Renaissance ExpressThe train to 1650 is an old model. Twenty-third century auto-modeled bacterial plastic: as charmless as a padded cell. It’s more of a waiting room than anything else, grinding along on its big, U-shaped track, flicking with the speed of nothing to 2230, 2229, 2217, 2200, 2151. Then the big jump to your home decade, and the even bigger jump to the 19th century and points pastward. 1890, 1821, 1798. The stops come closer together the farther back you go and the better time travel technology was at the date of their establishment. 1743, 1700, 1679 blur past. You’re not stopping there today. No time.
Renaissance Station is luxuriously appointed: the work of Italian artisans directed by Romanov taste and paid with Aztec gold for Fountainhead interests. The air smells like fresh plaster and frying dough, metal and ozone and not nearly as much sewage as it used to.
You bypass the escalator and open a door to a service passageway, nodding to your contact’s heavily armed body-guards.
“Let me see the Khan,” you say and they nod and let you pass.
This is borrowing an idea from Tyrannosaur Queen (ahem, and Neil Stephenson and Douglas Adams and, possibly, the real universe), all potential configurations of matter and energy in all times and places exist “simultaneously” and can be navigated to. In Tyrannosaur Queen, you traveled through time (up the entropy slope of configuration space, that is) in a helicopter ala Clifford D. Simak, but why not a train?
This time-travel mechanic removes all that silly paradox nonsense; these past-Earths are basically different countries. Countries the 22nd-century inventors of the technology can colonize and exploit in the greatest land-grab since the Scramble for Africa. New land from Black-Death-cleared Europe, timber from pre-Ivan-the-Terrible Russia, crops from when the Fertile Crescent was still fertile! Plus all that untapped human capital! Working in a sweatshop is great when the alternative is actual slavery. And there are tons of people in the slums of Victorian London who would literally kill for a chance to work in a call center!
In addition to Colonialism, this time-train idea might be a good way to explore macro-economic trends through history, as well as giving us a good reason to see a 21st-century venture-capitalist and her Mongol business partners shooting it out with the Mafia of Kush.
Yes, that will happen.