"Wait a minute," Elizabeth began, waving her hands in confusion, "how did you bring me here?"
Elizabeth-2029 shrugged. "I don't know if I should impart too much future knowledge to you. It may not bode well."
"Call me crazy, but haven't you given me some 'future knowledge' already?"
"Perhaps by accident."
"Perhaps? If I didn't know any better, I'd think that you and 2019 have been trying to make me change my mind since the very beginning of this whole mess." Her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
2029 shifted uncomfortably. "Well... maybe it wasn't our choice. Maybe it was an assignment, and you should know that an assignment must be completed with few questions asked."
"I should know that, but hearing you say that makes me doubt you're even me. Do you not remember? Teachers and peers said the 'Q' of my last name stood for 'question' because I'd ask so many."
"Yes, but I've seen through experience questioning is often looked down upon, especially here. I don't mean scientific inquiry, I mean questioning the purpose of the research, the 'whys' behind a certain project..."
"Like why 2009 seems relatively the same?"
2029 balked. "Come again?"
"Dr. Johnson had mentioned something about a 'seeding project,' something about eliminating the major catalyst of World War II. He showed me pictures, he explained what happened. If I can believe what he told me, then why do I still exist? Why do you still exist?"
She tried to dismiss the question with a wave of her hand. "It was only a test, we set things right after we collected data."
"How could you have collected the data with such a major change in the time stream?" 2029 didn't answer right away. Then another thought struck Elizabeth. "Do you remember when you were first questioned by the agency? When you were given the three options?"
"Like it was yesterday."
"Which did you choose at the time?"
Without thought she answered, "Option Two, but of course."
"Then how is it you exist the way that you do if I chose Option Three? If you chose Option Two, there wouldn't have been the need for future Elizabeth Quinns to pester and prod you into changing your mind."
"No, there weren't..."
"Then why do you still exist?"
Her words hung in the corners of the silent hallway. 2029 kept trying to answer, but something held her back.
Finally she spoke. "I... I... I can't answer that."
Elizabeth nodded. "Thank you. I'd like to go back to 2009 now, but you must promise me a few things."
"And what would those things be?"
"Firstly, you must send me back to the instant after I disappeared from JP-7. Secondly, if you feel you must interfere with the past, do so as indirectly as you possibly can. But if you can help it, do not interfere at all. Above all, I request that you or any other post-2009 Elizabeth Quinn to not directly interfere with me. I want to do my own thing, even if it means changing the future time stream. Do you understand?"
2029 considered, then sighed. "I don't know how my superiors, or rather my superior, will like this, but I'll do what I can." She pulled something a tiny bottle and what looked like a caramel cube. Carefully she allowed two drops of clear liquid to drip onto the cube, then handed the cube to Elizabeth with a tiny smile. "I assume handwritten instructions aren't necessary, Ms. Quinn?"
Elizabeth smiled. "Not at all, Ms. Quinn," she replied. 2029 nodded, and Elizabeth popped the caramel cube into her mouth. Her vision blurred once again, a rushing whoosh filled her ears.
White nothingness. She closed her eyes.
After a moment she opened her eyes, greeted by metallic grey and a still-dumbfounded Jason Petrovsky. He stared at her a few moments, his mouth moving silently as if attempting to speak.
Finally he managed to say, "What the hell just happened?"
Elizabeth shrugged. "Nothing of importance. I believe you wanted to continue testing?"
Jason removed his glasses, still utterly confused. Shaking his head and replacing them, he nodded. "I'm afraid you'll have to be horizontal, restrained, and unconscious again."
"You get better results when the subject is most vulnerable, I wager?" she quipped as she swung her legs back onto the table.
"You sound so rueful about it."
"I am, although your tone says you think otherwise." He fastened the ankle restraints as he spoke. "Why would I want to make someone I admire vulnerable?"
His words puzzled Elizabeth. But she didn't have time to ponder; the wrist restraints were fastened, Jason's footsteps had quickly retreated, and Elizabeth's vision grew fuzzy and dark once again.