Lab Rats: Scene VI

From the LabLit fiction series

Robin Plevin 1 March 2008

You know this research group is ruined. We’ll be a laughing stock

Editor’s note: We are pleased to present the final episode of a six-part lab play by Professor Robin Plevin about the sins and secrets of a group of university researchers in Scotland.

Scene III – Acknowledgements

(Coffee Room several days late. Jean is sitting having a fag in the far corner under a ‘No Smoking’ sign. Del Boy comes in and makes a coffee, followed by Noreen. Noreen doesn’t ask Del for milk but takes it out of a big carton. Cathy comes in next.)

Cathy: Del?

Del: Aye?

Cathy: Can I get some of your milk?

Del: (looks at Noreen) Aye, it’s the big carton.

(Simon comes in)

Simon: Morning. (looks for some milk) Whose got the milk, then? (takes the big carton and pours it) Thanks Del Boy, you’re useful for something.

(Ian comes in)

Ian: Well – tell me what happened. I take a few days off and everyone goes crazy. Someone said James punched Waterman. Is it true? I wish I’d seen that.

Simon: It was pretty fucking amazing. He accuses me of making up results and then goes mental at Mike and Liley when they don’t believe him. He didn’t punch him though, Mike didn’t stay around long enough to find out.

Cathy: You didn’t look so brave.

Simon: I could have taken care of myself.

Ian: Is he coming back?

Simon: James? I doubt it.

Noreen: Well if you ask me, good riddance.

Ian: You just want one less rival for the lectureship.

Cathy: He’s left. I spoke to him a few days ago.

Simon: Can’t say I’m sorry. He was a wanker.

Del Boy: (standing up) No he wasn’t. You’re the wanker!

Simon: Don’t get beyond your station, student, or I’ll fuck you up good time.

Ian: Heh, easy Del. Simon, relax. It’s finished now.

(Eddie comes in)

Eddie: Ah thought I’d find you here, holding court. You’re gonnae have tae come with me.

Simon: What’s up?

Eddie: I’ve been telt tae escort you off the premises.

Simon: What for?

Eddie: I don’t really know. But all I can say is that ma boss phoned me and said it was right from the top. You have to clear your desk and get oot.

Noreen: Simon, what have you done?

Cathy: More than I think he’s willing to admit.

Simon: I haven’t done anything.

Eddie: Fair enough, you can get your lawyer to sort it out. But you’ve got tae leave. Now!

Simon: Okay. (turns to the others) Don’t worry I’ll be back.

Del Boy: I don’t think so.

(Simon looks doubtful and turns. Simon and Eddie exit. Sandra passes them on the way in.)

Noreen: What was that all about?

Sandra: Mike just told me upstairs. Simon has been banned from the lab. Someone told the principal about the scientific fraud. They’ve taken away all his lab books.

Noreen: You’re joking!

Cathy: James was telling the truth all along.

Sandra: Not only that, the press have got hold of it. Someone phoned from the Daily Record – it must have been leaked.

Ian: Jesus Christ! Ah bet ye it’ll be on ‘Reporting Scotland’ this evening. Jackie Bird’ll be pissing herself. Still Noreen, it’s all worked out okay for you – no rivals left for the lectureship.

Noreen: Very funny.

Del Boy: Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Noreen: What are you blabbering on about? Did your little friend go to the University principal and accuse Simon of scientific fraud?

Del: No…it was me.

Cathy: Oh, Derek.

Del: Simon fixed his results and made my PhD crap…and got James sacked.

Noreen: That’s rubbish, Derek, and you know it.

Ian: It was true then?

Del: What was?

Sandra: That he fixed his results?

Del: Aye.

Ian: That he spiked them with radioactivity?

Del: Aye.

Noreen: From a vial.

Del Boy: I saw him do it.

Ian: Yeh, I’ve seen that vial. It was on his bench. Shit, I never thought anything of it. Who’d have thought it eh, cocky English shite!

Noreen: You ratted on Simon? I suppose you feel very proud of yourself. Was it you or are you covering up for him? Your rat friend?

Del: (turning to Cathy) He was right, Cathy.

Cathy: Why didn’t you say before?

Del: I dinnae ken. But James…he was right.

Cathy: He was wrong, Derek. They both were. But you’ve done the right thing.

Del Boy: Have I?

Noreen: Great. Well done, Derek. You know this research group is ruined. We’ll be a laughing stock. I’ve seen all this before, you know, you go to meetings and everyone starts pointing at you. They don’t come up and talk to you about your work – no, they only want to find out what went on. And everything that comes from the lab from now on will be under suspicion, every paper will get so closely scrutinised we’ll get nothing published. All Mike’s grants will get turned down and they’ll be no money and we’ll all get kicked out. Did you hear that Del Boy, he was a rat and you’re a...

Cathy: (shouting) Shut up, Noreen. Just shut up, you self-centred cow. Could you stop thinking about yourself for just one minute! (pause) Are you okay, Del? They’ll make it hard for you.

