29: Odyssey

written by Tau Zaman

[[tape recorder starts; Sally & Nikhil push their car]]

SALLY GRISSOM (SG): [panting] Almost there! Just need to...turn it into the gas station and...push it up next to a pump!

NIKHIL SHARMA (NS): Sally, I think you can take it from here...

SG: Oh, no you don’t! You’re pushing this ding-dang car with me to the bitter end!

NS: But my arms hurt! And my legs...

SG: Maybe we’d have more gas in this lemon if you didn’t need us to pull into every tourist trap on the way. You wanted a road trip! Here it is.

NS: Fine, fine. There’s no better road trip bonding exercise than some good old-fashioned manual labor!

SG: I’m already gonna regret this trip, aren’t I. [to other people at the gas stop] Hi, yes, hello, don’t mind us, just pushing through.

[[SFX: they push the car up to the pump; the service bell dings. Sally refuels the car.]]

NS: Whew! That’s all the exercise I’ll need until we get to Point-of-Exile. Maybe even a little while after.

SG: Tell me about it. [to the car] I’m sorry I only fixed your gas line after half the tank leaked out.

NS: Road tripping halfway across the US with a stranger from the future is brave of you, I’ll admit.

SG: You’re gonna murder me on this trip, huh?

NS: Hardly. I would’ve taken my chance last night.

SG: A-ha! So that was your master plan. Seduce me and then murder me in cold blood!

NS: Hah, no. I’m, ah, sorry about that last night. I was...forward, and....

SG: No worries, Sharma. To be honest, I don’t get that a lot. It’s just a little surprising when I do.

NS: A lady like you doesn’t get much attention?

SG: That too, but more like I don’t seek it out much. Or ever.

NS: Oh Sally, I’m mortified. I completely misread that, I thought you might’ve been interested—

SG: Nah. I’m ace. It’s–and I literally could not stress this enough–it's nothing personal. I’m sure you must clean up back in 20█.

NS: Like I said, not much left for me there.

SG: No one left either, huh.

NS: Well, there was someone...

SG: You left someone to came all the way back here? I’ve gotta know that story,

NS: Now this is embarrassing.

SG: Excuse me? Last night you were all, [sultry voice] “Dr. Grissom, let’s give your recorder a break.” And I shot you down! What else have you got to lose?

NS: Hey! I’ve just met you! And this is crazy!

SG: Mister “there’s no better bonding exercise....”

NS: Alright, alright. There’s...another field agent back in ODAR headquarters. I only really started getting to know him just before getting sent back here, though.

SG: Him...

NS: Is that a problem?

SG: No! Just, um, it’s been a while. You’re definitely from the 21st century. Do you miss him?

NS: I do. He’s the one who showed me who you were, actually.

SG: That much you do remember. But your mission from future-ODAR?

NS: Uhm, that part is still...erm, hazy.

SG: Sure it is.

[[SFX: Sally finishes refueling and replaces the pump; Sally stops the recorder]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom. June 5th, 1953. Not much happening today. Just playing back some old tapes.

[[SFX: She listlessly rewinds and fast-forwards the recorder]]

SG: I’m supposed to talk to someone when I get like this. But seeing as Dr. Fitzgerald is the only licensed mental health professional in this two-horse town, and like... no thank you... these tapes are all I’ve got, so.

[[SFX: More nihilistic button pressing, fast-forwarding, rewinding, with abrupt stops.]]

SG: Whickman resigned last week. But not just resigned, he’s... pretty much retired. I don’t think he’ll ever be happy working anywhere else. It’s like all the light left his eyes when he stepped down. What’s Whickman without ODAR? I don’t think even he knows. The way he walked out of there that day...it was bummer-town.

Oh yeah, guess where he’s staying? Ida’s old house. He insists it’s temporary ‘til he finds some place to go. That’s right: from Petty Officer to Most Powerful Man in the World to My Next Door Neighbor, living out the rest of his days doing...what, exactly? Whatever it is, I hope he takes his time with it. think the higher-ups are just happy to have him out of their hair while they look for a replacement.

...I doubt he’s staying out of it though. Whickman’s been working on... something and I dunno what. I haven’t exactly brought him a new neighbor custard since he moved in. He just looks... sick whenever I see him running in the morning. I figured he wanted space. But...[finding an excuse to be nosy] high time I said hello, right? I should check on him. I’ll bring over a...a get-well-soup. With some carrots from the garden.

