Field Operatives are those select men and women who are judged competent enough to transfer back through time and interact with the bygoners, and must accompany any excursion into the past. They must be capable of acting outside the worldwide symb network, though they carry individual symb units about their person so that they can at least communicate with each other. The more important implication of being outside the symb network is that they are also out of reach of social preparation.

All Field Ops are registered by their ethnic appearance and are only permitted to travel to times and places where they will not seem out of place. A Field Op of Chinese descent will not be sent to London in the thirteenth century; a Caucasian Field Op won’t be sent to pre-colonial Africa. Field Ops learn the languages of their destination period through a viral injection, and a Field Op’s fieldsuit will have an agrav harness, giving the Op the power of flight if necessary; a symb unit; a self defence module, which can stun another human (all Ops are also trained in a blend of martial arts); a field computer (connecting by symb to its user’s mind); and the ability to alter its appearance and texture so as to blend in perfectly with its bygoner surroundings:

“The suit’s hood retracted into its collar as his body seemed to ripple for a moment, and then he was wearing dark trousers and a white jacket identical to those of the man he was supporting. Nor was it just an optical illusion: anyone who handled him would have the feel of the bygoner material transmitted into the nerves of their fingertips.”

In other words, a good Field Op is undetectable to the naked eye and any of the other human senses, and by most pre-Home Time technology.

The elite of the Field Ops are the Specifics, short for Specific Operations. Sometimes it just can’t be helped: a bygoner finds out about the Home Time, or at least picks up clues; someone might appear out of thin air in front of them, or disappear into it. Call the Specifics.

The moments around which the infraction happened will be:

“… edited into a separate stream, cleaned up, changed memories, wiped records, and then spliced the stream back into the alpha stream again. The bygoners will have a brief moment of déja vu when the streams merge, but that will be it, and to outside observers it’ll seem that no time passed at all … And just in case they miss out on any records, if there’s still something left, they’ll implant engrams that prevent the person who sees them from making any sense of them. Or even being interested in them. It works.”

Field Ops consider themselves the pinnacle of what the College has to offer, which means that if one of them falls from grace, it’s a long way down.