Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
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Book One • Chapter 6 — Picture Perfect

October 1988 • Chris-22

“Fatherhood’s a lot of responsibility for someone working on a post-doc.” Bob Rankin said to me as he stared down his glasses at me with his beady eyes. “My students generally eat, drink and breathe their work when they’re in my lab. How do you plan to balance being a new dad and being up all night with feedings and diapers plus handling the heavy responsibilities of working in the premier quantum physics lab in the world?”

My first thought was, ‘What an ego,’ and then I thought, ‘Holy shit!’ as it dawned on me that this was exactly the line that came to me last night in my dream. Could I have had a premonition? I didn’t believe in the supernatural, but the notion that I had been contacted by some future version of myself was equally hard to swallow. But in the end, the scientific explanation would always win out over everything else. I had no choice but to accept the most logical explanation, and if that meant putting my faith in a quantum information version of time travel, then so be it.

However, getting my mind back to the matter at hand, Dr. Rankin was waiting for my response, and the arrogant prick was looking for any excuse to hire someone else for a position I really wanted badly. I was maybe, hopefully, six months away from finishing my PhD and I wanted to be sure I transitioned seamlessly to Rankin’s lab after that.

“Dr. Rankin, I know you have the best quantum physics lab in the world. There are a lot of students who would give anything to work with you. Some of them would undoubtedly give up their girlfriends, or their wives, or their boyfriends, or sell their firstborn into slavery for a chance to work with you. Hell, some would probably even offer to sleep with you if they thought it would get them a position in your lab. I’m not one of those students, and I hope that’s not the kind of student you’re looking for, because you won’t get the best work from that kind of student.

“Dr. Rankin, yes, I love my girlfriend and she has her own dissertation to complete and I’ll help her with that all I can. When our baby comes along, if that means I have to help take care of our child sometimes, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to love my son with all my heart and be the best daddy he could ever have, because as you said, being a father is a big responsibility and while we didn’t plan to become parents just yet, once Jen became pregnant, once we made the decision to go through with the pregnancy, there was no going back.

“If you hire me, Dr. Rankin, I can assure you that you will not find a more dedicated post-doctoral student anywhere. Yes, I will be a dedicated, responsible father and, yes, when it comes to the welfare of my girlfriend and my son, they will absolutely take precedence, just as I’m sure your family would in similar situations. Other than that, no one will eat, drink or breathe their work more than I. On that you have my word.

“If you want someone who will suck up to you and be an automaton, and just do whatever you ask of them, there are dozens of qualified applicants. If you want someone who can think on their feet, who can do original work and who can make real, original contributions to the lab, without hogging the credit, then I’m your man.”

Rankin just sat there, dumbfounded for a full minute, absorbing what I’d said before he broke out in the biggest smile I’d ever seen. Finally, he said, “I was just joking about being the premier lab, you know. You really need to get to know me to appreciate my warped sense of humor. We’re one of the better labs, but we’re not Cern. Still, I think we make some important contributions.”

“That’s like saying the Sears tower’s a tall building,” I quipped.

“Chris… may I call you Chris?” he asked.

“Chris is fine,” I told him.

“Chris, if I can be candid with you, you’re not ready for post-graduate work.”

My face fell, but then I remembered what my counterpart in the dream had told me — that Rankin would offer me the fellowship if I agreed to stay for two years, so I decided to keep an open mind and, again, to believe in the reality of the dream.

“The thing is, Chris, research takes a certain amount of maturity that you still need to acquire. So does parenting for that matter, but that doesn’t seem to stop anyone else from being parents either. What I’m trying to say is that you will be a much more effective scientist if you get some more experience under your belt before going out and getting a job. That’s why most students go on to do a post-doc, but even that isn’t enough for some. The average PhD student at Stanford doesn’t finish their PhD until the age of 29. You intend to finish your dissertation this academic year, at the age of 23. You raced through high school in just three years. You finished your undergraduate degree in only three years, at the age of twenty. You will have finished your PhD in only three years, which although possible, is almost unheard of for a Stanford degree.