Del: I dinnae care. I’ll be all right. I think I know what kind of scientist I am. Or what kind I want to be.

Ian: What about James?

(James, who has been listening at the door, enters)

James: What about James? Noreen, you’ll be glad to hear I’ve been sacked. They even threatened me with the police, something to do with stealing stationery. I wonder how they knew about that? Seems there are more rats in here then just me and Derek… (James gets his mug) Well, Noreen?

Noreen: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

James: Don’t deny it, you’ll start to sound like Simon.

Noreen: It…it was stealing (everyone looks on in disgust) Everything was going fine until you came here and messed things up.

James: (shakes his head) Oh, Noreen.

Cathy: Don’t worry. We’ll make sure everyone knows the truth. We’ve been silent for too long.

James: Thanks. (puts his coffee cup in his bag)

Sandra: Oh, and another thing…Mike got promoted.

Ian: Aw fuck!

Sandra: He’s a professor now. Professor Michael Waterman.

Ian: Great! Mike tries to cover up the fact that Simon made his results up and he gets promoted. This university reeks of shite.

(Waterman enters)

Mike: What are you doing here?

James: Just came to collect my mug. It has sentimental value. Boston, a place where they do real science. Don’t worry, I’ll be gone in a minute.

Mike: Leave immediately or I’ll call security.

(Eddie enters)

Eddie: Security’s here aw ready. Where is the cunt? (sees Mike) You sack this laddie for gi’in my boy paper and pencils. Ya fuckin’ shite.

Mike: (Mike retreats to the other side of the room) Get back…I, I,… I’ll have you sacked!

Eddie: You won’t be able to talk once I’ve wrung your fuckin’ neck.

Cathy: No, Eddie!

(Eddie grabs Mike and starts to throttle him; James jumps in between then Mike is thrown to the floor)

James: Eddie, no. No!

(There is a struggle; Eddie lets go of Mike and grapples with James.)

Leave him, Eddie. It’ll not solve anything. Fuck, I’d like to batter him myself. But I’ll fight my own battles. My own way. Easy Eddie, don’t mess it all up.

Eddie: He a fuckin’ lowlife.

James: I know he is. But leave it, Eddie. Away you go. I’ll sort it out. (pushes him to the door) I’ll see you in a while. Away!

Eddie: (as he leaves) Fucking academics!

Noreen: Mike, are you okay?

Mike: He’s an animal. He’ll be gone by the morning, I can assure you of that.

James: You won’t do anything. Think about it. Eddie’s not kidding, you’ll end up in the Kelvin river attached to some breezeblock. Are you listening? I’m serious.

Mike: (grudgingly) Yes.

James: Mike, you have a choice. You can go back to how it was before I came here. The same old shit. Or you can change. I know. Before it’s too late. Oh, don’t worry: Liley, the principal, they won’t do anything except cover it up. But you can do something. Get beyond all this crap that you think is so important. Your name in Nature, another grant – Del Boy’s right – what a load of bollocks. You could start again and do it right this time. Do the science right. How about it, Mike?

Mike: (pause) Thank you, but I don’t need you to tell me how to run my lab and how to be a scientist. My success speaks for itself. You can’t argue with Nature! We were doing very well until you came here and will do so when you’re gone. Get out, now!

James: Professor Michael Waterman. How can you sleep at night? (exits)

Mike: (pause) Did anyone understand that diatribe? Trouble from the first minute. Well, I’ve learned an important lesson. Don’t every offer anyone a job without an interview. Noreen, I have some bad news for you. Due to his antics, the lectureship position has been suspended.

Noreen: For how long?

Mike: Indefinitely. I am sorry but it was out of my…

Noreen: You’re not sorry. That lectureship was mine. I was the best candidate, I had a Nature paper – you promised!

Mike: (slightly embarrassed) Look, I don’t think we should be discussing this here.

Noreen: Why not? I’ve nothing to hide, Michael – have you? Oh, don’t worry, they already know about our squalid little affair. Who doesn’t?

Mike: Noreen…(goes to touch her)

Noreen: Don’t. Don’t you dare touch me.

(Noreen goes to exit)

And just to tell you, I’m pregnant.

Mike: (Silence. Trying to re-establish himself) A very highly-strung individual. Not really cut out for running a research group. Not a team player.

Cathy: Did you just hear what she said?

Mike: (ignoring her) Del Boy, Derek, I want to see you in my office now, please. We’re going to change your project. Start a new area of research. Lots of potential for publications.

Derek: I’ll come up when I’m ready. And I’m not going to change my project. I’m going to do it right.

Mike: Right…Right. Ian, come up to my office and we’ll chat about a renewed contract.

Ian: Sorry Mike, I’m leaving. I’ve got a job, out of science.

Mike: Right, well done…marvellous….Cathy…. Sandra … (silence)

(As he turns to walks out)

Jean: Waterman…you’re an arsehole.

(Waterman looks humiliated and then exits. There is a stunned silence, then Ian starts to laugh. One by one everyone else starts to laugh too.)