Challenge #01991-E167: Unobtrusive Observation

in fiction •  10 months ago


Time you can visit. all you can take is pictures, all you can leave is footprints. -- Anon Guest

There are rules to time travel. Some are invented on the fly, others make more sense than that. First and foremost is no excessive interaction. One cannot, for example, go back in time to tell Freddie Mercury or David Bowie how influential they become. Especially towards the start of their careers. One cannot also travel back in time and leave an iPhone in Steve Jobs' office.

One cannot also go back and take things unless they are famous for going missing. Even then, a duplicate must be fabricated and left in its place. Filled with tracing agents in case the object is ever found again.

In time travel, information is the most valuable treasure. What happened to the relics of the past is more important than the relics themselves. Of course, recovering them is a bonus, but knowing is more than half the battle against the sum tides of ignorance and spite.

And foremost: The further back one goes, the less one can do. The far-reaching ramifications of a footprint in the wrong kind of sediment are too much to risk. The face of science itself can be permanently damaged by the footprints or bootprints of a homosapien millennia before homosapiens existed.

They say, Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints. But there are some areas of temporal exploration where even footprints are forbidden. Which is why the self-effacing probe was invented. Carefully constructed of organic compounds wherever possible, if destroyed in the distant past, it would leave no trace of its existence. It would be digested by assorted microfauna, and the minerals necessary for its circuits would merely become traces in the strata. Nothing large enough to cause alarm in anyone at any time.

In more civilised areas, pets are the probes. Nanomachines hijack feeds from their eyes and ears, and secret receivers record any and all data.

Many an important event has been documented because a cat can look at a king.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / budabar]

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