Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
 
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Book Three • Chapter 7 — It’s Academic

February 1998 • Chris-31

The image of my older self-materializing in front of me seemed different somehow. It was almost as if I were looking at a ghost image — a ghost image in a dream, I chuckled to myself.

“Oh thank God you’re still alright,” I began right away. “When I didn’t hear from you in so long, I began to get worried. But Chris, I’m still worried. Ever since New Years, I have been unable to reach Chris-24. I’ve tried to contact him just about every night, which isn’t helping me when it comes to getting enough sleep, but so far I haven’t been able to reach him. It’s as if he disappeared off the face of the earth.”

Rather than answer me directly, instead Chris-38 asked me, “What do you remember of 1991?”

Thinking back, I couldn’t remember much of anything. It was as if the past seven years were a blur, or hadn’t happened at all, and I told Chris-38 as much.

“That’s what I was afraid of,” he replied. “I don’t remember much either, all the way to my present time. I was worried that something might have happened to you.”

“And vice versa,” I interrupted. “So why did you wait so long to contact me?” I asked.

“Chris, there’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just say it,” my older counterpart began. “Andy’s been kidnapped.”

WHAT?” I shouted, perhaps even out loud.

“During the winter break,” Chris-38 went on to explain, “Andy and I went on a backpacking trip in Joshua Tree National Park. On Christmas Day, he disappeared in the middle of the night. There were Federal Marshals guarding all the entrances and still he disappeared. The Feds mounted an exhaustive search and found no trace of our son. What they did find were extra sets of footprints at our campsite, traces of a neural sedative in my blood, and an abandoned battery-powered four-wheeler in a ditch, just outside the park.

“They believe he was smuggled out of the country through Mexico before I even woke up. The abductors were sloppy, though, and they left behind some major clues. If they were KGB, they would have worn Chinese-made American hiking shoes or sneakers like the ones Andy and I wear. Obviously whoever mounted the operation wanted to keep it from the KGB. The boot prints were from a Russian-made boot that’s standard issue in the Soviet military.”

“What the fuck?” I shouted out loud — I was sure of it.

“You can imagine what I’ve been going through, and you can understand why OTT hasn’t exactly been on my mind of late. As you can imagine, the FBI, the CIA and the NSA have made finding and recovering Andy a top priority. I’ve even met with President Cuomo about it. Truthfully, there hasn’t been a lot for me to do in the meantime though. It’s been a month-and-a-half already and we’re no closer to finding him than when he first disappeared. I don’t know what I’ll do if we don’t find him before his sixteenth birthday. If it hadn’t been for Frank’s support and love, I don’t know what I would have done.

“Frank?” I couldn’t help but ask.

“Yeah, Frank,” Chris-38 admitted sheepishly. “We’re ah… together again.”

“Wow,” I exclaimed. “I never would have seen that coming.”

“Frankly, me either, no pun intended. It happened after… well, some things are better left for the future.”

“I’m almost afraid to ask,” I replied.

“Tempted as I am to let you intervene,” Chris-38 responded. “Preventing such a life-altering event could cause even more fragmentation of the timeline. Still, I’d tell you anyway if I thought you could prevent what happened, since it wasn’t supposed to happen in the first place, but we might not even be around in seven years if we don’t fix the damage to the timeline. That comes first.”

“I’d have to agree,” I replied. “So I take it no one has contacted you regarding Andy’s disappearance?”

Rather than speak, Chris-38 merely shook his head in our shared dream space. “We have to assume they took him to get to us. No one knows that he knows what he knows, besides us. And Andy would never talk on his own.

“Fuck, he sat for nearly a week in his own shit with almost no food or water and in the same room with his mother’s rotting corpse. If he didn’t talk then, he sure as fuck wouldn’t talk now.”

“Holy Shit!” I responded, “No wonder you didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Believe me, there are some things from the future you’re better off not knowing. Anyway,” Chris-38 continued, “we have yet to hear from Andy’s captors, and that’s what really has me scared… petrified actually. Why haven’t they used him to get to me?”

“We must have hope,” I replied. “There’s a psychology to it all and whoever took Andy is probably in it for the long haul. The longer they wait, the less attention the US government will be paying and the more susceptible you’ll be to their advances.”

