Friday, 14 February 2014

Battle At Sea

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

A Tyrian ship is en route to Cyprus. On board are:

the crew, including Pum, a Time Patrol spy who has learned to swim and conceals a radio transmitter under his loincloth;

seven passengers, Sinim/Exaltationists, with concealed life jackets and energy weapons.

The ship enters a storm. Either half a dozen (p. 324) or seven (p. 326) Exaltationist timecyclists appear and fire at the ship, intending to destroy it and kill its crew but rescue their colleagues. Pum transmits. Forty Patrol timecyclists waiting at a distance triangulate, then jump forwards in space and backwards in time to englobe the enemy vehicles at the moment of Pum's transmission. They intend to:

kill the flying Exaltationists;
capture the seven who were on the ship;
rescue Pum, who should be swimming;
ensure that one other crew member, Gisgo, survives to tell the tale.

Their only failure is that "...three [timecycles] got away, but would be hunted, would be hunted." (ibid.)

I took "...would be hunted..." to mean simply that the Patrol's work continues, not that there would be a sequel beginning with the Patrol's continued hunt for the escaped Exaltationists. However, both a prequel and a direct sequel were written later. Thus, the Exaltationists came to be the collective continuing villain of the Time Patrol series - but the last of them are rounded up in the following installment.

There are several typically evocative phrases from Anderson. Gisgo's shipmates and friends:

"...died and their kin mourned them, as would be the fate of seafarers for the next several thousand years...and afterward spacefarers, timefarers..." (p. 325)

We do not usually think of sea, space and time as three successive ways to fare but it makes sense here.

When the Time Patrol squadron meets to take stock on a small Aegean island:

"Far and far away, a sail passed by. It could have been driving the ship of Odysseus." (p. 326)

It could indeed.

No comments: