PREVIOUSLY: Recreating a time machine will take weeks. Future incarnations have appeared, with a plan for making Carrie appear to still be in town.
PART 84a: ADJUSTMENTS
“Yeah, uh… look, get up.” Frank pocketed the radio transmitter with one hand, the other rubbing his forehead. Damn Carrie and her whole divine intervention story the first time they’d encountered Beth. “Truth be told, I was never actually an angel, and I – we – kinda need your help.”
“I always wanted to thank you properly. I’d hoped you’d return to me,” Beth said breathlessly as she scrambled to her feet. “I’ve become very religious in the last year, did you know that? What am I saying, of course you know. And my part time work at the Clayton hotel has almost earned me enough to get professional singing lessons! I plan to do gospel. Are you pleased? Am I on the right path?”
“Beth, please, I’ll explain everything.” Frank paused. “Okay, no… that would confuse you. But I’ll hit the highlights, so long as you come with me now. To the, um, oh heck with it, to an Astral Plane.”
Beth peered out into the hall. “Why now? And where is your partner? The one who looked like me, the one named Carrie?”
“That,” Frank concluded, “would be why we need your help.”
“We’ll pull a girl out of the past,” Luci whispered to Frank. “Is that ethical? That can’t be ethical.”
Frank eyed the blonde girl who was currently gaping at all the television channels and other technology Julie was demonstrating. “We have to assume our future selves know what they’re doing,” he muttered back. “And I mean, we’re right – while Beth is a couple years older, with a little makeup and Mindy providing an external boost on any naysayers? She could pass as Carrie at school. At least in the few weeks we need leading up to Christmas vacation.”
“And EVERYONE on your astral plane has these ‘sell phones’?” Beth gasped. She looked up at Julie. “But why even call them phones if they do other things? Are you sure they’re not demonic devices?”
“Oh yeah,” Luci said dryly. “It’s like she and Carrie are the same person.”
Frank sighed. “We’ll need to monitor her. The bigger question is Laurie. Can we really hold that situation together for upwards of three weeks?”
“No, nO, NO, no, and, oh wait, how about a side dish of NO!”
“You know, Corry,” Mindylenopia observed. “We’re telling you as a courtesy more than anything else.”
“I’m trying to say ‘no’ in a courteous manner. You’re not listening.”
The former waitress sighed, and looked to Frank. Or Bernard, Corry supposed, what with those two apparently being time displaced. Bernard was rubbing his forehead again. “Look, Corry – we can, and in fact did convince your family that Laurie’s away at an art camp. That she was recruited after someone saw that drawing that Megan published for her back in October. All we need is for you to warn Mindy if your parents seem about to–”
“What about the school Laurie would be missing?” Corry challenged. “Not to mention potentially Christmas! You think my family will buy her being away for something like that?!”
“I’m in the room,” Laurie said, quietly.
Both Venitis had been called and asked to come to the mansion a little earlier than everyone else. Corry turned to her on the sofa. “I know. Sorry Laurie, but based on your reaction, I figured I should advocate on your behalf.”
Laurie’s hands tightened where they held her skirt. “When they said what this trip would mean, I was shocked. I needed a moment. But there really isn’t an alternative, right?”
“I’m the alternative,” Corry asserted, waving off Mindylenopia before she could speak. “My ankle’s not that bad, and–”
“No, Corry.” Laurie stood up and turned to face him, her fingers releasing her skirt, in favour of twisting together. “You’re always jumping in, trying to protect me, and while I appreciate it – we’re seniors now. It’s like Megan says, I gotta do more on my own. Besides, my memory is still shaky, but I think maybe we’ve had this discussion before? When you volunteered for time travel a year ago, to go after Julie? And I don’t think I liked that. Even this year, when you and Frank were gone for two days after the van crash, I could barely handle it – no way can I bluff mom and dad for weeks! Whereas you can.”
Laurie pulled her hands apart, forcing her arms to her sides. “I’ll do extra studying, plus I’m taking History, and this is history. And Dad was away for the holidays two years ago, for work, so it’s not that weird. I can even record a message now for you to use, saying my plane home was cancelled or the camp was extended or something. Because bottom line, the time group needs me, so I’m going to go.”
“C’mon little sis, you can’t really…”
“Two minutes!” she reminded her brother, pointing at him. “Not THAT little. In fact I’m not only doing this for them, it’s for me too.” She paused for a breath. “Because here’s the thing, Corry! I admire Carrie. I have for a long while. I admire all things she can do so much better than me, even including her power of time travel. But know what I’ve learned? She can’t do everything. Not on her own. She needs people like us. So I’m stepping up. Last week with cheerleading, and now with this.”
She then crossed her arms, imitating the posture Corry so often made – with only a slight shiver betraying her nervousness. “Corry, I care about this group and what they’re doing a lot more than some stuffy classes,” she continued. “Except maybe art class, because here’s ANOTHER thing, I also want to be a professional animator. And this cover story will make my parents see that maybe, I’m just that good. So… so there. Deal with it, bro. I’m going.”
