PREVIOUSLY: Carrie of the past (Elizabeth) is trying to figure out how to not become the Future Carrie of Timeline Four.
PART 95a: ENDGAME
“What are you doing?” Glen asked.
“Preparing to isolate myself,” Carrie grumbled. The fifty year old pulled the small bomb out of it’s container in the armoury. “This ought to do it.”
Glen shook his head. “I’m still not following.”
She turned to glare at him. “The only reason younger me – hell with it, let’s call her Elizabeth – is able to function here in the future, and wherever they are in this building, is because of whatever her friends are now telling her. Yes?”
“I suppose that makes sense.”
“So, if we eliminate them, Elizabeth becomes an easier mark. And a bomb is a lot more efficient for doing that than a bunch of separate temporal banishments.”
Glen rubbed the back of his neck. “Ignoring the historical ramifications for the moment, the fact that they’re unlikely to split up? Means that if you blow up Elizabeth’s friends, you’ll blow up your past self too.”
Carrie nodded. “Hence I go after the others before they got here.”
“Except they already ARE here. So… how does that work, exactly?”
“I don’t know yet. But I’ll make it work,” Carrie asserted. “I’ll destroy them before they arrive, and let that ‘bleedthrough’ effect thing sort the rest out.”
“Um, Carrie? You don’t experience ‘bleedthrough’,” he reminded her. “You’re the cause, not the effect. You get saddled with the memory headaches. Ergo, even assuming you can pull this off, what if it merely leaves you with a massive migraine, unable to act at all?”
“Then at least Elizabeth will be similarly affected,” Carrie snapped, feeling her patience slipping away again. “Look, Glinephanis, there must be some way I can change things in the same manner as Mindylenopia did. But to succeed, I’ll need to know everything I can about how to identify that ‘time car’ back in Miami. That way, as soon as my connection to the time streams fully kicks back in, I can go back to destroy her friends before they get here.”
Amelia looked from Elizabeth, who was now holding an apple, over towards Buffy, standing in the doorway of the janitor’s closet, and then back to Elizabeth. “I don’t get it,” she admitted.
“Me neither,” Anthony chimed in.
“I might,” Bernard said, looking uneasy. “Except I still don’t like it. It violates the law of conservation of mass, among other things.”
“Show them,” Buffy suggested, stepping into the room and gesturing towards the door.
Elizabeth looked down at the apple she was holding, pursed her lips, and then marched back out of the janitor’s closet. She pulled the door closed behind her. There was a brief silence.
“So… now what?” Amelia asked.
Bernard crossed his arms, looking over at Buffy. She was now holding her palm against her temple, and grimacing. “You just went back in time, came back in here, and tossed that apple at yourself, right?”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah. Meaning I’m back to being Elizabeth again, by the way.”
“Wait, s-so where did Elizabeth get that apple f-from?” Anthony asked.
“From Buffy,” Amelia said, with a shrug. “The real question is where Buffy got HER apple from.”
“That was from being Elizabeth,” Bernard said dryly. “You’re both asking valid questions, you see. There never was an apple – and yet it was once here.” He rubbed his eyes, beneath his glasses. “She’s done this once before, WAY back when we first discovered the time machine. It’s a Catch-22, and I never did work out how she pulled it off.”
“I think it’s simply something I can do,” Elizabeth admitted. “I even did it with the time machine once. I assume I’m using it here to try and tell myself something. Maybe that’s also what Liz tried to do with Carrie.” She sighed. “I don’t know why I have to keep picking the path of temporal headaches.”
Amelia stared back at the door. “Maybe Buffy is about to walk back in, not carrying an apple, but instead carrying the ultimate weapon to use against her future self?”
Again, there was a brief silence.
“So, n-not that,” Anthony concluded.
“Damn it, I’m trying to tell myself something,” Elizabeth repeated. “Subconsciously. But WHAT?”
“An apple a day keeps the Carrie away?” Amelia suggested.
Bernard leaned against the nearby shelf. “Maybe you’re trying to hint that this is something Carrie can’t do,” he decided. “That it’s something she’s never mastered. So if you can nail it for her, you can change her mind, make her realize that your path is the better path forwards.”
