Friday, 21 February 2014

The Danellians II

Poul Anderson, Time Patrol (New York, 2006).

In the previous post, I quoted a Danellian addressing Everard in 1944. The Danellian continues:

"But you were still a necessary link in the chain of time. If you had failed tonight, there would not be mercy." (p. 51)

This is not entirely clear. The Danellians did not have to wait until the night of November 17th 1944 to find out how Everard performed then. They already have records not only in the future but also, we have just been told, ages before he was born. And what would have constituted his failure? As it is, he has broken all the rules of the Patrol but they are going along with his demands.

"To us, it was a matter of record that one Charles and Mary Whitcomb lived in Victoria's England. It was also a matter of record that Mary Nelson died with the family she was visiting in 1944, and that Charles Whitcomb had lived a bachelor and finally been killed on active duty with the Patrol. The discrepancy was noted, and as even the smallest paradox is a dangerous weakness in the space-time fabric, it had to be rectified by eliminating one or the other fact from ever having existed. You have decided which it will be." (pp.51-52)

Let us see if we can disentangle some of the timelines here.

Timeline 1
(i) Everard, recruited to the Patrol in 1954, and Whitcomb, recruited in 1947, meet at the Academy.
(ii) Because Everard's first case is to be in England in 1894, then 461, he asks Whitcomb to accompany him.
(ii) In 461, they kill the time criminal, Stane.
(iv) They agree that Whitcomb will take Stane's (stolen) time machine to 1894 while Everard returns on their two seat timecycle.
(v) They do this.
(vi) Whitcomb lives as a bachelor and dies on active duty.
(vii) Since, although this has not been recognized yet, Everard is basically "'...unfit for steady work'" (p. 53), he is later promoted to Unattached status.

Timeline 2
(i)-(iv) as above.
(v) Whitcomb uses Stane's machine to go to 1944 to save Mary but has not thought through how to do it and is bungling the job.
(vi) When Whitcomb fails to arrive in 1894, Everard realizes what he must have done and goes to his rescue.
(vii) It could have been thought that Mary was killed in a bombed house whereas instead the Patrol had spirited her away to 1850 but Everard goes further and saves the family that Mary would have visited. The Danellians accept this - but it should cause some changes in the memory of the Whitcomb that the Patrol has recruited. This could lead to duplication: two Whitcombs arriving at the Academy, one remembering that Mary and the Enderbys whom she was visiting were killed by a bomb, the other remembering that the Enderbys had survived because they visited Mary's house while she was missing, presumed killed, near their house.
(viii) Everard is promoted to Unattached status.

There are two decision points here. Whitcomb did not need to decide to use Stane's machine to save Mary. Indeed, it seems that there was a timeline in which he did not decide to do this. Once Whitcomb had made this decision, Everard had to decide what to do about it. But there is no record of a third timeline in which Whitcomb bungled rescuing Mary with no help from Everard. Given that Whitcomb made his decision, the Danellians are pleased with Everard's decisiveness in responding to his friend's predicament.

The Danellians do not want a timeline containing two Whitcombs, one married in Victorian England, the other a bachelor in the Patrol, or two Marys, one living and dying in Victorian England, the other dying in 1944. But I am not sure that such a composite timeline was on the cards.

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