04: Bullet

written by Daniel Manning
produced by Mischa Stanton
[PT-BR]

[[SFX: tape recorder start]]

SALLY GRISSOM (SG): I would have thought that two years living in Polvo would have left me jaded. That nothing could surprise me anymore. God, I’m still having trouble putting it all together in my head. I guess I should start from the beginning. One of the superconductive coils had cracked during a power cycling test. Roberts and Wyatt were both off-site for personal reasons, so I had signed Barlowe over to my team for an extra set of hands. We were replacing the coil and Barlowe was—dammit. I didn’t do the intro thing, did I? I’m just gonna start over. Diary of Sally Grissom, September 21, 1945. I would have thought that...

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: —So Donovan asks me, he says, “Electric guitars give me a headache. Don’t you go deaf, all that racket?” But it’s not about preserving your hearing, man, it’s about feeling the music– hand me those pliers, would you?

QUENTIN BARLOWE (QB): Okay. Can you show me what you’re doing here? Is this how you arrange the–

SG: Yeah just— back up a little.

QB: Sorry.

SG: Thanks. And so I tell him, it’s about letting it drown out your consciousness, letting your emotions out, letting that inner animal take hold of you—

[[SFX: static distortion; bullet through time; Quentin falls the to floor]]

—which he finds utterly ridiculous. I think he was almost offended. “Self-control is a virtue,” he says. “to which we all must strive.” Does that guy ever loosen his tie? I mean, come on. Hey Barlowe, do you remember what degree we set the drift response to? Barlowe? Oh wait, I got it. It’s 53.7 degrees. How could I forget 8 times the square root of 45? Anyway, I know we’re a science community, and we're all dedicated to logic and knowledge, but everyone’s gotta let off steam once in awhile, right? ...Right? Barlowe? Hey, are you ok—OW!

[[SFX: Sally hits her head on the Timepiece]]

SG: After my vision cleared, I called the medics, but Barlowe was gone by the time they got there. More importantly, my team was down another member, the Timepiece was still broken, and apparently it kills people now. That’s cool. Was it something I did to the machine? I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I moved some spring that shot out at him or I triggered some previously-unknown death ray function. I don’t know, accidentally inventing things tends not to work out for me.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

CHET WHICKMAN (CW): And you didn’t see or hear anyone else come in?

SG: No, sir. My head was under the Timepiece.

CW: So you didn’t actually see the infliction of Quentin’s mortal blow.

SG: Didn’t see the–what? No.

CW: Why don’t you tell me what you did see, then.

SG: I don’t know, we were working on the prototype, and I looked up and he was bleeding on the floor.

CW: And how long had Quentin been working here with you?

SG: Today was the first day. Roberts is in New York with her mother, and Wyatt is visiting a processing plant for one of the materials we need. I filed the paperwork two weeks ago. You must have seen it.

CW: And of course, you didn’t shoot him, right?

SG: No, of course I wouldn’t... wait–shoot him?

CW: Not even accidentally?

SG: No, I–shot him? We were in here troubleshooting, all the doors were sealed! We don’t even have a gun in here! How could he have been shot?

CW: That’s all I’m trying to find out, Sally. So you tell me. You were there.

SG: That’s all that happened was. I turned to see him and I hit my head, and I was out cold until I called the medics. Barlowe was really shot? I thought he got hit by a part that flew off the machine, or something.

[[SFX: Chet opens a folder]]

CW: Our coroner pulled a forty-five round out of Quentin’s chest. He tells me it was fired from your garden-variety 1911.

SG: A pistol? There was no one close enough to hit him but me. Hell, there was no one else in here but… oh.

CW: You see why I’m asking you all of these questions.

SG: I didn’t shoot him. Come on. That’s not funny. You know I didn’t.

CW: Then the only other explanation I can think of is a magic bullet.

SG: Chet, tell me you know I didn’t shoot him.

CW: The body of one of our own in the morgue, and I don’t even know what to tell his wife.

SG: Barlowe was married?

CW: Yeah, to June? For about two years?

SG: Oh. I didn’t know.

