Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
Chris
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Book One • Chapter 8 — Regression

May 1996 • Chris-30

It was going to take a phone call, like something out of a spy novel — a bad spy novel. I couldn’t have written something so cheesy myself if I’d tried. The first time Chris-37 tried to tell me about it, I woke up laughing so hard, Jen thought I was having a nervous breakdown. It took two more tries for me to get through the conversation without waking up in the middle of it in hysterics — it was just too much. But it was going to be Chris-23 who had to make the phone call, and in 1989.

More importantly, it was time to bring the Jack Craegan of 1989 into the loop. After all, he was going to be responsible for supervising a very volatile, unpredictable, and vulnerable Marian Dawson, whose cooperation would be critical to the success of OTT. Hell, the Jack Craegan of 1989 didn’t even know about OTT. That was the first thing that was going to have to change. Of course he’d be skeptical, but he’d soon understand the critical importance of completing the chain of communication through time — and of keeping a lid on Dawson so no one else could gain access to the technology.

Meeting with my Jack, we discussed ways Chris-23 could approach the Jack of his time period to convince him that OTT was legitimate and that he should help the Feds to entrap and bring a pedophile to work in his lab. The thing was that, back then, Jack wasn’t even the director of the lab. He wasn’t even the assistant director; he wouldn’t be promoted to his current position until two years later, when his predecessor, Tony Lawson, retired. Tony was a true bureaucrat, merely putting in his time until he could collect his pension. Approaching Lawson would have been an exercise in futility. Working through Jack and hoping Lawson would ‘rubber stamp’ the whole thing was our only hope.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

May 1989 • Chris-23

At first I was incredulous when I learned that Marion Dawson, a man I’d idolized for years, was nothing more than a pervert who’d been molesting innocent kids all that time, but then I was even more outraged when I learned we were going to arrest him only to coerce him into helping us — that he’d already agreed to this in the future. Sadly, the bottom line was that we needed his access to technology, his skills and his photographic memory, which were all things I lacked.

I was nervous about meeting with this Dr. Craegan at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, but Dr. Rankin helped to make the connection for me. He was surprised at first that I wanted to take him up on his suggestion of looking at Livermore so soon, but he was delighted to help in any way he could. He had been Dr. Craegan’s major professor and made the introductions on the phone. A meeting was set up for me within a matter days.

When I met him, I was surprised — Jack Craegan wasn’t that old; he was perhaps in his early thirties, and he probably just looked older because of his receding hairline and glasses. He seemed like a nice enough fellow. He had a congenial smile and a firm, warm handshake.

When I sat down with him, ostensibly it was to discuss opportunities for research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. I was about to deliver the biggest shock of his life, and how I handled it would either result in his full cooperation, or result in my being forcefully being removed from the premises and possibly being locked up. I had to handle this with extreme caution.

“Dr. Craegan, before we begin, I have a very important message for you from Professor Rankin. He told me to give it to you personally and that you’d know what to do with it. I have no idea what it means, but he asked me to tell you to check on a level four security breach using a code Alpha Omega Charlie seven. He said it’s very important, and that you’d understand the significance of it.”

Dr. Craegan looked at me like I’d grown an extra head, and then said, “Bob would never say that… at least I don’t think he’d say that. Where the hell would he ever come up with a message like that? He never used to have that kind of security clearance in the past.”

“Please, Dr. Craegan,” I implored, “don’t shoot the messenger. It’s very important, I’m sure, or I wouldn’t have been asked to bring you this message. Please, just run the security check before we continue.”

Shrugging his shoulders, Craegan stood up and walked over to his computer terminal, and then entered a few keystrokes before looking up at me in surprise.

“Oh my God, it’s legit!” he shouted. “This came from the White House. There’s no way Bob could have gotten that kind of security clearance.”

“You’re right about that, Dr. Craegan, he couldn’t have… at least not in 1989, but I did, in 2003, I explained.”

“WHAT?” he asked. “Back up a step. You’re not making any sense.”

