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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

Primeval fic: No Matter What the Ending (4/7)

June 25th, 2015 (01:58 pm)
morose

feeling: morose

PART ONE
PART TWO
PART THREE

A/N: I hope this fic starts making more sense soon. I really appreciate those who are sticking with it!



-o-

Saving the world is the only option, and she knows it.

That doesn’t mean she has to like it.

And she doesn’t like it. Not at all.

For the first time since she’s arrived, it feels like she’s going through the motions. She’s training, she’s studying, she’s tweaking, but it doesn’t seem to mean quite as much as it did before. That’s silly, of course. She’s doing this to save the world; that means more than anything else possibly could.

But the heady weight of responsibility doesn’t change the fact that this is a dead end task now. She’s saving the world for everything and everyone except herself.

Her intrinsic desire to learn has been fully snuffed out.

By ignoring her intrinsic desire to live.

-o-

She wakes up.

She does her job.

She goes back to bed.

Abby doesn’t have strong religious convictions about, well, anything, but she recognizes for the first time that if eternity can be a blessing, then it can also be a curse.

Maybe Heaven is no more a place than Hell, and maybe both can exist in the same plane. Maybe it’s all just a matter of perspective.

She’s damned if she knows.

(She’s damned if she doesn’t.)

-o-

It’s Sarah who has the idea, nothing more than a notion.

“You know, the problem with the knot metaphor is that it doesn’t really capture the multiple timelines that are running concurrent with one another,” she says while they do the dishes. There was a dishwasher at one time, but all three of them seem to take pleasure in the normal tasks.

“Hence the instability, right?” Jenny asks, putting away a fork.

“And I thought that was the whole point anyway,” Abby says. “Merge all the timelines into one -- undo the knot until there’s one, continuous timeline.”

Sarah nods, but hesitates with her hands in the soapy water. “But,” she says, then stops. She cocks her head. “What if we don’t?”

Jenny raises her eyebrows. “Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of saving the world?”

“And go against every stupid altruistic thing we’ve had to believe in here?” Abby asks.

“I know, I know,” Sarah says, and she pulls her hands out of the water, flicking them dry in the sink before turning to look at Abby and Jenny. “But we’re making the assumption that all the timelines are equal.”

Abby makes a face. “Well, aren’t they?”

“In the finite sense, perhaps,” Sarah says. “But we’re forgetting that we’re looking at a finite timeline against the backdrop of a continuous one.”

Jenny shakes her head, making a face. “But isn’t time eternal?”

“Only if eternity exists,” Sarah posits. “Think about the knot again. You can only untie it if it exists on something. If you’re going to lay it out without a defined beginning or end, it needs to still rest on something. A table; a chair; something.”

“It’s not a perfect analogy, though, like you said,” Abby says.

“But neither is our plan,” Sarah argues. “We’re looking at the timeline and assuming that fixing it necessarily eliminates the need for this place, but this place is the necessary context by which the timeline must exist.”

Jenny lets out a bemused chuckle. “And this is why I spend my time in the shooting range.”

Abby thinks about it, though. “You’re saying that even if we fix the timeline, this place won’t cease to exist, even if we will.”

“Exactly,” Sarah says. “When the timelines converge, this version of us will disappear because each of us will be tied to those finite timelines. But what if we weren’t?”

“What if we weren’t what?” Jenny asks.

“What if we weren’t tied to those timelines?” Sarah presses.

Abby nods, the idea taking hold in her mind. “And since multiple versions of us already exists, it’s not like we’d be changing the timeline by whether we exist or not,” she says.

“As long as we leave, that is,” Sarah suggests.

“Wait a second,” Jenny says. “Won’t leaving two versions of ourselves mess things up?”

“Not if we stay out of the finite timeline,” Sarah says.

“Because eternity has to exist anyway,” Abby says. “And if we exist here--”

“Then our finite selves will be free to live the perfect lives John says they will,” Sarah says.

“While this version of ourselves can come back here and continue to thrive,” Abby says, her voice picking up with enthusiasm.

There’s a tense moment, fraught with potential. The potential to save themselves along with everything else. It’s a tenuous, desperate hope that Abby is almost afraid to believe, but finds that she cannot ignore.

“That’s all theory,” Jenny interjects with a healthy dose of reality. “We barely have enough power in our technology to make the three consecutive jumps back. How are we ever going to get enough energy to punch a hole back through the timeline to come back here without messing up all the work we’ve done to set things right?”

Sarah’s expression falters. “I don’t know.”

“Exactly,” Jenny says.

“But,” Abby says, almost starting to smile. “That doesn’t mean we can’t find out.”

