Chapter 11 Contents Chapter 13

The Master leaned against the doorframe and raised his eyebrows.

"So," he said. "You seem to think our respective situations have changed."

"That's right." Izzy gave him a look she'd frequently had to use on his toddler counterpart. "I'm not letting you back in until you do a bit of grovelling."

"And what if I don't?"

"Then I shall just have to take an alternative course of action."

"You mean read the story yourself." The Master shook his head sadly. "Assuming you can find a copy, that is. The only one in Nameless library is checked out to me."

"I don't need to find a copy," Izzy said smugly.

"Then you have one already...?" The Master watched her expression closely. "No, but you know someone who does. Little Miss Song. Am I right?" He paused. "Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that I am. You believe you can call my bluff, based on a backup plan involving a two-year-old canon sue."

Izzy frowned. "I don't allow that kind of language."

"My point remains. You think this toddler would be more trustworthy than me?"

"She'd be more emotionally mature, at least."

"You mean she wouldn't descend to cheap insults? Perhaps I'd better talk to her instead of you."

Before Izzy could answer, a distant rattling sound came to her ears.

"Hang on," she said, and darted into the nursery. Her voice could still be heard, though. "River! How many times have I told you? You are not to tie people to the furniture. If you're going to get stroppy with me, miss, then I shall confiscate that sonic screwdriver. And those handcuffs... why would a two-year-old be carrying handcuffs anyway?"

The Master gazed serenely into the middle distance.

"All right," Izzy said, returning with a grizzling Baby River under one arm. "You win. I've got to have words with my backup plan. Get in there and keep the rest of them quiet."

The Master bowed, entered the room, and took his place in the storyteller's chair, in the manner of an unjustly usurped monarch now restored to his throne.

"Now," he asked. "Where were we?"

"The Baron was trying to turn base metal into gold," Baby Liz said. "What an idiot. He hasn't even got a particle accelerator."

"Ah, yes." The Master turned to the correct page in the book. "And, as you have probably guessed, he spent all his money, and all his sister's money, and got nowhere. So he started trying to get money by gambling..."

[Outside the amusement arcade. My Lord, the Countess and the Baron emerge, apparently the best of friends.]

Pete / My Lord :
See you tomorrow, then?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Why not have breakfast at our hotel?

Pete / My Lord :
Great idea. This could be the start of a beautiful friendship. [He winks at the Countess, and departs.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
I have a cunning plan. You've made quite an impression on him. Why not marry him for his money?

Jackie / The Countess :
What? No, that's just not on. I haven't got any feelings for him at all... What am I saying? This isn't gonna work. I married Pete for love. Both times.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Frankly, I don't care whether you love him or not. I need the spondulicks! And if you won't marry for money, I will! Bwahahahaha!

[A brief imagine spot shows Pete Tyler standing at the altar with the Pryce Master.]

Jackie / The Countess :
Oh, yuck. Anything but that. All right, I'll do it.

[Meanwhile, in Venice...]

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
Well, if it wasn't for that disclaimer she put at the start, I'd think she was writing her autobiography.

Harry / Henry :
Yes, that was the impression I got, too. Keep reading.

Gwendoline / Narrator [vo] :
'The Second Act opens at Venice. An interval of four months has elapsed since the date of the scene at the gambling table. The action now takes place in the reception-room of one of the Venetian palaces.'

[A suburban lounge, decorated in the style of the 1950s, complete with flying plaster ducks on the wall. The Baron stands with his back to the hearth.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
So much for marrying for money. My idiot of a sister manages to get hitched to someone who's got all his cash tied up in entailed property. And do we find this out before the wedding? Do we heck.

"What's entailed property?" little Leela asked.

"It means that when the owner dies, the money goes to his son or his brother," the Master said. "Not his wife."

"That is a foolish system," Leela said. "When a man dies, his wife should receive her share of his goods and weapons." She thought for a bit. "Unless there is a suspicion that she slew him unjustly, of course. In that case, she must first undergo trial by combat."

"Wicked," little Ace said.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
All right, I managed to get his life insured. But that's all.

[The Countess enters.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Did you get anywhere with your husband?

Jackie / The Countess :
Nowhere. He's the meanest bloke I ever met. That 50p was a complete one-off. How about you?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
He wouldn't lend me as much as a penny.

Jackie / The Countess :
And the maid's left. She didn't even give any notice. Gobby cow. She as good as accused me of carrying on with you. And when I told my husband, he said he agreed with her. As if I'd ever do anything like that.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Of course not. My name doesn't end in 'o'. Unlike Alfonso and Rodrigo and all your other 'friends' back on the Powell Estate.

