Sunday, 20 July 2014

Cover Story

Manson Everard feeds Benegal Dass, the Time Patrol researcher in Bactra, an elaborate cover story. Concealing his own Unattached status in the Patrol, Everard claims to be Specialist Jack Holbrook, born Toronto, 1975, a researcher in military history, whose present task is merely to relay information gathered by Dass in his role as Indian seeker of enlightenment, Chandrakumar.

The supposed plot is for a usurper to overthrow King Arsaces of Parthia, denounce Arsaces' peace treaty with the Seleucid ruler Antiochus, attack Antiochus' army on its return from India, killing Antiochus in the process, then establish an earlier version of the Sassanian dynasty. "Holbrook" will, according to Everard's story, join the army of the Syrian invaders, accompany them to India, relay Chandrakumar's information to another Patrol agent and try to protect Antiochus with an energy weapon. In reality, Everard will remain in Bactra and use any information about strange visitors to the city to try to track down any Exaltationists that may be there.

Elaborating his story, he suggests that "'...a small band of fanatics...'" with stolen time vehicles may want "To lay a groundwork for Mohammed and the ayatollahs to take over the world?'" -Poul Anderson, The Shield Of Time (New York, 1991), p. 55. Surely changing history that much would prevent the birth of Mohammed but maybe "fanatics" would not realize that? Or maybe they would be able to start something like Islam at about the right time out of the same social conditions.

L Sprague de Camp's Martin Padway, changing history during the later Roman Empire, predicts the birth of a heretical teacher called Mohammed. Again, Padway's changes would prevent that birth but then that is what he is trying to do, with no Time Patrol to stop him, to preserve a unified civilization - with Christianity as its belief system because that set of doctrines was already in place before he arrived.

The "Holbrook" story misleads the Exaltationists when one of them is able to interrogate Dass after his arrest.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wasn't "Jack Holbrook" Jack Vance's real name?

Speaking of little word games Anderson may have been playing with character names, I'm not the first to note that "Manse Everard" is an "ever 'ard man" as you'll find, a true hardcase in more senses of the word than one.

Paul Shackley said...

Thank you, Anon.

Paul Shackley said...

I did not know about Vance's real name.

ndrosen said...

Not quite. Jack Vance's full name was John Holbrook Vance, so "Jack Holbrook" us an allusion, but not exactly his real name.

Best Regards,
Nicholas D. Rosen