Infinite Worlds

Thirty years ago, former Dartmouth physicist Paul Van Zandt changed the world. Actually, he changed hundreds of them. He invented a parachronic projector, a machine that could send matter into another dimension, another timeline. The first world he discovered was “Earth- Beta,” almost identical to his own world, which he dubbed “Homeline.” But as he improved his technology and his survey techniques, he began to discover worlds where Rome never fell, or where America was a feudal kingdom. Some worlds, those on the same “quantum level” as Homeline, Quantum 5 (Q5), were easy to reach. Others, on Q4 and Q6, were slightly harder; Quantum 3 and Quantum 7 were downright difficult. However, Van Zandt persevered, and built up a small team of daring assistants who helped him map 23 more universes.

He funded further research with profits from trading between worlds, an undertaking he formalized with White Star Trading. In 1998, Van Zandt revealed his discovery of parachronic travel to the public, and revealed a secret to the U.N. Security Council. Whatever the secret was, it halted demands for his technology to be nationalized, militarized, or destroyed. Instead, the Security Council established the United Nations Interworld Council (UNIC) from its own membership, which chartered a new corporation, Infinity Unlimited (often shortened to “Infinity” by the media). Van Zandt became CEO of Infinity, and UNIC added its own bureaucrats to the board. The Interworld Treaty, which chartered Infinity, required that Infinity work to “better the lot” of the other worlds it explored and exploited. To that end, and possibly to counter the threat Van Zandt revealed to the Security Council, Van Zandt created the Infinity Patrol.

The Infinity Patrol, like all of Infinity, is specifically chartered by the U.N. Security Council. It has a unified command with an existence independent of any given mission, and so resembles a private security force more than a multinational peacekeeping task force. In practice, the Patrol is a supranational paramilitary agency under Infinity’s control, dedicated to protecting Homeline, The Secret, Infinity, and the unknowing innocents of other worlds, in roughly that order. Patrol facilities, like all Infinity property, are considered “U.N. soil,” and cannot be searched or seized without violating international law. By its charter, it must “keep the peace, and preserve the smooth operation of interdimensional travel for the good of all mankind.” This translates, for Infinity Unlimited and the Patrol alike, as “ride herd on everyone else with a conveyor, keep Homeline problems on Homeline, and do well by doing good in the meantime.”

This was hard enough when the Patrol thought itself alone in the continuum, but nine years ago, Corporate Security captured an intruder in a secret Infinity facility on the Quantum 6 world Turkana. He turned out to be from another cross-dimensional paramilitary organization, the Interworld Service, of a crosstime civilization called Centrum. Centrum was aggressive, competent, and devoted to spreading its own hierarchical system across the worlds. Fortunately, Centrum was on Quantum 8; it could not reach Homeline and neither could Homeline reach Centrum. The quanta between became battlegrounds, especially the Q6 “echoes,” worlds that mirrored Homeline history exactly. Centrum could, and did, shift many of those echoes out of Quantum 6 and into quanta inaccessible to Homeline. The infinity war had begun, and the Patrol had a new set of missions.

Interworld Special Weapons and Tactics (ISWAT) doesn’t exist, at least officially. Its agents are all on the books as Patrolmen, assigned to various out-of-the way parallels, extended training missions, or nebulous headquarters duties. Its Director isn’t even on the Infinity payroll, which is understandable, even a casual auditor would notice a name like “Otto Skorzeny.” Recruited from a Hapsburg prison camp on Aeolus, ISWAT’s Skorzeny combines his parallel selves’ genius for small-unit tactics and leadership with an astonishing degree of street-fighting political guile in the service of individual rights and opportunities. He has moved mountains to lift Infinity restrictions on outtime recruitment, at least for his own teams, and they remain fiercely loyal to him and ISWAT as a result. Well over half of ISWAT’s operatives (the total number is classified, but there are probably fewer than 100, five to seven man squads, on the active duty list) are outtimers from all walks of life.

