written by Tau Zaman
MISCHA STANTON (MS): Well, folks, it’s finally here. On behalf of all the beautiful, talented people who bring you this cool thing, I just wanna say thank you. Thank you, thank you, to everyone out there listening for sticking with us this far. I don’t wanna get in the way here, so without further ado… [clap, clap]
MS: This episode of ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by our friends at Liberty Critical Research.
[slow piano music]
A failed terraforming colony has endured generations of civil war. What remains is a gleaming city, walled off from the lawless fringe. An expedition sent by a covert government agency journeys to discover more about the looming threat of the fringe’s violent inhabitants. Liberty Critical Research is a dangerous expedition into the unknown. If you like that, the Liberty universe continues into a graphic novel, an upcoming history book, and a pen and paper RPG based on the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons. You can find it at nerdyshow.com/liberty or wherever you get your podcasts. And consider listening to some of the other shows on the Nerdy Show Network. We’re so grateful for their support.
[[SFX: tape recorder starts; pen scratching; a crowd gathers outside; door opens]]
MC: How’s it going, Helen? Have everything you need?
HELEN PARTRIDGE (HP): I’m fine, thank you.
MC: Nailed down those lyrics yet? It’s almost time to go on.
HP: [hurriedly] I’ll be ready. Just have to make a last minute change...
[[SFX: Helen’s tape recorder skips, then plays]]
MC: I can’t believe you lugged that thing all the way in here.
HP: It helps me get my thoughts in order.
MC: Listen, don’t sweat it. Anything will be fine. As long as the words are in time with the music, you’re guaranteed to put on a good show! I mean it. You’re gonna knock their socks off.
STAGE MANAGER: Five minutes!
MC: ...I’ll get you when it’s time.
[[SFX: door closes; pen scratches; radio tuning. Esther and Chet walk down a hallway, their voices echoing off the concrete walls]]
CHET WHICKMAN (CW): Esther, I’m serious. If word of this gets out to anyone, especially someone in ODAR, this whole place falls apart!
ESTHER ROBERTS (ER): [placatingly] Don’t worry, I’ve got it handled. No one knows about him. I didn’t even put a guard on duty for this corridor. Everyone else thinks it’s empty.
CW: Right, no guards. [beat] I guess that means one of us has to feed him?
ER: [resigned] And take him to the bathroom.
CW: Goddammit, Roberts! How did a Soviet agent break in here!?
ER: I’m just glad Anthony tipped us off in time. This guy doesn’t even... look the part.
CW: What do you mean?
ER: You’ll see. Ready?
CW: [sigh] Open it.
[[SFX: Esther enters a code for the door]]
CW: You said you found him in your office? And he told you his name.
ER: Yeah, like he was waiting to be found.
[[SFX: The door clangs open; walkie-talkie]]
GUARD: [on walkie] Ms. Roberts? Victor Lambert’s cell just opened up, no authorized key access—
ER: [quickly] Just close it again, thanks.
CW: What was that about?
ER: Unlocking this cell also opens Victor Lambert’s for a brief moment.
￼CW: Why would you bind both cells to the same key?
ER: If I gave each their own key, everyone would know we have two prisoners. You’d prefer we keep this one off the books, right?
CW: What if someone opens Lambert’s cell?
ER: Vice-versa, this one here opens. But how often do you plan on opening Lambert’s door?
CW: Lambert’s? Never. A Soviet spy’s, quite often. You can see the predicament.
ER: Look, I’m working on it. Bear in mind, I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to plan this.
CW: Alright! Alright. Let’s take a look at this guy.
[[SFX: the cell’s inner door opens]]
AMELIN VASILIEVICH (AV): Ah, my lady with the very strong backhand. I’m impressed you needed no guards to apprehend me.
CW: Amelin Vasilievich, eh? Quite a name for a man who doesn’t look very Soviet.
AV: I don’t understand your meaning.
CW: Well. Let’s just say I didn’t realize they got so much sun in Siberia! [chortle]
AV: Believe it or not, some of us look like this.
CW: Your English is pretty good!
AV: I’ve studied all my life.
AV: All the better to bring you some valuable advice. Consider it a peace offering from your friends across the Bering Strait.
CW: So we’re taking gifts from the Soviets now!
AV: You’ll want this one.
ER: How do we know this advice will be any good?
AV: [smugly] Let’s just say it’s about something yet to happen. Something we may prefer to avoid. Even if the Soviet Union wins in the end, things might go far more smoothly for all of us if we became friends here and now.
CW: What the hell do you mean you guys win?
AV: She’s figured it out.
