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I'm running a mysterious, shadowy, acronym-lettered agency which deploys agents all across the world (and beyond) to deal with supernatural and paranormal events. What they encounter is often completely random, and includes everything from cursed vending machines to shape-shifting man-eating dogs (think SCP).

Still, there are a couple commonalities or general patterns to the supernatural events my agents encounter. For example, all my agents are trained to preform regular "reality checks" and "regressive memory path reconstruction" which are both designed to make sure that they don't get caught in illusions or dreams and so that they notice if their mind is being tampered with somehow (A surprising amount of supernatural creatures make those who witness them be unable to remember them or have them loose memories).

Recently, there's been an uptick in time-travel related accidents and I'd like to write some guidelines for my field agents to minimize the risk to themselves, the world, and causality in general when investigating these strange phenomena. The major complication is that time travel rules are inconsistent between events. So far we've had agents:

  • Stuck in groundhog-day style time loops (of various duration)
  • Use a functional time machines (boxes where you punch in dates and go there)
  • Get caught in areas of accelerated, reversed, or slowed time
  • Kill their grandparents and fade slowly from existence
  • Kill their grandparents and keep existing just fine
  • Be unable to kill their grandparents for some reason
  • And much more

So far, we've (and I'm ashamed to admit this) avoided most accidents and paradoxes seemingly by sheer luck but my science team tells me that one wrong move could doom reality as we know it. That's why I'd like to put some reasonable precautions in place for my field agents to follow to minimize paradoxes and time-travel related issues.

For example:

  • Agents are not to leave items they brought with them behind whenever preforming a "jump"

    • Special care should be taken to avoid ranged weapons with unrecoverable projectiles such as firearms
  • Agents are not permitted to interact with past or future selves

  • etc...

The question:

What are some guidelines/operational procedures will permit my agents to investigate temporal and time-travel related phenomena while minimizing risk of creating paradoxes for the greatest amount of time-travel systems.

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  • $\begingroup$ How quickly do agents have to respond to these? Is a time travelling scenario going to come up completely unexpected, or are they allowed to prep? $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Dec 3 '19 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ @VLAZ it varies, but time travel scenarios usually have at least some prep time as they're typically not actively disrupting the general population like some extraplanar monster would. Most time travel related anomalies are linked to objects or locations $\endgroup$ – Dragongeek Dec 3 '19 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ The movie "Millennium" imdb.com/title/tt0097883 used "time quakes." A paradox caused huge damage at the headquarters of the time portal, the bigger the paradox the bigger the quake. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Dec 3 '19 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ Have you read Genevieve Cogman's "The Invisible Library" series where they travel to various alternate realities or any of Jodi Taylor's "Chronicles of St Mary's" where they travel to various time periods? $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Dec 4 '19 at 10:26
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Get a team of historians

OK, so you have two broad areas where you want to avoid tampering with time causality - travelling to the past, and travelling to the future. You need a dedicated team of people to let you prepare for each:

Travelling to the past

Memo: To all agents. In light of the recent patricide incident with agent Dereka (previously agent Derek), we remind you what to do in the event of retrotemporal displacement:

  1. Find out when you would be travelling.
  2. Find out where you would be travelling.
  3. Find out any other related information you can before travelling there: individuals involved, specific locations, the entity or type of being handled (if any), a phenomena or type of phenomena being handled (if any), etc.
  4. Fill in form P45-T - be as accurate and as complete as possible. YOUR EXISTENCE MAY DEPEND ON IT!
  5. Submit the form to the History Analysis and Paranormal Preparation Investigation and Event Response team.
  6. You will get a detailed steps to take and not take based on an in-depth investigation of historical records.
  7. Read it THOROUGHLY!
  8. Be absolutely sure you've read it THOROUGHLY!
  9. Follow the guidelines the team has put out for you.
  10. DO NOT DEVIATE FROM THE GUIDELINES!
  11. Do not "wing it".
  12. Do not say "Wait, I think I remember how this goes".
  13. Do not use any knowledge outside the guidelines in order to fulfil your task.
  14. Do not try to save your pet from your childhood from premature death.
    • Not your dog.
    • Nor your cat.
    • Nor your hamster.
    • Nor your gold fish.
    • Nor any other pet.
  15. Do not try to save, neutralise, or interact anybody else, if it's not in your guidelines
    • Don't kill Hitler.
    • Don't save Martin Luther King.
    • Don't save 2Pac.
    • Don't go anywhere near your ancestors.
    • Don't visit Elvis.
  16. Dress and act according to the time period you would be travelling to, as to not draw suspicion.
    • Reminder: we do have a retro dress and fashion department but the inventory is limited, so you would be assigned an available, appropriate costume.
    • Reminder: every agent is required to train in at least one older dialect of their mother's tongue and another language.
    • Reminder: you are not to introduce any "new" dances, moves, handshakes, slang, catchphrases, and anything similar.
  17. Only pay, do business, or exchange any money, if the guidelines allow you to.
    • In fact, don't even drop any money.
    • Probably best if you never carry on the assignment.
    • We mean it! The Agency is very strict on controlling the inflation and maintaining the wealth distribution consistent.

Seriously, people - you are professionals. The guys in history analysis work really hard to give you the best chance of both resolving the temporal anomaly and returning to the same world you left.

Travelling to the future

Departmental guidelines for responding to situations involving protemporal displacement:

  1. If at all possible, notify The Agency in the future after temporal displacement. To minimise disruption, to future agents, you should submit Visiting Investigation Personnel standard form outlining your type of assignment and operational parameters. In the protocol classification field, add "McFly" to the classification shortcode. This would ensure it's handled appropriately. You will receive guidance worded as best as possible.
    • Reminder: you are still to follow the rules applicable for retrotemporal displacement and follow the guidelines as closely as possible
  2. Minimise your exposure to the world. Communicate with as few people as possible and visit as few public places as possible to aid other future operations.
  3. Make as many detailed notes as possible for when and where have you done what.
  4. Upon completion of the assignment and returning to appropriate temporal coordinates, submit report form PH-U7UR3 to the Subdivision for Anachronisitc Diminishment with Data and Events Retroanalysis.
    • Reminder: be as detailed as possible. Document every steps you've made.
    • If possible, literally.
    • Reminder: this information will be used to produce the guidelines you will receive in step 1. Your future success depends on your ability to correctly explain it.

All agents are also to remember that their reports are taken into account when preparing you for missions that are not related to temporal displacements. The Agency will never intentionally send operatives where a different version of themselves is known to be acting. Nobody wants what happened with agent M. Your reports are examined with the aim of avoiding any other incidents of similar variety.

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  • $\begingroup$ Have you read Genevieve Cogman's "The Invisible Library" series where they travel to various alternate realities or any of Jodi Taylor's "Chronicles of St Mary's" where they travel to various time periods? $\endgroup$ – EveryBitHelps Dec 4 '19 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ @EveryBitHelps no, I haven't. I'll look them up. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Dec 4 '19 at 12:00
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Step 1: Don't get involved

The first day of training new agents, they are escorted into a room and told to sit down. Upon doing that, a man politely walks into the room and announces that under NO circumstances are field agents ever to get involved in a space-time anomaly. Doing so could jeopardize the time-space continuum and threaten the existence of all of mankind.

This process is repeated day after day, and probably also subliminally entered into the field agents as well. Time travel is NOT A TOY.

Step 2: If you do get involved, accept that it's going to be the worst case scenario

Time travel is messy. Let's face it, half the time it seems like nothing is going to go wrong and you get back to the present time only to discover that you left your favorite pocketwatch back in the 1830s, and now Nazis riding dinosaurs are in charge of everything. Other times you go back it time and kill certain well-known historical figures years before they can do anything, only to find out that nothing has changed whatsoever. These things just happen with time travel. Sometimes it works out how you want, but in general, convenient time travel is the kind of thing that happens to other people. You are a member of this SCP-analogue organization. You don't get that lucky.

