Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
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Book Two • Chapter 2 — Revisions

June 2011 • Chris-45

“Come on in, Chris,” Craegan said as I knocked on the frame of his office door, “and close the door behind you,” he added.

“What the fuck’s going on, Jack?” I asked as I sat down at the small conference table in his office. “The whole place is in lockdown, and you look like shit.”

Chuckling as he joined me at the table, he agreed by saying, “I feel like shit, but with good reason. I’ve been up practically all night… I almost called you in, but decided at least one of us should be awake. Besides, I need you in top form when you communicate with Chris-38 tonight.”

Yikes, I had planned to contact my counterpart in the past tonight anyway, but in my secret lab and not under the watchful eyes of my colleagues at the lab. I had some things I wanted to discuss with him that I probably wouldn’t have a chance to, now.

Continuing, Jack said, “Let me back up a bit and explain what’s going on.

“Many years ago, I made the decision to have an independent, third party check your notes for any discrepancies. It wasn’t because I didn’t trust you, but I feared that anything that disrupted the timeline would also disrupt our perceptions of it, so we wouldn’t even know that something had happened.

“Your notes from the past, however, would record things as they were in the future before we or anyone else had tampered with time. Therefore, they could serve as an early warning system for changes to the timeline that might otherwise go unnoticed. I therefore hired some personnel with the necessary security clearances to go through your notes from the past and look for any discrepancies between what you recorded in your notes and what we’re actually experiencing.

“The reason I didn’t tell you about it is because I didn’t want to inadvertently contaminate your notes. It’s only natural for people to change their behavior when they think they’re being watched. I didn’t want to take a chance that you’d alter your note-taking behavior.”

Of course what Jack didn’t know was that I was keeping a second set of notes independently of the ones he had. There were some things I didn’t want even Jack to know about, such as the second lab off-site, but these things still needed to be documented in case of changes to the timeline.

“So why are you telling me this now?” I asked.

“Because some major discrepancies were recently found, but the origin of the discrepancies dates back to 1989,” Jack explained. “First of all, tell me what you remember of your PhD thesis defense?”

Sighing, I replied, “It didn’t go well. Some Russian guy asked me about a paper that had only recently been translated into English, which documented that the quantum variations I observed could all be explained by variations in the Earth’s magnetic flux. It took me months of additional work to come up with an alternative means of supporting my hypotheses. In the meantime, my post-doc in Rankin’s lab had to be postponed by a year. It was fortuitous that I’d already made contact with you, so I was able to start my work here simultaneously with the post-doc. Otherwise, who knows what might have happened.”

“That’s one of the things we’re worried about, Chris,” Jack interjected, “but tell me what you remember about the revised thesis defense, the one after you made the changes.”

Wracking my brain for at least a half a minute, I responded, “I don’t remember a damn thing about it. It’s strange… surely, I should have memories of something that important in my life, but my mind’s drawing a blank.”

“Chris, although your notes don’t document your thesis defense, since it was not directly part of OTT, they do document the date you received your PhD and when you started your fellowship in Rankin’s lab. Apparently, you originally passed your thesis defense in a single attempt, and there was no delay in your postdoctoral fellowship.”

My jaw must have hit the floor when Craegan filled me in on that, and then it dawned on me, “Someone else is using TTT to alter the past, and they’re specifically using it to alter my past!”

“Exactly!” Jack exclaimed, “but until a minute ago, I had no knowledge of what exactly went on in your thesis defense. That it was a Russian, using Russian-generated data to refute your defense is ominous. Today, the Russian Federation is reasonably friendly with the US, if not exactly our ally. Some people talk of a second cold war, but things are nothing like they were in 1989. Back then, there still was a Soviet Union and, even though the Warsaw Pact was in full revolt, the Soviets still had the military might if not the wealth or the desire to reverse the dissolution of their alliance.

“With TTT, however, they could go back and erase some of their mistakes. They might introduce some free market reforms, just as China did. They might forgo fighting in Afghanistan. With TTT, they could strengthen the USSR enough to delay or prevent its fall, and they might then have the conviction to maintain the integrity of the alliance in the late 1980s. They could also use their knowledge of the future to undermine the US at every step of the way.

