Snippet: The Smythe-Worthington Foundation.

Stuck in my head for a while: I may be expanding this a bit for Patreon. Haven’t decided yet. Also, a bit maybe more gray than I was originally imagining.

The Smythe-Worthington Foundation

Base assumption: time travel is possible, but you cannot change history. Alternatively, you can change history, but the act of doing so merely creates a new timeline and leaves yours untouched. Also: time travel is known, and common/cheap enough to allow non-governmental or non-military use.

The academic community did not react well to the discovery of practical time travel. On the one hand, people were finally and suddenly able to go Downtime and prove or disprove various pet theories, once and for all; on the other hand, …people were finally and suddenly able to go Downtime and prove or disprove various pet theories, once and for all. There were regrettable incidents. Worse, there was no effective counter-measures put in place to prevent particular regrettable incidents from occurring again and again.

To give just one example: during one six month period seven academic institutions were involved in nine attempts to firebomb Shakespeare’s Globe Theater, three of which were successful. All of this would have been tacitly ignored by Earth’s governments – after all, all the things being done in the past apparently weren’t affecting the the main timeline – but organizations and institutions were starting to attack each other Uptime as well as Downtime. At that point, the UN Security Council nations stepped in and created an international Time Security organization. Uniquely, the TSO doesn’t act to protect the timeline or the past; it merely acts to keep any nonsense spawned by Downtime strictly out of Uptime.

Still, there’s money in confirming historical data, particularly if you’re an academic institution with fat endowments and a hankering to get your hands on an original live performance of Doctor Faustus. Or your very own Christopher Marlowe, suitably dewormed and vaccinated and so forth. For that sort of thing, the TSO authorizes private contractors to go in, do the job, and come back.

The Smythe-Worthington Foundation is merely one of the more prestigious groups in that regard. With offices in London, New York, Athens, Beijing, and Buenos Aires, it specializes in filling in the holes of academic theorists. Want to see what crop yields were like in the Incan Empire? They can get you yearly photographs on select croplands. Need evidence that the Vikings visited New England? They’ll track down where the longboats beached themselves. Trying to prove linguistic shifts in Cantonese? They’ll bring back all the surreptitious audio coverage that you could want. Just be prepared to pay for the information. And not ask any more questions than the ones that you’ve already purchased the answers for.


  • qixlqatl says:

    I like it. Rather a lot, actually!

  • cuscutis says:

    Time travel here is also self funding. If you can bring objects back, for a price, anyone can have an authentic, if new, Mona Lisa, or the British Crown Jewels.

    You could bring Shakespeare back to the present more than once. what’s a plural of Shakespeares? A sonnet?

    Civil rights groups can get their own MLK or Malcolm X.

    Movie studios can bring back classic actors for ultimate remakes. John Wayne, James Dean, Jackie Chan and Steve McQueen are the Expendables!

    • Brian Swisher says:

      Mmm…that could wind up to be the equivalent of Spain crashing their economy by bringing in tons of gold from the New World…

      • cuscutis says:

        Probably, but you can keep switching what valuables you bring forward from commodities, like gold, to art that historically exists, to art custom made by the Dutch Masters, or DaVinci, to extinct creatures, like the Passenger Pigeon or the Moa, and back to commodities like Texas or Middle Eastern oil brought back from 20,000 years ago, or helium.

    • Moe_Lane says:

      There was a story once about a firm that specialized in grabbing historical figures and bringing them to the present day. They liked doing Isaac Newtons: all you had to do with *him* was bring along any random journal of physics and show him the table of contents.

      • acat says:

        Seem to remember one where they grabbed Abe Lincoln ..
        Never explained why someone in the future *wanted* Lincoln, just that they did and .. I recall, shortly after the climactic snatch, they dropped in a substitute a corpse “that’d pass what this time period uses as forensic medicine”.

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