Some of them, like Skorzeny, are “résumé recruits” picked based on their parallel selves’ skills. Some are locals who come to the notice of Patrolmen in some way, usually involving meritorious service or astonishing ability. A few are outtimers who stumble onto ISWAT operations and manage to find their way to Homeline, or to one of the covert financial, military, or technical facilities ISWAT maintains across the parallels. To Skorzeny, such cleverness and drive far outweighs any possible damage to The Secret; anyone smart enough to find his people is someone to be recruited, not dumped on Coventry to waste their skills forever.

A solid cadre of ISWAT operatives are Patrolmen, of course, those with a record of toughness, creativity, flexibility, and (most importantly) luck. Skorzeny is fond of saying “I can train someone to do anything in the world, except be unlucky enough to find trouble, and lucky enough to survive it.” His record speaks for itself; ISWAT operatives receive training comparable to the most rigorous special ops units on Homeline, with the equivalent of a doctorate or two in history or anthropology on top of it. As it happens, a number of special ops soldiers, and not a few history professors, also find their way to ISWAT’s roster. Patrol rumor claims that ISWAT has gods, sorcerers, vampires, aliens, superheroes, and angels in its ranks.

ISWAT specializes in operations on closed worlds, weird parallels, and pocket multiverses, and routinely performs high-priority but deniable missions that can determine the fate of entire worlds. Many ISWAT operatives have magical, psionic, or other means of traveling between worlds, they don’t always like to announce themselves with a burst of parachronic energy. Some of the crises it faces are urgent and overwhelming: rogue AIs trying to undermine consensus reality, amphichronous invasions from antimatter universes, kidnappers hijacking Charon’s boat and holding an entire Earth’s afterlives hostage, and sentient psychoses spreading themselves through parallel worlds in dreams. Others are just plain strange. In the intervals between cosmos-threatening disasters, ISWAT takes on simpler tasks like overthrowing corrupt empires, stealing or destroying irreplaceable evil magic artifacts, killing immortals, and capturing invulnerable fortresses. When they’re not doing that, they’re training.

Training, where at all possible, happens in the field, on lower-priority “feel-good” missions. Skorzeny has a particular love of sabotaging, subverting, or otherwise hampering Nazi Germanies everywhere in the continuum. A fierce democrat and rugged individualist, the Director despises his Nazi “twins” and what he calls their “corrupt toadying cynicism,” and even his “Teutonic efficiency” recoils at the inhuman waste that Nazi ideology represents. Hence, he prefers “live fire” training that just happens to take place on Reich-2 or any other world where “You five go destroy every vehicle in that Nazi airbase, and kill anyone who tries to stop you” can be a valid rule of engagement. Political corruption, social engineering, economic manipulation, and any other dirty trick Skorzeny or his brain trust can come up with gets tested to destruction against totalitarian regimes across the parallels on training mission after training mission. These lengthy and repeated exposures to fascism from the inside also have the happy side effect of inspiring ISWAT recruits into an appreciation for individual freedom that they may not have had when they left their home parallel.

This appreciation sometimes extends, a little too rowdily, into their “shore leave.” ISWAT personnel officers try to select cities and timelines where a week long melee might actually improve things locally, parallel Port Royals or Cripple Creeks for instance, and let an entire team take their leave together. Camaraderie forged on the battlefield is annealed in the barroom or brothel, and a minimum of harm is done to the peace-loving citizens of other parallels for whom ISWAT labors. Some teams prefer slightly more elevated shore leave policies; in general, initiative in selecting leave gets rewarded.

