The Most Dangerous Woman in the World – radio play (2008)
[Recorded May 2012. I still haven’t heard it, though.]
1 INT. PUB. DAY
NARRATOR: On Earth, Isaac Newton’s law of gravity dictates that falling objects accelerate at a speed of approximately nine point eight metres per second per second. This means that, after one second, a falling object will be traveling at a speed of nine point eight metres per second. After two seconds it will be traveling at nineteen point six metres per second. After three seconds twenty nine point four metres per second, and so on. This applies equally to all objects, irrespective of their weight. So, under the right conditions, a grand piano will fall at exactly the same speed as a packet of frozen peas. Gravity, like destiny, is unavoidable. The actual chances of being in the path of a falling grand piano are, of course, quite rare. Nevertheless, when it eventually happened to Martin Elliot one sunny February morning, he wasn’t entirely surprised. By then he’d already begun to realize that life can be a ridiculously dangerous business at the best of times.
F/X: Fade up sound of a horse race commentary, and background FX of a local pub
RACE COMMENTATOR: …and Hale Bopp from Martelli from Einstein’s boy, Einstein’s boy now… and Fractal lad making a late surge into the final furlong, Fractal Lad, Einstein’s boy from Fractal Lad…
PUNTERS: Come on! Come on! Go on Lad! Etc
MARTIN: Come on Fractal Lad!
COMMENTATOR: …Fractal Lad opening up a lead, Fractal Lad, and it’s his race to lose now, incredible late surge from the newcomer in his first race and… wait! Oh, he’s stumbled! He’s down!
COMMENTATOR: Oh, you couldn’t make this up! And at the finish it’s Hale Bopp from Martelli from Einstein’s boy…
DEPTFORD STEVE: And that, Martin, is your basic definition of what we in the racing trade call “hubris”. That your fifth loser this week?
MARTIN: (Sadly) Sixth.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Shame. And look at me: four straight wins. You might want to adjust your system professor. (To barman) Two more pernods please, Stan.
MARTIN: There’s nothing wrong with my system.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Not if your plan’s to lose everything you own, no. If you look at it that way, it’s nothing short of genius. Of course, I’m not the one with the Phd in astro-physics, so maybe I’m missing something.
MARTIN: This is just some kind of… short-term blip. A few local fluctuations are only to be expected. It’ll work itself out in the long term. The numbers prove it.
DEPTFORD STEVE: And do the numbers take into account the possibility of you getting your legs broken by your creditors?
MARTIN: I haven’t factored that in, no.
DEPTFORD STEVE: You might want think about it. Not everyone round here appreciates intellectual debate like I do. Who’ve you got in the four o’clock?
MARTIN: Kuiper Belt.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Oh, now you’re just being stupid.
MARTIN: He’s due a win.
DEPTFORD STEVE: And I’m due a holiday in the Bahamas, but it’s not going to happen is it?
MARTIN: Steve. See this phone –
DEPTFORD STEVE: Not the speech again!
MARTIN: – Nasa put a man on the moon with a tenth of the computer power of this phone. You know how they did it? They had the numbers right. How do you know a ball’s going to come down again when you throw it into the air? Why do you think the earth keeps going round the sun? It’s all numbers Steve. Everything’s predictable if you know the initial conditions.
COMMENTATOR: …and we’re just getting news that the 4 o’clock at York has been called off because of a freak hailstorm on the course. Hailstones as big as golf balls, apparently Cornelius. Back to the studio…
DEPTFORD STEVE: And I’m betting you saw that coming too, right?
NARRATOR: In classical Newtonian mechanics, of course, things are entirely predictable: if you know the initial conditions. But that can be a big “if”. Take that afternoon, for example. What Martin didn’t know was that two hours and seventeen minutes earlier a twenty nine year old woman called Cassandra Trick had set out on a trajectory which would intersect his exactly two minutes and thirty two seconds in the future, just as he went to the bar to drown his sorrows with a another drink. In fact, just about… now.
MARTIN: Another two pernods please Stan.
CASSANDRA: (Dazed, from the other end of the bar) “The rest of your life will begin today.”
CASSANDRA: “The rest of your life will begin today”. It’s my fortune. That’s what it says. Do you want one?
MARTIN: One of what?
CASSANDRA: Fortune cookies. It’s all right. I’ve got a whole box. Do you want me to pick one for you?
MARTIN: What does it say?
CASSANDRA: “Your luck will change”.
MARTIN: Can I pick another?
CASSANDRA: I think that’s cheating.
MARTIN: I think it depends on how you look at it.
CASSANDRA: (Shrugs) It’s your future. Look at that! Same again. “Your luck will change”.
MARTIN: Maybe you got a dodgy box.
CASSANDRA: Maybe. They were left over from a funeral.
MARTIN: Oh. Sorry. I didn’t know people handed out fortune cookies at funerals.
CASSANDRA: I don’t think they do. It was my idea. It didn’t go down too well. It was my boyfriend’s funeral. Well, my ex-boyfriend’s. Obviously. It’s funny, really: he was a skydiver. Two hundred jumps. And then on his two hundred and first he tripped and fell over on the runway on the way to the plane. In exactly the wrong spot by the propeller. I suppose it’s not that funny, really.
MARTIN: Not that much, no.
CASSANDRA: Sorry. I think I might still be in shock. It should pass in a few days. It usually does.
CASSANDRA: First there’s the shock. Then denial. Then anger. Then you move on, eventually. It’s well documented. You get through it.
MARTIN: Has this happened to you before?
