Sunday, September 15, 2019

Significance Waves and the Sentinel

Art by Virgil Finlay

Timetricks – mentioned in a prior post – was a TIMEMASTER™ supplement published in 1985.  With a subtitle of A Survivor's Guide to Time Travel, Mark Acres receives sole writing credit for the book.  The back cover clearly states, “Designed for use with the TIMEMASTER® game system.”  However, the preface suggests there may be readers “who are reading the book primarily for their own enjoyment...”  Such readers, “as well as those who are reading the book the first time to gain an overall familiarity with its contents,” are advised to skip the Continuum Masters' instructions, which “are always separated from the other text by a line of asterisks.”

Among other things, Timetricks explains the phenomenon of Significance Waves.  When a simple change to history is made, “The effects...occur instantly at all points on the Parallel futureward of the change.”  However, “Changes in events with a Significance Rating greater than 250 may cause a Significance Wave.”  (Original emphasis.)  Significance Waves manifest as a result “two tendencies in nature oppos[ing] one another:  the natural tendency for change to affect an entire Parallel instantly, and the Law of Preservation – the tendency of a Parallel to resist and/or repair historical changes.”  The probability of a Significance Wave occurring is...
...equal to the Significance Rating of the event changed (or the person who dies) divided by 10.  For example, the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk during World War II has a Significance Rating of 300.  Assume something prevents the evacuation. There is a 30% chance (300 ÷ 10 = 30) this change will start a Significance Wave...
Said waves “can be thought of as a series of historical changes which, instead of occuring [sic] all at once, gradually move futureward, while hours or even days pass at Time Corps HQ.”  The existence of a Significance Wave does not necessarily result in severe historical alteration.  “It is possible,” we learn, “that the Law of Preservation will eventually compensate for the wave’s effects.”  A Significance Wave will propagate for an amount of time in years equal to ten times the Significance Rating of the precipitating event.  So, the ramifications of preventing the Dunkirk evacuation would persist for three thousand years (300 × 10 = 3000).  “Three thousand years futureward of the event,” we read, “history will return to 'normal.'”  For every 'Standard Dating System' day that passes at Time Corps HQ, a Significance Wave will “roll forward” a number of years equal to the duration of the wave divided by a random number between one and ten.  In the Dunkirk example described above, “the Significance Wave...would move forward on the Parallel with a speed of anywhere from 300 to 3000 years per SDS day.”  It is possible for Time Corps agents to outrun a Significance Wave and “do something to stop its effects.”  Timetricks claims, “In this way, the effects of some major changes can be prevented from reaching 7154 or points futureward and wiping out the Time Corps.”

Significance Waves may be detected “by means of Paranormal Memory reports or by a report from the Sentinel.”  With regard to the Sentinel, the Travellers' Manual states:
          Nearly every Time corps mission stems from an incoming report of alien or renegade action along a Parallel.  The Sentinel, who was one a time agent, too, makes most of these reports.  From his position in the Out-time, he can watch all existing Parallels at once, and notice any travelers.  But the Sentinel occasionally gets lost in his own philosophical musings and we lose contact for a while.  During those times, an agent may report a historical change before we hear anything from the Sentinel.
Timetricks goes into more detail about the Sentinel:
          When it became obvious to the Corps that the Paranormal Intelligence Division had to have more help in detecting Demorean activity, a research program was undertaken which resulted in the Sentinel’s current posting.
          The Sentinel’s human consciousness was actually removed from his body and shot into Out-Time. There, it maintains itself as a living, timeless being, able to observe all history on all parallels at once.
          Of course, the shock of this transition was great. It was several years before the Sentinel telepathically contacted the Corps and began to report regularly on Demorean and renegade activities.  Now, the Sentinel’s reports are frequent, but not always complete or completely reliable...
Little else is told about the Sentinel, but the Guide to the Continuum mentions that the Sentinel – presumably when he still inhabited his body – “rubbed elbows with all of the philosophers and statesmen” in Athens of the 5th Century B.C.

“Out-Time” is also spelled “outtime” and, as shown above, “Out-time.”  Aside from its association with the Sentinel, the Out-Time is referenced in regard to the travel of chronoscooters.  If a chronoscooter disintegrates while in the Out-Time, its pilot is left “adrift in the eternal void” which is “the equivalent of character death.”  Apparently, the Sentinel is unwilling or unable to help out in such a situation.

Anyway, experiencing the passage of a Significance Wave is comparable to existing within a Philip K. Dick novel:
          The imminent arrival of a Significance Wave into a time period frequently seems to set off a rapid series of seemingly chaotic events.  It is as if the wave itself sent out small 'shock waves' a few days futureward of itself in order to announce its coming.  These 'shock waves' signal that the Parallel is about to change from the way things are historically to the way they will be after the Significance Wave passes through.  These chaotic events can be witnessed only by someone present in the Parallel at a point just futureward of the lead edge of the wave.
          For example, suppose a Significance Wave effect were to reverse the results of the 1984 American presidential election, and that the wave itself would continue into the 1990’s.  People living in, say, June of 1985 while the wave was approaching might find some strange things happening:  the sudden, unexpected resignations of President Reagan and Vice-president Bush; an emergency session of the Congress called to amend the Constitution, state legislatures convening in emergency session to ratify the amendment, election of Walter Mondale to the Presidency by the Congress, and so forth.  Of course, a witness in this chaotic time will not remember these bizarre events once the wave has reversed the election results; instead, he or she will remember Walter Mondale’s victory in November 1984 (that is, unless Paranormal Memory indicates otherwise).
It is possible for a Significance Wave to become a Temporal Disaster Wave.  According to Timetricks, a Temporal Disaster Wave “is to a normal Significance Wave what a tidal wave is to the normal gentle breakers on a quiet beach.”  Unlike a Significance Wave which eventually diminishes and expires, a Temporal Disaster Wave “grows in size and force, becoming stronger and stronger, until it crashes and breaks against the ultimate temporal wall, the Time Barrier.”  The effects of a Temporal Disaster Wave are not limited to a single Parallel; it “always causes a Ripple Effect on 1-10 other Parallels, plus any related Parallels whose points of relationship are affected by the [wave].”  (Original emphasis.)

The chance of a Significance Wave becoming a Temporal Disaster Wave is equal to one percent of the Significance Rating of the precipitating event.  Therefore, a Significance Wave generated by prevention the Dunkirk evacuation would have a 3% chance of being a Temporal Disaster Wave.

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