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Altimexis

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  1. Altimexis

    Gravity

    September 1979 • Chris-13 It was like something from out of a bad dream. I should have been returning to Professor Dawson’s house to live there with my boyfriend, but instead I was remaining home with my parents. I should have been continuing my studies at the University, but instead I was going to St. Rose Philippine Duchesne Catholic School, near where we lived. It felt really strange to be attending an elementary school again when I’d been going to Junior High, and then studying at the University with Professor Dawson and having a private tutor. Still, St. Rose seemed like a nice school with a small class size and a lot of personal attention, which was probably why my parents chose the place. It was also co-ed, which was something my parents insisted upon, and I was sure all that personal attention was intended to keep me on the straight and narrow — ‘straight’ being the operative word. Although I should have been placed at least a grade or two ahead of where I’d been, that would have meant going to high school and my parents didn’t think I was ready for that. So I was in the eighth grade now, and would be going to Trinity High next year. Going to a Catholic school might not have been all that bad if I could have at least seen my boyfriend on the weekends at the University. I guess I should have been happy that my parents were at least letting me continue my studies with the professor, even if it was only once a week. Those sessions only served to reinforce my sense of loneliness, however, because Frank wasn’t there. Frank was attending a military boarding school out of state, and we weren’t even allowed to write, much less call each other. The love of my life had been yanked from me, just like that. If that weren’t enough, I learned that the same thing was happening to Chris-17. He tried to hide it from me, but when you share your thoughts in subconsciousness, there’s no such thing as a secret. The one thing that was keeping me going was the thought that we would one day be together again, but to learn that even then, we would be torn from one another, was almost too much to bear. There was always hope that Chris-17 and Frank would be reunited at the latest when they were both eighteen, and I was hopeful, too. Although my parents still had old fashioned ideas about what it meant to be gay, my rape had a dramatic impact on how they related to me. Clearly, they still weren’t comfortable with the idea of homosexuality, which went against everything they’d been taught. However, there was a definite thaw in their attitude toward the idea of having a gay son. Placing me in a Catholic school was as much a reaction to my deception as it was to my sexuality. They still might not understand that my deception was entirely a reaction to their rejection of my sexuality, but they were coming to understand that my sexuality wasn’t a ‘preference’. Most importantly, the rape made them realize just how much better it was to have a gay son than a dead one. In the meantime, Professor Dawson and I were devoting as much time as we could spare to implementing TTT as quickly as possible. It was a shame I could only give him my Saturdays, but we took what we could get. Fabricating the custom vacuum tubes we needed turned out to be much more of a chore than originally anticipated. The University had at one time had one of the best facilities for building custom vacuum tubes in the world. With the advent of the transistor, however, most of the equipment had been shelved away to rot in storage, or outright destroyed. Everyone had assumed the vacuum tube was obsolete, and only a modest facility for student demonstration projects had been retained. It would be several years yet, I was told, before it would be recognized that certain applications, particularly in microwave communications and high-end audio, were better served with vacuum tubes than with solid-state devices. By comparison, Chris-17 had it easy, as would Professor Dawson’s younger counterparts. I guess I was just unlucky enough to be the man in the middle. We spent far more time than we would have liked rummaging around in storerooms for old equipment we could use, and then in testing and repairing that equipment. We’d started back when Frank and I were still living together with Professor Dawson, and he’d continued to work on it with the aid of other students, while I was away at camp. Our first attempt at constructing TTT instrumentation ended in disaster when one of the tubes exploded, taking a majority of the other carefully crafted, custom vacuum tubes along with it. In retrospect, it was probably better that something happened now, rather than while we were in the midst of communicating with Professor Dawson’s counterpart in 1972, but it was sooo disheartening to have to start from scratch in constructing our TTT machine. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> December 1983 • Chris-17 The clunk of my alarm clock signified the start of another day. ‘Damn,’ I thought to myself, ‘I’ve gotta replace that infernal thing with a modern solid state clock radio.’ I’d just gotten around to getting my own TV and stereo system, so I no longer had to fight with my parents about what to watch and listen to. Bit-by-bit I was getting my own stuff and soon I would leave home for good. As I got in the shower, I sighed to myself as I thought about how much it still hurt that Frank had shut me out of his life. His birthday was coming up and then he’d be eighteen and an adult. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to consider severing his ties with his homophobic parents — not even when my parents offered to let him move in with us in our house. That he cared so little about me hurt to no end, but he’d made his choice and I needed to move on. So why was I having such a hard time doing so? Thank God my parents, if not accepting, were at least tolerant of me. It was a shame that it took my being raped for them see the light. The one silver lining was that, once my parents opened their eyes and realized what had been going on at camp — the camp that was supposedly going to cure me of being gay — they realized just how fucked up their priorities were. I was desperately hurting in those dark days, in desperate need of love, comfort and acceptance. My parents didn’t approve of homosexuality and still don’t, but ever since they came so close to losing me, they have always been there for me when I needed them. When Frank came back into my life, my parents were surprisingly supportive of our relationship. They pretended to ignore that we were boyfriends, but it was clear they knew the score. They did however caution us against the potential backlash should his parents ever find out we were more than friends, and were all too right about how Frank’s parents’ would react to our deception once it was discovered. On the one hand I could certainly understand Frank’s desperate need to avoid going back to that military school he’d attended during his early teens, but I should have thought he’d want to break free of his parents once he turned eighteen. I guess we just weren’t meant to be. Getting out of the shower and shaving, I started to think about my other problem. According to Chris-24, I would have a son out of wedlock with a girl named Jennifer Wilson that I’d meet in graduate school at Stanford. Originally I’d apparently dated and fucked every girl in sight as a kinda way of overcompensating for being gay. I guess I’d been desperate to prove to myself that I could be straight. Somehow, I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. I was gay, I accepted that I was gay, and I was comfortable with the man I’d become. There was no way I could fuck a girl, even if my life depended on it, and I didn’t think I even had it in me to date girls as a cover. But someone’s life did depend on it. My son would never be born if I didn’t hook up with Jen. As far as I was concerned, the life of my child was far more important than my sexual orientation, so somehow I was gonna have to make it with Jen, no matter what. Brewing some of that coffee from Seattle that Professor Dawson got me hooked on and eating a bowl of cereal with toast, I thought about the more urgent tasks at hand. We’d already done just about everything we could do to support Professor Dawson in the past as he developed his own TTT equipment. Unfortunately, the bottleneck was in 1979, when my counterpart had had trouble finding the equipment needed to make custom vacuum tubes. It looked like things were finally coming together though, and when they did, Professor Dawson would contact himself in 1972, 1965 and then 1959, to prevent his boyfriend from being lost in Vietnam. In the meantime it seemed the Russians were doing everything they could to change history, and undoubtedly furthering the destruction of the fabric of time. As I drove to the University, I thought of how, even if we did manage to prevent David’s being lost in Vietnam and to prevent Dawson’s defection to the Russians in the future, the alternate realities created by those events might still be out there, assuming Frank was right. We needed to find a way to fuse all of those timelines — all of those realities — or the earth would be consumed by a black hole at some time in the future. At least that’s what Frank seemed to think would happen. I sighed again as I thought of Frank — he was never far from my mind, even after everything that had happened. “Good morning, Chris,” Professor Dawson said as I entered his office. “I’ve been going over some of those equations you’ve been working on. Treating time as a vector space rather than a scalar was ingenious, and it does seem to account for many of the ideas Frank suggested, including multiple realities. It doesn’t explain how time can branch, however, and more importantly, we need to understand how different realities can fuse.” “I realize that,” I noted. “Obviously, we can’t treat time strictly as a continuum. Time is discontinuous, and the splitting and merging of realities implies some sort of random process.” “That’s a given,” the professor agreed. “After all, at the fundamental level, we’re dealing with quantum processes.” “True,” I agree, “but probably not stochastic.” “ Definitely not stochastic,” Dawson concurred, and then he added, “Why don’t you give it some more thought and see if you can combine your vector approach with a non-stochastic statistical approach? Do you think you can handle that?” “It’s not too different from ordinary quantum mechanics,” I noted, “so I think I can manage it. I’ll certainly give it my best shot.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> December 1990 • Chris-24 I felt so comfortable lying next to Wang Lee. Since my breakup with Jen, Wang and I had become closer and closer. We spent nearly all our time together and hence the decision for me to move in with him was a natural. Sleeping in his arms was the best, and no one — not Jen — not Paul Langley — made me feel the way Wang did. Wang was such a gentle lover. He always took his time and seemed to know all the right spots and the right moves to give me the ultimate in pleasure. I was getting to know his body very well too, of course, and I only hoped that I was giving him back at least half of what he was giving me. It was our quiet times together that were the best, however. Just lying with him, cuddling in bed as we were now. We’d just finished making love and our bodies were still slick with my cum, but that didn’t matter. Holding Wang and having him hold me gave me a true sense of contentment. The moment seemed too sacred to break the silence, but Wang ultimately did so, asking, “You seem so deep in thought, Chris. Is everything alright?” “Everything’s more that all right,” I answered my lover. “No one has ever made me so happy,” I added. “I’m saddened by the way things ended with Jen, but it was undoubtedly for the best. I would have been miserable with her, and what kind of daddy would I have been if I resented my own son for making me stay in a relationship I didn’t want?” “You still have regrets about losing your kid,” Wang countered. “I can tell… but you know, more and more the courts are starting to recognize the rights of fathers. Maybe you should sue for joint custody.” “I’ve thought about it,” I admitted, “but the last thing I want is to subject my child to a drawn out custody battle, and Jen made it quite clear she would never let me anywhere near him.” “I’m sure the courts would see things differently,” Wang challenged, “and the threat of a custody battle might be enough to make her change her mind. After all, you both are thinking of what’s best for your kid.” “It’s a thought,” I noted. “Why don’t you at least talk to a family lawyer,” Wang suggested. “At least then you’ll have a better idea of your chances in court and be able to make an informed decision.” “Perhaps I’ll do that,” I agreed. After a prolonged moment of silence, Wang resumed talking. “Chris, there’s something else I’ve been wanting to discuss with you,” he began. “We’ve been seeing each other for a few months now and I think we’ve become quite close…” “That’s an understatement,” I interrupted. “Wang, I love you. You’re everything to me. Why else would I have wanted to move in with you? It’s a horribly long commute but it’s worth it to come home to you.” “I feel the same way,” Wang continued. “Where I’m going with this is that I’d like you to meet some people who are very important to me. My parents back in the PRC disowned me and my life at first in Hong Kong was a nightmare, but then Charles Hudson took me in and everything changed. There are other people I’d like you to meet, too. Charles took in other boys, and we became very close. Charles gave me my life back. He raised me to adulthood, made sure I got an education and helped me get into Stanford. If it hadn’t been for him, I’d probably be dead by now.” “But he’s a pedophile,” I countered. “Yes, I know. Well, actually he’s a pederast… there is a difference, you know… but he loved me for me and not just for the sex. He never forced himself on me, either. Yes, we often slept together and we did things no adult should do with a child, but compared to what I’d already been through, what we did was bliss. “Actually, I think I needed to have sex with him,” Wang continued. “I’d been so horribly abused by the other men who’d used me, and I’d come to associate sex only with pain and hurt. I needed to rediscover that sex is a beautiful thing… something to be shared with someone you love. Charles did that for me. He loved me and he gave me pleasure… every bit as much pleasure as I gave him. He taught me how to make love.” Sighing, I said, “I have to admit that you do an exceptional job of making love.” Getting a wicked look in his eyes, he brought his index finger to my sticky left nipple and began circling it. Smiling, he said, “I know.” I felt myself becoming aroused as he brought his hand down lower and caressed me, lovingly fondling me as he brought his lips to mine. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> December 2004 • Chris-38 Sweat poured down off his face as he looked down upon me. With each move, Paul sent waves of pleasure through my body. It wouldn’t be long now. I could feel the tingling building to an almost unbearable intensity. I cried out as I felt the wetness spread between our bodies. Moments later, Paul cried out as he too reached his release. Paul collapsed on top of me, his energy expended. Lifting his head and upper torso slightly, he looked down on me, his piercing blue eyes looking into my very soul. He smiled at me, and then lowered his lips to mine. Our tongues danced a sensual dance together as we kissed deeply, sharing the most intimate of moments in our bliss. Breaking our lip-lock, Paul gazed into my eyes with the goofiest smile on his face, and then he said, “It’s happened, Chris… I’ve fallen in love with you.” “It kinda feels wrong so soon after my ex-girlfriend was murdered, but I’ve fallen in love with you, too.” Our lips came together again for another passionate kiss, but then there was a knock on the door. Before I could even answer, the door opened and Andy walked into the room, dressed only in his boxers. “Dad?” he said, “I’m really sorry to interrupt you, but I was taking a dump and I noticed that my shit’s turned black.” Sitting up quickly, I asked my son, “How long has this been going on, tiger?” “It just started tonight,” he answered. “Have you been having any stomach pain?” I asked. “I’ve been having stomach pains since Mom was killed,” he answered, “but I just thought it was nerves.” “It could be something serious,” I worried aloud. “We’d better get you to the hospital.” With a smirk on his face, Andy commented, “You guys might want to take a shower first.” His look turned to one of total amusement as I felt myself blushing. Andy was right, though — Paul’s chest and abdomen were still glistening, and I could feel the wetness on mine as well. How embarrassing for my fifteen-year-old son to see us this way, but then we had more significant concerns at the moment. Scarcely twenty minutes later the three of us were seated in the waiting room in Emergency at Alameda Hospital. It didn’t seem to be a very busy night. Nevertheless, we ended up waiting more than two hours before my son was taken into the back. Paul remained in the waiting room while I joined Andy as he was placed in a room and given a hospital gown to put on. Before he’d even finished disrobing, a nurse entered the room to update his vital signs, which initially had been taken when he arrived in triage. Andy didn’t seem to mind sitting in only his boxers, however. Unlike me as a youth, he’d never been very modest at all. After she left, he picked up the hospital gown, took one look at how it merely tied in the back, and stated, “I’m not even gonna bother with this. It doesn’t exactly leave much to the imagination.” “One size fits none, as they say,” I replied and we both laughed. It was yet another half-hour before the doctor entered the room. He looked to be about sixteen-years-old, but was probably in his late twenties. After listening to his heart and lungs, the doctor had Andy lay on his back and pressed firmly on his abdomen, eliciting a grimace of pain. Then with Andy lying on his side, the doctor stuck a gloved finger up my son’s ass, eliciting yet another grimace. When the doctor withdrew his finger, it was sheathed in what looked like black tar. “I don’t even need to test this to know it’s digested blood,” the doctor said. “Unless you’ve had any Pepto-Bismol lately,” he added. “You haven’t used any Pepto-Bismol or bismuth-containing medications lately, have you?” the doctor asked my son. Shaking his head, Andy answered, “I haven’t taken anything.” Turning to me, the doctor said, “I’m afraid we’re going to have to admit your son. He’s obviously been bleeding internally and, after we do some blood tests, we’ll have a better idea of just how much. We’ll also need to do an endoscopy right away, just in case he’s still actively bleeding. The endoscopy will tell us where he’s bleeding from and, if he’s still bleeding, we’ll be able to cauterize the wound. “He’ll have to be anesthetized for the procedure, so we’ll need your consent.” The doctor then asked, “You are the boy’s legal guardian, aren’t you?” “Since his mother was killed a couple of months ago, I am his only guardian,” I answered. “Wait a minute,” the doctor exclaimed with a look of surprise on his face. “Aren’t you that nuclear scientist that was attacked by Iranian terrorists?” “Actually, contrary to what the public has been led to believe, I’m not a nuclear scientist,” I answered, “but I am involved in research at Lawrence Livermore.” “I can’t fathom what it would be like to lose your wife like that,” he asked. “Actually, she was my ex-girlfriend. We were never married but, after threatening to take her to court, she agreed to a joint custody agreement. We patched up our differences for Andy’s sake. “Unfortunately the terrorists came the morning she was supposed to pick Andy up for her turn with him. She surprised them and was shot and killed in the process,” I explained. “Man, I can’t imagine what it was like to be a hostage,” the young doctor said as he shook his head. “For a while I thought we were gonna go to war over that.” “We might very well have,” I answered, “except we can’t prove that the Iranian government was behind it, and they’re staunchly denying it. Although it hasn’t been made public, as there could be a major backlash from the Muslim community, we’ve been quietly detaining and deporting Iranian nationals. The scary part is that there are over two hundred Iranian students who, like the terrorists that attacked us, are here on expired student visas. Tracking them down has been particularly difficult.” “Man, that is scary,” the doctor agreed. Andy didn’t go for his endoscopy until around seven AM. They wouldn’t let me go back with him, but he came through it without any ill effects. Afterwards the gastroenterologist who performed the procedure sat down with us and explained that Andy had a bleeding duodenal ulcer. Fortunately, the bleeding had stopped on its own, but not before Andy lost about four units of blood, which was nearly half his blood volume. Any more and he would have gone into shock. The doctors recommended a blood transfusion but we ended up deciding against it. Andy was young and healthy enough that his body could recuperate without a transfusion — he would just need to take it easy for a couple of months. Andy was started on a drug called omeprazole and told he would likely need to take it the rest of his life. He was also referred to a psychologist for counseling. Andy put up a brave face, but he was just a boy dealing with man-sized problems. Growing up in a broken home, seeing his mother killed, being held hostage for a few days — it had all caught up with him and his stress manifest itself as an ulcer. I was going to need to pay more attention to his psychological needs, and mine too if I was going to be honest about it. We were both in counseling, but it wasn’t enough. Perhaps we needed to spend more time talking to each other. We probably should have been doing so all along. I was grateful to have Paul with me. Paul was my rock. He’d ended up extending his vacation so he could stay with me, and was seriously thinking about relocating to the Bay Area. With our recent profession of love for each other, I was fairly certain he would. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> December 1990 • Lost Soul The professor stared at himself in the mirror. It had been more than half a year year since he’d agreed to help the Soviets, and he had yet to see his David. There had been assurances given that they’d be reunited soon, but soon never seemed to come. He and David had spoken over the phone, and he’d even been shown a videotape of his lover, who now looked so much older, and haggard. Both of these could have easily been faked, however. Yet if the professor failed to cooperate, he was reminded in no uncertain times what would happen to his beautiful David. Did he have a choice? The biggest surprise was that the Russians already had a workable first generation prototype for TTT! The 64 individual quartz emitter-detectors weren’t as precisely aligned as he would have liked, but that was easily addressed by adding laser-based optical alignment to the calibration setup. Unfortunately, the biggest limitation in the setup was the use of a Russian-built supercomputer, which frankly wasn’t as functional as a 1960s-era IBM mainframe. The professor had heard from Soviet colleagues at scientific meetings he’d attended that they were severely limited by a tremendous underinvestment in computer infrastructure, and now he was experiencing it firsthand. Rather than attempting to get the code he’d already written to run on such an unreliable platform, he decided to scrap the use of computers entirely and proceeded directly to using vacuum tubes. Indeed, the Soviet facilities for fabricating custom vacuum tubes were vastly better than anything he had ever seen before and he was able to complete and test the setup in only a matter of weeks. As the weeks turned to months, however, and test subject after test subject failed to establish a link to themselves — not even in the recent past — the professor found himself more and more removed from the day-to-day workings of the TTT project. Finally, he was told he must leave the TTT research facility, which was located on a secret military base, and move to a place where, freed from distractions, he would be able to concentrate more fully on TTT. The reality was that he was exiled to a dacha in a remote area of Siberia. Hence he was spending the winter in isolation, where he could contemplate the need to be more cooperative with his Soviet colleagues. And then there was Vladimir. Vladimir was, to put it simply, the most beautiful young man he’d ever seen. Not only that, but Vladimir was extremely intelligent, sensitive and caring. He was an amazing man — a boy, really, as he was still only seventeen — the same age as many of his students back home. Indeed, Chris Michaels would be seventeen now, he realized. Yet Vladimir seemed so much more mature than his students, even postdoctoral students who were twice Vladimir’s age. There was no doubt in the professor’s mind that Vladimir was a true genius, but unlike the many geniuses he’d mentored over the years — boys such as Chris Michaels — Vladimir was a whole person. He was well rounded, athletic, appreciative of classical music and literature, and fluent in English, Spanish, French and German. He could even read Latin and Greek. He didn’t flaunt his superiority, however. The professor had never met a boy so comfortable in his abilities before. Vladimir was an insatiable lover. When the professor failed to respond to his first houseboy, Sasha, Vladimir became his houseboy instead. The two immediately hit it off and quickly became friends. Vladimir made his sexual interests known from the start, but accepted that the professor was loyal to David and did not push the older man. Gradually, however, they became closer to one another until the inevitable happened — they fell in love. After they’d shared their first kiss, the professor felt extremely guilty, as if he’d cheated on David, but that didn’t stop them from having their second kiss, and their third. The kissing led to cuddling, and from there they progressed over time to open up more and more to each other sexually. After only a few months, Vladimir was sleeping in the professor’s bed. Each night they’d fall asleep in each others’ arms. The professor continued to feel horribly guilty, as now he truly was cheating on David, but Vladimir was the prefect boy, the perfect man, the perfect lover. Years of pent-up sexual desire manifest themselves in the sex the two of them shared. The professor had never been so happy and fulfilled, nor so sad and lonely, in all his life. In his absence, the Soviets seemed to be making spectacular progress with TTT, although the professor wasn’t let anywhere near the project. Already they’d managed to reverse the reforms that had apparently led to the breakup of the Soviet Union in the first timeline. They’d introduced economic reforms that would literally shift the balance of power, and they were just beginning their quest to change history. The downside was that this had led to new tensions with the Chinese. He’d even heard rumors that the Chinese were working on their own approach to stealing TTT for themselves. The one silver lining in all of this was that the Soviet’s attempts to undermine the development of TTT in the U.S. had failed, and that Chris Michaels was still on-track to invent it in the early twenty-first century. Secretly he wondered if there was something he could do to derail the Russian effort — without endangering the lives of those he loved and cared about. END OF BOOK TWO
  2. Altimexis

    Supernova

    August 1979 • Chris-13 Detention is a bitch. For more than a month I put up with homophobic slurs, shoves, punches and more. At least when Jeff was here we were in it together. Thank God Jeff’s parents talked Pastor Jenkins into letting him stay, although he did split us up into separate cabins. The good pastor also made sure to assign us different schedules, but organized activities never were the problem. Sure, I got shoved a lot, but so long as I was in a crowd, I was relatively safe. Outside of the organized activities, we both made it a point never to be alone. Wherever he was, I was, and vice versa. We spent all of our free time together, which only served to heighten everyone’s suspicions that we were a couple. We didn’t care. We made the best of a bad situation and defended each other against the bullies. Unfortunately Jeff’s eight weeks started earlier than mine, leaving me two weeks at the end without my support system — two weeks to fend for myself. I didn’t even make it through one week. Scarcely two hours after Jeff left for home, a bunch of the guys cornered me in one of the restrooms and tried to force me to suck them off. Needless to say, I told them to fuck off, which didn’t go over too well. They stripped me of my clothes, peed in one of the toilets and then soaked all my clothes in their pee. Then for good measure they dunked my head in the toilet bowl, too, and left me with nothing to wear but my pee soaked clothes. Because it was the washroom attached to the cafeteria, there were no showers or anything, so my choice was to either head outside in my birthday suit, or put my wet, urine stained clothes back on. Well I sure wasn’t going to go streaking in daylight, so I did the best I could to wash my clothes and hair out in one of the sinks and then I put my soaking wet clothes back on. I had hoped to quickly make my way back to my cabin, where I could strip, take a shower and put on clean clothes but, unfortunately, Larry Simpson spotted me, stopped me and asked me why I was all wet. And then he said, “Phew, you stink! You smell like piss!” Well, I’d done the best I could in trying to wash out my clothes. He ended up taking me to the good pastor, who gave me detention on the spot. I wasn’t even allowed to change my clothes or wash up or anything. For two hours I had to sit in my wet, pee-soaked clothes in an unused classroom and write an essay on the evils of homosexuality. Instead, I thought I’d be smart and use the time to refute the notion that homosexuality is a sin. It was a good essay, too. I quoted the bible extensively, challenging the conventional wisdom very effectively, or so I thought. Needless to say, the pastor wasn’t pleased and made me sit through another two hours of detention, spent writing a counter essay to my first essay. Well, I still wasn’t having any of that and so I wrote an even stronger essay, literally attacking all of the traditional arguments used against homosexuals by the church. For that stunt I was told I’d have to clean the restroom in our cabin every evening for a week. I guess Pastor Jenkins just didn’t trust any arguments that ran counter to his own viewpoints. He simply wouldn’t or couldn’t listen to reason. The week had barely begun before I found myself cornered once again, this time in the locker room. Again they stripped me and for nearly a half-hour, a group of five boys used me as their personal punching bag while two others held me still so I couldn’t even defend myself. I ended up with two black eyes and bruises all over my face and torso. When they left, they took my clothes with them and I never did find what they did with them. Needless to say, the walk back to my cabin was not fun. It seemed the whole camp was outside at the time and so a few hundred boys gawked at me and laughed as I tried to make it to safety. Unfortunately the good pastor, drawn by all the commotion, intercepted me and took me to his office. He accused me of perversion for walking around in the nude while he virtually ignored all my bruises. Again, I got detention and had to spend another two hours sitting in the nude in a cold classroom while my body screamed out in pain. This time there were two other boys in the classroom who kept looking at me and snickering as I wrote yet another essay on the evils of homosexuality. There was no way I was gonna take the assignment literally, and so I wrote about the hypocrisy of the church in singling out homosexuality at the same time that it tolerated gambling, alcohol abuse and a host of other sins. My punishment that time was a thorough cleaning of the boys’ locker room — a task that took me two full days to complete — and I still was responsible for cleaning the restroom in our cabin. Not only that, but my parents were forced to bring me a new pair of sneakers and were not pleased to say the least. When they saw my physical condition, however, their anger turned from me to Pastor Jenkins. The pastor tried to pass it off as if I had started the fight, but my parents knew better than that. I’d been the victim of bullying before, but never had I ever instigated a fight. Unfortunately he managed to talk them into making me stay, but they insisted that he do more to prevent any bullying or physical abuse. I guess they still loved me after all. It was on Thursday that Larry Simpson found me alone. I was still sore from my recent beating and had let my guard down, not really paying attention to my surroundings. I was standing at a urinal in one of the more remote restrooms, taking a leak, when I was grabbed from behind. “I’ve been waiting to get you alone since the moment you arrived, Michaels,” came Simpson’s distinct, raspy voice. Needless to say, I was scared shitless. Simpson reached down and fondled me aggressively, quickly bringing me to erection. “You like that, don’t you, queer boy?” he asked rhetorically, and then he forced me to my knees, opened his fly and forced me to suck him off. His spunk tasted vile and I nearly threw up when he was done. Unfortunately, however, he wasn’t finished with me. He made me strip and then he sucked me and got angry when he couldn’t get me off. He forced me to the floor and the next thing I know, there was a searing pain in my behind. He didn’t prepare me or use any lubrication — he just forced himself on me. Each thrust was more painful than the last and, because he’d already forced me to suck him off, it took him forever. When he left, he just left me there lying on the floor… and he took my clothes with him. After sobbing for perhaps fifteen minutes, I finally pulled myself up off the floor, but then became terrified when I saw a pool of blood under where I lay. I used toilet paper to try to clean myself up, but there was extensive bleeding and it wouldn’t stop. With no other choice, I went to the office to see the nurse, once again enduring the giggles of the other kids as I made my way there in the nude. The nurse was horrified when I told her Simpson had raped me, but she tried to get me to confess to having had sex with one of the other campers. Pastor Jenkins even came in while she was packing my rectum with gauze and he insisted I tell him which camper I’d seduced. But then he made his mistake. He called my parents. When I told them what had really happened, they insisted in taking me to a nearby hospital and, once the doc in Emergency got done examining me, the police were called. The story made the front page of the Post-Dispatch and Jenkins trial was in all the news media. Thank God I was a minor, and so my name was kept private. It was sure great seeing Pastor Jenkins get what he deserved — it almost made it worth having been raped. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> November 2004 • Chris-38 “My God, what have we done?” I asked aloud as I looked into the face of my former lover, who was sharing my bed. It hadn’t even been a week since Paul arrived at our doorstep, and already we were sleeping together, and making love. “It’s not like either of us forced ourselves on the other,” Paul pointed out, and I had to agree. “Yes, but I just buried my wife scarcely a month ago,” I practically cried. “And I just broke up with my long-term boyfriend a few weeks ago myself,” Paul added. “Neither one of us intended for this to happen, but it happened nonetheless.” “And that’s what’s so scary,” I replied. “We’re both rebounding from long-term relationships that ended suddenly, tragically, and yet it took us less than a week to fall back into bed with each other.” “I think it’s obvious that something’s still there,” Paul said — he was stating the obvious. “Yes, we still care for each other, and perhaps more,” I agreed, “but this is still wrong. We’re both vulnerable, and it would be so easy for us to hurt each other.” “Would you really hurt me, Chris,” Paul asked, “ Could you?” “No, of course I wouldn’t hurt you, Paul… at least not deliberately.” “And I’d rather drown myself in the Bay than hurt you,” Paul replied. “But even if we don’t intend to, one or both of us could get hurt,” I countered. “It could happen so easily and unintentionally.” “That’s something that could happen to anyone, Chris,” Paul challenged. “It’s not just because we’re recovering from terrible losses. Love always entails risks.” “Your life is in Massachusetts, and my life is here,” I pointed out. “My grants are portable.” Paul countered. “I can take them anywhere, and you know Stanford or UC would be delighted to have me.” “Who wouldn’t,” I agreed, “and I wouldn’t doubt that MIT might even be interested in hiring me. ” “Damn right, they would,” Paul agreed. “With your track record, any physics department would be delighted to have you, and they’d offer full professorship with tenure.” “Somehow I doubt that,” I complained, but Paul wasn’t having any of it. “You would be a feather in anyone’s cap, Professor Michaels,” he claimed. “With your reputation, all you’d have to do is practically sign your name to get a National Science Foundation grant, and the Department of Defense would undoubtedly continue to fund your work, wherever you are.” “That’s probably true,” I admitted. “So the bottom line is that one way or another, if we want to be together, we can be.” Just then, there was a loud scream from Andy’s room, and I was up in a flash. “Hey Tiger, are you OK?” I asked my son when I found him sitting bolt upright in bed. “Yeah, I’m OK, Dad,” he replied as he wiped the sleep from his eyes. “I just had another nightmare. Sometimes the horror of it all just comes rushing back to me, you know?” “Yeah, I do know, sport,” I said as I hugged him tightly. I could feel his tears running down my shoulder, and at that moment I realized that I couldn’t be with Paul. Andy came first, and I couldn’t let him down. After a few minutes, his sobs subsided, and he pulled away and looked me in the eyes, and said, “Thanks, Dad. You’re the greatest.” “It’s easy to be a great dad when you have such a wonderful son,” I replied with a huge smile on my face. As I turned to leave, Andy called out, “Oh, and Dad?” Returning to his bedside and sitting down next to him, I asked, “Yeah?” “It’s OK with me if you want to move Paul’s stuff into your room,” he said. “Huh?” I asked, not really getting what my son was trying to say. “Well, if Paul’s gonna be sleeping in your room anyway, you might as well move his things in, too,” Andy explained. I think my jaw must have dropped open, because Andy just started laughing and went on to say, “Well, the walls aren’t exactly soundproof, and these beds aren’t exactly quiet…” Finally, it dawned on me that Andy knew what Paul and I had done, and I became extremely self-conscious, sitting in the nude on Andy’s bed as I was. I simply said, “Oh shit!” “More like ‘Oh fuck’,” he countered, and then he giggled again. “Don’t you know that boys aren’t supposed to talk with their fathers about their father’s sex lives?” I challenged. “I’m not like most boys,” he replied. “No,” I agreed, “you never have been. But this thing with Paul… it isn’t right. Not so soon after Mom died.” “Dad, I think you need each other right now,” Andy countered. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be physically close to someone when you’re in pain. It’s not like you’re making a lifelong commitment or anything. Maybe it will turn into a long-term relationship, but maybe not, so why worry about it? Besides, there’s nothing like good sex to take your mind off your troubles.” As realization dawned on me, the words ‘fifteen going on fifty’ took on a whole new meaning. “And you know about good sex how? ” I asked. Coloring up, he replied, “Oops, I guess I let the cat out of the bag. I could claim it’s from jerking off, but something tells me you wouldn’t buy it.” “Not a chance,” I teased my son. “Not that I’m suggesting it’s OK for you to have sex at your age…” “Didn’t you tell me you had a boyfriend when you were even younger?” Andy interrupted. “Something tells me you did more than hold hands.” This time I was the one coloring up and, being naked, I couldn’t have hidden my reaction if I’d tried. “We didn’t need to worry about one of us getting pregnant, however, and that was before there was AIDS.” “Don’t worry, Dad,” Andy tried to reassure me, “I always use a condom.” Somehow the idea of my son going into a drugstore and buying a box of condoms was even more frightening than the thought of him having sex at his young age — not that I hadn’t been having sex for some time when I was his age as well. “We’ll talk more about this in the morning,” I replied. “If it’ll make you feel better, Dad, but once someone’s sexually active… well, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Aren’t you at least glad I’m being responsible and always using a condom? Did you use condoms when you were a kid?” “It was a different era,” I related as I virtually hid my face. It was so embarrassing to be sporting an erection in front of my teenage son. “We were much more naïve back in the seventies.” Then regaining my composure and ruffling his hair, I said, “And I think you need to remember who’s the father and who’s the son, here.” Laughing, I added, “We’ll talk later… I’m not saying you can’t go out anymore… I just need to know for my peace of mind that you know what is and isn’t safe, and I think we need to get back to that conversation we never got to finish about love. I don’t want to see you get hurt.” “Thanks, Dad… and again, if being with Paul makes you happy, then I think you should go for it.” I turned red and my erection came back in full force, which only made Andy laugh even harder. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> November 2011 • Chris-45 Other than for an occasional scientific meeting held in the nation’s capital, I hadn’t been to Washington since I was a kid. The circumstances were vastly different today as I looked out the window of the military transport that was ferrying Jack Craegan, his boss, Reginald Canton, the overall director of the lab, and myself. From my window, I could see the Washington Monument, the White House and the U.S. Capitol. We were flying in along the Potomac. Eisenhower National Airport was on our right. Our destination, Bolling Air Force Base, was on our left. More and more of Washington’s famous landmarks came into view as we made our descent. The ground loomed up as we made our approach and before I’d even realized it, the plane lurched as the wheels touched down on the runway. The plane taxied for a little bit, and then we were ushered down a set of stairs to a waiting helicopter, which ferried us to our ultimate destination, the White House. The helicopter landed on the South Lawn, and from there we were led to the West Colonnade that borders the Rose Garden, and directly into the Oval Office. President Dole was waiting for us, just inside. “Gentlemen,” she began after the introductions had been made, “I appreciate your coming here on such short notice. I know you left very early in the morning from California, and it’s a very long flight. The coffee will be here momentarily,” she laughed, helping to break the tension we all felt. She invited us to sit down on a pair of sofas while she sat down on one of two armchairs that surrounded a coffee table. The Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor and the director of the CIA joined us. Beginning the discussion, the President said, “I trust everyone knows why we called this meeting. In 1990, the eminent physicist, Marion Dawson, disappeared. Professor Dawson was working with Dr. Christopher Michaels on a project known as Operation Time Tunnel, a project originally intended for use in a grave emergency only, whereby critical information could be sent into the past to alter it. “It is not clear who occupied this office at the time, for I was not the one to make the decision, but apparently the man who was originally the president in 2008 made a decision to utilize OTT to prevent the single most deadly terrorist attack on this country in its history. We all know about the attempted hijackings of 9/11, but in the original history of that day, those attacks succeeded. The twin towers in New York were destroyed, the Pentagon was mostly destroyed, and the White House was destroyed. The president, the vice-president and the entire cabinet, were all killed in the attack.” I almost gasped when I heard this… and read it in the supplied briefing book. My report to the President had told of the heroic efforts of the passengers on Flight 93 and of how their attempt to retake the plane likely saved the White House or the Capitol. I couldn’t fathom why President Dole or someone in her administration had changed the contents of my report. I feared she might be laying the groundwork to justify a future war, much as Bush tried to do after the attempted terrorist attack. I shuddered at the thought of it, but could see no advantage to calling the President’s bluff — at least not yet. “The speaker of the house, who ascended to the role of President, did an admirable job leading the country through a difficult time; however, the ensuing economic damage done by the attack caused the country to falter, and eventually to slip into an economic depression. This alone wouldn’t have been enough to justify rewriting history. However. there was an even graver threat to the nation, and the world. “Dr. Michaels, could you please elaborate?” “Certainly Madam President,” I began. “OTT involves a technology known as Time Tunnel Technology, or TTT as we call it. TTT does not enable time travel, which is not physically possible, but rather it allows the sending of information back in time. An individual, using TTT, can literally communicate with themselves up to seven years in the past. It facilitates the synchronization of thoughts between the past and the present, but only while the individual is asleep. It is thus a dream state that the individual shares with their past. “Recognizing the danger inherent in altering the past, but the importance of knowing about the coming of a cataclysmic event in the future, we began a program of sending progress reports back seven years into the past. To prevent the danger of inadvertently changing history, those communications have been limited to one individual… myself… and they serve only to tell me that I’still alive and well. Although all of this was technically correct, what I failed to mention was that I undertook this completely on my own, making it seem as if this had been authorized by White House in the original timeline. “I now have memories of communications from the future dating into 2012, at which point all communications stopped,” I continued, but this was a mere fabrication, intended to justify the extension of TTT into the past. There had been no communications after 2012 because I hadn’t even reached 2012 yet. As far as I new, TTT did not yet exist in the future and wouldn’t reach 2012 until I got there with it myself through the passage of time. I had used this explanation so many times that I almost believed it to be the truth. “After reviewing the events that led up to the point of lost communication, we decided that the most likely scenario was a massive terrorist attack on the U.S. in retaliation for actions we took in response to the original 9/11 attack,” I continued. “The decision was therefore made to use TTT to modify the past and try to prevent the terrorist attacks of 9/11. As you know, we succeeded in doing so.” “Just to clarify,” the President asked, “The use of TTT to modify the past was authorized by this office?” “Yes, Madam President,” I answered. I just didn’t tell her that the authorization was not specifically for 9/11. “But that did not restore the future?” she asked. “No, Madam President,” I answered. “The loss of communications after 2012 remained the same. After again reviewing the events leading up to the loss of communication, we believed that terrorists were involved, and specifically the Iranians. We therefore sought to establish a chain of communication all the way back to 1978, so that we could arrange for a peaceful transition of power in Iran among other things, avoiding the terrorist situation entirely.” “And how was it that Dawson came to be involved?” the President asked. “In order to establish a chain of communication back into the past,” I explained. “Because TTT is limited to providing a tunnel that extends at most seven years into the past, TTT equipment needs to be constructed in each time period in which it’s used. We need to teach those involved in the past how to build their own TTT equipment using components available at that time. However, we can only send information back in time during sleep using a shared dream state, so there’s no way to record the information as it’s received in the past. “Not only weren’t there suitable computers back in the ’80s, let alone the ’70s, but some of the mathematics and most of the physics underlying TTT had not yet been developed. What we needed was someone with the background in physics that would allow them to learn about TTT quickly, and with what amounts to a photographic memory, so they could send back actual mathematical formulas, circuit diagrams and equipment designs to themselves in the past. Marion Dawson was the perfect individual for the task, and so he was recruited to our service.” “But Dawson’s a pedophile!” the President protested. “There were allegations,” I corrected her, “but there has never been any evidence of wrongdoing on his part. I think it’s almost inevitable that people will assume the worst when you have a single gay man, volunteering to work with teenage boys. The evidence of involvement in child pornography was evidence we manufactured to ensure his cooperation.” “But he was gay,” she challenged. “So am I, Madam President,” came my retort. I hadn’t planned to come out to the President and the others present, and Jack’s mouth was hanging open in surprise, but I wasn’t about to allow the President to get away with alleging Dawson was compromised just because he was gay. “Like many gay men, I’ve always lived my life in the closet and even had a wife and children. Since my wife was killed by Iranian terrorists, I have been involved with a man, but I’ve kept that relationship secret from all but my son.” “We’re aware of your relationship with Paul Langley,” the CIA chief stated, which I guess shouldn’t have come as a surprise. “The point I’m trying to make, Madam President,” I continued, “is that people like me… men living a secret, double life, are much more vulnerable than men like Marion Dawson. Being gay has nothing to do with it, either. How may politicians have been compromised because of their zipper problems, gay and straight? ” “You’ve made your point, Dr. Michaels, and it’s a good one,” the president answered. “The question is, how did the Russians manage to get to Marion Dawson, what damage to the timeline has been done and what can we do about it?” “We believe Dawson was compromised because the Soviets may have had his boyfriend,” the CIA chief noted. “The Marion Dawson I knew would have never betrayed his country,” I added. “The one thing he did begrudge the government, however, was that they never pursued the matter of his missing boyfriend. His boyfriend was one of the earliest MIAs of the Vietnam War. He was an army physician and should not have disappeared as he did. For whatever reason, his case was never aggressively pursued, perhaps because the one pushing the matter was his gay lover.” “It seems likely that the Russians have had him in the Gulag all this time,” the CIA director continued with my train of thought. “They probably offered to help Dawson recover his boyfriend in the past, either before he even disappeared, or otherwise just after. If that wasn’t enough, they probably threatened to torture and kill Dawson’s lover in the present if he didn’t cooperate.” “So they picked up Dawson in 1990,” the President summarized, “and used his knowledge to build their own TTT machine.” “That’s what we assume,” I agreed. “What I don’t understand is why there wasn’t an instantaneous change in the timeline as soon as they captured Dawson,” the President asked. “They’ve had nearly twenty years now, which should have been more than adequate to effect all the changes they intended to make.” “It’s not that simple,” Jack began. “Sometimes changes to the timeline are instantaneous, but not always. When the Russians removed Dawson from our midst, anything that he had contributed to, from that moment on, was erased from America’s history. They also started to write a new history from that time forward, but we can probably assume that Dawson’s direct contribution to Soviet history since then has been minimal. “Where things get interesting is in how changes the Soviets make to their past show up in our present. For example, let’s say they decided not to invade Afghanistan back in 1979. Since they didn’t acquire Dawson until 1990, even if they were able to build a TTT machine right away, which wasn’t very likely, the farthest back in time they could reach would have been 1983. They would have then had to instruct their counterparts in 1983 in TTT, and it would have taken time to build a machine in that era, using components that we would have considered obsolete, even back then. Perhaps of even greater significance, however, is that they would have had to convince the leaders in 1983 of the legitimacy of the future communication before they could even start. Keep in mind that Brezhnev had just died in late 1982 and that Yuri Andropov was in such ill health that he died after less than two years as Communist Party leader. Andropov was in no position to communicate with himself, as you have to be alive in the future to communicate with yourself in the past,” Jack quipped. “It’s doubtful that Gorbachev would have cooperated, so it would have probablly fallen to someone like Putin to establish a link to his past. But Andropov was desperately trying to consolidate his control over the Soviet empire, even as his health was failing. It’s doubtful he would have listened to crazy ideas for building a time machine from someone like Putin, let alone implemented the changes to the timeline we have already observered. “So even if Putin were the one to make contact and even if he did manage to convince his past self that the very survival of the Soviet Union depended on changing history, he would have faced great peril in attempting to do so. If he tried to go around Andropov and establish an OTT program on his own, discovery would have meant being sent to the Gulag. Even trying to make the changes he ultimately made, but with Andropov still in power, would have been dangerous. No, assuming he was the man to make contact, Putin just bided his time waiting for Andropov to die, then used his knowledge of the future to set himself up for the eventual coup that led to his ascent to power. Only then was he in position to implement the changes we have witnessed to the timeline, and only then would he have been able to establish another link in the chain of OTT in the USSR. I doubt they could have had a functioning TTT apparatus before 1986 at the earliest, and it would have left scarce time to convince a very skeptical Brezhnev not to come to the aid of an important ally.” “But they’ve had nearly twenty years to do all that,” the President pointed out. “No, they haven’t,” I tried to explain. “True, Dawson’s disappearance occurred some twenty years in our past, but that doesn’t mean they’ve had twenty years to work on TTT since then. We didn’t become aware of Dawson’s disappearance until very recently. We all think we’ve known about Dawson’s disappearance for the past twenty years, but we have records of our working with Dawson in this time period up until last spring. That is why we’re just now starting to see the effects of the changes they’ve made to the time line, and we’ll continue to see changes as they continue their work, even though it’s occurring in the past.” “You’ve lost me,” the President interrupted. “Madam President,” the Secretary of State broke in, “What I think Dr. Michaels and Dr. Craegan are trying to say is that what’s been happening in the past, and what’s happening in the present, are occurring simultaneously.” “Exactly,” I chimed in. “It still doesn’t make much sense to me,” the President reiterated. “Consider this analogy, Madam President,” Jack began. “When we look up into the nighttime sky, we are seeing things as they occurred in the past, depending on how long it took the light from distant stars to reach us. If we were to witness a supernova tonight and it involved a star twenty thousand light years away, that supernova actually occurred twenty thousand years ago, and the light from that explosion is just now reaching us. A lot may have happened in the area of that star system since then, but we are only now becoming aware of the explosion and we won’t know what else may have happened until well into the future. “Dawson’s disappearance is a lot like that supernova. We have only recently become aware of Dawson’s disappearance in the past, and the effects of any changes made to the timeline won’t become apparent until time has had a chance to catch up to the events as they occurred in the past. Yes, from our vantage point, those changes may have already occurred in the past, but we won’t become aware of them until they’ve played themselves out. It’s not an identical situation, but it’s close enough.” “I think I understand what you’re saying,” the president stated, and then she asked, “So we may just be beginning to see the effects of the changes the Russians are making to the timeline?” “Unfortunately so,” I agreed. Shaking her head, the President continued, “Let’s go over the known changes the Russians have made so far, and then we can consider the further changes they are likely to make. “What do we know of the original version of history,” she asked. The CIA director immediately pulled out copies of a briefing document and distributed them to all present. “This document lists all of the known events of world history as recovered from information passed back in time by Dr. Michaels to his predecessors in previous time periods and recorded in their notes. There is a summary of the most significant events on the first page.” As the President scanned the document, she stated aloud, “So Gorbachev didn’t resign, and the Soviet crackdown of 1987 never happened. The Berlin wall fell in November, 1989 and a Soviet attempt to reassert sovereignty in Azerbaijan in early 1990 was declared an act of aggression by the Supreme Soviet. This is just amazing, ” she asserted. “In February, the Communist Party voted to give up its monopoly on power and a number of Soviet republics elected anti-communist leaders in free elections. In March, the Soviets attempted to use force to prevent Lithuania from enforcing its declaration of independence, and as the other Baltic republics also voted to succeed, the use of force escalated, reaching a peak in January, 1991. In June of that year, Boris Yeltsin… who the hell is Boris Yeltsin… became the first democratically-elected president of the Russian Republic. In August, an attempted coup against Gorbachev failed, largely thanks to the defiance of Yeltsin, and in December, Yeltsin along with the leaders of Ukraine and Belarus declared the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States to replace the Soviet Union. On Christmas Day, Gorbachev resigned as president of the USSR and the next day, the Supreme Soviet officially voted to dissolve the Soviet Union. “This is all unbelievable,” the President stated. “It’s impossible to imagine any of these things happening. The resignation of Gorbachev and ascent of Putin overshadowed the whole era, and then the brutal crackdown and reversal of Glasnost and Perestroika sealed the fate of the Warsaw Pact. The introduction of market reforms modeled after those in China was the one bright spot, but it appears that never really happened, either. Market reforms occurred after the fall of the USSR and were fraught with blatant corruption and the heavy presence of organized crime. The Soviet crackdown prevented that, and ensured a more orderly transition to a market economy. “What about the Chinese?” the President asked. “Can we assume that the Sino-Soviet free trade pact and the subsequent mutual defense treaty of 1992 never happened?” “Not only that, Madam President,” I answered, “but it appears that there was a brutal crackdown by the Chinese against student dissidents in June of 1989 that was prevented by the Russians’ alteration of the timeline. The pro-democracy students, buoyed by the events happening in the Soviet Block, staged massive protests in Tiananmen Square that were crushed by the People’s Army. Thanks to the Soviets, those events didn’t happen, and the Chinese avoided the need for a nation-wide crackdown that resulted in strong anti-communist sentiment throughout the world.” “And you don’t think this is the end of what the Soviets intend to do with their meddling in time?” the President asked her CIA chief. “I can’t imagine that this is all they intend to do, Madam President,” he answered. “What we’ve seen is probably only the beginning. So far, they’ve acted to solidify their power base and ensure the long-term survival of the Soviet Union. They are very likely working to extend their reach back into the past even further, making changes that will make the recent ones unnecessary. They’ll likely introduce market reforms much earlier, cut their military spending, undermine American influence in the world and perhaps even ultimately undermine the Chinese economic ascent. “You’ll find in your briefing packet a variety of scenarios that we think are likely, given that the Soviet’s long-term goal likely will remain one of world dominance.” “It’s also likely they will attempt to undermine our development of TTT,” I added. “They already tried it once and failed, but they will no doubt try again.
  3. Altimexis