Elizabeth gave him an uncertain look. “And I demonstrate this bizarre power in some definitive way to Carrie… how, exactly?”
“I don’t know,” Bernard said. “But I’m starting to feel like we won’t find out by staying here, in defensive mode.”
“For the record, I don’t think this is a good idea,” Glen remarked.
“For the record, I don’t care,” Carrie shot back.
They had purged the remaining knockout gas from the generator’s control room and then returned there. It was a position they could easily fortify, and even use to draw in reinforcements if necessary, given the proximity to the displacement room.
“We’ll release the lockdown for at most ten seconds,” Carrie insisted. “That will drop the temporal dampening field, and allow me to jump back to Miami, despite my current weakened condition. Once I’ve planted the time bomb in their car, I leap back here to reap the rewards.”
Glen eyed the monitors that he’d pulled up. “It looks like the resistance incursion is stalled at level two. All right. When you’re ready, give me the word.”
He supposed he should simply be happy that he was finally dealing with a Carrie who could embrace her powers, even if she seemed to have become a bit overconfident about them. That was the Carrie he’d met when he was young, before going back to when she was a teenager, so it was nice to finally be back with ‘his’ Carrie.
“Go,” Carrie stated.
Glen dropped the alert. Carrie disappeared in a flash of light. Glen began to count in his head, one-onethousand, two-onethousand, three-onethousand… and Carrie was back. He reinstated the lockdown. “Well?”
She glared at him. “Well what? Do you still remember Frank shooting me with the weapon and all that?”
“Yup,” Glen affirmed.
She glared out through the observation windows. “I rushed that. Maybe they split up. Or a couple of them escaped the blast. You didn’t mention they had another means of time travel available to them.”
Glen shook his head. “They didn’t. Or not that I know of.”
Carrie rubbed her chin. “Perhaps they saved key circuits. Rebuilt a device. I should have lobbed the bomb at them, instead of setting it in the car.”
“It’s not like you can’t try again,” Glen remarked. He gestured at the floor. “We looted the armoury, we have more bombs.”
“Right. Hold on, I’ll see if I can track their actions after the airport affair a little more carefully…”
“I’ll keep trying to pick them up in the present on internal sensors,” Glen offered. He began to tap at the keyboard again.
Anthony peered out the door. “You’re r-right, Elizabeth – they must have dropped the lockdown. The r-red lights are…” The corridor lighting changed again. “…back.” He quickly re-closed the door.
“Is the resistance breaking through?” Amelia wondered.
“No,” Elizabeth said, pressing her palm against her temple again. “No, I should have realized this. If I were in charge here, I’d have tried retaking the control room. Damn it! They must be there now, with Carrie doing experimental time jumps. Maybe they can even bring back future reinforcements. I need to start thinking strategically. To start thinking like… ugh, like that Carrie.”
“So what d-do we d-do?” Anthony asked.
“Well, Bernard’s right,” Elizabeth sighed. “We can’t keep playing a defensive game. There’s only one way I’ll be able to stop a single-minded Carrie from harming anyone else – no matter the cost to myself.” She looked around at them. “Know that you don’t have to come along.”
“Still not leaving without you,” Amelia reminded.
“Right.” Anthony reached back for the mop. “After all, s-someone’s got to deal w-with Glen as you face yourself.”
“So you’re stuck with us,” Bernard agreed.
Elizabeth smiled. “Thank you. I don’t deserve… actually, hmm. Know what? On second thought, strike that. Maybe I do deserve friends like you.” She looked towards the closet door. “More to the point, maybe I even deserve friends like Buffy.”
“Um, friends like yourself?” Amelia asked.
Elizabeth nodded. “Yes. Yes, because you know what? THAT’S Carrie’s weakness. How she hates herself. How, *I* hate myself.” She smiled. “Think about it. Nearly every time I’ve met another incarnation, I’ve argued, I’ve tried to beat myself up, I’ve hoped to change my own experiences… I’ve never seriously tried to work WITH myself. To accept my flaws, and my future… and consider that maybe they’re not so terrible after all.”