Step 3: Remove ALL the evidence

Things happen to researchers and field agents. Terrible things. Abnormal rifts can tear people in half, eldritch creatures can horrify, and sometimes you're just dealing with an honest-to-goodness monster that's perfectly willing to kill you. Given that, instruct all agents that, upon discovering that they've come across a time anomaly, they are to perform any and all actions they deem necessary to ensure the possibility that affecting the time space continuum isn't affected.

Thus, to this end, time machines are to be destroyed when deemed safe, and quarantined via sending them to the end of the universe when destruction of said craft is deemed to be unsafe. They are never to be dismantled or examined. The last thing we need are erratic time machines parts flying through the space-time continuum.

Bubbles of oddly affected time are to be avoided. When discovered, all agents are to be extracted, and perimeters are to be set up until the area returns to normal. If the area does not ever seems willing to be returned to normal, the area must be quarantined and sealed off. Stables bubbles may be useful for various purposes, such as accelerating research projects or storing dangerous persons within.

Personal time experiences, that is a localized time effect which only effects a single agent in any way that would affect the linear timeline, i.e. sent forward/backwards/sideways in time (We must not rule out sideways!) can only be dealt with by making sure that said anomaly (the agent in question) is not permitted to effect anything. Regrettably, this will almost certainly necessitate the willful demise and complete eradication of the agent in question, but all field agents will understand the necessity of it. (It is recommended that field agents have the means to permanently eradicate themselves anyway, given the nature of many of these assignments.)

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It is not luck. It is hard, hard work.

The failure of your clueless bumblers to create accidents and paradoxes is not due to their gifts or their great good luck. It is active management by entities in your own timeline. Agents from this group exert influence through time and reality to run interference and minimize damage caused by (your) bull-in-a-china-shop style time travel. Unlike your hamhanded selves, these agents are quite sophisticated. They are extremely subtle and artful and their influence is nigh impossible to detect.

But not deduce, and you have deduced it. No one is that lucky. Something bad should have happened and it has not. There is a reason.

The next step is to study the events which have happened, and learn the techniques of these timeline managers. When an agent is stuck in a loop, what was that agent trying to do? The vanishing and nonvanishing grandpa-killers: how do they differ? Accepting that you probably cannot effectively communicate with the agents who are running interference for you, you can at least learn their patterns and methods and so avoid unpleasant outcomes for your time travelling agents.

And eventually, you can use these agents for your own ends. Your association can trick these agents of continuity into intervening and by doing so, themselves create the change in the timeline you are trying to achieve. You need to get this right on the first try: these entities will not be pleased when they realize they have been played. Fortunately your new timeline will have its own agents of continuity which will prevent things from changing back.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is just shifting the responsibility to another entity. The OP asks what guidelines are needed to prevent time-travel paradoxes, and this answer is just saying "you don't need any, because there's another agency that has those guidelines, whatever they may be". This is like someone asking you how to drive, and telling them to hire a limo driver. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Dec 3 '19 at 15:47
  • $\begingroup$ @NuclearWang - you will note /study the events which have happened, and learn the techniques/. It is actually like someone asking you how to drive, and telling them to pay attention to how people are driving. Pay attention to why people are not crashing and deduce the rules of the road. Pay attention to how unseen powers are sidestepping catastrophe and deduce the guidelines. $\endgroup$ – Willk Dec 3 '19 at 16:30
  • $\begingroup$ This would be a good in-universe request from one character to another, but OP is asking for a set of guidelines. Your answer is basically: "Someone else has guidelines; go ask them." This does not answer the question that was asked. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 3 '19 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Willk That seems like a complete non-answer to me. Q: What are some guidelines for minimizing risk? A: Minimize risk, and then do that. $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Dec 3 '19 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ It's more accurate to say that Willk is answering 'Don't bother with predicting what will happen, weaponize your current knowledge, so you don't have to care.' $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Dec 3 '19 at 18:57

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