10: Consequence, Act II

written by Daniel Manning

[[SFX: tape recorder starts]]

[[SFX: Bill and Chet on recorder; Bill coughs, falls]]

CHET WHICKMAN (CW): Don’t worry sir. I’m on my way. I won’t let you down.

[[SFX: empty tape spins in recorder]]

ANTHONY PARTRIDGE (AP): You have got the be kidding me… Donovan! Donovan, where the HELL are you!...

[[SFX: Anthony stomps out, slams door; radio tuning]]

SALLY GRISSOM (SG): Diary of Sally Grissom, December 25th, 1946. You know, last night I was really feeling the Yuletide spirit, what with figuring out the APU signal decay, but after talking to Helen Partridge, I’m not so sure. Christmas is supposed to be this wonderful time to come together with family and exchange shiny baubles. But standing on the outside of those traditions, it’s hard not to feel left out in the cold. I mean, not literally, but yeah, sure. Literally. There’s an emptiness to the holiday that–

[[SFX: CAGE activates.]]

SG: Uh... there’s not supposed to be a CAGE here. Ohmygod, what’s going on, HEY—

FUTURE SALLY GRISSOM (FSG): Calm down, Sally. It’s gonna be okay.

SG: Oh... You’re...

FSG: Yep.

SG: But you’re—

FSG: Yes.

SG: You’re me! From the future!

FSG: [sigh] Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, hi, I’m you. From the future. You’re thinking of the number 86, you’re gonna hold your middle finger behind your back, the password is Nitric Caiman Grout.

SG: ...Why 86?

FSG: It’s what we always pick.

SG: Well isn’t that just... wizard.

FSG: Enough time-horsing around. We gotta talk.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

[[SFX: hospital devices; Anthony barges through the door]]

AP: Bill Donovan, you dirty piece of... What... What is all this?

BILL DONOVAN (BD): Anthony, it’s been... so long. So long.

AP: What is all this? What’s going on?

BD: This is my treatment. Sally’s CAGE... it gives your mind time to stop and think things through. I’m healing.

AP: So... You’ve been in the CAGE?

BD: Controlled exposure therapy. It’s working... slowly. From what I understand, I have you to thank.

AP: I only had the idea for all of this an hour ago.

BD: And in another version of events, you were too late to save my life.

AP: Well I guess “too late” isn’t an obstacle for you any more. How long have you been in there?

BD: Quite a while. I’m not really sure of the numbers. Does duration even matter without a clock to measure it?

AP: –Guess.

BD: The last time I spoke with you was... Something like thirty years ago.

AP: And it’s working?

BD: My head’s clearer than it’s ever been since the day Sally Grissom appeared in my life.

AP: Since you started fucking with time travel and and had your goons manipulate my wife into leaving me.

BD: [sigh] This isn’t a social call then.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: This isn’t happening. This shouldn’t be happening. I can’t believe this is happening—

FSG: Dammit Grissom, get a hold of yourself!

SG: [laughs]

[[SFX: Future Sally slaps Sally]]

FSG: Sally Virginia Grissom, keep it together!

SG: ...Mom only used to use our middle name when she was furious.

FSG: Yeah, I know. Doesn’t matter. We don’t have time for nostalgia. Ha ha, yes, time travel sure is complicated and funny, right{?} I know you’ve got a million questions, make it fast.

SG: When are you from?

FSG: Twenty years ahead. 1967.

SG: Do we ever make it back to the future?

FSG: [groans]

SG: The real future. Our future.

FSG: That place is gone. Ceased to exist the second we stepped foot into the 40s... But I did hold a couple Enchantment Under the Sea dances when the 50s swung around, so...

SG: Did you ever play [Johnny B Goode]—

FSG: Come on. We’re not that bad, are we?

SG: I dunno. I’m starting to get why some people don’t like us.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

AP: You ruined my life! You blackmailed the director of the FBI, and the President!

BD: Well, Anthony, we’ve all done things we regret.

AP: You “regret” turning my wife against me?