[[SFX: tape fast-forward; Sally cutting carrots for soup]]

SG: –Not to mention he basically he was forced to resign at the worst time possible for ODAR. Why he did; I think only Amelia knows, which I can understand. But we’re under attack on all fronts. We might’ve caught Cornish, and I guess Ida, but we still haven’t found Vasilievich.

And of course there’s the whole Blackroom Farewell Tour, with an audience of one: me. Partridge’s tape got me on this melancholy nostalgia kick anyway. To think he’s just... gone. I mean, technically he was already long-gone; he lived out the rest of his days at a fixed point outside of time a decade ago. But it’s hard to know that you’ve heard the last of him. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to break it to ODAR. I know he said he saved us all without owing anything to us, but...knowing him? Part of me thinks he’d still want everyone to know he saved us.

Did he, though? Partridge said he shut down a transfer of our files to the Soviets from a mole.... But they still got a Timepiece. Even if they didn’t get everything they wanted, there’s literally-not-figuratively an infinite amount of things they can mess with. Not the least of which is, they can come back and take what they want, and we might not even see it happening.

Chambers said they were after the records of the Plasticity experiments, the whole process that made Petra and the rest of them. Now that Roberts has vowed never to let that happen, our records on them are apocryphal at best. Only whatever we could get from the Blackroom before this whole fiasco started. Or whatever Petra knows. I’m actually surprised they haven’t... I dunno, come for her or something.

Now that I think about it... there are even easier targets, if that’s what Russia’s after. We haven’t heard from the Anchorites since they ran off, it’s been sort of this unspoken truce. But that also means we wouldn’t know if something happened to them, if the Soviets came for them. I’m sure Carmen or Maggie Elbourne could make up for some of the knowledge we don’t have. Hell, even the good Family Barlowe would be worth taking a look at. Jeez. I really hope they’re ok.

Sometimes I wonder what Barlowe and Quigley are up to. Did they just, drive off into the sunset? Live their best lives? Did they say — fuck causality, fuck the laws of time, fuck whatever we remember, let’s just live how we wanna live, now?

I’m glad they got away, for as long as they could. Not all of us were meant for it, after all.

At least I’m alive.

[[SFX: Sally plops the carrots into the soup, then presses play on the recorder with a sigh]]

SG: (on tape) Diary of Sally Grissom, November 1st, 1949. We’ll be at Point-of-Exile in the morning. If everything goes according to plan, tomorrow I’ll be...home. Actually home. Real home.

[[SFX: point of view fades to inside the car with Sally and Nikhil, 1949. The Carter Family's Are You Lonesome Tonight, a twangy country tune, plays from the radio]]

NS: Just like in the road trip movies.

SG: I’m gonna miss everyone.

NS: You’ve made friends here?

SG: I...don’t know if I’d call them friends.

NS: All these years with them, and you’re not sure?

SG: I mean, of course they’re my friends. I like them. They’re very, um, competent. Good people. Working for a good cause. But, you know, when you think of best friends, don’t you picture people you’re excited to see? People you can confide in, people who make you feel good about yourself? No one’s like that here. Everyone here, they’re my friends, but I wonder if it’s because that’s ‘cause they’re also...all I’ve got? I care about them, a lot, but. I don’t know. It’s not what I picture when you say “friends.”

NS: You made do with what you had.

SG: I’m like you, I guess. There wasn’t much back for me in 20█. At least you had a boyfriend. Mateo sounds adorable by the way.

NS: He is.

SG: You’re right, I don’t. But, you and I, we haven’t, you know, done anything, but—

NS: Yes, keep reminding me—

SG: But we’re still friends, right? I think that this all counts for something. I dunno, we’ve only been together a short time, but, I’ve...had a lot of fun with you, Sharma.

NS: Awwww, I love you too, Sally!

SG: Come on I’m trying to be serious here. I’m saying —

NS: Friendships are just as meaningful as romance, I'm saying the same thing you are!

SG: Exactly! I wish people saw that more. But then again, love makes you do crazy things. Have I told you about Partridge? Man, what a mess. Even Jack Wyatt running off with Penny Wise. Am I... am I ever gonna care about someone that much?