-o-

Saving the world, as it turns out, will motivate people to do great things.

Saving yourself, on the other hand, will motivate people to do the impossible.

Abby’s not necessarily proud of that fact.

But she’s certainly not about to deny it either.

-o-

Sarah studies; Jenny trains.

Abby creates.

There is perfect harmony in this, made more perfect by the unity of their spirits.

Time flies, once more.

Literally.

-o-

The only hard part is keeping it from John.

At first, none of them are sure it’d be possible, considering John’s relationship with this place, but as time goes on, he shows no indication of knowing anything. Sarah theorizes that John knows everything about time because it’s like reading a book. What goes on in people’s minds, however, is not within his purview. Moreover, since they exist out of time, it’s entirely possible that they’re on an equal plane with him.

Abby just takes it as a stroke of luck.

Even if she feels a little guilty about it.

“I don’t know that it’s really a secret,” Sarah says, voice hushed as they meet in Abby’s room one evening. “I mean, we’re not doing anything wrong.”

“He’s not big on taking extraneous risks,” Jenny says, letting the Cutter lizard scamper from one hand to the next.

“But he probably already knows,” Sarah argues. “He’s an extension of this place, an extension of us. The idea that we can keep a secret from him--”

“And what if he did try to stop us?” Abby asks. “I’m not sure I’m willing to risk that.

“But it’s not even wrong,” Sarah says. “It’s like diving with a rope; it’s nothing but a safety measure.”

“That could possibly tear apart time and space,” Jenny says, easing Cutter back into his enclosure.

“We can’t even be certain that the timeline will support any meddling at this point,” Abby argues. “We’re talking about our existence. There’s nothing wrong with an escape plan.”

Sarah sighs, lingering by Stephen’s enclosure. “It feels wrong, lying to him, though.”

“If he needs to know, I’m sure he’d already know,” Abby says, somewhat more gently now. “But this isn’t about him. This is about us. This is about our future. We all have to be on the same page here.”

She looks to Jenny, who nods. Her eyes settle on Sarah, who presses her lips together and finally inclines her head.

“Then keep at it,” Abby instructs. “This is our chance, and I’m not about to waste it now.”

-o-

It’s not easy, of course.

“The problem isn’t the theory,” Sarah says while they’re bowling one night. “Of course it’s theoretically possible to cut back through the timelines to get here, but as we repair the course of time, it’ll get stronger, which is why we’ll start to run out of power.”

“The minute we step out of here, all our power sources will degrade,” Abby says. “I’ve run projections, but there’s only so much I can do.”

“So, what?” Jenny asks. “We need a car charger for the trip?”

“As if it were that easy,” Abby says.

“Well, it’s not that hard,” Sarah says. “Think about entropy. All energy is energy. It all breaks down to the same basic elements.”

“Just because you can run your car on any type of energy, doesn’t mean they’re all made equal,” Abby says. “There’s a reason hybrid cars are still struggling to catch on. The amount of energy we’d need to power the device would be much more than a simple car charger.”

“It was a metaphor,” Jenny says with a roll of her eyes. She stands up to retrieve her ball. “Is it my turn?”

“It has been for a few minutes,” Abby says. “I’m just saying that we’d need a large burst of force to power us all the way back through the timelines.”

Jenny squares up and makes a good roll down the lanes, effectively knocking out all the pins with a clatter. She walks back to them with a smirk. “You’re saying you need an explosion?”

Abby considers this. She looks at Sarah.

Sarah is pensive as well. After a minute, she nods. “In theory….”

“We could direct the blast straight into the device,” Abby says.

Jenny grins. “So like a car charger,” she says. “I think I can pull off an explosion. Assuming you two can work out the theory and the mechanics.”

Sarah nods.

Abby has to agree.

“Great,” Jenny says, nodding to the newly lined up pins at the end of the alley. “Now Abby, you’re up.”

She lines up and balances her form before letting the ball slip down the wood alley.

They all bowl strikes tonight.

-o-

In the library, Sarah scours all the books, and then some. Her pile of notes grows copious until she binds them in volumes that look remarkably professional. She can quote them all, down to the chapter and page number, and she invokes philosophical debates between her metaphysical theorizing.

Jenny has mastered all the weaponry in their cache, so she starts to improvise. This seems dangerous and is exceptionally noisy. When she blows out a section of walls on one end of the castle, John looks a bit forlorn, even if everything is back to normal by the next morning.

As for Abby, she scraps her latest design and starts over. She needs more power and more accuracy. She needs Sarah to tell her the coordinates, and she works closely with Jenny to know just how much power they’ll have when it comes time to jump home.

