Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
Chris
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Book One • Chapter 2 — A Crisis at Hand

September 2008 • Chris-42

The procedure had been draining — much more so than I’d expected it to be. In theory, we knew it would involve heavy concentration, but theory and reality are always two different things. The fact that I’d done this on my own, by myself after hours had made it doubly difficult. Carefully placing each electrode on my scalp had been unbelievably hard — I might seriously have to consider electrolysis, or I’d never get any sleep. Then running through my biofeedback and relaxation exercises until my brainwaves were within specs took forever. I was just too excited and I almost couldn’t relax, even though my life literally depended on it. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning, I was able to fall into the proper brain rhythm and the equipment was able to calibrate itself.

Establishing a tunnel back to the early morning hours of September 11, 2001 went surprisingly smoothly. I’d thought that would be the difficult part. Sorting through the quantum fluctuations of my brainwaves went quickly and my past patterns were easily identified and matched. Once the correct one was locked in, manifesting myself to my former self, Chris-35 as I’d decided to call him, took enormous effort. I must have tried about a dozen or more times to form myself into a coherent, solid image that he would recognize as something more than static. Finally, my pattern stabilized and he recognized who I was.

It’s funny, but while I had to be in a sort of half-awake/half-asleep, trance-like state, Chris-35 absolutely had to be in REM sleep for this to work. He could only communicate with me if he were dreaming — otherwise, nothing I tried to communicate would make any sense. The whole technology I’d developed took advantage of the brain’s own mechanism of interpreting semi-random brain impulses as dreams. By sending back similar impulses to his brain, I could create dream-like images that he would interpret as his own reality. Likewise, I could read his own dreams of the time, allowing for true two-way communication, albeit with an unconscious man. With practice, however, he would learn to bring his dreams into consciousness, and then the real fun would begin.

Well, I got Chris-35’s attention all right. Before I could proceed with my plan, however, I needed to convince him that I was real, and to do that, I needed to pass information back to him that was irrefutable — information about the future that he couldn’t deny. That is why I chose the morning of September 11. No American would ever forget the morning that terrorists attempted to bring down the twin towers and perhaps hit who knows what other targets. Often referred to as “the day the earth stood still,” quick thinking on the part of someone resulted in all air traffic being brought to a halt before any additional damage could be done, all thanks to vigilance on the part of airport security in Boston.

As I removed the electrodes from my scalp, a sense of foreboding came across me as I realized that something might have changed as a result of my communication with my former self — something huge. Might I have somehow unintentionally altered history? I wasn’t sure how, but instinctively knew I had. In communicating my knowledge of the events of September 11 back in time to Chris-35, he may have acted on it in a way I hadn’t intended, and it had resulted in a major change in the timeline. I’d only used the events of September 11 so he’d believe me — so he’d know I was real. I’d only given him the barest minimum of details too — not nearly enough to have altered history, or so I’d thought. But somehow I instinctively knew that what I’d told him wasn’t that there would be a failed terrorist plot. That I couldn’t remember what I’d communicated, was probably only the tip of the iceberg.

Looking out the window, I noticed that the sky was already starting to lighten, and so I decided there really wasn’t time to go home. My colleagues were used to me pulling all nighters anyway, so there wouldn’t seem to be anything odd about me being here when they arrived. I decided to take a quick shower to get the electrode coupling gel out of my hair.

Heading to the locker room, I retrieved a fresh pair of briefs from my locker, and proceeded to undress. The hot water felt good against my skin as I lathered up my scalp and scraped the gook out from between the strands of my slowly graying hair. Much of the gel had already hardened and pulled several strands painfully with it.

As I washed the previous day’s grime away, I started to wonder what history I might have inadvertently changed. Bush was already president when I’d contacted Chris-35 and, much as we’d all have liked to have prevented his one term as president and his near disastrous attempt to drag us into a war with Iraq, his total incompetence was rewarded when he got the boot at the ballot box in 2004. I couldn’t see how there was anything I could have done to have changed that.