BD: I needed you focused. That woman was dragging you down.

AP: Oh, I wasn’t focused enough! Now you care about what I do? Now I’m the valuable asset?

BD: You know what they say about making omelettes. Progress requires sacrifice, Anthony. That’s why you never got anywhere. You never sacrificed anything. Never fought for anything.

AP: I fought for her.

BD: Did you? From where I sit, it looks like you left Helen to wither on the vine. She played the doting homemaker for years, waiting and praying that one day, her love would return from the war.

AP: I did those things for you!

BD: In part, I’m sure. But don’t kid yourself: you did what you did for you. For your ego. To make you feel important. And when you neglected her, Helen chose to leave. You lost her on your own.

AP: What is so broken inside you, that you can manipulate people’s lives like this?

BD: You are a cog in a machine, Anthony. An important cog, but a cog nonetheless. A cog in a glorious machine that makes the world spin faster around Uncle Sam’s axis. Don’t you have any love for God and country?

AP: You’re not doing this for America, you’re doing this for yourself. For your own twisted claim to power.

BD: That’s hogwash. Everything I did, I did for this nation.

AP: You can cut the bullshit, Bill. I heard the tapes. You’ve never been concerned about anyone but yourself.

BD: I’ve given my life…! The only reason you’re not slowly wasting away teaching calculus to adolescents is because of me. If you’ve heard my tapes–and if you have, someone is definitely fired–then you know what I’ve given up for this work.

AP: Sally’s work. I’m just the cog. Remember? Remember before Philadelphia, before all this blew up? We were going to change the world.

BD: Plans change. Assets have to be reorganized. Not everyone gets to be the hero. You were a very useful employee, Anthony. I’m sorry that your wife left you. I hope that these acknowledgments give you the validation that you so desperately desire.

AP: That’s all you have to say?

BD: I think so. And if you could finish this up, I’ve got to

[[SFX: Anthony chokes Bill. Chet enters.]]

CHET WHICKMAN (CW): Director Donov—... Oh... Oh Anthony. Anthony! What have you done?

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: How and why are we in this CAGE?

FSG: I sprang for the deluxe Timepiece Field Kit.

SG: ...That? That’s a Timepiece?

FSG: You got it.

SG: It’s so small!

FSG: The miracles of modern science. They make it smaller. Ask the important questions.

SG: Okay, okay! Why are we talking in a CAGE instead of, like, a normal room?

FSG: We have to be in a CAGE to keep our brains from turning to mush.

SG: ...Run that back by me again?

FSG: Cliffsnotes: time travel paradoxes are bad for the head. They make you go crazy. The literature doesn’t exist for you yet, but it’ll be called “Butterfly Syndrome.”

SG: They really named it after the Heinlein story?

FSG: It’s actually a chaos theory metaphor, but sure, that’s on-theme.

SG: I’m definitely understanding the animosity.

FSG: Listen kid, you need to hear me on this. When this CAGE turns off and you flash back to real time? It’s gonna go very badly for you.

SG: Why?

FSG: What’s the weirdest time travel event you can think of?

SG: Based on context I’m assuming it’s talking face-to-face with your future self about events that haven’t happened yet.

FSG: Give the girl a prize. Yes. The sheer impossibility of it all gives you the migraine of a lifetime.

SG: What you’re saying is the Timepiece causes brain damage?

FSG: You thought it was safe? Hell no it... messes you up big time.

SG: And we’re in the CAGE because...?

FSG: It treats it, or something. I guess. I don’t know, dammit. I’m a physicist, not a brain surgeon. Going theory in the 60s is that since it’s a safe space in here, your brain can sort of anchor itself. The CAGE keeps you stable. Stable-ish, which is why we need to hurry. Donovan should be doing it himself right about now.

SG: Donovan?

FSG: Oh, this is... Spoiler alert: Donovan’s been abusing the Timepiece for his own gains.

SG: Come on! Seriously?! I speechified! A bunch of times!