“Jack, you and I are going to have a longstanding professional relationship that will last years. You’ll hire me after I finish my postdoctoral work in Rankin’s lab, under your direction by the way, and based on my theories on quantum variations and how they might be used to send information back through time. It will take some twenty years of intensive research, but in 2008, I’ll learn how to create quantum mechanical temporal tunnels within the human brain that allow one to synchronize one’s thoughts in one’s sleep. In short, I’ll be able to hold a conversation with myself in the past, in my dreams.

“Using that technology, I’ll avert a major terrorist attack and prevent the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York as well as a portion of the Pentagon. Obviously, that will prove the worth of Operation Time Tunnel and Time Tunnel Technology. Unfortunately, our work is far from complete.

“We know that some time after 2012, life on earth as we know it will come to an end. We believe that the best way to stop this from happening is to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power and a hotbed of terrorism. That means taking action in 1978 to prevent Islamic fundamentalists from taking control of Iran, even if it means taking hostile action against the Shah.”

Jack just stared at me blankly, so I continued, “Time tunnel technology is the key, but it has significant limitations. The biggest limitations we have in Operation Time Tunnel is that we’re limited to only being able to send back what the human brain can remember in its sleep, and we are limited to going back only seven years at a time.”

“Only seven years?” Jack Craegan asked with seeming disinterest.

“Yes,” I confirmed. “My counterpart in 2008, Chris-42 had to contact Chris-35 in 2001, who in turn contacted Chris-29 in 1995, who contacted me.”

“Why didn’t Chris-35 contact Chris-28 in 1993?” Jack asked.

“Because it took some time to recreate TTT in 2001, and again in 1994, for that matter, using the technology available in each time period,” I answered. “You see, we can’t just send the technology back in time… we have to recreate it from scratch in each time period using cruder and cruder electronics and less and less sophisticated computers. Each push to extend the chain of communication back another link comes at a higher and higher cost.”

“And why should I believe any of this?” Jack asked. This was the question I’d been waiting for. If the Jack Craegen I knew didn’t ask it, it meant he wasn’t even giving me serious thought and was just blowing me off. A skeptical Jack Craegen was a hell of a lot better than a closed-minded one. A skeptical Jack Craegen was someone I could convince I was telling the truth.

“I just gave you a security code that could have only come from the White House,” I replied. “There are only two possibilities… either I am telling you the truth, or I am a spy and we have managed to breach this nation’s highest security defenses. If you endeavor to check with the White House, you will find that they are completely unaware of any of this. That is because my orders come not from the current administration, but from the administration of John Kerry in 2010.”

“You sure as hell know I can’t track that!”

“Of course not, but there are hundreds more I can give you if necessary,” I added.

“I may need some of those,” Jack suggested. “In the meantime, where do you plan to go from here?”

“The most pressing need is for help. I can’t go it alone. I’m only 23 years old, and in 1982, I was only 16. In 1978… our ultimate objective… I was only twelve. There’s only so much a twelve-year-old boy can do, Jack, no matter how gifted I may have been.

“Even as young as I’ll be, I will still be a critical link in the overall equation, but I’ll need a partner in my endeavor… someone with access to the best available technology and most importantly, someone with a photographic memory who can remember thousands of lines of computer code and who can remember complete circuit diagrams. Someone who can build TTT equipment with me and help us to inform the right people so that we can, literally, change history.”

“Who do you have in mind?” Jack asked.

“If you give me access to your satellite phone, I’ll tell you?” I answered.

“Why should I trust you?” Jack asked.

“We need to bring him here, under our control… under your control, for reasons that will become apparent imminently. I’m not going to tell you until we make contact with the NSA, however, for many of the same arguments I had with you in the future,” I attempted to explain.

“So you argued with me over this in the future? It sounds like I should be even more reluctant to let you make this phone call.”

“You’ll never find out unless you let me establish a secure link,” I said. “I’m doing this on your orders and using your clearances, which will become apparent when I place the call.”

Sighing, he said, “This is against my better judgment, and if you do anything funny at all, you will go to prison for the rest of your life.”

So with Jack’s assistance, I used a secure telephone via a satellite uplink that would be completely untraceable. Armed with the proper codes, the recipient of my call would have every reason to believe call was authorized directly by the White House. Little would they know that the authorization came not from the current president, but from a future president, and that the codes I used could be obtained by virtually anyone with access to the Internet in the future, which I’d been informed was just about everyone on the planet.