CW: You’ve met them. A bunch of times. We’ve both been at parties with them together.

SG: Oh... Yeah, I suppose we have.

CW: Can you give me anything I can tell her?

SG: Like what?

CW: I don’t know. A perfectly good explanation for all of this.

SG: Perfectly good isn’t how things work around here. You know that.

CW: Then give me something else. Anything else.

SG: I... I don’t have anything to say. But I will find out what happened.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, Sunday, September 16, 1945. I just got back from Quentin Barlowe’s funeral. It was... Solemn’s not really the right word. I mean, on the scale of social gatherings, funerals are the polar opposite of, say, soccer matches. But this one was... It just felt... awkward? See, none of us really knew Barlowe very well at all. Not even Partridge had much to say about his own lab assistant.

[[SFX: radio tuning; outdoors]]

ANTHONY PARTRIDGE: I’ve worked with Quentin for the better part of a year now. He... Was a reserved man. Quiet. But always dedicated. His record-keeping skills were fantastic, and I never once doubted his ability to... do.... science. He struck me as a man who lived in his head a lot. I didn’t know what he thought of what we were doing. But he kept doing it, so he must have believed in it.

PRIEST: Thank you Dr. Partridge. Would anyone else like to speak?

ESTHER ROBERTS: [in distance] I will. [walks up to microphone] Quentin was a kind man. Always courteous. Always just wanted to be out of everyone’s way. I wish he had been more in the way. I wish I had seen him more.

PRIEST: That was lovely, Dr. Roberts, thank you. Anyone else?

SG: Um... I was the last person to see Bar... Quentin alive. He was helping me in my lab. He... I didn’t know him very well. He seemed... Nosy. While we were working that day, he was always over my shoulder. I guess that means he was... A dedicated seeker of knowledge? I don’t... I’m sorry. I found him off-putting and a little bit creepy. He was standing so close to me I’m surprised I wasn’t hit instead of him. I’m sorry for your loss, June.

PRIEST: Well... Thank you for speaking from the heart, Dr. Grissom. I’m sure we all appreciate it. I believe Mrs. Barlowe is ready now, with a few words of her own?

[[SFX: June storms off, crowd gasps]]

PRIEST: Mrs. Barlowe?

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: It was a train wreck. I don’t know what they wanted me to say. Maybe that I always valued the way Barlowe never stole my lunch? Or that his death was especially interesting, from a scientific perspective?

...Oh man, was dying the most interesting thing Quentin Barlowe ever did? That’s dark.

But I’m sure he had family, or friends, or something, right? Everyone’s got a backstory. Everyone’s a person. But all through the speech, June Barlowe just glared at me with this seething, boiling, laser-focused anger. She stared through my soul.

You know the feeling, where you’re at a party, and you’re trying to talk to someone about a miserly uncle over the din, when Smash Mouth abruptly stops blaring from the speakers, and you’re in the middle of saying a word that sounds like a particularly offensive slur out of context, and everyone stops what they’re doing, and turns to stare daggers at you, and anything you say past that point would only serve to make the situation worse, so you stand there dumbly, slack- jawed, terrified of saying anything more, and nobody’s said anything in the past 25 seconds, and the exit is at the other end of the room so there’s no way to escape? That’s the kind of stare it was.

After the performance of my one-woman show–“Sally Bombs at the Funeral”–I slunk down into my seat among the rows of black-clad scientists. I thought my punishment from June Barlowe was over, but as we filed out, I saw her near the houses and she stared daggers at me the entire time I passed. I got out of there as fast as I could and rushed home. I know June wasn’t going to hurt me, but I might have hid in the corner of my bedroom enshrouded in blankets for an hour or so... Just to be safe.

You know what? I’m going to prove it. I’m going to figure out how he died so they can see it wasn’t my fault. I just need to build... Something. Something to see what really happened.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: Dr. Sally Grissom, experiment log, time is uh, 2:57 AM, on Thursday already, damn. Thursday, September 20, 1945. So this is the first trial of the Tachyon Activity Projector— the TAP. I made it from an array node, an oscilloscope, and a cathode ray tube I borrowed from another project. Well, I say borrowed... I wonder if they’ve noticed. I’ll tell them... I dunno. I’ll tell them it was for science. So what I have here is a system that scans for tachyon activity...

