TT4.96a: The Ultimate Paradox

PREVIOUSLY: Carrie of the past (Elizabeth) is trying to figure out how to not become the Future Carrie of Timeline Four.

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PART 96a: THE ULTIMATE PARADOX

“Missed me,” Elizabeth shouted as she charged through the fog, getting near to where she imagined Carrie would be.

“I’d rather not have even more memories of being in hospital, but I will if I have to,” Carrie shouted back – with a voice that was far too close.

Elizabeth back-pedalled, and carefully began to generate a temporal attack in her palms. A blast that she hoped would freeze at a distance, and not be the temporal freezing that required transmission by touch. “You will be banished,” she shouted, hoping to continue to keep Carrie’s attention on her, and off Buffy.

“I can’t banish myself, stupid,” Carrie snarked back. “I’m immune!”

“I mean you will be banished from being my future. Ha!” Elizabeth retorted. “Because even if you ARE good looking, you’ve got a lousy attitude.”

Something cut through the mist towards her. Elizabeth dropped towards the ground, firing off the charge she’d been generating. Energies collided, spiralling left, and there was a booming sound as they blew out (in?) another part of the wall. Well, that had been pointless. She probably wasn’t going to win this with temporal energy either.

‘Not unless you create a larger charge!’ a part of her insisted then. ‘Just give yourself over to it, time is everything, it’s the humanity holding you back… let it go…’

Elizabeth grit her teeth, and pushed herself back up onto her feet. “Yes, fine, you’re part of me, but I remain in control,” she asserted, saying it aloud to put more force behind the thought.

“No, I’M in control,” Carrie’s voice came again. “Because I’ve now worked out how to deal with there being two of you here.”

“Oh yeah? Kinky, but no thanks,” Elizabeth shouted back. She back-pedalled again, knowing every time she spoke she gave away her position – and she nearly stumbled into the wall. Damn it, the mist was disorienting her now.

“The reason I can affect memories,” Carrie continued, as if she hadn’t heard, “is because they’re formed by the passage of time. Meaning, of course, if I can reach into someone’s past and disrupt the particular time when those memories were stored? I can erase, or with a bit more finesse, even alter them.”

Elizabeth tried firing off another blast towards the sound of Carrie’s voice. Carrie simply laughed.

‘You can do better than that. You need to let yourself go.’

It felt like the temporal side of her was starting to pulse within. Elizabeth did her best to ignore it. She couldn’t fight a war on two fronts. “You going somewhere with this?” she hollered.

“Of course.”

Carrie’s voice had come from right behind her! Elizabeth spun, but Carrie had already grabbed hold of her arm, twisting it, even as her other hand pinched in at Elizabeth’s chin.

“Because here I am, RIGHT here, RIGHT now, and I’m about to make both of our pasts an absolute misery unless you surrender. So, do you surrender? Well, Elizabeth, my pathetic defeated teenage self, DO you? Because it’s not too late for us to have a few genuine, happy memories, you know…”

It occurred to Elizabeth then that Carrie was probably homing in on the sound of her own voice, at which point she would jump back in time a few seconds in order to get Elizabeth into this undignified position, and thereby allow herself to home in. Well, wasn’t that clever.

‘Two can play at these games… let it happen…’

“I’m not surrendering,” Elizabeth gasped. “Not to you, nor to my temporal demons…”

“Then you’ve already lost,” Carrie said. “Really, Elizabeth, see sense. Allow me to tweak your memories. That way you won’t realize that when you go back and become your other self in this room? You’ll be working for me. And everything you’ll do will lead us to an outcome here where I am the victor… where you both gave up…”

Elizabeth brought her heel down as hard as she could on Carrie’s foot, twisting free of her counterpart’s grip – and feeling like she was out of time. She was getting angry, and scared, and confused – soon, if she did much more than jump back to become Buffy? She might indeed lose control. Which she couldn’t afford, her prior self needed the keycard tucked in her waistband. She reached for it – it was still there. In fact, yes, it was time.

“Know what, Carrie? I forgive you,” Elizabeth breathed. “Now pardon me as I…”

She time slipped back.

***

Carrie growled, as she reached out for Elizabeth a second too late. “Fine,” she declared, spinning around to face the mist. “That merely makes it one-on-one again. All too easy.”

