Convergence the RPG now ran two weekends ago, and with many thanks to my wonderful players, who put up with my generalised panic at suddenly running a game entirely solo for more than twice the number of players I’ve ever handled alone before, it went great! Set a year or two after the book’s base timeframe, we followed the newly graduated chrononauts of 2368 as they were sent “back through time” to the Silversea Moonbase in 2149 to find out why disaster so nearly befell it on that 50th anniversary of its permanent habitation.
And there, they found what at least appeared to them to be evidence of a renegade time traveller… but this time, one who had no record whatsoever in Chronos’ vast temporal extent.
Now, Chronos is the incredibly complex supercomputer that permits the “time travel” of the chrononauts of the Temporal Institute. It has its own dedicated power plant, which is routinely taxed almost to its limits simply to send these intrepid adventurers “through” time. Chronos’ complex memory systems are also the only known way of preserving information from one timestate to another — and this is where all those quote marks come in, because they aren’t just air quotes or scare quotes, but reflect something much more fundamental.
(There follows a digression into the temporal mechanics of Convergence.)
Time, certainly in Convergence, is simply a fourth direction, a dimension we humans aren’t equipped to perceive in the same way as the others. Chronos essentially is. Designed to solve the full impossibly complex equations describing space and time, a science project on the level of our modern-day LHC, the result of “time travel” was, for the Temporal Institute, a happy and somewhat unintended side-effect of their success. But it’s not time travel as we might commonly think of it, entering a vehicle that drives along a metaphorical road to reach a point, its passengers consistent and intact throughout. It’s something altogether different, altogether less safe, and altogether stranger.
Time is an ocean in a storm. And Chronos draws lines across that tempestuous surface, fantastically curved lines that pass through whatever fixed points it has been given as constraints — but that may do almost anything in between them, provided that it remains temporally consistent. Thus, in the past, it is possible, though vanishingly improbable, that a small number of people might simply have appeared in an unobserved location. Chronos treats that improbability as a fixed point and converges (solving its fantastically complex equations through an iterative process) to a temporal solution containing both it and all other specified fixed points. Any individual unique solution is referred to as a timestate: a fully self-consistent, if unlikely, timeline stretching into past and future. Chronos then solves the equations a second time to enter a timestate in which those “same” people in the spatio-temporal location from which they came have the memories of the experiences in the past. (This process usually gives chrononauts a nasty headache and some degree of nausea.) Non-fixed points, however, may experience some degree of alteration in the process, and for this reason chrononauts routinely expect Chronos to inform them upon their “return” from each temporal jaunt that some elements of their personalities and pasts, though unchanged from their perspective, may be different to those in the previous timestate that Chronos occupied. Able to perceive each of these solved timestates, Chronos’ temporal breadth, and therefore its awareness and capabilities, are shaped by every existence it has ever linked itself to.
What does it mean to change the past just as much as the future with every action that you take, working blind in both directions? What does it mean to try and think in terms, not of our familiar river of time, but of a fantastically fluctuating surface of probability and potentiality?
Even many of the researchers of the Temporal Institute struggle to answer those questions…