34: Path

written by Daniel Manning, Mischa Stanton, Eli Barraza & Tau Zaman

MISCHA (M): These may be our final few episodes, but we’ve got plenty more projects in store. To see what we’re doing next, follow us on Twitter @TheWhisperforge.

[Ad music]

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M: Gotta say it three times.

[Previously, on ars Paradoxica]

SG: June, Ben, Maggie... Whickman says we’ll find them. For their sake, I hope we never do.

NS: When June Barlowe writes about the beacons at the end of her life… it’s a little dramatic, right? But she had to have some method of passing the torch.

MM: What if the beacons June was talking about… are numbers stations?



TLM: I take it you and Agent Morales are... close?

NS:  I’m sorry, I—

TLM: You know, he doesn’t have many trips left him. His last was supposed to be indeed his last journey back through time. It’d be unwise for his health.

SG: I’ll be leaving Point-of-Exile by the end of the month.

[[SFX: crowd disappointed “aww”]]

ER: ...I think I’m ready to not be the one running it anymore.

TLM: You’re just… you’re just going to leave?

ER: Yes.

TLM: Where do you think you’ll go?

ER: Oh I'm not entirely sure yet...

PM: "STUDENTS, WELCOME TO 1953..." We’re done, Roberts.

[Theme music]

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

SALLY GRISSOM (SG): Diary of Sally Grissom, September 28th, 1953. Possessions are in storage, bags are packed, goodbyes were said, one angry Archie in a cat carrier, and I’m finally hitting the open road! I’m gonna take my act on tour, revealing the Great ODAR Secret to the world. It worked pretty well at the party, and LeMartine’s been true to her word... as far as I can tell... Eh, we’re still living in an iteration of time where she didn’t stop me.

But there was no way I was gonna stop after one tiny little mountain town! I’ve gotta get this story spreading like wildfire. Make it go viral, I mean if that were a thing yet. And I figure, the best shot I have to spread news quickly without the Internet is newspapers. I’ll give it to a reporter, have him do a deep dive into ODAR. I think my first stop is Denver. Hopefully they’ll pick up the story and it’ll spread from there, but while they’re vetting me I’ll take my story east: papers in Chicago, in Atlanta, in DC and New York and Boston. I mean someone’s bound to pick it up, right? A massive government time-travel conspiracy? That’ll push paper for sure.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, December 11th, 1953. I’m in Baltimore today. It’s been six weeks since I started talking to reporters about ODAR and stuff, and... [sighing] I guess I’m about ready to call it. Either LeMartine suppressed the story, or they couldn’t fact-check anything I said, or... Or maybe they all really thought I was as crazy as their facial expressions suggested, and didn’t even bother to try. Hey, it’s okay. You knew this might happen. Which is why I went out today and bought this!

[[SFX: Sally taps some keys on the typewriter]]

SG: I figure, if I can’t get anyone to write it for me, I’ll write the damn story myself. I’ve got enough here to make something out of, probably. I mean... like, by mass, half of everything I own is audio diary. I can spend a while transcribing, fill in the rest with my refreshingly irreverent and effusively sesquipedalian prose, and it might actually end up coming out somewhat book-like! I mean, I knew a couple of people who wrote entire novels in a month. That Nano... Nanomo... that thing, where you write an entire novel in a month.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, March 26th, 1954. So here’s the thing about writing a book. It actually takes like, a really long time? And I’m trapped in my room all day, writing and transcribing and listening to myself... I’m feeling a little trapped in here! I wish I could just, like, pack up my laptop and work from Starbucks. But the equipment’s a little bulkier and...

[[SFX: types on typewriter loudly]]

SG: I don’t think my local diner would appreciate the commotion. Anyway. I was on the phone with Roberts, she wanted to confirm the check amount this month. And she mentioned that she might have, like, a gig for me? I dunno. Something to get me out of the house. She said someone she knows in the physics department at the U of Chicago is getting sick, and might need a fill-in through the end of the semester. I asked if they’d ever had a woman teaching in that department before. Roberts couldn’t tell me. So. That’ll be an adventure I guess.

[[SFX: radio tuning; a hallway in the University of Chicago]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, April 5th, 1954. So...  The professor I’m filling in for is Enrico Fermi? Maybe... I.... I mean I know he’s sick but do you think he’d read my book?

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Diary, May 15th, 1954, OHMYGOD he actually read it. Which, I’m just gonna take a second and bask in the joy of Enrico freaking Fermi, the architect of the nuclear age, actually read my book! Hah! Oh man, that was nice.

