Conversations With Myself

A Novel by Altimexis

The Whispers of Time
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Book Three • Chapter 12 – Feng Shui

May 1991 • Chris-25

Na├»vely, I had assumed that when I agreed to divulge what I knew about TTT to the Chinese, the torture would end and I would be returned to a life of luxury in Hong Kong. Apparently, my captors didn’t trust me anymore than I trusted them. Even with my begging for it to end, they proceeded with the first dose of succinylcholine as originally planned, even though I’d told them I was having trouble breathing from the Pentothal alone.

The experience was something I would never forget as intense cramps spread throughout my body, followed by profound muscle weakness. The worst of it, though, was the feeling of suffocation. I never wanted to feel like that again, and that was just the first and lowest dose! Afterwards, they just left me lying there, unable to physically stand, let alone get myself to the hole over the latrine. I ended up pissing myself on my cot. The weird thing was they didn’t even ask me to reveal any information, even after I had agreed to give it to them.

The next day they repeated the procedure and, once again, Chris-32 came to me in my head. He told me to hang in there and he gave me some details to give them about TTT that they shouldn’t have known, but that were relatively harmless, but they claimed these were things they already knew and that I would have to do much better if I were to be returned to Hong Kong. As promised, the succinylcholine was given at a higher dose, the muscle cramps were worse and the feeling of suffocation was nearly unbearable. Once again I pissed myself on the cot.

On the third day, Chris-32 told me to reveal things I did not think should be revealed. Under the influence of the Pentothal, I was unable to stop myself and I began to wonder if the presence of Chris-32 in my head was real, or just my wishful thinking… a pathetic excuse generated by my subconscious to give me permission to betray my country so that I could end the torture. Of course Chris-32 reassured me he was very much real, but was I imagining that also?

The fourth day began the same as the others with my captors insisting that I was holding back… that if I were serious about cooperating with them, I would answer their questions directly and withhold nothing. Even as Chris-32 urged me to reveal more, I told them I was done with cooperating. Either they would return me to Hong Kong and permit me to cooperate under the terms they’d offered, or I would tell them nothing, no matter how severe the torture became.

That time the dose of succinylcholine was so severe and the suffocation so bad that I actually lost consciousness, but not before I felt myself lose control of my bladder and bowels. I awoke some time later, lying in my own shit with no way to clean myself except with my hands.

Apparently I got through to them, as the next day the torture stopped and they resumed feeding me. Two days later, they came for me at night, hosed me down and loaded me into the back of a waiting limousine. I didn’t know if they took me to the same port, but I was loaded onto a boat and, a short while later, returned to Charles Hudson’s luxurious apartment in Hong Kong.


June 2005 • Chris-39

Six months. Six fucking months had passed since Andy had been taken from me in Joshua Tree National Park. I knew the Russians had him, because they sent me his fucking fingertip, but other than that, I’d heard nothing. Other than threatening to send him back to me, piece by piece, there had been no attempt to extort information from me, no attempt to get me to defect, nor even an attempt to abduct me by force. I was simply left in limbo. Of course, the Russians have a reputation for doing just this sort of thing. They are known for their patience as, for example, in planting their agents in small farming communities and leaving them there for decades, just so they could blow up a power plant if and when the time came.

That Andy had been taken to Russia, however, was no longer in doubt. Traces of tree pollen had been found on Andy’s fingertip that only could have come from species native to Siberia. The only reason we hadn’t gone public with the story of Andy’s abduction on American soil and our proof of Soviet involvement was that we were going through secret back channels in the hope of avoiding war, or so I’d been told.

But what were the Russians waiting for? I couldn’t help but think they’d have moved quickly to try to get information from me, which only led me to the conclusion that Andy was dead. Why else wouldn’t they have done more to use him to get to me? The only other viable explanation – that Andy was giving them what they wanted – was just so preposterous that it couldn’t have been true. It was taking all my effort to keep from sinking into deep despair. If it hadn’t been for Frank’s support, honestly, I can’t say what I might have done.