[[SFX: static distortion]]

SG: ...amplifies that light, and reproduces it on this display. In effect, it allows you to see into the past. At least, I think it does. I’ve spent the last sixty-seven hours in the realm of theory and then inhaling a whole lot of solder fumes, so it’s time to put on my big scientist goggles and try this sucker out. I hope this works. I’d hate to end up back in Philadelphia.

[[SFX: TAP turns on]]

SG: All right, still here, still in one piece, good signs. Picture coming into focus. And... Wow. There it is. I have it set to about ten minutes ago. There’s a surprisingly vivid image of me, grabbing tools from the bench. Weird. But also AMAZINGLY cool.

[[SFX: cart rolls]]

SG: So this thing is location-locked, because it uses Timepiece’s stabilization models. It took some high-falutin’ arithmetic to sync all this stuff with planetary motion, and I didn’t want to spend months with new calculations so I just sorta... Plugged it right in. Literally. Point is, I can only see wherever the cart is, and that’s attached to the Timepiece, because anchor field inhibitor arrays don’t grow on trees.

Okay well... I’m convinced. TAP: total success. Now I’ve just gotta get Whickman down here—

[[SFX: tape fast-forward]]

CW: Wait a minute Doc. So you’re telling me you built a window through time.... Out of a television?

SG: The way I see it, if you’re going to look into the past, you might as well do it with some style. I had to crack open the Timepiece and plug this thing in, so you might wanna be carfu—

[[SFX: Chet turns on the screen]]

SG: And hey, look at that, it’s on.

CW: This shows what’s in front of us. But in the past?

SG: 7:27 AM. That’s when I came in this morning. You can see me opening the door right over there.

CW: I would have been in my kitchen drinking coffee... This is going to change everything. About surveillance, about communication. Everything.

SG: Can you keep this under wraps? At least for a little while. Give me time to make sure this isn’t too disastrous in the wrong hands. Or the right hands. Anyone’s hands.

CW: That’s breaking about a half-dozen regulations. You really need to stop asking me to sit on all of your secrets.

SG: Well, you should stop... being in a position to be... secret- ed on.

CW: Secreted on? Sally, that's disgusting.

SG: (sarcastic) Real funny guy.

CW: If this thing does what you’re saying, then surveillance systems would be a distant memory. Who needs a live transmission when you can just watch the past happen?

SG: Well, it routes tachyon responses through the Timepiece, so you need to be within a cable length’s distance. And besides, I’m not sure I’m okay with the government having eyes on everything that’s ever happened after 1943.

CW: I don’t mind. I’ve got nothing to hide.

SG: That’s what they always say. No one’s got anything to hide until Big Brother’s got a time machine.

CW: Big what-now?

SG: Jesus, you all haven’t read Nineteen Eighty-Four yet? What are you, cave people?

CW: I’m sorry, I feel like I’ve missed something.

SG: There’s a–just... if you see an author named Orwell next time you’re in a bookstore, pick it up. And you think I’m prescient... you want to see what happened to Barlowe or not?

CW: I’m anxious to see your little gizmo work its magic.

SG: And then you'll clear me for Barlowe's death.

CW: [laughs] Doc, you never seriously thought you were on the hook for that, did you?

SG: No, I.... wait, what now?

CW: I knew you didn't kill Dr. Barlowe when you told me so. You're not dumb enough to tell a lie like that outright. And besides, if we really suspected you... I don’t know if this conversation would be so friendly. Are you telling me you made all of this because you thought we suspected you of murder?

SG: Well... maybe a little bit. A teeny bit. Stayed up three nights in a row. No big deal.

CW: Just, take me to the scene of the crime, and then you should get some sleep.

[[SFX: Sally tunes the TAP to the right time]]

SG: Alright, I'm tuning to to last Friday. What was the time? As best we know. I know it was late morning but I wasn't checking my watch when Barlowe hit the floor.

