written by Daniel Manning, Mischa Stanton & Eli Barraza
directed & produced by Mischa Stanton
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.
M: Before we start today, we want to tell you about Join The Party. Join the Party is an audio drama podcast told through collaborative storytelling and roleplaying, built on the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons. That means they create a story that everyone from seasoned players to true beginners can enjoy. Where else can you get adventure, intrigue, queer teens, talking gargoyles and lots of high fives all in one place?
And after each episode, hosts Eric, Amanda, Mike & Brandon sit down for the Afterparty, a talkback session where they break down the game and answer your questions about how to play at home. It's a party, and you're invited.
Check them out at JointhePartyPod.com, on Twitter & Tumblr @JoinThePartyPod, or on Apple Podcasts or wherever fine audio content is available.
[Previously, in a few of the many aborted timelines of ars Paradoxica]
ER: It’s irresponsible to abandon the Timepiece presentation like this! We just don’t have the time!
JW: Where are we going, anyway?
AP: Las Vegas, Nevada. A couple days of card games and drinking will do you all a world of good.
SG: “Return this to the mail slot for “SYLVIA PUREBOOT” by 3pm tomorrow.” Who the hell is Sylvia Pureboot?
VL: Rainbow’s supposed to bend light, you know? We thought, if you could bend the light that goes around the ship, you would make it disappear from view, right? But Ivan and I bit off more than we could chew, trying to capture and store every photon in a given area.
PM: It’s Petra prime and I’m at the facility. 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. You all made strapping a time-bomb to a rocket look easy.
[[SFX: tape recorder starts; Sally messes with the microphone]]
SALLY GRISSOM (SG): Hello? Test... testing, one two. Okay, they came through I guess. Goddamn, this recorder is huge though. Uh, hi, this is the audio diary of Dr. Sally Grissom. They tell me the date is October 29th, 1943. And by all the usual accounts–newspaper datelines, calendars, radio, what have you–that seems to be true. But the weird part is... and I’m still trying to wrap my head around it myself, so sorry if I don’t sound sure... I don’t think it’s the history I came from. I think I’m in a parallel universe. Or, alternate timeline. Or something.
Yesterday, for me, was August 14th, 20█. I was working on a particle physics experiment at the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas, and I got caught in the middle of it. And I passed out, and when I came to (give or take the contents of my breakfast across a cold wet metal floor), I was on the deck of the USS Eldridge, a destroyer escort that was anchored off the shore of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. And it’s 1943. And I... Sorry, I know that’s probably not weird to you, but it very much is for me.
It was some kind of military experiment. Somehow, whatever they were doing and whatever I was doing in 20█ combined into... I don’t know what. Time travel? Or parallel-universe-hopping? Or both, or neither? Like I said, I’m still working on it.
Here’s my biggest piece of evidence for parallel: When I came to from being just... God, just super sick everywhere... yeesh. But when I came to, they brought me in to see this guy, Bill Donovan. Big ol’ 40s brutish type, big frame, square jaw, hair slicked back to an inch of its life. And he interrogated me. He asked about how I got there, about my experiment, about where I was from... And then he asked me about, what sounded like an artificial satellite orbiting the Earth? With a salvo of missiles all trained on that little ship, in the Philadelphia harbor? And what I knew about this mysterious woman who appeared out of nowhere to bring it to their attention.
I said to him, "My name is Dr. Sally Grissom, and I think I may have accidentally invented time-travel." And he just looked at me and said, “Ma’am, that may be only the second most exciting thing that’s happened today.”
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
CBS REPORTER: World News Today, brought to you by Continental Radio & Television Corporation, makers of Admiral Radio, “America’s Smart Set.” By shortwave broadcast, direct from important overseas stations as well as leading news centers of our own country, CBS correspondents are waiting to give you a complete report from the world’s political and battlefront.
But first, our top story tonight: As our war-weary nation turns to what’s next in the aftermath of the treaties signed in Europe, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics looks to the stars with their new satellite technology, announcing today in an official statement that the artificial satellite that orbits our planet is but the first phase of a plan which promises, before the decade is out, to put an American into outer space. Congress’ appropriations bill seems to be a vote of confidence in NACA after a spirited speech from a lead mathematician on the project, Anthony Partridge.
