The Disruptors discovered

Previous theory had concluded that the variation across Human- inhabited parallels would be enormous. Instead, W.O.T.A.N. demonstrated that socio-historical variation fell within 30% on the Marx-Oppenheimer index of ZeroZero's history across a set of one thousand "neighbouring" parallels.

This was, of course, improbable in the extreme. For example, the odds against the simultaneous adoption of the Gregorian calendar, across these sample parallels, was calculated at approximately 735 000 to 1 against. Yet only five parallels were not using the Gregorian calendar by whatever name it was known. There had to be an outside force acting on the parallels. W.O.T.A.N. chose to fall the effects of this force "Disruption", and before long had proved to its satisfaction (95.5% probability) the existence of the "Disruptors".

Initially it seemed that every parallel exhibited some shade of Disruptor activity; even ZeroZero. The considerable panic this engendered was used to justify the the expansion and rebudgeting of the Valhalla Nova complex. Fortunately the continued research demonstrated that this "shadow" of Disruptor activity was exactly that, for it emerged that there were parallels occupying "probability foci" (also termed "psi-matrix nodes") and that any disturbance on these focal points was echoed by similar disturbances on the "shadowed" parallels.

Two things were swiftly demonstrated by this new information. First, Disruptor activity had been and was being co-ordinated across these focal parallels. Second, ZeroZero occupied a strangely stable position in the Multiverse.

The first period of research into other parallels (1905 to 1928) ended when the psi-section was brought fully onto stream with the rest of Valhalla Nova. The next few years saw the difficult work of setting up "field operations" on those parallels that could be reached via the empathic link. By 1930 Valhalla Nova had four hundred and sixty-two psychics with the empathic link, each in contact with between three to twenty alternative selves. The taxing work of achieving full communication, then persuading what was very often a most frightened individual to work for ZeroZero could take years. The first "field agent" was Margaret Bondfield of 28-00-35, a citizen of the French Imperial Estates-General, recruited in 1924. Other Margaret Bondfields followed on other parallels until, by 1930, there were fourteen active Bondfields; two of whom succeeded to government in a ministerial or consular capacity on their respective (British Empire and Roman Republic) parallels.

By this time a considerable body of information on Disruptor activity had been assimilated. ZeroZero now had the insights into the respective histories, modes, and means of Disruptor campaigns across a huge number of parallels. Unfortunately, a goodly amount of this information was highly speculative; furthermore the patterns of Disruptor activity often seemed contradictory.

Analysis of the few thousand parallels available to ZeroZero through the empathic link showed numerous patterns of common historical perception. Whereas psychometric scans of certain parallels revealed that their history, usually up to the sixth through to the eighth centuries, had been manifestly different, it soon appeared that the Disruptors had rewritten, or grafted on, the history of the parallels at least twice in recent centuries. The first and greatest remoulding of the "perception of the past" had taken place between 550 and 700AD. The second was during the years 1500 to 1800AD, centuries that saw a rapid turn around from the period of the "witch-hunting craze" (common to most parallels) to a period of scientific discovery and enlightenment on some parallels but of philosophical and scientific repression on others. Whatever they were doing, for whatever reason, it was certain that the Disruptors had engineered wars, coups d'etat, plagues, peace treaties, scientific discoveries, industrial and philosophical revolutions, assassinations, autocracies, alliances, reformation, decline and renaissance for over a thousand years. Some theorists argued that their influence could stretch back all the way to the beginning of human society. The majority, however, settled on the fourth and fifth centuries as those in which the Disruptors became established.

ZeroZero came to recognise most of the Disruptors' work carried out by indigenous agents. Of these, the key agents usually occupied positions of power on their native parallel, typically as heads of state or religion, or as "powers behind the throne". They received their instructions through either empathic link, or, increasingly since the end of the nineteenth century, through sophisticated communications terminals.

Rather to ZeroZero's surprise, it emerged that most of these agents were dupes. The Disruptors would deliberately manipulate their agents' perceptions, so that only a few knew of the existence of other Earths. Moreover, the they represented themselves in several different lights, so that their exact nature was still a matter for conjecture. The Disruptors' influence on these native agents (called "Bishops" by ZeroZero) could often be traced back over several centuries.

