Replicoids were the secret basis of a Temporal Momentum that guided Earthlings from one Reality to the next in Earth's Reality Chain. Upon entering into Eternity, I at first imagined there was only a single replicoid for each human being. Only later did I realize that a powerful Temporal Momentum is built up in the Hierion Domain by having many copies of each replicoid. - from Grean's report on replicoid technology
Overseer Sachiz and Asimov's replicoid arrived at Observer Base. Asimov found himself in the large, comfortably furnished home of Sachiz. For a short time the Overseer watched Asimov for signs of disorientation arising from sudden teleportation to a new place, then she released his arm. Sachiz blinked rapidly and felt some slight discomfort herself.
Sachiz turned away from Asimov, walked across the room and sagged into a comfortable chair where she quickly gathered her thoughts. With one last glance at Asimov, the Overseer then activated a giant view screen that was embedded in one wall of her office. The walls of the house were quite tall and the ceilings of the rooms arched upwards like ovoids, each providing a simulated view of a star field as might be seen from the surface of the Moon. The big display screen suddenly glowed with an array of subimages as it simultaneously showed 16 other locations within Observer Base, one for each other member of the tryp'At Council. Sachiz announced, "I'm back. I successfully extracted Isaac Asimov's replicoid from Earth and I'll now begin the interrogation process."
One of the Council members who could be seen at the far right side in the second row of images on the screen said, "I'll bring the book."
Having completed her duty of providing an update to the Council, Sachiz inactivated the display screen and turned to look at Asimov. The Asimov replicoid was casually looking around the dimly lit office and he gave a nervous glance at the dark, star-spangled ceiling. He looked over his shoulder at Sachiz and muttered, "Interrogation, eh? I've heard that Overseers can be rude jerks." Sachiz held her lips in an angry straight line and said nothing. Isaac asked, "Where are we?"
Asimov experimented with some long bouncing strides. "When I was a kid I imagined going to the Moon."
Asimov looked around the library and stepped close to one of the large bookcases that as an uninterrupted unit completely hid the walls of the room behind thousands of books. Testing the power of his legs against the low gravity, he jumped high and pulled out one of the books from the top shelf; it was an old copy of Foundation and Empire. "I must say, you have good taste in fiction." While speaking, Asimov had gently fallen back down to the floor, landing effortlessly and gracefully on his two feet. He exclaimed, "Low gravity is fun!" He pointed down along the wall, "It looks like you also have the complete works of Clarke and Vance. I'm surprised that you haul all these old science fiction books up here from Earth."
Sachiz sank into a chair. "If you don't mind, I'll sit down for a while. I find it tiring when I must visit Earth. I'm not getting any younger."
Asimov looked at the skinny legs and arms of the Overseer. He noted, "Unfortunately, human physiology is adapted to the gravity of Earth. You don't look at all well... you should get more exercise."
"Thank you for your concern, Isaac. I usually sleep in a centrifuge bed, and we members of the Council always walk when we visit each others homes... that's good exercise... and that's why it will take a few minutes for Dockmon to arrive. We have time for a little chat."
Asimov could not restrain his curiosity, "What book is Dockmon bringing?"
"You will soon see, but let me warn you. It is a book that you have never seen before."
"How can you be sure? I'm very well read."
Sachiz explained, "Dockmon is bringing a book that was published in the previous Reality."
Asimov groaned, "Oy. Not you, too?" He pointed at the wall of science fiction story books and asked, "You Overseers do realize that science fiction is F - I - C - T - I - O - N ?"
Sachiz held out her hand towards Asimov and waited until he handed her the copy of Foundation and Empire. She opened the book, scanned through the pages. She said, "Fiction can contain truths. That is a truth that we all must face and accept.... this world that we live in is only the Final Reality. There have been many previous Realities, all generated during the Time Travel Era."