    Relationships

    November 2004 — Chris 38 When I opened the door, I was stunned. More than a decade had passed since the last time we saw each other, but there was no mistaking the face of Paul Langley. Paul and I had had an ongoing affair throughout my graduate school years, right up until the point where Jen got pregnant. Although I’d overcompensated for the disastrous relationship I’d had with Frank Sanford by becoming a ladies’ man, Paul provided an essential release for the gay side of me that was pent up inside. In retrospect, we were never in love, but we enjoyed each others’ company, and had some wild and crazy sex. “Paul!” I exclaimed as I motioned for him to come inside. “What brings you to the Bay Area?” “Actually, you are the reason for my visit,” he began. “I was horrified to hear what happened to Jen, but I was in the midst of a grant application at the time and absolutely could not get away for the funeral. My visit here now is kind of to try and make up for that.” “Paul,” I replied, “You certainly didn’t need to come across the whole damn country to express your condolences. A card and a phone call would have sufficed. Alameda, California’s a long way from Cambridge, Massachusetts.” “To tell you the truth, I had to get away,” he related. “I just broke up with my partner of the last nine years…” “ You broke up with Steve? ” I interrupted. “Yeah, well, we just had too many differences on how a gay relationship should work. In the end, Steve was just too clingy, and he was jealous if I even talked to another guy. There was no trust, which is horrible for a relationship. “So I’m single again, and now that my most recent grant application’s done and on its way, I thought it might be a good time to get away from it all, and commiserate with a good friend who also just lost his spouse.” “We were much more than good friends,” I pointed out. “How true,” Paul said as he touched me on the arm, “but I don’t think either of us is looking for a relationship right now.” “I’m certainly not,” I agreed, and then I asked, “Hey, would you like some coffee, or Coke or something?” “If it’s not too much trouble, coffee would be great,” Paul answered. “Coffee it is, then,” I stated as I led Paul through our small house and into the kitchen. As I measured and ground the beans, Paul noted, “This is a pretty nice house for the military.” “It’s nothing like what we had in Oakland Hills, but we do have a nice view of the bay, and the school district’s one of the best in the state,” I mentioned, and then asked, “Speaking of the military base, how did you get in here without me being notified?” Smiling, he answered, “I have my ways… actually, I have a top secret clearance for some of the military work I do at MIT. Still, security’s much tighter than it was before 9/11, so I did have to check in with the base commander, but once he verified who I was, he had no trouble with allowing me to make a surprise visit to a good friend.” “Yeah, 9/11 sure changed things, but after being taken hostage and losing Jen, I’m grateful for all the security,” I noted. “Actually, I was in one of the towers on 9/11,” Paul stated, “making a presentation to a venture capital group interested in providing startup funds for one of our projects. If it hadn’t been for the hijackers being thwarted, I would certainly have perished that day. It’s kind of spooky to think about it. Had it not been for our government’s vigilance in tracking down the hijackers before they could do anything, I wouldn’t be here today.” “I had no idea, Paul!” I exclaimed. I was shocked to say the least. I’d never met someone that TTT had saved before. It was sobering to think that Paul was alive today, only because of our intervention in the future to change the past. Although I couldn’t tell him the truth about OTT, I reasoned he had a right to know just how inept the government really was that day. “I hate to tell you this, but you came a lot closer to meeting your maker than you would believe. The feds really were caught with their pants down… much more so than is commonly known. Everyone knows that Homeland Security was formed because of the mistakes that let the hijackers get as far as they did, but even with the hijackers plainly in the Fed’s sights, no one actually put two and two together and realized there was an imminent danger. “The Bush administration was quick to take credit for having thwarted the hijackers, but the truth of the matter is that they came damn close to succeeding. Had it not been for an anonymous tip, they almost surely would have.” “ An anonymous tip? ” Paul asked incredulously. “That’s all it was… an anonymous tip, and even then the White House resisted advice to ground all flights. Had it not been for the credibility of the information obtained from the tip, it’s doubtful Bush would have taken action, and four planes would have been hijacked that day.” “That’s un-fucking-believable!” Paul exclaimed. “The Bush White House certainly has never failed to take credit for something it almost totally fucked up! Do they have any idea who provided the tip?” “I’m not exactly in the loop,” I explained, “but it came from a credible source. That’s all I know.” “Wow! I really am lucky to be here today.” “More than you know, bud,” I agreed. Just then, we heard the sound of a key in the lock, followed by the front door swinging open. “Hey, Dad, I’m back,” Andy called out as he entered the house. When he entered the kitchen and saw that we had a visitor, he said, “Oh, hi!” “Andy,” I began, “I’d like for you to meet a good friend of mine from Stanford. He and I were graduate students in the same lab. This is Paul Langley, and Paul, this is my son, Andy.” “It’s nice to meet you, Paul,” Andy said as he reached out and shook Paul’s hand, not hesitating to greet him by his first name. Unlike his old man used to be at his age, one thing Andy wasn’t, was shy. “Oh great… coffee!” Andy exclaimed as he got out a mug and started to pour himself a cup. “I can sure use this.” Clearing my throat, I said, “Why Andy, it’s really nice of you to get Paul his cup of coffee. I was just about to get it myself. As you can see, I just brewed the coffee and hadn’t had a chance to serve our guest, yet.” “Oh, yeah,” Andy said with a sheepish expression, and then he looked directly at Paul and asked, “Would you like anything in your coffee, Paul? Cream, sugar or low calorie substitutes?” “Thanks, Andy. I’d like a packet of NutraSweet or Sweet-and-Low and just a touch of skim milk if that’s not too much to ask.” “Not at all,” Andy replied as he added the requested items, stirred and brought the mug to Paul. I wasn’t sure if Andy would know what skim milk was, since Californians call it ‘non-fat milk’, but he evidently did. Andy then added, “Let me know if it needs anything more.” After getting Paul his cup, Andy surprised the hell out of me by getting me a cup of coffee as well, adding milk and sugar to my taste. He then finally got a mug for himself and poured his own coffee, taking it black. Sitting down across from us, Andy asked, “So the two of you were close friends in graduate school. Just friends?” I just about spewed my coffee when I heard that, and Paul did in fact choke on his coffee and went into a coughing fit. Seeing the satisfied look on Andy’s face, all I could do was say, “Busted.” After Paul got his coughing under control, Paul asked, “Andy knows?” “Well, he’s known about me for the past few years, now,” I admitted. “He overheard Jen and I talking about it on the eve of 9/11. She confronted me, and I didn’t exactly deny it. We still loved each other and it didn’t really change things, but Andy was the one who really surprised us in taking it so well.” “I’m cool with it, Dad,” Andy interjected. “I understand why you stayed in the closet and dated women. I also realize I prolly wasn’t intended.” This time I was the one to choke on my coffee. Once I got my coughing under control, Andy continued, “Well, it’s pretty obvious, Dad. Why would you have wanted to have a kid while you were still in school, and you and Mom never married. I know you loved each other and you love me… I just wasn’t planned.” “How old did you say Andy is?” Paul asked. “He’s fifteen going on fifty,” I answered. He’s always been precocious, from the time of his sixth birthday, when he read the label on the box from his train set, calculated the power consumption in his head, ordered extra components over the Internet that night when he wasn’t supposed to, and figured out how to swap the cord from his video game console for the one I removed from the train transformer to keep him from playing with it unsupervised. Back then, he was just six going on sixteen.” “That’s quite a story,” Paul agreed. “So what did you do to keep him from playing with the train set after bedtime once you discovered he could work around your tricks?” Laughing, I answered, “I let him have the damn cord back. I figured that if he was smart enough to figure out how to get around me, I’d be fighting a losing battle to try to control him. He was smart enough to keep from hurting himself, which was my main worry, and if he stayed up all night playing with it, he’d just learn the hard way that he needed his sleep.” “Sounds like it was a wise move, and you both lived to tell the tale.” Turning to Andy, Paul asked, “So how did you figure out that your Dad and I were more than friends?” “Because you’re sitting closer together than most guys would feel comfortable sitting,” Andy answered. We both blushed, because Andy was absolutely right, and we hadn’t even been aware of it. For his part, Andy just smiled at us with a look of satisfaction on his face. “So you’re OK with your dad and I having been…” “Lovers?” Andy interrupted, completing Paul’s sentence. “Why wouldn’t I be? It’s no different than if you were one of his former girlfriends, after all. Sex is sex, and love is love, whether it’s gay or straight.” Turning to me, Paul said, “How did a dork like you manage to raise such a terrific kid?” “We’re still trying to figure that one out,” Andy joked with a straight face, earning a cuff to the side of the head from me. “So how was the mall, Tiger?” I asked Andy. “ D a a d! ” Would you stop calling me ‘Tiger’? I’m way too old for that,” he admonished me. “Yeah, I had a good time at the mall. I’ve made friends here… friends who respect me and don’t treat me like the freak who sat in his own shit while terrorists murdered his mother.” “I can’t imagine what that must have been like,” Paul said. Sighing, I related, “It’s still not easy to talk about it. Andy and I have been seeing a psychologist to help us deal with it, but it’s still so fresh, and yet I don’t ever think I’ll forget what it was like.” “The worst thing was the smell,” Andy added. “The terrorists taped us up with duct tape and gagged us. They wouldn’t let us up to go to the bathroom, and we could only hold it in so long. On top of that, my stomach was already a mess from everything that was going on, and it got to the point where I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. “But that was nothing compared to the smell of Mom. After two days, her body smelled like nothing I’d ever smelled before. It was horrible seeing her shot dead like that, but the smell is what’s gonna stay with me. Twenty years from now, I’ll still be waking up thinking I smell that smell.” “Changing the subject to what I hope will be more pleasant,” I began, “How’s MIT these days?” “It’s still the same old meat grinder,” Paul related. “Young new assistant professors enter at one end, so full of hope, and they leave at the other end, still assistant professors and burned out. It’s a shame that so much talent should be thrown away like that, but it’s MIT and they can get away with it. Fortunately, I didn’t fall prey to that fate. I have tenure and as long as I keep bringing in the grants, my chairman will be happy.” “So how much longer before your chairman retires?” I asked. Laughing, Paul answered, “He’ll never retire. Someday they’ll carry him out of his office in a casket. Frankly, I don’t want his job. Let him deal with the politics, so I can do what I like doing. Just give me a lab and a cadre of graduate students and I’ll be happy.” “It sounds nice,” I commented, and then asked, “Not to change the subject, but it’s getting near the dinner hour, and even though Andy probably ate a ton of junk food at the mall…” “Damn right I did,” he proudly exclaimed. “He’s probably getting hungry again, and I imagine you must be hungry, and tired, too. Since Jen… died, we’ve been mostly eating out and ordering out. We were going to order a pizza tonight and watch a couple of movies, but what do you say we go out, Paul. There’s a nice Thai place nearby and I remember how fond you are of Thai food…” “No need to change your plans on my account,” Paul interrupted. “I’m going to be in town for the next two weeks, so we’ll have plenty of time for catching up. Why don’t you two enjoy the evening you had planned, and we can go out some other night…” “Why don’t you join us, Paul?” Andy said. “I think you and Dad would like to spend the time together, and I certainly don’t mind having another old guy around,” he said with a mischievous smile. I was amazed that my fifteen-year-old son was inviting my ex-boyfriend to spend time with us. Fifteen going on fifty was quite apt. “Yeah, please stay,” I agreed. “You can even help us pick out the movies.” When Paul hesitated, obviously feeling a little uncomfortable with imposing on us, I added, “So it’s settled, then. You’ll stay with us this evening for pizza and movies… and popcorn! We gotta have popcorn.” “OK, it’s a deal,” Paul caved in. And then I had another thought. “By the way, where are you staying?” “I’m staying at a fleabag motel. It’s just a place to sleep while I’m here.” “In that case, we’ll stop by the motel while we’re out getting the pizza and the movies, and pick up your things to bring them here. While you’re in town, you’re going to stay with us.” As Paul started to put up his hands in protest, I rapidly added, “And, no, you won’t be imposing at all. Too many years have passed since we last saw each other. I really want you to stay with us. Check out of that fleabag tonight. Hotel Michaels is a much better place… we have a three star rating, and the rates can’t be beat.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> August 1979 • Chris-13 “Outta my way, faggot!” I heard from behind me moments before I felt someone slam into me and I went tumbling to the ground. I fell hard, and by the time I managed to pick myself up, the kid who’d shoved me was long gone, but I didn’t need to see him to know who it was. It was Billy Winslow, one of the kids in my cabin. He and just about everyone else in my cabin and at camp had been riding me pretty hard since Jeff spoke in support of gays. Jeff had tried to get me to distance myself from him and to make other friends, but I just couldn’t. He really was my only friend at camp and even though I knew he was straight, I still had a crush on him. Even if I had made the effort, no one else wanted to associate with me for fear of being picked on the way I was, and so Jeff really was the only one I could turn to. We both were taking a continual beating now, and there didn’t seem to be a damn thing we could do about it. The counselors always looked the other way, and Pastor Jenkins if anything seemed to encourage the bullying. I thought that maybe he got his jollies from watching us getting beat up all the time. The scary thing was that we weren’t even halfway finished with the summer, yet. Some campers were just there for four weeks and had already left, to be replaced by a new batch. At least Jeff would be leaving at the end of the second session too. We still had three weeks of this torture to go, and I wasn’t sure how I was gonna make it. Looking myself over, in addition to the numerous bruises I was sporting from being everyone’s favorite punching bag, my knees and elbows were badly skinned. I had no choice but to go to the nurse and get yet another lecture about how I needed to work on my ‘clumsiness’. What a crock! When I got to what they called the infirmary, I found the nurse was already busy tending to Jeff, who had a split lip and the start of a black eye. “What happened to you?” I asked my best friend. “Larry Simpson’s what happened,” he replied with disdain in his voice. Larry was one of the counselors in training, the CITs, and he suffered from a serious superiority complex and a holier than though attitude. The fact was that he was nothing but a bully and was the last person that should have been in training to be a camp counselor. Jeff may have been tall for his age, but Larry was three years older, nearly a foot taller and weighed at least another fifty pounds. If he could wreak that much damage on Jeff, I shuddered to think of what he could do to me, which is why I tried to stay away from him. Unfortunately, if a CIT got you alone and there wasn’t a counselor around, they could pretty much get away with doing whatever they wanted with you. I’d had more than one nightmare about being on the receiving end of his dick and, given the way he sometimes looked at me, I had no doubt he was interested. There’s nothing worse than a homophobic, religious self-hating gay bully. But seeing Jeff there, I got a little worried that perhaps Larry had tried something, and so I asked, “What exactly happened?” When Jeff looked away from me, I knew it couldn’t be good. Jeff wasn’t embarrassed by anything, and for him to break eye contact with me was very serious. Finally, Jeff looked up at me and quietly said, “He tried to rape me.” “The BASTARD! ” I shouted. “The fucking BASTARD! ” When the nurse looked at me sternly, I remembered that we were decidedly not alone. “’Course he’s accusing me of having come on to him… trying to seduce him, if you can believe it,” Jeff said quietly. “He says he was only defending himself, but I got him in the nads, real good. That’s how I got away. Otherwise he probly would have raped me. “I came straight here, but Pastor Jenkins barged in and took me to his office. He spent an hour lecturing me on the evils of homosexuality. I kept telling him it was Larry, and that I’m not gay, but he wouldn’t believe me. He didn’t want to believe me. Then when he was done, he told me I don’t belong here… that the camp is for God fearing Christians and not for sodomites, and he told me he’s kicking me out.” “ What?” I asked in disbelief. “Apparently I’m not welcome here anymore,” Jeff confirmed. “He’s already called my parents and told them they need to come pick me up.” “Fuck!” I said quietly. “Yeah, fuck,” Jeff agreed. Getting a bit worried, I asked, “What’s gonna happen to you? At home, I mean.” “Well, I don’t think I have to worry about them buying the pastor’s crap about me bein’ gay. Lacey’s been my girlfriend practically since we both started the seventh grade. We’re tight, and… well, let’s just say we’re not virgins.” “ You two have had sex? ” I asked a little less than quietly. “It’s the main reason my parents sent me here,” Jeff explained. “My mom came home early and caught us in bed together. We both got in serious trouble, and they decided to send me here to instill a sense of ‘Christian’ values.” “So we’re here for the same reason,” I asserted, “for having sex… you with a girl and me with a boy.” “When you put it that way, yeah, I guess you’re right,” he agreed. “And you’re being sent home because one of the CITs tried to force you to have sex with them,” I added. “Ironic, isn’t it?” he responded, and then added, “What I’m more worried about is what’s gonna happen to you. Without me here, all eyes are gonna be focused on you as the camp faggot. If Larry Simpson tries to rape you, you could get seriously hurt. Speaking of which, who was it that messed up your elbows and your knees?” “Billy Winslow,” I answered. “The little twerp,” Jeff replied. Perhaps to Jeff, he was little, but not to me. Then in a whisper, Jeff added, “If I get the chance, I’ll pay old Billy a little visit before I leave… something for him to remember me by. At least I can get a little payback for what he did to you.” “Don’t get in trouble because of me,” I admonished my friend. “Hey, I’m already in trouble,” he pointed out. “I’m getting kicked out of the camp, for fuck sake. What more can they do to me?” I had to admit, he had a point. “Seriously,” he continued, “without me around, you’re gonna be a sitting duck. The best advice I can give you is to never, let yourself be caught alone. Always make sure you’re with other kids, even if they’re kids you can’t stand. Even if they’re kids who torment you. If you’re with other kids, the worst that can happen is you get beaten up. Simpson won’t try anything if you’re around other kids. If you forget something, don’t go back to get it, no matter what. If you forget your swimsuit, tell them you have a cramp and can’t swim. Don’t go back and get it.” “What if Simpson or someone else asks me to go with them?” I asked. “I can’t exactly say ‘no’ if he tells me to.” “That’s exactly what you have to do, Chris,” Jeff admonished me. “Make him take you to Pastor Jenkins if you have to. Just don’t go anywhere with him alone. If you’re lucky, the Pastor will kick you out, too.” We both sat in awkward silence while the nurse seemed to ignore us, tending to paperwork and tidying up her supplies. I guess she had better things to do than tend to the injuries of two supposedly queer boys. We still hadn’t been tended to by the time Jeff’s parents arrived and were directed to pick him up from the infirmary. Jeff immediately introduced me as his best friend, and proceeded to explain what had happened, conveniently leaving out the part about my being gay. “How ridiculous of them to even think you’re gay,” Jeff’s father exclaimed when he was done, “but allowing a CIT to be in a position where he could rape you is unforgivable.” Sighing, he said, “I don’t know what ever possessed you to stick up for queers in the first place, but it obviously gave people the wrong impression of you and it affected your best friend, too,” he added with a nod toward me. “Obviously, that CIT is a fag pervert and he thought he could get away with it,” Jeff’s dad continued. “There’s a lesson in here, son. You stood up for people who don’t deserve your sympathy, and then one of them proved it by taking advantage of you. What he did was deplorable, but I can see where your actions might have seemed like an open invitation to him. Not that I’m condoning what he did, but you are partly to blame. “The bottom line is that you need this camp. You’re on the wrong path, and given what happened, you’re still on the wrong path. This camp is your best hope of getting back on the straight and narrow. We’re going to get this whole mess straightened out. I’ll see to it that that CIT never gets near kids again, and that you can stay here.” After Jeff’s dad left, I asked Jeff, “Getting rid of Larry Simpson would be a good thing, but I was kinda envying your getting out of this joint. Do you really think your Dad can get Pastor Jenkins to let you stay?” “Knowing my Dad, I have no doubt I’ll be staying,” he replied dejectedly, “but I doubt we’ve seen the last of Larry Simpson.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> November 1990 — Chris 24 “Chris,” my counterpart from the future, Chris-31 began, “you can look up the details in your notebooks later to verify what I might have told you before. Your memory may have been affected by changes to the timeline, but there’s a chance it may not have been, at least not yet. What do you remember about what I told you of events in my time period?” “You told me it’s an exciting time,” I replied. “You said there’s unrest throughout the Soviet Block and that the Baltic Republics have actually seceded from the Soviet Union. People protested in the streets throughout Eastern Europe and a virtual flood of people streamed to the West by whatever means they could find, until the Berlin Wall itself fell. You also told me some of what Chris-38 told you… that Germany will be reunified and that eventually the Soviet Union itself will collapse.” “That’s what I was afraid of,” Chris-31 responded. “That’s not what’s happening. Two years ago, the Soviets sent tanks into the Baltic Republics, and then they sent tanks into Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and East Germany. They’ve only solidified their hold on their territory since then, cracking down brutally on dissent.” “ Fuck! ” I exclaimed. “You’re not kidding,” Chris-31 agreed. “It’s apparent the Russians are making use of TTT to alter history, and the longer they have access to it, the further back into the past they’ll extend their reach.” “We’ve got to stop them, Chris. I need you to warn Chris-17, and have him warn Chris-13. We need to be on the look-out for further modifications to the timeline, but there isn’t much we can do until Dawson succeeds in reaching back to his counterpart in 1959.”
  4. Altimexis

    Chop Suey

    October 1990 — Chris 24 As I got dressed, the overwhelming sense of guilt returned. “I just can’t keep doing this,” I said. “Why not?” Wang asked as he came up behind me, threw his arms around me, rubbed my nipples and kissed the base of my neck. “Your girlfriend cannot give you what I can,” he whispered seductively into my ear. “I understand that you have a child, and you want to do right by the mother of your child, but isn’t what you’re doing to her equally wrong? If you’re not willing to tell her the truth and leave her, why shouldn’t you at least be happy? Let me make you happy?” he said as he slid his hands down my chest and abdomen, slipping them under the elastic of my briefs. “I need to go… Jen will wonder where I am,” I explained yet again as I turned around to face my lover. “She never did in the past,” Wang countered. “She didn’t when you used to have sex with Paul.” Yes, in the short time I’d gotten to know Wang, I’d told him virtually everything there was to know about me. He knew all about Frank, my first boyfriend, who ultimately broke my heart. He knew all about my years of trying to be straight and fucking everything that wore a skirt. He knew all about how I finally fell in love with Jen and how we moved in together, and he knew about the lengthy affair I’d had with Paul through much of graduate school, right up until Jen got pregnant. Wang knew me inside and out, and perhaps better than I did myself. I’d bared my soul to Wang Lee without even intending to, but he was such a kind, caring, loving man and I found I couldn’t help myself. He told me about his life, too — how he’d grown up in rural China and how he’d felt when he realized he preferred boys to girls. He told me about the way his family acted when he brought them shame by being caught in bed with a friend — how they literally cut him free and expected him to fend for himself as an adult when he was just fourteen. He told me how he’d made his way to the coast, escaping from the People’s Republic into Hong Kong, where he got caught up in an organized crime syndicate and was sold into a life of child prostitution. He’d been forced to sell his body, not only as a means of survival on the streets of Hong Kong, but because he would have been killed if he hadn’t complied with the demands of the syndicate. Wang’s big break came when a rich client took a liking to him and offered to buy him from the syndicate. The thought sickened me — that someone could be bought and sold like that in this day and age, but Wang really was a slave. Although the client, a middle-aged British man whom he came to call ‘Papa’, expected sexual favors from Wang, he was much more of a father to the boy than Wang’s real father had ever been. He taught Wang English and sent him to one of the best private schools in the municipality. Beyond a doubt, the way ‘Papa’ used Wang for sex was sick, but he truly loved the boy. Wang had excelled in his studies, and when the time came for him to attend University, ‘Papa’ paid for Wang to go to school in the United States and to attend Stanford University, one of the finest private universities in the world. ‘Papa’ challenged every notion I had of pedophiles, or more correctly, pederasts. What he’d done to Wang had been reprehensible, but he’d literally given Wang his life back. He’d given Wang the start in life he’d have never had if he’d stayed in rural China. Responding to Wang’s mention of Paul, I complained, “But that was before I got her pregnant. That was before Andy.” “Number one,” Wang challenged, “you didn’t ‘get’ her pregnant. Last time I checked, it takes two to make a baby. Number two, if you’re miserable, Jen will be miserable, and so will Andy. You cannot live a lie. If you’re gay, you’re gay, and no amount of trying to live a lie will make it right. If you won’t leave her, at least let me satisfy your need for pleasure. You can do just what you used to do with Paul… staying for late-night experiments, doing research in the library. There are any number of excuses you can make up to spend time with me.” “If it’s not fair to Jen, it’s not fair to you, either,” came my retort. “You deserve better. You deserve a boyfriend who doesn’t have a girlfriend on the side. Or in my case, you deserve not to be the boyfriend on the side while I keep my girlfriend and my son.” “Why don’t you let me be the judge of what’s fair to me?” Wang countered, and then he leaned forward and brought his lips to mine. We had just finished making love moments before, and yet the feel of his tongue in my mouth was more than I could resist. I was fully aroused once again, and when Wang moved to lower my briefs, I did not resist him. I let my briefs fall to the floor and stepped out of them, kicking them away in the process. Circling my arms around him, I pulled us together, relishing the feel of his skin against my skin, the feel of throbbing against each other, side-by-side, the taste of his tongue inside my mouth and the smell of his delicious scent. It wasn’t long before the eminent doctoral candidate, Wang Lee, was buried deep inside of me yet again. And then the guilt returned, but I could hardly go home. It was almost one o’clock in the morning. Jen had to be worried sick over me by now — not that this sort of thing hadn’t happened all the time before she got pregnant — I’d just made a promise to myself that I’d be faithful to her once Andy came along. How miserably I’d failed at that. Lifting the telephone by Wang’s bedside, I reluctantly dialed my own phone number. “Jen?” I said when she answered, “I’m so, so sorry. I was working on a project… it’s that thing Rankin worked out for me at Livermore to tide me over until I start in his lab… and I completely lost track of the time.” “I understand,” she said, “I just wish you’d have called. I’ve been worried sick, and little Andy’s been crying the whole time. I think he senses my nervousness.” “I know, sweetheart,” I said. “You know how oblivious of the time I get when I’m in the midst of an experiment.” “Do I ever,” she acknowledged, making me feel guiltier than ever. “Does your experiment have long to go?” she asked. “It’ll take another couple of hours or so,” I replied, lying through my teeth. “Then don’t try to come home when it’s done,” she said. “There won’t be much point, and I don’t want you on the road so late at night when you’re so tired. Is there a place you can rest?” she asked. Looking over at my new lover as he lay on his side, smiling at me with his beautiful brown eyes and his sexy body, I replied, “Yes, one of the students lives nearby, and he’s offered me a place to stay.” “That’s good,” Jen acknowledged. “As soon as your experiment’s done, I want you to go home with the student and get some rest, OK?” “I’ll definitely make it a point to take the student up on his offer and spend what’s left of the night with him,” I replied, and then I added, “By the way, his name’s Wang Lee,” and then I gave her his phone number in case she needed to reach me in an emergency. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> July 1979 • Chris-13 “Hey Chris, wait up!” I heard a voice call out from behind me. Turning around, I saw one of my cabin mates, Jeff Simonson running to catch up with me. It was my second week out of eight at Bible camp, and we were both enjoying a little free time down by the lake. My parents were convinced that there was nothing like a little sun, recreation and sports, laced with heavy doses of religion to cure the gay out of me. All I had to do was put my faith in our savior, Jesus Christ. Like me, Jeff was thirteen, but he came from Kansas City, on the other side of the state from St. Louis. The camp was located in northern Arkansas, in the Ozarks, and was about the same distance from both cities. Jeff wasn’t a particularly handsome looking boy, but he was very, very cute. He was a good six inches taller than me, and he had brilliant red curly hair, blue eyes and a face and shoulders that were heavily freckled. A light dusting of peach fuzz on his upper lip and a voice that was a good deal deeper than mine made it clear he was well into puberty. The thing I really liked about Jeff was that he always had a smile on his face, no matter how many times they asked us to recite passages from the Bible, no matter how many laps they made us run to help strengthen the ‘temple’ of the bodies God gave us, that smile was always there. It made it hard to feel sorry for myself when he always seemed to be so happy. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was developing a crush on Jeff, even as I was getting over the loss of Frank. I sometimes lay awake at night wondering if Jeff could possibly be gay, but then reason would quickly tell me he couldn’t possibly be. In a way it would almost be worse if I knew he was gay, as by design there was absolutely no privacy in the camp. There was no way for us to get together in any way other than ordinary friendship. There was no place we could go to kiss, or do other things. The entire compound was surrounded by a high fence to keep us from wandering off, and the washrooms even lacked stalls — the toilets were out in the open and everyone could see you when you took a dump. It was disgusting. When Jeff reached me, he didn’t slow down in the slightest. He slammed into me, throwing us both to the ground, and then he wrapped his arms around me and started us rolling in the sand. He rolled us right into the lake, where he immediately started wrestling with me in the water. When I was finally able to come up for air, I said just loudly enough for him to hear, “What the fuck did you do that for?” Feigning a look of shock on his face, he said, “I’m gonna tell Pastor Jenkins you said, ‘fuck’! What a shitty thing to do, you bastard,” and then he grinned the wickedest grin. “Like you don’t say ‘fuck’, shithead,” I replied, and then I dunked him, which was probly a mistake, given his greater height. It wasn’t long before he had me underwater and wouldn’t let me up. I knew he’d never deliberately hurt me, but by the time it seemed a minute had passed, I was beginning to panic. I increased my thrashing in the water, which only made things worse, and finally I brought my foot up to his crotch and gave a forceful shove. That did it — he immediately let me go and I surfaced, gasping for air. Jeff, in the meantime, was sputtering in pain. When he finally got his breath back, he practically shouted, “You asshole! Why the fuck did you kick me like that?” “’Cause I didn’t like being drowned,” I replied. “I really do like to breathe now and then.” “You wimp,” came his retort. “You were only under water for like thirty seconds. I’ve seen you swim under water for three or four times as long.” “It was more like a minute,” I countered, “and I didn’t like it.” “A minute my ass, you cunt,” he replied. “Who are you calling a ‘cunt’?” I challenged. “If the foo shits,” he replied. Within seconds, we were wrestling in the water again, and I loved it. We had a certain give and take, and being with Jeff made me more self-confident and more outgoing. We seemed to complement each other very well. As we wrestled, I felt myself get hard as I often did, and I could have sworn I felt Jeff get hard, too, but neither one of us brought it up to the other. Boys just didn’t do that. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> October 1983 • Chris-17 “You don’t understand… You can’t understand!” Frank practically cried. “No, I don’t,” I replied. “In three months, you’ll be an adult and able to do whatever you want. You’re parents will have no say in the matter. All you have to do is to hold out until then.” “If only it were that simple,” Frank sighed. “You just don’t know what it was like in that place, and my parents were gonna send me back there. They’d actually enrolled me in the damn place. It was a done deal. “It’s not just that they employ strict discipline… which they do… but there’s the constant hazing. Those of us who are sent there because we’re gay have to wear a pink armband, so everyone knows. We have to earn the ‘right’ to have the armband removed. That means putting up with being called ‘faggot’ by everyone, and being tripped and used as a punching bag while the adults look the other way. They actually encourage the other students to do this. They have carte blanche to bully us as much as they want. “The last time I was there, I suffered a broken arm and two cracked ribs, and was always covered with bruises. I was constantly spat on, right into my face, and even pissed on. And if I complained, I was the one punished, and the time for wearing the fucking armband was extended. “Sometimes the upperclassmen would round up all the ‘faggots’ and strip us naked and make us run laps in the snow in our bare feet while everyone else jeered at us and watched. One time I slipped and fell, and sprained my ankle in the process. Not only wouldn’t anyone help me up, but the one kid who did try to help me, who was also gay, was reprimanded for trying. I had to crawl in the freezing rain to the infirmary, and ended up getting pneumonia. “Yes, I’ll be eighteen in three months, but that doesn’t matter in that place. It’s like a prison… there’s no escape once you’re there. Some parents even resort to kidnapping their adult children and placing them there” “But that’s illegal!” I shouted. “Maybe,” Frank continued, “but I’ve heard they can get a court order to committed due to ‘mental illness’, so just because I’ll be eighteen doesn’t matter. Chris, I can’t go back there. Not for anything. Please understand… I had to sever my ties with you. I had to promise never to see you again. If I didn’t, they would have sent me to that awful place. They still might. I can’t even apply to Stanford or they’ll send me back there for sure. “The only reason I’m here now is because of that ingenious letter you sent me, and to say goodbye. Speaking of which, you owe me $67.50. My parents will insist on seeing the money.” “Frank, why don’t you run away?” I asked. “You could stay at Professor Dawson’s house. I’m sure he’d put you up.” “Are you kidding? ” Frank asked. “That’s the first place my parents would look.” “Then bide your time until your eighteenth birthday, and leave home then,” I suggested. “They’ll have no power over you once you’re an adult.” “Knowing them, they’ll still try to get a court order to send me back there,” Frank countered. “But even if not, I just can’t do it. I know this is hard to understand, Chris, but in spite of everything they’ve done to me… done to us … they’re still my parents. I still love them, and I don’t want to break my ties with them… not permanently.” “But what about me?” I implored him. “Don’t you love me? ” “Of course I love you, Chris,” he replied. “You can’t imagine how much this hurts, but I can’t give up on my parents’ love, no matter how wrongheaded they may be. Don’t you see? If I leave home to be with you, I’ll always resent you for causing me to lose my parents. It will tear us apart.” “But they’re the ones doing this, Frank… not me,” I countered. “I know, but it doesn’t change anything,” he acknowledged, and then added, “I really have to go. I borrowed my mom’s car and she’ll wonder what’s taking so long if I don’t return home soon. Please, just give me the money and I’ll be on my way.” After I shelled out the $67.50 from my own wallet, he asked, “Before I leave, can I have a goodbye hug?” I considered it, but I wasn’t in the mood to hug him and replied, “No, Frank. I feel hurt… I feel angry. I just can’t.” “Then goodbye, Chris, and good luck,” he said. “Always know that I still love you.” “I love you too, Frank, but I don’t like you very much right now,” I replied. “I know, and I don’t blame you one bit,” Frank said, and then he turned around and walked out the door, and out of my life for the last time. I was hurt. I was devastated. I wouldn’t take him back if he came crawling on all fours. He wasn’t the man I thought he was. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> July 1979 • Chris-13 “What an asshole,” Jeff said as we headed off to lunch. We’d just finished yet another marathon Bible reading session. For the past two hours, we’d discussed the evidence in the Bible that homosexuality is a grave sin. It was Jeff who actually tried to bring up a counterargument, using Jesus’ own words, and when that backfired on him, he asked why the Bible’s acceptance of slavery wasn’t just as valid. That earned him detention — who ever heard of detention at a summer camp? It also earned him the derision of the other kids as they called him ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’. Even though I didn’t take part in any of it, I didn’t exactly stick up for my friend, either. I just didn’t know if I could handle being labeled what I knew I really was. Finally, getting my courage back, I replied, “Asshole doesn’t begin to cover it,” and then as an afterthought, I added, “Maybe he’s taken it up the ass one too many times.” We both burst out laughing, getting stares from everyone around us. “I don’t understand why so many people make such a big deal of homosexuality,” Jeff went on. “The way they talk about it, you’d think it’s on a par with rape and murder. And people keep quoting the Bible out of context,” he added. “Some people think the Bible was talking about male rape… not gay sex… but then you have to wonder if the Bible condones female rape, which is a chilling thought. “What people forget is that the Bible was written by men… inspired by God, but even if it does represent God’s actual words, we’ve had nearly two millennia since then to fuck it up. There’s no way God would condone slavery, and there’s no way he would condone the hatred of a whole group of people, just ’cause of who they love.” Did I dare agree with Jeff? Might I be exposing myself if I said something? But then Jeff leaned closer to me and whispered, “And besides, I have to stand up for my best friend.” “Your best friend’s gay?” I practically shouted, causing people around us to stop and stare. “We’ll talk later, when we don’t have an audience,” he replied, “but, yeah, he is, and the one thing I do know is that he’s a great person. He ain’t no sinner.” It wasn’t until later that afternoon, during our free time, that I had a chance to talk to Jeff again. The first thing I asked was, “I’m surprised you still have your free time. When do you serve detention?” “This evening after dinner,” he answered. “I have to clean all the toilets and urinals in our cabin.” “Fuck!” I said. “Yeah, fuck,” he agreed. “The worst part is that it’s for something I did that isn’t even wrong. I just have a different interpretation of the Bible than the people who run this camp… that’s all. It’s nothing more than a difference of opinion. I’m being penalized for using my right of free speech.” “Kids don’t have rights,” I challenged, and Jeff agreed. “I’d never be here in the first place if I had a say in it,” he went on, “but my parents think I don’t take my religious studies seriously enough.” “I’m not exactly here by choice, either,” I added. “Yeah, and I can pretty much guess why. ” That certainly steered the conversation in a direction I didn’t want to go, so rather than respond to it, I changed the subject. “So your best friend really is gay?” I asked innocently enough. Stopping and turning to me, he asked in return, “Well, you are my best friend, aren’t you?” When the significance of what he said hit me, my faced caught fire and my heart started pounding, and I started to feel faint. “Hey, don’t worry about it,” Jeff said as he squeezed my shoulder. “I think I’ve made it clear that I’m OK with it.” Finally, regaining my composure, I asked, “How?” “It isn’t that you act queer, Chris, but I’ve noticed how you look at me,” he answered. “You look at me the way my girlfriend looks at me.” “So you’re not…” “Gay? No, I’m sorry, Chris.” My face fell, but I was surprised he was saying he was sorry he wasn’t gay. “In many ways, I wish I could give you what you want,” he continued. “You’re a great guy, and you deserve to be happy.” “Aren’t you creeped out by me?” I asked. “Why would I be?” he replied. “I know you’d never do anything to me unless I wanted it, and besides, it’s not like there’s even a remote chance we could do anything here, even if we wanted to.” Jeff was sure right about that. There was absolutely no privacy in the camp. “I realize you can’t exactly stick up for yourself,” Jeff went on, “which is part of the reason I came to the defense of gays today. I’d like to think I would have done it anyway, but having a gay best friend made it that much more real, you know? The problem is that now everyone thinks I’m gay. “’Course I don’t really care about that,” he continued. “Let the other kids think what they want. I know what I am, and that’s all that matters. I’m worried, though, that everyone will assume you’re my boyfriend by association. What I’m getting at is that you need to distance yourself a little from me, Chris. I’m not saying we can’t still hang out together and be best friends, but you need to have some other friends, too. You need to diversify your friendships for your own sake.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> October 1990 • Chris-24 “ I want you out of here NOW! ” my girlfriend shouted at me. “ You LIED to me! How could you do this to me, and… and with a guy! ” “But Wang really is a physics student…” I tried to explain. “A masters student who’s just started work on his PhD in a lab that has nothing to do with your area!” Jen countered. “And don’t you dare even suggest that he just provided a place for you to crash. His address is in Santa-fucking-Clara! I looked it up. That’s like more than an hour’s drive from here in the complete opposite direction from Livermore! You’d have had to have gone right by our apartment to get to his place, so why did you stay there? ” Thinking quickly, I said, “The lab where we did the experiment is at a satellite facility, down in San Jose.” “That’s just bullshit and you know it,” Jen challenged me. “Look me in the eyes and tell my you never had sex with him.” I couldn’t do it, I tried to look up, but I couldn’t. “ You BASTARD,” she shouted at me as she pounded her fists on my chest. “ You Goddamn fucking faggot BASTARD! ” I couldn’t believe her vehemence, and to call me a faggot was — it just was sooo out of character for her. We both had gay friends including our mutual friend Paul, who unbeknownst to Jen, was my former lover. Paul had just started as a new assistant professor at MIT, but I’d already broken up with him the moment I found out Jen was pregnant. How could she use that word? And then, as if she were reading my mind, she asked, “I bet you were doing it with Paul, too, weren’t you?” Again I couldn’t look her in the face. “ You FUCKING BASTARD!” she screamed yet again as she pummeled my chest. “ You FUCKING FAGGOT BASTARD! ” The sound of a baby’s cry brought us both back to reality. I started to follow Jen toward the source of the crying, but she abruptly turned to face me and said, “Don’t you dare think of getting near my son. MY son. You gave up your right to a son when you fucked around. “When I’m finished with Andy, I want you gone. If you’re still here when I come back out, I won’t be held responsible for what I may do, but if you value your balls, I suggest you gather what you need and get out now. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> “So she really threatened to cut them off?” Wang asked as he winced. “I’m not sure if she intended to cut them off, crush them or otherwise mutilate them,” I clarified, “but she made it clear I’d be singing with a much higher voice if I didn’t leave immediately.” “Ouch!” he exclaimed again as he visibly winced. If nothing else, Wang Lee was incredibly cute. In fact, he was adorable. I was like putty in his hands. “You know you can stay here as long as you want,” he told me with a look of sympathy in his eyes. “Actually, I wouldn’t mind if you stayed here forever.” “Really?” I asked in surprise. “You’d really like me to live with you forever?” “That’s what I said, isn’t it?” Wang reiterated. “Chris, I love you. You make me feel alive. The only reason I agreed to share you with your girlfriend was because I’d have lost you completely, otherwise. She was the mother of your son, and your son naturally came first.” “My son still comes first,” I replied, which caused Wang’s entire countenance to turn dark, or perhaps more accurately, sad. “He’s my own flesh and blood, and it’s not right that Jen should keep me from seeing him. He’s my son, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get custody. Hell, I’ll get full custody if I can, but at the least I have the right as his father to see him, to watch him grow and to teach him to be a good boy. Jen can’t teach him how to be a boy, no matter what she thinks.” “Most boys end up learning mostly from their peers,” Wang pointed out. “But there’s no substitute for the bond between a father and his son. I am not going to let Andy grow up without a father.” “Even if it means losing me?” Wang asked with obvious trepidation in his voice. After thinking for a moment, I answered, “No, but it won’t come to that. You have to understand that I’m going to fight to be with my son, but the only way I’ll ever give up on you is if you give up on me first. I… I love you, too.” “You don’t know how much I’ve wanted to hear you say that,” Wang said as he embraced me, and then kissed me. “I will never, ever give up on you, Dr. Christopher Michaels.” We kissed again, and the kissing deepened and became more passionate, and led to much, much more.
  5. Altimexis