A technique of Disruptor "first contact" emerged. The Disruptors would begin by representing themselves as a powerful, though secret, organisation sympathetic to their chosen agent's cause, convictions or ambition. Where the agent's social or personal background made it possible this would be couched in quasi- religious or mystical terms, where scope exists for extensive psychic manipulation.

The newly recruited Bishop would then be aided in the establishment of a much-expanded power-base. Where possible, existing social groups were used as fronts, be they political, religious, corporate or criminal. ZeroZero agents often had the frustrating task of trying to locate which secret society, out of several "native" ones, a Disruptor Lodge was hidden in.

The Bishop would first recruit further agents to work for the Disruptors. These would be formed into an Inner Council, the only Lodge members aware of the Disruptors' existence. Immediately below that, an Elite was organised, who believed the Bishop and the Inner Council to be the masters of the Lodge. Finally, there was usually a rank and file, controlled by the elite or members of the Council. These "ordinary" members made up the largest proportion of most lodges; their exact organisation and knowledge about the Lodge layout varied form parallel to parallel.

Once a Bishop's power-base, together with its dependence on and loyalty to the Disruptors, had been firmly established (usually within the passage of a generation) the Disruptors would begin to use their puppet for their own inscrutable aims. By this time the Bishop, or their heir, normally accepted these "world-shaking" plans as perfectly justifiable or sensible.

The inducements offered by the Disruptors were considerable. Their strongest card was knowledge. Many parallels fell to Disruptor- controlled minorities using sophisticated weapons and tactics beyond the norm of that Earth. Brutal and direct support in armed conflict was provided by the Rooks. These were cybernetically advanced humans, far stronger than a normal person, with an arsenal of highly advanced weapons at their disposal. At first, they were thought to have been entirely robotic in nature, but a ZeroZero agent who managed to disable and briefly examine one during the Battle of Brussels in 1930, on Para 34-00-08, reported it as being about 30% machine and 70% human/organic. Unsurprisingly, it was also heavily shielded against psionics.

Far more subtle and dangerous than the Rooks are the Disruptor Knights, whose existence was only positively proved by ZeroZero several years after that of the Rooks. These human agents were invariably psychic and able to travel between parallels (as did the Rooks) by use of "Trans-Parallel Vehicles" (TPVs). The Knights functioned as in-situ advisors to the Bishops; on rare occasions they took command of a Lodge to deal with a critical problem, but thereafter moved on to another parallel, another job. In all the years of the Trans-Parallel War, not one Disruptor Knight was captured alive.

It was not until 1958, when a ZeroZero team captured a Disruptor Lodge in Venice, para 00-71-87, that a significant piece of Disruptor technology was acquired and exploited by Valhalla Nova. The team prevented the Bishop from destroying the Lodge's Trans- Parallel Communicator (TPC). Working via empathic link and psychometry the ZeroZero scientists examined the TPC and later that year the first ZeroZero TPC went into operation. The Trans- Parallel War saw a sudden escalation as a result, and for the first time the section leaders of Valhalla Nova began to feel that they might defeat the Disruptors.

By 1960, ZeroZero had firmly established how the Disruptors manipulated the parallels. Who they used on any given parallel could now be predicted, with reasonable accuracy, by W.O.T.A.N. Rooks and Knights had been observed in operation several times. A vast library of information on Disruptor activity, both past and present, had been accumulated. Yet the section leaders of Valhalla Nova still had no idea of what exactly the Disruptors were, nor of their eventual aim. How, they asked themselves and W.O.T.A.N., could the organisation striving so frantically for world peace on para 12-45-06 be the same callous manipulators of numerous Thousand Year Reichs? Why would one Earth be encouraged to achieve multilateral nuclear disarmament, whilst another was being kept teetering on the brink of annihilation? For what reason was racial hatred encouraged here, quashed there? Why had women on most parallels been oppressed since the 1600s and yet on a select few parallels elevated into matriarchal governments?

The answer lay in the aeons before Humankind arose, and there was war in heaven.

The history of the Disruptors...