03: Trinity, Act II

written by Daniel Manning

[[SFX: tape recorder starts; car driving]]

CHET WHICKMAN (CW): So... You’re mad at me. I get it.

SALLY GRISSOM (SG): What makes you think I’m mad at you?

CW: Well, for one, you’ve got the grimace of a pouty child, and two, you haven’t spoken to me the the entire time we’ve been on the road. I’ve tried to give you your space, but would you please say something before we get back?

[[SFX: radio tuning; hotel]]

CW: My men and I are here to bring you all back to Polvo on the orders of Director Donovan.

SG: And you are...?

CW: Don’t you remember me?

[[SFX: radio tuning; car]]

SG: I’m allowed to be mad when I’m being arrested and accused of treason for taking a day off.

CW: Only technically. I’m just bringing you back home.

SG: Well now that the silence is broken, what would you like to talk about?

CW: I don’t know. Last time we spoke you were a little tied up– literally, if I remember correctly. How’ve you been?

[[SFX: radio tuning; hotel]]

SG: You were on the Eldridge!

CW: That’s the one. Chet Whickman. Nice to see you again.

[[SFX: radio tuning; car]]

SG: Since then, it seems like I’ve gone from being tied up to tied down.

CW: You know we can’t just let you leave. Anything you say, anything you do could be potentially catastrophic. You’ve been designated a national secret.

SG: I know that, I know... It’s just...

CW: You’re upset that I put the kibosh on your vacation?

SG: More upset that I’m stuck working for a guy that can send his goons to scoop me up six hundred miles away with the wave of his hand.

[[SFX: radio tuning; hotel]]

CW: You had your fun casino night, and now it’s time to go home.

SG: You knew we left?

CW: Of course we knew. We knew you were leaving before you were off the base. Director Donovan sent me to tail you an hour after you flew the coop.

SG: So you just let us traipse around Vegas until you got bored? You guys don’t have anything better to do?

CW: Ma’am please, don’t question the chain of authority. The Director didn’t have to let you leave, but he likes to give his people some freedom. I figured after you had your little run-in with casino security it was probably a good idea to extract you from the situation.

[[SFX: radio tuning; car]]

CW: Aww, Dr. Grissom, I’m not just any goon! We’ve got a bond. I was there when you fell out of nowhere. Well, not nowhere, but 20█ is as much a nowhere as you can get. And I’m here now to get you back home safely.

SG: I seem to remember that when we met you were just a lowly seaman on the other side of the country.

CW: [chuckles] Well, after Philadelphia, I got a promotion, and I got relocated. Normally, they upgrade your clearance when you’re need-to-know, and it turns out what I know, what I saw, meant that I had a need to do something else. I’m not saying they threw a black bag over my head and sent me across the country, but it sure felt that way.

SG: I’m no stranger to that myself. This isn’t the first story of how my appearance in 1943 threw someone’s life into turmoil.

[[SFX: radio tuning; hotel]]

SG: I can’t believe this.

CW: If you come along with me now, I promise you won’t be in any trouble.

SG: I DEFINITELY can’t believe that.

CW: Okay, any more trouble than you’re already in. Y’all have Judgment Day on Tuesday, you don’t think you could just leave in the eleventh hour to go gamble with whores for the weekend?

ANTHONY PARTRIDGE (AP): Actually, Nevadan prostitution law–


[[SFX: radio tuning; car]]

CW: I traded endless sea for endless sand, and my feet have never felt more steady. Director Donovan isn’t much for a placid managerial strategy. Always switches it up the second you get comfortable. It’s never boring. And at least on land there’s a much lower risk of drowning.

SG: Well, I’m not comfortable yet, so that bodes well for me.

CW: You seemed pretty comfortable to me back there. You’ve got friends, you’ve got a house, a job, I’ve heard that your research on the Timepiece is groundbreaking. I don’t understand a lick of it myself, but I know what you’re working on is streets ahead of anything else the world has ever seen.

SG: I’ve got one friend. And two lab assistants. I’ve got a one- bedroom dungeon, and a job that treats time off like time off the reservation. I’m a prisoner, and we both know it.