CW: Based on your testimony, medical evidence, and our own investigation, we figure it happened around 11:34. Man, what'd I'd do to have a visual record of any place at any time. And I thought closed-circuit TV was fancy. Does this thing do sound too?

SG: Whickman, just getting a picture was hard enough. Dream a little smaller.

CW: Hey, I’m just security. What do I know about your science-doodads?

[[SFX: fine-tuning the TAP]]

SG: Okay, I’m starting after the event and going backwards– there’s the paramedics rushing Barlowe’s body into the lab, then putting him down and leaving, there’s me calling them telling them not to return, I’m screaming then returning to work, the pool of blood sucks back into Barlowe–

CW: I get it, Doc. You’re playing it backwards. Skip to the end.

SG: Okay, here it is. Going forward a second at a time, Barlowe’s standing there, Barlowe’s standing there, he’s falling to the ground.

CW: I hope I don’t have that look on my face when I die.

SG: ...Don’t get shot by a bullet coming out of nowhere?

CW: I’ll put that on the agenda. Can we get anything more precise?

SG: I’ll tick back a tenth of a second at a time.

[[SFX: the TAP clicks as if it were changing slides.]]

CW: Wait— there. That’s the bullet. Turn the cart around. Where was it fired from?

[[SFX: Cart moving]]

SG: It looks like... Thin air.

CW: Keep going back.

[[SFX: click click]]

SG: And then it... disappears.

CW: How does that even happen?

SG: I’m going to tune it as precisely as I can get with this prototype. We’re getting into microseconds.

[[SFX: there’s just a bunch of clicking, you get the idea]]

SG: It’s there, then it isn’t. [click] There, [click] not there.

CW: But where did it come from? I don’t believe that bullets just materialize out of thin air. Not yet anyway. Did your machine do this?

SG: Probably.

CW: But the bullet comes through at full speed! Someone had to have fired it. right?

SG: Hell if I know. My box only looks into the past. If the bullet really did come from a Timepiece activation, it would have been fired from the future, relative to last Friday. Plus, Barlowe’s death caused changes in the timeline... there’s no way to know when the original bullet is from, or what circumstances led to its being fired.

CW: You’re saying that we’ve got no idea?

SG: As far as the fantastically theoretical scientific principles I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants with for the past two years, yes. I mean, we know where, because the Timepiece doesn’t move anything in space, but that’s all I could really tell you. Anything else is detective work. Time detective work.

CW: What now?

SG: Well, I know it isn’t up to me, but I think we should try to keep whoever shoots the bullet that hits Barlowe from shooting the bullet that hits Barlowe. If they even still want to.

CW: But we can’t know who it was before the crime even happens.

SG: It’s certainly more difficult than your average murder.

CW: So... that’s it? We go home and hope no one commits a murder that we can’t solve?

SG: Unfortunately.

CW: That feels so wrong... It feels like giving up. I hate this.

SG: Also, we could probably search any staff coming close to the test site for guns.

CW: Protocol requires all security personnel to carry a service pistol whenever they’re on duty. I'm armed right now.

SG: Aren’t you breaking a half-dozen rules just by being here? CW: You’re right, but I’m certainly not going to be the one to shoot Dr. Barlowe.

SG: No guns means Barlowe can’t get shot.

CW: Something that already happened.

SG: Well, if you’re going to insist on looking at it so linearly...

CW: You’re saying if we ban guns from the facility it’ll, what? Bring him back to life?

SG: Not a snowball’s chance, but some other version of Barlowe might yet survive.

CW: But then, of course, you’d never build your time-TV in response.

SG: You see how that line of reasoning quickly spirals out of control. Look, either Barlowe gets shot, or he doesn’t. Either way, from our perspective, he’s dead. My solution keeps him alive, somewhere in spacetime. No guns, no bullets, no one gets shot.

CW: Which one’s the cause, and which the effect?

SG: My problem is I keep facing them in the wrong order.