What he actually said about it... less nice. I mean, he believed me. He worked on the Manhattan Project, of course he’d believe me. He just... wasn’t sure if anyone else would. I admit that it’s a little too much my word against theirs. My kingdom for a Freedom of Information Act.

Well, I’ll keep working on it. Looks like Fermi isn’t gonna come back to school in the fall, so the University will have an opening. A captive audience, hm. Maybe I’ll stick around awhile. Plan out my next move.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, July 24th, 1954. The book’s not really gone anywhere, I mean I passed it out to a few people in the field, Fermi, Feynman, Bohr. Tried to get Einstein a copy, but it’s pretty hard to talk to that guy, as you’d expect. But the rest of them were right. ODAR doesn’t need to quash the story; people are perfectly content to ignore it on their own. I gave another lecture at the bookstore, one or two nibbles, but mostly a wash. These... Ugh! These people! A grand government conspiracy staring them straight in the face and no one wants to worry! No one gets it! Their lives are completely out of their control, I just... I wanna shove this information into their eyeballs and–

[[SFX: radio tuning; Sally driving in the rain]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, September 8th, 1954. I thought it would be better, I thought I could just sink down into the lesson plans and let the details slip out slowly, but... It’s like there’s an itch behind my eyes that won’t go away. Yelled at another student today. In the middle of the lecture. Just shouted right at him. I knew it was wrong, I knew it wouldn’t get me anywhere. I just felt it bubbling up, and I... What is wrong with me?

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, May 13th, 1955. Found out today I probably can’t stick around at the University for another year. To be honest I’m surprised they let me stick around this long. I’ve only got a few lectures left before the end of the semester, and then... it’ll be time to pack up again, I guess.

[[SFX: radio tuning; a classroom]]

STUDENT 1: If yer from the future, what’s going to happen to me?

SG: That’s not how it works! I don’t know everything that happens!

STUDENT 2: Come on Dr. Grissom, why should we believe you?

SG: Listen, the government is messing with  your  history! Not just mine, yours!

STUDENT 3: Well, I don’t remember anything changing!

SG: That’s because... UGH of course you’re not going to remember it!

STUDENT 2: Can you take me back to the future with you?

SG: Were you even listening to me? You can’t travel to the future, you fucking moron!!

STUDENT 1: I can’t wait to travel to my future, getting far away from this class. Come on guys, let’s get out of here.

[[SFX: Students muttering as they leave Sally’s lecture]]

SG: No, guys, come on! I.... ugh.

[[SFX: Sally turns off her overhead projector and puts away papers into her bag]]

JACK WYATT (JW): [from the back of the hall] That went well! I thought you really had them by the end there.

SG: Yeah. Thanks. Go on, class is cancelled today. Maybe we’ll be back tomorrow. Who knows.

JW: ...Is that any way to treat an old friend, Dr. Grissom?

SG: ...Holy shit. Jack Wyatt.

JW: Hi Sally. Long time.

SG: I didn’t even recognize you with the beard! Wyatt. It works for you.

JW: UH, I think you're mistaking me for someone else. It's me, "Scott Palmdale." That's my name. Your old friend, Scott Palmdale. Anyone who can hear this can hear that my real name is Scott Palmdale.

SG: Oh, uh, Scott, uh, Palmdale okay.

[[SFX: radio tuning; a diner]]

SG: How did you even know I was up here?

JW: I heard through the grapevine that some crazy lady teaching physics in Chicago was shouting about traveling through time and government conspiracies. And I figured if ODAR hadn’t shut you down yet, I was probably okay to take a peek.

SG: Yeah, they seem to have called off the dogs. Probably because they knew no one would listen to anyway.

JW: Hey, someone listened long enough that word made it back to me, and these days, I don't see a lot of people.

SG: Yeah, it seems like quite the farm that you and... Jennifer?–

JW: Yeah.

SG: —Have going on out here.

JW: There have been a few up and down years, but it certainly beats our old employer.

SG: And twins, that su... that's uh, that’s exciting, right? Must keep you busy! ...I don’t know, kids are not my thing.

JW: [chuckling] I didn’t peg you for a family woman. But yeah, John and Penelope really are my joy. It’s nice to have something to work for, to make the world a little better for. Instead of just feeling sorry and hurt all the time.

SG: John and Penelope, huh?

JW: ...We uh, we wanted to keep the names in the family. Palmdale’s the third name we’ve used since we left, but it’s all they’ve ever known so they can grow up carefree.

