person in history to have your car in #B784A7. But I think it looks best in black, so let's have that back. (Twiddles the knob.)

And have another look round this cabin. It's beautiful, and beautifully laid out. These instrument pods - (Pan around to show the twin shrouded instrument pods flanking the horizontal speedo.) - tell me everything I need to know at a glance, and the icons and graphics are intuitive and attractive. And look at this wheel. When was the last time you saw a steering wheel with a horn ring? Stylish and functional. I love the little touches, too. I love the way the switches and dials around the computer console are unlabeled - the designers' attitude being, if you can't be bothered to remember what the controls in your own car do, that's your problem. And have I mentioned that this may be the best seat my arse has ever graced?

Right. So it's luxurious, it's comfortable, and - weirdly - it's heavily armed. Those three things don't often go together. More often an armed spymobile is some rock-hard, biceps-bulging supercar, like James Bond's Aston Martin Vanguard. But at least at this speed, the Griffon doesn't feel particularly sporty - the ride isn't hard and there's no bite in the steering - so based on that you might be tempted to say, well, all right, then, it's a luxury coupé, like those weird KMW things with the roof that looks like it was nicked from another kind of car. But if that's the case, why has it got this manual gearbox? And why does this frankly handsome horizontal speedometer go to two hundred and ninety-five? Clearly, further investigation is in order.

/* Toshihiko Sahashi
"Stand a Chance"
The Big-O OST */

Ext. Day. Test Track. The GRIFFON suddenly surges forward, accelerating out of shot with no discernible increase in noise.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. MAY looks down at the speedometer in astonishment.

May: God in Heaven!

Closeup. Griffon Mk II speedometer. This shows the car accelerating from 40 mph to 120 in a surprisingly small number of seconds.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. MAY looks from the speedo to the camera and then returns his eyes to the road; he works the wheel and looks faintly surprised when the car lunges around a corner instead of crashing.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The GRIFFON performs a series of increasingly-difficult-looking maneuvers with very little fuss or complaint, always remaining flat, smooth, and composed.

May (VO): In fact, a quick look at the original specifications sheet, which the researchers turned up after we filmed this piece, reveals that the Salusians built the Griffon Mark II almost entirely out of the kind of numbers that you think must be, but aren't, misprinted. Its fusion turbine powerplant develops twenty-five hundred horsepower. It can get from zero to sixty in 2.3 seconds, and this is a car that, with its armored skin and weapons-grade chassis components, weighs nearly ten tons. Flat-out it'll be touching 280 miles per hour. The tires have to be belted with terminium - the same material used in the casings of photon torpedoes - to keep them from bursting, and the compound has obscurium 290 in it, which gives the tread faces a very slight gravity warp. That's why they don't just spin when you put that astonishing power onto the road through them.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. MAY pilots the car, both hands on the wheel now (except when he's shifting gears). He looks absorbed and businesslike, but not overwhelmed.

May: It may seem to you, watching this, that I'm not really going very fast - there's not a lot of that screaming-tire, cloud-of-smoke malarkey we usually get in these power test segments - but I promise you I am. If I were Jeremy Clarkson, I'd have one hand on the top of the wheel, the other on the bottom, and I'd be yelling POWEEEEERRRRRRR right now. And crashing into a tree. Even though there aren't any within a hundred yards of the track.

The thing is, even out at the limit like this, this car just doesn't make you work all that hard. You have to know what you're doing, yes - that's why Jeremy would've crashed by now - but it's... I don't know how to describe it, it's so well-mannered. The car's so long and heavy that even with all this power it just will not slide, but it doesn't feel heavy. It feels solid and indestructible. This is a car that gives you the confidence to do truly lunatic things with it, and has the talent to help you get away with them. (Wipes a bit of sweat from his forehead.) And it's a good job it does both, because if it just did the first bit without the second it would be absolutely murderous.

And then, when you're done being mad...

Ext. Day. Test Track. The car hurtles out of the Hammerhead, the tightest bend on the track, and settles down to a calm, reasonable cruise.

/* Toshihiko Sahashi
"The Power to Believe Becomes Courage"
Ultraman Möbius & the Ultra Brothers OST */

Int. Day. Griffon Mk. II cabin. MAY sits back in the seat, one hand on the wheel again, and smiles.

May: ... it's perfectly happy to turn back into a limousine. I've met Transformers who weren't as versatile as this car.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The GRIFFON cruises off down the main straight.

May (VO): So there you have it. It's incredibly fast; it's incredibly well-mannered; it's practically indestructible; it's got more toys than Santa's sleigh; it's beautiful; it's comfortable; it's classy; and it runs on water. Built nearly 400 years ago by an alien people still relatively new to carmaking, as an anniversary present for one very odd Earthman: the perfect car.

Wipe to black on the flourish at the end of the music track.

Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. MAY and CLARKSON stand near the front of the GRIFFON, which is parked near the COOL WALL.

Clarkson: James...

May: Yes, Jeremy.

Clarkson: I couldn't help noticing that the custom color you suggested was opera mauve. You do know that's the Greater Rigel Sector Co-Prosperity Sphere international danger color?

May: Well, it should be, don't you think?

Clarkson: It's a fair point. (Skeptically.) The perfect car?

May: I think so. One thing I didn't mention in that film is its incredible longevity. This car was built in 2042, and I suppose you think it's been dragged out of a barn in pieces at some point and painstakingly restored at enormous expense.

Clarkson: That would be the usual thing.

May: It would, but not in this case. This one is serial number 007, the very first one built that wasn't an engineering test article, and it went straight to the man himself.

Clarkson: Who, Gryphon?

May: Yes. Now, I happen to know that this car, when the WDF fell apart in 2288, passed through the hands of several collectors who kept it very discreetly under wraps -

Clarkson: Well, they'd have had to, at that point.

May: Quite right - until public interest in the whole affair died down and nobody was interested in the old Wedge Defenders' cars, of all things. It finally ended up at one of those upscale used car dealers in Eleanor City on Meizuri, where a member of Gryphon's own crew found it in 2380 and bought it back for forty-eight hundred credits. Now, bear in mind it had sat for nearly a century with hardly any attention paid to it at all. Do you know how many bits of it had gone wrong in all that time?

Clarkson: Oh, not more than a hundred and seventy-fourteen, I should think. That's 92 years.

May (triumphantly): One.

Clarkson (astonished): ONE?!

May: The front near side tire was down six PSI. And that was all.

Clarkson: You're joking.

May: No. That's all that was wrong with it. Well, it was dirty, and the interior had gotten a bit tatty, but all the mechanical and electronic systems worked fine. Just one of its tires had gone slightly flat.

Clarkson: That's simply astonishing. (Shakes head.) No, I, it says in the script that I'm supposed to harass you at this point, but I just can't. It's a fantastic car. I've always thought so, actually. I remember when they first appeared. Always, always wanted one.

May: There's one on eBay right now, actually. I looked last night.

Clarkson (perking up): How much do they want for it?

May (matter-of-factly): Twenty-five point five million credits.

CLARKSON looks astonished.

May: They have appreciated in value somewhat since 2380.

CLARKSON recovers his aplomb with visible effort.

Clarkson: Uh, right! Well. Then I guess we shall have to be very careful as we find out how fast this one will go around our track. And that might be a tall order, since of course that means handing it over to our tame racing driver. Some say he has also been sold for 25 million credits on eBay, and that he sees everything in shades of international danger mauve. All we know is, he's called the Stig.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The GRIFFON accelerates away from the line as if being pulled by an invisible magnetic beam.

Clarkson (VO): It really is like a top-flight assassin, this car. No wheelspin, no Italian-waiter histrionics, it just listens politely while you tell it what you want and then it quickly and efficiently makes it happen. Coming down to the first corner now - look how flat that is! If there's one thing I could say against the Mark II it's that it doesn't make a very exciting noise, but that's because it doesn't really make any noise at all! Through Chicago, it'd almost be boring if I didn't know from experience how fast he just took that corner.

