PREVIOUSLY: Frank, Laurie and Tim have chased after Carrie into the future, where they’ve encountered a very worried Elder Clarke – and Mindylenopia’s on the phone?!
PART 89a: IDENTITY CRISIS
“%You have five seconds to explain how you know me, after which this phone will be permanently deactivated. Five… four…%”
Frank looked up expectantly, and Tim realized that his friend was anticipating a translation. But Mindylenopia was counting down! By the time he’d explained that she wanted an explanation, they’d be out of time!
The only thing he could think of to do that might keep Mindy on the line long enough might get them in trouble instead. But he’d made a number of gambles for their temporal group already. At this point, what was one more? He summoned his resolve.
“%We is be friends!%” Tim said, leaning in closer to the device. “%We want with, uh…%” He snapped his fingers twice, unable to think of the word for help. “%We serve you and be happy future!%”
For a moment, there was silence on the line, Frank simply looking at Tim in surprise. Then there was the sound of muffled laughter. “Okay,” came Mindylenopia’s voice in English. “You’re either the smartest espionage team ever, certified loons, or people who may actually be of service to me. I can spare some time to find out. 10pm, at the train station.”
Before either of them could speak, the ensuing dial tone indicated that Mindylenopia had hung up.
Frank reached out to tap at the holo-button that would cut off the call. “Uh, thanks Tim,” he acknowledged. “I didn’t realize you and Luci could speak Temporal as well as understand it.”
“We can’t,” Tim sighed. “I may have just told her that we were friendly, and want be her future slaves. But she was counting down to cutting us off for good, and there was no way I could sum up our situation in five seconds, so I thought I’d better try something unexpected.”
“Oh. Well… assuming we can find her train station, that means we still have a shot at figuring out why Mindy gave us her own phone number. So again, thanks.”
Tim shook his head. “How could that even BE Mindy? She… well…”
“This must be before she travels back,” Frank reasoned. “For some reason, when Mindylenopia sent us forward to the future – it was also into her own past.”
“So did she KNOW?” Tim wondered. “The whole time she was Theresa, in our present, did she know we’d eventually meet her, in her past?!”
“That might depend on what we end up saying to her.” Frank sighed. “My new worry is that we might do something that prevents her from going back in the first place.”
“Oh. OH.” Tim’s eyes widened. “I feel like that would be BAD.”
Frank nodded. “For now, let’s get the car into town and meet with Clarke’s contact. Maybe they can provide us with some much needed future context.”
Apparently, Clarke hadn’t ever played professional basketball, had become a mechanic and tow truck driver about ten years ago with the intention of helping people, and had not married Julie. At least, he’d admitted to the first two, and Laurie was pretty sure that his body language had answered that last question, not to mention his changing of the subject. Unless they were divorced? She worked with him for another few minutes in silence.
“How’s your sister?” Laurie asked at last, again seeking some common ground with the Clarke she knew.
He shook his head, looping the length of chain around the front of the Chevrolet to secure it. “Another thing we probably shouldn’t talk about.”
Laurie slumped her shoulders. “Really? We’re stuck with favourite foods and recent movies from my time that are being remade yet again in this future?”
“Sorry, Laurie,” Clarke apologized. “I don’t want to risk changing anything about my past.”
“I don’t think you can,” Laurie assured. “Most of the talk I’ve heard surrounds all time travel being predestined.”
“Yeah. That’s what I thought too.” She fancied then that his gaze drifted to Frank, but maybe he was simply looking back at the tow truck. “I sure hope Luce can sort all of this out.”
“Luce… do you mean Luci?” Laurie ventured. “Wait, Cl– Phil, are we going to see Luci??”
“Crud. Yeah,” Clarke admitted. “And I am seriously going to stop talking now. Otherwise I might let slip about more things. Like that huge ban Canada has on Japanese anime art.”
“WHAT?” Laurie practically shrieked. “The future has banned… okay, NO, don’t even kid about that! Seriously!”