“In other words, they could rewrite history.”

“Holy FUCK!” I shouted. “But what would stop us from doing the same thing?” I asked. “It would then come down to a war between time machines, and anything could happen. I shudder to contemplate the paradoxes that could result.”

“So apparently do the Russians, which is probably why they’re trying to prevent us from developing TTT in the first place.”

“But wouldn’t that create a paradox in and of itself? I asked.

“Of course it would,” Jack agreed, “it’s inevitable, but perhaps they think they can get around the paradox by taking steps to acquire the technology independently of its development here.”

“What kid of steps?” I asked.

“What do you remember about Jeffery Sorenson, a.k.a. Marion Dawson?”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

June 1983 • Chris-17

I was more nervous than I’d ever been in my life! I was shaking and sweating like crazy, man. What the Hell was I thinking? I mean sure, I knew I liked boys, but I’d been trying to deny it since I was like twelve. Why the fuck did I ever listen to Professor Dawson, anyway? Well maybe that was exactly why.

Shit, what was I doin’ here? It took me weeks to get up the courage to even call Frank Sanford, but I had to admit that once I did, he seemed like a really nice guy. We just sort of seemed to click, you know? We talked for more than an hour that first time, and then two hours the very next day. After spending hours on the phone with each other every single day, Frank finally suggested that maybe we should meet. Well, that was why I called him in the first place, but man, getting together was a big step. Was I really ready to have a boyfriend?

Why’d I even agree to it? Here I was, sitting in the parking lot by the north entrance of Laumeier Sculpture Park, waiting for Frank to show up. He suggested meeting here because it’s convenient to both our houses, it’s free, and it’s fairly private. We could wander the grounds together and talk without worrying about being overheard by kids we might know. Although he didn’t say it, there are places that are pretty hidden, too, in case we wanted to make out. Yeah, right, like that was gonna happen.

Soon, a car pulled up next to mine and a boy got out who looked to be about my age. He had long blond hair that reached nearly to his shoulders, and almost flawless skin. As I got out of my own car, I noticed that he had the most brilliant, piercing blue eyes I’d ever seen.

“Chris?” the boy asked in a voice I easily recognized from the hours we’d spent on the phone.

All my doubts vanished into thin air as I strode up to him and said, “Frank, it’s wonderful to meet you at last.”

I reached out to shake his hand, but he only used my hand to pull me into a hug — a manly hug, but a hug nonetheless — right out in the open. It was a chilly, but sunny morning and hardly anyone was there.

“Let’s go for a walk,” Frank said, and I heartily agreed.

As we walked away from the parking lot, skirting the main museum building and following a paved walkway that meandered past a series of modern sculptures as it made its way south, we fell into a kind of awkward silence. Where to begin?

While I was mulling over what to say, Frank spoke up and said, “You never said how cute you were when we talked on the phone.”

Laughing, I said, “No way am I cute.”

“Oh yes you are,” he countered. “I absolutely love your light brown, wavy hair. It’s almost more of a dark blond color, kind of like antique brass, but much more golden in color.”

“You have no idea how much time I’ve spent trying to straighten it,” I replied. It was true — everyone liked straight hair, so having curly or wavy hair was a curse.

“Don’t you dare try to straighten it,” Frank admonished me. “It’s perfect, just the way it is. I like it curly, and slightly messy. It looks incredibly good on you. My straight blond hair, by contrast, is boring. You can’t really do anything with it other than let it grow long. I’d kill to have hair like yours.”

“And I’d kill to have hair like yours,” I admitted. “Your hair is beautiful. It’s everything I could ever want. It looks incredibly good on you.” And then I lowered my voice, even though no one was nearby and said, “It makes you look so damn sexy.”

You’re the sexy one, Chris,” Frank challenged, and then he added, “Come,” as he placed his hand in the small of my back and guided me to a copse of trees off the path. As soon as we were pretty well hidden from view, he pushed me against one of the larger tree trunks and pressed his lips to mine.”

