Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
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Book One • Chapter 3 — A Chain of Communication

December 2001 • Chris-35

1978? Nineteen seventy-eight? One thousand nine hundred seventy-eight in the year of Our Lord, or in the Common Era as the politically correct terminology is these days. That year kept echoing in my head since the moment my counterpart from the future had told it to me. Would we really need to establish a communication chain reaching back all the way to 1978. Would it even be possible?

Chris-42 and I spent the next hour discussing the many potential complications involved. We stopped only because the time tunnel started to destabilize. We were definitely going to need to perfect the technology a bit further before we endeavored to reach any further back into the past, as we’d need much more than an hour at a time to transmit as much data as would be required.

The biggest problem we would face would be the fabrication of Time Tunnel Technology, or TTT, using increasingly primitive computers and electronics the further into the past we reached. As a simple example, Chris-42 used MathQuest as a computing platform upon which he wrote the software for all of his computations and for operating the equipment. Although the MathQuest software toolboxes were convenient and saved him a lot of time, it was designed to run on virtually all computing platforms in 2008 including his MacBook Pro, however in 2001 there was a brief time when MathWorld was not making a version of MathQuest that could run on Macintosh computers. My choice was to buy a high-end Windows laptop, load Linux on my PowerBook and use that to install MathQuest, or to rewrite all of the software to run without MathQuest. Considering the fact that there would eventually be no MathQuest to rely on, we chose the third option.

All in all, we were going to have to simplify the technology significantly from the way it worked in 2008. There was no way software that ran using thousands upon thousands of lines of code in 2008, 2001 or 1995 could run on a computer in 1989, let alone 1982. Worse still, how could we possibly hope to communicate so many lines of code back in time? Everything, from circuit board layouts to individual lines of code had to be communicated from one Chris to the next as thoughts or images in their dreams. It wasn’t as if we could simply e-mail it or download the source code onto magnetic tape. Software design was definitely going to be the second biggest headache we would face.

The biggest headache we would face by far, however, was a part of the technology that I hadn’t even perfected yet in 2001 — the quantum micro emitter/detector array. When Chris-42 showed me some schematics of his array design, I was amazed at just how far off the mark we’d been in our research up to this point. Each detector in the array had to be finely and precisely machined from a single crystal of quartz. Fortunately, there was nothing seriously new about the fabrication technique that wasn’t around, even in 1978. I just didn’t see how my younger counterparts were going to be able to acquire the resources to build them. Chris-28 could probably convince Jack Craegen to sign off on it, and Chris-22 might manage to talk Bob Rankin into funding it as part of a grant once he arrived in his lab the following year, but that would take time. Chris-16, would be completely shit out of luck.

Well, we knew it wouldn’t be easy. We we’re probably going to have to fight to establish each link in our communication chain, every step of the way. We’d go back as far as we could and do everything we could safely do up to that point, and then we’d work as hard as we could to find a way to build just one more link in the communications chain.

Unfortunately, Chris-42 and I were already having some issues. I was going to have to free up some time to be able to help him in the project, but he was concerned that any time diverted from my original work could affect the timeline, and of course he was right, but he had the advantage of knowing which avenues of our current research were dead ends. Why pursue things that would turn out to be a waste of time? I would also have the advantage of having more people on my team than he did the first time around, allowing us to make use of larger, more focused experiments.

We ended up working out a compromise — he would tell me which avenues were on the wrong track and I would design experiments to prove their lack of worth, allowing us to move on quickly. For example, Chris-42 explained that none of the experiments with rats in mazes ever panned out because only an intelligent brain could communicate with itself through time. Therefore, there would be no need to do hundreds of experiments with hundreds of variations — I could easily design a few experiments to prove that the rat’s brain waves cannot be synchronized through a time tunnel.

