by “Wilgefortis,” faceless head of Emergency Ops
It will happen to you someday, Agent. You’ll go on Monitor mission after Monitor mission. Possibly, you will start to feel a little bit complacent about not being dead yet. The constant, gnawing fear will lessen its grip upon your heart.
And then the summons will come. A strange, black-bordered message will appear on your iDictaBrain, telling you to go to a certain room. You will try to close the message, to delay the inevitable, perhaps, or merely to finish your interface with your mother, or to complete that last level of Embrace the New Flesh 4. You will find that you cannot close the message. All iDicta functions will be locked until you report to us. This is to prevent you from attempting to flee.
We will all be masked. Forgive this little formality. Some of us are Agents, just like you. All of us have been Agents at one time. We would not send you on this sort of assignment if we had never done one like it ourselves. The Agent who sends you to your probable doom could be the very one who smiled at you the day before at the Lighthouse Canteen. This is important. We are of you, among you. We know, as much as one human being can know of another without Experiential Simware, what it is like to be you.
Please remember that this sort of mission is at the very heart of The Lighthouse’s remit. All of your Monitoring, all of Core’s analysis, is to make it easier to pinpoint the locus of crises when they occur, to find the place the Ripples start.
During your briefing, you will be told many things. Most of these things vary according to the particular crisis, but there is one piece of data you will always be given. This is the measurement, on the Hugo Scale, of how dire this particular crisis is. The Hugo Scale is named after Hugo Makewar, the first time traveler, because he is a major generator of these crises. But you will be briefed on Hugo Makewar in a later entry, and therefore I will not waste your time and mine by telling you more of him now.
Basically, the Hugo Scale measures the level of impact that some new action in the Past has had upon the Present Day. Note that. It measures difference. It makes no distinction between “good” change and “bad” change, because that is subjective. All Ripple-based change is treated as bad. We can’t have mad time travelers making a utopia of our fascinating and complex world, any more than we can allow them to trigger apocalypses.
There are six tiers of severity in the Hugo Scale. The different tiers impose different limits on Agent actions. This is to minimize the effects of your own actions as they themselves ripple through time. You’d look pretty silly if, in fixing a 1.7-Hugo problem, you created a 3.4-Hugo crisis! Your iDictaBrain is loaded with long lists of permissible interventions for all levels, but the following sample will give you an idea:
The Hugo Scale:
Impact on Present Day: Subtle and superficial differences in society
Intervention Level: Prevent x from meeting y; destruction of common, replaceable objects (ex: the mobile phone of a rogue time traveler)
Impact on Present Day: Deep shifts in social structure
Intervention Level: Break up marriage of x and y; destruction of rare or unique objects (ex: someone’s grandmother’s wedding dress)
Impact on Present Day: Unrecognizable geopolitics
Intervention Level: Make x and y disappear; destruction of small, famous objects (ex: The Mona Lisa)
Impact on Present Day: Unrecognizable world culture
Intervention Level: Make home town of x and y disappear (we suggest using some seemingly natural cause, such as flood, fire, or plague); destruction of landmarks (ex: St. Paul’s Cathedral)
Impact on Present Day: Alternate Dominant Species
Intervention Level: Destruction of cities, whole or partial (ex: the Fire of London in 1666). Murder of people on Protected List is now permissible.
Above 5 Hugos:
Lighthouse In Danger
Intervention Level: A loophole has been found in our Time-Shielding. You may be the last Agent we can send to deal with this crisis. Do whatever you have to do. Just get the job done.
You may be humanity’s last chance.