Jackie / The Countess :
Shut. It.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Anyway, this is serious. I owe money all over the place.

Jackie / The Countess :
You know what he's doing now? Writing to his solicitors. That means he's going to divorce me and then where will we be?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Out on the streets. Still, it could be worse. It could be the sewers again.

Jackie / The Countess :
Honestly, when he said all those horrible things, I could've killed — [She breaks off in horror.] What am I saying?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Nothing you didn't say in real life shortly before he got run over by the car. And please remember: If you do manage to kill him, don't get caught or the insurers won't pay out.

Jackie / The Countess :
You...!

[At this point, the Courier enters, carrying an envelope.]

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Stand aside. My orders are to post this letter.

Jackie / The Countess :
Who's it to?

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Messrs. Sue, Grabbit and Runne of London.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
I know them well. Commissioners for the swearing of oaths, ambulances chased while you wait.

Jackie / The Countess :
Bug—

Delgado Master / Narrator [vo] :
Mrs. Tyler, you are not a commissioner for the swearing of oaths. Please bear that in mind.

Jackie / The Countess :
Oh, sorry. Well, we're a bit stuffed, aren't we?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
And mounted. All right, you, get along.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
I obey.

[He leaves.]

Gwendoline / Narrator [vo] :
"The Courier proceeds to the post-office. The Baron and the Countess look at each other in silence. No words are needed."

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Countess, are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Jackie / The Countess :
I think so, Baron, but what happens if we run out of treacle before the Rutan gets as far as the Department for Trade and Industry?

Delgado Master / Narrator [vo] :
And now we see just why no words were needed.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Unless that cold of his happens to turn serious and carry him off, we're up against it.

Jackie / The Countess :
I don't suppose you could turn it serious for him?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Poison him, you mean?

Jackie / The Countess :
Well... yes.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
No. It's too risky. The insurance company might suspect something. [He pauses briefly.] Might I make a complaint?

Delgado Master / Narrator [vo] :
In respect of what?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
I'm the Master! If I was really in this situation the Countess and her husband would be dead now. And the Courier. And half the population of Venice. I would be at the head of an invading alien army, and nothing would stand between me and the conquest of the world! Do you hear me? The WORLD! Hahahahaha!

[The Doctor bursts in.]

Jackson Lake / The Doctor :
There, sir, you are fatally mistaken. I am the Doctor, the defender of this planet, and I hereby give you your first and only warning—

Jackie / The Countess :
Shut up! Shut up! Look, you're not even supposed to be here yet.

Jackson Lake / The Doctor :
I shall not depart, madam, until I am satisfied that you are not party to some nefarious alien plot.

[My Lord arrives.]

Pete / My Lord :
What's going on in here? And who's this pillock?

Jackson Lake / The Doctor :
Cower, evildoers, for I am the Doctor.

Pete / My Lord :
Well, I don't need a doctor. I can look after myself. Get out.

[Together, the three of them push Lake out of the door and close it behind him.]

Pete / My Lord :
Any idea where that courier is?

Jackie / The Countess :
Still out posting that letter of yours.

[There is a knocking at the door.]

Jackson Lake / The Doctor [shouting through the letterbox] :
Don't trust her! She's really a brain-eating lizard from Laputa!

Omnes [shouting back] :
Go away!

Pete / My Lord :
Oh, yes. You. How long are you planning to stay? 'Cos I was thinking, at this rate I'll have to start charging you rent.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
You know that I will leave whenever you ask me to. So if I am here, it must be because you want me to be here. [He fixes him with his gaze.] You want me to be here. I am the Master and—

[There is a knocking at the door.]

Jackie / The Countess :
Oh, for crying out loud. Will you go AWAY, you overdressed ponce?

Cyberleader / The Courier [off] :
I obey.

Pete / My Lord :
No, wait, that's the courier. Hey! You! Come back!

Cyberleader / The Courier [off] :
I obey.

[He rips the door off its hinges and enters.]

Pete / My Lord :
Go out and get me some lemons and some hot water.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
I obey. [Aside] Once our subjugation of the Earth is complete, these humans will all be designated: Low-yield plant fertiliser.

[Back in Venice.]

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
Yes, the autobiographical theme still seems to be carrying through. But it's a bit soap-opera, isn't it?

Harry / Henry :
Well, that's what seems to get the ratings these days.

Gwendoline / Narrator [vo] :
When the Courier returns, he looks ill.

[The drawing room. The Courier enters, looking just as he did when he left.]

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Here are the lemons and the hot water.

[He produces a thermos flask and a number of pieces of novelty soap in the shape of lemons.]

Pete / My Lord :
Right. I'm going to make myself some lemonade. See you later.

[He departs.]