Chris-42 also had significant misgivings about my using the lab to work on developing the micro-detector array in house, but there was no doubt that this would be the fastest way to get an apparatus up and running and, hence, the fastest way for me to be able to contact Chris-28. Although it might be possible for Chris-42 to set up his own independent lab, I just wasn’t far enough along to do so myself. Eventually I would have little difficulty diverting funds and equipment to a second, secret lab — such was the climate surrounding TTT following the attempted terrorist attacks of 9/11. In the meantime I was protected to some degree by the fact that the equipment was calibrated only for my brain, but that would soon change. Already Jack had proposed establishing a bank of calibration files for dozens of people, just in case something happened to me or the lab. Therefore a second failsafe was needed.

The key was to never, ever allow fully functional software and hardware to be together in one place except when actually using it to establish a time tunnel. To bring the two together otherwise was to invite disaster, as TTT then could easily fall into the wrong hands. As a safeguard, the software would contain a destructive key, not unlike the roaming codes used in garage door openers. Each key could only be used once and a new one would have to be obtained from the future from Chris-42 each time I wanted to communicate with Chris-28 in the past. That way, even if TTT were to fall into the wrong hands, they would have a crippled piece of equipment and would have to start from scratch to develop their own software. Hopefully, this would be sufficient to give us the precious time we needed — months or even years to apprehend those responsible.

At some point we would have to bring Jack Craegan into the loop. We were going to have to trust him, and make him believe we were operating fully through the cooperation of governmental channels in the future, even when that was only partly the truth. Somehow, we had to keep the current government out of it, however, as that could lead to significant complications. Jack would understand that Bush was dangerous and he and his administration couldn’t be trusted to get anywhere near OTT. For that matter, I wasn’t sure we could trust even Clinton — Bill Clinton — to have access to the technology, nor the first Bush, and certainly not Reagan. A secure, destructive software key helped to ensure that they could never use the technology.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

December 2008 • Chris-42

As I peeled the last few electrodes from my scalp, my iPhone started to ring. Why I chose such an annoying ringtone to represent one of the most important people in my life, I hadn’t a clue. I’d liked the tune well enough at the time, but it was annoying the hell out of me as I tried to rip the last leads away without ripping my hair out with them, disentangled myself from the rest of the equipment and tried get across the storage locker I’d chosen to use for my makeshift lab to where I’d left my iPhone to see why my son was calling me so early on a Saturday morning. I’d particularly chosen this time because I knew I wouldn’t be interrupted.

But when I looked at the display on my iPhone, I realized that I’d been communicating with Chris-35 much longer than anticipated and it was already after ten. Clicking the talk button, I answered the phone, “Hey, Tiger, what’s got you up so early on a Saturday morning?”

“Dad, I hate it when you call me that,” my son said. “If I were on speakerphone and any of my friends heard you, I would be sooo embarrassed. And if my students heard you God, they’d probably never take me seriously again.”

“Sorry about that, Andy, but to me, you’ll always be my Tiger, you know,” I explained.

“I know that, Dad, but, well, you know how it is,” he went on.

“Yeah, I do, and I really am sorry. I really do remember how it is. But seriously, isn’t it a bit early to be up on the weekend?” I asked.

“Not really… and I could ask you the same thing, old man. You were always the night owl, you know. I was always the one who’s the morning person in the family. Anyway, I just thought I’d check up on you, you know? What’s new and all sorts of shit.”

“Don’t you know it’s the parents that are supposed to check up on their kids?” I asked.

“You know you do, and I like it too,” he admitted, “but Dad, I’m kind of worried about you. Ever since the divorce, you don’t seem to do much any more. You spend all your time locked away in that damn apartment doing who knows what. You don’t go out. You don’t have any friends. The friends you did have you’ve pretty much pushed away. You hardly ever talk to Mom and Karen any more, even though they still care about you. Hell, Dad, you should be out there dating other men. You’re not that old, and you’re a good-looking guy, and there are lots of gay men in San Francisco. What gives?”

“Wow, you don’t pull any punches, do you?” I responded. “I’m just not ready, Andy. It’s still too fresh, you know?”