I’d always assumed that my first kiss would be with a girl, but there was no way a girl could make me feel like this. I was instantly hard, and I could feel when he pressed against me that Frank was too. The feeling was electric, and when he slipped his tongue into my mouth alongside my own, I nearly lost it. I actually whimpered. I’d never whimpered in my life.

The kiss went on and on until we finally came up for air. We’d have suffocated if we hadn’t. Frank’s face was flushed, and I could feel that mine was as well. I was on fire!

Professor Dawson spoke of me having my cake and eating it too — of eventually getting a girlfriend so I could have the kids I was supposed to have, but damned if making out with a boyfriend didn’t feel good. How would I ever be able to consider making out with a girl again? Making out with Frank was just perfect — absolutely fucking perfect. And speaking of fucking I was ready to jump Frank’s bones right then and there.

And speaking of fucking, how in hell were we going to make our relationship work? Frank’s parents already knew he was gay, and didn’t want him going near boys. My parents didn’t know, but they were real old-fashioned and would have a fit if they thought I was the least bit queer. How in the world could we ever get away with having a secret love affair?

As if he were reading my mind, as soon as we broke our second kiss, Frank said, “We’re gonna make this work, Chris. We’ll find a way to be together. Even if I have to dress up in drag and pretend to be a girl…”

“Ewe,” I responded. “You have the hair for it, but you with falsies in a dress… that’s a big turn-off.”

Laughing, he said, “I was only kidding,” but I wasn’t so sure. He continued, “I seriously doubt I could pull it off, anyway. I’m not exactly the sissy type.”

“I’d agree with you there,” I said as I pressed forward with my lips yet again. When we resurfaced, I said, “No doubt about it, but you’re a boy.” Tentatively, I reached down and felt his bulge. I didn’t know where I got the courage to do that. “A very, very sexy boy,” I concluded.

“So are you!” Frank countered as he brought his hand to my groin and gently squeezed as he resumed his lip-lock with me. The stimulation was more than I could take and I stiffened up and shuddered forcefully as I came in my briefs. Six very intense spurts erupted before my orgasm subsided to a few dribbles. I’d never had a sexual experience like that before.

“I think you just made a mess in your pants,” Frank said with the most delightful laugh I’d ever heard.

“How am I ever gonna explain it to my parents?” I asked.

Pointing through the trees, he said, “There’s a small public restroom, just up the trail. Let’s go get you cleaned up before it soaks through too much.”

Unfortunately, there was already a small wet spot in the front of my jeans by the time we got there, but Frank had the idea of soaking the front of my shirt with water in addition to washing out the wet area of the pants to make it look like I’d spilled a soda on me. We ended up throwing my briefs in the trash rather than trying to wash them out. If my mom noticed that a pair was missing, I could always say they were worn out and I threw them away. I just wouldn’t tell them in what way they were worn out.

“I really like you, Christopher Michaels,” Frank said as we were walking back to our cars.

“I like you too, Frank Sanford.”

Turning to me, he said, “Hey, how about going for a bite, and then to a movie?”

“Like on a date?” I asked incredulously.

“You and I are the only people who need to know it’s a date,” Frank said. “As far as anyone else is concerned, it’s just two best buds out for a good time.”

“That should work,” I admitted, “but I’ll need to let my parents know where I am, I said. “What’ll I tell them?”

“Tell them you’re going out with friends,” Frank suggested.

“I never go out with friends,” I replied.

“So they’ll probably be thrilled to hear you’re finally going out and having a good time,” he said, and I realized he was undoubtedly right. “I think I saw a pay phone near the entrance,” he continued. “You can call them from there.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

June 2004 — Chris 38

The revelation that Marion Dawson, someone I’d considered to be a genius, a mentor, a friend, and a surrogate father, had likely sold out to the Russians was almost too much to bear. Marion Dawson had made me what I was today. I knew he was a bit of a loose cannon, but I never in a million years thought he’d willingly be a traitor to our country. It was apparently ‘the me’ of this time period that had suggested we bring him on board as a part of OTT, and I therefore bore a lot of the blame for TTT falling into the wrong hands. The question now was, how we could fix it before the Russians managed to destroy the future we all had come to cherish.

