3.11: SEE KINGS
The redhead raised an eyebrow at her. “Pretty fast rehearsal, given how you and Frank were in the cafeteria with Luci not five minutes ago. Besides Carrie, aren’t you the only other one here taking drama? And wasn’t Chartreuse absent this morning?”
“Yes, she’s quite ill,” Carrie agreed, swiftly changing tactics. “Yet apparently she still wanted to come in to try out this extra credit play for English class. We saw her in the room unconscious, so we’re leaving now to bring her to the nurse’s office.”
“I see,” Glen said. “Well, don’t let me hold you up then. Though moving through the hallway after the bell is liable to, well, be a major headache. Might I suggest you pop through the back door access to the stage? Where there’s less congestion?”
Carrie exchanged a quick glance with her time traveling classmates. “Makes sense,” Frank admitted grudgingly. He moved to grab the time machine, which he had fortunately decided to conceal under a blanket. He made sure Glen didn’t spot it.
“What major headache are you referring to there?” Julie demanded.
Glen shrugged. “Lots of people shouting and moving about as they get to class?”
Carrie saw Julie peer closer at the redhead, but his expression remained neutral. As Clarke had already retrieved Chartreuse and was heading for the back door access, along with Frank and the blanket, Julie fell into step behind them.
“Right then, thanks Glen!” Carrie called out as she brought up the rear. “And we’re still on for, ah, this Friday, right?”
“Of course,” Glen replied, offering back a smile. Carrie matched it, before hurrying through to the backstage area and closing the door.
“I don’t get it,” Frank said. “We’ve been sitting in this pizza parlour for almost an hour now, yet you haven’t sensed us being here as causing any sort of temporal change. Not even when other customers came in. Why in the school hallway, but not here?”
“Yeah, I’ve been wondering about that myself,” Carrie admitted as she toyed with her pop can. The two of them had taken up positions on the stools by the window of the establishment. It was only a block away from the middle school they’d once attended. A very light rain was falling; they both knew it wouldn’t last.
“I think it has to do with the fact that we’re now playing a very passive role in our own history,” she decided. “Not crossing our paths as we did at school, or planning to blow up buildings that we know still exist in our present, or anything like that. Of course, if my father chances to stop by here, that could all change. So don’t let your guard down.”
“I won’t,” Frank retorted. “Though I will remind you that it was your idea to be out in public this way.”
Carrie gestured vaguely. “I was thirsty. Besides, we’d likely attract more unwanted attention by hiding out in the bushes – in here, we blend in.” She took a sip of her drink. “We can head out when the rain stops. Supposedly Soh’s necklace was lost after school.”
“Thing is, had me and Clarke proposed coming in here to buy something, you would have shot down that plan,” Frank pointed out.
Carrie glared. “You making any kind of point there?”
“Merely that we should probably get a better idea of what sets off your headaches, and what doesn’t.”
With effort, Carrie quashed the snarky response that came to her head. Because he had a point, damn it. “Yeah, but no,” she said, looking back out the window. “We will not be playing guess and check with my head. Me staying sane, it’s kind of in all our best interests.”
“I didn’t mean provoking a headache. Not really,” he clarified. “Thing is, not every trip into the past has resulted in changes to time. Remember Luci’s trip last year, going back to when she started high school? That fulfilled a destiny instead. So is it equally possible that we were always destined to come back to this pizza place and order something?”
She reflected on that. “It’s possible,” Carrie granted. “It’s also possible that we weren’t always destined to do it, but that once we arrived in the past, and once I’d dealt with the initial headache… that’s when this event became inevitable. There’s really no way to know. All I can say for sure is that the me in this time frame never experienced a problem.”
“Which is it’s own issue,” Frank continued. “Since you carried on a conversation with Glen that you hadn’t been previously aware of. Why didn’t HE give either of you a headache?”
Carrie’s grip tightened on her soda can. “Glen was one person. Unlike the four students in the hall.”
“But he’s closer to you than those freshmen were.”
“No? You even said you were going out with him again on Friday.”
She smacked the can on the counter, then turned back to face him. “Fine, yeah, on Friday we DID see each other. It’s when Glen told me about Lee’s focus problem. What, is the issue of me dating Glen the real point you’re making here?!”
Frank raised his palms up. “Whoa, what? No. Defensive much?”
“No! Yes. Shut up,” Carrie said, warring with her emotions. He’d touched a nerve there, and they both knew it.
Frank hesitated at her gaze, but pressed on. “Listen Carrie, people from the future are after you. And after a month, Glen is still living all alone in a hotel. We’ve seen no sign of his parents, we know so little about his past, and sometimes he makes those cryptic remarks, like about the headache. It seems at least plausible that he’s trying to–”
“Frank, if Glen were from the future, acting to change our present around us, I’d feel it,” Carrie fired back, pointing at her temples.
