I noticed that I’d been making use of various uptime drugs, and thought perhaps I’d better have some sort of idea what Geirvirke’s capabilities were.
For some reason this didn’t get posted in sequence, so I’m putting it up now. It belongs to the CK period of There Will Be War.
Some notes on the equipment the various Ynglings are bringing down from the uptime: First, weapons. The Secret Hird is quite careful to exclude obvious anachronisms such as automatic firearms – although of course, their guess as to what is anachronistic will get increasingly worse as time progresses – but that is not to say that no improvements can be made. For example, Geir Jonsson’s axe Manbiter, which has now passed from father to son for six generations, is as sharp as it was on the day Geir brought it down from Dovre. This is because it is not made of steel, but of a high-density, vacuum-forged titanium alloy. What’s more, the balance of the axe has been improved by the addition of ball bearings to the hollow shaft, such that when the wielder is merely holding the axe, the bearings’ weight is near the hand, balancing the head; but when he strikes, they run up into the head, lending weight to the blow. Such an axe is of course completely useless for any society with the technology and the understanding of mechanical advantage to produce it; but very useful for a single agent being sent into the past. What’s more, it would require a quite careful examination by a well-educated chemist to determine that the axe-head is not just very good steel. A downtimer looking for evidence of sorcery, or even an uptimer searching for anachronisms, would pass the axe by without a second glance; but it lends its wielder a quite considerable edge in personal combat. Similarly, Geir’s mail brynje is made of the same metal, with the loops much smaller than what downtime smiths are wont to produce, and triply rather than doubly linked. And thus with all the personal weapons the uptime agents carry: They look just like other weapons of the period, but have five to ten times the cutting or protective power.
Next are the drugs. All kinds of interesting interrogation and war chemicals can be carried in a plastic five-ounce bottle. Each agent carries a few dozen of these; with twenty-third century science, their shelf life is effectively indefinite and the required dose for effectiveness is tiny, so that over the centuries a quite impressive, though irreplaceable, arsenal has been built up at Geirvirke. The Ynglings usually refer to them by the colour of the bottle, thus:
- Yellow: An interrogation drug to make the subject suggestible, lowering his inhibitions on doing what other people tell him. A single dose will wear off with no noticeable side effects, but if used for long-term control as was done to Folke of Sudrey, there will be severe effects on his intelligence and self-control.
- Purple: An assassination drug. Tasteless, scentless, and essentially undetectable to anything but a twenty-third century forensics lab, it kills by inducing strokes between five and ten days after it is ingested – giving the assassin time to get well away.
- Grey: A pheromonal cocktail, not ingested but worn as a perfume, which signals (to the male brain, or rather to the vomeronasal organ) fertility, sexual receptiveness, and attraction. The effect is to make the female wearing the scent extremely attractive, to the point of producing instant erection in susceptible males. Because the vomeronasal organ is rudimentary in humans, the effect is somewhat unpredictable; the grey works best in enclosed spaces, on teenaged males, and on subjects who are not aware of its existence.
- Cyan: Dominance pheromones. As with the grey, the effect is a bit unpredictable, but when they work, the wearer seems more articulate, attractive, and forceful than is really the case. People will find themselves nodding in agreement even if an argument isn’t actually very convincing. just because it is hard-wired into the human brain to agree with high-status speakers.
- Orange: A drug to inhibit the higher cortical functions, in effect rendering the subject stupider – less able to think critically or abstractly. A subtle poison, initially intended for distribution into Chinese reservoirs, thus enabling Norway to win the Long War fifty years later through faster technological advancement. The project failed when Spanish agents infiltrated the strils of the janitorial staff, found the plans, and sold them to China, which rapidly developed a method for detecting the drug and threatened to retaliate in kind. It was eventually used as a punishment for rebellious and intelligent strils.
- Red: A combat drug, causing the subject’s adrenaline and endorphin production, among others, to go into overdrive. The intended effects are berserk strength, imperviousness to pain, and a slowed perception of time. The unintended effects are a vast strain on the heart, to the point of a 10% fatality rate in men over thirty, and occasional broken bones and snapped tendons when the subject’s body fails to warn him of the damage his overstraining muscles are doing. The red is a drug of desperation. Intended to make Hird soldiers invincible in the constant border skirmishes of the Long War, it was never used for that purpose due to the side effects; instead it found a black market among Ynglings challenged to duels they had no chance of winning.
- Black: Not a single drug, but a catchall colour for biowar agents. Weaponised smallpox, air-transmitted HIV, improved influenza, stabilised Ebola, and those good old standbys anthrax and Y. pestis – any of these can be found in a black bottle. It is not clear whether these weapons are practical; disease knows no flag and no border, especially in a medieval world with no paranoid public agencies looking for evidence of attack. But the Ynglings are not ones to leave a weapon behind merely because they cannot see an immediate use for it.
- Blue: Another interrogation drug, this one producing truthfulness and garrulity. The effect is a little like being drunk, but rather more so, except that speech centers are unaffected, so the subject’s words remain clear.
- White: The distant descendant of steroids, the white exaggerates the effect of exercise, causing the subject to build much greater amounts of muscle mass than he otherwise would. The fibres thus added are twitch fibres, giving immediate strength but not much endurance; thus the white tends to produce weight lifters and sprinters rather than long-distance runners.
- Green: Actually two drugs, a male and a female version. The male cures erectile dysfunction, and increases sperm production. The female makes the cervical wall more receptive to fertilised eggs, stabilises chemical conditions in the vagina to make it as hospitable as possible to sperm, and increases the fertile period. Both versions increase the libido. The proverbial Uptime Fertility Drug.
- Pink: From penicillin onwards, a catchall for antibiotics and other modern antibacterials.
- Mauve: Produces a feeling of religious ecstasy in the subject. Used for long-term conditioning, with care; although it has no physical withdrawal symptoms, the psychological addictiveness is greater than that of tobacco and heroin combined.
- Gold: Used for surgery. The subject loses consciousness, his heartbeat and metabolism slows, and his blood coagulates faster. Further, scarring is inhibited, allowing surgical wounds to heal fully.
- Silver: A painkiller, roughly as powerful as morphine but without the detachment and the physical withdrawal symptoms.
Finally, the minds of the downtime agents are themselves a weapon and a resource. Ynglings are trained all their lives to consider problems in terms of power relations, means and ends, threat and counterthreat and acceptable casualties. In a world of men who consider problems in terms of honour, glory, personal loyalty, and the Christian faith, this ought to be a large advantage. Somehow it hasn’t worked out that way.