CW: You’re a tough woman to work with, Doc. My head’s spinning.

SG: Join the club.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: So we found that we had no idea who shot Barlowe. The bullet came out of nowhere, so all we could figure was that it came from the future. Oh right! Note to self. New idea: Time Detective. Anyway, so I had been alone in the lab for a few hours after Whickman left because I had still had questions that needed answering.

[[SFX: radio tuning; TAP running, cart rolling]]

SG: So I’m under the Timepiece there, and Barlowe is here, so the shot came from... Hey, what’s that—

[[SFX: hangar door opens, closes]]

SG: Hello?

[[SFX: footsteps]]

SG: You know I can hear you, right? I’m not really down for the “dramatic entrance” game.

JUNE BARLOWE (JB): It’s time we had a chat, Sally.

SG: Wha-OW!

[[SFX: Sally hits her head on the Timepiece again. Comedy.]]

SG: June Barlowe! I-goddammit, every damn time! Who let you in here?

JB: I let myself in.

SG: I, uh, take it this isn’t social call?

JB: Can I tell you what showed up on my doorstep this morning?

SG: Milk? Old cousin? Lost puppy? Some fourth thing before you inevitably tell me anyway?

JB: It was a letter and a package. The letter, straight from the Director’s desk, informed me that I would 48 hours to vacate my home here in Polvo. Without Quentin, evidently I have no right to continue living here. No one said a single word to my face. The doorbell rang, and that was that. The package contained keys to a new house, three hundred dollars, and all the papers I could ever need, preparing me for my new life.

SG: Your new life?

JB: They’re making me take on a new identity. It’s for my “protection.” No one really does leave Polvo, they take severance seriously here. I’m now Alice Hayworth of Carlsbad, New Mexico. Have you ever been to Carlsbad, Sally?

SG: I... I can’t say that I have.

JB: Neither have I! I’m sure it’s a lovely town. Alice Hayworth loves it there, but I’m not so sure about myself!

SG: I don’t know where you’re going with this. What does this have to do with me?

JB: You? You killed my husband! You killed the man I shared the two happiest years of my life with, and now your operation is taking away my own name!

SG: Okay, hold on just a second. One, I didn’t kill your husband, not by a long shot. And two, please don’t ever think that ODAR is “my operation.”

JB: Don’t lie to me, Sally, please. There was no one else in the room. You shot my husband in cold blood. And now I’m being sent away to cover up your crimes.

SG: No! That wasn’t how it went down at all!

JB: It’s not? Then what was going on, Sally? What, were you sleeping with him?

SG: Whoa! Not even. June, you need to calm down.

JB: What are you doing here, Sally? Do you think I’m stupid? I’m just another face in the crowd to you.

SG: No, you’re... you’re June! You’re part of the town. You’re...

JB: Say anything. Say one thing you know about me. Hell, say something about Quentin.

SG: Well, you made great mushroom canapés at the 4th of July party–

JB: You shut the fuck up right now. Is that what you think of me? You define me by the food I make? I don’t even cook that often. You think I’m some disposable housewife! You don’t care about people like me!

SG: June, I don’t think like that! I’m so sorry about what happened to Quentin. But I wasn’t sleeping with him. And I certainly didn’t kill him.

JB: You can lie all you want, Sally. It doesn’t matter what you say, because you’re going to make this right.

SG: That’s fine! I can talk to Donovan. I’m sure we’ll be able to work things out. You won’t have to change your identity, you can stay in Polvo, close to... Close to your husband.

JB: No, we’re going to fix this. You and me. Here and now. With your time machine.

SG: [stammers] No, why would you–That’s not a–What are you talking about–

JB: You really do think I’m stupid, don’t you? I know what Quentin was working on. I was married to the man. I know what this thing is supposed to do. You call it the Timepiece, I call it a Wells knockoff.

SG: Come on, that’s not fair. His machine went in the other direction.

JB: They went back at the end okay, just shut up! And you’re going to take this machine and you’re going to go back to last week and you’re going to fix what you broke.

