written by Mischa Stanton & Danielle Shemaiah
MISCHA (M): Hey folks, Mischa here. Welcome to the second midseason finale of Season 3! We’re almost to the end now. But before we come to a close, we wanted to let you know about some upcoming projects here at The Whisperforge. Just because ars Paradoxica’s coming to a close doesn’t mean we’re done telling great stories for your ears. We’ve got a ton of content gearing up to hit your podcast apps in 2018. And we'd like to take a moment to tell you about them.
Dropping in the next month or two is StarTripper!!, a space-hopping comedy created by Julian Mundy and starring Ian McQuown of the Bright Sessions as Feston, a former intergalactic bureaucrat and thrill-seeker who left his job behind to chase all the fun the galaxy has to offer. Keep an eye out for the teaser coming in the next few weeks, or follow them on Twitter and Tumblr at startripperhq for more updates!
We’re also working on brand-new fiction projects by Tau Zaman, Julia Schifini & Kristen DiMercurio, as well as a couple of nonfiction projects, and a second season of our sister show, The Far Meridian. More news as those wonderful projects develop.
We've got a LOT in store for 2018 and beyond here at Whisperforge HQ, so follow us @TheWhisperforge on Twitter for new developments. And now, without further ado: [clap clap]
[Previously, on ars Paradoxica]
KARLA: We will provide you the blueprints for what Dr. Grissom has been working on and you provide us with the key to ending the disease you call Butterfly Syndrome.
ER: The Plasticity Experiment… you don’t know the cost of what you’re asking.
LG: You violated what I was trying to teach you.
DM: I didn’t… I don’t think I am.
LG: David? David. David!
PM: Well some idiot agent from 20█ thought it was important enough to send back so...
NS: Some idiot agent... "HEY LOSER."
PM: "Students, Welcome to 1953..." We’re done, Roberts.
[[SFX: tape recorder starts; Bill Donovan’s office, 1945; Chet enters]]
CHET WHICKMAN (CW): Director Donovan, you wanted to see me?
BILL DONOVAN (BD): [coughing] Thanks for coming in, Chet. Close the door, will you?
CW: Yes sir.
[[SFX: Chet closes the door]]
BD: Have you seen the reports coming in from Germany?
CW: No sir, I’ve been a little busy wrangling Dr. Grissom today. Something about a television that can see through time, or something. The science is a bit over my head, to be honest.
BD: The trick is understanding how to use it, not how it works. Take a look at this.
[[SFX: Bill hands Chet a document, which Chet flips through]]
CW: Hmm... Hmm. Am I reading this right sir?
BD: If you read that and think “Soviet-occupied Paris” then yeah, I’d say so. They’ve been pulling troops from across Europe, consolidating their forces for a push across the western line.
CW: Forgive me if I’m wrong, sir, but wasn’t the conference at Yalta supposed to curb this sort of thing? Some of the boys think it’ll be peace in our time.
BD: I’m not sure they’d think like that if they actually heard how it went down. Stalin’s boys had this... swagger, this bravado that I’ve never seen, even from the reds. Acted like they’d already won a war we aren’t even fighting yet. It’s this kind of thing that makes me think we'd better get the Blackroom project up and running sooner rather than later. Do we have any assets on the ground in Berlin?
CW: No, the State Department issued an order that–
BD: Right, since we always listen to State here at ODAR.
CW: ...You might want to, sir. Do we really want our materials trapped behind the iron curtain of Soviet Germany?
BD: You’re not wrong. Dammit, we’re the time travel agency! How did they catch us on the back foot like this?
[[SFX: radio tuning; an enclosed room on an army base]]
SALLY GRISSOM (SG): Diary of Sally Grissom, September 18, 1953. The rescue op’s over. I’m headed back to Point-of-Exile. Finally. To whatever’s left for me there. For any of us.
Um, since it’s been a while since I’ve had an audio diary: I got snatched by KTNK, the Soviet ODAR... Sovie-ODAR? They kept me in a facility in Germany. And while I was there... Okay, I thought I was fixing little things. Y’know, like a lens facing the wrong way here, or reinforcing a power line feed so it didn’t ground out to the casing and zap everyone there. Just trying to keep innocent people from getting hurt while using this stuff, y’know? Even if they’re on the other team, they don’t deserve to get hurt when it can be so easily prevented. But I... I had no idea what they were building! Every time I try I just... One of these days I’ll learn how to keep my big dumb mouth shut.
Then ODAR came in to rescue me. They turned everything they had towards it. And it’s a nice gesture, I guess. Even if it wasn’t about them caring for me, even if I was just a MacGuffin in their heist movie... even if they only cared because they thought the Soviets were going to use my knowledge against them. Well, they weren’t wrong.
And it seems like ODAR top brass aren’t the only ones who came out of this mission... disappointed, or, sad, or... Changed. Petra’s pissed for some reason, but she won’t talk about it with anyone. Roberts wouldn’t look anyone in the eye on the way back. Lou Gaines says he finally found David Marian, only to witness his last breaths before he succumbed to Butterfly Syndrome! That’s the only reason he was even in Colorado to begin with, and now... what’s left here for him? I don’t know.
But then again, the worst part of it was that everyone who came to rescue me seemed to have some ulterior motive. They weren’t there for me, Sally, fellow human and their dear friend. No, they came for Dr. Sally Grissom, Inventor and Asset. I am... I am so tired of being an asset.
It’s been a long trip for all of us, that’s all I’ll say. We’re on a layover in New York, and then we’ll be back in Colorado in just a few hours. And once we get back... well, we’ll see.
[[SFX: radio tuning; New York City, outside a brownstone. Esther knocks; Miriam answers]]
MIRIAM ROBERTS (MR): Moshe, thanks for coming– Oh.
ESTHER ROBERTS (ER): Hey Miriam. Been a while.
MR: You didn’t call first. I would have...
ER: I... didn’t want to say anything until I could explain in person.
MR: Esther, it’s been months. We haven’t heard a word from you.
ER: Can we talk about it inside?
MR: ...Sure. Fine. Come in.
