Buck & Jane
A Death in the Family
Decker & Hayes
Epic Echoes
The Great Muppet Debate
Guard Duty
Like Mother, Like Daughter
Stage Blood



Like Mother
Episode 6 - Shock and Awe and Amazement

By Daniel Schwartz

John Darling
Beatrice Darling

Narrator: Pandora Darling had flown at least once a month for most of her life. Her mother’s job as an airline stewardess had given her free run of hundreds of planes and dozens of airports. For the first time, however, Pandy dropped down in Seattle feeling profoundly lost. Her flight had been, to say the least, unsettling.

Pandy: Decode what message? I was just trying to get away…how’d I end up on the plane she was on? Okay, hold on; let’s take a look at this paper. (backpack unzips, rustling of paper) Page thirteen…let’s see… (rustling) "The Mayor of Seattle welcomes the G8 leaders…an economic summit…labor rights activist Jason Brandt…fears of rioters…" Wait a minute… (click of mechanical pencil, scribbling) their cryptographers use prime substitutions, so that means… (more scribbling) "Seattle…leaders lure Brandt…target among rioters"…oh my god…

Bobby: Hey Pandy! Boy, that was some takeoff, huh?

Pandy: Huh? Oh, hey Bobby. I didn’t notice.

Bobby: Oh. Well, I don’t go flying really often, I guess I’m not used to it. How about you?

Pandy: My Mom’s a stewardess.

Bobby: Right.

Pandy: Bobby, look at this.

Bobby: Hey, it’s today’s paper. That’s the one about the G8 summit in Seattle. Are you going to that too? Jason Brandt’s going to be there – I’ve read his book, he’s great! He’s done so much for guest and migrant workers in the southwest!


Pandy: What?

Bobby: Jason Brandt. He’ll be speaking at the demonstration. He’s a big deal on the internet, organizing protests, circulating petitions, really working for the little guy.

Pandy: Bobby…I think they’re going to kill him.

Bobby: What?!

Pandy: That Bland guy.

Bobby: Brandt?

Pandy: Whatever. They’re going to kill him.

Bobby: Who?

Pandy: The…look, read the article, don’t you see it?

Bobby: Well, there’s a picture of the police erecting barriers…

Pandy: No, look at the article!

Bobby: "…an economic summit centering on the problems of retaining employment in first world nations…"

Pandy: No no no! Ignore the words, look at the message!


Bobby: What?

Pandy: Look, You start on the first predicate, then start varying based on polygraphic ciphers…

Bobby: Pandy, it’s just a news article! And what’s a polygraphic cipher?

Pandy: (her voice suddenly mechanical, as if repeating by rote) Polygraphic substitution ciphers use plaintext letters substituted in larger groups (typically pairs, making a digraphic cipher), instead of substituting letters individually. The advantage of this is first that the frequency distribution of digraphs is much flatter than that of individual letters (though not actually flat in real languages; for example, 'TH' is much more common than 'XQ' in English). Second, the larger number of symbols requires correspondingly more ciphertext to productively analyse letter frequencies.


Bobby: How do you know that?

Pandy: (her voice normal, albeit totally freaked out) I don’t know. I just…I don’t… (tone, as of call button)

Mom: Hey Potato. Comfy? I know you like more pillows, so I had Tracy leave a few extra.

Pandy: I’m fine, Mom. How do I know about cryptography?

Mom: I don’t know what you’re talking about, honey. Oh, hello, Bobby. Coke?

Bobby: You bet, Mrs. D! (drinking sound, grunt)

Pandy: Pentathol?

Mom: Hey, good job remembering your reading!

Pandy: How do I know about cryptography?

Mom: Well, I was originally going to just drug and hypnotize Bobby into forgetting. Then you had to pull that little stunt with the milk, so I figured we could step up the training a little and help you sort out some of the more boring code-breaking. So I got some stuff off of Wikipedia and converted it to audio. Then I played it into your MP3 player. Subliminal training doesn’t always work, but it was worth a shot, and hey, I guess it paid off.

Pandy: You BRAINWASHED ME into cracking codes?!

Mom: (whispering insistently) Perhaps a little less yelling and a little more accepting this situation with dignity, Pandy. We need to foil this assassination so that CASK agents won’t subvert the American labor movement. In the wake of Brandt’s death, most of the attendees will be corralled into prisons and designated enemy combatants, which means indefinite detention and torture. This is big time, Potato. I know we can do this. I figured we could bring your little friend along, since he mentioned how excited he was.

Pandy: Won’t there be thousands of people there?

Mom: Hundreds of thousands. Good thing we can spot the agents, huh?

Pandy: I can’t, Mom! That’s something YOU can do!

Mom: Well, now’s as good a time as any to learn, isn’t it?

Pandy: This is really intense, Mom. I’m scared.