There were still some serious issues abroad, thanks to strained relations with the EU and Russia. Bush had managed to do a fair bit of damage to international relations during his short time in office, and his missile strike on the North Korean reactor would not soon be forgotten by the Chinese. But if anyone was up to the task of mending fences, it was John Kerry. Well, perhaps I would find out tomorrow night what I might have done to the world.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

September 2001 • Chris-35

I was a total wreck. I never did get back to sleep. How could I? After dreaming that I’d been contacted by my future self and told that four hijacked airliners would slam into the twin towers, the Pentagon and one attempting to slam into the White House or the Capitol would be taken back by the passengers, only to slam into the ground — how could I sleep?

Jack said he’d call if there was any news, but of course, there wasn’t any. My dream was probably nothing more than that — a dream, and I’d probably embarrassed myself and Jack for nothing. In the end, I’d probably set Operation Time Tunnel back years, all because I wanted to believe what I’d experienced was real.

As the sky started to lighten, I made myself some coffee and turned on the TV, watching the early edition of the AM news for lack of anything better to do. My son, Andy walked into the kitchen to join me, wearing only his boxers and a smile. He grabbed the coffee and poured himself a mug.

“Aren’t you up awfully early,” I asked, “especially after you were up so late?”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Something felt weird last night, like the world changed. I dunno, but everything feels sorta different and I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep.”

“I know, bud, I feel it, too,” I said as I ruffled his hair and drew him into a one-arm hug.

Kissing him on the head — when did he get to be so tall — I asked him, “You OK with what we talked about last night?”

“You mean about you bein’ gay?” he asked back. “Sure, Dad. You’re still the same dorky dad you’ve always been. I still love you, just the same.”

Just then, the phone rang and I went to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Chris, it’s Jack. I’m afraid you were right. The FBI’s apprehended several passengers in Boston armed with box cutters, and we think there may be more, so the President has ordered all domestic flights grounded and searched. You can expect it’ll hit the airwaves shortly, and things’ll be a mess for a while, but thanks to you, we’ve probably averted a disaster.

“We’re in lock-down mode of course… just to warn you what to expect when you arrive.”

I was in a daze as I hung up the phone. When I looked up, I saw that my son’s eyes were glued to the TV, where the news was already covering the story of the terrorist plot to hijack airplanes and the grounding of all domestic flights, nationwide. He turned toward me and peered into my soul and said, “You knew about this, didn’t you.” It was a statement more than a question.

I looked down at the floor. I honestly didn’t know how to answer. I didn’t want to lie to him, but I couldn’t tell him the truth. Looking back up at him, I said, “Andy, when you work in a top-secret research facility, there are just some things that have to remain secret.”

“Gotcha, Dad,” he said, “but you’re a scientist, not a spy. I just get this feeling, you know, that the terrorists succeeded, but then you did something that changed it.” Holding up his hand, he continued, “I know you can’t tell me, and that’s cool, but this is some scary shit, and I mean really scary shit.”

Grabbing him tightly in my arms, I held him for all I was worth as my little man cried his eyes out. For all his toughness, his trying to act like a sophisticated adult, he was still an insecure and frightened not-quite teenaged boy.

I could only imagine what life had been like on the original September 11 as life seemingly came to a halt. Traffic on the way to work was nonexistent as everyone stayed home to catch the latest news on the terrorist plot. Security at the lab was tight as a drum — probably tighter than it was the first time around since it was my intelligence that thwarted the terrorists this time.

When I arrived, Jack immediately ushered me into his office. “Sit down, Chris,” he said as he handed me a Styrofoam cup of the vile stuff that passed for coffee in the lab, and closed the door behind us. I sat across from him at a small table, tucked away in a corner of his office. Stacks of journals and papers filled every available horizontal space, seemingly threatening to topple over at any moment.

“So it would appear that Operation Time Tunnel was a success,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“You always were one to state the obvious,” I replied, “but even I have to admit I’m surprised.”

“Obviously it’s not perfected or your counterpart in the future would have made contact for a longer time… given you more information, like flight numbers, names of the terrorists and so on. I know you wondered about that, too, and that’s the obvious answer.

