32: Riposte

written by Eli Barraza & Danielle Shemaiah
directed & produced by Mischa Stanton

MISCHA (M): A quick warning: This episode contains graphic depictions of gun violence & severe bodily harm. Listener discretion advised.

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M: This episode of ars Paradoxica was brought to you by our supporters on Patreon. This is our biggest, most bombastic season of the show ever. And that's because we actually flew the writing team to one city, and met all together for the first time ever to write this season. It was a profoundly superior writing experience, and it would not have been possible without the donations of incredibly generous fans listening to and loving the show. For as little as $1/month, you can get access to stuff like handwritten thank-you notes, stickers, extra minisodes, behind-the-scenes interviews, and you’ve even heard a couple of our Patrons cameo in the show! And our Patrons are always the first to hear about our new projects at the Whisperforge. If you can spare it, please head on over to Patreon.com/arsParadoxica and pledge to support us. And while you're there, leave a message for those who already have been! Thank you to all our current Patrons. We love you so much.


[Previously, on ars Paradoxica]

HC: Mister Gaines, I understand you and Mister Marian served in the same unit.

LG: That’s right. Three-Eighty-Eighth Mobile Infantry.

DM: I don’t have much time. I just want to say that… Lou, if I knew you at all, you’re going to come find me one day.

TLM: We have reason to believe that Dr. Sally Grissom is now in the custody of a foreign power.

AD: Doctor Grissom, I have some questions.

SG: Who are you?

AD: I am your handler.

TLM: Petra, I am tasking you to lead the extraction team once we locate Doctor Grissom. Agent Gaines, I want you on that team as well.

TLM: Then let’s begin. This is an unprecedented position we find ourselves in, so I am making Agent Vico’s team available to you. Petra, you may know them as the 77s. They are trusted with the most dangerous missions because they are some of the best we have, and have given up their own futures to help fix our present.

BC: We have a name and address for the South Berlin facility where we believe Hank Cornish had been setting up an out-station for his real bosses in the organization we are, for the time being, referring to as “KTNK.” The station’s cover as we understand it is an engineering and consultancy firm, “The Postfenn Fellowship of Engineering and Fabrication."

77A: Brothers and sisters, Limestone is confirmed on-site. I have a visual as we speak.

AD: Doctor–

[[SFX: Sally knocks Adler into a workstation.]]

SG: You steal my tech and jam it in a warhead, asshole?!

LG: It’s time, team. We’re going in.


[Theme music]

[[SFX: tape recorder starts; Sally in the workshop-cell, using tools to open the panel where she believes the keypad to be to enter the room.]]

SALLY GRISSOM (SG): You know, I’m used to getting mixed signals from top secret government such-and-such, but you guys? Hehe... You take the cake. Like, your boss? Adler, what a real fuckin' piece of work. Almost had me there with all the talk of peace and greater good and ending the war but oh then, speaking of war, I find out that the way your people want to do it is with a time travel bomb. Literally a fucking time bomb! You know about that, buddy? Pal? Comrade?

GUARD 1: [grunts dismissively]

SG: So I give him a well deserved punch in the jaw and instead of solitary, you put me back in a workshop! Under the notion that I might somehow still be willing to work on the damn thing! I mean, c’mon, you guys... You guys know I’m gonna try to Iron Man my way out of this thing, right?

[[SFX: The door opens; another Guard enters for the shift change]]

GUARD 2: [Russian accent] Anything to report?

GUARD 1: [Russian accent] Nothing. She is yelling about Man in the Iron Mask now.

SG: Huh, we’re still in the Golden Age of Comics, huh?

[[SFX: Guard 1 leaves. Sally messes with the door until--BZZZ. Her fiddling causes a spark.]]

SG: Oh shit, what was that?

[[SFX: a nozzle in the workshop sprays gas into Sally's face]]

SG: [coughing] Guys? Guys, what the....

[[SFX: Sally coughs and coughs until she passes out. Guard 2 clicks on their radio.]]

GUARD 2: [sigh] Tech, I need somebody to reset the security protocols.

[[SFX: inaudible response from radio]]

GUARD 2: It was the gas. She should wake up in about 15.