Mom: I know, honey. But part of being brave is being scared. Just relax a little, enjoy the flight. In a couple of hours there’ll be a great view of the Rockies.

Narrator: Pandora passed the flight with A Tale of Two Cities and a mounting sense of unease. Bobby twitched and muttered in his drug-induced sleep. As Pandora watched him, she felt a new sense of pity for the awkward teen she sat next to. Bobby Kurtzman was socially inept and hopelessly timid, but he didn’t deserve the constant barrage of drugs and deception he’d been subject to since that fateful day he discovered Pandy’s mother butchering a Jehovah’s Witness. In a real sense the unfolding of events had victimized him even more than Pandora herself. At least she knew she was being manipulated by a murderous conspiracy-theorist.

Pandy: (softly; she doesn’t want anyone knowing she said this) Poor Bobby. You deserve better.

Narrator: As the plane sidled up to the terminal entrance, Pandora shook Bobby awake and gathered up her carry-on luggage.

Bobby: (waking up) Huh? Wha? Are we there?

Pandy: (fondly) That’s right, Bobbysox. Up and at ‘em.

Bobby: (utterly unmanned) Bobbysox?

Pandy: (coy) You don’t like it?

Bobby: (trying to recover) What? Oh, no, sure, it’s great. Bobbysox. Sure.

Pandy: Sounds good, kid. Let’s get going.

Bobby: Uh, hey, Pandy. Before I dropped off you were talking about code-breaking, like there was some kind of secret message in the paper.

Pandy: (suddenly guarded) Yeah, so?

Bobby: (realizing this statement may forever separate him from nookie) Well, I was thinking; maybe you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. I mean, could it just be a coincidence that there’s a -

Pandy: (again, repeating brainwashed text) "A disadvantage of all these attempts to defeat frequency counting attacks is that it increases complication of both enciphering and deciphering, leading to mistakes. Famously, a British Foreign Secretary is said to have rejected the Playfair cipher because, even if school boys could cope successfully as Wheatstone and Playfair had shown, 'our attachés could never learn it!' Additionally, without knowing the original content of the message or the correct code, any number of plausible but untrue sentences may be produced in attempts to decipher." (normal, becoming scared again) Just finding a code doesn’t mean it’s there…I could be making a terrible mistake!

Bobby: Um, yeah … I think that’s what I said.

Pandy: Bobby, we have to get out of here! Do we have somewhere to stay?

Bobby: Well, there’s a youth hostel near the airport –

Pandy: Too close! She’ll think of that immediately! We need somewhere to lay low, somewhere she can’t go… Paka! (pah-kah)

Bobby: Huh?

Pandy: Quick, pick up your luggage, I’ll go wave down a taxi!

Narrator: Bobby was confused, but he followed Pandy’s instructions anyway. The trip from the airport to 71 Water Street was expensive, but as the cab turned onto familiar streets, Pandora felt her heart slowing, calming. Soon she’d be safe with the only people she’d ever known who gave her mother pause. (doorbell rings, door opens)

John Darling: (genial grandfather type, quiet and dignified, happy to see her) Pandy!

Pandy: Paka John!

John: Come here, you crazy girl! Give your grampa a hug! (hugging sounds? What sounds do people make when they hug?) And who’s this?

Bobby: Uh, B-b-bob-

Pandy: Paka John, this is my friend Bobby Kurtzman. Bobby, this my grandpa, John Darling.

Narrator: John Darling had married his wife, Beatrice, immediately after coming home from Korea. The two had raised several sons, the youngest of which went on to become Pandora’s father. In their twilight years, the pair had retired and moved to Seattle, where they gardened, volunteered in the community and received visits from their now much-extended family. It had been several years since Pandora and her mother had come to visit, since her father’s parents had never liked Hope very much. Seeing them now, Pandy thought she might just be safe at last.

Bobby: Nice to meet you, Mr. Darling.

John: (scoffs) Mr. Darling…unless you’ve got a ring for my granddaughter, John’ll do just fine. (calling into the next room) Bea! Pandora’s here!

Beatrice: (loud and friendly, equally pleased) Pandy? Oh, that’s wonderful! Sweetheart, what are you doing here?

Pandy: Hey Gamma! Bobby and I were coming to town for the protests, so I figured I’d stop in and say hello!

Beatrice: Stop in nothing! You’re staying here for the weekend! No way is our Pandy going to spend the night in some hole-in-the-wall motel! And who’s your friend?

John: This is Pandy’s friend Bobby, Beatrice. I think we can make up two guest rooms, don’t you?

Beatrice: Of course! Any friend of Pandy’s is welcome here!

Bobby: Wow, thanks Beatrice!

Beatrice: No problem, Bobby. And it’s Mrs. Darling, if you don’t mind. Call me old-fashioned, but you’re young enough to be dating my granddaughter.

John: (feigning shock) Bea! What a thing to say! You haven’t played matchmaker in years, and you were no good at it back then!