[[SFX: radio tuning; a casino showroom; a big band plays live music in the background]]
SCIENTIST: And they’re the ones asking us if it’s safe? I’ll put down five bucks says the whole Southwest goes up in flames...
SG: [in background] Hey, could I get a sidecar, a dry martini, a French 75, two scotch with bitters, and a 7 & 7?
BARTENDER: Coming right up.
SCIENTIST: ...And I might as well put another two on the whole thing not even working which would be just perfect given all the press they’ve invited. By now, I’m not even sure that—
SG: That’s a fancy recorder you’ve got there!
SCIENTIST: Yeah, it’s... top of the line.
SG: Use it for dictation often?
SCIENTIST: Work stuff, yes. Excuse me—
SG: What do you do?
SCIENTIST: I’m a physicist. You a reporter?
SG: Oh god no, I’m a physicist too! You here for the demonstration?
SCIENTIST: I’m the one demonstrating. I... can’t really talk about it til tomorrow.
SG: No, I get it. I’m here with my team on invitation to see it.
SCIENTIST: Hope you enjoy the show.
[[SFX: He lifts his glass in a mock toast.]]
SG: How do you feel about it?
SCIENTIST: Well, I’m on whiskey number...
[[SFX: glasses clinking]]
SCIENTIST: That many.
SG: That bad, huh?
SCIENTIST: Sitting on a wobbly stool waiting for the end of days.
SG: I know how you feel.
SCIENTIST: I very much doubt it. I’ve seen the end coming. I know what happens when the primordial energies of the universe collapse on themselves. I know there won’t be any escape. And the thing is, that end? They just made it as a distraction! A distraction from whatever reason the goddamn NACA accelerated their program.
SG: That whiskey have bitters or is it just you?
SCIENTIST: I’ve gone to the brink of what science can do, all in the name of some superweapon without a war to fight it with. It’s just a goddamn pony-trick so the public thinks the worst thing imaginable is on the ground and not in the sky.
SG: What, you think the moonmen tag-teamed with aliens from Mars to put a spaceship in our orbit and Uncle Sam is gonna distract everyone with a giant bomb?...Shit dude, that’s heavy.
SCIENTIST: Yesterday the best we could do to defy gravity was fly airplanes that go "pew pew." Today we’re blasting off the ground with rockets. Things developing that fast? Something’s up there.
SG: And you’re not sure if we’re ready to handle it. Any of it. Not what’s up there, not the tech that’s gonna come out of it, not the knowledge, the power to take the fundamentals of the universe like toys in your hands. Morals and ethics playing a losing game of catch-up and you wish you could go back to working in theory, to writing equations in notebooks. That about sum it up?
SCIENTIST: ...Who are you?
SG: You're Los Alamos, right? I'm from Polvo. Couple hours south of you. I’m doing the same kind of stuff you’re doing, but with ODAR.
SCIENTIST: ODAR? Haven’t heard of it.
SG: Got a feeling it’s probably better for you in the long run.
SCIENTIST: I’m not counting on the long run lately. So I’m drinking. Drinking until I’m flat on my back, or the world ends. Whichever comes first.
SG: Which one does come first?
SCIENTIST: Guess we’ll see tomorrow. I’ll be the man having whiskey sweats behind the
podium. If I even decide to get out of bed.
SG: Wish I could tell you it’s all for the best but my gift of foresight has been seriously spotty lately.
[[SFX: glasses clinking]]
BARTENDER: Here ya go, sweetheart.
SG: That’s my stop.
SCIENTIST: Enjoy your drinks, for however long you’ve got.
SG: Take care.
[[SFX: Sally walks away with her tray of drinks]]
SG: Where’d they go? Guys? Roberts, Wyatt? Pur– Oh, Pureboot, there you are. Where’d everybody go?
PETRA MARQUEZ (PM): Saw them getting escorted out on my way back from the bathroom. Casino probably didn’t appreciate our after-dinner chat. Ask me, I blame Jack, the man’s voice carries.
