General Welkar took the podium.
“Congratulations, cadets. You are still here. When I addressed this group a year ago, you numbered more than a thousand. And now? Thirty. Those others did not share your grit, your intellect, your skill, or your boldness. They quit. They were cut. Some believed they had no limits, and they paid the ultimate price to learn otherwise. But you—”the general made eye contact with each cadet—”you are still here.
“We are at war. And we are losing that war. Soon, for the first time in 320,000 years, there won’t be a single living human anywhere in the universe.
“Time travel is a dream as old as our species. To go back. To fix what cannot be fixed. Frankly, we never truly believed it could be done. Imagine our shock when we first succeeded. We hoped our salvation may lie in our past. And of course, you all shared in our sorrow as we discovered our hopes had been misplaced. Going backward made many of your finest comrades into heroes, but we were going backward nonetheless. The word for this is retreat.
“You will not retreat. You will advance, to the end time, not to defend humanity, but to avenge it. To bring our enemies to swift justice. You are our swan song, and you will echo into eternity. Well after I, and Earth, and all you have ever known are reduced to dust and long-scattered light, you will still be here.”
Welkar looked them each in the eye once more.
“You have your orders. You are dismissed.”