CW: Figured out what?
AV: How I got in here!
AV: How I know things. [laughing knowingly]
ER: Oh my god.
ER: Chet...The Soviets...They have a Timepiece!
[[SFX: radio tuning; Nikhil gasps awake]]
MATEO MORALES (MM): Shh, it’s alright!
NIKHIL SHARMA (NS): Goddamnit. Another one!
MM: About ODAR killing you again?
NS: Killing you, Mateo!
MM: I’ll be fine here. You’re just nervous about the mission. Get some sleep; you’ve still got an hour or so before you have to go. I’ll wake you up.
NS: If I’ve only got an hour left I’d rather—
MM: Spend it with me? Aww, awen’t you a wittle womantic! [laugh]
NS: Cut it out! [pause] I was saying... I’d rather watch the sunrise.
MM: Mmm. It’s pretty, right? Stars are still out. Speaking of stars... [dramatically] I see the beacons! Dotting the arc of time! Lighting the way to daaawn!
NS: [chuckle] ...Listen, Mateo, I just… I’ve been thinking about something. Maybe too late, but...
MM: What is it?
NS: When June Barlowe writes about the beacons at the end of her life… it’s a little dramatic, right? I mean, she’s spent her whole life trying to take down ODAR, realizes she’s hit a wall with the schematics on the anchor point, and then just...waxes poetic?
MM: I dunno. The anchor points seemed like the way out for her. As they do for us. That’s the whole point of you building one in Sally Grissom’s time, right?
NS: It just seems… a very specific way to put it. What if… what if she knew she’d never finish it in her lifetime?
MM: I mean, most of the Anchorites had to make peace with that. They just had to hope that whoever came after them would pick up where they left off. Like we’re doing.
NS: But she had to have some method of passing the torch.
MM: Then she’d need to find some way to preserve her work without ODAR getting a hold of it. I’ll admit, when I looped around snatching her diaries, it didn’t feel like the most revolutionary way to carry out her legacy.
NS: The best way to do it would be...
NS/MM: —to encode it!
MM: But even if she encodes it, she’s trying to share it with people all across time. You can’t exactly do that with a numbers station.
NS: Right. Airwaves won’t work. You’d need a numbers station that could broadcast—
MM: Across time! [pause; soft gasp] The beacons.
NS: I used to think they were anchor points; but what if they weren’t?
MM: What if the beacons June was talking about… are numbers stations? Like the one they used to use in the old days — codes over the airwaves!
NS: We just established that’s impossible. Impossible! Radio waves don’t time travel.
￼MM: Tachyons do. So if you could rig a device to execute a series of extremely precise tachyon emissions, you could use them as a code. Any Anchorites across time could read those emissions.
NS: You—You’re a genius, you know that?
MM: Handsome, to boot.
NS: I mean there’s no way we can be sure—
MM: If I’m handsome?
NS: If—if the beacons she’s talking about are numbers stations.
MM: Test it out when you’re following those kids through time. If you pick up a pattern of tachyon emissions, you’ll know you’re onto something. If you see any Anchorites in Sally’s time, maybe give them a hint?
NS: But… the Anchorites could be trying to contact us right now!
MM: I’ll see if I can read any emissions here in this time. I’ll need something to do when you’re gone.
NS: [overwhelmed] This objective list just gets bigger and bigger.
MM: Speaking off getting bigger…
NS: Oh, you have the filthiest mind!
MM: [laugh] I’m just trying to get as much time with my doctor before he goes back in time!
NS: Don’t remind me… It keeps sinking in that I might never see you again if this anchor point doesn’t work.
MM: Hey! None of that. Who knows—if this numbers station thing turns out to be real, maybe we’ll have some way of staying in touch.
NS: How will I know if it’s you?
￼MM: If you ever decode a transmission and it just says, “Hey, loser,” — you’ll know it’s me.
NS: ...I love you.
[[SFX: They kiss deeply; radio tuning]]
LOU GAINES (LG): So, Mr. Whickman, now that you’ve got us right where you wanted us this whole time, what is it that you want?
CW: I want us to have a little talk about your future. I’m sure if we put our heads together— all… eleven of us in here—we can iron it out quite nicely for everyone involved.
FUTURE PETRA (FP): Carmen?! What’re you doing here?
CARMEN (C): Hey, Petra... Petras.
FP: Carmen, what the hell are you doing pointing a gun at all of us? And at...other me!
CW: Now, now. I’ll be the one asking questions here.
