PREVIOUSLY: Carrie of the past (Elizabeth) is trying to figure out how to not become the Future Carrie of Timeline Four.
PART 94b: BUFFY’S RETURN
Carrie Elizabeth Waterson looked around at her time travelling companions. “Don’t all talk at once.”
Timothy Anthony Whitby cleared his throat. “What about Mindylenopia’s weapon?”
Frank Bernard Dijora held it up. “Drained. I already used it to take down Future Carrie, that’s why she’s not breathing down our necks.”
Anthony nodded. “L-let me have a l-look then. M-Maybe I can see how we m-might recharge it?” Bernard handed it over.
“Related, how much longer is that one shot going to keep Future Carrie out of it?” Elizabeth asked.
Bernard shrugged. “No way of knowing.”
Elizabeth sighed. “Perfect.”
Then again, she reasoned, if they kept using the gun, there was an obvious defence. Whenever Carrie regained consciousness later? She could theoretically jump back to right after she was shot. Negating the effectiveness. Good thing her future self wouldn’t have tried that already. “The gun’s hardly a permanent solution anyway.”
“Permanent?” Laurie Amelia Veniti gasped in horror. “You’re saying you want to kill future you?”
Elizabeth jerked her gaze towards Amelia. “Whoa! No, no, I want to… to… I don’t know, fix her. So that I have something to look forward to, something that isn’t… isn’t HER.”
Bernard leaned in. “That reminds me. I did overhear Carrie talking to, um, an even more Future Carrie…”
“Liz,” Elizabeth offered.
“Sure, to Liz. They were saying that the only method Carrie had for dealing with a future self was to overwrite bits of her own past. To remove the need for Liz to interfere with herself in the first place.”
Elizabeth raked her fingers back through her hair. “Okay. Except I’m not about to change the events that brought me here. Especially the truth about my mama. I won’t deliberately hide that from myself. I can’t. Because as long as I know about it, I also know that I don’t want to become the sort of person who would do it.”
“I get that,” Bernard said. “Thing is, Liz was wondering if there was another way. She didn’t give details.”
Elizabeth pursed her lips. “So maybe Liz sensed something, but it’s a thing she needs a younger self to do? I don’t suppose she passed along anything helpful, like a note.”
“I was insubstantial at the time, I don’t think the Carries even knew I was listening. But even if Liz had, her existence is being overwritten here.”
“Hold on.” Amelia gestured out towards the observation windows. “Aren’t we sitting in a huge time machine here? Can’t we use that to our advantage?”
Bernard adjusted his glasses. “Fair point. I guess I was mostly watching when Walter set the controls, and as such might be able to do something – but when would all we travel to?”
“Back to our present,” Amelia asserted. “Or, well, your present,” she amended. “A few weeks ahead of me, whenever you left to recruit me.”
“Carrie would only follow us back,” Elizabeth countered.
“So we’ll set a trap for her,” Amelia insisted.
“I can see through time,” Elizabeth sighed. “So we have to assume that Carrie can too, and that she’s better at it. She would look before she leapt, then pop in before we could come up with the trap. Or worse, find a way for us to spring it on ourselves. No, we’ve GOT to deal with Carrie in the here and now, before she regains her full strength.”
“It was a good thought though,” Bernard assured Amelia, off her crestfallen look. “Actually, in a similar vein, maybe we can use the information in the building’s database? The future knows more about Carrie than we do…”
As Bernard walked over to the main board, there was a flash of light over by the exit. “Sorry, but we’ve got to get out of here, now,” the newest arrival asserted, pulling the door open.
Elizabeth did a double take, recognizing another seventeen year old version of herself. “Uhm, yeah, okay ‘Buffy’…”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “I’m serious, there’s going to be a–”
“Lockdown. Lockdown,” came an automated computer voice. “This building is now in lockdown.” A red light on the wall came on, strobing, as half the overhead lights switched off.
“And they’ll start to pump knockout gas into this room momentarily,” Buffy concluded. “So get a move on.”
“Okay, n-not a fan of gas,” Anthony decided, hurrying to the door. Amelia ran over after him. Which was when the lock on the door clicked – but as Buffy was holding it open, there was no problem.
