Book 1: The Fall of the Ministry
Chapter 1: How it works
The year is 2056. Time travel is regulated, as it always has been.
The first rule of time travel is that you never jump back, only forward. Jumping back was outlawed almost immediately by the Time Ministry. Nobody has ever been recorded going backwards. We call our timeline TØ and it's the only timeline that matters. Two representatives from all of the G26 make up the collective governing board of time travel and nobody jumps without their approval and of course, nobody jumps back.
You can think of our timeline, TØ, as a great filter. Once the timeline as we know it in 2056 reaches a date, everything behind that date is a neat and orderly line, never to be disturbed again. There are no deviations or alternatives. TØ is the event horizon. There are lots of possibilities ahead of us. We can change directions and outcomes. But now you can see why we never go back. We preserver TØ at all costs, lest we jeopardize everything.
Time travel couriers work in 6 day shifts (from their perspective). They jump three days ahead in the future from TØ and spend three days in isolation. Their experience is highly regulated. They are essentially prisoners. They port into a room and spend three days with nothing to do except exercise, eat and sleep. They are under strict information lockdown. Nobody is allowed to speak to them. It requires a certain kind of fortitude, for sure, but they are well compensated for their time.
On the occasion something does need to be sent back, the only information they receive comes from the Time Ministry. At the end of the three days if there has been a natural disaster the Time Ministry agrees on the information that the courier can take back to their jump-date to act as a warning. This information has four data points; What natural disaster occurred, where it occurred, when it occurred and how many people died. This information is provided in a sealed envelope which the couriers are not allowed to open.
When a courier comes back to their original jump date in TØ, they are under strict quarantine again. They hand over any envelope in their possession and wait another three days in lockdown until TØ+3 passes and they are now past the time they could possibly have any time-based insight.
This is the system we came up with to ensure our future is one free of natural disasters but also free of coercion from time travel. I know this system inside and out. I helped create it 20 years ago after time travel was first discovered.
Those early days were filled with the kinds of debates and arguments that become legend. At the time there was no rule we couldn't go backwards. There were no systems to mitigate against rogue couriers. There wasn't agreement on what type of information the G24 (now the G26) should be allowed to send back.
When time travel was discovered the world came to a standstill. Many wanted to destroy the technology and ban it outright. They believed it spelled only doom.
Thou seest Me as Time who kills,
Time who brings all to doom,
The Slayer Time, Ancient of Days, come hither to consume;
Excepting thee, of all these hosts of hostile chiefs arrayed,
There stands not one shall leave alive the battlefield!
But we humans have a forward gaze that is impossible to unlock. I feared our power, but I also knew the path we were on. The nations were in lock. They only way anyone could leverage time would be through a system we all agreed on. Time travel would have to be a tool used for humanitarian purposes. Mutually Assured Time. We could not bottle this power anymore than we could bottle gravity itself. Now unleashed, I was of the cohort that argued we had to harness its power but also fence it in and drip it out in a way that all of humanity could abide. If we, the powerful nations of the world, couldn't agree on this - then surely chaos would erupt. The hot war for control of time would surely be the last war ever fought.
I do have to admit, coming up with the rules around what information The Time Ministry could pass back still weighs on me. In the end we agreed to only send information around natural disasters or events where "no human choice played a role in the suffering." Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. We could prevent deaths from any of these. Terrorist attacks, assassinations, nuclear meltdowns - we knew that the G26 three days from TØ would never send warnings back about these. Humanity would still be on a knife's edge, but at least we knew it was an edge of our own making.
The system worked too. For the first 20 years we stopped precisely 1,245,632 reported deaths and countless suffering. I myself have never seen a death caused by natural disaster in the last 20 years. Obviously my TØ+3 self has seen plenty. Over a million to be precise. But every time there's a disaster, we get a note sent back with a courier to TØ with 3 days warning to evacuate the area and prepare. As TØ approaches the upcoming disaster, hardly a human can be found on site. The few deaths that have occurred are actually classified as suicides.
This is our world. It is not perfect, but it is orderly. The world has united around the single greatest weapon that could have existed and found a common use.
Chapter 2: One week as a courier
(Or what do you suggest?)