Since the days of mill ponds and dams, people have sought to harness natural flows for the purpose of generating electricity. From water to wind, tides to hot springs, atoms cracked to atoms fused, they were all tried. It wasn’t until a conceptual leap that serious investigation began into harnessing the most powerful flow of all.

The flow of time.

Time’s arrow, it seems, can be made to do useful work generating electricity. This would seem to violate the laws of thermodynamics, but one couldn’t argue with the results: electricity apparently generated pollution-free and in vast quantities. Temporal power sparked a revolution in standards of living and global environmentalism: freed from the constraints of energy and natural resources that had so ravaged the earth, a golden age of enlightenment began.

But there was a price.

The apparent violation of the laws of thermodynamics, the contradiction of the tendency toward greater chaos and equilibrium in the form of the heat-death of the universe, assumed a closed system in which energy could not escape from or be introduced into the universe. This was correct, but theoreticians had failed to realize that the conservation of energy was true over time as well: temporal power was not, in fact, generating power at all, despite metaphors comparing it to old hydroelectric generators. It was transferring energy from other points in time to the present.

Temporal pollution began subtly. Suddenly the history books began to mention cooler summers and longer winters here and there. There were mentions in Egyptian heiroglyphs of days on which fires failed to light and the sun gave off a cold light. The implication was clear: irregularly, across time and space, energy was being drained. And with that drain, and the resulting changes to the timeline before and after, the possibility of collapse or paradox increased.

And yet, with the world now addicted to the “unlimited” and “clean” temporal power, there seemed to be little anyone could do to stop the chain of events that had been set in motion, even with knowledge of the horrifying endpoint to which it was leading.

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