Episode 5: The Science Unfair

[SCENE I. GAVIN’s house. GAVIN is sitting on his armchair, talking to his friend, JEREMY ADLER. Jeremy is an athletic fellow with a generally unkempt appearance.]

GAVIN: So he said he wanted to see the world. I was so close, Jeremy.

JEREMY: There’s always next time.

GAVIN: And I think Melissa is going to kill me when she gets back. I kind of slammed the door on her.

JEREMY: Ouch. (Cringes.) Still, that’s what Nick’s for, isn’t it?

GAVIN: We can’t just throw that poor boy under the bus. He’s been run over so many times it wouldn’t do anything anymore.

JEREMY: I guess you’ll just have to weather that storm. You’re a braver man than I.

GAVIN: I’ve got my ways, friend. Anyway, you didn’t come here to hear me talk about wizards. What’s up?

JEREMY: I got a job helping set up at the big science fair in town, and I got some free tickets. Thought you might be interested.

GAVIN: I am not a science man, Jeremy. Every time I tried, it ended in explosions and a world with one less pair of eyebrows.

JEREMY: But you remember old Mr. Fielding, from PHS?

GAVIN: What, the crazy science teacher?

JEREMY: That’s the one. I was finished setting up a little early, so I went snooping. He’s got a project and it’s huge.

GAVIN (fondly): I remember in senior year, he built a device that made it so you couldn’t hear freshmen talking. I thought he’d retired?

JEREMY: Apparently not. I thought you’d like to see what he’s up to.

GAVIN: Oh, count me in.

[SCENE II. The offices of the Portland Examiner. SOPHIE is throwing darts at a dartboard that has a newspaper image of MELISSA hanging up on it. GAVIN walks through the open door and knocks.]

GAVIN: Sophie! How is my favorite star reporter doing?

SOPHIE: I’m bored, Gav. I came back from my vacation ready to report on all the grisly murders this town could throw at me, but there hasn’t even been a suspicious disappearance since I got back.

GAVIN: Well, you might be interested in this. (He places a flier for the science fair on her desk, along with a ticket.) Courtesy of your friend and mine, Mr. Jeremy Adler.

SOPHIE: Okay, so it’s–wait, is that Mr. Fielding?

GAVIN: The man about whom you wrote a vicious takedown in the PHS paper, come out of retirement to announce a huge and mysterious project?

SOPHIE: I hate him! They didn’t even fine him for implanting mind control chips in his classes! They said it improved test scores!

GAVIN: Exactly. So I thought you might jump at the chance to investigate what crazy old Mr. Fielding might be up to.

SOPHIE: Oh, I’ve been waiting for this moment for years. (She grabs her coat.) I’ve got to run, Gavin. See you at the fair. (Departs.)

(GAVIN inspects the dart-riddled picture of MELISSA.)

GAVIN (satisfied at a job well done): Ah, there goes a woman of action.

[SCENE III. The science fair, after hours. SOPHIE is sneaking around, past an implausibly large number of strange-looking exhibits. Eventually she comes to Mr. FIELDING’s exhibit, a large and sinister-looking metallic machine. It buzzes ominously.]

SOPHIE: What are you working on, Fielding? What are you planning?

(Footsteps behind her cause her to turn around with a gasp. FIELDING emerges from the shadows.)

FIELDING: I remember you, Sophie Swanson. You tried to put me on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. You tried to subject me to a fate worse than death. (He begins pacing, mad scientist-style.) But I fought you, Sophie Swanson. I fought you and I won.

(Behind her back, SOPHIE activates a tape recorder.)

FIELDING: And now you and your whole town will suffer for what you tried to do to me. For I have perfected a device that will suspend the laws of science! Your scientific advancements will be subjected entirely to my whim. And with the one thousand dollar cash prize and local recognition that comes from being the winner of this science fair, I will have you personally destroyed–my first act as the unquestioned lord and master of Portland, Washington! And there is nothing you can do to stop me.

SOPHIE: You’re right, Mr. Fielding. I’m no match for you. I guess I’ll just go back to the Examiner and write about how great your project is once the fair is underway.

FIELDING: You do that, Sophie Swanson. Warn the world of my impending victory.

(SOPHIE makes a show of fleeing. FIELDING cackles like a mad scientist ought to. Scene.)

[SCENE IV. The Jaded Old Crone. JEREMY, GAVIN, and SOPHIE are listening to SOPHIE’s recording.]

JEREMY: Suspend the laws of science? How does that even work?