Her hand fell back to her side. Her gaze drifted back towards the window. “I… I want to believe I would. But fine. You could be right. Maybe I have the blinders on because I want to experience a normal relationship. But worrying that I can potentially wipe us all out of existence, it takes a toll, okay?” She took in a deep breath. “Glen makes me happy. And I think I’m allowed to feel that way! Or was I absent the day you and Luci bought the monopoly on touchy feely goodness?”
From the corner of her eye, she saw Frank flinch. Then he turned away too. “No, you really weren’t,” he said. “Seeing as she’s spent more time in the past two weeks with that book of Linquist’s than she has with me. I’ve tried what I can to break through, which works for a time, but she always ends up back in her room, trying to break that infernal code. I think maybe I was too inattentive towards her over the summer. We’ve been drifting apart, and now I’m not sure what to do.”
“Oh. Uh, that’s… too bad.” Great, now she felt bad for bringing up relationships at all. Carrie downed the rest of her pop, to avoid having to speak. Outside, the rain stopped falling.
“Headaches aside,” she said at last. “Corry has the right idea. If Glen has a secret, I won’t learn it by distancing myself. Besides, if it’s my destiny to make my own past life miserable, so be it.” Before Frank could say anything back, Carrie jumped off her stool. “Come on then, let’s find a good place to scout out the school grounds before their classes get out.”
Clarke looked up as Julie entered the secret room beneath the LaMille mansion. “Anything happening upstairs?” he inquired.
“Random dusting. Neither Jeeves nor Mimi will notice the smelling salts are missing.” The brunette knelt down next to Clarke and the unconscious pink-haired girl on the floor. “Any change with her?”
“Nope,” the tall blonde admitted. “So let’s hope this will wake her up.” Taking the vial from Julie, he opened it and began to wave it back and forth in front of Chartreuse’s face. “Still nothing,” he murmured after a moment. “Baffling! She really doesn’t seem hurt. There’s nothing stronger than this around your place, is there Jewels?”
Clarke turned to look back at Julie, only to find that her attention had been diverted. “Jewels!” he repeated, clearing his throat purposefully for good measure.
The brunette slowly turned away from the black box on the floor. The one Frank had handed over to them when they’d parted ways. “I… I wasn’t going to do anything to it,” she said quietly. “I don’t even know how to program it yet, not really.”
“That’s good,” Clarke remarked. “Since that sort of betrayal would likely cut you off from the few friends you have left.”
Julie frowned. “You say friends, yet I got the sense that Carrie wouldn’t have left that thing with us today if you hadn’t been here to keep an eye on it.”
Clarke reached out to touch Julie’s shoulder. “Can you really blame her?” he responded softly.
Julie clenched her hands into fists for a moment. “No,” she granted. “I meant what I said to everyone though. I want to start helping, to try and get past my first memories of time travel.”
“And I’m sure the others will see that. You’re on this trip already, right?”
Julie nodded – even as her gaze drifted back towards the time machine. “Still… to think that we have the means right there to affect our own pasts… it’s incredible, isn’t it Phil? I mean, it would be so easy to just drop back a week or two… to stop Sue from acting the way she did at the dance…”
“Oh, I wouldn’t,” Julie said quickly. “Really I wouldn’t, not without consulting with Carrie. But I can’t help thinking it, can I? That’s the way my mind works! Devious as ever, right?” She finally turned her back on the machine, firing off a weak smile. “At least now, I’m trying to use my powers for good?”
Clarke frowned, about make a reply when there came a groan from the floor. Both teenagers turned quickly to regard their pink haired companion. She had apparently come to her senses enough to bring a hand to her forehead and begin mumbling to herself. Being the closer of the two, Clarke leaned in to try and hear what she was saying.
“What? What is it?” Julie inquired after a moment.
Clarke looked up at her in confusion. “Something about Carrie tracking ‘like, the wrong sister’.”
Faye grabbed her things and hurried out of the high school as fast as she could. It was partly to ensure that she wouldn’t have to talk to anyone, seeing as she’d only screw up any conversation she was in. But also because today, she was supposed to see that her younger sisters got home safely. A task which had been a lot easier last year, when their schools were closer together.
She HAD pointed this out to their mother. For all the good it did – mom never listened to her. Faye considered dragging her feet to prove the point, but she cared too much about her siblings. Plus Lee had offered to do it in her stead, and her brother had enough on his plate already. She had said she would do it, so she would do it right.