ER: Thank you.
[[SFX: Miriam leads Esther inide, and they shut the door.]]
ER: Where’s Mama?
MR: She’s out. Playing cards with the hens, I think.
[[SFX: Miriam lights a cigarette]]
MR: I think they’re on a canasta kick these days. Besides, you’re the only one who likes that game.
ER: That’s fair, I suppose. I’ve been told I’m bad at teaching it. I must’ve picked it up from her.
MR: ...So? You have something you want to say?
ER: Yeah, I, um... I just wanted to say that I’m sorry I’ve been out of touch. It’s been quite a year.
MR: So I hear.
ER: Uh... What do you mean?
MR: They came to see us. Government men in black suits. They told us you’d been convicted of treason?
ER: Yes, well, that ended up being a biiiiig misunderstanding–
MR: That’s all we heard, Esther. That you were imprisoned for crimes against the state! And then a few months later, here you are. No phone call, no postcard, no “hello my family whom I supposedly love I wasn’t given the chair in a secret backroom, save a plate for me–”
ER: Well I’m here now, aren’t I? I’m trying to explain–
MR: Honestly Esther, I’ve barely known where you were for the past 10 years, so not knowing if you’re alive is nothing new to me.
ER: That’s what happens when you work for the government. You can’t say much.
MR: Then Uncle Sam picked the perfect candidate! You’ve had so much practice.
ER: You know what Miriam? You let me know when it’s my turn.
MR: Any time between when they let you out of prison and the moment I answered my door! That was your turn!
ER: You just let me know.
MR: It almost killed us! Do you understand? The last thing we knew you were embroiled with this secret government thing, and the next thing we know you’re being convicted of treason? Forget letting us know if you were alive, you should have warned us they might be coming for us! You’d think after all this time, after everything that happened in Europe, you’d think to warn your family!
ER: ...I’m here to apologize.
MR: Erev is the day for it.
ER: I’m sorry.
MR: Good start.
ER: Can I get through one fucking sentence, just, please Miriam?! This is so hard! I’m really trying.
MR: I’m sorry. You go ahead, take your time.
ER: [firm sigh]... I’m sorry I left you behind. I saw my way out, and I took it. That’s what I knew how to do. it’s everything Papa ever worked for. Do you remember, nights in the shop? Papa talking about giving up his whole life just to make it to America... He never regretted it. His family, his land, his home. He left it all behind in pursuit of the American dream. I... I’ve just been doing what he taught us to do.
MR: I was there, I remember.
ER: And then when I was recruited, it consumed my life. I saw the size of this... this power we’d gained access to... the magnitude of it. You can’t even imagine. And I got it into my head that I was the only one who could... Steer the ship, y’know? Protect everyone, never... To make sure we never got stepped on again. Do you understand?
MR: Yes, Esther. I understand.
ER: I’ve done... some truly regretful things. And I would have done much more, for all I know. And some of them were in the name of America, but... A lot of them were for us. For you.
MR: ...I could have helped you. I could have been with you.
ER: I... I left you behind to pursue the dream. I’m sorry–
MR: He taught it to both of us. He made both of us dream, and then you rode off to chase this dream and someone had to stay! You didn’t even think about it. I had to stay behind, because it was never going to be you!
ER: I don’t think by my side was the best place to be.
MR: Why did you get to decide that for me? Who were you to decide how I had to live my life?
ER: You don’t get it. I’m here today because I regret where that dream has led me. Where it would lead me still, if I hadn’t learned better by now. I’m here to tell you... It’s not worth giving up everything to pursue the dream. Some things are more important. You were more important. That was all. I just... I hope you can forgive me.
MR: It’s a lot to ask for, Esther.
ER: Erev is the day for it.
MR: Why today? Why this year?
ER: Because I don’t know when I’ll ever have the chance again to say it. This year’s the only year.
MR: This year? Why not two years ago, or three? Or ten or twelve or more? I’ve been consigned to rot with this place while you walked among giants. And I have moved past it. Without you. If you’re forging yourself a new path, if you are looking for absolution, then I grant it. But I have nothing more to offer you. You left us far behind a long time ago.
ER: I miss you Miri.
MR: I miss you too. I miss you when you’re standing right in front of me.
[[SFX: Esther leaves; radio tuning; Petra and Nikhil's cabin; Petra fumes in the kitchen; she breaks a glass]]
NIKHIL SHARMA (NS): Petra, my friend, you have got to chill out a little. You’re burning so hot you might set the forest ablaze.
[[SFX: Petra retrieves a dustpan from underneath the sink to sweep up the pieces]]
PETRA MARQUEZ (PM): What do you want me to do, Nik? Esther Roberts gave the Soviets everything they fucking wanted, and now they’ve got free reign to create an army of child soldiers!
NS: I know.
PM: And I guarantee you, I guarantee you, that for every one kid that makes it out alive, there are 30 more that didn’t make the cut.
NS: Petra, I know, I was there–
PM: She just handed it over, and you want me to fucking chill?!
NS: Yeah, just like a little! I’m pretty sure they can hear you in Idaho. And if they can hear you two states away, they can hear you at ODAR HQ and if we’re going to do something about this, I’d rather they didn’t know about it beforehand.
NS: You done?
PM: [sitting, out of breath] Yeah. I’m done. For now. What have you got?
NS: [with a grin] Reinforcements.
[[SFX: Nikhil digs into a duffel bag, looking for the hard drive they took from Germany]]
NS: I figured out who sent the hard drive, Petra. And I feel like a damned fool that I didn’t think of it before.
[[SFX: Nikhil searches around the house for the parts he needs to connect the hard drive to a computer in the cabin]]
NS: Well I never considered that... The package. It was sent through official ODAR channels. Proper stamps and everything, do you remember?
PM: Yeah. Far future, even farther than me. But we searched it all over, it never turned up anything. Why?
NS: There was no sign that it was anything other than an official communication from ODAR in the future. No codes, no ciphers, only contemporaneous fingerprints or DNA. So I have no idea how he thought I’d figure it out, let alone you.