“How long are you gonna wait?” he asked. “Isn’t three years enough time, or does it have to be four, or five? You’ve had three long, lonely years on your own, and I’ve watched you pull more and more into that shell of yours, becoming more and more of a recluse. About the only one you’ve let into your life is me, and even that’s gotten to be less and less.”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“Why the hell not?” Andy asked emphatically. “I’ve had my share of girlfriends… at least as much as any nineteen-year-old has. I’ve experienced love, and I hate to tell you this, Dad, but I’ve had sex… probably a hell of a lot more than you have. I’ve been hurt, but I picked up and I went on, ’cause that’s what life’s about. The only thing I can think of that’s worse than having your heart crushed by someone you thought you loved is being totally alone, and that’s what you’re doing to yourself.”

“Andy, maybe eventually I’ll be ready to talk about this, but I’m just not ready. Maybe soon I will be, but not yet.”

“Three years, Dad,” he implored me. “Three fucking years is a long time. I was sixteen when you and Mom got divorced, and now I’m nineteen. I finished my undergraduate degree in that time and now I’m in graduate school. Think about it.”

“Part of that’s because of all your advanced placement credits.”

“It’s still three years, Dad. When will you be ready?”

“So how are your classes going?” I asked.

“That’s it, Dad, change the subject on me. Well, they’re going great, and thanks for asking. Sanderson’s the same asshole he was when you were here, but I’m still getting all A’s.

“But next time we talk, Dad, you’re not dodging me, ’K?”

“I know, Andy. I promise to give you more of my time next time we talk.”

“That’s all I can ask, and do give Mom and Karen a call. They’d love to hear from you,” he said before he hung up the phone.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

It was amazing how well Chris-35 and I were working together. I wouldn’t have thought he could actually add anything to the project since, well, he was me, and he’d actually been through all the thoughts and arguments that led to Operation Time Tunnel being what it was today, but by feeding what I’d learned over the past seven years back to him, he ended up bringing a fresh new perspective to the project that I’d somehow lost in the interim. I was simply amazed at some of the ideas he’d proposed.

For example, one of the more critical aspects of TTT was the use of a 32-lead electroencephalograph, or EEG, to measure brain wave activity. This was necessary to help me gauge my state of consciousness, to provide biofeedback, to regulate my bodily functions and to enable the computer software to facilitate synchronization of my brainwave activity with that of Chris-35. However, Chris-35 asked why we didn’t just use the 64-element micro-emitter/detector array to obtain the same information, without the need for a separate piece of equipment. He pointed out that the information was already there — we just had to separate out the signal from the existing data stream. The idea was brilliant, and it meant there’d be no more snipping of hairs and washing out gel from my scalp.

But if using the micro-emitter/detector worked so well, why was I even aware of using a separate EEG machine in the first place? In theory, once Chris-35 thought of using the micro emitter/detector array back in the past, shouldn’t that have altered the timeline, changing all of history afterwards? Perhaps the idea didn’t work after all, and I’d still be stuck pulling gel out of my scalp after each communication. Or maybe the timeline wouldn’t actually be altered until I applied the new technology at my end, since Chris-35 had no way to verify that it actually worked. That had to be it. Once I used his idea and confirmed to him that it worked, that knowledge would become part of the time stream and I would never even bother with the use of EEG machines when I got to that point in my research.

And that raised another very important question — how were we going to document previous directions of my research that we managed to obliterate, thanks to changes made to the timeline? Some of these could end up being crucial, as we were bound to make mistakes and there could undoubtedly come a time when we would need to backtrack and redo something we’d inadvertently undone. I could only hope we didn’t accidentally do something irreversible, such as causing my death, or the death of someone critical to the project. If that happened, we would be oh so totally fucked.

I’d already inadvertently caused one major change to the timeline and, thanks to my ineptitude, had no way of knowing in what ways I’d changed history. The one thing I knew for certain was that before my intervention, on September 11, 2001, terrorists had managed to hijack four airplanes and use them to collapse both of the twin towers of the World Trade Center and to crash into the Pentagon, although I didn’t know the extent of the damage involved with the latter crash site. I surmised we must have had some sort of military response, but how much different might history have been? Was it enough for Bush to have gotten his way when it came to war with Iraq? Was it enough for him to win a second term in the White House? What might the effect of these have been on our already weak economy? For better or for worse, we would probably never know the answers to these questions.