When Abby is hunched over her work station, the lizards dance across her shoulders. Cutter and Stephen chase each other around in circles when they are on the bench while Connor nudges a piece of circuitry closer to her.

Sarah wants to know more.

Jenny needs a bigger explosion.

Abby has to get the device just right.

They have all the time in the world, and just one shot.

So they damn well better make it count.

-o-

As they near the end, it seems only fitting to think about the beginning.

“I never thought,” Jenny says. “When I got the call to report to James Lester, I had no way of knowing. I’d signed the Official Secrets Act well before that, but all I’d ever been asked to do was come up with creative lies about lurid liaisons and behind the scenes bribery. If I’d had known there’d be dinosaurs and time travel…”

She doesn’t finish, shaking her head as her lips turn up in a rueful smile.

“I think Lester half expected me to walk away, especially after my first time in the field,” she reflects. “And if I’d had half a mind, I probably should have, right then and there. Because when you think about it, with a start like that, how can the ending be any more spectacular?”

“You didn’t, though,” Sarah says. “You stayed, longer than me from what I hear.”

“I suppose some things you just have to finish,” Jenny says. “If only because you want to prove people wrong.”

“Besides,” Abby says. “I think you’re well suited for it.”

Jenny quirks an eyebrow. “Well suited for lies and deception?”

“For the exceptional,” Abby supplies. “Anyway, I think the ending is always our choice.”

Sarah smiles thoughtfully. “A bang or a whimper: it’s up to us.”

Jenny traces her finger along the edge of her favorite pistol. She carries it with her now, even putting it beside her bed. “A bang,” she says. “I know now it’d be wrong any other way.”

-o-

“When I started, I had no idea what it would end up being,” Sarah admits in turn. “I think that was the appeal. I liked the mystery, not for the sake of mystery, though. But because it was something I needed to learn. You don’t get opportunities like that every day.”

“Unless you’re trapped in eternity,” Jenny points out.

Sarah chuckles. “Still, I think I could have been happy there,” she says. “I was happy there, I mean. Surrounded by good people, doing good things. I sometimes wonder now why the thought of it is no longer enough.”

“Well, now you have the greatest mystery of all,” Abby says. “And an eternity to figure it out.”

“More like an eternity not to figure it out,” Sarah says. She sighs contentedly. “And there’s nothing I want more.”

-o-

Now, it’s like deja vu, really. She’s looking at Robbie Dayton; she’s looking at Rex. She’s looking at Nick Cutter, Stephen Hart, Connor Temple, and a man named John who’s not really a man at all.

She’d always been so sure about things, about what she wanted and about who she was. It had been lizards, after all, creatures that somehow survived everything, staying true despite the drastic changes around them. They’d endured catastrophic climate changes, and they’d watched other species evolve around them, and lizards stayed the course, just like they always would.

It occurs to her now, that there’s a reason she’s connected with lizard. It’s not their cold blood or wily movements. It’s their ability to respond to their environment, to withstand change. That’s who she is, a small scurrying critter in the hand of eternity.

She can still feel the pulse of her heart, rapid against the skin of her throat as she looked around the castle that had no right to exist.

It had been the start of something.

Something she’ll see through to whatever end may come.

-o-

“You know, I followed a lizard,” she says, laughing because it sounds so ridiculous. “And part of the reason I stayed, even if I won’t admit it, was a boy. And the wrong boy, apparently. It’s nothing like what I expected, but I never regretted it, you know? Like it was meant to be.”

“That’s not as crazy as we might have thought before,” Sarah says.

“Oh, I know,” Abby says. “But what’s weird is that I didn’t even doubt it then, and I probably should have. Did you know that I only got to stick around for my second assignment with the Home Office because I lied? I told them I had experience with insects, and they believed me. I had no qualifications to do anything that I was doing.”

Jenny smirks. “Do you think any of us did?”

“It’s just so outrageous, when I think about it,” Abby reflects. “The way all this started is so improbable. It never should have worked.”

“Seems like a familiar story,” Jenny says. “Let’s just hope you can pull out another miracle.”

Abby makes a face. “You mean us. We’re doing this together.”

“It was your idea, Abby,” Sarah says.

“Your theory, though,” Abby counters. She nods to Jenny. “And your power.”

“You were the one who put the idea in our head, though,” Sarah says. “It’s all just theory to me.”

“And I just like things that go bang,” Jenny says. “Face it, this is your project.”

Abby gapes a little. “But--”

“Don’t misunderstand,” Sarah says hastily. “We want this.”

“Oh, hell, yes,” Jenny says. “I’m miffed with myself for not trying to come up with a plan B a lot sooner.”