Although preventing a future calamity was still a priority, Jack was convinced that it was this — the loss of the technology to the Russians, that may have been the cause. Still, we couldn’t take it for granted, and we’d never have a chance to correct whatever it was that might happen if we didn’t get control of TTT back from our enemies. Suddenly, the prevention of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 seemed somewhat of secondary importance.

We needed answers, and we needed to plan our strategy, and to that end I was going to try to contact Chris-31 tonight. What I couldn’t tell Jack was that Chris-45 was already going to contact me tonight as well. We’d already made arrangements for it before we learned of Dawson’s betrayal, and there was no way to warn Chris-45 off. Presumably because I would be sedated and in a trans-like state, rather than asleep, Chris-45 would be unable to contact me until after I’d finished my conversation with Chris-31 and had gone to sleep. I’d never, ever attempted to talk to both of my counterparts in the same night, however. This would be a first, and it was anyone’s guess as to how my body would react.

As I sat in a comfortable chair in the lab while Jack and some of my colleagues stood by, one of the technicians started an IV on me and injected me with a low dose of lorazepam, also known as Ativan. Slowly, I felt my brain slow down and I slipped into a kind of fogginess as I attempted to clear my mind of anything extraneous. I began my relaxation exercises, breathing deeply and focusing on the task at hand.

When the room around me seemed to disappear from my consciousness and my brain slipped into an alpha rhythm, as confirmed by the feedback tone emanating from the computer, I concentrated on visualizing myself standing in front of my younger self, from seven years ago. The computer took care of forming a tunnel to the right time period and synchronizing our brain waves. Gradually, his form began to take shape as well.

Before I could even open my mouth — in the figurative sense, that is — he began saying, “Something’s going on, Chris. Things are changing. Dawson was supposedly working for us, and now he disappeared like, seven years ago? And I was supposed to have completed my dissertation with ease, and yet I remember failing the first attempt at a defense, and I can’t for the life of me remember passing it, or failing it, for that matter, the second time. Something’s going on!

“Jack thinks the Russians are involved, and that they’ve acquired TTT from Dawson. We have to stop it from happening, but how the fuck are we going to do it?”

“We’re obviously going to have to get to Dawson before he gives the technology to the Russians. We’ll try to convince him not to, but if need be, we may have to kill him,” I said.

“Ouch!” Chris-36 exclaimed. “After what he did for us, how can we even think of killing him?”

“If he betrayed us, we may have no choice,” I reiterated.

Suddenly, another presence started to coalesce in front of us.

“What or who the fuck is that?” Chris-31 asked.

As his image formed in front of us, I answered my younger self, “That’s Chris-45. He’s the one who started this whole thing.” Then turning to my older self, I told him, “Chris, as you can see, this isn’t the most convenient time to talk.”

“Well this certainly is interesting,” Chris-45 answered. “I’d often wondered if it would even be possible to form two time tunnels simultaneously. After all, the ‘me’ in the middle isn’t exactly in REM sleep, but apparently the drug-induced state of relaxation works just as well. That has some interesting implications in and of itself. I also wondered if the ‘me’ in the middle would be aware of the bridge they formed between past and present, which clearly you are. Apparently, this works just like a conference call.”

“This is so weird,” Chris-31 interjected. “It was strange enough seeing myself as I’ll be in seven years, but now I can see myself as I’ll be in seven and fourteen years, simultaneously. It’s a bit much.”

“Are you saying I look old?” Chris-45 asked my younger counterpart.

“No, not at all. Well, obviously, you’re a lot older than I am currently, but it’s just so strange to see two of me from the future.”

“There are a lot of strange things going on right now,” I noted.

“Scary strange,” Chris-31 added.

“Indeed,” Chris-45 concurred. “It’s pretty obvious that TTT has fallen into the wrong hands, probably to the Russians, and that they probably got it from our mentor, Marion Dawson.”

“I still can’t believe he’d do such a thing,” I stated.

