PREVIOUSLY: Julie decided the best plan was to bring Glen (who wants to preserve the future) and Mindy (who wants to change the future), together.
PART 83a: TEMPORAL ALIGNMENT
“Oh, what’s Theresa doing… here…” Glen’s voice trailed off as the two redheads locked eyes. Despite everyone now being present in the LaMille sitting room, an unsettling silence fell. It lasted precisely five seconds.
“You scared Carrie off, this isn’t on me,” Mindy accused, quickly rising to her feet. “I’ve been passively watching, and only occasionally slowing down your orders at the cafe.”
Glen shot a glare at Clarke before turning back to her. “%You expect me to take YOUR word, you traitor?!%” he hissed back in Temporal. “%I’d be gone with Carrie by now if not for your interference.%”
“%Preserving a terrible future! Who wants that?%” Mindy argued. She looked to Julie. “This might have gone better if you’d said he was coming.”
“This might have gone better if you’d been more up front with us from the start,” Julie reminded her.
“Move away,” Glen said to Luci, Lee and Chartreuse, who were between him and Mindy. The two girls automatically took a step to the side, but Lee remained where he was.
“Dude, we might as well hear her side before the hurling of more garbled profanities or potentially heavy objects,” he remarked. Glen edged to the side, but Lee matched his movement, keeping the two Temporals apart. “Look, I don’t like getting physical, but I will if I have to.”
“That person is a traitor to everything a Temporal stands for,” Glen seethed, pointing past Lee, towards Mindy. “I’d banish her again myself if I could!”
“Glinephanis, our stance shouldn’t be that every Mundane is the enemy,” Mindy shot back. “%Remember, they created us.%”
“%Yes, and we are superior,%” Glen reminded. “%Until they learn to accept that…%”
“%They’re not servants. Not slaves!%”
“%No, but they are SO helpless,%” Glen scoffed. “%Playing around with technologies that they don’t understand, it’s not unlike giving teenagers a time machine. Let it continue, and everyone will be killed.%”
“%No, it’s sweeping generalizations like that which will kill everyone,%” Mindy responded. “%Don’t conveniently forget, fundamentally we remain human ourselves.%”
“What gibberi–” Corry began, only to be quickly silenced by a motion from Luci, who had been exchanging glances with Tim.
“%Temporals are the next generation of humans,%” Glen continued, ignoring Corry’s outburst. “%Imagine what we could accomplish without the petty restrictions of their society!%”
“%We could turn more innocent girls into weapons?%”
Glen managed to step around Lee, who had become distracted by Corry’s outburst. Showing no finesse, his fist went flying for Mindy’s face. Reacting quickly, Mindy stepped to the side and reached for Glen’s arm. As she tried to pull him off balance though, he twisted out of her grip, and the two of them faced off, eye to eye. Lee circled around, reaching out for Glen’s shoulder from behind, only to hesitate as the redhead simply resumed talking.
“%I’m not the one who woke her powers early,%” Glen seethed. “%That was a Mundane! I’m trying to HELP her.%”
“%Future her. Not the her of this time!%”
“%They are the SAME.%”
“%Not now. Not according to this one,%” Mindy asserted, pointing at Chartreuse.
“Whoa!” Tim gasped. Glen turned to stare, and the blonde boy slapped his hand over this mouth. Glen narrowed his eyes as he looked back at Mindy. “Oh no. No, this is unbelievable, did you teach all these Mundanes how to understand TEMPORAL?!”
“No,” Mindy protested. “Though, okay, apparently they did find one of Linquist’s logbooks in our language…”
“Meaning you taught HIM? Oh, I’m out.” Glen’s posture relaxed then – as did Lee’s. “Future Carrie can destroy your lives as she likes,” Glen decided. He turned away from the group.
“Glen, wait,” Frank objected. “Truthfully, most of us have no idea what happened and would like to get caught up.”
“Yeah, um, what were they, like, saying about me?” Chartreuse asked.
Glen paused, looking from Frank to Mindy to Tim. Mindy simply clasped her hands behind her back, adopting a neutral expression. Tim looked towards Luci. Luci seemed about to speak, then thought better of it and gestured back his way. “I caught words. You’re the linguist, Tim, you probably have a better idea of how it all fit together.”