A hiss of air came from some overhead vents, and vapours began to pour out. “Damn. Glen must be in some auxiliary control room,” Bernard reasoned, hurrying after the others.
Buffy followed them out… shutting the door in the face of a surprised Elizabeth.
“Buffy,” Amelia shrieked. “You locked yourself in!”
“No. She’s about to realize she has to travel back to give you the warning,” Buffy assured the redhead. A puzzled look began to form on her face. “Meaning I’m Elizabeth again.”
Bernard lifted an eyebrow. “You know,” he remarked. “Maybe we should be trying to figure out a way to use your time travel abilities as our weapon of choice.”
Glen tapped at the holographic keyboard that had allowed him to interface with the building. It looked like he hadn’t been able to gas the main control room in time – and now he wasn’t sure where the other time travellers had gone. With the whole place in lockdown mode, he didn’t have complete access to the sensors any more.
Still, once he’d been notified of the external resistance forces closing in, initiating the lockdown had been the priority – along with getting their internal forces to mobilize in response. He wondered why security had been decreased throughout the building; what few personnel they had here would now have their hands full. New regulations following his departure, perhaps?
Oh well – on the bright side, he hadn’t seen the Theresa version of Mindylenopia on the monitors yet. And surely he and Carrie could take care of the rest of those idiotic teenage Mundanes by themselves.
A groaning noise brought his attention back to the fifty year old blonde woman, laid out on the floor nearby. He turned away from the computer systems, crouching next to her. “Carrie? Are you conscious yet?”
“What. The. Actual. F–”
“Somehow, Frank managed to get here ahead of us,” Glen interrupted. “With some sort of energy weapon. He hit you with it. Are you okay?”
Carrie blinked her blue eyes open. “No,” she snarled. “No, I am NOT ‘okay’. Somehow I’ve been cut off from the time streams.”
Glen frowned. “Seriously?”
“You think I’m lying? I can’t–” She broke off, as an attempt to push herself up merely made her eyelids flutter. She nearly hit her head as she crashed back down onto the ground.
“Maybe you should take it easy for a bit,” Glen suggested. “Frank and the others from your past, they’re not going far, not with a lockdown in place.”
“I will NOT take it easy,” Carrie snapped. “Not so long as my younger self is out there, running around my present and screwing up my history.”
“Carrie, it never goes well when you lose control of your emotions,” Glen soothed. “Besides, if the video image I pulled up is any indication, so far the only thing your prior self has done is pull in the rest of her prior time travelling companions – minus Mindylenopia. And with the lockdown, the dampening field will make any further attempts like that difficult for her at best.”
“Peachy.” Carrie took a few deep breaths. “But you’re not wrong. Okay, finding my zen.” She blinked a few times, then smiled. “There we go – I AM still attached to the time streams, it’s only that my senses have been… somehow numbed. Temporarily.”
“See?” Glen remarked. “So we get you back to full strength, trap the other time travellers in a room somewhere, and then you can send them all back to their–”
“Back to the Stone Age,” Carrie growled.
Glen frowned. “Er, really? Because even if you never directly interacted with those ones after we left town, surely they’re still a part of your past. I’m not sure you can simply–”
“I’m Goddamn Carrie Elizabeth Waterson, Temporal Queen!” Carrie spat out, her anger bubbling up again. “If Mindylenopia can mess with my past, I sure as hell can do whatever I want with it too. Yeah?”
“O-kay then.” Glen cleared his throat. “Except you can’t banish your younger self to the Stone Age. Can you?”
“No,” Carrie yielded. Her lips tightened. “No, but I have other plans for her.” Her eyes focussed on his face. “She will become me. Make no mistake.”
“I’m n-not sure how to charge the gun back up,” Anthony admitted. “That is, I c-can see how, based on our version, but I have n-no idea what sort of outlet or b-battery it plugs into. That part’s different.”
The four of them had retreated to a janitor’s closet. Bernard knew about it, because it’s where Mindylenopia had stashed their third security guard. Curiously enough, the room was now empty, containing only cleaning supplies. He decided it was a Timeline Three versus Four thing.
