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Only One Me Allowed Right Now

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In most time travel/cloning/alternate reality stories, one character can have multiple copies of him- or herself running around in the same time period. Some might have problems if those copies meet each other. Then there are these cases...

Only One Me Allowed Right Now is a case where either the Universe flat out denies multiple copies of a character to exist in a same time period, the character and the copies go crazy, the Universe starts to break down, or something else bad happens.

Note that this is NOT Never the Selves Shall Meet. In that one, you can have millions of copies of a same character running around in the same universe without that much trouble, only they must not meet each other. In this case, even though there are only two copies and they are at opposite ends of the Universe, the problem still happens. Not as tightly related to the One-Steve Limit as you might think.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In one episode of Sgt. Frog, Keroro accidentally clones himself a thousandfold using the Kero Ball. After various hijinks, the clones start to fade. Kululu gives a Technobabble explanation, but when told by Natsumi to "use words real people understand," he gets down to the point: if they don't destroy all the clones, then the Kero Ball will overload and all the Keroros, including the original, will disappear.
  • This turns out to be a major plot point in xxxHoLic; the main character is a time travel duplicate. As a result, he hates himself and draws in supernatural beings trying to grant his wish and kill him, and if he doesn't develop strong social connections he'll soon cease to exist as reality corrects itself.
  • In a story arc in the Astro Boy manga, Astro was accidentally transported back in time to the 20th century and attempted to get home via The Slow Path. When the day of Astro's original creation rolled around, Dr Tenma's first attempt to activate him failed for no technical reason because the universe couldn't contain two Astros.
  • In 86 EIGHTY-SIX, Shepherds, who have full human personalities, seem to be unable to withstand having more than one of it being in existence, unlike Black Sheep which can exist as multiple copies since they don't have personalities. This becomes a problem for the Legion if a Shepherd is getting destroyed, since they can't have backups, they don't seem to transfer the personalities until it's way under emergency, and trying to transfer full consciousness in that condition and in short amount of time is impossible. Thus, even if the personality is transferred over, it's heavily damaged.

    Comic Books 
  • This applied to the DC Universe before the Crisis on Infinite Earths. If a character traveled to a time where he or she already existed, it (the version not belonging to that time) would become an invisible, unheard, ineffectual phantom until it stepped out of that moment in time. Note that back then, even if characters were allowed to "meet themselves" history could not be changed, so it was pointless anyway.
    • Superman's childhood friend Pete Ross, of all people, found a way around this. He was furious at Superman at the time (he blamed Superman for his son getting kidnapped by aliens; long story), and wanted a way to fight him. So he got ahold of some phlebotinum that let him swap minds with Supes's younger self, Superboy, and then returned to the present in Superboy's body, to duke it out with adult Supes. It turns out the Only One Me rule only applies to your mind being in two places at once, not your body. This actually makes a degree of sense, since even if you travel back to before your birth or after your death, the matter that makes up your body should still be around somewhere, and yet you only appear as a phantom if you travel within your own lifetime.
    • Some early Silver Age Superman stories like A Mind-Switch in Time (& one Justice League tale) used the idea that if Superman traveled within his own lifetime the earlier version would take his place in the present. So if Superman traveled to when he was Superbaby, Superbaby would appear in the present while Superman was in the past.
    • Played for drama in Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, when young, teenage Supergirl visits the present and doesn't understand why she's not intangible. It's because it's after her own death. She asks if the contemporary version of herself is visiting another era and Superman, fighting back tears, confirms that "Supergirl is in the past".
  • In Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja , it is impossible for a person to be in two places at once. This causes one character to spontaneously combust when she returns to the past, as she arrives at the same time she's being born.
  • This happened to Jubilee (Marvel Comics) in an issue of Wolverine: In her youth, there was an incident where she was in a car with her friends, who suddenly asked her why she momentarily disappeared into thin air. Not remembering doing so, she dismisses it as her friends acting crazy. Years later, she briefly falls into the time portal belonging to Gateway, appearing in her parents' house, at the exact same time she "disappeared" in her friends' car. It is explained that two of her couldn't exist in the same point in time, so her younger self simply vanished until the older version returned to the present.
  • Normally, time travel doesn't exactly work in the Marvel Universe. If you travel into the past, you end up in the past of a similar but distinct universe (which you might not be able to distinguish at the time). For example, when Rachel Summers (daughter of Jean Grey and Scott Summers) traveled into the past, she ended up in the primary universe instead of the offshoot where she was born (where Jean Grey was depowered instead of killed). She didn't realize she wasn't in her own timeline until she saw Jean Grey (well, actually Madelyn Pryor, but close enough) and Scott Summers had a son... she never had a brother.