“But you’re the piece that makes it all fit, Abby,” Sarah continues. “None of it made sense, not until you showed up.”

“I never could have without you two, though,” Abby says.

“Sure, we’re a team, and we get that,” Jenny says. “But you have the initiative not just to start a thing, but to finish it.”

Abby looks at her hands, studying them. “It’s just instinct, you know? The drive to exist, the drive to create, the drive to live. I could be happy back in my timeline. I’d probably be happier than I realize, with Rex and Connor and the project. But I can already guess how that ends. This, though? I have no idea, and I want to find out. I need to find out.”

Sarah is smiling; Jenny is beaming.

“And we will,” Sarah says.

Jenny nods resolutely. “Together.”

If Abby’s already discovered Hell, she’s fairly confident that she’s just discovered paradise.

It’s not a fairy tale with a happily ever after.

No, paradise isn’t an ending at all.

It’s a beginning.

With the whole story left to be told.

-o-

Even so, there’s just a lot to do.

Details to attend to; plans to amend. The work, it seems, is endless.

Nothing has ever made Abby happier.

-o-

“I know how we can make this work in theory, but we can’t neglect the practical realities of it,” Jenny explains while they sunbathe on the roof one afternoon. “We’re going to be jumping into timelines alongside alternate versions of ourselves.”

“The whole idea that such an occurrence would be catastrophic is pop culture conjecture, as best I can tell,” Sarah says. “There’s no evidence that the timeline can’t support multiple versions of anyone or anything.”

“That’s all well and good but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s still messy,” Jenny says.

“And it could alter the timeline more than we want,” Abby says. “I mean, if people see two of us each running around, they might learn too much and muck things up.”

“If doubles start showing up at the ARC, they’re going to start arresting people or worse,” Jenny says. “Cloning is already a bit of a problem around the ARC at the time we’re going back.”

Sarah starts to look worried. “What are you proposing? Because I’m not sure firepower is the way to deal with that.”

Jenny rolls her eyes. “Don’t forget, in another life, I relied heavily on the art of negotiation and deception.”

Abby squints up at the sky. “We won’t have a lot of time, though.”

“It’s not time we need,” Jenny says. “It’s finesse and flair. Half the time, we simply need to act like we’re in control and everyone else will simply fall into line by sheer force of our confidence.”

“What about our doubles?” Abby asks. “We can’t finesse our way into telling them we’re twins.”

“No,” Jenny agrees. She glances toward Sarah. “That’s where you come in.”

-o-

“The key is timing,” Sarah says a few days later when they’re tending to the plants in the greenhouse. Abby’s not sure who wanted the greenhouse, but it is quite enlivening.

“Well, that’s obvious,” Jenny says, pouring water on one of the plants.

Sarah snips off a dead branch. “I don’t just mean in the jumps,” she says. “I mean in the context of each individual plan. We can’t just think about the moments on a holistic timeline, but as they’re occurring within the timelines. When we think about Cutter’s death or Stephen’s, there are actually infinite entry points, but they’re not all created equal.”

Abby is thinking about that, but only a little. She’s also thinking about why plants die in eternity. She’s sure she could ask Sarah, who would have a long explanation, which is probably why she ultimately doesn’t.

“If we pick the wrong thing, we could mess everything up,” Sarah says. “Or, at the very least, make our jobs a lot harder.”

“I’m all for not making things harder,” Jenny says, doing her best to shift a plant without getting dirt on her hands. “It’s complicated enough, this whole saving the universe thing.”

“I know,” Sarah says. “So if we pick exactly the right time and place, we can maximize our impact while also minimizing our effect. Like with Cutter for example, we want to avoid the other Jenny all together. If we pick an entry point away from the rest of the team, we’ll have more immediate access to Cutter and Helen, which means we can be in and out in almost no time at all.”

Jenny nods. “That makes sense.”

Sarah starts in on another bush. “We’ll still need to create a distraction to get Cutter out of the way when we go back for Stephen, but that shouldn’t be too hard,” she says. “The tricky one, as far as I can tell, is going to be Stephen.”

“Can’t we just go back and lock the cage room ourselves without them seeing us?” Abby says.

“I thought about that, and though it’s safer for us, it puts the timeline at risk,” Sarah says.

Abby frowns. “But if we save Stephen--”

“But this isn’t just about saving Stephen,” Sarah says. “Stephen’s choice to go into the cage room is critical in a way that Cutter giving up in front of Helen isn’t. It’s his sacrifice that changes both Cutter and Stephen. Stephen has to be forced to make that choice, and Cutter has to recognize that Stephen is making it in order to turn their relationship around. If we go in there and stop Stephen from taking that stand, there’s a good chance we won’t actually fix the conflict between them.”