SG: Who else was there?

JW: Well, at first we were Jack and Penny Angstrom. That one barely got us out of Wyoming. We figured first names probably needed to go, too. After that, we were "Lester and Eunice Scrabblemeister."

SG: HAH! The things people will submit themselves to for love...

JW: Yeah, we flew too close to the sun with that one. Apparently, there’s a board game? I dunno.

SG: And now, Palmdale.

JW: Palmdale. [beat] So none of your other ODAR buddies wanted to jump ship with you?

SG: There’s one guy who owes me a road trip, but he had to go off and save the world, or his love, or something. Roberts is out, she’s started her own private thing, I’ve mostly tried to stay clear of–

JW: Esther? Out of ODAR? You got a bridge you wanna sell me, too?

SG: Scout’s honor.

JW: How the hell did Donovan allow that?

SG: Donovan’s dead, my dude. He’s been dead. He died like, right after you left.

JW: Hmmph. Serves him right.

SG: Whickman took over. He got fired too actually, after Roberts’s trial.

JW: Her what?!

SG: Wait, when did you leave ODAR?

JW: ‘47!

SG: So you missed... [mumbles a couple relevant things: “KTNK, Anchorites, Blackroom”] Jeez, everything! Way to get going before the going got weird.

JW: Things got weird? After I left?

SG: You have no idea. Hank Cornish, the Anchorites, the KTNK. After the Soviets kidnapped

JW: [interrupting] What?

SG: –was the last straw, probably. Donovan said I could leave after I won the Great War, and I did that, Jesus, almost a decade ago.

JW: The Great War was the other one. And our friends in Alamogordo won ours.

SG: Well, “tomayto tomayto.” And now I’m here. Shouting it all to a brick fuckin’ wall.

JW: Well. If it’s any consolation. I certainly believe you.

SG: Thanks Wy-... Scott. It’s nice to hear it every once in a while.

JW: But maybe you should try talking to people who want to hear what you’ve got to say about it all? Not just the undergrads who are trying to learn basic physics?

SG: Hmm. Yeah. I’m, um...I'm not really sure why I’m doing that.

JW: ...You ok?

SG: I don’t know. I’ll think about it. It was good to see you.

JW: Yeah, you too. I should probably start heading back. Long drive ahead of me.

[[SFX: Jack stands]]

JW: Hang in there, Sally.

[[SFX: radio tuning; phone line ringing; recording clicks on]]

PETRA MARQUEZ (PM): Ah, hello? Yes, hello, this is Pee Wee Reese calling! Don’t have a full game plan yet for the world series. Did you send those invites out yet? Oh! And do they have those foam fingers this year? The ones that point up and say "#1 Team" or whatever? I’d kill for one of those. Still trying to figure out how I can get my hands on a hot dog cart.

...I know there’s probably an easier way to go about this but man, I really love the full baseball aesthetic. And when a girl retires early, she’s gotta figure out how to fill her time somehow. Haha, fill her time, figured you’d appreciate that of all people. Just like old times.

Anyway, you get any leads on a quality hot dog cart, you let me know. Never thought I’d go this far as a baseball fan but the Yankees are going DOWN this year so we gotta celebrate that in style. Talk to you soon!

[[SFX: voicemail beeps; radio tuning]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, May 24th, 1955. I’ve been thinking a lot about what Wyatt and I talked about, about me kinda... just shouting at anyone who will listen. Why have I been doing that? Why can’t I be smart about it? I was on one track, and then I just... I settled down in Chicago? What was that about?

This weekend I think I really need to sit down and check in with myself. My behavior is... was... has been... pretty erratic. For a long time now, I’ve been bouncing from one thing to the next. City to city, position to position... in ODAR, out of ODAR, back in, back out... I can feel myself doing these things, but I’m not sure if it always makes sense. There are little gaps, little errors in the logic. I haven’t noticed them for a while, but... I dunno. I think this may be a bigger issue than I thought.

I don’t think I wanna go back to an ODAR doctor for a check-up, though. Hmm. I wonder what Maggie Elbourne is up to. Gotta figure out how to track her down.

[[SFX: radio tuning; college cafeteria]]

LOU GAINES (LG): Well, after David died, I realized I had no reason to stay with ODAR. And I saw the way the wind was blowing. I thought it was a good time to leave, after you and Ms. Roberts and anybody else halfway straight started dropping like flies.

