“Power Play” by Gregory Taylor

“You need to do something about the power failure at the hospital! OW!”

Carrie Waterson grabbed the side of her head at the same time as her double. The second Carrie then vanished from Chartreuse’s bed, making Carrie wonder if she’d imagined seeing her other self in the first place. Though the lingering headache implied she hadn’t.

Carrie turned to her classmate. “You saw that too, right?”

“Mmm.” Chartreuse Vermilion rubbed her chin, then walked over and ran her fingers over her bedspread. “Barely an indentation. When you time travel, do you, like, physically do it, or is it more a spirit thing?”

“How the hell should I know?” Carrie retorted. “Remember, I came to YOU for advice! Also, I’ve only ever used the time machine to time travel, so whatever THAT was, it must be something you were going to have me try in today’s session. Meaning let’s NOT do whatever that was.”

Chartreuse tilted her head. “Why would it have been during today’s session?”

Carrie pointed at the bed. “Same shirt, same jeans, same hairband I have on now. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I don’t dress the exact same way whenever I come over.”

“Point.” The pink haired girl lowered herself down until she was eye level with the sheets. “If we, you know, don’t do whatever it was though, wouldn’t that become some kind of paradox?”

“I’m immune to paradox. It’s why people from the future are trying to kill me.”

Chartreuse stood back up, brushing off her dress. “I thought you said they wanted to kill you because you could, like, destroy solar systems, or something.”

Carrie sighed. “Could we NOT have this conversation again? I’m trying to be normal this summer. It’s bad enough that I have to give that up every time we have one of these get togethers.”

Chartreuse turned, a frown tugging at the corner of her mouth. “I didn’t realize spending time with me was, you know, such a hardship.”

“That’s not what I meant.”

The hinted frown became a smile. “Then you like spending time with me?”

“Well, you’re the only other person in this small town who understands mystical forces.”

“Actually, my mom is better with the whole, like, astral projection thing,” Chartreuse corrected. “And Azure is better with, you know, the past. I’m future impressions girl.”

“Whatever. You’re my age.” Carrie rubbed her forehead, more for show than any other reason – her headache was subsiding. “So, are we doing this, or not?”

“Depends.” Chartreuse crossed her arms. “Shouldn’t we do as you said, and, you know, check out the hospital first?”

Carrie’s first instinct was to say ‘no’. She knew herself well enough to not want to take any advice from herself. Then again, spending these summer sessions with Chartreuse might itself be a result of her taking her own advice. Great, was this another attempt at reverse psychology? Time travel was such a pain.

She tugged on a strand of her long hair. “We probably SHOULD, but…”

Before Carrie could complete the thought, Chartreuse had grabbed her by the arm, steering the two of them back out of her bedroom. “But nothing. Let’s at least walk past, I’ll see if I pick up any, like, bad vibes.”

“Road trip. Swell,” Carrie grumbled. It’s not that she was against helping people. It was that she didn’t like the possible temporal connections. Hell, could the whole thing be some elaborate trap?

Well, she was about to find out.


“Hmmmm.”

Carrie glared. “Good hmmmm? Bad hmmm?”

“Hmmmm hmmmm,” Chartreuse said with a shrug. “Something weird, but I, like, can’t put my finger on it.”

Carrie shifted her attention away from Chartreuse and back to the hospital building. She hadn’t had cause to return here since last year. Memories she’d just as soon forget. “Well, it doesn’t look like there’s any sort of power failure. Or that anything’s about to happen to kill the electricity. They have emergency generators anyway, right?”

“I’d assume so.”

“Right. So I was pranking myself.”

“You think? It’s kind of a lousy thing to, you know, prank yourself with.”

“I’m kind of a lousy person. Remind me to tell you the story of the time I broke my mama’s last gift to me before she vanished.”

“Aw, Carrie. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Literally.”

Carrie flinched as Chartreuse touched her on the shoulder. She forced her body to relax. “Sorry. This whole ability to manipulate time freaks me out though. Can we just get back to your place and finish–”

“Oh, hey Carrie!”

The familiar shout caused Carrie to cut herself off. She turned her head to see Julie LaMille waving at her from down the street. She raised her own hand to wave back, even as Julie started jogging towards them.

Which was when Chartreuse let out a shriek. And Carrie saw the car skidding out of control behind Julie.

She didn’t think. There wasn’t time to think. She simply broke into a sprint. Even though there was no way a normal person would get there in time.

Because it didn’t matter. Carrie wasn’t a normal person. She was not only one of the fastest runners in their high school, she also had within her the ability to speed up her own time frame, relative to everyone else.

Julie barely had time to register what was going on and spot the car sliding in her direction, and then Carrie was there, grabbing the brunette and launching the both of them forward, to land on the grass next to the sidewalk.

The car slid through the space where Julie had been standing a second ago, finally slamming into the fence surrounding the hospital and coming to a stop.

Carrie felt her heart hammering in her chest. She swallowed, tasting bile, feeling like she had a bad case of heartburn. Had she made that run normally? Or had she actually accessed her powers? Was she about to turn evil, and blow up the world? She drew in a shaky breath. She didn’t FEEL more evil than usual. Okay then.

She realized Julie was saying something. What was it? Carrie finally processed both “Th-Thanks” and “You can let go now”.

Carrie released her grip. “Right. Sorry. Um, you’re welcome.”

