PREVIOUSLY: Carrie went back in time to save her mother. Frank has caught up to her at the Miami airport.
PART 87a: THE PLAIN TRUTH
Frank ignored everyone else in the Miami airport, devoting all his attention to not losing sight of Carrie. After all, this might be their only chance – and she was angling for an ‘Employees Only’ door. He shoved the walkie-talkie back in his pocket and got a grip on the belt of his slightly-too-large pants as he ran. He pushed past someone, mumbling an apology.
The door Carrie was aiming for seemed to open in front of her as she arrived, and she charged through it at full sprint. Frank tried to sprint himself, reaching out and catching the door before it could swing shut. He burst through, spotting Carrie down the passageway.
“Carrie!” he called out, risking the shout now that they were out of the main area. “Carrie, wait, we’re in another timeline!”
“Frank, stop,” Carrie said.
Except she hadn’t said it – the voice had come from behind him. He spun as the door closed, revealing… Carrie. Another Carrie. Except this one was dressed differently. She was wearing a white blouse with a blue business suit, her hair having been gathered up underneath a flight hat. Which made her look much like Elaine Waterson had, moments ago. “Carrie, what–”
Frank stopped, for as he turned back to look at the prior Carrie, she disappeared. One second she was there, then there was a flash of light which made him blink, and then… nothing. Empty hallway. Of course, Frank realized – she’d escaped through time, to become the Carrie in the business suit, who was here now. Frank turned back to her. “Carrie?”
“You couldn’t stop her,” Carrie observed. “Maybe you can’t stop me either. But I have questions. So many questions.”
“H-How far back did you just go?”
“No, Frank. I get the first question. Namely, how in hell did you get back here?! I destroyed… at least, I thought I’d destroyed…”
“The chip?” Frank finished, as her voice caught in confusion or possibly frustration. “You did, but you didn’t. It’s complicated.” He reached into his pocket to shut off the muffled noises coming from the walkie-talkie.
“That’s not an answer,” Carrie countered. “I need more.”
Frank rubbed his forehead. “Well, what we all thought was the chip wasn’t really the chip. So we were able to reconstruct the time machine after all. Which we did because we had to get a message to you. And it all took weeks, Carrie – weeks where we never saw you. Or your mother.”
She flinched at that.
“We figured out what you were planning,” Frank continued. “At least in as much as saving your mom – and with you dressed like that, is it your intention to take her place? To vanish instead?”
Carrie’s mouth twitched. “That other me jumped back a day and a half,” she said after a moment. “To give herself time to prepare for this event. I’d rather not time slip again, but I will if I have to. If you make it necessary.”
It took a second for Frank to realize that she had answered his initial question, about how long she’d been in town. “So what about your intentions here?”
She stared. “Was it you who brought Glen back in time?”
It was Frank’s turn to flinch. Had she been watching them? Well, there was no point denying it. “Yes,” he admitted. “Which goes to show that he doesn’t want you to do this either, Carrie.” A thought occurred. “Wait, have you already spoken with Glen?”
Carrie crossed her arms. “My intention is to bring my mom back into our present. To give her back to Dad. Admittedly, she’ll be almost fifteen years out of time synch, but saving her in the ‘now’, and having her around while I grow up – I already know that’s not a possibility. Her absence made me too much of who I am. It brought me to this point. If I try to paradox my way out of that, it’s liable to render the younger me comatose. So, this is the best alternative I could think of. A parting gift, as I return to this airport and vanish in her place.”
Frank shook his head. “Except Elaine was never in our present. So I’m afraid your plan won’t work.”
Her jaw clenched. “Maybe it will work if you tell me the date when you left.”
Frank exhaled. “But Glen also thinks this event is something you can’t affect. He wouldn’t tell us why.”
Carrie frowned. “Well, if that’s truly the case, I have a backup plan.”
“What is it?”
She shook her head. “You’re a couple questions deeper than me now. And here I thought I was the curious one.”