    Fan Works 
  • In George Weasley and the Computational Error, the universe normally works like this, with some exceptions like twins and Time-Turner users. Unfortunately for the universe, it's bad at counting so if someone with an already existing duplicate comes from the far future, it won't take action (that is, eject the time traveler from the universe) unless they call attention to themselves.
  • Elementals of Harmony: In "Sideboard of Harmony", from "Quod Cucurbita": It's possible to time travel to a point where you're still alive, but travelling to a time when your mother is pregnant with you is noted to be a very bad idea.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Two copies of a person are actually allowed, but if a witch or wizard has seven copies of themselves in existence at once, their magical cores will destructively resonate with each other and kill one of them. Harry inadvertently faces this when she's kidnapped and her Time Turner used against her, but she's able to survive by concealing her magical core inside the Dominion Jewel.
  • Universe Falls: Because Blendin's time machine works like this, when Steven, Connie, and the Pines twins travel to ten years in the past in "Blendin's Game", Steven's younger self temporarily vanishes into thin air, and doesn't return until Steven travels back to the future. For some reason, the Gem-made "time thing" from "Copies and Clones" works differently, allowing for the existence of time-travel duplicates.

  • In the French film Les Visiteurs, an object near a copy of itself (from earlier or later in the time stream) will try to merge with its past and/or future selves. Violently. "Near" isn't precisely defined, but seems to vaguely obey the inverse square law.
  • Played with in Project Almanac While there can be two versions of someone in the same physical space, they cannot both see the other without both being snuffed out of existence. Also, it seems that there can only ever be one time traveling version of a person, since the characters repeatedly travel to the same afternoon at one point without encountering versions of themselves from the previous trips.
  • Time Freak: Stillman the eccentric inventor shows his buddy Evan the time machine he's invented, taking them both on a trip two minutes into the past. After they're done, Evan wonders where "me from two minutes ago" is. Stillman explains that it doesn't work that way, that there's only ever one of a person and that if you travel into a past where you already existed, the "new" you is the only one there.
  • In Avengers: Endgame, once Nebula goes back to the past, her mind enters the network only she and Thanos's special equipment could access. Thus, two of her at the same time causes conflicts, namely her past self starting to get future memories and eventually the time traveller crashing down when attempting to return to her own period.

