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PART 47: RESPITE
“Ten seconds. I guess Carrie’s gonna, like, fry us after all,” Chartreuse said glumly. The three teenagers were all sitting on their hands now, Shady standing far enough away from the wall to shoot them – probably even if they all moved at once.
“I should have jumped him,” Lee murmured. “Damn it, I’m not going to get to say goodbye to my sisters…”
“You’re a real bastard, you know that?” Corry shouted at their captor.
“I will die for our cause,” was his only reply.
Chartreuse began to wonder if it would be better to have her eyes open or closed when the bomb detonated. Which was when a gust of wind blew through the area, as if a freight train were rushing by, and then Carrie was standing there with them. The blonde with the golden eyes raised her palm to the bomb timer. “Or not,” Carrie remarked.
“NO!!!” the man shouted. The gun fired, even as Carrie’s other palm went up facing him, and Chartreuse could now see the bullet moving through the air with all the speed of a paper airplane. Which was clearly impossible. As impossible as Carrie sidestepping it, yet she was doing that too.
And then Carrie flicked her index and middle fingers off her thumb, and Shady’s head snapped back. The fingers of his gun hand twitched, but this time his weapon fired at the ceiling – because Lee was there, pushing his arm up. Corry joined him, and it occurred to Chartreuse that maybe she should get off her ass too.
She didn’t go for Shady. Lee and Corry were subduing him. Instead, she stepped over to Carrie, who now had both palms facing the bomb. The timer seemed to be oscillating back and forth between five and four seconds. Sweat was pouring down Carrie’s face as if she were running a marathon.
“What kind… of timer… IS this…?”
“How can I help?” Chartreuse asked.
Carrie grimaced. “Catch me.” And the timer clicked down, to three seconds, then two… where it froze, even as Carrie crumpled towards the floor. Chartreuse let out a gasp, supporting the blonde and guiding her carefully down into a prone position.
“Okay. One more thing to take care of,” Carrie murmured weakly. She looked up at Chartreuse. “Farewell, everyone.” The blonde closed her eyes, and a wave of energy seemed to spread out from her position, passing through everyone in the room, then out through the walls and up through the ceiling until it had encompassed the entire building… the entire town…
Carrie was released from hospital a week later, having been treated for a case of severe exhaustion. Her eyes were their normal blue colour as she trudged through the new fallen snow, following the path in the ravine behind her house that went up into the park. She continued over to the swing set, brushing it off and then sitting down. “Kinda hoped you’d be here,” she murmured to the boy in the swing next to her.
“Was it hope?” Frank wondered. “Or your powers?”
Carrie shuddered. “Please, Frank, PLEASE, no talking about my powers. Somehow, I managed to suppress them, but I can still feel them as this dull ache inside me. Even now, I’m not sure if I was controlling them, or if they were controlling me. Trying to access them again… would be dangerous. Hell, I basically expected to die after what I did.”
“Right, okay, no powers talk then,” Frank reassured. “Better question, will you coming back to school tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” Carrie said. “Have I missed much?”
“You mean in terms of what teachers like Fisk think is important, or in terms of what’s actually important?”
Carrie smirked. “The latter, naturally.”
Frank grinned back at her. “The social situation is completely warped. Julie’s been the target of a lot of hostility since the flyer, not to mention her disappearance, and yet she refuses to let the information about her parental situation become common knowledge. So she’s not getting much in the way of sympathy. But guess who’s started looking out for her welfare – Corry Veniti!”
“What?! No!” Carrie laughed. “Oh, boy. That must be confusing the daylights out of everybody.” She kicked her legs a little to start the swing moving. “So how IS Julie holding up?”
“She’s started her counselling,” Frank said. “Tim’s alibi plan, putting her in the cafe when you were shot, has her in the clear for that. The information about Holly Rhodes, we gave to Jeeves. He was able to track the domestic down, and armed with the information, he has started acting as Julie’s de facto father. Her parents are putting up a bit of a fight, but they’ve stopped short of any direct action, probably to avoid the potential publicity.”