Faye headed for the middle school to get Sing first. After all, Soh would have better adult supervision until she got there, not to mention more awareness of her surroundings. “If Sing’s reading in the library again instead of waiting outside, I’m gonna smack her upside the head,” Faye muttered.
However, as she approached, Faye saw her sister waiting in the proper place. Still reading, mind. Then to her chagrin, she saw a boy come out of the school and grab Sing’s book away from her. Faye broke into a run.
“G-Gary? Give that back!” Sing cried out in protest.
“Nyah, make me,” Gary taunted. Sing made a grab for her book, but he held it just out of her reach and laughed. “Poor Singsong, can’t read no more now! Whatcha gonna do?”
Sing glared, then bent her knees slightly and jumped, managing to grab hold of her book with both hands. She yanked it back down towards herself.
Caught off guard, Gary wasn’t able to pull the volume away from Sing again until she had almost managed to clasp it to her chest. As a result, his subsequent jerk refused to dislodge the tome, and instead completely pulled her off balance. The two of them stumbled back, falling into the dirt, which was wet from the recent rain. They began to roll around, wrestling for control of Sing’s precious book. A teacher standing in the area hurried to break things up; Faye got there first.
“All right dumbass, what the hell are you doing to my sister?!” Faye shouted, grabbing Gary by the scruff of his jacket and yanking him up.
The grade schooler’s eyes opened wide at the sight of Faye’s angry gaze. “N-N-Nothin’,” he stammered. “J-J-Jes playin’.” He realized belatedly that he was still holding Sing’s book, and he quickly tossed it back into the lap of the long haired girl, who was now lying in the mud. Sing didn’t even notice at first; she was trying to wipe off her glasses.
Faye’s eyes narrowed. “If I hear my sister complaining about you again, the only game you’ll be playing will be find the missing teeth, capiche?”
Gary nodded wordlessly, beating a hasty retreat as soon as Faye released her hold on him. The older sibling then turned to look at her sister. “You okay, Sing?”
“I think so. I… ohhh, my book’s all dirty now!” Sing said sadly, holding it up by one corner.
Faye rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you’re fine. And I got that detective story you wanted from Azure today, you can read that instead.” She reached down to help her sister back to her feet.
“Ooh, really? The one Lee couldn’t find in the library??”
“The same. Now come on, let’s report this incident to Mr. Inactivity over there.” With Sing on her feet, Faye motioned at the teacher who had stopped his approach in favour of eyeing the situation warily.
“Walkie-talkies, we should equip ourselves with walkie-talkies,” Julie muttered. She peered out her bedroom window – it was nearing the time when Carrie and Frank were due to return. “It worked in ‘Back to the Future’, and that way we won’t have this whole don’t-call-me-we’ll-call-you mess with cell phone duplicates on the communication grid.”
Chartreuse had finally come completely to her senses about fifteen minutes ago. Yet by the time she’d explained to Julie and Clarke about how she’d been experiencing a vision of Lee comforting a brunette called ‘Sing’ not a blonde called ‘Soh’, it had really been too late to do anything about Carrie’s mistake. On the bright side, Chartreuse had been able to provide them with the reason she’d been knocked out for so long.
“It was, like, my brain couldn’t quite cope with the time strain,” Chartreuse had explained. “It’s normally attuned to the future, so when our past became this future instead, my mind had to, you know, completely reorient myself. It was real weird! I was kind of aware of you guys, but couldn’t physically do anything. But hey, at least I’ve been able to, like, independently verify Glen’s story about Lee’s inattentiveness?”
Julie wondered whether Carrie would want to time jump again, to earlier in the day, to track the proper King sister. Part of her hoped that would be the case, yet Julie wasn’t sure if that desire was due to humanitarian reasons, merely to make another time jump, or if there was some thirst for information gathering reasserting itself.
A hand waved up at her from the sidewalk. Julie recognized it as belonging to Carrie and waved back. She then crept back downstairs and to the back door, quietly letting both Carrie and Frank into the mansion. “Jeeves is still reading in the sitting room,” she whispered. “And Mimi left. We can use the pantry access rather than the bathroom chute.”
The others nodded, and Julie led them back through the kitchen, towards the third access point for Linquist’s hidden laboratory. She’d discovered it while exploring the opposite end of the darkened passage, the direction that didn’t lead to the china cabinet.
Kneeling down on the floor of the pantry, Julie reached around behind the cans of tuna to press the knothole that opened the piece of wall paneling. It swung out, and the three teenagers crawled down into the corridor, following the sloped passage down until they reached the secret room where Clarke and Chartreuse were waiting for them.
“So?” Clarke asked, standing up as they entered.
“So, success,” Frank said, reaching into his jacket pocket and pulling out a small necklace with a couple of charms dangling off of it.
“Wait, what?” Julie asked.