“Or not,” came a response from somewhere ahead of her. “Because our paradox – I’ve finally figured it out. In fact, it’s not even a paradox at all.” The sound of footsteps drew nearer. “Though if it’s any consolation, you were right about one thing.”

And seventeen year old Buffy – or rather, the most up-to-date version of Elizabeth – stepped out of the fog. With her eyes a bright gold, and her blonde hair flowing in waves around her, despite the lack of any wind. “I did end up having to surrender to something.”

***

When the words ‘accept incoming call?’ appeared on the main screen, Bernard reached out to acknowledge. “Who is this?” came Lee’s voice. “Turn on a video link.”

“Um, it’s Bernard? That is, a friend of your resistance,” Bernard clarified. “Er, no video available?”

“Huh. Okay. Let me know when Megan’s team gets there?”

Bernard eyed the other feeds. “If you mean the resistance forces, I think they’ll reach the control room in a couple minutes. Looks like there’s no one else left to stop them any more.” He turned to Amelia. “Come to think, we’d better prop the door back open, so they can get in.” The redhead nodded, moving to replace the mop.

“And what’s the status on Carrie?”

“She’s down in the displacement room. Hopefully incapacitated,” Bernard said.

“Hopefully? Can you maybe sound a little more certain?”

Bernard didn’t answer. He couldn’t – he’d vanished from the room.

“Amelia!” Anthony gasped. “Bernard’s–” The blonde boy disappeared too.

Amelia turned from where she’d propped the door open. “Uhm… guys?”

The control room remained empty, save for Glen’s unconscious body, until Megan Falls walked in three minutes later.

***

Carrie fired off a temporal blast at Elizabeth. And to her shock and confusion, Elizabeth seemingly absorbed it. How? This teenaged version was too young to know how to do that.

“See, I figured out what I was trying to tell myself,” Elizabeth said airily. “With the apple.”

Carrie readied another blast, a bigger one.

“I was actually trying to remind myself of the discussion I’d been having the first time I ever pulled off that little trick. Last year for me, ages ago for you.”

Carrie fired off her second blast, one that would bump Elizabeth several minutes into the future, rather than a few seconds. Again, incredibly, Elizabeth absorbed it.

“It was a talk with Frank about self-consistency,” the teenager continued blithely. “Versus multiple time tracks. By which I mean timelines that can branch off from the main one, looking much like the way that circuit burned out into forking paths on the wall there – do you remember that talk at all?”

“This isn’t POSSIBLE,” Carrie screamed. She began to form an even bigger charge in her hands. Yes, it was all about power. Power, a power that she had, which her younger self didn’t.

“Wrong,” Elizabeth countered. “This IS possible. What’s really incredible about this whole future is that, despite all of the arguments we made back then… in the end, you latched onto the temporal model of self-consistency? Seriously?”

“No, NO, you can’t,” Carrie said with mounting horror. A horror that came from an increasing awareness of what Elizabeth was saying. She tried to make her charge even bigger. “I’ll freeze you and reprogram you. You won’t be able to absorb this. Never in my past have I have EVER been able to absorb something like this!”

“Let me tell you a secret.” Elizabeth took a step forwards and leaned in closer to Carrie’s ear. “Not. From. Your. Timeline,” she whispered.

***

It happened the day Frank died, saving Luci’s life. After her consciousness had become trapped inside him. What had allowed that event to become a temporal lynchpin?

Mindylenopia! Oh God, Mindy was the key. By inserting herself into the timeline, Mindy had forced Carrie to power up faster. To learn a technique like banishing sooner. Mindy had moved her abilities along at an accelerated rate – in fact, Glen likely wouldn’t have revealed himself two weeks ago, if not for Mindy! Surely, Mindy’s involvement meant that Elizabeth/Carrie had it somewhere within her to undo this.

Moreover, she had told Luci/Frank that she would fix things, one way or another. She had meant that.

And there WAS a way. She saw it now.

“Go to hell, other me,” Elizabeth gasped. Her eyes flashed golden. She felt like she was being torn in two…

And Carrie gave up. Glen guided her towards the stairs, out of the Dijora house, and out of town.

And they never returned.

And Carrie grew up to hate herself even more.

And later she went back in time and abducted her own pregnant mother.