“We talked about that, George Tenent, Robert Mueller and I.” Whoa, my boss had been talking to both the chief of the CIA and the new head of the FBI, who was just sworn in last week. “Until this morning, they’d never even heard of Operation Time Tunnel… that’s how well we’d kept your work under wraps. Our best guess is that the tunnel back in time is still not very stable and your counterpart in the future just didn’t have very much time to get his message through. Hell, he was probably lucky to get as much information back to you as he did. This… this was just so important that he had to take a chance with as yet imperfect technology.”

“He said he’d try to contact me again tonight,” I noted.

“Good, that’s excellent. We’ll keep you here and monitor you throughout the night. That way we can observe you in depth when it happens. Perhaps we can even do something on this end to facilitate the tunnel and improve its stability, or learn how to do so,” Jack said. “This terrorist plot may have only been the beginning. God help us all if that’s the case.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

September 2008 • Chris-42

I could tell this ritual was going to get real old, real fast. I was still pretty exhausted from being up the previous night and I knew I probably should have taken a night off to rest up for my next encounter, yet I was desperate to find out what had happened — what I had done. True, time wasn’t much of an issue as long as I stayed within the seven-year window, but I was anxious to find out just what it was I’d told Chris-35 last night that had, literally, changed history.

And so here I was, snipping out hairs from my scalp one at a time, so that I could attach electroencephalographic leads at each of the critical locations. Using a cotton-tipped swab dipped in ethyl alcohol, I carefully cleansed each point of attachment, removing all traces of grease so the electrodes would make solid contact with my skin. I then applied a dollop of gelatinous colloid glue to each metal cup electrode, sealing them in place, one by one.

When I was done, I used a hair net to hold the entire 32-electrode array in place and I performed a final impedance check, just to make sure all electrodes were still making good contact with my scalp. Once I was sure everything was ready, I sat down in my recliner, fired up my MacBook Pro and loaded MathQuest. Once that was up and running, I executed the program that would control the external equipment and establish a tunnel back through time.

Next came an elaborate helmet array of quantum particle detectors — the real heart of Operation Time Tunnel. Each detector consisted of a finely tuned micro-emitter/detector, capable of measuring — and inducing — the minutest of fluctuations in paired quantum states. These were nothing short of being miniature particle accelerators in their own right. It was the particular nature of these paired quantum states that allowed our technology to work. When I started my work all those years ago, the idea of paired temporal quantum states was nothing more than a wild theory I had. Now it was a known reality. By identifying paired quantum states, linked across a finite interval of time, I could latch onto and then induce and stabilize an information conduit — what one might call a time tunnel.

When I was finally ready, I placed a tourniquet around my left arm, inserted a needle into my anterior antecubital vein, withdrew the plunger slightly and, seeing the flow of brick red blood back into the syringe, confirming that the needle was indeed within the vein, released the tourniquet and I injected ¼ mg of lorazepam into my vein.

Lorazepam was the perfect drug for my purpose. A benzodiazepine, it was a mild sedative that would slow my brain rhythm and put me into a semi-stuporous state. The dosage was critical — too little and I wouldn’t be able to relax — too much and I’d fall asleep, leaving me incapable of communicating with Chris-35.

As I felt the drug take effect, I began to relax and could feel myself letting go of the physical world. I placed a pair of virtual reality goggles over my eyes, allowing me to interact with my laptop while still being able to lie back. As I became more and more relaxed, my brain’s theta waves gave way to alpha waves as I completely cleared my thoughts entirely. When I was ready, I allowed delta waves to appear slowly, and let the software organize them as a tunnel back to September 12, 2001 began to be established.

Now came the tricky part — turning a communications link — a quantum tunnel consisting of nothing more than paired spatiotemporal variations — into a coherent dream-like reality for Chris-35. This would require intense concentration on my part, and a lot of sophisticated quantum manipulations by my laptop. It worked last night and it would work again now, but the experience would be exhausting, particularly now that I was exhausted to begin with.

Focusing all my energy on the task, I imagined myself as standing in front of Chris-35, preparing to talk to him. If I maintained my focus, our brainwaves would fall into perfect synchrony. If I lost my focus, the tunnel would dissolve and the computer would have to recalibrate and start over.