CASSANDRA: Few times, yeah. You never get entirely used to it though.
MARTIN: No, I suppose not. Listen, do you want another of those…?
CASSANDRA: Whiskies. Whisky. Yeah. Thanks. Cassie. Cassie Trick.
MARTIN: Martin Elliot. Sorry for your loss.
CASSANDRA: (A big swallow as she knocks back her drink) Cheers.
F/X: Fade out
2 INT.WORKSHOP. DAY
F/X: Sound of stepping motors, then a whirring followed by robotic BEEPS as Brian issues each of his commands
BRIAN: Turn left (BEEP). Stop (BEEP). Reverse (BEEP). Stop (BEEP). So: what do you think?
MARTIN: I’m impressed. What is it?
BRIAN: Our prototype Mars explorer. Version five.
MARTIN: I thought NASA already had a Mars explorer?
BRIAN: They do, but ours is better. Watch this.
F/X: Sound of gears grinding then something breaking. A dying beep.
MARTIN: Is it supposed to do that?
BRIAN: Obviously not. Pass me that screwdriver. You look terrible.
MARTIN: Brian, I think I’m in love.
BRIAN: What: again?
MARTIN: What? Yes! What do you mean again?
BRIAN: (Sighs) Who is it this time? Here, hold this.
MARTIN: Cassie Trick.
BRIAN: Who’s Cassie Trick?
MARTIN: I met her in the pub yesterday.
BRIAN: And you’re already in love with her?
MARTIN: Well, maybe not in love. Intrigued. All her boyfriends keep dying.
BRIAN: Ah, that Cassie Trick.
MARTIN: Oh. You’ve heard of her.
BRIAN: I thought she was an urban myth.
MARTIN: No, she’s very much real.
BRIAN: You didn’t – ?
MARTIN: No, no, we just talked. And then she left. And that was… that.
BRIAN: Hmmm… So. And why do you want to get involved with a girl who keeps killing her boyfriends?
MARTIN: She seems nice?
BRIAN: Love’s a dangerous adventure at the best of times, Martin. Even when you haven’t got the possibility of a violent death to confuse things further.
MARTIN: Huh. You don’t know anything about it.
BRIAN: You’re attracted by the air of quiet tragedy about her, not to mention the tilt of her chin and the way she does her hair. You like the fact that she smokes too much. You think she might finally be the pale and interesting woman you’ve been looking for to answer all those questions you’ve been asking yourself for years. Plus, you’d really like to see what she looks like with no clothes on. Am I right?
MARTIN: Well, what if you are?
BRIAN: It’s a lethal combination. Especially for you. Okay, you can give me that back now. Look at the workmanship on this cog. That’s brass that is. The way they used to make these, that’ll last for another hundred years.
MARTIN: What do you mean “especially for me”?
BRIAN: You want my advice?
BRIAN: Forget you ever met her. Go back to whatshername.
MARTIN: Whatshername said she never wanted to see me again.
BRIAN: Well, whose fault is that? Have you even found a job yet?
MARTIN: I’ve already got a job.
BRIAN: In order to call yourself a professional gambler, you actually have to make a living out of it Martin. (PAUSE) You were one of the best scientists I’ve ever met. You have no right to waste a talent like that.
F/X: The robot beeps into life.
MARTIN: Looks like you fixed it.
BRIAN: Of course I’ve fixed it.
MARTIN: (Pause, then:) Right then, I’m off.
BRIAN: But we’ve hardly started. I’ve got to show you the calculations yet.
MARTIN: It takes more than a set of calculations to address the serious business of falling in love Brian! Anyway, it’s freezing in here. (moving away) I’ll see you later.
BRIAN: (Quietly, to himself) Good luck my friend.
F/X: The robot beeps cheerfully.
BRIAN: Not you.
F/X: The robot makes a sad sound.
3 INT.PUB. DAY
WITNESS #1: The way I heard it was: she killed her first boyfriend, then the second one killed himself…
WITNESS #2: …Then the next one died doing a bungee jump. But that one was definitely an accident.
WITNESS #3: No, that’s not right. What about the one who died on Everest? I thought that was the stuntman?
WITNESS #1: No, he died trying to jump fifteen double decker buses in Trafalgar square. It was on Channel 5.
WITNESS #2: I don’t remember that one at all. Didn’t she kill one of them over a lottery win? I think that was her.
WITNESS #3: No, what happened was she hired a hitman to kill her third boyfriend, but then she killed the hitman herself to cover it up.
WITNESS #1: All I know for a fact is that two of them were killed in a rickshaw pile up in Vietnam.
WITNESS #2: I didn’t know she’d had anything to do with that one.
WITNESS #3: You’ve got to admit, she’s got quite a talent.
WITNESS #1: And with no respect for international boundaries.
WITNESS #2: You know what I think? I think she’s a ghost. Seriously. I mean, think about it. Does anybody know where she came from? Or did she just… turn up one day, trailing heartbreak and disaster in her ghostly wake? Has anybody even seen her around since the last funeral? Eh?
4 INT.BOOKIES. DAY
F/X: Fade up on race commentary in b/g
MARTIN: Come on Steve, it’s only twenty quid. You know I’m good for it.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Sorry, in what universe are we talking? Is it the upside-down universe where you haven’t lost every bet you’ve placed for the last three months?
MARTIN: Alright, look. Alright. I’ll let you in on the system.
DEPTFORD STEVE: (Excited) Really? The system? Your secret system?
MARTIN: Yeah. The system.
DEPTFORD STEVE: No thanks.
MARTIN: You’re throwing away the chance of a lifetime here you know.
