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reality-distortion field = R = recompile the world

reaper n.

A prowler that GFRs files. A file removed in this way is said to have been `reaped'.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

It may be considered hypocritical to outlaw forward "time travel" as well as the more traditional backwards case that most are referring to when they consider the possibilities. After all, everyone outside of the Corps does nothing but forward travel throughout their lives. Who is anyone to call an adjustment of the rate at which that travel occurs anything different from natural life extension?

Unfortunately "it doesn't work like that", and travelling forward, except in rare cases, is treated as just as much the crime that travelling backward would be. In some cases, it's even more so. A person being alive when they shouldn't be is the often the clearest sign of an external event, no matter the complete causal chain. While historians are immediately dispatched to track down the beginning of the chain as it happens, another job is a bit more direct, a bit less precise, and a lot less effective. "Morally Questionable" it was not, so upheld the Supreme Court retroactively in some year nobody's supposed to know about, but when a memo is leaked in the Time Corps it travels far'n.

Live long enough, and you'll eventually kill somebody. Reapers get that distinction earlier than most, though. Every time it feels like the first time, because it very often is. If the historians do their jobs, if the movers do theirs. Knowing the intricacies of causal chains doesn't help quash hopes that they'll work it all out prefore it's necessary. Everyone, at least everyone in the Corps, knows the event remains even if its chain is broken. Nothing can ever undo what will happen, even if nothing ever leads to it happening.

Thoughts dwell on how nothing through the cross-hairs should exist, how if anyone else did their jobs it probably already never happened. Sometimes they catch it without a reaper. Sometimes the historians can figure things out from one direction. It's more difficult, much more difficult, but not impossible. The reaper exists, really, to make someone else's job slightly easier.

None of this is happening. None of this will happen. Life goes on, and nobody ever did this.

And they're still all dead. That's where the "morality" part kicks in. Fat men and trains. None of these people get killed today, none of them are alive to begin with. Reapers were started to end those eventual-returners: those who would become movers themselves. It became apparent that the math worked better without extra variables. All those Ediths. Everyone who'd never be given a second thought by now if they'd stayed dead.

It's hard to work through all the permutations. It's really probably better not to think about it. For this one, it wasn't a technical "first kill". If the historians would do their jobs, but you can't catch 'em all. Somebody says he's not supposed to be alive. The kids aren't adopted, one is carrying a shopping bag with a microscope in it. It's not any fun to imagine what changes they made which were large enough to divert from the baseline.

Police move in even before it begins. Not to stop anyone, just to look official and pretend to explain what's going on. Every time feels like the first time.

They don't catch the guy. Historians never do their jobs. Some have theories that a broken chain never stops, isn't just the ideal mathematical view of a disconnected immutable event, but the start of a whole chain in itself, never ending. A variation on the "many worlds" theory that causal chains were supposed to invalidate.

That ideal, though: One event, disconnected and immutable, existing on its own forever, not leading to any future chains. That seems to fit.

for SciFiQuest 3008

Reap"er, n.


One who reaps.

The sun-burned reapers wiping their foreheads. Macaulay.


A reaping machine.


© Webster 1913.

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