“You’re undoubtedly right, Chris,” my older self responded, “and we really should get back to the fact that you haven’t been able to reach Chris-24. That could actually be more significant than Andy’s abduction, scary as that is.

“So first we couldn’t remember our affair with Wang Lee, and now we can’t remember anything after New Years of 1991. The funny thing is that our affair with Wang is crystal clear to me now. I can remember vividly going with him to a party thrown by Charles Hudson. I just can’t remember anything after that… not even the ride home from the party.”

“Shit, now that you mention it… Do you think the Chinese kidnapped Chris-24?” I asked.

“It’s a distinct possibility,” Chris-38 answered. “Until we can make contact with him, I think we have to assume the worst.”

“But if he’s in China, what the fuck difference should that make when it comes to TTT?” I asked.

“There are a number of possibilities, but what I suspect is happening is that the Chinese are keeping him drugged. There are a number of medications that are known to interfere with REM sleep. If the Chinese keep him from entering REM sleep, you won’t be able to reach Chris-24. You have to be in REM sleep for TTT to work.”

“Or a deeply sedated wakeful state,” I pointed out.

“Yes, I remember that,” Chris-38 acknowledged. “There was that one time. I almost forgot about it. But you know, Chris, I doubt that the Chinese know about it, and that’s exactly the kind of state they would try to induce to get Chris-24 to talk.”

“So there’s a chance I might be able to reach Chris-24 while he’s in the midst of being interrogated.” I realized.

“That’s what I’m saying.”

“But if the Chinese have Chris-24, why are we still here?” I asked. “Why hasn’t the timeline been disrupted or perhaps more correctly, why hasn’t this reality collapsed?”

“The fundamental paradox, Chris. If we don’t go on to invent TTT, the Chinese would have no reason to abduct us. If they don’t abduct us, then we’re still here to invent TTT. There’s still enough uncertainty in what the Chinese will do to keep the paradox from imploding. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and the world might well have come to an end. That we’re still here means there’s still a possibility of coming out of this, albeit a slim one.”

“Shit, could it get any worse?” I asked rhetorically. And then it all became too much and I shouted, “HOLY FUCK,” aloud as I sat bolt upright in bed and came to full wakefulness, only to find my eight-year-old son, dressed in nothing but his briefs, sitting cross-legged on my bed. Jen and I shared joint custody of Andy, and this was my week to have him.

“Is everything all right, Dad?” he asked as I rubbed the last vestiges of sleep from my eyes.

“Sure, sport,” I answered. “Everything’s fine.”

“No it’s not, Dad. You don’t shout ‘holy fuck’ in your sleep if everything’s fine.”

“Eight-year-old boys aren’t even supposed to know those words.”

“Dad, I’m almost nine, and there aren’t many words I don’t know, you know. Kids do things at my age, and more than just playing doctor.” Shit, the last thing I wanted to think about was that my eight-year-old son was already sexually active. Sensing my unease, he held up his hand and said, “No, I’m not having sex dad, but I know some kids that are. I know what people do, even gay people.

“So I know you’re job is super secret, but I know a lot more about it than you think. I know you work for the government and I know it’s supposed to have to do with makin’ new kinds of weapons, but Dad, the weapon you’re working on has to do with time travel…”

When I flinched, he responded with, “Don’t look so surprised, Dad. I hear you say things when you think I’m not listening. But I’m always listening.

“I know you’re trying to change time, but time is only what we perceive it to be. When you try to change the past, you only change how we perceive reality.”

“Where did you come up with such a thing?” I asked my young son incredulously. What eight-year-old even knows the word perceive, let alone uses it in a sentence?

Rolling his eyes, he answered, “It’s kinda obvious, Dad, when you think about it.”

“Oh it is, is it?” I asked as I tickled him under his bare armpits. He was wearing only a pair of briefs, so I asked my giggling boy, “And when did you stop wearing pajamas?”

“When I realized that only little kids wear ’em. I’m not a little kid. I never was.”

Wow! How could an eight-year-old kid even be aware of such things? One thing he was right about for sure… he’d never been a little kid. That much had been obvious since he got his train set.

