Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Man Versus Nature

Anderson often describes combat but, in Orion Shall Rise, he presents an inspiring variation - or alternative.

Observers in Skyholm, a two kilometer wide stratospheric aerostat above Tours, alert the Weather Corps when they detect, approaching Uropa, a Force Twelve hurricane that will

"...flatten the Etang area, drown a score of fishing villages, and probably wreck Port Bordeu..."

disrupting shipping and killing the two thirds of the inhabitants who cannot be evacuated in time. (1)

Weather Command orders all of its Stormbringer jet aircraft to Port Bordeu for a briefing before flying to the hurricane. Three jets enter the storm at different points. Ascending from the middle of the storm to an altitude of ten kilometers, Stormbringer Iern probes with radar, infrared sensors, calibrated magnifiers and a Maurai television camera. Having located the eye of the storm, he then maps it by spiraling in loops of three kilometer's radius, two kilometers apart. Enclosed in night, wind, lightning, thunder, rain and sleet, he fights to keep his craft intact and in the air. Entering the calm at the centre, he returns to the fight while instruments gauge and an ultrahigh-frequency beam transmits pressures, velocities, ionisations, potentials and gradients to the Domain's single, powerful computer at Skyholm.

Finished transmitting and now close to hill-high waves, he returns to the centre and climbs. At Skyholm, solar collectors continually refill accumulators powering lasers focused on well-chosen parts of the storm, either drilling and eroding or upsetting the balance. The core, still active but reduced in force, veers northwest, causing strong winds and heavy rains along the coast for two or three days but nothing disastrous. Further energy input might drive the core against Eria (Ireland) so Skyholm desists.

Combat skills and techniques, a fighter jet but without weapons and no human beings killing each other. Why can't it always be like that? Earth also needs an asteroid defence system. Ierne reflects that:

"A storm so great that men fought against it came but twice or thrice in a career." (2)

But there must be other kinds of hazards and disasters that they can fight?

He might also see human combat. There have been conflicts in Espaynia, Italya and Iberya. However:

"Iern hoped the peace would endure. He didn't relish the idea of killing men. He didn't even hunt -" (3)

Iern is a good contrast to warrior heroes. His battle against the storm is a hopeful precursor of a peaceful future when jet aircraft no longer fight each other.

(1) Anderson, Poul, Orion Shall Rise, London, 1988, p. 14.
(2) ibid., p. 16.
(3) ibid., p. 15.

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