“But, that’s, like, totally impossible!” Chartreuse gasped. “I mean, I was sure that from what I half heard you say in the school, you’d be following the wrong person!”
“Wrong person, right school,” Carrie affirmed. “Hey, glad to see that you’re up and about again!”
Chartreuse smiled sadly. “Yeah, but I doubt I’ll be able to time travel with you any more. It seems to mess with my head.”
“Oh?” Carrie frowned. “That’s a problem. Unless I can interrupt your present self while I’m out of my time – which, no, is it’s own problem. Why, how long until you regained consciousness?”
“Less than an hour ago,” Clarke offered. “And even then only with smelling salts.” Carrie’s frown became a grimace.
“But seriously, how did you two manage to get the necklace if it wasn’t Soh’s?” Julie demanded, looking to Frank.
“Lucky break,” he answered, placing the piece of jewellery onto the lab table. “Even though we were looking for a blonde at the school, our attention was drawn to a fight – broken up by Faye. It clicked for me that she was Lee’s oldest sister, and we put the pieces together that she had been defending another sibling. It then occurred to Carrie that the fight could have caused the brunette girl’s necklace to fall apart.”
“So me and Frank did a quick search, and managed to turn it up in the mud before it could get buried or cut down by a lawnmower or anything,” Carrie concluded. She pointed at the object. “Looks like the catch is loose and it simply slipped off. Bad luck and poor workmanship more than anything deliberate.”
“Well, good! I’m glad we could do something for Lee,” Clarke said. “We should return it to him and his family as soon as we’re back in the present – does anyone have his address?”
Everyone exchanged glances. Then shrugs. “This is embarrassing for me,” Julie admitted. “Former Information Queen of the school, and yet I don’t know the address of someone on student council.”
“Wait, Lee’s on the council?!” Frank asked.
Julie nodded. “Yeah. Heading the committees who do publicity stuff for assemblies and dances. They also put up the posters to keep people recycling. Not a high profile job, but he prefers it that way. We can phone him though, I’ve got his number.”
“The more I think about it, the more I’m realizing how much Lee distances himself from people, even while staying in plain sight,” Clarke observed. “He has nicknames for everybody, doesn’t he?”
“Truth,” Julie affirmed, folding her arms across her chest. “Maybe we should reach out to him? Pull him into our group? He was immune to future guy’s mental control, after all. Could be useful.”
“No!” Everyone turned to look at Carrie. She swallowed. “That is, he obviously has other things to worry about, like his family and Corry’s band. And we don’t him to think we’re using him, on account of that mental thing. For now, let’s keep our group the size it is, okay?” She attempted a smile, before picking up the necklace and pocketing it.
Julie saw Chartreuse reach out to touch Carrie, then think better of it, and simply lean in instead. “Carrie, it’s not like Lee’s gonna hate you for what happened last year, you know,” the pink haired girl murmured. “I mean, you told me about it, and I don’t hate you. In fact, I… I think maybe I REALLY don’t hate you? If you know what I mean?”
Carrie barely looked at the other girl. “Not now Chartreuse, please.”
Chartreuse shrank back. “Right.” And Julie found her gaze flicking back and forth between Chartreuse and Carrie, spotting the signs of an issue there. An issue of… no. She had to be misinterpreting that.
“Carrie, want to help me reset this thing for the trip back?” Frank offered, having popped open the time machine. The blonde nodded, crouching down next to him.
Chartreuse turned to face Julie instead, and managing to sound as chipper as ever, remarked, “Well, go figure on how something as simple as a necklace can, you know, affect an entire family’s emotional well being so drastically, huh?”
Julie smiled back wryly. “Yeah. But know what? You’d be surprised what the simple tearing of a piece of paper can do to a family under the right circumstances.”
“Let’s not think about such things,” Clarke said quickly. “After all, it’s not like anyone in our group is facing that sort of tenuous situation right now. Okay?”
Their trip back to the present was uneventful, although once again, Chartreuse ended up unconscious for a couple of hours afterwards. Yet there was one event that the time travellers never became aware of.
Ten minutes before their arrival, the young asian girl down in the basement of the LaMille mansion had realized her coding plans were coming up empty. Prompting the teenager to let out a scream of frustration, hurl the red book she was holding into a corner of the room, and collapse onto the floor, sobbing uncontrollably.
- The site is now 2 years old! And starting next week, posts will be half as long and twice as frequent. See the Commentary this Sunday for the reasoning.
- That was the end of ARC 2 in Book 3. Unrelated, I got another 2016 nickel today. Coin total is now 8.
- Consider the usual Vote for T&T; four votes usually keeps us on the bottom of the TWF Fantasy Page, and I still get the occasional referral from there.