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"2. Infest the timestream with time-beavers."
—Justin B. Rye, Twenty Fun Things To Do With A Time Machine
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana; Clock Roaches like causality.
Time, like Death, hates being tampered with. It uses things like Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act to stop changes to itself, and the Butterfly of Doom to exact roundabout retribution, but sometimes the determined chrono-criminal can find ways around these defenses, making general, grievous changes like having Greedo shoot first.
In cases like these, time likes to get its hands dirty and ensure a less ironic and more graphic end to these revisionist historians with the help of Clock Roaches.
Clock Roaches are time's clean-up service. They eat and destroy people and things that directly threaten time with a Temporal Paradox. Like roaches, they "eat up" the crumbs and mistakes of time travelers, and if they directly make nuisances of themselves, eat them as well. Also like roaches, you can never kill them all, nor hope to survive against their mindless fury for long. At best, you can delay them, and hope to fix whatever it is you've messed up and marked you as Roach-Chow.
The concepts of Clock Roaches probably stems from the difficulty in representing the threat of creating a time paradox. It's hard to show that the whole of existence is about to slip down the timey-wimey plughole of fate, and that it's definitely bad. It's much easier for a writer to simply break out the Flying Time Monkeys to come and eat people. You could call them Chronos' Vengeance.
One of the possible results of a Time Crash. When it's people doing it, not some kind of natural force, it's Time Police. Compare to the Necro Non Sequitur, a gratuitous and Rube Goldberg-y way for time to deal with interlopers. Not to be confused with the Butterfly of Doom, in which the insect punishing the time traveler for interfering with the natural progression of events does so by dying, when it's not just a metaphor to begin with.
Not related to the insectoid D&D construct of the same name; they, and any other roaches made of clockwork, are a kind of Clockwork Creature. Also not to be confused with the disturbing internet meme, Clock Spider, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
Similar are creatures out for those who mess with space. You may look for examples in Hyperspace Is a Scary Place. Has absolutely nothing to do with the Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities.
Anime and Manga
- Rave Master: This is the origin and purpose of the Eldritch Abomination Endless; to destroy the world created by someone's tampering with time.
- Ultimate Fantastic Four: The spider-shaped Argiopes, who would eat any time travel-created doubles to avoid paradoxes.
- Time Beavers, a graphic novel by Timothy Truman, postulates that a race of time-sensitive beavers monitor the Dam of Time, which separates the relative order of the universe we know from utter chaos. The Dam is composed of items of considerable historical importance, such as "Fat Man" and "Little Boy". Several such items are stolen by the Beavers' mortal enemies, a shape-changing species of sentient rats who want chaos to run rampant.
- The setup is similar to the one used in the Blinx video game franchise.
- Aztec Ace includes "Doxie-Glitches", which are giant monsters that show up when a paradox threatens time and fix it by killing everyone in the vicinity.
- Primer: The main characters become their own Clock Roaches after they realize what they've done to the flow of time. Although their clean up does create several paradoxes anyway...
- This is the role of the main character in Donnie Darko—since his own world is a splinter universe that might destroy the real one when they merge back together, he has to set things up so that his own world dies and the "real" world survives.
- In the Final Destination movies, Death itself manages to act as a Clock Roach. The protagonists have a vision of their own gruesome demise and save themselves along with a group of their friends, and the remainder of the movie consists of Death finding increasingly gruesome, sadistic, and physically impossible ways of correcting the error.
- The Langoliers in the book and movie of that title by Stephen King. In the story, several airline passengers find themselves trapped in a moment in the past, which is slowly fading and winding down as the present time moves further and further away, until the moment is completely eaten by the title Langoliers.
- Cthulhu Mythos: The Hounds of Tindalos chase down time travellers; the only way to hold them off is to eliminate all angles in the immediate area, since they can only travel through these. Note that they're not portrayed as necessary or helpful; they just are.
- Singularity Sky by Charles Stross: the invention of faster-than-light travel brings with it the ability to travel through time. This in turn leads to the potential for whole new strategies of warfare and unpleasant weapons taking advantage of the ability to meddle with the past... but it is all prevented by a particularly powerful AI which uses its own (particularly effective) causality violation devices to smite any would-be temporal saboteurs with godlike amounts of overkill.