“Pity we don’t have a way of using Julie’s tracking device,” Bernard mused. “We might use it to pinpoint Glen’s location, and thereby trap the two of them, the way they just tried to trap us. Except I left the main assembly back in the time car.” He turned. “Elizabeth, do you think you could jump there and get it?”
Elizabeth shook her head. “I haven’t ever seen that car, not really, and I don’t think anyone I know would be around it now either. Moreover, it feels like that lockdown triggered some kind of temporal dampening field. Becoming Buffy and warning you about the knockout gas, it required more concentration than I would have expected.”
“Then you’re saying we can’t get out to Luci or the resistance either,” Amelia sighed.
Elizabeth swallowed. “Know what? I hate to say it, but maybe we should simply surrender.”
Bernard turned again, from where he’d resumed examining the janitorial chemical bottles. “You can’t be serious.”
Elizabeth looped a strand of hair around her fingers, tugging on it. “Yes, I can be. Because the longer I think about this? The more doomed I feel I am. No matter how good my time travel skills are, hers are better. That’s the way it works. A more experienced me will always be better, that’s got to be why Carrie always avoided a “Liz”-style conflict.”
“No,” Amelia said softly. She stood straighter. “I don’t know if my motivational speeches have improved since the hospital over a year ago, but Elizabeth? You CANNOT tell me that the Carrie out there is a better person than you are. No way. You… you’ve always been my mentor.”
Elizabeth looked at her. “Amelia, seriously? Me a mentor?”
The redhead nodded. “So I have faith that you can fix this. Because we never know what we’re capable of until we’re forced into a corner, which is what’s happening to you here. So don’t surrender to the evil Carrie, okay?”
Elizabeth swallowed. “Thanks Amelia, I… I’m flattered. And frankly undeserving, given my attitude towards you and so many others throughout the majority of our time in high school together. But even if I can say I’m a better person now, we’re not fighting a battle of ethics here. We’re fighting a battle of inevitability.”
The blonde cheerleader sighed. ”Meaning if I turn myself in, maybe the future Carrie will respect that. And sure, my OWN future will suck, but I can accept that if at least the rest of you can go on with your lives. Because when I left you behind in the present, that’s all I really wanted.”
“I d-don’t think that’ll happen,” Anthony protested. “I mean, b-based on what Future Luci said to us? Our future lives will suck for as long as you’re w-working with the Temporals. In any timeline.”
“We’re also not leaving without you,” Amelia insisted.
Elizabeth yanked on her hair hard enough that she winced. She pulled her fingers free. “Look, I’m still open to other alternatives – but really, what can we DO? We don’t even have a Temporal to consult for advice, and Carrie’s got Glen on her side.” She frowned. “Speaking of, what happened to Mindylenopia, or Theresa, or whatever you decided to call her? I didn’t spot her when I was looking for people who’d recently experienced a massive temporal displacement.”
Bernard put a bottle of bleach back on the shelf, letting out a sigh. “She didn’t make it, Elizabeth. Back in Miami, Mindylenopia drew Carrie’s attention away from us, to a decoy car, and it exploded.”
“W-Wait, no,” Anthony said, pushing himself off the wall. “I saw Theresa. Like, an old Theresa, way older than she had b-been in Miami. She was w-working with the resistance in this timeline.”
“What?” Amelia gasped. “But we saw Mindy die. Didn’t we?”
Bernard frowned. “So… maybe what I told her in Timeline Three bled through, and she lived? Except if that’s true, why would we still remember the explosion…”
“Agh, it’s just more questions without answers,” Elizabeth groaned.
The door to the janitor’s closet swung open. Bernard reached back for the bottle of bleach, Anthony grabbed a mop, and Amelia dropped into an approximation of a fighting stance. But it was only Buffy standing in the doorway, smiling wryly. She then tossed an apple at her past self, Elizabeth catching it by reflex.
“There you go,” Buffy remarked. “There’s our biggest unanswered question.”
Elizabeth looked down at the apple, then back up at herself. Her eyes went wide. “Oh, Buffy. We cannot be serious,” she gasped.