At least from now on I could do something about the changes I was about to make. As would any good scientist, I would keep a record of any intervention I was about to make — a written record. I was not about to chance something this critical to a crashed hard drive, particularly when the technology on which the record was being based might be affected by the change itself. From now on, Chris-35 and I, and any earlier Chris that might be involved in implementing a change would keep a written log of any and all interventions as we made them so that we would have a record of everything as it was before each change took place. Even if my change log were affected, at least Chris-35’s change log would still record that at one time I had used surface EEG electrodes to record my brainwave activity. At least he would have a permanent record of my initial experimental approach.

Of course there were some things I could never tell him. I could never tell Chris-35 that the original impetus for OTT in the first place was selfish — that I just wanted to change our personal history — that the reason for establishing a chain of communication back to 1978 still was largely for that purpose rather than to prevent the formation of Islamic superpower in Iran. Not that we couldn’t ultimately find ourselves doing just that in the end, and that might well be what OTT would end up being all about, but fixing our own fucked-up life was still the best way to effect change. That still was my primary goal, but telling Chris-35 that would almost certainly doom OTT to failure. Chris -35 was still an optimist. He was married, with two wonderful kids living at home. He had no idea of what was yet to come. He would never use TTT for purely selfish reasons as I would.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

January 2002 • Chris-35

Neither Chris-42 nor I were sure what effect diverting my research to focus on building a time tunnel would have on his own existence, but we assumed that as long as the knowledge of TTT were not disrupted, there was no need to repeat work that had ultimately proven fruitless. We ended up boiling down the sum total of seven years of his work, or rather, our work, from 2002 to 2008, to the key experiments that ended up forming the backbone of TTT. Some of these experiments had positive outcomes, but most still had negative outcomes, but were nonetheless critical to proving what technical approaches were essential to the ultimate design of the hardware and software that eventually went into the OTT project. Without this, Chris-42 couldn’t have built his apparatus, and he couldn’t have passed his knowledge back to me.

We ended up deciding that I needed to confide in Jack that my ‘counterpart from the future’ had been ordered to pass me the schematics for building our own top-secret time tunnel. The purpose of having TTT in our time period would be to establish a link in a chain of communication from the future to the past, with the present serving only as a way station. Should anyone from our present time actually try to use it to alter the past — to modify the timeline, the implications of doing so could be catastrophic, and that was why no one — not even the current president — especially the current president — was to know about its existence.

Jack understood — a future president had insight that a current president never could, and he trusted my judgment and my word. He signed off on my budget for fabricating the 64-element emitter/detector array, as well as on my request for allowing me to do much of my work from home — something that was almost never allowed for work with such implications for national security as mine. He was satisfied that as a precaution against its unintended use, the TTT software could not be operated without a key from the future that would not be provided until it was to be used.

“Hey, Daddy,” my darling daughter said as she sat down next to me and grabbed the bowl of cereal Jen had just placed in front of her at the breakfast table. How did I ever come to have two such beautiful children?

“Hi, sweetheart,” I said in return as I smiled at her. The smile that lit up her face was precious. It was so rare that I had a chance to eat breakfast with my children, but the time I was spending communicating with Chris-42 was eating more and more into my time at the lab, and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. Jack knew I was burning more midnight oil on the project, both at the lab and at home, and for good reason. He was more than willing to cut me a little slack, and that meant spending more time with my family. It was so ironic that it took having my world being turned upside down by events from the future to give me back my life in the present.

“How’s school going, honey?” I asked my daughter as she drank down her orange juice.

“Fine,” was all she said.

“Is that all you have to say?” I asked her. At 10 years of age, she was almost acting like a teenager. “Ms. Rice tells me you’re doing better than fine. I hear you got a hundred on your last geography test. That’s terrific! Do you like geography?” I asked.

She looked up at me with the most adoring eyes and said, “It’s OK, I guess. I mean, it’s not like we’ll ever get to go to those places, or anything.” That was a low blow.