[[SFX: Petra grabs her drink and downs it.]]
PM: What? Don’t want a perfectly good drink to go to waste because of some loudmouths.
SG: You are way more hardcore than I ever gave you credit for!
[[SFX: radio tuning; the Polvo lab, breakroom; Sally throws down her hand of cards]]
SG: Nope, I’m sorry, you lost me again.
ESTHER ROBERTS (ER): What are you not getting? The rules are simple. You’re trying to build a run of cards in each of your piles before the center deck flips–
SG: Ok wait, ok yeah. So when you divide them this way, you get double points, right?
ER: Not quite, that’s only in the third round. We haven’t gotten there yet.
JACK WYATT (JW): And wait until we get to the third round...
PM: Hmm... Hmm... Okay. Like that.
ER: ... Well damn, would you look at that? Sylvia ran the river. You sure you’ve never played this before?
PM: It just wasn’t that hard to pick up!
SG: Okay, you know what Pureboot, we’re not all weird savants like you, not all of our brains can so easily assimilate such an outlandish number of rules that double-back on each other every frickin' which way–
PM: Better pick it up quick, Grissom. Before the Floating Tin Can launches missiles and we’re all turned to dust.
JW: Jesus, Sylvia, there’s a cheery thought for a friendly game of cards.
PM: What? I’m just saying, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the dang kitchen.
SG: Fair enough, but... But I’ll tell you what, it’s been two years, and nary a peep from that thing. The way I see it, every day we’re still here is an opportunity to learn and do better.
ER: That’s really nice, Dr. Grissom.
JW: Yes yes, we're all gonna die. Shuffle up and deal again, I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of this.
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
SG: I would have thought that two years living in Polvo would have left me jaded. That nothing could surprise me anymore. But then, I get this letter from my aunt Margie. For the folks playing at home, this makes no sense since I don’t have an aunt Margie, and I certainly don’t have an aunt Bernice who lives in 1945, because I don’t exist in 1945. Technically. I mean I do now but, you know... not long enough to have an aunt. But since my nonexistence is so top secret, the people combing our mail for signs of espionage don’t know that and let this allegedly innocuous bit of paper through. But, it’s not innocuous. It’s a code. Took me a little while to crack but essentially it said "92145 BARLOWE DIES IN LAB FROM MAGIC BULLET." Sounds more like an answer to a game of Clue right? But then, there was this moment when Pureboot and I were trying to fix one of the superconducting– dammit. I didn’t do the intro thing, did I? I’m just gonna start over. Diary of Sally Grissom, September 21, 1945...
[[SFX: radio tuning; the Polvo lab; Sally working underneath the Timepiece; Petra's watch ticks]]
SG: —So Donovan says to me, he says, “Rock music gives me a headache. You’re going to go deaf with that claptrap!” But who cares about your hearing, y’know? You want to feel the music– hand me those pliers, would you?
PM: Here. Hold on, I’m gonna grab a coffee, want one?
SG: [ignoring her] So I tell him, it’s about letting it drown everything out, letting that inner animal take hold of you...
[[SFX: Petra leaves. A bullet appears through time and ricochets off the Timepiece.]]
[[SFX: Sally hits her head on the Timepiece.]]
SG: [to her diary] Not my best Doc Brown moment considering those numbers were clearly the date but here we are. September 21st, 1945, someone by the name of Barlowe died in the lab by a magic bullet. Maybe this mystery person meant a time travelling bullet? Letters are at a premium when it comes to code. Anyway, no idea who Barlowe was or who they were supposed to be. Wherever they are, I hope they’re alive and well.
[[SFX: radio tuning; night in the desert; Petra knocks on Esther's door]]
ER: Oh, hey Sylvia. Whaaat’s that bottle?
PM: Oh this? Absinthe. Well... Moonshine colored green, but don’t tell Jack.
ER: Okay. Gimme a minute, just need to grab my coat.
[[SFX: Esther steps inside to grab her coat from the closet; Petra retrieves a letter from her pocket]]
PM: Brought you this, think it got mixed in with my mail, though how they read Roberts as Pureboot is beyond me.
