Mudsock Theater Of The Mind Pt. 2
The Travels of Omar and Butch, Episode 2
Note: This is the second of a planned nine episodes in the travles of Omar and Butch, two men who travel around (clever, eh?) and help people. Since I was young I have wanted to produce my own radio dramas, and toward that end I have written some scripts. They are rough drafts, certainly, but in a play a lot of the kinks get ironed out when the readings start. This one introduces a villain who may well be back again! Enjoy!
The Travels of Omar and Butch
Episode 2: The Men of Jupiter Drop
Omar: Hello, my name is Omar. My friend Butch and I are travelers, adventurers if you will. We travel around, here and there, looking for adventures to join in. Sometimes we don’t have to look for adventure, sometimes it finds us.
Sound FX: Wind blowing.
Butch: Omar, where are we?
Omar: We’re about five miles outside of Jupiter Drop.
Butch: Jupiter Drop? What in the name of Heaven is there for us?
Omar: What difference does it make?
Butch: You know, I really hate when you get petulant.
Omar: Ow, mate! You always hurt me when you use those big words!
Butch: You ever wonder what I could do with the Examiner if I put my mind to it?
Omar: And now, threats! What’s got you in such a good mood this morning?
Butch: Is it morning? How can you tell?
Omar: We’re heading for Jupiter Drop, Butch.
Butch: Of course we are. I shouldn’t have asked.
Omar: Butch had been like this for a long time, but it had gotten worse since our adventure at Mars Station. Something about dealing with the Old Woman there had really rattled him. The itch that he can’t scratch, the desire he can’t satisfy was really eating at him. He’d been getting even more irritable, and I was wondering if I could count on him when I really needed him.
Jupiter Drop was even more shrouded in mystery and rumor than Mars Station, if that were possible. Where Mars Station was just something that people had heard of, some people actually knew something about Jupiter Drop. It had started as a manufacturing facility, but it had belched out so much smoke and gas that it became hazardous to breath. The company that owned the plant shut it down and relocated. But the people, almost all of them men by the time the plant closed, were stuck there with no money to move. And they all went through a tough time, but then something happened. Something that no one is quite sure about.
Butch: Does Barker ever tell you who we’re going to help?
Omar: No, the only thing Barker ever tells me is where to go.
Butch: Why do I have to go?
Omar: I’d take you home if I could, Butch.
Butch: Yeah, I’m not sure if I believe you.
Omar: We stopped talking for a while. As we walked closer to Jupiter Drop, it was getting harder to breath. Butch got the Examiner out of his pack and checked the air. He showed me the reading, it wasn’t good. My lungs were starting to burn, and for the first time I thought about bailing out on something Barker had told me to do. When we were about two, two and a half miles out of town, we met a man at a roadside stand. I assumed he was a man, I’m still not sure. He was wearing a right smart waistcoat with a topcoat and a wide-brimmed hat. He was also wearing what was obviously a gas mask but also had some kind of head gear attached including over his ears. Seeing us, and noticing our difficulty, he pantomimed us breathing hard, then offered us each one a similar setup. Putting them on, we are both relieved to be able to breath, then we hear his voice in our ears, telling us that if we’re going into Jupiter Drop we are going to need these in order to hear each other, any one else, and also so we don’t die of asphyxiation. Then he said they’d be four hundred each. What could we do? Butch about had a fit but I haggled the man down to three hundred apiece and we were on our way.
Voices slightly muffled from here.
Butch: Three hundred? Isn’t that a little excessive?
Omar: Certainly not as excessive as dying, don’t you think?
Butch: Do you?
Omar: He was like that for the next half hour as we entered the town. It was kind of eerie, actually. We walked up and down many streets and didn’t see anybody anywhere. We didn’t see anybody, that is, until we reached the Mission House.
Butch: Do you hear that?
Omar: Yeah, it sounds like they’re singing.
Sound FX: People singing.
Butch: I suppose we have to go in and check it out.
Omar: That seems to be the best idea.
Butch: Whatever. Well, come on!