- It is also hinted that the reason the universe is habitable at all is that supremely powerful intelligences meddled with the first moments of the big bang via time travel, enabling themselves to exist.
- Sisters Grimm: The pink eraser things in book ten, since the book they are in was magically linked to the time of fairy tales, and any changes change history, so Mr. Editor guy has his pink erasers eat everything and he resets the story. No, the one in the Book, not the Editor of the book (Bad Pun Not Intended).
- In the Buffyverse collection of short stories, Tales of the Slayer, Volume 2, the short story Again by Jane Espenson has these after Buffy, Willow, and Xander are returned to their high-school selves. The roaches in this case manifest as mobile shadows that attach themselves to things they find in the wrong time, causing excruciating pain as they (presumably) eat them. They appear to be somewhat physical, as Buffy manages to cut one off of her arm, cutting her arm in the process.
Live Action TV
- Doctor Who
- The Reapers, Flying Killer Time Gargoyles from "Father's Day". The Ninth Doctor describes them in terms similar to white blood cells—when a paradox is triggered, they clean up the "wound" by erasing everything inside it. "Before" the Time War, the Gallifreyans kept paradoxes in order in a much less destructive way, but now they're gone.
- The original series serial The Time Monster had the Chronovores, which were similar enough to the Reapers (giant winged things that eat people's timelines) that they may as well be considered a related critter.
- Eerie, Indiana: The garbage men in "The Lost Hour".
- Sapphire and Steel: You're never quite sure what the agents of time look like, but you definitely don't want to hang around and find out.
- In the Big Finish Doctor Who audio plays, they have Vortisaurs, creatures who live in the time vortex and are attracted to temporal anomalies. They're usually vicious, but the Doctor manages to tame one.
- Dungeons & Dragons
- The 3rd edition of the game have the Inevitables, constructs born in Mechanus (the plane of absolute law) to enforce certain laws, both natural and invented. One kind of Inevitable, known as the Quaruts, maintain the sanctity of time and space itself.
- The Clockroach itself does not embody this trope,
- In Continuum, the players themselves are Time Police. However, if the players fail, Clock Roaches known as Inheritors show up to clean things up, and the game makes it clear that you do not want to get in their way.
- Mage: The Ascension: The Wrinkle is the Paradox Spirit that shows up to deal with people who have pushed their luck one too many times in tampering with how things should be, especially temporally. Wrinkle does this by rewriting time so that the offender was never born. They always gives offenders a chance to undo whatever it was they did first. This is most likely due to the fact that he is the most powerful Paradox spirit in Mage by an order of magnitude. For example, all the mage has to do is apologize for what they did and agree that they shouldn't have done it, and Wrinkle does the actual work of rewinding events to the point where the offending Reality Warper can try something else.
- Exalted has the pattern spiders, the gods that maintain the Loom of Fate, and are basically responsible for the laws of physics. Bend the aforementioned laws too much, and you'll incur their displeasure in the form of a Pattern Bite, which is basically a spider bite, except that the spider is a giant mechanical god-spider responsible for maintaining natural law, and what it bites is not you, but your thread in the Loom of Fate, causing all kinds of unpleasant effects. So not much like a spider bite at all, really.
- Prince of Persia: Warrior Within has the Dahaka, a guardian of time that hunts the Prince in order to restore time to its original flow. It's implied that whenever someone changes the past, a Dahaka shows up to deal with it—the first one was created when the Prince tempered with time, and a second comes up to deal with his second attempt to fix his own mistake in the game. If you get the Golden Ending, you kill the Dahaka, and the Empress of Time sails away with you. Thus the Sands of Time are not created in the past. (They get created when the Empress is killed.)
- In Super Robot Wars, Ingram Pliskin and his clone Cobray are secretly these. According to Ingram in an exposition, every universe is given only one (hence why Cobray's powers didn't manifest until after Ingram was dead), and that their job is to protect causality by deleting from existence any force that threatens it.
- Chrono Trigger:
- In an odd sort of way, the heroes could be considered Clock Roaches, because the "Entity" pulls Crono out of time to save itself against Lavos. The sequel also had Chronopolis and Dinopolis pulled back through time by Lavos and the Entity respectively.