[[SFX: Nikhil boots up the computer and begins accessing the drive]]
NS: See, because he told me it would be a transmission. That if I ever picked up a stray transmission, that said “Hey loser.” I... I took it literally, I’ve been carrying around that stupid geolocator for years! I never even thought...
[[SFX: Nikhil types in the password]]
NS: “HEY LOSER.”
[[SFX: the computer beeps affirmatively]]
PM: Wait, hold on, I’m sorry. Anthony Partridge’s archive was sent to you by your boyfriend who’s stuck in the future?
NS: ...Well when you put it like that it sounds like a stupid thing, but it’s actually the best news I’ve had in four years.
PM: But how did Mateo even get ahold of it?
NS: [as he searches the computer] I have absolutely no idea. But....
[[SFX: Nikhil clicks on the thing he was looking for]]
NS: I intend to ask him.
MATEO MORALES: [on recording] Hey loser. It’s me. I don’t know what you did when you got back there, but it must have worked. All of a sudden I’m... [[cough]] I’m finding references to new studies I couldn’t seem to find before. It looks like someone named Margaret Elbourne is working on a cure? Get me back in the fight, Nik. We’ll light the beacons, and all that jazz. I miss you.
PM: ...That’s it?
NS: Of course! We’ll find Maggie, work out how to cure Mateo, bring him back here and we’ll build out from there. We’ve got the whole archive now, years of mission briefs and schedules. We’ll gather a support network, underground, out of sight, and work–
PM: Nikhil, that’s gonna take forever! You’re talking... you’re talking about guerilla tactics. Raise an insurgency? I was hoping for something a little more... immediate.
NS: Like what?
PM: Well... We’ve got the whole archive now. What we need to do is scour their weak points, we take their supplies right off the wagon, we build ourselves a gun to shoot and we finally make them listen. Because a gun to the head is the only way to get a Director of ODAR to fucking listen.
NS: Yes! Okay, yes, that’s good! Hold a gun to their heads, yes! Like a great big time gun!
PM: Not... like a real gun. It’s a metaphorical gun.
NS: Right, yes, I’m with you, yah! Um, what are you thinking?
PM: Well, okay... What about the big weapon? The one Sally helped them build?
NS: Okay well she was held against her will–
PM: We take that! We take the plans, or... no, it’s probably a lot to build on our own. We wait for one of them to build it–
NS: Yes! And then commandeer it for ourselves! I love this! Mateo will love this. So we get him first, and then–
PM: No, we can’t wait. We gotta move on this.
NS: Can’t wait? Surely we can wait just a little bit of time, I mean it’s time travel.
PM: No, don’t you see? This is the answer. I mean, the Russians obviously spent way more time weaponizing this stuff than ODAR ever did. But now that ODAR has Sally back along with the plans, defending against this is gonna be their number-1 priority. If we let them get there, we’ll have to resort to something else–
NS: Petra, there will always be something else. We’ll find a way, the three of us will find a way together.
PM: No! This is good, this is close and within reach and I can–
NS: No, you can wait just a few more months.
PM: Is that all it will be? You don’t know. No one knows! None of us have spoken to Maggie Elbourne or any of them in all this time... you don’t know if she’s on the verge of a cure or at square one!
[[SFX: Nikhil stands to face her]]
NS: Petra, please! I know you’re impatient to get started, but this is just silly and reckless. And not just a little bit cruel. I’ve been here four years, waiting for him to–
PM: Four years?! Aww boo hoo, four years. I’ve been waiting for this my entire life! Who even knows how long I’ve been waiting? Twenty-something years, unless I miscounted again? And I don’t want to wait one more second for ODAR to plan their next move. They’ll always have a next move. It’s time I took us to the endgame.
NS: This isn’t the endgame! This is a petulant child kicking over the board!
PM: Either way, the game is over, and they didn’t win!
PM: Give me the archive, Nikhil.
NS: [a little afraid] ...No.
PM: I will take it if I have to.
NS: Petra, it’s been four years together. Longer, it’s been since you were a child! Would you really cut me down to get what you want, when you want it?
PM: Would you make me?
[A tense silence. Two gunslingers with their hands on their belts.]
[[SFX: Petra takes thehard drive, shoves it into a bag, and heads for the door. Before she leaves:]]
PM: When the time comes, and I need you there... you’ll stand with me?
NS: It’ll be both of us with you. Or neither.
[[SFX: Petra leaves; tape recorder stops]]
[Midroll ad – Hims]
M: You ever get erections? Haha, me too. When consensually applied, erections are fun phenomena to share with friends! But sometimes, they don’t do what you want, and it can feel a little frustrating, or embarrassing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help.
You might not realize it, but a lot of people’s self-worth is wrapped up in how they can or can’t use what’s between their legs! But that’s nothing to be ashamed about. You know, a quarter of people Whose Metapods won’t Harden no matter how many badges they have, are under 40? Sexual wellness isn’t just the realm of middle-aged couples in outdoor bathtubs.
ForHims.com is your one-stop shop. Hims connects you with real doctors and medical grade solutions to treat erectile dysfunction. No gas station supplements, no snake oil pills: it’s real solutions, backed by real science.
Just go to forhims.com, answer a few quick questions, and chat with a doctor for prescription-grade solutions, shipped straight to your door. You can even get Vi[REDACTED] through Hims. It’s hard, made easy. Telemedicine, am I right?
Try hims for a month today for just $5. We’ll get you started for just five bucks while
supplies last. See website for full details. This would cost hundreds if you went to the doctor or a pharmacy!
Go to For Hims dot com slash ars ED. That’s F-O-R-H-I-M-S dot com slash ars ED. For Hims dot com slash ars ED.
[off-mic] :joy: Wait, is our promo code really arsed?
[[SFX: tape recorder starts; Point-of-Exile municipal building, lobby. Helen writes on a form; Sally approaches]]
SG: Hey Shannon!
SHANNON: Hi Sally!
[[SFX: Helen sighs; Sally hands Shannon a flyer]]
SG: I just wanted to leave this for you, and one for Donald in the bursar’s office, if you see him around?
