PART 3: THE PLANE TRUTH
“I… don’t need… this stress…” panted Frank Dijora. As he ran after Carrie Waterson, he tried to mentally sum things up: He was now in the terminal of some unknown airport, in the past, in pursuit of a girl he barely knew, because despite trying to help her, she was managing to get on his nerves more and more the longer they were together.
Of course, looking at that time in the literal sense, he technically didn’t even know her yet, since this was eleven years in his past (thirteen years for Carrie), making the two of them something like three years old, logistically speaking. Perhaps an empirical time travel experiment had not been the way to go? But Frank had expected to still be in his basement, at the very least!
The brown haired teenager pushed past a man wearing a sweatshirt that read LARS 01, mumbling an apology as he did so. “Lars” apologized back. So perhaps they were still in Canada. For that matter, the signs were English and French.
Damn, Carrie was fast – he’d now completely lost track of her. On the bright side, stopping and looking about, he was only getting a few curious stares, so their sprinting out of an arrival gate hadn’t been worthy of attention by security personnel. Yet.
Standing up on a convenient chair, Frank scanned above the crowd, looking for signs of the blue hairband that Carrie had been wearing. He also used the opportunity to catch his breath.
Blonde teenager, blonde teenager… there! Was that her? She seemed stationary now. What was her problem anyway? She’d screamed something outside the terminal before running to the nearest gate entrance, but with all the noise, Frank hadn’t caught it. Climbing off the chair, he hurried in the direction of the figure as fast as he was able. He called out “Carrie?” as he got closer; no response.
There was a break in the crowd, allowing Frank to see that it was indeed her. She was staring at something, and following her gaze, he realized it was a clock. A clock that read 3:14. Shaking his head, Frank came up next to her and panted out with as much authority as he could muster, “Carrie! What… on earth… are you DOING?”
“Not now,” Carrie responded dazedly. Frank thought she was brushing him off until she turned and looked at him. Her spooked look from before had now resolved itself into some form of quiet serenity. Though that was just as spooky, if not more so, particularly given how her makeup was starting to run because of her unchecked tears. “Not now. Thank goodness, I’ve still got over three hours…”
Frank sighed. Were older girls always this cryptic? He wasn’t a mind reader. “Over three hours until what??” Frank fired back in frustration.
Carrie’s eyes unfocussed slightly. “Until… until my mama gets on the plane… and… ends up… dead…” With that, she crumpled to the ground and passed out.
Carrie Waterson felt someone slapping her face. Without thinking, she reached out and slapped back, feeling her hand connect. “Ow!” came a familiar exclamation. Carrie blinked her eyes open and sat up to see Frank staring irritably at her while rubbing his cheek. Oops. He turned away.
“She’s fine,” her time travel companion remarked to a couple of people who had apparently taken an interest in the momentary collapse. Perhaps she shouldn’t have pushed herself so hard while running, but she hadn’t known what time it was, only the date and the place… she’d wanted to make sure she was in time… mama…
Was Frank saying something else? “Huh?”
He sighed. “I said, let’s move over to those chairs, out of the way.”
Carrie blinked and nodded, stumbling back to her feet and following Frank over to the wall. It didn’t really matter where in the airport they were. As long as they were here, now, in time to prevent what was about to happen. What were the odds that they should have ended up here?
Actually, pretty good, Carrie decided. After all, her first experience with time travel had involved a link to her mother in the form of her broken crystal swan, so on some level she’d anticipated a similar result this time. That was why, when they’d ended up outside this airport… she’d known what the date had to be…
“But since it’s obvious you’re not paying attention to me, maybe I shouldn’t bother talking,” Frank concluded dryly.
Frank pressed a hand to his forehead. “Carrie, please, PLEASE snap out of it!” he pleaded. “As I said, I know you’re distraught, but I’m flying blind here. What’s wrong? What do you mean about your mother? Is a plane going to crash here in the next three hours?”
Oh no. She’d said too much. She hadn’t stopped to fully consider the situation, and as a consequence, things were spiralling outside of her sphere of control again. “Damn it,” she muttered, clenching her fists. She couldn’t very well feign innocence now. How much should she say then? Carrie paused to consider what she knew of Frank.
Not much, despite them being in the same high school homeroom for Grade 11. Mainly because he was not one of the “in” crowd – more one of the “geek” crowd, as Julie referenced them. That is, the socially inept weirdos with a fixation on grades. Recently, she’d also found Frank lurking in the ravine out back of her house, citing as a reason alleged “tree frogs”. In fact, she and Julie had just thought of a way to get back at Frank for snooping around, which… oh, shoot.
Had he actually been looking for evidence of the time machine? They might not want snipe back at him for that.
Well, that was neither here nor there; right now, this was a Grade 9 Frank from the past, and they were in the far past, and he had requested an explanation, and she supposed he was entitled to it. She’d simply have to… to trust in his discretion. “All right,” she said. “But Frank, assuming we get out of this…”
“…if I say anything it’s my head on a platter and you’ll deny it all anyway,” Frank finished.
