PART 31: PAST MEETS FUTURE
Julie twisted the Rubik’s cube around. Perhaps if she… no, the colours weren’t going to line up that way either. Frustrated, she threw the object across the room, where it bounced off one of her filing cabinets. She glared at it, knowing full well that she wasn’t really upset with the puzzle cube.
“Damn you, Corry,” she seethed quietly. “You have more stamina than I thought. I played the tape incriminating your sister at the dance. I set you up by putting those prescription pills in Carrie’s locker. I opened myself up to attack, and despite that – you wait. You. WAIT! This is driving me NUTS! I thought for sure, on Halloween…”
Julie raked a hand back through her hair and leaned back against the wall. “I can’t lose to you if you do nothing, Corry! What the hell is wrong, idiot?! You know you want to deal with me. You’ve wanted it for two years, so COME AT ME already!!”
There was a knock at the basement door to her ‘play room’, making Julie jump. “Who’s there?” she hollered.
“Me,” came the voice of Jeeves, the family butler. “Clarke’s called you again.”
“Then you should have told him I didn’t want to talk!”
“Indeed I did. But following that we had another call from your high school.”
“Then you tell Mr. Hunt he knows my price! I’m not budging an inch!” Julie asserted, even as she slid down the wall onto the ground.
“On the contrary, this time the principal recommended a good counsellor for you,” Jeeves responded. “And frankly Miss LaMille, I’m starting to think that a wise course of action. I would hate to see a repeat of whatever happened three years ago, before you came to this town.”
Julie began to rock her body back and forth. “It won’t happen!” she called back. She swallowed. “I’ll do things right this time,” she finished, too quiet for him to hear.
“Very well,” Jeeves concluded after a moment. “But your parents ARE still due to arrive next week. For your birthday. Ultimately, I believe the decision on counselling will be up to them?”
Julie didn’t answer. Her eyes merely tracked back to the lower drawer of that one particular filing cabinet. “You’ll see. I’ll do things right this time,” she repeated softly.
Mrs. Dijora smiled as she opened the door. “Why Carrie, how nice to see you again!”
Carrie flashed Frank’s mother a quick grin. “Thanks! Frank in?”
Mrs. Dijora nodded. “He’s downstairs with Luci.”
“Great!” Carrie said, stepping inside. “Euhhh, I can come in, right?” she asked belatedly. Mrs. Dijora simply nodded again, looking mildly amused as Carrie hurried past her to open the basement door. The blonde took the stairs down two at a time, the individuals in Frank’s lab turning to look as she reached the bottom.
“Don’t you ever knock?” Luci wondered.
“I knocked on the front door,” Carrie retorted. “Look, I’m actually glad you’re both here. We’ve got a new date we can time travel to as a test! Once you’re finished with your final checks or whatever.”
Frank adjusted his glasses. “Oh? What date might that be?”
Carrie took in a deep breath. “November 12th. Four days into the future.”
Frank stared back at her for a moment, then turned to look at Luci. “Is there something going on here that I don’t know about?”
Luci pursed her lips. “Hard to say, really.”
Carrie lifted an eyebrow. “Okay, I know I’VE missed any connection between me and the– between me and Luci.”
“She suggested that same date to me yesterday,” Frank explained.
“Oh, she did, did she?” Carrie said, folding her arms.
“As I said to her then, even if it is possible, given the device can apparently travel to any time during our current year… I’m not sanguine about travel to the future,” Frank continued. “It will substantially compound the number of unknown variables involved.”
Carrie shrugged. “Immaterial if we outvote you two to one,” she noted. “Though I would like to know exactly what Luci’s interest is with that date.”
Luci shrugged back. “The same as yours?”
“You mean Corry?” Carrie pressed. Luci nodded. “So how did YOU know he’d be doing something then??”
Luci hesitated only briefly. “That would take a bit of explanation,” she admitted. She boosted herself up to sit on the edge of the lab table, brining her closer to Carrie’s height. “And while I’ve considered saying something before, it’s only now that the machine is a factor again that it’s relevant. Thing is, Carrie, you cannot reveal what I’m about to say to Corry.”
Carrie sniffed. “No deal. At least, not if this relates to Julie, since the guy grills me on her every other day. I’m starting to think he’s got psychological problems.”
Carrie frowned, and looked at Frank, who shrugged. “Look, I’ll keep quiet either way,” he pointed out. “Again, more concerned with actual travel into the future.”
Carrie fought briefly against her curiosity, but it was a losing proposition. “Okay, Luci,” she agreed. “Nothing to Corry. I’m pretty sure he’ll ease off me after the 12th anyway.”