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. THE STIG driving.

/* Journey
"Higher Place"
Arrival (2001) */

Clarkson (VO): Oh dear. Bit of a musical departure for the Stig today, possible he's trying to kiss up to our guest.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The GRIFFON lunges up to and around the Hammerhead.

Clarkson (VO): To the Hammerhead, this corner should give a big heavy car like this some problems - but the Griffon's not having a bit of it! Tail stepping out just the tiniest bit on the exit, Stig having no problem at all keeping it under control. Down to the follow-through, in a moment we'll get a much better perspective on just how fast this car truly is -

The GRIFFON streaks past the fixed camera position at the TIRES and blows the camera clean off its mountings with its slipstream; it falls to the ground and stares up into the sky, rocking gently.

Clarkson (VO): WHOOF! He's taken out the camera! Careful, Stig, that's a 25-million-credit car!

Int. Day. Griffon Mk II cabin. THE STIG, still driving, entirely unflustered by his close encounter with the TIRES. The song has reached the bridge.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The GRIFFON approaches the penultimate corner.

Clarkson (VO): Two corners left, all he has to do is keep it together now, this is shaping up to be a very quick lap. This is undoubtedly the heaviest car we've ever put round here, it's almost half the weight of a scout Destroid, but does it seem bothered? I think not. Come on, Stiggy, only Gambon left - I've never seen a car take that corner so flat - and across the line!

Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. The Power Board has been moved into position next to the GRIFFON, while MAY and CLARKSON flank it.

Clarkson: I have the time here. You're not going to believe this. This three-hundred-and-sixty-eight-year-old, ten-ton, ultra-comfortable, heavily-armed line-of-battle car did it... in one minute. Dead.

Stunned silence in the studio.

May: ... You're joking.

Clarkson: I'm not. (Slaps the time tape onto the top of the board; turns to point at the GRIFFON.) That is the fastest car ever to lap the Top Gear circuit.

Belated but enthusiastic applause as the audience shakes off its shock.

Clarkson: I think it's safe to say that they really don't make them like that any more.

More applause. Pan around to the News area, where RICHARD HAMMOND is already in his accustomed seat.

Hammond: And now the news. The Internet has just exploded thanks to the time that car posted. Video signal experts have confirmed that we both faked and DIDN'T fake that lap; there are reports from Salusia that the Mark II will be re-entering production next year, in two years, and never; and despite the fact that 999 were made, 10,482 people have just joined the Griffon Mark II Owners' Club.

MAY and CLARKSON take their seats.

Clarkson: Good God, is there actually such a club?

Hammond: No. But if there were, nobody in it would actually have one.

Clarkson: Well, yes. Obviously.

May: It's funny you should mention the Mark II coming back into production, though, Hammond.

Hammond: Oh? You mean it is?

May: No. Not as far as I know. But they are planning to make a new one. It'll be the first car with the Griffon badge that Sunrise had made in nearly 150 years, it's to commemorate Gryphon's 2380 acquittal - you know, when he was accused of being the Butcher of Musashi...

Clarkson (patiently): Yes, James. It did appear in a few of the more obscure newspapers.

May: That was a bit of carefully disguised exposition for the viewers, y'halfwit.

Clarkson: Sorry. Carry on.

May: Anyway, it's to commemorate the 30th anniversary of that event, ask your mum and dad if you don't know what I'm on about, it's to be called the Mark IX, it'll be available in the fall, and, well, here it is.

The hosts regard the image of a car that has appeared on the monitor.

Clarkson: James, that's a 1970s Jaguar XJ-S.

May: I congratulate you on your perspicacity, sir. It is indeed - where is it - (consults notes) - "styled to hearken back to the classic Jaguar grand touring cars of the late 20th century."

Hammond: Hearken back, it is an XJ-S! Look, there's the buttresses, and the enclosed headlamps - I mean, it just is. Is that - that's even a leaping jaguar hood ornament.

May: Well, yes, the styling is - but underneath the skin, which I should note was officially licensed from Jaguar, it's completely different. For one thing, it'll be built by Salusian engineers, not resentful communists in the Midlands. For another, it has a smaller version of the same turbine that's in the Mark II we just saw, but the car's lighter, so it should even out. That also has an IPO Class One certification.

Clarkson: Does it have rocket launchers?

May: Of course.

Hammond: Can it change colors?

May: Yes.

Clarkson: Want one. Want one very much.

Hammond: How much is it going to cost?

May: Well, they say it'll only be available through the IPO's special agent procurement process at first, but... I dunno, how much does one of those Newport Phætons they drive in the Experts of Justice cost?

Hammond: 150,000 credits? Or thereabouts.

May: I expect it'll be somewhere in that range.

Clarkson: Want one so much.

Hammond: How many are they making?

May: It says here "no final production figure has been fixed."

Clarkson: As soon as we're finished here I'm ringing Gryphon. He owes me.

Hammond: For what?

Clarkson: Can't discuss it on camera.

Hammond: ... Right. Anyway. There's more news, but I'm getting the distinct impression that if we keep teasing the studio audience we're going to have an uprising on our hands, so maybe we should, er, save it for next week. (Looks around nervously.)

Clarkson (briskly): Right. As most of you will have heard by now, we got into a spot of trouble recently, on the planet Tau Ceti IV. Now, we went to Tau Ceti IV for three reasons. One, we'd heard that the new government was forward-looking and progressive. Two, they'd just had their presidental elections and the entire planet was said to be in a party mood. And three, there were reputed to be some excellent driving roads in the countryside some distance from the capital city.

Unfortunately, we arrived at almost exactly the wrong moment... and, well, watch and see.

Pan to one of the television monitors, where the logo is replaced by the beginning of a prerecorded film.

Int. Night. A spaceport. CLARKSON, MAY, and HAMMOND emerge from a boarding walkway onto the concourse, carrying suitcases and talking amongst themselves.

Clarkson (VO): In the old days, what you saw on television would've been... well, bollocks, if you want to be brutally honest about it. Or a carefully crafted illusion, as I'm sure the industry people would rather have put it at the time. What looked like three blokes crashing haplessly around some foreign land, having a big adventure, was really about twenty people - the three presenters, a director, a producer or two, at least one cameraman, at least one sound engineer, a couple of production assistants, and that's not even counting local fixers, guides, and the inevitable chap from the nearest BBC field office - all diligently engaged in the intricate business of Making Television.

One of the CAMERA DRONES, a tiny repulsorlifted device no bigger than, and bearing a passing resemblance to, a bionic eyeball, turns to show its reflection in the window that looks out onto the spaceport apron. In the distance, a spaceliner shuttle taxis for takeoff.

May (VO): Nowadays, though, thanks to the miracles of semi-autonomous camera drones and cybernetic expert-system editing suites, what you see on Sunday evening really is pretty much what happened: just the three of us out in the galaxy somewhere, cocking about.

That was the way the Tau Ceti piece was made. It was the only way the Tau Ceti piece could be made. The BBC wouldn't have agreed to mount the old style of expedition to a place like Tau Ceti, not now. No one was really expecting what happened, per se, but there was always the possibility that something might go wrong with Tau Ceti's fragile independence, and every member of BBC staff, ourselves included, was a wanted criminal in the nation that completely surrounded it - the Earth Alliance.

Ext. Night. Paved area near the spaceport's main terminal. The hosts are putting their bags into three sleek cars, types indistinguishable in the dark. As the voiceover continues, we see them driving through an unfamiliar city, consulting their onboard navigation systems, and then parking in the garage of the Hotel Metropole.

Hammond (VO): So it was just the three of us who arrived in Tau City that night. We flew commercial, aboard Salusian Spaceways Corporation's regularly scheduled service from Babylon 6. We had just enough time to collect our test cars from the cargo port, find our hotel, stop by the pub, and get a few hours' sleep before it was time to go in search of our first destination. We didn't watch the BBC Galactic Service's news broadcast before setting off that morning. There wasn't time.