    Deception

    September 1983 • Chris-17 “Like I told you the first time, Mom, I’m GAY! ” I shouted. “G… A… Y. What about that don’t you understand? You ripped Frank out of my life once already. You’re not gonna do it again!” “It’s not up to you!” Mom shouted back at me. “You’re both still minors and subject to our rules.” “When you were thirteen,” Dad explained, “we assumed it was just a phase. A lot of boys experiment…” “That’s not what you said back then,” I countered. “We didn’t want you to think we were OK with it, which we weren’t… and aren’t,” Mom answered. “Regardless of whether it’s experimentation or something more, homosexuality is the tool of the Devil. He uses it to seduce young boys and make them turn to evil. We had to separate the two of you for your own good. We’d hoped that four years in Catholic schools, with a firm moral upbringing, would have made you change.” “There’s nothing too change!” I countered. “I’m gay, I’ve always been gay and I’ll always be gay. What’s more, Frank and I love each other. How can it be wrong to love someone?” “It’s wrong if it leads you down the path of the Devil,” Dad replied, “and we’re not gonna stand for it. The only reason we let the two of you go camping was we thought you’d changed. You both even dated girls.” “That was just a cover,” I stated flatly. “It was to keep anyone from suspecting me of being gay, but it never changed the way I feel.” Sighing, Dad said, “Perhaps we should have done what the Sanfords did with Frank and pulled you out of Dawson’s program. Perhaps we should have sent you to a military school, too.” “To this day, Frank hates his parents for what they did,” I lamented. “After two-and-a-half years, he was literally ready to kill himself. He probably would have if they hadn’t let him come home for his junior and senior years of high school. The place was horrible, even if he was surrounded by other gay boys. He said that being in that place with so many others like him, but never having the privacy to do anything was like being out on the ocean without drinking water. It made him even thirstier than he’d have been if he’d stayed here.” “How long have you been carrying on behind our backs?” Mom asked. “Since the day he returned to St. Louis,” I answered with a smile, causing my mom to gasp. “And the moment we’re both eighteen, we’ll be back together again.” “Frank may be turning eighteen in a few months,” Dad pointed out, “but you won’t be eighteen until next April. Until then, you’re subject to our rules. First thing you’re going to do is withdraw from the University.” “ DAD! You can’t ask me to do that!” I whined. “I don’t want you going anywhere near that place. Dawson facilitated your involvement with that boy four years ago in the first place. He knew about your relationship… he condoned it. We should have pulled you from that program back then, but you were learning so much and at the time we felt we would have been biting your nose off to spite your face. Obviously we were wrong. Your learning advanced math and physics came at an unacceptably high price. “You were already accepted at Stanford and you accepted their offer, only to turn it down at the last minute. Come Monday you’re going to get on the phone with them and beg and plead forgiveness. Hopefully it’s not too late to get into the fall semester, but if they can’t take you now, you’re going to get a job until they can take you, which will likely be in the spring.” “I can’t leave… not yet,” I countered. “Professor Dawson needs me and he’s been paying me well for my assistance.” “Dawson can get someone else,” Dad challenged. “No he can’t. We’ve been working on this project together for four years. FOUR FUCKING YEARS!” I replied. “ CHRISTOPHER! ” “ NO! ” I shouted back. “You listen to me. What we’re doing is critical to a project he’s working on that has implications to national security. It would take him years to bring someone else up to speed on it.” “My, don’t you have an inflated sense of self-worth,” Dad challenged me. “Son, one thing you’ll learn as you grow up is that everyone is expendable. No one is irreplaceable. And if you think you can make me believe that the Feds would entrust a project of critical importance to national security to you when you were just a thirteen-year-old kid, you must take me for more of a fool than I think you are for suggesting such a thing.” The arguing only went downhill from there. There was no way I could convince Mom and Dad that I really was working on something that affected the very fate of the human race, much less that being gay was no different than being straight. I wasn’t even allowed to talk to Professor Dawson to explain what was going on. I was grounded, was forbidden to watch TV or use the telephone, and forbidden to use my own car — a car I bought and maintained with my ownmoney. Dad took my car keys to make sure I wouldn’t sneak out, and personally escorted me to the University on Monday morning to make sure I withdrew from school and requested a transcript of what I’d done so far, which was next to nothing, since I’d been in classes for less than a month. As I expected would be the case, getting into the fall semester at Stanford was a lost cause. Even if they could have reinstated my place in the freshman class — a place that had already been given to someone else — it was too late to get into any classes. Given my SAT scores and my grades, however, there was a good chance I could get in for the spring semester to replace one of the students that inevitably dropped or flunked out. I would have to reapply, however, and needed to do so right away. At least going to Stanford would get me out from under my parents’ thumbs. Finally, Dad relented and let me have my car keys back, but only because I would need my car to get to and from work. Dad expected me to have a job lined up by the end of the week, and made it clear there would be consequences if I didn’t. Rather than hitting the pavement in the traditional sense and looking for an entry level job bagging groceries or pumping gas or the like, I decided to check the classifieds and look for something that at least would make use of my skills. I could type more than sixty words a minute, I could operate a word processor with ease, and I could handle complex mathematics. I also thought I might check the employment office at the University — after all, Dad never said I couldn’t work there. By the end of the day, I had interviews lined up at Emerson, Monsanto, Charter Communications and Sigma-Aldrich. I also had three interviews lined up at the University. Although these were all positions as a technical secretary, they weren’t entry-level positions at all, and a few of them even required a college degree, but I was allowed to interview because of my years of working in a similar role for Professor Dawson. I would just somehow need to get a reference from him. They were all advertised at between three and five dollars an hour, which wasn’t bad money for a secretary. Regardless of what happened, I knew I would need a job, but I was hoping I could still go back to school, the sooner the better. I also knew I wanted Frank there with me by my side. If our parents didn’t approve, then fuck ’em. My plan was simple — Frank and I would leave home and stay with Professor Dawson until we were both eighteen and legally able to be on our own. We’d lie low and work with Dawson on OTT in secret, and hopefully finish the last of what needed to be done by next fall. We’d then both move to California and attend Stanford. The first step in making this happen was to contact Frank and since I wasn’t allowed to call him, nor would my calls be allowed through by his parents, I decided to meet him immediately after school Tuesday afternoon. I stood patiently outside the entrance where students gathered to meet their school buses, and waited for Frank to come out. When I finally spotted him with a group of his friends from school, I called out, “Frank?” His eyes registered surprise and shock, and then anger when he saw me. He took three long steps that brought him right up to me, and then he gave me a forceful shove that nearly caused me to fall backwards. “ Get away from me, faggot! ” he said with vehemence in his voice that I’d never heard before. “Don’t you ever come near me again or I’ll whip your faggot ass.” He then stormed back to where his friends were standing, and together they boarded their buses. I was stunned. How could he do that to me? And then my brain started working again and I reasoned that perhaps he had to. Maybe he was just putting on a show for his friends, but more importantly, for his parents’ sake. I would have to find a way to meet with him alone. On Wednesday, I began the first of my interviews. I had one at Monsanto, one at Sigma-Aldrich and one in the Biology Department at the University. That morning, I showered, shaved and even put on some cologne. I dressed up in my one and only suit and wore my best tie. I even polished my dress shoes before putting them on. The interview at Monsanto was a real eye-opener. There were at least twenty people interviewing for the job, and all of them were women except for me. We all had to fill out a lengthy application form and actual employment forms as if we had already been hired. There was even a psychological assessment! The interview itself, once I was finally called, lasted only five minutes and I suspect was terminated prematurely when I mentioned that I might leave at the end of the calendar year to attend school at Stanford. I decided that I would not mention it again in my subsequent interviews. The interview at Sigma-Aldrich was somewhat less of a circus, but again I was the only guy interviewing for the position, and I had to fill out just as much paperwork as at Monsanto. Things were also chaotic, as Sigma Chemical had just acquired Aldrich Chemical a few years back, which was based in Milwaukee, and the corporate headquarters of the combined company, in St. Louis, was still in the process of merging operations from two completely different corporate cultures. If I got the job, it could be a chance to get in on the ground floor if I stayed with the company. The interview lasted ten minutes, and some of the questions were surprisingly personal. I was even asked if I was gay, which frankly I didn’t think was anyone’s business. Taken off-guard, however, I choked on my reply, causing the man conducting the interview to say, “I’ll take that as a yes.” I wasn’t sure if he was following company policy or not, but I had a feeling that I wasn’t getting the job in any case. The final interview was in the Biology Department at the University. At least I didn’t need to fill out any paperwork for the position, since I had already been a University employee. I seemed to be the only person interviewing, but I was truly shocked, when I was called in for the interview and found Marion Dawson waiting inside. When he stood, without even thinking about what I was doing, I ran to him and we both engulfed each other in a crushing hug. I know he had a reputation of being interested only in things that could advance his own career, but to me he was a better father figure than my own father was. I truly loved the man as only a disaffected teenager could. When we finally separated, he asked, “How are you holding up, Chris.” “Not well,” I acknowledged. “I’m not sure how I’m gonna get through the next several months, or more. My parents hate me, and are insisting I enroll at Stanford this spring if I can get in again. I think they just want to get me away from Frank, but it may not even matter. I tried to see him after school, but he was with his friends and he shoved me and called me a faggot.” Professor Dawson winced when he heard me say that, then said, “He was probably just showing off in front of his friends. He was afraid that being seen with you might get back to his parents, and we all remember how they reacted the first time.” “Yeah, that’s what I was thinking, too, but it still hurt. I’m just gonna have to find a way to get him alone to see what’s really going on in his life.” “Just be careful,” Professor Dawson admonished me. “You absolutely cannot risk discovery. You’d be hurting Frank even more than you’d hurt yourself if you did that.” “Believe me, I know,” I acknowledged. “Somehow I’ll find a way as soon as I possibly can, but I won’t do anything that might risk us being found out. “So you’re interviewing me for the Biology job?” I asked. Laughing, he said, “You’re not being considered for the Biology job.” My face fell at hearing that, so he quickly added, “As soon as I got wind that you were applying for jobs at the University… of course the departments contacted me to find out if you were any good… I made some phone calls to see if I could find a way for you to work for me without your parents finding out. What we’ve done is we’ve created a dummy position for a technical secretary in the Physics section of the Department of Radiology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. As you know, Barnes is a major teaching affiliate of the Medical School, but your parents aren’t likely to make the connection to me, since it’s not directly a part of the University. It’s just on the other side of Forrest Park, and as far as your parents are concerned, we’ll let them think that’s where you’re working. “What your parents won’t realize, and hopefully will never find out, is that the Physics section is located right here in the Physics Department on the main campus. I would suggest you never let them know that fact… let them think you work in the hospital and that you were hired because of your experience as a technical secretary. Your paycheck will be issued by the hospital rather than by the University, and your direct phone line number will even use a hospital prefix rather than a University one. As you can see, I’ve covered my tracks well. “There are some requirements associated with working in a hospital… you’ll need to have a pre-employment physical, which can be done by student health, and as part of that, you’ll have to have a tuberculin test placed today and read on Friday. Assuming everything’s OK, you can start work on Monday. Because it’s an hourly position, you’ll need to be here to clock in by 8:30 every morning, and you’ll need to clock out at five PM. It’s acceptable for you to work more than the forty hours you’re required to be here, so long as we keep it off the books. Because you’re under eighteen, you’re restricted from working overtime, but I can pay you under the table in cash for your extra hours. “Obviously your role as a technical secretary won’t involve much secretarial work. As always, I’ll take advantage of your typing skills for my lecture notes when you aren’t busy with other tasks, but that’s about it. Mostly, you’ll do what you’ve been doing… continuing your studies and working on OTT.” I just sat there with my mouth hanging open as what the professor told me began to sink in. He’d arranged it so I could continue everything I already was doing with the exception of attending class. Even that didn’t matter all that much, as I’d have ample time for independent study. Most importantly of all, I’d be able to continue my work for him on OTT, helping to extend the technology back another decade and, hopefully, preventing the Russians from getting their hands on Professor Dawson in the future. I could also give more thought to how we might find a way to prevent the otherwise inevitable destruction of Earth that would come from our own interference. Without Frank, it wouldn’t be nearly as easy, but his eighteenth birthday was just over three months away, and then he would be able to do as he pleased. I was sure looking forward to that! Before heading over to student health for my pre-employment physical, I gave Professor Dawson another tight hug. He was the one who’d made everything possible. I went back on Friday to have my TB test read, and of course it was fine. My parents were surprised to say the least that I’d managed to land the kind of job that I did at Barnes-Jewish. Dad did make a comment about how maybe I really was queer, since I’d chosen a secretarial job, but I think both my parents appreciated that I was able to land a job that made use of my skills, and they were a bit proud of me for it. It didn’t hurt that I’d be earning six dollars an hour, which was nearly double the minimum wage. With nothing better to do over the weekend, I started obsessing about Frank and how I might be able to reach him, and talk to him alone. Obviously, meeting him at school was out of the question, as there’d always be friends or acquaintances around him. My last attempt in that regard had ended disastrously. The only other approach I could think of was to sneak into his home late at night, but his bedroom was on the second floor, making it virtually impossible to reach it from the outside. I had visions of me throwing stones at his window to get his attention, but then I saw myself accidentally breaking the window, and his parents calling the police. No, there were too many risks involved with a late night visit. Since I couldn’t get through to him by telephone, that only left the mail as a way to reach him. Undoubtedly, anything I sent him addressed from me would be confiscated by his parents. Even if I addressed the letter from someone else, there was a significant risk his parents would open it anyway and discover its true origin. I therefore needed to fake a legitimate letter that would somehow clue Frank in to the fact that it was from me. The thought came to me on Monday, my first day of ‘work’, when I was sitting at my desk in the Physics Department and noted that one of the drawers contained official University letterhead and envelopes. The idea came to me instantly, and so I typed out the following message on a sheet of official letterhead: There were three major clues in the letter that hinted it was from me, and I could only hope that Frank’s parents didn’t pick up on any of them. Firstly, the date of the payment was actually the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend. It was the day we’d gone swimming with everyone in Shaw Park — a day together that we would never forget. It was also the day he was spotted being where he wasn’t supposed to be, and it was because of that day that his parents were able to discover that Frank and I had been lying to them about going camping all summer. The second clue of course was my name. Instead of Christopher Michaels, I signed the letter A. Michael Christian. I could only hope it wasn’t too obvious, but that it was obvious enough. Finally, there was the fact that there was no laboratory fee for attending the program. Professor Dawson had a grant that paid all costs and Frank knew that, but hopefully his parents didn’t. Because Frank had his own checking account, his parents wouldn’t necessarily know that he hadn’t written a check to cover the lab fee. I was sure to make the fee high enough that they wouldn’t likely blow it off. The telephone number was for the one on my desk at work. With great trepidation, I addressed an official University envelope to Frank, and added my room number to the return address, along with the title, ‘Bursar’. I tucked the letter into the envelope, sealed it, ran it through the department’s postal meter, and hand carried it to the campus post office. That way it would go out that very day, and would include the appropriate postmark. After dropping it in the outgoing mail slot, I crossed my fingers, and prayed. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> September 1990 — Chris 24 Even after a dissertation is complete and the thesis successfully defended, there remains much work to do. After all requested corrections have been made, which in my very fortunate case, were none, the final document needs to be reviewed and signed by the major professor and by all the members of the committee. The requisite number of copies then needs to be made, and the copies bound and submitted to the Graduate Office along with the unbound original. The original is photographed onto microfiche, to be stored in a national clearinghouse from which copies can be requested. Additional bound copies are given to the major professor, each of the members of the committee and to anyone and everyone who contributed in any way to the dissertation. There is also an expectation that a final manuscript will be submitted and published in a major journal within one year of the completion of the dissertation. I could only imagine what all of this had been like in the days before there were computers, or even word processors. Most students, I’d heard, hired professional typists to type up their thesis and then retype it with all the requested revisions. The only way to save one’s work was on the printed page, and most students lacked the skills and the time to type it themselves. Students would spend a small fortune paying by the page for each version to be retyped. Even after word processors became available, students still often paid professional typists to do the work, as most of them lacked touch-typing skills in those days. At least by then, they only had to pay for the cost of making revisions, rather than to retype the entire document. How well I remembered the early word processors. It was not until 1976 that the first dedicated word processors became available. I certainly remembered the Wang 1200 WPS with its tiny monochrome CRT-based screen and a pair of eight-inch floppy disk drives. Professor Dawson’s lab still had a pair of them when I started there in 1978. It was not until the year after that Wang introduced the 1200 OIS, which made use of the first-ever office-wide network, allowing users to share documents and store them on a central hard drive. It was that same year, 1977, that Apple introduced their first Apple II computer. When VisiCalc, the world’s first spreadsheet program, came out in 1979, it propelled the Apple from being little more than a hobbyist’s toy to being a powerful office tool. With VisiCalc, people began to see that a personal computer could do everything a dedicated word processor could do, and much more. IBM then introduced their first PC in 1981, employing a small, little-known startup company called Microsoft to build the operating systems that ran its PCs. In the meantime, Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center, or PARC as it was known, was working on the next evolution in computing — one based on a graphical user interface rather than a command line structure to control the operating system. As with so many of their projects, however, Xerox’s corporate structure allowed the technology that could have saved the company to wither on the vine. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, however, didn’t fail to see the significance of what Xerox’s brightest engineers were doing, and ended up reverse engineering what they saw at PARC into the Apple Lisa, introduced in 1983, and the lower cost Macintosh, introduced the following year. Of course Microsoft wasted no time in reverse engineering the Macintosh operating system themselves, and although they have yet to produce anything even remotely as functional, IBM-compatible PCs are so much cheaper than the Mac that they already dominate the corporate desktop in spite of their continued reliance on a command line interface, or on Microsoft’s kludgy Windows 3.0 release. I’m just glad that Apple products dominate the educational market. Nothing works better than a Mac. I wrote my dissertation on a Macintosh IIsi with a beautiful color monitor, a huge 80 MB hard drive and a whopping 20 MB of RAM. Man, was that machine ever decked out. ’Course I could never have afforded one of them for myself without the hefty educational discount. System 6 was one slick operating system, too, and storing my thesis on 3½-inch floppies sure beat using the eight inch and 5¼ inch floppies we used to use. Since no revisions were requested, I was pretty much done with my PhD thesis — I just needed to print out a fresh copy, proofread it one final time, and then take it to the printer to have the extra copies printed up and bound. I could imagine that someday, rather than handing in printed copies, one would just hand in a floppy disk or whatever passed for one, and additional copies could then be printed out as needed. I could also imagine a day when theses would be stored electronically rather than on microfiche. I had a feeling that day would not be too far away. Maybe I could ask Chris-31 about it sometime, but then I thought better of it. Knowledge of the future should be restricted to the absolute minimum to deal with the crisis at hand. Once I handed in my PhD thesis, I started work in earnest on a manuscript that I hoped to publish in the journal Nature. My backup plan was to submit to the American Institute of Physics, and if it was rejected there, to the Journal of Physics. Because my hypotheses were controversial, getting a manuscript published could be difficult, but I would not rest until it was published in the most prestigious journal possible. The fact that my work was groundbreaking became apparent when I started getting requests for my dissertation even before I’d finished the submission process. I was even getting requests for my manuscript — a manuscript I hadn’t even written yet. Some of my fellow students treated me as if I were a celebrity, given the way my original defense had been thwarted, and I’d come back stronger than ever. I was being called ‘the comeback kid’ in a number of circles. It was during this period that I was approached by a physics student I didn’t know named Wang Lee. He was originally from Hong Kong, but had lived in the U.S. for a number of years and was just finishing up work on his Masters degree, with an ultimate goal of a PhD. His interest was in particle physics, and he found the premise of temporal quantum variations to be fascinating. He wasn’t half-bad looking — in fact, he was very cute — and he had a wicked sense of humor that made him fun to be around. We ended up spending a lot of time together while I was preparing the manuscript for submission to Nature. He often showed up in my lab unannounced and eager to go out for a beer. As he put it, I’d be more likely to finish if I took the time to relax now and then. We were quickly becoming the best of friends, but I couldn’t help but get the feeling he was actually flirting with me. Were it not for having a girlfriend and an infant son, I could have easily fallen for him, but the last thing I needed right now was a boyfriend.
  6. Altimexis