“The bottom line is that, although you may meet the minimum requirements for the PhD degree, you won’t have the experience to actually put that degree good use in an academic position of the caliber you undoubtedly seek. Sure, you might be able to get an instructorship position at MIT, but they're notorious for eating up young faculty and spitting them out, used and spent. You should want to be a full professor by the time you’re in your mid-thirties… not a burned-out has-been. You need more experience, Chris…”

“But that’s why I want to do the post-doc in your lab,” I interrupted.

“And I appreciate that, and I think you have the potential to do great things, which is particularly why I’m not going to offer you the post-doc… unless you’ll agree to spend another year on your Ph.D.… and to stay for a two-year fellowship.”

“Two more years? But why?” I asked incredulously.

“Like I said, you need more experience, Chris. And after all, two-year fellowships are not unheard of. I’m just saying you need to plan on it. However, more than that, you’ll be going up against kids with a much more advanced background than yours. You may be able to pick up on what you need to know on your own, but with the addition of a few strategic courses, you’ll be in a much better position to work in my lab. And with the extra time, I can just about guarantee you will finish with your own funding from a major NSF grant in hand. Think of how much that would enhance your chances of landing the kind of academic position you seek.

“In other words, I’m offering you, not only the chance to gain valuable experience that you can’t get anywhere else, but I’m offering you a head start on your academic career that will put you well ahead of where you might be if you jump straight into the job pool with what is frankly an abridged Ph.D. and only a one-year fellowship experience. And since I’d have a vested interest in the outcome of your Ph.D. I’d like to serve as a member of your committee.”

I was stunned. Rankin never served as anything less than the major professor on anyone’s dissertation committee. Word was that he felt it was beneath him. “You’d do that for me?” I asked when I finally got my voice back.

“Of course I would, Chris,” he answered. “As I said, it’s not every day I get an applicant of your caliber… and you’d be paying me back by working in my lab for two years.”

“And you’d like to take advantage of cheap labor,” I countered.

“That too,” Professor Rankin admitted with a grin, “but it’s pretty rare that I get a student with your specific needs. I would never take advantage of you, Chris. I’d be giving you an invaluable research experience and you’d be giving me cheap labor, as you so delicately put it. Two years spent in my lab will go a long way toward making up for the excessive zeal with which your pursued your academic interests, racing through in record time.”

Pausing for just a moment, more for effect than to actually think about the offer, I responded, “Well, it wasn’t what I’d planned, but you’ve made me an offer I can hardly refuse, Dr. Rankin.”

“Please, call me Bob,” he confided in me with a very warm smile. “I think we’re going to have a great working relationship, and you don’t even need to sleep with me,” he said with a chuckle. “More than anything, we’re going to have fun during your two years with us here. And when we’re done with you, you’ll be able to move on to a teaching position in any major university in the world or you might even be able to score a position at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.”

“Lawrence Livermore! I never even considered the possibility of going there,” I said in amazement.

“You really ought to think about it, Chris. They could really use a man of your talents. You wouldn’t have to scramble for grant money, you wouldn’t have to teach undergraduates and you’d get to work on the absolute cutting edge of your field.”

“I’ll give it some thought,” I said as I left his office.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

December 2009 • Chris-43

I hardly recognized the campus — so much had changed since I was a student there. The basic layout was the same and the red-tiled roofs still predominated the main quad, but new buildings were everywhere and most of the new structures were modern and bore no resemblance at all to the original Stanford design.

Not helping matters, the kids all looked so young, or was it that I’d gotten so old? I felt so out of place. Granted, I was no older than many of the professors, and with my background, I could easily have been a full professor — hell, I still could be if I wanted to, but my life was at Lawrence Livermore, and I did have an appointment at UC, after all.

“Dad, Dad, I’m over here!”

