The Letters Page: Episode 101
We're talking about a cowboy! Again!
Run Time: 1:04:34
No overview, because we did that in an episode two years ago! For reference, check out Episode #25 all about Chrono-Ranger here.
Then, we get to your questions and immediately go deep on literature, consciousness, reality... look, this one might get heavy. Besides, we have to talk about time stuff again, so, yeah.
The questions cover a lot of Time-Slinger stories, telling you what he's up to now, and also drops a couple of major story elements, one of which no one knows but CON.
A quick note about CON: both of us over the course of the episode use all kinds of pronouns for CON - he/she/it/they are all employed. That's partially because we're used to being cagey about giving answers on things, but we've already revealed the truth of CON in the past, so we should have been using "she" the whole time. Sorry for any confusion.
This Friday is a "Create a Thing LIVE", so if you're on the Letters Page Patreon, you can join us Friday at 11 AM, Central time!
Also, thank you to everyone for supporting us on the Sentinel Comics RPG Kickstarter. It did everything we wanted and more. We're blown away. Thank you.
- See the Chrono-Ranger episode, #25.
- Is this the same Jim Brooks that we’ve been following or one from another timeline? That’s an interesting question that you could play around with, but yes, this is meant to be the same Jim as always. When Setback pushed the button and activated the big chronal energy bubble that undid the damage to Rook City and Chrono-Ranger, it just pulled CON back to this time and he winds up taking the name Time-Slinger going forward - it didn’t pull in some alternate version of him in the process. This kind of identity question isn’t unknown in comics featuring him to begin with, so good question.
- [This does prompt a long tangent about whether or not Christopher and Adam are reliable narrators. It’s pretty fun, but has little bearing on the details of Sentinel Comics beyond the revelation that their meta-verse equivalents appear as characters within the History of Sentinel Comics book - which is part of why people other than them are responsible for writing the text.]
- Does he still have contact with CON? Yes, more than ever. CON is now integrated into the cybernetics of his body - in fact, she’s the interface between the organic and metal bits and they’ve actually got kind of a merged mind thing going on.
- Does he teach at the new hero academy? Yeah, kind of an adjunct professor. They toss in the maybe-jokes about him teaching shootin’, horseback ridin’, history (or specific parts of it) and related things, but the more serious part of the answer is an emphasis on the butterfly effect and thinking about the consequences of your actions (which are largely unintended and, because of the Multiverse, huge in ramifications). It winds up being a combination philosophy/quantum mechanics/scared straight thing. It’s a heavy topic, but he has a real laid-back delivery.
- [Before really getting to the question they get into the fun activity of talking about how to refer to something being “chronological” for a time traveler.] Is he the only person with time-manipulation powers in the setting now? In Universe 1, he is the only character with time-affecting powers that we see from the outset in the RPG era.
- We’ve been told that he can speed up/slow down/stop time in localized areas, but are time travel/creating time loops possible (if not, I’ll have to ignore that for my game)? By the rules that they’ve set out for how Universe 1 works, no. Christopher does describe a possible explanation that you probably could fit into the framework for your game without breaking their “canon” too much, but it’s not intended to be so from their end. They also toss around the idea for a bit since how time travel has worked to this point has been intimately tied into the idea of reality-hopping. Somebody actually going back in time within this same universe and changing things would be a much more dangerous thing now since you can start introducing actual paradoxes rather than branch points in the Multiverse.
- Can Time-Slinger create more than one time-pocket at a time? Would doing so put a strain on his mind? He can have multiple pockets active at once, but each new one dilutes the strength/duration of all of them. Like, he could have 6 relatively weak/short-lived ones active at once, or 1 really powerful one. He has a finite amount of chronal energy available to him, but that has more to do with CON and the time-bubble, which they’ll get into more later.
