Act One, Scene Four
ODR: Was this all a dream? Our dear Cuthbert had naught to prove that it was otherwise, save for the mysterious head and the loss of most of the night’s buffet. All he could do was to send out his riders across the land, looking for the girl with a missing head. Meanwhile, back in the student ghetto, secret conspiracies were being hatched.
ODR exits. Curtain up on the Viaduct. BUTTERWOOD and DR BUTLER are seated around the table, pouring over books, maps and papers.
Dr Butler: You’re mad, Butterwood, completely mad.
Butterwood: I’m not, Doctor, the evidence speaks for itself.
Dr Butler: I don’t care if the evidence gets up and starts performing the Macarena, it’s fundamentally flawed.
Butterwood: But what about the maps?
Dr Butler: These maps are decades old, pre-bomb. Even if this Stock-town existed, it will have been bombed to oblivion. The Council did extensive research during the post-bomb period and concluded that nothing in Britain outside of Durham survived the Bomb. I’ve seen the evidence, it’s irrefutable.
Butterwood: Yes, we’ve all seen the evidence, but what if it did survive?
Dr Butler: If, if, it’s always if with you: what if Stock-town survived? What if mutants have feelings? What if I only change my underwear every week? These are futile hypotheticals: Stock-town did not survive, mutants have no feelings, and you will change your underwear every day like a normal human being if you want me to step foot in this house again.
Butterwood: Yes, but what about the refugees?
Dr Butler: This is an obsession. If you would just let it go, they would let you back on to the Science Board. At the moment, they are seriously considering stripping you of your doctorate. I’m distracting them as best I can, but I can’t protect you forever. The music is coming and if you don’t desist, they’re going to knock you all the way back to Mozart.
Butterwood: (persisting). But the refugees.
Dr Butler: (throwing up her hands in disgust). They’re crazed starved wanderers driven insane by exposure to the Bomb. There’s nothing more to it than that. Stories of a fabled utopia of food and clean water, they’re just that: fantasies.
Butterwood: Even fantasies have an element of truth in them. I accept that there won’t be mountains of bread or streets paved with gold, but if there is a grain of truth, and Stock-town did have a medical facility, then they could have survived the effects, and ever flourished.
Dr Butler: (sighing). Let’s say, hypothetically, mind you, hypothetically, that you’re right and this Stock-town does still exist, what would you do?
Butterwood: Well, we’d need to put together an expedition.
Dr Butler: Led by yours truly, I presume.
Butterwood: (gesturing to his wheelchair). Well, I can hardly expect you to carry me on your back. No, as one of the only people on the Science Board whom I trust, it would have to be you. Just a small expedition to ascertain what the situation is. If it’s favourable, we send a larger one, establish contact, a sharing of supplies and knowledge, who knows, maybe construct a Bubble for Stock-town, connected via a sealed Bubbleway. Remove radiation from the water supple, cure the mutants, heal the earth, we could rebuild all that we’ve lost.
Dr Butler: And you’re just going to waltz up (pause) roll up to the Science Board and expect them to fall down at your feet?
Butterwood: (snorting). Don’t be ridiculous. Those empirical bastards won’t do anything without evidence to back it up. No, I need to establish its location and go there myself.
Dr Butler: What?
Butterwood: It’s the only way; they’ll never listen otherwise.
Dr Butler: But, your wheelchair…
Butterwood: I have able assistants.
Dr Butler: You’ll never get out of the Bubble.
Butterwood: I’ll find a way.
Dr Butler: You know I’ll have to tell the Board.
Butterwood: I know, just give me three days head start.
Dr Butler: I’ll give you as long as I can. (pause). Mad, you are, mad.
Butterwood: No more so than anyone else in this place.
Dr Butler: I’d drink to that if it wouldn’t kill me.