Omar: Leading the way, Butch pushed through the door to the Mission House. As you might expect, it was a Mission House, with the words “Worship our Lord” and “Come Here For Comfort, All Ye Sinners” in bright neon signs on the walls. I counted about twenty men sitting on benches and singing. A man in a black frock coat with a gas mask over his head was leading the singing. He saw us and said ‘Strangers! Welcome brothers!’ He started toward us but before he could get three steps we were surrounded by every other man in the room. The sea of gas mask-covered faces was a little unnerving, but not as unnerving as the arsenal, it seemed, of sticks, knives and guns pointed at us. The man in the frock coat tried to calm everybody down, saying that they should be ready to accept any newcomers into their midst. Some of the men were a lot less loving, practically accusing us of being spies for him. Just exactly who “him” was we didn’t find out at that time. I’ll admit that I was worried for our safety, but the frock coated man finally got the others to calm down.
Sunday: Brothers, friends! Please, we must not be so quick to accuse strangers! We must show a little hospitality!
Butch: Well thank you very much, Mr., ah…
Sunday: I know, I get that a lot. But yes, that is my name.
Omar: So, Mr. Sunday…
Sunday: Pastor Sunday, if you please.
Butch: Yes sir. Why are the men so upset?
Sunday: They think that you probably work for him.
Omar: I’m sorry, Pastor, but we don’t know who “him” is.
Sunday: That would be Mr. Canard.
Butch: I’m sorry, but we still don’t know who Mr. Canard is.
Sunday: I suspected as much. I didn’t think you actually worked for him.
Omar: That’s an interesting question.
Butch: As much as all the questions that need to be asked need to be asked, the next thing we need to do is find a place to stay.
Sunday: How long do you expect to be in town?
Omar: To be honest, we’re not certain.
Sunday: May I ask what your business is?
Butch: Not one that pays very well, I’m afraid.
Sunday: No need to apologize, gentlemen. I suspected that much, as well. I’ll tell you what; I have a room upstairs that is currently not in use, it has a pair of cots and a table. You two are more than welcome to make use of it.
Omar: Thank you, Pastor. Although if you don’t mind my saying, you’re awfully, ah…
Sunday: Trusting? Well I can assure you that although my faith certainly does dictate that I be open to my fellow men, I base my opinions of men on observation. For instance, I’m sure you would like to know how I surmise that you probably aren’t in Mr. Canard’s employ.
Butch: I’ll admit that the question crossed my mind.
Omar: Our minds.
Sunday: Yes, well the fact is that Mr. Canard’s men are as seldom seen as he is. And the two of you had the air of men who had not gotten their bearings in their new surroundings. Mr. Canard’s men would give no such indications. If they were attempting to gain my trust by subterfuge, they would need to be a great deal more subtle than such men usually are. I’m sure you have one more inquiry, as well.
Butch: How did you know?
Sunday: It would be a natural question for someone who has been here for a while but never been here before to ask. And the answer is, hold your breath.
Omar: After that, Sunday told us where the room would be when we got upstairs and gave us a key. That surprised me, but Butch didn’t seem ruffled. The room really was as he described, two cots, a small table, and not much room for anything else. Setting his sack down, Butch got the Examiner out and switched it on. Normally it would make a low humming sound but with the special head pieces on I couldn’t hear it. The room had a window that Butch opened, and after looking out he stuck the Examiner out.
Omar: Interesting good or interesting bad?
Butch: Let me shut the window. What’s interesting is that the inside of the room reads almost breathable.
Omar: And outside?
Butch: Toxic. A man could survive for a little while, but it would eventually kill him.
Omar: I see.
Butch: So, any idea who we’re supposed to be helping, yet?
Omar: No, it’s still a little early in the play to make any guesses.
Butch: You don’t think it could be Sunday?
Omar: I doubt it. He really doesn’t seem to be doing too badly, taking all things into consideration.
Butch: I’m hungry, and the jerky in the pack is almost gone. I’m going to talk to Sunday and see where we can rustle up some grub.
Omar: Rustle up some grub? Where are you from?
Butch: The only thing more dangerous than the question is the answer. Will you join me?
Omar: All right, but if the air is toxic, how will you eat?
Butch: I would laugh if I didn’t think I need the oxygen. Hold your breath!