- What of his weapons? Does he keep any of the gear we saw him with as Chrono-Ranger in SotM? Does he get anything new as Time-Slinger? Can his CON arm conjure up anything notable? Chrono-Ranger had a bunch of weapons that CON could manufacture in her bunker in the Wasteland and then transmit to him through time. She can’t do that for him anymore. He still has the metal arm, and it’s reconfigurable to an extent, but not to the levels that were possible before. He has his time gun, which is more useful than many other guns would be - it can shoot lasers in addition to the time-distortion things. Additionally, he actually has a sizable chunk of CON’s bunker that got pulled through the time-bubble event with her. It’s just rubble that was salvaged from Rook City after OblivAeon, but he has it displayed in his office as a memento. There’s a story where he gets really frustrated with some students (who have a bunch of power, but are also being miscreants because they can get away with it). One day, this “sculpture” is gone and he’s convinced it’s one of these darn kids. He doesn’t get all angry and scream at them or anything, but he does raise his voice a bit (which gets their attention more than some other characters flying off the handle would). Nobody cracks, though, so he gives them all detention. Over the course of time the students become a better team, they learn from him, he learns from them, etc. By the end the students, who have come to respect him, work together to fashion the rubble into a horse robot, called Masadah. When asked what he missed from the old days (before the time-travel nonsense), the one thing he’d say was that he missed his horse, so this was them doing a nice thing for their mentor.
- Where is CON located in the Universe 1? She’s in the electrical impulses that control his body (which includes both the meat parts and the metal parts). She’s the operating system that makes the cybernetics work, but she’s interfaced with his organic nervous system in order to achieve that.
- How does she feel about having a more present role in helping Jim? In execution, she’s a lot like a HUD in a video game, giving that kind of contextual information (although not literally superimposing the data in his vision unless that would specifically be helpful in that instance). This includes stuff to do with the hassle of upkeep on his organic bits (dietary needs and whatnot) which is especially helpful as his meat body is really messed up by this point. If this had been the way she interacted with him from the beginning he would have found her annoying/intrusive, but they’ve been through enough by this point that they work really well together.
- How much control does CON have over Jim’s body (considering he seems to have a lot of cybernetics at this point) - could she pull a Benchmark and take over or help out in mind-control or hacking situations (like what Biomancer did to her with the Clone-Ranger)? Jim’s gone from ~20% cybernetics to pushing 50% (they’re real squishy on that number, but the idea is that while the arm, eye, and some of that shoulder are entirely replaced, he’s got lines of the cybernetics running through a lot of the rest of his body - not so that they’re responsible for controlling those body parts, but tied into CON’s onboard-monitoring-system job). There’s not much CON can do in that kind of “direct control”, though. They could see that, if Jim is down and out, CON could maybe with a lot of effort raise his arm to shoot. It’s not even close to a Benchmark situation. Hacking him would be very difficult due to the system being very advanced (coming from a distant future, for one thing) and is unique so it’s not like people would have time to practice/test things. He can’t plug into a computer to do anything and doesn’t need to use an external power source.
- What’s their working relationship like now that they’ve gone from agent/dispatcher to driver/back-seat driver? CON has more ability to help out now, which is good. In the old days, she sends Jim out on a mission, but that’s about the end of her ability to help him. If he fails a mission, there goes her ability to avert the terrible future she’s in, back to sitting around in her bunker until the heat death of the universe. So, she’s better off in that she can’t be cut off like that. However, back in her bunker she had a very specific purpose to her existence and now she’s no better off than the rest of us making it up as we go along (plus she no longer has the vast compendium of historical knowledge to rely on like she used to).
- What kind of relationship does CON have with other heroes? Can she interact with others (like Benchmark, Tachyon, or Omnitron-X)? Do other characters even know she exists? Well, people can’t hear her talking to Jim, but sometimes he’ll get a distant look while she’s doing so. He talks to her out loud sometimes. She’s not really interested in getting to know others (yet) as she’s just a part of Time-Slinger. The two of them are a little concerned about letting people know about her. The Sentinels of Freedom know as he lives there with them and, while it’s not exactly a secret, it’s not something that’s common knowledge either.
- What is CON at this point? Still just some computer code or something more given the effects of time travel? Now we’re getting to the classic question of “what is AI?” like we have with things like Omnitron-X again. She’s always seemed like more than an AI - at the least, she’s got imprinted brain patterns from her creators and has a personality of its own with an active mind, so Time-Slinger has two minds within it. Jim can “ask for privacy” or whatnot and she goes into a passive mode, but how aware of the world is she at that point? It’s a difficult question to get you’re mind around.
- What is Time-Slinger’s favorite time period that he’s visited? This is kind of a cop-out answer, but a toss up between the one he came from and where he’s wound up. Those are the ones where he gets to have something approaching a life. His time as an agent of CON/La Comodora is basically just The Mission and nothing else. There are probably several times/places that he visited and thought they were cool (like Pompeii until the volcano thing happened) - likely he’d think that anything that was farther in the past than his home time would be like one of us visiting the old west. Also, some of the Disparation stuff would be really interesting (either seeing how vastly different things can be or how subtle changes have big consequences).