“But Dad, this time travel shit’s really dangerous, and don’t tell me not to say ‘shit’. If I’m old enough to understand this shit, I’m old enough to say it. But we already had this conversation, didn’t we? In the future.”

My God! Chris-38 told me about that conversation, when Andy was fifteen. Trying to figure out how a conversation at age fifteen could precede one at eight was enough to give me a headache, though.

As if he were reading my mind, he said, “Remember, time is only perception. That’s how I can be aware of things that have already happened, but in the future. It’s because you fucked with time, Dad. And don’t tell me not to say ‘fuck’ either. I’m old enough to know what it means. Like I said, I know about sex and I know how babies are made, but ‘fuck’ in this case means ‘rape’, and that’s what you did, Dad. You raped time. You didn’t mean to, but the outcome’s the same.”

Whoa, did my eight-year-old son really say all that?

“I don’t understand all the math yet,” he went on, “but the universe is in a constant state of flux. Einstein saw the universe as a continuum of space and time. I’ve read some books on it if you’re wondering. And please don’t tell anyone that I can read college level books. As it is, they made me skip third grade, but the last thing I want is to be treated like a freak, goin’ to college when I’m only eight.

“Anyway, Einstein saw space and time as a continuum, but that doesn’t explain how particles behave at the sub-atomic level. Quantum mechanics is a way to do that, but it’s only an approximation and it can’t be reconciled with relativity. String theory tries to bring the two together, but it fails for a number of reasons.

“Like I said, I don’t understand all the math yet… give me another few more months… but you don’t need to know the math to see where String Theory went wrong. You see, we know from Einstein that time is local. You can’t compare time in two different places ’cause it depends on the path you take to get between ’em. It seems strange, but we can prove it, right here on Earth.”

I could scarcely believe the raw intelligence my son was exhibiting as he went on to explain the inconsistencies between relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory. I’d thought it was pretty amazing when he demonstrated his knowledge of decimal fractions nearly three years ago. Obviously, his genius had gone way beyond that now. But then he took off in an unexpected direction.

“Where I think everyone has gone wrong is in assuming the universe started with a Big Bang.”

“You don’t believe in the Big Bang theory?” I asked incredulously.

Rolling his eyes, Andy said, “The universe is expanding so, obviously it must have started with a single point… a singularly, and there must have been some kind of explosion… a big bang that created the universe as we know it, with three physical dimensions and one of time. The forces of nature separated from each other… the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity, allowing quarks, and then leptons, and then atoms to form.” My God, he was only eight, yet he understood advanced particle physics. The words I was hearing just didn’t fit with the high-pitch voice of the boy sitting cross-legged on my bed in front of me.

“Eventually, way later, galaxies and star systems and planets formed. There’s even background radiation that permeates space… the so-called echo of the Big Bang. The thing is, Dad, trying to validate the Big Bang from within the universe is like trying to prove the Earth is flat with your feet planted firmly on the ground. It’s easy to find lots of evidence for a flat world, but sooner or later, clues emerge that prove the Earth isn’t flat.

“The Big Bang theory is pretty much a flat Earth hypothesis, and it’s wrong. The universe is and always will be a singularity. Someday I’ll prove it, but I can’t conceive of it being otherwise. We can’t know what’s outside the universe, ’cause we’re inside the event horizon. Whatever’s out there, it’s being sucked into the singularity that is the universe. Gravity doesn’t stop at the event horizon. The universe is also losing mass through black body radiation, just as black holes do. I can only guess whether the universe is gaining or losing mass, or in a steady state.”

“But Andy, how can that be?” I asked as my mind started to catch up with the absurdity of what was being suggested by the eight-year-old boy, sitting in front of me. “How could the infinity that is the universe possibly fit into a singularity?

Shaking his head back and forth and laughing, my son asked, “Dad, is the universe really infinite?

I was about to answer that of course it was, when it suddenly dawned on me that it wasn’t, nor could it be. Apparently seeing this realization dawn in my eyes, Andy went on, “The universe began with a finite amount of mass and energy. Although it may be possible for it to gain or lose mass from whatever exists outside the singularity that forms the universe, it can never become infinite. The universe has a finite amount of mass and energy, and it’s of a finite size.