SG: I can’t just take a jaunty little ride to last week.The Timepiece is barely operational. Hell, it was broken when Quentin...

JB: When Quentin what?

SG: I don’t know if living tissue can make it through the process as it currently stands. And even if I did go back, I don’t know how I’d stop whatever happened.

JB: Well, you were there, you tell me.

SG: That’s what I’m saying! I was literally there! Who knows what would happen if two of me were in the same place at the same time? Here, look!

[[SFX: Sally tunes the TAP to Quentin’s death, rolls cart]]

SG: See, this is your husband, right before he died. This machine shows you the past. He’s right there, and I’m right there, working under the prototype. How the hell could I have shot him?

JB: How is that... Even if you didn’t, you’re responsible for fixing it.

SG: I’m sorry June, but I can’t do that.

JB: Can’t, or won’t?

SG: Either? Both?

JB: I guess if coercion doesn’t work, then threats of violence might.

[[SFX: June pulls out a gun and cocks it]]

SG: June, don’t. Please, just put that away. You’re going to—

JB: You’re going to turn on the machine, you’re going to take us back to last week, and you and I both are going to go save my husband. Or I could shoot you dead, right here, right now. It’s your choice.

SG: Let’s step away from the machine, put down the gun, and talk about this for a second. You don’t know what you’re doing.

JB: I swear to God, you send us back there right now or I will put a round in your chest!

SG: Listen–what happened is what’s happened. How can you live when the past is just as uncertain as the future! I’m no more an arbiter of life and death than you–

JB: But you are! You’ve built this thing that promises to fix what once was broken, and you just let it sit there? Too afraid to do anything with that power, because you’re afraid that one day you might regret it? You’ve got causality in the palm of your hand and you’re flaunting your mastery over it every second that you spend with your theories and papers.

SG: Uh, I think the word you meant was flouting.

JB: WHY CAN’T YOU TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY!

[[SFX: June fires; the bullet travels back in time]]

SG: ...Oh no. Oh man, I’m gonna be sick.

JB: I just shot you. I just shot you. Where did the bullet go?

SG: Watch the monitor.

[SFX: Sally clicks the TAP]]

JB: What? But that isn’t... it’s not...

[[SFX: Chet enters; June collapses to the floor crying]]

JB: I can’t… I can’t...

CW: Sally?

SG: Seconds too late, Officer Whickman. Or right on time, depending how you look at it.

CW: What happened in here?

SG: Remember when we were talking earlier about causes and effects?

CW: How do you mean?

SG: She did it. She shot her own husband.

CW: What?

[[SFX: Chet takes the gun]]

CW: How did she even get this in here?

SG: She just wanted her husband back. And now she’s why he’s gone in the first place.

CW: It’s hubris.

SG: No, hubris is for kings. The rest of us just get cruel irony.

[[SFX: radio tuning]]

SG: [sigh] It’s a common misconception that in moments of extreme stress, time slows down. It’s true that your amygdala triggers a response in your hypothalamus, causing a rush of epinephrine from your adrenal gland, but that’s been shown to be something of an illusion. You only experience the event as slower through the foggy haze of memory. But I watched June Barlowe’s gun fire the bullet that I had spent days searching for. I vividly remember the slug spin out of the barrel as the gunpowder explosion propelled it directly at my face. And for a brief moment, I forgot about the Timepiece, about Quentin Barlowe and Polvo and 1945. And I felt fear. And as the ambient Higgs inhibitor field that the TAP used pulled the bullet away into last week, the fear dissipated and turned into a pit in my gut, left me helpless but to watch the tragedy that I thought I had been trying to prevent, not prove. But it saved my life. I just can't believe this is the first time someone has tried to kill me for being a smartass.

By all estimation, it’s an event loop now. Quentin is shot by June’s bullet. I invent the TAP, setting up the conditions for the grieving widow Barlowe to come in and cause her own undoing. But after all of that, there’s still one thing I’m not sure about. Who fired the first bullet? I get that June makes the situation recursive, but the first bullet had no reason to be there. There was some timeline where Barlowe didn’t die a week ago, and the round came from somewhere else. Somewhen else, sorry. But I don’t think we’ll ever know. I don’t think we’ll get that version. That’s going to bother me forever.