    Discovery

    September 1983 — Chris 17 I awoke to see the smiling face of my boyfriend in front of me. When he saw that my eyes were open, his smile turned into a grin, and then we briefly kissed each other on the lips. “Been up long?” I asked. “Just a few minutes, Mr. Morning Breath,” he answered, “but I was sooo enjoying watching you sleep, and thinking about last night.” A smile overtook my face as I thought of our lovemaking the previous evening, which lasted well into the night. Our camping excuse had been accepted completely by our parents throughout the summer, giving us nearly every weekend together. Unfortunately all good things eventually come to an end and when each of our families took their summer trips, it was like going through withdrawal. I imagined my parents thought I was just nervous about starting college, but although that was true to an extent, the real reason I moped around through the entire vacation was that I was missing my Frank. Classes started up in late August for me at the University and high school was about to resume for Frank. We had the three-day Labor Day Weekend to celebrate our post-vacation reunion, but then after that, our opportunities to be together would be few and far between. Fortunately, his eighteenth birthday would be in January. Just in time for him to join me at the University for the spring semester. His parents wouldn’t be able to stop him once he was an adult, but we would need to be careful until I reached my eighteenth birthday as well. There was the problem of overlap between the end of the high school semester and the start of his college classes. He would have enough credits to graduate, but would have to find some way to finish his finals and still start his college classes on time. The bigger issue — one he wasn’t sure how he would work out, was financial. The University was an elite private school with outrageously high tuition. If his parents cut him off for finishing high school a semester early against their wishes, or particularly if they realized he was in a gay relationship, there was no way he would be able to afford to attend without assistance. Unfortunately, the financial aid criteria didn’t take into consideration being estranged from your parents. If it came down to it, Frank and I might both have to work. One of the strangest curiosities was that Frank and I still had no recollection of having been together in our junior high and early high school years. Our memories of the entire period were somewhat hazy, which suggested a very high degree of uncertainty about what would happen with the changes made to the timeline, or the alternate realities created by our interventions, as Frank would say. From our continued contact with our younger selves, we knew that our relationship at the age of twelve was still going strong, but I still remembered not meeting Frank until I was seventeen, which was incredibly strange. Looking at the boy lying next to me, I answered him, “Speaking of morning breath, yours ain’t so hot, either. Must be all the jizz we swallowed last night.” “Yeah,” Frank smiled back at me. “We were really in the groove when we made love.” “For sure,” I agreed. I reached out with my hand to touch Frank’s face, then moved my hand down his torso, grazing his nipple as I went. When I got to his groin, I lovingly cupped his sack, then stroked my hand up his raging hard, pulsating member. “I really, really need to piss,” he interrupted, and I told him that I did, too. There was a small bathroom right off the bedroom Professor Dawson was letting us use, so we didn’t bother to put anything on. With raging erections that wouldn’t go down, I suggested we just jump in the shower and take care of our business there. It wasn’t that we were into piss or anything, but we were just too aroused to let go. Once our bladders were empty, our foreplay in the shower did indeed lead to more, and we were soon in the throes of another incredible climax. I loved Frank sooo much and could never get enough of him. Once we finished washing and drying each other and brushing our teeth, we got dressed in our usual summer weekend attire of skimpy shorts and nothing else, and headed downstairs. We could already hear the chatter of the professor’s other boarders and smell the frying bacon. We entered the kitchen to find Professor Dawson at the stove, frying bacon and sausage links, and simultaneously making pancakes for everyone. When we offered to help, we were rebuffed as apparently everyone else had been. It was his treat, as he put it, for the holiday weekend. We weren’t the only shirtless students that morning, but most had shirts on. There was also a girl present, which was unusual. She was a new freshman at the University and was in most of my classes. “Good morning, guys,” Marisa said to us, and we replied simultaneously, “Good morning,” as we slipped our arms around each other. “God, why is it the best looking guys are always gay?” she asked out loud with a smile on her face. Damn if that didn’t make me blush, and Frank, too. It was wonderful to be able to be ourselves in the professor’s home. Everyone knew about our relationship and either didn’t care or were outright supportive. There were a couple of other gay couples in the house who stayed there full time, so we were far from the only ones like us. Each of us grabbed a mug of coffee and sat down at the long bench-style table that was in the kitchen while we waited for our pancakes. We again put our arms around each other and Frank rested his head on my shoulder. Damn, it felt good to be in love. We were both gonna really miss these weekends. Since it was the last weekend we could go swimming for the season, one of the guys suggested we all go to Shaw Park. Shaw Park was near the University, and it had a very nice swimming pool as well as picnic grounds and other recreational facilities. At first Frank and I were gonna beg off, but then the professor said he thought it was a great idea and that he’d go, too, so of course we decided to go. After we all pitched in and cleaned up from breakfast, Professor Dawson grabbed a couple of ice chests and filled one with soft drinks and he filled the other with several pounds of ground beef and several packages of hotdogs from the freezer. Ketchup, mustard, relish and a large bag of charcoal and lighter fluid were added to the supplies. We didn’t have our swimsuits with us, but our shorts would do, so we slipped on our sandals and were on our way. We all carpooled, and we ended up riding with the two other gay couples and since I was the one with a decent car, I drove. We made a stop along the way for hamburger and hotdog buns, potato salad, coleslaw and baked beans, as well as for paper plates and plastic utensils. When we got to the park, we staked out a group of picnic tables and a grill and set our stuff out. Professor Dawson volunteered to stay with our stuff while we all went swimming. We were more than happy to take him up on his offer. He told us to be back by two, when he’d have the meat on the grill. Because Frank and I had spent all our weekends with the professor over then entire summer, and I’d spent my weekdays working for the professor as well while Frank worked as a bag boy at a grocery near his home, neither one of us had been swimming all summer. This was therefore our first, as well as our last swim of the season. Neither one of us had anything remotely resembling a tan, so we borrowed some suntan lotion from one of the other guys as soon as we got to the pool. As Frank was applying lotion to me, which perhaps I was enjoying it a little too much, I heard a voice behind me. “Frank?” the boy called out. I turned around to see a kid around my age whom I didn’t know. “Hey, Jason,” Frank replied. “What brings you to Shaw Park?” he asked. “My younger brother wanted to go to the zoo,” the boy explained, “so we decided to spend the day in Forrest Park, but with it being so hot, we decided it might be nice to cool off a bit first, especially since the pools’ll all be closed after Labor Day. Forrest Park doesn’t have any swimming, so we came here. How about you?” Now this was dangerous territory. Frank and I were supposed to be out camping — not at a swimming pool in the city. If this Jason’s parents were with him and saw us, and then mentioned it to Frank’s parents, we’d be dead for sure. I could only hope that Frank would act as casually as possible, and avoid tripping himself up in a lie. “Well I’m here with my friend, Chris, who’s just starting school at the University. We’re best friends,” and then Frank added, “Oh, by the way, Chris, this is Jason Russell. Jason, this is Chris Michaels. Jason’s family and mine go to the same church. We’ve attended Sunday School together like, forever.” “Nice to meet you, Jason,” I said. “Anyway,” Frank continued, “We’re here with a bunch of students from the University. “So,” Jason said as he got a strange look on his face, “are you guys queer or something?” The question struck us like a body blow, and was totally unexpected. I felt myself blushing and didn’t even dare to see if Frank was. Why’d I have to look so damn guilty? “The reason I ask,” Jason continued, “is that I saw what you guys were doing, rubbing suntan lotion into each other’s skin like that and, man, you guys had hard-ons!” Shit, he’d noticed! “Not that I understand it, but I don’t get upset about it, either. In any case, there are some really hot girls here and I was gonna ask you if you wanted to check them out with me… but if you’re not into girls, then I guess there’s no point.” He actually smiled at us when he said that. He didn’t seem to be upset at all. “The word is ‘gay’, my boyfriend countered. In response Jason said, “Yeah, I guess ‘gay’ does sound better than ‘queer’. It’s just what I’m used to. I still think of gay as meaning ‘happy’. Anyway, it’s all cool.” With the most serious look I could muster, I told Jason, “Listen, Jason, my parents don’t know, and neither do Frank’s. They would not be pleased. In fact, we’re not even supposed to be here. Frank and I told our parents we’d be camping, so that way they couldn’t check up on us.” “You both still living with the old folks, huh? Sure, I’ll keep your secret, but don’t let my parents see you. If they recognize Frank, I can’t exactly tell them not to talk to his parents about it.” “Thanks, Jason,” I replied. After Jason walked away, I asked Frank, “Did you want to leave?” “Not if I can help it,” he replied. “After all, there are four other kids depending on us for a ride back to Professor Dawson’s house. Tell you what, let’s just lie in the sun for a while here on these loungers. I can drape a towel over my face so Jason’s folks won’t be able to recognize me, even if they walk right by. We can hit the pool later, after they’ve probly left. Actually, I guess there’s no reason you couldn’t go swimming right now if you want to.” “Nah,” I said, “I’ll stay here with you. We can cool off later.” As we lay side-by-side on adjacent loungers, Frank started to speak. “You know, Chris, I’ve been giving some thought to how we might be able to get out of this OTT mess. Even if we create the perfect timeline, we’ll still need to find a way to merge the others with it, or it won’t make any difference… all of the alternate realities will be obliterated when the black hole forms.” “That’s assuming you’re right about time splitting into alternate realities,” I countered. “I know I’m right,” he challenged. “I can feel it. Just as I can share your dreams, I can sense my existence in the other realities. Like I said, there are now hundreds of ’em. We have to find a way out of this madness. “My initial thought was that maybe if we could somehow separate the Earth in space from its location in the other realities, the black hole wouldn’t affect us.” Laughing, I said, “Do you realize how far you’d need to move the world to keep it from being swallowed by the black hole? This whole region of space is gonna collapse into it, right? We’d have to somehow be able to move the entire friggin’ solar system a matter of light-years to escape, and we’d have to do it very quickly.” “Yeah, well, like I said, that was my initial thought, but I quickly rejected it for the reasons you stated. Plus if we could move the solar system that much, the alternate reality created in doing so would spread out at the speed of light and affect much of the galaxy, rather than just our local corner of it. “No, separating the ideal reality from the others is not a viable option. Therefore I figure we need to find a way to repair the damage… to stitch the timelines back together again.” “Some of those timelines have significant differences from the original,” I pointed out. “We didn’t originally even know each other.” “Unfortunately, there’s a chance we may have to go back to not knowing each other.” “ What? ” I practically shouted as I sat bolt upright on the lounger. “Relax, Chris,” Frank said soothingly. “I only said it’s a possibility… a remote possibility, and I would only consider it if it were the only way to save the Earth.” I lay back down and he continued, “Anyway, when I started thinking about TTT and how it works, I realized that we’re making use of a natural phenomenon. Although we generate pairs of particles that have temporal variations, these particle pairs do occur spontaneously in space, and probably not infrequently, either. There are bound to be situations, however, where large numbers of temporal quantum variations are generated, resulting in regions of space with significant temporal distortion. “If we could somehow figure out how to locate such a region and study it, we may have a way to figure out how to fix our problems here on Earth.” “That’s an interesting thought…” I responded, “but I’m not sure even how to go about measuring temporal distortion on Earth, let alone remotely, and figuring out if there’s a natural way that it resolves itself? How do we detect evidence of that?” “Maybe it’s not so much a matter of where as it is when,” Frank suggested. “There are two situations in which I would expect large numbers of temporally variant particle pairs to be generated. One is a massive supernova… the kind that leads to the natural formation of a black hole, and the other is…” “The Big Bang itself,” I said, completing his sentence for him. “ Exactly! ” Frank continued. “At that instant, the universe was without form. It was infinitesimally small, suffused with energy, devoid of the particles that comprise matter and devoid of time. Time as we know it didn’t exist at the moment of the Big Bang, but the expansion of the universe couldn’t have taken place without the existence of time…” “If time even exists,” I interrupted. “Perhaps what we perceive as the passage of time is an illusion. Shit happens,” I said with a giggle, “and we perceive that as the passage of time.” “Shit happens, huh?” Frank asked. “Where in the world did you hear that? ” “I don’t know,” I replied. “I just made it up.” “It’d be a great slogan for a bumper sticker,” Frank added, “at least until you got pulled over by the cops.” I couldn’t help but laugh. We were having so much fun. Finally, I continued, “Anyway, what I’m getting at is that time may be more of a phenomenon than an actual dimension or property. We already know time is local… you can’t compare time at two distant points in the universe without actually traveling between them. Objects that are at the most distant reaches of our telescopes appear to be moving away from us at several times the speed of light, but this cannot be. The universe is expanding rapidly, the dimensions of space are expanding along with it and the very passage of time is distorted as a result. But if instead we look at time more as something we perceive than as an absolute property…” “Then temporal variations wouldn’t exist,” Frank interrupted. “I dunno,” I replied. “It’s just an interesting idea.” “Interesting’s the right word,” Frank agreed. “Getting back to the Big Bang, however, the particles that comprise matter precipitated out as the universe expanded and cooled. First came the quarks, which suffused the universe more or less randomly, and then the elementary particles… protons, neutrons, electrons, positrons, neutrinos and so on. It wasn’t until the forces of nature… the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity… separated from each other that they could combine into atoms. “Either matter or antimatter could have formed from this, and some say that both did… that the reason there are large voids in space between superclusters of galaxies is because these are boundaries between areas of matter and antimatter. The two formed strictly as a result of statistical variation, but should they ever meet, they would obliterate each other, which is why there are voids.” “But that would mean that matter and antimatter did obliterate each other, where there are voids,” I pointed out. “However, if that had happened, the universe would be filled with gamma rays and life as we know it wouldn’t be possible.” “There are any number of ways the gamma rays coulda disappeared,” Frank countered. “They coulda been absorbed by whatever it is that makes up the dark matter, for example. Or maybe the speed of light has changed since the time of the Big Bang.” Sensing my unease, Frank put up his open hand to keep me from sayin’ anything and continued, “I know it’s heresy to suggest it, but there’s nothing that precludes a change in the speed of light with time. A faster speed of light in the early universe relative to today could result in early gamma rays being Doppler shifted to the radio spectrum, right where we measure the background radiation of the universe, but I digress… “Anyway, with all of this going on, of course the generation of paired particles would have happened in vast abundance, and temporal variations should have been as common as spatial variations.” “Frank, are you suggesting that the entire universe began with alternate realities? Perhaps a vast number of them?” “That would be the logical conclusion,” he stated. “But how would we even be able to verify that… how would we perceive it, and what would it mean?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he answered, “but if there’s way to study it, it would be in what we see in the most distant reaches of the universe, cause what we see at the fringe of the universe with our telescopes happened not long after the Big Bang itself. The farther away the objects we look at, the more back in time we’re seeing, ’cause of the time it took the light from them to get here.” “I realize that,” I said, “but what we need to see may have happened before there were stars and galaxies and other objects in the universe to see with our telescopes.” “True,” Frank agreed, “but perhaps there will still be residual effects to be found in the visible universe, or in the background radiation of the Big Bang. The question is what exactly do we look for?” “This way of thinking combined with the heat is making me dizzy,” I commented. “What say we go for a swim? It should be safe by now.” “Sounds good to me,” he agreed, and then he literally leaped off his lounger, ran to the edge of the pool and cannonballed into it, earning a loud whistle blow from the lifeguard nearby. I walked to the edge and simply jumped in, and we spent the next hour-and-a-half wrestling with each other in the water, and just having a good time. The whole time I wanted to kiss him, but that would have definitely drawn attention. When it got to be close to two, we got out of the water, dried ourselves off, reapplied suntan lotion to each other, which led to the expected result, slipped on our sandals and headed back to the picnic site. When we got there, several of the other students were already there and lined up for their burgers and dogs. Professor Dawson was hard at work, tending to the meat that covered every square inch of the grate, which unfortunately wasn’t all that big. Marissa was tending to a second grill about twenty feet away, which was also filled to capacity. Walking up to her, I asked, “Would you like a little relief with that? We could all take turns,” I suggested. “Aren’t you sweet, Chris, but I’ve got it covered,” she answered. “Dawson offered me some additional one-on-one sessions if I’d help out with the grilling. At least I don’t have to worry about him hitting on me,” she added with a smile. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones he’d told he’s gay. Two burgers, two hot dogs and a slew of coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans later, I was beyond stuffed. While we ate, we bantered back and forth with the other students and had a great time. Later on, after we’d had time to digest our lunch, we all played a game of touch football. Usually I didn’t like sports, ’cause I sucked at them, but we were among friends — friends who accepted Frank and me for what we were. In fact, I couldn’t remember ever having had so much fun. Eventually, Frank and I had a chance to get Dawson alone and we talked to him about what we’d discussed at the pool. “Hmm…” he said when we’d finished telling him our thoughts. “ If there are multiple realities, then you’re undoubtedly right, assuming, that is, that time even exists in the first place,” he added with a nod to me. “If there are multiple realities as you suggest, they’ve been around since the very beginning of the universe, but they wouldn’t have had any meaning until the universe had expanded enough for matter to start precipitating out. And as you noted, time is a local phenomenon, so we’re not talking about multiple, separate universes then, are we? No, we’re dealing with multiple pockets of reality spread throughout the universe. I’m not sure I even want to know how that would work, and I sure as Helldon’t know what to look for.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> July 1979 — Chris 13 “Happy anniversary, babe,” I said just before I planted a kiss on my wonderful boyfriend’s lips. It was Monday morning, July 9, and today Frank and I had been together for one month. It was a day to celebrate. They even had fireworks last night for us. OK, I think there was also something about a national holiday going on last Wednesday too. Coming up for air, he said in return, “Only you could make morning breath seem sexy.” “Such a dubious compliment,” I replied, “but I love you anyway.” Our lips came together again and our tongues danced in each others’ mouth. Sure the taste wasn’t exactly pleasant, but the wonderful sensation of kissing the one I loved more than made up for it. Frank was my life. Coming up for air once again, I asked, “Are you ready for your anniversary blow job?” “Oooh, I’d definitely like the sound of that, but I think if you try it now, you’ll just end up with a mouth full of piss.” “Ewe, gross,” I frowned. “Let me just go empty my bladder, and I’ll be right back,” he promised. “Actually, I’ll join you,” I said as I got up with him. We stood side by side at the toilet bowl, relieving ourselves and just enjoying being together. When our streams crossed, we got into a bit of a sword fight with our piss, but we quickly ran out of ‘ammunition’. Grabbing the bottle of mouthwash while I was up, I quickly rinsed and spat, and then handed the bottle to Frank for him to do the same. Back in bed and under the covers, our mouths joined again as we enjoyed our shared passion. “Mmmm… much better now,” Frank said after we broke our kiss. I wasn’t sure if he was referring to having an empty bladder, fresh breath, or both, but it didn’t really matter. We were together, and that was the most important thing of all. Kissing my way down his chest and his abdomen, I took my time, prolonging his ecstasy as long as possible. My reward at the end was the taste I’d come to love more than anything, and the satisfaction of hearing his moans, feeling the shudder of his release and seeing the look of contentment on his face when we were done. Afterwards, Frank insisted on returning the favor. I told him today was his birthday and he didn’t have to unless he really wanted to. When I said that, he gave me the most pathetic look imaginable, and then proceeded to bring me to my own climax. By the time we’d showered and dressed, it was already after noon. Professor Dawson had left for the University eons ago, but there were usually students coming and going all day, so it was no problem to get a ride somewhere if we needed one. As the professor’s house was within walking distance of the University, albeit not through the best of neighborhoods, so long as it wasn’t late at night there was no problem getting to the campus, either. Although we headed to campus, it wasn’t to study. Today was about celebrating our anniversary and nothing else. We therefore headed back to the scene of the crime, to the Danforth University Center, and ordered the same lunch we’d had a month ago, back when we first met. After lunch we walked to the Hi-Pointe Theater, an old-time theater that was still in operation and was near Professor Dawson’s house, and watched the matinee. It was as we were exiting the theater to begin our walk back to Professor Dawson’s house that the symptoms began. At first I just felt a little cramping, and then I felt all flushed and had a sudden need to shit. I knew I’d shit my pants if I didn’t get to a public restroom immediately. I looked over at Frank and noticed he was sweating profusely and didn’t look so hot himself. Suddenly, he turned to me and said, “I gotta go to the bathroom… NOW!” We quickly did an about face and begged to be let back into the theater to use the restrooms. Showing our ticket stubs to prove we were patrons was enough to convince them to let us in. What followed once we got to the men’s room wasn’t pretty to say the least. It wasn’t long before we were both stinking up the place with our diarrhea and our vomiting. After a while, the manager came in to see if we were OK. He took one look at us and decided we’d better go to the hospital. St. Mary’s was literally a block and a half away on Clayton Road, so he took us there in his car. It was touch and go, however, in terms of our being able to make it there, and we headed straight for the washrooms as soon as we were inside the entrance of Emergency. Of course the hospital staff contacted both sets of parents, but there wasn’t much they could do to stop the diarrhea. They started IVs in us to treat for dehydration, and they took samples to culture for bacteria to see if we had Salmonella or E. Coli infections that might need antibiotics, and to test for parasites, but otherwise they told us the diarrhea was natures way of getting rid of something harmful and we need to let it run its course. Tell that to our cramping stomachs and sore assholes! Although the culture results took a couple of days to come back, the final conclusion was that we’d gotten food poisoning from eating undercooked meat. After telling the doctor what we’d had for lunch, we got a pretty stern lecture on the dangers of eating raw or even rare meat. He told us eating rare steaks was generally OK as long as the surface was thoroughly cooked, ’cause that’s where any bacteria would be, although he did warn us that there was a much higher risk of getting parasites from eating undercooked meat in general. The big problem with rare hamburgers was that grinding the meat mixes all the bacteria throughout the meat, so there’s no way to kill them without cooking it thoroughly. No more rare hamburgers for us, damn it! It took a couple days for my stomach to get back to normal. I felt bad that we’d had such a crappy anniversary, no pun intended, but at least it started out very nicely indeed. It was on Sunday that my life changed forever. I knew it was something serious when my parents sat me down after church and said they had something very serious to discuss with me. “We got a very disturbing phone call from Frank’s parents,” Dad began. “They confronted him about why the two of you were seeing a movie on a Monday, rather than being in class or attending to your studies. It may be the summer, but the whole reason for the two of you to live with Professor Dawson is to take college-level classes and to study with the professor intensively. Otherwise, you might as well live at home. “Frank’s parents were quite upset that he’d lied to them. They threatened to take him out of Professor Dawson’s program and send him back to his junior high, and he begged them not to. He pleaded with them and broke down and cried.” Sighing deeply, Dad said, “They finally got out of him that the two of you have been in a sexual relationship for the past month…”
  7. Altimexis

    Jihad

    July 1979 • Chris-13 Frank and I were going at it, hot and heavy. We were in Danforth Center at the University, making out like crazy with our tongues down each other’s throat, literally writhing on top of each other. I could feel our erections rubbing against each other as our passion flowed over us. The fact that we were out in the open, naked as the day we were born, never even entered my mind. Students were milling about and walking right by us as if it were a perfectly normal phenomenon to see a couple of naked thirteen-year-old boys in the throes of their passion. Suddenly I heard someone shout, “WHERE IS HE! WHERE’S YOUR FATHER! TELL ME NOW OR I’LL BLOW YOUR FUCKIN’ HEAD OFF.” I was no longer making out with Frank, although I could still feel his presence with me. It was more like he was there with me in my head. I was still naked — no, I had on a pair of briefs and nothing else — and I was sitting on a stool at a counter in a very fancy and modern-looking kitchen. When I heard the shouting, I sprang up from the stool and started to run toward it, a sense of dread coming over me as if someone I loved were in danger. My body felt awkward — almost foreign to me — like it was twice my normal size. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest as I tried to run, but my legs felt like lead weights, not moving nearly fast enough. Finally, I burst through a doorway out into an entrance hall, where I saw two men, one of whom was holding a teenage boy who looked vaguely familiar, while the other man held a gun to the boy’s head. The boy was shirtless and barefoot, wearing a pair of khaki shorts with the waistband of a pair of old-fashioned boxers visible above the waistband of the shorts. For some reason, I didn’t think there was anything unusual about the way he was dressed, even though it was strange. I felt as if this boy was precious to me, even though I didn’t know him. One thing was for sure — he was drop-dead gorgeous, with smooth skin, long blond hair, piercing blue eyes and a muscular physique. He was a walking wet dream — he reminded me so much of Frank — yet the thought of actually doing anything with him seemed repulsive, although I didn’t understand why. I continued running toward the boy and toward the men holding him. The boy’s eyes locked onto mine and he shouted out, “ DAD! ” The man with the gun turned toward me and shouted, “Don’t come any further or I’ll fucking blow your son’s head off!” It was then that I noticed the men’s appearances and suddenly thought to myself how stupid I was for letting my son ( my son? ) answer the door. I realized that UPS would have never made a delivery so early on a Saturday morning ( Saturday morning? ), and noticed that although they were wearing brown shirts and brown pants, they weren’t wearing a UPS uniform. They had dark skin and black hair and definitely looked foreign, but there were a lot of students at the University that looked like they did. I had a thought that they were probably Iranian, but I wasn’t sure where the thought came from. I wasn’t even sure where exactly Iran was, although it had been in the news a lot lately. Once my body finally responded to the situation and I’d stopped dead in my tracks, the man with the gun said, “Dr. Michaels, if you cooperate with us, we might let your son live. If you don’t, you’ll both die. Do you understand?” I heard myself say, ‘yes’, but it was with the voice of an older man. “Good, we have an understanding, then,” the man said. “Take us to where you keep all of your papers having to do with Operation Time Tunnel. ” “I have no papers here,” I said in the older man’s voice, but somehow, I knew I was lying. “The only records on the project are at the lab.” The man with the gun pushed it firmly against the boy’s head and the other man said, “Just kill the boy. I’m sure Dr. Michaels will talk by the time we finish breaking all of his fingers, one at a time.” “ NO! ” I heard myself shout. “Don’t hurt Andy! I’ll do anything you ask.” A thought came to me — a sense of determination — that I’d already ‘lost’ my daughter and I was not gonna lose my son. “That’s much better,” the man with the gun said. “Now take us to where you keep your papers!” “Everything’s in the basement,” I heard myself say. “Then take us there,” the man with the gun said, “but remember that if you try anything funny, Andy dies.” I nodded my head and then started walking down a hallway and opened a door, turning on a light to reveal a flight of stairs leading downward. Seemingly knowing what I was doing, I led the group of us downward into what appeared to be a finished basement with rich wood paneling. Inside were a pool table and an elaborate model train set. There was a sofa and some chairs, and on one wall, mounted above a fireplace, was the hugest TV I’d ever seen. At least I instinctively knew it was a TV, but it was much wider than normal, and it was flat and hung on the wall. Continuing into the room with purpose, I led us all to a door, which I opened, and we all walked into what appeared to be an unfinished area of the basement. To the right was a laundry area with a washer and dryer — at least that’s what I knew they were, but they both had large, round glass doors that opened in the front rather than on top. We turned to the left and walked into a workshop area, with a large workbench and a bunch of power tools. I reached out and grabbed hold of a large sheet of plywood that was propped against a wall, and pulled it aside to reveal a steel door. The door had a fancy lock with a keypad on it. “Open it!” the man with the gun demanded, and I felt as if I was about to make a vital decision. I had a choice of codes to enter, and if I entered the wrong one, my ‘son’ could die. If I entered the wrong code and I lived, I would almost certainly go to jail — somehow I knew this — but I knew that if I entered the ‘right’ code, the very survival of Earth was in doubt. Summoning every bit of courage I had, I entered the ‘hostage’ code. There was a beep, and then a click, and then I reached for the doorknob, turned it, and pushed the door open. Flipping on a light switch as we entered, we wound up in a surprisingly large, well-lit room with an amazing assortment of electronic equipment, the likes of which I’d never seen before — not even at the University. But then I saw something familiar. Off to one side was a comfortable-looking recliner, and above it was mounted a helmeted contraption. A table next to the apparatus held a shiny flat metal object with what looked like a white plastic apple with a bite out of it, on top. I instinctively knew I was looking at a first-generation TTT machine. This one used a complicated array of quartz emitter-detectors instead of the ‘mirror ball’ we were building back at the University, and it used a computer to do what we were gonna do with vacuum tubes. The two men began speaking excitedly in a language I didn’t understand. The one without the gun pulled a small black object out of his pocket and opened it up to reveal something that looked surprisingly like a miniature telephone. He pulled an antenna up out of it and then looked at the inside of the thing for several seconds before saying, in English, “No fucking signal!” The two men spoke to each other again in a foreign language, and then the one with the phone-like object left us alone with the man with the gun. Suddenly, there was the sound of a car horn — a double honk — and the boy said, “Shit.” It sounded so funny to hear a cuss word coming out of that angelic face, but I knew the implication had to be serious. Then I heard myself say, “That’s my wife. She’s just arrived home with groceries and your van is blocking her way into the garage. If we don’t go out and help her, she’ll come storming in here in a minute or two and she’ll be pissed as hell.” The man with the gun seemed to ponder the situation for a bit, and then he said to the boy, “Come with me, but don’t try anything or you’ll both die.” We left the room with the TTT machine and walked through the workshop and laundry area back into the finished part of the basement. Just as we reached the stairs, I heard a woman shouting, “What the HELL is going on here? I have a tonof…” and then there was a scream, followed by the sound of a gunshot. I heard the boy shout out, “ MOM! ” and then I was suddenly sitting bolt upright in bed. My heart was racing and I was covered with sweat. Frank sat up and threw his arms around me as I said, “What the fuck was that?” I musta still been under the influence of the dream, ’cause I almost never cussed otherwise. “It seemed so real,” I said, practically in tears as Frank tried to comfort me. Finally, he responded, “I was there, too, in your dream. I saw and heard everything you did, but this was not the first time for me. I’ve had this same exact dream, many times before, only I’ve always seen it through the eyes of the son. It was always I that had the barrel of a gun pressed against my head. It was always I that saw my own mother bein’ shot. This time we both saw it through the father’s eyes. This time I think it was your dream and we saw it through your eyes.” “Are you sayin’ I’m the father of the boy in this dream,” I asked incredulously, “and that you’re my son? That’s just wrong, man.” “Actually, this is the first time I’ve actually gotten to see the boy in the dream — his name is Andy — and although he bears a striking resemblance to me, we’re not the same. I don’t think we’re even related, but to be honest, except for the hair, he bears even more of a resemblance to you, Chris.” I started to open my mouth in protest, but then I thought about it and I realized Frank was right. The boy in the dream could easily be my brother, or at least a close cousin. “I take it that you agree with me,” Frank went on, “but there’s even more. You didn’t get a chance to see what the father looks like in the dream, but I have, many times. His face is etched into my memory. Now that I’ve had a chance to see how you’ll look when you’re seventeen, there can be no doubt. The father in the dream is you. He looks like I imagine you’ll look in another twenty or thirty years. He’s incredibly handsome for an older guy, by the way.” “That’s just plain weird, man,” I replied. “It was so bizarre, and why have you been having the same dream? You say that this time it came from me but that that cannot be. It had to be from you, ’cause it’s always been your dream, man… not mine.” “No, Chris, you don’t understand,” Frank responded. “We experienced it as a dream but what we just saw was real. I think we just saw something that’s gonna happen in a future alternate reality… one that we created.” “You mean that horrible nightmare we just saw is really gonna happen?” incredulously, I asked. Nodding his head, Frank continued, “This was the first time I actually got to see into the lab in the basement… not that I would have recognized an OTT lab before I met you anyway. And those fake delivery guys are obviously foreign nationals, probably Iranian. The thing is, it looks like this dream means the Iranians are gonna try to steal TTT.” “But I thought the Iranians were our friends,” I protested. “We used to think they were,” Frank answered, “but who knows what they’ll be in thirty or forty years. We supported the Shah of Iran to help fight the Communists, but the Shah was never popular in his own country. If I remember my history right, I think the Americans and the British actually helped the Shah depose a democratically elected, Western-style government in order to restore the monarchy, which was a repressive regime.” “Why the fuck would we do that?” I asked. “’Cause we only care about our own self-interests. ’Cause Iran has oil, and our oil companies were essentially stealing it from them. ’Cause the democratically elected government nationalized the oil fields and demanded a fair price for their oil, and the Shah reversed all that, returning the oil fields to our greedy oil companies in return for bein’ restored to power. And then the Shah squashed all his dissent and took away the people’s freedom while we looked the other way. ’Cause we thought the Shah could do a better job of keepin’ the Russians outta the Middle East. “That’s why the people of Iran rose up and deposed the Shah back in February. Now I think the people of Iran resent America for propping him up all these years. And the new government ain’t no democracy, either. It’s an Islamic republic that’s even more repressive than the Shah, but the people support it ’cause it’s their government. No, with all that hatred in them, the people of Iran probably reject everything Western. “I imagine a fundamentalist Iranian superpower would love to get their hands on TTT and use it to erase the Shah’s reign entirely. They’d probably use it to destroy our future as a superpower, too. They might even work with the Russians on that one,” Frank concluded. “What a fuckin’ mess!” I exclaimed, “and how do you know so much about Iran, anyway.” Shrugging his bare shoulders, he replied, “I’ve read a lot, and I don’t forget much.” “I guess not,” I responded, “but what do we do about all this. I mean the thought of what we just saw makes me sick, but it would be even worse if Russia or Iran or anyone else got their hands on TTT. How do we stop them?” “That’s a tough one,” Frank admitted. “Short of using TTT to go back and convince the White House to cut off aid to the Shah, I somehow doubt there’s anything we can do to change the future… well to create an alternate reality in which the Iranians don’t go after us. “Maybe we should wait to hear from Chris-17 and ask him to find out what happened. If we’re lucky, maybe you escaped the Iranians, in which case we may not need to do anything.” “The code I entered to open the door,” I related, “it was a hostage code. It caused the alarm system to send an alert to the local police that we were being held hostage and had been forced to disarm the system.” “Oh cool,” Frank responded. “I guess ’cause you were seeing things through the eyes of your future self, you could sense your own thoughts, whereas I couldn’t.” “I wonder what happened after that gunshot,” I asked rhetorically. “I wonder if the police got there in time to save us.” “Not for Andy’s mother, your wife,” Frank replied. “I very clearly saw her being shot. I always woke up right after seeing her lifeless eyes, though… it’s an image that has haunted me ever since the first time I saw the dream… so I have no idea what happened afterwards.” I couldn’t help but think about the grief my future self and my ‘son’ would go through if my future wife was killed, and then I remembered the thoughts I had about going to jail… <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> September 2004 • Chris-38 We’d just been through a very difficult few weeks. Going through a hostage ordeal was something Andy and I would never forget. Our very survival had been in doubt for the more than 60 hours that the siege had lasted before the SWAT team finally stormed our house and killed the terrorists. The memory of the sight of Jen’s lifeless body and her blood splattered all over the walls and kitchen cabinets, not to mention the smell of her decaying body and the shit she released in death, was something that would always be with us. During the siege, our every move was monitored by the terrorists. We were bound and gagged with my own duct tape. They stripped us of even our underwear, so we were forced to sit naked in the great room, which was open to the kitchen and my wife’s corpse. We weren’t even allowed to go to the bathroom and by the end of the siege, the whole house stank from our shit and piss. We were also severely dehydrated and had to be hospitalized once it was all over. Thank God for the large skylights we had in the kitchen and great room. Thanks to the skylights, even with the shades closed and the lights off, we were not sitting in the dark the whole time. It was also through those skylights that the SWAT team was able to take out the terrorists in the early morning hours of the third day of the siege. Although Jack had left us alone after the hostage incident, I knew my day of reckoning was coming. I’d never forget the look of shock and disappointment on his face when he visited me in the hospital, and I told him that there were records and an actual full OTT lab in my basement. Because of that and because our house was already a crime scene, the entire Oakland Hills police department had to be brought into the loop to a limited degree. They weren’t told of the nature of OTT, but they were told the files and equipment were vital to national security, and everyone involved in the investigation had to undergo a thorough background check, and be sworn to secrecy. We also had to assert veto power over what could and could not be collected as evidence and, indeed, some of the evidence already collected had to be returned to us, and the record of its ever having existed had to be expunged. Yeah, I’d created quite a mess, for we couldn’t even acknowledge the existence of a secret lab in my basement without the news media going ballistic. It would have been international news, and we simply couldn’t have that. On the other hand, I’d very clearly broken the law and by all accounts, should have been punished severely for it. True, I’d only set up the lab in my basement because Chris-45 had asked me to, but Jack was not at all happy that we’d found it necessary to bypass his authority in the first place. The only thing that was keeping me out of jail was the potential impact that jailing me could cause to the timeline. If I were imprisoned, OTT would never come to fruition and everything we’d worked so hard for would have been in vain. It was a true no-win situation. Of course I discussed the whole thing with Chris-45, who was now fully aware of the hostage incident and was living with our old high school sweetheart, Frank Sanford. That we’d reconnected with Frank after all these years was a real shocker, to say the least. There was nothing Chris-45 could do for me in my time period, however. Everything was in Jack’s hands. Burying my wife had been tough. The funeral itself had been a real media circus. There was no way it could have been otherwise. Iranian terrorists taking a top Lawrence Livermore scientist hostage was front page news in papers around the world. Of course the Iranian government was denying any connection with the incident, but with Iran’s known interest in acquiring nuclear weapons and with the assumption that I was involved in nuclear weapons development — an assumption based solely on where I worked and my top-secret security clearance — no one was buying that the Islamic government wasn’t involved in some way. And then there was Andy. Andy was surprisingly strong throughout the hostage ordeal, but he was devastated by his mother’s death. I had never seen Andy so withdrawn as I’d seen him during the past few weeks. He just didn’t want to interact with anyone — not even his closest friends, nor the girl he’d talked about asking out just before the terrorists arrived at our doorstep. We were both in counseling with a psychologist who specialized in the treatment of survivors of hostage incidents, but it didn’t change the fact that Jen was dead. What should have been an exciting time in Andy’s life was instead a time of despair. My son would probably never be the same. Nor would I. We’d hired a professional firm to clean up the mess in our house. Human blood is extremely difficult to remove and we ended up having to replace our kitchen cabinets. The sofa Andy and I had been bound to also had to be replaced — not even reupholstering it could have fully gotten rid of the smell. In the end, we decided to replace all the great room furniture and to completely redo the kitchen. The memories of what had happened in those two rooms were just too strong to leave them as they were. I vowed not to make a snap decision, but I suspected that we might ultimately have to sell the house and move — otherwise the memories would always haunt us. Indeed, the only thing keeping us there was my desire to keep Andy in the same school with all of his friendships intact, but all bets would be off if I ended up going to jail. In that case, I feared that Andy might even be sent to live with my parents in St. Louis — parents who hated him because he was born out of wedlock, and who hated me even worse for having had a homosexual affair while in high school. I shuddered at the thought. It was on the Tuesday after Labor Day that Jack finally sat me down in his office to lay out the terms of my reprimand. “I’m really disappointed in you, Chris,” he began. “I understand why you did what you did, particularly with Chris-45 telling you to do it. I’m sure he had good reason to ask you to set up your lab at home, and it disturbs me that he probably has a lab of his own in his time period. I can’t do anything about Chris-45, other than to clamp down on your activities now, and I certainly intend to clamp down on your activities now. “I don’t think I need to tell you now that having your own independent laboratory at home is an unacceptable security risk. Keeping any records of your work at home is no longer acceptable. If the Iranians could get to you once, they could try it again. We’ve secretly assigned a 24-hour security detail to watch your house for your own safety, but you’re going to have to move to a more secure location for your own protection, and for Andy’s. This isn’t a request. We’re also going to have to assign a Secret Service detail to Andy when he’s at school as well as at home. We can’t take a chance on him being abducted as a way for the Iranians to get back at you. “As much as I’d like to send you to jail and throw away the key for what you did, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t do that. You have to be allowed to complete your work on OTT, at least until it reaches fruition. After that, depending on how well you cooperate, or not, all bets are off. “In the meantime, you will effectively be under house arrest. You’ll have to wear an ankle bracelet. Your secret service detail will be as much to keep an eye on you as to protect you. You’ll only be allowed to go between your home and here. Even trips to the grocery store will have to be cleared in advance. “I know that with what happened, you didn’t get to take your annual vacation, but I’m going to have to cancel all future vacation time. You will not be allowed to travel beyond your work and your home. You will not be allowed to attend national or international conferences. For Andy’s sake, I recommend that he enroll in something like the Boy Scouts so that he can have a life outside of home and school, but he’ll still have to have his Secret Service detail with him at all times, and trips out of the area will need approval in advance.” Getting a much softer look on his face, he then said, “Chris, I know what you’re going through, and then some. When I lost Susan and the kids, I thought my life was over. It may not seem like it now, but in time the pain will subside and you’ll be able to move on, but if there’s anything I can do right now to help, just let me know.” “Thanks, Jack,” I replied. “You’ve been more than fair. I appreciate your allowing me to continue my work on OTT and allowing me to remain free, even if under house arrest. It’s as much as I could have hoped for, and at least Andy will be able to get back to a normal life eventually. I just hope we can stay in Oakland Hills and he can continue to attend the same school. It’s hard on a teenager to have to be uprooted, to leave their friends behind and to start over.” “If possible, we’ll try to keep you in Oakland Hills, but I can’t guarantee it. Tenet wants us to house you at the Alameda Naval Complex, right off the coast of the City of Oakland and on The Bay. I’ll say one thing… it would be much more difficult for the Iranians to get to you there, and it would be a lot easier to protect Andy as well. He could go to middle school on base, which would give him a lot more freedom. It’s also an easier commute than the one you have now. I dounderstand, however, how difficult it is to uproot a teenager from their lifelong friends.” “Actually, Andy’s in high school at Skyline High,” I pointed out. “He’s in his junior, but final year.” “Right… where’d the time go. And I forgot that he’d skipped a grade. Bright kid. If you do end up in Alameda, Alameda High’s one of the best public schools in the state. The math proficiency’s more than 90%, which is a great deal better than where he’s going now. Alameda High isn’t as secure as being on the base, but with the military presence on the island, we can make it secure without having to have him shadowed by the Secret Service.” “I’m not sure what he’d prefer to do,” I related. “I would think he’d prefer to remain in Oakland Hills, but given the choice between doing so under the watchful eye of the Secret Service and of having more freedom in a new place, knowing him, he could go either way. “You know,” I said, changing the subject, “I can’t help but feel guilty for what happened. That room I have in the basement is a concrete-reinforced safe room. They could have blown the house up around us, and we’d have still been safe if only we’d been in that room by ourselves. If only I’d stopped to think about how absurd it would be for UPS to make a delivery that early on a Saturday morning, I could have stopped Andy from opening the door…” “And when Jen came home a few minutes later, they might well have taken her hostage and used her to force you to open the door, anyway,” Jack pointed out. “You might have all ended up being killed if you’d played it that way.” Instinctively, I knew he was right, but it still didn’t make it any easier to accept it. That evening after work, I arrived home with my new ankle bracelet in place and my Secret Service detail in tow. Andy was already home, and had his Secret Service detail with him as well. “I just wish they’d have warned me about this,” he said at dinner. “I understand why they’re doing this, but did they have to pull me out of class on the first day of school to tell me about it? The whole school already knows about what happened, but now everyone’s gonna treat me like a freak.” “Andy,” I began, “you certainly don’t need to make up your mind right now, but the CIA Director has ‘offered’ to put us up in military housing at the Alameda Naval Complex. If we did that, you’d be able to attend Alameda High School without the need for Secret Service protection. You’d still be somewhat restricted, but the military can keep us reasonably safe, there. Alameda High has a much higher ranking than Skyline, too.” “I don’t even need to think about it, Dad,” he replied. “My life here is wrecked. I can’t go anywhere or do anything without being stared at, and my friends won’t even sit with me. Everyone treats me like a piranha. I know some of my troubles will follow us wherever we go, but right now I’d like a chance to start over. “Dad, I need to get away from here. I’ll always miss Mom, but I’ll never get over what happened as long as we live in this house. If it’s OK with you, I’d like to move, and Alameda’s prolly as good a place any and maybe better than most. I say we do it.” “A military house won’t be nearly as nice as what we have now,” I pointed out. “As long as we have our privacy, I don’t care,” he replied. “I’d be happy to live in five hundred square feet if it meant I could be a normal kid again.” “I’m sure it’ll be a lot better than that, but don’t expect anything fancy.” “As long as it has four walls and broadband, it’ll be fine,” Andy stated, and I couldn’t help but laugh. “Something tells me you’d take broadband over running water,” I laughed. “Need you even ask?” he said as the first smile I’d seen since the funeral overtook his face. I drew Andy into my arms and we hugged each other tightly. No matter what, no matter how, I was going to do everything I could to protect my wonderful son until the end of time.
  8. Altimexis