[[SFX: radio tuning; the lobby of the Postfenn Fellowship. Lou, Petra, and the 77s walk up to the reception desk, where phones ring.]]

RECEPTIONIST: Postfenn Forschungsstipendium für Ingenieurwesen und Herstellung, Bleiben Sie bitte am telefon. (Postfenn Fellowship of Engineering and Fabrication, please hold.)

77 AGENT ALEC (77A): Hallo, sprechen Sie Englisch? (Hello, Do you speak English?)

RECEPTIONIST: I do.

77A: We have an appointment in fifteen minutes with Lilienthal.

[[SFX: Receptionist looks through her paperwork.]]

RECEPTIONIST: Ah. Present your identification, please.

PETRA MARQUEZ (PM): This is the third time we were asked for IDs! Jeez you’d think we were consulting with Korolev.

RECEPTIONIST: What was that?

PM: Uh, apologies ma’am, nothing.

RECEPTIONIST: Mm, your IDs seem to be okay.... Very good. Okay, right this way. The other member of your party already arrived.

77 AGENT GORDON (77G): Other member?

PM: Excellent, I wasn’t sure if he would be able to make arrangements in time.

[[SFX: Receptionist leads them down a hallway deeper into the facility.]]

PM: Ooooo.

LOU GAINES (LG): Don’t touch the bust of Gogol...

PM: Didn’t know you were into Russian literature!

LG: ...There’s a plaque.

RECEPTIONIST: Please keep up!

NIKHIL SHARMA (NS): Ah, I see you’ve found my associates! I can lead them back to the Lilienthal’s office.

RECEPTIONIST: I really should be the one–

LG: Didn’t you leave that caller on hold?

RECEPTIONIST: Fine, please lead them to the office then. Facilities are down the hallway to the right if you need them.

PM: Thank you!

[[SFX: The receptionist leaves.]]

77A: Who the hell are you?

NS: Dr. Nikhil–

PM: We’re calling him Lemondrops.

NS: Lemondrops?

PM: If LeMartine can call for backup, so can I. We need more eyes to find Limestone and Lemondrops here is trusted by both me and Sal-Limestone. Capische?

77G: We had a plan–

LG: A plan that doesn’t have a lot of time. Can we all be flexible?

77A: Fine, but Limestone is still priority. Let’s move.

[[SFX: radio tuning; Sally awakens inside her cell.]]

SG: What... what did you guys put in that stuff? You do realize I already have a history of brain trauma? [sigh] Alright, back to the drawing board. Really could use a Jarvis right about now.

[[SFX: radio tuning; beeps and clicks, servos whirring; Petra approaches, opens the door and pokes her head in]]

PM: Clear. Limestone isn’t... wait a second.

[[SFX: Petra enters. She tries to pull something off a desk; it is attached. She tries a few more times, in vain. Nikhil enters.]]

NS: Pst, Petra. I know there are gizmos a plenty in here but I think you would’ve spotted Sally by now.

PM: It’s “Candles” when we’re on mission. [to hard drive] What the hell did they use to attach you to this table, adamantium?

NS: What on earth are you doing?

PM: Reclaiming stolen property.

NS: In addition to Sally?

PM:  Limestone,  Sharma! Jesus.

NS: Sorry.

PM: This is the hard drive I gave to her. Looks like they’re trying to decrypt it.

NS: Oh, I was helping Sal– Limestone to decrypt it! But, I didn’t get far.

PM: Looks like the Soviets are doing pretty well for themselves, here. The fact they have the tech to do this...

NS: I’ll stay behind.

PM: What?

NS: You don’t bring a medic to a gunfight! You have them off to the side detaching a stolen hard drive while the action heroes get shot at!

PM: You think you can detach this thing?

NS: I’ll figure something out.

PM: Fine. If this room gets compromised, meet us by that storeroom we passed, next to the bust of that dead Russian writer guy.

[[SFX: Petra leaves Nikhil in the hard drive room to rejoin Lou & the 77s]]

PM: Keep moving to Limestone’s position, Lemondrops is taking care of something.