SHANNON: Uh, I’ll check.
[[SFX: Shannon stands and exits.]]
SG: ...Uh... Helen?
HELEN PARTRIDGE (HP): [not pleased] Hello, Sally.
SG: What are you doing here?
HP: That’s really none of your business, is it?
SG: Fair enough. Sorry.
HP: I’m having Anthony declared dead.
HP: Unless you can tell me he’s not. Can you... can you tell me that, Sally?
SG: No, unfortunately. I don’t really think I can.
HP: Well then.
SG: Are you gonna... change your name back? Your maiden name is Cook, right?
HP: I thought about it, but my manager doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Partridge is the name on the label. Plus he says the imagery of a songbird is worth holding onto.
SG: Gotta push the brand, I gotcha. But... wait, partridges aren’t songbirds, are they?
HP: Hmmph... One thing I might really like to see is you giving an ornithology lecture to a Los Angeles talent manager.
SG: Hah, yeah. Congratulations, by the way. All of your... success. I’ve heard you on the radio more than a few times.
HP: Yeah, thanks.
SG: You deserve it. Really.
HP: Thank you. I’d say it was nothing, but the truth is I clawed and scraped for every bit of it, so I appreciate the recognition. I presume you’re still with ODAR?
SG: Yeah, as usual, you know. I, um... I just got back from being kidnapped actually.
HP: [fumbling] Oh... I... I’m sorry, I didn’t mean.... Where were you?
SG: A, uh, a Soviet base, just outside of Berlin. Close enough to see where the Wall would have been.
HP: The wall? What wall?
SG: Yeah in my time Germany was sort of split-custody between the USSR and the Allied powers, and they literally split Berlin down the middle with this huge wall. Obviously things went a little differently this time around. The Wall’d probably be along the French border or something... none of which you care about. Sorry.
HP: Yes. Well. I’m sorry to hear that. I, um... I’m glad you’re not there anymore.
SG: You are?
SG: Thank you. [beat] Listen, I’m... I’m actually throwing a party, for my, uh, getting back, I’m practically inviting half the town... I don’t know how long you’re in Point-of-Exile, but... do you wanna come? Maybe sing something for us? I dunno, is that weird?
HP: Hah!... Yeah, I can do that. I’ll sing the song I wrote for Anthony. A sort of farewell-sendoff.
SG: That’ll be good. Here, it’s gonna be at the rec center.
[[SFX: Sally gives Helen an invitation. Shannon returns.]]
HP: I’ll be there.
SHANNON: I can’t seem to find him, do you just wanna leave it for me and I’ll make sure he gets it?
SG: Yeah that’s fine, I guess. Thanks. I’ll see you later, Helen.
[[SFX: Sally goes to leave, then stops.]]
SG: Wait. So if you’re not changing your name back, why do you need to have Partridge declared dead?
HP: ...I’m engaged.
SG: Oh, wow. Really? Wow. Congratulations.
HP: ...I’ll see you at the party, Sally.
[[SFX: radio tuning; Tonya’s office. A knock.]]
TONYA LEMARTINE (TLM): Ah! Come on in, Dr. Roberts.
[[SFX: Esther enters.]]
TLM: Have a seat, please.
ER: Thank you.
TLM: Welcome back, I hope the trip was smooth.
ER: A few bumps, but none of them on the plane.
TLM: Well, I’ve heard the reports from the field agents, but I wanted to get a sense of what happened from you. How did everything go?
ER: Well... we got Sally back, of course. And we recovered the plans for the Soviet, uh... I’m not sure there’s another word for it other than “doomsday device.”
TLM: Yes I’ve got the file on it here. A missile array outfitted with CAGE emitters, working in concert to cover entire cities and age them into dust. Hmm.
ER: Sally’s been calling it “Weaponized Entropy for Large Targets,” or WELT.
TLM: Hmmph! She does have a knack for names, I’ll give her that. And the Soviets just... gave this to you? And let you walk out scot-free?
ER: No, Tonya, of course not. We had to give them something in exchange.
TLM: What was it?
ER: The Plasticity reports.
TLM: Plasticity? But, they’ve had immunized agents in the field for years, we instituted that project to keep up with... Hah. Damn. They got us again.
ER: I’m sorry.
TLM: It’s not your fault, Esther, truly. You made a hard decision, and but the playing field is even. The stalemate continues. I’m not sure what I would have done differently.
TLM: ...But you’re not sure it was the right choice.
TLM: Would it help if I told you I’m not sure the you I remember would have done it differently either?
ER: Not in the slightest.
TLM: What’s on your mind?
ER: I used to be so sure, of everything. Even in the face of adversity. But eventually, the evidence stacks up. I’m not sure I’m capable of making the right choice.
TLM: Hmm... Sometimes there is no right choice. Sometimes it’s just the lesser of two evils.
ER: Yes. But I’m very tired of being the one to pick which evil.
TLM: ...What are you saying?
ER: I’m saying, I am so glad you are here, running things the way they ought to be run. With 20/20 foresight, and with a confident woman at the helm. And I think I’m ready to not be the one running it anymore.
TLM: You’re just... you’re just going to leave?
TLM: Where do you think you’ll go?
ER: Oh, I’m not entirely sure yet. I’ve got a few ideas–
TLM: Where do you think you’ll go, that we won’t find you?
ER: Um... I’m sorry, Tonya. I wasn’t aware I would have to hide. I’m just stepping down, I’m not selling secrets.
TLM: I think you’ll agree your recent actions have shown that whatever secrets you may possess aren’t entirely safe anywhere except for under our supervision.
ER: That’s a solid tactic. Compliment me for my decision in one breath, then condemn me for the same decision with another–
TLM: Esther, you need to be here.
ER: Well I don’t trust me here! And I’m tired of hating myself for being myself! And, I’m tired of being told this is the only thing I’ll ever do. I’m Esther Roberts, I can do whatever I set my mind to.
TLM: That’s just about what I’m wary of.
