Federation Temporal Observation Probe 47
Relative Date: <REDACTED>
Reporting to Temporal Integrity Commission facility: <REDACTED>
Incident: Temporal distortion detected in the Ciri system on Stardate 52516.43
Status: Analysing incident.
He watched as a stream of flame arced off the surface of the star flicking into space. It dispersed as it stretched away from the star, disappearing as if it never existed. It was an almost hypnotic dance that played across the star as it produced the massive amounts of energy from the reactions within.
Suddenly the entire surface of the star rippled as if it were a still pond disturbed by a dropped stone. The star exploded outwards as the bonds that had kept the violent reactions within suddenly broke. The destruction it unleashed expanded rapidly, consuming everything that had been trapped within the star’s influence.
As if he was pushed back by the force he found himself deeper in space. In the distance the bright point of light that had been the star started to fade to nothing. Its neighbours flared brilliantly as they too exploded. As if by chain reaction the annihilation spread like an out of control bush fire. In an impossibly short time the entire galaxy was dark.
The Harbinger opened his eyes casting the vision from his sight. It was replaced with the solid sight of carved stone within his shrine. There was no one before him, but he was not alone.
“My dreams are haunted by the most terrible things, Turan.”
“You dream?” came a reply from his right.
The Harbinger turned his head to his faithful and loyal servant.
“Does that surprise you?” he asked.
“I cannot fathom what a god would dream about. Plus you have said you do not sleep.”
The Harbinger chuckled. “So I have. And I don’t sleep, at least not in a way you would understand. However, when I close my eyes what I’ve seen returns to me.”
“To see all that will be and that can be must be difficult. The pain and death of existence, but there would also be the joy of life lived.”
“Yes, the good can often outweigh the bad. However, what I have seen is…immeasurable.”
“Is the village in danger?” asked Turan concerned.
“Everything is in danger.”
“Are you…prophesising the end of the world?” Turan spoke softly as if the mere mention of such a thing might spur it into existence.
“It is far worse. It’s the end of everything.”
Unsurprisingly Turan was silenced by the revelation. Turan by his very nature and experience had little knowledge of the wider universe, in fact few individuals could truly grasp the enormity of existence. He would be limited to the more immediate surroundings, such as the village, but the idea of ‘everything’ was not lost on him.
“However, I have the power to do something about what I have seen,” the Harbinger continued. “To change things. However, I am faced with the moral question: should I? Do I have the right to decide what is best for all?”
“You have changed things in the past, Harbinger. You have saved numerous lives. I would not exist if you did not save my grandparents and so many others by warning of the harsh winter that was to come all those decades ago.”
“I simply passed on knowledge to others and let them decide their own fates. This is different. I will be directly making a decision.”
“What decision if you permit me to ask?”
“Whether someone lives or dies in the past.”
“I thought you said you cannot change the past,” replied Turan intrigued.
“At one point that was true. It is something I am…reluctant to admit. If the people knew the truth, they would be demanding that I fix any and all problems. They would lose the importance of consequences. And while I can change the past, it is not simple. I cannot be sure that it would get the result wanted and not make things worse. So while they may not fear the consequences, I must.”
“So you have done so in the past? Changed things?” asked Turan.
The Harbinger nodded. “Nothing significant,” he replied, though he left out that it was not for a lack of trying. “As I said, it is difficult and takes much preparation. It isn’t something I can just snap my fingers and do, which is again another reason why I have kept it a secret even from those I trust the most.”
He placed a hand on Turan’s shoulder to reassure that he still trusted the man. Turan bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement of the gesture.
“Allow me to be callous, Harbinger. What is one life versus those of the entire village? Or the entire world and even beyond?”
“The lesser of two evils as you would.”
Turan nodded in affirmation. “Exactly. Though I suspect you have already made up your mind to do so.”
He gave Turan a perplexed look. “Why do you think that?”
“I have served by your side for long enough to know when you simply want to use me as a, how do you put it? A sounding board.”
He chuckled. Turan was correct. He had made up his mind some time ago. He had understated what it took to be able to manipulate the past and preparations had begun far earlier than the start of this conversation. He was ready to commit the act now and Turan had said what he wanted to hear.
“We have been together for a long time. I know what I must do. I will be in the Sanctum.”
Turan bowed reverently. “I will await your return, Harbinger.”
With a thought the Harbinger left the shrine and arrived in the Sanctum. It was not the original name for the space he found himself in, but its former designation had little to do with its function now. Now it was a place of purpose. A place of destiny.
He gestured around him as he made preparations. It was a ritual he had come about simply to make sure he had everything ready. No doubt the villagers would see some holy reason for what he was doing rather than what it really was: a habit. Though it wasn’t like they would understand the reality of what he was doing either. It was beyond them.
He walked to his ‘Altar of Time’, which was a grandiose name for what it actually was. He did not need to interact with it, but he liked to, again out of habit. He reached out and pressed his palm to it. There was no going back now.