DEPTFORD STEVE: I think I can live with myself.
MARTIN: It’s one bet! “Phase transition”. The twelve-fifteen. There, I’ve even given you the tip. That’s got to be worth fifteen quid at least.
DEPTFORD STEVE: It would be if he hadn’t already been withdrawn.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Equine distemper. Very nasty. They shot him this morning.
MARTIN: (Giving up) This just… isn’t fair.
DEPTFORD STEVE: I know. Think how he felt about it.
MARTIN: You know what? I don’t care. The system works. It’s the facts that are wrong. I’m going to walk out of here now, and something great is going to happen to me. (Walking away from us) Just watch!
DEPTFORD STEVE: (Shouting after him) You still owe me thirty from last week too!
F/X: Fade out
NARRATOR: In fact, although he didn’t know it, today was going to be Martin’s lucky day, in a manner of speaking. It had been three weeks since his first auspicious meeting with the mysterious Miss Trick, and in the meantime she’d successfully dropped completely out of site, despite Martin’s best efforts to track her down in every pub and club in town. But as he exited the bookies that morning, there she was, standing outside a cinema on the other side of the street, looking quite impossibly lovely. And at that moment Martin knew he’d never look at another woman for as long as he lived. (PAUSE) Which was nearly what happened, since as he stepped out into the road…
5 EXT. HIGH STREET. DAY
F/X: The sudden SCREECH of car tyres as a car brakes HARD. And a dull THUD. And then silence.
CASSANDRA: (Fade up:) Are you alright?
CASSANDRA: You don’t look too bad.
MARTIN: (Groggy) What happened?
CASSANDRA: You got hit by a car. He drove off.
MARTIN: I got hit by a car?
CASSANDRA: Crossing the road, yeah. You should really look both ways first, you know.
MARTIN: And he just drove off?
CASSANDRA: He wasn’t going that fast when he hit you.
MARTIN: Am I… alright?
CASSANDRA: You look okay. Maybe a bit pale. It’s understandable. You want a hand up? You’re kind of blocking the pavement.
CASSANDRA: There you go.
6 EXT. PARK. DAY
F/X: Fade up the sound of birds singing, a dog barking in the background. Cassandra and Martin are walking.
CASSANDRA: How’s your head feeling?
MARTIN: (Still slightly groggy:) Better. I think. Go on.
CASSANDRA: Well… I was fifteen, and this boy was in love with me. I mean as much as you can really be in love then. Do you know what I mean? He was two years older than me, and he was the best looking boy in school. Everyone fancied him. I don’t know if I was in love with him at first, but I was definitely flattered. He had a car and he played golf. I know, I know. But it made him seem really grown up. He was good too. He played for the English national junior side or something. He used to tell me “Cass, the golf club is a merely an extension of myself”. He used to say that all the time. Does that make sense?
MARTIN: Of course, of course.
CASSANDRA: And so, one day, he was out playing golf with his Dad. He was playing the best round of his life, or so his Dad said afterwards. And it started raining. Everyone else cleared off the course. But not Barry and his Dad. Too determined. They were on the eighteenth hole when it happened. They said the lightning fused the club to his hand. Apparently it happens a lot more often than you’d think. They had to bury him with his five iron still attached.
CASSANDRA: Yeah. It was in all the papers and everything.
MARTIN: But, I mean, statistically…
CASSANDRA: Could have happened to anybody, right?
CASSANDRA: I thought so too. Until Sean Taylor.
MARTIN: Who was Sean Taylor?
CASSANDRA: I was still getting over Barry when I met him. He was really nice about it too. He said he understood I needed time to grieve. We went out for six months before he even tried to get me into bed. He had the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen. And the sex! You know?
MARTIN: (Uncomfortable) Right. Right.
CASSANDRA: I’m pretty sure I would have married him if he’d asked me. And I think he was planning on it too.
MARTIN: What happened?
CASSANDRA: (Sighs, then:) He was a pyrotechnics expert. You know: big public firework displays. Only it turned out he wasn’t that much of an expert after all. They were still finding bits of him in the trees a month after bonfire night. (PAUSE) And after that I started to suspect a pattern. I mean, it had to be something wrong with me, right?
MARTIN: Well, I wouldn’t –
CASSANDRA: Gary Mills.
MARTIN: Gary Mills?
CASSANDRA: He was number three. Trainee beekeeper. Anaphylactic shock. (deep breath) Tunde Masika. I met him at university. Military coup. Ben Phillips. Went into hospital for a routine operation to correct a faulty heart valve. Never woke up from the anaesthetic. Colin Parker. Lost at sea. Are you beginning to get the idea?
MARTIN: (Beaten) Yeah. Yeah, I think so.
CASSANDRA: I am the angel of death. It’s the only explanation.
I’m the goddess of bad luck.
MARTIN: I don’t believe in luck.
CASSANDRA: Want to bet I can make you change your mind?
MARTIN: (PAUSE) You’re on.
F/X: Fade out.
7 INT. BEDROOM. NIGHT
F/X: Fade up on music playing on the radio in the b/g. Then the sound of a cigarette being dragged on. Cassandra and Martin are in bed.
CASSANDRA: (quietly) Are you awake?
MARTIN: (muffled) What time is it?
CASSANDRA: It’s evening. It’s dark outside. You talk in your sleep you know.
MARTIN: What was I talking about?
CASSANDRA: The hubble space telescope. You seemed to know a lot about it.
MARTIN: I did once. Can I have a drag on your cigarette?
CASSANDRA: Here. I didn’t think you smoked.