SG: Well, I wouldn’t say  strai– Oh, you mean like, morally upstanding? Wow, English is problematic.

LG: I bummed around for a while, but I realized I missed teaching. There’s not a lot of work for a guy like me with a resume like mine, but I found somewhere I can actually make a tangible difference. They have me teaching international relations.

SG: Ooh, fancy. I’m sure you’ve got a lot to say on the topic.

LG: Not a lot that I’m cleared to speak on. So what brings you to the humble Alabama State College? Considering going back to school? You wanna be a teacher?

SG: Actually, I’ve been lecturing at the University of Chicago for about a year now.

LG: No kidding!

SG: Yeah! Well... looks like I might not be cut out for it. They basically fired me.

LG: Hey, I’ve been there, if it makes you feel any better.

SG: They... they may have had a pretty good reason, actually. That’s kinda why I’m here. I’ve got a favor to ask you. It’s not really a big one, but also it’s kind of definitely a big one.

LG: Am I going to regret this?

SG: I need to know where Maggie Elbourne is.

LG: [chuckle] Oh yeah. Gonna regret this.

SG: It’s... I’ve got Butterfly Syndrome. And I mean, I know I had it once before and was mostly cured, back in 49. But it... I think it’s still there. Creeping, underneath the surface. Thoughts, patterns of behavior I can’t quite explain.

LG: Why do you think it’s Butterfly Syndrome, Sally? It could just be you. [beat] I mean, no offense! I just mean that it could be something entirely unrelated.

SG: I dunno, I can just... I feel it. It’s like, I can feel myself making decisions on a whim, and it messes with my sense of continuity, y’know? I feel like I can’t predict my own behavior. And when I sat down and really took a hard look at it... I really dug into myself, I’m not saying I’m trying to shirk the work. But when I looked at it all together, you know what it looks like? It looks like someone who doesn’t know if they’ve already done what they decided to do, so they flit from action to action, because whatever you decide, or don’t... It’s all mixed up. I don’t know what I will or won’t do, so I end up doing anything, or nothing, or even failing to start. It’s gotta be BS. I can just... In my head, Gaines. I can feel it.

LG: When the rest of the Anchorites left, I was sworn to secrecy.

SG: Come on, I’m not asking for the family Barlowe’s secret underground volcano lair. I just need to see Maggie Elbourne. For good reason!

LG: And for good reason, I promised that not a soul within ODAR would ever see them again.

SG: And I’m not in ODAR anymore. Plus, I don’t believe in souls.

LG: ...You really need her?

SG: Unless you want me to go back to ODAR, but I’d really rather not. She’s the only other option. And I’ve gotta know.

LG: [sigh] ...Fine.

[[SFX: Lou flips a page in his notebook and writes down something]]

LG: You’ve got to go alone. You take back roads and if you’re even a little bit suspicious that you’re being followed, you call it off.

SG: Of course.

[[SFX: Lou tears out the piece of paper and gives it to Sally]]

SG: Huh. I never thought she’d end up in █████.

LG: That’s the idea. Keep your damn voice down.

SG: [whispering] Thank you, Gaines. You’re a lifesaver. Literally.

[[SFX: tape recorder stops]]

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[[SFX: tape recorder starts; Sally dives down a dirt road and pulls up to park]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, May 28th, 1955. I finally tracked down Maggie Elbourne. At least, I think I have. Gaines gave me the location off some backwoods road in █████, where I had to drive my car half a mile through some sorta desire path that I’m still not sure I followed right, but here I am, in front of a homey little cabin...

[[SFX: another vehicle approaches from the distance]]

SG: Oh shit. I was followed. Fuck, Gaines was right, I shouldn’t have come here, shit shit shit!

[[SFX: the vehicle pulls up right alongside Sally]]

SG: Wait a second, is that...?

NIKHIL SHARMA (NS): Sally! Hey Sally!

[[SFX: Sally gets out of her car]]

SG: Nikhil?!

NS: What are the odds!

SG: About even, I guess. Elbourne?

NS: No, I got lost on the highway. In █████.

SG: Ugh, get over here.

[[SFX: they hug]]

SG: How’ve you been?

NS: Been better, buddy. How about you?

SG: Yeah, about the same.

[[SFX: Maggie kicks her front door open]]

SG: Whoa!

MAGGIE ELBOURNE (ME): What will you be doing at my house??!

NS: Maggie! It’s okay!

ME: Who the hell were you?

NS: Dr. Nikhil Sharma, at your service, or the opposite, actually–

SG: It’s cool, he’s a friend. Hell, if he was alive at the time he’d be your friend!