ER: [on walkie] Chet, are you alone? I need to—
CW: I’m not alone, Esther. In fact, I’ve got Victor Lambert here with me. [sarcastically] Know anything about that?
ER: That... can’t be good. Chet, if Lambert’s there with you that means the other cell opened too.
CW: ...Dammit! Esther, you need to check on him right now!
ER: I—I am, I am! He’s...gone. The cell’s empty. Whickman, do you hear me? He’s gone.
AV: [on walkie] Looking for me?
ER: [horrified] Oh my—
BRIDGET CHAMBERS (BC): Ettie! She could be hurt!
SALLY GRISSOM (SG): Whickman? What the hell was that?
CW: Esther, report! ...Shit! Carmen, hold the room.
C: Oh, sure, just me against… nine other people. No problem.
CW: [in the background] Esther, Esther, come in! Esther, do you hear me? Esther? Report!
ORIGINAL PETRA (OP): So you’re “against” me now?
C: Maybe if you hadn’t come back like… this, I wouldn’t be!
CW: Thankfully none of them thought to bring a gun.
LG: Like hell I didn’t!
[[SFX: Lou draws a gun; the room erupts in tense reactions]]
CW: We have the area surrounded. Put that down. You’re not getting out of here.
LG: Neither are you!
SG: Enough with the fucking guns! [pause] Nobody ever learns.
CW: ...Listen. Esther is in danger—
MAGGIE ELBOURNE (ME): And we’re not, with guns in our faces?
VICTOR LAMBERT (VL): [laughing]
CW: Miss Elbourne, this is bigger than the people in this room. ODAR is in danger. Our country is in danger. And not in the way you treasonous bastards want!
BC: Lou, please, let him through.
BEN QUIGLEY (BQ): Bridget, this was not the plan. Don’t back down on us now.
CW: Quentin. Barlowe. Are you looking to die a second time?
C: [nervously] Director Whickman? Maybe we should call in the backup—
CW: We’re not gonna need it. Don’t forget we’ve got a gun too, and they’re going to let us by any minute now.
JUNE BARLOWE (JB): You seem awfully certain!
CW: I do Ms. Barlowe, because at least one of you here is sensible enough... You. You must be Bridget Chambers, right?
BC: I am.
JB: Bridget, ignore him.
BC: [testily] June—
CW: You’re a smart lady, That much is… clear from having pulled this much off. Surely you can convince your friends here to see reason.
BC: ...Lou, please, he needs to find Ettie.
ME: Do I need to remind you what that woman put me through?
BC: [desperately] I’m sorry Maggie, something terrible is happening to her right now and I can’t bear—
LG: You really think this was going to happen without anyone getting hurt?
CW: You’re... Louis Gaines. I bet you’re looking for David Marian? He’s in danger too. Let me through, and I’ll have him contact you. If he makes it. Clock’s ticking.
SG: On one condition: I’m coming with you. If Roberts is in trouble there’s no way you’re keeping me here.
JB: Are you kidding me Sally? We have a—mission here!
SG: The mission’s gone to shit, June! Besides, Victor Lambert doesn’t look like he’s in any mood to be convinced!
VL: Hey! Says who?
CW: You know, Sally, your loyalties always confound me.
C: Would be one fewer person for me to keep an eye on.
SG: C’mon, Whickman. The situation’s changed. You know it. Your gun’s not gonna fix it.
CW: Not yet, anyway… [sigh] Alright. Carmen, let her go. But only her. Now, you going let me through?
BQ: Don’t do it Lou.
JB: This is a win condition!. Don’t let him go!
CW: David Marian could be dying as we speak.
[[SFX: Lou puts his gun down]]
LG: I’m going with you. I need to see what happened to David for myself.
BC: Ettie’s in trouble. I’m coming.
CW: This isn’t a goddamn party!
BC: You’re in no position to bargain!
CW: [laugh] You think like an ODAR agent. Fine. We don’t have time for this. Come on.
[[SFX: Chet, Sally, Bridget, and Lou begin to walk away.]]
CW: And don’t think I forgot about you, Lambert.
VL: Dammit! You sure you can’t just leave me out here? Sounds like your car’s getting a little crowded.
CW: Oh, we’ll make room. You’re not leaving my sight.
[[SFX: radio tuning; driving fast]]
SG: Slow down, you’re gonna kill us.
CW: That would solve a lot of problems!
SG: Do you even hear yourself right now?
VL: Ooh, I sense a bumpy ride ahead!
BC: Will you just shut up?
LG: Let’s just remember who’s still got the gun here.
VL: All right, all right!
CW: Sally, you’re in the car because I had no choice if I wanted to get to Esther. I’m not interested in your judgments.