“I don’t think he would unless he were forced into it,” Chris-31 agreed. “He may be eccentric and self-centered, but he wouldn’t knowingly betray his country unless he or someone he cared about were seriously threatened.”

“Marion Dawson was a loner,” Chris-45 noted. “There really wasn’t anyone he ever cared about other than himself, and that probably had a lot to do with why he ultimately killed himself. When the grants were gone and he found himself shunned for his mistakes, he had no one to turn to.”

“He cared about the kids,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, a little bit too much,” Chris-31 said with a smirk.

“No, it wasn’t really like that,” I corrected him. “We only used the allegations of him being a pedophile as leverage to assure his cooperation.”

“What the fuck?” Chris-31 asked in disbelief.

“Marion Dawson never actually molested anyone that we know of,” I explained. “Maybe he is attracted to boys, but there’s never been any hard evidence of it, and none of his students, past or present, has ever alleged otherwise and not recanted it. The story of him being involved in child pornography was a pure fabrication. We knew the enemies of the U.S. wouldn’t hesitate to entrap him, and so we did so first, but not before we discussed it with him in this time period.”

“And he agreed to that?” Chris-31 asked incredulously.

“He did indeed,” I continued. “He was willing to give up fourteen years of freedom, be entered into the Witness Protection Program and be labeled a pedophile, all in the interest of being able to experiment with the fabric of time.”

“Wow!” Chris-31 exclaimed. “I can’t believe anyone would agree to that… and I can’t believe you kept me in the dark! What other shit don’t I know about?” he asked.

“Nothing that I’m aware of,” I replied.

“Actually there is something you guys probably don’t know about… at least not yet,” Chris-31 interjected. “I just learned from Chris-24 that Dawson has Chris-17 working on vacuum tube designs. He found out about it a few months ago, but with the work on his dissertation, he just got around to telling me about it.”

“Vacuum tubes?” I asked. “Why the fuck would he have us work on vacuum tubes?”

“Because vacuum tubes obey Maxwell’s equations almost perfectly, and they can be designed to exhibit quantum effects,” Chris-45 explained. “Vacuum tubes circuits could, in theory, replace the use of digital computers in TTT.”

“Fuck, vacuum tubes have been around since the start of the twentieth century,” Chris-31 added, “and there’d be no safeguards… no way to implement a destructive software key that could only be obtained from the future. Not that Dawson isn’t capable of bypassing a software key anyway, but if he funnels technology based on vacuum tubes to the Russians…”

“They could use it to rewrite the entire last century of history,” I acknowledged.

After a moment of what passed for silence in our shared dream state, Chris-31 said, “You know, there was someone in Dawson’s past that he cared about. Someone he cared about more than he cared about himself. Do you guys remember when he told us about David?”

It was like a light suddenly went on in my head. “How could I have forgotten about David?” I asked myself and the others. “The day Dawson told us about his lover is etched in my memory.”

“He told us about David only because of our mutual involvement in OTT,” Chris-45 explained. “That conversation never took place in the original timeline.”

“Shit, that means we never were involved with Frank Sanford, either,” Chris-31 added, pointing out the obvious.

“It gets even weirder than that,” Chris-45 chimed in. “I distinctly remember having a dream about meeting Frank when we were twelve…”

“The one where he was naked in Professor Dawson’s lab?” I asked.

“I take it you had the dream, too?” Chris-45 asked me.

Remembering the dream vividly, I actually colored up, which was interesting, given that blushing is a physiologic reaction involving dilation of the blood vessels of the skin. Our images in this dream state of ours were entirely imagined, so none of what I was seeing or feeling was real.

“That must have been some dream you had,” Chris-31 noted.

“Well, it was a wet dream,” I admitted, and Chris-45 blushed, too, likely indicating it had been for him as well.

“When I had that dream,” Chris-45 went on, “I distinctly remember that I did not know Frank, which I obviously should have, given the intensity of our relationship.”

