|image credits Special thanks|
to Miranda Hedman for "Black Cat 9 - stock"
that I used to create the blue "sedronite".
Yōd had been endlessly pacing around Zeta's table and unsuccessfully trying to get her sister to acknowledge the dark depth of her distress. She snapped, "Is that a joke?"
Zeta realized her error and looked up. "Sorry! I mean, it is a beautiful day outside and-"
"Ha!" Yōd stopped, crossed her arms and glared at her sister, "Very funny! Outside. As if 'outside' meant anything here in this fake world."
Of course, Zeta knew quite well that Yōd had good reason to be testy. They had both been instantiated inside the Hierion Domain about one year previously, right when their biobodies had arrived on Earth. There was an automated system that made replicoids corresponding to every human on Earth, thus it had been inevitable that Zeta and Yōd replicoids would appear. Zeta wondered: since Yōd and I are genetically identical to all the other Gohrlay clones, how does the replicoid manufacturing system tell us apart? She shrugged and tried to push that mystery from her mind.
Zeta did not mind "living" in the Hierion Domain as a replicoid, but Yōd had never found a way to fully accept her "second life" as an artificial life form. Yōd's pet theory was that the popularity of human myths about purgatory arose from the unpleasant experiences of replicoids who were trapped in the Hierion Domain.
Zeta tried to be sympathetic to the strain that was wearing on Yōd, but unfortunately Zeta was coming at things from a rational perspective, not from the opposite direction of Yōd's quagmire of emotional torment. Zeta leaned back in her chair and mused, "Well, yes... I know that even my sensations are fake..." She ran the fingers of one hand through her hair. She loved the way that it was possible to let her hair strands branch out into nanoscopically fine tips that were incredibly soft to the touch. Zeta had adopted that fashion soon after beginning her second life in the Hierion Domain. "...but I've learned to enjoy simple pleasures like learning from the story archives here in the Block." She gestured vaguely towards the sophisticated archive facilities in the lounge that contained records of every science fiction story writing project that had ever been carried out by the Writers Block.
Yōd was in a complaining mood and nothing as paltry as a rational argument was going to deprive her of this opportunity to gripe. "Right now, I don't have the patience for sorting through silly fantasy stories in search of clues about real events in Deep Time. Tell me just one thing, Zee: why did Lili have to ruin my day?"
Zeta replied calmly, "Lili was just trying to be nice. She thought you would be pleased to learn that Asimov arrived safely here in the Hierion Domain."
"I'll believe that he's safe only when I see him." Yōd began pacing again. "I wish I had been allowed to go along on his mysterious mission to the AR section."
Zeta's next task was to cross-correlate the story content with historical data. Knowing the rotten mood that Yōd was in, Angela had given up long ago and she'd departed from the lounge an hour previously. And without Angela's help, Zeta could not successfully dig through the chaotic historical archives that were available in the Writers Block. Also, on Earth, the biological Zeta had just begun an interesting conversation with the Editor and that was even more distracting than Yōd's rant.
Zeta took hold of Yōd's hand and pulled her towards the doorway. "Let's go for a walk."
The exited from the main offices of the Writers Block and began wandering through the oddly twisting trails that wound through the adjacent residential levels. As viewed from outside, the Writers Block was a block: a cubical construct within the Hierion Domain that had been established during the Ekcolir Reality. Like Eternity, the Writers Block was a distinct space-time bubble, practically its own isolated micro-universe. After five minutes of strolling along the lovely walkways, Yōd asked, "Where are we going?"
The Zeta replicoid had been paying close attention to what bio-Zeta was saying on Earth. She'd been walking along without any concern for their destination and she was now only barely aware of which subsection of the Writers Block they were in. Still tuned to the Bimanoid Interface and listening intently to what the Editor was now saying, Zeta mumbled, "Actually, I'm hoping to see Angela. I need her help searching through the historical archive. I know that Karol Kidd is a pseudonym, and now I must study the life of the real Earthling who actually wrote that story I just read."
Yōd shook her head in dismay. She suspected that Zeta was still actively monitoring the events that were unfolding on Earth, but the biological Yōd was still blocking the flow of data from her end of the Bimanoid Interface to the Yōd replicoid. That data blockade was as much the cause of Yōd's current rage as anything. Yōd said,"Angela lives down on the lower levels. Level -3F."
Zeta pretended to be surprised that Yōd knew the location of Angela's home and she asked, "Really? How do you know?"