Wanting a focus for her fear and frustration, and deciding it shouldn’t be Julie, Carrie rolled, coming up on one knee, preparing to go accost the driver of the car. Only to find that he had already emerged from his stopped vehicle, and was approaching them, along with Chartreuse.

“Are you okay??” the man said, looking horrified. “Please say you’re okay, I couldn’t control the wheel – my power steering went out!”

“Oooh,” Chartreuse said, freezing in her tracks. “That’s a power failure at the hospital.”

Carrie snapped her gaze from the man to Chartreuse. Then to Julie, then up towards the sky. “I hate my life.”


Between filing a report with the police and making sure everyone was okay, it was late afternoon before Carrie and Chartreuse were able to return to the Vermilion house.

“I don’t see why you won’t, you know, take this as a win,” Chartreuse protested, as they re-entered her bedroom. “Your powers totally saved someone today!”

“Except when I gave myself the message? I got a headache,” Carrie argued. “Which I’m starting to take as a sign of temporal interference.”

“Interference in that you saved someone!”

“Or not! Look at it this way. If I hadn’t interrupted our session earlier, we wouldn’t have gone to the hospital. Julie wouldn’t have seen me, and wouldn’t have started running in our direction. Ergo that car would have skidded in FRONT of her, missing her completely.”

Chartreuse’s nose crinkled. “Or maybe Julie would have, like, seen something else to make her start running?”

“Or maybe my powers are trying to lull me into a false sense of security!”

Chartreuse sighed. “Know what? Part of your problem is you’re seeing this as some kinda war between normal you and temporal ability you.”

“It IS a war. Be glad you don’t remember half of what happened last November!”

“Fine,” Chartreuse said, resigned. She grabbed a crystal and passed it around Carrie’s head. “But you’ll at least need to, you know, relax. To get more in tune with the proper sensations for what we want to do. Sit down.”

The two teenage girls moved to sit across from each other, cross legged on the bed.

“I think you said your time metaphor was, like, a river?”

“Yeah,” Carrie agreed. She began to breathe through her nose to try and keep her cool. “So maybe if I kick upstream, I’ll be able to travel back and give myself better advice? Like to phone Julie and hang out with her this morning instead?”

“I’ll try not to be offended by that.” Chartreuse reached out to squeeze Carrie’s hands, before setting out a couple more crystals beside them on the bed. “If that’s your decision, we’ll try it. But take it slow. I’m here to pull you back, if necessary.”

“Right.” Carrie closed her eyes, nudging at her temporal sense, slowly feeling all of time starting to coalesce around her. But she was in control. She was in control, damn it. “So how do I do it?”

“Picture yourself in a swimsuit?”

“Chartreuse…”

“No, like, imagery helps! Make like you’re swimming or something.”

Carrie let out a breath. “Okay. Sure. All I have to do here is go back and give myself a better message than ‘You need to do something about the power failure at the hospital!’.”

The temporal river was all around her. She bent her knees, to try and catapult herself back. “All I have to do is give myself a better message than–

“You need to do something about the power failure at the hospital! OW!”

Carrie Waterson grabbed the side of her head at the same time as her double. The second Carrie then vanished from Chartreuse’s bedroom doorway, making Carrie wonder if she’d imagined seeing her other self in the first place. Though the lingering headache implied she hadn’t.

Want more? Gregory Taylor’s work can be found at Time and Tied.

4 thoughts on ““Power Play” by Gregory Taylor”

  1. Hello LoN fans… so, that was my contribution here. My second, if you count the “April Fools” post I created for Jim back in 2015. (If you haven’t seen it, look under 7.8, Threat Analysis, towards the end.) Let me provide some added context for this latest piece of writing.

    Unlike many of the other guest posts, it wasn’t the start of a story. It’s an independent side story featuring a couple of the main characters that takes place AFTER last Friday’s “Time & Tied” update, and BEFORE this Friday’s update. It’s not integral to the plot, but is canon. More to the point, I just started a new book/arc, which makes for a pretty good entry point, so if you like this you can simply keep reading onwards (though you’re also welcome to go back to the start).

    Full disclosure, my universe also differs from many of the other guests in that it doesn’t have a lot of super powered characters. Or any, frankly – Chartreuse is an oddity, not the norm. That said, I do have a second serial on my site, “Epsilon Project”, which you might prefer for powered individuals! “Time & Tied” is more the “teenagers getting in over their heads” dynamic, due to the time travel.

    Finally, a HUGE thank you to Jim for giving me this opportunity. Whereas he’s occasionally lamented starting with such a large cast, I erred in the exact opposite way, only gradually introducing characters. Chartreuse doesn’t appear until Part 16. And as of this point, in the 11 months that post has been on my site, only 8 people have viewed it. Yeah… I’m abysmal at self-promotion, feel free to ask me how NOT to do it. So this post means that, for the first time this year, more than a dozen people will read something featuring my characters. I couldn’t be happier.

    Constructive criticism is welcome, thanks for reading, have a nice day. ^_^

  2. The first few paragraphs were confusing because I didn’t know it was a time travel story. Once I understood that, everything made more sense.

    Chartreuse reminds me a lot of a character in Skullduggery Pleasant, Clarabelle. Attitude, name, and unnatural hair colour similarities. Clarabelle is awesome, there should be more Clarabelle’s in fiction.

    I really liked how you closed the time loop at the end of the piece – it reads a single piece even though it’s part of a bigger story.

    In a few months time, I’m looking forward to getting around to reading more things on your site. I just started reading a different web serial yesterday, so that one to come first

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