Friday, 14 February 2014

Time Travel Detective Work

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

The Exaltationists threaten to destroy Tyre so they must have done some research at a safely earlier date, for example before the Tyrian Time Patrol Base was established, in order to learn how most effectively to wreck that society. Tyre, ruled by Hiram, was recently built on an artificial island that had previously been two skerries. Inquiries during the reign of Hiram's father, Abibaal, should reveal the plans for building Tyre.

When Everard arrives in Tyre during Hiram's reign, he is approached by Pum(mairam) who offers to be his paid guide - just as Fr Axor arriving on the planet Imhotep in another timeline is approached by Diana Crowfeather for the same purpose. Pum with his sling saves Everard from an Exaltationist assassin, then advices Everard to befriend Sarai of the palace staff. Through Sarai, Everard meets another servant whose aged and retired father is old enough to remember the visit to Abibaal's court of inquisitive foreigners answering the description of Exaltationists.

Everard learns that the Exaltationists covered their tracks by leaving Tyre in a ship that was lost in a storm, although they would have been rescued by colleagues on timecycles, but he does not know when. Pum tracks down a survivor of the shipwreck, Gisgo, who does know when:

"'An even one score and six years, come fifteen days before the fall equinox, or pretty near to that.'" (p. 316)

Gisgo knows that Egyptian priests must keep a close calender and that seamen beyond the Pillars of Melquart must heed the tides and noticed that the Sinim (Exaltationists) were very precise about their exact departure date. Realizing that such precision might be profitable, Gisgo, even though not yet able to read or write, decided to remember one major event each year, keep those events in order and count back when necessary. Thus, the loss of the Sinim was in the year between a venture to the Red Cliff Shores and his catching of the Babylonian disease. What Gisgo remembers is not only the loss of a ship but also the Patrol's capture of the Exaltationists.

Everard's detective work has been helped by Pum, Sarai and Gisgo and Pum is astute enough to be recruited to the Patrol.

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