- Does he have a way to put Bounties on people to cause Hinder/Boost effects? Not “Bounties”, but the time pockets he creates can cause those Hinder and Boost things. He’s a “lawman” now, not a “bounty-hunter”, and besides, CON no longer has the same abilities to know what targets need to be addressed from her historical database. Instead, now she’s tapping into police band radio and whatnot. She’s still trying to assess what’s going on and give Jim the info he needs on what to do, but it’s reactionary (and Jim has to check her when she starts getting into Minority Report pre-crime territory) rather than planned based on actual knowledge.
- If he had not been added to the RPG Archive as a stretch goal, would he have wound up in another book eventually? The original slot for him would have been in the Urban Settings book as he’d fit in as part of the Megalopolis/Freedom Academy setting. He might also have shown up in an adventure or something - they wouldn’t have just scrapped him altogether.
- Has Jim ever tried to figure out what happened to his friend and family from his old life? Would CON know? Jim didn’t have much family and was looking to the future in any case (prior to falling through a time-portal into the future). CON didn’t have a lot of control over who showed up to be her agent and so didn’t know much about his past. Now CON could look into things and ask him if he wants to know what happened to his family, but he’d be the same old laconic “I hope they’re doin’ well.” kind of attitude towards it. As far as he’s concerned, there’s no benefit to them for him to show up in their lives. He’s actually really enjoying being a teacher as it gives him a reason to connect to these kids and have a lasting impact on their lives. CON is more sentimental that Jim is.
- Does Jim have any keepsakes from his adventures in time (or mementos given to him by La Comodora)? He’s not really interested in things. He had his gun and his hat (and liked his horse and dog, but they’re their own things) and loses both of those. He did go out and get a new hat once things settled down a bit, but he’s still breaking it in. If La Comodora ever asked if he would like to keep something from a time they visited, he’d decline. He’s alright with what he’s got. She’s a collector and he’s the opposite.
- Is Time-Slinger still the type to just show up when needed or does he have a more “normal” operating procedure? Is he associated with a particular team and does he have any proteges/sidekicks? His role now is “lawman” (I mean, not like he’s going to go down to the police station to sign up, but he’s still doing the crime-fighting thing). He’s used to acting to make a positive change in the world, but now he also gets to do that in his role as a teacher - although he has to be talked into that by the Sentinels of Freedom who think he’d be good at it.
- We heard in the OblivAeon event that Jim wound up with a map that La Comodora had been holding - where does that lead him? So, while they’ve said he’s not much for keeping things, he holds onto the map because he figures that she wouldn’t want it discarded. Unfortunately, he can’t make heads or tails of it. He tacks it up in his office. [Brief aside for more information on Masadah the robot horse: he had to get the students to work on it some more because “It doesn’t act like a horse.” So, they added some idle animations to its AI and it’s respond to its name now. Stuff like that.] Every once in a while he’ll put his boots up on the desk, lean back, and look at the map. It still makes no sense to him, but he tries occasionally.
- How does CON maintain temporal charge without having Bounties to complete? You’ve hit on the problem with Time-Slinger. During the temporal event that brought CON to the present, she passively collected a lot of chronal energy along the way and has a large reservoir of it that she uses to power Time-Slinger’s power, but also to keep Jim’s meat body working. It is a finite supply. Every time that he uses a time bubble it shortens his potential lifespan a little. CON probably has enough energy to run his body for as long as Jim would have lived under normal circumstances, but it’s not just being used for that purpose. They’ve said earlier in this episode that CON is fine not really talking to other characters and is ok with going into “standby mode” - that’s because she’s spending as much time as possible working on this problem - how to recharge. She doesn’t talk to Jim about this problem. He’s not aware of it, only CON knows (and readers of Sentinel Comics/listeners of The Letters Page). While Jim is a check on her tendencies towards Minority Report, she tries to get him to not use his time powers willy-nilly. The situational awareness stuff she does for him in combat is often there to allow him to take care of problems without the time powers.
- [Letter addressed to Adam only] Now that you’ve drawn him at peak-sexiness, what’s his love life like in the present? Well, he just got here and is still getting adjusted to both the time period and to having another voice in his head. His tryst with K.N.Y.F.E. worked because they were both fine with a no-strings fling. He’s not really looking (and certainly isn’t on Tinder or similar - he doesn’t even have a phone) and is a hard man to get to know in the first place. Time will tell.