PREVIOUSLY: Carrie of the past (Elizabeth) is trying to figure out how to not become the Future Carrie of Timeline Four.
PART 95b: CARRIE VERSUS HERSELF
They barely got three paces inside the room before Glen was pointing a gun at them. “Freeze!” he said. Elizabeth’s companions froze in place. She realized then that he’d used his mental power.
Except while Glen sounded confident, Elizabeth noticed that he looked worried. He obviously hadn’t expected their mad rush into the control room. Then, looking around, she realized something else. Elizabeth quickly reached out, grabbing the mop that Anthony was still holding, tossing it back behind them. Keeping the main door ajar.
“Move back.” Glen waggled his gun, and Elizabeth, Bernard, Amelia and Anthony all stepped backwards, towards the wall. “I don’t know how you managed to gain access,” Glen remarked. “But this facility DOES have an armoury, and we WERE prepared for that unlikely eventuality.” He gestured at the floor, where there were at least a half dozen other gun-style weapons, along with a small box of what Elizabeth assumed were bombs.
“Unbelievable,” Elder Carrie remarked from behind Glen. “To think that I was once that insanely stupid. God, I hate myself.”
“Come over here and say that,” Elizabeth challenged.
“Don’t even bother with them,” Glen said to Carrie. He rose from his chair and began to advance. “The only question now, Elizabeth, is whether we send your friends here back to their present as they are now… or whether you force us to do it with them a little more… let’s say, wounded?”
Bernard turned to look at Elizabeth. “A version of you actually picks this guy over us?”
“I know,” Elizabeth sighed. “I’m sorry. I’m working on it.”
Glen stopped a few paces away. “Funny. Come on now, this will be SO much easier if you simply accept your destiny.”
“That’s far less interesting.”
Glen spun at the unexpected voice. He found himself unable to bring his gun to bear in time, Buffy having followed her remark up with a sprint inside the room, and a full body tackle. With the redhead on the ground, his gun bouncing away, Elizabeth shifted her own attention towards Carrie.
The fifty year old Carrie stepped towards one of the other weapons on the floor, then seemed to think better of it as Bernard made a similar dive. For a moment, Elizabeth sensed her future self trying to establish a temporal freezing field. She nullified Carrie’s efforts.
With that, Carrie charged out of the nearest available exit. The one that led down into the displacement room below. “What, are you trying to escape?” Elizabeth shouted. “If you think you’re so superior to me, PROVE it!” She chased after herself.
Buffy beat her fists into Glen’s side, smacked him about the head, and tried to knee him in uncomfortable places. “Why?” she shrieked. “Why didn’t you make me into a better person? WHY?!”
“Stop! Carrie, I’ve been trying to help,” Glen answered, trying to protect his body while simultaneously attempting to push her off of him. “Besides, that’s still in our future, I haven’t even done anything yet. Stop, I haven’t done it yet!”
“Eliz– err, Buffy, we got this,” Bernard said.
Buffy stopped herself, breathing hard, and noticing that Bernard was now holding a gun on the both of them. Amelia was rounding up the rest of the weapons, moving them to the corner, out of reach, and Anthony was approaching with some rope.
Buffy pushed herself back, rising again to her feet. “Right.” She eyed Glen. “I forgive you too. That said, you try any more of your mental tricks here? Things will not end well for you.”
Anthony began to tie Glen up.
Bernard inclined his head towards the exit. “Buffy, go help yourself.”
“Just a second,” Buffy said, straightening her blouse. “You’ll need the code to turn off the lockdown here, so the resistance can get in.”
“I’ll never give that up,” Glen assured them.
“You won’t have to,” Buffy noted. “Seeing as you entered it into the system, in this room, maybe five minutes ago.” She allowed the time streams to coalesce about her, and after carefully anchoring herself in the present, she slid back to see what the necessary computer input was.
Elizabeth supposed that she should have expected her future self to ambush her as soon as she charged through the sliding door into the displacement room. And yet, she hadn’t anticipated it, and as such she had the wind knocked out of her as the two of them then fell on the ground in a flurry of arms and legs. Elizabeth tried to kick out at her counterpart, but the fifty year old had the advantage of leverage – and of course, a future her would knew most of her moves. Or her expected moves, anyway.