“Now imagine the universe as represented in two dimensions by a sheet of paper.” Then noticing the memo pad I kept by the telephone on the nightstand next to my bed, suddenly, he jumped up and tore off the top sheet of paper from the memo pad.

Returning to sit on the bed, cross-legged in front of me, he held up the sheet of paper in front of his face and continued, “Imagine this paper represents the universe —a two-dimensional representation of the universe. The area of the paper represents the physical size of the universe, and it’s finite. It’ possible the area and hence the physical size of the universe is expanding, but the mass and energy contained therein remains the same. Now although this sheet of paper has some thickness, a truly two-dimensional representation of the universe has no thickness.

“So Dad, in three dimensions, what is the volume of this two-dimensional representation of the universe?”

I was just about to answer that it was indeterminate, because infinity times zero can be many things, when it dawned on me yet again that the universe is finite and the area of the paper is finite. If the thickness of the sheet of paper is actually zero, then zero times any finite number is zero and, hence, this two-dimensional representation of the universe has a volume of zero in three dimensions. Rather than speak, I simply smiled at my son and nodded my head.

What Andy did next was shocking. He took the sheet of paper and crumpled it up into a pea-sized sphere. “I can’t crumple this up any smaller, ’cause the sheet of paper has some thickness and, hence, it takes up some volume, but if the paper really had no thickness, Dad, how small could I make this wad of paper?”

Suddenly realizing where my son was going with this, my smile turned into a grin as I said, “Infinitesimally small, and we have a name for that. It’s called a singularity.”

“Exactly!” Andy shouted. “ “So you see, Dad, the universe never escaped the singularity from which it formed. It just expanded or otherwise formed within it.

“I know it’s complicated, but it makes it easier to understand how you fucked up time. Like I said, time is local, but what does that mean? Certainly there are things going on right now in the Andromeda galaxy. Surely there must be a way of comparing whatever’s going on over there to what’s happening here without actually going between the two. Einstein said that, no… the best we can do is to use the light from Andromeda to see it as it was hundreds of thousands of years ago. Quantum Mechanics, on the other hand, says that maybe we can, if we can find or create a quantum tunnel between the two. That’s where paired quantum states come in.” Whoa, did Andy have any idea that was exactly what I’d done?

As if reading my thoughts, he laughed and said more than asked, “But that’s just what you did, isn’t it? You used paired quantum states to send your thoughts back in time.” Apparently seeing something in my eyes, he continued, “Don't be so shocked, Dad. That’s exactly what I would have done if I didn’t know better. Thank God you didn’t know better!

“The thing is, Quantum Mechanics is just an approximation. The wave equation cannot be solved exactly, so instead we use probabilities. But that’s a bit like trying to fly an airplane, knowing there’s a 95 percent probability there are no other airplanes in the vicinity. But believe it or not, Dad, that’s just how Air Traffic Control really works! They keep the planes far enough apart to maintain a confidence interval well in excess of 99 percent, but it’s not a hundred percent. Every time you fly, there’s a small but finite chance you’ll collide with another plane, and crash. As they say, life is about balancing risks.

Using paired quantum states to change time is like that too. Every time you do so, there’s a finite probability of reaching critical mass, triggering the formation of a stable singularity. But that’s what’s saved us so far. If you’d had an exact solution but known as little as you know, we wouldn’t even be here right now to have this conversation. We’d have already been sucked into a black hole.”

Confused by what my eight-year-old son was saying, I simply replied, “I… I don’t understand.”

Rolling his eyes, he continued, “Einstein hypothesized that the speed of light is constant. It’s still a hypothesis, yet we treat it as fact! When we measure it, it’s always the same, but that assumes the passage of time is constant. We know it’s not! Relativity makes it all fit, but Relativity isn’t compatible with quantum theory, yet we need both to build modern computers and satellites and so on. Perhaps it really doesn’t all fit.