Unfortunately, this left me distracted at a time when I couldn’t afford to be. Although I was under government surveillance and lived within a government compound, the fact that the Iranians had attempted to get to me once should have alerted me to the ongoing presence of danger. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize it until it was too late.

Obviously, getting onto an American military base wasn’t feasible for a group of terrorists, and I was always accompanied by the Secret Service whenever I left the base. Security at Lawrence Livermore was even tighter than on the Alameda base, and so the Secret Service didn’t even bother to remain with me during the day. I was supposed to call for the Secret Service to accompany me if I ever left the facility, but there seemed little point when it came to such seemingly random occurrences as going out for lunch with a bunch of my colleagues. Technically, I wasn’t supposed to leave the facility for lunch – food could be brought in, but I couldn’t go out. But how likely was it that spies or terrorists would follow me to lunch?

The full-page ad in a local suburban weekly certainly looked legitimate and the offer of a Mediterranean lunch buffet was enticing. That they were running a two-for-one special on Wednesday settled the matter, and so we left the facility to enjoy having lunch out. We didn’t stop to think that a Mediterranean restaurant was, de facto, a Middle Eastern restaurant, nor did we recognize that the name of the restaurant, A Taste of Persia, implied that it was an Iranian restaurant. That alcohol is not a part of Islamic culture didn’t register either. They were offering free beer to tables of five or more, so we enjoyed the free beer.

After an hour of eating salty food and washing it down with lots of beer, the predictable effect on my bladder resulted in my making a trip to the restroom. And just as predictably as that women always go in pairs or groups to use the restroom, men predictably always go alone. The door to the Men’s room was adjacent to the door to the kitchen and it was as I exited the restroom that a couple of very large men grabbed me and pushed me into the kitchen. A bag was quickly pulled over my head and I was physically carried down into the basement. The whole operation only took seconds. My colleagues upstairs were none the wiser, and probably wouldn’t even notice my prolonged absence for another hour or so, given all the beer we’d been drinking.

With the poke of something sharp into my arm, the world went fuzzy, and then black. Although I didn’t know it at the time, the drug was meant to sedate me enough to keep me from screaming while my foot was being cut off, so that they could remove the ankle bracelet by which the Feds could track me. At least they had a real surgeon doing the procedure and it was done under sterile conditions, or the outcome could have been much worse.

The plan was that, after prepping my skin with iodine, the surgeon would cut through the skin quickly, tie off the blood vessels that supply the foot, to stem the bleeding, cut through all the muscles and nerves just above where they attach to the foot and, finally, use a motorized bone saw to quickly cut through my tibia and fibula. Because bone is highly vascular and bleeds like crazy when cut, the bone would be cauterized by electrically searing it, and then the entire stump would be wrapped in a sterile dressing and placed in a plastic bag so I could be transported out of state, where another surgeon would revise the amputation and make it viable.

Unfortunately for my captors, they never got that far. Unlike the Russians who were well aware of the technology in some American ankle bracelets that activates an alarm if the bracelet is removed, the Iranians had no knowledge of this. They assumed that removing the bracelet would allow them to remove me silently from the premises, with my colleagues and Federal agents being none the wiser. Although the surgeon got as far as cutting through the skin and tying off the blood vessels that supply the foot, he didn’t even manage to finish cutting through the muscles and nerves, let alone saw through the bones. An inductive sensor in the bracelet that detected blood flow within the leg sensed that blood flow had stopped, and Federal agents were alerted to the bracelet’s apparent removal. And then all Hell broke loose.

Within minutes, local police were dispatched to the restaurant, with Federal agents not far behind them. Helicopters soon buzzed overhead and the local police surrounded the property, cutting off exit from anyone trying to escape. Ideally, Federal agents would have swarmed into the establishment in the hope of quickly locating and securing me but, thanks to all the advertising, the restaurant was jammed and the potential for a hostage incident could not be taken for granted. Agents were quickly dispatched to neighboring establishments to check for the presence of tunnels through which I might have been snuck out. Apparently there were none.