The phone number, however, was one that only a handful of people in the present time would have known about. After I dialed, the phone was picked up after five rings. There was a pronounced echo on the line, and his voice was distorted.

“I have a situation omega three-eight,” I announced and waited for a reply.

“Roger that,” the gentleman answered. “Is it raining where you are?”

Having heard the expected response, I continued with the appropriate code words, “Negative, we have fog, with a little light drizzle.” Undoubtedly, our signal was being pinged as we spoke to check the integrity of the connection and to insure it was secure. The next codes would insure that both parties had the latest security codes and were, in fact, authentic.

“Today’s word is, ‘elephant 98375’,” the gentleman said, and I followed this with, “and I have, ‘zebra 76592’. Looks like someone must have been spending their time at the zoo,” I joked.

“Now that we’ve got the pleasantries out of the way, what can the NSA do for you today?”

“We have a critical need to move a scientist to the national lab at Livermore. He has expertise and skills that no one else has, but he’s not likely to pick up and move without an incentive. He’s also a high security risk. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for us, we’ve come across information from a colleague that he as a peculiar predilection… he likes boys… and I don’t mean young men. He likes ’em between the ages of twelve and sixteen.” The man on the other end of the phone whistled at that point, and I couldn’t blame him. Jack Craegan’s eyes opened wide in surprise as well.

Continuing, I said, “Unfortunately, we have no proof, but there is no doubt as to the accuracy of the information.” I certainly couldn’t tell him that the information came directly from Dawson himself in the future. “We therefore need to plant evidence that he has been trafficking in child pornography.

“Given the choice between a lifetime in Federal prison or a new identity with an appointment in the Physics Department at UC Berkley and a position at Livermore while wearing an ankle bracelet, I’m pretty sure he’ll take the latter.”

“Doesn’t sound like he’ll have much choice,” the man at the other end of the phone responded. “By the way, who is this Professor Pervert?”

“His name’s Herbert Marion Dawson, but he goes by Marion. He absolutely hates Herbert,” I answered. “He’s at a prestigious university in St. Louis.

“We needed him here yesterday, but we appreciate the difficulties in setting this up, particularly with respect to fabricating evidence and establishing a fake identity for a prominent physicist, complete with a résumé. We can probably give you a week,” I laughed.

“Oh you can, can you?” the gentleman at the NSA laughed along with us. “That’s what they all say. Are you prepared to upload his data?”

Fortunately, I’d already anticipated this and I was indeed ready. Fax machines were new and already becoming indispensable in this time period. There was one hooked up to the secure satellite phone and on cue, I faxed Dawson’s CV as well as information on the positions at Berkley and at Livermore so the NSA could craft a new identity that would be well-suited to both the man and the positions Dawson would occupy.

After I finished the upload and confirmed everything had been received, I broke the connection and called it a day.

“Why in Hell would you trust this man?” Craegan asked incredulously after I broke the connection.

“Because he was my mentor when I was growing up in St. Louis, and because he never once molested me. Maybe I just wasn’t sexy enough for him,” I laughed. “Regardless, he’s the one who’s going to help me build TTT and extend it all the way back to 1978. He’s really the only one who can do it. He’s our last hope. Jack, we’ve already had this argument in the future… in three different time periods. Reluctantly, you always end up agreeing with me.”

“And if someone else manages to get to him and offers him all the beautiful boys his heart desires?” Jack asked.

“Do you have any idea how many times you’ve made that argument in the future?” I asked with a laugh.

“I suppose I have,” Jack replied, “and it’s a valid argument. You know we’re going to have to keep him on a tight leash.”

“Which is why he’s agreed to give up fourteen years of freedom and move to California. Believe me, this is going to work.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

July 2003 • Chris-37

Something was — different, but I couldn’t place it. It was Thursday morning and my children were getting ready for school as always, but something just seemed different. Jen was still asleep, but I couldn’t blame her. There wasn’t much point in getting up when she had no place to go. Tomorrow would be the Fourth, but there was hardly anything worth celebrating. These were tough times and jobs were scarce. President Dole could promise more jobs all she wanted, but no one believed her anymore.