“You never know, sweetheart,” I replied. “If there were one place in the whole world you could go, where would it be?” I asked.

She scrunched up her face in deep thought for a moment, and then she got the most devious smile on her face and she said, “I think I’d like to go to Titan.”

“Titan’s not even in this world,” Andy said as he entered the kitchen, his backpack slung over one shoulder. He dropped the backpack on the floor next to the table, slipped a bagel into the toaster, grabbed a steaming mug of coffee and dropped himself into the chair on the other side of me. He’d be turning thirteen in March and looked so much like a teenager, I could scarcely believe this was the same boy I used to toss into the air and play hide-and-seek with.

“I know it’s not in this world,” Karen answered, “but just think how cool it would be to go there!”

“Yeah, it’d be cool all right,” Andy interrupted, “like minus 200 degrees or something like that.”

“Don’t be silly, Andy,” Karen replied. “I really would like to be an astronaut.” That was news to me. “Remember Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001, A Space Odyssey?” Oh yeah, my daughter adored science fiction, almost as much as I did when I was her age. “Well in the movie, they went to Jupiter, but in the book they bypassed Jupiter and went to Saturn, because that’s where the alien artifact was. Why do you think the aliens left the artifact on Titan instead of orbiting Io, the way they made it look in the movie version?”

“I have a feeling we’re gonna find out,” Andy again interrupted.

“Andrew, let your sister finish,” I admonished my son with a chuckle.

Karen continued, “It’s because Titan is the largest moon in the solar system and the only one with a stable atmosphere. There is also evidence that it has lakes or oceans on its surface and it could very well be that it supports some sort of life, perhaps based on methane. That’s why Arthur C. Clarke wrote 2001 with the alien artifact located on Titan.

“When it came to the sequels, though, he decided to make them consistent with the movie version, ’cause everyone and their grandmother saw the movie.” I couldn’t help but laugh at the way my daughter said that. God, I loved my children. “So for 2010 he had the Americans and the Soviets… yes, there was still a Soviet Union when the book and even the movie came out… returned to Jupiter on a joint mission to reactivate the Discovery spacecraft. But then there was an international incident back on Earth and the Americans were ordered to return to Earth on board Discovery, but the aliens had other plans.

“Anyway, the aliens turned Jupiter into a new star, so we ended up with a binary star system, the Americans and Soviets had to cooperate and use both spaceships together to escape safely, and Jupiter’s moon, Europa, which had been an icy moon, ended up teeming with life. It was a pretty cool book, and a neat movie,” she concluded.

“Yeah, but what effect would having two suns have on Earth’s ecosystem,” I wondered aloud.

“Actually, there was some mention of that at the end of 2010, the book, that is, and a lot more about it in the two sequels after that, 2061 and 3001. The aliens ended up making lots of mistakes, but then it was their experimentation that led to the creation of humanity in the first place, at least according to the first scene in 2001. In the end, the update on humanity’s progress that was sent by the original monolith in 2001 finally had time to reach the nearest alien relay station, and get a signal back from it by the end of 3001, but the aliens had long since moved on. I don’t want to spoil it in case you ever read the book, but let’s just say the twentieth century was a pretty bloody one… and not a good one for humanity to be judged by. Anyway, the aliens left behind instructions for the monolith to deal with their ‘mistakes’. Of course in a thousand years, we’d come a long way, too, and came up with a final solution to deal with the monolith.”

“You know something guys, if you don’t get a move on, you’re going to be late,” I reminded my kids.

“Shit!” Andy said as he wolfed down the last of his bagel and gulped his coffee, taking a last glance at the sports section of the Chronicle.

“Andy?” I admonished, “Just because you’re almost a teenager doesn’t mean you have to act like one.”

“Sorry, Dad,” he said as he folded up the paper. He then placed his dishes in the sink, kissed Jen on the cheek, and then he came to me and gave me a hug. What a great kid!

Karen likewise followed suit, placing her dishes in the sink, kissing Jen on the cheek and then doing the same with me. Both kids grabbed their backpacks and were out the door, barely in time to catch their respective buses.

