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From: "Roy C. Lackey" 
Subject: (urth) FLF: Whitten's ages
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 02:14:13 -0600

mantis wrote:
>My timeline fragment shows that the 53-year-old deserter did =not= go
>straight back to 1803, he went back to 1807.  Maybe he did this to
>acclimitize himself to 19th century life before going on the 1803
>I suspect that HC interview Whitten is the one who is about to go to 1803,
>after having lived 7 years of experience in 1807-1818 (with vacations in

I could agree with that but for Whitten's ages--real and apparent--at two
critical stages. The first is his self-stated age (60-70) at the time of the
HC interview. But he looks so much like the 82-year-old the four lived with
for a few days in 1983 that they all recognize him immediately, but hadn't
recognized him shortly before then as the 53-year-old general. The HC Free
has undergone at least ten years of hard living somewhere, somewhen. And he
claims not to know from his own personal experience that any version of
himself has gone to the Lewis & Clark expedition. Unless he's lying, for no
reason I can see, then this 60-something-year-old man will have to start
using a gizmo to go back in time in order to merge with younger versions of
himself, to make himself both look and feel younger. Which leads to the
second critical stage. Because the first item in Wolfe's timeline states
that the Ben Free who joined up with L. & C. *looked* younger than 60,
whereas Free-in-the-cockpit looked older than 60. But Wolfe also states that
he was in fact age 60 at the time he joined L. & C. That's the problem;
either Free was wrong about his current age at the time of the HC interview,
or Wolfe made a mistake somewhere, either in the text or the timeline. (I
know of two mistakes in the timeline, but they are minor and don't really
affect the chronology.)

>That is, the three Whittens of 1983 are:
>1) Buck Whitten (age 53) duffle coat/prior to desertion.
>2)Free Whitten (age 60-something) High Country interview/years after
>desertion but still prior to Lewis & Clark.
>3) Ben Free (age 80-something?) after Lewis & Clark, with cataracts and
>shot dead in 1983.

The main problem I have had in trying to make a timeline for Free from his
sequential perspective is, I think, the same problem we are having trying to
fit Wolfe's timeline to the text. It centers, I think, on the last item in
his timeline, the date of Whitten's desertion. Wolfe makes mistakes, yes,
but not one that big. I think the problem is that we have assumed that
January 24, 1983 was literally, sequentially only two days after the HC
interview. In a time-travel story, that ain't necessarily so, and probably
isn't. It's just a date on the calendar. But, it is a *safe* date. That is,
it is safely three days *after* Ben Free was killed. He wasn't likely to
show up and make Whitten disappear again. But it is also safely close enough
to the date of the house's partial demolition that it was probably still
standing. The wall containing the gizmo would still be there, the gizmo
Whitten used to desert to a known safe time, while taking his portable gizmo
with him through it, so he could get back when/if he wanted to.

To be clear: I think that Whitten, after an unknown period of time (years?)
while he continued to work for the OSS and look for Ben Free, when he
decided to desert, used the portable gizmo to travel to January 24, 1983,
from whatever time period he was then in. He had deduced where Free's
"ticket" was, just as the text says, and used it.

I'm still working on when/where he went after he deserted, but if the above
is right it means that Whitten was probably older than 53 when he deserted.
I think it very likely that he was more than 53, and the text seems to
support that idea. I don't think the General Whitten the four spoke to
Friday night was anywhere near resolved to deserting three days later.

>But Roy, if I understand it correctly, Whitten is the one (and likely the
>=only= one) who detected some shadowy time-travel going on:
>And the organization isn't looking for a renegade, as far as I can tell.

It depends on what is meant by the organization. Whitten's group was
certainly looking for him. Kip even had the FBI involved. Her daddy's
disappearance is what set her off and caused her to throw "caution to the
winds" in her search for the renegade, Free. From the cockpit interview:
    "And when he came back I disappeared, as far as Kip and the rest were
concerned. Kip thought Free had done it, and she must have been frantic. We
had people monitoring the papers and the television news fulltime  . . ."



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