I could feel my whole face light up as I heard Andy’s voice. I turned to see him walking toward me with his latest girlfriend, a pretty brunette with intelligent eyes and a warm smile. Andy had been working on me for weeks, trying to get me to visit him on campus. I knew he’d been worried about me, and I’d done everything I could to reassure him I was OK, but truthfully even I had to admit I really wasn’t. I was so involved in OTT that I’d been neglecting myself. I would go days without bathing or shaving. Some days I didn’t even bother to eat. At 5’10”, I only weighed 120 pounds, and my waist size was down to 29”, a size I hadn’t been since junior high. My clothes were swimming on me.

The truth was that even my concentration was being affected by my declining health, and that was having a direct bearing on OTT. If I couldn’t concentrate, I wouldn’t be able to communicate with Chris-36, and while he might be able to continue the mission of establishing a chain of communication back to 1978 on his own, I might not be able to send critical information back in time. Unless I reached Chris-12, my life would remain as it is now, and that was unacceptable. More importantly, there was the world’s future to consider, but I couldn’t do anything about that until I fixed my own past. That was the real reason for going back to 1978, but I could hardly tell anyone else that.

“Dad, this is Sandy. Sandy, this is my dad,” Andy said as he introduced his girlfriend.” I shook her hand, but I could see a look of concern in both their eyes. The last thing I wanted was their pity.

“Sandy and Andy,” I chuckled, mostly to myself.

“So I was thinking we might check out this new Thai place up in the mall if you’re game,” Andy said as we started walking. “We haven’t eaten yet and it’d be a great chance for us to catch up on things. The walk would be a great chance to work up an appetite.”

I chuckled and said, “How well I remember the long walks on campus, but my 43-year-old body will let me know just how out of shape it is if I walk that far. Much as it might be good for my health, I’m parked in a metered space and since I’m paying to park by the minute, why don’t we retrieve my car and we can drive to the mall and park over there. At least that way, I won’t have to pay for the time it takes to walk to and from the mall.

“Oh, and it’s been a very long time since I’ve had Thai food. I heartily approve. Good choice, and I could use a little peanut oil in my diet right now. Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing, and I do appreciate it,” I said as I squeezed my son on the shoulder.

“If it’s OK with you, Dad, one of my professors is going to join us for lunch,” Andy added as he pulled out his cell phone.

“Uh-oh,” I said aloud. “Now why do I get the sinking feeling that this professor just happens to be a middle aged gay guy?”

“It is an amazing coincidence,” Andy agreed with me, “but as long as we’re going to lunch, we might as well have someone along who has something in common with you, you know?”

“Andy,” I said, “I know you set this up, and it would be rude of you to ‘uninvite’ this guy now that you’ve invited him but, first of all, this isn’t me and, secondly, I really wanted this time to catch up on ‘us’. I’ll go through with our double date for lunch under one condition… that you spend some time with me this afternoon, just the two of us. It’s been a long time… too long, and we have a lot of catching up to do, father to son, adult to adult.

“Dad, you got a deal.”

Lunch was utterly forgettable. Andy’s professor, David Resnick, was so stereotypically gay, he was almost camp. Why Andy thought I’d be interested in him I wasn’t sure — perhaps it was simply because Andy was sure David was gay, but I found his mannerisms to be a complete turnoff.

After lunch, we took Sandy back to campus and Andy and I went to play a round of miniature golf — something we hadn’t done in many, many years. It was the sort of thing we used to do when he was twelve. I hated to admit it, but he could still beat the pants off me. The main point, though, was to just spend some time together and ‘shoot the shit’ as father and son. He’d always been precocious from the time he was a toddler, but now he truly was an adult.

His undergraduate degree was in Physics, but he’d switched to Biomedical Engineering in graduate school. When did that happen? His reasoning was sound and well thought-out, however. He saw the human body as the true ‘final frontier’. In truth, much of what I was doing now revolved around applications of quantum physics to the medical field when you got right down to it. Andy was quicker to recognize that than most, and he saw that knowledge of the biologic aspects would give him a significant advantage over pure physicists such as myself. He was even considering the possibility of going to medical school.

