Treats in the Basement Chapter 4: IVsteemCreated with Sketch.

in #dbooks6 years ago
To say that the scene dismayed
Flard would be a gross understatement. He was devastated by the discovery of
this most improper love affair. 

(html comment removed: block)First of all, Flard had reviewed
his ethics-in-the-workplace training extra carefully this year, given the
exceptional circumstances of a love interest appearing in the basement.
Previously, Flard had prided himself on how skillfully he could press the
necessary buttons to proceed through the ethics training, finishing in a record
43 seconds a year earlier. This year, however, he had proceeded carefully
through the training as it was intended to be approached, in order to be
enlightened regarding this mysterious basement woman, and the training had
unexpectedly taken 73 hours over multiple days to complete. 

(html comment removed: block)But the training was not in vain.
Flard had learned many great things. Most importantly, relationships between
trainees of various sorts in the same lab were frowned upon, but not illegal,
and the training stopped at shame-producing hypothetical questions – “Is it really
professionally appropriate to establish an intense personal relationship within
a lab?” Even this objection was readily debunked. Even though they worked in
the same space, and seemed to be working on the same project, the nice young
woman in the basement was clearly not technically part of the lab. In fact, no
one knew who she was. In addition, there didn’t seem to be any mandatory ethical
requirement to report an imposter working in the lab. 

(html comment removed: block)Now, observing the scene at hand,
Flard recalled very clearly that undergraduates were a different story
altogether. To resolve the obvious sexual tension that would arise between the
ambitious and lissome youngsters and the mature, enlightened graduates working
together, the Institute for Technically Good Science had adopted very strict
policies to protect these parties from each other by defining workplace harassment
between graduates and undergraduates ambiguously as anything that made either person
involved or any observer at the present, past, or future, uncomfortable. 

(html comment removed: block)Just last year, the undergraduate
Rodger Dunn, had reported his discomfort with Selma Johnson’s practice of mouth
pipetting. This was a safety objection, but the Institute had interpreted the
interaction as some sort of seduction on Selma’s part, or at least very
unthoughtful, lude behavior, and had immediately asked the graduate student to
leave. 

(html comment removed: block)The situation here was clearly
much worse. There was touching. Everyone knew that to touch an undergraduate
could result in 10 years to life in prison. Reflecting on how to proceed with
filing his great discomfort with the scene in a way that would result in Ben
Larmy being expelled and the nice young woman in the basement to fall in love
with him, his mind hit another roadblock. Despite Ben Larmy clearly being an
undergraduate, the nice young woman in the basement’s role was much more
ambiguous. An important question shot through Flard’s brain. Was it illegal for
everyone in the world to touch undergraduates or just their academic superiors?
This was not covered in the ethics training, and he would need to look it up.
Even if this was true, he found it hard to conceive of any way to present the
evidence of this scene without getting the nice young woman in the basement
thrown out of the institute. 

(html comment removed: block)The situation called for Dion,
Ancient of Days, the wise graduate student who had been laboring at the
Institute for Technically Good Science for as long as anyone could remember.
Legend has it that Dion was once a graduate student, similar to other graduate
students, working on experiments and projects, but unlike other graduate
students, Dion never completed the critical milestones necessary for his
candidacy for a Ph.D. For some time, his lack of productivity and drive induced
statements like, “What has Dion been doing for five years?” But this time had
long past. Dion was now a relic, who had transformed from graduate student to
an almost miraculous form of animatronic furniture. Miraculous from the
standpoint that Dion had long lost his office, his security clearance to the
institute had expired years ago, and no one could remember the last time Dion
would have had any funding, and yet he was seen almost daily, wandering the
halls and making pleasant conversation with the other graduate students. Perhaps
he used to work, or at least pretended to work, but no longer. 

(html comment removed: block)Dion had ancient wisdom and a
sagely demeanor. He rarely missed an opportunity to work on non-academic
problems, and considered himself “the type of guy who would come through for
someone in a pinch.” These attributes made him the perfect confidant and
compatriot for Flard, who now wandered the halls on the second floor of the
building, hoping to intercept Dion, Ancient of Days.

(html comment removed: block)He found him petting a small
lemon tree sitting by the window.

(html comment removed: block)“Dion, I’ve got a bit of a
problem I was hoping you could help me with. It’s a bit sensitive though.”

(html comment removed: block)“Please, Rupert! You know that
I’m the type of guy who comes through for someone in a pinch. Tell me your
woes, my friend,” Dion directed.

(html comment removed: block)“Well, it’s like this. Have you
met that nice woman in the basement?”

(html comment removed: block)“Yeah, not much of a
conversationalist though. She came up for some ice, and I was nearby and came
over to tell her about Sarah’s awful situation with Barker…you’ve heard about
it, right?”

(html comment removed: block)“Sarah’s having trouble with
Barker?” Rupert pretended to ask.

