Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bubble

Act One, Scene Ten

The Viaduct, BUTTERWOOD is at the counter, reading Palatinate.

Butterwood: “Bishop lynched in Castle. Cleaner goes on strike.” (Turns the page). “Cleaner lynched.” Ah, well. (Rips up Palatinate and places in bowls. Calls offstage). Guys, dinner’s ready.

Enter MARY and MELT. They sit.

Mary: Yum, Palatinate.

MELT and BUTTERWOOD stare at her.

Butterwood: Mary, are you all right?

Mary: Never been better.

Butterwood: But, you hate Palatinate.

Mary: Do I? Why should I? It’s informative and nutritious.

Butterwood: Are you sure you’re all right?

Melt: She’s worse: she’s in love.

Mary: I am not.

Butterwood: In love, with whom?

Mary: I am not in love.

Melt: You are, with that poncy little castle boy.

Mary: He is not a ponce.

Melt: Don’t listen to her, doctor, that’s love talking.

Mary: (rising). Do you want to take this outside?

Melt: (rising). Bring it on, girlfriend.

Butterwood: Will both of you sit down?

They do so reluctantly, eyeing each other hostilely.

Butterwood: Now, Mary, there’s no reason to be ashamed of being in love.

Mary: I’m not ashamed.

Butterwood: Good, because Cuthbert is a worthy match. I’ve observed him in several labs and he’s shown himself to be intelligent, skilled and, if I may say so, rather witty.

Melt: Still sounds like a ponce to me.

Butterwood: Melt, just because your definition of witty is setting road kill alight, does not mean everyone can be held to your – unreasonably superior – standards. If they were, I should fear for the fate of the human race.

Melt: All right, doctor, and where has your sainted science got us to, huh? To this: a bombed-out ruin in the midst of a nuclear wasteland with nothing but scraps of newspaper for food and concentrated spirits for drink. You place your trust in science and ponces, but I won’t. I’ll stick with my axe and my head, thank you very much.

Mary: If you can find it.

Melt: (brandishing his axe). Shut up, you.

Butterwood: (quietly). Well, thank you for that highly articulate expression of your views. And thank you for your approval: I shall place my trust in science. In fact, I must talk with you both about a matter of some import. As I’m sure you have not noticed, I have been working on a new project these last few months.

Melt: It’s not still mutants, is it?

Butterwood: No, far more serious.

Mary: More serious than mutants? This sounds radical. How many people are going to be after your head this time?

Butterwood: If I’m right, all of them. This discovery will shake Durham to its core. You see, I believe I have discovered the location of the lost campus of Stock-town: a great repository of food and medicine located some scant few miles from Durham. Moreover, I believe the community there, or some vestige of it, survived the bomb. I intend to discover Stock-town.

Melt: So, why should we care?

Butterwood: A good point. You may be aware already, but my name is not held in such high regard with the Science Board anymore.

Mary: Anymore? (!)

Butterwood: As such, the Board will be unwilling to finance the expedition without incontrovertible proof. I need to find this proof, and the only way I can do that is to go to Stock-town itself.

Melt: Still can’t see why we should care.

Butterwood: (laughing). Well, I am hardly in a fit state for travelling, so I need a band of loyal and trustworthy companions to accompany me on the journey – to carry, record and protect. Since, however, all my loyal and trusted companions are either dead or refusing to talk to me, you two shall have to suffice.

Mary: Charmed. When are you thinking of departing?

Butterwood: Well, I need to get a final pinpoint on the location. I should have that by tomorrow evening, so early morning of the day after tomorrow.

Mary: (frantic). The day after tomorrow? But that’s too soon; I mean, what’s the hurry? I mean, um, I guess, there are some people I need to talk to first.

Butterwood: Cuthbert?

Mary: I should talk to him first about this.

Butterwood: Talk to him, but Mary, mark my words, I need you on this, and I won’t take no for an answer. The fate of the future of Durham rests on this.

Melt: So, no pressure.

Mary: Well then, can I at least say goodbye to him?

Butterwood: Of course.

Mary: I’ll need to get into the castle though. Any ideas how, either of you?

Melt: Well, you could…

Mary: Butterwood, any ideas?

Butterwood: Well, as you shall be assisting me, it’s only fair that I help you, and I think I know just the way.

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