SG: No, we need to talk about this. You have a serious problem. All of ODAR does!
CW: [laugh] That’s—that’s rich, Sally! Because pretty much all of my problems can be traced back to you.
SG: You make more than enough of your own, Whickman. I swear you pull a gun faster than anyone I’ve ever seen—
CW: Oh, we’re back to the Sharma incident, again? Sally, maybe this is hard for you to understand because you have no concept of personal responsibility—
SG: You want to tell me about personal responsibility?! Do you have any idea what this last year has been like for me?!
CW: —If you’ll let me finish, what I’m saying is, the safety and livelihood of every single person in ODAR and in this country falls on my shoulders. And if I see a threat, like a foreign agent with zero clearance who has clearly breached our security, I’m going to shoot. [beat] He was your friend, I get it. And… I’m sorry I had to kill your friend, alright?
￼SG: No, you don’t get it.
CW: Then what am I missin’ here, Sally?
SG: This whole... “If you see a foreigner, you’re gonna shoot” thing... It’s not just you.
CW: I—I don’t understand.
SG: Whickman, you have no idea what it’s like back in my time... People still do that. It’s how the country does things, where I’m from. You just see someone different from you, so you think they’re dangerous, and you just… [sharp inhale] fire!
CW: That’s because they didn’t have ODAR. We can stop these tragedies from happening, Sally. We can make America—
SG: [passionately] —Don’t. Don’t say it, Whickman. [pause] Please. It never stops. The problem isn’t that we didn’t have time travel. The problem is us. And it doesn’t just happen to people like Nikhil, it happens...
LG: [quietly] To people like me. Every day.
SG: Yes. And even...
BC: ...People like me.
VL: Makes ya wonder what the whole goddamn point of time travel is...
BC: ...if you can’t fix people.
CW: Sally, I…. I’m just Chet Whickman. I’m not every red blooded American man who’s ever fired a gun.
LG: Hah! You sure look like ‘em.
CW: You need to move past this. ODAR has done a lot of good already—
SG: [increasing in indignation] Really? What good, Whickman? Meddled in some court proceedings, rigged an election or two? Can you think of any other global tragedies on a slightly larger scale that ODAR could’ve maybe prevented?
CW: What, what, you want us to become time traveling Nazi hunters?
￼SG: Did you even try?
CW: That’s ridiculous, Sally, and you know it! Sure, fine, yes it was an atrocity, I get that!
SG: That we never talk about!
CW: Because it’s logistically impossible to even try to do anything about it! My hands were tied.
LG: Men in power tend to say that.
CW: What, you don’t think I want to save the world with time travel? Sometimes you have to look at things rationally, and make a call about the things you have the power to change.
BC: With that many lives on the line, I don’t think I could so coolly write it off as not even worth trying!
CW: Do you think Esther didn’t care five years ago? She was… aghast! We both were! But she knew how to set aside her feelings and focus on our mission. And if she [incredulous laugh] of all people, can do it, the rest of us have no excuse.
SG: ...We’re almost there, can you reach her yet?
[[SFX: Chet picks up the walkie]]
CW: Esther? Esther, can you hear me?... Still can’t hear anything.
SG: How’d you get so much range out of those things anyway?
CW: We’ll have to go in blind. Get ready.
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
ME: ...Could you please stop pointing that at us?
OP: Carmen, put it down.
FP: You’re not gonna shoot me. Us.
C: ...Of course not.
[[SFX: Carmen uncocks her gun; June and Ben breathe easier]]
JB: That’s better.
BQ: So are there, uh...future Carmens, too?
C: Just me, for now.
OP: You look… good!
C: Do you have any idea how worried I was? Not even ODAR could track you down. I looked, and looked, and waited, and waited, until...I realized: you’d figured it out. You’d gotten out of all of this. You were moving forward — not just in that way — I mean...you were moving forward through time! Finally. One of the two of us was doing it.
FP: What do you mean one of us, Carmen? You have your whole life ahead of you too.
C: At ODAR all they do is pick at the past! Write it and rewrite it over and over. They’re... drowning in it.
OP: Look, I know you told me last time why you couldn’t leave, and I know it seemed like I wasn’t listening then, but. I get it now, I do. It still has to be better than staying here!
C: Wait, do you think I enjoyed staying here?
FP: ...Carmen, you need to tell me right now, are they… are they doing it again?! What they did to us?
C: No. I made absolutely sure it never. Happens. Again. It’s just... Well, Director Whickman finds me useful. By god, if he’s got even one agent immune to Butterfly Syndrome he’s gonna make use of them.