Jen came up behind me and threw her arms around me as she leaned over and kissed me sweetly on the lips. I had to admit that as I was spending more time at home these days, I was finding myself more and more attracted to her — maybe not sexually, but romantically. I found I still loved the mother of my children, very much.

“What time will you be leaving for the lab today?” she asked.

“Not for another hour,” I told her. “We’re making excellent progress… our experiments are giving us better results than we’d expected, and Jack’s letting me do even more of the work from home, so long as I keep the data on my computer secured. Soon, I may even be able to spend entire days at home.”

“That would be nice,” Jen said as she kissed me. “Do you think you have a little time to spend with me before you get ready to go in?” she asked.

“Time for what?” I asked, innocently enough.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said as she stroked her hands down my chest. I was only wearing briefs, and she gently massaged and tweaked my nipples, instantly making them erect. How’d that happen? As she stroked down my abdomen, I felt myself start to stiffen. It had been years since I’d had this kind of reaction from my wife.

When she grabbed my erect cock through my briefs, I nearly lost it. Why was I having this reaction to my wife? For heaven’s sake, I was gay! Still, I loved her, and my love of her was affecting me.

Pulling the chair back with me still in it, she sat down on my thighs. It was then that I noticed she’d somehow taken off her clothes. I could feel the moistness of her labia as she sat on me. She pulled my erect cock out from my briefs and fondled it, caressing it with her hands. She leaned forward and kissed me, thrusting her tongue into my mouth as her pendulous breasts pressed up against my chest. I moaned — I actually moaned into her mouth. I was so achingly aroused… I couldn’t stand it. Maybe it was because it had been so long since I’d had sex with anyone other than myself, but I was leaking pre-cum furiously and I was primed and ready to go.

Before I realized what was happening, Jen sat down on me. I’d forgotten how wonderful it felt to be in someone — particularly someone you love. I didn’t last long, but then Jen didn’t either. She came with a fury I’d forgotten she had. We were both hungry for it.

“Wow, I’m sorry I didn’t last longer,” I said as I slipped out of her when it was over.

“Don’t worry about it, Chris,” she reassured me. “I was just worried you wouldn’t be able to perform, but that certainly wasn’t your problem, now, was it? I enjoyed it every bit as much as you did. It was wonderful. I may not be the man of your dreams, but if we can both make each other happy, and we both still love each other, that’s what’s important.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” I said, “but we didn’t use protection. Are you on your cycle? I asked with a hint of worry in my voice.”

“I finished my period last week, so it’s not too likely I’m ovulating right now,” she answered, “but what if I were? We have two great kids, and I wouldn’t mind having a third, would you?” she asked.

Thinking about it for only a moment, I replied, “A month ago, having more children was the last thing on my mind, but now, yeah, I could see it. I’m not planning on it and it would certainly mean some major changes in our lives, but if fate decided we were to have another kid, I wouldn’t mind it one bit. In fact, I think I’d like that.

“It would be high risk at your age, however, and you’d have to have amnio for sure.”

“But it’s agreed… no birth control?” Jen asked.

“Yeah, no birth control,” I answered.

As I drove into the lab that morning, I thought about the ramifications of what had happened and what they could mean in terms of changes to the timeline. I had no way of knowing if these things hadn’t happened anyway, but I strongly suspected they hadn’t and that I had just made a major and significant personal change to my timeline and, hence, to Chris-42’s as well. I would need to discuss it with him immediately the next time we made contact. I needed to document the change right away and any comments he made so that we could counter any adverse effects if necessary.

One thing I knew from our previous discussions was that Chris-42 had two children. It’s possible that something in the future had happened to Andy or Karen — a thought I didn’t even want to consider — but it was far more likely that we never had had a third child. If Jen and I were to have a third child, how might that affect Chris-42 and the development of TTT? Could it sidetrack TTT and actually prevent the development of TTT altogether? When I opened myself up to the possibility of having additional children with Jen, did I jeopardize OTT?

For the sake of national security, did I now have an obligation to have a vasectomy? How would Jen react if she ever found out about it?


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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