The division of the College that contributes the most to Home Time society … and the one that most people in the Home Time care not to think about. After the Field Ops, Correspondents are the other type of people who travel into the past … but for them, it’s a one-way journey.
Correspondents are taken from the failures of Home Time society: this is their last opportunity to contribute, by going back into the past and reporting on what they see first hand. An incidental spin-off benefit is that they report on suitable transference sites for Field Ops to use, but they don’t know that. Their main use is to provide the data that is used by the Home Time’s entertainment industry to keep 20 billion people happy; but they don’t know that, either.
Nowadays, people are only taken into the Correspondents Programme when all other options have failed, and even then they must pass rigorous psychiatric testing to make sure that their reconditioning will hold. It was not always so: a darker time in the earlier days of the Correspondents Programme is described in the short story Correspondents.
To survive indefinitely in the past, and to be able to carry out their duties, Correspondents’ bodies are extensively re-engineered:
“Provided he avoided immediate trauma and kept himself in more or less one piece, his body could overcome virtually any threat to it from war or disease, and regenerate itself indefinitely. He was packed full of added organic components and possessed skills and senses that evolution had never given Homo sapiens and never would: he could even remould his features if desired, given a day or so to himself. At the moment, he appeared like any other man of the region in his mid thirties.”
Their memories are wiped and one or two false memories are specifically implanted. Wingèd Chariot opens with a Correspondent, designated RC/1029, arriving near Isfahan, Persia. He has little memory of where he came from, but he knows his function: to report:
“First he put in the straightforward sensory data of the day. The air, unpolluted but also hot and dusty. The terrain, tough and unyielding, only just begrudging a living to the locals. The precise temperature, the precise shade of blue of the sky, the precise texture of the rock and the sand…
When the report was finished, he breathed a sigh. His first! Now it just needed filing. The moon was up, so…
He thought, and a tone that only he could hear sounded in his head. “RC/1029, stand by,” said a voice. Then, “RC/1029, transmit.” He thought again and in a couple of seconds it was over.
“Report received, RC/1029,” said the voice.
His first report was filed. A big moment! He got out of bed and strolled over to the window to look at the moon. Somewhere up there was the station, awaiting retrieval by those who had put it there, centuries from now. It was comforting to consider. He had no doubt that sooner or later in his career he would feel very lonely and it would be good to know that up there was something else from the future. A link to the Home Time. As long as the moon was up, he would be able to make contact with it. That was another item in the innate knowledge he had brought back with him.
He had a thousand years to go before he could return to the Home Time. In a thousand years time, in the twenty first century, the world would be sufficiently advanced technologically that the Home Time could send the recall equipment back without it appearing anachronistic. A thousand years until Recall Day. No doubt he had had his reasons for volunteering for this assignment, but thinking about it now, it did seem rather a long time.”
Much of this might seem at variance with the facts of the Home Time … but how likely would a Correspondent be to perform his or her duty for untold centuries if they knew the truth? RC/1029 will have to find out for himself how much of what he has been told is true and how much false.
Not everyone in the Home Time is happy about it either.