  • Star Wars Legends: this is believed to be the case with clone madness when the clone is created if the process is accelerated, like using Spaarti cloning cylinder, due to the individual Force-signatures of their minds. Clones have identical Force-signatures, and this exerts pressure on their minds as they develop, even if they aren't otherwise Force-sensitive. If they are grown any faster than double-speed, their minds can't adjust to the strain, and break. So a clone army would take about ten years to grow under ideal conditions. Grand Admiral Thrawn finds a way around this using ysalamiri, creatures that block out the Force as a defense mechanism against Force-sensitive predators. This allowed him to grow a clone army to adulthood in a matter of months.
  • In The Saga of Darren Shan, Mr. Des Tiny can resurrect the dead in the form of his mysterious, grey, stitched-together servants who he calls Little People. Sometimes, he sends them back in time, with or without their memories, and they interact with their past selves. Tiny can shield them from this effect, but if he doesn't, the Little Person body will disintegrate, with, generally, no effect on the "original".
  • In Connie Willis's Blackout / All Clear, a time traveler has to return before other times that he visited — his arrival then is his "deadline". An important plot point.
    • Earlier, in To Say Nothing of the Dog, this was a minor point. One character could be sent back a few days because during those days, they were unable to pick him up from his time travel.
      • Perhaps more accurately, they were unable to pick him up from his time travel because, unbeknownst to them, there was already a version of him running around elsewhere that had been sent to that time from a few days later.
    • As that universe is a Stable Time Loop where paradoxes are stopped by the universe disallowing the trip from happening at all, a more interesting way of looking at To Say Nothing of the Dog is that retrieving him from the past would have killed his near-future self, which the police would have identified as him, cause a paradox. So it refused to let his past self through.
  • In Dean Koontz's Lightning, the inventors of time traveling discover that the universe has a built-in anti-paradox mechanism, where you simply get bounced back from the time-gate if you are attempting to travel to a time where you're already present (or even might be - one character tries to correct a mistake by traveling to a time a couple of minutes before he last showed up, and the universe doesn't let him).
  • In the Time Scout series, you can't travel to a time where one of you already exists because you'll wink out of existence on arrival. Since in the setting time travel takes place via naturally occurring portals, which are not helpfully labelled with their target time period, this makes the eponymous scouts' jobs very dangerous.
  • In the series Dragonriders of Pern, going back in time to a period where you were still alive causes both versions of yourself to experience physical and mental distress. It gets worse the two selves are near each other. In the first novel, for example, F'Nor spent some five years both carrying out his normal duties in Benden Weyr, and setting up a new Weyr in the Southern Continent. They were generally alright when on opposite ends of the planet, but whenever Future!F'Nor came to Benden Weyr to tell F'lar something, the proximity caused great distress.
  • In Piers Anthony's Incarnations of Immortality, the rule is, instead, that only three of a person is allowed to exist simultaneously. This mostly comes up in Bearing an Hourglass, as the current Chronos is living concurrently with himself, but backwards, which means he is only allowed to travel to a particular point in his life once and once only.
  • In Animorphs, Ax states that, if you go back in time through a Sario Rip and come up to the exact same time as the moment you went back in the first place, you will be annihilated. However, since a rip can knock you back to while you were still alive, that means that there are two copies of one person at a time, and the annihilation occurs in place of a stable time loop resulting in only one copy, meaning that the person would go from two to none, instead of one.
    • Turns out this is averted by another side effect of Sario Rips: if future!you dies while past!you is still alive, past!you gains access to future!you's consciousness. When future!Jake dies, he snaps to his past self and simply elects not to take the mission that caused the Sario Rip in the first place.
  • In the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon series, one of the hard and fast rules of time travel is that a particular person can only exist in one place in one particular instant in time, which means that if a time traveler needs to be somewhere else at that particular moment, he needs to either go to that somewhere else, or jump to another place in time to allow the younger or older self where they need to be. Of course, for some time travelers like Mike Callahan or Lady Sally time travel is instantaneous, so you could excuse yourself to a back room to take care of something, disappear, and reappear after perhaps a minute or less, with no one any the wiser you were gone.
  • A non-time-travel example in Sergey Lukyanenko's Spectrum. A bartender the protagonist meets on one planet reveals that he was one of the earlier humans to use the Keymasters' Gates. A malfunction created multiple copies of him on many planets and continues to periodically create them. According to the Keymasters, the universe does not tolerate multiple copies of the same person and will try to kill all duplicates off through a series of unrelated accidents or unfortunate events (e.g. a docile animal suddenly goes berserk in his presence). The Keymasters warn the original never to use the Gates again until all the duplicates are gone, as he is not likely to make it to his destination. The main Story Arc involves a girl who ends up accidentally duplicating herself with the Gates. By the same token, each time the protagonist manages to find a copy of her, she ends up dying, except this time there doesn't appear to be an original version.
  • In Aeon Legion: Labyrinth when someone time travels, they become the 'original'. That original will override any other instance of that person when in the same time. This makes it impossible to meet yourself since you override your non time traveling self. It could be assumed that bringing another non time traveling version of yourself into the Edge of Time would also erase that instance since they did not time travel first.
  • L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s Timegod series has this as an explicit rule: a timediver cannot superimpose himself or herself in space and time. So if one screws something up, he can't just go back a few minutes and try again.
  • Isaac Asimov and Janet Asimov's The Norby Chronicles: In this setting, you cannot travel to a time where you already exist, although how the universe resolves that tends to vary. Norby cannot travel to a time where he already exists, but he can take passengers along with him. Norby's Other Secret establishes that if one of the passengers already exists at that time, that passenger would disappear, and would only reappear when he travelled to a time where they don’t currently exist. Norby and the Queen's Necklace establishes the necklace device, which tries to merge with other copies of itself (including Norby). When they first use the necklace, the past version wriggles towards Albany, who is wearing the present version, so that the two can become one object again.