ER: Wary? What are you so afraid of, Tonya? Why do you need me here? What purpose do I serve for you that you can’t fulfill with years’ worth of notes, written in my own damn handwriting? What is it?
TLM: Esther. You ran this place for decades. It became a superpower, within a superpower, and you at the top. I was the Director of ODAR immediately after you. You trained me for the job. And I... I idolized you. Esther Roberts, sharpest mind of a generation, a woman who truly knew what it took to keep the ship running. To make the hard play. And you handled it all with such clarity... God, what happened to you? How did you ever get from here to there?
ER: ...Maybe I never did.
TLM: You may have flown closer to the sun than you’d like to, but I know that no one builds better wax wings than you do. And I don’t think I can trust you where I can’t see you. You see how having you off on your own, with your own personal agenda, as the head of this organization I can’t allow such an asset out of my sight?
ER: Come on, Tonya. We both know I’ll never not be in your sight again. No matter what I do.
TLM: So much paperwork. A whole detachment of agents, year-over-year... Just more cost-effective to keep you on the payroll.
ER: The other option is to keep me here against my will, Tonya. Are you really prepared to do that?
TLM: ...There was a time.
[[SFX: Esther stands with a laugh]]
ER: Keep running things, Tonya. Run it openly and honestly. You’re the first person in that chair I’ve seen doing that, and it’s a good look. And if you get really stuck on something, I’m sure you’ll send someone to appear mysteriously on my doorstep. And until that day, every time I feel the gaze of a reconnaissance agent on the back of my neck, I’ll smile and think of you fondly.
TLM: If you see them coming, that is. There’s nothing I can do to change your mind?
ER: Not after this week, I don’t think so.
TLM: Well then, I suppose it’s been an honor, Esther Roberts. Best of luck in your... future endeavors.
[[SFX: radio tuning; Lou’s apartment. A knock at the door.]]
LOU GAINES (LG): One minute!
[[SFX: Lou goes to the door and opens it.]]
LG: Hey Bridget.
BRIDGET CHAMBERS (BC): Hey there. Mind if I come in?
LG: Uh, yeah sure.
[[SFX: Bridget enters, Lou closes the door.]]
LG: Can I get you tea, or coffee or something?
BC: Uh, well... do you have anything stronger?
LG: [chuckles] Is the sun past the yardarm already?
BC: I won’t tell the captain if you won’t, matey.
[[SFX: Lou retrieves two glasses with ice from the kitchen. Bridget sits. Lou pours two whiskeys.]]
BC: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about... about Germany.
LG: You heard?
BC: I heard enough. I heard you found David.
BC: And what happened?
LG: When I found him, he was.... He was in the medical wing. And he could barely lift his head to speak to me. I mean, his face had all these new lines in it. I don’t know if that’s the time travel, or... or if I just hadn’t seen him in a long, long time.
BC: What did you say?
LG: Nothing but I missed him, and that I was there to take him home.
BC: He was too weak to move? I know it would have been hard to get him out of there–
LG: Bridget... he refused.
BC: What? No, I don’t–
LG: He stared me in the face, and told me with his dying breath he didn’t regret a single thing he’d done.
BC: Oh... Oh Lou...
LG: Yeah, it hurt. But you know what? He didn’t say anything wrong.
BC: Like what?
LG: Oh, you know. ODAR looking out for ODAR, as usual. Even though I’m in a position of authority, that I’m just far enough from the center of power to actually affect change. That the American government isn’t in it for all of America, just the parts they like. He’s certainly not wrong there.
BC: He’s not wrong, but if that’s the fight he’s willing to hang his hat on, David Marian was a fool.
LG: Tread carefully here, Bridget.
BC: No, he was. You want to know why? Because he believed that great Communist lie: that they’re the party of the people. I think it’s–I think it’s hard to grasp how much we’ve actually done here, Lou. It’s the way that whenever we’ve changed something, we only get to see the end result. That time at Oxford, for instance.
LG: Hmmph. That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about.
BC: What do you mean?
LG: It was a dozen cases of the sniffles! The British would have gotten the cure one way or the other, somewhere down the line. And while I was off on that mission, Chet Whickman was scheming behind the back of a Korean armistice negotiation!
BC: They didn’t tell you?
LG: Tell me what?
BC: I get the summaries before they shelve the closed cases... Did you know that one of the students you saved was a German attending on a scholarship? About to be sent home on holiday? And that his whole hometown had, in the years previous, been ravaged by crop-killing insects?
LG: What does that have to do with–
BC: He used to always get so sick, because of the malnourishment. His parents worried he’d never make it. But in September of 1951, after the summer holidays had come and gone, that boy joined the military. Did you know that soldier was assigned protection detail for Herr Heinrich Gossner?
LG: ...You’re kidding. The treaty signing? The soldier that took the bullet for Gossner–
BC: Wouldn’t have been there if he had died in the summer of 1951 from a case of the sniffles. See? Just because you can’t work every mission, just because you aren’t the one in charge... That doesn’t mean you’re not still saving hundreds of lives.
LG: And that’s fine, for politicians in Europe. Funny how every move we make helps white people, hmm? How come Gossner got to sit on his ass while his countrymen slaughtered people like me, and makes one speech and we’re all supposed to give a damn, but black boys and girls in Kansas don’t get heat in their classrooms! When’s their turn, Bridget? When does that little item reach the top of ODAR’s priority list?
BC: I... I don’t know.
LG: Not soon enough. It’s never soon enough. And that’s what David was saying. That ODAR... Sure they’ll give me an inch, as long as I’m useful to them. But the minute I try to help anyone who looks like me, just wait and see how fast I fall.
BC: So, what? Are you looking to defect too?
LG: As bad as things are here, I won’t kid myself into thinking it’d be better over there. Not like him. Still though.... I don’t think my place is here. This is not the place where I can change what really needs to be changed. Because those things are built in from the start. I’ve gotta start from the ground. Build something new. Sometimes, you just have to admit what you’ve been doing isn’t working, and start over.