I tried to dissuade him from that notion, though. I’d known some M.D.-Ph.D. types in my day. Most of them ended up getting dragged into the practice of Medicine and, once that happened, never returned to their research. Most of the physicians I’d met were miserable, not that I was a paragon of happiness, but I didn’t want that for my Andy.

All in all, I had a great day at Stanford. It was the most fun I’d had in months. I was definitely going to have to make it a point to spend more time with my son.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

January 1996 • Chris-29

“What is this,” I asked Chris-36, “and why are you showing it to me?”

“It’s a stereogram,” he answered. “Right now, I bet it looks to you like nothing more than a picture of lighthouse.”

“You got that right,” I said.

“I’ve never tried conjuring one of these things up in my dreams, so I can only guess as to how well it’ll work, but right now it’s our best hope for passing code back to Chris-22… and beyond. At least one huge advantage we have with these things over the originals is that we can separate the left and right images. The algorithm that generated this particular image was designed for viewing with both eyes, which is probably why it’s a little hard for you to see the hidden image right now. You’ll have to make sure you send Chris-22 an algorithm that completely separates the left and right eye images. That should give you a much better result.”

“Hold it… you’d better back up a step or two here,” I admonished of Chris-36. “You’re telling me there’s a hidden image in this picture? All I see is a lighthouse.”

“Chris-29, you have to look beyond what your mind’s eye is telling you is there. Stereograms are already out there, even in your day, but they’ll explode in popularity in just a few short years. There’ll be books and posters everywhere you turn. The idea is simple… you take two nearly identical images of the same scene and superimpose them… one designed for the left eye and one designed for the right eye. What your left eye sees of the right eye image is gibberish and your brain can learn to ignore it, and vice versa. The process of accommodation is so automatic… it almost seems hard-wired into the brain. If you focus the lenses in your eyes at a given distance, they will automatically converge at a point at the same distance, and vice versa, fusing two images seamlessly into one. Once you train yourself to decouple accommodation and converge your eyes at a slightly different point from the depth at which your eyes are focused, you’ll see there’s a second image hidden in the picture… an image you weren’t expecting.”

“Wait a minute,” I said, “I think I understand what you’re saying, but getting something like this to work with my eyes when I’m awake and making it happen in a dream are two different things. What you’re talking about is making my eyes converge on different parts of a repeating pattern in an image. In effect, I must force my eyes to converge behind the picture, even as they focus on the picture.”

“Exactly!” Chris-36 exclaimed.

“But I’m not exactly using my eyes when I dream… at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, you’re sending me two stereographic representations of the same picture, presumably to different layers of my occipital cortex.”

“Chris-29, we don’t even know that much,” Chris-36 admitted. “We know a little bit about how stereo vision works in the brain, but where along the pathway my visual thoughts are passed along to you is a mystery. Is it in the lateral geniculate body of the thalamus, or is it in the occipital cortex as you suggested? Perhaps it’s in the visual associative cortex, or maybe it doesn’t occur until after all interpretation of visual information has already taken place? We may never fully understand how exactly it is that my thoughts become your thoughts. The important thing is that ultimately, you see what I see.”

“Well, at the moment, all I see is a lighthouse,” I complained.

“Try focusing just at the clouds in the upper left-hand corner and concentrate your efforts there. Notice how there seems to be straight lines within the clouds, and try to make those lines, line up.”

Suddenly, I saw exactly what Chris-36 was talking about. When I focused on the lines, they magically snapped into place and I was seeing words! My God, I don’t know how I could have missed it before. I started to read aloud.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

“That’s quite a few words hiding in one photograph,” Chris-36 commented.

“Quite a few words indeed,” I agreed.