“What if the passage of time is just the propagation of quantum fluctuations that we perceive as light waves. If the speed of light changes, time will change right along with it and our measurements will always be the same! If the speed of light decreases, the yardstick by which we measure the universe will also shrink and the universe will appear to expand. This is the only way to explain the perception of an expanding universe inside of what is and must remain a singularity. For all we know, not only is the speed of light changing, but it’s not uniform and it’s not even the same in all directions. The word for that is anisotropy, and if the speed of light is anisotropic, then time is anisotropic.

“And that’s the easy part, Dad. The universe is full of quantum fluctuations. That’s your life’s work! Time can’t be continuous. It consists of lots and lots of tiny quantum fluctuations that we perceive as a continuum. When you go back and alter time, Dad, suddenly there are large discontinuities with multiple realities and the continuum is disrupted.  Such extreme discrepancies can only lead to the formation of singularities. Ultimately these will coalesce into a black hole that destroys all of the different realities.

“But there is a way out of this mess, Dad. Just like a black hole that’s starved of a source of mass or energy will eventually dissipate, the same thing can happen to alternate realities. The problem is that you keep fucking with time, feeding the alternate realities.

“So what you have to do, Dad, is you have to go back to a time before you started fucking with time and you have to push that boy who was destined to become you in a different direction… one that will ensure he never messes with time. If you do that, you’ll create a single, stable, dominant reality and all the other variances will ultimately fade away into nothingness.”

“How the hell am I supposed to do that?” I asked, incredulous that I was even listening to an idea hatched by a fourth grader.

“Dad, I know I’m a genius, but I’m not you. Only you can figure out how to keep from meddling with time. Perhaps you can push yourself to become a doctor, or a pianist instead. But you also need to be in a position to influence everyone else involved in a significant way, so as to be sure that they don’t end up fuckin’ with time.”

How did my eight-year-old son know all this? But then I had an even scarier thought. “Andy, have you been in contact with yourself in the future? Have you been contacted by yourself, perhaps from Russia?”

Shaking his head in the negative, he replied, “The Russians destroyed any chance they had of sending information back in time when they conducted the largest above ground nuclear test in history.” They did? Then how were they able to fuck with history? How did my little man know this? “But there’s another problem, Dad,” he went on. “This reality is unstable. Some of my memories are scrambled and I bet yours are too. This reality may be already disintegrating into a black hole or perhaps it’s dissipating. Either way, there may not be time to fix things at all.”

<<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>>

February 2012 • Chris-45

“Perhaps we should get started,” the President’s Chief of Staff announced as we enjoyed our bagels, pastries and some of the best coffee I’d ever tasted. We were enjoying an early morning breakfast in the Oval Office itself, called there by the President, reportedly to discuss the role of OTT in repairing the damage done by the Soviet Union in the years since Marion Dawson’s defection. Present in the room with me were the President, her Chief of Staff, Vice President Obama, the Attorney General, the directors of the FBI and CIA, and a man who was introduced as Dr. Carlos Rivera, a history professor from Harvard whom the President had just named as the official National Historian. Noticeably absent was my boss, Jack Craegan, for reasons that I was not privy to.

With the exception of President Clinton, we were all men and so it came as no surprise when the President opened the meeting by saying, “Gentlemen, if you all will please take your seats, we have a lot to discuss this morning.” The only seating, other than the chair behind the President’s desk, consisted of a pair of love seats facing each other across a coffee table, and four matching high-backed chairs, two at each end of the ensemble. The President and Vice President took the two chairs on one end and the directors of the CIA and FBI took the two chairs at the other end. The Chief of Staff and the Attorney General sat together on one of the love seats, leaving the professor and me to sit on the other.

“I trust you all know each other from our past discussions of OTT. However most of you are meeting Carlos for the first time today. You have all had a chance to review Dr. Rivera’s credentials and he has been fully briefed on OTT. The reason I chose him as the National Historian is because of his scholarly work in the field of causal analysis.”

Turning to face my seat-mate, she continued, “Carlos, why don’t you explain your work and how causal analysis might be of use to us in understanding the impact of TTT on historic events.”