Omar: That one smart a bit, but I followed him downstairs to find Sunday again. When he did find him, they discussed food in a conversation that was as much gestures as words, Sunday ushered us into what looked like a small, private dining room, where he pulled a rope that was attached to the ceiling. A panel slid open and three plates of roast beef appeared, with a potato and asparagus with a cheese sauce. Also glasses of wine. After taking the plates and setting them down on the table, Sunday closed the panel, then did something totally unexpected.
Butch: Pastor, you’re taking off your gas mask!
Sunday: Quite. I find that I can eat better with it off. It’s quite all right, this room is specially sealed. Now, gentlemen, if you will join me in giving thanks for this food.
Omar: We bowed our heads as he thanked his God for the food. I tried breathing in the air, and it was not bad. I looked over at Butch, to ask him if he had the Examiner and could check the air, but he looked up, letting me know that it was still in our room upstairs.
Sunday: Mr. Omar, Mr. Butch, please enjoy the food.
Butch: It’s quite good. But where do you get roast beef? We didn’t see any cows when coming into town.
Sunday: By Providential grace, good sirs. Now please, don’t hold back.
Omar: In fact, I had already finished my beef and was having at the potato. Butch was sticking his fork into the meat but I hadn’t seen him take many bites. At one point, while Pastor Sunday was busy telling me about the great work of his mission house, I saw Butch slip a piece of beef into his napkin and then into his coat pocket. The potato he ate, though. I was glad that there was extra butter and sour cream.
Sunday: But you still haven’t told me why you two have come here.
Butch: To be honest, we’re not quite sure ourselves.
Sunday: I’m not sure I follow your meaning, Mr. Butch.
Butch: Please, just call me Butch.
Omar: And please just call me Omar.
Sunday: Very well. Butch, Omar, I sense you two don’t always get along very well.
Omar: I’m sorry, Pastor, but why do you say that?
Sunday: It’s my job to size people up. You are both too methodical and inquisitive to simply be passing through. Besides, nobody ever just passes through Jupiter Drop.
Omar: Butch looked at me, wondering what I would do. I simply nodded.
Butch: We are here to help someone.
Sunday: I see. May I ask who?
Butch: We don’t know.
Sunday: Hmm. Interesting.
Omar: I get a message from a chap named Barker. He simply tells me where we’re to go; he never tells us who we are to help when we get there.
Sunday: Very interesting. I assume that Butch is not privy to these messages?
Butch: I’ve never seen one. I just do what Omar tells me in that regard.
Omar: Yes, quite.
Sunday: I see, I see. So, do either of you have any idea who you are to be helping here?
Omar: I’ve got a suspicion, but I don’t want to say.
Sunday: Why not?
Butch: Because he’s been wrong before.
Sunday: Yes, quite.
Butch: This is quite a room. Do you eat here alone?
Sunday: It is not my habit. Each evening I bring two or three of the men in with me.
Butch: Is it always the same men?
Sunday: No. I would bring in more if I could, but I must limit it to that number. But I think every man should be able to eat with some freedom every once in a while.
Butch: How any men are staying here?
Sunday: At this particular time we have about fifteen men staying with us. We can accommodate three times that many but as you may have concluded; the actual number of men in the town has been dwindling.
Omar: We assume that the men who can leave, do.
Sunday: Yes, though that number is smaller than you might think.
Butch: What about the ones who stay here?
Sunday: It’s an odd mixture. Many of them are too poor to simply up and relocate. Many of them have been here so long they have developed the notion that they can somehow rehabilitate this town. Some of them are trapped here.
Butch: Trapped? Trapped by what?
Sunday: Memories, sir. Memories.
Omar: Why were the men so jumpy when we walked in?
Sunday: About a year ago, men started disappearing in town. These were not ones who simply up and left, these men had obviously been taken. But no one has truly known where they go, or why. Many believe, though, that they go to the factory.
Omar: The factory? I thought that shut down years ago.
Sunday: Exactly! This would make it the best place!
Butch: But just because the factory closed doesn’t mean it’s abandoned.
Sunday: Actually, young man, yes it does. It is abandoned and the object of great fear. That is partially because, as the source of all the town’s misery and woe, it would develop a reputation. But also, if you venture near it, you are overcome with a sense of dread, a sense of foreboding.
Omar: How many men have disappeared?