MARTIN: I don’t. I didn’t used to (takes a deep, deep drag).
CASSANDRA: How do you know so much about telescopes anyway?
MARTIN: I used to be an astrophysicist. (PAUSE) They threw me out.
CASSANDRA: They threw you out of astrophysics? Can they do that?
MARTIN: Ah, they can do whatever they want. They’ve got the whole thing tied up.
CASSANDRA: Why did they throw you out?
MARTIN: They said I was too controversial.
CASSANDRA: I didn’t know physicists could be controversial. I always thought they were, like, you know, boring blokes in lab coats.
MARTIN: No, that’s chemists.
CASSANDRA: Right. Sorry. What did you do that was so controversial?
MARTIN: I developed some theories about asteroidal rotational bursting that the European Space Agency didn’t like. They said my methods were questionable. And there was some… unpleasantness. At a conference.
CASSANDRA: What happened?
MARTIN: I got into a fight with Alfredo Ferrari. The world’s foremost expert on planetesimal formation. Winner of two nobel prizes. Plus, he’s seventy five. And in a wheelchair.
CASSANDRA: And you had a fight with him?
MARTIN: He threw the first punch.
MARTIN: It was just the excuse they were looking for. They said I was a loose canon. They took away my telescope privileges and made me give back the keys to the lab.
CASSANDRA: So that’s when you lost your faith.
MARTIN: Who said I’d lost my faith?
CASSANDRA: They didn’t have to. (Getting up) Okay, I have to get ready for work. (From the other side of the room:) Did you see where my bra went?
8 INT. BUS. NIGHT
MARTIN: What if we ran away? Really. We could go live on a desert island somewhere. People do it. Nobody would be able to find us.
CASSANDRA: And spend my days waiting for you to get eaten by a shark or get hit on the head by a coconut? (laughing) No thanks.
MARTIN: So what happens now?
CASSANDRA: What do you mean?
MARTIN: Now that we’ve… I thought the whole thing was that everyone you… I mean, after what we did this afternoon. I thought that… that everyone you… slept with… died.
CASSANDRA: (laughing) God, no! It’s not that bad! Is that what everyone says about me?
MARTIN: It’s not true?
CASSANDRA: No, it’s not like that. It’s not everyone I go to bed with. It only happens when I’m in love with them.
CASSANDRA: So don’t worry, you’re quite safe. I mean: I’m not in love with you, am I?
F/X: Fade out.
9 EXT. HOT AIR BALLOON. DAY
F/X: LOUD sound of the fuel burner on a hot air balloon blasting away.
MARTIN: (Shouting) SO THAT’S THE DEAL!
BRIAN: (Shouting) WHAT?
MARTIN: (Shouting) THAT’S THE DEAL! SHE HAS TO BE –
F/X: The burner cuts off and then there’s only the sound of the basket creaking, and a distant wind
MARTIN: (Shouting) –IN LOVE WITH ME! (Normal voice) Oh. Uh…
we’re pretty high up now Brian.
BRIAN: About a thousand feet, give or take.
MARTIN: Are you sure this is safe?
BRIAN: I borrowed it from the meteorology department. Ceiling’s ten thousand feet. Ironically, it’s actually safer the higher we get.
MARTIN: That’s good to know.
BRIAN: Look, you can see Phillips getting out of his car. (Shouting) Phillips, you idiot! Space has ten dimensions, not nine! I don’t think he can hear us. You want some breakfast? I made bacon sandwiches. There’s a thermos of coffee too.
MARTIN: (Unsure) Thanks.
BRIAN: Spectacular view isn’t it?
MARTIN: (Still unconvinced) It’s pretty impressive, yeah.
BRIAN: Imagine what it looks like from space… So, you were saying.
MARTIN: It’s only the ones she actually falls in love with that die.
BRIAN: Fascinating. And… how many times has this happened?
MARTIN: Nine or ten. One guy disappeared, so his death was never proved conclusively.
BRIAN: So she’s been in love nine or ten times in, what, seventeen years would you say?
MARTIN: More or less.
MARTIN: Is that a lot? Too much?
BRIAN: This is from the man who once fell in love with a girl because he liked her hat?
MARTIN: Well, yeah. But this is the real thing we’re talking about. Imagine loving someone so much that it actually causes them to die. And then being able to love the next one just as much. I mean, that takes real…
MARTIN: (Depressed) Exactly.
BRIAN: And is she in love with you?
MARTIN: I’m still alive aren’t I?
BRIAN: Good point. And yet you want her to fall in love with you
in order to make your life worth living. It’s a Faustian bargain and no mistake.
MARTIN: Yeah. (Pause) What’s a “Faustian bargain”?
BRIAN: Technically though, she is still supposed to be in mourning for the last guy.
BRIAN: Okay, we’re about ready. Hand me the first lander.
MARTIN: Are we really going to throw all of these over the side?
BRIAN: Of course. It’s the only way to test them. They’re designed to crash land on the Martian surface. It’s what we built them for.
MARTIN: But won’t they all be smashed to pieces?
BRIAN: Only the ones that don’t survive, Martin. Only the ones that don’t survive. Now, let’s see if we can hit Phillips’s car…
F/X: Fade out
NARRATOR: And so it was that Martin embarked on his grand and somewhat reckless plan to make Cassie Trick fall in love with him, using every last scientific technique he’d picked up over the years.