    Live Action TV 
  • In 7 Days (1998), when Parker goes back in time, the Parker from the time he goes back to disappears from existence (as does the time machine itself and anything else inside it).
    • This causes a problem once, as Parker taking back something causes it to impossibly disappear out of a locked-and-handcuffed-to-a-person briefcase of the villain, cluing him in that something very very strange was going on.
    • There was also an episode where Parker spilling tea on a console resulted in the Sphere jumping prematurely (i.e. before he got in). So when the alarm sounds seven days ago, the others are very surprised to see their versions of Parker and Donovan (the backup chrononaut) still around. All they have to go on are the contents of Parker's bag from the future, including a key. Luckily, Dr. Mentnor knows a genuine psychic.
  • Not time-travel related, but early in Stargate SG-1, when two of the same character from alternate realities met up with one another, there would be negative "feedback" that would kill them if they stayed in the same reality too long. If the plot does requires the main characters to interact with another universe for longer periods, their alternates conventiently turn out to be already dead. When dozens of duplicates cross universes to cooperate in a later episode, it gets a Handwave by saying that "entropic cascade failure" doesn't occur when the realities are close enough to each other.
  • In Mirror, Mirror, things that exist at both times are prevented from crossing the mirror: If you try to take one with you, you'll be shocked instead.
  • The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.' zig-zags this, albeit probably unintentionally. In one epsisode Brisco goes back in time and gets an Orb from his past self, telling himself that he needs it in the future. In a later episode Brisco goes back in time again to effect a Big Damn Heroes moment that went badly the first time around, but this time his past self disappears from the continuum when he does so.
  • An alternate reality example in Earth: Final Conflict. When Liam and Augur accidentally end up in a parallel world, where humanity is fighting a losing war against the Taelons, they manage to flee back to their own reality with Maiya, a member of La Résistance and Lili's half-sister. On their world, though, Maiya starts experiencing an effect similar to the one in Stargate SG-1, cause by the presence of her double Isabel. They are told that they must "merge" into one in order to survive. This world's Lili also discovers that her missing father had another family, and that Isabel is her half-sister. When Isabel and Maiya come close, they merge into one body, but, unfortunately, Isabel's personality is gone, leaving only Maiya.
  • The most important time-travel rule on Timeless. It is impossible to revisit any time-period where another version of the time-traveler exists. This means that time-travelers cannot travel to any point within their own lifetime, or revisit any time-period they have previously traveled to. Its mentioned in the pilot that one attempt to do so resulted in the time-traveler returning mutilated.
  • The Man in the High Castle: One of the metaphysical laws of dimension-traveling between alternate universes is that a person cannot co-exist with another version of themselves in the same reality. Therefore, one can only travel to a universe where their counterpart is dead.
  • In one episode of Farscape, Crichton is "twinned" by a villain. The two Crichtons then go their separate ways and spend the rest of the season having their own adventures, until one of them makes a Heroic Sacrifice. This is more a meta case of being enforced by narrative restrictions than the show's universe, though.