ER: We don’t even live near each other.
PM: [suspiciously] I know, so weird!
[[SFX: Esther tosses the letter downs inside]]
PM: Aren’t you gonna open it?
ER: Maybe later, we should really get going.
[[SFX: She shuts the door and locks it. They walk.]]
PM: So, who is she?
PM: The correspondent. Nice handwriting, figured it was a woman.
ER: Oh, it’s from, um, it’s from my sister. Miriam.
PM: That’s nice of her.
PM: Bad blood, huh?
ER: We don’t talk much.
PM: Really? Because I just dropped off a letter from her. Seems like you’re the one whose not doing the talking.
ER: I thought we were going to a party, not an interrogation.
PM: Sorry, I’m sorry. It’s not my place it’s just... I hate to see two sisters drift apart because one of them isn’t willing to talk to the other. That’s all.
ER: Do you have a sister, Sylvia? I don’t know much about your family.
PM: No, yes. I mean, I did but... she’s gone now so. You know.
ER: Oh, I’m... I’m so sorry.
PM: Yeah, well, it is what it is, que sera sera or whatever.
ER: No, Sylvia, I mean it. I’m sorry. I know I don’t talk to Miriam as much as I should but... she means the world to me and to think.... I’m really sorry.
PM: Thanks, Esther. That actually means a lot.
[[SFX: Thunder in the distance; radio tuning; Sally sits in RAINBOW Station B with Ivan Maraczek.]]
SG: So, Mr. Maraczek, where are you thinking of heading to after all this?
IVAN MARACZEK (IM): I do not know.
SG: I hear NACA is doing cool work. Didn’t the guy I replaced move over there? What’s his name, Partridge or whatever? You already have an in! You could, like, make ways to charge satellites in orbit or whatever.
IM: We’re nowhere near Florida–
[[SFX: Walkie talkie crackles.]]
JW: [on walkie] Jack to Sally, over.
SG: Wyatt my man! How’s it hanging?
JW: No sign of lightning or Lambert.
SG: Lightning Lambert, that’s a good boxing nickname!
JW: Can I please leave and go to the party? No offense to your anonymous tip but Sylvia mentioned she was sneaking in absinthe.
SG: Wyatt, what time is it?
SG: Well okay then. Pull the lever, Kronk!
JW: This might cause a power outage–
SG: Just pull the goddamn lever!
JW: Oh my god, here we go. [pause] Okay, I pulled it. And who is–AAAH!
[[SFX: Lightning strikes RAINBOW station A, heard through the radio and in the distance from Sally's end.]]
SG: Boom! That’s how it’s done!
JW: Alright, fine, you were right. I’ll keep an eye out for Lambert and a pipe or whatever you said he allegedly hits me with.
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, Febraury 8th, 1946. Settling in pretty nicely here in... jeez, I really can’t believe this town is named “Point-of-Exile.” Sounds fake, but ok I guess. Wyatt and Pureboot are being moved into their new apartments now. Was a little surprised Donovan didn’t make the trip with us. Surprised, but not disappointed. Ding dong, the ding dong’s dead. Even more surprising: they put Roberts in charge. Can you believe it? Roberts. My subordinate. Is now my boss! How rude.
Hah, I’m just kidding. I probably wouldn’t have taken the gig anyway. Trying to figure out what ODAR’s gonna do now that the war is over? Trying to figure out all the time-travel logistics singlehandedly, with NACA biting at our heels to get to the satellite first? Yeah, no thanks. I’ll stay in the lab.
[[SFX: radio tuning; Amelia opens the door on an empty office]]
AMELIA ARNAULT (AA): Through here, mum.
ER: Uh, yes! Great. Thank you Amelia.
AA: I’ll be just through here if you need anything.
[[SFX: Amelia closes the door; Esther sighs, puts her box of things down on her desk. A note appears through time.]]
ER: What the... “Greetings from your neighbors to the east, we thank you on your alternate’s behalf, enjoy your new position, we hope you live up to her potential. Karla.” [sigh] The first cryptic time-note of many to come, I’m sure.