F/X: Sound of chalk squeaking on a blackboard
ALBERT EINSTEIN: …and as we can see, we can break down the process of falling in love into a simple quadratic equation, where X equals the desired object and Y, Z and A to the power Q are simple variants. Of course M, here, is an imaginary number, but when we plug that in, dividing by twelve point three five two – I’m rounding down, obviously…
NARRATOR: When that didn’t work, he tried other methods. He took her out for romantic meals. He took her to the cinema. He took her to the races.
10 EXT. HORSE RACE. DAY
F/X: The cheering race crowd, and commentator’s voice over the tannoy in the b/g
MARTIN: (Shouting) Are you in love with me yet?
CASSANDRA: (Shouting) No!
MARTIN: (Shouting) What about now?
CASSANDRA: (Shouting) NO!
MARTIN: (Shouting) What about now?
F/X: Fade out
NARRATOR: But as the autumn turned into one of the coldest winters anyone could remember, Cassandra was proving herself resolute. And Martin was running out of ideas. He started standing too close to the edge of the platform when waiting for the tube, just to see what would happen. He found himself stepping on the cracks in the pavement and walking under every ladder he came across, looking for a sign of Cassandra’s burgeoning affections. But to no avail. He was almost on the verge of giving up. Until one day chilly December afternoon, as Martin and Cassandra celebrated a rare win for Martin on the horses by taking a boat trip along the river thames…
11 EXT. RIVER. DAY
FX: Sound of the boat’s engines, and the water below, maybe a tour announcer’s voice over loudspeaker in the bg.
CASSANDRA: Seriously, I’m absolutely freezing. This is ridiculous. I knew global warming was a myth.
MARTIN: Actually, the science behind it is pretty sound.
CASSANDRA: Hmmm. Why has the temperature been below zero for the last two weeks then?
MARTIN: Doesn’t affect the long term trend. That’s why people are so bad at understanding probability. We think too small. We think our own experience applies to everything. If I flip a coin five times and it comes up heads each time, I think “well, the chances of it coming up heads next time are tiny. I’ve already had five heads in a row. I’m willing to bet my house on tails.” But, see, personal history is irrelevant. The chance of heads or tails on the next throw is still fifty-fifty, no matter what happened previously. It’s only over a hundred flips, a thousand maybe, that you’ll start to see the pattern emerge. Roughly fifty percent heads and fifty percent tails. Anomalies are meaningless.
CASSANDRA: I’d still bet on tails.
MARTIN: Exactly. But it’s unscientific
CASSANDRA: Well, I don’t believe in science then.
MARTIN: Everybody believes in science.
MARTIN: What do you believe in then?
CASSANDRA: Belief! Or at least faith. In my business, it’s all I’ve got. Plus, it moves mountains apparently.
MARTIN: Continental drift is what moves mountains. That’s not faith, it’s plate tectonics.
CASSANDRA: Oh no…
MARTIN: What? Where?
CASSANDRA: There. Right in front of us!
MARTIN: What? Tower Bridge?
MARTIN: What’s wrong with Tower Bridge?
CASSANDRA: Just look at it. It’s horrible. Not to mention dangerous. (PAUSE) Andrew Forbes? Worked on the painting crew? Found three days later, washed up at Rotherhithe?
MARTIN: Number eight, right?
CASSANDRA: (Sadly) Yup. Right after Gavin Tunney.
MARTIN: The one who fell in the lion’s enclosure at London zoo.
CASSANDRA: It was the lama enclosure, not the lions enclosure. No one ever believes that one. Lamas can be really vicious when they feel threatened.
MARTIN: I’ll remember that.
CASSANDRA: I don’t get you at all. Aren’t you just a bit disturbed by all of this?
MARTIN: I’m not the jealous type.
CASSANDRA: Wasn’t exactly what I meant.
MARTIN: I know.
CASSANDRA: You’re really weird you know.
MARTIN: I’m not the one who’s boyfriends keep dying, am I?
CASSANDRA: No, that’s true. Thanks. (PAUSE) Listen, ah… look, I want you to start being really careful from now on. You know. Just… be careful. Generally. Especially around dangerous things.
CASSANDRA: Do I have to spell it out?
MARTIN: Oh. (Getting it) Oh!
CASSANDRA: Yeah. Sorry about that.
F/X: Fade up race course commentary…
COMMENTATOR: And Fractal Lad! What a comeback from the young horse after the terrible year he’s had! Fractal Lad opening up an incredible lead! Oh, what a moment!
F/X: Fade out
NARRATOR: Now love, as every scientist knows, comes with many challenges. And most of them have nothing at all to do with romance. Falling in love, as Martin himself knew only too well, is the easiest thing in the world. And if that was all there was to it, we’d all probably do it a lot more often. The reason we don’t, of course, is that what comes next is considerably more tricky. As Martin, despite his new found joy, was about to find out.
12 EXT. STREET. DAY
F/X: The sound of birds singing. Then the whistling sound of something falling. Then the giant, musical SOUND of a GRAND PIANO CRASHING onto a pavement. Then silence.
F/X: A mobile phone rings
MARTIN: (Shaken) Hello?
PHONE VOICE: Martin Elliot?
MARTIN: Yes. I think so. Am I alive?
PHONE VOICE: Sorry?
MARTIN: Sorry. I’m a bit distracted. I just nearly got killed by a falling grand piano.
PHONE VOICE: Oh. Are you alright?
MARTIN: Just about, yeah. But the person who was having the piano delivered to their flat isn’t going to be very happy.
PHONE VOICE: Indeed. Mr Elliot: we’d like to offer you a job.
13 INT. WORKSHOP. DAY
F/X: Sounds of robots being tested: gears, motors whirring etc.