"If he eated those lemons he'd foam at the mouf," Nyssa said gleefully. "They were soap."

"That gives me an idea," Sarah said.

"What?"

Sarah glanced sideways at little Jo. "Tell you later."

Jackie / The Countess :
You know, you really don't look well.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
I am in full working order.

Jackie / The Countess :
You're supposed to be suffering from bronchitis or pneumonia or something.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Cybermen do not suffer from diseases.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
I think we're going to have to have some method acting here. [He produces a snuffbox and tips the contents out into his hand.] What do you make... of this?!

[Turning to face the Courier, he blows across his open palm. The air is filled with glittering motes.]

Cyberleader / The Courier [staggering around] :
Ooooooooooooh. Goooold dust. Oooooooooooooh. Core integrity compromised. Oooooooooooh.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
That's more like it. Come on. I'll take you to your room.

[He drags the Courier off.]

Jackie / The Countess :
Pity it wasn't the other way round. If the Courier just had an ordinary cold and my Lord had terminal pneumonia — hang on a minute...

[She paces up and down.]

Jackie / The Countess :
No-one in Venice knows what my Lord looks like except the consul and the bloke at the bank. So all we have to do is swap them over.

"What," baby Harry asked. "The consul and the bank manager?"

There was a chorus of groans.

Jackie / The Countess :
Let everyone think the Courier's really my husband, have him die, get a death certificate for natural causes, and we get the insurance money.

[Back in Venice.]

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
You know, that plan sounds a little far-fetched to me.

Harry / Henry :
Well, I'd like to think she made that bit up, but I'm afraid it might all be true.

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
I suppose, if this is what really happened, your girlfriend set the whole thing off. If she hadn't let the courier use her name, none of this would have happened.

Harry / Henry :
I hadn't thought of it like that. She must never know.

"Why not?" baby Ace asked. "She was saying earlier she didn't care if the lord ended up dead."

"Because she's a girl and if he tells her she'll cry," little Adric blithely explained. "Girls cry all the time."

Tegan threw her doll at him. "You're a nitwit," she said firmly.

Gwendoline / Narrator [vo] :
While the Countess is still absorbed in the bold yet simple combination of circumstances which she has discovered, the Baron returns. She communicates her idea to him.

Jackie / The Countess :
There. What d'you think of that, then?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
That is a brilliant plan. And an evil one, too, of course. A brilliantly evil plan of... evil brilliance. When I am ruler of the Universe, you shall sit beside me as my consort. We'd have to do something about your hair, of course.

Jackie / The Countess :
There's nothing wrong with my hair!

Pryce Master / The Baron :
You realise that you'll have to get the Courier to go along with the plan?

Jackie / The Countess :
Yeah, I'm not daft.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
I daresay he will prove adequately bribable. We can borrow a thousand pounds or so, use it as the bribe, and pay the loan off when we get the insurance money.

Jackie / The Countess :
I'll go and sound him out, then.

Gwendoline / Narrator [vo] :
The scene changes to the Courier's room, and shows the poor wretch with a photographic portrait of his wife in his hand, crying.

[A suburban bedroom, counterpart to the lounge below. The Cyberleader is standing against one wall, hooked up to external power feeds, various life-support devices, and a cluster of disturbing-looking tubes. Gold-flecked foam is slowly oozing from his chest unit.]

Jackie / The Countess :
Is there anything I can do for you?

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Your sympathy is of no concern. Should this unit be destroyed another will be designated Leader. We will survive.

Jackie / The Countess :
Suppose I asked you to do something perfectly easy, and if you did it, you got a thousand pounds for your, I dunno, widow or successor or whatever you people have.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Cybermen have no interest in money.

Jackie / The Countess :
Oh, terrific. So much for easily bribable. Hey, you out there!

[The Baron enters.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Is there a problem?

Jackie / The Countess :
He's not interested in the money.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
That can doubtless be corrected.

[He grabs The Countess's hand and slams it down on a button that forms part of The Courier's life-support system. The Courier goes rigid.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Whatever happens, keep holding that down until I tell you. And we'll see how long a stupid lump of metal can defy the will of... the Master!

[He produces a Gallifreyan Army Knife, unscrews a panel from the back of The Courier's neck, and begins to tinker.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Now, you heap of junk, tell me your motivation.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
We will survive. [Sparking] Oooh. Rrrgh. [More sparks.] We will survive. And you see me, somebody new; I'm not that chained up little person still in love with you...

Jackie / The Countess [grimacing] :
Is that trying to do what I think it's trying to do?