NS: Definitely that much, maybe just not that... way . You can still love someone without, you know. Loving them.

SG: Ha, ha. Did you...did you tell Mateo you love him?

NS: I did. Doesn’t make it any easier being apart.

[[SFX: The music on the radio fades to static, and a device starts clicking]]

SG: Hey, whaddya have there?

NS: Don’t worry about it!

[[SFX: Nikhil covers the device; Sally turns off the radio]]

SG: Partridge had one of those. A targeted broadcast identifier. We used it to track tachyon emissions.

NS: It’s nothing, really. You don’t want to know.

SG: Now I definitely want to know.

NS: It’s, um, similar to what you described. This is a location regulator. I used it to keep my Timepiece's geolocator accurate over a long series of jumps.

SG: Your Timepiece that’s...defunct in the ocean now, gathering barnacles and getting picked at by fish probably?

NS: That one. Just thought maybe I could repurpose this piece somehow.

SG: Any luck?

NS: No, sadly.

SG: Then why’s it sounding off?

NS: I.... I don't know. They’re more sensitive in our time. Can pick up stray tachyon emissions within twenty tera-electron volts of center. No interference or anything.

SG: So just like Partridge’s broadcast identifier. For like...cosmic, tachyonic background radiation.

NS: Here and there, yes, but really, it’s negligible. Nothing for us out here but black night and endless highway. Spooky if you think about it too long.

SG: Probably for the best. Even spookier would be if out here in the dark we picked out some kinda ghost radio station sending out tachyon emissions.

NS: ...I’d like that, actually.

[[SFX: the clicking device slows to a stop]]

SG: Don’t get me wrong—it gets lonely out here, yeah. Part of me thought, maybe this is where I’m meant to be. I mean, not meant like some kind of divine purpose, but this is where I’d be...useful. This was where I could do something great, and sure, if people ended up liking me for it too, that wouldn’t be so bad.

NS: You don’t think they appreciate you.

SG: Well. They know I’m useful, that much is for sure.

NS: And they know you’re smart.

SG: Which I already know. All I’m saying is, whether I go back to the future or just back to Point-of-Exile, I wonder if it’s all kind of the same. Just more and more hello-how-do-you-do’s day after day.

NS: Hey, you’ll have me. And yes, if you’re wondering if we can be, how do they say it, “BFFs” after a few days on a road trip, the answer is yes.

SG: Alright, enough, you win. I’m going back with you.

NS: For what it’s worth, you’re considered a legend back in my version of our time.

SG: I don’t feel legendary. Do I....do I end up doing something more than just accidentally inventing time travel?

NS: Spoilers, spoilers...

SG: Dammit!

[[SFX: point of view fades back to Sally in 1953; she rewinds the tape and plays back a section]]

NS: (on tape) For what it’s worth, you’re considered a legend back in my version of our time.

SG: (on tape) I don’t feel legendary.

[[SFX: Sally stops the tape]]

SG: I invented freaking time travel. What the hell else am I gonna do that’s legendary? First Wyatt, then Nikhil, then Partridge, now Whickman...all these lonely, brilliant men vanishing into the margins of history because of me. I couldn’t save one of them.

[[SFX: She rewinds the tape again, then stops. A long pause, then deep breath: resolute.]]

SG: No. I’ve still got Whickman. And I’m not gonna lose him.

[[SFX: radio tuning; Sally walks up to Chet's house and knocks on the door eagerly; it opens]]

SG: Petra?!


SG: What’re you doing at Whickman’s place?

PM: Leaving. Have a good one.

[[SFX: Petra walks away; Chet calls from inside the house]]

CHET WHICKMAN (CW): Sally, is that you?

SG: [as she enters] Hey Whickman, how’s it– jeez. Whickman. You look terrible.

CW: I’m fine, I -- [He sneezes.]

SG: Well, you were bound to catch a cold sooner or later running around so early in the morning.

CW: What do you need, Sally?

SG: I dunno, I wanted to check how retirement was going.

CW: I appreciate the concern, but I can handle a little head cold on my own. anything else?

SG: Yeah, I’d like you to fill me in on your last play at ODAR before you leave town. [pause] Give me a little credit, Whickman, I know you a bit better than that.

CW: Sally, I’m just a civilian now. Really,

SG: And I’m supposed to believe that transition has been just blissful! And restful! With absolutely no temptation to keep working, even as as a civilian!