[[SFX: Esther crumples the note, throws it away; radio tuning; the diner]]
ER: Miriam, can you pass the salt please?
MIRIAM ROBERTS (MR): Oh yeah, I would love to.
SG: ...I wouldn’t do that.
ER: What? Pass the salt?
SG: ...I definitely saw Pureboot swap it for the sugar while Beta Roberts kept watch.
ER: What? Come on you guys...
PM: The point of a prank is that you don’t spill the beans on a co-conspirator!
SG: I'm sorry, I never consented to being a part of your plan!
ER: Glad to know you feel comfortable pranking your superior.
MR: I felt comfortable pranking my sister for my last breakfast in town!
[[SFX: Jack gags]]
JW: Sally, did you have to wait to say something until after I had sugared my potatoes?
[[SFX: The gang laughs at Jack's face; radio tuning]]
SG: Diary of Sally Grissom, December 25th, 1946. You know, last night I was really feeling the Yuletide spirit, Esther digging up that predictive mechanics algorithm to implement with the processors inside the zero-time bubble: it was like Christmas came a day early! Apparently they were working on the algorithm before I showed up in ‘43 but when, what’s his name, Anthony... Patreon? Whatever, their old boss got fired and went to the NACA, they kind of threw everything away to focus on the Timepiece. But now that Roberts is in charge, she’s ordered Pureboot to lead a team to go through old archives for anything useful and now we can get instantaneous calculations! Does this amount to anything? No, not really, but I have a THEORY that–
[[SFX: CAGE activates.]]
SALLY GRISSOM FROM THIS EPISODE (SG-A): Oh shit, what the...OHMYGOD–
SALLY GRISSOM PRIME (SG-P): Calm down, Sally, you’re gonna be fine this time but I need you to lie down here.
[[SFX: Sally-Prime pats a gurney]]
SG-A: Oh... You’re...
SG-A: But you’re—
SG-A: You’re me from the future!
SG-P: [sigh] Okay, let’s get this out of the way. Yes, hi, I’m you. From the future. You’re thinking of the number 86, you’re gonna hold your middle finger behind your back, the password is Nitric Caiman Grout.
SG-A: ...Why 86?
SG-P: It’s what we always pick. Woah is it weird to be on the other side of this.
SG-A: Well isn’t that just... wizard.
SG-P: Enough time-horsing around. I gotta give you this injection so your brain doesn’t turn to mush after this conversation. Only thing stopping it now is this CAGE.
[[SFX: Sally opens a bag and starts preparing a syringe]]
SG-A: That is a horrifyingly big needle and wait, what, why would my brain turn to mush?
SG-P: Cliffsnotes: time travel paradoxes are bad for your head. They make you go crazy. The literature doesn’t exist for you yet, but it’ll be called “Butterfly Syndrome.” Woah, deja vu, last time I went through this is really coming back to me now. Anyway, seriously, get on the gurney.
SG-A: Oh!... Ok!
[[SFX: radio tuning; back in Sally's house, outside the CAGE]]
SG-A: Goddamn, spinal injections...
SG-P: I know, right?
SG-A: So we’re just gonna hang...
SG-P: Until you feel better, yep.
SG-A: What happened the last time, when you were me?
SG-P: Uh, basically the same rigamarole except I ended up losing three years for CAGE therapy. We didn’t have this handy dandy cure at the time.
SG-A: What was so desperately important that the other future us would risk brain damage?
SG-P: Like I said, I lost most of that conversation. When I was finally back to my normal self all I could remember was something about pumpkins? But now that it’s all coming back to me I’m pretty sure she, I... you... we, were talking about the pumpkin papers. Yeah, and those ended up being documents exposing Soviet spies in the US–... oh my fucking god I bet Hank Cornish’s name was all over those papers! Huh. Wow, that would have saved us all a HUGE headache, damn.
SG-A: So is that something I still need to look out for? Pumpkin papers? Hank... what did you say his name was?
SG-P: If you haven’t heard of him by now it’s probably not anything you need to worry about. I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be different this time around.