    Boyfriends and Boyfriends

    July 1983 • Chris-17 “So this is what you have to go through,” Frank said as he watched Professor Dawson and me at work. Frank was dressed only in a pair of tighty-whities, and he was wearing his glasses, ’cause we’d just gotten done making love less than an hour before. Watching Frank lounging around in next to nothing was arousing me all over again. He was every bit as sexy in glasses as he was wearing contacts. Noticing the obvious tent in my briefs, he walked up to me and gave it a gentle squeeze and said, “We’ll deal with this thing later.” “Later, I’ll be too doped up from the Valium,” I lamented. “At least it’s not like we didn’t already have our fun, hon,” he replied. I couldn’t help but smile at the memory of our evening together. We’d told both sets of parents we were going camping and hiking for the weekend. That way they couldn’t check up on us, since there was no way to reach us by phone, and since we were supposedly in a public place, Frank’s parents didn’t need to worry about a sexual aspect to our time together. This was the fifth weekend in a row we’d done this, and we hoped to continue using camping as an excuse to get together on the weekends over the entire summer, up until our families took their summer vacations in late August. We’d even gone out and bought a season pass for admission to all the Missouri state parks to make it look legitimate. The reality was that we were spending our weekends at Professor Dawson’s house. That gave us plenty of time for a little fun in the sack, and we were able to work on OTT and to contact Chris-13, as we were gonna do tonight. It was also an opportunity for Frank to catch up on his studies with Dawson, since he’d fallen way behind after his parents pulled him from the program. After enjoying dinner with some of Dawson’s other students who roomed there, many of whom, it turned out, were gay, he and I had retreated to the spare bedroom for a little recreational time before getting down to the business of OTT. We’d started out undressing each other and then sucking each other off, and had progressed to the most incredible sex of my life. We’d tossed a coin to see who would give and who would receive, and I’d won — I was on the bottom. Frank had been incredibly patient in the way he opened me up. I really appreciated that. It wasn’t like there were any manuals we could read on gay sex or anything, and we were both inexperienced in the matter. Still, Frank had taken his time massaging me with the Vaseline. Sure, there’d been a little pain when he’d first entered me, but then what little pain there was had been replaced by incredible pleasure. I’d never felt anything like it. This was the first time we’d gone this far. Tonight we had become as one. We’d been as intimate as two guys could be — we’d made love, and we were in love. “I’m just about ready here,” the professor called out. “The tubes are fully warmed up and functioning perfectly, and the emitter-detector is on-line. Everything’s functioning perfectly.” “Then let’s do it,” I said. Earlier models of the apparatus had relied on sophisticated computers and lengthy computer programs to synchronize brainwaves between the past and current brains, but our apparatus worked entirely using analog signals and vacuum tubes, making it suitable for use decades into the past, if necessary. A single emitter/detector was deflected into all areas of the brain by using a ‘mirror ball’, which actually consisted of a spinning cylinder in which were mounted a series of precisely placed particle deflectors. Coming up behind me, Frank put his arm around my shoulders and gave me a gentle squeeze as Professor Dawson stuck a needle into my arm, withdrew the plunger to verify that he was in the vein, and then pushed the plunger down, sending five milligrams of Valium into my bloodstream. I immediately began to feel the effects as my hold on the world around me started to slip away. I barely sensed that the mirror ball had started spinning. Making use of the feedback tone coming from the equipment, which was tracking my brainwave patterns, I cleared my mind completely of my thoughts and allowed myself to slip into an alpha rhythm. Although it had been a month since our last contact with Chris-13, we were targeting a time only two weeks after our last contact with him. It would be the middle of the week in his time period, so we expected him to be alone and in his own bed. The reason for contacting him tonight was to verify that he’d made contact with Professor Dawson in his time period and that everything was proceeding on-schedule. Unbeknownst to the professor, I was also going to verify that nothing strange was going on that might indicate that he’d been compromised. It took about ten minutes for me to fully relax and slip into a pattern on a par with REM sleep. Gradually I felt my thoughts becoming one with the boy who’d been me four years before. Focusing my thoughts, I concentrated on appearing as myself in front of my thirteen-year-old counterpart. Slowly, his image came into focus in my mind as well. As was usual, his facial features were in exquisite detail, whereas the rest of him faded into the fog. The one thing I could tell was that he was completely naked, as was I. It was always this way. Our body image was always devoid of clothing in our sleep. No sooner had we greeted each other than a third person began to materialize in our dream state. I gasped when I realized that it was a thirteen-year-old version of Frank. For me, it was a feeling of déjà vu. “Whoa! This is sooo far out, man,” young Frank said as he came into focus. “So this is what it’s like when you communicate with each other.” “What are you doing here, Frank?” I asked. “What do you mean, ‘What am I doing here?’ I’m right next to my boyfriend in bed. I didn’t realize I could ‘crash your party’, so to speak,” he added, “but this is really, really cool.” “Your counterpart in my time period can do the same thing,” I commented. “It seems to be a unique ability you have.” “So we’re still together in four years?” young Frank asked. “Actually, we didn’t know each other before. You and I became boyfriends for the first time a few months ago,” I related. “By getting me involved with Dawson a couple years earlier than before, I guess it speeded things up by several years.” “So we are gay!” Chris-13 exclaimed. “Yes, we are very definitely gay,” I replied. “You needed to ask?” Frank said with a smirk on his face. “After the way we went at it tonight, did you have any doubts? No straight boy would beg for it up the ass the way you did!” “Whoa,” I said, “that’s more than I wanted to know!” Just as I was about to say something more, a fourth figure started to coalesce in front of us. It was the Frank of my time period. “Well, you kept calling out my name, and I wanted to see what was going on and make sure everything was all right.” “But you’re awake,” I said. “Not anymore,” he answered. “I injected myself with five of Valium, so I could join in.” “Dawson let you do that?” I asked incredulously. “I did it when he wasn’t looking, and before he could stop me,” the older Frank explained. “I wouldn’t have been willing to bet it would work,” I added. “Obviously it did,” he giggled. God, I loved his giggle. “Frank,” Chris-13 said to the younger Frank, “you are going to be such a stud. ” “I’m already a stud,” the younger Frank challenged Chris-13 in the sultriest voice a thirteen-year-old could muster. “Of course you are,” Chris-13 said, back pedaling a bit. “I love you the way you are now, but you’re gonna be phenomenally hot as a seventeen-year-old. I am sooo lookin’ forward to the next four years together.” “Me too, babe,” the younger Frank said, and then the two younger images kissed, right in front of me. This was all new and uncharted territory in TTT-land. “If I could interrupt your making out for a bit,” I interjected, “What are you two even doing in bed together? It’s not even been two weeks since you met. I can’t picture my parents letting a friend say over until they got to know him better, much less on a weeknight.” “We’re not living with our parents right now,” Chris-13 answered. “Professor Dawson needed more of our time than we could give him living at home, so we’re living with him during the week, and just spending the weekends with the old folks. We’re gonna keep doin’ it when school starts back up in the fall, too.” “But what about school?” I asked. “Professor Dawson worked out a deal with our schools,” the younger Frank explained. “We’re gonna test out of the whole Math and Science curriculum, all the way through high school, and he’s hired a tutor to teach us everything else, so we won’t fall behind.” “He said that if we wanted to, we might even be able to become real college students at the University by the time we’re fourteen,” Chris-13 added. “That would be groovy as hell,” I exclaimed, “but it would really fuck up the timeline,” I pointed out. “We’re gonna need the contacts we make at Stanford, particularly in Graduate School, if we’re gonna be in the right place at the right time for OTT. If we finish college four years early… or rather three years earlier than we actually did the first time around, we might not be in the right place and time when the job becomes available at Lawrence Livermore, which is where we’re gonna develop TTT. It could be a fuckin’ disaster.” “But stopping the Russians is probly even more important than the keepin’ the timeline consistent,” the Frank of my time period pointed out. “If they manage to stop our development of TTT, there’d be no way to stop the ultimate destruction of Earth. We’re in a race with them, man. At the very least, the Russians would end up winning the Cold War… or worse.” “Fuck, you’re right,” I admitted. “When did we get such a fuckin’ trash mouth?” Chris-13 asked with a giggle. “I don’t usually talk this way,” I explained, “but this is one really fucked-up mess.” “And we really know how to fuck,” Chris-13 giggled. “Actually, in my timeline, tonight was Frank’s and my first time,” I corrected them. “No shit?” the younger Frank asked. “No shit!” the older Frank answered, “but it was the best experience of my life.” “One thing I bet that hasn’t changed,” said the younger Frank, “is that Chris is a fantastic lover.” “The best,” said the older Frank. “Please, guys, could we stick to the subject?” I asked. “I thought fucking is the subject,” Chris-13 interjected, and then he added, “but seriously, if Frank and I became boyfriends four years earlier than before, how come you don’t remember it? You should have memory after memory of us fucking like jackrabbits. Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, Fuck, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK, FUCK! You should remember that!” “You sure seem to like saying ‘fuck’,” I noted. “That’s ’cause I can get away with it here,” he explained, “but seriously, why don’t you remember?” Before I could even ponder how I was gonna answer that one, young Frank explained, “It’s probly ’cause there’s still a lot of uncertainty in the timeline. A lot could happen in the next four years. Nothing’s written in stone. Much as I don’t want to think of it, we might not even be together in four years. With so much uncertainty in the timeline, you can’t remember what’s happened ’cause in a sense, it still hasn’t happened yet.” “I couldn’t have put it better myself,” I said as I smiled at young Frank. “There’s a lesson in this,” the older Frank chimed in, speaking to our younger counterparts. “You two need to be extremely careful. You mustn’t be found out. No one else can know that you’re workin’ on TTT, and absolutely no one besides Dawson must ever find out that you’re boyfriends. “I know you’d probly like to shout your love for each other from the mountaintops. I know. I feel the same way, but you can’t. If any of our parents found out, they could keep us apart ’til we turn eighteen. Now that I’ve found my Chris,” he said as he wrapped an arm around me, “I don’t ever want to be apart from him again. Please, PLEASE don’t do anything to jeopardize that, even if you have to cool things off for the next four or five years. Keep your relationship under wraps!” Watching my boyfriend plead with them certainly seemed to be a real downer for the younger guys, but as sobering as the implications were, they really needed to hear it. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> July 1979 • Chris-13 I opened my eyes to see that Frank had awakened as well. He had a different look on his face — if I had to describe it, I’d say he was subdued. Unless the experience I’d just had had been nothing more than a dream, we had just shared an experience that was both awe-inspiring, and frightening. We’d literally had a conversation with ourselves nearly four years into the future. That we were still together in four years was encouraging, but our future selves hadn’t even met until a few months before. In other words, Frank’s and my relationship was not yet written in stone, and the future was thus very uncertain. One little mistake and we could ruin any possibility of being together, perhaps even for the rest of our lives. Getting a smile on his face, Frank said, “Chris, our counterparts from the future were right… we have to be careful, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be ourselves in the here and now. If we’re discovered, it would be a disaster, but if we stop being who we are out of fear of what might happen, we might as well split up right now. What’s the point of being boyfriends if we’re gonna let our fear keep us apart, even now. “Yes, we’ll be careful, but we’re not gonna stop living, just ’cause of what might happen.” My boyfriend was wise indeed. No we wouldn’t do anything that might risk our exposure, and to our friends and families, for all appearances, we’d be nothing more than the best of friends. When we were alone in Professor Dawson’s house, however, we would love each other, and make love to each other. I had no doubt that our love was meant to be. As I was thinking these thoughts, Frank leaned forward and pressed his lips to mine. We already had our arms around each other, and we were soon both very hard. Our kisses and caresses and nips and licks soon progressed to fondling, and sucking, and before long I found myself buried in Frank this time. Yes, we would cherish our love. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> August 1990 — Chris 24 “And in summary,” I stated to the audience, “temporal quantum variations cannot be explained solely based on variations in the Earth’s magnetic flux.” Remarkably it had only taken me three months, but I’d finally provided the evidence I needed to complete my dissertation — my second attempt at defending my thesis. Actually, it wasn’t just me. It had taken the help of my counterparts from the future to come up with a viable set of experiments that would prove my case. All three of my future counterparts had gotten involved — Chris 31, Chris-38 and Chris-45. Although we didn’t need to make use of TTT directly to prove the case, we came pretty damn close, and there was a lot more theory from our future work in OTT than any of us would have liked. This left us a lot more vulnerable to being discovered than had originally been the case, but if we hadn’t made use of the OTT theoretical framework, there might never be an OTT in the first place. Of course, the Russian guy was there again to try to pick apart my dissertation. The Russians were not about to give up on discrediting me so easily. When it came time for the audience to ask their questions of me, he wasted no time in making his way to a microphone. “Dr. Michaels,” he began, “you have claimed to have shown evidence of the existence of pair quantum particles in a single point in space, separated by time. You have postulated that one of the particles travels forward in time, but that the other travels backwards in time. You have further shown evidence that the quantum state of one can be determined if the other is known, just as is the case with paired quantum particles in space. “You have gone well beyond your original hypothesis, and the experiments you have conducted now largely make the issue of quantum variations that could be affected by changes in the Earth’s magnetic flux, a moot point…” “Is there a question somewhere in here?” my major professor interrupted. “I’m just now getting to that,” the Russian gentleman responded. “Now if the quantum state of a particle traveling backwards in time can be determined by knowing the quantum state of its pair, which is traveling forward in time, does that not mean that one could in theory send information back in time?” “In theory, yes, but that’s pure conjecture,” I answered. “But if your hypotheses are correct, you should be able to do so, no?” “In theory, that is correct,” I answered, “but that is assuming that there aren’t other factors that place limits on what is possible. What I have done is to provide evidence in support of my hypotheses. This is far from constituting proof of the ability to send information back in time.” “So you admit there may be limits, or constraints, or that your theory may not even work,” he continued. Man, was he relentless. “I believe that is true of virtually every dissertation,” I countered. “Absolute proof is an extreme rarity, if not a myth.” “But if your theories are correct, then you would of necessity violate a number of sound, basic physical principles, not the least of which are some that are near and dear to General Relativity. Given the choice between accepting your theories and accepting Einstein’s, which by the way have been tested and verified time and time again, I would be hard-pressed to support yours.” “Relativity does not preclude time travel,” I pointed out. “In fact, Einstein himself suggested that it’s a definite possibility.” “He also demonstrated how difficult it might be to actually go back in time,” the Russian countered. “For example, you would have to deal with such things as infinite mass and negative energy.” “That’s true,” I agreed, “and it would be a significant impediment to a person traveling back in time, but we’re not talking about sending a person back in time. We’re talking about sending information back in time, and information has no mass. A massless object does not become infinitely heavy as its speed approaches that of light. Relativity does not preclude anything I have hypothesized.” “But sending information back through time could still result in a paradox,” he pointed out. “It is true,” I agreed, “there is nothing to contradict this or to preclude the creation of a paradox that we know of. It’s possible there is a physical phenomenon, property or law we do not yet know about that would prevent sending information back in time. It’s possible that nature has other mechanisms for dealing with paradoxes, such as the emergence of alternate realities, or the formation of a singularity in which time no longer has meaning. Or perhaps paradoxes do exist, and the outcome from them is as certain as that from multiplying zero by infinity. “The point is that just because an idea doesn’t sit well with us doesn’t mean that it can’t contain some truth. Just because sending information back in time could create a paradox doesn’t mean it can’t happen, no matter how disturbing the idea may be. All I have done is to demonstrate that theoretically, it may be possible.” After the Russian’s questions, everything else was easy. The committee was happy with the new data I’d provided, and they did something I’d never seen before — they approved the thesis without any further revisions. At last, I was done!I’d be able to start work in Rankin’s lab in the spring next year, and I’d be able to start work at Livermore right away. My life was back on track. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> August 2004 • Chris-38 It was Saturday morning and Andy and I were enjoying a leisurely breakfast, both clad in our usual morning attire of underwear — boxers for Andy and briefs for me — and nothing else. Jen had very kindly prepared pancakes for all of us, but ran out of eggs and decided to make a quick run to the store to pick up some more as well as a few other things we were out of or nearly out of, while she was at it. She’d insisted on Andy and me getting started — after all, we were starving — and the pancakes she’d already made would otherwise be cold by the time she returned. It was thus that Andy and I found ourselves sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the paper, each with a large stack of pancakes in front of us. Andy as usual had the Sports Section and I had the Front Section. I was lost in my own thoughts when I heard the sweet tenor of my teenage son’s voice. “Dad,” he started to ask, “how do you know when you’re in love?” Putting down the paper, I noticed that he’d put his portion down as well and was looking intently at me, with a very serious look on his face. But then slowly his trademark smirk started to take over his face. “Can I take it you’ve met someone?” I asked. “Well sorta… kinda… I guess,” came his nervous answer. “How do you ‘sorta’ meet someone?” I asked with a gentle smile on my face. “Well there’s this girl, Stacy Rollins. She was in my pre-calculus class, and in my English class too last year. Me and a bunch of the guys were at the mall doing our back-to-school shopping, when we ran into a bunch of girls from school. Stacy was among them. We kinda joined up, did some of our shopping together, and went to the food court together. “It’s not like I had a chance to actually meet her. We already kinda know each other anyway, having been in middle and high school together and all, but we never really talked to each other before, until yesterday. I’m not sure if talking’s the right word, though. I mean, she was there and I was there and we both talked as part of the group. More than once, I caught her lookin’ at me, though, and I sorta liked lookin’ at her, too. “You’re a good looking boy, tiger,” I pointed out, “and I would think a lot of girls would like looking at you.” Boy, did he ever blush! “Yeah, well,” he replied, and then continued, “At the mall yesterday, I realized I really, really like her. She’s smart, she’s intelligently funny… she’s hot,” he added with a silly grin, “but I just couldn’t get up the nerve to talk to her. I really think I may be in love with her, but how will I know, and how will I ever get to know her if I don’t ask her out?” “Andy, you’re fifteen but because of your aggressive pursuit of your studies, you’re probably a good couple of years behind your peers when it comes to the dating scene. You haven’t even gone out in a date before, have you?” I asked. Coloring up, he got a sheepish grin on his face and shook his head ‘no’. “There’s nothing wrong with that, Tiger,” I responded. “Some studious kids don’t go out on their first date until college, in spite of what you may have been led to believe. Not that I’m discounting the notion of ‘love at first sight’, but you usually do need to get to know a person before you can fall in love with them. However, there is something commonly referred to as ‘chemistry’, and while not all relationships with the right ‘chemistry’ will lead to love, it’s pretty hard to love someone if the chemistry isn’t there. Romantically, that is,” I added. “One thing I should caution you about, though,” I continued, “is not to confuse love and lust. When you see a ‘hot’ girl, or a hot guy for some of us, all kinds of hormones are released and you feel an intense ‘need’ to be with them… to dothings with them. As they say, you feel ‘horny’.” “Daaad!” Andy exclaimed as he turned redder still. “There’s nothing wrong with feeling horny, Andy. It’s perfectly natural. We all feel that way sometimes, and just because you’re in a stable relationship doesn’t mean you’re immune, either. Lust shouldn’t be confused with love, however. Just because you’re excited at the prospect of being with someone doesn’t mean you’re in love with them.” “ Dad,” Andy whined, “give me a break. This is more than lust… way more. If I just wanted to deal with being horny, there are plenty of girls who’d be willing. Guys, too. A lot of kids do it all the time. They call it ‘hooking up’ and treat it almost like a hobby. I’ve sure been approached enough times, but that sort of thing’s not for me. “If I just wanted to get off, I could do that myself. Yeah, it’d be nice to do it with someone instead of alone, but it’d still just be sex and nothing more. Excuse the language, but I don’t want to lose my virginity by getting a ‘quick fuck’. I want my first time to be special, with someone special. Hell, I hope every time will be special… and with someone I love. “I kinda think that person may be Stacy. I like everything about her, and maybe love her. The thing is, although it’s hard not to think about sex when I think of her, more than anything I just want to be with her… to spend time with her and get to know her better. I want her as my friend as much as I want to take her to bed.” Laughing, I said, “I can’t believe you’re discussing this with me, your father, so casually, almost like two adults. I could have never talked about sex with my dad.” “Dad, you couldn’t even admit to yourself that you’re gay, so you aren’t exactly the best model either,” my son countered. “Still, I don’t think most teenagers feel comfortable talking to their ’rents about sex, but then you’ve always been precocious. You’re fifteen going on fifty.” “God, I hope not!” he exclaimed, and then continued, “So how do I know if it’s love?” “Well, being attracted to each other, sharing common interests and values, enjoying each others’ personality… these are all foundations on which a love relationship is built. Do you think she feels the same way?” “I have no idea,” Andy practically cried in exasperation. “She did smile at me a lot, but she smiles at everyone, and I don’t know if she was just being polite. And she’s older, too. I’m a grade ahead, and her birthday’s in the fall instead of the spring, so she’s actually almost a year and a half older than me. “Than I,” I corrected him. “That’s what I said, ‘than me ’,” he practically giggled. He was pulling my leg, and we both knew it. “Seriously, Dad,” he continued, “How do I know if she’s interested. What should I do? Should I maybe text message her?” “Nothing would turn her off more than if you text message her,” I explained. “That’s so impersonal. The best way to get to know her better is to go out on a date, and the best way to impress her and make sure she says ‘yes’ is to call her personally. I know it’s hard, but you’ve gotta do it if you want a chance with her. “Call her up, ask her if she’d like to go to the mall with you and maybe catch a movie. Take her to a real restaurant and not just the food court. Also… this is very important… let her choose the movie. But it all comes down to making that first phone call… to marshalling all your courage and taking that first step.” Nodding his head, Andy said, “OK, I’ll do it. It’s prolly too early still, but in another hour, she’s bound to be up and I’ll call her then. Maybe we can even go out tonight! “Oh,” he added as an afterthought. “I’ll need some money if I’m gonna take her out. Movies and restaurants are expensive.” Chuckling, I lamented aloud, “With you dating, looks like I’m going to have to raise your allowance.” Just then, the doorbell rang and Andy hopped off his stool, grabbed a pair of board shorts from his bedroom and went to the door to find out who it was. I heard him shout out, “Who is it?” obviously not knowing the person he saw through the peephole, and I heard someone call out, “UPS!” I could hear Andy opening the door, and then he screamed. I was out of my chair in a flash, but before I’d even taken two steps, I heard someone shout in a thick accent, “WHERE IS HE! WHERE’S YOUR FATHER! TELL ME NOW OR I’LL BLOW YOUR FUCKIN’ HEAD OFF.”
  9. Altimexis

    Digital Music

    June 1979 • Chris-13 When Dad dropped me off downtown at the University, I felt strangely like I belonged there, but man, I was a good foot shorter than everyone else on campus. I was only thirteen years old and surrounded by college kids. Of course there would have been a lot more students around if it were a weekday and not Saturday, and if classes were still in session. Yeah, my junior high was still in session, even though the university had already let out for the summer. Five weeks ago, before the first time Chris-17 contacted me, I would have been petrified, but now I felt confident. Some of the worst bullies at school — the kids who’d always tormented me — were now my best friends. Everyone knew that I could take it and dish it right back, so no one bothered me anymore. Dad had wanted to park the car and take me inside. He wanted to meet with Professor Dawson himself, but they’d already talked on the phone at length about his program and my progress in school. What was the point? The last thing I needed was to show up with my ‘old man’ in tow. It was bad enough I had to rely on him for the wheels to get there, but he certainly didn’t need to drop his nickels into a parking meter on top of it all. Dad insisted on seeing that I got into the building OK, so when I reached the heavy old wooden door, I turned around and waved at him, and then I went inside. In contrast to the outside, where there were college kids milling around all over the place, the place seemed deserted inside. I actually did get a little apprehensive as I approached the massive, ancient stairway that led to the second floor. The fluorescent light fixtures that hung from the ceiling looked like something out of an old World War II movie, and there was a constant hum coming from them. Letting a smile take over my face, I grabbed onto the rail and started to climb. Here I was, a thirteen-year-old seventh grader, and I was attending a weekly program for high school students that taught them advanced college-level math and physics. That was sooo totally cool. I was also secretly gonna be helping Professor Dawson build a kind of time machine, so he’d be able to visit with himself in the past. I would have liked to have tried it out, too, but how much could I say to a six-year-old version of me. I’d be just too young. Professor Dawson was an older guy, close to forty, I guess, so he’d have plenty to say to his younger self. When I got to the top of the stairs, I looked around until I saw the room number Dad had given me. On the frosted glass pane that made up most of the upper half of the wooden door, was printed the name, ‘Professor H. Marion Dawson’. I was in the right place! Light filtered through the translucent glass, and inside I could hear what sounded like two or three young teenage voices having an animated discussion about something. I reached up with my hand and confidently knocked on the glass. The talking stopped immediately and a loud, booming voice said, “Come in!” When I slowly opened the door, inside I saw a balding, middle-aged man with thick glasses and a really goofy smile, and with him were three boys who were all older than me. If I had to guess, I’d say they were fourteen or fifteen years old, and they were all pretty cute. Then it hit me — I’d just admitted to myself that three teenage boys were cute. I’d been thinking a lot about my sexuality lately, and was coming to the realization I was probly queer. I didn’t want to be queer, but it was hard to deny the feelings I had. Since my best friend had said it wouldn’t matter to him, I felt a lot better about it, but I was worried that Mom and Dad would never accept it. For that reason alone, I was gonna keep it a secret. It was funny, but before my contact with Chris-17, I’d have never had the courage to even think about the possibility of being queer, let alone rationalize it. My contact with him had definitely changed my life dramatically for the better. Next time we spoke, I was going to have to ask him if we’re queer. Walking up to Professor Dawson, I extended my hand to him and said, “Professor Dawson, I’m Chris Michaels.” “Hello, Chris,” he answered. “I spoke at length with your father about you, and of course I’ve had contact with your counterpart via my counterpart. We have a lot to discuss, and I’ll be sure to make the time to meet with you later. “In the meantime,” he continued, “we need to get you up to speed on the math you’ll be using in your studies and for your ‘project’. What you’ve been studying in school up to this point is nothing more than arithmetic and — the basics of how to do computations with numbers — but you haven’t a clue when it comes to the use of mathematical formulas. We’re going to change that. “What I’d like to do today is to pair you up with a student who’s about your age. He started with me last summer, so he’s a fair bit ahead of you, but I know he’ll be happy to help you get started. His name is Frank Sanford, and he’s in the seventh grade at Washington Junior High in Mehlville. Professor Dawson walked me down the hall and around the corner into a room where a boy was doing some reading by himself. He looked up when we entered, and my voice practically hitched in my throat. Frank Sanford was one of the most strikingly handsome boys I’d ever seen. Unlike mine, his complexion was flawless, and he had long, flowing golden blond hair that reached nearly to his shoulders. Behind a pair of huge glasses with amber frames was a pair of amazing, deep blue eyes. He was wearing a tight-fitting tank top that left his shoulders bare and left little else to the imagination. He wore a pair of skin-tight jeans and there was a pair of sandals on the floor next to his bare feet. Wow! I couldn’t help but stare, but then he seemed to be staring right back! I wasn’t sure if queers could fall in love, but in that instant, I knew I was in love. I wanted this boy, and I wanted him bad. Could he possibly feel the same way? When Professor Dawson cleared his throat, I looked up at him and noticed that he had what could only be called an amused look on his face. “Frank,” he said, “this is the boy I was telling you about. Frank Sanford, meet Chris Michaels. Chris, meet Frank.” “Hey,” Frank said as he flashed me the most beautiful smile, and I smiled back. I wondered if I’d have a chance to kiss those beautiful lips — did I really just think about kissing him? It was then that I realized I was hard — painfully hard — but rather than being embarrassed by it, I kinda wanted him to know! When our hands made contact, it was the most incredible thing I’d ever felt in my life. The feeling was electric. “Well, I’ll leave you boys alone so you can get... ‘acquainted’,” Professor Dawson said. “Don’t forget to spend at least some of the time studying,” he added as he closed the door behind him. What the hell did he mean by that? After he’d left, we continued to stare at each other, neither one of us quite knowing what to say. Was Frank as attracted to me as I was to him? If he was queer, how could two queer boys tell each other how they feel, especially when they’re only thirteen? Finally, he said, “I guess we should get down to studying.” “Yeah, I guess,” I responded, but neither one of us moved. “Why don’t you pull up that stool and sit next to me,” he suggested, “and we’ll start by going over some of these lecture notes Professor Dawson uses in his introductory class.” “OK.” I pulled up the stool he’d pointed to and set it down right next to him and toed off my sneakers. When I sat down on the stool, it turned out I’d placed it so close that we were touching from our shoulders to our knees. The feeling of body contact was incredible. Frank sharply inhaled, and then I turned to look at him, just as he turned to look at me. Our lips were just inches apart and as if drawn by a magnetic force, they came together. The feeling of kissing Frank was everything I’d ever dreamt a kiss could be and then some, and then his lips parted and our tongues became involved. Without even thinking about it, our arms went around each other and we pulled ourselves closer together. I worked my hands through his blond locks, reveling in their silkiness. My dick was so hard, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it ripped right through my jeans. When we finally came up for air, Frank just said, “Wow!” and then he smiled at me and touched his forehead to mine. Our arms were still around each other, and it felt great. “Yeah, wow!” I agreed. “That was incredible. Where’d that even come from?” “For a while there, I thought that ‘cum’ might be the operative word,” he said with a giggle. Much as I loved hearing him laugh, I just didn’t get it, and when he saw that, he said, “You, know, ‘cum’… ‘c’, ‘u’, ‘m’… it’s when you, you know, when you jerk off and it comes out.” “Oh…” I said as realization dawned on me. He was making a sexual joke — a play on words — a pun. “So like, did you cum?” Pulling his head back and shaking it a bit, he said, “Nah, but right now, I’m so close, I think if you breathed on it, I would.” “Me too,” I admitted, and then I said, “So I guess this makes us queer, huh?” “More like bein’ queer makes us do stuff like this,” Frank countered, “but ‘queer’s not a very nice word. You know in New York, there was a big riot like, ten years ago at a place called ‘Stonewall’. It’s what they call a ‘gay bar’. The police raided it for the umpteenth time, and the patrons had just had it. For the first time, they stood up for themselves and decided they weren’t gonna take it any more. They fought for what they’re calling ‘gay rights’.” “Gay,” I said, “I never heard of gay bars and gay rights before.” “There are a lot of us out there, Chris. I like the word, ‘gay’. It sounds a hell of a lot better than ‘queer’. How much better to be happy and gay, than to be queer and strange.” “Gay,” I said again. “I could get used to that word, but how do you know so much?” “’Cause when I figured out I like boys and not girls, I decided I’d better read everything I could find on it. I have to hide it from my folks, ’cause they’d flip if they found out…” “Same here,” I interrupted. “A lot of people seem to think we’re crazy, but we aren’t crazy,” Frank said. “We’re gay! ” I loved the way he giggled when he said that, and I giggled right along with him. He was cute — no, he was adorable. “I guess we should get down to going over this crap,” I suggested reluctantly. “It’s not crap, Chris,” Frank challenged. “This stuff really is useful, and it’s fun. You’re gonna need to learn it, but I think you’ll like it.” He pulled out the stack of lecture notes he had with him and grabbed the set labeled ‘primer for the zeroth lecture’. “Professor Dawson will get you your own set of notes when you meet with him later. Now the important thing to remember is that numbers are nothing more than a representation of physical objects and measures... you don’t need physical things to work with numbers and number systems. The four binary operators we learn about in elementary school… addition, subtraction, multiplication and division… are actually properties of the number system that help to define it. The fact that one and one is two, and that you can add sequences of numbers in any order and always get the same result, something called the superposition principle… basically defines how a linear number system works.” I knew that to most kids our age, what Frank was saying would make no sense at all, but to me, it was crystal clear. He made it seem so simple, and I just got it. Compared to the endless hours spent with my parents and flash cards trying to memorize the addition and multiplication tables, this stuff was trivial. By the time we were ready to break for lunch, I understood the concepts of integers, rational, irrational, real, imaginary and complex numbers. I understood squares and square roots, and exponentials and logarithms. I understood what a function was and instantly saw the tremendous power associated with the concept. At the end we discussed what algebra was and how it was merely the application of these concepts to the real world. Frank didn’t even need to show me how to solve equations — I figured out how on my own. He did need to show me how to solve simultaneous equations, but he only needed to show me once. As soon as I understood the concept, the rest came easily. “So did you bring lunch with you?” Frank asked when it got to be noon. “I didn’t even think about being here for lunch,” I replied. “No problem,” he said with his trademark grin. “I’ll save my PB&J for tomorrow, and we can go grab a bite at Danforth.” Slipping on our shoes, we headed out of the building and across campus to a stately old building with a sign, ‘Danforth University Center’ out front. As we walked inside, Frank explained, “This is what they call the ‘Student Union’ at other colleges, but here, the Student Union is what they call the undergrad student government. I learned that the hard way.” We walked up to the grill and he said, “Today’s my treat. Order anything you want. Next time, you can pick up the tab.” “You don’t have to do that,” I started to complain, but he interrupted me and said, “But I want to,” and then he lowered his voice so only I could hear it and added, “boyfriends do that for each other, after all.” “Boyfriends… I like that,” I replied quietly, and he grinned in return. Man, did I like being around him. We both ordered hamburgers, fries and cokes, but Frank blew me away when he asked them to make his hamburger ‘rare’. “I didn’t know you could make a hamburger ‘rare’,” I stated. “Sure you can,” Frank replied. “I like my steaks that way, too. All you have to do is ask.” Wondering how it might taste, I told the student taking our orders, “Make mine rare, too.” When our orders were ready, Frank slathered ketchup, mustard and relish on his, while I added ketchup, lettuce and tomato to mine. We both got some ketchup for our fries. When I bit into my burger, I couldn’t believe how wonderful it tasted until I looked where I’d just bitten into it and saw how red the meat was. It almost made me sick, but then I thought to myself about how good it tasted and I forced myself to ignore the way the meat looked. I could have never done that before my contact with Chris-17. “This is really delicious,” I told Frank with a big grin on my face. “I told you it’s much better rare,” he replied. “There’s nothing worse than overcooked meat.” While we ate, we chattered up a storm, telling each other about ourselves. Frank told me he was an only child, whereas I told him I had an older brother and an older sister, both of whom were already in college. We found that neither one of us cared for sports, that we both adored science fiction and had read a lot of the same books and seen the same movies, and that we both liked mellow pop music like Paul Simon and The Carpenters. We had sooo much in common! We started talking about music in general, and Frank mentioned that he’d gotten an eight-track tape player for his thirteenth birthday. I’d gotten a stereo cassette recorder for mine, and I was jealous that there was so much more selection in eight-track tapes. “That’s why I wanted an eight-track,” he said, “but now that I’ve got one, I don’t think they’re gonna be around much longer. The tapes are bulky, you can’t record on them, and you can’t rewind them.” “I’ve seen eight-track recorders,” I mentioned. “Yeah, but I can’t imagine trying to use one,” he countered. “Even if they weren’t so expensive, if you make a mistake, you have to play the track all the way through to get to the spot where you want to record over it. You can’t back an eight-track up… it’s a continuous loop. “The compact cassette, on the other hand, is just like a miniature reel-to-reel tape. You can fast-forward, rewind and record to your heart’s content. Maybe you can’t find as many pre-recorded cassettes, but you can record your friends’ records.” “That’s exactly what I’ve been doing,” I noted. “The only problem with that is that, not only do you end up recording all the scratches and pops in their records, but you get tape hiss on top of that.” “There’s something new called ‘Dolby’ that gets rid of the hiss,” Frank countered, but then I replied, “Yeah, but it also gets rid of some of the music. I’ve heard Dolby, and the music kinda sounds like it’s under water or something. It doesn’t sound as alive as listening to it on a record.” “Maybe it just needs to be perfected,” Frank suggested. “I’m sure it will be,” I agreed, “but you know, I was thinking… calculators are gonna replace slide rules because they’re faster, and much more accurate. Calculators are digital, like computers, so you always get the same result, no matter how many times you enter the same numbers. “Why can’t they do that with music? If the music could be converted to a stream of numbers, recorded on tape, and then converted back to sound, it should sound perfect. Even if the tape wears thin, the numbers should still be there.” “I like the idea, Chris,” Frank said, “but something tells me you’d need a tape cassette the size of a book to record music if it were digital… and the tape player would probly be as big as one I saw for recording TV.” “Maybe if they used a light beam instead,” I suggested. “You could take a disc, like they use for records right now, and make it silvered, like a mirror. You could then poke holes in the mirrored surface so it would interrupt the light beam. The holes could represent the ‘zeros’ and the reflective parts could represent the ‘ones’.” “That’s an excellent idea, but you’d need a disc the size this table to fit all the ‘ones’ and ‘zero’s on it. Unless you used a laser beam,” he added as an afterthought. “If you used a laser beam, you could probly shrink the disc down to something the size of the label on today’s LPs. ’Course the laser would be the size of this table, then, and it would cost a small fortune, so it wouldn’t help you much.” “Lasers are getting smaller and cheaper,” I countered. “Edmond Scientific sells a laser that’s not much larger than my cassette recorder, and it’s under a hundred bucks. I’ll bet you anything that by the end of the next decade, they’ll have lasers smaller than this pen,” I said while holding up my ‘Bic Click’, “that cost only a few dollars.” “You’re probly right about that,” Frank agreed, “and if you are, then music probly will be digital. Your idea for a digital disc will very likely replace records and tapes completely. Can you imagine bein’ able to carry your entire music collection around in a small suitcase?” “Someday, I bet you’ll be able to carry it around in something the size of a deck of playing cards,” I suggested. “That would be sooo groovy!” Frank exclaimed. “Except a digital disc wouldn’t have any grooves,” I laughed. “Speaking of which, how many grooves does the average LP have?” I asked with a devious smile. Without hesitating, Frank answered, “Two… one on each side. The grooves form a continuous spiral from the outside to the inside.” “I take it you’ve heard the joke before?” I asked. “No, but it’s a pretty obvious trick question,” he answered. “Most people would probably take a wild guess, or they’d try to take the length of play on one side of the record in minutes, and then multiply it by 33 1/3 RPM, which is what I almost did myself, but then it hit me that the groove is continuous from start to end.” “You’re a pretty smart guy, Frank,” I said, and then lowering my voice, I added, “and handsome, and very, very cute.” “I’d say the same thing about you,” he replied, and then sighed and said, “I guess we’d better get back.” On the way back, we stopped in Professor Dawson’s office. He asked us what we’d covered so far, and he seemed to be impressed with my progress and told us to try and finish up the ‘Primer to the Zeroth Lesson’. No sooner was the door closed behind us, however, than our tongues were inside each others’ mouths again. I was rock hard, instantly, and I could feel Frank’s boner poking me in the thigh. When we finally broke our lip-lock, Frank said, “I think I’m falling in love with you, Christopher Michaels.” “I feel the same way,” I replied, “but can two boys love each other?” Frank put both of his hands squarely on my shoulders and looked me in the eyes and said, “There is absolutely no difference between a boy loving a girl, and a boy loving another boy. None at all. Don’t you ever let anyone tell you otherwise.” “Tell that to my parents,” I griped. “Unfortunately, mine are the same way,” he complained as well. Then sighing, he said, “Let’s get back to work.” It only took about another two hours to get through the rest of the primer. It was mostly a matter of getting the nomenclature down, and the concepts were pretty easy for me. I’d heard the term, ‘vector’ before, but now I fully understood the concepts of complex vector functions and how they could be used to represent the physical world. “OK”, I said, “I understand how a vector can have a magnitude and direction that are functions of time, but why not consider time to be just another dimension?” A smile lit up Frank’s face as he replied, “Now you’re talking General Relativity. That’s one of the more advanced lessons… one we’ll probably study together. “So shall we go on to the ‘zeroth’ lecture?” he asked. “Do you think it’ll be OK with Professor Dawson?” I asked. “He never objects to us studying ahead,” Frank answered, “and he’ll come get us when he’s ready for us. It’s either we go on with our studies, or we could…” “Much as I’d like to… you know… we’re on a roll, so would you mind continuing with the ‘zeroth’ lecture?” I asked. “I don’t mind at all,” Frank answered. “I’m enjoying watching you learn every bit as much as I like making out with you.” The ‘zeroth’ lesson was fascinating. It covered the concept of infinite numerical series and how functions could be defined in terms of them. For example, the base of natural logarithms, the number ‘ e ’, could be defined as the sum of the reciprocals of the factorials of all integers. That was really cool. It was elegant. The exponential function could then be defined as the sum of all of the ratios of the domain, raised to all integral powers, to the associated factorials of the integers. It was so simple. We then defined a pair of complementary functions, sine and cosine, based on adding a complex component to the series. The functions were periodic, with a period that defined the number ‘π’. I immediately realized that the sine and cosine functions could be used to describe any type of wave. It was as I was writing out on the chalk board a formula for what I would later learn was something called Euler’s identity — a formula that wasn’t actually in lecture notes, that Professor Dawson knocked on the door, then entered the room. “You don’t usually knock before entering,” Frank noted. “The door isn’t usually closed,” Professor Dawson answered, “and I usually don’t need to worry about whether my students will have their clothes on or not.” Man, did I feel myself blush when he said that, and Frank turned red all over — even his shoulders turned red. I think our jaws dropped down to the floor, too. “Don’t act so surprised, boys,” Professor Dawson, continued. “I noticed how you looked at each other. I know just what it’s like. I too used to have a boyfriend, back before he was lost in Vietnam… before our government gave up looking for him.” It was amazing what I could see in the professor’s face at that moment. ’Course both Frank and I were shocked to learn Professor Dawson was gay, but there was a lot more to his expression than just that. I could see in his eyes how much he’d loved his boyfriend, and how painful it was to remember him. I couldn’t help myself — I threw my arms around the professor and hugged him with all my might. He hugged me back! Clearing his throat and releasing me, he said, “Boys, there’s a lot we need to discuss.” Turning to me, he said, “Chris, it’s obvious you’re exceptionally smart. I don’t often take kids as young as the two of you, but when I learned of your OTT project, I figured you were way smarter than most. It’s no surprise, then, that you’re catching up with Frank so quickly. And Frank, you’re no slouch, either. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to help you for a while now. “Of course, OTT changes things. I have a very good reason to need to see you more than once a week.” “OTT?” Frank asked. “I’m sorry, Frank,” I answered, “but I can’t tell you about it.” “Actually, I think it might be a good idea to bring Frank into the loop,” Professor Dawson suggested. “If Frank is going to be your boyfriend, he needs to know, and he’ll probably figure it out anyway.” The professor then proceeded to explain how he and I had been contacted by our future selves, and how OTT began in the first place. “It seems to me you could really mess up time,” Frank said when Dawson was finished. “I don’t think you can actually change the past,” he went on to explain, “but only create alternate realities. Each time you make a connection with a past self, you create a branch point in the flow of time. After each of these branch points, there are two different versions of time… the original one, and a new one. If you do it enough times, the fabric of time itself will become so fragmented that reality will have no meaning anymore. It’s either that, or nature will find a way to collapse all the different versions of time into one.” “That’s an intriguing thought,” Professor Dawson commented, “and it’s quite plausible. It certainly would be a way to deal with the issue of the paradoxes that would otherwise almost certainly result.” “Such as if you do something in the past that results in the death of your father, so you couldn’t go on to invent the technology in the first place,” I interjected. “ Precisely,” the professor exclaimed. “It wouldn’t matter if you kill your father in one reality, because the original reality in which you invented TTT would still exist. “The scary part… the part that scares the fuck out of me…” Frank and I both gasped when we heard Dawson cuss. “Is that the only thing I can think of that would unite all the different versions of time is a spatial singularity… a black hole. Time itself ceases to exist in a black hole,” he explained. “That’s what’s gonna happen!” Frank suddenly cried out. “I can feel it. If we continue what we’re doin’, a black hole will form that will swallow up this whole region of space.” “Maybe it would be better if I’d never existed,” I suggested. “If I’d never invented TTT, none of this would be happening.” “But you can’t change the past!” Frank challenged. “All you’d be doing is creating another reality… one without you. And if there’s gonna be any hope of finding a way to prevent the end of time, you’ll be the one to do it.” “Fuck!” I said for the first time in my life. “Double-fuck,” Frank chimed in. “There’s a more pressing issue, boys,” Professor Dawson went on. “It seems that in the future, the Russians are going to acquire TTT and try to use it for their own purposes. Obviously, we can’t let that happen. What we think they’ll do is to use David, my boyfriend, to get to me. What we need to do is to prevent David from falling into enemy hands in the first place.” “When did he disappear?” I asked. “1960,” the professor answered. “I didn’t think we had troops in Vietnam until after Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961,” I related. “Actually, Eisenhower sent American ‘advisors’ there in the mid- and late 1950s,” Frank countered.” “The U.S. Government never even acknowledged David’s loss,” Professor Dawson said with obvious bitterness. “Our first official casualties were in 1959, when two of our advisors were killed. But David wasn’t official. Acknowledging the loss of medical personnel would have been tantamount to admitting that Eisenhower was planning for a full American troop engagement. How much easier it was to ignore the requests of David’s homosexual lover than to admit our troops were involved as more than advisors.” “Well, since it would be impossible for me to go back to before I was born…” I began. “Actually, twelve is the end of the line for you, Chris,” the professor interrupted. “The changes in the structure of your brain are occurring far too rapidly in childhood and early adolescence to permit your brain waves to match precisely enough. There’s a risk we’d end up scrambling your brain, in which case you’d never go on to invent TTT in the first place.” “Which would leave us with a paradox,” I surmised. “Not to mention that I’d lose the boy I love in the process,” Frank added, “and there’s no fuckin’ way in Hell I’m gonna let that happen.” “So I guess we’re gonna be sendin’ you and you alone back to 1960, or maybe 1959 to play it safe. We’d send you back to 1972, and then 1965, give or take.” “Why can’t we go back directly to 1969?” Frank asked. “Because the technology only works for up to seven years,” I answered. “ Interesting …” he said, and then added, “You do realize that preventing David from falling into enemy hands will only create a new reality in which he isn’t captured, don’t you? The reality in which the Russians get hold of the technology will still be out there,” he countered. “Yes, but we only need one reality from which to continue our work in the future,” Dawson explained. “If we can find a way to restore time to a single unbroken path, we can prevent what might literally be the end of the world. We’ll never get a chance, however, unless we can save at least one timeline in which we still control TTT. “I’m going to need a lot of help from the two of you to get OTT off the ground in this time period,” the professor continued, “and to help me help my counterpart in 1965 and 1972 or thereabouts to do the same. A single day a week just won’t be enough, particularly since you still have a lot to learn before you’ll be of much help. “Of course there’s school to consider and although summer’s almost upon us, OTT’s likely to continue well into the fall, and beyond. It’s already pretty apparent that the junior high and high school math and science curriculum will be absolutely of no use to either of you. You do need to continue your studies in history, literature and the like, however. What I propose we do is continue your math and science studies here at the University on a full-time basis, and hire a tutor to teach you everything else. Eventually, we’ll be able to enroll you in basic humanities courses here as well, but you’re not ready for that, yet. By the time you’re fourteen, you’ll be full-time college students, so high school will become irrelevant. “How will we get here every day?” I asked. “My parents would never go for it.” “When your fathers get here, I’d like to meet with them,” Dawson countered. “You let me do the talking, and they’ll be begging me to take you into the program. “What we’ll do is I’ll put the two of you up in my house during the week, and you can stay with your parents on the weekends. You’ll share a room,” he added with a grin on his face. A shared bedroom with Frank — spending four or five nights a week in the same bed with him? I could definitely go for that!
  10. Altimexis