- As a result of Magus' actions, Lavos absorbs Schala and becomes the Time Devourer, the ultimate Clock Roach, who, rather than going after Crono and his friends, unmakes all existence. That is the entire plot of Chrono Cross. You can stop it, but not by simply defeating the Time Devourer; it'll just reproduce from another reality and the new one will replace the old one. You have to play a song that unites all reality, leaving the Time Devourer no copies of itself to regenerate from.
- In Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, Rasputin (yes, that one) was originally employed by some kind of entity as part of an attempt to erase the time line Raidou lives in (for example, the year is Taisho 20, but the Real Life Taisho era only lasted 15 years).
- World of Warcraft
- The Bronze Dragonflight and their hired help (i.e. the players) are this.
- The Infinite Dragonflight that attempts to change the timeline is universally villainous - only two out of four of their attempts even try to have a weak Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act excuse (which is explained to make the current situation worse anyway), the rest being outright villainy.
- Their goals have been muddied even further with confirmation in Wrath and Cataclysm that the Infinites are a corrupted future version of the Bronzes. While still Clock Dragons, they're useing their ability to modify time instead, hence the greater danger they pose than most people tampering with time.
- In the Final Fantasy XI expansion "Wings of the Goddess", The avatar Atomos is a mindless being that eats 'dispensable' time, including the memories anybody might have of alternative timelines that have become endangered due to the intervention of time travelers. All of this ends up dumped in the Walk of Echoes, a graveyard for everything that might have been.
- TimeShift: The protagonist fits this role, as there is apparently a danger of the Alternate Timeline "colliding" with our own if the Big Bad isn't stopped. What exactly this would mean is not explored, suffice it to say that would be bad.
- Pokemon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky: (fake) Big Bad Primal Dialga and to a much lesser extent, Dusknoir, his Dragon. The two villains actually think that the hero/ine, his/her partner, and Grovyle are responsible for destroying time, so the two actually want all three of them destroyed.
- Blinx the Time Sweeper: All the monsters except the main antagonists are a result of a colossal Time Crash, the plot revolves around eradicating them.
- Apoptosis in Monster Girl Quest Paradox. Whenever a particular universe deviates from a particular "correct" history, it accelerates the spread of chaos. If left unchecked, the entire multiverse would be consumed by chaos, leaving nothing left. To prevent this from happening, the Apoptosis phenomenon mutates the residents of the offending universe into horrific monsters, who destroy those responsible for the deviations.
- Timeclones and altered timelines are not welcome in Homestuck. Any given Hero has an alpha timeline; mostly this only matters to the Hero whose purview is Time. Either way, any deviation from the alpha timeline, or extraneous instance of a given hero, caused by time travel shenanigans is doomed to die eventually, in some unfortunate and contrived manner if the universe can't scrounge up a good one.
- Girl Genius had Klaus cover Mechanicsburg with a Time Stop effect. Then the Castle (which wasn't fully disabled even by this) explains why even the Heterodynes weren't crazy enough to play with such things. Doing this at the very place where they performed "Dark Rites" that "utilize mysterious lost sciences to hold back hideous extradimensional beings that would ravage our world!" suddenly starts looking like a really bad idea.
There are... others who see time differently. When it is meddled with, they notice.
- Vector Prime of Transformers: Cybertron is shown in the Expanded Universe to have this sort of job, though he's far more personable than most examples and not nearly as unstoppable. The giant, all-consuming rift that shows up in the Time Wars arc of the UK comic fufills the trope more.
- Vector's the guardian of time. He'd be the one to fix it if a paradox were to happen, and presumably, if there were friendly time travelers who had to be eliminated to protect the universe, the unpleasant but necessary task would fall to him. However, if there were an "undo it before the giant clockwork spaceship/robot squishes us" type situation, Vector Prime himself would favor undoing over squishing anybody, and if you knew of a way to fix things bloodlessly and he didn't (though that's hard to imagine) he'd surely listen. He's purely a good guy.
- Similar to the Final Destination movies is the rule that chronal doubles in the Futurama universe always meet with some sort of fatal accident in order to keep them from cluttering up the timestream... of course, the sudden appearance of an army of chronal-duplicated Benders results in the destruction and reboot of the entire universe.
- In the Generator Rex episode "A Brief History of Time," Van Kleiss thinks he's being hunted by one of these. As it turns out, it's actually Breach, who has transformed into a Negative Space Wedgie that's attracted to him like a magnet - and destroys everything in its wake.