With all the commotion above, those attending to my surgery were quickly notified of the situation and the decision was made to abort the procedure. They already knew from the last incident that if it came down to a hostage situation, none of them would come out of it alive. Much as they wanted my knowledge of TTT and as tempting as it might have been to turn the whole thing into a massive terrorist event by killing everyone inside the restaurant, including me, they weren’t prepared to become martyrs that day and they had no plan. Instead, I was abandoned in the basement, my open wound still oozing blood, while they attempted to return to the restaurant upstairs and blend in with the patrons.

Of course outright escape was impossible and while the police and Federal agents had the place surrounded, the sedative with which they’d injected me wore off and I came to full consciousness. The area was still well lit for the surgery, and if the shock of the pain didn’t hit me, the sight of my nearly cut-off foot was enough to make me retch. I wasn’t exactly able to walk out of there on my own, but I was by myself and I quickly noticed a nearby telephone, within arms reach. I picked it up and there was a dial tone, so I dialed 911.

With the knowledge that I’d been abandoned in the basement, the police and Federal agents were able to secure the premises from the thoroughly disorganized terrorists and to locate me. I was taken by helicopter to the UCSF Medical Center, where the blood vessels and nerves were reattached in a nearly daylong procedure, and my skin was sewn back up. Although my foot would be painful for months to come as the nerves regenerated, ultimately there would be little visible evidence that I’d once come close to having an amputation.

Needless to say, never again did I go out for lunch, even long after the danger of my abduction had passed.


July 1984 • Chris-18

I was worried. Actually, I had been worried for some time, but now that more than six months had passed since I last heard from Chris-25, I was frightened out of my mind. Certainly I should have heard something by now. Certainly he should have contacted me. That he hadn’t could only mean that something bad had happened to him – maybe even to the whole world.

Seeing how worried I was, Chad became worried – worried about me and whatever it was that might be troubling me. My relationship with Chad wasn’t like the one I’d had with Frank – few relationships were. Frank and I had not only had shared interests and shared love, shared experiences and mind blowing sex, but we’d been kindred souls. We’d come of age together and come out together. We’d dealt with homophobic parents together and helped each other through the most trying times of our lives. That’s why it had hurt so much when Frank threw all of that away in the interest of saving his own skin.

Additionally, Frank was one of a handful of people, outside myself and Professor Dawson, who was privy to the knowledge of TTT. Hell, he had the background and ability to have developed it entirely on his own if he’d been so inclined. But Chad and I had become close in a different way and even though we both knew that our educational endeavors and careers would force us to go our own, separate ways, that didn’t mean we didn’t care about each other, deeply.

“Chris, you gotta tell me what’s wrong,” he repeated for the umpteenth time. “What’s goin’ on, man?”

“It’s nothing you can help me with, Chad,” I reiterated. “It’s just that, well, it’s someone I know. I haven’t heard from in six months, and I’m worried, you know?”

“Is it a former boyfriend,” he asked. “A former lover?”

Wrinkling my forehead at the thought of having sex with an older version of myself, I replied, “No, nothing like that.

“His name is Chris, too, and he’s a former student of Professor Dawson. He’s now in graduate school at Stanford and he helped me a lot when I first started studying physics and all. I guess you’d call him a mentor.”

“He gay too?” Chad asked. Rather than answer, I nodded my head. “Why didn’t you tell me about him before?”

Kissing Chad on the nose, I replied, “I don’t tell you everything, you know? It’s not that I’m hiding anything, but some things just aren’t all that important. And I’d rather spend our time together doing important things, like making out, rather than talking about boring stuff like vector differential equations and deriving Maxwell’s equations and designing vacuum tubes and the like.”

“So making out’s more fun than those other things?” Chad asked as he kissed me back on the nose.

“Way more fun,” I acknowledged.

“So why spend time on those other things at all, then,” Chad asked mischievously.

“Because someday I can get paid for using those other things,” I replied with a laugh. “Unless I want to become a prostitute, no one’s gonna pay me for making out with them.”

“Oh, I don’t know, Chris,” Chad responded. “You’re so good looking, and sexy… I can see you being a prostitute. Think of all the money you could make. You could get rich and retire when you’re twenty-five. Then we could spend the rest of our lives together and I could be your kept man. Neither one of us would need to go to school, either. Think of all the money we’d save.”