She pulled her hat down tighter against her head. “Did Char– or rather, who all is actually here with you and Glen?”
So she hadn’t been watching them after all. “Laurie is, that helped us get to Miami. And Tim, to translate any Temporal talk. And, ah, well, Mindy.”
Carrie’s posture became rigid. “Mindylenopia?!”
“Is that another question?” Frank said, seizing the opportunity.
“No!” Carrie countered, her face a flurry of emotions. “Except how is that possible, she… I banished…”
He wanted to spill, to tell her about Mindy/Theresa and Chartreuse’s conclusions about Timeline Four, but at this point, he also desperately wanted to know what her next plans were. He had to be assertive, the way he had been that day in the hospital over a year ago. Well, over a year, relatively speaking. “I’ll explain it all, but first it’s your turn to answer a question,” he insisted.
Her hands curled then uncurled. “Glen spoke to me earlier,” she admitted. “He must have spotted me as I was checking out security at the airport. I didn’t want to speak with him, but he pursued me, blocks away. Tried to offer up an alternative plan, said that we could leave here and still relocate somewhere, somewhen.”
“Carrie, even though he came here with us, his plans aren’t the same as ours,” Frank insisted.
She shrugged. “It’s fine, I wouldn’t let him finish. I knew I had to be here to open the door for myself, and to delay you.” Her lips pursed. “But I did say that I would meet him again, after this conversation.”
So she was going to Glen next. Frank swallowed. “Okay, well, here’s the thing. Our whole worldview is ‘Timeline Four’, Carrie! Not Glen’s ‘Timeline Three’, not the one that Chartreuse told us about. Because, thing is, when you banished Mindylenopia… she became Theresa. The waitress in the cafe.”
Carrie’s eyes went wide, and she took a step back. Frank charged on. “See, in our past, Mindy influenced Linquist, who created that temporal gun, and he in turn influenced us, and Theresa influenced us, and then Mindy’s the one who fixed our time machine, and so it’s all so interwoven at this point that ‘Timeline Three’ can go to hell! We want you back, Carrie. Everyone wants you back in the present, and maybe that can be a thing in this New Timeline.”
Aside from biting down on her lip, Carrie hadn’t displayed any other outward signs of emotion. She seemed to be processing the information. So Frank gave her the time. “I’m not good for you, not good for any of you,” she said at last.
“Chartreuse would dispute that,” Frank objected. “And maybe it’s egotistical, but I think we’re better for you than Glen. And better than you being by yourself. Actually, there’s been talk of a rather nasty ‘Future You’, which is what Mindy had initially been trying to change… and it’s not too late to change that future. I’m sure it’s not.”
She stared at him, then slowly shook her head. “Going back to the present to fix my future, I don’t see that as an option.” She drew in a sharp breath. “Thing is, if all else fails, there was a first timeline. The one where I was never here, where you all led perfectly good Carrie-free lives. That’s what I was angling for by doing this, and if I can’t manage it by disappearing in your present…”
She let her voice trail off, giving Frank a pointed look. It took a second, but the piece snapped into place – oh no, was she referring to her ‘backup plan’? “Carrie, no,” he gasped. “You can’t… look at what happened when Julie tried to erase herself!”
“I’m not Julie,” Carrie said quietly. “I’m Temporal Paradox Girl.” She tugged on her hat again. “I’m going to leave you now, Frank. Don’t follow, or I’ll be forced to temporally freeze you in place, and I’m not sure I have the skills yet to put a short time frame on that effect.”
“Carrie, we came here from December 30th,” Frank blurted. “We had a stand-in for you at school, so your absence wasn’t missed. Your Dad knows about you, and he’s okay with it. Please, don’t throw all that away. Look into all the options before you do something rash!”
She back-pedalled away from him, down the hall. “No, no, stop making everything harder for me,” she pleaded. “Stop talking! Don’t follow!”
She turned and ran. Frank clenched his fists, but as requested, he didn’t follow. After all, he had to tell the others everything, and if she ended up temporally freezing him, the truth might come out too late.