The Harbinger’s surrounds melted away as if it was just a watercolour that was exposed to the rain. The solidity of reality gave way to something that remained fantastical regardless of the many, many years he had experienced it. He found himself in a flowing multi-coloured fog. The ethereal fog was all around him and seemed to be both coming from nowhere and going nowhere.
Seemingly flying or swimming through this were brightly coloured wisps of light. They appeared and disappeared randomly. Despite all this movement around him he felt nothing. It enclosed him, but was removed. There was only one way he could describe where he was: he was in the time stream.
Before he had become the Harbinger he had committed himself to a rash action. It was born out of a madness driven by a seemingly endless amount of time. The action, while foolish, had granted him this opportunity. Now he found himself with access to time, though he doubted he would ever have enough of it to fully understand it. He raised his arm and the flow of time split around him, never touching him as if he had an invisible shield to deflect it. One of the wisps appeared near his raised hand. It looked like it may touch him, but it just lazily coursed around him. He knew that what seemed like interference was not. His presence here was meaningless to time.
While time had no interest in interacting with him, he could interact with it. Or at least with the wisps. He could reach out and not so much capture one, but focus on it. It would be held in front of him and allowed him to inspect it closer.
What looked like a snaking beam of light was actually an impossibly complex web of pulsating threads or tendrils. These tendrils were individuals, cultures, stars, even technological creations. These threads were not static, but always in motion, growing, shrinking, appearing or merging with others. It made it impossible to understand the makeup of these wisps. The Harbinger’s best answer to the way there were was that it was simply the way they were.
The one he was looking for was one he had seen before, which always made it easier to find. He had stumbled on it by accident while simply experiencing time. Within was a tendril that came to a strange end. The end burned bright like an ember. It was unique amongst all the others he had seen. He had experienced it at its end. What he saw haunted him. It was this that he had come to change. He would break the tendril early and prevent the future he had seen.
How to do that was a bigger problem. He generally could only experience past and future events as a spectre, unable to interact with anything or anyone. However, he had found a way to go beyond. It was simply a matter of power and the application on what seemed to be weak spots in time. These were points where time seemed more malleable. He again had divined next to nothing as to why a moment was weaker to manipulation. It seemed random. He was going to use one of these pressure points to break the tendril. He reached out with his right hand and traced along the thread, not touching it, until he found the point he was looking for.
The fluidity of the time stream dispersed and revealed the firmness of reality. The Harbinger found himself in a dimly lit space. Despite being a fairly nondescript storage area he knew where he was. He was in a facility on a planet he had never really visited or even heard of before, but he knew the name from those he observed. This was Kolbiad. More importantly this was the past.
He had arrived on Kolbiad during a time of crisis. An alien force had attacked the planet and destroyed the planet’s supplies of a critical resource. The population was in panic, civil order had broken down and martial law was in place. It was an incident of importance to the populous, but galactically speaking it was meaningless. However, the event had drawn in a being of importance.
As if on cue the being walked in front of the Harbinger. Like the Harbinger, he was an alien to this world. He was part of the force guarding this facility, which was one of the few remaining store houses of the critical resource. He was young and inexperienced in the military force he served in. The stress of the situation was writ large on his face and it was difficult to imagine that this being would play a role in the future the Harbinger had seen. The Harbinger knew the being’s name, but his own sense of grandiose had seen him label the being as ‘the Destroyer’. It also helped to distance him from the task he had to accomplish.
The Destroyer was checking the room and his lack of experience was showing. What the Destroyer would fail to notice is that there had been a breach to the security of this facility and in this room there were criminals hiding amongst the clutter. They had come to steal some of the resource for themselves. They lacked the strength to take it purely by force and were relying, successfully, on stealth.
This had happened around ten years ago relative to when the Harbinger entered. This was how he knew that the Destroyer would check, fail to notice the breach and return to the rest of the guards. The criminals would succeed in stealing some of the resources and to affect their escape they would stir the crowd that had gathered outside the main entrance to the facility into a frenzy. The situation would quickly spiral out of control and it would result in the deaths of guards and those in the crowd. However, the Destroyer would survive.
The Harbinger moved to one of the hidden criminals. He had his weapon trained on the Destroyer, ready to kill him if need be, but he would not. The Harbinger could not press the trigger himself. He simply did not have the strength to physically interact in such a manner. However, he had enough power for one thing.
The Harbinger knelt by the criminal, leaned in to his ear and spoke what might be the most important word in his life.
The man jerked and his weapon fired. The blast struck the Destroyer in the upper torso. The Destroyer fell. The criminals burst from their hiding place in panic. Harsh words were exchanged between some and the shooter, who was confused as to why he had fired and was trying to explain it.
The Harbinger walked to where the Destroyer lay, a large wound on the left side of his chest. He was staring up at the ceiling. His face a mix of confusion, shock and pain. His open and twitching mouth looked as if he was trying to talk, but it was more likely he was simply struggling to breathe. He looked into the dying man’s wide eyes. They seemed to be looking directly back at him, though that was impossible. The Destroyer’s efforts to breathe slowed and his eye lids started to draw down. They closed completely and that was followed quickly by the cessation of all movement.