77G: This is no time for fooling around–

PM: He’s helping us kill two birds with one mission. Stone. Whatever! There’s plenty of birds to go around. Just keep moving.

[[SFX: They walk down the hallway.]]

PM: This place is capital-S Sad.

LG: You should have seen the plane I took here.

[[SFX: Doctor and Nurse approach from the other end of the hallway.]]

PM: Hide!

[[SFX: The crew scampers to safety; Doctor and Nurse pass by as they talk]]

DOCTOR: And can you please check on our guest in the basement in an hour? I don’t anticipate any adverse side effects but without a medical history, it is tricky business.

NURSE: Of course but sir, I wanted to go over Marian’s charts in the meantime? We can’t keep him here much longer.

DOCTOR: The orders regarding him say otherwise. He’s exactly where he needs to be.

PM: [whispering] Lou.

LG: What.

PM: We don’t have time.

LG: We just left your new surprise backup behind so he could get another bird. David is my bird, Petra. And I’ve been looking for him for a long time.

77A: We need to keep moving, that guest is probably Limestone!

[[SFX: Beat.]]

PM: Castle is peeling off, looks like it’ll be just us, fellas.

77G: What the hell?

LG: You heard the lady.

77A: We gain a man and now we’re down two?

PM: Whine, whine, whine! I really gotta stop meeting my heroes.

77G: Fine. You have 15 minutes, Castle.

PM: Good luck, don’t be stupid. And Lou?

[[SFX: Lou starts to leave, then turns back]]

PM: I know we can save Sally but... I don’t know if you can save David.

LG: See you soon.

[[SFX: radio tuning; sneaking down a hallway; cracking a door slightly; Sally, muffled, inside.]]

SG: You know, I don’t mind that you’ve taken all my recording devices–you punch one KTNK agent in the beak and get put in time out, I get it–

PM: [whispering, over Sally's lines] Alright. One on the wall. Armed. I think there’s a keypad.

SG: But all the extra bells and whistles, don’t you think it’s excessive? I mean, you probably have so many other things you’d rather be doing.

GUARD 2: The Director has ensured you have everything you need to occupy your time with working and not talking or escaping.

SG: Yeah, I’m totally gonna help build you guys build this thing.

GUARD 2: Adler will be here soon to take you to the Director, you can lodge all complaints then. For what it is worth, we asked you nicely.

SG: ...You know what? I can just talk to you! The last guard was way less talkative but you and I can get to know each other. What’s your name? I’m Sally, Dr. Sally Grissom, I’m sure you already knew that. Hey, this is a nice TV. Is that Technicolor? Still don’t have color over here, yet? Do you guys watch a lot of TV? Radio serials? Do you have a .. German Green Hornet or something? The... Red Yellow Jacket? Däs Hornet?

PM: [deadpan] God, I’m reconsidering this.

77A: What?

PM: Nothing, nothing. She’s actually gonna give us the diversion we need. Just wait for it.

SG: Hey, do you guys have like, the Soviet equivalent of amusement parks in this timeline? What would you call it like... Comrade Mouseman Land? Oh, or, maybe Rasputin Kingdom–wait, you guys don’t like Rasputin. What year is it?

PM: [whispering, to 77A] Watch my six.

SG: Hey Jigsaw? You There?

GUARD 2: Would you shut up? Your incessant babbling is–

[[SFX: Petra sneaks up behind the Guard and chokes him out; she drop him]]

SG: ...Hey Bueller? You okay out there, buddy?

PM: Ugh. Shut up, Sally. Do you know anything about the code on this thing–

[[SFX: Petra pokes a key on the keypad]]

SG:  DON’T TOUCH THAT!

PM: Okay, okay! Holy shit, what is your problem?

SG: I’ve been trying to crack that code all night!

PM: Shocker, resident genius doesn’t follow through.

SG: I was a little busy being HELD HOSTAGE.

GUARD 2: [groans]

PM: Oy, this guy.

[[SFX: Petra kicks him in the head]]

PM: ...Sorry. Okay, no touching the keypad. What kind of lock is this, then?