Luci eyed her for a moment, then nodded. “Okay then.” She took in a breath. “For the last month or more, Chartreuse, Tim and I have been working together. Trying to keep tensions from escalating too high at school between the Julie and Corry factions.”
“Seriously?? You’re doing a lousy job then,” Carrie blurted. “Julie was accused of stealing that potted plant from Mrs. Latour’s desk the other week, Corry was blamed for messing up Julie’s law case files…”
“It’s not easy!” Luci pointed out. “People are ready to go off at the drop of a hat!” She leaned forwards. “That said, we’ve been pretty sure that Corry’s had something on the back burner. Chartreuse finally got the date of November 12th from Laurie earlier this week.”
“Hrmph. Okay, you’re up on me then,” Carrie grumbled. “Corry only gave me that date today. It makes sense though, that being Julie’s birthday,” she added. Luci nodded slowly.
“Wait, hold on,” Frank protested. “Why would Corry take action against Julie on her birthday?”
“When else?” Carrie retorted. “Corry doesn’t have experience with the long game like Julie. When she didn’t do anything after I switched teams, Corry was shocked. Since then, he’s questioned me about her motivations. Obsessively. Now, if you know Julie, you can see she’s been gradually fraying around the edges – but in the end? No way was he going to outlast her. The date makes perfect sense in retrospect.”
“What DID Corry come up with on Julie’s motives?” Luci wondered.
“Can’t talk about it,” Carrie shot back automatically. She then rubbed the back of her neck. “Mainly because I don’t know. Corry and I don’t go beyond speaking terms. He only gave me the November 12th date because, once I realized he wasn’t going to wait forever, I asked him to give me the courtesy of a few days heads up.”
“But… then what is Corry about to do?” Frank asked.
“Obviously, we don’t know,” Luci noted. “Which is why I proposed going ahead to November 12th, to see something that might help clear things up for the 2DEGS.”
Frank blinked. “For the… what?”
Luci blushed. “Uh, the 2DEGS. It’s, well, how Chartreuse refers to our little group of three,” she admitted a bit sheepishly. “See, she, me and Tim, we all have two degrees of separation from… look, it doesn’t matter,” she decided as Frank and Carrie’s stares become more incredulous. “Point is, I’ve always wanted to try a trip to the future too, to verify that it could be done. The time machine is functional again, so why not use it for a good cause like this?”
Carrie shifted her gaze back to Frank. “Besides, aren’t you curious about any of this? I say let’s go for it! I mean, for crying out loud, aren’t you at least pleased that I’m suggesting THIS instead of another trip to deal with you-know-what?” After all, she reasoned that there would be time enough for her mother once the Julie-Corry situation had been dealt with.
Frank sighed. “Well, as you said, it appears I’m outvoted.”
“Excellent!” Carrie said, rubbing her hands in delight.
“There’s just one more thing,” Luci said. “I decided to tell you all that for a reason. Basically, before we go anywhere…” She took in a deep breath. “I want to tell Chartreuse and Tim about our time travelling.”
Both Carrie and Frank turned back to Luci. “What??” they chorused.
The next evening, Tim was shown into the Dijora sitting room. Chartreuse was already there. She smiled brightly at him. “Glad you could make it!”
Tim smiled back weakly.
“Frank says he’ll be upstairs shortly,” Mrs. Dijora assured the two of them. “Can I get either of you anything while you wait? Juice?”
“I’m okay, thanks,” Chartreuse said. “Tim?”
Tim simply shook his head. Mrs. Dijora nodded and left the room, after which Tim heard her calling downstairs. He turned to Chartreuse. “So why would Luci ask to meet us HERE?” he wondered.
“Dunno!” Chartreuse confessed. “But I would, you know, guess it has something to do with Corry and our upcoming doomsday.” Tim nodded in resignation and took a seat. “Not a bad looking house here,” Chartreuse continued conversationally. “It’s probably got, like, good fung shui.”
Tim shrugged. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Yeah, neither would I,” Chartreuse concurred. “Not my area of expertise.” She winked and smiled again, and Tim found he couldn’t help but smile back. For all her faults, Chartreuse did have a way of helping one feel more at ease. Still, Tim found it difficult to get comfortable, particularly when not only Luci and Frank, but also Carrie walked into the room. All wearing sombre expressions.
“We’re clear,” Frank remarked, looking down the hall. “Dad’s out like usual and Mom’s gone upstairs.”
“So what’s, like, up?” Chartreuse asked. “Do you all have some new…” Her voice trailed off as Luci motioned for quiet.
