In a lot of short stories, and a lot of science fiction, the plot and characters are really just excuses to create the world where they happen. Often the political and cultural background is more interesting than what the characters do in the foreground - and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, here's a science fiction short story that's almost entirely background.

No one knew who had invented the time weapon, and no one could be certain which side started the war.

It was commonly believed that the weapon's invention, and its inventor, belonged to a timeline long since erased. Some thought they had evidence the war had its origins in a dispute over temporal colonisation rights with the enemy, which had been an ally at the time. Others stated confidently that the war had been religious in nature, though the religion itself had been since erased at source. A distinct minority favoured the notion that it was an unprovoked pre-emptive attack borne simply out of the fear of being attacked first.

The truth was that no one knew why the two empires were at war, and estimates of how long they had been fighting were necessarily vague, but all authorities agreed the other side must have attacked first.

A protective shield had been quickly developed after the first few inexpert attacks. The same technology behind the time weapon allowed an area to be defined which was immune to causality shift. The original plan had been to encase the entire continent in such an area, protecting the whole population from history change while the weapon removed the historical basis of the enemy.

Unfortunately there were two problems. First it appeared the enemy also had such a shield, and second, there was simply not enough energy to protect such a large area continuously.

The result was that the centre of the empire was protected by the shield, and the weapon was used to try to undo the damage done to the outlying regions. Thus the cities of the central area occupied a different timeline to the rest of the empire - indeed, occasionally the outlying regions occupied a history where there was no temporal war at all, or even no empire!

Communications between the centre and it's protectorates were therefore infrequent and confused. However, the centre could on no account afford to withdraw any part of its protection, simply because the centre was not self sufficient.

Supplies of food, raw materials and energy for the protective area had to come from outside the centre, and much planning and effort was spent in ensuring the history of the outlying regions was such that they could provide what was needed.

The enemy was presumably in a similar situation, and therefore many of the tactics adopted revolved around depriving the enemy of productive technology.

In effect, the temporal war had largely ceased to be a fight between two empires to erase each other's founding histories, and become an old fashioned war of attrition, each side trying to starve the other.

The invention of the time weapon had presumably been in an unprotected area, either an outlying region, or more likely the centre before the protective area had been established. Either way, knowledge of its construction was ferociously guarded, even in a timeline when it had never been invented.

It was therefore the holy grail of attack strategies to find some point in the enemy's history which they'd neglected to protect, which was pivotal in the chain of events leading to their acquisition of the weapon. So far though, all attempts to find it had been futile.

The enemy were thought to be a smaller political entity, seemingly occupying the same landmass, ending roughly three thousand years in the past. Historians asserted that it had originally been founded two thousand years before that, but had pushed back its founding date by at least a thousand years.

The empire's own plans for expansion included the stimulation of politically amenable states in the centuries leading up to it's founding, which would either retrogress the founding, or reduce opposition to initial expansion. Both outcomes would of course be desirable.

Recently, a bold proposal was put forward to create such states several millennia in the past, and even provide them with the means to invent their own time weapon. If successful, this would ensure that the enemy empire, when it comes into existence would find itself already contained on all sides by a pre-existing rival - namely the empire's own proxies.

At the last observation, the proposal was still controversial, but support was growing as the war continued with no victory in sight.

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