Asimov laughed, producing one loud blast, "Ha! Yes, and let me guess, you are a grizzled veteran of the Time War." Asimov laughed again, musically and derisively. "Sorry Overseer, but I got my fill of that nonsense from Thomas Iwedon. Do you know that he spent years confined to a psychiatric hospital?"
Sachiz found what she was looking for in the book and she read, "Two months of difficult war had left their mark..." She looked up at Asimov and closed the book and spoke in a weary voice, "How nice it would be if the wars of Earth only lasted a few months..." The Overseer asked, "Don't you believe in time travel, Isaac?"
He replied, "I've traveled across vast distances, all the way to the Andromeda galaxy and back, so I believe in the existence of faster-than-light space travel, but I've never traveled through time."
Sachiz suggested gently, "But surely there could be evidence proving that time travel was engaged in by others, even if you never had the opportunity to travel through time yourself."
"Yes, but any such 'evidence' would need to be carefully scrutinized. 'Proof' is only an argument that someone accepts."
"You shall have your chance to examine the evidence as soon as Dockmon arrives. She's an historian and an expert on Deep Time."
Asimov took back the copy of Foundation and Empire from the Overseer. "Thomas told stories about Observer Base. He claimed that the Observers had been watching and recording all of human history, in fact, all of the human species' existence. Now, here I am in Observer Base and all I see is a human and a rather sickly one at that." Asimov searched the Overseer's face for some indication that his words had irritated her. She crossed one slender leg over the other and began to gently swing her foot, perhaps in irritation. "Is Dockmon bringing a book that describes our human pre-history? That I'd like to see!" Asimov turned to face the book shelf then jumped upwards once more and replaced Foundation and Empire in its place on the high shelf.
The Overseer watched Asimov's graceful movements. He seemed to not have any trouble moving about in the low gravity of the Moon. She commented, "You are lucky. Your artificial body is that of the young Asimov, captured and duplicated at the optimum point of your biological beauty and strength. I envy you that, but still I prize my human nature. Tell me, what is it like to be an artificial life form?"
Asimov flexed the fingers of his right hand. "Sadly, in addition to the svelte form of a young lad, this artificial body was also given all the usual human bodily annoyances. I get hungry, I feel pain, I grow tired and sleepy. Still, I've learned that I don't actually need to eat and sleep, so I can spend extra time reading and writing when people are attending to their biological needs."
"There will be no shortage of reading materials for you here. The oldest records of Earth's past are audio-visual recordings, but there are also the voluminous written analyses and reports compiled by the Observers. We have a very complete record of the human past on Earth."
Asimov smiled, "That sounds wonderful, although I don't plan to be here as your guest for very long."
Sachiz warned, "I'm afraid you have no say in the matter. The Council has already voted, unanimously, to keep you here indefinitely." For a long moment she let that threat hang in the air, then she added, "Unless we can come to an agreement."
Asimov moaned. "You touch upon my greatest concern since I began this second life as an artificial life form. Am I now immortal? If you Overseers plan to keep me here for an eternity then I certainly hope there is a very large amount of interesting reading material in the libraries of Observer Base." He rubbed his chin and asked, "What sort of agreement are you talking about?"
Sachiz chuckled, "Don't fret Isaac, even if we can't agree on terms for your release I believe we could keep you entertained. Detailed records for the past 20,000 years of events on Earth are available here. Just imagine! Were we to keep you here as our guest then you'd have plenty of time to view those records and learn all about the long saga of human cultural development. Also, future events on Earth should also be quite interesting. And, there are a few other dissidents living here at the Base. You can all keep each-other company.
"Yes, that would be a good future for you in which you would have your fill of Earthly history, but sadly you would not be able to add any more of your own contributions to the great story of Humanity. We humans have a long, proud history and you made your mark in the 20th century. However, the long past saga of our Earth is not what I mean by Deep Time. For we Overseers, 'Deep Time' is a technical term that refers to events that took place in past Realities."
