PREVIOUSLY: As the time group got ready to send Mindylenopia back, Carrie realized something was happening at the temporal generator.
PART 93a: NOWHERE TO RUN
The primary tech, a man named Walter, looked up at her. “Well, actually,” he began, “the temporal generator has no geo-temporal records to draw on, for a time from before it was built. And while we do have the material on site that can localize earlier times, the system still has to compensate geographically, ensuring that a traveller doesn’t end up floating in space or buried in the ground or something.”
The redhead sighed. “Yes. I’m Temporal, I know that. You wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for your authorization codes. But look, the specific day in October doesn’t matter, I picked it randomly. So if that’s the problem, I can…”
She stopped, as the slight rumbling noise in the control room ceased, followed by a chirp from the computer terminal. The main panel changed to green, and Walter turned back to his old style physical keyboard. “There we go,” he remarked. “Year is encoded. Your date… locked in place. Displacement room is set for a thirty-three year trip to the past. Satisfied?”
“No,” Mindy stated. “Not yet.” She looked through the large glass observation windows of the control room, down to the displacement room below. It was large, the size of a small theatre, capable of sending back a hundred people at once, if necessary. “I’m going down there to uncouple the wall circuits. When I wave my hand at you, you will activate the displacement.”
Walter looked uneasy. “I wouldn’t advise that.”
“It won’t send me back, not with the wall circuits cut. That’s the failsafe.”
“Yeah, uh… we’ve been having some… glitches in the system this evening.”
Mindylenopia turned to Bernard, who had been quietly observing the last several minutes from the doorway. “Make a note. Safety at this site has been compromised.”
“No!” Walter protested. “It’s only that, if something went wrong, you’d have no way of getting back, and there’s so much paperwork…”
Oh brother. She couldn’t play along with this any more – they were out of time. Mindylenopia stared Walter in the face. “Listen. When I wave my hand at you, you will activate the displacement.”
“When you wave your hand, I will activate the displacement.”
“Good man.” Mindylenopia tossed her handbag in Bernard’s direction, and he fumbled to catch it. “The rest is your problem.” She sprinted for the stairs leading down to the temporal displacement room.
“She’s active! All units, please acknowledge, Carrie is active and using super speed to bear down on the generator.”
Luci reached up to touch her earpiece. “Acknowledged.” She didn’t question how Lee was aware of that fact. In a way, this was actually a good sign. It meant that Carrie wasn’t using any finesse – which in turn implied that their blonde nemesis was worried. Were they about to pull this off?
She pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind as young Laurie Veniti ran up to her, gasping for breath, and grasping her by the shoulders. “Luci!” Laurie squealed. “Luci, I… ohmigod, I did it. A creepy guy was about to sexually molest a version of Chartreuse, and so I did it, I kicked him real hard in the… the…”
“Good for you, Laurie,” Luci said, giving the redheaded girl a hug. “Good for you.” She squeezed once. “But we have to get back to the car now, okay?”
Laurie looked up at her, nodding wordlessly.
Frank walked closer to the large glass windows. There was the sound of what he assumed to be a door sliding open and closed, and moments later, Mindy strode into the room. She looked up at them, and waved. Walter reached out for the panel…
And then everything started to move as if in slow motion.
Frank didn’t clue in right away. It merely looked like the tech’s hand was meeting incredible air resistance, or like he was trying to resist Mindylenopia’s mental command. But then Frank realized that Walter’s eyes were squinting, and closing, and gradually opening… as if in a protracted blink. What?
Now the tech’s hand was an inch away from the panel – and that’s when she appeared.
The blonde woman was drawing in great lungfuls of air, her face was drenched in sweat, and the yellow dress she was wearing had been torn in two places… but she was there. Holding Walter’s hand back, preventing the final activation. Then she pulled him bodily back from the main board, shoving his chair to the side, causing the tech to collapse onto the floor.
“Good,” the Elder Carrie said, her chest heaving. She slammed both hands down onto the edge of the desk that ran the length of the room, under the observation windows. Seemingly trying to prevent her legs from collapsing out from under her. “SO GOOD. But. You. Were. Not. Good. Enough.”
She reached out to smack a button, drew in a huge breath, then leaned down to yell into the nearby microphone. “Mindylenopia! I see you down there. This was the last straw, you understand? You’re finished! You hear me? FIN-ISHED.”