“You goof,” I said as I pounced on him. Soon, we were rolling over and over each other. Shirts and shorts went flying and, before long, Chad was buried deep within me. It didn’t take away the worry of what had happened to Chris-25, but it did help take my mind off it.


August 1991 • Chris-25

Nearly three months had passed since my return to Hong Kong and I was still here. Chris-32 had told me I would be rescued from here, but I sure as fuck saw little evidence of it. Not only that, but moving back to Hong Kong had put an end to my communications with Chris-32. Once again, I was drugged just to prevent such communications, so I was truly on my own in this.

What made my situation particularly precarious was that I had to balance what information I gave the Chinese against the need to keep them from developing functional TTT. But if I failed to deliver on my promise of helping them, I had little delusion as to how I’d be treated. I would be returned to the mainland in a nanosecond, returned to my four-walled concrete prison and tortured until I gave it all up, or died in response to their trying.

So I had to give them access to legitimate TTT while biding my time, waiting to be rescued. I decided to focus first on the equipment end of things. By concentrating on the design, fabrication and testing of equipment, I hoped to drag things out enough to prevent them from ever having the full picture. Of course they kept trying to get me to write everything down, but I just couldn’t take a chance on doing that.

As I explained it to them, the equipment and software went hand-in-hand. I told them I literally, couldn’t produce functional software until I had functioning equipment. It was a lie and I wasn’t sure they were buying it, but what I was giving them was enough to keep them happy, and so for the time, they accepted what I gave them. I didn’t tell them about the possibility of using vacuum tubes. They didn’t know about that approach, nor did they need to.

I elected to take them down the path of using a first-generation TTT design. They did not know about the third-generation ‘disco’ design, and so I didn’t even bring it up. We could have had a third-gen design operational within weeks. They did wonder why I didn’t want to use a second-generation design, and I simply implied that the second-gen design was a lot more complex to build. It cut costs dramatically, which was why we favored it, but where cost was no object, the first-gen design would be more robust and take less time to build.

In truth, the added complexity introduced by having moving components and the need to multiplex signals would complicate things somewhat, but the sixty-four emitter-detectors required for the first-generation design would slow things down – a lot. These had to be fabricated from single crystals of quartz, they had to be miniaturized and they had to be machined much more precisely than they did in the newer generations of TTT machines. Because of the shape of the human head, no two elements were the same either, so there was no way they could be mass-produced.

The time would soon arrive, however, when I would run out of ways to stall them. A full set of emitter-detectors would be ready by the end of next week and then all that would remain would be to assemble them, align them and test them. With a lot of play-acting, I could probably drag that out by a couple of weeks, but any more than that and they’d realize what I was doing. Once the array was completed, aligned and tested, it would all come down to the software. I had at my disposal some of the finest computer equipment available on the planet, and a full cadre of software engineers to write code for me. No, it would only take them a few days to implement software in whatever algorithms I gave them, and there were only so many ways I could fake delaying that.

The bottom line was that if I wasn’t rescued by the end of September, I would have to decide between sabotaging the apparatus, knowing full well doing so would end in my execution, or I would have to give them fully functional TTT. Either way, the future was fucked.


December 1979 • Chris-13

One of the funny things about TTT is that when you change something in the past, the changes don’t always happen all at once. So it was when Professor Dawson tried to stop the Kennedy assassination. For one thing, it wasn’t so easy to stop the assassination! Presidents get death threats all the time, I guess, so an anonymous call doesn’t necessarily spur the Secret Service to action. Oh, they’ll check it out, but a call that a sniper will shoot the president on a given day at a given time doesn’t get nearly as much attention as you’d think.

When the first call didn’t affect the timeline, The Professor Dawson of my time had the Dawson of Kennedy’s time make a second anonymous call. This time the professor gave the FBI a lot more information, including the exact time of the shooting, the location of Kennedy’s car at the time of the shooting, the weapon used, the location from which it was fired and, most importantly, the identity of the shooter, along with his ties to Russia. Again, nothing happened. Perhaps we’d been too precise and made it sound even more like a hoax than with the first call.