SG-A: So then, why did you travel back from whenever you were from, to talk to me in person?
SG-P: Back in my time there was this kid, Petra. She was immune to Butterfly Syndrome, can make time-duplicates of herself, and had a bone to pick with the US Government and ODAR–for fairly valid reasons. So she sent a giant space superweapon called the WELT–
SG-A: The WELT?
SG-P: Weaponized Entropy for Large Targets.
SG-A: Hah! Sounds like one of ours.
SG-P: It is. Can I finish my story here?
SG-A: Sorry, sorry, go on.
SG-P: Thank you. So Petra sends the WELT back in time to the original anchor point, and as far as I can tell she’s been having a jolly good time getting her rocks off watching the world freak out about it.
SG-A: THAT’S why the NACA has been so weird!
SG-A: So, what does it do?
SG-P: Are y’all up to CAGEs yet?
SG-A: Yeah, we’ve got CAGEs. Still trying to figure out what they’re useful for–
SG-P: Imagine a gigantic CAGE, big enough to cover huge populated areas. Missiles spread the array generators out over the border of the area and then activate, leaving an entire population cut off from the rest of the universe, no deactivator, no supplies, no running water, and then you let the CAGE internal clock run until... Until the whole place ages to dust.
SG-A: Holy fuck.
SG-P: You said it, sis. But, I managed to travel back as well to figure out a way to stop her. Even managed to save your butt a couple of times.
SG-A: ...YOU'RE Aunt Margie??
SG-P: Mm-hmm, figured I could help... guide you along the way. Time travelling Fairy Godmother kind of thing.
SG-A: ...But like most of the stuff you warned about didn’t come true.
SG-P: Yeah, with Partridge off at the NACA and Barlowe who knows where in time, I haven’t been able to be my usual precognitive self–OH! Right, the big thing I needed to tell you!
SG-A: Bigger than a city killing superweapon straight out of a comic book?
SG-P: On a personal level, yeah. Oh hey, go me for putting personal things ahead of science things, I think this is what they call progress. ANYWAY you know your lab partner? Sylvia Pureboot?
SG-A: Yeah, she’s pretty fantastic, why?
SG-P: Oh man, I wish you hadn’t said that... I, uh...
SG-A: She’s a double agent, right? Working for this, Petra kid?
SG-P: Worse: she is Petra. Or, one of them. She’s the one behind all of this.
SG-A: So.... wait. She–
SG-A: This whole time–
SG-A: But I thought–
SG-P: ‘Fraid not.
[[SFX: radio tuning]]
JW: I still can’t get over that there are two of you.
SG-P: You think that’s impressive, wait ‘till you meet the Legion of Petras.
JW: So, wait okay, this Petra girl is actually responsible for the Big Tin Can that appeared the day you did, and she wants to use it to destroy ODAR or DC or what have you?
ER: How come she hates me more than anybody?
SG-P: She hates a version that you could have become in a different timeline.
ER: My head hurts.
SG-A: I’m actually doing fine.
SG-P: Roberts, tell me if your headache gets any worse. Listen, Wyatt, Roberts, Grissom and I need your–
SG-A Uh, DOCTOR Grissom!
SG-P: Oh my... I am.... I am so sorry. DOCTOR Grissom and I need your help. Can you do it?
JW: This is bonkers, I’m in.
ER: Of course.
SG-P: Okay, so I’ve got a plan to deal with Petra. But first, let’s make sure nobody’s listening.
ER: No, no please, those are expen–
[[SFX: Sally pulls out a microphone and breaks it; static; 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 35: Tangent features –
Kristen DiMercurio (Sally Grissom)
Katie Speed (Esther Roberts)
Lia Peros (Petra Marquez)
Zach Ehrlich (Jack Wyatt)
Julian Mundy (Ivan Maraczek)
Sammi Lappin (Miriam Roberts)
Isabel Atkinson (Amelia Arnault)
Rob McCollum, Barry Stanton, Zach Valenti (additional voices)
Original music by Mischa Stanton and by Eno Freedman-Brodmann.
ars PARADOXICA is brought to you by The Internet: It's highly addictive!
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