PREVIOUSLY: Glen and Mindy explained temporal theory – and said that Carrie would never be able to save her mother in the past.
PART 83b: DOUBLE TROUBLE
“Not entirely,” Mindy said, looking uncomfortable. “In a sense, timeline three is a few milliseconds in our future. We’re constantly in the process of overwriting it. So Future Carrie’s still a threat.”
Frank shook his head. “I don’t see it. After all the changes, why isn’t ‘Future Carrie’ destined to be from our timeline now?”
“She may be, but as we Temporals know, perception is everything,” Mindy sighed. “Did your Carrie grow up alongside Glen? That’s timeline three. Or did she grow up in a mental hospital being spoon fed memories of growing up alongside Glen? Because that could be our path now. They both lead to Future Carrie.”
“What? No!” Chartreuse gasped.
“Then we’ll finish our time machine and go after our Carrie,” Julie asserted. “It’s time travel, we can get to her in the past before that future happens. We’ll tell Carrie that she’s been living timeline four, to give her another path forwards.”
“Won’t work,” Glen asserted. “Unless you leave soon, Future Carrie will easily spot when her past self ceased influencing your present, and she’ll tie up the loose ends to preserve her own timeline. Even if it means the mental hospital in her past. Soon enough, you’ll all be adjusted to think your version moved away or something. I warned you, didn’t I? But oh no, nobody listens to–”
“Oh, stay shutted up,” Mindy interrupted. “Know what, Julie? Yes. Doing that is better than doing nothing. Possibly better that Carrie end up with Glinephanis here versus… yeah.”
“Meaning we’ll need to temporally hide out until until the machine is complete,” Luci realized. “To avoid this Future Carrie’s interference. How do we do that? What do we tell the rest of the school? What do we tell Carrie’s father?”
“Look. All you’ll need to do, is make everyone in the present think Carrie’s still here,” Glen admitted to them. “It won’t matter if she really is or not, her history is now in quantum flux. Basically, her future self can’t be allowed to perceive a lengthy discontinuity.”
Mindy rubbed her forehead. “I’ll go to Carrie’s father. We can stall a missing persons report.”
“Oh! More ‘minor changes’ to us?” Julie asked, her tone sarcastic.
“Julie’s right,” Clarke agreed. “Mr. Waterson should be told everything. Not have his mind adjusted.”
“Right, since giving the whole story worked SO well with your sister, Mary,” Glen reminded him.
“Yet you two Temporals have limits to your mind powers, yeah?” Lee noted. “Can’t change the whole school, not if there’s more people like me. And how long is this time machine rebuilding going to take?”
“Days,” Mindy sighed. “Okay, fine. For now I’ll set things up to stall another twenty four hours.” She glanced at Julie. “Let’s have a meeting of all technical minded people, right here, first thing tomorrow morning. That will tell us how long our stalling needs to be maintained.”
She’d asked him to stay behind. So Clarke decided to give Julie the first words. It took about two minutes of her staring into the china cabinet before she spoke.
“We have a problem here, Clarke. Phil.” Julie turned. “Damn it, I’m sorry, how do you want me to refer to you?”
“Let’s go with Phil,” Clarke suggested. “Against all odds, I spent four straight years at our school. So I’ve been wondering about using my first name more with everyone in post-secondary.”
“Phil then,” she said, smiling. “Here’s the thing. I tore myself away from whatever we had because I thought it was for the greater good. And maybe it kind of was, even if I went about it badly. Not to mention how it ended up being a trick by Mindy.” She raked her hands back through her hair. “So yes, I know I shouldn’t have unilaterally decided to keep you out without giving you any options. Thing is, Phil, I can’t promise that sort of thing won’t happen again. Like how it did today, with Glen at the park. And you don’t deserve that.”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Julie. Jewels.”
“I’ll try not to be – but you can’t be so easy on me. I’m not healthy for you, Phil. You must realize that.”
“I should get a say in that, yeah?”
Julie moved closer. “Yeah. But PLEASE, you need to see where I’m coming from here. Logically, not emotionally. Phil, I did these things to you even after you saved my life last year. Do you understand?”
