Sunday, 16 March 2014

Differences Between Timelines III

Poul Anderson, The Corridors Of Time (New York, 1968).

A group of Wardens builds a time corridor from Colorado in the 1960's into the Ranger heartland in the late fortieth century but, as soon as the corridor is activated, Brann comes down it with a superior force. Of the Wardens, only the Koriach, calling herself Storm Darroway, survives the Ranger counterattack. Over a year later, accompanied by Malcolm Lockridge, she travels from 1964 AD to 1827 BC along a corridor in Denmark. In the corridor, they meet and kill two Rangers.

Travel along the corridors is by gravity sleds. When they reach the twenty five year wide gate giving access to 1827 BC, Storm sends their sled back to its starting point, saying:

"'If Brann knew that the killers of his men had entered from 1964, and found an extra conveyance here, he would know the whole story.'" (p. 32)

How much can Brann know? (We later learn that it was Lockridge who put him on Storm's tracks but Storm does not know this yet.) He will know that Warden agents killed his men because Wardens and Rangers are the only two groups to use the corridors. Several Warden women were killed and unrecognizably mutilated in the fight at the American corridor so he may hope that she was among them. Even if he hypothesizes that she escaped in Colorado, there is no necessary connection between her and someone entering a corridor in another continent over a year later and traveling to the past. If Brann, immediately after the fight in Colorado, finds evidence of Warden activity in a corridor, it does not follow that that activity immediately followed the fight in the corridor from the point of view of the Wardens. Since time travel is involved, most of it will not.

Wardens and Rangers have had time corridor technology from one or two centuries before Storm's birth and have used it to influence many past centuries but are barred from their future. In this sense, they share their "present." However, over the course of two or more centuries of time traveling, a Ranger from, e.g., 3964 may come into conflict with a Warden from 3764 or vice versa.

On the other hand, very small numbers of time travelers are involved, unlike in the Time Patrol scenario. Individual leaders of both sides time travel, accompanied by associates or minions as necessary. Brann goes alone to lead the Indo-Europeans against Avildaro. When he has captured the village, and with it Storm, he calls in some of his people but these few are killed, and Brann captured, when eight Wardens attack with British mercenaries.

If, during the twenty five years of a gate's existence, a particular time traveler has never used that gate, then he is never going to use it. If his future self were going to use it, then his use of it would already be part of its past. By gathering intelligence on his antagonists' movements and activities, Brann has a good chance of knowing, e.g., that Warden activity in the 1960's is limited to the Colorado corridor project and therefore that a Warden leaving 1964 may well be a fugitive from the fight in that corridor. But she could also be a Warden from Brann's future passing through on some unrelated mission. Also, intelligence may be incomplete. Storm hopes to conceal a Warden power base in the Northern European Bronze Age and Lockridge manages to conceal something else.

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