The image I was projecting would be perceived by a sleeping Chris-35 as ordinary dream activity. However, unlike normal dream activity which is mostly random, these images would be projected from an external, mostly conscious entity, me, and Chris-35 would almost certainly become consciously aware of them. Not only that, but I would be able to peek into his own dream activity through that same quantum tunnel. In effect, the communication bridge would work both ways.

As soon as I established a presence in Chris-35’s brain, however, I knew that something was different this time. Something didn’t feel right. His sleep didn’t feel natural, and I had the distinct impression that we were not alone.

“What’s going on, Chris?” I asked.

“You tell me?” Chris-35 replied. “Last night you came to me with a fantastic story about terrorists hijacking four airplanes and forcing two of them to slam into the World Trade Center, causing both twin towers to collapse, slamming one into the Pentagon, and maybe aiming the fourth one at the White House or the Capitol, except that the passengers heroically stormed the cockpit and forced the plane into the ground.”

Holy shit! So that’s what I told him!

“You didn’t give me anything more than that to go on… not even the flight numbers,” he continued, “let alone the names of the hijackers… but I believed you, and we did it. We caught all the hijackers… we stopped all the attacks, although it did involve grounding all domestic flights to do it, but we succeeded, and that’s all that matters.

“Now we just have to figure out how to respond to what happened. Obviously, we’ll put the fuckers on trial, but we need to find out who funded the operation and go after them… and it could potentially lead to war, but if you wanted me to stop the attack, why didn’t you give me more information? Was there just not enough time? Was the technology just not ready? I have so many questions. We have so many questions.”

Fuck, what was I going to do now? I had intended my first contact only to prove to Chris-35 that my contact with him was real. The last thing I wanted was for him bring our contact to the attention of the government, let alone change history. In retrospect, what he did might well have changed history for the better, but it almost certainly wreaked havoc on my ability to operate in secret — to maintain my control over OTT. But now the fucking President of the United States knew about OTT. And how long would it take the Russian and the Chinese to learn of our secret and to want the technology for themselves? Now the risk that OTT might fall into the wrong hands was real and nothing was worth that happening. Unintended consequences…

I might as well just kill myself now, but then what about the damage I’d already done to the time line. If I killed myself, who would there be to mop up the mess I’d made? Who would be there to deal with the consequences of TTT falling into the wrong hands? Who might there be to prevent them from getting their hands on it in the first place? Now, going back further into my past might be the one way I could actually prevent the worst from happening. Maybe by going back into the past, I could find a way to prevent anyone else from knowing about TTT? At the least I’d have a way to fix things before they got out of hand. And perhaps while contacting myself in the past, I really could fix my fucked-up life. I just needed to find a way to continue my work in secret.

But TTT was prohibitively expensive. There was no way I could do this without the investment of taxpayer dollars. Like it or not, I was dependent on the Feds. I needed their support. I just had to come up with a way to keep them off my back while I pursued my own agenda. From now on, whatever I did, it would have to be done with utmost care. I would maintain the guise of protecting national security, which was still my goal, but I’d do whatever it took to keep TTT out of the hands of those who would abuse it.

On the plus side, with TTT a proven thing and with the success of its application to preventing the terrorist attack on September 11, the government would spare no expense in supporting our work. Actually, they hadn’t spared any expense. I remembered that day back on September 11 vividly. I could now remember being visited in my dreams by my future self again that night. I could remember meeting with Jack and the rest of my team, and drawing up a game plan for augmenting TTT research without compromising the original, first contact event. It was funny, because those memories weren’t there just a minute ago — I was sure of it.

Yeah, for the last seven years, we virtually had a blank check from the government to purchase whatever equipment we needed and to hire anyone we needed. It was only my concern about creating a time paradox in which first contact never occurred, that kept me from going hog wild with the resources at our disposal. Even so, what had been a team of only a few people back in 2001 quickly grew to a team of over twenty researchers. Something told me that was not how it was the first time around, before I’d prevented the terrorist attack on September 11.