MARTIN: You set me up!
BRIAN: No, I got you a job.
MARTIN: Well, it’s the same thing.
BRIAN: Sometimes I lie awake all night just imagining what it must be like inside your head. When do you start?
MARTIN: Monday. You must have pulled a lot of strings. Apparently even Ferrari has officially forgiven me.
BRIAN: It’s the government. The Prime Minister’s wife saw a documentary about asteroid impacts and now she’s obsessed with the end of the world. They were looking for experts and your name obviously came up.
MARTIN: It just came up?
BRIAN: I may have lobbied on your behalf somewhat. Come on, it’s about time you got back on the horse. Who’ve they got you working with?
MARTIN: The usual suspects. Wallman. Toscarelli.
BRIAN: Toscarelli? The man’s an idiot!
MARTIN: And somebody called Kirsty Palermo.
BRIAN: You don’t know who Kirsty Palermo is?
MARTIN: Should I?
BRIAN: Do you even read the literature?
MARTIN: I’ve been busy.
BRIAN: Here. Read that.
MARTIN: “Kirsty Palermo: putting the sex into space science”?
BRIAN: She’s the new enfant terrible of astrophysics.
MARTIN: I thought I was the enfant terrible of astrophysics.
BRIAN: About five years ago, yes. Kirsty Palermo the Californian child prodigy? Got her Phd at seventeen? You must have seen her on TV at least. She wears really really short skirts.
MARTIN: I can see that from the picture.
BRIAN: So: do you think she’d want to meet me?
F/X: Fade out.
14 INT. KITCHEN. NIGHT
F/X: The sound of a power drill. Then it stops.
CASSANDRA: Okay, pass me the next shelf. Thanks. Where did you get all these books?
MARTIN: Brian had them put in storage after I got banned from the lab. I didn’t think I was going to need them again.
CASSANDRA: So you’re really going to take the job.
MARTIN: I really think I am.
CASSANDRA: We don’t need the money you know. The insurance payout from the cruise ship that sunk my parents lasts for the rest of my life.
MARTIN: It’s a good position. Somebody’s finally found a use for me. I never thought that would happen
CASSANDRA: I thought I’d found a use for you,
MARTIN: Well, yeah. But this is different. I could be responsible for saving the world here. You don’t get much bigger than that. The future of the Earth could be in my hands.
CASSANDRA: Nothing. Nothing at all.
F/X: The sound of the drill again, then a loud BANG! Then the sound of the drill dying.
MARTIN: (With dread) What was that?
CASSANDRA: I think I hit a wire…
F/X: Fade out.
15 INT. LECTURE HALL. DAY
F/X: An echo-y lecture hall, full of people, the occasional cough etc.
TOSCARELLI: (Delivering a speech, badly)…and so, obviously, when it comes to… to… (rustling papers) dealing with the asteroid threat from Ida-dactl systems… sorry, that’s clearly the wrong slide… ah: here we go… we have three possible modes of attack. First: we can attempt to land on the larger of the two bodies….
KIRSTY: (Whispering) You know, if these are the best people humanity can come up with, I’m not sure we deserve to survive. Kirsty Palermo.
MARTIN: (Whispering) Martin Elliot
KIRSTY: I know. Your reputation precedes you. I heard about what happened at the Bormeo conference – they were idiots. I’ve read your work. I think you were on to something. Of course, your calculations were a little rough.
KIRSTY: Listen: Do you want to get out of here?
16 INT. LAB. DAY
F/X: random computer bleeps etc, and other sounds of a physics lab
MARTIN: (Very impressed) This is… a really nice lab.
KIRSTY: Yeah, they’re spoiling me. There’s a bottle of champagne from Steven Hawking around here somewhere too. So: I’m at the big meeting in Hollywood and they’re coming out with all these dumb ideas. What about if we only found out that an asteroid was going to hit us two weeks before it happened? That sort of garbage. I had to tell them. “You might know about making movies, but leave the science to me”. You should have seen the look on Spielberg’s face. And then George Clooney is on the phone offering to show me round LA. He was a perfect gent though. Here, have a look at this.
F/X: Kirsty types on a keyboard. We hear bleeps and whirrs as data is analysed.
KIRSTY: Telescope’s in the Canaries. We discovered 10 new near-Earth objects the day we turned it on.
MARTIN: (sitting at desk) This is… impossible. How did you get the funding for all this?
KIRSTY: Who do you think got the Prime Minister’s wife to watch that documentary? That’s the trouble with scientists today. No idea how to market themselves. Or they drop out altogether and disappear for five years just when they’re on the verge of actually discovering something interesting.
MARTIN: I didn’t drop out. They kicked me out.
KIRSTY: Come on, you were begging for an excuse to fail. Okay, click there. It’s classic self-sabotage. “Oh, I’m a maverick. I can’t play by their rules”. (of the screen) Use the pole star for reference.
MARTIN: You said they were idiots.
KIRSTY: They are idiots. That’s no excuse for you to act like one too. You do know which one’s the pole star, right?
MARTIN: Are you like this with everyone you work with?
KIRSTY: Only the ones I really like. Okay, now click “ok” and let it run. You want some music?
KIRSTY: It helps me think.
F/X: The sound of a scratchy SAMBA record starts up.
KIRSTY: Now: stick her in gear, and let’s see what we can find up there compadre.