Infinite Worlds Glossary

Alternate Any timeline except the original Earth. Also “alternate world.”
Anchor An echo that does not experience a quantum shift when “history is changed.”
Armanen Order The secret order in Reich-5’s SS that has discovered parachronics.
Autochrones Natives of a timeline, as opposed to outtime visitors or colonists; called “’chrones” and “locals” in Patrol slang.
Banestorm A natural phenomenon that moves living beings between worlds.
Cabal, The A secret organization of magicians and monsters using magical dimension travel.
Centrum A rival civilization with the ability to travel between worlds. A “Centran” is a native or agent of Centrum.
Cliodynamics The scientific study of historical change, especially useful for altering histories in a desired direction.
Conveyor A self-propelled device for traveling between alternate worlds.
Coventry An alternate world maintained by the Infinity Patrol as a prison for those – both Homeliners and outtimers – who Know Too Much.
Dimensional Highway A road between worlds, natural, magical, or artificial.
Echo An alternate world which is – or appears to be – identical to ours, but at an earlier point in its history.
Eraser A memory-affecting drug used by I-Cops and others to keep The Secret of parachronic travel.
Eyes, The Patrol slang for Internal Affairs.
Hell Parallel A worldline mostly or entirely emptied of humanity by a disaster or holocaust.
Homeboy In Patrol slang, anybody from one’s own world of origin.
Homeline The original Earth of Paul Van Zandt and the Infinity Patrol.
I-Cop An agent of the Infinity Patrol’s Intervention Service.
Infinity Patrol The paramilitary arm of Infinity Unlimited.
Infinity Unlimited Often just “Infinity”; private corporation that controls parachronic technology as a monopoly and governs access to alternate timelines.
Interworld Service Also I.S., or “Interworld,” the Centran equivalent to the Infinity Patrol.
Kern From the German for “kernel,” a safe-house used by Armanen Order operatives. Plural: Kerne.
Local In Patrol slang, native to the timeline.
Memetics The study of ideas and their transmission and change, a back-formation from “genetics.” Not yet fully accepted as a science.
Mule Armanen Order slang for a world-jumper, especially one created artificially by Nazi science.
Nexer A Patrol agent from the Nexus Oversight Division.
Nexus Portal A “natural” path between alternate worlds.
Oneliner Someone who never leaves his home timeline, especially a Homeline “civilian.”
Outstairs Patrol slang for Homeline higher-ups. “Those dimwits Outstairs expect us to stop the Visigoths with nothing but Scotch tape and puppet shows.”
Outtime A world other than the speaker’s own; usually means any other world besides Homeline.
Outtimer Anyone from a different world from the speaker; hence, a Patrol agent is an “outtimer” on Caliph, but a citizen of Caliph would be an “outtimer” on Homeline.
Parachronics The study of alternate worlds. More specifically, the study of why alternate worlds exist, and how travel between them is possible.
Parachronozoid A creature with a natural worldjumping ability.
Parallel An alternate world that differs from ours only in that its history has been different (some are very different). A “close parallel” is different as the result of one identifiable historical change.
Pile, the Patrol Headquarters.
Portal Dimension A location that connects to many (or even all) alternate worlds or dimensions.
Projector A device that can send a conveyor across quanta.
Quantum An “energy level” in 8-dimensional space that contains many alternate timelines. Quantum levels are often abbreviated; e.g., Q7 for Quantum 7.
Quantum Sargasso A worldline that cannot be left using parachronics.
Reality Quake A parachronic upheaval that buries some or all of an alternate’s history beneath a new one.
Reality Shard A fragment of a previous past thrown up by a reality quake.
Reality Vanish The worldline that supposedly “eats” vanished probes and missions.
Scout An agent of the Infinity Patrol’s Penetration Service.
The Secret The fact that technological crossworld travel is possible. Outtimers are not supposed to learn this, unless recruited by Infinity. Interworld doesn’t bother keeping The Secret on primitive worlds.
Shiftrealm A location that travels between worldlines, from “ghost ships” to whole forests or islands.
Skerry A collection of nearby timelines sharing a common element (i.e., an ongoing WWII, a basis in the fiction of Robert Heinlein).
Swagman A member of a loose fraternity of crosstime grifters.
Timeline Another term for an alternate world.
Trod A magical dimensional highway, usually used by faeries. Most trods run between forests.
UNIC United Nations Interworld Council, the U.N. body officially charged with overseeing parachronics and Infinity.
Vanish It Literally, “send it to a nonexistent reality”; Patrol slang expression meaning, roughly, “to Hell with it.”
Weird Parallel An alternate world that has many similarities to our own, but also has differences that make these similarities seem unbelievable (such as
the world where intelligent reptiles speak English).
Zero Point The term for a location that has been “zeroed” – properly calibrated – for a safe conveyor jump between two specific dimensions.

Infinite Worlds

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