Clarke’s smile widened. “Sorry again. Bad joke, but I couldn’t remember what your other teenage passions were. My point being, sometimes the truth isn’t something you want to know, yeah? And now I truly am done talking.” He hit the lever to pull the front wheels of the Chevy up.
Laurie fired off a look that she hoped was an angry pout. Yet at the same time, she suppressed her desire to ask any further questions.
The trip into Ottawa took less than twenty minutes, but since no one was talking, it felt longer to Frank. They pulled up to the parking lot of a small cafe, on what seemed to be the outskirts of town – and she was there in the parking lot, waiting for them.
Frank felt a lump in his throat, looking at the older version of Luci. It reminded him more of her twenty-year-old artificially aged version than the one they’d left back in the present. Perhaps because the normally so omnipresent little ponytails she sported were gone, in favour of longer hair. It fact, it seemed like Luci had aged well, even though her figure was largely covered up by a long coat. Could she have been his wife, if the two of them had decided not to break up? He shoved those thoughts aside as they all piled out of the tow truck.
Lucille Primrose was all business, her first words to Laurie being “open your mouth”, the asian woman holding out a Q-tip. When Laurie obeyed, Luci swabbed inside, then dropped the Q-tip into a small device she was holding. She peered at it for several seconds, then repeated the process for Tim, and again for Frank. A “ping” came from her device at the end of his analysis, and she looked uneasy.
“Are they the real deal?” Clarke murmured.
Luci didn’t acknowledge the question, instead looking to Frank. “How did you get here?” she demanded.
Frank pointed to the Chevy. “Time car. The circuits burned out on arrival.”
Luci peered at everyone with her heterochromatic eyes, then finally addressed Frank again. “Show me.”
He went back to show her the setup. Her apparent skepticism gradually began to shift into a mix of confusion… with hints of fear. “This is impossible,” she said, echoing Clarke. “How would you even have the means to come this far forwards?”
Frank decided to hedge. “The one who went back to activate Carrie’s powers? He had a coin,” he said, cutting out the Mindy-Linquist part of Tim’s revelation.
“Damn.” Luci rubbed her forehead. “Better question then, WHY make this trip? What could you possibly hope to gain by it?”
Frank again wondered if it was prudent to bring up Mindylenopia.
“Your Future Carrie abducted our Carrie,” Laurie offered. “We want ours back.”
Luci snapped her gaze over towards the redhead. “Impossible.”
“You keep using that word,” Tim quipped. “I d-do not think it means what you think it means.”
Luci regarded them each in turn once again. She seemed to come to a decision. “We’ll need to compare histories. Could take a while. Do you want to freshen up first?”
“We shouldn’t, we kind of have a deadline,” Frank said, thinking of Mindy’s meeting at 10pm.
“But we haven’t had a proper meal in a couple days,” Laurie noted, looking towards the nearby cafe.
Luci followed her gaze, and a smile flickered over her face. “You look like it. Okay, don’t go nuts in there, but I can credit you a meal as we talk.” She turned to Clarke. “You in, or should I recap later?”
“You know I hate getting mixed up in your extracurricular activities, Luce,” Clarke answered, adjusting his glasses. “Plus I’ll never be able to follow your temporal talk. Call me once you know for sure.” He turned to Frank, hesitated, then extended his palm to shake. “I know I ended up acting pretty weird here, but… it was good to see you again. Really.”
“Right,” Frank said, shaking back, even as he wondered as to Clarke’s wistful tone of voice.
He watched as the tall blonde moved to start uncoupling their Chevy from his truck. “Actually, Phil,” Luci broke in, “since you’re set up, could you tow that over to the warehouse? I can give these three a lift to wherever they want after we eat.”
Clarke turned. “Luce…”
“You don’t mind do you?” Luci said, eyeing Frank. “It’ll stand out like a sore thumb in this time period, and maybe our techs can fix it.”