[[SFX: Lou takes a sip of his drink]]
BC: I’ve thought about it before these past few years, about giving it all up... But then I see one tiny sliver of light, one baby step in the right direction, and... it’s almost like I can’t help myself. I come running back, no matter what else there is, and I... I can’t tear myself away from her.
LG: You know in your head it’s the right move, but you feel like - if you can just stick it out for one more week, one more day... eventually you can get to the light. Like eventually we can all live in that place. Yeah, you understand. Shame it doesn’t always work that way. [Beat.] You said “her”, you know.
BC: ...I’ve been in love for too long.
BC: Were you expecting someone else?
LG: No offense, but I wasn’t even expecting you.
[[SFX: Lou goes to answer the door]]
SG: Hey Gaines.
LG: Hi Sally, what can I do for you?
SG: I just wanted to let you know, I’m uh... I’m throwing a party, down at the rec center. I’d love to see you there.
[[SF: Bridget joins Lou at the door]]
BC: A party? Are you feeling up to something like this?
SG: Oh hey! Yeah, it’s uh... it’s actually sort of, in spite of that? “I’m home, I’m not dead, I’m safe, come get drunk with me,” y’know? Bridget, you’re welcome to come too, of course.
BC: Sure, of course.
LG: Wouldn’t miss it.
SG: Cool. Um, here’s the info.
[[SFX: Sally hands Bridget and Lou a flyer]]
SG: I’ll see you there. Take care.
[[SFX: radio tuning; a rockin' party. Sally taps on a microphone from onstage to get everyone's attention.]]
SG: Hey, can I uh, can I grab everyone's attention for a second please?
[[SFX: the party simmers down]]
SG: Listen, I just wanted say thanks for coming tonight, I know it was a little short notice. I just wanted to say that living here has been... Well, it’s been a really meaningful time in my life. You know I moved here in ‘47, along with the rest of the Organization Too Secret to Know...
[[SFX: crowd laugh]]
SG: And there’s been... so many ups and downs in the time that I’ve lived here. I’ve met a lot of really great people... yeah Shelley, even you.
[[SFX: crowd laugh]]
SG: And uh, and as much as I may have railed against it in the past, I don’t think I would trade my time in Point-of-Exile for the world. But... It’s time for a new chapter in my life. This isn’t just a welcome-home party. It’s actually my goodbye party. I’ll be leaving Point-of-Exile by the end of the month.
[[SFX: crowd disappointed “aww”]]
SG: See, I really appreciate that! I can’t really tell you how much. But it’s time I set out for new adventures. I’m looking for a change in my life, and part of that is being true to what I need, and letting myself have it. Some of you may have figured this out, but I’m not from around here. And I never expected to stay as long as I have. I never thought my life would look like this! And I don’t just mean a small town of folks I’ve grown fond of, smiling back at me as I make a fool of myself in front of a microphone.
[[SFX: crowd laugh]]
SG: No, see... um... About ten years ago, give or take, I invented a machine. And it never really worked as intended. Because the first time I ever turned it on, I was overwhelmed with a burst of energy, and when my vision cleared I was in 1943. Which is not where I started.
That day, ten years ago... I accidentally invented time travel, and... I’m from the future.
[[SFX: crowd grows rowdy]]
SG: And since that time, I’ve been working with the Office of Developed Anomalous Resources to use time travel to gain an upper hand in geopolitical brinksmanship. And they’ve had me keep this secret for ten years. The core of my identity. And I’m done lying, and I’m done living in secret. I think it’s time more people knew. That’s my new chapter.
So, in the spirit of new chapters, and without further ado, I’d like to invite my friend Helen up to the stage. She’s an incredible singer, and she’s back in town for one night only. So here’s Helen Partridge, enjoy, and thank you and.... Yeah. Enjoy the party!
[[SFX: weak, confused applause; Helen takes the stage]]
HP: Hey there, Point-of-Exile, how are you doing tonight? This song’s dedicated to anyone whose lives have changed for knowing Sally Grissom, you tidal wave of a woman.
SG: Woo! Flirting! ...Yes!
[[MUSIC: the band strikes up into “When I’m Not Here”]]
SG: I’m surprised you didn’t stop me.
TLM: I thought about it.
SG: So LeMartine. Now everyone in town knows our secret. What do you think?
TLM: I think that Esther Roberts handed me her resignation this afternoon. I think I’ve been fighting uphill against a Soviet agenda that it turns out we helped create. I think we need something history’s never seen before. Who’s to say this isn’t it?
TLM: Well if it’s not, I can send someone back to stop you later. Doesn’t have to be today.
SG: [laughing] You know, Donovan and Whickman were never as upfront about their plans as you are.
TLM: Kinda scary, isn’t it?
SG: It’s like... it doesn’t matter if we know what you’re planning. Cause you’re always one step ahead anyway.
TLM: I was hoping you’d stay on, to help us come up with something to combat the WELT.
SG: As glad as I am that the name caught on... I’m done here, LeMartine. I really think so. It’s Time.
TLM: Isn’t it always?
SG: But, I suppose, if you ever get really stuck, give me a call.
TLM: Oh, I’m sure we will.
SG: Yep... I’m sure you will.
TLM: Well best of luck out there, Sally. Whatever you do. You’re a legend in my book either way.
SG: ... Dammit, I still have no idea if you really mean that, or if it’s part of some agenda you’re playing.
TLM: Can’t it be a little bit of both?
SG: I guess so. Thanks, LeMartine. I think.
[[SFX: music swells; Nikhil approaches Sally]]
NS: Bold move, Grissom. I like it.
SG: Nikhil! You came!
[[SFX: they hug]]
SG: But wait, aren’t you worried about LeMartine spotting you?
NS: I’ve gotten pretty good at sticking to the shadows, I’ll be ok. Besides, I’m only here to see you for a spare moment, and then I’m gone.
SG: Is Petra with you? I haven’t seen her since we landed.
NS: Yes, she, uh... She couldn’t make it. I’m sorry.
SG: Uh, well... alright, I guess. I’ll catch her another time.
NS: Listen, I just wanted to tell you... I think getting out is a good plan.
SG: Oh yeah?