[[SFX: Petra tries the latch on the door; it's locked]]

SG: [alarmed] Stop! Stop. For the love of all that is holy please stopstopstopstopstop.

PM: Okay, fine! I won’t help. Do you want to stay in there or something? Please don’t tell me you love Big Brother now, I did not cross an ocean to leave your ass here.

SG: What? No. Petra, listen, The door’s booby trapped.

PM: No shit.

SG: No! I mean everything I’ve tried has triggered a fifty shades of fucked up side effect in here. Near as I can tell, the entire room is rigged with some kind of tamper-proof technology attached to a microcontroller that randomly subjects me to one of who knows how many horrible deterrents. You try to take the doorknob off? Boom, sound cannon that has probably permanently damaged my eardrums! I tried disarming the keypad during the guard change, and not only did that not work, it triggered this knockout gas and... look, let’s just say I’m basically living a SAW movie in here. And I know you don’t follow that but I’ve lost at least a couple IQ points trying to get out of here so I need you to trust me... okay?

PM: What do you suggest we do?

SG: You knocked that guy out, right? Okay, so, he’s got a cattle prod on his belt. Take it from him. And give me a second.

[[SFX: Petra takes the cattleprod from the unconscious Guard's belt]]

PM: Thank you...

[[SFX: A device in Sally's cell starts clicking erratically]]

SG: The microcontroller is somewhere above the door. Last time I tried to do this... let’s just say I lost a few hours, alright? Not important. So, I’m going to find this thing

[[SFX: Sally waves the device back and forth until the clicking increases rapidly; Sally flips a switch, and the device starts clicking to a regular rhythm]]

SG: Bingo! Okay. Top left, like two inches over. Can you reach?

PM: Hang on.. [stretches] Alright, got it!

SG: Okay, when I say, I want you to Tase the wall.

PM: Are you kidding me?

SG: That would be such a lame thing to kid about.

[[SFX: Petra charges the cattle prod]]

PM: Whatever, Doc. Ready when you are.

SG: Okay... Okay... GO.

[[SFX: Petra zaps the controller; it shorts]]

SG: Score! No more Russian Torture Roulette! Now  you can pick the lock.

PM: Are you sure?

SG: We don’t have time for a rigorous process of trial and error, here.

[[SFX: Petra picks the lock]]

PM: Mmmmm.... Got it!

[[SFX: The door opens]]

PM: Wow, you look terrible.

SG: Good to see you too, Petra. What are you doing here?

PM: Ugh, we’ll have time for that later, do you need anything in here? We’ need to book it before–

[[SFX: The rat-tat-tat of distant gunfire down the hallway]]

PM: Too late! [into a walkie-talkie] Gordon, get down here, take Limestone and rendezvous with Lemondrops where we discussed. I’m going to hold them off. Extraction is imminent, we need to get the hell out of dodge!

[[SFX: radio tuning; Petra shoves Sally along in front of her to meet the 77s]]

77G: This way, Limestone. Stay close, keep your head down.

SG: Why is my name Limestone?

[[SFX: Adler fires a shot at them from down the hallway; it misses, ricocheting off the concrete wall]]

ADLER 1: Stop where you are!

SG: HOLY-OH Shit,shitshitshitshitshit, I’m gonna die–again! We’re dead. We’re dead we’re dead–

77A: Watch your step.

SG: Shit–THEY’RE dead, did  you  do this? Should I be following you? Who are you anyway?

77A: Damn, you really are a chatty one! Get movin’, will ya?

[[SFX: Adler fires two more shots, both miss]]

77G: Limestone, keep going!

ADLER 1: [approaching] I do not want to have to do this, I said STOP where you are–

[[SFX: Petra tackles Adler into a wall and forces him to drop him weapon]]

ADLER 1: Foolish American!

[[SFX: Petra kneesAdler in the groin; Adler doubles over. Petra whacks him over the head with a wrench, and he falls. She drops the wrench, then reaches onto his belt and grabs his keys.]]

PM: [out of breath, calling out to no one] If anyone else wants in on this, now’s your moment!

[[SFX: Down the hall, air displaces as Adler 2 appears; he stalks down the hallway towards Petra.]]