But with so many people involved and with federal agents looking over our shoulders, there was a serious risk that I’d never be able to complete my mission of establishing a chain of communication back through time, and that was exactly what I had to do. I was sure of it. I was bound and determined to fix my past and in so doing, to keep the technology out of the wrong hands, including those in our own government. Although access to security clearances and top-secret information could come in handy, there was a very real risk that with so much scrutiny and so many people involved, OTT could be compromised, and that risk was far more palpable than anything I’d ever feared before.

I needed more time. I needed more space. I needed to give Chris-35 something to do while I spent some time figuring out my next step.

“Chris,” I resumed, “You did great, but trust me, the terrorist plot is only the tip of the iceberg. This is just the beginning. You’ve averted some pretty horrible consequences for the United States, but there are much worse things to come.

“Now I assume you are being monitored and that you’re drugged up, but that no one can actually tap into our conversation, can they?” I asked.

“I can’t see how they possibly could,” Chris-35 answered. “I think they are monitoring me to learn all they can about the Time Tunnel project, but for now they have every reason to trust me… to trust us.”

“I think you know as well as I do that the Feds don’t trust anyone, and whatever trust they have in us now won’t last,” I said. “At the moment, we’re the only one who can send information back to ourselves in time but, undoubtedly, that will change. As sure as our shit stinks, the Feds will begin to usurp our very authority over OTT. They’ll begin the process of calibrating the equipment to work with the brain waves of others… maybe even with the President himself.”

“You’re going to have to keep this to yourself, so I’ll keep this brief, and we’ll need to communicate later… much later, and privately. I’ll contact you at home in a month or so. You can tell them that Operation Time Tunnel was a success and that the primary threat to the US has been eliminated. Tell them that we had trouble with the link last night and that’s why I couldn’t get more information to you. Obviously, the link went more smoothly tonight.

“Tell your superiors that the man behind the terror attack is Osama bin Laden. He’s currently in Afghanistan, but will quickly try to flee to Pakistan. The CIA knows exactly where he is right now, and if you move quickly, you will find him and can execute him. Taking him out now will save the US a tremendous amount of suffering later. He and he alone is the man you must go after.

“Now as to your dealings and mine, trust no one. Continue your research exactly as you have, as it will ultimately lead me to what I have done. Do not veer from your current path. Your superiors do not need to know anything more. I’ll tell you more when I contact you next month.”

As I began the process of extracting myself from the apparatus, I realized that my days of being able to communicate in private with my former self would be severely limited if I continued to operate from my lab in Livermore. Already, I could tell that much had changed and the equipment was much more elaborate — and expensive looking — than I had remembered it. But how was this possible? Preventing the terrorist attacks in 2001 had had an instantaneous effect on the future and everything changed, but some of my memories did not. How could that be?

As I removed the glue that held the electrodes in place, I realized that it probably had to do with probability theory. Some things were certain, resulting in instant change throughout the timeline. Other things were uncertain and had yet to play themselves out. Thwarting the terrorist attacks in 2001 was now a certainty, and that I remembered vividly. Additional spending on OTT was nearly certain, but just how that money was spent was far from certain. There were decisions that still had to be made and those would have to play themselves out back in 2001 before the associated changes would be reflected in 2008. I could still remember the way it had been because the changes hadn’t occurred yet.

Scrutinizing the equipment more closely, I realized that, although the equipment was different than what I remembered, I couldn’t identify a brand name anywhere. Only the Apple logo on my laptop was still there — evidently that hadn’t changed, but everything else was custom-built and unlabeled — expensive in appearance, but not identifiable in manufacture. Very strange! I’d never realized that the timeline was probabilistic. I’d have to get Chris-35 to put some of his people to work studying it, as it could seriously affect the future direction of OTT.

Another issue I was going to have to deal with was how to convince the past versions of myself of the need to alter the past. No one was more skeptical of modifying the past than me, but changing the past might be the only way out of the mess I’d made. Going back further in time was the only way to keep TTT from falling into the wrong hands. Besides which, I couldn’t help but realize just how much better my life could have been. My life was pretty fucked up right now and, were it not for the importance of my work to national security, I might well have ended up committing suicide. Except for my wonderful son, whom I hardly ever saw at all these days, I was all alone in the world and that certainly wasn’t going change unless I changed the past.

