Planes of existence

Elizabeth turned to look at the monitor again, her frown suddenly deepening. There was something about all this that she was missing. Something was niggling at the back of her mind.

"Elizabeth?" Murali said, stepping up beside her. "Something else?"

She turned to look at him, her frown still in place. She glanced over at Beth and Liz, and suddenly everything snapped into place. She put a hand to her mouth, her eyes wide.

"What is it?" Murali asked.

"Can I talk to you privately for a moment?" Elizabeth asked him.

Murali glanced around. "It's just one big room..."

Elizabeth was searching the room as well. "There. There's an alcove over there.

Beth was monitoring the systems and entering commands into the Tesseract's controls. Liz was talking quietly with Anya. Elizabeth grabbed Murali's arm and led him into the alcove she'd spotted.

"I don't think this is going to work," she said.

Murali frowned. "And why do you say that?"

Elizabeth glanced again at Beth and Liz. "Look at them," she said. "They both made different choices from the one I made. Right back at the beginning of this whole thing. Yet, they still exist. Because they're from alternate universes."

Murali's eyes unfocussed for a moment as he took in what she was saying. "Yes, that's true, but what are you getting at?"

Elizabeth took a frustrated breath. "Every time we think we're making a change to the past, we're not. All we're doing is creating a new branch-off universe. A new channel on the tuner. It doesn't change our reality. It just creates a new one."

Murali stared intently at her. "But if we stay in that stream--"

"But we can't stay in that stream, because our earlier selves are already there. All we're doing is changing their path. Not ours."

Murali's brow furrowed again.

"It's not like Back to the Future," Elizabeth continued, "where fixing something in the past magically fixes your own present. I think the two future versions of myself are proof of that."

Murali looked at Anya, a ripple of sadness crossing his face. "So Anya..."

"...is stuck with us," Elizabeth finished. "If we follow your plan, then we'll create an alternate reality with an alternate Anya that will never meet me and never have this disruption. But this Anya, the one with us right here and now... she's still going to be here, and she's still going to be unhappy."

"What are you two talking about over here?"

Elizabeth and Murali turned to see who had spoken. Anya had stepped into the alcove without their noticing. Elizabeth hoped that she hadn't heard anything.

Elizabeth straightened her shoulders. "Uh, we're strategizing. This is a pretty complex undertaking, and we don't want to miss any details."

Anya nodded. "Can I help?"

Elizabeth gave Murali a helpless look. Murali was, at that moment, looking at her, his expression equally helpless.

Elizabeth swallowed.

Hard.

The End

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