“It won’t be easy, Chris, but there have been experiments on this. Memorizing a passage from the Declaration of Independence is fairly easy. Memorizing a few dozen lines of computer code is not, but if I’d embedded the computer code in this picture and then hypnotized you, I’d have gotten all the code back. It won’t be easy and it’ll take many, many passes to make it work, but this is probably the best means to our end.

“Look for a stereogram algorithm on the Internet, and pass it along to Chris-22, but again, remember that it should be one designed for full separation of the images. Chris-22 is also going to have to learn self-hypnosis, and so is Chris-16.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

March 1996 • Chris-29

“It just isn’t working, Chris!” I cried in frustration as my older counterpart came to me in my dream.

For three weeks now I’d been trying to memorize computer code passed to me in my sleep. Chris-36 would show me a series of pictures each night… we started with a dozen the first night and when it became clear that I couldn’t remember them all, had progressively cut back until we were focusing on only one a night… and I would attempt to commit the image to memory. I would stare at the picture and assimilate every detail. At the time, I could easily see the lines of computer code embedded in the images, but that was not the purpose of remembering the images — that would come later. The code was subliminal and was to be extracted under hypnosis when I was awake, or so we thought.

Unfortunately, we just weren’t getting anywhere. For three weeks I’d tried memorizing pictures with embedded code. For three weeks I’d tried self-hypnosis as a means of extracting the code from my memories and when that didn’t work, enlisted Jack’s aide in having a real top-secret hypnotist brought in to help extract the code from my brain, all without success. The code was almost certainly there, but apparently I just couldn’t bring it out.

“Maybe we’re trying to cram too many lines of code into one image,” I suggested.

“Perhaps,” Chris-36 agreed, “but then it’ll take decades to send all the code back in time to you.”

I mulled that idea in my head and gathered my thoughts before organizing them into a reply. “So this is all a dead end, isn’t it? We’re not going to be able to use stereograms to send computer code back through the chain of communication,” I stated the obvious, flatly.

“Unfortunately, Chris-29, I think you’re right,” Chris-36 agreed with me.

“So where does that leave us?” I asked.

“Looking for another way to send code back in time. Looking for another way to send complex information… circuit diagrams, and ultimately the information that might be needed to save the world.”

“Short of coming up with some sort of cybernetic implant that can interface directly with our thoughts,” I said, “or somehow developing the skills of a photographic memory, I don’t see how.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

March 2003 • Chris-36

“A photographic memory… wouldn’t that come in handy,” he said.

“It’s certainly something we’ve never had,” I agreed, as I communicated with Chris-43, “but we both know someone who does have a true photographic memory… someone who never forgets the slightest detail of anything he reads, sees or hears… someone with one of the most brilliant minds we have ever encountered… and someone I believe we can trust. That I believe is probably the most important thing of all… the real bottom line. What’s more is that this person I’m thinking of would be in the right place at the right time to help Chris-16 make contact with Chris-12, and that’s something we can hardly put a price on.”

“Wait a minute!” Chris-43 nearly shouted through time and space. “You couldn’t be serious!”

“I’m dead serious,” I replied.

“Marion Dawson was an egocentric maniac,” Chris-43 said tersely. “He was self-centered, self-serving and at times delusional. He didn’t get along with anyone, and in the end, he hanged himself.”

I winced to myself and said, “I didn’t know that. What a tragic waste of a brilliant mind.”

“He dug his own grave,” Chris-43 admonished me.

“His greatness was never in doubt…”

“But he was willing to go to any lengths to achieve that greatness, and in the end, it drove him to suicide,” came Chris-43’s retort. “And of course there were the allegations… never proven, but damaging.”

“Many people believe he was the victim of a witch hunt, you know. He spent all his time with teenaged boys, so it was natural for some to think he might be a pedo. Nothing was ever proved, though, and we personally never witnessed anything improper between him and one of his students. Granted, he did some very unconventional things, but he also gave a hell of a lot of us a significant kick-start to our careers. And he never once forced us to do something he shouldn’t have…”

“And how many of the kids that he ‘helped’ ended up fucked-up for life because of the way he pushed them?” Chris-43 asked. “We can never know the true answer to that one, can we? Certainly, you haven’t forgotten about Brian!”