CW: I meant that you don’t have to call me Whickman.

SG: Yes, I do. You clearly don’t know me very well.

CW: I’m just Chet now.

SG: I never call people by their first names.

CW: Yes you do.

SG: Who? Oh...Nikhil.

CW: And me, and Esther, sometimes.

SG: When I’m mad. Like calling a kid by their middle name, I guess.

CW: And yes, since you so gingerly asked, I’ve managed to make use of all this...time I suddenly have. I might’ve stayed up a few too many nights and caught a runny nose.

SG: So, what’re you working on? Who do you think is gonna replace you? What’s your plan to track down the Soviet—

CW: Sally, that’s really not my concern anymore—

SG: How the hell do they have a Timepiece? You’re gonna expect ODAR to just keep running as normal while they can overwrite all of our work?

CW: Will you keep your voice down?! Even if everyone knows about the Soviets by now, what can a civilian like me do about it?

SG: I’m telling you it’ll get worse if you don’t get help. And I mean help tracking down the Soviet spies but also —

[[SFX: Chet interrupts to have another coughing fit]]

SG: But also help with... that. Whickman, you’re coughing up blood. Are you seeing someone for that?

CW: I will, later. We’ve got the best doctors in the country, Sally, which means we’ve got the best doctors in the world. I think I’ll manage.

SG: So you admit you’ve been putting it off because you’re, what...playing crosswords? Sitting on your porch in a rocking chair with a gun? Why won’t you just admit you’re still on the hunt? And making yourself sick while you’re at it.

CW: What do you want me to do, Sally, ask the Blackroom if there’s a cure for the common cold? Don’t bother, I’d probably get better answers from a Magic 8 Ball. “Outlook Not so good. Better not to tell you now. Reply hazy try again.” All more substantive answers than we’ve gotten from him.

SG: Are you saying the Blackroom wasn’t just Partridge shaking a Magic 8 Ball to begin with?

[[SFX: they laugh, Chet painfully so]]

SG: Seriously though, Partridge was a lifeline. We have to prepare ourselves to...never hear from him again. Maybe.

CW: That ship sailed a long while back, Sally.. I don’t work at ODAR anymore after all. Let whomever they hire to replace me solve that mystery.

SG: Whickman, can you look me right in the eyes and seriously tell me you’re not...I don’t know, figuring out how to take over ODAR again or keep it running behind the scenes?

CW: Sally, I swear to you: I am not. And you don’t work for me anymore, so I’m really looking forward to not putting up with...no offense, but, well, all your shenanigans.

SG: Ouch. And here I thought we were gonna be neighbors.

CW: I knew when I was going to be done with this job. I have a place to go and a plan to get there. I’m almost recovered and I’ll be gone any minute.

SG: And...then what? I’ll just never see you again?

CW: I figured you’d be thrilled. What else do you need from me Sally?

SG: I dunno, I thought maybe when you were done playing God I could actually relate to you as, well, a regular human person or something.

CW: You wanted to be friends?

SG: I just thought you could finally tell me things you maybe couldn’t! There’s so much I still don’t know about you. Like why you’ve had an eyepatch all these years! You look like some Bond villain! Which, given the job, is kind of a look, I’ll admit. But did you poke your eye out or something?

CW: I’m never explaining the eyepatch, Sally. It’s for your own good.

SG: How that’s even the case is ridiculous enough to drive me crazy!

CW: Sally, I can’t just turn around and be your best friend, all right? We had a nice time during the lockdown, but that was just... That’s not how things are, between us. There’s just too much history for that. And I think you and I... disagree on too many things. I’m never gonna be to you what Sharma was, okay? Don’t force it.

SG: Wow. Turns out you’re a jerk even without the job. Fine. Have a good life, Whickman.

[[SFX: She huffs exasperatedly and storms out, slamming the door behind her. A pause, then she immediately opens it again. She plops a soup pot on the floor.]]

SG: And eat this goddamn soup!

CW: (calling out) I was wondering what you were carrying that whole time!

[[SFX: radio tuning; the generator building; Esther is taking measurements and writing them on a clipboard]]

SG: ...and then he told me, [in her best Chet impression] ”I’m never gonna be what Sharma was to you.” That’s how he decided to leave things, before he left for good, to god-knows-where. He didn’t even give me back my soup pot. Can you believe that?!

