Origins of Change cover

Origins of Change

If war is to be met, it best be done swiftly and concluded faster. Managing the transition back to a mostly peaceful societal condition becomes more complicated the longer a violent conflict continues. War is a nearly linear series of events with perhaps a few parabolas or brief periods of exponential change of no lasting significance. Peace, however, is a shapeless, lumpy, nonhomogeneous mash-up. The mathematics useful to me and others in my profession, are constructed of diverging and converging differential equations fraught with irrational numbers, mimicking the paradoxical behavior of non-monolithic population groups on both sides of the equal sign. Left to themselves, aftermaths, even for the victors, can be more costly and more damaging than ongoing war.

At war’s end, the generals rearrange the martial clutter and pass out medals to each other while politicians engage in perfumed puffery. The less fortunate, the losers, are sometimes lined up against a wall and shot. One way or another, their jobs are finished while mine have just begun, even though our processes started well before the first shots were fired.


I work for DUQ, the Department of Unintended Consequences. Yes, I know consequence begins with a C, but DUC seemed too much of a warning to hunker down, to avoid, disavow, take no responsibility for the following waves of attendant social upheaval. The official name is the Department of Quality, a global organization. Hundreds of department managers and employees spend their days working under that illusionary umbrella, passing important-looking documents back and forth, protecting our actual work from exposure.

In past times, without proof, we have been accused of creating fear, faux-threats from imagined directions, cultural divisions, and even outright rebellions. No evidence of our participation in any of those activities exists or ever surfaced above the equation red lines. Occasionally, our accusers don’t meet the minimum actuarial table averages. In most cases, their memorial services have been well attended. While we are guilty of all those claims and much more, we’re very talented in covering, obscuring, and crossing our own trails, entwining them with activities of the more visible arms of bloated governmental bureaucracy. Our available arsenal makes weapons of war seem frail; spitballs against a granite mountain.

Two hundred and seventy-five years ago, when the department was formed at a small and unimportant university, tender academic debates raged whether we should or should not allow wars to start in the first place. Dr. Harrold Benson, a rather shy bespectacled social historian, joined with Dr. Margaret Devers, a mildly autistic mathematician, to create the first genuinely workable system for CCE projections over future-time. I’ve been told that Chaos Cause Effect calculations, while seeming to emerge from a massive ball of disconnected strings, are truly a magnificent thing to behold, once understood at their core.


I’ve never experienced that euphoric pleasure; it’s not the job of operatives to understand the science. However, we’ve been given countless lectures on the subject and shown how it was applied in the past to create successful, long-term outcomes. For new inductees, the first lesson is that though messy things, wars are unavoidable and necessary. Projections of egalitarian utopias, even close approaches, all end in a rapid though passive extinction of the species homo sapiens.


The projects we pursue aren’t unwavering paths; instead, they’re calculated probable routes to preferred outcomes. Both an ingrained species’ rational fear and expectations of war act as a leash. Occasionally, that chain needs a sharp tug, or a link or two removed.

The last war is still cooling down. My partner and I have three courses of action for our current assignment. Others are working the same problem taking different avenues; activities which, by necessity, we aren’t aware of, lest we turn left instead of right when right leads in the most effective direction for our part of the mission. Our involvement comprises lowering the efficiency of a large corporate chemical production division, which will affect the rerouting of funding away from a nascent research program. If allowed to proceed, that program would have unfortunate effects on dozens of industries, throwing hundreds of thousands out of work, further draining the government resources badly needed for the war recovery efforts.


“Has a review date been established?”

My partner Freddy is getting anxious, or perhaps bored, wanting to tie the last knot, neatly clip the last string so we can move on to another project—one with less paperwork.

Rifling through the case notes, I tell him, “Two weeks for review, then add another month before implementation.”

When a barrier mountain range first emerges, it’s only a slight, barely noticeable bump on the landscape. Come back much later, and you find the uplift has not only blocked your path but also changed the weather patterns on both sides: cause and effect. The same CE process resulted in me being promoted to Assistant Regional Director based, in part, on the successful outcome of operation Repair Man. That project was a simple matter of waiting for the annual revision review of a few minor government regulations; we slightly changed a few digits in three of the mandates. There are so many people involved in regulation reviews and revisions that anyone who noticed the change would bureaucratically assume someone made the change for good reason; on its surface it wasn’t much, not worth chasing down the origin of change. In this case, the amendment increased the required inspection periodicity and adoption of closer wear tolerances for critical parts in the process equipment, requiring more shutdown time for the facility we targeted. The new research project was scrapped in favor of purchasing additional hardware and facility expansion to maintain output. A fatal, unavoidable head-on collision involving the lead project researcher put a period at the end. Case closed.


“Well, that was a very tidy operation, Roger.”

“Thank you, sir. I’m pleased it turned out so well.”

“Your idea was more obscure and less complicated than the other proposed avenues. We like that. Congratulations on your promotion.”

“I’m honored to be selected as your assistant, sir. I’ll get started familiarizing myself with current projects and personnel. You can be assured I’ll use my time wisely to help move the department carefully forward.”



Time … Ha! Time: one instant to the next, or so the current human thinking goes in this period of their history as they attempt to measure it in smaller and smaller units. Project Repair Man had a much larger purpose than my boss knew. Its actual goal was to prevent the too-soon discovery of inter-dimensional natural forces, leading to the development of time-shift technology. Technology my kind already possesses which will aid me in rising to regional director in five years then department director in another three. That will occur thousands of years in my personal past. Our kind will then be able to re-settle Earth without concern for the past, present, future, or undomesticated humans. Some will consider us their children, and taking a long-future view, they will be correct.