[[SFX: radio tuning; Timepiece running]]

CW: Excuse me, Dr. Barlowe?

QB: Officer Whickman, how can I help you?

CW: I’m real sorry about this, Quentin, but I’m gonna need to ask you a few questions.

QB: Ask away.

CW: Well, they’re a little personal.

QB: What do you mean, personal?

CW: Dr. Barlowe, what was the name of the first girl you ever kissed?

QB: June. You know June.

CW: No, I don’t mean–well, you know. I’m talking first grade stuff. Just the name.

QB: I don’t know what you’re insinuating, but I’ve never had anything with anyone other than her.

CW: That’s fine. I just need to ask some questions.

QB: If you want an itemized list of every girl I’ve ever walked home—

CW: When you were a kid, which kid did you hate the most in your school?

QB: Which kid did what?

CW: You know, the guy you hated in your class more than anything else. Hated his guts. The source of the grudge was long forgotten–he threw you under the bus, or maybe you threw him: it doesn’t matter. Everything he says and does is just vile...

QB: Are you asking about my childhood feuds?

CW: Who is that for you? It’s fine, everyone’s got one. Just spit it out. You don’t need to hesitate—

QB: Darren Little. Man, I haven’t thought about how much I hate that kid in decades. He was in my class with me, what was it, third grade? He was a terrible kid. Used to try to trip me whenever I walked past his seat. Man, I really wish ill on an nine-year-old...

CW: And what school were you attending when you knew Darren? Shouldn’t be too difficult. You must remember the name of your elementary school, right?

QB: Uh, let me think, the name of it was, um...

CW: I figured. When I was reassigned to Polvo, I thought it would be time to update everyone’s security clearance. Then I got to you.

QB: Look, I don’t know what you’re getting at–

CW: Quentin Barlowe doesn’t exist. I’ve got to hand it to you, this kind of work is special. You’ve got tax forms, academic transcripts, your CV was thorough to a fault. But papers don’t make the person; you didn’t exist before 1943.

QB: I told you people when I got the job here–there was a fire, my childhood home–

CW: Oh yes, I made sure to check that. There wasn’t a single house fire matching the description you gave anywhere in the Evanston, Illinois area. And I looked around at the schools you claim to have attended. No record of any Quentin Barlowes. I even tracked every Barlowe and every Quentin I could find, just to make sure. You underestimated my thoroughness. You underestimated our thoroughness. Was the wife a plant, too?

QB: No, June is real! Whickman, you need to listen to me very carefully. This isn’t what it looks like.

CW: It looks to me like you’re a spy.

[[SFX: Chet cocks his sidearm]]

QB: Hey, hey, no need to get crazy about this, okay?

CW: Who are you with? The Japs? The Krauts? Or have the Russians turned on us already?

QB: I’m not with any of them! I’m with you! Officer Whickman, please, you have to believe me! Okay, I lied to you about my past. About where I’m from. But I swear to God and Jesus and all the nonsense upstairs that I am not working for anybody else. I am an ODAR man, through and through. I’m on your side!

CW: I... I believe you.

QB: ...You do? Really?

CW: You sound sincere. I’ve got a sense for these things.

QB: Oh, thank you! Thank you!

CW: But I’ve also got my orders.

[[SFX: Chet fires two shots; one hits Quentin, one travels in time; Quentin groans, falls to the ground]]

CW: One out of two rounds? At this range? Getting sloppy, Chet.

[[SFX: tape recorder stops]]


ars PARADOXICA is created by Daniel Manning and Mischa Stanton.
Episode 04: Bullet features –

Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Reyn Beeler (Chet Whickman)
Robin Gabrielli (Anthony Partridge)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Lee Satterwhite (Quentin Barlowe)

Hannah Trobaugh (June Barlowe)
Geoff Pictor (additional voices)

with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson

Original music by Mischa Stanton.
ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by the Internet: We’re really sorry, Blockbuster.

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