Beatrice: (feigning anger) You watch yourself, old man! Who’d cook your meals without me around?

John: (teasing) Oh, I don’t know, somebody good at it? (Bea shrieks, John cackles) Quick, Pandy, let’s get your things upstairs before Gamma thinks of a good comeback!

Narrator: John grabbed Bobby’s suitcase and ushered his granddaughter up the stairs to the guest rooms. The Darlings had done well for themselves, and it showed in the large, well-furnished house they always kept ready for company. Once upstairs and in private, John became more serious.

John: I’m surprised your mother let you come out here. Hope’s normally very…protective.

Pandy: Yeah, well…she and I had a fight.

John: I figured. Never thought she’d be good with teenagers. Takes a certain knack.

Pandy: I guess so. I may need to stay here for a while.

John: I’ll talk it over with your Gamma, but it shouldn’t be a problem. You’ve got some lost time to make up for, anyway; it HAS been a while, Pandy.

Pandy: You’re the best, Paka.

John: Good of you to notice, honey. Now let’s get downstairs, Bea’s probably grilling that poor boy of yours.

Pandy: He really isn’t my boyfriend, Paka.

John: Really? You should think about it, he’ll be good practice for when a better one comes along.

Narrator: With a smile and a wink, John and Pandora headed back downstairs, where Bobby and Beatrice’s talk had taken a more vocal turn.

Beatrice: -with William Penn in the 1680s! Don’t tell me that these Mexicans have it hard!

Bobby: Nobody’s denying that previous immigrations were difficult for those who participated, but this recent wave needs to be addressed appropriately.

John: This argument again? No fair picking on the kid, Bea. Just because I won this fight back in ’92… (Doorbell rings) Now who could that be? (Door opens)

Mom: John. Good to see you again.

John: Hope. I guess I’m seeing you again.

Mom: Just as tactful as always.

John: Old people don’t need to be tactful. Don’t have the time for it.

Narrator: Hope Darling stood in the doorway, braced as if ready to be hit by a train. As Pandora watched her over her grandfather’s shoulder, however, she looked again at John Darling and got a strange expression on her face.

Mom: Are you going to let me in, or do I need to receive verbal abuse in the rain?

John: Best thing about Seattle, I’ve always thought. It discriminates against the unwelcome and the unwanted.

Beatrice: Oh, let her in, John. She’s lowering the property values.

Narrator: Hope pushed past John into the house. As the door shut, she put down her bags and closed her umbrella.

Beatrice: I suppose you’ve come for Pandora.

Mom: That was the original plan. New question, though.

Narrator: Hope Darling drew a gun from inside her raincoat and pointed it at Pandy’s grandparents.

Mom: Where are my parents-in-law?

Bobby: Oh my God, your mom carries a gun?

Pandy: I am SO tired of that question.

John: What are you talking about, Hope?

Mom: John Darling is an arrogant, condescending, sarcastic son of a bitch. But he wouldn’t sell out to CASK.

Pandy: Mother, oh my God! This is crazy!

Mom: INSIDE VOICE, Potato. And look at them. Really look and you’ll see what I mean.

Narrator: Pandora stared at her grandparents. The man who taught him how to ride a bike. The woman who taught her how to tie her shoes. The people she had felt safe with as everything came tumbling down. She narrowed her eyes, trying to see some kind of aura or sense some kind of change in them. How were they like the other people her mother had targeted? She stared intently at them.


Pandy: (angry, sad, confused) I’m sorry, mom. I can’t tell. I don’t know.

John: That’s my girl! Way to go, Potato.

Pandy: (shocked) Potato?

Narrator: Suddenly Beatrice grabbed the gun from Hope’s hands. She held on to it, and as they struggled for the weapon it went off in their hands. Bobby collapsed, bleeding from a shallow graze.

John: Keep her there, I’ll get the gun!

(fighting noises, followed by falling-down twice)

Mom: How’s Bobby?

Pandy: (still dazed) They never call me Potato. They hate that nickname.

Mom: The wound looks worse than it is. Keep pressure on his head while I cuff these two.

Pandy: They look just like them…

Mom: They probably started looking differently. CASK commands an impressive budget. Some plastic surgeons are probably pocket change. But they always make mistakes. Look at their fingertips; the patterns are different. And John’s feet were way bigger than this.

Pandy: So what do we do?

Mom: Inform the police, file a missing person’s report. I know a detective in the local precinct, he’s a friend. Then we get going.

Pandy: For what?

Mom: The demonstration. Now they know we’re here; we need to save Jason Brandt.

Narrator: As Pandora bandaged Bobby’s wounds, she felt the bolt shoot home on the prison of her life. Can Pandora and her mother stop the assassination? Is the assassination even going to happen? Will Bobby remember this most recent trauma? Like Mother Continues next week with "Red Right Hand."

Go to Episode 7