Sunday, June 30, 2019

Know Your Enemy

Every drama requires conflict and every role-playing game needs some sort of opponent for the player characters to confront.  In Timemaster, there are renegades – “veterans from the Time Wars who pirate their way through history to enjoy a long and pleasant life.”  More importantly, there is an alien race against which the Time Corps is at war.  In Back to the Future, a DeLorean is used for time travel.  In Timemaster, published a year before that movie was released, the bad guy aliens are called Demoreans.  Physically, Demoreans have four arms and their “skin is a kind of sickening orange color.”  The text indicates they are “runts,” but in illustrations they are shown to be the same size as humans.  (Maybe the depicted Time Corps agents are little?)

All Demoreans have the Paranormal Talent of Shape Shifting, meaning they can duplicate the appearance of “a conscious creature of human or greater intelligence.”  The victim must be kept alive in order to “act as a constant model.”  Demoreans typically keep the victim unconscious once they have assumed the victim's form.  If the victim wakes, “The Demorean must render the [victim] unconscious again within 12 hours or be forced into its natural form.”  A Demorean can only perform one Shape Shift before it has to rest for a period in its home Parallel (A-227) and time.  (Any Demorean is referred to as “it” because a Demorean “can be either male or female at will.”)

All Demoreans have telepathy which they can use to communicate with one another “over any distance in space.”  They also have the Paranormal Talent of Dimensional Travel.  This allows them “to travel through time and across the Parallels.”  They “can carry absolutely nothing with them when using this PT” and once a Demorean uses this talent to travel to another Parallel, its next use of Dimensional Travel must be to return to its home Parallel.  Aside from the above talents that all Demoreans possess, there are other talents any given Demorean may have.  For instance, Domination “allows a Demorean in human form to slowly obtain mental and psychological mastery over a human being.”  The aptly named Demoralize talent permits a Demorean to reduce a victim's Willpower, causing the victim to feel “mentally weakened and humiliated.”

The Demoreans “seek to change our history enough to bend our Parallel towards theirs, toward a destiny of their own choosing.”  The Travelers' Manual informs us that, “Presumably, they hope to control us, becoming rulers over all things in our universe.”  Presumably.  This means we don't necessarily know the motivations of the Demoreans.  Maybe, just maybe, the Demoreans are engaged in what they consider to be self-defense.  A glimpse into history might easily leave the impression that humans can be violent.  Who knows?  Perhaps humans from another Parallel attacked the Demoreans.  Perhaps they were attacked by renegades.  Contact with Demoreans is invariably hostile, so it's understandable that the Time Corps' knowledge of the Demoreans is limited.

Apparently, the Demoreans are obsessed with perfection.
Demoreans believe that everything that was, is and ever will be is part of what they call 'the Great Oneness.'  That's not so strange a belief.  The nasty side is this:  The Great Oneness is perfect, and anything that isn't perfect has to either be made perfect, so it's part of the Great Oneness, or destroyed, so it doesn't mess up the perfection of everything else.
Evidently, “The Demoreans' goal is to 'perfect' our Parallel – that means changing it until it's just like theirs, until our history matches theirs.”  The Demoreans attempt to alter history in order “to bring about large, monolithic, totalitarian states or empires, which they can then secretly control or manipulate.”  According to “intelligence reports and field experience,” the Demorean “strategic objectives” are currently:
  • Eradication of the Time Corps – There are three lines of attack:  direct, indirect, and attrition (i.e., “the overtaxing of Time Corps resources by a constant series of seemingly random penetrations...”)
  • Establishment of Totalitarian States – “The more regimented and totalitarian a society becomes, the easier it is for Demoreans to influence that society by controlling a few of its key individuals.”
  • Destruction of Cultural Achievements – “Demoreans perceive cultural achievements, particularly great art, music, and literature, as deadly threats.”
So, you have imperfect humanity which needs to be made perfect or destroyed.  Why bother with numerous, complex time-travel plots with uncertain effects when you can just go to the dawn of humanity and kill everybody?  This is hardly a novel concept.

One-time Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork assists with the annihilation of humanity.
If the Demoreans balk at genocide, they could set themselves up as gods over prehistoric humans and thereafter carefully control history.  However, given their obsession with perfection, if a Demorean plot fails, they don't try to salvage or reimplement the plot.  “Any plan that ultimately fails is judged imperfect,” we learn, “An imperfect plan should not be repeated.”  (emphasis in original)  Therefore – although not mentioned in the rules – it's possible the Demoreans tried genocide and prehistoric religion but the schemes didn't work out.

Since Demoreans are fixated on perfection, newborns “who are 'imperfect' by Demorean standards are 'assimilated.'”  We are told that “assimilated” is a euphemism for being “turned into food for the others.”  Assuming they avoid the fate of being comestible, Demoreans mature through seven stages of thirty years each:  Child, Nurturer, Laborer, Technician, Military Service, Minor Official, and Theocrat (Priest).  After three decades as a theocrat, each Demorean chooses from among three options:  it can become a time agent, it can enter the Law-Giver lottery, or it can be assimilated.  “Law-Giver” is the highest Demorean official; one lucky Demorean is randomly selected to be Law-Giver from those who enter the lottery.  All of the Demoreans not selected are assimilated.

The Timetricks supplement states “there are approximately 40 billion Demoreans on Parallel A-227” and “this number stays relatively stable.” It further says, “At any one time, one-seventh of this number, or about 5.7 billion, are in the seventh stage of Demorean existence, and hence potential time agents.”  Of this number, “60% voluntarily submit to assimilation” and 30% enter the Law-Giver lottery.  However, we are not informed as to how often this lottery occurs.  So, the remaining 10% (about 570 million) become time agents.  Yet for every field agent, “nine others are required to instruct, support, regulate, administrate, and report on that agent.”  So, “57 million are actually active field agents.”  At any given time (so to speak), half of the field agents are engaged in planning.  As a result, “the Demoreans have in the field, engaged in active operations, only about 29 million agents...”

Demoreans “don't believe in medicine.”  Should a Demorean agent be seriously wounded, it is by definition imperfect.  Such a Demorean is tortured to death, then used as food.  Some Demoreans have a sufficient sense of self-preservation that, when wounded, they “surrender and give information in exchange for medical care and life in a Time Corps cell.”  Even though most of the Time Corps' “knowledge of Demorean life comes from defectors,” we learn...
Time Corps Regulation 2 specifically states that Demoreans should be destroyed.  Of course, it is allowable to keep a Demorean alive in the field for a short time for purposes of gathering information.  Generally, such Demoreans should be destroyed once their usefulness to the mission has ended.
Given that Time Corps operatives are outnumbered almost a hundred to one by Demorean agents, the strategy of reacting to incursions and refusing to take prisoners is untenable.  Yet the rules don't acknowledge this.  Logically, the way to gain an advantage over the Demoreans is through their agents who surrender.  Not only do they reveal important information, the potential exists to brainwash indoctrinate them and have them work on behalf of the Time Corps.  They can possibly sow dissension among the ranks of the Demoreans by exploiting the sense of self-preservation they are known to have.  Perhaps they could even cause individuals to doubt the perfection of Demorean civilization.  Eventually, the Time Corps might be well served by kidnapping “imperfect” Demorean infants before they are processed as food.  These could then be instilled with the ideals of the free races and trained to infiltrate Demorean society.

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