“Techs?” Frank wondered.
A smile tugged at the older Luci’s face. “I’m connected.”
Frank wished he knew more about this future. “You can take it on condition that no one messes with it unless me, Tim or Laurie are present. If our histories have diverged, it could contain information you’re not ready for yet.”
She thought on that for a moment. “Fair. Phil?”
“I can take it over, but then I wash my hands of the whole deal. Except for the phone call you owe me.”
“Also fair,” Luci agreed. “In fact, I’ll owe you a favour too.”
Clarke chuckled. “Fine. I’ll call it in next time I need medical assistance.”
Tim turned to Luci. “Oh, are you a doctor? Because I might need some medication.”
She nodded back. “I have a day job. For now, let’s go talk.”
Laurie raised her hand. “Can I get my suitcase of clothing and art supplies out of the Chevy’s trunk first?”
Luci, as it turned out, couldn’t remember a whole lot about high school. The major events had stuck with her over time, and seemed to have transpired the same way Frank knew them – namely Carrie getting them involved in time travel, Corry’s flyer about Julie’s past prompting the theft of the time machine, and Glen showing up in their senior year. But when they delved a bit deeper, the inconsistencies surfaced.
“I was never artificially aged,” Luci asserted. “And Linquist didn’t hide out, when he sold the mansion it was to live in a smaller house in town instead. One that most people avoided.”
“But if that’s so, then when did you tell me you, uh, had feelings for me?” Frank pressed.
Luci swallowed. “After Carrie got shot by Julie,” she admitted. “It helped me realize how little time all of us have.” She bit down on her lip. The way she was reacting towards him… Frank shook it off.
“So that’s a change of maybe two weeks,” Frank decided. “What else happened around that time… the drugs in Carrie’s locker?”
“Oh right,” Luci recalled. “Yeah, that set up the whole Carrie-Chartreuse dynamic, since they both got detentions.”
“Wait, so they started dating then?”
Luci laughed. “WOW, no. But Carrie did do some strong-arming, and Chartreuse eventually fell for her in a Stockholm Syndrome kind of way.”
“Okay, that might be a parallel…” Frank let out a breath, glancing towards Tim and Laurie.
Tim shrugged. “You’re kinda before my involvement. I’ll shout if I hear something wrong.”
Laurie looked up from the menu, which Luci had downloaded into her device upon entry, and had then offered to share around the table. “Ditto. And what are ‘spam tacos’?”
“Like fish tacos, but vegetarian,” Luci said absently. “Frank, are you trying to pin down a specific event in Carrie’s past?”
“Yes, and I kind of think I know what it is now,” he admitted. “As much as I don’t want to admit it. Luci, after the locker drugs, do you know if Carrie came to see me? If she ended up apologizing to me for everything, and crying on my shoulder in the park?”
Luci flinched back. “Big no, unless that’s something you never told me about. Rather, she cut off everybody, and practically blackmailed the both of us into fixing the time machine. With the intent to, as I later learned, go after her mother. Probably would have done it too, if she hadn’t been shot first.”
“So it’s Theresa,” Frank sighed. Carrie had said something to him in the days following their park encounter, about having had a talk with Theresa. Who was Mindylenopia. Except, she wouldn’t be.
“Who’s Theresa?” Luci questioned, as if to verify his fears.
He might as well just ask. “Luci, in this future… did I die? Back in the past? And is that when Carrie and Glen left town?”
Luci bit down on her lip again. “Yeah,” she admitted, her voice suddenly quiet. “Over a month before you claim to have travelled here. Hence our skepticism and whole ‘this is impossible’ angle.”
Frank slumped down in his chair. That explained it.
Somehow, they had ended up in the future of “Timeline Three”.
NEXT: Timeline Three
ASIDE: How about them apples, huh? Now you have to wait until Friday for a new post. Feel free to comment in the meantime.