Monday, 14 July 2014

Multiverse: Gondwanaland IV

Robert Silverberg, "Christmas in Gondwanaland" IN Greg Bear and Gardner Dozois, Editors, Multiverse: Exploring Poul Anderson's Worlds (Burton, MI, 2014), pp. 215-244.

The Time Patrol Founding Convocation camp at Alpha Point in Gondwanaland comprises a large administration dome, an inner courtyard and a semicircle of tents temporarily housing the Patrol's fifty or sixty greatest leaders. A group of terrorists from around 9999 AD, making millisecond leaps, sticks five capsules containing a toxic substance around the camp, then, on a second series of leaps, touches off the capsules, the fifth potentiating the rest, thus releasing a lethal gas.

Five Patrol members plan to counter the attack:

Daniel Ben-Eytan;
Manson Everard;
Elio Gonzalez;
Hideko Nakamura;
Lora Spallanzani.

First, Ben-Eytan and Nakamura, visiting Alpha Point several times just before the attack, detect the barely discernible microleaps. Secondly, all five make surveillance trips during the two or three days preceding the attack in order to pinpoint the planting of the capsules. Approaching by air on a two-seat time hopper, Everard and Gonzalez land, enter the camp and walk unobtrusively around looking for "'...a blur.'" (p. 237) For each surveillance, they must leave the camp, time jump on the hopper according to a schedule and re-enter the camp. How can they avoid being noticed by the Founders? Unless the Danellians have notified the Founders that these guys wandering around the camp are a legitimate Patrol activity? Surely it would occur to some of the Founders that security is necessary to prevent any hostile extratemporal interventions in the Convocation?

On their fourth jump, Everard notices a blur and Gonzalez records the spot with a scanner. Leaving and making another jump, they return ten minutes earlier, seeing their slightly younger selves, and Gonzalez, properly prepared, records the spatiotemporal coordinates of the blur. The blurs are so brief that surely many visits would be necessary to detect even one and the courtyard would become crowded with multiple visits by the five Patrol members?

They must avoid detection by any "'...Patrol II surveillance team...'" (p. 238) but none such appear and it would be an odd situation, two Time Patrols fighting each other, one Patrol protecting the assassination of the Founders of the other, when both work for the same Danellians. But no Patrol II members show. Patrol II is a deus ex machina, used to answer an awkward question but not otherwise involved in the narrative.

Reconnaissance completed and the times of planting and detonation known, the next task is to neutralize the capsules and capture the terrorists but, since time has passed here, that will be discussed in another post.

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