    Sleepover

    July 1983 — Chris 17 “One thing I’m still not clear about Frank, is how you and Chris met,” my dad asked my boyfriend as he turned the steaks on the grill, but then he interrupted himself to ask, “Medium rare — right?” “Actually, I like my steak rare, sir… the redder, the better,” Frank answered. Dad tried to hide his disgust, but not very effectively and so Frank added, “You should really try it that way. The less you cook it, the juicier the steak.” “I’d rather not be able to taste the animal’s blood,” Dad answered, actually looking a bit green around the gills. Ever since I could remember, I’d always had my steaks, and hamburgers, for that matter, prepared medium rare, with just a little pink in the center. I guess that’s the way my parents always cooked their meat, and so that’s how I was used to it. Still, I was game to try anything, particularly now that I had a boyfriend to impress. Not that my parents knew that Frank was my boyfriend. If they knew, they’d freak, and they certainly wouldn’t let him spend the night. I think they were glad I was being more sociable of late and were thrilled that I’d picked up a close friend. But that’s all I wanted them to think of Frank as being — a close friend. We were in our back yard, enjoying a Fourth of July barbecue. With encouragement from Professor Dawson, I’d completed high school a year early, and had applied to a number the top undergraduate Physics programs in the country, including his. I got acceptance letters from nearly all of them and chose Stanford to go to in the fall. My high school commencement had just taken place, and Frank was over to help us celebrate my graduation, to watch the fireworks with us and to spend the night. “I think I’ll try mine rare, too, Dad,” I called out, and my dad visibly grimaced. “Frank, you’re a bad influence on my son,” Dad said with a chuckle. “I’ll take that as a compliment, Mr. Michaels,” Frank replied, causing the three of us to laugh. “Chris,” I heard Mom call from inside the house, “Could you carry some things out for me?” “Sure Mom,” I called back. “Be right there!” “So how did you two meet?” Dad asked again, and I would have really liked to hear Frank’s answer, but I couldn’t exactly keep Mom waiting. Running inside to the kitchen, I saw that Mom had a ton of stuff to carry outside. She had a platter filled with corn on the cob, a large bowl filled with baked beans and franks, another filled with coleslaw and a third filled with potato salad, all home made. It all smelled delicious. She also had paper plates, plastic cups and silverware, napkins, a selection of soft drinks, and a six-pack of Budweiser for Dad. I started by carrying out the baked beans, since that bowl was the heaviest. As I headed out the door, I overheard Frank saying, “Professor Dawson is an amazing guy. I learned so much from him. It’s really a shame my parents won’t let me go there on Saturdays anymore.” “Why is that, Frank?” Dad asked, and I really, really wanted to hear Frank’s answer — not that I expected he’d tell my parents the truth — that his parents discovered he was gay and didn’t want him spending time with so many boys. Unfortunately, I needed to get back inside to carry more stuff out of the house. As I put the potato salad down on the table, I overheard Frank saying, “I’m really grateful that Dr. Dawson had Chris get in touch with me. I can still keep up with the lessons, and I really like Chris as a friend, too.” I returned inside with a smile on my face. Next came the coleslaw, and this time it was my dad who was talking. “Chris has always been a shy boy, but he’s so thoughtful and considerate. He’ll make a great husband someday.” Why did parents always have to try their best to embarrass their kids? When I carried out the platter of corn, Frank and Dad were laughing hysterically. When I stopped and just looked at the two of them, Frank cracked up yet again and my father followed suit. What in the world was that about? With the paper plates, napkins and plastic silverware, I overheard Frank say, “With me being an only child and Chris’ brother and sister being so much older than him, I think we relate to each other more as brothers than just as friends. Chris has really become like the brother I never had. I know it hasn’t been all that long, but in a way, I feel like I’ve known Chris all my life.” Wow! That made me feel tingly inside. Then I was carrying out a six-pack each of Coke and Seven-Up and Frank was saying, “It’s really too bad my parents didn’t let me take early graduation the way Chris did, so I’ll just have to make the best of it and amass as much advanced placement during the coming year as I can.” When I returned with the six-pack of beer and a package of plastic cups, Dad and Frank were again laughing hysterically. Man, what in the world did I miss out on? Mom followed me out, carrying a tray with the steak knives, steak sauce, ketchup, mustard, relish, salt and pepper — not that I figured we’d need anything more than the knives. I set the picnic table for the four of us, and Dad called Frank and me over and dropped our steaks onto our plates. Since ours were rare, they were done sooner than Mom’s or Dad’s. Frank and Dad both had a point. There was no doubt that our steaks were a lot juicier than what I was used to, but at the same time, the juice almost did look like blood. After Mom and Dad sat down with their steaks, too, Dad reached for a Bud, and so did Frank! “Very funny,” Dad said with a smirk on his face, to which Frank replied, “Well, it was worth a try. After all, in less than a year, I’ll be able to drink it legally… in Kansas if not in Missouri.” “Hmmm…” Dad began, “You do have a valid point, there, Frank. It’s hard to think of you boys as being nearly grown up, but you’re both seventeen, and Chris will be going away to school in the fall. He’ll almost surely be exposed to beer at Stanford, and probably plenty of it. “OK, boys, you can each have one beer, but only one,” Dad agreed. Wow, I wasn’t expecting that. Frank opened the beer he’d already grabbed and immediately started chugging it down, right from the can. He musta drank a third to a half of it in just a few gulps. “Hey, take it easy,” Dad admonished Frank. “You’re only getting one, so make it last.” “Sorry Mr. Michaels,” Frank replied with a sheepish look on his face, “I was just thirsty.” Not to be outdone, I grabbed a can of Bud, opened it, threw my head back and started to drink my first ever beer right down. SHIT! It tasted like piss! Before I knew what was happening, I was spewing the beer out of my mouth and onto my parents, who were sitting across from Frank and me. Frank was laughing in hysterics, while Dad and Mom were less than pleased. Finally, Frank said, “That was what your father and I were laughing about when you came back out. He’d already agreed to let us each have a beer, and I made a bet with him that I could trick you into trying to chug it down. I opened the beer, but you failed to notice that my hand went around a can of Seven-Up and it was the Seven-Up that I chugged down.” “I knew you’d never had beer before,” Dad added, “and we both guessed what your reaction to it would be if you tried to chug it. I just wasn’t expecting your reaction to be quite so… violent.” “That was sooo funny, though,” Frank chimed back in. “The looks on your two faces when you got sprayed was priceless. And I did win the bet!” “You did at that,” Dad said as he took out a five and passed it to my boyfriend. Five dollars was a pretty hefty bet in 1983. Turning to me, Dad said, “Beer is definitely an acquired taste. You may want to sip it slowly,” which caused Frank to start up on another round of giggles. “You sneaky bastards! ” I complained, to which Dad admonished me, “Watch your language, son. You’re in mixed company.” Yeah, right — like I hadn’t heard him use the word in front of my mom before. Cutting right into my steak, even more blood-red juice poured out, nearly making me gag. The meat was not only red, but it was dark red, and almost looked raw. With Frank looking at me expectantly, I had no choice but to pop it into my mouth. When I tasted the flavor, however, I moaned. I actually moaned. After I finished chewing and swallowing it, I said, “This is so much better than medium rare, it isn’t funny.” “Told you,” Frank said, and then he took a bite of his own steak. After he took a bite of the potato salad, he asked my mom, “Man, this is the best potato salad I’ve ever had! What’s in it?” “It’s my own secret recipe,” she answered with a wink, “but what really makes it so refreshing are the seedless grapes.” “ That’s what makes it so bad,” Frank replied, and Mom added, “That, and shredded carrots, raisins, a little celery, a dash of oregano and a little thyme. Of course I use only Hellman’s real mayonnaise,” which made us all laugh. The barbecue was so groovy, man. It was far out! I had a great time bein’ with Frank, and after a while, I even enjoyed the beer. After we all carried everything back inside, while Dad cleaned the grill, Mom banished Frank and me from the kitchen, telling me I had a guest to entertain. “Hey, want to check out Kong?” I asked Frank. “Is that something you use to smoke pot?” he asked innocently enough. “No!” I laughed at him and gave him a quick slap to the chest. I led him into the family room and grabbed my new toy off the shelf. Frank looked at the strange contraption while I hooked it up to the TV and plugged it in. “What the Hell is Nintendo?” he asked. “Hell if I know,” I answered. “My dad has a friend who picked one up in Japan on a business trip recently. It hasn’t even been released yet, but I guess his friend got it through a friend of a friend sort of thing. He said it’s gonna bury Atari.” With a laugh, Frank replied, “Wouldn’t take much,” and I heartily agreed. I turned on the TV and a bunch of Japanese characters flashed across the screen before the title appeared in English. “Donkey Kong?” Frank asked. “Don’t knock it ’til you've tried it,” I responded. “It’s fun!” It didn’t take Frank long to get the hang of it, and then to master it. Before long he was beating me every time. In exasperation, I stated, “This game’s lame.” “You only say that ’cause I’m better at it,” he replied. I shrugged my shoulders, ’cause he was right! “That is sooo cool,” Frank stated as he set the controller down, and then asked, “Hey, have you seen those pocket-size calculators?” “Seth Carson at school has a Casio SL-800,” I said. “It’s pretty neat. It’s flat and it uses solar power. If they ever come up with a scientific version, I’ll probably get one. “So far I’ve been getting by with my trusty slide rule. Something tells me it’s gonna get real old, real fast at Stanford.” “I think you’ll have to break down and buy a decent scientific calculator,” Frank commented. “The first time you take a test where you’re trying to do your calculations on a slide rule and everyone else is using a calculator…” “Wow! I hadn’t though of that.” “I bet you’ll be able to get a nice discount on an HP at the Stanford bookstore,” Frank suggested. “After all, Hewlett and Packard both graduated from Stanford. The company’s even located on Stanford land. Maybe you’ll even be able to afford one of the programmables!” “Oh, that would be so fine,” I agreed, “but something tells they don’t offer discounts. They probably figure anyone rich enough to pay Stanford’s tuition can afford an HP calculator. The tuition went up nearly ten percent this year, over nine thousand dollars, and room and board adds nearly another four.” “Man, that’s gonna take a bite,” Frank agreed. “Textbooks aren’t cheap, either. The worst part, though, is that you’ll be there and I’ll still be here,” Frank lamented. “Yeah, I know,” I agreed, “but I’ll be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then we’ll have next summer, and then maybe you can get into Stanford, too.” “Actually, Cal Tech would be my first choice,” Frank countered, “but to be with you, I’ll settle for Stanford.” “You’ll settle, ha,” I said as I pounced on him and gave him a noogie. “ Boys?” Mom called out from the kitchen. “Let’s go to my room,” I suggested. “I like the sound of that,” Frank agreed. No sooner were we in my room with the door closed and locked behind us than we were all over each other. I really, really liked Frank — maybe even loved him if it’s even possible for a boy to love another boy — and I sure loved making out with him. In no time at all, we had our shirts off and were nibbling, licking and sucking on each others’ neck, collarbone and nipples. Then Frank crossed a threshold we’d never crossed before — he unbuckled my belt, unzipped my pants and pulled them down. He deeply inhaled my brief-clad crotch, which was unbelievably exciting in and of itself. I knew I kinda liked the musky, funky scent of my crotch, but it was a real turn-on to know that Frank liked it, too. He pulled my briefs down, exposing me, and then showed me what he could do with his tongue. I moaned out loud. “Shhh,” he admonished me. “We need to be quiet.” What happened next was something I would never forget in a million years. At first he gagged, but then he relaxed and I felt the back of his throat. Needless to say, I didn’t last long. I came with a vengeance. I came long and hard, and Frank took nearly all of it. How did he do that? “I love you, Chris,” he said when he came up for air. “You can’t imagine how much I love you. I know we haven’t known each other long, but I already know I’m totally in love with you.” “I love you too, Frank,” I replied, and now I knew I meant it. “Just don’t find someone else while I’m away,” I implored him. “You neither,” Frank admonished me, and then we kissed. The taste of my spunk on his tongue was a little weird at first, but I kinda liked it. “Now let me taste you,” I commanded my boyfriend. When I sniffed his brief-clad crotch, I realized I liked his smell a whole lot better than I liked mine. I found his scent absolutely intoxicating. When I went down on him, however, I realized that it’s a lot harder than it looks. At first I kept gagging on him, and I accidentally nipped him with my teeth. By the time we finished, my jaw was aching, man. It was a good thing he didn’t last long, either, and when it was over, I was rewarded with my first taste of his spunk, and it was heavenly. We were still making out with our jeans around our ankles when Dad knocked on the door, giving us both heart failure. Man, I don’t think I ever got dressed so fast in my life. When he entered the room, he actually sniffed the air, and smiled. “I just wanted to see how you boys were doing,” he explained. “I wanted to be sure you weren’t smoking pot or doing anything else you shouldn’t be doing.” “Dad, you know I wouldn’t do that,” I complained. “And I expect you not to,” he reiterated. “I’ll just leave you alone and let you get back to whatever you were doing,” and actually winked at us as he started to leave and close the door behind him.” At the last second, I called out, “We’ll be going to bed, soon, anyway.” “Do you think he knows?” I asked after he was gone. “He probably thinks we just jacked off together,” Frank replied. “After all, a lot of guys… straight guys… do that.” “Yeah, you’re probably right,” I acknowledged. “At least I hope your are. My old man would freak if he knew we were trading blowjobs. He’d go ballistic if he thought I was queer.” “My parents weren’t thrilled about it,” Frank admitted, “but they assumed they could fix me by keeping me from being around other boys.” “Speaking of which,” I began, “How did you talk them into letting you stay the night with me.” “I told them it was your parents that invited me,” he explained, “and that the two of us would go out to the mall tomorrow and maybe try and pick up some girls.” “Shit, you’re evil,” I commented with a grin. “And you’re just now figuring that out?” he asked. “I didn’t say we were going to try to pick up girls… only that we might. ” “You are such a clever liar,” I acknowledged, right before I brought my lips to his. After a little more making out — actually a lot more, we took turns showering and brushing our teeth, and then put on fresh pairs of briefs. “It sucks that you have twin beds,” Frank commented, and then he added, “Now that you’re almost an adult, you need to talk your folks into getting you a double bed. You’re too old and too tall for twin beds.” “Yeah, but I’ll be going away to school at the end of the summer,” I pointed out. “Which is even more of a reason for them to redecorate your room. With a double bed in it, they could use it as another guest room. You won’t even be here most of the time anyway, and when you come to visit, at least we’d have a decent bed to share.” “I do like the sound of that,” I agreed. What Frank did next surprised me. He really was a sneaky devil. He took the bedspread off his bed, rolled it up and stuffed it under the covers, making it look like someone was sleeping in the bed. He then turned to me and said with a mischievous smile, “Let’s go to bed.” It was a tight fit with the two of us in a single bed, but the feeling of his skin on mine was unbelievable. We ended up slipping our briefs off and felt each other as we made out in the dark. It was sooo sexy. Our second round of lovemaking made us feel exhausted, but sated, and we drifted off to sleep in each others’ arms. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> I was having a wildly erotic dream about Frank when I started to sense a familiar sensation. I felt like I was floating outside my body in space, but yet the feeling was still inside my head. Then another presence started to materialize before my eyes, the familiar form of Chris-24. Why was he here on this night of all nights? He wasn’t supposed to come tonight. What if I spoke aloud and Frank heard me? Actually, I had no idea if I looked or sounded strange when I was communicating with myself. But then a third presence started to coalesce in front of me from out of the fog. It was Frank! “What the hell is he doing here,” Chris-24 asked. “I could ask the same thing of you,” Frank replied. “There I was, snuggled up with my boyfriend in bed and having a really amazing dream about him when all of a sudden, this fog descended around us. Needless to say, I was curious. I didn’t know what was happening, so I decided to check it out. “But how is that possible,” I asked. “This conversation is taking place inside my head, in the present and in the future. How in hell did you get inside my head?” “I’ve always had this kind of a sixth sense, kind of like ESP… not that I can read people’s minds or anything, but I sometimes can sense things. I also have this weird ability to share people’s dreams. I was doing that before future guy here showed up.” “You mean you were having the same dream I was?” I asked. “I was driving that dream as much as I was experiencing it with you.” “You really have a dirty mind,” I said with a smile. “That dream was groovy. I would sooo like to try some of those things when we’re awake.” “Me too, Chris,” Frank agreed. “I still don’t see how this is possible,” Chris-24 said. “Well, you initiated a shared dream between yourself and your past self, and I was already experiencing a shared dream with my boyfriend, so now we’re all three sharing the same dream.” “But you don’t have time tunnel technology to facilitate a link between our minds,” Chris-24 challenged. “I may not have ‘time tunnel technology’, but we have physical proximity, shared love, and my own abilities to make this possible” Frank explained. “You may not understand it, but it’s the reality in any case. I’m not going anywhere, so get used to me being here.” “How much exactly do you know?” Chris-24 asked my boyfriend. “You obviously know I’m Chris from the future.” “And you look fucking handsome, too,” Frank replied, causing both Chris-24 and me to blush. I know that in the future, you’re gonna invent something called time tunnel technology and use it to change the past. I can already feel some of the changes you’ve made. For example, originally we didn’t even know each other. We never met, and certainly never became boyfriends, so that change is definitely one for the better. “So have you had the dream yet?” Frank asked. “The dream?” Chris-24 and I both asked at the same time. “The one where we meet when we’re thirteen,” Frank answered, and then he added, “I’m gathering you haven’t, but you will. I’ve been planting subliminal messages in my Chris’ brain, hoping they’ll make their way up and down the timeline. I’ve been hoping you’d get Chris involved in Dawson’s program a year or two earlier, when I was still in the program. If that had happened, we could have been boyfriends for the last four or five years instead of the last five weeks.” “It hasn’t been five weeks,” I started to point out, but Frank interrupted and said, “I know… I was just being figurative rather than literal.” “Oh,” I replied. “Listen,” Frank said, going off on a tangent, “You’ve gotta be more careful about what you’re doing. You act like you’re altering the past, but that’s not the way it works. Each time you intervene, you cause the timeline to branch, creating multiple realities in the process. There are hundreds of realities, now, which is causing time itself to break down. “On the plus side, with so many realities, many of which are similar, some of them are starting to merge together again after a while, making time look more like a web than the branches of a tree, but it’s still too much.” “What happens when two realities come together if there are slightly different histories between the two?” I asked in curiosity. “If the realities are close enough for them to merge, then the present time in each of them must be virtually identical. What someone would perceive is a feeling of uncertainty about the past… as if they can’t remember it precisely,” Frank explained. “How do you know all this stuff,” Chris-24 asked. Shrugging his shoulders, he answered, “I can sense the existence of the different realities and even communicate with myself in the other realities. It’s like this gift I have. From that, I was able to piece together the rest of it.” “That’s incredible,” Chris-24 exclaimed. “Since I know this isn’t exactly a social visit,” I started to ask, “Why are you here?” “Because I’m gonna need your help,” he answered. “In 1989, Marion Dawson will disappear off the face of the earth, without a trace.” Both Frank and I whistled in response to what Chris-24 said. “He wasn’t supposed to disappear like that,” Chris-24 went on. “Originally, he continued his teaching and research until he was banned from receiving federal dollars, due to some ‘financial irregularities’ in his records, at which point he focused only on teaching. After his retirement, however, even though he kept on teaching and kept the high school program running, the University marginalized him more and more until he eventually committed suicide in the early part of the twenty-first century.” “Whoa!” I said. “On top of all that,” Chris-24 added, “our PhD thesis defense was sabotaged by a Russian scientist who claimed they could explain our results away based only on variations in the Earth’s magnetic flux.” “Damn,” Frank interjected. “It sounds like the Russians got hold of our time tunnel technology.” “We think the Russians got wind of the existence of TTT, and used their leverage to force Marion Dawson to do their bidding,” Chris-24 explained. “They used David, didn’t they?” I asked. “Who the fuck was David?” Frank asked. “David was Dawson’s boyfriend,” Chris-24 related. “He was one of the first MIAs in Vietnam.” “Dawson’s gay? ” Frank asked in surprise. “Let me get this straight,” I interjected. “You can get inside my head and share dreams with me, but can’t sense that Professor Dawson is like us?” “Hey, my abilities are far from perfect,” Frank admitted. “It’s not like I have any control of it or anything.” “Now that’s interesting,” Chris-24 commented. “So if the Russians are using this David as leverage,” I realized aloud, “we need to go back and prevent David from being taken in the first place.” “Either that or kill him,” Chris-24 related, causing me to shiver in horror. “The problem is that even if we push your contact with Chris back to him at age ten rather than twelve, and even if you manage to communicate with him and teach him all you know, will he be old enough, mature enough and smart enough to build his own TTT device? Even if he manages to make contact with Chris at three years of age, what could a three-year-old actually do? And even then, it might not be back far enough in time. “We suspect that Marion Dawson is already working on pushing TTT to reach back to the late fifties or early sixties. That may have been the impetus for him getting involved with OTT in the first place. What we need to do is to help him stay focused, and to help him succeed. “But if it becomes apparent that he’s still working with our enemies, even in this time period, then we have to be prepared to kill him for the sake of our own future.” “Damn!” Frank exclaimed. “Damn, shit and FUCK,” I chimed in. “In order for you to stay close to Dawson, you’re going to have to remain in St. Louis for now,” Chris-24 told me. Tears started to come to my eyes as I realized what that meant. “You mean I won’t be able to go to Stanford?” I finally asked, more for confirmation than anything. “Not this year,” Chris-24 clarified, “but maybe next if we can get everything resolved by then. In the meantime, you already have an in at St. Louis with Dawson, and it’s an outstanding Physics department, on a par with the one at Stanford.” “But that means living with my parents another year,” I despaired. “They’ll never let me live on campus when they live within commuting distance.” “Hey, but that means another year that we can be together, Chris!” Frank said in excitement. “Yeah,” I admitted in realization. “That really will make it all worth it.” I went up to the vision of my boyfriend and started to kiss him, right in my dream state. It was weird, but I could actually feel my body responding to my excitement, and I could feel Frank’s responding in kind against me, right next to me in bed. “Now, there’ll be plenty of time for that later, guys,” Chris-24 interrupted us. I just turned around and give him the finger, which caused him to smile. I knew that he knew that’s just what he would have done. “You do realize that in saving this David, you won’t really be altering the past,” Frank interjected suddenly. “You’ll just be creating yet another reality in which the Russians don’t have any leverage over Dawson.” “We only need one viable timeline from which to operate, free of interference from enemy agents,” Chris-24 said. “Hopefully then, if it turns out there are multiple realities, we can find a way to collapse all the others.” “I don’t think you can collapse a timeline without collapsing all of them,” Frank interrupted. “In fact, that’s probly what happens when time gets fragmented. The more and more time is splintered and disintegrates, the less stable the spatial region becomes. Eventually time as we know it will cease to exist, and the only way that can happen is inside a spatial singularity. In other words…” “The Earth will be swallowed up by a black hole,” Chris-24 concluded.”
  11. Altimexis

    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 afterI’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.
  12. Altimexis

    Where’s Waldo?

    BOOK TWO — FRAGMENTS June 1979 • Chris-13 “Hey Michaels!” Grant Whitaker shouted to me from his spot in the lunch line. He was up near the front of the line, with at least forty or fifty kids in line behind him. There was an unwritten rule that you did not cut in line, especially if you were a lowly seventh grader, but there was an even moreimportant rule — you did not under any circumstances snitch on a fellow student. It didn’t matter if the student was a total asshole — you just didn’t do it, and so the chances of getting caught cutting in line were slim. I quickly looked to make sure the vice-principal wasn’t watching, and then I joined my friend in line. “Hey!” the kid in line behind me cried out when I cut in front of my friend, but even though the kid was a good foot taller than me, I just smiled at him and said, “What the fuck’s it matter to you?” This may have been 1979, but the ‘f word’ was something said in the locker room — not in casual conversation. If a teacher overheard me, I could get in big trouble and wind up with detention, but I was careful where and how I said it. And I’d learned through experience that a little detention earned respect from my peers, so it was really a win-win situation. It was strange to think of Whitaker as a friend. He used to be one of my worst tormentors. He constantly teased me, and when I reacted badly to it, he moved on to physical bullying. I didn’t understand it before, but since my future self explained it to me, I now understand how the teasing and bullying are just part of an age-old ritual of learning to socialize with our peers. It was meant to be in fun and by dishing it right back, we were asserting our newfound authority as teenagers, or soon-to-be teenagers. Learning the give and take of relationships, responding appropriately to minor teasing and stopping bullying before it began were all part of growing up, so my future self said. Whitaker sure was surprised when I suddenly stopped wearing my heart on my sleeve and actually gave back as good as I got. He began to respect me and to talk to me, and even to eat lunch with me. Soon, we were spending time at each others’ houses, and even sleeping over from time to time. In short, in less than a month we’d gone from being the bully and the bullied to not just friends, but best friends. And along with Whitaker came all of his friends, and as I gained a reputation for being ‘cool’, some of my old friends from elementary school that had shunned me were coming back as well. I wasn’t deluding myself into believing I was one of the popular kids, but I was popular among a growing circle of friends, and it felt great. “Oh man, look at Stacey Williams,” Whitaker said as we grabbed our lunch trays and silverware. “She is sooo HOT! Wouldn’t you love to get your hands on her tits?” No doubt about it, Stacy was hot enough to melt iron, but for some reason, she just didn’t do anything for me and so I shrugged my shoulders. Before, I would have tried to play along — to pretend — but I was learning that lies only led to more lies, and sooner or later, you ended up trapped by them. It was actually a few days before, when Grant had brought a Playboy with him to my house, that the issue of my sexuality came up. He was flipping through the pages, and the photos were obviously having an effect on him, but not on me. “Hey Michaels, are you queer or something?” he asked me. Well, I sure as hell didn’t want to be queer, and I wanted to belabeled as being queer even less. 1979 in St. Louis was definitely not the time or the place to be queer. On the other hand, a vehement denial could make it look like I was trying to hide something. That was one of the things I’d learned from Chris-16, too. Rather than try and play it straight and end up looking guilty, I decided instead to make a joke of it. “Of course I’m not queer,” I answered my best friend, “but what if I was?” I kept an absolutely straight face when I said it, too. Whitaker sure was taken by surprise. I don’t think he ever even thought I might answer with a ‘maybe’ instead of an outright denial. He just stared at me with a dumb look on his face, and then he finally said, “Yeah, I know. Of course you’re not queer. You’d never be a faggot. You’re probly just a late bloomer. But I guess I wouldn’t care anyway, long as you don’t perve on me. You’re still my best friend” “Hey,” I replied. “I ain’t no fag, but even if I was, what in the world makes you think I’d want your sorry ass.” Whitaker looked at me for a while, and then he burst out laughing and so did I. “So my ass isn’t good enough for you,” he stated more than asked, and I replied, “Nope!” Grant slugged me in the shoulder, hard, and then he threw himself on top of me and we started wrestling around on my bed. I had successfully dodged a bullet. Grant Whitaker was still my best friend, and he’d told me it didn’t even matter if I were queer. Sometimes I couldn’t get over how much my life had changed since Chris-17 first contacted me. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> June 1990 • Chris-24 My life was a mess. There was no other way to put it, really. After reviewing the findings of the Russian paper on the flux of the Earth’s magnetic field by Sergei, Chekov and Polanski, the members of my dissertation committee, including my major professor, concluded that the quantum variations I’d observed could indeed be explained away. Any theory of mine would have to account for this. It didn’t help that Iknewthat quantum variations were real. I had to be able to prove it to them without resorting to the use of TTT. After nearly a month of grueling work and redoing many of my key experiments, I was no closer to resolving the issue than I was after my failed thesis defense. In the face of the need to postpone my PhD for what would likely be another year, Rankin withdrew his offer of a postdoctoral fellowship, but made it clear he’d like me to reapply once my thesis situation had been sorted out. At least I did have help. I was communicating with Chris-31 at least twice a week, and he and Jack Craegan from the future were hard at work trying to find a way for me to finish my dissertation and to get my life back on track. Our best hope was that I could work as a fellow in Rankin’s lab starting next year, and simultaneously begin my career at Lawrence Livermore. There was apparently a precedent for this sort of thing, and at least the Craegan of this time period was already in the loop and could make it happen. The timeline wasn’t damaged beyond repair — at least not yet. With Marion Dawson’s help, we’d pick up the pieces and move on. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder where the guy with the Russian accent who’d crashed my thesis defense had come from. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> June 2011 • Chris-45 I was sitting in the kitchen, dressed in a pair of briefs, sipping some coffee and reading the paper when Jen came up behind me. She circled her arms around my chest from above my shoulders, and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. I looked up at her, smiled and gave her a peck on the lips. I truly loved my wife, but even after waking up in her bed a month ago, I still was confused as hell as to why my marriage hadn’t fallen apart the way it was supposed to. Not that I was complaining. She knew I was gay, but she still loved me and wanted to be with me. She never pushed me for sex, either, which was very strange. For a while there, after the failed terrorist attack of September eleven, the two of us had gone at it like jackrabbits. We were hot and heavy for a few years, and I’d even gone out and secretly gotten a vasectomy — something she could never know about — but then the sex gradually started to become less and less frequent. I think our last sexual encounter was in 2005 or 06. I have memories of our having broken up and gotten a divorce. Even more troubling are the memories I have of having had a daughter as well as a son. These memories were tenuous, however, as if they were part of a dream and not reality. My reality was that we had lost a daughter, who was stillborn, and that Jen and I had worked through our differences and even the issue of my being gay, and decided to stay together. The memories of those things were as clear as day. One thing that did come out of our decision to stay together was that, after Andy graduated high school in 2005, we agreed to have an open marriage and were free to pursue extramarital relationships. I strongly suspected that Jen was indeed having an affair — that was really the only explanation as to how the marriage had survived all these additional years, when it should have fallen apart long ago. “You look like you’re carrying the entire weight of the world on your shoulders,” Jen said to me with a concerned look on her face. It was true — in many ways, I was. Jen didn’t know about OTT and sharing knowledge of its existence with her was something I could not do. Although it was well understood that top secret projects could not be discussed with anyone — not even one’s own spouse — even more than that, I didn’t want to burden her with knowledge of just how much risk the project entailed. No, it was much better to let her think that the project just wasn’t going well and that that was the reason I was worried. “It’s just so frustrating,” I tried to explain. “The more progress we make, the farther we seem to be from our objectives.” That was certainly the truth, in more ways than she could know. “You can only do the best you can,” she admonished me. “There’s no point to banging your head against a wall.” “I know that,” I agreed, “but tell that to Jack. He’s under pressure, which means that I’m under pressure. That this is coming from the very top doesn’t help things.” “What does John McCain know anyway,” Jen said with a laugh, and then her look turned more serious and she added, “except how to dig the U.S. deeper and deeper into recession.” Sighing, I agreed. “It’s just human nature to ‘toss the bums out’ when things go sour. The stock market crash happened on John Kerry’s watch, and so the voters chose a fiscally conservative Republican at a time when they need a liberal democrat to loosen the purse strings and expand the job market, such as it is. I’m just glad we both have decent jobs.” “Think there’s any worry McCain will get frustrated with your project and pull the plug on it, along with your job?” Jen asked in fear. One thing I knew was that OTT was never in danger of losing its funding — not after we’d prevented the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but I couldn’t tell Jen that. Ironically, Andy knew far more about what happened that day than Jen did, but even then, it was only a feeling he had rather than actual knowledge. “I don’t think there’s any danger of my project getting cut,” I told her. “There’s too much riding on it for McCain to even think about it.” “You going to be working late tonight?” she asked. “Yeah,” I told her, “so don’t bother waiting up for me. As I left the house, I thought about how Jen, more than likely, thought it was I that was having an affair. After all, I stayed at work all the time, and sometimes didn’t even bother to come home. My second lab wasn’t in the basement, either, as it probably would have been if I’d lived alone. With Jen there, I couldn’t take a chance on her finding out what OTT was all about, so I’d rented a storage locker. It was in the storage locker where I stored my equipment and performed my private late night conversations with Chris-43. It was there that I’d be going after work. When I got to the lab, however, I immediately knew something was wrong. Security was tight as a drum, and Jack had the most forlorn look on his face that I’d seen since his wife and kids were killed in an automobile accident fifteen years ago. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> June 1997 • Chris-31 “What do you mean Sorenson’s disappeared?” I asked Jack when he confronted me upon my arrival. “And who the hell is Sorenson?” “Come into my office, and we’ll talk about it,” was all he would say out in the open. I followed him into his office, and we both sat down in chairs around the small round conference table that occupied one end of his office. “Does the name, Marion Dawson, mean anything to you?” my boss asked. Marion Dawson! Man, that was a name from out of the past. Dawson had been my mentor throughout my years in high school, teaching me advanced math and physics in a special weekly program at the University. I gave up three years of Saturdays to Dawson’s program, not to mention working for him the summer I was sixteen, but those days spent studying with Dawson had allowed me to leapfrog ahead of the pathetic high school science and math curriculum. They also allowed me to finish high school in three years instead of the usual four. Not only that, but Dawson gave me so much more. Before I met him, I was a pathetic, shy, tormented, miserable junior high student. Dawson gave me confidence. He showed me what I could accomplish because I was smart. Thanks to Dawson, my last year in junior high and my two years in senior high were infinitely better than they might otherwise have been. Before Dawson, my performance in school had been mediocre at best. Under Dawson’s mentorship, I’d come into my own and got straight A’s, not just in math and science, but in everything but gym. Thanks to Dawson, I got into the prestigious Physics program at Stanford. I owed Dawson everything. “Marion Dawson was my mentor in high school,” I replied. “He taught me advanced math and physics. He made me what I am today.” “He also was accused of molesting some kids,” came Jack’s retort. “But they recanted and no one else ever stepped forward,” I countered. “The whole thing was bogus.” “And you were aware that he was accused of trafficking in child pornography,” Jack added. “Yes, and they even supposedly found evidence in his home,” I agreed. “It happened in ’88 or ’89 or thereabouts. But then he suddenly was completely exonerated, and it turned out there was no evidence at all. Everything was falsified, and it turned out he’d been nothing more than the victim of a witch hunt.” “Did it ever strike you as being strange that the Feds had such an air-tight case against Dawson, and then it simply evaporated?” Jack asked. “I just assumed that the evidence was manufactured or planted in the first place,” I answered honestly. “We all know it happens. Someone just got a little too enthusiastic and believed that the end justified the means. One of his or her superiors must have gotten wind of it, or perhaps some evidence came to light that would have contradicted the so-called physical evidence, had the case gone to trial. Faced with potential exposure, the Feds backpedaled and all charges were dropped.” Jack then slid an ID badge across the table. I picked it up and was astonished by what I saw. The badge bore the name ‘Jeffrey A. Sorenson, Ph.D.’, but the picture was a dead ringer for Dawson — an older version of the Marion Dawson I remembered, but Dawson just the same. And then it came back to me. “Oh yeah, now I remember him,” I stated in disbelief. “He was Dawson. We were the ones that framed him for child pornography, and used it to bring him here to work on OTT under the Witness Protection Program. It was my future self that thought of it, but when we got him here, it was as if OTT never existed. Something he’d done in St. Louis was critical to OTT’s future, and bringing him to California had disrupted it. “We sent him back to St. Louis and everything was OK, but how in the world could I have forgotten something like that?” I asked. “Well in your case, you hadn’t even joined the lab yet, and you were a very sleep-deprived new daddy,” Craegan suggested, “but the details are sketchy for me, too, so I think our fading memory of past events is an artifact of OTT. “Here’s what’s going on, Chris, and it’s a doozy. “Your notes from the past… the notes you have had each of your counterparts keep from the very beginning of OTT… indicate that we brought Sorenson back to California in this time period very recently… within the past week, and yet our personnel records show nothing more than that he worked for us very briefly in 1989. It’s a direct contradiction and, given the choice, I tend to believe the notes made by Chris-30, as they haven’t been tainted by events that have transpired since. “The reason this even came to my attention is because I put a man on verifying your notes a while ago, more as an early warning system for unintended alterations in the timeline. I didn’t want to take a chance on our being unaware when something had changed, but I didn’t tell youabout it because you were the source of the notes, and I didn’t want to do anything that might alter the way you kept your notes. I needed to be sure your notes were pure and unadulterated… not that I didn’t trust you, but we all change our behavior unintentionally when we know we’re being watched. “Anyway, when it was brought to my attention that Marion Dawson was supposed to be part of our team, under the name ‘Sorenson’, but that we had no record of it, I went and tracked what had happened to Dawson in the interim.” “SHIT!” I practically shouted. “Marion Dawson disappeared in 1989. I remember it now… in fact, I don’t know why that didn’t come back to me right away.” “I think it’s an artifact of TTT,” Jack hypothesized. “When there’s an alteration to the timeline, some of our memories change right away, while others seem to take more time. I think it probably has something to do with the degree of uncertainty associated with the permanence of the change. The more the chance that something will happen to reverse the change, the fuzzier the memory will be.” “An interesting idea,” I noted, “and it makes a hell of a lot of sense.” “So Dawson disappeared in 1989 without a trace, but this time it didn’t spell the end of OTT,” Jack realized aloud. “So either whatever it was that we disrupted the first time happened in the interim between our returning Dawson to Missouri and his disappearance…” “Or he made provisions to keep his program going after his disappearance, and that was enough to restore the integrity of the future of OTT.” “Exactly,” I agreed. “And indeed, it turns out that he did make provisions as spelled out in a detailed manual that he left behind,” Jack interjected. “I actually checked into this. It was as if he knew he wouldn’t be able to continue to oversee the program, or at least suspected the fact, and took appropriate action. He even had a grant application, ready to go, that insured continuation of the program after his disappearance. It was all well-planned.” “I didn’t know about any of this,” I said. “The FBI and the CIA actually looked into it at the time of his disappearance, since the whole thing seemed odd, but they never found any other evidence to support that he knew he’d be leaving,” Jack explained. “He even left a roast simmering in his crock pot the morning of his disappearance. The best conjecture the Feds could come up with at the time was that Dawson was concerned that something might happen to him, but he had no idea that something actually would.” “Wow, it’s like something out of a spy novel,” I commented. “And more so by the day,” Jack concurred. “But why are we acting on this now?” I asked. “Why didn’t we take action when he first disappeared?” “That’s a very good question, Chris,” Craegan answered. “My best guess is that our memory of his involvement on the project disappeared along with him, so we didn’t miss him at all at the time. He was just a professor at a Midwestern university who vanished, but there was no reason for us to connect him to OTT. We just discovered his involvement with us and tied it to his disappearance because he was supposed to have started working for us again this week, and it was that notation in your notes that brought the discrepancy to my attention.” “Another paradox,” I commented. “Exactly,” Jack agreed. “So what do we do?” I asked. “Tonight you will make contact with both your past and your future self,” Jack began. “Your future self was going to contact you anyway, and after you learn from him what changes have taken place in the future as a result of Dawson’s disappearance, you’ll then contact your former self and fill him in on what’s happened, or in his case, is going to happen. Perhaps you can find a way to keep Dawson’s disappearance from taking place and thereby restore the timeline.” “I’ve never contacted both my past and future selves in one evening,” I noted. “I don’t know if I can.” “I have faith in you, Chris,” Jack reassured me, “and now that we know a bit about what’s going on, we have no time to waste.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> June 1983 • Chris-17 “Professor Dawson,” I started to ask as I hashed out the math associated with a twelve-element vacuum tube design, “you told me you’re gay, and that’s kind of how you know what I’m going through. When did you realize you were gay, and how did you deal with it as a kid?” My time with Professor Dawson was growing short. In a matter of days I’d graduate high school, and then I’d spend the summer in Dawson’s lab before heading to Stanford, where I’d soon be starting college as a sophomore. Smiling at me, he replied, “Chris, I kind of always knew. Some people don’t figure it out until they’re adults, but ever since I can remember, I was aware that I liked boys. I distinctly remember back when I was only seven having a huge crush on my best friend. It’s not unusual to feel an attraction to boys at that age, and it’s certainly not unusual to be curious about one’s body then, either. Little boys play doctor, they touch each other and experiment a little bit. But even then I knew that I wanted to do these things for the rest of my life. Girls… I could not have cared less about. “As I got a bit older, my attraction to boys grew stronger and more focused. The sexual aspects came more into play and I desperately wanted to get naked with other boys. I had a yearning… I didn’t know exactly what for at that time… but it was very strong. “I was never effeminate, so no one ever accused me of being a sissy or anything like that, but in the latter part of elementary school, which ran to eighth grade, by the way, I heard other kids bantering around with terms like ‘queer’ and ‘faggot’, and so I looked them up. I learned that the proper term was homosexual, and that it was considered a mental illness, but I immediately knew that that’s what I was. I also knew that I wasn’t sick, so obviously the textbooks were wrong. It wasn’t the first time I’d found a mistake in a textbook, so I’ve always been skeptical of the written word. “Still, it was quite clear what the other kids thought of people like me, so I decided to ‘stay in the closet’ as kids say today. From what I read, however, I knew that there were others like me, and that one day I would find a lover.” “So did you?” I asked. Suddenly, Professor Dawson’s entire demeanor changed. Whereas he’d been happy and alive a moment before, he now seemed shaken, withdrawn and without life. “His name was David,” the professor began, “and we met in college. He was pre-med and I was in the physics program. He was the first person I’d ever met who could stand my quirky mannerisms, and I thought he was beautiful. We hit it off and became fast friends, but I never thought he could possibly be like me. “Still, we spent all our time together, went to movies together, ate out together… for all intents and purposes, we dated. At the start of our sophomore year, we talked the school into letting us room together, but I didn’t realize at the time just how hard on me that would be. I went from spending all my leisure time with him to spending nearly all my time with him. He liked to go shirtless, which was heavenly and torture, all at the same time. And when we were in the showers together, it took everything I had to keep from having erections. I couldn’t help it… I’d fallen hopelessly in love with him. “One thing I did notice about David was that he never seemed to date. I never saw him express any interest in girls, but I just assumed this was because he was shy. What I didn’t realize was that he was going through exactly the same thing that I was. We were a couple of twenty-year-old boys who were hopelessly in love with each other, in a society in which it was deemed wrong to express that love. And if you think it’s tough on gay kids now, imagine what it was like in 1954. “It all came to a head on Valentine’s day in 1954. David bought me a card and stuck it into my mailbox, signing it only, ‘Your Secret Admirer’. I think he was trying to see how I would react to the card, trying to figure out what ‘girl’ had sent it to me, and it might have worked that way had he printed the signature rather than writing it. When I saw the card, I recognized the handwriting instantly. We’d certainly spent enough time reviewing each other’s notes. “When I saw him that evening, I confronted him. I asked him why he gave me a Valentine’s card… that I knew it was him because of the handwriting. He broke down and cried, and I ended up hugging him and crying too. He asked me if I hated him, and I told him on the contrary, that I loved him with all my heart. We spent the whole night making out, and our relationship progressed from there. We were never apart again, until the day he left for boot camp.” “Boot camp?” I asked. “He couldn’t afford to pay for medical school on his own,” Professor Dawson explained, “so he joined the army as a way of financing his education. When he joined up, we were at peace, and the likelihood of him seeing combat was small. In return for having the military pay his tuition and basic expenses, all he had to do was to promise a couple years of his life as an army physician and a commissioned officer. And even if we did go to war, it wasn’t like he would be on the front line. If we went to war, all bets were off for everyone’s lives, anyway, so it seemed like a reasonable trade off. “I wasn’t crazy about the idea of being separated for a couple of years, but I knew he’d come back to me after it was over and we’d spend the rest of our lives together. Little did I know when I sent him off to boot camp that that would be the last time I would ever see him. “Vietnam happened, and David was among the first to be sent over. His unit was overrun early in the war, but for some reason he was never listed as a prisoner of war. His parents and I spent hundreds of hours on the phone and even went to Washington to try to get the military to force the North Vietnamese to admit that they had David, but we got nowhere. It wasn’t like his plane was shot down over enemy territory, after all. We knew his unit was captured by enemy forces. He wasn’t a soldier. He was an army doctor. The North Vietnamese had to have taken him into custody. “Here it is, a decade later, the war has come to an end and our troops have withdrawn. Now it’s unlikely we’ll ever find out what happened. I’ve resigned myself that I’ll never see my David again.” “Do you think maybe you’ll find another boyfriend?” I started to ask, but before I could even add that it was probably what David would have wanted for him, the professor interrupted by shouting, “I DON’T WANTANOTHER BOYFRIEND! I only want my David back. I’m still not ready to give up on him.” “I think I understand,” I replied. “Speaking of boyfriends, I take it you still haven’t contacted Frank Sanford?” Professor Dawson asked. “What’s the point?” I asked in return. “Without my own wheels, it’d be pretty hard to go see him, and showing up on the bus and walking to his house would be decidedly un-cool. And what could I tell my folks to get them to drop me off at his house? Yeah, I can just picture it now… ‘Hey Mom? Hey Dad? Could one of you please give me a ride so I can go visit myboyfriend?’ Yeah, that would really go over well.” “I’m sure if you wanted to, you could find a way… come up with something more original than that,” Dawson challenged, and then he asked, “So have you had any luck replacing your car?” “I wish,” I complained. “Since I wrecked my car, our insurance premiums have shot through the roof. It’s not like my folks have a choice in the matter, either. So long as they have a teenage boy in the house who’s been in a car wreck, they have to pay the higher premium, even if I never drive again. Dad confiscated all the money we got from the insurance from my car being totaled… not that it was a lot… and if I want another car, I’m gong to have to raise the money to buy it on my own. “I went looking at some used cars, thinkin’ I might use some of the money I earned working for you last summer, but Dad insists I save most of it for college. He’s willing to let me spend $250 of it on a car, but that doesn’t buy shit… literally! I’d have to spend at least twice that to get something half as nice as what I was driving. At least I’ll soon be making money again, this summer. “I’ve been wondering,” Professor Dawson began, “how are you getting here?” “Dad’s kind enough to drop me off on Saturday morning, but then I have to find my own way home. Occasionally I can talk the parents of one of the other students into giving me a ride, but no one else lives near me and so I can’t do that regularly, so I usually end up riding the bus. It takes me three different buses to get home, and you wouldn’t believe some of the weirdoes that ride the bus. It really sucks, man. During the week I’ll have to take the bus both ways.” “I really don’t like the idea of you riding the bus alone,” Dawson revealed. “Not from here. “I’ll tell you what,” the professor continued, “$250 is really pocket change when it comes to our budget for OTT, and you’re an integral part of the project. I’ll lend you the money and once you’re on the payroll, you can work off the loan. In fact, if I hire you as a graduate research assistant instead of as a high school student, I can pay you $7.50 an hour, since the work you’re doing on the project is certainly worth a hell of a lot more than minimum wage. “I’ll advance you $750 up front. After all, $500 isn’t going to buy you anything more than a rust bucket, but with a grand, you can get something decent… something sexy enough to take Frank out on a date in. And as much as you’re working on OTT both here and at home, you’ll put in your hours in no time.” “You’d do that for me?” I asked in disbelief. “Chris,” he said as he put his arm around me and drew me into a hug, “You’ve become much more than a student to me, and I hope I’m much more than a teacher to you. You’re a good friend, but even more than that, I love you like the son I never had. Fathers do things like this for their sons, and I’d like to do it for you.” With tears in my eyes, I drew Professor Dawson from the half-hug he was giving me into a full, crushing hug. I truly loved the man. He really waslike a second father to me.
  13. Altimexis