“He was our first boyfriend,” I agreed. “We fucked like crazy, right up until…”

“Let’s not even go there,” Chris-45 interrupted. “In any case, when I had the dream, I didn’t remember Frank, which is probably because I had the dream before Dawson changed the timeline by pushing us to get involved with him.

“Anyway, the dream was so intense that I thought Frank might be real, even though I didn’t know him before the dream, and I searched for him. It turned out he lives in California in my time period, right in Santa Clara. So I went to meet him and the first words out of his mouth were to the effect that we weren’t supposed to know each other in this reality.”

“Whoa!” I exclaimed. “So he’s somehow aware of the existence of multiple timelines?”

“He told me that he can sense them,” Chris-45 explained. “He is aware of the existence of multiple realities, and is very worried that the fabric of time itself is fraying.”

“Man, that’s spooky,” Chris-31 said. “I thought we were changing the past, so when we changed the timeline, we should be erasing the previous version of the future.”

“That’s what I’d always assumed,” Chris-45 agreed, “but somehow Frank is aware of alternate versions of history. It’s possible we are creating alternate versions of reality that exist side-by-side.”

“That could be a real problem,” I interjected. “That would explain what Frank meant by the fabric of time becoming frayed.”

“If multiple versions of time exist simultaneously,” Chris-31 surmised, “then each time we intervene, we create yet another version of reality. The more realities we create, the more time becomes fragmented.

“If that’s the case, then perhaps we are the cause of whatever happens in future. Maybe there comes a point at which time becomes so fragmented that reality ceases to exist at all.”

“That’s a rather disturbing hypothesis,” I stated, “but I can think of some experiments that should either support or disprove it.”

“So can I,” Chris-45 concurred, “but we won’t even be able to do those experiments if the Russians succeed in snatching TTT away from us.”

“Can they snatch it away from us?” I asked. “If they prevent us from inventing it, then the technology won’t have existed for them to make use of it to alter the past in the first place. There would be no getting away from the paradox that would create.”

“They seem to think that by acquiring Dawson,” Chris-45 countered, “that they won’t need for us to invent it. They probably reason that by putting Dawson in a position to invent it do novo before we do, they will have mitigated the paradox. The problem with that idea is that without our invention of TTT, Dawson wouldn’t have been in a position to invent it for them in the first place.”

“Maybe there isn’t a paradox at all,” I challenged. “If each instance of altering the past creates an alternate reality rather than actually changing the timeline, then who says that TTT has to be invented in the same reality as that in which its used. We could still invent the technology in the original reality, which never really goes away, and then the Russians could use the technology to create a new reality… one in which the Soviet Union never collapses, and one in which they have a monopoly on TTT. It would be as if they acquired the technology from an alien culture.”

“That’s an intriguing idea,” Chris-45 noted.

“What I don’t understand is why I can’t remember the ultimate outcome of my dissertation,” I pondered.

“I think it’s because there’s still a lot of uncertainty as to what actually happened in our timeline… in our reality,” Chris-45 replied. “It could still go one of multiple ways, depending on the solution Chris-24 comes up with to counter the Russian interference.”

“But what if he doesn’t come up with a way to counter it?” Chris-31 asked.

“Then he’ll fail his dissertation and there’s a good chance he won’t be cleared for the job at Lawrence Livermore, in which case we’ll never invent TTT,” Chris-45 opined.

“Then maybe it behoves us to help him out,” I suggested.

“We’ve all had a lot on our collective plate of late,” Chris-45 noted, “but I think you’re right, Chris-38. We need to pull together to come up with an alternate strategy for Chris-24 to defend his thesis and, thus, restore the timeline. I for one am going to give a good deal of thought to the problem in the coming days, and I suggest the two of you do the same. It doesn’t matter that we’re the same person… we’ve seen how each of us can bring a fresh perspective to a given problem.”

“As when I came up with the ‘spinning top’ design for the emitter-detector array,” Chris-31 noted.

“And when Chris-24 came up with the ‘disco ball’ design,” Chris-45 agreed.