Ext. Day. Hotel parking garage exit. Three cars, a LAMBORGHINI HECHICERO, an AZTECHMOTORS TLALOC, and a KMW 5575F, leave the garage and drive away to the east.

Clarkson (VO): If we had, maybe we'd have had some inkling of what was about to happen, though I'm not sure what we would have done differently if we had known. (beat, then cheerfully) Possibly nothing!

/* W.A. Mozart
Violin Concerto No. 3 in G, K.216
III. Rondo (Allegro) */

Ext. Day. Montage. The three cars are shown being driven vigorously around a complex of beautifully surfaced, winding roads along a high seacoast; it's a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. Glimpses inside the cars show that all three presenters are having a good time, though HAMMOND, in the TLALOC, keeps eyeing one of the gauges a bit nervously.

Clarkson (VO): We knew more or less the conclusion we were going to reach about the cars already. Just from the drive to the coast road I knew that I was going to moan about how the Lambo was technically brilliant but lacked sufficient lunacy. James was going to moan about how the KMW was brutal and lacked sophistication. And the Aztech was going to break down.

Still, it was a beautiful day and a beautiful road, we'd had a nice time in Tau City the night before, and we were looking forward to more of the same when we were done larking about, making pithy statements to camera, and having the Tlaloc towed.


Int. Day. Lamborghini cabin. CLARKSON steers around a tight bend, grinning.

Clarkson: It is fast, though. Boy is it -

He's interrupted as the car's radio suddenly emits a high-pitched attention tone.

Voice on radio: This is the Tau Ceti Defense Force Emergency Communications System. The Republic of Tau Ceti is under attack. All civilian personnel should - (Static.)

New voice on radio: Your attention please. This planetary system is now under Earthforce emergency administration. Please remain calm. Earth Alliance forces are here to restore lawful order to the Tau Ceti Territory. Please comply with all instructions given by Earthforce and Ministry of Peace personnel. You will not be harmed in any way.

Clarkson: Bloody hellfire!

Ext. Day. Coast road. CLARKSON heaves the LAMBO to the side of the road. MAY and HAMMOND pull up on either side of him, get out of their cars, and lean in the windows on both sides of the LAMBO.

May: Did you hear that?

Hammond: No, my radio's packed up. What the hell's going on?

CLARKSON holds up a hand for quiet, fiddling with the radio with the other.

Clarkson: Just - just shut up a second! Let me see if I can get the Galactic Service on this thing.

The radio's faceplate displays BBC GALACTIC SERVICE, but all that comes out is weird flangey static. CLARKSON growls in frustration and keeps trying to tune something in.

May: Jammed. They must have a PCV in orbit already.

Hammond: A what?

May: Perimeter Control Vessel. It's what the Earthforce navy call their interdictors.

Hammond: How do you know things like that?

Clarkson: Hold on, hold on, I've got something.

Another voice on radio: - is InterStellar News Network broadcasting live from Tau City, where the brave soldiers of the Earthforce Marine Corps are even now wresting Government Center from the renegade government of the dictator Charles Kallon.

May: Dictator?!

ISN reporter: Though most of the capital city has been taken without incident, citizens are advised to remain in their homes for now, as some local law enforcement or militia personnel may still be loyal to the deposed dictator. Additionally, it is believed that professional insurrectionists with ties to the so-called "International Police" are still on-world following their part in the recent sham elections with which Kallon tried to legitimize his power grab. Earthforce and MiniPax personnel are presently engaged in tracking down and neutralizing these outside agitators.

Hammond: I don't like the sound of that.

Ext. Day. Old Top Gear base on Earth. The presenters and a few studio crew members are shown making a run for it just ahead of the Earthforce unit sent to secure them during the 2406 Earth crackdown, being rescued by THE STIG, and escaping.

Clarkson (VO): Richard had good reason to be nervous. Our long-standing connections with people not on Earthdome's Christmas card list had nearly gotten us arrested during the Crackdown of 2406, and our activities since then had done nothing to endear us to the Dome. I had gone on Network 23 the day after our escape and given them all a damn good telling-off on behalf of the BBC-in-exile; Richard had made an episode of Should I Worry About exploring William Clark's dubious agenda now that he was a Federation Senator; and James had actually returned to Earth once, covertly, in order to steal back a few items that the Dome had captured from the Top Gear Technology Centre. And then we showed that on television as well.

Int. Day. Lamborghini cabin.

Hammond: On the other hand, maybe they aren't looking for us. I mean, we only just arrived yesterday. And all that was years ago. Surely Earthforce have better things to do than nurse a grudge against three blokes off a television program about cars.

ISN reporter: Loyal citizens of Tau Ceti are particularly advised to be on the lookout for the presenters of the subversive BBC television program Top Gear, who were last spotted near the Eastern Coast Road this morning. The three men are wanted in connection with numerous acts of disloyalty and sedition, and should be considered armed and dangerous. If you see them, do not approach. Report the sighting to your local MiniPax liaison officer.

Hammond: Or not.

Ext. Day. Coast Road. MAY looks up at the clear blue sky, noting the appearance of some fine contrails at high altitude.

May: Chaps? We'd better get out of here.

MAY and HAMMOND run to their cars; all three start up, back out, and after a few moments' confusion, go tearing off down the road. A short distance down, though, the TLALOC starts sputtering, emits a cloud of white smoke, and then glides quietly to the side of the road.

Clarkson (VO): The Tlaloc, having overheard that a crisis was afoot, responded in the time-honored Aztechmotors tradition: It panicked and broke down immediately.

Ind. Day. Tlaloc cabin. Hammond tries to start the car again, but nothing happens.

Hammond: Guys, I've lost power. It's just completely dead.

Clarkson (on comlink): Hurry up and get in with James, then.

Ext. Day. Coast Road. HAMMOND jumps aboard the KMW, which doesn't completely stop to pick him up.

Int. Day. KMW cabin.

Hammond (slightly breathless): Now what do we do? If we go back to Tau City they'll catch us for sure.

May: There's a Tau Ceti Defense Force base a few miles further down the coast. If Earthforce started with the capital, they might not have been overrun yet.

Clarkson (on comlink): I haven't got any better ideas.

Hammond: I just love that your car's satnav system knows where all the military bases are.

May: It's Klingon. These things are important to them.

Ext. Day. Coast Road. The two cars make good time, their drivers having thrown all regard for the traffic laws to the wind.

Hammond (VO): This was actually a fair test of our cars' capabilities in a genuine crisis situation. The Lamborghini was fast, agile, with superior roadholding qualities; the bigger, heavier KMW was actually a little bit faster, and its build quality gave it a very reassuring sense of indestructibility. And the Aztech was broken and useless.

The cars round a corner. In the distance a group of EARTHFORCE MARINES can be seen setting up a portable roadblock.

Int. Day. Lamborghini cabin. CLARKSON looks aghast.

Clarkson: Uh-oh. Guys?

Int. Day. KMW cabin. MAY sets his jaw.

May: Tuck in behind me. Whatever happens, don't stop.

He puts his foot down. HAMMOND blinks at him in astonishment.

Ext. Day. Coast Road. The LAMBO slides into a tight trailing formation behind the KMW, which is accelerating toward the roadblock. A MARINE holds up his hand for the KMW to halt, but is ignored.

Int. Day. KMW cabin. MAY, a furious scowl on his face, drives straight toward the roadblock -

Ext. Day. Coast Road. - ignoring the flurry of ill-aimed blasterfire this draws, and smashes it down with the KMW's bumper.

Int. Day. KMW cabin. HAMMOND hides behind the dash, occasionally glancing at MAY as if he thinks he's gone insane.

May: (shouting in Klingon)

Subtitle: Honorless dogs! Make way for Captain Slow!

Hammond (VO): James had taken his car's warrior spirit fully to heart.