Sunday: I don’t have an exact number, but is has averaged between one and three men every week.
Butch: That’s an odd kind of attrition.
Sunday: It’s a quite sinister kind of attrition, sir. Frankly, if you two could do anything to help us, we would all be most grateful.
Omar: Yes, Pastor, we will see what we can do.
Butch: Thank you so much for the meal.
Sunday: You are both most welcome. Oh, please don’t forget to put your apparatus back on before I open the door. And please exit as quickly as possible.
Omar: We put our gas masks on and when Sunday opened the door we rushed out. Going back upstairs, we unlocked the door and found everything as we had left it. After closing the door, Butch pulled the napkin out of his pocket and the Examiner out of his sack.
Omar: Is it poisoned?
Butch: If you were worried about it, you wouldn’t have wolfed down yours. However, it’s not poisoned.
Omar: That’s a relief.
Butch: It’s also not beef.
Omar: What do you mean?
Butch: It’s some kind of vegetable that’s been synthesized to look, feel and taste like beef. Pretty good job, too. High protein content.
Omar: So what do you think is happening here?
Butch: Darned if I know. You’re the one who gets the messages. What do you think we should do?
Omar: Isn’t it obvious? We go to the factory!
Butch: Sadly, I knew you would say that.
Omar: By my fob watch, it was midnight when we set out. It was actually difficult to tell, the thick blanket of smog and gas obscured the sun during the day, and the town, despite seeming deserted, had so many neon signs and street lights going all the time that it was permanently lit up. Although the Mission House was as quiet as a tomb, we slid out as quietly as we could. We left our packs in the room and locked the door behind us, but we took the Examiner and a few other tools. We didn’t feel comfortable asking anyone the way to the factory, so we had to set the Examiner and also the Reader to find where the most power consumption was taking place. We wandered around the town for a good two hours before we finally got a fix on the direction.
Butch: I wouldn’t have thought it would be so difficult to find the center of the action.
Omar: The center of the action yes, but not the center of the city. It would only be natural that it would be next to the river, but in the permanent haze plus the limited ability to see out of the masks, it was hard just to find the river.
Butch: The Examiner tells me that the gas emissions are coming from over here. The Reader is hampered by the atmosphere. I can’t get a reading on water.
Omar: We finally found it, and we were surprised.
Butch: Holy cow! I know factories are big but this is the biggest thing I’ve ever seen!
Omar: “Holy cow?” Is that an actual expression where you come from?
Butch: It’s not my fault that your people are linguistically deficient.
Omar: My people?
Butch: Yes. The Examiner is going bananas, and the Reader is almost off the charts.
Omar: You talk funny when you get excited.
Butch: Yet you’re not laughing. (Pause) Look at that one.
Omar: I’ve never been as good at deciphering this as you.
Butch: There are strange power readings coming from inside the building.
Omar: Which could only mean one thing, I suppose.
Butch: Holmes, you’re amazing. What?
Omar: Give me some credit, Butch.
Butch: All right, you’re so smart, how do we get in?
Omar: I suggest we try the front door first.
Butch: That’s such a cliché it just might work.
Omar: It took us a while to find the front door. Not surprisingly, it was locked. We finally found a window that was close enough to the ground that we were able to put some rocks and debris under it and then climb in.
Butch: Typical factory.
Omar: Yes, but what are they producing?
Butch: Misery, most likely. Funny.
Butch: The Reader is showing that there’s a lot of power being consumed at the east end of the building.
Omar: What’s funny about that? Whatever they’re manufacturing probably takes quite a bit of power.
Butch: Which still leaves the question of who is doing the manufacturing? But there’s also a lot of power being consumed at the west end of the building.
Omar: Again, what’s the problem?
Butch: There’s no connection.
Omar: Come again?
Butch: Literally, there’s no connection. There’s nothing moving between the two ends.
Omar: They’re making two different things?
Butch: That’s my guess. The question is, which one do we investigate first?
Omar: Storms come in from east to west.
Butch: West it is then.
Omar: We moved own to the west end of the building. The door was not locked, which was no surprise. We walked into the room and Butch immediately shut the door.
Butch: The Examiner says the oxygen level is high in here. We could actually breathe without the masks.