NS: Well I actually WAS alive at the time, I just–

SG: Not the time for this.

ME: Will you have been followed?

SG: Not by anyone.

ME: [scoffs]

SG: Except him. It’s okay, Maggie. Just put the bat down. We’re all on the same side.

ME: Says the woman who works at ODAR.

SG: I left ODAR! I’m gone!

NS: We’re not with them anymore.

SG: It’s okay. We just want to come in and talk.

ME: ... Fine.

[[SFX: Maggie retreats into her cabin; Sally and Nikhil follow. A rat scurries across the floor]]

SG: Hmmph. Cozy.

ME: Careful, Pandora. Careful.

NS: Dr. Elbourne, it is truly an honor.

ME: Have we met? Are we meeting? Will we meet?

NS: One of those three. Certainly in another mutation of the timeline.

SG: Nikhil’s with the Anchorites. One of the first, actually.

NS: Well, I really just followed June’s lead from my own time.

ME: I understand... The smell of the future lingers on you, Dr. Sharma.

SG: Thank you for bringing us in.

ME: God, June and Lou will both  promise  to me that I will never... would, never have to participate in your escapades again. I’ll believe that my precise words are: Send me as far away as you can, hide me as deeply as you can. They must not be as capable as they promise.

NS: We wouldn’t have come to you unless it was important, Maggie. We need–

ME: You need the cure for Butterfly Syndrome. Or, at the very least, my help to have solved it.

[[SFX: Maggie begins frantically searching through the cabin for something.]]

SG: Yes, exactly.

ME: You think I’m the final word on Butterfly Syndrome? Don’t you remember? I was the experiment. I may have produced work, but only in the service of Dr. Carling’s research. You’ll have problems? Go find him.

NS: It’s not like that.

SG: We’re not with ODAR. Not anymore.

ME: I knew, I knew... know. I was mad; not at you. I understand that if you sought me and found me, you have few other options, but give an old woman the right to have been grumpy. I’ll be in the middle of a crossword when you’ll arrive.

NS: Maggie, is everything alright?

ME: I’m fine. Searched for something. You’ll appreciate this. Surprised you weren’t here sooner. Where will it be? Where will it be?

SG: Could we help you? Is there any way–

ME: Ah! It is found. Just as prophecy foretold.

[[SFX: She grabs a stack of papers and holds them aloft.]]

NS: Is... is there a prophecy about this?

ME: Anything’s a prophecy if you say it’ll be.

[[SFX: She drops the stack on the kitchen table]]

SG: What’s this?

ME: The answers you seek.

[[SFX: They pull out files and start leafing through]]

NS: This is incredible! Is this how you cure it?

ME: I can only assume. It’s not my work. At least, not yet.

SG: Is that the BS talking, or...?

ME: Two years ago, I received mail. This was odd–for reasons you could expect, I haven’t often get mail. A thick brown envelope stuffed with notes and papers and literature I had written from some iteration of my own future where I will have finished my research. Sally, you’re mentioned in here. Multiple times. I could only presume you assisted in the production of this. For that, I will thank you.

SG: No problem, presumably.

ME: It arrived days before June Barlowe appeared on my doorstep, a delirious Ben Quigley in her arms. We were able to nurse him back to health. I’ll suspect you want the same thing. Someone’s sick, aren’t they?

NS/SG: Yes.

ME: Then take it.

NS: Thank you, you’re a lifesaver. In more ways than one.

ME: You’re not out of the woods yet. Something will be missing that I can’t replicate here.

SG: What do you mean?

ME: This compound, here. I’m not familiar with it.

NS: May I?

[[SFX: Maggie hands over the page]]

NS: Oh, I think this is cortichronopine. It’s a drug, it minimizes erratic neuron growth in the particular ways demonstrated in Butterfly patients.

ME: It’s too complicated for me to synthesize with my own tools.

NS: We make it by the bucketful back there. What a shame.

SG: I mean... how hard would it be to be to get some? In 20█.

NS: Not hard, there’s probably a bottle with more than you need to make as much of this formulation as you want in the medicine chest of any halfway-decent ODAR infirmary.

SG: Easy peezy, Mateo sends it back, we synthesize it or whatever and then he jumps back to arrive after whenever we’ve finished.

ME: Mmm... Every wake the Timepiece leaves will make it harder for your friend to survive long enough to press the button on himself.