CW: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, Sally. You should know that. All things considered, you’ve got it pretty good out here. You like doing all this brainy science stuff, right? Do you think any other place in the country will hire someone with a degree from the future? You’d be locked away in an asylum by now if you weren’t with us. Some mad lady living on the streets of Philadelphia, insisting that she’s from the future.

SG: You’re saying I’d be worse off if Donovan didn’t keep me locked up?

CW: I’m saying that Polvo gives you a salary, a house, and a good purpose.

SG: Not one that I chose.

CW: Maybe not, but I’ll bet you a nickel it’s the most fulfilling purpose you could find in 1945.

SG: Then maybe it’s 1945 that’s the problem.

CW: Well you’re the scientist, right? Can’t you figure out how to get yourself home?

SG: According to the world’s foremost experts on the subject, the best way to get back to the twenty-first century is to wait five-and-a-half decades.

CW: Why?

SG: The Timepiece, our “anchor field inhibitor array,” it was supposed to levitate things, not move them back in time. And because of Rainbow, the only direction I can travel is back. It only works for one-way trips.

CW: It’s always like that with you geniuses. You try to make a hovercraft and end up with a time machine. What about building something else, to move you forward?

SG: It leverages a series of scientific mishaps to achieve a very specific result. The principles that govern its function are murky at best. Trust me, the only route home is a long wait.

CW: That’s a bum rap, Sally. I’m real sorry.

SG: Thanks, Whickman.

[[SFX: tire pops, swerves, slows, stops, turns off]]

CW: Whoa, whoa whoa!

SG: What happened?

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, July 15, 1945. Officer Whickman came to the hotel to arrest us and drive us back to Polvo. We were more than halfway there when two of the trucks we were driving in both hit the same sharp rock on the road. We’re stuck in the middle of the desert. That’s... I... End of entry. I don’t really know.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

HP: What do you mean, staying here?

CW: I’m sorry ma’am, it’s official protocol. No one else can even know we were out here. I’ve got to send the other men ahead, they’ll be back for us by tomorrow morning. They can’t fit all of us, so the rest will just camp in the trucks for the night.

HP: This is preposterous.

AP: It won’t be so bad, honey. Hell, it might be nice to spend a night under the stars. We haven’t done that in, what, four years? Since we were dating.

HP: I suppose so...

SG: I’d like to go back with the soldiers please.

CW: Sorry, Dr. Grissom, but I have strict orders not to let you out of my sight. Drs. Roberts, Wyatt and Barlowe, you’re free to head back.

ESTHER/JACK/QUENTIN: Well if you’re staying, Dr Grissom/I don’t really need to get back/It’s actually not that bad out tonight/I should really stay here.

SG: Guys, it’s fine. Just because I have to stay out here doesn’t mean you guys do. Go home.

ESTHER/JACK/QUENTIN: Okay good/Great/I really need to get back there.

[[SFX: they walk away]]

AP: So... Anyone have any marshmallows?

CW: That’s the spirit!

[[SFX: radio tuning; Chet sets up a campfire]]

CW: That should do it.

AP: It’s a beautiful night, isn’t it?

HP: It’s rather dark. I was hoping to see a few more stars.

SG: It looks like it’s going to rain before the morning.

HP: Oh, that’s a shame.

AP: Look what I found in my luggage!

[[SFX: sloshing bottle]]

SG: Is that a bottle of wine?

AP: Not just any bottle. A ’28 Bordeaux.

HP: Anthony, you didn’t!

SG: Didn’t what?

HP: It’s the bottle from our first date!

CW: Oh, fantastic!

[[SFX: Anthony uncorks the bottle, pours it into cups]]

AP: She was a singer for a jazz band at a little bar in town, the Soft Note. I used to go down there to work. I never liked working at home, or in a library. So I would take my books to the Soft Note and do my work there. Of course, I never ended up getting any work done when Helen got to the stage.

HP: He would sit in a little booth in the back, hidden behind stacks of notes and books, and stare at me while I sang. I would see him and try to talk to him, oh but he was so shy...

AP: So when I started working for the government, I asked her out.

HP: He had just gotten his first government paycheck, and he took me to this incredibly lovely place. The plates, the tables, the decoration, everything about it screamed “lavish.”