Omar: Really? Do you really think it’s safe?
Butch: Since when are you the cautious one? I’m taking mine off.
Omar: I took mine off as well, and then turned to look. There was row upon row of hydroponic growing troughs. Lights over them were burning bright and hot.
Butch: It’s easy enough to breathe in here.
Omar: Why do you think they’re doing this?
Butch: Food, obviously. I mean that whatever they’re doing to synthesize such realistic meat, this is what they make it out of.
Omar: We walked down to a big door with loud noise coming from behind it. Opening it, we saw machinery taking raw vegetables and mashing, masking, bashing, pouring chemicals over and doing lots of other things to them.
Butch: Okay, we’ve seen this. Time to go down to the east end of the factory.
Omar: Putting our masks back on, we exited the room. We climbed up on some gang planks and made our way down to the east end. Butch had the Examiner and the Reader out. The closer we got, the louder it got.
Butch: We may not be able to talk when we get on the other side of this door!
Omar: We’ll have to do our best!
Butch: You ready?
Omar: I nodded yes, and we opened the door slowly. It was impossible to know if it was opened quietly. We slid in and shut the door. Butch checked the Examiner and showed me that the gas levels were fatal to breath. We looked around. Machinery everywhere, all very large and noisy. Conveyor belts were taking massive amounts of vegetables into the machines, but we couldn’t see where the end product came out. Then Butch, who had been checking the Reader, tapped my arm and pointed to a room that was hard to see. There was light coming from it, bleeding out around a doorway. Slowly we made our way down to it; feeling like dingoes would come out and attack us at any minute. We looked and checked, and this door wasn’t locked either. It was a sliding door, and I slid it open just enough to look in. It was hard to make things out with the gas mask on, but I didn’t see anybody. We slipped in and closed the door behind us. The noise dropped to a point we could talk easily.
Butch: That’s some insulation.
Omar: I wonder what’s in here?
Butch: Look over there!
Omar: Butch pointed me to an area where there were several tables. Things were strapped down to the tables. As we got closer, we could see that they were men, or used to be men. Many of them were missing limbs, some had unnatural hair or twisted looking body part. They all had masks strapped to their heads with hoses that hung from the ceiling. Most of them stared out with eyes that clearly weren’t seeing anything.
Butch: Poor devils!
Omar: What’s going on here, Butch? Some of these men are almost gone!
Raine: It’s safe to breath in here, sirs!
Omar: Whirling around, we saw a woman standing over by the doors, with two large beings on either side of her. She wasn’t wearing a gas mask.
Raine: As I said, gentlemen, it’s perfectly safe to remove your headgear!
Omar: Butch and I took our masks off, and it was almost as easy to breathe in there as it had been in the vegetable area.
Butch: Good evening, Madame.
Raine: Ah, some manners. They certainly couldn’t hurt, could they?
Butch: May we presume you are the person in charge, here, Madame…?
Raine: You may indeed, and my name is Madame Raine. And may I presume that Barker sent the two of you? That’s alright; the looks on your faces tell me what I need to know.
Omar: What do you know about Barker?
Raine: It might be more prudent to ask what I don’t know about Barker. Nevertheless, that is not important at this moment, is it?
Butch: I suppose it isn’t.
Raine: No, but I am guessing that what is going on in my factory is of utmost importance to you.
Omar: The question did occur to us.
Raine: Then let me explain. When the factory was shut down and the company that had opened this abomination ran away, they thoughtfully left two things. Of course the first would be the damnable smog that covers this town and almost every centimeter of this valley, choking the life out of almost every living thing here.
Butch: Yes, ma’am. What would the second thing be?
Raine: My, you are polite! So different from the rough and odious specimens of manhood that are to be found still in this town! Pity, almost. But I digress, the second thing is this wonderful factory full of useable equipment just waiting for someone with some imagination and a little gumption to come along and make use of it!
Butch: Very good, Madame, but what are you using it for?
Raine: I do like you, young man! Yes, if only, but it doesn’t matter. As you’ve seen, down at the west end of the factory, I am growing vegetable for consumption. But not merely for eating in their, shall we say, natural state! No, I also have learned how to remake them into many different kinds of food!