    Tabletop RPGs 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd edition. When a clone was created with the Clone spell, both the original and the clone knew of the other's existence and each would try to kill the other. If they couldn't, within a week either one would go insane and kill itself (90% likely to be the clone) or, 2% of the time, both would kill themselves.
    • In Forgotten Realms some mages found a way around this — Zunroun cooperated with a dozen of his clones for some time. Preventing this by keeping all clones cold until the original dies also worked — Manshoon's Stasis Clone spell was a great secret and major plot point, making the Black Network's leader a Recurring Boss while keeping him on a disproportionately low level due to setbacks and memory losses every time he bit off too much to chew and got killed.
    • The Chronomancy book in 2nd edition enforced this on a planar level. A time traveler (a chronomancer and anyone they take along) could not exist in a timeframe where they were elsewhere on the same plane. The closer they got to attempting, more temporal rifts would open, causing various temporal monsters to attack the travelers. If they somehow outlasted everything until the point where they would have been, a rip in the space-time continuum automatically opens up and shunts the travelers to the next time period in which they would be unique.
    • 3rd Edition solved the problem by making the clone inert, even rotting unless preserved, until the original died and then his soul would instantly transfer to the clone.
  • Timemaster: One of the game's Laws of Time Travel was basically this trope. Any attempt to visit a time in which you already existed (either because it's during your pre-time travel life or because you already visited it) will "loop-trap" you into the previous visit.
    • The Timetricks supplement, which added more freeform time traveling to the game, introduced a device that would let you bypass that law for a short period of time... if it worked.

    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger:
    • Subverted at one point where Robo leaves the party in 600 A.D. to become a forest's caretaker. You get him back in 1000 A.D., and can immediately return to the past and have Robo go face-to-face with his past self without anything happening.
    • In fact, the universe doesn't seem to care about past and present versions interacting (some characters outright exist outside time), what is verboten is more than three characters from different eras going through the same portal (doing so sends them to the End of Time).
  • In Infinite Space, a rogue Zenito general repeatedly used mind transfer to escape death when you killed him. Franny stopped this by altering the transfer to copy the mind to all the clones, causing him to go crazy and die, because there can't be more than 1 copy of a person at a time.
  • When the main characters of the WarCraft Expanded Universe The War of the Ancients Trilogy are transported to the past, Krasus, the only one who existed then, finds himself considerably weaker and unable to transform into his true dragon form of Korialstrasz. We find Krasus's past self is experiencing the same problems, and it's attributed to the fact that, since they're one and the same, they're sharing the same life force. They also find themselves much stronger if they are together. Eventually they're able to lessen the problem by swapping one of their scales and using magic to bind them to their skin (It hurts like hell, but Krasus is able to transform his arms just long enough to rip off one of his scales).
    • The Warlords of Draenor expansion makes a point of killing off the alternate timeline's Velen, for no real reason except that he's one of the few characters to be alive in both timelines whose presence in the story could not logically be ignored.
  • Castlevania: Judgment is a borderline example. While Aeon is able to face himself in battle, he specifically states that it will cause damage to the timeline. Since he has the power to fix it, however, there isn't much of an issue.
  • In the Mirror Realm of AdventureQuest Worlds's 2nd Birthday Event, the hero that you play is chosen to save the Mirror Realm because he or she is the only person in the entire multiverse who does not have an alternate in the Mirror Realm — if anyone else in either world were to go to the other world, they'd have to switch places with their mirror counterpart. Paul and Storm do not have mirror counterparts either because they "grew up in a small suburb just outside of the multiverse." Just roll with it.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, no matter how many times you go back in time, there is only ever one Link (and Tatl) in Termina. Most likely, this is the Ocarina of Time at work.
    • Hyrule Warriors: Throughout Legend Mode, it is never even considered that other versions of characters could be running around different timelines; when rumors of Zelda running around the Era of the Hero of Time are heard, it is immediately assumed to be Hyrule Warriors Zelda and never even considered it could be the Hero of Time-era Zelda. Similarly, no other Links are mentioned or even seen in Legend Mode, even when some of them are playable characters alongside the Warriors Link.
  • In the Super Robot Wars Z plotline, this trope is the reason why the original Kouji Kabuto and the classic Getter Robo team can't team up with their Shin Mazinger and Getter Robo Armageddon counterparts.
  • Randal's Monday: Randal has to avoid this by killing his past self.
  • This is central to one character in Fate/stay night, but even saying which is a huge spoiler. Archer is actually counter-guardian EMIYA, as in Emiya Shirou, as in the idealistic protagonist he shares a mutual hared with. Archer is Shirou's future self from a possible future, and merely existing at the same point in the timeline causes the two to bleed skills and thoughts into each other (well, mostly one way, since Archer sees Shirou as an unskilled idiot). Archer's suicidal, actually hoping this disruption - or failing that, killing his younger self personally - will finally put a permanent end to his existence.
    • In the SERAPH event of Fate/Grand Order Meltryllis kills her alternate past self after travelling back in time, as if there were two copies of her that would cause Kiara to realise what her plan was. The past Meltryllis accepts her death, as she had been shown future Meltryllis's memories and agreed that saving the Protagonist from Kiara was something worth dying for.
  • A central point of the time travel mechanics in Radiant Historia is that Stocke can only be in one place at one time. If he travels back to a when, he'll reappear at the corresponding where. While this isn't usually a big issue in the story, it does create problems when a rival time traveler attempts to cut the knot on Stocke's efforts by attacking a key figure before Stocke met them. Of course Stocke happened to be passing by on another mission and may have bumped into said character if you went to the right area. When he appears to intercept the assassination, said rival is flummoxed for a moment and laments out loud that of course Stocke would have just happened to have been this close at this point in time.
  • In Mortal Kombat 11, timeline shenanigans occur thanks to the Big Bad and causes characters from the past appearing in the present time. The multiple copies are allowed to exist except for Raiden. Due to a law from the Elder Gods stating that there can never be more than one of them existing at any time, the Raiden of the present ceases to exist while the Raiden of the past takes his place. No one sees this as a bad thing since the vanished Raiden had become a Knight Templar and the heroes disliked his change.