But changing my own life would never be enough justification for altering history and if I even hinted at it, my past selves could very well balk at the suggestion of it. So how could I convince myself to do so anyway? The thing is, it’s virtually impossible to lie with TTT. After all, one shares one’s brainwaves with one’s former self. One shares one’s thoughts. I was going to have to think this through and come up with some incredibly convincing arguments for doing this — arguments so convincing that I’d believe in them, even now.

A more immediate concern, however, was the need to keep my work away from scrutiny — away from prying eyes. I had to assume that it would not be long at all before the ability to work in secret within my own lab would disappear entirely. It was inevitable, and would probably happen sooner than later.

Like it or not, the only solution I could come up with was to build a shadow laboratory off-site, away from anyone who knew of my work. Duplicating my lab would take time but that was not the issue. I didn’t even need my notes to do it — everything I would need was committed to memory. No, the big issue would be cost, and where I would obtain the funds to reproduce the bare essentials of a multi-million dollar lab, I hadn’t a clue. Even if I mortgaged everything I own, it wouldn’t be enough. Like it or not, I was probably going to have to rely on my budget authority to embezzle equipment directly from the lab — something that would send me to prison for the rest of my life if I were ever found out. In the meantime I could only hope that I’d given my counterpart in the past enough information to keep the government off our backs while I worked on my own, in secret.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

December 2001 • Chris-35

A lot happened after my second contact with my future self. Based on the information I gave them, the CIA went after Osama bin Laden and attempted to capture him. The fight was brutal and he was killed during the attempt to capture him. That was certainly no loss to the world. In the ensuing power vacuum, Al-Qaeda splintered into several distinct groups. While not exactly a civil war, the struggle among the various splinter groups and with the Taliban yielded an opportunity for a regime change in Afghanistan that the United States was all too happy to encourage. With aid from the CIA, Pakistan, a contingent of American, British and other Coalition troops, a Northern Alliance of Afghan tribes were able to take control of the country and to push what was left of the insurgents deep into the most mountainous regions of the two countries.

In the meantime, I waited for my future self to contact me. One month became two months, and two months became three. I began to worry that, somehow, the changes we’d made to the timeline had had disastrous consequences, at minimum resulting in my death in the future, or possibly resulting in the end of the world.

Finally in December, as I was beginning to sink into despair, I felt a familiar presence come to me in my sleep.

“Where the hell have you been?” I practically shouted at him as his image coalesced.

“Calm down, Chris,” he said. “We have to be very careful. We’re both being watched very closely now that people at the highest levels of Homeland Security know about Operation Time Tunnel. We cannot take a chance on anyone finding my second lab.”

“What the hell is ‘Homeland Security’, and what do you mean by your second lab?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, I forgot that Homeland Security doesn’t exist yet in your time period. It will be created to oversee the FBI, FEMA and a host of other agencies in the wake of 9/11, supposedly to facilitate better communication. Anyway, yeah, Chris, I’ve set up a second lab. OTT is just too valuable to leave to chance, and it’s too risky a venture to place all our eggs in one basket. All this time I’ve supposedly been tracking down a glitch in the emitter/detector arrays that’s supposedly been intermittently causing the signal to lapse out of phase… I told them that is what nearly cost us success on September 11. In reality I’ve been assembling a second facility off-site. I need to be able to contact you without anyone looking over my shoulder. The fact of the matter, Chris, is that I don’t know whom we can trust.”

“You think there are spies within our government?” I asked.

“There have always been spies in our government,” my older self answered, “and in my day, Russia will be well on its way to being as big a problem as the old Soviet Union ever was. We are on the verge of another Cold War, and the situation is every bit as tense as it was during the first. If that weren’t bad enough, China is has become a major military power, with a million-man army and the weapons to match. We effectively gave them the technology and through our trade, the wealth needed to translate that technology to military might equivalent to our own.

“Chris, you live in a world with only one superpower, but you surely remember growing up in a world with two. In less than seven years, Russia and China will be very close to catching up to the US, with India being not far behind, but there will still be hope… until the crash of ’08. I’m not sure how things fared before we intervened to stop 9/11, but that success may have led to our feeling complacent and may have made things worse.