SG: Right so, what if you had two Timepieces set to go off simultaneously in his time, one for him, one for the chortichronopine?

NS: They’re highly classified pieces of equipment, Sally. He’s not just going to stroll out with a cart-full!

SG: Hmm.... How long would it take you to assemble the cure if you had the cortichronopine?

ME: Half an hour, perhaps.

SG: Could you do it in five minutes, if you practiced?

NS: I’m nervous about what you’re implying, Sally.

ME: I was too.

SG: Okay, so we get the cure and everything ready, everything except the cortichronopine. You call Mateo back and ask him to grab a bottle on the way. We make the cure and give it to him.

NS: While he’s dying right in front of us.

SG: If he doesn’t die, he’s not really dying, is he?

ME: ...I’ve heard weaker arguments.

NS: Is that really the move, though? That sounds awfully unsafe.

SG: Yeah, I think so, I mean unless you’ve got a better idea. [beat] No seriously, please tell me if you have a better idea. This is a terrible plan.

[[SFX: radio tuning; phone line ringing]]

PM: Sandy Koufax calling! Finally found a decent foam finger factory down south, so we should be all set on that front. Where am I sending them? Hot dog carts are proving to be a little trickier, but it's not like we can just settle for some peanuts and Cracker Jack. 

What... What would those even be? I'll bring it up at the next team meeting I guess.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

NS: Alright, I want you both to go through it with me one more time.

SG: Roger.

ME: I begin prepping the volatile parts of the mixture at 11:53, to be ready for the cortichronopine at noon.

NS: Yes.

SG: At 11:58 you and me stand here, like this.

NS: Mhm.

SG: Mateo appears at exactly noon. You and I catch him, and ease him onto the stretcher. I pull off his jacket and get the cortichronopine from his left breast pocket and pass it to Elbourne, while you administer the sedative. Once he’s down and the cure is locked and loaded, we flip him on his side, and you find a spot on his spine to make the injection, and then mark it with this pen.

ME: I administer the cure, and Bob’s your uncle.

NS: That’s the one.

SG: Alright, this is happening whether we want it to or not. Gears of fate are moving. Let’s get ready.

[[SFX: tape fast-forward; Maggie mixing chemicals]]

NS: Alright, thirty seconds. Maggie, you ready?

ME: I’m on track.

SG:  Three... two... one...

[[SFX: Mateo pops into existence, and Nikhil and Sally catch him.]]

SG: Okay... here we go...

NS: Easy does it, easy does it...

[[SFX: They plop Mateo down onto the stretcher]]

MATEO MORALES (MM): [dazed, shaking] Hey there... hot... stuff...

[[SFX: Sally pulls off his jacket and searches it for the bottle, then gives it to Maggie]]

MM: I’ll get your bottle.

NS: No it's okay Mateo, we got you.

MM: Am I better when I had will... woken up?

NS: You’ll be right as rain. Sweet dreams.

MM: [mumbles]

[[SFX: Maggie mixes up the cure. Nikhil injects Mateo with a sedative, and he passes out.]]

NS: Ready. How are we doing, Maggie?

ME: Coming through!

SG: God I hope this works.

ME: Alright, administering...

[[SFX: Maggie injects Mateo]]

ME: It’s done.

SG: It’s done!

NS: He should be awake in about an hour, and then we’ll know.

ME: And then, it’ll be your turn.

SG: Oh, um... Wow, that looked painful? Do I have to get the shot in the spine? Can I get a lozenge or something haha...

ME: Unfortunately.

SG: Man I did not think that one through.

[[SFX: radio tuning; Maggie and Nikhil chop vegetables in the kitchen.]]

ME: What have you done next?

NS: I have some ideas, about where Mateo and I will go.

ME: Or when you are going?

NS: Do you actually want to know?

ME: I’d suppose not.

NS: Are you... are you going to take the injection? The whole butterfly booster thing?

ME: Still thinking. I’m got used to this by now but... thinking.

NS: But after we all leave, who will–

ME: I figured it out, don’t worrying.

[[SFX: Sally enters.]]

SG: Speaking on the level, spinal injections are a son of a gun.

NS: Here you go.

[[SFX: Nikhil hands Sally a pill bottle]]

SG: What are these?

NS: Antibiotics. You just had a foreign object inserted into your backbone in somebody’s kitchen, I’d like to avoid you dying of infection.

SG: Y’know, this willy nilly prescription of antibiotics is why we had resistance in my time.

NS: Just swallow the pills, Sally.

[[SFX: Sally swallows the pills.]]