Elizabeth reached out and yanked hard on Carrie’s long hair.
“Yeow!” Carrie screeched. “What, are you in grade school?”
“I was going to say the same,” Elizabeth shot back. “Why won’t you let me play in your sandbox?”
“My God, I’m so immature,” Carrie groaned.
Carrie still seemed temporally weak, but Elizabeth fast realized that where Carrie was holding onto her, her arm was going numb. The feeling was spreading up and into the rest of her body. That wasn’t good. But Elizabeth couldn’t seem to squirm free, she couldn’t seem to… oh. Wait. Duh.
Her eyes flickered to gold, and she slipped back in time thirty seconds. After rolling to the side, she then rejoined the present, in time to see Carrie face plant into the floor as her prior self disappeared. Elizabeth quickly pushed herself back up onto her feet, rolling her shoulder to try and regain the feeling in that arm. There was no point in her tackling the prone Carrie – this battle wasn’t going to be won physically.
Sure enough, Carrie had soon risen to her feet as well. “I guess I should be glad that I’m finally displaying half a brain,” she remarked.
“This won’t be like it was in Miami, Carrie,” Elizabeth declared. “I’m no longer that vulnerable girl. I’m ready for you.”
“Ha! Sure you are. Considering less than an hour has passed for us since then, I’m hardly shaking in my boots.”
“Weirdly enough, it feels to me like mama’s disappearance happened a lifetime ago. Despite you being the old maid here.”
Carrie snorted. “Oh, stop. You must know you cannot possibly win?”
“I don’t know that at all.”
“And yet… you seem unsure.”
“While you seem weak.”
Carrie brought her arm up, and Elizabeth realized too late that her future counterpart had been readying a charge of temporal energy. It hit her with enough force to launch her back into the far wall of the room, and it was all she could do to avoid getting herself pushed out of the present, and a few seconds into the future.
Carrie could have prepared a finishing blow in those few seconds.
Elizabeth slid to the floor, ending up in a seated position. “You know,” she wheezed, “I should really look into this masochistic streak I seem to have.”
“Stop talking,” Carrie said. Her eyes flickered over completely to gold, and she fired off another blast of energy.
Elizabeth snapped her arms up. She’d anticipated Carrie’s move this time, but all she’d been able to think of as a counter-move was to try and freeze time in her immediate vicinity. Rookie mistake – the blast was still moving for her, albeit much more slowly, and now she’d never be able to speed up her own time to dodge it. Not without releasing the freezing field and being hit.
Carrie laughed. “I am such a…”
Elizabeth never found out what Carrie thought she was, because right before the temporal blast could reach her, it was struck from the side by a counter-blast of temporal energy, sending the whole sparking assembly careening off to the side. It impacted the wall, a chunk of the panelling vanishing completely into the streams of time.
“Sorry I’m late,” Buffy said from the doorway, lowering her arms. “Bunch of things cropping up at the last moment. You know how it is.”
“Not as such, but I guess I’ll know soon enough,” Elizabeth said. She pushed herself back to her feet. “Thanks, Buffy.”
Carrie jerked her gaze back and forth between both versions. “At least you’re making this interesting,” Carrie acknowledged. “But even with two of you, you still have only a primitive understanding of our power.”
“We’re fast learners,” Elizabeth noted. She allowed the power to wash over her then, tentatively embracing the sensations, knowing that her own eyes were flicking to gold – and yet allowing it to happen. After all, she would become Buffy, right? She would maintain control.
“Fine,” Carrie snarled. “Let’s do this. But first, I’ll make sure we have no interference from your friends up there.”
She fired off two more pulses of temporal energy. Two wall panels were temporally banished in their wake – along with whatever was behind them, if the sparking was any indication. A klaxon sounded briefly, and the door to the room slid closed, along with blast shields slamming down over the observation windows above.
Elizabeth frowned, as a burn mark also appeared on the wall, spreading out from one of the missing panels. And whereas at first, the dark scorching had looked like it would follow a single path, it very quickly radiated out, looking more like a trident or a tree branch. Multiple paths. For some reason, that felt significant.