    Web Comics 
  • Homestuck: According to Aradia, a future self who travels back from a doomed timeline is doomed to be destroyed by the universe sooner or later.
    • This is only a partial example, as people can travel through time without problems as long as they stay in the same universe.
  • In L's Empire you can only travel to a time before you were born (you will be sent back to your time of origin upon birth). Note that this only applies to mechanical time travel, magical time travel doesn't have any set rules.
  • In Grrl Power Harem can have up to 5 copies of herself running around, but due to a portal gone haywire she found herself in the future, and became a 6th Harem and her brain went all haywire until they returned back to normal time.

    Western Animation 
  • In Justice League, Vandal Savage's time machine cannot send a person back to when that person existed. Since he's an immortal who's lived through around 99% of human history this means he can't actually use it himself. In his first appearance, this did not prevent him from sending a recording and information back into time. In his third, in "Hereafter", he's the sole human survivor of a distant future, After the End (entirely his fault and he knows it), and when he's finally joined by a Superman who got bumped forward 30,000 years, they eventually realize that Superman is "already dead" and the chance is there for him to go back and prevent Savage's attack from happening.
  • Futurama: Bender's Big Score has this in effect. Whenever a duplicate is created through time travel, the universe eventually kills them off to prevent further confusion. However, at the end of the movie, several hundred time-traveling Benders appear simultaneously; this proves too much for the universe to handle, and a hole in space-time rips open.
  • Gravity Falls: "The Time Traveler's Pig" also had this in effect. When Dipper and Mabel steal a time traveling device lost by a time traveler from the future, they use it to travel back in time to the start of Stan's fair, all the while never running into their past selves from earlier since there aren't any instances of time travel duplicate at all.
  • In Oggy and the Cockroaches, characters traveling to the past "merge" with their past selves upon meeting to avoid this problem.
  • In Samurai Jack, a person cannot travel to any point in time that they have existed in. This is why Aku has to prevent Jack from travelling back; If Jack gets through, Aku would be unable to follow him even with his own power, and he's existed for a few millennia since he threw Jack forward. This is best demonstrated when Jack could only return at best seconds after the moment Aku flung him out, and not at any point in his own lifetime before.
  • Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? has time travelers demonstrate the ability to "merge" with their past selves if they come close enough. This even occurs with a horseshoe that gets stolen from Paul Revere by Carmen, then taken by Zack and Ivy, who then have to prevent Carmen from stealing the horseshoe in the first place.