By Kevin Kulp
Independent, self-reliant TimeWatch troubleshooter teams are generally given discretion to execute, imprison, punish, mind-wipe or even recruit the chronal miscreants whose schemes they thwart. Sometimes the difficult decision of what to do with a prisoner resolves itself; certain alien species such as the parasitic Europans or roach-like Ezeru receive a “destroy on sight” designation. When the enemy is human or a more sympathetic race, however, the decision becomes more challenging.
The simplest solution is usually the best. If a miscreant can have their memory altered and return to their normal life, that’s often the best solution for all concerned. The challenge is that memory modification can change what people remember, but it can’t change a person’s base nature. If they’re intrinsically evil, dissatisfied, and intelligent enough to discover time travel a second time, this might not be an effective resolution. If the criminal only acted out of opportunity (such as finding and stealing another person’s anachronistic time device before committing a crime of passion), simply erasing their memory of the event might be all that’s needed.
When you want someone accessible after the fact, but don’t want them mucking around the time stream, you exile them in time. This most commonly occurs by dropping prisoners on isolated prehistoric tropical islands. The goal is to find a location where a prisoner can easily survive, but where they’ll never be accidentally found (easier when humanity hasn’t evolved yet!) and where they won’t develop enough technology or tools to escape. Even if they do get off the island, it’s believed that one person with no technology can do very little damage to the historical timestream in a prehistoric era.
For particularly dangerous prisoners who are given this treatment, geosynchronous spy satellites and high-flying drones might be used to keep an eye on the prisoner.
It’s not unheard of for time exile to occur in locations that are less pleasant than a tropical isle. While against regulations, more than one prisoner has been abandoned in the age of the dinosaurs. A few of these have managed to survive and thrive, but so far none have altered history enough to have their power removed.
Prisoners might also be placed in traditional prisons, squirreled away in a back corner of the Bastille, Alcatraz, Devil’s Island, or the Tower of London. They live out their lives futilely trying to convince the guards around them that they’re from a different time. They’re seldom successful.
The Floating Mountain
TimeWatch maintains a prison back in the “Boring Billion,” that period of Earth’s early history when geological upheaval ceased for a billion years and the Earth was covered with vast mats of biological sludge. The Floating Mountain is a levitating fortress that hovers over the bacterial mats, a traditional prison with no access to time travel and nowhere for escaping prisoners to flee to. It’s used for violent offenders who need to be controlled, and whom TimeWatch doesn’t feel comfortable inflicting on a prison parallel.
The Citadel is TimeWatch’s headquarters, located in the quantum anomaly that precedes both time and the Big Bang. A real advantage to time traveling is that at least a few agents have seen Loki’s plan in The Avengers movie, so very few if any prisoners are kept imprisoned at the Citadel. It’s just not worth the risk. Em-gram brainprints of enemies are occasionally brought in and catalogued, however; on one occasion one of these was imprinted on a new clone, resulting in a brief but deadly manhunt through the Citadel’s many halls. The practice has since been disallowed.
One option available to every team is to banish a prisoner to a prison parallel, a distant parallel timeline that is easy to time travel into but very, very difficult to leave. There are dozens of these, generally discovered because agents and probes who have ventured there have not yet found their way home. Exile to a prison parallel is chosen when the prisoner is too dangerous to risk any chance of escape, but when executing them is cruel or unwarranted.
Mechanically, a prisoner can be exiled to a prison parallel by one agent spending a Timecraft point. This allows them to hack their autochron and transport a prisoner without the autochron itself remaining behind. Once in a prison parallel, a prisoner is free and unfettered to make her way about the world –but it would take a time machine and an expenditure of at least 9 Timecraft and Science! points, all from one person at one time, to escape. That’s theoretically possible from one person who grows to great power over an extraordinary amount of time, but no one has managed it yet.
A prison parallel is as alien or earthlike as the GM wishes. It may be a virtual paradise or a brutal and dangerous hellscape; its one constant quality is that once someone time travels in, they’re probably not leaving. An agent has no way to determine the qualities of a given prison parallel before they exile a prisoner to it. For better or worse, there are three prison parallels that TimeWatch primarily uses for banishment.
Chronal scientists theorize that our own timeline may act the same way for creatures originating in other distant timestreams. If so, TimeWatch may find themselves dealing with a pseudo-human warlord with significant technological and personal prowess, who is literally unable to travel in time to return home.