There was talk of cutbacks at the lab and I feared the worst. I’d made a lot of progress lately in my theories on quantum variations and temporal information tunnels, but with the utter collapse of the Soviet Union last year, no one really considered there to be a real threat any more — not that it mattered. America was in an economic downturn the likes of which it hadn’t seen since the Great Depression and we couldn’t afford to fight a major war if we had to. In New York, they’d even closed up one of the Twin Towers — they just couldn’t rent it out.

Andy looked up at me and smiled, but I could see the worry in his eyes as he sipped his coffee. He was such a precocious child. It pained me to see him this way, taking on the burdens of the world at such a young age.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

July 1996 • Chris-30

“Jack,” I said, “Something isn’t right. Something just doesn’t make sense.”

“Yeah, I feel it too, but I just can’t place what’s wrong. There are a whole series of things that just don’t seem to add up. You’ve been working on this time project of yours and I thought everything was going well, but then you’ve gotten absolutely nowhere and we’ve all acted irrationally for reasons that are baffling. And why’d we hire that Sorenson guy. He doesn’t really seem to contribute anything to the team and yet he has a stellar CV, but it literally came out of nowhere. It’s as if he didn’t even exist before 1988. I don’t get it.”

“Well he reminds me a lot of Marion Dawson, a professor I knew in St. Louis when I was growing up, but I’m not sure about that. In any case, I’m going to go back and look at all my notes,” I said. “There’s gotta be something in my notes that’ll give us an answer.”

“Well if there is, I would think you’d remember it, but I don’t see that you’ve got anything to lose either, so why not?” Jack agreed.

My notes were extensive, and they documented everything. It was later that day that I met with Jack Craegan in his office, with some of the more relevant documents in my hand.

“Did you find anything?” he asked.

“More than you could ever imagine,” I answered. “My experiments succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. Operation Time Tunnel, or OTT as we called it, was a complete success. For two years, my counterpart in 2010 has been communicating with my counterpart in 2003, who in turn has been communicating with me, and I’ve been communicating with myself in 1989, but then something happened that caused the entire chain of communication to collapse and the entire history of the world changed course. In other words, we totally and royally fucked up.

“The one thing I do know is that Sorenson is indeed Marion Dawson, and I think that’s where we probably fucked up. According to my notes, we brought him here to have him work with me so he could help us communicate with me during my earlier years. He has a photographic memory, which would have been a big help in the project, and he had access to equipment I didn’t when I was growing up. You see, OTT required us to build a machine at each point in time that we used it, and there just wasn’t a lot of advanced technology back in the early eighties.”

“Shit! So in bringing the Dawson guy here, we somehow fucked up time?” Jack asked.

“Probably. Maybe someone he mentored went on to do something that had a major impact on society. One major paper could have been the building block on which OTT was built, or even worse, changed the dynamics of our relationship with the Soviet Union.” Pointing to a spot on one of the pages, I said, “Here, there’s mention of the failed Soviet coup of 1991 and the breakup of the Soviet Union.”

“But that coup succeeded!” Jack exclaimed. “Gorbachev and Yeltsin were shot, Yanayev took over and the Soviet Union reasserted itself and took back the Warsaw Pact nations by force!”

“Nope,” I said, “These notes refer to the Russian Federation, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Germany… not East Germany or West Germany, but a single, unified Germany.”

“Fuck!” Jack cursed aloud, “Somehow, bringing Dawson here changed all that. We have to send him back!”

“Yeah, but we have to send him back in 1989.”

“Shit, how do we do that?” Jack asked.

“Unfortunately, there’s no way to communicate forward, back into the future, short of living our lives, but luckily I still have all my notes which are based on the research we did in the future. We’re going to have to throw everything we have into it, but with a few months of limited sleep, we should be able to fabricate a machine to communicate with myself in 1989… to let them know that Dawson has to go back to Missouri. If we can get him back to his old identity as quickly as possible, the timeline should be restored. I only hope we didn’t burn too many bridges in extracting him from his old life.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

July 1989 • Chris-23

It was strange, but once we actually got Dawson, or Sorenson, as he was now known, to the Bay Area, all communications with my counterpart from the future stopped. That was very strange, but I figured that they must be very busy working with him in the future, preparing him to communicate with himself to send back the information he would need to learn, so he could start work on developing his own circuits and computer code to send back to 1982, or more likely, 1983 by the time we got our act together.