ESTHER ROBERTS (ER): [distracted] Yeah, that’s just awful.

SG: Really, Roberts?

ER: Sorry, I’m just trying to concentrate. I’ve only been back a week and I’m already swimming in work to catch up on.

SG: Can’t talk to even one person...

ER: Sally, of course you can talk to me!

SG: What does it say when I kinda miss your visits back in the old days when all you wanted was to play-cards-with-slash-spy-on-me. At least you paid attention then.

ER: Sally, I’m paying attention now! I just also have a job to do, we can’t just hop in a car and go on some road trip right now like gal pals.

SG: ...That’s low. You too, Roberts?

ER: Wait, no, I didn’t mean—

SG: You did mean that kind of road trip.

ER: Not off the top of my head I didn’t, but...it’s not wrong.

SG: What are you talking about?

ER: I know you think about him, that’s all.

SG: Sorry for caring about my friends.

ER: Sally, you knew him for what, a matter of days? Hours? You’ve known me for a decade. But you ditched me in New York to travel across the country with him. And when you got back you were ready to burn this whole thing down and build another anchor point. Whatever kind of very brief, very intense friendship you had with Sharma... it’s more than we can wrap our minds around, Sally. It’s just damn hard to give you what you want. That’s all Chet was probably trying to say too.

SG: Roberts, if I can be totally honest, you haven’t been good to me.

ER: I know, and I’m sorry—

SG: Lemme finish. You haven’t been good to me, but. You’re all I’ve got here. You’re kind of my...

ER: Best friend?

SG: Very good friend. For better or worse. If it sounds like you’re hurt, of course I’m gonna come help.

ER: I’m glad you can call me a friend, Sally. You know, the night of the incident, at the prison... The doctors said if you had come even a few minutes later, I probably wouldn’t even be speaking to you right now.

SG: I heard. Those few minutes mean everything. Trust me, I know. I watched Nikhil die in my arms. [beat] Listen. We've been through a lot together, and I want to keep you as a friend, but if we're going to make this work? I really think we need to lay down some ground rules, okay?

ER: Oookay?

SG: Number one: you don’t use me. That’s just not something friends do, okay? I don’t care how much the fate of the universe rests in your hands on some Machiavellian gambit you’ve got up your sleeve, you tell me upfront what you want and need from me. Got it?

ER: ...Fair enough.

SG: And-and-addendum! Don’t use other people! No more using Petra for her plasticity. And you never, ever, sign off on the Plasticity experiments. Leave the kids alone, okay?

ER: I feel like I’ve made it pretty clear I’m against that, but that’s...less up to me and more up to the new director, at this point. But easy enough to agree to for now.

SG: Number two: I might work for you but you used to work for me too. We’re friends first; you don’t order me around, capiche?

ER: I mean, on paper, I’m still gonna have to be your boss, but—

SG: I said, capiche?

ER: Okay, fine!

SG: Number three. We actually spend time together. And talk about things. As friends, not at work. Once a week, at least.

ER: You’re a demanding friend, Sally.

SG: You’re just not used to having a real one, Roberts.

ER: That...stings, but seeing how the ethics investigation went, I can’t contest it.

SG: I’m sorry how that played out. I wish I—

ER: I don’t have time to agonize over it. I have more important stuff to do.

SG: Like...

ER: Keeping the world spinning, Sally.

SG: ...That’s my Roberts. Cards this weekend?

ER: I’m...not sure. We’re going to have a new director any minute, and...

SG: No worries. I got it. Not like we’re gal pals or anything. I’ll leave you to it.

[[SFX: Sally leaves, crestfallen]]

ER: You can come in now.

[[SFX: Petra enters]]

PM: “Never” using me for my plasticity again, huh. That’s rich.

[[SFX: Petra puts a Timepiece down on the worktable]]

ER: Petra, I promise you this really will be the last time I ask you to time travel, ever.

PM: But you still want to keep that from Sally.

ER: I figured you would want to save him!

PM: I do! I don’t understand why you would.

ER: Sharma is our only resource from a future where a Soviet equivalent to ODAR exists. He may be the only one with any intel on how to stop them. Short of the Blackroom, which we don’t seem to have anymore.

PM: Sally of all people would want him back too.

ER: We can’t tell Sally about this.