SG: Where’s Mateo?

[[SFX: Mateo enters from outside]]

MM: Y’know, they always talk about which came first, the chicken or the egg. You know who I think it was?

NS: Which?

MM: The rooster! [laughs]

SG: Ew, gross!

[[SFX: Phone rings in another room.]]

ME: Uh... Excuse me.

[[SFX: Maggie leaves, Nikhil takes up chopping.]]

MM: How’re you feeling Sally? Any lingering flutters of Butterfly Syndrome?

SG: Not so far.

NS: Gross fact: it got its name because it causes these lesions on your brain that look like butterflies—

[[SFX: Maggie then reenters.]]

ME: Dr. Sharma... phone for you.

NS: That’s... odd.

SG: ...Well, I mean, they already know you’re here, right? No harm in picking it up and seeing what they want.

NS: I suppose not. Excuse me, I guess.

[[SFX: Nikhil leaves; Maggie pours the vegetables into a hot pan]]

SG: You know, one time, I tried to cook a whole holiday dinner instantly using a CAGE.

MM: And how did that turn out.

ME: Burning the room down?

SG: It was a warehouse, thank you very much... I had to sprint to the fire extinguisher.

MM: [laughs]

[[SFX: More cooking.]]

SG: So, who do you think Nikhil is talking to? Elbourne, I thought you’d want to avoid a phone line entirely, "Big Brother is listening" and all that?

ME: I haven’t had a brother and it was for emergencies only. I’ll have a feeling Nikhil’s caller believes they have one.

MM: Not to sound like a pompous asshole but isn’t everyone Nikhil cares about... here?

SG: [realizing] Oh shit.

NS: [voice rising from the other room] You’re sentencing them to a cruel, senseless death!

MM: LeMartine finally found us?

SG: Possibly worse...

[[SFX: Nikhil slams the phone. Quiet, only the sounds of cooking. Nikhil re-enters.]]

MM: What was that about?

NS: What? Nothing, nothing. Is the food almost done? Smells amazing.

SG: It was Petra, wasn’t it. She’s still throwing bombs?

NS: ...To put it lightly. Her whole plan.... She was still hoping I’d want to be a part of it but... She had more sense when she was a child!

MM: Did you tell her what we–

NS: Yes, yes, she was having none of it. She’s so... fixated, it’s impossible to budge her. We may have to move sooner than we planned, Mateo.

SG: About that. I know y’all have some big move planned, and I don’t wanna step on any toes, but... without the specter of brain damage hanging over me, I have a lot more room to plan a big move of my own. And I need to get started.

NS: It sounds like you’re planning to jump back. Pretty far, I’d wager.

SG: I’m gonna go... where I’m gonna go. But I want you guys to keep doing what you’re doing with the archive. Broadcasting this, all of this that’s happened. It’s way easier on lil ol’ me than my tragical mystery tour.

MM: Nikhil... if she’s planning a mission that might interfere with ours...

NS: I know. Ripple isolation protocol.

SG: Ripple what?

NS: It means that for the success of both of our missions... we should try to complete them in a fashion that won’t negate each other. And since we’re only trying to find an Outpost, well... They have Outposts in some pretty remote places.

MM: It means that, for the sake of both of us, this should be the last contact we can ever have with you, Dr. Grissom. I’m sorry.

SG: Well, then I guess this is... You know what? We’ve said goodbye enough already. This time I just want to say: Good luck.

NS: Good luck, Sally. You might need it.

ME: How sweet. But I’d like to avoid the wrath of Petra as long as humanly possible, and I’m not going into hiding so you all could brought the trouble to me. So, here’s what we’ve done. We finish cooking and then sat down and eat this very nice meal that I will graciously sharing with you all. Once that is finishing, you all can left and scheming elsewhere.

SG: To be fair, I was not intentionally involved in any–

ME: Sally!

SG: Nope, got it, you’re right, we eat and then it’s back in the great wide world, got it.

MM: Shall I plate the vegetables?

[[SFX: radio tuning; phone line ringing]]

PM: Hey, Duke Snider here. Got an RSVP no on the invite. Really bummed he won’t be joining us for the world series. But them’s the brakes. Got your message about the foam fingers, gotta get the address to send them to. Relieved the feelers for the hot dog cart paid off.

[[SFX: radio tuning; a laboratory]]

SG: Quantum Dynamics & Mechanics?

ER: It’s accurate, but doesn’t draw attention.