PM: Another of you? Seriously? That’s my move!

[[SFX: They engage; Adler grabs Petra around the neck and attempts to choke her, but Petra manages to get her feet underneath her and shove Adler backward into a wall. She elbows him in the gut, then, with effort, flips him over her shoulder and onto the floor Petra breathes hard, until another displacement of air heralds the arrival of Adler 3.]]

PM: Oh, mother–!

[[SFX: Petra draws a gun and cocks it, but Adler locks her arm and tries to pry it out of her hand. She pulls the trigger; the bullet shatters a nearby window.]]

ADLER 3: The contents of the laboratory are highly unstable! Do not shoot in that direction!

[[SFX: While Adler is distracted, Petra scoops to pick up the wrench she dropped and cracks Adler in the knee. He cries out, but only until Petra swings it across his face, and he sprawls out on the floor.

Another displacement of air, but this time Petra is ready. She ducks into the open lab, then as Adler 4 passes by it she trips him, grabbing him by the shirt. Gunfire; Adler 5 shoots several holes into Adler 4, whom Petra uses as a human shield.]]

PM: Thank you for your sacrifice.

[[SFX: Petra drops Adler 4's body to the ground.]]

ADLER 5: This isn’t how... You must get away from–

PM: You’ve got a point.

[[SFX: Petra gets the upper hand on Adler 5. She shoves him into the lab, fires two rounds, then runs the other direction before–BLAM, an explosion rings out from the lab. Petra breathes heavily, shocked. Another displacement of air, and Adler 6 appears right next to her.]]

ADLER 6: You arrogant, violent, selfish... Rrrargh!

[[SFX: Adler advances on Petra]]

PM: [struggling] Don’t get so down on yourself, Comrade, maybe 7’s your lucky number-agh!

[[SFX: Still entangled, Petra and Adler fall through the threshold into the lab. they struggle on the floor until Adler is shot from behind, collapsing onto Petra. She shoves the rcorpse off of her, breathing very hard.]]

ADLER: I have watched myself die so many times today. I have lost count! I keep losing count...

[[SFX: Adler's speech devolves into a raspy, choking cough. He slides his gun across the floor to Petra.]]

ADLER: Kill me. Please.

[[SFX: Petra picks up the gun and aims it at Adler]]

PM: Прости. (Sorry.)

[[SFX: An alarm rings out over the PA system.]]

RECEPTIONIST: [over loudspeaker] CEASEFIRE. HOLD POSITIONS. ODAR FORCES: WE WILL NEGOTIATE. BRING US ESTHER ROBERTS.

[[SFX: radio tuning; heart monitor beeps away. Lou enters.]]

DAVID MARIAN (DM): [old, out of breath] Never thought I’d see you in a lab coat.

LG: [dry laugh] Was hoping I’d never see you in a hospital bed. It’s good to see you, David.

DM: Back in Europe again, Captain. Pity I didn’t think to bring my board with me.

LG: Good thing, there’s hardly any glory in beating a bedridden man while he’s down.

DM: Please, the best you could do was a stalemate.

LG: ...I think we’ve been in a stalemate for a while, David.

DM: Never did waste much time.

LG: I came to get you out of here, son.

DM: You came a mighty long way to leave empty handed, Gaines.

LG: Oh, it’s Gaines now is it?

DM: You know I’m not walking out of here.

LG: I’ll carry you.

DM: You’ve been trying to carry me for the past decade.

LG: Yeah, and look where trying to walk on your own got you! Held by the Soviets in a hospital bed.

DM: I’m a man, same as you, Lou. I made my own choices, same as you. Nobody’s holding me here.

LG: Then get up.

DM: [coughing laugh] Real funny.

LG: I’m not trying to be. Look what they’ve done to you, David. Is this really where you want to be? Is this what you thought it was?

DM: Maybe not. Are you where you thought you’d be?

LG: Maybe not. I didn’t expect to have this conversation. I know how to oppose you in chess, David, but... but this? I don’t know how to do this.

DM: I’m not going to tip my king here, Louis. Not if you aren’t willing to see my side like I’ve seen yours.