“I think they’d lose a custody battle anyway,” Carrie said, making a face. “Good. I mean, Julie may have done some terrible things to people, but it must have been a special kind of hell for her growing up.”
“Speaking of parents,” Frank said slowly. “Dare I ask about you and your father…?”
Carrie let the swing stop its motion. “Unh. Yeah. Me and dad are doing all right,” she replied after a moment. “He doesn’t remember being frozen, of course. Seeing as that last blast of mine somehow wiped all my temporal actions from the memories of everyone in the vicinity of the hospital building – time travellers excluded.”
She extended her leg, pointing the toe of her boot. “Dad still knows I was shot, of course, and I think that has him trying to make up for lost time. He offered to take me to a hockey game next weekend.” She lowered her foot. “Hockey. Sheesh. At the same time, he’s trying.” She bit her lip. “In fact, I think maybe he’s been trying for a long while. Which is… nice.” A small smile graced her face.
There was an extended silence. “By the way, me and Luci are dating,” Frank blurted.
Carrie turned her swing sideways. “Seriously?” He nodded, and her grin grew wider. “It’s about time! You want some dating advice then, as one friend to another?”
Frank became busy staring at a spot in the sky. It was hard to say if his red cheeks were due to the cold. “Um, yes? But maybe not right now? That is, I… we’re puzzling through it together for the moment.”
“Well, good for you. Don’t screw up the Christmas gift.”
His eyes widened. “Oh no, Christmas!”
Carrie fought back the urge to laugh. “Calm down! You two will be fine together. Here, change of subject. Elephant in the room, actually.” She took in a deep breath, turning away again. “What became of the time traveler who wanted me dead?”
“What? Oh! Well, Shady was arrested of course,” Frank assured. “Blowing up buildings being against the law. In fact, the police on scene ended up thinking they were there because of him, not you. He’s also become the lead suspect for shooting you in the first place – which he did, in a roundabout way – so I wager he’ll be going to prison. The only surprise is that is he didn’t manage to talk his way out of it using his future ability.”
Carrie rubbed her nose. “Yeah, uh, along the lines of messing with people’s memories… I think was able to block Shady’s personal history for how to do his – what did Lee call it? Jedi trick? – but I’m not positive whether my tampering was permanent.” She let out a long breath, visible in the cool air. “Damn this power of temporal paradox that I have. Or whatever you want to call it. It’s going to be an attractive weapon for everyone who knows about it.”
“Don’t worry. We’re not going to tell anyone,” Frank assured her. “We won’t be using the time machine again either – namely because, in a few weeks’ time we’ll have no proper coins to return us to the present year anyway.”
“The future, Frank. They know in the future. And they’ve now tried to get at me once, so I’m obviously going to need to keep my guard up.”
He stared, then frowned. “You mean… this isn’t the end of it.”
“No,” Carrie sighed. “No, I fear this is only the beginning.” She jumped up off of the swing. “But, hell with it. Until anything else happens, I’ve got a life to live in the present!” With that, she reached out and smacked Frank lightly in the back of his head.
“Ouch! Hey, what the heck was that for?!” Frank protested.
“You hit me in the hospital!”
Frank crossed his arms. “You told me I was allowed to hit you. You even encouraged it! In this very park!”
Carrie pursed her lips. “Oh, right.” She shrugged, then winked at him. “Fine, then consider it my way of telling you everything is back to normal.”
“Except I’m not taking it lying down this time,” Frank countered, springing up off his own swing, and extending his hands as if to tickle her.
Carrie let out a little yelp of astonishment, before athletically sidestepping him. “Catch me if you can!” she declared, breaking into a sprint. Frank could only shake his head in resignation as the smiling blonde teenager disappeared back down into the ravine.
END… FOR NOW
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See the accompanying Commentary Post for ARC 2.4.
More was written back in the early 2000s, but I’m going back to “Epsilon Project” for a bit. You can vote on that.