OP: ...They’ve been sending you back. Over and over. Just like always!
￼C: It’s different this time! This time, I want to do it. For the greater good.
ME: Carmen, you must know there’s no way to be sure if you’re actually immune to it or not. Your childhood neuroplasticity maybe made you immune, but as an adult, you may only be resistant. And I’m concerned they’re working you beyond your limits.
C: What better way for Director Whickman to find out if this experiment actually worked?
ME: [darkly] He and Miss Roberts have quite a bit in common...
BQ: They sure know how to make lemonade outta limes.
JB: Sounds he’s gonna have to make more than he bargained for.
OP: Yeah, what the hell is going on?
C: I don’t know, I mean... it’s classified! I—I’m not even supposed to be speaking to you!
FP: Carmen, nobody in the world knows you better. You’re not gonna keep secrets from me now.
C: ...Nobody’s told me anything about it. But, from the sound of it, they have another prisoner. I know Miss Roberts has been anxious about the Soviets, as in, more than usual. Maybe he’s a spy?
BQ: This would be the part where Victor Lambert chimes in, and tells us our efforts are futile, and we’re all gonna die.
JB: Ben, please!
BQ: I’ve never seen a man so bitter.
C: He’s been imprisoned a long time.
BQ: He said something about ODAR having all our numbers.
ME: He’s right. If ODAR kills us all now, they’ve squashed us for good. We’re sitting ducks in here.
C: I’m not letting you guys out of here.
ME: Carmen. I’ve… heard at least a little bit about what kind of testing they did on you.
￼C: I really don’t wanna talk about it.
OP: Maggie, don’t—
ME: I’ll have had to put my subjects through similar testing, and… I’m sorry. You didn’t deserve that.
C: You mean you’ve already had to.
[[SFX: static distortion]]
ME: What? That’s what I said.
C: Well I said, I don’t want to talk about it! Your good cop act is not gonna work on me.
ME: We can stop this. We can make sure that what they did to you never happens to anyone else, ever again.
C: I’ve already made sure of that.
OP: But you just told me you’re still living your life in reverse!
C: ...This cabin’s surrounded. We have snipers in the trees. You’re never gonna get out of here.
OP: But we can!
FP: If you let us!
C: And if you get out? So what? I’m still here.
OP: You can come with us!
JB: We may have lost Victor but we can find some other way to get a Rainbow generator.
BQ: Right now what we need is time. You can give us that, Carmen.
C: I… [shaky breath] I can’t do it. This is it. This is home. We’ve talked about this, Petra. ODAR still does a lot of good, and if I’m the one who has to sacrifice to keep it together, then so be it! [softly] No one’s better made for this job than me.
OP: That’s just what it seems like for now! You’re so deep in this...shit! They’ve warped you, Carmen. They’ve made you think there’s no way out for you, ever.
BQ: Always darkest before dawn, and whatnot.
OP: But it’s not true! Trust me, life outside of ODAR isn’t dandy, but it’s a life. If I got away, you can. I—I know, I know, this is home. [pause] But it’s time you left. I promise you, just taking that first step out of here is going to change everything about what you thought home is. It did for me. Please, you have to believe me.
BQ: Sun’s coming up.
JB: Stars are still out... Do you remember when we used to—never mind.
BQ: No, tell me.
JB: You told me once how the stars are lights from years and years ago, just reaching us now. Like a hello from another time. Sometimes I wish I could say hello to Quentin. My Quentin. That’s all.
BQ: It’s alright. I get it. If we get out of this alive, and I go back in time, I’ll be that Quentin for you. Promise.
￼C: They’re going to kill me. You don’t just get to quit ODAR. Not when you’re their prized experiment... Don’t make me regret this, Petra.
FP: [sigh of relief] I won’t. Thank you, Carmen.
OP: Yeah, thank you!
C: [authoritatively] Put your hands behind your head! Walk outside in a straight line!
[[SFX: radio tuning; Chet, Bridget, Sally and Victor burst in]]
CW: Esther! Esther, you here? Esther?
SG: Oh my god, she’s hurt, bad.
BC: Somebody help me!
SG: Lambert, here, hold her head.
VL: Uh, blood is really not my—oh, okay, well, it’s on me now.
BC: Get a medic in here!
CW: Esther, what happened? Where is he?
CW: We need to search the perimeter!
ER: No… Gone...
BC: Shh, don’t speak...
SG: Whickman… I think she means—
CW: He used the Timepiece. God… Goddammit!
SG: So we now have a Soviet spy...