Tim exhaled slowly. “Oh. Okay. Um. S-Something about them – as Temporals – being superior, and how our ignorance could kill us… though at a fundamental level we’re all the same? Except Glen didn’t buy that. Then they were arguing about Carrie’s powers, the use of her as a weapon, some garbling of tenses – hey, using a future imperfect tense almost makes sense now – and then on to Chartreuse. Which, ah, there’s a particular page where Linquist was spouting off about aliens, and he used what seemed to be cursing, so while I’m not entirely sure of the specific word…” He hesitated.
Mindy cleared her throat. “That ass called you a–”
“Never mind,” Chartreuse interrupted, her hands making fists. “I can guess.”
“Right, talk as if I’M the ass,” Glen said, his gaze settling back on Mindy. “Passively watching us, were you? If Carrie’s different, you’re the one who changed this past without considering the consequences!”
“I had no MEMORY when I met Linquist,” Mindy countered, jabbing her finger at her head. “Because of what YOU made Carrie do. So don’t you DARE lecture me, that man was like a father to me, he–“
“The change to Carrie’s timeline had to be more recent, traitor. You couldn’t have simply left town, noooo, you had to stay here and–”
“Yes, I had to TRY to create a better future, because it’s not like anyone else knew–”
“What gave YOU the right to decide–”
“Okay, this was funnier when I didn’t know what they were saying,” Corry grumbled.
Glen took a step back towards Mindy, only to have Lee again step between them. Then Julie clapped her hands twice, drawing everyone’s attention. “HEY! Temporals. Laying blame isn’t going to help bring Carrie back. So how about we all shut up and listen to each other until we’re on the same temporal page, allowing us to actually find a path forward through all this mess. Okay?”
Glen and Mindy glared back at each other. Then Glen rolled his eyes. “Fine. Feels like that’s the only way I’ll find out where the present day Carrie is.” He marched over to sit himself in a chair.
“Fine,” Mindy agreed. “Most of my cards are on the table already.” She sat back down on the couch.
“Lovely.” Julie put her hands on her hips. “Chartreuse, since you’re the one who understands Carrie’s timelines best, how about you guide us through the discussion?”
Chartreuse ceased her fumbling with the crystal around her neck, pursed her lips, then slowly nodded.
Frank found that the various timelines made sense. Mostly. There was one notable issue. “Here’s the thing,” he said once Chartreuse was done, which took some time given the questions of others along the way. “When ‘Shady’ initiated timeline three, that was a change. But Glen came back within that timeline – it was predestined. Mindy then initiated timeline four. That was a change. In fact, the very change that put us in this situation. So why the differences? What makes time travel predestined or not?”
“All time travel is predestined,” Glen grunted.
“Until it’s not,” Mindy added, with an impish smile. Frank frowned.
“That’s not an acceptable answer,” Luci protested.
The two Temporals exchanged glances. “You want to waste your time on this?” Glen said, gesturing.
Mindy raked her fingers through her hair. “Oh, sure, let’s give it a whirl.” She looked to Frank. “Say you burn your dinner. You’re bummed out. You travel back a half hour through time, to remind yourself to take it out of the oven. Meaning you don’t burn your dinner. Awesome. So why even take the time trip? Things worked out fine!”
“Because you’re predestined?” Frank ventured.
“Exactly,” Mindy concluded. “On an unconscious level, you need to go. For consistency, and so that your time travelling version has somewhere to return to. Perhaps the trip even avoids you being stuck in some sort of infinite time loop.”
“Wait. So did that dinner EVER get burned?” Laurie asked.
Mindy smiled. “Nope.”
“Unless dinner’s connected to paradox inducing Carrie Waterson,” Glen added, rising to his feet and wandering over to the china cabinet.
Lee scratched his head. “So time travel has become a way to remind yourself to do stuff that’s gonna happen ANYWAY?”
Mindy’s smile widened. “Yup.”
“Hence, all time travel is predestined,” Clarke echoed. He looked to Glen. “Except possibly when Carrie’s involved.”
“What’s the damn point to doing it then?” Corry asked.