LG: What side is that?

DM: You know what ODAR’s been up to for the past ten years. Think. How far does their altruism extend? Past Point-of Exile? Past DC? You think Alabama’s feeling ODAR’s altruism? How about you? How about your mother? Hell, anyone in your family. How’d you even make it over here, Lou? They sneak you over? You ask me, your goodwill doesn’t extend past Colorado these days and deep down, you’re fine with that. You cared more when you were a journalism professor who’s bark was worse than his bite.

LG: You have no idea–

DM: The only reason you were ever allowed to touch that technology was because ODAR knew it would make sure that you couldn’t make any real changes. We could be using the technology to fix a lot of terrible shit back home. And ODAR is never going to let you do that. The United States is never gonna let you do that. I realized that a long, long time ago.

LG: It’s far from perfect there–but this is far from home, son. Too far to be throwing stones, I’d say.

DM: They don’t care what happens to you, Lou. They never did. You think if you ended up like me, here, you’d be taken care of? Or would they leave you on the side of the road, make you forget you knew them in the first place? At least here, I know who I can trust.

LG: Then how the hell did you end up here? [beat] I’m not sure what I expected to find, when I found you. But now I’m staring you straight in the face and I can hardly recognize you. You’re not the same man I taught all those years ago. I don’t know when you threw all that away, but I don’t see it.

DM: You’re not looking for it, Lou. You’re looking for me to tell you you’re right and follow behind you like I always have. I can’t do that. And I haven’t been doing that. It’s just taken a while for you to catch up.

LG: You violated what I was trying to teach you.

DM: I didn’t... I don’t think I am.

[[SFX: In the hallway, the alarm blares over the loudspeaker.]]

RECEPTIONIST: [over loudspeaker, in hallway] CEASEFIRE HOLD POSITIONS ODAR FORCES: WE WILL NEGOTIATE. BRING US ESTHER ROBERTS... CEASEFIRE HOLD POSITIONS ODAR FORCES: WE WILL NEGOTIATE. BRING US ESTHER ROBERTS...

[[SFX: as the alarm blares, the heart monitor registers David's heart failing.]]

LG: David? David? David!

[[SFX: The alarm blares; the heart monitor flatlines; Lou cries; radio tuning;

NS: Lemondrops to Candles. I’m having less luck with this thing than you.

PM: [over walkie-talkie] I think we’re all running low on luck right now, over!

NS: Did you get Limestone?

PM: On her way to you.

NS: Well, should I go to the rendezvous point or keep trying to get this thing?

PM: Well some idiot agent from 20█ thought it was important enough to send back so... Oh COME ON–

[[SFX: Petra is cut off; footsteps pass by the hard drive room down the hallway]]

NS: Some idiot agent...

[[SFX: the footsteps return, the door opens; Nikhil leans over the desk to type:]]

NS: "HEY LOSER."

[[SFX: Nikhil submits the password, then the hard drive begins to decrypt]]

SG: Is that any way to greet a friend who’s been kidnapped by Soviets and forced to build a weapon of mass destruction?

NS: Sally!

SG: Is that the hard drive we’ve been trying to decrypt? Sharma, how did you...?

NS: "Damnit Sally, I’m a doctor, not a hacker!" I just typed in a password.

SG: How did you know the password? Also, did nobody come to actually save me?

NS: Petra sidetracked me!

SG: Goddamn, this mission is careening wilder than Clara Clayton’s horse drawn carriage!

NS: [disappointed] Come on, Sally, Back to the Future 3? That’s beneath you.

SG: We need to detach this NOW. Oh goddamnit, torx screws? I only have my flathead but it’ll have to do.

[[SFX: Sally begins detaching the hard drive from the console]]

NS: Isn’t there a fight going on?

SG: Yes, and now would be a good time to guard the door while I–ow, ow, my hand–mother. Fucking. Torx. Screws.

NS: Here, lemme help.

SG: No it’s fine, you have sweaty hands.

NS: I do not have sweaty hands.

SG: Sweaty, clammy, whatever you wanna call them, they’re gonna slip ‘n slide on this flathead like Flubber in Robin Williams’ hands!