Pryce Master / The Baron [still tinkering] :
Gloria Gaynor, eat your heart out and replace it with a titanium prosthetic.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Weren't you the one who tried to break me with goodbye? Did you think I'd crumble? Did you think I'd lay down and die?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
That's the point of the exercise, rustbucket.

[He slams the access panel closed and leaps back.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Let go of the button now.

[The Countess does so. The Courier staggers, making strange groaning noises, then straightens up.]

Cyberleader / The Courier :
Oh. My poor wife. I must do whatever I can to help her.

Pryce Master / The Baron [grinning from ear to ear] :
Give me a pointy hat and call me a wizard.

Jackie / The Countess :
It's a pity you can't bottle smugness and sell it, 'cos I reckon I'd be sitting on a goldmine here. [She turns to The Courier.] Anyway, matey, here's the deal. You pretend to be My Lord...

[Fade out. Fade in.]

Cyberleader / The Courier :
I will agree to your suggestion.

Jackie / The Countess :
Great.

Cyberleader / The Courier :
With certain safeguards. One. You are to taste all food and drink I consume. Two. The money is to be placed in an envelope—

Jackie / The Countess :
Yeah, I get the picture. Come on, let's get you into My Lord's bedroom. Baron, can you deal with My Lord?

[The Baron produces a bottle marked CHLOROFORM.]

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Trust me on this.

Jackie / The Countess :
Do you have to do that? It's bad enough I'm plotting to kill my husband without you imitating him as well.

Gwendoline / Narrator [vo] :
The curtain falls.

[Back in Venice.]

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
That was... horribly plausible. Or maybe plausibly horrible.

Harry / Henry :
Except for the Cyberman trying to sing.

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
Well, he wasn't a Cyberman in real life, was he? He was some kind of reptile.

"So if he was a reptile, how would you make him cough?" the baby Rani asked. "Instead of gold dust, I mean."

"Hexacwomite gas?" Tegan suggested. "If you give it to reptiles they cough up gween slime and die."

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
Is there much more?

Harry / Henry :
Well, a bit. But I think her mind was going. Look, the writing gets all wobbly.

Adric / Lord Montbarry :
Let's skip to the next legible bit, then.

Gwendoline / Narrator [vo] :
The scene is set in the vaults of the palace.

[A pedestrian subway. My Lord lies on a folding bed. Standing nearby are the Baron and the Countess.]

Jackie / The Countess :
That doctor says the courier might recover after all. What do we do if he does?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Let your husband out. If he tries to tell anyone what we did, say he's mad. Mad, I tell you! Hahahaha... ahem.

Jackie / The Countess :
Would that work?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
It never fails. Trust me on this.

Jackie / The Countess :
I told you not to do that!

Pryce Master / The Baron [with no contrition whatsoever] :
Sorry.

Jackie / The Countess :
And what if the courier dies? We've got to get rid of my Lord somehow.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
That shouldn't be a problem.

Jackie / The Countess :
You mean we just let him starve?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
I dislike needless cruelty. Oh, what a lie. I love needless cruelty! Why do I have to play someone with scruples?

Jackie / The Countess :
And I'm supposed to be thinking of ways to kill my husband. I can't do this.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Well, let's swap. I'll do the suggestions and you say why they wouldn't work.

Jackie / The Countess :
OK.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Hire a hitman to bump him off.

Jackie / The Countess :
No! Um... we don't want to spend any more money. And the man might talk.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Drop him in the canal.

Jackie / The Countess :
How could you?... Anyway, corpses float.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Set his bed on fire.

Jackie / The Countess :
Stop it! Stop it!

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Look, I've got the matches all ready.

Jackie / The Countess :
But you can't!

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Why not?

Jackie / The Countess :
I thought you didn't like needless cruelty!

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Oh, you know me better than that.

Jackie / The Countess :
Then what if someone sees the smoke?

Pryce Master / The Baron :
We could say it was a barbecue.

Jackie / The Countess :
Oh, give me strength.

Pryce Master / The Baron :
Then we come back to poison. No need to be subtle. Anything cheap and deadly should do the job.

Jackie / The Countess :
This is horrible!

Little Jamie scratched his head. "If she ends up killing him, I don't see why she keeps saying she doesn't want to."

"It's cognitive dissonance, silly," ZoŽ told him. "The Countess was going mad when she writed the play and so the Countess in the play keeps displaying contradi- contradic- different bits and pieces of her personality. We learned all about it in mind-training."

"All that mind-training stuff is rubbish," Vicki said. "You don't know anyfing about how minds work. I s'pose it's 'cos you're from primitive times, when they didn't even have warp drive."

The Master rose to his feet.

"I shall leave you to debate that among yourselves," he said. "Try not to maim each other too badly, won't you?"


Chapter 11 Contents Chapter 13