Therefore, the third call was to the CIA and it was considerably briefer. This time, Professor Dawson simply told them that a Soviet spy had entered the country with the express purpose of killing the President. He said he didn’t know where or when the shooting would take place, but he knew where the spy was staying, and gave them the information. That was all it took. Oswald came across as a weirdo and, of course, everyone who was questioned assumed that he was up to no good. It didn’t take long for the CIA to discover that Oswald had actually been in Russia and so they picked him up. As a result, November 22 turned out to be just another day.

But still, nothing happened. Nothing changed. Professor Dawson kept hoping that something would happen as the change worked its way through the timeline, but it never seemed it did. He’d thought that if Kennedy had survived, the war would have ended early and he’d have gotten his David back, but that was not to be. Kennedy still died in office when his helicopter went down on the way to Nantucket, where he was gonna spend Christmas with his family in 1963. There’d been a lot of suspicion of sabotage, but it could never be proved, and so history wrote the whole thing off as an unfortunate tragedy.

Johnson still became the president and went on to be elected by a landslide. The Vietnam war still raged on and, more importantly to Professor Dawson, his David remained missing in action, not even acknowledged by his own country, let alone North Vietnam or the USSR. Johnson escalated the war and nearly tore the country apart in the process, and Nixon expanded it beyond Vietnam, but finally the war ended and Americans came home. Then North Vietnam overran the south, Cambodia imploded in the worst episode of genocide since the Nazis, and Iran boiled over and became a fundamentalist snake pit, much as my counterparts from the future had warned. They also warned of the Soviet Union becoming embroiled in Afghanistan and that in responding to the Russians, we’d make enemies that would come back to haunt us in a big way. But there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it without opening up another can of worms that could cause time to unravel.

The sixties had been volatile, marred by protests over the Vietnam War. For some reason, the seventies had been relatively calm, even as Nixon ramped up the war to new heights. Soon it would be 1980, the start of another decade. OK, I knew that the decade didn’t really start until next year, but it was utterly cool to be starting the 1980s, you know? I couldn’t help wonder what new technologies would be borne, what cultural changes there’d be. And it was an election year! I might be only thirteen, soon to be fourteen, but I cared about politics, you know? Nixon was gone, Carter had turned out to be a dud. It sure looked like we’d be sending a republican to the White House. I really liked John Anderson, but somehow I knew he was way too smart to get it. A lot of people seemed to like Ronald Reagan, but surely the American public was smart enough not to elect a third-rate actor.

I had a feeling that the eighties would be the start of the computer age, with computers becoming small enough, cheap enough and powerful enough to become commonplace in most homes. Frank and I had talked about digital music, and the eighties would see that happen, with vinyl records and tape cassettes being replaced by shiny, silvered plastic discs. Then we’d finally get serious about space. We’d been to the moon and built a reliable space shuttle. Now we’d erect great space stations and build colonies on the moon, and then it would be on to Mars. Yeah, the eighties were gonna rock!


September 1995 • Chris-25

The end was near. The TTT apparatus was complete and all that remained was to program it with the necessary software. I’d already made up my mind that I wasn’t going to do that. If I was killed, it would create a terrible paradox – one from which we might not recover – but if I gave the Chinese full access to TTT, the possibilities for what could become of earth were ones I didn’t want to even think about. No, by hook or by crook I was gonna have to make sure the Chinese never got their hands on TTT.

I’d devised a strategy for creating an uncontrolled feedback loop in the equipment that would cause the emitter-detector elements to shatter. I would do everything I could to point fingers and make it look like inept programming techniques that led to the disaster, but I had no delusions when it came to what would happen. There’d be an investigation, they’d discover the truth and, more than likely, I’d be executed.

The software engineers were nearly done with the programming and then we’d test it. The equipment would be destroyed the first time we fired it up using the new software. Yes, the end was very, very near.

“You look troubled, Chris,” my erstwhile boyfriend, Wang Lee said as he came up behind me and started to rub my shoulders and upper back. It felt good, but I could never forget his role in bringing me here… his betrayal.