PM: Why, ‘cause she’ll get Butterfly Syndrome? Can’t relate, sorry.

ER: In Sally’s memory, Sharma has died. If we change that, we overwrite everything that’s led to who she is now.

PM: How am I gonna save him then?

ER: First, you’re going to let him get shot. Sally needs to hold him in her arms. She was just telling me about what that felt like. That memory has to stay. But that would mean...he dies.

PM: So when Sally gets escorted out, I’ll only have a few seconds to come in on the scene and try to revive him.

ER: Well... Chet’s still gonna be there by the body. And he’ll probably try to attack you, too.

PM: Somehow I doubt he’ll miss?

ER: He won’t. He practices. You’ll have to disarm him somehow.

PM: I’ve already got that part figured out.

ER: Really? How?

PM: Don’t worry about it. What’s next?

ER: I would really prefer to know–

PM: Esther — I’ve got this. And if you need me you can’t twist my arm on it.

ER: Fine, well, if you somehow survive the bullet...

PM: That probably only buys me a few more seconds to explain what’s going on.

ER: You’ll have to get his trust quickly if you don’t want him to fire again.

PM: Chet’s...kind of notoriously stubborn if you haven’t noticed.

ER: I know, it’d be nigh on impossible to convince him unless...

PM: The only person Chet would believe in the heat of the moment is Chet.

ER: If we can convince present Chet to send a message with you back to past Chet, something only he would recognize...

PM: He’d have to believe it’s an order from his future self.

ER: Exactly. Can you get that from him?

PM: Can’t you?

ER: Well, he’s left Point-of-Exile. And I can’t have my hands anywhere near this operation; we’re under watch as it is and I’m going to have new supervision any moment. I might already. So the only way to talk to him now would be...

PM: [sigh] time travel.

ER: ...Yes.

[[SFX: Petra types coordinates into the Timepiece and begins the startup process]]

PM: “I promise this will be the last time I ask you to time travel, Petra — ever! Just maybe also a handful more times on top of that!”

ER: And then you’re done. I swear.

PM: ...I expect a sizable pay raise.

[[SFX: The Timepiece activates, sending Petra back in time; a brief pause, and then Petra re-enters]]

ER: Well that was fast. What was his message?

PM: Something dumb. We doing this or what?

ER: You’ll need to save him but you can’t come back to ODAR with him. At least not until the present. Can you keep him at a safehouse somewhere?

PM: [Sighs, as if she knows how this will play out...which, she does.] I’ve got it all figured out. If everything goes according to plan, Nikhil Sharma and I will be alive and well. 

[[SFX: Petra re-enters coordinates into the Timepiece, then takes out a gun and cocks it]]

PM: Here we go.

ER: Wait, Petra, why are you pointing a gun at the Timepiece?

[[SFX: Petra fires]]

ER: Oh my god—

PM: I said I’ve got this. See ya.

[[SFX: Timepiece activates. Radio tuning.]]

NS: [fights for breath] Sally?

SG: Whickman, please!

NS: Some...road trip, huh...?

SG: Nikhil...? Nikhil! Stay with me. Don't fall asleep...

NS: At least... you’re home.

SG: Whickman, why are you just standing there? Move! Come on! Nikhil, Nikhil stay with me, don’t fall asleep. Stay with me. Nikhil! Come on!

[[SFX: ODAR guards shuffle in.]]

CW: Get her out of here.

[[SFX: The guards converge on Sally and carry her away]]

SG: I said call a medic and you call guards on me?! Get off me! Go to hell, Whickman!

[[SFX: She is escorted out; the door closes. A bullet whizzes into Chet's eye.]]

CW: AUGH! My eye !!

[[SFX: Petra appears from the future]]

PM: Oh yeah, sorry about that.

CW: Who the FRICK are you?!

PM: The lady who took your eye out. Alright, I’ll admit, I’m not that sorry.

CW: Why, you—

[[SFX: He grabs his gun again and prepares to fire.]]

PM: The weather in Tulsa today is wildfires.

CW: W...what...?

PM: Stand down, Director Whickman. That’s an order. From...you. In the future. And if you point that thing at me again you’re gonna lose more than your eye.


PM: Oh, now you call for one?

[[SFX: Medics arrive.]]

PM: Leave Chet alone, he’ll be fine. This man here needs your help.