FSG: Yes, and he didn’t listen. Point is, when we’re done chatting, the CAGE is going to dissolve, you’ve got about three seconds to process what’s happened, and then you... probably won’t die.

SG: Probably?

FSG: And after you... definitely probably don’t die, you’ll never see me again.

SG: Aww, what?? Come on, we were just starting to–

FSG: I’m gone after this, Sally. Don’t waste it.

[[SFX: radio tuning; mic hidden in the lining of a suitcase; motel room door opens; Jack and Penny shuffle inside; Jack shuts the door, locks it, opens the suitcase.]]

PENNY WISE (PW): –think we’ll be safe here?

JACK WYATT (JW): Long enough to shower and sleep, at least.

PW: How far do you think we’ll need to go?

[[SFX: Jack takes out a map]]

JW: We’re about 25 miles north of ████. We can make it out of ████ and through ████ and ███ tomorrow.

PW: Do you think they know we left?

JW: I’m not sure. They’ll have figured it out by morning, of course, but now I–

[[SFX: phone rings]]

PW: Do we pick it up?

JW: Who would be calling here?

PW: Who do you think? I’m scared, Jack.

JW: It’s...

PW: What?

JW: I was about to say “it’s gonna be okay,” but it’s not, Penny. It’s really not gonna be okay.

[[SFX: Jack picks up phone.]]

JW: Yes?

ESTHER ROBERTS (ER): (on phone) Jack.

JW: Esther.

ER: I wanted to—

JW: How did you find us?

ER: You... You know what they can do.

JW: What you can do? If they think they can use you to bring me back in, they’re dead wrong.

ER: I wouldn’t let them.

JW: Then... Then why are you calling?

ER: Because I owe it to you. I told them you were going east. Towards the Carolinas. Said I knew you always wanted to live there.

JW: Thanks for the heads up.

ER: Everything’s about to change around here.

JW: We never should have worked for a man like Bill Donovan.

ER: It doesn’t matter now. We made our choices.

JW: And you chose to side with the snake in the grass.

ER: You made perfect the enemy of good and chose to run away from a chance to put them on the least destructive path. Don’t kid yourself into thinking everything’s so black and white.

JW: Don’t give me this “ends justify” bullshit. You wanted power, and you got it. So I hope you’re happy. I hope somebody’s happy.

ER: I can’t say you’re totally wrong.

JW: You’re getting better at their doubletalk every day.

ER: I want you and Penny to be free of this. You of all people deserve it.

JW: It... thank you.

ER: This is the best I can do for you: after I hang up, open your trunk. Check under the lining on the left side.

JW: Give Sally my best. And Anthony. Tell them... tell them never to stop being the good ones. ER: I will. I love you, Jack.

JW: I love you too, Esther.

[[SFX: Jack hangs up.]]

PW: What did she say? PW: Jack, what did she say?

[[SFX: Jack opens the suitcase; he fumbles around the nylon lining; he pulls out the small recorder, and crushes it; radio tuning]]

SG: Why did you come all this way? What terrible thing could possibly justify jumping back twenty years on your own timeline?

FSG: I’d love to answer every question you have, and god damn do I know how frustrating this will be...

[[SFX: static distortion]]

FSG: ...is… dammit, it’s starting to sink in. I’ve really only got time to hit the broad strokes. The CAGE can only sustain us–this–for so long.

SG: Classic. The one person I trust to give me a straight answer, and she has a time limit.

FSG: Alright. So. You’ll never see Anthony Partridge again.

SG: What?

FSG: They disappear him. I’d say he was dead, but you never say never with these guys. I’ve heard rumors of... never mind.

SG: What if I could–

FSG: You can’t. Save him. Believe me, I tried. Sally, I tried. We tried. You have to trust me. It’s not worth it. Point is, I went on the run after that, but never for too long. They know where you go–they just ask the future. They know where you’ve been–they look in the past. I spent years swimming against their tide, going nowhere. I probably made them even stronger in the process.

SG: So you’re giving up?

FSG: Not exactly. They–Whickman–never wanted to imprison me, they just... wanted our brain. SG: All the boys do.