 “Certainly, Madam President,” Carlos Rivera began. Turning away from the President, he continued, “Much of what we understand of history has depended on seemingly trivial events… minor decisions… random happenstance… vagaries of the weather. But for any one of these, history might well have turned out differently. For example, inclement weather in just a handful of voting precincts in 1960 and Richard Nixon could have won the presidency instead of Kennedy. So seemingly random events can have a profound effect on history.

“What I do… what has been my life’s work… is to model these seemingly random occurrences. Specifically, I look for trivial branch points in which a minor occurrence resulted in a significant outcome. Kennedy’s election is but one example, but there are thousands of such occurrences each and every year. Things so seemingly insignificant that only later do we realize just how significantly history was affected by them. Through mathematical modeling, we can often predict the likelihood of different historic outcomes, and explore the potential effects of minor perturbations as they propagate through time.

“The hope behind all of this is that, one day, we will have a robust model of these sorts of occurrences. If we can learn to predict these seemingly trivial events that end up being major branch points in history, we might be able to use them to our advantage. For example, if we’d realized that the assassination of Martin Luther King would lead to riots across the land, active government surveillance in place of indifference to his safety could have averted one of the darker times in our history.”

“More likely, it would have only delayed the inevitable,” Vice President Obama pointed out. “The African American ghettos of the late 1960s were a powder keg just waiting to explode. They already had the year before, in Detroit. If it hadn’t been the King assassination, it would’ve been something else. Like it or not, the riots of ’68 were necessary to the civil rights movement.”

“No, they weren’t, Mr. Obama, with all due respect,” the professor countered. “You of all people must realize that the riots had an overwhelmingly negative impact on white public opinion for decades to come, and few of the neighborhoods affected have bounced back, even after all this time. Furthermore, my research has shown that King’s survival and continued activism would have done vastly more for the civil rights movement than his martyrdom ever did. No one else spoke with such eloquence to so many people. No one else came close.

“No, the riots were not inevitable. Had my algorithms existed back then, we might well have recognized the danger and as a result, provided Dr. King with the protection he deserved. Further, we could have acted decisively to empower the African American community, helping them to build upon their dreams rather than burn them down.”

“The trouble was that the war had consumed the Johnson White House. He’d already done all he could for the cause of Civil Rights and had no energy, nor clout, to prevent the assassination or the riots, even if he had seen them coming,” the Director of the FBI interjected.

“And Vietnam is another such cataclysm that could have been avoided,” Professor Rivera went on. “Many have suggested that Kennedy would have ended the war, had he not been assassinated. Unfortunately our current models are insufficient to have predicted something as far out in left field as the Kennedy assassination. However, had we been able to have presented the young president with an analysis of likely scenarios at the outset, it is very likely we could have prevented Kennedy from entering the war in the first place.”

“Actually it was Eisenhower who sent advisors to Vietnam,” I pointed out. I felt someone needed to defend Kennedy.

“Yes, and with the right information, those advisors could have advised the president against further involvement.

“But gentlemen… and Madam President,” Professor Rivera continued, “we’re getting way off track here. I may be able to model and, to an extent, predict the immediate consequences of minor alterations to the past. There is no way to predict the long-term consequences of making major changes in the past. It's fun to speculate on the effect that preventing Vietnam might have had on the world today. So many lives that were lost could have been saved, and one of those might have been someone who became the next Hitler. You cannot discount the possibility of unintended consequences, some of which could be disastrous.

“It is for this reason that I recommend against altering the past at all, but if we find ourselves compelled to do so, we should do so in as minimalistic a way as possible. As desirable as it seemed at the time to prevent the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it was decidedly a bad idea…” Rivera was momentarily interrupted by a collective gasp from everyone in the room.

“Hear me out on this,” he went on. “In making use of knowledge of the future to alter the past, we dramatically changed the course of the next decade of history. Although many of the changes have been positive, I have been reviewing the journal entry differences from before and after each intervention and concluded that the overall effect has been negative. Extremely so. I can now conclude that the continuing survival of the Soviet Union and the ongoing Cold War is a direct result of our intervention on September 11, 2001…” Again, there was a collective gasp from everyone in the room.

“Surely you aren’t suggesting that our intervention on September eleven caused the resurgence of the Soviet Union, are you?” the President asked.

