D6 Infinite Worlds
In the year 1995, Dr. Paul Van Zandt, a physics professor, built the first working parachronic projector and used it to visit the timeline that became known as Earth-Beta, or simply Beta. He concealed his observations and continued his experiments. Six months later, following a mysterious fire that destroyed his Dartmouth laboratory, he resigned from teaching to set up a “consulting” firm.
In fact, Van Zandt had simply freed himself to continue his experiments without the supervision of academia – or of the Department of Defense, which had supplied grant money for his original project. Over the next few years, he refined his theories, contacted 23 more universes, and personally visited six alternate Earths. He also secretly gathered a number of trusted aides, the nucleus of the group that would become Infinity Unlimited. And he founded White Star Trading, an interworld trading corporation, to finance further experiments.
In February 1998, Van Zandt made headlines by publishing his results – and by formally incorporating Infinity Unlimited, with subsidiaries including White Star Trading, Parachronic Laboratories, and Infinity Development. Furthermore, Van Zandt offered to license his designs to any government or corporation interested in crosstime travel.
Naturally, governments were outraged. The U.S. Congress immediately moved to nationalize and classify all parachronic technology. The Japanese, European, Chinese, and Russian governments all called for its internationalization and suppression.
The next day, Van Zandt addressed a closed session of the U.N. Security Council. No one knows what he said, but the world powers accepted his proposal . . . within certain limits.
Infinity Unlimited was organized as a corporation whose formal partners were the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Van Zandt retained the position of first CEO, but Security Council-appointed bureaucrats also sat on its board. Infinity Unlimited’s charter was rewritten to keep control of the basic technology firmly in its hands.
Van Zandt won a key victory – almost unnoticed at the time – when he resolved a budget dispute by suggesting that Infinity Unlimited would be largely self-funding: after an initial infusion of funds, it would be “forced” to rely on profits from licensing parachronic technology. Many politicians were pleased that Infinity would not drain resources from the United Nations’ limited funds, and believed this would serve as a cap on the organization’s power. Few in the United Nations or the world appreciated, then, the true potential of the parachronic secret: Infinite worlds, infinite wealth.
Infinity also received its own security organization, which Van Zandt insisted on calling the “Infinity Patrol.” Initially small, and limited to protecting Infinity’s exploration teams and installations, its role and power would expand dramatically over time.
It took time for the economic and political ramifications to sink in, but the revelation that the Earth existed within a potentially infinite series of alternate worlds shook the foundations of human belief. Science, religion, even the nature of identity was called into question. But some people adapted quickly (others still haven’t), and many saw opportunities.
Soon, groups of intrepid explorers were probing the dimensions, led by the vanguard of Infinity Unlimited’s Penetration Service: elite “time scouts” that the corporation recruited for its perilous first-contact missions. Trade opened with dozens of worlds. Natural resources flowed in from the untouched ore deposits of uninhabited alternate Earths. On the world that came to be known as “Homeline,” the environment began to recover as the worst industrial wastes – and the most polluting industries – were sent to dead worlds already blighted beyond anything mankind could do. Political intrigues continued . . . but the economy of Homeline was no longer one of desperate scarcity.
Van Zandt retired immediately. “I plan to devote the rest of my life to travel and study,” he said, “and I’m never going to touch a soldering iron again.”
For a little while, it looked like the start of a utopia, at least for Homeline. And then the worm peeked out of the multidimensional apple: Centrum, a different reality-spanning culture, with its own ideas of what a utopia should look like.
Suddenly, infinite worlds meant infinite trouble . . .
The Interworld Treaty was ratified by most (but not all) U.N. member states. It represented a compromise between the interests of large and small states – and between business interests (championed by an uneasy alliance between Van Zandt and the United States) and U.N. and government bureaucrats. The treaty created a framework that was intended to prevent a “neo-colonial” land rush, limit the ability of governments to deploy military forces crosstime, and permit (but regulate) the commercial exploitation of certain worlds, while preventing cross cultural disasters.
The most significant effect of the treaty was to centralize most power in Infinity Unlimited, while ensuring that checks and balances existed that would give the U.N. Security Council – and to a lesser extent, the U.N. Secretary General – a degree of oversight. It works . . . at least, some of the time.