Butch: Like the roast beef we had today.
Raine: Yes! I see you’ve been to the Mission House! Poor Pastor Sunday, he thinks he’s receiving some charitable donation of meat that he feeds to the poor, pathetic men who huddle under his roof.
Omar: But if that’s not what he’s receiving, what is he getting?
Raine: Oh don’t misunderstand me, the food is perfectly safe! It’s not what he receives, it’s what he provides!
Butch: Which would be…
Raine: A count of how many men are still in this miserable, God-forsaken town! Men I can take and use for my, other, uses!
Omar: Without a word, we looked at each other, then back at the men who were strapped to the tables.
Raine: The synthetic meats came from an altruistic impulse, good sirs. But I have been making it for a long time, and the longer I’ve been here the more I’ve been forced to conclude that sooner or later, all the areas of industry will be like Jupiter Drop, unfit for human habitation!
Butch: Do I dare to ask?
Raine: I am attempting to create the being that will be able to survive, even thrive in such an atmosphere.
Omar: And did these men volunteer for this?
Raine: Ha! Such weak beings do not need to be asked. I want to save humanity, gentlemen!
Butch: By blowing it up?
Raine: Very amusing! Perhaps it’s time for you to get a closer look! Behemoth, Leviathan!
Omar: With that, the two beings at her sides started lumbering toward us.
Butch: Not very fast, are they?
Raine: I assure you that whether they possess speed or not does not affect their persuasiveness!
Omar: One of them came over to me and raised a great, hairy fist over it’s head. As it came down towards me, I ducked to the side. The fist took a large chunk of a table when it came down.
Butch: I have an idea!
Omar: I’m certainly open to suggestions!
Butch: They’re strong, but they’re not quick, and they don’t seem very smart.
Omar: So far I’m with you.
Butch: Stand over here, back to back.
Omar: All right.
Butch: Now stand up tall and don’t duck until I say now!
Omar: I wasn’t sure, but I did what he suggested. Behemoth and Leviathan lumbered toward us, and when we were directly between them, they both pulled their arms back to deliver a death blow.
Omar: We ducked at the same time, and the swinging beasts hit each other, knocking each other to the ground! They didn’t move, in fact they both had a little blood coming out of their mouths.
Raine: Curse you! Curse both of you! You will ruin everything!
Butch: That’s the idea!
Omar: What are you trying to do, make men who can breath this stuff?
Raine: Of course! All the areas that are little more than wastelands right now, soon may place will be like that! I couldn’t just let that go, could I?
Omar: Couldn’t you?
Raine: No, of course not! Someone needed to push to the next level, the stage where men can survive in a place like this! And that someone is me!
Butch: No, it’s not. This part is over.
Raine: What? What do you mean?
Butch: I’ve been analyzing the water here, and it’s not usable any more.
Raine: Tell me what you mean!
Butch: The water was already polluted coming into the factory, but I suspect you already knew that.
Raine: Of course! There is an excellent filtering system in place!
Butch: Not any more. The water coming in has become so acidic that the filters have been eaten away.
Raine: No, you’re lying!
Omar: And have you looked at the men on the tables? Do you think they could survive out there?
Raine: But my creatures…
Butch: I’m not sure how you did that, but you’re not able to replicate that. And look at them, they can’t get back up.
Omar: It’s over Madame Raine.
Butch: Madame Raine?
Omar: But she was gone. Even with the Examiner, we never figured out where she went. For all we know, she’s still in that factory. And then Butch asked the inevitable question…
Butch: So who were we supposed to help this time? Because conditions aren’t exactly better in Jupiter Drop.
Omar: Well, we helped a lot of people by getting rid of Madame Raine, dint we?
Butch: Did we get rid of her? We might have stopped her for the moment, but I don’t think she’s gone for good. And I would sure like to know what she knows about Barker.
Omar: You proved quite inventive back there. I actually quite admire your ability.
Butch: What is that supposed to mean?
Omar: Oh, nothing. Possibly.
Announcer: The Travels of Omar and Butch, Chapter 2: The Men of Jupiter Drop has been written by Chris Neal and performed by Mudsock Theatre of the Mind. Good evening.
copyright (C) 2012 christopher w neal all rights reserved