Ext. Day. Coast Road. The Lambo darts through the gap made by the KMW's crash; the MARINES are so stunned by what's just happened that they can manage only cursory chase fire, though one of them can be seen to activate his comlink. WIPE TO

Ext. Day. TCDF base. The cars arrive at the gates of a smallish military facility that seems to consist of one large hangar and an administration building. The gates of the perimeter fence have been knocked down, but there's no one around.

Clarkson (VO): We found the Defense Force base deserted. Earthforce had come through and arrested the personnel, but either hadn't had the manpower to occupy the base or just didn't care.

The cars pull around to the back of the admin building, where they can't be seen from the road, and the presenters get out to confer on what to do next.

Clarkson: I think this is as far as we dare drive those cars. Every Earthforce trooper on the planet will be looking for them now.

Hammond: At least we got through that roadblock, thanks to Dahar Master May here.

May: (replies in Klingon)

Subtitle: Ten thousand throats can be cut in one night by a man on a motorbike.

Hammond: Uh, right. Whatever you say, mate.

CLARKSON looks like something's just occurred to him.

Clarkson: They've left the hyperwave dish intact, look.

He points. Sure enough, the HWC dish is still on the roof of the admin building, apparently unharmed. The presenters look at each other, then hurry toward the building.

Clarkson (VO): Since James has a starship master's certificate, he knew how to work a hyperwave set, so we gave him the task of calling for help.

Int. Day. TCDF base comm shack. MAY is at the controls of the HW set, trying to call for help.

May: Mayday, mayday, mayday. Is anyone receiving?

Voice on radio: (through jamming static) IPO Emergency Dispatch. What's your emergency?

May: Uhm... (Hesitates, wondering quite how to summarize the situation.)


May: ... Actually, Jezza's summed it up pretty well, Dispatch.

Voice on radio: Roger, understand. Sit tight, gentlemen, help is on the way. Recommend you power down your HW before Earthforce notices you're on the air.

Ext. Twilight. TCDF base. The camera slowly pulls back as the sun sets.

Clarkson (VO): They couldn't tell us much of anything more than that, for fear that Earthforce might overhear, but we got the impression that the IPO was planning a counterinvasion, and that rescuing us had been added to the list of boxes they'd have to tick when they got here. In the meantime, all we could do was try to make ourselves as comfortable as possible... and wait.

Hammond (from inside): Hey, the cooker still works. Who's hungry?

FADE TO Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. CLARKSON and HAMMOND stand near the INDESTRUCTIBLE TOYOTA.

Hammond (with overacted eagerness): The suspense is killing me, Jeremy. Did we escape from Earthforce or not?

Clarkson: That's an excellent question, Richard. You'll just have to wait for the rest of the film to find out.

Hammond: Why do we do this with the films?

Clarkson (shaking head): I don't know. But I do know it's time to put a star in our reasonably priced car!

Hammond: Ooh, nice transition.

Clarkson: Thank you. My guest tonight is... well, there's no other word for it, she's a superstar. She's a cult film heroine, a respected composer, she's directed the BBC Ethereophonic Orchestra, she masterminded the current version of this very program's theme tune, and she leads the best rock band in the galaxy today. And it's not just me that thinks so, that last point is the one thing upon which my twelve-year-old daughter and I currently agree. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Miss Kaitlyn Hutchins!

Audience applauds. KAITLYN, smartly dressed and carrying her zatoichi, crosses the hangar with SERGE trotting nonchalantly at her side. They meet CLARKSON by the TV; he reacts with slightly exaggerated surprise at the sight of the tiger, embraces KAITLYN with a kiss on each cheek, then waves her to a seat and sits down opposite her. SERGE appears to consider getting up on the couch next to her, but thinks better of it and settles in at her feet instead.

Clarkson: Hello! Welcome! D'you know, I'm quite sure this is the first time anyone's brought a tiger into our studio.

Kaitlyn: Well, now you know why I don't bother with bodyguards.

Clarkson: Having seen you fight on film, I'd always assumed it was because you didn't want to surround yourself with bumbling amateurs.

Kaitlyn: Thank you, Jeremy. That's sweet. But no, really, it's just because I've never felt they were necessary.

Clarkson: In the company you keep, I should say not.

Kaitlyn (laughing): Well, that's part of it, but - it's hard to explain. I live in New Avalon. People there are different about... it sounds egotistical, but they're different about what we might call fame. If you're somebody people recognize from the movies or wherever, they don't get... they're not pushy about it.

Clarkson: They let you get on with your life.

Kaitlyn: Exactly. I can walk down the street from where I live and do my grocery shopping at the Tesco on the corner, and nobody will make a big deal about it. It causes problems sometimes, actually, because when we're out on tour I'll forget I'm not in New Avalon and do that, and... well, let's just say it's not quite the same scene on, say, Corellia.

Clarkson (wincing): Ooh. Yes, I can see that, especially there. Or on New Japan, I dare say. Whenever we take Top Gear Live to New Japan they swarm Richard Hammond like piranha. James and I throw him out of the limousine and make our escape while they're tearing off all his clothes.

Kaitlyn (nodding): New Japan is the only place where I've ever had something of mine actually stolen by a fan.

Clarkson: What was it?

Kaitlyn: A hat. Some guy just ran up, snatched it right off my head, and ran off.

Clarkson: How'd he ever manage to get away with that? I mean, anybody who tried to do that to Zatoichi would end up missing a hand.

Kaitlyn (laughing): My hands were full. I suppose I could've caught him and made him give it back, but it didn't seem worth escalating the situation like that. Anyway, I know it was stolen by a fan because it showed up on the Web about two hours later. I was back at the hotel telling the rest of the gang what happened and one of our roadies looked up from her laptop and said, "Was it your Knights cap? Some kid in New Roppongi has it. He's already bragging about it on"

Clarkson: Was he selling it?

Kaitlyn: No, just bragging that he had it. Some teenage kid. Shiori dug up his address and Moose went down before the next show to ask for it back. Very politely.

Clarkson (looking impressed): That's your bass player. Who's from Hoffman, if I remember correctly.

Kaitlyn: You do.

Clarkson: I'm guessing you got your hat back.

Kaitlyn: I did, yes. But then I felt bad about scaring the poor kid half to death, so I signed it and gave it back after the show.

Clarkson: Now, you see, that's nice. You're simply a nicer person than I am, that's all. I wouldn't do that for some yob who stole my hat. I'd have told him "get a bloody job, buy your own hat."

Kaitlyn: He was actually a pretty good kid. Some of his friends dared him to do it. Peer pressure's a terrible thing.

Clarkson: I have to ask - I've been trying to think of a graceful way of asking this, but I've had to conclude that there really isn't one.

Kaitlyn (seeming amused, like she knows what's coming): Go ahead, ask.

Clarkson: This is actually the first television interview you've ever given, isn't it? Until very recently you didn't ever speak to the press.

Kaitlyn: That's true. Didn't deliver my own dialogue in movies, either. Well, "didn't", couldn't. Not if you wanted the movie to be over in two hours, anyway.

Clarkson: You had a terrible stammer, didn't you?

Kaitlyn: Mm-hmm. My student file at my first high school actually described it as "a stutter of epic proportions". A bit tactless, but I can't fault it for inaccuracy. With family and friends I could get by - just - but talking to people I didn't know, I was almost completely unintelligible.

Clarkson: What happened? If you don't mind my asking.

Kaitlyn: I don't mind, but the truth is I don't know exactly. It'd been getting slowly better for several years, and then I spent most of last summer on Ishiyama, working at Kanzaki Studios. Sumire Kanzaki was a great stage actress before she became a movie star - still is one, that makes it sound like she isn't any more - and we spent a lot of time talking about elocution and how our voices work. It actually started with her wanting me to teach her how to be a better singer - she's been in umpteen hundred musicals but she has some odd idea that her singing voice is weak - and one thing led to another and there we were in Czechoslovakia. (Shrugs.) It's not completely gone, I have to concentrate. If I was very t-tired right now - there, you see? - you'd be able to tell easily that I'm holding it back. It's quite a new thing to be able to just talk in public like this. None of us is used to it yet. Azalynn and Moose still do most of the talking at gigs just from force of habit. (Pauses, looking thoughtful.) And I think that's the longest speech I've ever made with strangers in the room.