Mildly annoyed by the interjection, Carrie still nodded in response. “Okay. Thirteen years ago…” she stopped. “That is, in about three hours… my mother had to… that is, she will fly off to Bermuda on business.” Grimacing, Carrie decided to stick with past tense.
“She worked for this company that produced documentary films, and they were doing a shoot there. So…” Carrie stopped again. She didn’t really know all the details, or want to remember them… she decided to finish as quickly as she could.
“So after dinner me and my father drove her here to the airport where she caught a plane that was to bring her down to Florida and from there to Bermuda but it was the last time either of us ever saw her alive,” she said in one breath.
Frank looked uneasy. “Then… her plane… crashed?”
Carrie bit her lip. There was a reason she’d never told anyone even this much before. “No… see, my mom got to Florida just fine but on the smaller corporate plane flying the rest of the way…” Could she actually say it? “Mama disappeared in the Bermuda triangle, okay?!”
“In the… what?” Frank’s voice trailed off, an incredulous look on his face. Carrie felt the urge to slap it off, so she did. “Ow! Will you cut that out?!”
“You were going to laugh, weren’t you? Well, it’s not funny!” Carrie said, turning away and folding her arms across her chest. “It sounds stupid but that’s what happened! What’s more, ever since then everything has been screwed up with our family.
“Dad used to think she would come back, he’s such a pathetic romantic. I didn’t even get the whole story until I was practically a teenager. I wasn’t sure if I could believe him even then but I double checked the story myself with my grandparents.” Carrie looked over at the visible clock again. “But in less than three hours… I can change it. ALL of it.”
She’d tell her mother not to get on the plane. Get her to give the Bermuda job to someone else. Then her mother would still be around while she was growing up, her father could spend more time with them because he wouldn’t be thinking about his wife and… and well, Carrie would have a real family and it would just be better.
Frank cleared his throat. “Carrie, you obviously have some strong feelings you’re expressing here, so I hesitate to bring this up, but… we don’t know anything about the repercussions of time travel. Particularly with respect to changing the past.”
Carrie shrugged noncommittally. “I’ve seen ‘Back to the Future’. In this case I’m saving my parents’ relationship instead of splitting it up. No big deal.”
Frank pressed a hand to his forehead. “Given the airport, I’m more worried we’ll end up re-enacting ’12 Monkeys’. I mean, this past may be unchangeable. Consider, if time travel has apparently been invented, why hasn’t someone already gone back and prevented the two World Wars? Or 9/11?”
Carrie stared. “Frank, we’re not talking atomic bomb scale here. I’m simply going to tell my mother that she shouldn’t get on her plane – that she should let someone else film her documentary.”
“Yeah, and how can you convince her to do that? Are you going to say that you’re her 16 year old daughter, who has traveled back in time to warn that if she doesn’t do as you say, she’ll be lost in the Bermuda triangle?”
“Yes!” Carrie stated emphatically. “Or… no, maybe not that much detail,” she amended, bothered at the way the conversation was going.
“You think she’ll cancel all her plans simply on the word of some girl she meets at the airport?”
“I… I’ll show her my ID!” Carrie continued, reaching for her shoulder purse. “Damn it, no I can’t, I left my purse back in your lab… how could you let me do that?”
Frank blinked. “How could I let YOU…?”
“Oh, never mind. She’ll believe me! She HAS to! I’m sure she’ll sense our mother-daughter bond!”
“So there’s no chance at all she’ll think you’re a lunatic.”
“Do I look like a lunatic?”
Frank paused on that one, which made Carrie wonder if she should swat him again. But he continued swiftly with, “Okay then, let’s look at this from your ‘Back to the Future’ perspective. Your mother doesn’t do this job. Someone else takes her place. Say they vanish instead. As a consequence, this other person no longer gives birth to a person who was supposed to become the Prime Minister, which means you could inadvertently cause–”
“Shut up!” Carrie cut in, standing up and clenching her fists again. “Stop speculating like that!”
“Carrie, I’m just thinking that we don’t want to save one life at the possible expense of other–”
“You don’t know what’s going to happen! You don’t know how this will end up affecting things! You don’t know anything!”
“No, but you don’t know either!”
“I know anything would be better than what I’ve got! How dare you be so cold and analytical about this?! We’re talking about my MAMA for God’s sake!!” She tried to swallow the lump in her throat. “I never should have told you anything in the first place.” Instinctively she raised her hand for another slap, but he moved back out of the way.
One well placed kick later, and Carrie was running, pushing through the small crowd, trying to get away from Frank and his stupid theories. For the damnable thing was, his concerns felt valid. Sure, Carrie had minimal qualms about toying around with the lives of people who deserved it… but this went past that. Did she really have the right to risk permanent change to the lives of people she didn’t even know? Yet she had to save her mama! Now that she could, why was doing it seeming so damn complicated?!
Frank sat against the wall, rubbing his shin and stifling a yawn. The crowd had seemed to buy his “rehearsing for a soap opera” story, but he really wished Carrie hadn’t made a scene like that. Of course, he could be partially to blame, for getting her riled up? But he hadn’t meant to upset her.
