Into the Schism

It began millions of years from now.  It could end hundreds of thousands of years ago. Dinosaurs and our distant ancestors will see different  parts of the same battle unfold.  Death rides the epochs of the Universe. It is a war of extinction waged across all of time. From outside, time is fluid. One can go whenever , wherever one pleases. But from inside, the Continuum requires order.  It is remorseless and fragile. It demands continuity. Bend it a little, it will give. Bend it too far, and it will break. There are islands of certainty, events must happen, and if time breaks at one of them, it it can break badly.

Scared yet?

In any temporal conflict, the most basic destructive act is also your best defensive act; make your enemy never be there in the first place. If you can arrange things so they never existed at all, you never have to fight them.  The Time Lords attempt this in Genesis of the Daleks. (Unfortunately, their Agent in Place, namely the fourth Doctor, opted to merely delay them a few centuries.) For simplicity, we’ll call this a Causality Attack, where  the very existence of your opponent is sabotaged.  If it works, you’ll be the only one to ever know.

Unfortunately, the defense is pretty simple. Get off-world. Go meet people and do things. Become part of the larger cosmos and see if you can tie into one of those events that must happen. If your race has to be there, you can’t be erased.  While this sounds like a nice peaceful solution, keep in mind, it’s the one the Daleks used. They got off-world, met people and killed them.

Alternately, learn to travel in time at some point during your existence. Once you do that, you can defend yourself more directly. Remember, there are only so many times an event can be visited. You can’t have a line of Time Lords popping in and trying to do the same thing over and over. Thwart them once, they stay thwarted.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “If I can take them out of the timestream before they develop time travel, they won’t be around to develop time travel in the first place!” Ah, but did you eliminate them in an era before they visited themselves? If the answer is yes, then maybe you succeeded. It certainly increases the odds that you made them go away. If the answer is no, then you have allowed them to form a loop. Past and future are still connected, so they are still tied into the continuum.

“But that doesn’t make sense!” you wail, rubbing your temples. “If I make them go away, they should have the decency to stay gone!”

Which brings up a serious weakness in this essay.

It isn’t in Gallifreyan.

If it were, it could handle this topic easily. Gallifreyan is built on the idea that time travel is possible. English is not. It would make sense because here, now, then and there take on fascinating new meanings when you mix them freely, which Gallifreyan can. When your verb tense options include Future Optimal and Past Optional, you can do really amazing things.

In English, I have to muddle along through narrow corridors of cause and effect to describe events. I have to go with what feels right. (Don’t bother me with your logic. This is comic book pseudo-science at its best.) Loops are a form of temporal defense. Your past and your future are linked in two directions, and intelligence can flow. You have a window you can react in. Presumably, you have a certain advantage, because you have access to your own history. Thus you can spot most manipulations easily, and react to them appropriately. One has little difficulty imagining this as the core of Gallifrey’s temporal defense. The Time Lords probably have the most thoroughly looped timestream imaginable.

Against a foe that is temporally active, a Causality Attack can be successful, but probably won’t be. Besides, if it is, fight’s over and we can stop thinking, which is no fun at all. But if it fails . . .

Well, if it fails you  go back to the tedious business of actually blowing your opponent up. This is where the large scale military engagements begin. Obviously, you want to engage your opponents when they are technologically at a disadvantage, so the further back along the timestream you can catch them the better. Your opponents are going to like that idea, too. Now, some subset of the Laws of Time appears to have clauses about anachronistic technology. It is apparently uncool to just go back and arm yourselves to the teeth with high tech as soon as your ancestors figure out the concept of pushing buttons. Considering what we have unleashed on our own with what we could puzzle out by ourselves, I think that’s probably for the best.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t tinker. Say for example, a promising young scientist has all the pieces in place to invent a key piece of technology. All he lacks is support and funding. Cut that support off, his work is delayed, perhaps even cancelled out entirely. Make sure the support is there, and you have something good cruising up the timestream, building up inertia as it goes.

This creates an opportunity for a Temporal Cascade Attack.  What’s that, you ask? Allow me to illustrate. At some point in the timestream, the enemy maybe-wins a major engagement, which we’ll call Battle 1. Three key technologies were instrumental in Battle 1, which we’ll refer to as A,B and C. Now you have targets. Travelling back to the eras where Technology A was acquired, be it through conquest or invention, you somehow sabotage  it. If the enemy got it by conquest, make sure the plans get destroyed before they get captured. If they learned how to do it themselves, stop or delay the research. Odds are you won’t keep them from developing it ever, but you stand an excellent chance of delaying development, which means the weapons aren’t as good as they were supposed to be. This changes the dynamic of Battle 1. Perhaps the enemy still wins, but suffers huge losses. Do the same with Technology B, and Battle 1 is almost certainly lost.

But wait, the Cascade continues. Battle 1 is a catalyst for Event 1, which gives the enemy a major boost . With Battle 1 lost, Event 1 is now changed. Perhaps it doesn’t happen. Perhaps it happens differently. Either way, the enemy has lost ground again.

You can even destabilize an opponent by helping them at the wrong time. Let’s assume Battle 1 was supposed to be a defeat, and because it was, the enemy took a necessary break and gathered resources. If they suddenly win Battle 1, they now press on. Now they encounter something too strong for them, maybe a new race or some other variable. They are, as a result, badly hurt.

So battle in time quickly becomes all about intelligence, how to gather it, and how to use it. The more you learn about an opponent, the more you can harm them. Particular units, commanders, and scientists need to located temporally and shadowed, looking for weaknesses.  History becomes a weapon, but one that responds best to a light touch.

I’ve only touched on a few of the options available. Do you have any thoughts?

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One Response to Into the Schism

  1. Ronny says:

    Intense. I really like the positing of language as a barrier to discussing the challenges of time and time manipulation. There is always a mediation between what is and how we perceive or communicate it. There is the thing in itself (time) and how we perceive it (senses). There is always a gap between the two, and language is indicative of that gap. It is a necessary translation of what is (in this case time manipulation) and how we can understand it, communicate it and perceive it. It is interesting to see this applied to a topic like time manipulation, which as you state we do not have a good language to translate and understand the facts. (sorry for the mangled, pseudo-kantian philosophy). I would need to write more to make my point in a clear manner, but alas language fails me.

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