Clarkson: Well, you'd have fooled me completely. That's wonderful.


Kaitlyn (blushing slightly): Thanks.

Clarkson: Speaking of Kanzaki Studios, I've heard a rumor that Sumire wants you to direct more than just the music for one of her films.

Kaitlyn: Ah. Hm. I'm not sure I can talk about that yet, actually -

A mobile telephone rings, which draws a laugh from the audience, since the ringtone is the theme from Professor Enigma. KAITLYN looks surprised.

Kaitlyn: Sorry, I thought I'd turned that off. How rude. (She answers it.) Hello? Oh, hello. Yes. Are you sure? Well... all right, then. Bye. (She puts the phone away.) Sumire says it's okay for me to tell you that I'm directing Zatoichi vs. the Crimson Lizard. We start shooting next month.

Wild applause. CLARKSON beams.

Kaitlyn: And we both want you to be in it.

Clarkson (startled): Me?

Kaitlyn: You.

Clarkson: As what?

Kaitlyn: That I can't give away. (Smiles enigmatically.) We'll talk after the show.

Clarkson: Uhm... right. Er. That's quite derailed my train of thought, I'm afraid.

Hammond (shouting from off-camera): Car history!

Clarkson (laughing): He's right, at this point I usually talk about the guest's history with cars, but in your case that wouldn't really get us much of anywhere, would it? You've only ever had the one.

Kaitlyn: That's true, but I grew up with a lot of them. My dad's got hundreds of the things.

Clarkson: I know, I've seen his collection. He and I made a video about it some years ago. Which you were in, I've just remembered!

Kaitlyn: I was? I know I've seen it, but I don't remember being in it.

Clarkson: Yes, I distinctly recall that you're in the background in one scene, washing that battered old XJ.

Kaitlyn: I love that car! In fact, my car -

Clarkson: Which, I think I should note for the viewers, you've given a name.

Kaitlyn: - Yes, all right, technically it was my friend Dorothy who named the car, but -

Clarkson (playfully): Tell the ladies and gentlemen what you named your car.

Kaitlyn (mock anger): We named the car Vlad, Jeremy.

Clarkson: Because it's an... ?

Kaitlyn: Impala.

The audience groans.

Kaitlyn: What? It's a good name. Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, Vlad -

Clarkson: The Impala.

Kaitlyn (ignoring him resolutely): - was a surprise for when I got my license, so I never saw it until after I'd passed my test. Dad actually taught me to drive in... well, in a few of his cars, but mostly that old green XJ6 you just mentioned. (Shakes head sadly.) Everybody disses the XJ.

Clarkson: It just seemed like an odd choice to be washing, especially since you weren't old enough to drive at the time. But of course you're not here just to reminisce with old men about old cars! You came to face your greatest challenge yet.

Kaitlyn: A 2407 Ford Popular is my greatest challenge yet?

Clarkson: Well, getting it to go round our track in something resembling a timely fashion, presumably.

Kaitlyn (shrugs, conceding the point): That's true, it is a pretty crap car.

Clarkson: To be quite honest, it's a very crap car. But, of course, before you could take it round on your timed lap, like all our guests you had to be introduced to our test track by the Stig... and something quite amazing happened. Something that's never happened before. Who'd like to see what happened when Kaitlyn met the Stig? (Audience roar.) Play the tape!

Ext. Day. Top Gear Test Track. The REASONABLY PRICED CAR stands near the start/finish line; THE STIG is standing next to it. KAITLYN and CLARKSON are walking across the grass next to the track, toward him, with a cameraman following along.

Clarkson: Here he is! Our tame racing driver. He'll show you round the track and give you a few tips before your timed lap. Don't worry that he doesn't speak - he's not trying to snub you, it's just that he can't communicate with human beings.

KAITLYN tilts her head thoughtfully, regarding THE STIG from a distance of perhaps twenty feet. Then she reaches to her wrist and presses a stud on her wristwatch, which causes a holographic keyboard to rez up on her left forearm. She slowly plays a sequence of five tones in a high-pitched synthetic oboe voice. THE STIG perks up as if someone's called his name. While the camera and CLARKSON look on in awe, KAITLYN moves slowly closer to THE STIG, repeating the sequence slowly, until, on the fourth repetition, THE STIG produces the final two tones himself, in a much lower register and so loudly that the windows in the start/finish line observation tower crack, CLARKSON ducks and the cameraman can be heard to curse. KAITLYN and THE STIG play the five tones back and forth to each other a couple of times, then begin improvising at a faster and faster pace, she in her wrist holoboard's synth-oboe voice and he in booming, tuba-like tones that seem to emanate from within his helmet. This goes on for a couple of minutes, then winds slowly down, after which, without a word exchanged, the two get into the RPC and drive away.

Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. The camera pulls back from the TV set. Astonished applause as CLARKSON gestures with an open hand to KAITLYN.

Clarkson: That is just uncanny. In 400 years, no one has ever managed to hold an actual two-way conversation with the Stig.

Kaitlyn: I guess no one ever tried the right language before.

Clarkson: Shall we see how you got on? Let's see the lap!

Ext. Day. Test Track. The REASONABLY PRICED CAR screeches away from the start/finish line.

Clarkson (VO): That's smoke! I've seen wheelspin before, but you actually got it to smoke. I'm impressed.

Kaitlyn (VO): It was probably from the clutch.

Clarkson (VO): (laughs)

Int. Day. Reasonably Priced Car cabin. KAITLYN is at the wheel, face drawn with concentration; the tip of her tongue is just visible in the corner of her mouth.

Clarkson (VO): Through Chicago - you are taking this seriously.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The RPC approaches the next curve.

Clarkson (VO): Coming up to the Hammerhead, will it catch you out? The Popular always understeers here...

Int. Day. RPC cabin. KAITLYN handles the wheel a bit roughly.

Kaitlyn: Annnnd...

Ext. Day. Test Track. The RPC rounds the Hammerhead with just a touch of drift, throwing up some more smoke, and steps out a little bit on the exit as well before being snapped back into line.

Int. Day. RPC cabin. KAITLYN smiles a little bit fiercely.

Kaitlyn: Yeeeessssss.

Ext. Day. Test Track. The RPC continues on, gathering speed.

Clarkson (VO): How did you do that?!

Kaitlyn (VO): I don't like to brag, but I was a member of the Nekomi Institute of Technology Motor Club rally team.

Clarkson (VO): Amazing. Into the follow-through - flat through here?

Kaitlyn (VO): I think so.

Clarkson (VO): It sounds like it...

Int. Day. RPC cabin. KAITLYN looks calm and settled at the wheel now, humming the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as she handles the wheel with relaxed hands.

Clarkson (VO): Are your eyes closed?!

Kaitlyn (VO, mock-sagely): Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them.

Clarkson (VO): Trust them when you're hurtling toward the tires!

Ext. Day. Test Track. The RPC hurtles past the TIRES, not as fast as the GRIFFON did earlier, but still damn fast for an '07 Popular.

Clarkson (VO): Phwoar! Very fast through the tires. On to Atomic Corner, where Atomic Robo completely destroyed the previous Reasonably Priced Car a couple of years ago...

The RPC negotiates the penultimate bend with another tiny dab of drift.

Clarkson (VO): Not you, though. It's funny, almost all of our guests who are going to crash, do it on that bend. Though they don't normally manage to roll the car seven times, which is why it's now called Atomic Corner. And on to Gambon, so named because Sir Michael Gambon nearly rolled our very first Reasonably Priced Car at the original version back in 2003...

Kaitlyn (VO): It's like a history class, except with more burned-clutch smell.

The RPC crosses the start/finish line. Some of the broken glass falls out of the observation tower as it passes.

Clarkson (VO): And across the line!

Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. Applause as CLARKSON jots KAITLYN's time on a strip of tape.

Clarkson: So. (Gestures to the time board.) Where do you think you've come?

Kaitlyn (scanning the board): I think I'd like to have beaten Dad.

Clarkson: Your father? He turned in a one-forty-two-four! Our second-fastest time ever. He's a fighter pilot. Almost as old as I am and in much better nick. You were brilliant, there's no denying that, but beating his time? That wasn't really going to happen, now, was it?

Kaitlyn (looking slightly disappointed): Oh.

Clarkson (grinning): But it did.

Kaitlyn (perking up): Oh?

Clarkson: You did it in one. Forty. One point nine! You're second only to Tony Stark! Ladies and gentlemen - (Stands to put the time on the board.) - give her a round of applause!

Applause. KAITLYN stands up and takes a bow.

Clarkson: Well, it's been an absolute delight having you here. I can't say how pleased we all are that you came to see us. (Looks around confidentially.) Between you and me, I think the Stig's in love. Kaitlyn Hutchins, everybody!

Applause. PAN AROUND to HAMMOND, who is standing over by the power lap board.

Hammond: Wow! Well. That'll be a hard act to follow, so we'll have to rely on our illusion of suspense to carry us through to the end of the film.

May: That's right. You may remember that the three of us were hiding in an abandoned military base on Tau Ceti IV while the Earthforce invaders searched the planet for us, having already had one narrow escape along the Coast Road. And now, it's time to find out if we escape capture! (Arches eyebrow.)

Camera pans to one of the TVs, which changes from the Top Gear logo to

Ext. Dawn. TCDF base.

Clarkson (VO): The next morning, we awoke to the news, broadcast by local radio, that an IPO fleet had arrived in orbit, their ground forces had seized the Tau City spaceport, and the fight was on for the rest of the capital. We readied ourselves to become part of the beleaguered planet's struggle for freedom.

Hammond (from inside): Right, who's for breakfast?

Int. Day. Deserted barracks. The presenters, now rumpled and a bit bleary-looking, sit around a table eating what appear to be canned rations.

Clarkson: I've been thinking, guys. I don't think we can just stay here and wait for the IPO to arrive.

Hammond: Why, do you think if we stay in this completely obvious hiding place, those Earthforce lads we drove past last night will eventually think to come and look here and we'll all be killed?

Clarkson: Something like that, yes.

May: You might have a point there. We're not going to get far on foot, though, and taking those same cars back out on the road would be worse than just staying put.

Clarkson: Do we know what kind of base this was?

Ext. Day. TCDF base. The presenters emerge from the barracks and make their way toward a large outbuilding.

Clarkson (VO): We didn't. Since we're all fairly familiar with airfields, though, we figured the giant metal building behind the barracks complex was probably a hangar, and if we could find an aircraft of any kind, Captain Slow could fly us to safety.

HAMMOND pushes the hangar door open a short distance and puts his head inside.

Clarkson: What do you see? Is it an aircraft hangar?

HAMMOND doesn't reply for a few seconds; then he pulls his head and shoulders back out of the doorway and turns to his colleagues with a gleeful grin.

Hammond: No. It's better.

CLARKSON and MAY look at each other in puzzlement. WIPE TO

Int. Day. CLARKSON is in some sort of cockpit, surrounded by softly glowing orange instruments, dials, and controls; there are joysticks on the arms of the large seat he's strapped into. He appears to be wearing a personal flotation vest and an open-face motorcycle helmet that's attached to the headrest of the seat by cables. Through the windows around him can be seen a view of the TCDF base and surrounding forest, apparently from quite high up.

Clarkson (grinning maniacally): Ha ha ha ha haaaa. This is brilliant. James, what have you got?

Int. Day. Another cockpit. MAY is similarly attired and in a similar setting, but the dial faces and whatnot surrounding him are mostly green, not orange.

Hammond (VO): To keep our spirits up, we decided to treat the occasion like one of our traveling car tests. We didn't realize at the time that it would've been more appropriate to pretend it was a cheap car challenge.

May (slightly sarcastically): Well, uh... this appears to be a Kong Interstellar BL-6b-KNT Black Knight.

Ext. Day. TCDF base outskirts. Yep, it sure does; it's a Black Knight with TCDF Reserve markings. Some of its smaller armor plates appear to be missing.

May (on radio): It's a heavy BattleMech with many advanced technology features, such as an Endo Steel chassis, high-efficiency heat sinks, and pulsed energy weapons.

Int. Day. Black Knight cockpit.

May: It has a zero-to-sixty time of... uh... never, and a top speed of forty miles per hour.

Clarkson (on radio): Does it have jump jets?

May: Of course it doesn't have jump jets, you idiot. It weighs seventy-five tons.

Int. day. Cockpit of CLARKSON'S 'Mech.

Clarkson: Mine has jump jets, and it weighs more than that.

May (on radio, horrified): Oh my God, it isn't.

Ext. Day. TCDF base outskirts. A MUCH LARGER 'MECH emerges from the hangar to stand next to the Black Knight.

May (on radio): Clarkson, you pillock, we're trying to escape, not conquer the planet.

Clarkson (on radio): That is the voice of jealousy. Feast your eyes on my magnificence. What I have here, as I'm sure you know, is a Stonewell Bellcom MAD-5A Marauder II - a hundred tons of pure fighting power, based on a proven Zentraedi design.

Hammond (on radio): Which explains how you can fit in the cockpit at all.

Int. Day. Black Knight cockpit. MAY stifles a guffaw at HAMMOND'S remark.

Clarkson (on radio): Be quiet. I've got everything anyone would ever need here. Two extended-range particle cannons; two medium lasers, the workhorse of the modern battlefield; and a Class 10 automatic cannon with cluster round fire selection. And a jumping range of nearly 100 yards!

May: And a reactor plant that's as fragile as it is slow. Do you know who SB's main subcontractor was on that design? General Motors. What you have there is an American BattleMech.

Clarkson (on radio, loftily): James, it really pains me that you continue to cling to these petty nationalistic rivalries centuries after they ceased to have any relevance in everyday life.

(MAY makes inarticulate choking noises of disbelief.)

Hammond (on radio): If you two are quite finished, I'm powered up and ready to go.

Int. Day. Marauder II cockpit.

Clarkson: Come on, then, let's see what you found. (Blinks in disbelief, then bursts out laughing.)

Hammond (on radio, indignantly): What! What are you laughing at?

Ext. Day. TCDF base. A QUITE SMALL 'MECH emerges from the hangar.

Int. Day. Third 'Mech's cockpit. This is a much simpler and more cramped cockpit; even Hammond looks uncomfortably crowded in it. The dial faces are white.

Hammond: This is the fastest Destroid in the galaxy. While you two are lurching along in the undergrowth, I'll be on my way to safety. I could cover the hundred miles to the spaceport in 75 minutes.

May (on radio): On perfectly flat terrain, maybe.

Int. Day. Marauder II cockpit.

Clarkson: Richard, would I be right in saying that that's a Locust II?

Ext. Day. TCDF base.

Hammond (on radio): Ah! Not quite! This is a Locust IIC. It's a special model produced by a small company called Olivetti Weaponry. They're sort of the AMG to Bergen Industries' Mercedes-Benz.

May (VO): Given the madness of the thing, I was thinking that "the Abarth to their Fiat" would be more accurate, but we were already having a big enough row that I didn't feel the need to say it out loud.

Hammond (on radio): This twenty-five-ton high-performance machine has the most advanced sensors of any light Destroid, a top speed in excess of 80 miles per hour, and nine laser weapons.

Clarkson (on radio): Nine tiny laser weapons.

Hammond (on radio): All right, eight of them are fairly small, but they're all extended-range, and may I remind you that you yourself called the medium laser the workhorse of the modern battlefield? Besides, we're not out here to get into a fight. We're trying to get away, and this is the ultimate getaway vehicle.

Int. Day. Black Knight cockpit.