VL: Who probably took something from Chet Whickman’s office...
SG: And is now hiding somewhere in Point-of-Exile, somewhen in our past.
[[SFX: Lou enters]]
LG: Mister Whickman, you promised me I’d see David Marian. He’s not where you told me he’d be.
CW: He’s not on assignment; he should’ve been in his quarters.
LG: This was all I could find.
SG: A tape? Man, I really am a trendsetter. Does anyone not keep audio diaries?
BC: Ettie? ...Ettie? Ettie! Why isn’t she answering me, somebody do something!
CW: I can listen to this once we’ve gotten her help. Come on, help me lift her!
[[SFX: radio tuning; Timepiece spools up]]
DM: I don’t have much time. I just want to say that… Lou, if I knew you at all, you’re going to come find me one day. At least, I thought you would. Turns out I have to leave before you ever get the chance.
AV: Clock is ticking, my friend!
DM: I’ll be just a moment! I’m sorry I vanished, Lou. I shouldn’t have done that. I knew you’d worry, and I still think you’re gonna find your way to ODAR some day, no matter what they tried to do to keep you. It’s the kind of work you’re suited for. More than me, anyway.
You know you were supposed to be in ODAR, right? But they sent me back...to burn your offer letter. I wondered why they didn’t just go back in time and not send you a letter at all! Would’ve been much simpler. But now I know they were testing me. It was all a question of loyalty for them.
Speaking of loyalty… this… doesn’t look good for me. Why am I running off with a Soviet agent? Because someone, anyone, has got to serve as a check to what ODAR can do. No one nation should have all that power. Learned that from... you, I guess.
I hope you piece together enough to understand why I did what I did. ODAR will never take me back. But I’ll see you, my friend. Maybe in this life, most likely the next.
AV: You may see that next life quicker than you think if you don’t start this damned apparatus!
[[SFX: David enters coordinates and activates the final sequence]]
AV: They’ll be bursting through the door any minute.
DM: Goodbye, Lou.
[[SFX: Timepiece activates; radio tuning; a hospital room]]
BC: So he’s run off with the Soviet spy? That can’t be good.
LG: What’s so goddamn funny?
CW: You know, we had intel that you’d be the one who defects to the Soviets. That’s why we sent David Marian to stop you.
LG: There's plenty I still have to teach him, then.
CW: Well, he’s gone, now. [beat] You could… help me look for him.
￼BC: You can’t be serious!
SG: You’re just going to kill him if you find him.
LG: You want me to join ODAR? After all this?
CW: You were meant to join us, all told. The only reason you couldn’t is because of a possible sympathetic tie to the Soviets… Clearly our intel failed us on that front.
BC: You’re a snake, you know that?
CW: And what about you, Ms. Chambers? You seem… unusually concerned for Esther here.
BC: She’s my friend. She’s important to me.
CW: Yes, that much is, uh… clear. Well, as you know, here at ODAR we’re a… diverse bunch—
SG: Really, Chet?
BC: What’s your point?
CW: Well, at ODAR, as long as you can deliver results, we don’t care who you are... Unless you’re a Soviet, I’m sure you understand my meaning.
BC: Are you seriously trying to use my concern for my friend —
CW: Esther would remain your superior of course. She’s not really one for friends, from what I understand. But, someone of your talents… we could benefit from that.
BC: Ettie already tried to recruit me! But Lou’s warned me about joining up with you people.
￼CW: You mean the same Lou that’s mulling over a job with us as we speak?
LG: What if I don’t take it?
CW: Sign some forms, swear you don’t tell a soul what you saw, and you return to civilian life.
LG: [disbelievingly] I just broke into your base and you’ll let me walk?
CW: ...You’re right. I won’t. So here’s the real offer. Take the job. Work for ODAR like you’ve always wanted to—whether you realize it or not—or, waste away in the same cell as Victor Lambert, which I swear to you might’ve opened tonight by accident, but will never, ever open again.
LG: ...I’ll do it. On the condition that if I find David, you do him no harm.
CW: Done. If you find him. Ms. Chambers?
BC: I… don’t know. Sally, what should I do?
SG: Listen, I’m here because Roberts, for all of her sneaky puppetmaster bullshit, is one of my few friends on this earth. [beat] But she’s also in charge of a government agency that has a pretty iffy relationship with ethics. And keeping them on the straight and narrow is clearly going to take a lot of work from a lot of good people. So, is it worth giving up your life? I’ve got a long list of people who’d beg to differ. But you are good. Smart. Whickman sees that, Roberts clearly did too.