Asimov shook his head in dismay and scanned his eyes along the shelves that held copies of all his books, both fiction and nonfiction. He found a copy of The End of Eternity and took it off of the shelf. "I wish I'd never written this book. Its imaginary Eternity is like a mind virus. After reading The End of Eternity some people begin to believe in a multiverse of Realities. Thomas was infected by that meme and he was unable to distinguish between fiction and reality."
Sachiz raised a delicate question. "But Isaac, what if you were wrong when you wrote The End of Eternity and when you thought that time travel was technically impossible, nothing more than an amusing science fiction plot element? I ask you: could Thomas have been correct? What if there have been many past Realities, but you never were allowed to see any evidence, any documents from those Realities? Dockmon is bringing you a book that is from our previous Reality and it is full of solid, undeniable evidence of Deep Time."
Asimov was very skeptical. "Thomas spent years trying to make me accept his insane belief in time travel. He even tried to make me believe that I had been a time traveler in a past Reality. He was a master of invention and wrote many clever stories, but I knew them for what they were. Fiction! How will you convince me that Dockmon's book is not fiction?"
Sachiz replied rather enigmatically, "My hope is that when the idea for writing The End of Eternity was placed in your mind, you also received additional clues about Deep Time. Maybe when you read about the life of Qaz you will recognize her story as truth... a truth from Deep Time" She had pronounced 'Qaz' like the word 'cause'. The Overseer jumped to her feet. "Now, behave yourself and don't alienate Dockmon. She's not as mild mannered as I am."
Asimov heard a door slam then the sound of footfalls coming along the hallway outside the library. Sachiz called out: "We're here!"
Dockmon stepped through the doorway of the library. Asimov saw that she was a middle aged woman with dark skin, fine facial features and short kinky hair. For a moment they held each other in an intensely curious eye-to-eye gaze.
Sachiz rushed forward and threw her arms around Dockmon. The two women shared a passionate kiss then Dockmon pulled away from Sachiz and held out her slim hand towards Asimov. "I'm pleased to meet you, Mr. Asimov."
Asimov had been well-briefed on Overseer Dockmon. During her time at Observer Base, Ivory Fersoni had worked closely with Dockmon. In her reports about the tryp'At, Ivory had provided a detailed description of Dockmon's physical features and habits as an historian. Asimov carefully tried to show no hint that he recognized Dockmon.
Asimov shook Dockmon's hand and looked at the book she was holding. Unable to restrain his curiosity, he held out the copy of The End of Eternity and said, "Shall we trade?"
Dockmon replied, "Qaz was a Sedronite, an Interventionist agent who was active on Earth in the previous Reality. Sadly, the artist who made the cover art did not know the true physical form of Qaz, so this odd humanoid appearance is just a creation of the imagination."
Asimov opened the book and muttered, "Thomas was always ranting about Sedronites." He glanced up at Sachiz and complained, "I don't see how can you expect me to take any of this seriously when this book is labeled as 'science fiction' on the title page."
With easy familiarity, Dockmon slid The End of Eternity back into its place on the shelf and said to Sachiz, "Come, let's leave Asimov in peace so that he can read." She took Sachiz by the hand and the two Overseers departed from the Library.
Going out the door, Sachiz turned her head over her shoulder and said, "We'll be just down the hall when you are ready to chat. Enjoy the book."
Asimov flopped into a chair and began to read the first chapter of The Qaz Nanotropy. He was already quite familiar with the book and he could well remember when he had first received a copy back in the Ekcolir Reality. For a moment he thought about 'Karol' and the origin of that pen name. Briefly forgetting where he was and the high probability that he was being watched, Isaac chuckled quietly, then he quickly glanced up in annoyance. He told himself that he had to continue playing his assigned role and pretending to be the replicoid that held memories from the Asimov analogue who had lived in the Final Reality. His best chance of concealing his true identity from the Overseers was to pretend to be ignorant of the life of Qaz Nivsahem, so he settled into the chair and began to read.....
Next Chapter: Nivsaham
Table of Contents
A Search Beyond is copyright John Schmidt, but the text of the story is licensed for sharing under the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA) license.