AP: I must have spent the whole damn paycheck on that meal.

HP: And the whole time he was gushing about the new job. He promised me that he would change the world for the better.

AP: And so I bought this, ridiculously expensive bottle of wine, and swore on it that I would use what I knew to make the world better.

HP: It’s been gathering dust in a cupboard ever since. I can’t believe you brought it with you!

AP: I was going to surprise you, but I never got the chance.

SG: So why drink it now?

AP: Now seems as good a time as any. We’re doing the work I set out to do when I bought it, and I’m surrounded by the people involved. Officer Whickman for the government, Sally for the science, Helen for my passion.

CW: Hear hear!

SG: Cheers!

[[SFX: tape fast-forward]]

HP: I think I’m going to turn in. It’s way past my bedtime. Don’t stay up too late now.

AP: We won’t.

SG: Oh don’t worry, I’m right behind you.

[[SFX: Helen walks off]]

AP: You look like you could use about twenty years of sleep.

SG: It’s just been a rough few days.

AP: I’ve been meaning to ask you about that. When I left my project behind, I was modeling predictive systems, and now... I don’t have the first clue about what you’re doing. What that machine of yours really does.

SG: Well, for a while now, we’ve just been trying to figure that out.

AP: You don’t know how it works?

SG: Hey, Fleming didn’t know he was inventing penicillin, did he? The Timepiece prototype sitting in the hangar, that’s built out of my machine. The one that brought me to the past— I mean... To now.

AP: Right. What was it before then?

SG: I was working on this machine that would, in theory, detach bodies from the Higgs field—

AP: The- The who field? Higgs?

SG: Oh, um... It’s... Let’s just call it an anchor field. And this anchor field is what gives particles mass. I wanted a generator that would negate the anchor field.

AP: Anti...mass? Negate gravity?

SG: That was the idea.

AP: How’d you get from antigravity to time travel?

SG: Did you work on Project Rainbow?

AP: Only in the planning stages. I never walked onboard the Eldridge.

SG: Well, it turns out that you guys accidentally invented the wrong thing, too.

AP: A device that would cloak a battleship by bending light around it.

SG: Well, that worked almost too well. It bent light around it– along with everything else. It never sustained itself long enough to cause any long-term damage, but the moment or two that the Rainbow device functioned, it created a well that massively warped the surrounding regions of spacetime. And that moment proved to attract anything that happened to be untethered nearby relativistically-speaking.

AP: And that includes you, █ years later.

SG: Exactly. The objects affected by the inhibitor field are drawn to the Eldridge like a magnet.

AP: So when an object is affected by your machine, it goes to Philadelphia in 1943?

SG: That’s the principle we’re trying to exploit with the Timepiece.

AP: What if there were a way to modulate the–

SG: –Modulate that acceleration to allow backwards movement to a specific time? Welcome to the conversation.

AP: And I thought Manhattan was cutting-edge. Screw the bomb, you’re building a real-life HG Wells time machine. How do you account for planetary motion? You know, the Earth rotates around the sun at 30 kliks a second, how do you make sure you’re not just zapping into empty space?

SG: That’s been our big issue for most of this. Wyatt and Roberts spent their Fourth of July weekend synchronizing the Timepiece’s acceleration with the Earth.

AP: No wonder they’re tired. God bless ‘em.

SG: But giving the machine a way to process those instructions has been difficult.

AP: Too complicated?

SG: Well, not to toot my own horn here, but where I’m from, our computers are way better at this kind of stuff. I don’t mind spending an extra few hours waiting for our answers to compile, but having to send away to Harvard to get some punchcards read?

AP: I think you might be guilty of being a poor craftsman. Craftswoman.

SG: You’ve got no idea. You probably think 20█ has acres of buildings filled with vacuum tubes.

AP: I know someone will have figured out an electronic Turing machine by then. They’ll fit in your home. I get it.

SG: [laughs]

AP: So how are you gonna present that to the Committee?

SG: I really don’t have any ideas. I’m stumped. I either put them through the time machine themselves, or... Do some kind of fancy trick that looks nice, but doesn’t actually show the machine off at all? I don’t know. But I think I’m gonna sleep on it.

