Field Reports: Colorado Springs
• Time Sense
As might be expected, an agent’s first initiation into the mysteries of Time is an awareness of time’s flow. The agent learns to discern subjective time, to keep an accurate track of her own temporal position, to notice anomalies and alterations in time and to track Effects through their temporal “wake,” the disturbance that all things leave in the flow of time.
Most Time Procedures leave some sort of disturbance that’s noticeable to an agent who knows what to look for. Although an Initiate can’t really do anything about it, the agent can at least tell when Time manipulation is at work, and may well get the heck out of there! Natural phenomena sometimes cause odd Time distortions, too, and these are apparent to a trained agent. Actually messing around with time instabilities is a dangerous process, and more than one agent has been catapulted into far-distant times, alternate histories or bizarre temporal loops. The Initiate can easily feel such dangers and keep away, and he may even be able to determine how the phenomenon in question works.
Although it’s impractical to always have a concrete sense of Time, an Initiate can often tell when someone’s spying on her through time, and she can develop a powerfully accurate count of time’s passage. Combined with the other Spheres, the basics of Time Science let the agent determine whether a particular Pattern has been affected unnaturally by Time and how it has been changed as a result. Furthermore, they give the agent better accuracy in using pre-existing time distortions in conjunction with other applications.
• • Time Sight
Although both past and future are hypothetically nothing but possibilities, it’s possible to search through time itself to look at the probabilities that tie most closely to the direction of our own timeline. The agent can cast her perceptions into past or future and gather information from other times. The process is not always accurate; the future is mutable and some say that the past, too, changes as people’s memories and beliefs of it change. The closer the agent looks to her current present time, the more accurate the vision. Distant times and places may be inaccurate, fuzzy or difficult to comprehend. Some places and times are even protected against such scans by powerful anomalies or by natural phenomena that bend the course of time itself.
Simple pre- and retro-cognitive Effects just allow the agent to look into the past or future at her current location. The agent can watch time as if viewing it directly, pausing to skip to different points or glossing over some areas to speed on to others. She can extend her Time senses to such vistas and tell whether there are other temporal distortions at the times that she watches. Agents can build layers of temporal defenses with this power, creating a great deal of “temporal static” to blow out Time senses in the same way that Correspondence can be used to repel distant surveillance.
In conjunction with other Spheres, Time senses let the agent examine Patterns of the past and future, determine the course of history and even read the thoughts of people in different eras.
• • • Time Manipulation
By extending personalized perceptions over an area of time, the agent can alter the apparent flow of time at a site. Theories vary over whether this is a true manipulation of the time-stream or just an extension of subjective time properties, but the fact is that such manipulations can create some very unusual — and powerful — Effects.
By dilating or contracting time, the agent can alter the rate at which things happen in comparison to the “normal world.” A flow of water could be made to trickle like molasses, a bullet could be slowed to visible speeds or a running man could seem to whiz by with incredible velocity. The subjective time of the target isn’t changed: the running man feels himself moving as if at normal speed, while the world around him seems to be moving very slowly; the bullet appears to onlookers to move slowly, but it hits with as much force as ever. Most theorists agree that such Effects simply wrap the subject in a bit of slow or fast time, although a few hardcases insist that it’s a matter of altering relative universal time-flows or something equally esoteric. In general, the specifics don’t matter to you in the field, since the end results are quite fantastic.
An agent wrapped in dilated or contracted time can easily cocoon himself in a protective layer that insulates him from the outside world, effectively freezing himself in time, or accelerate to the point of performing numerous physical tasks in a few seconds. Different methodologies all have different ways of approaching this undertaking, of course, but it’s still a potent ability.
With a bit of finesse, an agent can rewind or loop time as well. Doing so is very difficult, however, and it tends to draw down the Paradox Effect. Once time is bent in this fashion, it gets exponentially more difficult to warp it further, and such distortions are easily noticed by other Time experts (and sometimes by astute civilians!) as well as causing all sorts of interference that makes time sensitivity in the area go haywire. In short, the agent might be able to rewind a few seconds of time and reconstruct an event differently, but Paradox and statistical inevitability tend to conspire to make such undertakings profoundly difficult. Such redirections often result in unforeseen problems later.
• • • • Time Determinism
Instead of stretching or compressing time, the Adept of Time Science can literally stop time in its tracks or drop something into a loop that only releases at a specified time. Procedures can be made to wait in place, as can other Patterns, the agent can cast suspension over a target so that it is literally unaffected by the passage of time or build specially keyed Effects that hold off until certain events come to pass. The agent can even freeze a target outside the time-stream, leaving it trapped and unaffected by the outside world while it experiences nothing more than the blink of an eye. Such powerful technologies are often dangerous, but they can generate very potent Effects in conjunction with other Spheres. An agent who is temporarily “paused” in time can’t be affected by anything else in the normal time-stream, while a dangerous subject or out-of-control experiment can be easily frozen until resources can be assembled to deal with it. Indeed, by joining control over time with a dash of Correspondence, a victim can be trapped completely outside the space-time continuum — warded into a pocket that dissipates only with the cessation of the maintaining devices or the intervention of powerful outside forces. Many creatures and entities too powerful for agents to confront directly are said to be trapped in such a fashion.
A time-halting Effect combined with a Pattern Sphere can generate a keyed pause: something that doesn’t happen until a specific person, creature or item comes into the right position. With Entropy, a bit of Time Science can create an Effect that does not happen until a certain improbability comes to pass. An earthquake can be delayed until a city is better prepared, or a dying subject can be placed into cryogenic suspension while doctors search for a cure for his condition. Entire genetic lines or places of importance can have Effects granted that wait until they’re signaled for activation, though the rigors of time and the Paradox Effect slowly erode such Effects until they’re gone.