Previously: Frank’s body appeared after a time trip, while in the present, Luci is unconscious. Worried, Carrie discusses the mechanics of the time machine with Glen.
PART 3.22b: DO YOU MIND? 2
Carrie began to look ill. “You’re saying that when the time machine became active, with Luci connected to Frank through the tweezers, rather than through physical contact… no, NO, look, her whole body is still here!” She grabbed for Glen’s shirt with one hand, while pointing at Luci with the other. “So she must be okay, right?”
Glen rubbed his forehead. “Look, I’m no expert on the inner workings of the devices themselves, what I’ve said is pretty basic temporal theory. All I can say for sure is that the equations get trickier when metal is involved. Because it’s metallic coins which are flash fried in the thing as a power source. So maybe Luci… her brain… well, part of it might have been flash fried too. Through that metal conduit.”
“But… but look, LOOK, she’s still breathing…” Carrie said, releasing him as her whole body began to shake. “And it w-was just tweezers…”
Glen bent down next to Luci’s body once more, again checking her eyes and her pulse. He shook his head. Maybe the time had come for them after all? “There’s no way to know for sure, but given she’s been like this for more than half an hour…”
“No! I refuse to accept that I had a hand in turning Luci into a… a vegetable!!” Carrie said, stepping forwards. “There must be some…”
She froze as the basement door opened, and there came the sound of someone rushing downstairs. But it wasn’t one of Frank’s parents. In fact, as Glen turned, he saw it was Frank himself. The latest arrival took in the scene, immediately catching sight of the body on the floor. He then dropped the time machine, running to kneel down by Luci.
“Oh my God!” Frank gasped. “What’s happened to me?!”
“We’re not sure,” Carrie admitted. “Glen thinks that some part of Luci was…” She stopped. “Wait, happened to YOU? What do you mean, Frank?”
Frank turned to look at her. “I am NOT Frank,” he retorted, blinking back a tear. “And I want back inside my body right NOW!!”
“Huh. Well, this is unprecedented,” Glen mused.
Luci/Frank stared at the page of equations in her hands, trying hard not to cry. Not again. Carrie and Glen had left long ago, when Frank’s mother had insisted on her son coming up for dinner.
Dinner, of course, had been a quiet affair… it had felt awkward pretending to be someone she wasn’t. Luci knew she’d acted oddly enough for Frank’s parents to sense something was up. At least they’d interpreted it as sickness, advising him to go and lie down after the meal. And though it meant that Luci couldn’t go back down to the lab to try and work things through on the large chalkboard, maybe that was for the best. Her body was still lying on the bench down there, covered by a sheet.
Which felt unbelievably creepy.
Naturally, both she and Carrie had pressed Glen for more information, immediately following her return of Frank’s body to the present. “All right, all right!” Glen had said, after several attempts to deflect. “My best guess? What happened here is Luci’s… essence…? For lack of a better word… was caught by the event horizon of the wormhole. But instead of being lost forever, it somehow managed to connect up with Frank’s body.”
“Then where’s Frank’s ‘essence’?!” Carrie had demanded. Glen could only shrug helplessly.
And shortly thereafter, Luci/Frank had lost all self-control. “Damn it, Carrie! This is all your fault, with wanting to rig the device!” she’d screamed, kicking the other girl in the shins. Carrie had let out a loud yelp and fallen backwards, almost on top of Luci’s own body.
Seems a kick from Frank’s body packed more of a punch than what she’d intended. But it’s not like she’d had much time to get used to being inside him or anything – as soon as she’d regained consciousness after her unscheduled trip, she’d reset the machine to travel back to now! Having held out some hope that doing so would automatically fix things.
Which it hadn’t. Did this mean that Frank was somehow trapped inside HER body, unable to get out? Unable to move, unable to speak? Or was HE the one whose essence had been…
Luci looked back down at the paper she held, before crumpling it up and throwing it aside. Followed by the pencil. She drew her knees (yet not her knees) up to her chest (Frank’s chest) and finally allowed another tear to escape her/Frank’s eye.
This was so messed up. They couldn’t even duplicate this situation in reverse, like they’d done the time she’d been prematurely aged. Hell, to hear Glen speak, it was lucky she’d survived this experience at all. But of course, the worst part of this whole situation was how, deep down, Luci knew she’d been lashing out again. At people who didn’t deserve it.
This wasn’t Carrie’s fault, no more than it had been Julie’s fault when Frank had ended up in the future with Mindy. No, this was all on her. On her and her obsessive nature.
She’d allowed herself to get distracted. Again. Not by the logbook this time, but instead by the revelations about Glen’s origins and mental powers. Frank’s wild suppositions at the start of the year had apparently been correct. And she’d been thinking more about the repercussions of that, and the temporal gun, instead of the task at hand.
Why had she written off Frank’s concerns? Why had she tried to bring his focus back to her in September, and off the person with the crazy mental powers? Worse, ever since her vendetta against Linquist had ramped up, she’d simply started avoiding him. WHY? Did she not want this relationship with Frank after all?
There was a ring of truth to that which alarmed her.