“Um… except f-for how this f-future kind of is terrible?” Anthony said, gesturing around them.
“Oh, well, this future is terrible, sure. But for the first time, I’m starting to wonder if I can accept that MY future destiny ISN’T.” Elizabeth straightened her posture. “Or rather, that it won’t have to be, not once I truly deal with myself.” She stepped towards the door. “Meaning it’s not only time for the final battle between Carries…” She pushed the door open. “But that it doesn’t have to be one-on-one.”
“This is ridiculous,” Carrie said, her eyes flickering from yellow back to blue. “When I centre on them, all they’re doing is moping about Miami. But when I jump ahead a few days, I can’t pick them up at all.”
“So track them more gradually,” Glen said idly.
“Even ignoring how I’m not at full strength, and the fact that watching a minute back then is the same as a minute in the here and now, it’s SO BORING,” Carrie moaned. “I am narrowing it down though. I think something happened on their third day there. Damned if I know what. Where are Elizabeth and her friends in the present, have you spotted them?”
“Yeah. They’re approaching our position.”
Carrie blinked. “Wait, for serious?”
Glen nodded. “Yeah, but I’ve locked and re-keyed the ID on the door here to a random sequence. We’re secure. I’m more worried about these resistance forces. They’re not giving up. Maybe you should pop up there and scare the hell out of them, make them retreat?”
Carrie gestured. “Fine, fine. In a little while, I’ll time travel back to now, and do that.”
“Right.” There was a brief silence. Glen cleared his throat. “Thing is, you haven’t appeared to them yet, implying that in the future you might not–”
“Shut up, I’m busy.”
She resumed trying to pinpoint whatever Elizabeth’s group of friends had been doing in Miami. Instead of focussing on Elizabeth herself.
“Slight problem,” Bernard remarked. Again, he reached out towards the ID reader. Again, he tapped the access card that Faye had provided, back when Walter had first arrived to program the temporal generator. And again, nothing happened. “This card isn’t working any more.”
“Carrie’s in there though,” Elizabeth murmured. “I can sense it.”
“Maybe they’ll open the door if we knock?” Amelia said hopefully.
“No,” Elizabeth said slowly. “It’s time. Give me a moment. As long as I believe in myself, and believe that I can… that I AM going to survive this encounter… I… I will be able to…”
“…give myself this,” Buffy finished, appearing in a flash of light. She seemed scared and out of breath, her eyes flickering between blue and gold, but she nevertheless extended her hand to her double. It held a new key card.
“Nice! You got the card off of Carrie,” Bernard said, grinning.
Buffy drew in a long breath, then turned to him, smiling weakly and rubbing her temple. “Nope.” Her eyes settled on blue.
“Okay, so, key cards are our new apple,” Elizabeth remarked. She reached out to accept it, turning it around in her hands as she looked Buffy up and down. “Thanks. I’m guessing I’m more on offence this round?”
Buffy nodded. “Yeah. And I’m afraid when I left I still hadn’t figured out how to resolve our ultimate paradox. Namely how we can accept becoming her, and yet somehow NOT become her.”
“That is a puzzler,” Elizabeth agreed. “Keep working on it, okay future me?”
“Oh, you bet.” Buffy dusted off her hands, becoming increasingly more chipper. “After all, I think I will have been getting close soon, knowing what I will have to be seeing a short time ago while I have drawn her fire like you already will.”
Anthony rubbed his forehead. “Okay, that sentence right there? That’s where Temporal ends up being a better language than English.”
The two blondes glanced in his direction. “Sorry,” they chorused in unison. They then looked back at each other and let out simultaneous giggles.
“That is somehow cute, and yet scary as hell,” Bernard observed.
Elizabeth smirked. “If you think that’s scary?” She brandished the new key card, moving in closer to the reader. “Just wait until we’re both fighting our future incarnation.”
The reader pinged, and the door unlocked.
NEXT: Carrie Versus Herself
ASIDE: I’ve been watching the anime “Steins;Gate” this month. I think that, if you enjoy this serial, you’d enjoy it – and vice versa. (Both are slow to start, and get convoluted.) I’ve been blogging about my experience watching it, if you’re curious.