CW: Help me!!

PM: Chet!

CW: [Groaning.] Do...do what she says.

PM: Help me save this guy..

[[SFX: radio tuning; the ODAR Director's office]]


[[SFX: Esther enters.]]

ER: Director LeMartine, looks like you’ve settled in nicely.

TLM: I have, thank you Dr. Roberts. Have a seat. I understand this must be a difficult transition. From what I understand, you and Former Director Whickman shared a great deal of trust.

ER: Um, not exactly. Well, sometimes.

TLM: Well, I hope in time, you can come to trust in my leadership as well.

ER: Rest assured, I trust in your leadership.

TLM: [Doubtful.] Dr. Roberts — can I call you Esther?

ER: Yes, that’s fine.

TLM: Esther, I understand working here at ODAR makes you play your cards very close to your chest. But I genuinely do want us to work together, and that means earning your trust, not just asking it of you.

ER: [dubious] I appreciate that.

TLM: Which, of course, takes time. But until then, know that we’ll protect you. That trial they put you through, things like that won’t happen on my watch.

ER: Thank you. I’m sure you understand why that’s...a little hard to believe given that the people who just tried me appointed my new supervisor.

TLM: Mmm. Trust that I know quite a few things about how ODAR works already.

ER: Of course, we’ve handed over most of our documentation to the Federal—

TLM: That’s not what I mean. Yes, here, in this time, I was assigned the position of Director from the federal government just this week. But in reality, I have in fact occupied that position for quite a bit longer.

ER: ...oh. Since, um... Since when?

TLM: I first took the office back in 20█.

ER: Wh-why would you come back here?

TLM: By your own orders, actually. There came a time when ODAR was rudderless and you desperately needed help that only a representative from the future could lend. But I decided to arrive before the situation really deteriorates. That is to say, now. After all, we can’t have outsiders running things around here now, can we?

ER: O-of course not.

TLM: Then we’re agreed. Under my leadership I can assure you that will never happen.

ER: I’m...glad to hear that.

TLM: Now. Might a certain Sally Grissom stick out as a notable employee of yours?

ER: Um...yes, I...have worked with her...from time to time.

TLM: Esther... please.

ER: ...Well if you already know then why’d you ask?

TLM: Trust. It’s all about trust. Dr. Roberts, I think you and I will accomplish great things together. You’ve done spectacularly making ODAR into what it is. I look forward to showing you what it will be. I’d like to see her. Send her to me.

ER: ...Of course. Right away, Director LeMartine.

TLM: Please, call me Tonya.

[[SFX: radio tuning; Esther picking up Sally in a car]]

SG: Roberts, are you going to tell me what’s going on?

ER: Sally, get in the goddamn car. And stop making noise.

[[SFX: Sally gets in and shurt the door]]

SG: I feel like I’m being smuggled out of here.

ER: Hey, you wanted that road trip right? Here we are; just us girls.

[[SFX: Esther speeds off]]

SG: Roberts, this is really heckin’ weird.

ER: Oh, of course, I could never be the buddy you always wanted. Only Nikhil Sharma would do, right? Guess what, he can join us too.

SG: Roberts, you’re not making any sense. Nikhil died.

ER: Except he didn’t.

SG: I don’t know what you’re getting at, but I held him in my arms in his last moments.

ER: In his almost last moments. We sorta... revived him.

SG: WHAT. Don’t even joke about this with me, Roberts.

ER: I know, it sounds unbelievable.

SG: So that’s where we’re going? You’re taking me to him?

ER: I wasn’t ever planning to, but now, well, I have to. It’s the only safe place I know of.

SG: Why would you keep him from me all this time?! And why take me to him now?

ER: Well, the new director? I... I think it’s the woman who sent him from future ODAR to kill you.

SG: Wait, that was her?! What does she–

ER: I need time to make her see reason and not have her kill the both of us onsight, and I’m gonna need your help smoothing all this over, so I’m spilling the bean can early, okay? Yes. Nikhil’s alive, and he’s working with us. And now you never again get to say I wasn’t a good friend to you. Now can you just let me think for a moment.