SG: It’s a mouthful, is what it is. And there’s no good acronym there. QDAM? I mean, what even is that?

ER: If only you’d been here when we printed the letterhead. Thanks for coming all the way out to meet me.

SG: Of course, Roberts. It’s a nice place you’ve got here.

ER: There’s not much here yet. But it’s mine. Ours.

SG: Yeah, how is that going?

ER: It’s hard, but Birdie and I are making it work.

SG: Hey, that’s the spirit! Don’t let institutional homophobia get you down.

ER: That’s why I built my own institution. Well, am building. Honestly, I’ve come across a lot more roadblocks being a woman, than a sly one. I’ve had to get Ted Chambers to talk to half a dozen different contractors for me because God forbid a woman have opinions on manufacturing specifications. Please tell me it was better in the future?

SG: Ehh...

ER: What an exciting century it’s going to be.

SG: Hey, my future’s been unwritten. We’ve got a shot. That’s why you want a place like this, right?

ER: I see your point, but I don’t like the odds.

SG: Me too, Roberts, me too.

ER: I’m worried.

SG: About the future of sexism in the first world?

ER: About Petra.

SG: Oh, yeah. I’m worried too. I ran into Nikhil a few weeks ago. He hasn’t seen her, and I guess they’re not exactly on great terms.

ER: She’s still mad about what we gave up to end hostilities with KTNK.

SG: Of course she is. What happened to her was barbaric, and you empowered more people to do the exact same thing. Honestly, she’d be as mad if you gave it to the Soviets as she would if you gave it to General Electric.

ER: I know, but she doesn’t understand the pressure I was under! There were extenuating cir... you know what, I’m not going to do this. She’s mad, it’s my fault. I can’t help that.

SG: I’m proud of you. That’s growth.

ER: I’ve heard things. Whispers through the grapevine. I think she’s planning something big.

SG: Big? There’s only one of her. How big could it be?

ER: And one Petra becomes two, who become four, who become sixteen. There are more of her. And they’re angry. She’s been sighted in Point-of-Exile, Huntsville AL, and Murmansk.

SG: What is she doing?

ER: Huntsville is where the Army’s ballistic missile program is located, Murmansk is the city where KTNK was building the first usable WELT.

SG: Well, fuck!

ER: That’s about what I said.

SG: I’ve got to find her and talk to her. One of her, at least. She’s going to take this way too far!

ER: I recommend you don’t. The last time we spoke, it was with a gun in my face.

SG: She’s not going to stop otherwise.

ER: I agree, but I don’t think you’ll help much. She’s not too fond of you, either.

SG: Well, you’re not wrong there.

ER: She’s going to do something bad, and there’s going to be fallout. But I want to be ready for it. And I want you there to build that with me.

SG: What, you wanna bid on rebuilding DC after she flattens it?

ER: I’m not trying to profit from misery here, Sally. But you could do good here. With me.

SG: That’s not my path, and I don’t want to disappear into an organization again. Not here. Not like this.

ER: What’ll you do, then?

SG: Well... once I’ve recovered all the way... I’m going to do the one thing you can’t.

ER: And what is that?

[[SFX: radio tuning; phone line ringing]]

PM: Pee-Wee here... ugh dropping the code names. It’s Petra prime and I’m at the facility. Thanks team, for everything that you’ve done. I know that’s... well it’s basically self-congratulatory but I mean it! We really pushed the boundaries of what we could do, what our brains could handle. The rocket, the WELT, the Timepieces. A ton of coordination. I’m proud of us. I know this voicemail doesn’t mean much considering as soon as I push the metaphorical "big red button," everything changes for you but... thank you. Anyway. For everything. You all made strapping a time-bomb to a rocket look easy. Adios mother-fuckers.

[[SFX: Timepiece; radio tuning]]

SG:  This is the audio diary of Dr. Sally Grissom. They tell me the date is October 29th, 1943. But the weird part is.... I don’t think it’s the history I came from.

[[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 34: Path features –

Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Lia Peros (Petra Marquez)
L. Jeffrey Moore (Lou Gaines)

Zach Ehrlich (Jack Wyatt)
Lauren Shippen (Maggie Elbourne)
Arjun Gupta (Nikhil Sharma)
Bernardo Cubria (Mateo Morales)
Eric Silver, Michael Fisché, Brandon Grugle (additional voices)
with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson.

Original music by Mischa Stanton and by Eno Freedman-Brodmann.

ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by Hims, ZipRecruiter, and The Internet: Ew, man, ugh. Gross.

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