NS: Oh, Robin Williams... He would’ve been way better than Billy Crystal!

SG: Oh you poor poor soul.

[[SFX: Alarm sounds over loudspeaker.]]

NS: What did you do?!

SG: [indignant] What did I do?!

RECEPTIONIST: [over loudspeaker] CEASEFIRE. HOLD POSITIONS ODAR FORCES: WE WILL NEGOTIATE. BRING US ESTHER ROBERTS.

[[SFX: radio tuning; heels click down an underground hallway; a door opens, and Esther steps inside]]

KARLA: Please, sit.

ESTHER ROBERTS (ER): I’d say it’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, but I don’t know who you are.

[[SFX: Esther closes the door and sits opposite Karla.]]

KARLA: I’m you. For lack of a better explanation. Or rather, who you could have been, under different circumstances.

ER: [exasperated sigh] Can we cut past the monologue and you just name your terms?

KARLA: ...But do we not both come from places that value the exchange of pleasantries?

ER: You have my friend held hostage and you still haven’t told me your name. I don’t find that very pleasant.

KARLA: You may call me Karla.

ER: Fine, Karla. I won’t ask you how you knew that I’d be close. What are we doing here?

KARLA: We are negotiating Stalemate.

ER: Details?

KARLA: Your friend has been assisting us with a rather complex piece of technology.

ER: I doubt she’s been "assisting" you.

KARLA: Your friend may surprise you, Doctor Roberts.

[[SFX: Karla presses play on a recorder.]]

SG: [on recording] I take back everything I said about your bosses having an open mind, you filth. You take my goddamn tech?!

ADLER: [on recording] Doctor–

[[SFX: Sally punches Adler into a desk]]

SG: You steal my tech and jam it in a warhead, asshole?!

[[SFX: Karla stops the recording]]

ER: So what has Doctor Grissom been working on against her will?

KARLA: A contribution to the balance of power between our two organizations.

ER: A weapon.

KARLA: One that would leave atomic power in the dust.

ER: The United States and its enemies paid a great price for that power.

KARLA: And so would we, and our opposition, should we need to use it.

ER: But you have a different proposal in mind.

KARLA: As I said. Stalemate.

ER: Let’s drop pretense and speak transparently.

KARLA: The Plasticity Experiment.

ER: What?

KARLA: The Plasticity Experiment, Dr. Roberts. 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 Reports are Not on the Table.

KARLA: You don’t know how we intend to use it.

ER: I don’t need to, Plasticity–

KARLA: –Was a success from my understanding.

ER: Children.... children died.

KARLA: We have many brilliant minds in medicine. We will be able to mitigate–

ER: You’ve stolen our technology, and now you want me to hand over the key to making yourselves invulnerable with its use?

KARLA: Hmmph. I know how you perceive me. You believe me to be like those you have heard about in the news and in your spy novels. You and I, Esther, we can fix what they have broken. The... anchor point. The point at which all time travel converges. October 28th, 1943. So many mistakes yet to be made. So many lives yet to be lost... And yet.

ER: What you are insinuating is as impossible as it is offensive. If you know what you think you do about me, about my past, about this war, you would know better than to dangle something like that in front of me, of all people.

KARLA: For someone keeping hands off for so long, your palms are incredibly dirty.

ER: Stained red. The way yours will be, if you try going through with this.

KARLA: I’d rather dirty hands by action than by inaction. You and your organization never sought to set what was right because it was against the interest of your government.

ER: You do not get to tell me what I sought out! Don’t you dare presume my morality. Not again. My–

KARLA: –I want to do what is right by our people, Esther. And we both have the means to accomplish this.

ER: First you show me the stick and then you dangle a carrot, do I understand your strategy correctly?

KARLA: This technology can give the world a second chance. Isn’t that what you wanted for yourself?

ER: What I wanted was never in question. ODAR–

KARLA: We have developed the ideas that you were too afraid to have! I do not seek to blame you, Esther. I seek action. Action that you continue not to take on your own. It is never too late. Especially not for us.