Elizabeth was so distracted by the image that she didn’t even notice the huge tree trunk that came hurtling at her moments later.
“Damn. We’re cut off,” Bernard remarked, as the blast shields dropped into place, blocking their view of the three Carries down below.
Anthony glanced sidelong at Bernard. He was now holding the weapon on Glen, as they had determined that it was an energy pulse set to stun. So it’s not like he was about to fill the Temporal full of holes if Glen tried anything. “Can y-you undo that?”
Bernard shook his head. “Doubt it. Carrie probably fried the hardware.”
“Wouldn’t there be sensors in that room or something?” Amelia guessed.
“Maybe,” Bernard yielded. “But I don’t know how to turn them on. So aside from having shut off of the lockdown, there’s not much more I can do. Aside from watch the progress of the resistance, which is what Glen had calibrated the system for.”
“I won’t help you,” Glen said.
Bernard sighed. “No one even asked you for help.”
“You’re only making this harder on yourselves,” Glen continued. “And harder on Carrie too. You need to surrender now, it’s the only way that girl can have a happy childhood! That’s her ONLY chance, you understand me, you Mundane morons? The ONLY way that you can still live out your dull, pathetic lives, is to give up. So that we can fix Carrie’s mind, retrain her, such that she doesn’t remember how one day she will–”
Anthony fired, and Glen slumped to the ground, out cold.
“Tim!” Amelia gasped.
He looked over at his friends and smiled weakly. “It occurred to me that he might be using his mental power more subtly. To w-wear us down. W-We’re all tired of being manipulated, yeah? W-We didn’t need him conscious… right?”
Bernard grinned back. “Good point. Wish I’d thought of that myself.” He turned back to the monitors. “I think Luci’s forces will be here in less than five minutes. They can help us out.”
“Weirdly enough, I don’t think Elizabeth has that kind of time,” Amelia sighed, looking again towards the blocked windows.
Buffy tackled Elizabeth in the nick of time, the tree trunk flying over their heads and slamming into the wall. Elizabeth snapped her gaze over towards the huge object. “Whoa! Where the hell did that come from?” she gasped.
“When the hell,” Buffy corrected breathlessly, continuing their roll across the floor. “Reverse banishment, that was a something Carrie knew about, which could be manifested from somewhen.” A mist began to appear within the room, making it harder for them to see. “Takes hella energy and concentration though, so I’d say we’re good for at least another ten seconds.”
“You will become me!” Carrie shrieked from within the growing fog. “I’m starting to feel these events in my past now.”
“Not good.” Buffy swallowed. “Look, Elizabeth, this is where we part ways. I need to strategize.”
“Oh. Pity. It’s been fun,” Elizabeth said weakly. She pushed herself back up off the floor. “I don’t suppose you can come up with a way of dispelling this mist first?”
“Actually, I’m creating it,” Buffy admitted, her golden eyes glowing. “So that it’s harder for Carrie to target. Remember from geography, the foggiest place on Earth, just off Newfoundland?”
Elizabeth blinked. “We’ve already figured out how to reverse banish?”
“Kinda? I’ve had some time to consider, since I told myself about the ability, and fog’s basically air. I really want to turn my concentration back to our Ultimate Paradox though. Okay?”
“Understood.” Elizabeth clasped herself by the shoulder. “Thank you.”
“Thank YOU,” Buffy said. “You’re the one who will soon give yourself the key card, after all.”
Elizabeth chuckled, then pulled Buffy back down as another huge tree flew through the fog towards them. “Right, that’s got to stop.” She exhaled. “Okay, here goes nothing.”
Launching herself forwards, Elizabeth charged through the fog towards her future self. And, to the increasing annoyance of the temporal powers she tended to keep locked away, away from her destiny.
So her powers began to push back.
NEXT: The Ultimate Paradox
ASIDE: It all ends with Part 96. Maybe you see how at this point? I’ll be splintering the end of Book 4 into three posts, for a couple reasons. One of them is to give me a transitional week, as the site returns to “Epsilon Project”. Until then, the usual vote for T&T, if you please?