AP: You’ll get it Sally. You’re good at what you do.

SG: Tell it to the committee.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG (DIARY): Diary of Sally Grissom, July 16, 1945. I’m back home now. The night in the desert was fun. Productive, I think. I’ve figured out what to present to the Committee. But more important than what we did that night was what we did this morning. This morning, we saw the world change.

[[SFX: early morning in the desert]]

CW: Sally! Sally, wake up!

SG: [drowsy] Mrrm, what is it? Are we there yet?

SG (DIARY): Whickman woke us up a little after five. Told me to get out of the car. He said that he felt bad about...

CW: ...I felt bad about ending your vacation early, so I thought I’d let you in on something special. Come with me.

AP: [yawns] What’s going on? Where are we going?

CW: The middle of the desert. Won’t be long now, hurry up!

SG: Won’t be long for what?

SG (DIARY): We stopped on a cliff a few hundred feet from the trucks. The world hadn’t yet woken up. It had just been raining, and the air was thick with petrichor.

CW: Okay everyone, keep your eyes on that horizon.

HP: What am I supposed to be looking for?

CW: Just wait a little bit.

SG (DIARY): Chet checked his watch. He tapped on the face, counting down to the detonation. And then...

SG: Woah!

SG (DIARY): In an instant, the sky lit up. As the plutonium core of Trinity reached critical mass, the resulting emission of heat and light turned night into day. There was a brilliant light in the distance from the direction of Alamogordo, reflected by the mountains around us. It was so bright I tried to avert my eyes, but something deep and primal inside me wouldn’t let me look away. I’ve seen footage of the blast, but they couldn't prepare me for that explosion. They never could capture the colors. Reds and yellows more brilliant than I’ve ever seen. Wisps of violet and green climbed the fiery column into the mushroom, that damn cloud that forever after stands for civilization’s capacity for self-demise. Now we are all sons of bitches. It took a minute for the sound to hit.

[[SFX: a 20-kiloton nuclear explosion]]

SG (DIARY): The ground shook. I covered my ears to diminish the roar of weaponized nuclear fission. And then the column dissipated, fading back into the bruised purple twilight. It was over. The twin reactions of terror and wonder on Whickman’s face, the unbridled joy on Partridge’s, the shock and terror on his wife’s... After the burst, I don’t think any of us said anything. About an hour later the MPs picked us up and drove us back. The newspaper that evening said something about a detonated ammunition cache, but everyone in Polvo knew what was going on. It was the beginning of a new era. Oppenheimer’s crew were heroes–at least, they’re supposed to be. Impressive engineers, undoubtedly. Were they heroes because they’ll end the war? Maybe. Stalin and Truman and Churchill are divvying up Germany as I speak. And sure, Manhattan put the US first on the atomic weapon scene, but the only reason that Russia–or, I guess, the Soviet Union had their bomb is because we had ours. Mutually-assured destruction is just keeping up with the thermonuclear Joneses. I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess I’m the only person in the universe to know what happens in the next few decades, and there aren’t many places I can appreciate that fact without being thrown into military prison or an asylum.

But the Oversight Committee wants spectacle.

[[SFX: phone ringing]]

Nuclear weapons are powerful not just because of the explosion or the fallout, but because of the deterrent. And so I gave them spectacle.

[[SFX: Anthony picks up phone]]

SG: (on phone) Partridge, I need a favor.

AP: (on phone) You got it.

SG (DIARY): Three envelopes, for Eisenhower, Donovan, and Groves. Inside each one was the sports scores from next Tuesday’s newspaper and a statement of the Timepiece’s technical acumen, signed by each of them a week from now. And of course, an unsigned version of that same letter. I told them to wait a week, check the scores, and then sign the new letter. It was proof that the Timepiece could send things back in time. At least, to the Committee.

SG: (on phone) How do your predictive models run with sports games?

AP: (on phone) What are you looking to do?