SOPHIE: I saw some dials you could probably fiddle with. (She suddenly gets an idea.) Jeremy, what if you turn all the dials so that instead of nothing working in the field, everything works? He’d never win the science fair if that happened!

JEREMY: Well, I don’t know–

SOPHIE: And the Examiner does pay a finder’s fee to people who provide us with valuable scoops.

GAVIN: Do it for Portland, Jeremy. We can’t let a mad man take over our city.

JEREMY: All right. But I’ll need your help, Gavin. I can get you in as an assistant.

GAVIN: Of course, of course.

[SCENE V. The science fair after hours. JEREMY and GAVIN are trying to look busy, while keeping an eye on FIELDING. Eventually, FIELDING departs for the evening.]

JEREMY: All right, keep a look out. I’m going to sabotage the device.

GAVIN: Right.

(JEREMY approaches the ominous device and fiddles expertly with some knobs, levers, and dials. After a few moments of this he returns to GAVIN’s side.)

JEREMY: It’s done. Let’s get out of here.

(They drive back to SOPHIE’s house to report their success. As JEREMY gets out of the car, GAVIN seems to remember something.)

GAVIN: Oh, damn, I think I left my coat at the fair. I’ll be back in a sec, it’s got my ID and everything.

JEREMY: All right. (GAVIN speeds off.)

[SCENE VI. Outside FIELDING’s lab. GAVIN is parked outside, casing the joint. There is a light on inside, indicating that FIELDING is inside, working.]

GAVIN: He’ll be at the fair tomorrow with everyone else. Perfect. (Scene.)

[SCENE VII. The Science Fair, opening ceremony. The MAYOR is giving a speech.]

MAYOR: We’re proud to welcome all of Whatcom County’s finest innovators to our fair city of Portland, Washington. If the judges are ready, I’m prepared to declare this science fair open!

[The PANEL OF JUDGES murmurs its unenthusiastic assent. The doors to the science fair open theatrically, and the crowd trickles in. SOPHIE and ERIC are among the first.]

ERIC: I’m surprised you’re taking an interest in this. It’s a science fair. Nothing interesting happens at science fairs.

SOPHIE (unconvincingly): I’m just putting aside my old grudges and taking interest in the community, Eric. (Her eye twitches.)

ERIC: Right. Anyway, anything in particular you wanted to see?

SOPHIE: Oh, no, just looking around.

(As they explore, it becomes apparent that something is not right. The general murmur of the crowd becomes more worried in nature. The machine has made it so that things that shouldn’t work, do. There is buzzing, static, and small explosions everywhere. Eventually an event security officer pulls the fire alarm.)

SECURITY: Please move in an orderly fashion to the nearest exits!

(The crowd panics and stampedes. SOPHIE and ERIC manage to escape. As they sit on a nearby grassy knoll, the building explodes in a spectacular fashion, leaving a smoking crater in its ruins.)

ERIC: “Just looking around?”

SOPHIE: Well, I may have had a scoop that something big was going to happen. (With cavalier enthusiasm.) Come on, let’s go see if anyone died! (They run off towards the smoking crater. Scene.)

[SCENE VIII. FIELDING’s lab. GAVIN’s car is parked outside. After a moment, he emerges with a sheaf of papers, looking smug. He enters the car and drives off; the explosion occurs in the background and he shows no sign of noticing it. Scene.]

[SCENE IX. The Jaded Old Crone. GAVIN, JEREMY, and SOPHIE are gathered. GAVIN is reading some of the paper’s headlines aloud.]

GAVIN: ‘Mad professor killed by his own scientific abomination.’ ‘Property damage estimated in the millions.’ ‘Shell-shocked judges declare themselves winners.’ Man, this is incredible.

JEREMY: I feel awful about blowing up the science fair. That wasn’t meant to happen.

GAVIN: It’s not your fault, friend. You were doing the right thing. Saving the world from a madman.

SOPHIE: And earning your paychecks from the Examiner. (She places two envelopes on the table.) Sterling work, boys.

JEREMY: Great. Now I’m a paid saboteur. If the Science Association found out–

GAVIN: They won’t. But speaking of, supposing I had an invention I wanted to sell . . . ?

JEREMY: I’ll email you the info. I didn’t think you were an inventor.

GAVIN: All this science, I thought I’d give it another go. (Raises his glass to Sophie.) Pleasure working with you, Sophie. Happy you finally defeated old Fielding?

SOPHIE: Oh yes. (Trying out a James Bond one-liner.) I guess his hypothesis . . . didn’t stand up to rigid testing? No, wait. It’s a shame he had such an . . . explosive temper? Oh, no, hang on, I’ve got it . . . .

(FIN.)

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