Corry opened his mouth to protest… and found he couldn’t. Not after a speech like that. For some reason, he was reminded of something Chartreuse had said to him, back when Julie had time travelled: ‘If Laurie wants to help someone, she’s going to do it. No matter what EITHER of us has to say.’ After a few moments of standing with his mouth open, he finally found enough of a voice to say, “Damnit Laurie, of all the times to make me proud, you just have to do it when there’s a chance of mortal danger, don’t you?!”
Laurie blushed faintly, smiling back at him. She then nibbled on her lower lip and let her arms fall back to her sides as she looked back to Bernard. “Golly, there won’t be MORTAL danger, will there?”
“Look at it this way,” Bernard offered. “Things go screwy for us in your future, our present. So maybe the safest place for you to be is with us, in the past.”
Corry didn’t feel entirely reassured, but he decided pushing the point would only make things worse for Laurie.
“Okay,” Laurie sighed. “So how many days do I need to pack for?”
“In theory, none,” Mindylenopia pointed out. “We won’t stay long in the past, then we’ll simply be returning to your future. In practice, of course, whatever an art camp would need.”
“Okay,” she repeated. “Though before I do that, I’ll need to teach this Beth girl our cheerleadering routines.”
“Heck. That’s a good point,” Bernard realized. “Let’s go see if Julie and the others are done with their technology primer.”
Laurie nodded, then looked back to Corry. “And one last thing? Since I’m not going to be here, please, tell Megan to go for it. Okay?”
Corry lifted an eyebrow. “Go for it?”
“Yeah, I think she’ll need extra encouragement. You can say I asked you to pass it along. Thanks Corry!”
Corry was tempted to ask what his sister meant by that, but she seemed to have a lot to worry about already. Besides, he reasoned, it couldn’t be too hard to figure out whatever Laurie was referring to.
The whole group met, and everyone was brought up to speed. Only Glen wasn’t there, having said he’d render his decision about leaving or not once Mindylenopia and Bernard came by the hotel with Laurie.
They’d then determined that the people to tell Mr. Waterson the truth about Carrie would be: Frank and Luci, as two of the originals, Mindy, as the adult, plus she’d been to his house yesterday, and Chartreuse, who knew of mystical powers.
Hank took it well, all things considered.
“So you’re saying that, ever since she was shot, Carrie – my daughter – has been a time traveler?”
Frank glanced over at Luci, then back to Hank Waterson. “Right.”
“I’ve been helping Carrie come to grips with it,” Chartreuse offered. “There are, you know, strange things in this world that at least 99.9% of the general population isn’t aware of.”
“Thing is,” Luci finished, “until we can get Carrie back, we’ll need a girl named Beth to act like her double in the present. Because as long as the future thinks Carrie’s still here, there won’t be repercussions.”
“Time travel,” Hank reiterated. He moved to sit down in one of the living room chairs. “This is like something out of a bad novel.”
“It’s really happening though,” Mindy (or to Hank, Theresa) observed. “Now, if you like, I can essentially hypnotize you into being okay with everything. It’s simply better for everybody if you’re dealing with Beth of your own volition instead, should any issues come up that I cannot foresee. Also, it avoids me needing to reiterate that ‘everything’s fine’ every few days, as you start to feel like it’s not.”
“We do have things more or less worked out,” Frank added. “Beth will need to be in school Monday and Tuesday, for continuity, then you can take her out for some sick days as we regroup. Her being sick will also help explain away any odd behaviour. From there, we’ll play it by ear.”
“How long will this go on for?” he asked.
“At least three weeks. Maybe to the end of December,” Mindy stated.
“Mr. Waterson,” Chartreuse said, reaching out for his hand. “Listen, there’s no way I can, you know, fully understand what you’re going through. Because you’ve gotta take a lot more here on faith than I do. But PLEASE sir, know that I, like, get some of it. Because Carrie and me, we’ve been, you know, pretty close lately. Like, extremely close, actually. So know that I’m scared for her, and that large parts of me now want to scream, or sob uncontrollably, or lash out at Theresa here… except I know those things won’t help. This thing with Beth? It will.”
He searched her expression. “How can you be sure?”
She swallowed. “I… I can’t. Not entirely. But we’ve met future counterparts, and they say this is our best shot, so I figure it’s gotta help. Please, sir, if nothing else, please trust that we all want the same thing here. We all want – no, we NEED – to, like, bring Carrie back to the present. To have her here with us again, all safe and sound.”
Hank realized that Chartreuse was trying hard not to cry. His grip on her hand tightened, and his expression settled into one of resolve. If Carrie’s friends could manage? Then he would as well. “All right then,” he said. “Tell me more about this Beth, and what I have to do to bring our Carrie back home.”
On the bright side, the first week was only mildly problematic.
NEXT: Crossing Paths