With all of that behind me, I set my sights on the completion of my dissertation, on planning for my upcoming post-doc, and most importantly of all, on helping to take care of my son. Ron Sorenson could take care of himself, and he would be watched by the FBI. I had my whole future to look forward to, and if I didn’t get back to it, OTT might never come to fruition in the first place.

Jen’s work on her PhD, however, had pretty much come to a stop. Her coursework had long ago been completed and she’d completed all of the data collection involved in her thesis research, but between the regular prenatal visits, Lamaze classes, shopping trips, baby showers and now the late night feedings and diaper changed, what little energy she had left was barely enough to keep up her appetite, let alone analyze any of the data. She was still a long way from doing any of the actual writing of her dissertation, but if she didn’t do it now, when would she ever do it? It looked like she might never get back to it, and that had me worried.

Well, with ‘Sorenson’ in the lab to take over much of what I’d been doing for OTT and my own shifting priorities, helping my girlfriend with her dissertation was the least I could do. By taking care of the baby, changing his diapers, getting up in the early morning hours for his feedings and so on, I could free up Jen’s time so she could finish the data analysis, write everything up and defend her thesis.

Then after she’d finished, I could go back to working on my own dissertation while she took care of our little one. Yeah, I knew I was being naïve — there would be sleepless nights for both of us — but by doing some teamwork, we’d finish both our doctorates in time for me to start my post-doc in Rankin’s lab. It was the only way.

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

October 1996 • Chris-30

“So this contraption’s going to allow you to contact yourself in the past?” Jack asked me, seemingly incredulous.

“Well, let us hope so, but before I use it, I need to run some tests.” I explained. “This is a second-generation device, which for Time Tunnel Technology actually means it’s much less sophisticated than that of the first generation. A first-generation device would have been more precise, and more likely to work, but it would have taken three times longer to fabricate and been ten times more costly to build. This device is much simpler. I suspect there will one day be a third generation device that is simpler still, but this is an exact replica of the one we supposedly used to contact my counterpart in 1989, so it should work.”

“What’s the worst that could happen if it doesn’t work?” Jack asked.

“Worst case scenario,” I answered, “is that it would scramble quantum particles within my brain, resulting in irrevocable damage. If that happens, there will be no way to contact my counterpart in the past, and even if we were to somehow find a way to contact someone else in the past, I would never go on to invent time tunnel technology in the future. We will have created a paradox.”

“That’s interesting,” Jack said. “We might destroy your brain using technology from the future that you never were able to invent because you used that technology to destroy your brain in the past. It hurts to even think about it.”

“Obviously, someone else would have to carry on with the OTT project and bring it to fruition in the future,” I explained. “Then the paradox would be explained and history would be restored. Still, let’s try to avoid that scenario, shall we?” I suggested. “I think I’ll run some tests with the equipment using a quantum detector array before I stick my head inside the thing.” I said with a smile.

“Sounds like a plan,” Jack said as he squeezed my shoulder.

The first time I fired up the instrumentation, things definitely did not go as planned, and I was very glad my head was not inside the contraption. I needn’t have worried about quantum fluctuations, however — decapitation was a much more immediate concern as the stepper motor seized up within seconds of reaching its maximum speed and the entire apparatus fell to the side, landing on the floor with a loud crash.

I could have cried. I knew the manufacturer would make good on replacing the motor, which undoubtedly contained a defective bearing, but that was beside the point. The motor was one of the least expensive components of the apparatus, and the easiest to replace. Everything else was custom fabricated and would take weeks to remake — precious weeks we didn’t have. The quartz emitter-detectors in particular were extraordinarily delicate — more delicate than glass — and precise to within the dimensions of a human hair. Not that it mattered anymore — all sixteen of them lay shattered on the floor.

My team had lost much sleep building this machine, and now we’d be starting all over again. We’d learned much along the way, but at best it would take us another six weeks — at best. Perhaps this time, we would build two machines — a primary and a back-up, just in case.

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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