“Funny you should say that, we keep telling the Mundanes as much…”
“Oh, Glen, lighten up,” Mindy said. “Thing is, even setting aside having actual motivation via one’s relative present being affected by a predestined trip, there are exception cases outside of Carrie too. It’s a matter of getting your time trip to knock the prior timeline completely out of alignment, such that it starts getting overwritten with your new one. To do that, you need to aim for a lynchpin moment. Which, alas, are almost impossible to spot, even in retrospect. So sometimes a Mundane tries anyway, hoping to get lucky.”
“For instance, instead of going back in time to warn about dinner, you go back in time, disabling your time machine,” Frank offered. “Lynchpin, and new timeline.”
Mindy shook her head. “Actually, that can be predestined. You might think you’re disabling it, when in fact you’ve enabled something that will force the trip.”
“Then the usual paradox of going back to kill your grandfather is a lynchpin,” Luci stated.
“Predestined,” Glen countered, now leaning against the wall. “You never take the shot. Or he survives. Or it’s a case of mistaken genetic identity. Time is more of an active force in this than you realize.”
“Okay, I know going back to try and kill YOURSELF does something,” Julie declared. “All I’m missing is the T-Shirt.”
“That can set up temporal waveforms,” Mindy acknowledged. “Are you alive? Are you dead? Even are you both at once, that’s a messy quantum possibility. But ultimately the timeline will collapse down into the most stable configuration… which is usually one of predestination.”
“Kinda hating the, you know, lack of free will here,” Chartreuse observed.
“You have free will in your actions,” Mindy noted. “And in your perceptions, which honestly is the most important thing. After all, two people can see a single event very differently.”
Chartreuse grimaced, as Mindy’s remark reminded her of the incident at school with the broken violin.
Mindy looked around at the others. “So yes, you get less free will about the final destination, but that’s all. To be blunt, everyone dies, the question is how did they live their lives.”
“Then you’re s-saying global warming was always going to happen,” Tim said.
“No,” Glen sighed. “She’s saying something was always going to happen. Free will and general human stupidity meant that the something became global warming. And now we’re kind of stuck with it, along with a host of other somethings… Mundanes really screwed over the Earth we’re trying to inherit.”
“But Mindy, doesn’t this temporal inertia mean your mission to separate Carrie and Glen was always doomed to failure?” Frank protested.
Mindy nodded. “Maybe. But there’s also early nudges on timeline alignment which can help knock it out when the lynchpin arrives, and with Carrie involved here, that was my goal. For while a mission to prevent Carrie’s departure entirely would likely have failed, mine was to prevent her from going with Glen. Which, frankly, seems to have worked.”
“Temporarily,” Glen grumbled. “Look, lecture over. Have we reached the point where you’ll all tell me when Carrie took her time trip to yet?”
Frank looked around the room at the others, seeing varied levels of confusion but no real argument. “They might as well know. Chartreuse? Feels like you should do the honours again.”
The pink haired girl nodded, again touching the crystal around her neck. She drew in a deep breath. “We’re almost certain that Carrie went back in time to get her mom. So that Hank Waterson would have someone here with him, after losing his daughter.”
“Oh, well, that won’t work,” Glen and Mindy chorused. They turned to glare at each other, as if irritated to be so in synch.
“Why not?” Luci demanded, perching herself on the couch again. “Carrie’s involved. Can’t she change things?”
Glen lifted an eyebrow. “Ooh. Gonna tell them all about it, ‘Mindy’?”
“Shut up, Glinephanis. I’m trying to work through the repercussions of that.”
“What repercussions?” Corry asked. “What’s the problem?”
“Sorry,” Mindy sighed. “I can’t. This goes beyond temporal theory, it’s need to know information only.”
“She’s my girlfriend!” Chartreuse insisted. “I need to know!”
Mindy merely pursed her lips.
“It doesn’t matter anyway,” Glen said. “If your Carrie went back to that time? My Future Carrie will pull herself out of there. Probably has already.” He smirked. “There’s nothing we can do about it here in the present. You’re screwed.”
NEXT: Double Trouble
ASIDE: A couple weeks ago, I submitted a serial profile to the “Serial Fiction Digest” FB group. Check it out if you want to know how I get in the minds of my characters, and check out @SerFicDigest on twitter.