Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Unattached Agents

Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991).

Manson Everard is:

an Unattached agent of the Time Patrol, not assigned to any single period but able to travel to any time or place on Earth, answerable only to his peers and the superhuman Danellians of the far future;

"'...one of the more important agents operating within the past three millennia.'" (p. 263)

But the Patrol guards a million years of history. This implies that many Unattached agents of comparable importance operate in later millennia. Everard meets one, Komzimo, from an unspecified far future period, seven feet tall, of a race that Everard does not recognize. While in Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt, "'...tracking down an expedition from her home millennium that'd gone back in search of cultural inspiration and evidently gotten lost...'" (p. 300), she was contacted by twelfth century Time Patrol bases who had found that uptime from them was a divergent timeline.

Scanning data after taking charge of the emergency operation, she finds that Everard, who has already experienced a divergent timeline, is on vacation at the Pleistocene lodge in 18,244 BC so she travels there/then to confer. She has already spent possibly years of lifespan traveling to seek help but also to conceal the temporal catastrophe from most Patrol members who are in earlier periods. Just as the Patrol conceals time travel from people in the past, Unattached agents conceal a divergent timeline from most Patrol members so that hopefully that timeline will be annulled and the members will return to their own periods unaffected by the catastrophe.

When the lodge becomes the headquarters of the emergency operation, guests and staff crowd into the dining room where a Cro-Magnon artist had painted a mural of bison in 18,294 BC. Komozino says that discussion of a temporal change "'...requires a metalanguage and metalogic accessible to few intellects...'" (p. 304) Thus, even Temporal will not suffice.

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