As with his previous manipulations everything around the Harbinger suddenly was washed away. He found himself back in the time stream, his hand hovering just off the tendril. Forward of that point it started to dissolve as time was rewritten. Now there was a clean end to the tendril at the point in time he had visited. He had changed the future.
“It is done,” he stated solemnly.
He took no pleasure in doing what he did. The moral questions about killing a person based on what they might do were trying to force themselves to the forefront of his mind. He pushed them away with the assertion that too much had been at stake. In the end the mere possibility of that future made the sacrifice necessary.
Suddenly the tendril whipped and attached itself to his finger tip causing him to yelp in surprise. He also felt something else, something he had not felt in so long it had become almost completely foreign: pain. He shouldn’t have been able to feel pain, he shouldn’t be able to feel anything because he was not physically here. The Harbinger had little time to ponder the issue as he realised that despite trying to pull away, his right hand had not moved. He was attached to the wisp.
A burning sensation started to spread down his finger. Before the Harbinger’s eyes he saw veins of the pulsating colour of the tendril spreading down his finger. As it hit his finger’s first joint it exploded out, spreading across his right hand and up his other fingers. He grabbed at his wrist to try and pull away. Despite his efforts he was unable to budge his hand.
He could feel the heat under his left palm as the tendril spread past his wrist. He suddenly realised it was not the heat under his hand, but within. From his palm the burning veins wrapped around to the back of his left hand. He let go of his wrist and held his hand before him and watched as the veins of fire engulfed his other hand and started their journey up his left arm.
He lashed out at the wisp. His own sense of self-preservation overruling concerns of any damage to the wisp and the time it contained. No matter what he grabbed, pushed or pulled, nothing happened. He could not wrestle free of the wisp’s spreading grasp. Rather it seemed to speed up the process.
He let out an anguished groan as his arms felt like they were aflame under his skin. He was driven to his knees by the pain and the futility of his attempts to free himself. If not for his right hand being held in place where it joined with the tendril he would have collapsed to the floor entirely. His breathing was fast and heavy, his teeth clenched in pain. He saw the veins of fire rapidly advancing towards his shoulder. He strained his neck away futilely.
The veins spread to his shoulder and then his neck. He soon felt them burning their way into his head. He was shaking his head in panic, trying to somehow dislodge the coursing fire under his skin. It reached his eyes and his vision was obscured by burning bright light. The Harbinger threw back his head and screamed in agony as his entire being was consumed by the fire.
Suddenly the Harbinger found himself in space. Below him floated the world that had housed him for so long. A large, grey shape appeared over the planetary horizon and approached him. Or he approached it, he couldn’t tell. It was a space vessel of some kind that had situated itself in the planet’s orbit.
As he floated over the hull he saw large black shapes at the front of the vessel that he recognised as the script of one of the region’s dominant powers. He passed over the very last of these figures that he identified as the first letter of their alphabet. He continued to travel, passing through the hull and onto what he guessed would be the vessel’s command centre. There at the centre of it, in a position of authority, was a man who should not have been there.
“I am Captain Jonathan Masters of the Federation starship Swiftfire,” said the man to someone behind the Harbinger.
“No. It cannot be,” the Harbinger pleaded.
He was older than when the Harbinger last saw him in the dark storage room a few moments before. However, the face and the name were unmistakably those of the Destroyer.
“I look forward to meeting you,” came a reply from behind the Harbinger. Enthralled by the image of the Destroyer alive and well the Harbinger took a second before he recognised the voice as that of Turan.
He turned and found himself somewhere else. Beside him was Turan, appearing no different from when the Harbinger had left him in the temple. Turan was staring up at the imposing mountain that held the Harbinger’s temple with a look of concern and fear. The Harbinger turned his eyes to the mountain just in time to see a beam of golden light fall from above, striking the rock. The side of the mountain erupted violently as more golden fire rained down. Massive boulders were launched into the sky as the imposing monument of nature was torn asunder.
He was suddenly back in space and before him drifted the world. It was shattered. From almost pole to pole it was cracked open, with massive chucks ejected into space. All atmosphere, water, all life was gone from the world. The world was dead.
Then there was darkness.
Suddenly the Harbinger was back in the real world. The bright lights and stark surrounds of his Sanctum filled his vision. He collapsed to the floor, landing on his hands and knees. His body felt ravaged. He dry heaved, though he knew he could not vomit. This was another sensation that had long since become unfamiliar. It had now returned with a vengeance.
The feeling slowly started to fade. As it did it allowed him to focus on something other than his discomfort. His mind was filled with the images he had just seen. He had succeeded in changing the future, but just not how he had intended. By some cruel twist of fate, or maybe just cosmic irony, instead of killing the Destroyer he had set him on a course here. He had set in motions the end of the world.
“What have I done?”
Temporal Observation Probe 47
Analysis complete: Temporal incursion confirmed by subject “Harbinger”.
Confirmation of timeline alterations compared to temporally protected records.
Impact on timeline: Negligible.
Suggested Course of Action: No upstream intervention required due to self-correction.
Transmission of full report to <REDACTED> complete.
Status: Continuing to monitor subject for additional incursions.