CW: The more important question is, now that you know what she really does—what we all do here—can you just go back to... shelving books?
BC: Excuse me! I don’t shelve books, I—never mind. You know, you might be able to change the course of history but—
CW: —I haven’t read enough history myself, right? That’s what you were going to say.
BC: ...Well, you clearly haven’t.
CW: And you have! So you can help us.
BC: I’m not signing up to be ODAR’s librarian.
CW: What do you want to be?
￼BC: I’ll join if you let me figure it out as I go. And if that means getting up in your face and telling you you’re wrong, you’re just going to have to remember that you’re the one who recruited me. I refuse to leave history in the hands of men.
SG: That’s more like it!
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
FP: See anyone behind us?
ME: Won’t be seeing any signs of ODAR on our tail, if that’s what you mean.
FP: How can you be sure?
ME: What do you mean?
FP: You just said we won’t be finding any ODAR tailing us.
[[SFX: static distortion]]
ME: [clears throat] Sorry — I meant I’m not seeing any now.
OP: Do you want me to take the wheel?
C: We don’t have any time.
OP: Yes, we do. We’re far enough away now to switch.
C: I’m fine!
OP: Carmen, come on.
C: ...Just let me pull over.
[[SFX: Carmen pulls over; her and Petra exit the car; birds]]
BQ: You cold?
JB: It’s freezing.
BQ: Here, take my coat.
JB: No, then you’ll freeze!
BQ: Fine. Let’s share.
[[SFX: Petra and Carmen re-enter the car; Petra pulls back onto the road]]
OP: Okay... Ready?
BQ: Where are we going, anyway?
OP: Hell, anywhere far away from Point-of-Exile is the best we can manage right now.
ME: Some rest will be nice. We’ll have been up all night.
[[SFX: static distortion]]
FP: There you go with that again. “We’ll have been up all night?” It’s already morning.
ME: Sorry... just need some rest, like I said.
FP: Maggie, you know what’s going on, right?
ME: What, that these are the warning signs of… what did you call it, Butterfly Syndrome? You think I don’t know?
JB: Why wouldn’t you tell us?
ME: It wouldn’t do us much good. Besides, we still need to finish the anchor point, right?
BQ: Right… about that...
C: None of us… really know how to make one.
￼OP: Now that we’re on the lamb and cut off from Sally… Ben, you’re pretty much our only scientist.
BQ: And I still need to go back and marry June.
ME: Don’t do it.
ME: I hardly touched time travel myself. I let mice do it. And look what’s happening to me.
BQ: The other option is... to stay. And to help rebuild an anchor point.
ME: That’s right.
BQ: It’s gonna take years, you know.
JB: And it means you staying here while the past me… stays husband-less.
BQ: Let me...make it up to you?
BQ: You know what they say about the present: there’s no time like it. I’d love to know what kind of woman I was supposed to be falling in love with. A practice run, if you will.
￼JB: Just practice?
BQ: Well, I wouldn’t want to presume.
JB: You know if you stay in this timeline with me, you’re going against everything that’s already happened in our history. [hesitating] If you stay here—
BQ: You’re right. If I stay here, there’s no involving you with ODAR in the first place. Which means, potentially none of this even happens.
JB: Are you willing to... take that kind of risk?
BQ: On making an anchor point? [pause] On making a life with you?
BQ: ...I think I could do that.
ME: ...Hey, is it unseasonably warm in this car, or what?
C: What about you, Maggie? What’re you gonna do once you build this anchor point?
ME: Well, I can’t exactly elope through time with my spouse. That... flashy exit seems taken. But… I want to stay with you all, if you’ll have me. If we really do build this anchor point, it means people are going to have to use it, a lot, if they’ll want to undermine ODAR. Which means more Para—Butterfly Syndrome. I’m going to find some way to counteract it.
C: You mean—
ME: Humanely, of course.
JB: There won’t be any shortage of things to work on. We can’t just make an anchor point, we’re going to have to find some way of communicating with each other without ODAR listening in.
C: Right, you had some idea?
[[SFX: tape fast-forward]]
FP: So, Petra, last night we wondered what we’d do, as… Petras, if we got Victor Lambert and did the thing. Well, we kinda did it. Now what?
OP: I don’t know. Can I be honest with you? This feels...
OP: Yeah. The last three weeks with myself have been a blast, but... It’s not right. I keep finding myself wondering… what you’d have to say about something, but you’re only three weeks older than I am! I can’t even trust my own brain when there’s another me five feet away.
FP: I get it, trust me. The benefit of us being the same person is, well, I feel pretty much the same way.