NS: Yes, well, after what I found in Germany... I know what I need to do. And I don’t think I can do it here, hiding in a cabin.
SG: [disappointed] Yeah, I... I’m sorry Nikhil, but I really thought you came to Germany for me.
NS: Sally, I did! Of course I did. I’m so glad we got you out of there.
NS: ...Okay, well there was something we accomplished on the way. Of course.
SG: Of course.
NS: And, well. I found what I needed. It’s time to get Mateo back.
SG: Mateo? I’m sorry, you found something in Germany that’s gonna help you get back to Mateo?
NS: Mateo’s coming back to me.
SG: Oh. So, you’re not gonna... you didn’t find like, a way to establish other anchor points, or–
NS: I’m working on a new angle. Something a little less Time Traveller’s Wife, a little more Red Dawn.
SG: Oh. Big change of plans.
NS: Not so big to me. I spent four years in a cabin deciding what’s important to me, Sally. Just like you’ve finally figured out what’s important to you. No more living in secret, no more hiding, no more ODAR running your life.
SG: Look at us go.
NS: I love you, Sally. And I’m proud to see you taking care of yourself.
SG: Thanks Nikhil. I love you too. And I’d invite you along, but–
NS: No, that’s alright. We’ve each got our own path now, and I think it’s time we walked them.
SG: But... we only just got each other back. You’ll stay in touch, right?
NS: Of course, yes! You better write to me, once a month at least. Or I’ll track you back down and make you write them myself!
SG: How will I know where to find you?
NS: Oh. Uh... I hadn’t thought about that.
SG: Hah! Classic. We’ll figure it out before we both leave, don’t worry.
NS: Take care of yourself, Sally.
[[SFX: They hug, again.]]
SG: Thanks Nikhil. You too.
[[SFX: the band finishes the song; the audience applauds]]
BC: Hi, can I get a–
ER: She’ll have a Tom Collins with a fistful of cherries.
BC: Of all the gin joints in all the world...
ER: It’s good to see you again.
BC: Even if it’s a couple days late.
ER: [sigh] Yeah. We should talk. I owe you-you deserve an apology.
BC: [laughs] Just the one?
ER: Let’s take a walk?
[[SFX: The band strikes up a ne tune as Esther leads Bridget into the stairwell]]
ER: I assume you’ve heard about everything that’s happened.
BC: No, I’d been waiting to see you first. I have my guesses.
ER: You’re disappointed.
BC: [a humorless laugh] That would require some element of surprise.
BC: Esther, I–
ER: Wait, I just... Wait. Before you say anything, can I just explain myself? Please? And then I promise you can say whatever you want.
BC: ...Go ahead.
ER: Do you remember the night I left, Bridget?
BC: Which time?
ER: I guess I deserve that. [shaking it off, a laugh] The first time. I said we’d made it to a point past my being able to continue with the way things were. I was a little harsh in my phrasing–
BC: To put it nicely!
ER: Okay, a lot harsh. But do you know what was beneath it all? I’d—I hit a wall, Bridget. I was in love with you and on the precipice of breaking through in my career. A chance to get ahead, with no regard to my heritage, in spite of my gender. [beat] And as long as you were looking at me... it made it so much harder to do what I knew I needed to do. I knew I needed to make ruthless decisions and I couldn’t, because you were there to tell me I was wrong. So I made you into an anchor, and I cast you away, and–
BC: That’s a lot of mixed nautical metaphors in between you absolving yourself again. What are you getting at?
ER: I didn’t realize it until it was too late, but I... think I fell in love with ODAR, too–don’t laugh at me, this is the only way I can explain it! The idea of it, or myself as a part of it... somewhere along the way. And it made me foolish. Bridget, I made these stupid decisions and refused to see things as they really were, and I guess I’ve been thinking, since Germany... I think I finally understand. Myself. Or who I will be, on the path I’m on now. I can’t imagine myself as the kind of person who doesn’t become... the person everyone knows I become.
BC: Alright. So what are you going to do about it?
ER: I... I don’t want to be what everyone thought I was at the trial. I don’t want to be what the future thinks I am. I don’t want to be the woman who leads ODAR for decades, who sacrifices children on the altar of the greater good. I’ve gotten a few glimpses now of what I’m like when that power’s in my hands, and... I don’t like what I see. It’s terrible, and it’s a little bit frightening. Honestly, I don’t know how I haven’t scared you off by now.
BC: I’m not quite sure of that myself. Honestly, Esther, I think something happened to you over there. Something you’re afraid to say. That’s why you’ve been avoiding me. And if it’s as bad as I think... maybe we’re right to be afraid.
ER: That’s why I’m walking away. From all of it. I’m done, Bridget.
BC: You’re leaving ODAR.
ER: Yeah, Birdie. I am. And I’m–I’m sorry it took me this long to figure it out, and I’m not expecting you to congratulate me or say anything at all really, and I’m not asking you to pick up your life and follow me, again, but... I owed it to myself to admit out loud what I’ve learned, and you’re... you’re the only person I wanted to tell, so here goes: I want to get as far away from this job as I possibly can! I don’t like the person I am when I’m around it, I don’t want to be that person anymore. I need to make a different choice. It’s not the logical one, but–
BC: Sometimes you just need to admit that what you’ve been doing isn’t working, and start over.
ER: Exactly. That’s exactly what I–
[[SFX: Bridget steps forward and plants one on her]]
ER: What was that for?
BC: It took you long enough, but you finally came around.
ER: So? What do you say?
BC: What do I say? I say, let’s get out of here!
BC: Hell yes. Let’s get out of this town. Second star to the right and straight on til morning! Where to first?
ER: Well, if we’re gonna do this, we’ve gotta do this right. And there’s no one who thinks she knows how to do that better than–
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
SG: So basically what you’re saying is you want to go all Thelma & Louise & Louise and set off on the open road together, saving the world one not-evil science experiment at a time? And you’re fully aware of everything that I just said to the room, and you’re cool with the fact that I will most likely be saying a big "fuck you" to everything we’ve established here, and there are bound to be more than a few people who aren’t gonna be happy about that, right?
