Composed on the 22th of June in the year 2014, at 04:54PM. It was Sunday.

Paul tweaked the setting on his relay preparing for the next harvest. He had begun working in the Temporal Reclamation Division as an intern more than 15 years ago. For the last 3 years his official title was "Relay Operator 409125", but in the coffee room he was a harvester, a reaper, a collector. He preferred harvester, though he didn't do the actual harvest; he merely facilitated it by bringing the subjects in. The doctors on staff did the actual harvest. Harvest facilitator just didn't have the same ring, and besides, this was likely as good as it was going to get for Paul.

He wasn't particularly charismatic nor assertive so any leadership role was out. He did well at his studies; he wasn't at the top of his class but he was also far from the bottom. He did learn during that time that he was only going to go through post secondary once. Re-orienting mid-career was not an option. Not only would he have to foot the bill for another go round but the idea of all the effort, papers and condescending professors brought more than a little bile up into his throat. After 15 years he had climbed as far as he could and he liked it just fine.

Over the intercom came Jimmy's overly enthusiastic "Got another one coming in hot!". This was the code phrase of the month to let the rest of the team know that the reclamation was at hand. Jimmy was Paul's team leader. In addition to being only a little irritating he was also charismatic, assertive and well educated. He enjoyed showing the last one off by using his extensive understanding of the histories to create code phrases taken from the time they were collecting from. This harvest was a bit more complicated than the norm. They were grabbing an entire air plane mid-flight from 2014. They not only needed to create a pocket into that space time and bridge it to this one; they also needed to manipulate the gravitational forces enough to halt the movement of the aircraft without crushing it, igniting the petrochemicals on board (the fuel source of choice for that time), or rendering the subjects to nothing more than bloody pulp. Not that they couldn't harvest viable fertilization cells from that pulp, just that they could harvest a lot more with the subjects in tact. Collections like these were Paul's favourites; they required both technical skill and artistic finesse. It was these moments when all the drudgery paid off.

Here he was doing his part to keep his civilization going. Ironically enough, it was the science-fiction writing from 2014 and earlier that paved the way as well as heralded the need for this job. The first wave of infertility ran across the globe in 2250. That was when both global population and pollution reached it's peak. A good chunk of the earth has ceased to be viable, food supply was in jeopardy and everyone seemed more concerned with irradiating themselves in the name of beauty and facilitating communication than they did with keeping their health. In school they had called it "The Great Arrogance". By discovering the cure to most diseases and cellular irregularities it seems like there were no consequences to ones actions. Rather than scale back to what was sustainable humanity pushed ahead using and consuming as much as it could. As with most things, arrogance was the precursor to "The Great Reckoning". Nations could no longer feed their people, war ensued. After 50 years of war and 4 more waves of global infertility, 80% of the population was obliterated, 90% of the surface was no longer habitable and the remaining survivors were not able to create children.

Cloning seemed like the answer; but decades of manipulation at the cellular level had taken their toll. Though the remaining scientists could remove or add DNA to fertility cells as needed they could not create these cells themselves, nor use any from any of the available donors. Fertilization simply wouldn't take. The biochemists and molecular biologists collectively threw up their hands and stepped down leaving room for the physicists and engineers to take the stage. Soon time travel went from mathematical plausibility to physical certainty. The idea being that the biochemists and molecular biologists could collect the cells they needed if the physicists and engineers could bring the subjects to their space time.

With a calm certainty Paul swapped out one algorithm for another; tailoring his portion of the relay to this specific purpose. Everything was set; which was how it needed to be as the plane had already begun shifting into the containment space created for it. Contrary to what the increasing number of protesters said; Paul did not feel like a murderer. He felt like a global patriot doing his duty. Sure the subjects would be terminated once everything usable was removed but what was one life for the birth of over a million new citizens? Citizens that could hopefully help reclaim the Earth making it every bit as lush and fertile as Paul had read it once had been.

One idea did cause Paul some trouble; but only if he dwelled on it for any length of time. "The Harvesters Paradox" it had often been called. Though the Temporal Reclamation Division did their best not to alter the flow of global events it was impossible to negate that entirely. They were brining subjects from the past to this space time, harvesting what they could from them and disposing of the rest. The subjects were removed from their time and therefore ceased to contribute to that society. Some argued that if the collection did impact events it would become evident immediately; at which point they would abort and return the subjects to their space time intact and unaware. Any harvester worth their salt knew that story was a blatant fabrication. How could any impact become evident, immediately or otherwise? All the history everyone knew would shift and become the new norm. It would seem as if nothing had changed even if everything had. Sure there were tests with temporal bubbles for archival storage to keep track of alternate histories but without historians in those bubbles how could they ever be updated? Besides, as far as Paul knew, no great successes had yet to emerge from that testing. Whether that was because there were none or because the information was suppressed; well that was for the philosophers to sort out.

Even more alarming was the idea that you could end up harvesting the very ancestral line that ended up creating you; leaving you to wake up one day not being you anymore. Sure you'd never know the difference as you would have ended up being someone else entirely. Causality logicians argued you'd likely live the same or similar life as a large portion of who you become comes from the need of the area and society around you. Paul liked being Paul, very much. He was good at it, at what he did. When he had moments where he felt that he was no longer "being himself" he found it quite alarming. He'd take a deep breath and count all the things that proved he was himself. Eventually the panic would subside and he could carry on doing his best not to consider that line of logic any more. It was thinking like that that lead to early retirement, from the Division, or from existence altogether.

Paul would not go out that way. He would go out doing what he did best. With grace and clarity he expertly adjusted the remaining energy and gravity levels in the containment area. He had completed his last harvest.

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