May: You've both done this wrong.

Clarkson (on radio): What?

Hammond (on radio): Eh?

May: Richard, your Locust is too fast and unstable, it's got no arms, you're going to have a lot of trouble with the terrain between here and the spaceport. Jeremy, your 'Mech is too slow and clumsy, and it has so much firepower you're just going to be looking for a fight. As usual, I'm the only one who's done this properly. My Black Knight has the perfect balance of ground speed, stability, and defensive capabilities if we get into a jam.

Ext. Day. The countryside. The three 'Mechs make their way through a medium-density forest. CLARKSON'S Marauder II is having a hard time of it with the terrain and the obstacles, and is making a tremendous amount of noise, especially when CLARKSON gets fed up with some obstacle (large rock, tree, etc.) and blasts it out of his way. HAMMOND'S Locust IIC makes better time, but he has to keep doubling back and it's clear he's getting frustrated. The presenters can be heard bickering over the comms in the background.

Hammond (VO): James had a point, not that I was in any mood to acknowledge it at the time. To be honest, I thought he was exaggerating - not how much trouble we'd be in if we got into any at all, that part was obvious, but how likely it was that we'd find some in the first place. Unfortunately, Jeremy was on the same page.

Int. Day. Marauder II cockpit.

Clarkson: I think you're exaggerating the likelihood that there'll be a problem, James. If I'm honest. All we have to do is cover a hundred miles of undeveloped terrain and cross one measly suburb to get to the IPO line. How hard can it be?


Ext. Day. Built-up area. The three 'Mechs have emerged from the forest (which is still visible in the background) and into an area of low buildings, mainly industrial and/or commercial. The area is deserted; at one point the camera pans slowly past an Earthforce poster announcing a mandatory evacuation. CLARKSON'S Marauder II walks up to a two-story-tall concrete retaining wall, at the top of which is a highway with a sign indicating that the distance to Tau City Spaceport is nine miles.

Clarkson (on radio): Mm. Ah. Guys? I have a confession to make.

Hammond (on radio): What's that, Jeremy?

Clarkson (on radio): My jump jets don't work.

Hammond (on radio): Oh, marvelous.

Clarkson (on radio): I think that base was a repair station.

Int. Day. Black Knight cockpit.

May: That... that makes sense, actually, because it explains quite neatly why I have no long-range sensors and three of my heat sinks are offline.

Int. Day. Locust IIC cockpit. A warning buzzer sounds; HAMMOND looks toward the accompanying red flashing light.

Hammond: Uh-oh. What was - ... "laser warning". That can't be good.

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. A lance of four Earthforce Destroids - a Guillotine, two Shadow Hawks and an Assassin - emerge from between buildings to the northeast.

Int. Day. Marauder II cockpit.

Earthforce lieutenant (on radio): Attention TCDF Destroid units. You are in violation of General Security Order One. Power down and dismount immediately or we will open fire.

Clarkson (frantically pressing buttons): [CENSORED] [CENSORED] [CENSORED] with [CENSORED] and [CENSORED] [CENSORED]!

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. The Marauder II backpedals, pivots, and CLARKSON opens fire with a full broadside. To the audible surprise of everyone (including the EARTHFORCE LIEUTENANT), he hits one of the Earthforce Shadow Hawks dead-on, shredding its torso. Its auto-ejection system saves the pilot as the 'Mech BLOWS UP.

What follows is part thrilling three-on-three Solaris match and part comedy skit - except that, if you look closely, it becomes apparent that for all their arguing and bumbling, the three presenters actually seem to be pretty good MechWarriors. CLARKSON'S gunnery proves to be no fluke, MAY'S is if anything slightly better, and HAMMOND handles his Locust beautifully. In intercut sequences, we see him lead the Assassin a merry chase through the low warehouses and factories, drawing it far away from the rest of its lance before doubling back, getting the drop on it with his superior speed, and destroying it.

Unfortunately, the poor condition of the other two presenters' machines tells against them; MAY can't use anything like his Black Knight's full firepower because of its heat sink problem, and the Marauder II's hampered mobility makes it a poor match for the Guillotine. Eventually the Black Knight overheats and shuts down entirely (though it manages to destroy the second Shadow Hawk with the barrage that finally puts it over the top).

Int. Day. Black Knight cockpit. MAY, sweat pouring down his face, tries to restart the reactor, but the ignition system is fried.

May: Cock.

MAY starts disengaging his seat harness, cooling lines, etc. and looking around for any survival equipment that might be stowed in the cockpit.

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. The Guillotine has taken a beating - it's missing its left arm entirely - but the Marauder II, with its slower speed and nonfunctioning jump jets, is looking in very bad shape. Most of its armor is gone and it's smoking.

Int. Day. Marauder II cockpit.

Clarkson: Pretty much every warning light I have in here is flashing. It reminds me a little of the last time I drove a Peugeot. The sense of impending annihilation is very similar, too, come to think of it.

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. The Marauder II attempts to get hull-down behind a building and bring its autocannon to bear, but something inside it emits a burst of sparks and it stiffens, tilting awkwardly.

Int. Day. Marauder II cockpit. Even more warning lights start flashing and a siren sounds.

Clarkson: That's it. My gyros have gone. There's nothing I can do.

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. The Marauder II, smoke now pouring from its damaged torso, collapses against the side of the building, crushing the brickwork. The Guillotine moves in for the kill.

Several blocks up the main road, HAMMOND'S Locust appears out of a side street.

Int. Day. Locust IIC cockpit. HAMMOND reacts to the sight of his colleagues' 'Mechs both out of commission and the Guillotine closing in on CLARKSON with shock, changing very quickly to anger.

Hammond: Right. My lasers won't do a thing against him, so there's only one thing to do. Forget the guns. Ramming speed!

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. The Locust IIC breaks into a full sprint, accelerating rapidly to full speed, its tridactyl feet throwing up chunks of pavement from the street.

Int. Day. Locust IIC cockpit. The scene is now bouncing and shaking so violently that the camera can't keep up and HAMMOND can barely be made out.

Hammond (slightly garbled): The ride quality's... not brilliant. If I'm honest.

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. The Guillotine's pilot notices the Locust bearing down on him and changes tack, turning to meet the attack, but it's too late - by the time his weapons will bear, the Locust will be on top of him.

Int. Day. Locust IIC cockpit. HAMMOND braces for impact.

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. A few seconds before the two 'Mechs would've crashed, a FIREBALL streaks out of the sky with a noise like a thunderbolt and strikes the Guillotine dead-center, blowing it to smithereens.

Int. Day. Locust IIC cockpit.

Hammond (astonished): Bloody hell!

Ext. Day. Light industrial area. The Locust IIC makes an emergency stop, sparks shrieking up from its feet as they skid on the tarmac; it stumbles over the edge of the crater the Guillotine's destruction just made in the street, backpedals, overbalances, and falls down.

HAMMOND emerges from the Locust's top hatch, looking warily around. A few yards away, a GIANT METAL CYLINDER about 10 feet in diameter is half-buried in the bottom of the crater - apparently the projectile that destroyed the Guillotine. MAY and CLARKSON, carrying their 'Mechs' emergency kits, arrive from opposite directions, and all three stand staring at the cooling wreckage.

May: Strewth, where'd that come from?

Hammond: The sky, James. It came from the sky.

MAY gives him a look.

May: Thank you, I gathered that part.

Hammond: We'd better get out of here. Those ejection pods had to come down somewhere, and the people in them are not going to be pleased with us.

Clarkson: My 'Mech's had it.

May: So's mine.

Clarkson: And so's yours. (Points to one of the Locust's ankle joints, which was damaged in the fall; the toes of that foot dangle limply.)

Hammond: Well, we've come this far. (Looks around at their battle-damaged surroundings.) We'll have to take one of these cars.

May (standing at crater's edge, regarding the CYLINDER thoughtfully): I wonder what this is. I mean, it's obviously artificial, but it's not any kind of artillery shell I've ever heard of...