“We’re about to let the two of you in on a big secret,” Luci began. “And while I trust you’ll keep this quiet, there have been some reservations expressed.” She glanced back towards Carrie. “So let me be perfectly clear. What I am about to reveal, you are NOT speak of to anyone else. It doesn’t go beyond the five of us. Okay?”
Chartreuse and Tim looked at each other in surprise. “Okay, sure,” Chartreuse agreed.
“Not even to Clarke?” Tim asked.
“Especially not to him!” Carrie broke in.
Luci turned. “Well… we are pretty sure he suspects anyway, via Julie,” she pointed out.
“All the more reason not to give Julie any more information!” Carrie said irately. “Clarke is not part of this agreement!”
“We’d prefer you didn’t mention it to him,” Frank offered to Tim. “But we’ll take any other names under advisement, as we did when Luci suggested the both of you.” Carrie sighed in exasperation, but said nothing more.
Tim nodded. “O-Okay then,” he said, biting his lip. “The five of us.”
Luci spoke up again. “Tim, remember how you saw two Carries at the school dance? That’s something that never got properly explained. And Chartreuse, you’ve asked me about that other person caught by Professor Linquist – the one who looked similar to me, yet older. Again, I couldn’t go into any detail.”
The young asian girl began to pace. “This secret will explain everything. My hope is, it will also lead you to believe any information that comes out of what we’re about to do. Plus, Chartreuse, there’s something you’ve been hiding from us in the last week.” Chartreuse jumped a bit. “Please take this action of mine as a gesture of faith towards revealing your own secret.”
“I… I’m not really hiding a secret,” Chartreuse protested. “There’s only this, like, event that I foresaw over a month ago, and I’ve recently had the feeling that it may be, you know, close at hand. But I could be wrong about the whole thing.”
“Oh, can we get ON with this already?” Carrie sighed. “If you’re going to tell them, Luci, tell them before Frank’s mom comes back down!”
Luci rolled her eyes. “Okay, bottom line. Chartreuse, Tim… the three of us here have access to a time machine.” She let the comment sit there for a moment before adding, “And we’re planning on traveling forwards three days in order to see what happens to Julie at school.” There was another brief silence.
“What?” Tim said in bewilderment.
“Cool!” came Chartreuse’s response. “How did you, like, get hold of something like that??”
Carrie, Frank and Luci all answered the question at once.
“Government agents,” Carrie said.
“Sent from the future,” Frank said.
“Through alien technology,” Luci said.
The three of them turned to look at each other. “We’re not sure of it’s origins,” Frank finally admitted.
“You have got to be kidding us,” Tim murmured.
“We wouldn’t kid about this sort of thing,” Luci assured.
Frank stepped forwards. “In fact, there was one key argument in favour of revealing the time machine to you now. With the three of us traveling to the future, if something unexpected happens, and we can’t get back… well, it seemed wise to have someone in our own time who knew what was going on.”
“Can we actually see this time machine thing then?” Chartreuse asked eagerly.
Frank nodded. “It’s downstairs. Come on, we might as well explain to you what we’ve figured out so far.”
“Not that you’ll understand most of it,” Carrie added under her breath. Tim heard her remark. And, based on his understanding of things to this point, he was inclined to agree.
Chartreuse peered closely at the black box on Frank’s lab table, even as he began to explain something about coins. “You know,” she piped up when he paused. “I kinda thought a time machine would be, like, bigger. Aren’t you supposed to be able to ride in them?”
“Wait, let me see if I understand,” Tim said uneasily. “You drop a coin in that thing, pull the lever and end up in the same year as when the coin was minted?”
Frank nodded. “Exactly. We can rig the month and day internally, as well as set the time now thanks to some new integrated circuits of Luci’s. There IS random variance, but so far we’ve only been more than a day off target once or twice.”
“Except when we ARE off by more, it can be for a month,” Carrie grumbled.
“Then what’s the pocket watch for?” Chartreuse wondered, pointing at it through the open top of the device.
“Oh, that’s my contribution!” Carrie said, shifting to lean eagerly against the table next to Chartreuse. “It belongs to my family, and it’s going to display the actual time of arrival.”
“Maybe,” Luci yielded. “Thing is, we tried a digital readout, but found it risked an overheating problem. This mechanical stopwatch doesn’t seem to affect the internal workings that way – and for whatever reason, it’s hands twitch when the machine is charged. Carrie has a ‘feeling’, so we mounted it inside.”
“Cool!” Chartreuse reiterated, deciding to ignore the skepticism in Luci’s tone. “How long have you guys been, you know, working on this thing then??”
“I found the machine back in September,” Carrie asserted.
“I did most of the initial work that month,” Frank added. “Though have been collecting coins for a few years.”