OP: It’s all... uncharted territory now. No point in both of us staying stuck with this life. Just go.
FP: I couldn’t leave you guys! It seems like you need all the help you can get with this anchor point.
OP: Whatever you’d think of, I—I would too.
FP: Are you… are you sure?
OP: You should know I am.
FP: ... Plus I guess it means we have a much smaller chance of getting caught...
C: Aw, I was thinking you two would play twins the whole time!
FP: Shut up!
OP: Very funny. Let’s just get somewhere safe and if you want to part ways there, we can. Okay?
ME: We’ll miss you, future Petra.
￼FP: Hey, I’m not gone yet! Hey uh... Original-me? God, I hate that name.
FP: You know how we both agreed to record our own diaries? I still think we should do that.
OP: Can do.
FP: And um. You, uh. You did a pretty darn good job too. I’m proud of us.
OP: I am, too.
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
SG: So all I’m saying is, I know we haven’t been the best at keeping in touch, but… Whickman told me you warned him about the breach with the Soviet agent, and that may have spoiled our plans, but… thanks. You’re still doing your job, and I can admire that.
Roberts is [slow inhale] gonna be alright, I think. Maybe different. And June, Ben. Maggie, Carmen, the Petras… Whickman says we’ll find them. For their sake, I hope we never do, but with ￼Lambert and the generator still in his hands, Whickman’s less worried about what damage the Anchorites can do. For the time being.
Now that Gaines and Chambers joined up, he thinks he can sweet-talk anyone. Sometimes I forget he was just some Petty Officer on the Eldridge, probably making coffee runs for Bill Donovan. Hm. He’s come a long way.
[[SFX: The Blackroom; Sally speaks on a recording]]
SG: Anyway. Let’s actually, um. Talk again, sometime soon, maybe? If you want.
AP: Sally, I, uh, I’m glad to hear you’re alright. And that Esther is too. I mean, I knew she was going to be... But I don’t have any intel about this… Amelin Vasilievich. Once he goes further back into the past. I’m worried how much this throws things off. Send me all the info you can, which is to say, um. Yeah, I’d like it if we talked more. [heavy sigh] Thanks.
[[SFX: computer alert]]
AP: Huh. A note from Whickman. “Loyalty rewarded. Open box...” Does he mean my boxes? That I have a limited number of, and are supposed to be expressly for my personal use?! Jerk. Still, if he thought it worth burning… one of my genie wishes…
[[SFX: Anthony opens a crate]]
AP: It’s a… record. Hmm...Okay?
[[SFX: Anthony plays the record; “When I’m Not Here” plays]]
HP: A man only desires
A few things out of life
His career, his castle, and some late-night snugglin’
And a spineless kind of wife
Well I’ve waited a while for a sorry,
For a baby, just one more chance
I’ve got my life to live
I’m no mood to forgive
And tonight I’m going to have my dance
‘Fore I go one question my dear
Where you going to be when I’m not here?
My mama taught me one lesson
I’ve heeded all these years
Hold your man as tight as you can and you’ll never be in tears
Girls like us, we have to work at it
We gotta pick up our hearts where they left ‘em
We’re not the thinnest in line
We’re not the sinning kind
But we’ll be damned if
A man’s going to ruin our night
‘Fore I go one question my dear
Where you gonna be when I’m not here?
Where you gonna be when I’m not here?
[[SFX: song ends; Anthony picks up a crowbar and smashes the record player; tape recorder stops]]
ars PARADOXICA is created by Daniel Manning & Mischa Stanton.
Episode 22: Dawn features –
Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Reyn Beeler (Chet Whickman)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Robin Gabrielli (Anthony Partridge)
L. Jeffrey Moore (Lou Gaines)
Preston Allen (Bridget Chambers)
Lia Peros (Petra)
Gabriela Milo (Carmen)
Arjun Gupta (Nikhil Sharma)
Bernardo Cubría (Mateo Morales)
Hannah Trobaugh (June Barlowe)
Lee Satterwhite (Ben Quigley)
Lauren Shippen (Maggie Elbourne)
Eric Rafael Ibarra (Victor Lambert)
Susanna Kavee (Helen Partridge)
Kathy Dorn, Mark Soloff, Todd Faulkner, Tauheed Zaman (additional voices)
with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson
Featuring the song "When I'm Not Here," written by Tau Zaman, arranged by Evan Cunningham, featuring Susanna Kavee as Helen Partridge. Additional original music by Mischa Stanton and Eno Freedman-Brodmann.
ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by The Internet: [[SFX: dial-up sound]]
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