FSG: And, it might’ve took me a long time to realize this, and I really don’t want to give you the wrong impression here, but... they’re not bad people. Misguided, certainly but... you know Whickman. He cares. He wants to help people. He always has.

SG: Whickman? What about Donovan?

FSG: As of today, you don’t need to worry about Bill Donovan. Whickman’s taking over operations.

SG: And you want me to... work with them?

FSG: Sally, you have one thing all these others don’t: you’ve seen the future. You’ve seen the intelligence state of 20█. You can stop them going down that route. They trust you. More than anyone else.

SG: Can I? Can we?

FSG: I spent decades running from the Office of Developed Anomalous Whatever, and by the end I didn’t know why I kept going. I’m tired of being a fugitive.

[[SFX: static distortion]]

FSG: Your nose is bleeding. We need to finish this now before we die in here. Bad things are coming, Grissom. The history that we remember is different. Everything that’s happened since 1943... it’s created ripples. Deviations. If I had had access to their resources, maybe I could’ve been able to do something. But there was... it doesn’t matter what happened. You can help them where I couldn’t. But you’ve got to start the relationship with an open hand, not a closed fist.

SG: What bad things happened?

FSG: There will... there was… there is...

[[SFX: static distortion]]

FSG: I can’t keep up. I can’t say the words. I’ve got to end this before it kills us.

SG: What things? What words? How was are you whoa what will’ve... happen me?

FSG: Find the pumpkin papers, Grissom! The pumpkin papers!

[[SFX: CAGE effect ends; Future Sally runs out]]

SG: Wait, pumpkin pay–...

[[SFX: Sally passes out; radio tuning]]

AP: I’m not a bad person. I’m not a bad person. I’m not a bad person.

CW: Anthony, do you remember why you called Bill Donovan all those years ago?

AP: I had solid math predicting Pearl Harbor.

CW: Now, why’d you call that in? Wouldn’t you be better off extorting Uncle Sam for a payday? Holding that information for ransom? But you didn’t do that, did you? You walked right into Bill’s office and handed it to him. Why?

AP: Well, it was the right thing to do. People’s lives were at stake.

CW: You’re right. If only we knew, we could save people’s lives. And now we can know about everything. Perfect situational awareness. Updates fast as the teletype can print them. We can save everybody.

AP: Okay?

CW: So could you maybe explain to me why on God’s green earth you decided to murder the one person who could have made it happen!?

AP: I don’t know...

CW: You don’t know?! Why you strangled an old man in a hospital bed?

AP: You people took everything from me! My home, my career... you took Helen! All for his twisted ideology. He just... I just... I didn’t know what came over me. Bill has this way of getting under your skin. Sinks his hooks into you.

CW: And that’s why he deserved to be killed?

AP: He needed to be stopped.

CW: And you were the one who could stop him?

AP: I didn’t know what I was going to do. After I heard what he did, I had to do something! It’s not fair! It’s not fair what he did!

CW: You know what I think is “not fair?” You killing a man with your bear hands because you don’t like how the sausage gets made!

AP: Listen, I was... it was like he was goading me! Like he wanted it to happen!

CW: It doesn’t what he was thinking! You’re not in those cuffs because Bill wasn’t as gracious as you wanted.

AP: I keep reliving it over and over again in my head. His face... I can’t forget his face. This rictus smile as his face went purple. I see that face every time I close my eyes. I trace the veins in his face and the curl of his lips to depersonalize it. To focus so minutely as to rob his face of its humanity. But I can’t. Every time it’s just the same smile, looking right at me. Through me. I thought he would be afraid. I was afraid. Afraid and angry. But he was just... excited? Aroused? Even in death, Bill Donovan stays with me. I don’t care any more, I just want this to be over. My life is over, Helen is gone, there’s nothing left for me. Can’t you just shoot me, or something?

CW: It’s funny you should ask that.

[[SFX: intercom]]

CW: Hank, we’re ready for you now.