    Unraveling

    May 2011 • Chris-45 As I drifted in and out of sleep, I thought about last night and the incredible sex I’d had with Frank. Perhaps he was right. Perhaps we weren’t supposed to know each other in this reality — in this timeline, but what did that matter to me. I was growing increasingly fond of him. He was a great lover, he was a kind person and he had a sweet soul. Finally after all these years I had found a kindred spirit, and to think we had grown up in the same community and I had to come all the way out to California to find him again. Slowly, I opened my eyes with tender thoughts of Frank dancing in my head, but as my vision came into focus, what greeted me was not the short, graying blond hair and blond mustache of Frank, but the long blond hair of Jen, my ex-wife! I was not in Frank’s townhouse in Santa Clara, but in my old house in Oakland Hills — a house I had not set foot in, other than to visit my daughter, in some five years! I was back in my old bed, with my ex-wife, living a life as if trapped in some time warp. What the Hell was going on? I closed my eyes and kept them closed for a good long while, and then slowly opened them again, but the vision was still the same. Taking a deep breath, there was no mistake; I could definitely smell the distinct smell of Jen. This was no dream. Rousing myself out of bed, I retrieved the Chronicle from the front lawn. The date was exactly what I expected it to be — only I wasn’t where I expected to be. My laptop was just where I used to keep it, but it was the brand new one I now had — not the old one I used to have when I last lived with my wife. Everything was fucked up — it was as if we’d never separated — as if we’d never divorced — as if I still lived with my wife. How could this be? Firing up my laptop, I started reading my e-mails. Everything was as it should be, except that there was nothing of relevance to my life as a single man. It was as if I’d come to a fork in the road five years ago, and taken one fork, but then suddenly gone back and taken the other fork and now I was seeing my life from the other perspective. This was weird. Not that there weren’t times I’d wished I’d stuck it out with my wife, but now that I’d found Frank, that was all behind me. Why now? One thing was for certain — I had a lot of unanswered questions that needed answering, and fast. Perhaps Frank was right — things weren’t as they were supposed to be. Whatever was going on, I needed to get to the bottom of it. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> June 1979 • Chris-13 Getting on the school bus, I couldn’t help but remember the events of the previous evening. Was my ‘out of body experience’ really from contact with my teenage self from 1983, or was it just a vivid dream — a product of my wild imagination? It sure seemed real enough. The idea that something so sinister could happen in the future was almost too much to take, and that I could be the key to stopping it was a heavy weight on my shoulders. For Christ sake, I’m just a thirteen-year-old kid! Just then, I felt a sharp pain in my right earlobe. God, how I hated it. It probably meant Mellman was behind me. I felt it again, followed by the words, “Hey, twerp.” Yup, Mellman. What an asshole! Then he snapped my earlobe again. Usually by now I’d be turning around and telling him to stop tormenting me as tears welled up in my eyes, but then I remembered the advice I’d gotten last night. “So you fancy my ears, now, Mellman?” I asked with a devilish grin, which got a round of giggles from the kids all around us, causing Mellman to turn scarlet red. “Maybe you’d like to kiss my ears, or lick them instead,” I said with a seductive sounding voice.” The kids around us were even more hysterical the way I said it. “What are you, some kind of faggot?” Mellman practically shouted. “I ain’t the one who’s the faggot, Mellman,” I replied. “You’re the one who’s been pervin’ on my ears all year.” I just finally figured out what all the flickin’s all about. “Sorry, Mellman, but I ain’t interested. Go flick on someone else’s ears,” I said in as sultry a voice as a thirteen-year-old boy could muster. The whole damn bus was in hysterics by now, and poor Mellman looked like he wanted to disappear under his seat. Yeah, he could still probably beat the crap outta me, but I’d obviously earned the respect of everyone else on the bus. What I did took guts. That’s what my future self was referring to, and it felt great! <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> May 2004 • Chris-38 “Hey Dad,” Andy said as he grabbed the carafe and poured himself a mug of coffee. Clad only in his boxers and a smile, he was growing taller and more muscular by the day. He really looked like a teenager now. Next year he’d graduate from high school, thanks to having skipped third grade and to early graduation. He was growing up so fast. Grabbing a pop tart from the toaster, he started to wolf down his typical breakfast as he quickly read the sports section while I perused the front page. We each had our priorities. “Your sister up yet?” I asked, innocently enough. “What?” he asked in return. “I asked you if your sister’s up, yet,” I repeated. “Dad, what the Hell are you talking about?” my son asked me once again with the most puzzling expression on his face. “You know, your sister, Karen. Twelve years old, reddish blond hair, freckled face, loves science fiction… Karen,” I reiterated. “Dad,” Andy said with the most serious expression I’d ever seen on his face, “I’m an only child. I don’t have a sister. You told me that Mom got pregnant when I was two, but I don’t remember anything about it. The baby was stillborn. At least that’s what you guys told me. I don’t know if it even had a name, or if it was a boy or a girl.” Suddenly, I felt faint. How could this be happening? How could Karen be gone? My reality was changing, but if that were the case, how could I be aware of it? Why was I aware of it? Something was drastically wrong. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> May 1983 • Chris-17 Professor Dawson said he wanted to see me first thing this morning before school. I wasn’t sure what he wanted, but it must have been important for him to get me out of bed so early in the morning. What seventeen-year-old wants to get up before the crack of dawn? At least he was serving me breakfast. Pulling up in front of his house, I got out of my car and rang the doorbell. “My, don’t you look positively… like a zombie,” the professor laughed at me as he held the door open. “Come on in, Chris,” he said with a surprisingly warm smile. I could smell the scent of bacon and eggs inside, and it was clearly waking my stomach up, a loud rumble attesting to the fact. “Would you like some coffee?” Dawson asked me as I made my way to the kitchen. “No thanks,” I answered. “I’ve never cared for the stuff,” I admitted as I sat down at his kitchen table. “That’s because you’ve never had real coffee,” he said as he poured me a mug of coffee anyway, adding a couple teaspoonfuls of sugar and a generous amount of cream, stirring it in for me. “I had this shipped here from Pike’s Place Market in Seattle, from a little-known store that will one day be known as Starbucks. One day, there will hardly be a corner in America that will be without a Starbucks coffeehouse. Remember that name, Chris, and when their stock goes public in 1992, buy it.” “I’ll have to keep that in mind, sir,” I said, as I smelled the aroma of the coffee. I had to admit to myself that it smelled heavenly — nothing like what my parents drank. Tentatively, I took a sip and although it was very strong, I was instantly hooked. No wonder Starbucks would be a hit. Digging into my bacon and eggs, I asked Dawson, “So why’d you ask me over here this morning? I’m pretty exhausted as it is from my session last night with Chris-13.” “You did really well with that, Chris… really, you did, and I hated to wake you up so soon afterwards, but we really need to talk about it. I couldn’t just let you head off to school this morning without debriefing you, and you were just way too tired afterwards to do it last night. You were still under the influence of the Valium we injected you with, and with a half-life of eight hours, you’re still somewhat under its effects. Too bad Ativan won’t be invented for another decade yet, or so I’m told. “In any case, I wanted to go over your conversation with Chris-13 with you while it’s still in your mind. With my photographic memory, I can hold on to the details of it for you, and then we can communicate it back to our counterparts in the future on another night, once you’ve recovered from last night’s session,” the professor explained. “I see…” I replied. “Now I understand why you wanted to see me this morning. It makes perfect sense.” “Good!” Dawson exclaimed. “Then let’s get started. “First of all, how did Chris-13 react to your presence in his mind? How did he perceive you? Was he frightened, curious or what?” “His first reaction was one of curiosity. Right away, he knew it wasn’t a dream. He was very perceptive, and he thought of the initial feeling as more of a portal opening to another existence than that of an ‘out of body experience’. He’s the first one of us to do that, and I find it amazing, ’cause it’s right on target. He even recognized it as a portal existing within his own brain. How cool is that? “Anyway, when he first saw me, he thought of me as a teenager that might be a close relative, but he couldn’t place me. When I mentioned the old TV show Time Tunnel, however, he immediately brought up episode four, which is where one of the main characters, Tony, meets himself as a boy. He knew right away that I was himself, communicating to him from the future. “Next he admonished me about the dangers of altering the past. I explained the reasons for OTT, using the simplified explanation as we’d planned, and he was stunned by the implications. We left it that we would be in touch, and I gave him some pointers about dealing with bullies. Depending on the outcome, we can now make more significant, targeted changes to undo the mistakes that may have led to humanities self-destruction.” “Hopefully, Chris-45 can provide feedback that can give us some guidance on where to go from here,” Dawson agreed. “In the meantime, if you’ll help me clear the table, we can get you off to school,” he said with a smile. As we cleared the table, Dawson, said, “There’s still some time before you have to leave, so there’s no need to hurry off. Besides,” he added, “it looks like you got a grease stain on your shirt, and one on your pants, and there’s certainly no need for you to go all day wearing them in school like that. Why don’t you give me your clothes, and I’ll get the stains out for you. By the time you have to leave, your shirt and pants will be dry and ready to wear.” Dawson held out his hand to me. I honestly couldn’t see the stain he was talkin’ about, but I wasn’t about to argue with him. I felt kinda funny takin’ my clothes off in front of him, but he was my professor, so what was the harm? I unbuttoned my shirt and handed it over to him. He took it from me and washed a small part of it with soap and water, and then he rinsed it and patted it dry with a towel and hung it up on a hanger. Toeing off my shoes, I handed him my pants, and he followed the same procedure. He then tossed both my shirt and pants in his clothes dryer and set it for thirty minutes on low heat. That left me standing there in nothing but my briefs and socks. Now I really felt funny, but this was only Professor Dawson, after all, and I felt completely safe with him. “Chris, why don’t you lie down for a while, while we wait for your clothes to dry,” he suggested. “I’m afraid if I do that, I’ll never be able to get up,” I laughed. “Don’t worry,” he said with a grin, “I’ll make sure we get you out of here in time for school.” As he suggested this, he reached out to me and took my hand in his, pulling me to my feet and led me to his living room and over to his sofa. Propping my head up on a pillow and for some reason, pulling off my socks, he said, “Make yourself comfortable. Enjoy your rest.” Sitting down on the floor next to me, he said, “You know, you’re a good looking boy, Chris, but you’re going to have some tough times ahead of you. Scientifically and mathematically, you’re brilliant. If it weren’t for your research being top secret, you should get a Nobel Prize for it. Hell, if you manage to save the world and can ever publish a treatise on what you did, you probably will win the Nobel Prize. “But you’re still a human being, Chris. A very lonely human being with sexual wants and needs like everyone else,” he concluded. Whoa, what the fuck was an older guy like Professor Dawson doing talking to me about this shit? Placing a hand on my shoulder, he continued, “You’re going to spend most of your life trying to convince yourself that you like girls… that you like women, when even now you know deep down inside of you that you’re a hundred times more attracted to guys. In spite of your feelings, you’ll go out with dozens of women in college, and eventually get a steady live-in girlfriend in graduate school.” He continued squeezing my shoulder, and with what he was talking about, I couldn’t help myself — I was hard, and he could see it. Continuing, he said, “Finally one day, a very handsome fellow graduate student will catch your eye and you’ll go out to a movie with him, and then you’ll go home to his apartment afterwards and find out what sex with a guy is like, and you’ll discover what you’ve been missing over the years. But when you return home, your girlfriend will have some news of her own for you… she’ll tell you she’s pregnant.” When Dawson told me that, my eyes flew open wide and I practically sat up on the sofa, but he placed his hand on my chest and used it to push me back down. “In the end, Chris, your children will be the joy of your life, and you’ll come to love your girlfriend… your wife… but the marriage won’t last in the long run… and you’ll wind up being a bitter middle-age gay man like me.” “Why are you telling me this?” I asked Professor Dawson. “So you’ll know you have a choice, Chris. I think you can have your cake and eat it, too. Your future wife’s name is Jen… you’ll know when you meet her… she can still give you your children, but there’s no need to deny yourself what you crave now, and there’s no need to stick with a marriage that’s a sham. “There’s a kid who lives out in Mehlville named Frank Sanford. He’s your age, and he used to be one of my protégés. Unfortunately, his parents found out he’s gay, and they didn’t think it was wise for him to attend our Saturday sessions, being in a nearly all-male environment like that, as if they could change him,” Dawson said with a laugh. “The two of you have a lot in common, Chris. I think you’d really hit it off. I think you’d make good boyfriends. Needless to say, you’d need to keep your relationship close to your chest, but your life would be so much better with a boyfriend in it. You’d be so much happier. If you’d like, I could give you his phone number, but the rest of it is up to you.” This was the very thing I’d been trying to avoid for the past five years. I got off thinking of boys. That meant I had to be gay, and somehow Dawson had found out. But he said he’s gay, too, and what he said about having my cake and eating it too made a lot of sense. Maybe I could be bi-sexual, I think it’s called. Maybe I could have sex with both boys and girls. Did I really want to have an actual boyfriend, however? The thought of it made me hard, and Dawson, noticed, and he smiled. Was I brave enough to have a boyfriend? What would my parents think? Did I really care? Did they even have to know? Knowing I was making a fateful decision, I said, “Sure, I’ll take his number,” and Dawson’s face lit up like a Christmas tree. During the drive to school, my head was in a fog. My mind was simply preoccupied and I didn’t even notice the red light as I entered the intersection at Big Bend Boulevard and Ethel Avenue — a very busy intersection. My car was hit broadside from the passenger side and even though I’d probably have a nasty case of whiplash, I seemed to be OK. The car was totaled, however, and I wondered to myself how this change in the timeline would affect the future. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> May 1990 • Chris-24 “So as you can see,” I said in conclusion, “there is strong evidence for the existence of temporal quantum fluctuations that mirror the spatial ones that are already known to exist. If these can be shown to correspond to quantum particles that travel along the time axis, much as we know there are quantum particles that travel along the spatial axes, we may have a means of communicating back in time. “Thank you.” “A very intriguing possibility indeed,” my major professor summarized as I brought up the house lights at then end of my general thesis presentation. “And with that, we’ll now open the auditorium to questions from the audience.” A young woman stood and moved to one of the microphones on the floor of the auditorium and asked the question — a rather obvious one and one I’d been expecting, “Are you suggesting, Dr. Michaels, that we might be able to convert a person to quantum particles, send them back in time, and then reassemble them back into a human being, effectively using this strategy to build a time machine?” Smiling, I answered, “As nice as that scenario would seem, there’s a number of problems with it, just as there are problems with building a space ship or a transporter using the quantum variation equivalent in the spatial domain. Let me start with the spatial domain first, because I think it’s easier to visualize things in the here and now. “Recall that with faster-than-light travel, you start with a quantum event that generates particles that travel in opposite directions at the speed of light. When you identify one of these particles, you immediately know the state of it’s mate, wherever it is, so you have effectively determined information on a particle that may be light-years away. Although the information on that particle was learned instantly across all that distance, it still took all those years of travel at the speed of light for the particles to get that far apart. “Making matters worse, these particles are few and far between. Even if you could find enough of them to gather up and deduce the state of affairs on a planet orbiting about Alpha Centauri in the here and now, you still couldn’t get there any faster than the speed of light. More likely, you’d have to generate a stream of particles to create a data stream with enough bandwidth to form a communication bridge, and you’d have to wait 4½ years for it to reach Alpha Centauri in the first instance. “Now if we ever did find a way to invent a ‘transporter’ the likes of what they have in the popular Star Trek television saga, you’d have to deal with all of the issues of converting matter to data… enormous quantities of data, and then reassembling all of that data back into matter on the other end. And of course there’s the question of what to do with the original body when you’re through. “All of these issues apply to space travel, and they would apply equally to time travel. At this point, we aren’t talking about physically sending a person back in time. That’s way beyond anything we’re capable of. That’s like talking about building a space ship when I’ve just discovered fire and conceived of how to send smoke signals.” The next person to step up to one of the microphones was a distinguished-looking gentleman with a thick, Russian-sounding accent. “Dr. Michaels, these quantum temporal variations. Did you consider the possibility that they might have been the result of variations in the flux of the earth’s magnetic field as it rotates in relation to the sun and the moon?” ‘Where did that question come from,’ I thought to myself. “No, sir, I did not.” “Well, are you aware of the paper by Sergei, Chekov and Polanski, dated 1979 and published in the Russian Academy of Sciences, that looked at just this problem. They did exhaustive work and demonstrated that the interplay of the earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind, influenced by the gravimetric pull of the moon is sufficient to alter the quantum states of these particles as you’ve so noted. “You do not need to postulate something so bizarre as temporal variations and the generation of paired quantum states that spread out in time. Everything is entirely explained by the interaction of ordinary quantum mechanics and Newtonian solar mechanics. It is very simple. I have brought copies of the paper. I am sorry, it was only just recently translated to English, but I think you will see the analysis is completely sound.” My heart sank as the gentleman brought copies of the manuscript to the front of the room. I would continue with my defense, but the outcome was a foregone conclusion. With such new ‘evidence’ presented in such a formal way, there was no way they could allow me to proceed with my dissertation. The members of the committee would need time to read the Russian manuscript to ascertain whether or not it had merit. Whether it did or didn’t have merit, I’d need to include the paper in the background section of my thesis and either debunk it, or if it did have merit, find a way to take its findings into account. In the worst-case scenario, I’d have to revise or even find a completely different approach to my research project before I could complete my PhD. My dissertation would be delayed at minimum a month and quite possibly six months to a year. I might even have to give up my post-doc in Rankin’s lab. The crazy thing was that we knew my theories on temporal quantum variations were valid. We had the ultimate proof in TTT, but couldn’t use any of it in my dissertation. That it was a Russian guy who had come forward at my thesis defense was not lost on me. From everything I’d gathered from my conversations with Chris-31, this shouldn’t be happening. Since we’d brought Dawson to California, things had been happening, and sending him back to St. Louis had only partially restored the timeline. There were still occasional ripples, and this was a big one. I couldn’t help but wonder if TTT had fallen into the wrong hands. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> As Marion Dawson stepped off the airplane, he was greeted warmly by the smiling KGB agent. “Welcome to Moscow, comrade,” the agent said as he firmly shook Dawson’s hand. “I never thought I would betray my country,” Dawson said, matter-of-factly. “You didn’t betray them, professor,” the agent said as he guided his prize through customs and immigration. “They betrayed you. Your lover was so cruelly taken from you nearly thirty years ago, at the very beginning of the Vietnam War… a war without purpose… an unjust war, and yet your country did nothing to get him back. “We can offer you a new start with David. The truth is, America will make an utter mess of the future. They will say they won the Cold War, but all they succeeded in doing was to break the back of the Soviet people. Hungary, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the GDR have all left the Warsaw Pact, Germany will reunite, and the West will push the borders of NATO, right up to our doorstep. Soon the Soviet Union itself will crumble. “America will say the world is better off without the USSR. They’ll say the world is better off under American hegemony, with only one superpower. And yet in the coming decade, they’ll make enemies of the Islamic nations, lead the Chinese astray, nearly bankrupting them in the process, and lead the world toward the edge of the cliff of global warming. “The Soviet Union can do so much better for the world. We’ve made our mistakes in the past, but with the benefit of TTT, we can learn from the mistakes America made in its past and its future and the mistakes we made in ours, and build a command economy that actually works. You’ll be a part of that future, comrade.” The two men continued to work their way through queue after endless queue as document after document was signed, stamped and processed. Finally, they made their way to a waiting limo outside. The KGB agent opened the door, and waiting inside and watching TV was a boy who looked to be about twelve or thirteen. When the boy saw the professor, his whole face lit up. “Professor Dawson,” the agent began, “I have the pleasure of introducing Sasha. He’ll be your houseboy in your new dacha for as long as you want him there, and of course we can get you another when you wish. Sasha speaks fairly good English and he will help you to work on your Russian. He’ll cook and clean for you, and keep you warm at night.” “It’s nice to meet you, Sasha,” Professor Dawson said as he slid in next to the boy. “I’m really delighted to meet you, Professor Dawson,” Sasha said in return. Turning back to the KGB agent, Professor Dawson said, “With all due respect, I think you got it wrong. Yes, there were allegations of things I did with boys in the past, and my government did try to frame me for international trafficking in child pornography, but those allegations were entirely false. I’ve dedicated my life to helping boys to be all they can be… not to doing them harm. I would never harm a child. I would never force a boy to have sex with me. “I’m gay, comrade, not a pedophile or a pederast. The only one I want is my David. He was the love of my life.” “Perhaps our information was wrong,” the agent admitted, “but you like to be around teenage boys nonetheless, don’t you?” “I take great pleasure from watching them grow, but I cannot and would not enter into a sexual relationship with a boy. There has been no one else since I lost David, and as you know all too well, I’d do anything to get him back.” “We’re counting on that,” said the KGB agent as he smiled, “and for your role in our work, you’ll be rewarded very handsomely indeed, and by the time we’re done, we’ll have a monopoly on TTT.” “I’m a bit concerned about that,” Dawson interrupted. “There’s an inherent paradox in modifying the future, since the very technology we’re using came from Christopher Michaels’ work in 2008. If you alter the course of his work and prevent him from developing the technology in the first place, a paradox will result in which we may never become aware of the technology in the first place.” “Already taken care of,” the agent stated emphatically. “We’ve made sure that our own scientists have the right background and direction to discover the technology in the here and now, today in 1990. That way, we don’t need to wait for Michaels to discover it in 2008 and send the knowledge back into the past. If we invent it first, we won’t need the Americans. We’ll then be free to eradicate their history of TTT development without fear of how it might affect our efforts. In fact, we’re already working on doing just that.” “It’s still a pretty risky proposition,” said the professor stated in some alarm. “Nonsense,” the agent countered. “You leave the espionage aspects to us, and concentrate on the science of TTT, and on enjoying the companionship of the little beauty sitting next to you.” END OF BOOK ONE
  14. Altimexis