(html comment removed: block)“Oh yes. Snottiest thing I’ve
heard yet from ol’ Doc Barker. Apparently, Sarah went to him, saying, ‘Dr.
Barker, I’m afraid that I haven’t received my stipend this month yet.’ And
Barker goes, ‘oh no! I’m so sorry, I’ll send an email to look into it.’ So
Sarah goes back to work and nothing happens for two more weeks. So she returns
to Barker’s office, ‘Dr. Barker, have you heard anything about my stipend.’ And
he replies, ‘Oh yes, Sarah, I meant to tell you. It looks like the problem is
that you don’t have an appointment.’ And Sarah, reasonably alarmed by this
news, says, ‘But I’m working as a research assistant on your grant at 50%
time.’ And Barker replies, all nonchalantly, ‘Oh, I’m afraid that there is no
more funding for a graduate research assistantship on that grant.’ And Sarah’s
seething at this point, but trying to keep herself together, but you know…still
foaming a little bit at the mouth like she does when she gets in arguments, and
tries to explain to Barker, ‘But, it’s too late in the semester for me to get a
teaching position now. Do you have funding from another grant?’ Which in my
opinion is some pretty fucking good restraint after finding out she was working
for Barker as his research assistant essentially for free. And Barker, just
completely clueless, replies, ‘Oh no. I could’ve covered you in the past, but
since I took on two new graduate students this year, I had to fund them off of
the other grant.’ So Sarah’s reeling at this point, also realizing that without
a real appointment she has no tuition waiver, which she explains to Barker, and
Barker responds by ‘reassuring her’ that if she took a leave of absence she
could return any time to resume her Ph.D. work, which he regarded as ‘very
promising’. So now Sarah is basically going door to door, scrambling to find a
new advisor who can fund her this term, and will probably need to start a new
dissertation. Just a huge, fucking mess.

(html comment removed: block)“I see,” Rupert tuned in,
attending to the pause. “But you have met the woman from the basement?”

(html comment removed: block)“Oh, right!” replied Dion. “Yes,
well I started telling her this story, and she said, ‘Sorry, I’m in a bit of
hurry right now, and I don’t know who Sarah is.’ And then she left. Just like
that. Back downstairs with her ice bucket filled.

(html comment removed: block)“Well,” cut off Rupert, hoping to
not let the conversation go off topic again, “I have a bit of a crush on her,
and I believe her feelings are reciprocated. You see, this morning, she left a
note for me, expressing her feelings, but when I went to go find her, an
undergraduate in the lab had already moved in! He must have sensed that he was
out of time, and moved aggressively, but he managed to seduce her somehow. I
caught them rolling around on the floor in each other’s arms just moments ago. Our
lab’s entire stock of flatteners strewn about on the floor.”

(html comment removed: block)“That’s a Title IX violation if I
ever heard one!” raised Dion’s eyebrows. 

(html comment removed: block)“Well that’s what I was thinking,
too, but I’m not actually sure if the woman has any real, official position at
the institute, so I think that maybe it’s okay.”

(html comment removed: block)“Ahh, yes, maybe you’re right. So
what will you do?”

(html comment removed: block)“Well, I’m a bit stymied
actually. That’s why I came to you, Dion. Frankly, you’re good with these sorts
of things, and I’m a bit lost.”

(html comment removed: block)Dion, flattered, summarized the
situation to make sure he understood the problem. “So, basically what you have
here are two lovers, but one of them has been seduced by an undergraduate - one
of the great challenges of our day. But the seduction is superficial, and so
removing the undergraduate should be sufficient to restore the previous
situation. The problem is in his removal. Despite touching the undergraduate,
it’s not clear whether this is a case of harassment, since she holds no
official academic position, and even if it was, we would be hard-pressed to
keep the woman and remove the undergraduate.”

(html comment removed: block)Rupert Flard beamed. Rarely had
he felt so understood. “Yes, Dion, you understand my plight perfectly. I knew
it was right to come to you.”

(html comment removed: block)Dion reflected. After a moment of
contemplation, he spoke. “I think the problem is that we’re focused on the
past, instead of on the future. I believe you’re right. It would be of great
difficulty to use the event to our advantage. But there are other ways to sack
the undergrad.”

(html comment removed: block)“What did you have in mind?,”
Rupert raptly inquired.

(html comment removed: block)“Well you said that all of the
flatteners that your lab works on were all disordered on the floor, right?”

(html comment removed: block)“Yes, that’s right.”

(html comment removed: block)“Well, say you were in their
shoes. You’d want to cover up the affair at the very least. And also, those
flatteners hardly belong on the floor. What’s the first thing you would do?”

(html comment removed: block)“I’d reorganize the flatteners,”
posited Flard, trying to follow this line of thought.

(html comment removed: block)“Exactly! But that’s going to be
a pain! You have a couple different types already, right? With more on the way
no doubt. Clearly, you’d want to paint the flatteners in case something like
this ever happened again.”

(html comment removed: block)“Right,” said Flard, pretending
he knew where this was going.

(html comment removed: block)“Painting sounds like the type of
task for an undergraduate if you ask me,” suggested Dion. “What if the
undergraduate were to use paint that ruined the rods, rather than the paint he
was supposed to use?”

(html comment removed: block)“I reckon that would be grounds
for firing. Those flattening rods are the pride and joy of that woman.”

(html comment removed: block)“Then we have our plan. We’ll
have to act fast.” 

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