“In any case, in 2008, the world will suffer the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression. The Stock Market will lose half its value and unemployment will reach double digits. Although the Russians, Chinese and Indians aren’t doing well themselves, they have something we don’t have anymore… natural resources… and then there’s Iran.”

“Iran?” I asked incredulously.

“Unfortunately, yes, Iran. It has an abundance of oil that the world desperately needs, and a very young, eager and talented workforce, and it’s on the verge of becoming a nuclear power.”

“Nuclear?” I responded in surprise. “How could we allow this to happen?”

“As usual, by focusing our attention in the wrong places, as we’ve done so often before,” my older self answered. “Yes, Iran, which could have been a valuable ally, is now a formidable foe. There is no doubt that Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon, if they haven’t already, and talks aimed at getting them to dismantle their nuclear program have broken down. In the face of the world’s insatiable appetite for cheap oil, UN sanctions on Iran have all but been ignored. Even without nuclear weapons, Iran has built an army to rival Saddam Hussein's before the Gulf War, but one that is much better equipped and better trained.

“And speaking of Iraq, Hussein hasn’t stood idly by either. Every country in the Middle East has mobilized in response to Iran’s build-up, but only Hussein has shown a willingness to use weapons of mass destruction. For fucks sake, he gassed the Kurds. If he uses mustard gas or Sarin against Iran, the whole Middle East could blow up. It’s a powder keg. As much as stopping 9/11 and taking out Osama Bin Laden may have helped the US in the short run, we think the worst is yet to come.

“That is the primary reason why it will be so important to be able to go back, far into the past. There are many mistakes we will need to address, but we run the risk of committing worse ones if we do not address them all in the correct sequence.”

“You know something about what is to come, don’t you?” I asked of my future self.

“Actually I don’t know anything more than anyone else does. The fact that the current president has ordered us to do this means it’s going to happen, with or without our cooperation. As much as I admire John Kerry, he’s still a politician and I don’t trust him to use TTT only in case of dire emergency. And if we get another president like Bush, all bets would be off — he could well compromise our very survival.

“Knowing that TTT is going to be developed and extended back into the past, regardless, I think the best offense is a good defense. We’ll continue to lead the effort to push TTT into the past, so the government will have no reason to take it away from us, but at the same time we’ll also work in secret, always staying one step ahead. The more we remain in control of TTT… the longer we maintain our monopoly… the less likely it is that it will be used inappropriately or that it will fall into the wrong hands.”

“The wrong hands?” I shuddered when I realized Chris-42 was right — if TTT fell into the hands of our enemies, our entire history could be simply erased. “But wouldn’t extending TTT into the past only increase the risk of it falling into the wrong hands?” I asked.

“Perhaps,” my older self answered, “but if we don’t extend it, how would we counter the Soviets, for example, if they managed to steal it from us in my time, extend it back fourteen years or more into the past and then use it to undo the collapse of the Soviet Union? Unless we had also extended TTT, we wouldn’t even know that history had been altered.

“As much as it might have been better had we not messed with history in the first place,” my older self went on, “so long as it’s possible, TTT will be developed. Even if we could have stopped the Manhattan Project, it wouldn’t have prevented the invention of the atomic bomb. At best it might have delayed it, but it still would have been invented, perhaps by the Nazis or if not them, the Soviets. Once it came to pass, however, there was no way to un-invent it. Likewise, TTT is now a fact. And as with nuclear weapons, the best deterrent is by its deployment. Nuclear weapons have never been used against us because everyone knows we have the ability to wipe them off the face of the earth.”

“So you’re saying the best way to prevent our enemies from using TTT against us is to deploy it into the past, such that we can threaten to erase their history?” I asked. “But where does it stop, Chris? Do we extend it back to before 1917, before the Communists came to power?”

“Fortunately for us, there are practical limits on the technology,” the older Chris answered. “We can send our thoughts back in time, up to seven years at a time as I’m doing now with you. What we can’t do is send the technology itself back in time. I can bring you up to date on TTT, but you yourself will still need to assemble your own equipment from scratch using technology available in your day.”