    A Bridge Complete

    March 2011 • Chris-44 With each move, my heart rate quickened. Each kiss, each touch, each each moan was pure ecstasy. A shower of sparks exploded in my head, sending wave after wave of shivers up and down my spine. I’d been with many women before, and I’d spent many happy years with Jen. I’d even been with Paul that one time, but nothing came close to this. I wasn’t even touching myself, nor was he, but I knew I was getting close. A few more seconds and I’d be gone. Again, we kissed with passion, our tongues intermingling, dancing a slow, rhythmic dance together in each others’ mouths. Slowly, I felt the pressure build within me. An electric surge that began as a tingling in my toes, worked its way up until it exploded in the center of my chest and spread out to my shoulders and my arms. My essence reached the boiling point, churning deep within me until it could be withheld no more. Like lava from an erupting volcano, I exploded with untamed fury as torrents of pleasure I’d never known before trembled over me. Slowly, the tremors became ripples, and then nothing more than gentle aftershocks as Frank collapsed on top of me. We resumed our kissing, and then laughing and giggling. I couldn’t even remember how we’d ended up in his bedroom, let alone in his bed together, but what we’d just done was by far the most earth-shattering experience of my entire life. “You know this was a mistake,” Frank said as our heart rates began to return to normal. “Yes, and I don’t care,” I replied. “We’re not even supposed to know each other,” he said. “Not in this timeline. Not in this reality, or so you’ve said,” I agreed. “If it weren’t for my ability to sense things outside of normal time, we wouldn’t even be here,” he stated, again pushing the point home. “And if I hadn’t had that one dream, I would have never bothered to look you up,” I reasoned, “but we both became aware of each other, and here we are. Why not enjoy it?” I asked. “Because it means time is unraveling, Chris. Time is unraveling, and I think you may be the cause. Time is unraveling, and you have to do something,” he implored me. “I’m already working on it, Frank,” I assured him. “No!” he practically shouted at me. “My premonitions are getting worse if anything. What ever you’re doing, you’re only making it worse.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> March 1990 • Chris-23 “He’s getting so big,” I said as I stared at our son as he wove his destructive path around the living room, knocking things over as he went. Today our son, Andrew David Michaels Wilson, was one year old. “Just a year ago you couldn't stop talking about how small he was,” Jen countered. “Yeah I remember that,” I said. “I’d never realized newborns were so small,” I repeated. “His hand was scarcely the size of my thumb.” “Well, they do grow, you know,” Jen teased me. “Yeah, I realize that,” I said. “And being painful enough as it was, delivering him, I don’t even want to think what it would have been like to deliver him if he’d been any larger,” she went on to say. “Yeah, I see your point,” I agreed. “I can’t even imagine what you went through, carrying him inside of you for nine months, and then being stretched open wide enough to deliver him.” “Well, you should have thought of that when you knocked me up,” she said with a smile. “It wasn’t the first thing on my mind at the time,” I said as I smiled back, and then I leaned down and kissed her. “We do make a good team,” she agreed. Getting a more serious look on her face, she said, “I could have never finished my thesis without your help. I just hope the committee likes what we did.” “How could they not like it?” I asked. “The writing was positively brilliant, if I do say so myself.” “I’ll remind you that I still did most of the writing,” she pointed out, “but I could have never done it without your help tracking down and setting up all the references in RefNote, and I’d have been a basket case had it not been for your help formatting all the equations with MathType. If it were me, I’d still be reading the manual, trying to figure it out.” “And I’m the undisputed GraphicsShop wizard,” I added. “Beyond a doubt,” she agreed. “I owe you everything, and as soon as I’m past my defense and have made any revisions the committee requests for the thesis, I’ll do all the child rearing so that you can finish your dissertation and then get to your post-doc.” “At least the hard part’s behind us,” I said. “The defense is a couple weeks away, during which time I’ll do most of the work until your dissertation is complete. It’ll be a piece of cake,” I concluded. “The famous last words of mice and men…” Jen said with a look of apprehension on her face. “Let’s not even go there,” I replied. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> March 1997 • Chris-30 “A disco ball?” Jack echoed my suggestion. “Actually, it’s not just for discos.” I explained. “It’s just a mirror ball. One of those multifaceted mirror balls they hang in dance halls. They were very popular in the twenties, and again in the forties, and they became all the rage again in the disco era, as popularized in the film Saturday Night Fever. “Chris-16 thought of it, and suggested we use a quantum-mirrored equivalent with a single, stationary quartz emitter/detector instead of the sixteen emitter/detectors we now have mounted inside of a rotating cylinder. That way, we wouldn’t need to have a complex interconnect system, and we could use a much cruder, larger emitter/detector,” I concluded. “Sequencing that single emitter/detector would be a lot more complex, however,” Jack pointed out. “True, no doubt about that, but the switching circuitry would be a hell of a lot easier to build than the physical device we currently use.” Sighing, Jack said, “Undoubtedly, you’re right… but what is it with you, Chris. First you propose one design, based on watching your daughter’s spinning top, and then you propose another, based on watching a spinning mirror ball in a movie. What is this obsession of yours with spinning objects?” Laughing, I said, “Inspiration comes from all directions.” Shifting gears, I asked, “What should we tell Dawson?” “Sorenson,” Jack reminded me. “In this time period, everyone’s to know him as Sorenson. In any case, be sure he reminds his counterpart in the past that we have far more resources in the here and now, than he could possibly have access to in the past. We’ll take it from here. With any luck, we can have a prototype of the new design up and running in a matter of weeks. If our tests go well, we can then send the blueprints back to him, along with all the computer code necessary for him to make it work using the instrumentation available to him in his time period. We can cut his design cycle to a fraction of what it might otherwise have been.” “He’s already started work on his own design, you know, both in the present and in the past. You don’t think he might feel a bit resentful it we take it out of his hands, do you?” I asked. “Knowing him, I certainly expect he will,” Jack answered, “but stroking his ego isn’t a luxury we can afford. Besides, he’ll be thrilled when he gets a working prototype in his hands, and ecstatic when his counterpart in the past is able to build one so readily, compared to the current design. “I have a feeling the new design will cut the process of extending the chain of communication to a fraction of what it might have been, and that’s what really matters. If it was in fact the formation of an Islamic republic in Iran that resulted in the destruction of the world in the future, then we’re running out of time. The Shah of Iran was deposed in February, 1979. We’re already passed that. The American Embassy staff were taken hostage the following November… perhaps we at least can prevent that from happening.” “Jack, you’re forgetting that with TTT, we can always go back further in time by adding another link. As long as Chris-12 is alive and well in 1978, there’s no reason we can’t reach him. It just may fall to Chris-13 or maybe Chris-14 to finish the job.” Turning to me, Jack concluded by saying, “Chris, I think we may actually have 1978 in sight, now.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> April 1990 • Chris-24 My life was — hectic — no doubt about it. I had a funny feeling this wasn’t the way things were supposed to be, but I had little choice in the matter, under the circumstances. I was a new father, and that was great. It was better than I’d expected it to be, actually. Oh, little Andy could really make quite a fuss when he wanted to, but he was an amazing little man. He did result in a lot of lost sleep, but since Jen had finished up her dissertation, she was doing most of the work of raising him and wasn’t planning on looking for a post-doc until I’d finished mine, so I was off the hook in the parental role for a while. As far as my PhD was concerned, all the data and data processing was done and I’d finished up most of the writing. I probably should have finished by now, but OTT kept getting in the way. Rankin had been understanding in allowing me to postpone the start date of my fellowship a couple of times now. My job at Lawrence Livermore after that was pretty much a lock, but if I didn’t get to it soon, there wouldn’t be an OTT in the first place. Somehow I knew things weren’t going as originally planned. I could only hope that something really important, such as a major publication in a major journal, wouldn’t slip away from me and cause a cascade effect that would alter all of time. One little thing like that and things could accumulate. Action upon action might build until there was a paradox, and then God alone knew what might happen. The fabric of time itself was unraveling. Sometimes it felt like I was carrying the entire weight of the world on my shoulders, but what could I do? I’d just turned 24, for cripe sake. I was just one man — a brand new daddy — with a baby and his mama to feed. Sighing, I realized it really was time to get back to work on my dissertation — OTT be damned. If I didn’t, there might never be an OTT. Starting up the brand new Macintosh IIsi computer I’d just purchased through the university, I prepared to get back to working on my thesis. The computer was so new, in fact, that the model wasn’t even yet available to the general public. Page after page of my thesis flashed across the thirteen-inch color display as I looked at what I’d written, paying particular attention to the numerous equations embedded within the text, the figures, many of which were mere placeholders for artwork I’d yet to complete, and of course the references. Keeping track of hundreds upon hundreds of references was one of the most difficult tasks in putting together any major manuscript, but for a thesis, the task was particularly daunting. As with Jen’s dissertation, I was making use of a brand new piece of software called RefNote that had just come out in the last year. It was outrageously expensive, and unlike the other software I used, there was no academic discount available. As with most of the software on our computer, however, I’d pirated a copy from one of the labs, so it hadn’t cost us a cent. I was amazed at how much time RefNote had managed to save me already. Rather than having to meticulously keep track of references and potentially renumber all the references each time I made a change, RefNote did all that for me. Indeed, most dissertations made use of the ‘author-date’ annotation style, just because of the futility of renumbering each time a reference was added or changed. For me, that wasn’t a worry at all. Renumbering, reordering, changing reference styles and even catching inconsistencies were now a breeze. The only thing RefNote didn’t do was to look up the references for me, but something told me that some day even that might be a possibility. After all, database searches were now done by computer on-line. All that was necessary was to combine the output of the search with the input of RefNote, or better still, to use RefNote as the front-end for the database search, and I’d be all set. A cry from the baby’s room interrupted my train of thought. Well, that was certainly something that hadn’t changed, OTT or no OTT. Might as well take a break and spend a little time with my son before getting back to work on my dissertation. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> April 1983 • Chris-17 “So how does this all work?” I asked. The professor smiled at me, and then he went about explaining it all to me. The physical apparatus was pretty simple once he explained how it worked, although the whole quantum pair thing seemed strange. The idea that quantum particles could exist in the same point in space but at different points in time was really weird. That it was I who would discover this one day was hard for my young mind to imagine. “There’s still one major potential issue with using time tunnel technology in 1983, Chris,” Professor Dawson brought up, “and it will be an even bigger issue if we ever need to extend TTT before then. In every other time period in which it’s been used, all of the control of the apparatus, all of the switching, multiplexing and manipulation have been done by sophisticated computer programs. Apparently that was very easy to do in 2008, and pretty easy to do in 2001, and still not too difficult in 1995. It was considerably more difficult in 1988, when personal computers were just beginning to come into their own, but with significant simplifications to make the code function on equipment considerably more primitive than that for which it was originally intended. “In 1983 we face a much bigger challenge. The personal computers we’ll use in the future are little more than toys today, lacking anything close to the processing power we need. The alternative is to make use of the minicomputers that are ubiquitous in university laboratories at present. We have access to a pair of fairly powerful PDP/VAX minicomputers, right here in the Physics department, although only one of them has an image processing sub-unit. There are two major hurdles to this approach as I see it, however. For one thing, there’s no way I can justify a dedicated computer, just for this project. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. That means having to jockey with other professors and other students for the use of the existing VAX with the image co-processor, often at a moment’s notice, and because it’s usually time-shared, people will start to wonder what we’re up to that requires the full computational power of an entire VAX, not to mention an image processor. How in Hell will we be able to justify bumping someone off the computer during their critical experiment so we can run ours? That kind of scrutiny is something we cannot afford. “An even more important issues is, what if we need to go back even further in time? You wouldn’t "be able to, but in an emergency, I can. The computers we need are large, multimillion dollar mainframes in 1978, and they don’t even exist in 1971. Not here at the university. We have to consider using a different approach.” “So what do we do?” I asked. “Before there were digital computers,” the professor lamented, “there were analog computers. They were never so precise, and were always treated more as laboratory curiosities and as teaching platforms, but they served a useful purpose. “Now the typical analog computer would never work here… there’s just too much data involved, but I think we can make use of the same basic principles involved toward the same ends.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Instead of using traditional algorithms to calculate, differentiate, matrix invert and reintegrate digitally, we could simply use the physical properties of vacuum tubes to do much the same thing.” Professor Dawson suggested. “You can’t do this with transistors, by the way. Solid-state electronics are inherently nonlinear, but in the perfect vacuum inside a vacuum tube, you can simulate conditions in outer space. In a vacuum tube, Maxwell’s equations apply. You should be able to achieve perfect quantum effects and perfect matrix inversions, so long as your electrode geometries are correct.” “So you’re suggesting we could do all the calculations, matrix inversions, advanced calculus and so on using custom-designed vacuum tubes?” I asked. “That’s exactly what I’m saying, young Christopher, and you’ll learn a Hell of a lot of physics in the process,” he confirmed. “Cool,” was my response, “but won’t developing custom vacuum tubes take time?” I asked. “It could take months… maybe more than a year, so you’re right, Chris, we don’t have the time to put OTT on hold while we develop our own custom vacuum tubes,” Professor Dawson replied. “But we have all the computer algorithms we need to implement TTT using our VAX computers. Once we fabricate the quartz emitter-detector and the disco mirror apparatus you so cleverly suggested, we’ll be all set to make first contact with Chris-12… or rather Chris-13 now. And by making contact at night, we shouldn’t face too much competition for the use of the VAX computers. “That’s great Professor Dawson,” I responded. “So maybe we can wait on the vacuum tubes?” Chuckling, the professor replied, “Chris, you just turned seventeen and you’ll probably depart for Stanford next fall. Consider this a great learning experience you’ll never have a chance to get again, and besides which, I’d like to take advantage of your expertise before you leave.” “But you’ll still have access to my expertise in the future, through my future counterparts,” I pointed out, “and who knows, perhaps by making use of the advanced digital computers available in the future, I’ll be able to design more advanced vacuum tube designs and in less time.” “NO!” Professor Dawson practically shouted. “This is something we need to do in the here and now. You’re going to have enough on your plate in the future without taking on a whole new project. The invention of TTT must not be compromised under any circumstances. You, on the other hand, can do this and learn a lot without compromising the future of OTT.” Throughout this conversation, Dawson had been maintaining physical contact with me in some way, be it a hand on my shoulder, an arm around my waist or his chin on top of my head. When I finished my last ‘cool’, his arm was completely around my torso and he didn’t remove it. Although this was a little weird, Dawson always was a ‘touchy-feely’ sort of guy, so I didn’t really think anything of it, but his rubbing my side was causing me to get hard, which was kind of freakin’ me out. Sensing my unease, Dawson backed off, leaving me feeling much more comfortable. Soon, other boys started showing up, and the professor had to put each of them to work on their own lessons, so he set me to work on learning all about Maxwell’s equations and how they could be used in basic vacuum tube design. He showed me how the university had a whole facility for building its own vacuum tubes, and started me working on designing vacuum tubes that could be used for OTT. Although I was only supposed to be there for the morning, I didn’t end up goin’ home ’til around seven in the evening, and I agreed to come back the next morning, too. I never even stopped for lunch. It wasn’t until later that I began to worry about the implications of keeping the work on vacuum tubes to ourselves. I certainly understood what he meant about not interfering with the development of TTT in the future, but it almost seemed like the professor didn’t want my future counterparts to know about our work on vacuum tube technology at all. I had the distinct impression that Professor Dawson wanted to extend TTT back even further than 1978, and for his own purposes, and that was certainly something Chris-24 and all my future selves should know about. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> May 1990 • Chris-24 I was finally ready to defend my thesis. All the figures were done. The references were checked and crosschecked, thanks to RefNote. The equations were formatted to perfection, courtesy of MathType. I was psyched. I was ready. Of course there was no telling what the members of the committee would ask when I went into the exam tomorrow. I’d attended enough of these before and already had a good idea of what to expect. Chances were there would be no surprises. Oh, there would be one or two unexpected questions — there always were — it seemed to be some kind of law — but I felt those questions probably would be about things I could handle. There would almost certainly be some expectation of required revisions. I’d yet to see a dissertation that didn’t come through with required revisions. I think it was so committees could prove their utility. I also figured that committee members thought they had to have some way of proving they’d read the dang thing, and so nearly everyone picked parts of the thesis to read in detail, scrutinizing it until they found something — hell — anything, and then require that it be revised. So I knew going in that there would be some questions from out in left field, but I’d be ready for that, and there would be an expectation for some revisions, but nothing excessive. With modern word processors, the revisions should be relatively painless, and then I’d be done and able to move on to my post-doc in Rankin’s lab. Talking to some of my fellow students from other universities that I’d met at scientific conferences, on the other hand, I’d heard some real horror stories. It seems that different institutions did things differently, following different sets of rules. Although nearly everyone required a qualifying exam of some sort and a thesis proposal, the emphasis on each varied widely. In some universities, the qualifying exam was waived entirely if one maintained a 3.5 GPA. No such luck at Stanford. At others, the qualifying exam was extremely rigorous, lasting several days and being even more involved than an entrance exam. Thesis proposal requirements were also highly variable. Here, we merely had to submit a few pages explaining what we wanted to do, with a few references to back it up. Our committee members needed to initial it, to verify they’d read it, and our major professor had to sign off on it. Of course, if someone on our committee had serious reservations, we might need to gather more information or make changes, but that rarely happened. Another student told me that at her institution, the proposal essentially was the defense. Before the student could even set foot in the lab, they were required to prepare a rigorous, detailed analysis of the proposed research, with a comprehensive bibliography, and to defend the whole thing in front of their committee. The proposal was often hundreds of pages long — nearly as long as the finished thesis itself. Indeed, the only difference between the proposal and the dissertation often was the inclusion of actual data and the final conclusions. The process sounded wasteful to me, but I guess they wanted to avoid the potential waste of laboratory resources. Even the thesis defense itself differed significantly from place-to-place. In some, it was a very casual affair, discussed over coffee with the student at the head of the table and the committee members seated all around. At others, anyone who wanted could attend and ask questions, creating an inquisition-like atmosphere. The student had little advanced warning of who might attend, and it was not uncommon for famous scholars whose work they were challenging to show up and lambast their dissertation. My defense would be held in an auditorium. Members of my committee had been provided with a printed copy of the thesis earlier in the week, and anyone who wished to attend could obtain one by contacting the Department secretary, as listed in the public announcement. I would begin by making a thirty-minute uninterrupted podium presentation, followed by a general question and answer session from the audience that could last anywhere from a few minutes to an hour. After a brief intermission, my committee would then assemble as a panel to discuss my dissertation in front of the audience, each member critiquing it for up to fifteen minutes individually, displaying their own slides if they wished. During this time, I was expected to remain completely silent, no matter how wrong or unfair I thought the critiques might have been. After all of the members of my committee had completed presenting their critiques, I was then permitted a half-hour to address all of the critiques leveled at my dissertation and to address any of the shortcomings identified, and to rebut any criticisms that I felt were unjustified — something that was generally done only if a PhD candidate had solid evidence to back them up. In stark contrast to the way I’d heard it was done at other institutions, at no point did the student or the committee members ever directly address each other — committee members expressed ‘concerns’ they had with the dissertation and the candidate explained ways those concerns might be addressed with revisions to the thesis. At the end of the defense, the major professor would summarize the revisions that would be required to make the thesis acceptable to the members of the committee. The candidate would then generally have a maximum of thirty days to complete the revisions and return the manuscript to the major professor for his signature. In rare instances, the candidate and the committee would be unable to agree on a set of revisions that would make the thesis acceptable to all involved, and the candidate would be required to withdraw the thesis and start over with the preparation of a new thesis after no less than six months. I’d attended several PhD thesis defense sessions, and I couldn’t recall that ever happening even once. The night before my PhD defense, I entered the lecture hall and checked to make sure that everything was in order. Even though I’d done this before, I was still quite nervous. I had two Kodak Carousel slide projectors set up in the back of the room, sitting in a projection booth, and into each one I dropped a slide tray containing one hundred forty color slides — the maximum number that could fit in one tray. I wanted to have enough slides to convey everything I wanted to say, plus enough slides to cover every possible question I might be asked, without having to switch slide trays during my presentation. I ran through all slides twice, making sure they all dropped properly without jamming. I’d paid extra to have them mounted in plastic rather than cardboard mounts, and I wanted to be sure I’d gotten my money’s worth. Once I was satisfied, I made sure I knew the locations of all the controls for the lighting in the room, the projector controls, the microphone and something that was relatively new, a rather hefty laser pointer. I didn’t leave the room until I was confident and sure everything was in order. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> June 1979 • Chris-13 Today had been so humiliating. Just when I thought my day couldn’t get any worse, I boned up in the shower in gym class. Everyone laughed at me and called me a faggot. God, I hate the way they all treat me in school! I’m just an ordinary thirteen-year-old kid. I don’t know why I get a boner when I see other naked boys in the shower in gym class. I mean, I think maybe everyone does. I notice other boys kind of get a little stiff, but they seem to be able to control it better, but not me. I get a humongous, rip-roaring, straight-up raging boner, big enough to use as a baseball bat, and pretty soon, everyone’s gawking at it and laughing at me, and I just wanna crawl under some rock and disappear. But even before the boner incident, it had been a shitty day. Someone tripped me in the hall on the way to Science class and all my books went flying all over the place, and then when I was late to class, Mrs. Salinger made me go to the principal’s office to get a late pass… talk about me being really late after that. Then there was a pop-quiz in Social Studies. I usually do well on those, but I found out after I turned mine in that the answers were numbered from left-to-right and I’d answered mine from top-to-bottom, so I know I totally fucked that one up. Yeah, it was a totally crap day. The only good thing about it was that it was finally over. Lying in bed felt peaceful. I was away from school, away from the bullies, away from all the crap and that had made my life hell since I’d left the comfortable world of elementary school behind. Why didn’t my parents warn me it would be like this? As I drifted off to sleep, the faces of my tormentor kept dancing in my head, endlessly haunting me in my dreams. For me there was never any escape… Whoa… this dream… something strange was happening. I felt as if I was floating above my body. I felt as if I was naked… no, that wasn’t quite right. It was more like I was suspended in space, not just without clothes, but without form. I was just kind of there, mind, body and soul, floating in the vastness of the universe. This was weird. I mean I knew I was in my bedroom, but yet I wasn’t really in my bedroom at all. It was kinda like a portal had opened within my brain and I had stepped — no, stepped wasn’t the right word — I had floated out into this other existence I hadn’t known about, but that had been there all along. All around me, a dense fog started to form. The fog grew thicker, but it was colorless and odorless, and it didn’t feel damp or have a temperature, neither warm nor cold. In front of me, the fog started to condense, or rather coalesce into a form — a shape — a person! Slowly, the person took on features that looked sort of familiar. A face took shape. The face was that of a teenager. Most teenagers I’d encountered in the past had either bullied me or ignored me, but this one seemed kind for some reason. He smiled at me. For some reason, this teenage boy looked a lot like me, but I knew all of my cousins, and this boy didn’t look anything like any of them. Who was this boy? The one thing I think I knew was that this wasn’t a dream… there was no wayI would dream this. Was someone trying to make contact with me, but why and how? “Hello, Chris,” the teenager spoke to me. “I know this is going to seem strange to you, but I’m from your future,” he said. “Do you remember the television series, Time Tunnel?” he asked me? This —this was real. “The Day the Sky Fell In,” I replied. “Huh?” he asked in return. “The Day the Sky Fell In,” I repeated. “It was the title of episode four, when Tony returned to Pearl Harbor the day of the Japanese invasion, and finds his father, but more importantly, he finds himself as a boy.” His whole face lit up as he said, “You remember. Yes, that’s the perfect analogy, although real time travel doesn’t work like that… at least not any kind of time travel that we’ve been able to discover. What we have been able to do is learn how to communicate back in time within a person’s brain while they sleep. Actually, you’ll invent the technology in 2008, but there are limitations, the worst one being that the communication link is limited to about seven years.” “So you’re me in about seven years?” I asked. “In my case, only about four years,” he replied. “You can call me Chris-17, ’cause I’m seventeen years old, as of last month. That makes you Chris-13, at least until you turn fourteen next year.” “Why did I start all this,” I asked Chris-17. “As every science fiction fan knows, it’s dangerous as Hell to mess with time.” “When Chris-42 first developed ‘Time Tunnel Technology’, or TTT for short, he started sending back regular weekly briefings from the future to himself, I guess just to make sure that all was well in the world. Those briefings ended sometime in 2012. No briefings have ever been received from anyone in the future beyond 2012. “An extensive analysis has been done and all indicators trace back to events in 1978 and 1979 as the beginning of whatever happened that led to some sort of cataclysmic event. We believe that if we fail to intervene, life as we know it on earth will end sometime in or after 2012. By establishing a chain of communication back to 1979, or maybe 1978, we hope to be able to alter events in an orderly fashion to salvage the future. “I know you’re only thirteen and you probably think there’s little you can do at your age to help, but you’re wrong. Chris-45 knows what’s happening in your life, and I know what happened in your life, and there are some surprisingly simple changes we can have you make that will have a profound impact, not only on your future, but on the future of the world.” “Wow, I don’t know what to say,” I asked more than said. “You can start by holding your head up high and realizing that every kid in school is going through the exact same thing that you are. They may all act cool and like they’ve got their shit together, but underneath it all, they’re no more sure of themselves than you are. When they pick on you in school, don’t let them get to you. Be strong, don’t show emotion and when they fail to get a reaction, they’ll stop bullying you. Trust me on this… it took us a long time for us to learn our lesson. That alone will go along way toward improving our own future. “But listen, we’ve made first contact. We’ve set up a chain of communication with nodes in 2011, 2004, 1997, 1990, 1983 and now, 1979. We’ve engaged Chris-45, Chris-38, Chris-31, Chris-24, Chris-17 and now you, Chris-13. Our bridge between the future and the past is now complete. There is one other person you should know about who can help, by the way. His name is H. Marion Dawson, and he’s a physics professor at the University. He is not aware of TTT or of Operation Time Tunnel, or OTT as we call it… at least not in this time period… yet. We’ll contact him if we need his help. “Goodnight my friend… my past self… from your future self-to-be. Sweet dreams.” And then the teenage boy, who I would become, faded from my vision and I was once again alone in bed in my own room.
  15. Altimexis

    Conundrum

    December 1989 • Chris-23 What the fuck was I doing back in St. Louis, and on Christmas Eve, no less. I should be in California with Jen and Andy, celebrating our first Christmas together as a family, but instead I was spending it in a miserable Days Inn out by the airport, listening to an endless stream of piped-in Christmas music that I couldn’t seem to get away from. On top of that, I was lugging around a twenty-pound prototype for a new portable Macintosh computer that Apple had just introduced to the public. The University had lent it to me to use to work on my PhD thesis, but the black-and-white screen was nearly unreadable and the damn thing was agonizingly slow to use, and it crashed all the time. I guess I couldn’t expect much from a prototype. Well, I’d made a promise to Jack Craegan that I’d spend the winter break with Marion Dawson, and that’s what I was doing. For a couple of weeks, now, his counterpart in the future had been in contact with him and together, they’d been working on building a time tunnel machine in this time period. Dawson said they’d been making good progress and he hoped to be able to have a working TTT prototype before I left for California. If it worked, I’d be taking this one back with me and he’d build another one for himself. I could have never gotten this far on my own — that was for sure — and it still worried me that we’d unleashed a madman in the process — but what was done was done. Dawson was already in the loop and there was no turning back now. Short of killing him, and in the process destroying all our futures, there was no way to erase his knowledge of OTT. At that moment, the phone rang and I answered it. “Hey Chris,” Dawson’s voice boomed through the receiver. “You got plans for tomorrow?” “Other than working on my dissertation and calling home, no,” I admitted. “That doesn’t seem like fun,” he said. “Come by my place at two, and I’ll fix you a nice Christmas dinner.” “Please, you don’t need to go to any trouble on my behalf,” I said. “It’s no trouble at all,” he said. “I know you’re not exactly on speaking terms with your parents, and I don’t have any family here in town, so there’s no point in each of us spending the holiday alone, is there?” “I suppose not,” I said with little enthusiasm. “That’s the spirit!” he exclaimed. “I’ll see you at two.” With that, he hung up the phone before I could really answer him, one way or the other. “Oh well,” I said out loud with no one else in the room. “I guess I’m going to spend Christmas with Marion Dawson.” The next morning I woke up bright and early — I couldn’t really help it with all the noise in the hotel, and with nothing better to do, got a quick bite to eat in the lousy hotel café, then returned to my room to work some more on my thesis. At noon, which was ten AM back home, I called Jen and we spent nearly an hour on the phone talking. I cringed at the thought of what the phone bill would be, but talking to her and hearing little Andy cry on Christmas Day was an absolute necessity. At 1:40, I left the hotel, arriving at Dawson’s house right at two o’clock. When he answered the door, I said, “I would have brought some wine, but by the time you invited me, the liquor stores were already closed.” “Don’t worry about it,” Dawson boomed as he invited me into a house filled with wonderful aromas. “I’m just glad you were able to bring yourself.” “I had no idea you knew how to cook,” I said with some surprise. “Well, I can follow a few recipes, and I did have some help.” Just then, a couple of college-age guys and a boy who looked to be about fifteen or sixteen walked up behind Dawson. The boy was wearing a tank top and shorts, and was barefoot. Everything about him screamed prostitute. Seeing the look on my face, Dawson explained, “Every now and then, we get request to take in kids who live too far away to come down here to participate in our weekly sessions. Bryson lives in Lawrence, and his parents are infirm and just couldn’t drive him into town every week. He’s only fifteen, so he can’t drive himself, yet. “If a kid shows particular promise, I’m more than happy to take them in. I don’t charge anything… I just expect them to help out with chores and meals, and they go to school here, of course. “Dan and John are a couple of my students at the University. My house is so much bigger than what I need for myself, so I’ve always rented out rooms to my students. Dan and John actually share a room, so it’s a particularly good deal for them. The two older boys then put their arms around each other, making it clear that they were more than just friends. “Do their parents know about your… history?” I asked. “Of course they do,” Dawson answered, “but as you know, I was completely exonerated, and they’re perfectly satisfied with that. Bryson certainly hasn’t minded the arrangement, have you Brys.” Looking right at me, Bryson said, “Chris, I’m gay, but my parents would never understand. Living here with Marion and the college guys, I have my freedom. It’s wonderful livin’ in a place where I’m accepted, and I’ve even got a boyfriend. Marion’s never, ever tried anything with me if that’s what you’re worried about. It’s a win-win situation for me. “I’m gonna try to talk my parents into lettin’ me stay here for the rest of my high school, too, rather than drivin’ down once I get my license. I like it here. I like livin’ with Marion. “By the way, Marion tells me you’re gay, too,” Bryson said. I practically choked when he said it. “How you figure that?” I asked, trying to seem non-plussed. “He says he’s got it all figured out, how you’re really gay and in the closet, but living with some girl you got knocked up.” “I happen to love that girl… that woman,” I countered. “You can love someone, regardless of gender, Chris,” Dawson said. “I’ve seen it happen time and time again.” Wondering why neither Bryson, nor Dan and John were home with their families for Christmas, I asked them just that. “It’s really hard on my parents to prepare a traditional Christmas anymore,” Bryson explained, “and Marion was kind enough to pick me up and drive me here, all the way from Lawrence. I spent Christmas Eve and this morning with my parents.” “And we’re not welcome in our homes anymore,” Dan added. “Not since our parents found out we’re gay.” “There are five other kids who room here with me,” Dawson went on, “and they all are with their families today. I’m afraid to say that you’re spending Christmas with the rejects, including me.” I was a bit surprised by the whole situation. It really did seem that Dawson was on the up-and-up. Perhaps the total extent of his proclivities was trafficking in child porn, after all. Not that I could condone it, particularly since there certainly were victims involved. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> January 2011 • Chris-44 Santa Clara, California, in Silicon Valley: although not the heart of Silicon Valley, this was certainly a part of it, and one of the nicer parts. In fact, this was the original center of Santa Clara County, once one of the richest fruit-growing regions in the country. The area used to be filled with orchards as far as the eye could see, before companies such as Hewlett-Packard, National Semiconductor and Intel had bought up much of the land and built their labs and their factories. And what was left was turned into housing developments and condo complexes — strip malls and golf courses — and the ubiquitous freeways, highways and roadways, none of which moved very well most of the time. Today, on a rainy winter day, the entire valley was blanketed by a smoggy brownish fog so that even the nearby mountains disappeared from view, leaving the visitor to wonder how a town like Mountain View got its name. As I exited Interstate 280 onto Saratoga Road, I was struck by how different this part of the Bay Area was from where I lived in the Oakland Hills. Here, it was so flat, but so green. One almost didn’t get the feel of being in a desert here, whereas there was no escaping it where I lived. There was a lot of parkland in Santa Clara, and it was clear that this was an older part of The Valley, with traditional Spanish-style houses to be found in abundance — at least where they hadn’t been torn down to make way for McMansions. The address I was looking for was inside one of the nicer townhouse complexes. Turning into it and finding a spot in visitor parking, I located the townhouse I was looking for, and rang the doorbell. It was getting late — close to eight o’clock, but that was not, too late — at least I hoped it wasn’t. The door opened and it was him. Frank Sanford. I knew the face immediately. He might have been some forty years older than the boy I’d kissed in my dream, and we both had less hair, but it was definitely him. Suddenly, a look of shock spread across his face. “Chris? Chris Michaels? Is it really you?” he asked. How could he possibly know me? This didn’t make any sense. Until last night, I’d never seen his face before in my life. Unless there was some memory I had suppressed all these years, there was no time we’d ever met. This was all a giant mystery to me. “What are you doing here?” he asked. “Please, come on in,” he said as he opened the door wide for me. I continued to stare at him as I walked inside, an almost insatiable urge to kiss him washing over me — an urge I didn’t obey. “How did you find me Chris?” he asked. “How did you even know of me? You shouldn’t know of me. Not in this timeline. Not in this reality. You’re not supposed to know of me, Chris. Not in this reality, you’re not. “I know, I’m not making any sense, am I?” he asked. Before I could even answer him, he said, “Come on in and I’ll make some coffee. I have a wonderful Kona blend that I know you’ll love. Come on in and we’ll talk. We need to talk, but we need to be careful. “I’m not supposed to know as much as I do, and neither are you. The knowledge of other timelines is a very dangerous thing.” “Frank,” I finally said, as I moved past him and inside his town house condo, “you’re acting like you’re seen a ghost, and perhaps you have, but we have to talk about what you know about these other timelines and alternate realities.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> February 1990 • Chris-23 I was still in St. Louis and work on my dissertation had ground to a halt. If I didn’t get back to it soon, there was a very real risk I’d fall so far behind that there wouldn’t be enough time to catch up before the summer, when I was supposed to begin work on my post-doc in Rankin’s lab. I was pretty sure he’d grant me a little leeway if it was necessary in order to complete my dissertation, but that largesse had limits. Also, the last thing I wanted was to delay my start at Livermore, putting the timely development of TTT at risk. Still, there was little doubt that I could never have completed work on a TTT apparatus without Dawson’s help, and the only way to get that help was to remain in St. Louis. At least it seemed we were finally ready to make first contact with Chris-16, and a good thing it was too. There was no way in Hell I was gonna miss my son’s first birthday. Tonight was gonna be the night. Dawson was insisting that I make contact first, as I was the only one who could ultimately complete an unbroken chain of communication from 2011 back to 1978. It pained me to think that Dawson wouldn’t be around in 2011 and he was very circumspect when it came to why he wouldn’t, but it wasn’t like we had a choice in the matter. After I made contact with Chris-16, we would recalibrate the equipment and then it would be Dawson’s turn to make contact with his former self in the same time period. We both felt it essential to make first contact on the same night in 1983, although I was really nervous about doing it on the same night in 1990, especially because I’d still be under the influence of Valium and wouldn’t be able to help much if something went wrong. It took a little arguing with Dawson, but since it makes little difference whether establishing a link to eight years in the past versus seven years and 363 days, we would wait a couple of days between the two of us. I would make contact tonight and Dawson in a couple of nights from now. But to our counterparts, first contact will have occurred on the same night. <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> February 1983 • Chris-16 Ah, a Friday night in February, just over half-way through my junior year of high school. Tomorrow morning I’d go for another session with Professor Dawson, learning advanced math and physics. At this rate, I’d be able to start college next year as a sophomore, or maybe even a junior. Yeah, things were going great! Soon I would be leaving for California and, although I might return home for the next few summers, this summer would be the last summer I’d actually still live in St. Louis. Soon I’d leave Missouri for good and although California might not be my permanent home, the one thing I was certain of was that I’d never live in St. Louis again. I doubted I’d ever live in the Midwest again, for that matter, unless it was perhaps in Chicago. No, more than likely I would go to school in California, settle there and ultimately die there. Somehow my room just seemed too small for me now. The twin bed just didn’t fit my body anymore, and everything looked like it was designed for — well, a teenager. But I was almost 17-years-old now. I was almost a man in every sense of the word. Somehow the idea of still being under my parent’s roof was — nauseating. I was counting the days until I left. Sighing, I reached up and turned out the light, then I lay down and prepared to go to sleep, but naturally, my thoughts turned to sex. I might be nearly a man, but I was still very much a teenage boy. I didn’t have much going on socially, though, but that was OK. High school kids were so immature anyway. Girls still didn’t do anything for me, which was getting to be a real concern. I sure as Hell didn’t want to be queer, but more and more, it was thoughts about doin’ it with guys that would get me off in the shower. That would never do, that’s for sure. I’d just have to work harder to try and get off thinking of girls. Speaking of which, now was as good a time as any to work on that. Pulling down the covers — I was already in the nude, as I’d been sleeping that way for a couple of years, now, I started jerking it while I started thinking of some of the hottest babes in the junior class. Candice Brewster — now she was one hot chick. She had long, straight platinum blond hair, a killer smile with perfect, straight white teeth, and man, did she have large ones. She had to wear a size D cup. As I continued stroking myself and fondling my package, I thought about what she might look like without her clothes. Yeah, that’s right. Under all that stuff she usually wears is a lot of beautiful skin. Imagine what it must be like to touch her, to run your hands all over her? Man, that would be great! It’s too bad she has a boyfriend. Yeah, that Scott Giles is a lucky dude. Now Scott I’ve seen in the nude. I can imagine what he looks like in the flesh. Yeah, it’s easy to picture the sight of him touching her, of him running his hand all over her body, of him fondling her tits. And I can picture her feeling him all over, feeling his pecs, his abdomen and fondling his package. Yeah, and he has one mighty nice package, too. Oh yeah, and I can see her going down on him, taking him into her mouth, deep throating him as her tits hang down. Yeah, that’s so hot. God, I’d like to trade places — with her! And that did it. That’s what pushed me over — the thought of me deep throating Scott Giles. Damn! So much for trying to be more straight. If anything, I only proved I’m queer. Fuck! Well, not much I could do about tonight other than to clean up. After doing so, I turned over and prepared to go to sleep. After drifting in my dream world for a while, I got this strange sense of someone else being inside of my head. No, that wasn’t quite right, either. It was more like a feeling of me being inside of my head. Me — but a different me — a me that I felt I wanted to be — the me from the future. Yeah, I could really feel it, Identify it, you know? I could even start to see it happening. I almost had this sense of myself, floating outside of my body and looking down on myself. And then I just started floating in space and I saw this image of me coalesce out of a fog. It was real cool, too. It looked, just like me, but like a version of me from a photograph, rather than a mirror, you know? My mole was on the other side and the part in my hair was on the other side — just like the way other people see me. And I looked like a grown-up — like an adult rather than a kid — like I imagined I’d look in maybe six or seven years or so. It was really cool. “Well, Chris,” the ‘me’ of the future started to say, “I guess you already figured out I’m communicating to you from the future.” “Pretty much,” I replied. “Turns out, bud, that we’re gonna invent a machine… the technology for doing this thought transfer way in the future. 2008, to be precise,” the apparition said to me. “Whoa,” I replied. “There are only two problems,” my future self continued. “You can only communicate through your dreams, like we’re doing right now, and you can only communicate a max of seven years into the past. I’m communicating with you from 1990. I was contacted originally by the Chris of 1995, but now it’s 1997 in his time frame. He calls himself Chris-30, and me Chris-23, though I’ll soon be 24 and he’ll soon be 31. We’ve been referring to you as Chris-16… and you’ll soon be Chris-17. “There’s actually a third big problem, Chris-16,” Chris-23 continued. “We can’t send the equipment back in time. In each time period, we have to teach you how to fabricate and build time tunnel technology so that we can extend the chain of communication back an additional link into the past.” “But why are you doing this? Why are we doing this,” I asked. Shifting positions, Chris-23 said, “Because something terrible is going to happen in the distant future. We believe that something terrible is gonna happen after 2012 that ends life on earth as we know it. We have strong indications from events leading up to 2012 that whatever it was that happened, it had its origins in the late 1970s. It is therefore our intent to establish an unbroken chain of communication all the way back to 1978 so that we’ll be able to fix whatever happened in the past and correct the damage to the timeline.” “I see,” I replied, “but how can I, a mere high school student, possibly build some sort of time machine to help with this?” I asked. “You’ll have help,” Chris-23 answered. “We’ve enlisted Marion Dawson to help with the project as well. He is being contacted tonight by his future self at the same time that you are. He cannot serve as the primary conduit from 2012, as he will not be alive in that year, but he will be alive throughout most of the rest of this century, and he can assist you in building this machine, and in making sure that the project is completed.” “Oh wow, that’s great. Professor Dawson’s a little weird, but he certainly knows how to build things. That’s cool. Thanks!” I was really psyched. “Chris,” Chris-23 added, “You’re right, Dawson is weird. If he pulls any funny business, remind him that we can make life difficult for him in the future.” “Why would I need to do that?” I asked. “I doubt that there’ll be a need for it,” Chris-23 said, “but he has been known to do some strange things in the future. His role in what we’re calling OTT might make him feel emboldened to do other things, too… things that aren’t related to the mission. If he does, let us know and we’ll take care of it.” “What do you mean?” I asked again. “Things like what?” “Chris-16, I’d rather not say. You have a high opinion of Dawson, as well you should. I wouldn’t want to change that. We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to that, OK?” he asked. “OK,” I agreed. “I wish you hadn’t even brought it up.” “We’ll be in touch, Chris,” he said one final time. “Goodnight, Chris-23,” I sighed as his image faded away. Before I knew it, the alarm clock clunked, and then it started to hum and only as my mind started to drift back toward unconsciousness did the barest hint of music start to slowly fill the room. God, did I hate that old vacuum tube-based clock radio. As I got up, I remembered the extraordinary dream of last night. A part of me wanted to brush it off as being the workings of my overactive imagination, but somehow I knew it was anything but. I also wondered what in the world Chris-23 had meant by ‘funny business’. Getting showered, shaved and dressed, I drove over to the campus to meet with Dawson and to see if he’d had a similar dream last night. When I arrived, I found him hard at work in his office, poring over drawing after drawing of equipment the likes of which I’d never seen before. When I entered, he looked up and simply asked, “What took you so long? I’ve been up ever since midnight, putting everything down on paper that my future counterpart showed me last night.” Looking at the diagrams, I was amazed. Turning to my mentor, I said, “I can’t believe the amount of detail in these drawings. How did you remember so much? I could never remember so much detail, even if I’d seen these diagrams when I was awake.” “I’m blessed… or cursed… with a photographic memory. That’s one of the reasons I was brought on board for OTT. All I have to do is see it once and I can remember it, even if it’s in my sleep,” he explained. “I didn’t know that before,” I said in awe. Again, I reiterated, “These drawings are incredible.” “The fun part’s going to be turning these drawings into reality,” Professor Dawson said, and I nodded. “Shit, I mean shoot, professor, I don’t even know where you’d begin,” I said as I looked at what to me looked like gibberish. “Well, the first thing we need to do is to get you up to speed on what this all means, Chris. You need to understand this as well as I do. There are a lot of components that we can find here in the lab, but a lot of stuff will have to be purchased, and it won’t come cheap. “Some of it I can probably talk my boss into buying under the guise of being for the lab.” Pointing to one of the drawings, he said, “This precision optical stepper motor, for example. That’s something we might actually use for a number of different experiments, so we can justify buying a few of these and he won’t even miss it.” Pointing to another spot on the same diagram, he continued. “These quartz quantum particle emitter/detectors, however, are going to be a real challenge,” he said with a sigh. “They’re going to have to be custom fabricated in a high-end optical shop. I don’t know how we’re going to justify those, and there are sixteen of them, and we probably ought to order a few spares, just to be safe. Those’ll probably run us a couple grand, each, maybe more… maybe a lot more.” I whistled when I heard him say that. “There’s usually a competitive bidding process involved with such high-end purchases,” the professor explained, “and all hell breaks loose if you try to bypass it. I may just end up taking out a second mortgage on the house to pay for it myself.” “Man, Professor D., I can’t believe you’d do that.” I said. “Can you even get that kinda money for your house?” “Not even close,” he replied with a laugh, “but I do have some retirement savings too, and there’s a good chance I can get my money back in the future. I have faith it’ll all work out in the end.” “That’s pretty cool, having sixteen quartz emitter/detectors inside a rotating cylinder like that,” I said, looking over his shoulder at one of his diagrams, but don’t the wires get all tangled up when the thing rotates?” I asked. “The interconnects are a bit tricky,” he agreed. “Why not have a stationary array of emitter/detectors?” I asked. “Apparently, that’s the way they started out in 2008,” Dawson explained, “but the quartz devices had to be much smaller that way, and the machining much more precise. It drove up the cost exponentially, and it would have never been practical to fabricate something like that today. By using fewer, larger quartz emitter/detectors and mounting them in a rotating cylinder, they cut costs and significantly simplified the apparatus in the long run.” In a flash, I had a sudden epiphany. “Carrying that a step further,” I said, “Why not use a single, large external emitter/detector that doesn’t even rotate, and using a sort of mirror ball, kind of like a disco ball. You know, like in Saturday Night Fever.” “Saturday Night Fever?” he asked with a puzzled look on his face. “Surely you saw the movie.” I stated more than asked. “I hardly ever go to the movies,” he said. One of his students, Jake, I think he name was, had obviously been listening in and said, “Yeah, that’s a great idea. I saw the movie a few years back, when it first came out, and I know exactly what you’re talking about.” Turning to Dawson, I explained, “OK, well, in a disco dance, but they had these back in dances in, like, the twenties, too… they have these mirror balls. It’s a sphere that’s covered with maybe a thousand facetted mirrors over its surface. Aimed at the sphere is a single spotlight. The sphere rotates and as it does, it sends little points of light throughout the ballroom. “We could do the same thing in reverse. Our sphere would be open on the top and bottom, and the mirrors would be on the inside rather than the outside. The single emitter/detector would be aimed at the mirrors, which would direct the quantum particle beam so that it fills the entire volume of the sphere. The sphere would rotate, just as the cylinder does now, so that you would have complete coverage of all points inside the subject’s brain, but it would be a lot simpler to build.” I could see Dawson’s mind at work as he contemplated what I was suggesting. “Maybe not a sphere, but a cylinder in which we replace the individual emitter/detectors with mirrors, but the whole thing would be a lot lighter in weight, and the single emitter/detector would be much cheaper to fabricate, because it would be larger. Multiplexing the beam would be a challenge, but it would still be a lot easier than doing it the way they’ve been doing it.” Turning to me, he said, “Chris, I always knew you were a genius. Well, you did, or rather, will invent this time tunnel technology in the first place, but you’ve just come up with a much simpler implementation than any of your future selves did. This is excellent.” <<<<<<<<·>>>>>>>> March 1997 • Chris-30 “OK,” I said as I sat down for what was getting to be our all-to-familiar daily damage assessment briefing. Little did we know how much damage would be done by yanking Dawson out of St. Louis in 1989, but placing him back there was resulting in a series of timeline changes that would end up filling an entire encyclopedia by the time we were through. Still, the end result was preferable to the total destruction of the future as we knew it that had resulted from our recklessness in the first place. “So what’s the latest news?” Jack asked as he passed the coffee pot around. “According to our records, the 1995 American League Championship was supposed to have been won by the Cleveland Indians.” I said. “But the Yankees won it,” Jack pointed out. Sighing, I said, “Yes, I know, and the Yanks went on to win the World Series. But before we fucked up the time line, it was the Braves that won it against Cleveland. That switch resulted in significant changes in the spring rosters of several clubs,” I added, “with the result that the Marlins won against Cleveland in 1996 as you know, when originally it was the Yanks.” “Which means that the entire history of baseball from 1995 on has been altered, and so the ‘Butterfly Effect’ strikes again,” Jack lamented “Changed outcomes of sporting events should be the worst of our problems,” I bemoaned. “They’re just the easiest to find. However if we go back, I just about guarantee that we’ll find that the major league rosters were affected for a number of years before, probably reflecting a simple change in the minors. Undoubtedly some kid Dawson mentored either did or did not go into a professional career in baseball as a result of Dawson not being where he was supposed to be, and although returning Dawson to Saint Louis restored OTT, it didn’t restore that one kid’s place in history.” “Fuck! How could one man have had so much of an effect on recorded history?” Jack asked of no one in particular. “These changes will only get worse in time, and we’re only delaying the inevitable by procrastinating in deciding what to do with him. He’s a valuable asset, but he’s a loose cannon. Right now he’s back in St. Louis in all time periods, with full knowledge of OTT and without any supervision whatsoever. As such, he represents a grave danger. At the least he needs to be restrained.” “He’s under FBI surveillance,” Jack pointed out. “One agent checking in on him daily hardly constitutes a short leash, Jack,” I complained bitterly. “If a foreign agent contacts him, we wouldn’t have a clue. At minimum, he needs to be watched 24 hours a day.” “And what if in so doing, we interfered with the future again?” one of our colleagues pointed out. Taking a deep breath, I said, “There will always be risks from anything we do or don’t do. The name of the game is minimizing risks.” “One thing I definitely think we can conclude,” Jack interjected, “is that whatever it was that needed to be restored in the timeline has been restored by sending him back at this point in time. There’s no need to continue to broaden our exposure by leaving Dawson in Missouri. Let’s bring him back here now, where we can keep him under our control. It’s not like he needs to stay at the University, either. Thanks to his past misappropriation of funds, he’s ineligible for Federal grants, and he has others involved with his advanced high school program, now, so that his presence in St. Louis isn’t really necessary anymore. “We can make use of him now, have him contact himself back in 1990, have him fabricate TTT in that time period for both himself and for Chris-23… or 24, use the equipment to contact himself and my counterpart in 1983, extending the chain of communication back yet another seven years… an extension in time we could never reach without his help. And with his help, we can reach back to 1978.” “Remember, we are up against a deadline, and we continue to lose time. 2012 is getting closer and closer.” Of course I only had it on Chris-37's word as transmitted back by Chris-44, but I had no reason to suspect either of them of lying. They were me, after all. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe we are the cause?” Jack asked the group of us. “Look at the daily changes in the timeline that have resulted from our mistakes. Time itself is unraveling, Chris. Maybe we are the reason the world will end.”
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