[[SFX: radio tuning; Sally in the woods]]

SG: ...and I wonder what the RUSSIAN version of ODAR is called. Nikhil’s from the future; he would know. Maybe I can ask him...’Cause I can do that now! He freaking cheated death! There’s so much I want to ask him. It still doesn’t feel real. We have Nikhil, here, in ODAR, on our team! Or, we will. Soon. Roberts told me to wait here while she disarms the path to the safehouse. Can you picture Roberts playing red-wire blue-wire? And man, on the road? She’s a speed demon. I’ve never seen her move like she’s on a mission before. It’s kind of...awesome.

But...something I....hadn’t really thought about in all this excitement: Nikhil is...still an Anchorite. He wanted to destroy ODAR, and I don’t think sitting for years in a safehouse would change his mind much about that. Sitting there with Petra of all people definitely wouldn’t change his mind about that. Especially if it only took Roberts and Chet Whickman eight hours in a CAGE to form that unholy alliance.

But now Nikhil and Petra... they’re both here, in ODAR, again. Petra, who wanted nothing more than to get out of here... she wants to stay here too? She was willing to do all this for Roberts? Is Nikhil gonna be the same guy I knew?

I mean, we’re still gonna be friends at least. I hope. He’s not gonna do anything terrible to ODAR while I’m still in it.


[[SFX: Esther crunches her way out of the woods and hails Sally over]]

SG: Oh! Roberts is waving me over. It’s time. [to Roberts] So he’s here?

ER: [[Seemingly a considerable distance ahead, and moving further, calling back to her in as loud a whisper as she can manage.]] Keep your voice down! And yes, I just let him and Petra know you’re coming. Wait! Don’t step on that!

SG: Oh! Ok...

[[SFX: She edges around a tripwire. Sounds of the forest as they make their way to the safehouse.]]

SG: Kinda wish Roberts hadn’t woken him up. Wish I could’ve surprised him. Then again I guess he’s been here all this time — years — hiding from me. Is he even as excited as I am? Are we really gonna be the...”BFFs” he said we could be?

Nikhil...you’re here! You’re back! You’re in the safehouse right there. You’re just a few steps away now. But are you still the Nikhil I knew? Are we still gonna be...us? There’s so much I want to ask you, that I thought I never would get to ask you. Don’t you miss Mateo? Are you still gonna try to take me back to the future with you? You really fucked me up, man. And now I’m gonna see you in just a few seconds and...I don’t know if I can bear it. My chest feels like it’s going to cave in. This feels so weird. Why am I acting like this? [Sigh.]

Do you have any idea what you put me through? Do you have any idea how much it tortured me to think you were dead all this time? Hell, you were dead at that time. Couldn’t you have said anything? You really sides with Roberts and Marquez’s plan over sending me even the smallest sign that you were alright? I don’t know what I’m gonna do when I see you! I wanna hug you and I wanna scream and I wanna... and I wanna punch you, too.

ER: Please try not to scream when I open this door.

[[SFX: Esther ascends the steps, then knocks "shave and a haircut"; Nikhil answers]]

NS: Sally freaking Grissom.

SG: ...You fucking asshole!

[[SFX: Sally drops her recorder in the dirt and runs up the stairs]]

ER: I said keep it down!

NS: I think you dropped your recorder–

[[SFX: Sally punches Nikhil in the face]]

NS: Ow! Sally, that hurts!

SG: You’re fucking alive, I’m gonna hit you all I want!

[[SFX: Sally hits Nikhil a couple more times]]

PM: [inside the cabin] Alright kiddos can we please do this inside?

SG: Petra, you’ve got some explaining to do.

NS: In time, in time.

SG: In time. We’ve got that now.

NS: Now get in here, we’ve got fried chicken. Petra’s been teaching me to cook.

SG: What’s with everyone trying to calm me down with food? Oh my god that smells amazing.

[[SFX: The safehouse door closes; sounds of the forest; tape recorder ends]]

ars PARADOXICA was created by Daniel Manning & Mischa Stanton. Season 3 was also written by Eli Barraza, Julian Mundy, Danielle Shemaiah & Tau Zaman.
Episode 29: Odyssey features –

Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Lia Peros (Petra)
Reyn Beeler (Chet Whickman)
Arjun Gupta (Nikhil Sharma)
Tina Huang (Tonya LeMartine)

with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson

Production help from Brandon Grugle. Original music by Mischa Stanton and by Eno Freedman-Brodmann.
ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by The Internet: And what happens next, you won't believe it!

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