No, I hadn’t forgotten. I could never forget. Brian Little was a friend of mine, and one of Dawson’s star pupils. With Dawson’s help, Brian was granted admission to the university when he was only fifteen. He started dating a classmate who was four years older, and when she dumped him, he just snapped. He tried going to Dawson, but Dawson just told him to be glad — that he didn’t need a girlfriend, anyway. Brian was found the next morning in a snow bank, dead from the combination of Valium and hypothermia.

“I could never forget what happened to Brian,” I scolded my older self, “and I haven’t forgotten Dawson’s role in his death, nor have I forgiven him, but it’s not like Dawson was some pedophile priest, you know.”

“True, there are worse monsters out there,” Chris-43 agreed, “but for all the damage he did to some fragile minds, he might as well have been.

“You forget how fragile we were when we were younger, Chris,” my older counterpart continued. “We were lucky. We didn’t connect with Dawson until we were fourteen, but some kids started with him when they were as young as twelve. When it came to Math and Science, we were brilliant, and we were able to take everything Dawson threw at us, and we went far under his mentorship. We learned a lot from him and it served us well.

“Had we been twelve when we started with Dawson, he’d have tried that much harder to make us into something we weren’t at an age when we couldn’t handle it. We were already going through hell in Junior High. Could we have handled Dawson’s grandiose delusions on top of all that? I seriously doubt it!” Chris-43 stated flatly.

“We could argue all day… or rather all night… about all the kids’ lives Dawson messed up,” I replied, “but he helped far more of us than he hurt, and that’s the bottom line. The fact is that he had one of the most brilliant minds… ever, and that he helped us immeasurably.

“What I suggest is that we bring Dawson here to Livermore and use him to communicate back through the time what we cannot. He has the kind of memory we don’t. He’s already in the right place at the right time to assist with OTT at every step of the way, all the way back to Chris-12. Also, he has access to all the latest computer systems in every time period, and he could help to assemble the equipment needed to build TTT when Chris-23 and Chris-16 would have extreme difficulty doing it on their own.”

“But he’s unpredictable, Chris,” my older self countered. “I have no doubt you could lure him to California with the promise of being able to experiment with the fabric of time itself, but how are you going to restrict him to the task at hand? He was conniving and believed that the ends justified the means at all costs. He was conceited, and arrogant, and diverted grant money as he saw fit.

“What makes you think you can control someone like that? What makes you think he’ll see OTT the same way you do? Oh, you’ll get him to California all right, but he’ll just see OTT as an extension of what he’s always been doing. Don’t you see, the ability to communicate back in time for him could be the ultimate means of advancing his delusions, however crazy they may be.

“What ever you do, do not get involved with Marion Dawson until I’ve had some time to think about this. He was a brilliant man… there’s no doubt about that, and if there’s anyone who could memorize thousands upon thousands of lines of computer code, not to mention fabricating complex circuitry using primitive transistors and even vacuum tubes, he’s the one, but he’s reckless, Chris-36. He’s a loose cannon. It’s not that he’s just delusional. He’s impulsive, he’s immature, and he dives in head first without checking to see if he’s diving into shallow water. And if we could tempt him with the power to manipulate time, don’t you think the Russians, or the Chinese, or the Iranians could, too… especially with Dawson’s help… if he was so easily influenced?

“No, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am that he’s a liability to OTT. He’s a risk not worth taking. I’m not saying using Dawson’s out of the question, but let’s exhaust every other possibility first before we get him involved. Will you promise me you’ll wait?”