And Theresa, after receiving a mysterious mental message about her mission, bided her time through history, ultimately joining the resistance, to ensure that Mindylenopia could go back, so that the split would occur.

The split that resulted from the fifty year old Carrie facing off against her seventeen year old self.

***

It happened the day Frank died, saving Luci’s life. After her consciousness had become trapped inside him. What had allowed that event to become a temporal lynchpin?

Mindylenopia! Oh God, Mindy was the key. By inserting herself into the timeline, Mindy had forced Carrie to power up faster. To learn a technique like banishing sooner. Mindy had moved her abilities along at an accelerated rate – in fact, Glen likely wouldn’t have revealed himself two weeks ago, if not for Mindy! Surely, Mindy’s involvement meant that Elizabeth/Carrie had it somewhere within her to undo this.

Moreover, she had told Luci/Frank that she would fix things, one way or another. She had meant that.

And there WAS a way. She saw it now.

“Go to hell, other me,” Elizabeth gasped. Her eyes flashed golden. She felt like she was being torn in two…

And Elizabeth pulled away, vanishing into the time streams.

And Frank’s life was saved.

And shortly thereafter, Elizabeth decided to save her mother too.

So Theresa revealed herself, and the time machine was reconstructed in a car, and her friends came after her, only to have Mindylenopia sacrifice herself back in Miami.

And from there, Elizabeth was dragged back into the future, to seal the split and reunite the timelines – except they would not be reunited. Could not be reunited.

Not once Elizabeth had seen a way to defeat her fifty year old self.

***

“STOP!” Carrie howled. “There can be only ONE timeline. *MINE*!”

“Lynchpin moments are a bitch, aren’t they?” Elizabeth remarked, stepping back. “Turns out I can do more than simply overwrite when I target one. It’s fine, I’m building up to a timeline separation here, so you’ll have your own future back soon enough. For all the good it will do, given how the resistance is closing in.”

“NO!” Carrie continued to charge up the insane amount of energy in her palms. “You can’t. I mean think about it, if you do this – your mother, she’ll be trapped in THIS timeline. Where I dragged her, out of our unified past. Our mother will be in what you’d call an Alternate Timeline Four. You’ll NEVER see her again.”

Elizabeth stared. She nodded. “I know,” she said, sadly.

In one last ditch effort, Carrie brought her palms up, and released all the temporal energy that she’d been generating, right into Elizabeth’s face.

Elizabeth simply boomeranged it.

Carrie fell back onto the ground, her body locked in temporal suspension, her mouth frozen open in an ‘o’ of surprise.

Elizabeth stepped forwards. “You’ll get our mom, and an extra teenaged Glen in this alternate timeline. Good for you. As for me?” She looked up at the ceiling. “I get my future back.”

The blonde drew in a huge lungful of air, increasing her concentration. Her mental message back through time to this timeline’s Theresa had been sent. She’d shoved her friends back into their present, into the other timeline. Her timeline. What was becoming the true timeline. The only thing left to do was… separation.

The Earth began to shake all around her.

It was like that time she’d planned on channelling the destructive force of Shady’s bomb into the time streams, except the sensations felt a hundred times more amazing. For while this alternate future timeline could continue on as it liked, with Megan’s forces in control of the building, Elizabeth/Carrie would be able to rewrite the future of her true timeline. Everything from this point of her life onwards? Would be a complete unknown.

As such, the Earth around her could be moulded in her image.

Everyone would have to bow down before her.

Bow down, because she was a cosmic force.

No, more than that, at this point she was A TEMPORAL GOD.

Unyielding. Unbeatable. Unstoppable.

Carrie Elizabeth Waterson threw back her head and laughed in an insane euphoria. It was time to return to her present.

*

NEXT: Resolution

ASIDE: So that’s… good? Two posts left, as I split the last section. Voting for T&T can still be a thing. Also, Rev. Fitz, who wrote our latest April Fools Entry (with the Elder Carrie) has been examining serial sites this month. He just recently looked at Time & Tied. So check out his thoughts, and if you haven’t yet, his serial too!