Luci prided herself on her intelligence, and yet here she was, still making huge emotional errors in judgement. Errors which might have now cost the life of the boy that she… loved? Well, it was impossible to fix any of her relationship issues now.
Well, perhaps not, if she could work through the equations. Find a way to reverse things. But she was so very tired… Luci looked over towards her clock, checked herself, and looked to where Frank’s bedroom clock was. Already after 2am! At least her parents wouldn’t worry. Carrie had said she’d suck up her pride long enough to talk to Julie, to pretend like Luci was staying over at the mansion. Their standard fake-out. But that would only work until school resumed tomorrow…
‘Sleep, Luci… sleep…’
Luci’s eyes snapped open. She couldn’t sleep! Not until she had the answers she needed! Luci tried to shake herself awake, almost knocking Frank’s glasses off in the process. Another tear ran down her cheek at the realization, and she brushed it aside.
Focus, girl, focus! You can’t break down now… not now, not when Frank needs you the most. If only he was here though, to help her with these crazy temporal equations! They had been such a good team that way. If only he was here…
‘Luci, sleep, and I can be here…’
Luci’s eyes snapped open again – and she realized with some shock that she was back inside her own body. Except she was no longer in Frank’s room, or even under the sheet in his lab. She was sitting underneath a tree, with a field of green grass spread out around her.
“What? How?” And she reached up to her throat, recognizing it was her own voice coming from her own vocal chords.
“It’s elementary, my dear Luci,” came Frank’s voice from above. She looked up in time to see him jump down from a tree branch and land on the ground beside her. He fired off a weak smile. “You see, my body – or rather our body? – is now unconscious.”
“Then you saw and heard the whole thing,” Luci concluded. The two of them were now following a wandering pathway through the ‘field’ dreamscape, comparing notes.
Frank nodded back. “It’s a weird feeling, having my body do things without any control over what those things are. I guess you just have the more dominant personality? Or perhaps it was the only way my own mind decided it could keep your essence stable. At any rate, I couldn’t get through until your – our? – consciousness started to drift. Which it wasn’t prone to do so long as you were focussed on fixing things.”
Luci looked at the ground. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, no, nothing to apologize for. Actually felt oddly satisfying kicking Carrie in the shins…”
“No, I mean sorry for everything,” Luci corrected. “For not believing you about Glen back then. For going through the logbook again when I said I wouldn’t. For not giving it my all today, when helping you with the machine. And most of all, for avoiding you when we should have been working things out.” Her fists clenched. “I’ve been the worst girlfriend ever.”
Frank pursed his lips. “Luci, I wasn’t racing to give you a phone call either,” he pointed out. “And I’m the one who tripped an activation circuit, and who shouldn’t have prematurely plugged in a coin into the device merely so things would be lit up more clearly. That’s all on me, not you.”
“Still, you didn’t almost get me killed and banished to the past!” Luci reminded. “That happened to you, all because the first thing on my mind was a vendetta against Linquist! I’m so sorry, I just… God, I don’t know why, but he irritates me so much!”
Frank stopped walking. “Luci… our minds are connected here. I can’t see everything but, ah, you don’t have to hide the truth of that situation from me any more.”
Luci froze. “What do you mean?”
Frank glanced down at her, then shifted his gaze skyward. “Oh boy. See, in the beginning, right after we… well, ‘merged’… you slipped unconscious. I tried to find a way of getting through to you then, but I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing and… instead of contacting you, I ended up sifting through certain memories of yours.”
Luci blinked and involuntarily wrapped her arms about herself. “Do you mind?” she said irritably. “I have some very private stuff in my psyche!”
“I know! It wasn’t intentional,” Frank insisted. “Really it wasn’t. But at the time, you were feeling hurt and scared and confused. Which brought up a similar time you’d felt that way, namely back when you’d been aged up by Linquist. From there it was only a short leap to your childhood when…”
“NO!” Luci gasped, and almost before she knew it she had physically reached out to slap her hand over Frank’s mouth. “Don’t say it!” she whispered. “Don’t make me remember that time, please, Frank, don’t, don’t… that part of me, I blocked it off, even from myself…!”
Her body shook, her eyes pleaded. Frank slowly nodded, and she took her hand away. “I-I’m sorry,” he said. “Obviously, I… I misjudged the scope.”
“Obviously,” Luci said quietly. Moving off the path, she plucked a daisy from the grass and began pulling petals off of it one by one.
“Er, how about we go through some temporal equations then?” Frank ventured. “See about getting the two of us back where we belong.” He waved his arm, and a chalkboard appeared in the field with them, already containing some rudimentary equations. He walked over and began to write.
Luci joined him a couple of minutes later. They didn’t speak of the incident again that night.
Unfortunately, despite their efforts, every calculation pointed towards one of them being dead before the week was out.
-Next Episode: Timeline Four. Ending Book 3.
-Isn’t that interesting? Any speculations? Either about their situation, or Luci’s past? One more week, and this whole book wraps up. As always, you can vote for T&T at TWF, or recommend to a friend.