“And I helped tinker all through October,” Luci finished. “Not always successfully. Which is why you saw me as a twenty year old that day, Chartreuse.”
“This really doesn’t seem that safe then,” Tim put in. “You don’t know where it’s from, don’t know what it’s capable of, it’s got r-random variance, yet you’re actively USING it??”
“Some of us have a personal stake,” Carrie noted.
“Plus we haven’t had any major problems,” Frank said reassuringly. “And it’s in using it that we discover more about it.”
“So, like, how many trips have you made?” Chartreuse asked.
“We haven’t been keeping track,” Frank admitted. “A lot of the ones at the start were little test ones. As it is, we only have a half dozen or so present day coins left.”
Luci cleared her throat. “Respectfully – the questions could become endless, and they aren’t important right now. Chartreuse, Tim, I simply felt that you deserved to know.”
“THANK you,” Carrie agreed. “Let’s travel to the future before the future becomes the past. You’ve already set the device properly, right?”
Frank nodded. “For after school on the 12th. That way we can learn about things through the aftermath, but avoid details.”
“Wait,” Luci objected. “Before we go – Chartreuse, that vision you mentioned…?”
Chartreuse felt her mood crash. “My visions aren’t always accurate, Luci,” she protested. “I mean, maybe you heard that in September, I forecasted that we’d finally have a winning football team? That never happened.”
“I doubt you put much effort into that reading,” Luci observed.
“Circumstances have, you know, changed over the last month too,” Chartreuse continued desperately. “I mean, my own detention with Carrie might have, like, invalidated what I saw.”
“Regardless, Chartreuse – if you know something about the future we’re going into, we could use the advantage.”
“Oh no, look, you don’t want this knowledge,” Chartreuse said, adopting her most serious posture. “You really don’t.”
“Maybe not. But I think we need to have it,” Luci said.
“Luci, if she doesn’t want to tell us, fine!” Carrie broke back in, with obvious exasperation. “Is this really so important?”
“It might be,” Frank put in, now looking a little more closely at Chartreuse. “Because this sounds significant. Like, drugs in a locker significant.” Carrie pursed her lips. “Chartreuse,” he ventured, “we’ll be flying more blind than usual. If you have insight into anything… ANYTHING about what’s coming… it really could be invaluable.”
Chartreuse shifted her weight back and forth. “Ooooh…” She exhaled, and decided to say it all in a rush. “ISawSomeoneWeKnowFromSchoolFiringAGun!”
No one spoke at first. Until Luci fired off the logical question, “Who?”
“I don’t know,” Chartreuse said sullenly, shaking her head.
“When?” Tim gasped out.
“I don’t know. Soon.”
“Did anyone get hit?” Frank wondered.
“I don’t know.”
“You really don’t know much at all,” Carrie muttered, barely audibly.
Chartreuse spun to face the blonde. “THAT’S why I didn’t want to say anything! You don’t know what it was like to see even that much, Carrie! I mean, if you’d, like, seen someone wielding a gun, could you ever look them in the eye again without thinking about that?! I didn’t want to know more!” Never mind that even that much had overloaded her.
Carrie blinked in surprise at Chartreuse’s reaction, causing the pink haired girl to bow her head. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to, you know, snap at you like that.”
“No. It’s fine, I think I had that coming to me,” Carrie yielded after a second. She turned to Luci. “So, can we please GO already?”
The younger girl reluctantly pulled her gaze away from Chartreuse. “Okay. Yeah. I think all the secrets are out now,” she finished quietly.
Except there was too much tension in the air for Chartreuse. “We five do make an odd group, don’t we?” she offered up. “Guess I’ll have to, like, change the name of the 2DEGS, huh? How about, er, the time trippers?” Everyone blinked at her.
“That makes it sound like we do temporal drugs,” Tim objected. Carrie snickered, and to Chartreuse’s relief, the others joined in.
“Okay,” Frank concluded after he finished chuckling. “So, any technical details should be answerable in the steadily growing pile of notes me and Luci have been making. Chartreuse, Tim, feel free to glance over them while we’re gone.”
“Though we may be back before we leave,” Luci remarked.
Carrie plunked a nickel into the time machine device. “But we won’t get back unless we GO,” she reminded, grabbing the handle.
With another nod, Frank grabbed for their backpack of supplies and moved to take hold of the handle too, right after Luci. On a count of three, they pulled, and Frank felt the temporal void sucking him in. The next thing he noticed were the bright headlights of a van bearing down on him at at least 30 kph.
By the time this fact fully registered with him, Frank barely had enough time left to process being in the middle of the road. He realized then that he wouldn’t even be able to cry out. There was nothing he could do now, except get hit.