ER: I don’t understand the reference, but that’s exactly what I’m saying... I think. And all the better. I’m serious about this, Sally. I’m done with ODAR, but I’m not done trying to improve the world. If I got nothing from being here, I got a good idea of how best to do that, the money to make it happen, surprisingly, and I... I know who I want by my side, now.
BC: Me too!
ER: Maybe nothing else is a sure thing, but it doesn’t have to be, anymore.
SG: I can tell you really mean that, Roberts. And... I’m really proud of you. For getting here on your own.
SG: So I’m gonna... I’m going to have to pass, you guys.
SG: Look, I’m with you, and you know that if you needed me I’d be there for you in a heartbeat, even if I didn’t entirely want to be, I think I’ve proven that a couple times over at this point. But I meant what I said, too. And I think for me that means I have to get away from everyone, from all of this. And I hate to say it, Roberts, but that means you too. At least for now.
SG: Hey, don’t look at me like that. If I was going to go Rogue with anybody, I think I want it to be you. But this is something I’ve got to do on my own terms and - I think you’ll thank me for it later. Besides, no offense? But I can tell by the way you’re looking at each other that you two have a lot of catching up to do, and I will barf if I have to be the third wheel on this amoro-scientific tricycle all the way across America.
ER: I’m going to miss you, Sally.
SG: Hey, In an infinite subset of alternate timelines, I’m right there with you. And there’s no way in hell we don’t run into each other again in this one. [beat] Esther, If you ever get stuck, and I know you will... Call me, alright?
ER: That’s a two way street, Dr. Grissom.
[[SFX: they hug]]
SG: [sincere] Catch you at the next sunset.
SG: I dunno. It’s like a catchphrase. We never really established one.
ER: Sally, I love you... but that’s fucking stupid.
[[SFX: radio tuning; outside the rec center, Esther lights up a cigarette. Petra cocks a gun in Esther's face.]]
PM: Come on. It’s time to finish this. Put that out. Don’t look at me.
ER: [sigh] Petra–
PM: Don’t. There’s nothing you can say to me now that you couldn’t have told those fucking Soviets, so you can just keep your fucking mouth shut.
ER: If killing me is your goal, I applaud you doing it to my face, intellectually-speaking, since I know you’re about as lethal three miles away as you are three paces, but in that case I’d rather you just get it over with, [starts walking forward] because I’m rather tired and I don’t think I’d like to contemplate the metaphysical aspects of my demise any longer than I absolutely have to. So. Shoot me, or talk to me.
PM: ...Thirty seconds. Fifty Words or less.
ER: I’ll do it in four. Petra, I’m leaving ODAR.
PM: ...Twenty-five seconds, Dr. Roberts.
ER: I think we want the same things.
PM: [humorless laughter] Actually, saying THAT is why I should shoot you. Get to the point: If you’re really leaving, where the fuck are you going? Fifteen seconds. Thirty-nine words.
ER: To become someone other than the person who was there in that room–who made the decision that I made. I’m going to fix it.
PM: Every fix you’ve ever been a part of has a body count, Roberts! Forgive me if I’m not buying it.
ER: I resigned this afternoon. I want to do good. Better.
PM: And what, I’m supposed to just let you off with a warning so you can ride off into your
Redemption Arc guilt free?
ER: You could come with me.
PM: [disgusted] ...With you?
ER: You’re smart and you’re capable. Your methods are... certainly not my own, but I think that as long as we want the same things–and I can assure you that we do–it might be in both our interests to help each other. I can’t undo what I’ve already done. Not in the way you’d want me to. But hurting me isn’t going to relieve your pain. And even if you’re willing to give it a try? Maybe something that actually stands to do some good is a better Plan A.
PM: How is it that you manage to hit rock bottom and still be a smartass? Are you aware that I could kill you right now?
ER: You could. I’d probably deserve it. But we both know that’s not what you came here to do. You want justice. And ultimately, peace. So do I. Come with me, Petra.
PM: Fuck you.
ER: It’s not a ploy. It’s a genuine offer. Take it or leave it, I mean it. I’m going to use what I’ve learned here for good.
PM: ... Maybe we do want the same things, Esther, but I didn’t survive 96% of my classmates by buying into everything that comes out of your mouth, and I’m not going to start kneeling at the altar of Esther Roberts now.
[[SFX: Petra puts her gun down]]
ER: So I guess this is goodbye.
PM: This is “don’t you ever fucking call me, and if I see you again, it won’t be as friends.” But you can call it farewell if it helps you sleep at night.
[[SFX: Petra begins to walk away]]
ER: I hope you find what you’re looking for, Petra.
PM: [with a lough] Honestly, Esther? You should probably pray that I don’t.
[[SFX: tape recorder stops]
ars PARADOXICA was created by Daniel Manning & Mischa Stanton. Season 3 was also written by Eli Barraza, Julian Mundy, Danielle Shemaiah & Tau Zaman.
Episode 33: Home features –
Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Lia Peros (Petra Marquez)
L. Jeffrey Moore (Lou Gaines)
Preston Allen (Bridget Chambers)
Reyn Beeler (Chet Whickman)
Arjun Gupta (Nikhil Sharma)
Tina Huang (Tonya LeMartine)
Rob Slotnick (Bill Donovan)
Susanna Kavee (Helen Partridge)
Bernardo Cubria (Mateo Morales)
Sammi Lappin (Miriam Roberts)
Rina Cerame (additional voices)
with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson.
Production help from Brandon Grugle. Original music by Mischa Stanton and by Eno Freedman-Brodmann. This episode also featured the song “When I’m Not Here,” written by Tau Zaman, arranged by Evan Cunningham, performed by Evan, Chris Tedesco on trumpet, and vocals by Susanna Kavee.
ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by Hims, and The Internet: This is what the whole problem is about.
20 09 05 16 03 05 26 24 12 22 09 25 12 05 13 21 14 19 06 22 09 09 17 09 03 05 24 22 05 04 17 14 13 07
WEATHER IN TULSA: queer