“It is a difficult time, and I am under a lot of pressure,” I replied. “Soon the software will be ready and then testing will begin. I have every confidence that it will work, even though I fear that the spread of TTT will mean disaster for the world. And if I fucked up somewhere and it doesn’t work, God knows what will become of me.”

Turning me around, Wang said, “I know you, Chris, and I have faith in you. The one thing I know you didn’t do was to fuck up… at least not accidentally. The apparatus will work perfectly and you’ll be a hero. I know you have your doubts, but the world has never been served by having a powerful weapon in the hands of one power. Look at what happened with nuclear weapons, for example. It was only when Russia and then China had them that a true balance of power could be achieved. Only with proper balance is the world safe… even from the United States.

“You’ll see, it will be only when China and others have TTT that the United States will learn to refrain from using it. It is only when they realize that any move they make to change history will be countered by one of ours, that the world will be safe from indiscriminate meddling with time.”

Hearing the way Wang put it, I could almost believe it, but time was different. A global thermonuclear war had no winners, just like in the movie, War Games. That was the ultimate deterrent. The indiscriminate alteration of time, the changing of history, meant that entire countries could be erased from existence before they became a threat. How could the U.S. fight back if it never developed electricity, let alone TTT?

“So you’re doing the world a big favor, Chris,” Wang continued. “Unless of course you have sabotaged TTT. In that case, I think you know you’ll be dealt with appropriately.”

I shuddered at the thought, knowing full well how the Chinese would deal with me.

At that moment there was a knock on the door, and Wang answered, “Come in.”

In walked two of Charles Hudson’s houseboys, Bryce, who was sixteen, and Huang, who was fourteen. As soon as Huang had shut the door behind him, Bryce raised his right hand and it was only then that I saw the gun with a silencer. Without hesitation he pointed it at Wang’s chest and fired. Wang fell to the floor as a pool of red leached into the carpeting.

“We must move quickly,” Huang said as he handed me a richly embroidered, hooded silk robe. I donned the robe and, when I looked in the mirror, was surprised at how well the hood kept my face in the shadows.

When we exited the bedroom, I was shocked at the scene that awaited me. A number of people were lying on the floor, giving every appearance of being drugged or dead. Among them were several of Hudson’s servants and house boys, and Hudson himself. Sensing my curiosity, Bryce responded, “Cyanide gas. It’s fast and effective but, unfortunately, indiscriminate. Come quickly.”

The boys lead me to a service elevator that I didn’t know existed. It took us down to the basement of the building, where we exited into a service corridor. Checking to see that the way was clear, they led me to a storage room adorned with lockers for each of the apartments in the building. With every step, they watched for stray tenants who might be making a midnight run for their stash of whatever.

Soon, we came to a stairwell and the boys led me up and out a door into an alleyway. Just as we exited the building, a limousine rushed down the alley and a rear door opened. The boys pushed me inside and closed the door behind me as they remained outside.

Waiting inside the vehicle was a dapper gentleman in a suite and tie. I felt grossly underdressed.

“Welcome to the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong, Dr. Michaels,” the man began. “I am Special Agent Maxwell of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, better known as MI6. But you can call me 007 if you prefer.” He burst out laughing and I couldn’t help but do the same.

“I’ll be taking you straightaway to your private jet, where you’ll receive proper attire, travel documents and whatever food or drink you prefer. You’ll be flying tonight to Hawaii, where you’ll be the guest of your government for a short while. After a proper debriefing, you’ll return to California, and to your former life.

“Welcome back to civilization, Dr. Michaels,” he concluded with a warm smile and a handshake.


The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of Hope and Anthony Camacho in editing this story, as well as the support of Awesome Dude for hosting it.
This story is purely fictional and any resemblance of characters to real individuals other than named historical figures is purely coincidental and unintentional. Some characters may be gay and at times engage in homosexual acts. Because the story explores characters at various stages of their lives, they may be underage during early sexual explorations. Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading this type of story where they live. The author retains full copyright, and permission must be obtained prior to duplication of the story in any form.