Tuesday, 18 March 2014

An Army Of One

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (London, 1968); The Guardians Of Time (New York, 1981).

The Warden Storm has fled to Denmark in 1827 BC on the one hand believing that there are no Rangers there then but on the other hand not knowing what does happen in that year. Immediately, she finds disturbing signs. Wheel marks indicate that the Yuthoaz, the local Battle Ax tribes, have come this far. These tribes are Indo-Europeans whose inwandering was engineered by the Rangers.

Next, children seeing the approaching Storm and Lockridge yell and flee. They have reason to fear strangers, which they did not before.

Thirdly, while Storm and Lockridge are guests in Avildaro, word comes that a Battle Ax war band approaches. Storm says that, if she and her twentieth century bodyguard defend Avildaro with energy weapons:

"'The energies might be detected. Or, at least, the story might reach Ranger agents and alert them to us. Best that you and I take refuge elsewhere.'" (Corridors, p. 60)

Reconnaissance has shown that there is no large scale use of energy devices in this millennium but would not have detected a few hand weapons. Lockridge insists that they defend their hosts and thus they are captured by the Ranger Brann who has come alone, with his energy weapons, to lead the Yuthoaz who readily accept him as their deity. (The Time Patrol book cover shows Merau Varagan, who resembles Brann.)

Held prisoner, Storm explains:

"'You must realize the numbers in this war through time are not large. With powers such as a single person may wield, they cannot be. Brann is - you have no word. A crucial figure. Though he must take the field himself, because so few are able, he is a commander, a maker of planet-shaking decisions...a king. And I am as great a prize.'" (p. 66)

When we see Brann in his own century, his megalopolitan tower is circled by warcraft and surrounded by flying patrolmen, so it is strange to think of him going into battle alone but, as Storm explains, these are the conditions of the time war.

Individual excellence is also practiced by the Time Patrol:

"One of the hardest lessons [Everard] had had to learn, when first recruited into the Time Patrol, was that every important task did not require a vast organization. That was the characteristic twentieth-century approach; but earlier centuries, like Athenian Hellas and Kamakura Japan - and later civilizations too, here and there in history - had concentrated on the development of individual excellence. A single graduate of the Patrol Academy (equipped, to be sure, with tools and weapons of the future) could be the equivalent of a brigade.
"But it was a matter of necessity as well as aesthetics. There were all too few people to watch over all too many thousands of years." (Guardians, p. 142)

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