ER: The Plasticity Experiment... you don’t know the cost of what you’re asking.

KARLA: But you do know the cost of what you have failed to do. What you have failed to even attempt.

ER: There has got to be some other way to accomplish–

KARLA: There isn’t. We both know this. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here.

ER: I came to rescue my friend.

KARLA: And we won’t stop you. You may have Dr. Grissom if you give us those reports.

ER: We should have known this was never about Sally for you.

KARLA: Dr. Grissom is an effective means to an end. I think you should know that better than anyone.

ER: ...The blueprints?

KARLA: We already have a copy prepared.

[[SFX: Karla slides a folder to Esther.]]

ER: What’s to keep you from defaulting back to plan B, if your idealism comes to naught?

KARLA: ...A measure of trust you will have to concede.

ER: That’s ridiculous.

KARLA: I’ve found this line of work tends to be that way.

ER: And we leave where we began. With guns drawn, no one pulling the trigger.

KARLA: And a brighter present for it.

[[SFX: radio tuning; Sally detaches the hard drive]]

SG: Finally. Think we should wait for Petra?

NS: Pretty sure the loudspeaker just said to hold positions until Esther comes in.

SG: We’ve got no promises they’ll let us go after talking to Esther so I figure we do what we do best.

NS: Ignoring what people tell us to do?

SG: Precisely. So did you guys set up a rendezvous point or what?

NS: We’re supposed to meet by a bust of a playwright near the front.

SG: Right. Okay, stuff this under your shirt so we can sneak it out. I’ll check if the coast is clear.

[[SFX: Nikhil shoves the hard drive under his shirt; Sally sneaks a peek into the hallway; high heels approach]]

SG: Shit, shitshitshit–

RECEPTIONIST: Ah, there you are Dr. Grissom. I have been instructed to escort you off of the premises.

SG: Um... excuse me?

NS: Yeah, excuse us?

RECEPTIONIST: I’ve received word to escort ODAR personnel off of the premises. I hope you both had a good experience consulting with us here at Postfenn.

SG: You’re just gonna... let me go? Just like that? I am a valuable asset, you know–

NS: Oh Sally! C’mon, let’s go... Whatever deal they made, let’s not waste it!

[[SFX: radio tuning; an Adler collapses]]

PM: [into her walkie] Candles to Lemondrops. Over.

NS: [over walkie] Reading you loud and clear. You okay? Over.

PM: I’m fine. That agent won’t be a problem anymore. You got eyes on Castle?

NS: Nope, but I have a feeling he can take care of himself. I... I think they’re letting us go! They’re escorting Sally and me out the front door now.

PM: Alright. I’ll rendezvous with you all in  Wilmersdorf, heading out from this... storeroom...

[[SFX: Petra stops in front of a door, opens it, and enters. She picks up a piece of chalk, and reads from the chalkboard:

PM: [in Russian] "Students, welcome to 19-53?" [in English] ...Students, welcome to 1953.

[[SFX: Petra drops the chalk, and takes a shocked step backwards]]

PM: [furious] ...We're done, Roberts.

[[SFX: Petra exits the classroom, firing one last shot into Adler on her way.

NS: [over walkie] Candles? Candles, you there? Candles, come in please!

[[SFX: Petra kicks the exit door open and walks through; the door slams shut behind her; 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 32: Riposte features –

Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Lia Peros (Petra Marquez)
L. Jeffrey More (Lou Gaines)
Arjun Gupta (Nikhil Sharma)
Ego Mikitas (Adler)

Emma Sherr-Ziarko (Karla)
Sheldon Brown (Old David Marian)
Zack Libresco (77 Agent Gordon)
Danielle Shemaiah (77 Agent Alec)

Mischa Stanton, Pasha Sol, Karim Kronfli, Erin Bark, Kessi Riliniki (additional voices)
with special thanks to Isabel Atkinson

Translation by Pasha Sol. Fight choreography by Danielle Shemaiah. Production help from Jeffrey Gardner. Original music by Mischa Stanton and by Eno Freedman-Brodmann. Additional music from Free Music Archive.

ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by The Internet: Pick up your Y2K preparedness kits today.

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