Clarke shook his head. “I can’t ignore my feelings…”
“I’m not saying you have to! However, you always seem to think more with your heart than your head. While I’m the reverse, hyper analytical. And while my emotions are pulling me back towards you here, the rest of me is… worried. Because while I may have been acting more hesitant for the better part of this year, as I rebuilt my life, underneath it all? It turns out I’m assertive to a fault. I could easily end up crushing you. Again. Please, if we’re going forward, I want you to recognize that, and have a contingency plan.”
“You mean I’ve got a blind spot when it comes to that part of you,” Clarke realized. He forced himself to consider that. “Maybe you’re right,” he granted. “But maybe you’re also scared to be losing your objectivity. You’re scared to give yourself over to your feelings.”
“Ohh, you’re not wrong.” Julie held his gaze. “Thing is, where does that leave us? Friends? More than friends? Something else?”
“Our relationship has always defied description,” Clarke said wryly. He reached out his hand. “How about we start again here, as a couple, and see where that takes us.”
Julie reached out, fingers twitching a little until their palms met. She was moving into the embrace almost before Clarke could pull her in. She drew in a long breath. After a moment, her shoulders began to shake – was she sobbing? Was she giddy with relief? When Clarke pulled back a little to try and see, she released his hand and held him tighter, burying her face in the crook of his neck.
So he simply held her back. It was enough, he decided. They could rebuild from this.
Sunday morning found all the technical specialists reunited in the LaMille sitting room: Julie, Frank, Luci, Mindy… and Glen. For while Glen was more of an expert on the theory than the hardware, Glen had refused to allow Mindy to be present without him.
It meant that arguments between Mindy and Glen were not infrequent. But with arbitration by Luci, progress on the actual circuitry was made too. Slow progress. It was close to noon when Julie threw her pencil down onto the table in disgust.
“Mindy, you’ve made this MORE complicated, not LESS. It’s going to take WEEKS, not days.”
“I thought you agreed with me that we cannot fit the circuits back into that black box chassis,” Mindy countered.
“We’re still on a deadline here! Stop adding stuff!”
“There’s no need to sacrifice safety. The only hard deadline is the end of December, and that’s only because once when we get into January there’s no coins to return to your present.”
“You’re forgetting the smokescreen,” Luci said. “The longer we obfuscate on where our Carrie is and what she’s doing, the greater the chance that we’ll be found out. At this rate, we could have this work cut off by outside forces from the future before we can finish.”
Mindy shook her head. “Once I saw this would take more than a few days – one week or three weeks, that won’t make a huge difference. Trust me.”
“What IS the new framework you’re aiming for?” Frank asked.
Mindy looked from Frank to Glen. “I’d rather not say.”
“What, worried I’ll take a sledgehammer to it before you’re done?” Glen asked, smirking. “You forget, I want Carrie back too.”
“Yeah, so you can get her closer to your ‘timeline three’, versus letting us explore other options,” Mindy pointed out. She then looked to Frank, perhaps to pull herself back from a new argument. “Though I admit, I’m also holding back to avoid giving out more information about future technology than I have to.”
“Mindy, that’s making it IMPOSSIBLE for us to–”
“Maybe it’s time for a lunch break,” Luci said, cutting Julie off. “Was Mimi making sandwiches?”
“I think something was left in the kitchen, yes,” Frank agreed, as Luci shot him a look he interpreted as pleading for assistance. “Why don’t we adjourn there?”
After a few assorted mumblings, it was agreed that food might be in order. Luci interposed herself between the two Temporals as they changed locations, and as such was able to hear Frank’s next question to them. “So Mindy, with this ‘new design’, how many people are we going to be able to bring along? I mean, we’ll need to track Carrie down once we’ve arrived in the past, and the more people we have there, the easier that could be.”
Mindy grimaced. “No more than five.”
“Right. And I’ll be one of those five,” Mindylenopia clarified.
Luci managed to sidestep Julie, who had stopped in front of her, practically blocking the entranceway to the kitchen. They then understood why Julie had frozen in place. The kitchen was already occupied by a number of seated individuals: Mindy (or rather, Mindylenopia, who had spoken), Frank (or rather, Bernard), and also…
“Carrie??” Julie gasped. In two strides she was at the other girl’s side, leaning down to look into her eyes. The blonde was dressed curiously, sporting a very out-of-fashion blouse with a long skirt, and she was wearing a cross on a necklace. Only her blue hairband was familiar. “How are you feeling, are you… no. You’re not Carrie. Who are you?”