The trouble with TTT is that it’s damn hard to lie. Though we call it a conversation, it’s our thoughts we use to communicate and it’s nearly impossible to conceal our thoughts from each other when we literally share our brainwaves with ourselves at different points in time. I suppose if one practices the conversation enough to make themselves believe something is real, they could pass off a total fabrication, but one minor slip-up and it would be obvious. I, on the other hand was sooo transparent and, hence, Chris-43 knew exactly what I was thinking.

“Oh fuck,” Chris-43 said back to me after my thoughts bled through, in spite of my best effort to hold them back, “you’re going to make contact with him anyway, aren’t you?”

“Chris, I don’t disagree with everything you’ve said about Dawson, and yes, there are risks, but we may be running out of time. You yourself said that events were spinning out of control in your day, and that the end of the world might be inevitable. The stock market crash has already happened in your time. Iran is already well on its way to developing a nuclear capability and the prospect of using economic sanctions against them collapsed right along with the economy. One small change in the timeline and you might be unable to finish your task at all. Then it would fall on me and me alone, without the benefit of your help. I have all the technology I need, but I still don’t have all of the information from the future I might need.

“And what if it’s not just the end of the world we have to worry about? What if TTT falls into the wrong hands? The world coming to an end might actually be the best-case scenario… not that it’s a good outcome, but If I have to fight secret enemy agents sending information back to their counterparts in the past, the end result could be so much more frightening than the thought of an unpredictable Marion Dawson working for us on our side.…

“You may not like it, but by the time you find a workable alternative, we may have lost whatever window of opportunity we have left to establish a working chain of communication back to 1978. You may be dead, your information may be lost and whatever it is you may have learned in the intervening years may doom us to failure by the time I reach your age in my attempt to have a go at whatever it was you were attempting to do.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Chris-43 seemed to think more to himself than to me. “If I fail and am killed, you now have enough knowledge to continue the quest, in theory, until you reach my age… until you acquire my knowledge and experiences and, ultimately, the information I now possess.”

“But if TTT falls into the wrong hands…”

“Then all bets are off,” he admitted.

“The bottom line is we cannot take a chance on that happening,” I stated simply. “I just don’t see we have much of a choice but to use Marion Dawson.”

“He needs to be kept on a tight leash, Chris-36.”

“On that I agree,” I thought aloud. “Initially, I’d thought we’d simply entice him to move to California in the here and now, but that would still grant him free reign back in the earlier time periods, so we need to convince him to move to California in 1989 and put him under the equivalent of house arrest. That’s a very hard sell for anyone, but perhaps the lure of experimenting with the fabric of time will be enough to tempt Marion Dawson… it won’t be an easy sell… that’s for sure.”

“You’re right, it won’t be an easy sell, but I suspect you’re right,” Chris-43 laughed. “The lure of experimenting with time may well be enough to tempt even the great Marion Dawson into giving up his freedom.”

“Maybe we can use his past against him to force his hand,” I thought. “It wouldn’t take much to fabricate evidence of sexual improprieties, and given the choice of a lifetime in prison… and we all know how prisoners treat pedophiles… or a life under house arrest, but working on the physics project of a lifetime, there really won’t be a choice.

“And with the right safeguards in place, not even the Russians’ll be able to get to him. Nor the Chinese, nor the Iranians, nor even our own CIA. He’ll be ours and ours alone,” I said emphatically.

“Forcing someone to do your bidding against their will can have unintended consequences, Chris-36, and you’re forgetting something,” my future self reminded me. “They don’t need to get at him in your time and place. If their agents in 1996, or 1989, or even all the way back in 1978 find that he has knowledge of a ‘time machine’ from the future, they can capture him back then, before anyone else knows just how dangerous he could be.”

“Then I guess it will be up to us to make sure he fully understands the gravity of the knowledge he carries with him,” I said.

“I suppose you’re right,” Chris-43 agreed, “but you know something?”

“What?” I asked.

“This is the first time I have ever argued with myself,” he answered, and then broke out into full-blown laughter. Hearing my older self laughing inside my head was enough to give anyone a headache.”

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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