// STRAUD MANSION //

When MANDARC arrives at Straud Mansion, he hears the sound of pipe organ emanating from behind the door.

MANDARC

(thinking) At least the Master is in good spirits…

MANDARC enters; STRAUD stops his work. The room becomes heavy without the song’s comfort. Without yet turning around, he speaks.

STRAUD

DID YOU CHECK ON CUMMINGS?

MANDARC looks down, then at the back of STRAUD’s head.

MANDARC

YES OF COURSE I DID, SIR. SHE WAS THERE; AT LEAST I HEARD HER VOICE – BUT THE ONE WHO ANSWERED THE DOOR –

STRAUD

YES, I AM AWARE.

STRAUD turns around halfway to look at MANDARC with one eye.

STRAUD

YOU KNOW THE GIRL.

MANDARC

YES, SIR. “WENDY”; MCCOY’S DAUGHTER.

At this STRAUD turns around entirely but remains seated at his organ.

STRAUD

IT WOULD BE MORE APPROPRIATE TO CALL HER A “CREATION”.

MANDARC

… SIR?

STRAUD stands up.

STRAUD

THAT GIRL IS A FLESH GOLEM, ANIMATED. A “GHOLA”, IF YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH THAT TOME…

MANDARC

I AM NOT, MASTER, BUT PERHAPS YOU CAN ENLIGHTEN ME.

STRAUD

IT’S OF NO CONSEQUENCE.

“FLESH GOLEM” IS SUFFICIENT FOR OUR PURPOSES.

I TRUST YOU FOLLOWED MY INSTRUCTIONS?

MANDARC

I FEAR MY FACE REVEALED TOO MUCH.

STRAUD

I KNEW OF THAT RISK WHEN I SENT YOU THERE.

BUT I FELT YOU NEEDED TO SEE HER WITH YOUR OWN EYES.

MANDARC

I DO – ERR – I DID…

STRAUD

(interrupting) DID YOU EVER CONSUMMATE A UNION?

MANDARC freezes in place. If he could blush, he would be.

MANDARC

MASTER…

STRAUD

MANDARC, THIS IS IMPORTANT. DID YOU EVER EVEN KISS THE GIRL? DID SHE EVER HOLD YOUR HAND?

MANDARC

NO SIR. NEVER.

STRAUD

GOOD. THAT IS ADVANTAGEOUS. FOR US.

SHE’LL HAVE CERTAIN FLASHES OF MEMORY OF THE PAST, BUT –

MANDARC

SHE DIDN’T SEEM TO RECOGNIZE ME.

STRAUD listens intently.

MANDARC

SHE STARED AT ME, SORT OF COCKED HER HEAD TO ONE SIDE.

LIKE A DOG MIGHT.

STRAUD

APT OBSERVATION.

HER MEMORIES ARE IN HER MUSCLE, HER TENDON, HER NERVE.

THEY HAVE PLACED HER THERE, LIKE A DOG, TO DEFEND THEIR PROPERTY.

AND TO DISTRACT YOU FROM OUR GOAL.

MANDARC recalls the way in which BOBBIE yelled for her as if for a dog. Brusque and unfeeling. An undeserved command.

MANDARC

BUT WHY DEFEND BOBBIE? EVEN IF THEY RECONVERTED HER, SHE’S…

STRAUD

I DON’T KNOW, ENTIRELY. THERE IS SOMETHING THAT ELUDES ME.

ANYONE COULD DEFEND BOBBIE. THE FACE IS SURELY INTENDED AS A TAUNT DIRECTED TOWARD YOU. THAT MUCH IS EASY ENOUGH TO GUESS AT.

BUT BOBBIE HERSELF IS LITTLE THREAT ENOUGH.

I’M NOT EVEN SO SURE WHY THEY KEPT HER ALIVE AFTER WE TOOK FROM HER THE GIFT.

A SHOW TO THEIR FOLLOWERS, SOME FARCE, A DISPLAY OF SUPPOSED LOYALTY.

NO. IT IS CUMMINGS WHO GUARDS WENDY. BUT WHY?

THERE MUST BE MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE BETWEEN THE TWO AND THEY ARE HOPING TO LURE YOU IN.

SO GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT.

MANDARC

SIR, I…

STRAUD

CAN’T BE TRUSTED? IF I’D HAVE HAD ANY QUALMS ABOUT YOU, YOU WOULDN’T BE STANDING HERE.

NO, I TRUST YOU ENTIRELY.

YOU ARE WHAT THEY WANT. THAT’S WHY THEY CHOSE HER.

THERE ARE MORE ENEMIES OUTSIDE THAN THERE ARE FRIENDS.

THE SOONER I DISPATCH THE ILLUSIONS, THE BETTER.

THE SOONER THE DOCTOR REALIZES HIS OWN FALSE FRIENDS THE SOONER WE CAN FIND THE FACE OF THE TRUE ENEMY.

HE’D SET HIS OWN FOOT AFLAME TO DAMN A SPOT AND TAKE THE WHOLE BOAT WITH HIM.

NEITHER I NOR THE NSR IS SO FOOLISH.

IF SHE TRULY IS A SIMPLETON THEN HER LOYALTIES ARE HER OWN.

DO YOU LOVE HER?

MANDARC is stupified in silence.

STRAUD

THEN IT’S SETTLED. YOU’LL KEEP SURVEILLANCE UNTIL I TELL YOU TO RETURN.

MANDARC

… NO, I CAN’T DO THIS.

STRAUD

YES YOU CAN, AND YOU WILL. BESIDES – I’M NOT SENDING YOU ALONE.

MANDARC

SURELY SOMEONE WITH A MORE NEUTRAL OUTLOOK…

CEDRIC.

STRAUD

HE IS BUSIED WITH OTHER TASKS.

MANDARC

ROXANNE. OBOROVSKY. MAKOA.

STRAUD

NEUTRALITY IS ONE OF THE ILLUSIONS I’M TRYING TO DISPEL. NEUTRALITY IS A CONCEPT COOKED UP BY FOOLS AND EMPLOYED BY CHILDREN AND I DON’T BELIEVE IN EITHER.

NO; THIS IS A COMMAND.

YOU WILL RETURN TO THE HOUSE OF MYRTLE MARSCAPONE AND CONDUCT YOUR OPERATION WITH HER GUIDANCE.

THE OLD BROAD IS TERRIBLY FOND OF YOU.

MANDARC

AND I, HER.

STRAUD

TRY NOT TO SUFFER WHAT YOU WANT OR WHAT YOU FEEL CAPABLE OF, SOME ODD OUTCROPPING OF BRAVERY OR DESIRE.

NOTHING CAN GO MORE WRONG THAN IT ALREADY HAS, THINGS SET IN MOTION LONG BEFORE YOU WERE RAISED TO SENTIENCE.

PAIN’S WORST MOMENTS ARE ALWAYS IN FRONT OF US, LINGERING, TEASING US A HUNDRED, A THOUSAND FOLD THEIR TRUE THREAT.

MANDARC

“FEAR IS THE MIND-KILLER”.

STRAUD

INDEED.

MANDARC

WHAT ARE MY INSTRUCTIONS?

STRAUD

INSTRUCTIONS? I HAVE NONE.

I’LL NOT BE GRANTING CUMMINGS ENTRANCE TO OUR SOCIETY; NO, HER LOYALTIES ARE QUITE CLEAR TO ME.

I PRAY THE DOCTOR SEES THE SAME BUT HE’S NOT THE MAN I ONCE CALLED FRIEND.

AS FOR WENDY, I REFUSE TO SPECULATE ANY MORE. PERHAPS MYRTLE CAN HELP YOU.

~