The blonde haired girl faltered. “Um, I… I…” She turned to look at the time travellers. “Frank, help…?”
“I’m Bernard now,” Bernard sighed back. He looked up at the rest of them. “Everybody? This is Beth Parker. Beth, that’s Julie, Luci, Glen, and, um, other ‘us’es you already know. It’s an Astral Plane thing.” Beth raised her hand, giving a tentative wave.
Frank slowly shook his head. “Beth Parker… I know that name. Why do I know that name?”
“This town,” Bernard offered. “Decades ago. Carrie’s lookalike, the Clayton Hotel, Mrs. Peabody…” Frank flinched as the memory came to him.
“Oh, this is rich,” Glen said. “You honestly think a body double is going to work?”
Mindylenopia rose to her feet. “It will for a while, yup. Until things go south. We’re not merely here to drop Beth off, we also need supplies before our trip back to the airport in Florida. Didn’t have time to load up before coming back.”
“Why not?” Luci asked.
Bernard adjusted his glasses. “We can’t say. At present, there’s a certain stability involved in our predestined time travel. We don’t want to risk it teetering into an even worse future.”
“You didn’t tell us when you were me, so you won’t tell us now,” Frank summarized. Bernard shrugged.
Julie turned to eye the current Glen and Mindy. “Could this be a trick?”
“I wouldn’t put anything past Mindylenopia,” Glen grunted.
Mindy finally spoke. “Honestly? I’d hoped we’d experience something like this. It means my machine will work. Awesomeness.”
“But there’s going to be sacrifices,” Mindylenopia countered. She jerked her thumb at Beth. “First, we’ve gotta acclimate her to this situation as fast as possible. And…” She exhaled. “Play it straight with Carrie’s dad.”
“That’s a terrible plan,” Glen and Mindy chorused. As they had the previous day, they then glared at each other.
“Second,” Mindylenopia continued, “Glinephanis, if we DO run into Carrie’s future self back there? You’re one of the few people she might listen to. So we’re willing to bring you along with us.”
Glen folded his arms. “So you can leave me stranded somewhere? No way!”
“Sweet.” Mindylenopia turned to Bernard. “We tried, he’s not coming.”
“Wait,” Bernard protested, standing also. “Glen, we wouldn’t strand you. As much as I hate to admit it, you also know more about our own Carrie’s emotional state leading up to her departure, and her capabilities. We need that information, that… expertise.” He let out a quick breath. “Plus, causally speaking, the fact that you didn’t time travel back here with us? Implies that you’re stuck in our present. Would you rather be there? Or keeping an eye on what it is we’re about to do?”
Glen’s eyes narrowed. “You neglect to point out that, if I come with you now, I won’t get to see what it is you’re planning through the month of December.”
“I’m hoping we can lock you in a basement for the next few weeks to achieve the same result,” present Mindy muttered under her breath. Glen shot her a look, which she ignored.
“Anyway, you’re not the only person from this time that we need to recruit,” Mindylenopia finished.
Julie frowned. “Why?”
“Welllll,” Bernard began slowly, after exchanging a glance with his companion. “As you know, our destination is Elaine Waterson. Last seen for sure in Miami, Florida. And we’ll need to time shift reasonably close to that position, both to minimize our temporal impact and to eliminate the possibility of unforeseen travel delays. So… we need someone who was in Miami that year.”
“Someone to pull the handle,” Luci reasoned.
“One of the Venitis,” Frank realized.
“And Corry has his twisted ankle,” Julie observed.
“Yeah. We’re here for Laurie,” Mindylenopia confirmed. “We need to pull her out of your time for this mission.”
A hush fell over the room. It was broken when Beth swallowed her mouthful of sandwich, and gestured at the tray. “Anyone else want one? They’re very tasty.”
ASIDE: The dominos set up in Book 1 (Beth) and Book 2 (Miami) continue to fall. ARC 2 is done, so we’re halfway through Book 4. New commentary Sunday. How about that weekly T&T vote? I’ve also started posting to “Royal Road Legends”, if you want to start over.