“Not directly, Madam President,” Rivera replied, “but if we hadn’t intervened on 9/11, the Soviets would have been none the wiser and the Soviet Union would have collapsed, just as it did in the absence of TTT.”

“But that’s true of a lot of things,” the President’s Chief of Staff asserted. “It’s highly unlikely anyone else, the Russians, the Chinese, the Iranians or anyone else would have known about TTT, were it not for our having used it. Once there was an active program, however, all of the above parties felt compelled to spy, steal and even kidnap to obtain the technology for themselves. The Soviets just succeeded before anyone else and were able to apply TTT themselves to alter their own past…”

“But that’s just it,” the professor countered, “The Soviets have yet to apply TTT. Either they have refrained from using it themselves or, more likely, they have tried but failed to use it successfully. Either they haven’t been able to get it to work, or perhaps they haven’t been able to convince themselves in the past of the validity of the communications.”

“But they’ve already altered their own history!” The President practically shouted. “How can you even suggest that they haven’t applied TTT?”

“Although much of what I do uses mathematical models based on pure conjecture, Madam President,” Rivera explained, “being able to detect the use of TTT is actually one of the least speculative aspects of my work right now. One thing my algorithms are good at is detecting minor changes in history.

“When someone changes history by any means, the record of history does not change right away, and it does not occur uniformly. Alterations to time seem to propagate through both time and space and the overall effects on recorded history cause ripples and, like the ripples in a stream, they reflect off the events they alter, causing ripples on top of ripples. Even long after recorded history has corrected itself to reflect the new reality, the memory of the original version of history persists for some time, and the memory that there was a different version of history persists even longer still.

“Although the Russians did not have access to my algorithms, and certainly not in the time period where they would have been immediately useful, an event as significant as 9/11 would have left a huge ripple effect when it was changed. As an aside, how many people in this room remember feeling disoriented on 9/11? I don't mean feeling unsettled because of the threat of a terrorist attack… that feeling was undoubtedly there, even without altering time. No I’m asking how many people in this room remember feeling that something just wasn’t right… perhaps a sense of déjà vu… perhaps even a feeling that those jets were supposed to have struck the twin towers after all? Could I see a show of hands?”

I was the first to raise my hand, but soon everyone else in the room followed suit — some tentatively at first — but then less so. Carlos Rivera continued, “So everyone in this room felt that something was amiss on September 11… a sense that something had changed. People felt that way all over the world, and they certainly felt it in what was then Russia, as the Soviet Union was already gone, but even if they surmised that technology had been used that could alter the past, for them it was too late. Even if they had access to TTT, they lacked the resources to pursue it.

“The matter might well have dropped if we’d left well enough alone, but we did not. There were unintended consequences from altering 9/11 and like the child who builds a sand castle too close to the sea and then adds layer after layer to protect it as the tide rolls in, rather than simply starting over, we went back further and further in the past in an attempt to prevent the attacks of 9/11 in the first place, never really seeing that we were only making things worse.

“The Russians became aware of changes to history just as many of us did. The fact that history changed at all alerted them to the existence of TTT and of course they chose to pursue it. The changes in historic events regarding the failure of the Soviet Union to collapse are easily traced to the effects of our own alterations to time. Every change they have made can be shown to be an echo of a change we made. Our changes rippled outward through time and space and landed on their shores. They took notice, and created their own ripples, but each and every one of theirs can be traced to one of ours. If they’d used TTT, our algorithm would have detected it, and it did not.”

“But if they didn’t use TTT, what did they use?” the Director of the CIA asked. A chill went up my spine even before Professor Rivera spoke, for I realized the answer. The Russians didn’t need to use TTT to send back knowledge of the future; they used our knowledge, which they then used to alter the past. No, we ourselves sent back the knowledge of the demise of the Soviet Union, back into the past, and the Russians used plain old-fashioned spying to learn what became of their empire. From that, it was a simple matter to take measures to prevent that version of the future from ever coming to pass. Rivera had confirmed as much.

The implication that the Soviets got their knowledge of the future from us had profound implications for my work, though, as it meant that, more than likely, one of my colleagues was a Russian spy…

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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