NARRATOR: (As the music plays) And so Martin began his mission to save the world, one piece of interstellar flotsam at a time. For the next few weeks he would spend what seemed like every waking hour scanning the sky for signs of our impending destruction. Would it be an asteroid, knocked off its usual course by a passing comet, say? Or a comet itself, winging its way in from the Oort Cloud out beyond the Solar System? Understandably, the responsibility soon started to go to Martin’s head. As did the constant proximity of Miss Palermo, who had the habit of agreeing with most of what Martin said and chewing sexily on the end of her pencil while listening to his theories during late nights in the lab. Suddenly, far from looking forward to the possibility of a violent and romantic death, Martin was finding himself starting to worry about it quite considerably.
17 EXT. BEACH. DAY
F/X: The HUGE sound of the surf in the distance, maybe seagulls. And we move towards the MOTOR of another one of Brian’s robots being put through its paces. NB: our heroes have to raise their voices to be heard over the surf and the wind
KIRSTY: (Raised voice) So what are we looking at here, exactly?
BRIAN: (Raised voice) The Mars Explorer. Version 6. Terrain test. Sand.
MARTIN: (Raised voice) What happened to version 5?
BRAIN: (Raised voice) What?
MARTIN: (Raised voice) What happened to version 5? I liked him.
BRIAN: (Raised voice) This is astrophysics Martin: there’s no room for sentiment. You have to expect a certain attrition rate. Besides, I needed the parts.
KIRSTY: (Raised voice) Is that a Soviet Prosky-Kossof power unit?
BRIAN: (Raised voice) Yes! Yes it is!
KIRSTY: (Raised voice) Weren’t they banned at the end of the cold war? You know, because of the radiation levels?
BRIAN: (Raised voice) What?
F/X: The car door slams, and we’re INSIDE the car and out of the wind
KIRSTY: That’s better. What’s he doing now?
MARTIN: I think he’s trying to put the fire out. While fending off the seagulls. Do you want a go on the binoculars?
KIRSTY: Maybe later. So: what do you say?
MARTIN: I don’t know.
KIRSTY: Move to the States with me. You can be the prodigal son. In a plucky Brit sort of way. They’ll love you at NASA. Plus, we have much bigger telescopes.
MARTIN: Three months ago I didn’t think I’d ever look through a telescope again.
KIRSTY: Exactly. I don’t think you have the right to turn this down. People need you now. You have a responsibility to the planet. Besides, if you stay here, what are you going to do with the rest of your life?
MARTIN: It didn’t look like that was going to be a problem.
KIRSTY: You have to work the long game Martin. It’s basic Bernoulli’s theorem. Factor in enough time and even the most unlikely event becomes inevitable. Promise me you’ll think about it?
MARTIN: Okay, I’ll think about it.
KIRSTY: Okay then. Now: let’s go rescue Brian from drowning.
F/X: FADE OUT
18 EXT. FUNFAIR. DAY
F/X: …and the big sound of a rollercoaster SWOOPING round a bend as the passengers SCREAM their heads off…
F/X: …then fade up the sounds of the rest of the FUNFAIR: a pipe organ, slot machines, crowds etc…
CASSANDRA: Come on. Please?
MARTIN: No. Here. Eat your candy floss.
CASSANDRA: I don’t want any more. It’s making me feel sick.
MARTIN: Going on the waltzers was what made you feel sick.
CASSANDRA: Come on. It’s one rollercoaster ride. What are you scared of?
CASSANDRA: Oh, that’s your excuse for everything these days.
MARTIN: What’s that supposed to
CASSANDRA: You’ve changed
MARTIN: I haven’t changed. All I’m saying is… Look. See that? I fell down the stairs at work yesterday. For no reason at all.
CASSANDRA: People fall down the stairs all the time. The world’s a dangerous place.
MARTIN: And there’s the chip pan fire last week. And the car crash.
CASSANDRA: Alright, alright. I get it.
MARTIN: People need me now. I have a responsibility.
CASSANDRA: I’m “people” too you know.
MARTIN: You’re not being fair.
CASSANDRA: I’m not being fair? Sorry, but who chased who in this relationship? The first time I ever met you I told you exactly who I was.
MARTIN: But things were different then.
CASSANDRA: Yes. You didn’t have a job.
MARTIN: (stung) So: this is it, is it? All I’ve got to look forward to is spending the rest of my life waiting to die?
CASSANDRA: (Cold) What you do with it is up to you Martin. But I thought you might have wanted to make the best of it.
19 INT.PUB. DAY
F/X: Fade up on fruit machine in the bg.
MARTIN: (Miserable) Two pernods please Stan. Doubles.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Ten years and that fruit machine has never paid out once. I don’t know why I bother. So: to what do we owe the pleasure of your company professor? I thought you’d given up on us.
MARTIN: I need a tip.
DEPTFORD STEVE: You need a tip from me? Oh, this calls for a celebration. Better give us two more Stan. What happened to the system?
MARTIN: I realized that there were some factors I couldn’t account for.
DEPTFORD STEVE: What did I tell you? You’ve got to play your percentages. Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. In the words of the great Kenny Rogers.
MARTIN: Something like that, yeah.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Well let’s see, shall we?
F/X: Steve opens the paper.
DEPTFORD STEVE: What about this one? “Undying Love”. Twelve
thirty at Lingford.
MARTIN: Keep going.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Hmmm. “Eternal commitment”?
DEPTFORD STEVE: Okay, wait. Oh, I’ve got it. Two o’clock at York. There’s your horse. “Faith over Reason”.
MARTIN: Is it a cert?
DEPTFORD STEVE: Read the name Martin. Read the name. If that’s not a cert, I don’t know what is.
F/X: The fruit machine in the back of the pub suddenly BEEPS and starts paying out. Somebody SHOUTS for joy.
