“We can never judge the lives of others, because each person knows only their own pain and renunciation. It's one thing to feel that you are on the right path, but it's another to think that yours is the only path.” --Paulo Coelho
"I'll tell you anything," Stoner said. "Just don't shoot me."
"Why have you been keeping us prisoner?" I asked.
"It's all a DARPA funded experiment," Stoner said. "They called it Project Pegasus."
"DARPA," I asked, "What's DARPA?"
"Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency," he answered.
"So you work for the government?"
"No," he explained, "I work for a private contractor so the government can claim plausible deniability."
"You mean like if I get away and blow the whistle on the whole thing," I said.
"You'll never get away," Stoner said. "As soon as you go to sleep they'll bring you right back."
"How do they do that?" I asked.
"The chip inside your brain. As soon as you go to sleep it starts transmitting and we take control sending you anywhere and to any time we want." Stoner explained.
"Like when you sent me back in time to kill Park Chung-hee?" I asked.
"We thought you might be starting to remember?" Stoner said. "You've been in the program since 1968, you were one of the first to volunteer."
"But I was only 12 years old," I argued, "my parents wouldn't have let me volunteer for something like this."
"Your parents thought you were just going away for the summer-- science camp," Stoner replied, still anxiously staring at the gun barrel, "Faking the bus crash and getting you in the hospital for the surgery was the easy part. The hard part was putting all those memories in your head like that story you wrote about your friend Veggie Head Stalker."
"So I'm a time traveler and hit man who has been held hostage for the last 40 years?"
"That about sums it up," Stoner agreed, "and you might as well give up 'cause sooner or later you're going to sleep and you're going back."
"Don't sell me so short," I said, "There's no telling how long I can stay awake."
"But they're tracking me too," Stoner said, "They'll be here in no time."
"Thanks for warning me," I said. Then I shot Stoner in the thigh and grabbed his cell phone from his pocket as he rolled on the ground. "I bet they don't find you before you bleed to death."
Stoner cried out in pain and rolled across the ground clutching his thigh. The bullet was deep and the blood gushing. "You'll never get away," he cried.
I put Stoner's phone inside a plastic first aid case that I'd been carrying, taped the case up so it wouldn't leak and tossed it in the rain swollen river. "By the time they figure out you're not where that phone is you'll already be bled out." I gathered my things, turned back up stream and left him there to die.
"So Doc" I said standing in an operating room at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Virginia, "that's why I'm standing here holding this gun to the head of your nurse. You've got to get that thing you see on that X-ray out of my head and you've got to keep me wide awake until you've finished. Then maybe I can get back and see about saving my friends."