“Getting back to the Russians and what they’ve done with Dawson,” I said, “We know that Dawson loved his David more than anything, and we know he was an MIA in Vietnam. What if the Russians had David in custody in Siberia all along? Think of the leverage they’d have over Dawson. They could threaten to kill or torture him if Dawson doesn’t cooperate, and promise to reunite the two if them if he does.”

“Chris-38, I think you may well have hit the nail on the head,” Chris-45 agreed.

“I wonder if Dawson’s eagerness to get involved in OTT in the first place stemmed from a desire to alter his own past and to save his lover.” Chris-31 thought.

“That’s quite possible,” I suggested. “Saving David from capture in Vietnam would eliminate the leverage the Russians have over Dawson, but at the risk of creating a whole new set of problems. The more we alter history, the more fucked up things become.”

“I’ll talk to Chris-24 about that,” Chris-31 volunteered. “Dawson’s still around in his time. Perhaps with the help of Chris-17 and even Chris-12, they can talk Dawson down from extending TTT back any further. Maybe that’s why Dawson has us working on vacuum tubes.”

“Undoubtedly,” Chris-45 agreed. “Unfortunately, it’s far more likely our younger counterparts will find it impossible to avoid helping him, regardless. We’ll just have to stay close to Dawson in every way we can.”

“But Chris-17’s taking early graduation and going to Stanford in the fall,” I pointed out.

“Surely, we’ll have this all resolved by then,” Chris-31 stated emphatically.

“But what if we don’t?” I countered. “Even if we do clear up the mess with the Russians by then, there’s still the Chinese and the Iranians. We need to keep a close watch on Dawson. As close as we possibly can.”

“What are you suggesting?” Chris-45 asked.

“At least for the first year of his undergraduate studies, I think Chris-17 should go to school locally. That way, he’ll see Dawson every day.”

Chris-45 whistled, and then replied, “Do you realize what a change in the timeline that would represent? He’s graduating high school in a matter of days. He’s already been offered and accepted a spot in Stanford’s freshman class. Think of all the people we interacted with in our freshman year at Stanford, and how those interactions will be delayed, or won’t occur at all.

“Yes, there are risks involved,” I agreed, “but I think it would be even riskier under the circumstances for Chris-17 to be separated from Dawson at this time. For his part, Dawson would I’m sure be delighted to have Chris-17 to attend university under his tutelage and would gladly pull some strings to get him into the freshman class. If things go well, Chris-17 can transfer to Stanford for the spring semester or the following year to finish his undergrad degree there as planned, but if worse comes to worst, he can delay his attending Stanford until graduate school.”

“That’s assuming he can get in to graduate school at Stanford if his undergraduate degree is from St. Louis,” Chris-31 interjected.

“You know as well as I do that a Physics degree from St. Louis is every bit as good as one from Stanford,” I pointed out. “The Physics department is second to none, which is why Dawson is there in the first place.” After waiting to make sure I had everyone’s acknowledgment, I continued, “So is it agreed that we tell Chris-17 to stay in St. Louis another year?”

“Agreed,” Chris-31 and Chris-45 both said at the same time.

“He’s going to hate spending another year with his parents,” Chris-31 moaned.

“But at least he’ll have another year with Frank,” I pointed out. “Frank’s parents didn’t let him take early graduation, so he’ll still be in town.”

“There is that,” Chris-31 agreed, and we all smiled.

“So you went and saw Frank?” I asked Chris-45.

“Yeah, I did,” he answered as he colored up.

“My God, you slept with him?” I asked.

“I did more than that,” Chris-45 admitted. “I had a lengthy affair with him. We had hot and heavy sex for a few months, right up until I woke up one day to find myself in bed with Jen instead of with him.”

What?” I practically shouted.

“It’s all very strange,” Chris-45 agreed. “and even stranger that I remember it. Obviously, one of us changed something in the timeline that caused Jen and me to never break up. I’m not sure how it is that I can remember both realities, but I can, just as I can remember having had a daughter.”

“But our daughter was stillborn!” Chris-31 countered.

“If that were the case, how did you come up with the idea of a spinning top?” Chris-45 asked.

“FUCK!” both Chris-31 and I shouted at the same time, and then I woke up.

 

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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