DEPTFORD STEVE: Now that’s just unfair.
F/X: Fade out
20 INT. LAB. NIGHT
F/X: Loud SAMBA MUSIC plays over the usual laboratory sounds. And martin types on the keyboard.
MARTIN: (Loud over the music) 1987GG?
F/X: Kirsty shakes a cocktail shaker
KIRSTY: Already checked it. You want ice with your martini?
MARTIN: (More typing) What about 1995?
KIRSTY: That one too. Both near misses. Half a million miles each. Nothing to worry about. So, these two physicists walk into a bar…
MARTIN: (Quietly) I don’t even know what I’m looking for anymore here.
KIRSTY: (Coming closer) What? Here’s your drink.
MARTIN: Thanks. What time is it?
KIRSTY: Nearly midnight. Cheers.
MARTIN: (Glum) Cheers.
KIRSTY: So. Here we are. Alone in a lab. Slightly drunk. Trying to save the world together. (Pause). You might try and look a bit happier about it Martin.
MARTIN: Sorry. I won twenty thousand pounds on a horse today.
KIRSTY: Well thank God for that: I was starting to think it was me.
MARTIN: It means I’ve been wrong about everything all along.
KIRSTY: Well, me? I’ll take twenty thousand pounds and being wrong over being right and poor every time.
MARTIN: I suppose so.
F/X: The computer BLEEPS
KIRSTY: Hmmm. What’s this?
KIRSTY: (Tapping screen) In that cluster in the top left (sound of keys on keyboard) there.
MARTIN: Hmmm. Pull back a bit. Yeah, clear those others out of the equation. Ok, run the simulation again.
F/X: Kirsty’s fingers tapping on the keyboard. And then a loud, repetitive BEEPING sound. Like an ALARM.
KIRSTY: Oh… dear.
F/X: Fade out, then birdsong and the dawn chorus…
21 INT. KITCHEN. DAY
F/X: The front door opening…
F/X: The WOOSH of something being thrown and then a CRASH!
CASSANDRA: Where were you???
F/X: Another WOOSH and CRASH!
MARTIN: Ow! Stop throwing things at me! I was at the lab!
CASSANDRA: It’s 7 in the morning! I’ve been waiting all night!
MARTIN: I got distracted.
CASSANDRA: You got distracted??? Did it occur to you that when my boyfriends disappear, I tend to assume…
F/X: Another CRASH!
CASSANDRA: …the worst?
CASSANDRA: And that’s it…?
BRIAN: I got you a present.
CASSANDRA: What is it? Flowers from the all night garage?
BRIAN: (rustle of papers) It’s this.
CASSANDRA: It’s… a load of computer printouts. Thanks. I think I
would have preferred the flowers.
BRIAN: It’s all in there.
CASSANDRA: It’s all numbers. And graphs. I don’t know what any of this means. Is this some kind of clever physics joke that only scientists get? Because it’s not very funny.
BRIAN: When we find new astral objects we name them. It makes it more interesting than just dealing with a lot of numbers. It’s not official or anything, there’s a proper international body that does that. But we do it anyway.
CASSANDRA: It says “Cassandra” here. It’s me.
BRIAN: It was the first asteroid I ever identified. My first week on the job.
CASSANDRA: And you named it after me?
BRIAN: I was going to give it to you for your birthday. But it came up again last night.
CASSANDRA: What does this mean? These numbers?
BRIAN: It means it’s approximately eight kilometres across, with a rotational period of just under thirty minutes. Mainly iron content.
CASSANDRA: Is that good?
BRIAN: Well, it’s fairly classic.
CASSANDRA: It’s mine. It’s me.
BRIAN: It’s yours.
CASSANDRA: (PAUSE) You’re still an idiot
BRIAN: I know.
CASSANDRA: You’ve been behaving abominably
BRIAN: I know.
CASSANDRA: (Getting teary) I mean, I know I present certain challenges, but even so…
BRIAN: Marry me.
BRIAN: Marry me.
F/X: Fade out
22 INT. WEDDING RECEPTION. NIGHT
F/X: We’re at a wedding reception, so: people eating, drinking etc.
BRIAN: (Fade in – and, my God, Brian is actually being cool, and smooth, and funny!) … and, of course, to thank the bridesmaids. Ladies; Kirsty: a truly magnificent job. I’ll be seeing one or two of you after the ceremony. And so it only remains for me to tell you that straight after the reception Martin and Cassandra will be embarking on their six month honeymoon which, I believe, includes… (reading from a list) Polar bear tracking in the arctic, swimming with great white sharks, off-piste skiing, the world’s highest bungee jump, sky diving and… an attempt on Mount Everest. And now, if you’ll join me in charging your glasses. To the bride and groom!
GUESTS: The bride and groom!
F/X: Applause, cheering
DEPTFORD STEVE: (With a mouth full of food) Of course, I was always telling him: You’ve got to play your percentages…
F/X: Fade out
NARRATOR: So there you have it. For the first time in his life, Martin had made a commitment. Of course, he did have the luxury of having already seen his future, and he could be fairly confident most of it would be good, for the next thirty years at least. Thirty years being just about long enough for Asteroid Cassandra, designation 2006GG, to complete the last of the orbits that Martin and Kirsty Palermo had plotted that night in the lab. After which she was due to slam into the surface of the earth at a speed of approximately 30 kilometres a second and have a pretty good go at wiping out all of life on Earth. And, as Martin had finally realized: a love that strong is a rare and wonderful thing indeed.
– END –