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5 comments

  1. To check I understood: she lets both timelines happen in parallel because the crappy one is necessary for the good one to occur (because it’s in the future of the crappy one where her powers awaken enough for her to fix her past, as we’ve just seen), then she isolates the crappy one so its future Carrie can’t interfere with the good one. Cool idea. And a cool reveal (if I understand it correctly) that when Carrie’s powers awoke to save Frank/Luci, it was actually her self from a few months in the future taking her over, not simply an inner self who wanted to take control to become a timelord. I don’t though see how Carrie could be so confident that her elder self in the crappy timeline couldn’t find a way to undo the isolation, given that there seems to be no limit on her powers.

    Re the sections beginning “Mindylenopia! Oh God, Mindy was the key.”, were you expecting that we’d remember where that came from? I eventually figured out that it was chapter 3.70 but until I reread the relevant part of that chapter, I found these sections confusing, especially because I didn’t know what scene it was referencing so I couldn’t picture it and didn’t know when/where it was meant to be taking place or who Carrie/Elizabeth were (because I didn’t know whose perspective it was from). For example, I didn’t know who “other me” was referring to or what problem Carrie/Elizabeth was trying to solve, or how Frank came into it. Maybe add some lead-in to set the scene?

    I’m also not sure why Carrie’s mother ends up stuck in the isolated timeline. Is it because if Carrie now goes back again to when her mother disappeared to try save her again, Carrie’s efforts now in splitting/isolating the timelines won’t happen, so effectively both futures grow out of the version of the past where elder Carrie has seized their mother? But couldn’t Carrie just snatch her mother back out of the future (after Elder Carrie kidnapped her) and put her wherever she wants?

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    1. First, thanks SO much for the additional feedback here. Hopefully I can clarify some things. You are correct, there are now two parallel timelines, instead of one being overwritten, because the former timeline’s existence is a “necessary evil” for Carrie’s life experiences. It’s not *quite* true that Carrie “took herself over”, more “gave a boost”, since we’re not going back to that point a third time (and there’s a new last sentence to try and clarify that).

      As to Carrie’s confidence, that may well be misplaced (she’s got delusions of grandeur right now) but she had figured on incapacitating her elder self. Her powers are also… not precisely self-aware, but let’s say they’re inclined to back a winner. Which is not Elder Carrie. Also, I like to think there’s a piece of Carrie, even Elder Carrie, who would be happy her younger self has a better path forwards. (As to power limits, yeah, if I write the sequel, I’ll try to make those clearer.)

      Regarding the sections, I hadn’t expected instantaneous recognition, but had thought the Luci/Frank mention might spark awareness, and that even if it didn’t, it wouldn’t be as confusing as it obviously was. You’re right that I should have dealt with it better (what with the passage not being part of Book 4, but rather Book 3). My blessing/curse is having a pretty specific memory. I’ve added a couple lead-in sentences, hopefully they help, anyone reading this can let me know.

      As to the mother issue, you are correct that both timelines evolve from a past where Elder Carrie has seized their mother. (And thus trying to interfere at the point of abduction will pretty much just tip off Elder Carrie that the battle with her teenaged self is coming, meaning things would unfold differently and oh no, that would hurt even my brain.) As to why Carrie can’t simply pull her mother out of this future… in theory she COULD. The problems are: (1) She doesn’t know Elaine’s present day situation. Perhaps she’s happily married again. Or Elaine might have died saving someone’s life. And while it would be possible to find that out, it would take time, plus (2) Carrie’s powers are twisting her into a megalomaniac bent on becoming Earth’s first true God. Her mother’s taken a back seat to that, particularly since (as you pointed out earlier) deliberately provoking this “bad” timeline by stealing Elaine back is probably unwise.

      Hopefully that clarifies? If anyone sees a better way for the story to touch on some of this, or has further questions, let me know. (I think I see a way to tweak Friday’s part for a piece of it.) Thanks again, Mez.

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    1. Yeah, I deliberately kept that vague, but I imagine it was something along the lines of: “Thank you. I can now defeat myself on the day you travel back. Patience.” (Basically whatever makes Theresa think she succeeded in her mission, so that she stops trying to track Glen & Carrie down in the past.)

      As to how Carrie can suddenly send people mental messages, I’m going with it’s a specific connection to Mindy/Theresa, given how it was her specific interference (and banishment) which allowed for the temporal lynchpin. (Narratively, doing this sort of message worked better for me than God Carrie stopping off to scribble Theresa a note on her way back to the new present-day timeline.) Hope that clarifies.

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