[[SFX: door opens, Hank enters]]

CW: Hank, our mutual friend here was just talking about how he wants to be killed, too. What can you do about that?

HANK CORNISH (HC): Well, Dr. Partridge, it seems that you’ll get your wish, as far as the rest of the world is concerned.

AP: What are you talking about?

CW: We’re scrubbing you. You’re being... let’s call it “formally retired” from all work and family obligations.

AP: So... you’re giving me a new name or something? Like June Barlowe?

HC: When you asked about being killed, I’m sure you meant us halting your biological processes through any number of methods: electric chair, firing squad, poison. No, we’re killing you in a more figurative sense. Your address is being changed to a dummy location. Your services and subscriptions cancelled, and your accounts closed. We’re refusing requests and letters on your behalf. Within a few days you won’t have a life on any business or government records. A few months after that, you’ll stop receiving communication entirely from people who don’t personally know you. And then, slowly, your presence will fade from even the memories of those you knew and loved.

AP: Well that was heavy.

CW: But, you’ve got a choice about what happens next.

AP: Apart from my death?

HC: Well it’s all about how you pass on, isn’t it? Your first choice is simple. “Live” in a room like this until you die. Actually, smaller than this. Too narrow to lie down, too low to stand up. Eat once a day, shit in a bucket.

CW: Perk is you get to keep the bucket.

AP: I suppose you want me to take the second choice.

CW: Remember when I said that you murdered the only person who had a shot at saving everybody?

AP: Yes. I was there. It was three minutes ago.

CW: You can do something about that.

AP: ...Oh sure! use the Timepiece to stop myself. What a brilliant idea{!} That’s not gonna happen, chief.

CW: No, you made your choice. And with choice comes consequence.

HC: You’re going to become the bedrock for everything you’ve worked for at ODAR.You can be the genius that saves the world.

AP: ...I’m listening.

[[SFX: radio tuning ]]

ER: I will. I love you, Jack.

[[SFX: Hank and Chet emerge]]

ER: Did he go for it?

CW: It’s the only shot Dr. Partridge has at redemption. His one chance to forgive himself. I think he’ll go for it.

HC: It worked out better than I could’ve hoped. We had just planned on leveraging him with the abandonment angle. But then he gorged himself on guilt. Souers will be pleased.

CW: Hank, a man is dead. A great man.

HC: And the world turns on. All you see before you is now yours to do with as you see fit. Once Partridge is in the Blackroom, there’s no stopping this.

CW: I can’t believe we’re actually doing this.

HC: Remember, we’re changing the world. Nothing worthwhile has ever been easy.

CW: This is the right thing to do... Esther? Tell me this is the right thing to do.

ER: He brought it on himself. You know, I could deal with Jack giving up. I could deal with Sally saying no. But Anthony? I thought he knew better than to put his own vendettas before this. ODAR is bigger than all of us. It’s bigger than Bill Donovan ever was. It was reckless and disappointing. I feel for him, I do, but we’re not children anymore.

HC: Stop wondering about right and wrong, Whickman. Focus on the result. You want to keep this country safe? Do that, and don’t distract yourself with the merits of petty morality.

CW: Right, yeah… Yeah. What’s the timeline for Anthony’s departure?

ER: It’s on schedule. We should have the deployment package ready soon.

CW: Everything is in order, then. Once the Blackroom is operational, everything changes. We are the vanguard of the new order of things. Inform the rest of Central Intelligence Group that we’re ready to go.

HC: Yes, sir.

[[SFX: tape recorder stop]]

ars PARADOXICA is created by Daniel Manning & Mischa Stanton.
Episode 10: Consequence, Act II features –

Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Reyn Beeler (Chet Whickman)
Rob Slotnick (Bill Donovan)
Robin Gabrielli (Anthony Partridge)

Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Zach Ehrlich (Jack Wyatt)
Charlotte Mary Wen (Penny Wise)
Dan Anderson (Hank Cornish)
with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson

Original music by Mischa Stanton.
ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by The Internet: Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down.

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