Frank adjusted his glasses, alternately glancing at the time machine by his feet, and over at the nearby women’s washroom; Carrie had picked a good place to hide out for the last hour or so. She had to come out eventually though, and then… well, then they’d find a way to resolve this. Somehow.
Frank wondered how was it that time travel often seemed so fun and exciting in science fiction books and movies. He’d never thought about much about it outside of that. He made a mental note to look into the phenomenon a little more scientifically, outside the realm of Hollywood movies. Assuming they ever made it back.
Someone came out of the washroom. Frank looked back up, but it wasn’t Carrie. He sighed. Could he have spoken to her differently? Talking wasn’t his forte. It was important to consider all potential consequences in any experiment though! Right? And changing the past, well, this was big time stuff – no pun intended. Someone had to play devil’s advocate, and he was the only other time traveler here.
Still… Frank remembered how his pet goldfish had died when he was 7. If he could change that, would he do so? But then, that was hardly a good parallel for this circumstance, was it. He swallowed another yawn… how long had he been awake now?
The door of the washroom opened only a crack and Frank thought he saw Carrie peering through. Shaking his head to clear it, Frank stood, but the door closed again. A few seconds passed. Then the door opened completely and Carrie strode out, approaching him confidently. As she got closer, Frank noticed that she had been crying again, but had presumably tried to clean herself up to cover that fact. He decided not to say anything.
“All right,” Carrie began, putting her hands on her hips. “I know some consider me a bit shallow and self-centred, but I’ll have you know that I CAN consider the consequences of my actions. So listen to THIS.” She took a deep breath.
“I’ll tell mama that I’m an intern from her company. That we got word of bad weather in Bermuda, delaying the shoot. That we can’t reach the pilot of her connecting flight, but are advising her to hold off on flying out of Florida until sometime tomorrow morning. Furthermore, that they should use the time to double check the mechanisms of their corporate aircraft. Thus, even if they’re not delayed a whole day, ANY delay, plus the possible repair of anything wrong should prevent her death without screwing up anyone else’s future.” She allowed herself a self-satisfied smile. “So?”
Frank nodded. “I admit it, I’m impressed. But don’t you think your mother will double check your information?”
“Her phone was off during dinner. When she arrives here, she’ll be running late, so she shouldn’t have time to contact anyone. Then by the time she’s in Florida, no one will be working in the office to check with,” Carrie stated.
She really HAD thought this through, Frank realized.
“Besides, if it turns out that we need more than my explanation, we can come back again to try something else.”
Frank frowned, wondering if he’d heard correctly. “Wait. Come back? Carrie, paradoxes notwithstanding, we don’t know how the device brought us here in the first place!”
“Oh, didn’t I say? I figured that out too. Since I was thinking about my mother, the time machine picked up on that and brought us to this location,” Carrie revealed. Sounding far too smug for Frank’s tastes.
“That’s not scientific,” he countered in annoyance. “I don’t remember seeing any ‘pick up user’s mental brainwaves’ circuit incorporated into the device.” Though he had to admit, he wondered if that would be something he’d recognize.
“Look again, maybe you missed it.”
“We’re not presently in a location that lends itself to poking around in the innards of this device! What if someone thinks it’s an explosive?”
“Hmph,” Carrie grumbled. “So, tell me again why you came along?”
“I’m starting to wonder that myself,” Frank sniped back.
Carrie shook her head. Still, she supposed it was only natural for a science geek like Frank to be upset at being shown up by a cheerleader. Truth be told, even she was impressed with her own deductive reasoning – the entirety of the last forty-five minutes had been spent on reasoning through this problem. It was an actual life and death situation, after all.
However, maybe she should try to be a bit nicer to Frank? Without him initiating said reasoning, she might have made a fool out of herself in front of her mother.
“Look, Frank, I’m sorry for earlier. Let me make it up to you – since we have almost two hours until my mother arrives, and I’m thirsty from all that running before, how about you buy me a drink?” She started to twirl some strands of her hair in her fingers. “I mean, I’d pay, but I left my money back in your lab.”
Frank stared. He opened his mouth like wanted to say something, then closed it, then threw up his hands. “Sure, whatever, I’m thirsty too.”
“Great!” Carrie turned to look around the area. “So where do they hide the refreshment stands in airports anyway? I never come to these places.” She shivered involuntarily.
Frank pulled out his wallet and removed a twenty. “How should I know? Maybe– oh, shoot, wait a minute. This bill… it wouldn’t have existed eleven years ago. I can’t pay for something using money that doesn’t exist yet, they won’t recognize it.”
“Bah, use change then,” Carrie stated, airily waving a hand.
Frank fished around in his pocket, emerging with some coins, as well as his roll of quarters for powering the machine. “But even these have dates on them,” he pointed out. “I’ll need to check each one to see if it exists in this present.”
“Oh, God, Frank, seriously – who bothers checking the dates on coins??”
“But the potential economic repercussions–” Frank froze. “Wait, did you just say people won’t check the dates?”
“Newsflash, Frank. As long money looks authentic, most people don’t pay attention to it.” Why did she even have to explain that?
“But… of course!” Frank said, excitedly. “It’s a bit of a wild theory, but if I’m right… Carrie, I’ve now figured out how the time machine works!”