SG (DIARY): Partridge and I spent the last few hours before Judgment Day finding out that, with 99.8% certainty, the Cubs would beat the Phillies 7 to 3 next Tuesday. Not enough people appreciate the power of super in- depth statistical analysis. Then, I wrote up a form letter emphasizing the project’s potential uses, and forged the signatures of the three of them to make it all seem legitimate. The presentation went off without a hitch. I made sure Roberts and Wyatt weren't with me. I never told them what I did. They don't need that weighing on their conscience.

I hope we were right about the ball game. It’s a gambit. If the Cubs lose I’m either incompetent or a fraud, and I’ll probably get fired. If I pull it off, then I’m a genius. It takes a lot of work to set up something this risky, actually. It probably would have been more impressive to tell them. The things we do for funding. I’ve got a time machine and I still can’t convince people to pay for it unless I lie to them a little. But the little lies make getting through to what we need that much easier.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

AP: Helen, what’s wrong? You were so quiet the whole way home. Are you okay?

HP: You lied to me. You broke your promise.

AP: What? Honey, what are you talking about? When?

HP: Our first date. You promised me that your work would make the world better.

AP: I wasn’t lying, Helen. I’m still doing that good work—

HP: I saw what those men were doing, Anthony. I saw it with my own two eyes. That is NOT good work. That is NOT making the world better.

AP: We didn’t do that honey. That wasn’t us.

HP: It’s no different! Men like Donovan have men like you building machines like that. They’re using your gifts and your hard work to build... That! That awful thing! Oh God, Anthony, we drank the promise wine just last night...It makes me sick.

AP: Honey, calm down.

HP: We’re leaving. I’m packing now, and we’ll leave.

AP: You know we can’t just leave—

HP: I don’t care! I don’t care what those men have over you!

AP: I’m not leaving, Helen.

HP: ...What?

AP: They have my work now. I can’t just abandon it. I have to stay.

HP: Anthony, you can’t be okay with this. With what you saw.

AP: Of course not. It’s terrible. But my work won’t end up like that. They’re just building a bomb. I can build so much more. And I’ll watch over it, make sure they don’t use it to hurt anyone.

HP: Are you really that naive? The army will do whatever they want with your work, and send you out the door with a fiver and a pat on the head.

AP: I can’t leave this behind, Helen. It’s everything I’ve ever worked for.

HP: Aren’t I everything you worked for?

AP: You know that’s not true. I worked for the betterment of mankind. I worked for science.

HP: ...That was the wrong answer, Anthony.

[[SFX: Helen leaves upstairs]]

AP: Rrrrgh!

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

BILL DONOVAN (BD): –What were they thinking? Jesus Christ, I should have Sally Grissom in a cell so long she’d meet herself. And just what in the hell was Anthony Partridge’s role in this?

CW: He planned it, sir. Orchestrated the whole trip.

BD: What, to a resort town ten hours away right before the meeting that could well make or break this town? What possible reason could he have for that?  

CW: It does seem particularly reckless. How did the Timepiece presentation go, sir?

BD: It was just... Just awful. They used Anthony Partridge’s research to make safe bets on the Cubs.

CW: How did the Committee react?

BD: Groves was curious, ultimately bored. Ike lit up like a boy on a fat Christmas, but I have a feeling it won’t last. It was a parlor trick, and they may not know it yet, but they’ll figure it out soon enough.

CW: ...May I speak freely, sir?

BD: Sure, why not.

CW: I think Anthony might be trying to sink Grissom’s team.

BD: What makes you think so?

CW: Well, like you say sir, there’s no part of this plan that seemed like a good idea. And I know Anthony, and he isn’t reckless.

BD: What are you saying... He’s trying to destroy us from the inside?

CW: I don’t think it’s all of us. I think he’s trying to destroy Sally.

[[SFX: tape recorder stop]]

ars PARADOXICA is created by Daniel Manning and Mischa Stanton.
Episode 03: Trinity, Act II features –

Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom) 
Reyn Beeler (Chet Whickman)
Rob Slotnick (Bill Donovan)
Robin Gabrielli (Anthony Partridge)
Susanna Kavee (Helen Partridge)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Zach Ehrlich (Jack Wyatt)
Lee Satterwhite (Quentin Barlowe)

with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson

Original music by Mischa Stanton.
ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by the Internet: Just, don’t read the comments.

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