Though the observation window, Frank saw the redhead’s hazel eyes widen in horror – and then she collapsed down onto the floor, like all the fight had gone out of her. Which was when Frank finally realized that Elder Carrie was paying absolutely no attention to him. The time dilation hadn’t even affected him, had it? How else could he have registered what was going on? Did Carrie not care about him, could it be that only Walter’s palm could activate the time jump?
He had to try. He stepped in, reaching around Carrie to bring his palm down on the necessary panel.
Except his hand passed right through. Then it continued down, right through the desk, and Frank stumbled forwards as there seemed to be no solid objects around him to arrest his motion. With mounting horror, he realized that even the floor felt weirdly spongy. Frank brought his hand back out of the desk and up to his face. He could see right through it.
Well, of course he could. Because if Mindylenopia didn’t travel back, he didn’t exist. Right? Numbly, Frank wondered why time was pulling a slow fade on him, like Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”, rather than simply winking him out of existence. Did that mean that there was still a chance? That he was somehow neither alive, nor dead? But what chance did they have if he couldn’t TOUCH anything?
“I win again,” Carrie said triumphantly.
“Sorry, no,” Carrie answered herself.
Carrie spun, reaching up to wipe the sweat out of her eyes. She felt her mouth forming an ‘o’ of surprise. Because yes, somehow, it was her who had spoken. An older her. Had to be older, the lines in the face were still there, and the blonde hair looked even more grey… except at what point would she think a sweater like that would be a good fashion statement?
“You… you can’t be here,” fifty old Carrie choked out. “Why would I want to change THIS?”
“Funny thing that,” even-older Carrie chuckled. “Let’s just say that the future isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And this, in a sense, this was the major turning point. This lynchpin moment.”
“But you… I… how… why…”
Sweater-wearing Carrie, whom Carrie decided to dub “Sweater Liz” in her own mind for the sake of convenience, gave her a pitying look. “Really? My fiftieth birthday, and I’m still that stupid?”
Carrie clenched her jaw. She snapped her gaze towards the observation windows and then back to Sweater Liz. “Mindylenopia’s really working for me somehow? Is that it?”
Sweater Liz seemed to ponder that. “I suppose that’s a good an answer as any.”
“Meaning that’s NOT an answer.”
Sweater Liz sighed. “Fine. You’re making my point for me here, you know. We’ve never been good at these sorts of interactions.”
“Oh, I’ve learned how to handle Future Me,” Carrie retorted.
“I know,” came the retort. “I’m you. Your plan is to rewrite your history to eliminate the need for me to even be here. Works great in the short term. What about the long term?”
“I never travel back long term. Never erase that much of myself.”
Sweater Liz gestured. “Mindylenopia’s going back long term.”
Again, Carrie’s gaze drifted to the windows and back. “It’s not like she can change me. Not that much. Not with Glinephanis back… wait, how far forwards in my timeline are you?”
“Do you want to find out?” Sweater Liz crossed her arms. “Because here’s the thing, Paradox Woman. I’m going to trigger that panel. Which both sends Mindylenopia back AND locks you into being me, and oooh, we both know how much I HATE that. Right? Being locked into a destiny? Your only alternative would be to rewrite the last few minutes, perhaps days, to keep me from ever being here… but guess what. In that timeline, Mindylenopia MUST go back too. Otherwise I’ll still be here to see to it.”
“That is the stupidest thing I have ever heard,” Carrie snarled. She wished she wan’t so tired and dripping sweat everywhere, not to mention partially propping herself up using the desk. It felt like that took some of the bite out of her words.
Liz chuckled. “Maybe. Maybe not. Have you ever wondered, whether there might be a better way for us to deal with our future selves?”
“Well, I’ve started wondering. About that, and more.” She rubbed her chin. “In particular, I wonder… when is it that we stopped being curious about what we could do?”
Liz smiled. And Carrie realized that her Future Self really was going to do it. At some point in the future, she was going to go crazy in the head, and come back to give herself this asinine choice, this ultimatum… and Carrie was forced to admit that, truly, she now had no idea how to stop herself.
Which meant there was no way to prevent Mindylenopia from going back. Even beating up Liz here only meant that she’d get beat up by herself in the future. And as Liz had said, there was only one sure fire way she knew about to avoid becoming a future incarnation.
“I HATE YOU!” Carrie screamed.
“I know,” Liz said.
Liz reached out for the panel.
Carrie flashed back in time a day and a half.
NEXT: Timeline Four Redux
ASIDE: Carrie herself destroys Timeline Three. What does that mean? As always, feel free to speculate. Also, did you catch last weekend’s Commentary post?