“So we’d save the world, but still fail the mission,” Jenny says, sounding disappointed.

Abby gathers a breath and shakes her head. “But Cutter witnessed Stephen’s death -- worse still, he saw it happen in a locked room with no way out. If we let it get that far, we’ll have no way of saving Stephen without Cutter finding out.”

Sarah’s eyes are bright in that way of hers, when she can barely keep her intellectual excitement in check. “Not exactly, though.”

“I’m not sure I see another way,” Jenny says, skeptical. “We can’t save Stephen without altering the context of that moment. It’s impossible.”

“For one person, yes,” Sarah says. “But fortunately, we’re not doing this alone.”

That’s when Abby gets it, and it’s all so obvious that she feels remiss for not recognizing it earlier. “One person gets Cutter away from the door,” she realizes. “And the other two can get Stephen out of the cage room.”

Jenny still looks uncertain. “But the cage room still has a bunch of angry predators,” she says. “To time this right, Stephen might very well still be hurt, and we won’t be much safer for that matter.”

“Well,” Sarah says, and now she hesitates. She takes a moment to chew her lip, looking almost apologetic in advance. “I know the plan is to only make three well timed jumps, but the only way I can see to protect Stephen and the timeline is to do another one.”

Jenny actually laughs.

Abby is a bit too dumbfounded to find it funny. “Another one?” she asks. “But we have to conserve power--”

“I know, I know,” Sarah says. “But this would be a short one, not even through time, just place. If we can get into the cage room, grab Stephen and then get out, we’ll have it all worked out.”

“Except for the part where Stephen will magically show up at a medical facility before the site is secured by the SF soldiers,” Jenny points out.

“Honestly, with the way that entire event plays out, I think those details could be easy to lose in the chaos,” Abby says. “As long as Cutter is properly pulled away and dealt with.”

“You mean, like sedated,” Jenny says. “Because that’s the only way he’ll leave that cage room with Stephen inside.”

Abby shrugs. “A tranq dart set to the right dose won’t kill him,” she says. “I apparently know from experience. And afterwards he may just think he collapsed from the shock.”

“And even if someone does realize the discrepancy, the ARC works with anomalies of all varieties,” Sarah says. “It’s perfectly likely that they’ll assume some interference from Helen or even that Stephen pulled himself through an anomaly.”

Jenny thinks about that some more. “If Cutter finds out Stephen’s alive after all that, he’s likely to be too grateful to question it closely.”

“And he can question it all he likes,” Sarah enthuses. “We’ll be long gone by now and there’ll be no trail to follow. But looking for a trail to follow will give both of them something to work for.”

Abby rotates one of the plants toward the light. “That actually might work, but timing all that and finding the energy necessary -- that’ll be hard.”

Sarah almost flinches, and seems to brace herself. “I know,” she admits, looking at Abby. “Which is sort of where you come in.”

Comments

Posted by: knitekat (knitekat)
Posted at: June 25th, 2015 08:17 pm (UTC)

Ohhh... convoluted. Be interesting to see how they pull this off. And hopefully have a happy ending for themselves too.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 26th, 2015 06:26 pm (UTC)
stephen skeptical

I do lean toward happy endings, when I can help it. Even when it takes a convoluted process to get there!

Posted by: goldarrow (goldarrow)
Posted at: June 26th, 2015 03:31 am (UTC)

This is fascinating.

LOL for taking so long to come up with the idea for Plan B...

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 26th, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC)
stephen hair

I'm glad it's keeping your attention :) Thank you!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: June 26th, 2015 03:57 pm (UTC)
Stephensmile

I love this team.

Please, save Stephen!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: June 26th, 2015 06:27 pm (UTC)
stephen wary

I really enjoyed putting these three women together for this fic :) Thanks!

Posted by: lsellersfic (lsellersfic)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 06:47 pm (UTC)
Primeval:Jenny

I also love the way the three women come together, all these activities they jointly do, the way they grow into a unit, not through moments of crisis but through moments of domesticity and, again, how this irrevocably changes them so that they can't eventually have the one thing each most desires because it prohibits their togetherness and the sense of self each has found.

Posted by: fredbassett (fredbassett)
Posted at: June 27th, 2015 07:38 pm (UTC)

These three work very well together. And I love Jenny's delight in blowing things up. *g*

Posted by: fififolle (fififolle)
Posted at: June 28th, 2015 09:15 am (UTC)
Primeval - Abby car Naughty Girl

The plan is coming together! But what if keeping things from John will make a difference?? It's all a bit scary, really. Enjoying the read very much.

9 Read Comments