“I told her everything,” Frank said. As soon as Carrie had vanished from view, he’d radioed the others, and everyone had converged at the ‘Employees Only’ door. “I… I don’t think she took it well,” he admitted. “She seems determined to disappear, whether she can rescue her mother here or not. And she said she’d freeze me in time if I followed her.”
“A-Are we letting that stop us?” Tim asked.
Frank shook his head. “No. But you’ve got to understand her state of mind before we pursue. She doesn’t seem to want to accept any alternatives…” He shook his head. “Yet I can’t think of how to convince her to find another path forwards! Damn it, what other arguments can we make??”
Mindy sighed. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but maybe Carrie has to know.”
Frank turned. “Know WHAT?”
“The reason she can’t save her mother. The reason she shouldn’t destroy herself. Trouble is, I have no idea what that knowledge will do to her. She might give up and shut down entirely.”
“Carrie’s not the sort of person to give up,” Laurie asserted. “And we have to do something.”
“We are running out of options,” Frank agreed. “Mindy, if revealing your secrets will help…”
Mindy grimaced. “Oh, I’m not telling YOU. I’m not even sure I’m telling her. First, I’ll try speaking to Carrie as I used to as Theresa, maybe that passive assistance I gave to her counts for something. We’re going to lose her trail though, if we stand around here much longer!”
“Maybe not. She went to meet Glen,” Frank said. As Mindy’s eyes widened, he added, “so that’s how we’ll find her. Based on what Carrie was saying, I don’t think Glen found our tracking device after all.”
Carrie ran into the small lounge room, wanting to get away – only to find that he was already there, waiting for her. Of course. He would have had to use his mental abilities to clear the room out of other people. Besides, what other events would be on his schedule for the evening?
Carrie sagged back against the door as it closed behind her. “We’ve never been in Timeline Three,” she accused.
“So you did speak with Frank,” Glen remarked. “Pity. But whatever this timeline is, it doesn’t change anything.”
Carrie used her palm to wipe away any tears that might have escaped after her prior conversation. “If that’s so, then you’re not stopping me any more than Frank was. This attempt, it’s my true ‘swan song’, alright? My parting gift. At least give me that.”
Glen stared at her for a moment. “I’m sorry, Carrie. So sorry. But you can’t save your mother. Just… let’s run away together. Then we can zap the time machine into oblivion, after Mindy and the others return to the present, okay?”
“WHY? Why can’t I do this? Because you should know that, if I truly can’t do this, I’ll be heading back to make myself disappear before mom even gets to Miami instead!”
“That would have… similar repercussions. If you stop and think about it, I don’t think you’ll really want to do either of those things.”
Carrie strode over to grab Glen by the front of his shirt. “WHY?” she shrieked again. “Why can’t I actually do the ONE thing that I want to do with these temporal powers of mine?”
“You’re not old enough to know that yet.”
She shoved him back, making him stumble. “Wrong! If I can mentally project myself around the present, temporally banish someone, and find people up and down my own timeline, I’m damn well old enough!”
He grabbed a chair for balance. “Carrie, no! This isn’t how things are supposed to play out…”
“Because I change things! I’m Paradox Girl, that’s what I do, right?! You’re just bitter because of how I got you got in trouble for losing me at the talent show, huh?”
“Carrie, please, you need to calm down. I want you to experience us being together, I don’t want to see you to be captured and spoon-fed those memories, but the longer this conversation goes on, the more likely that outcome is becoming…”
“Then I’ll leave,” Carrie asserted. “Leave this conversation, this room, this time. Unless you tell me right the hell now, I’m time jumping, and no one will find me ever again! Not you, not Chartreuse, not Frank, not anyone!”
“Carrie, when your mother was taken, she was pregnant.”
ASIDE: Is it falling into place yet? Oh, and don’t confuse this part with “The Plane Truth“, when we first learned about Elaine’s fate.