“Wait…” I said as the gravity of what my future self was implying started to sink in. “In order to establish a chain of communication into the past, I’m going to have to contact my former self in the past.”

“That’s right,” my future self said.

“So I’m going to have to get my equipment to actually work, and use it to build a tunnel back seven years into the past to contact a past Chris while I’m talking to my future Chris and, oh, this is so confusing,” I said.

“First of all, to make things simpler, I suggest labeling us by our ages. For example, I’m Chris-42, soon to be Chris-43, you’re Chris-35 and you’ll be contacting Chris-28, or more likely Chris-29 by the time you succeed in reaching him. It will be his job to contact Chris-21, or perhaps by the time he gets his equipment up to speed, it will be Chris-22 he contacts. OK?”

“Sure thing, old man,” I answered.

“I’m sure that to Chris-29, you’ll be the old man. In any case, I’ll help you with the design, as there are significant differences between what you’ve been doing and what actually works.”

That sure got my attention, and made me chuckle.

“So just how far are we going to have to go back in time to provide an effective deterrent? Our parents weren’t even around at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. How could we possibly extend the technology back that far when we obviously won’t be around?” I asked Chris-42.

“That’s a very good question, and I’m glad you asked. Going back with the objective of destroying our enemies only leads to mass destruction of everyone. It would be like sending everyone back to the Stone Age. Just as we’ve developed tactical nuclear weapons, we can use a tactical approach to TTT. Preventing the events of September 11 was an example of this, albeit a crude one. Even if TTT falls into the hands of our enemies, they will know we have the infrastructure to undermine their ability to use it before they can deploy it themselves. The key is to make key incremental changes in their history that systematically undermine their role as our enemy before they can become an effective threat.”

“Like peeling back the layers of an onion,” I echoed.

“Exactly!” Chris-42 agreed. “Now as to how far we should extend TTT into the past, the Soviet threat would seem to be the least of our problems today, but even if Russia were to re-emerge as a serious threat, or China for that matter, extending TTT back to the early twentieth century isn’t an option. The farther we go back in time, the more limited the technology available and the more difficult and expensive it becomes to implement TTT. Even the most advanced supercomputers in the 1960s may not be up to the task.

“In any case, if we are to keep the technology to ourselves, since the youngest brain with which TTT can be used safely is the twelve-year-old brain, the farthest we can extend TTT under our control is 1978. That’s certainly early enough to make substantial changes in the Soviet Union and in China. It’s also early enough to keep Iran from becoming the nemesis it is today. For example, the Shah was deposed in February of 1979. If the U.S. were to depose him first and install a more friendly government in Iran, Islamic terrorism as we know it may never come to pass.”

“As I recall, the Shah came to power in the first place because the Americans and the Brits deposed the democratically elected government of Iran in the 1950s when that government tried to nationalize the oil industry,” I countered. “That was an attempt to install a friendly government in Iran, but it was so repressive that it resulted in a revolution that led to an even more repressive Islamic republic and a hotbed of terror. With TTT, if we fuck up, the unintended consequences could end up being so much worse than anything we’ve ever seen…”

Sighing, Chris-42 acknowledged, “You’re right, Chris-35. TTT should be used only as a last resort, but if we don’t develop it… if we don’t extend it into the past, we may never realize our enemies have done so… not even after they’ve mucked up our history. Suffice to say, there are a whole lot of dominoes involved in changing the past and toppling one without first toppling some of the others can have serious unintended consequences. If we aren’t careful, making the wrong move at the wrong time could leave us unable to complete the mission.”

“You mean we can end up killing ourselves off before we finish, and it’s pretty hard to intervene when you’re dead.”

“Exactly,” Chris-42 continued. “At least with TTT safely under our control, we can minimize the chances of that ever happening.”

“And that means extending TTT all the way back to 1978,” I stated incredulously.

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope and Anthony Camacho in editing this story, as well as the support of Awesome Dude for hosting it.
This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals other than named historical figures is purely coincidental and unintentional. Some characters may be gay and at times engage in homosexual acts. Because the story explores characters at various stages of their lives, they may be underage during early sexual explorations. Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. The author retains full copyright, and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of the story in any form.

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