|Submitted by G.S. Williams on Wed, 03/28/2012 - 02:56|
Johnson left and the room resolved back to my social area. Haven came in with breakfast shortly after, and we sat down to eat. After awhile she looked up at me.
“You're quiet this morning.”
I shrugged. “Johnson got inside my head. I need to think a bit.”
“Anything you want to talk about?”
“Not yet. I'm still processing.”
She nodded and went back to her breakfast. I chewed thoughtfully.
“Do you want me to stick around or do you need some time to yourself today?” Haven asked when I was done.
I shook my head. “I think I'll go for a walk.”
“Where?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.
Before she could dissuade me or ask further questions, I blinked and apported to the clearing where I had practiced meditating with Valy. I took a deep breath of fresh air and looked up at the sky.
Wind blew through my hair and sunshine warmed my face. It was indescribably better than the best simulation. While the projection technology was incredibly advanced, it still couldn't entirely replicate reality. Wind had too much personality, and there wasn't a reliable way to manufacture all the smells of the world. You wouldn't get dirt on your clothes in a simulation, nor grass stains.
I just needed to be out, to have room to think and breathe. Johnson had laid some heavy ideas on me in a short amount of time, and I wanted to chew them over without interruption. I wandered around the clearing idly.
Johnson had said some disturbing things. It sounded like the Continuity Integrity Agency had helped cause World War One, as well as failing to prevent the Kennedy assassination. The second one was shocking just because Kennedy was a big deal, my father had spoken of him with a lot of respect. The first was terrifying, because at least with Kennedy all they did was stay out of the way of events. With the war, they actively participated in causing it, if I understood Johnson.
I wandered through the trees, just meandering as I mulled over what I'd been told. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my coveralls and tried to make sense of it all. I didn't know if I liked any of it. The Agency seemed to have a mandate to preserve history as we knew it. That sounded good, at a distance. But keeping history the way it was meant that one of their operatives allowed a president to die, when theoretically it could have been prevented.
Doctors took the Hippocrates Oath, and it started with “do no harm.” It sounded like we would allow harm to occur, so long as there was a historical record of it. Monsters like Hitler got off when we could stop him before he started.
Or could we? Logic made that seem ludicrous. If I went back in time right now to kill Hitler in the nineteen thirties, before the war started, then maybe there wouldn't have been a war at all. But if there was no war, then I wouldn't want to go back to stop him. Ergo, I would never stop him, and he'd live and the war would start. The paradox resolved itself simply because I knew what had already happened.
So I could see why Johnson said an agent never undermined history, it didn't seem logically possible. If I understood what agents did, then they stopped other time travelers from causing things that weren't in the historical record. That seemed okay. They couldn't let JFK live, because that hadn't happened and everyone knew about it. It would be like erasing the Etch-a-Sketch of Time and having nothing to work with, so they kept history safe.
I sighed. Could I make History, the concept itself, more important than a human life? Could I stop myself from helping someone in trouble if I knew that they were “supposed” to die? I had been raised to pitch in, to help out. Was History more important than that?
I kicked a rock and sent it spinning through the underbrush. I didn't know what to do. Being an agent made sense from one angle, since I'd already learned something about apporting. I had a talent, and I supposed I should develop it. If I went time travelling on my own, the Agency would monitor and possibly stop me. If I worked for them, then I'd be part of their team and accepted. I didn't mind that. Johnson and Haven had been good to me. I just didn't know if I could watch flesh and blood people die, just because some history textbook said they did.
I found myself down by the gully where we'd stayed. I started to walk out of the trees and stopped short. I saw myself and Valy, working on the wall. I had jumped to a point before I had left to go home - which just underlined the fact that I needed training to control this new ability. I felt weird seeing myself from a distance.
Technically, I was able to walk out of the forest and approach me. I could tell myself about Brek and his betrayal. Valy and my past self could leave before it ever happened, escape to somewhere safer. Those men would never have to die.
I held my head in my hands and knelt down in the bushes. I could change my own past. But then who would I be? What would happen to me? Would I be erased, or have new memories, or would something even stranger happen? No wonder the Agency prevented paradoxes.
I looked up at the two girls working on their rough shelter wall. I could change their lives, but the men who would and did attack them still intended harm for our community. They would have attacked other kids on their tests, or found a way to attack our home. I had done the right thing defending us against them. What would be the point in changing that? Less stress for me? Would that be fair to the people they killed, and the people they might have killed if I hadn't come along?
I wiped my face a few times and took a deep breath. Killing people sucked. I hoped it would never be necessary again. But it kept Valy safe, and our home safe. That mattered more. I wasn't going to change it.
Which meant that I could preserve History, since it led to my new home. I wouldn't be where I was without everything that came before. With that idea in my mind, I closed my eyes and blinked.