Clarkson (pointing): There's a note, look.

Before the others can stop him, CLARKSON walks over to the crater, slides down on the rubble, and removes the note from its holder on the side of the CYLINDER. As he unfolds it, the top of the CYLINDER starts slowly unscrewing behind him.

Clarkson: "Dear Jezza - "

Hammond: Well, whoever sent the thing clearly knew you'd be the only one stupid enough to walk right up to it.

Clarkson: Hush. "Dear Jezza, Understand you're in a bit of a jam. I can't get too close, but I've sent along a friend who should be able to help."

The top of the CYLINDER finishes unscrewing and falls away with a CLANG, and a white-gloved hand appears at the rim, followed by another, as a figure starts to pull itself out from within.

Clarkson: "Some say that I built him on a dare in 1968, and that if you laid him end-to-end he would stretch nearly seven feet." (Looks impressed.) "All I know is, he's called - "

THE STIG jumps down from the top of the cylinder and climbs out of the crater to stand impassively regarding HAMMOND and MAY.

May: The Stig!

Clarkson: "Ex oh ex oh, Skuld. P.S. James owes me breakfast, so don't let him die, no matter how comedically appropriate it would be." (Regards MAY narrowly.) Why do you owe her, breakfast?

May: 'S not the sort of question a gentleman answers.

Ignoring their byplay, THE STIG walks to the nearest car (a nondescript blue Ford sedan) and thrusts his fist through the driver's side window. Ignoring the alarm, he reaches inside, unlocks the door, climbs in, and then silences the alarm and starts the ignition with a momentary application of a sonic screwdriver taken from his top pocket. The presenters watch with bemusement and then start climbing into the car, CLARKSON in front, HAMMOND and MAY in back.

Hammond: Did you know the Stig knew how to steal cars?

May: I didn't know the Stig had a sonic screwdriver.

Clarkson: We need to get to the spaceport, Stig. Do you know where it is?

THE STIG regards CLARKSON blankly.

Clarkson (speaking slowly and distinctly): The... space... port. Do... you... know... where... it...

THE STIG ignores CLARKSON, puts the car in gear, and screeches away from the curb.

Clarkson: I guess he does. Or he thinks he does...

/* The Crystal Method
Tweekend (2001) */

Ext. Day. Spaceport approach road. The Ford speeds along a divided highway; the airport can be seen in the distance.

May (VO): We had a straight shot to the spaceport perimeter fence - no more than a mile or so to go - and it was starting to look like we were home and dry...

Int. Day. Ford cabin. POV shot through the windshield; the car is approaching a roadblock manned by six heavily armed Earthforce Marines.

Clarkson: Okay, stay calm. Stay calm.

Hammond: Stay calm?! We're going to be killed!

THE STIG, expressionless as always, starts slowing the car.

May: What are you doing, man? You want the pedal on the right!

Clarkson: These guys are ready for us, if we try to crash the barrier they'll get us for sure.

Hammond: Oh, so you figure it'll be better if we stop and make it easier for them? "Here you are, Mr. Earthforce Marine, wouldn't want to make you waste ammunition by missing us a few times before you fill us with lead!"

May: They don't use actual lead bullets any -

Hammond: Oh shut up!

Clarkson: Look, just... calm down. I'll handle it. Just let me do the talking and we'll be fine. (Looks at THE STIG.) Okay? I'll do all the talking.

The Stig: ...

Clarkson: ... Right.

Ext. Day. The car arrives at the roadblock and halts for the outstretched hand of one of the Earthforce troopers, who then walks around to the passenger side, where CLARKSON is leaning out of the window to speak to him. On the driver's side, two of the troopers lean down and peer curiously at THE STIG, who sits staring straight ahead, ignoring them completely.

Hammond (VO): So, while James and I sat in the back and tried with limited success to look as if we were a) not anyone of particular interest and b) not absolutely shitting ourselves with terror, Jeremy did... well, see for yourself.

Clarkson: Hi. Um. These aren't the journalists you're looking for.

Earthforce Marine: Let me see your IDs.

Clarkson: You don't need to see our identification.

Earthforce Marine (puzzled): I don't?

Clarkson: You don't. We're nobody important. Just passing through.

Earthforce Marine: I'm going to need your driver to remove his helmet.

Clarkson: Ah. I'm afraid that won't be possible, you see, he, uh... he's from a... high-pressure world with an atmosphere of pure... ah... argon. If his suit loses pressure integrity we could all be killed.

The MARINE raises an eyebrow, clearly skeptical.

Clarkson: So if you don't mind, we'll just be on our way.

The MARINE stares silently at CLARKSON for several seconds, his face set in a almost unreadable mixture of confusion, a faint sense of awareness that something isn't right, and a sort of dull resignation that he's not going to be able to figure out what it is.

Earthforce Marine (waving them through): Be on your way.

Clarkson: Thank you. Thank you very much. Have a lovely day. (To THE STIG, sotto voce, while closing his window:) Drive, drive, drive.

THE STIG suddenly floors the accelerator, leaving a 30-foot number 11 away from the roadblock. The MARINES stand gazing after the Ford for several seconds with blank expressions, then turn to each other in puzzlement, seem to wake up, and become quite agitated, shouting after the car and firing at it with their rifles.

Int. Day. Ford cabin.

May: How the hell did you do that?!

Clarkson (ignoring him, to THE STIG): Go, go, go!

A round from one of the MARINES' rifles shatters the rear window, making HAMMOND and MAY duck and yell in alarm, but no one is hit.

Ext. Day. Back at the roadblock. The MARINES, recovering their wits, dash for their vehicle.

Ext. Day. Spaceport perimeter fence. A WARTHOG in the livery of an IPO Tactical Division Special Mission Force emerges from the spaceport compound and speeds toward the approaching car, the unmistakable form of TUNCER hunched behind the bed-mounted chaingun. The vehicle blows straight past the Ford, with the driver (PETE STACKER) tossing THE STIG a jaunty salute on the way past, and chases away the Earthforce Marine vehicle with a few well-placed chaingun bursts, then turns around and catches up with the speeding Ford to escort it into the compound.

Ext. Day. Tau City Spaceport. The Ford comes to rest near the spaceport's hyperwave communications tower, around the base of which the IPO is setting up its primary command center for the recapture operation. The presenters and THE STIG climb out and hurry across the tarmac to the operations tent.

Int. Day. IPO field operations center. UTENA TENJOU looks up from a holotable map of Tau City and blinks in surprise.

Utena: What are you guys doing here?

The presenters try to be nonchalant.

Clarkson: Oh, you know...

May: The usual.

Hammond: We like to be where the action is. You know.

In the background, THE STIG stares in apparent fascination at the tea-and-coffee-making facilities. CUT TO

Int. Day. Top Gear Studio. The camera pulls back from one of the TVs to take in the three presenters standing in a group at the feet of the Locust IIC, which appears to have been repaired.

Clarkson: So there you are! We did, indeed, survive.

Hammond: In fact, we'd arrived just as Commodore Tenjou was about to launch the main counteroffensive to take back Tau City from Earthforce.

May: An operation in which we played no part whatsoever.

Hammond: No. We went well to the back of the command-and-control area.

Clarkson: And went to sleep.

Hammond: So much for journalism.

Clarkson: The Stig, on the other hand, couldn't wait to get stuck in and help. In fact, he drove the commodore's command vehicle into the heart of the combat zone himself!

May: Although, to be perfectly fair, we don't know whether he really knew that was what he was doing. He might've thought they were just going on a date or something.

Clarkson: And on that bombshell, it's time to end the show. Thank you very much for watching; normal service will be resumed next week. No! Not next week, next week we're off because of... I don't remember, Wide World of Gardening or something. So we'll see you in two weeks. Until then, take care. Good night!

/* The Art of Noise feat. the BBC Ethereophonic Orchestra
"Jessica (Top Gear Theme 2408 Revised Edition)" */


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