"It isn't a secret." Yōd was often amazed by the cluelessness of her sister. "You'd know such things too if you actually socialized once in a while rather than spending all your time reading those silly stories."
Zeta asked with a high degree of amazement expressed in her voice, "Socialize? Do you mean... you and Angela...?"
Yōd knew that her sister was a prude. "Why not? One day... it must have been six months ago... Angela invited me over to her place and she cooked me dinner. If you ever bothered to eat you'd realize that she's a good cook. I invited you along that day, but as usual you had your nose glued to a book so it was only me and Angela and-"
Zeta held up her hand, "Stop! Spare me the details. I can guess what you had your nose glued to after dessert." Zeta did not share Yōd's predilection for steamy sexual contact with women.
They made their way to section -3F and Yōd led the way to Angela's house. Rather rudely, Yōd threw open the front door and called out, "Hey, Angela!"
Angela emerged from the lower level of her home, sliding up a polie. She called out, "Hi, Yōd." Angela noticed that Zeta was also present. "Oh, hi Zeta. Come on down... Thomas and Cecilie are here."
Yōd and Zeta rode the slide pole down one level and they found Thomas and Cecilie engaged with a large holographic display. Yōd glanced at the complex image of the displayed temporal attractor and she asked, "What part of Time is this?"
Cecilie pulled herself out of deep contemplation of the attractor. "Yōd!" Cecilie and Yōd shared a hug. With one arm still around Yōd, Cecilie gestured at the attractor and replied, "This is one of the sub-harmonics of the Asimov Reality."
Thomas waved his arm to indicate a portion of the displayed attractor and added, "This is the kink in Time where Grean introduced interstellar drive technology to Earth."
Angela pointed to a blinking red light in the display, "We just got word from Lili: Asimov was able to penetrate the data interlocks. He broke into the restricted data at this point in time..."
Zeta was still learning to read the temporal notation codes that were in use by the Dead Widowers. She asked, "Is that the middle of the 20th century?"
Angela nodded, "Yes, just before the Sedron War."
Yōd had only just that day begun to contemplate the possibility that breaking into the restricted portions of the Eternity databanks might be dangerous. Now she was made doubly nervous by mention of the word 'war'. She whispered, "Is Asimov in danger?" Yōd saw all the others silently exchange knowing glances.
Cecilie looked at Thomas and said, "You know, I've always wondered about the rumor... you know, that an Asimov replicoid was once lost inside a Deep Time simulation."
Thomas shrugged, "The challenge has never been getting into the forbidden parts of the Eternity simulation system... the problem is that there have been many investigators who were sent in but they never came back out."
A cold fear struck through Yōd. "Wait now! Are you saying that Asimov might not return from this mission?"
Zeta put her arms around Yōd and tried to explain, "No, it is not dangerous. Lili is not crazy." She looked pleadingly at Cecilie and Thomas, "Tell her about the tracking nanites."
Thomas nodded and spoke to Yōd, "And remember, its not only the new tracking nanites that Nivsaham smuggled out of Observer Base..."
Zeta added, "That's right. Lili found a copy of the nanites that Asimov received from Grean."
Cecilie speculated, "This all has the feel of being arranged. Asimov arrives and suddenly the two types of nanites that he needs become available. I suspect that the tryp'At had become such a nuisance that the Huaoshy had to step in and set things right."
For a minute they each contemplated the idea that the rather nasty struggle of the Dead Widowers against the tryp'At might have attracted the attention of the alien Huaoshy. Yōd's brittle voice broke the silence that had fallen upon them, "What do you mean... an Asimov was lost in Deep Time?"
Thomas replied, "That is only a rumor."
Cecilie persisted, "But it makes sense! We know that the Asimov replicoid from the Asimov Reality had actually lived into the far future of that Reality. Who better to shift himself into the Eternity simulations of that Reality? He might have gone in and become trapped, unable to get back out."
Yōd asked, "And my Asimov might be walking into the same trap?"
Zeta exclaimed, "No! Lili wouldn't send him in unless she could bring him back out."
Thomas said uncomfortably, "Well, the original plan was to start nibbling away at the downwhen edge of the temporal lockouts. Asimov was to have taken his place in the AR simulator just downwhen of the forbidden era and then start running the simulation. Lili had a hack that would record each lockout as it rolled past."
Cecilie shook her head with dismay, "But that was crazy. It would have taken centuries to reach the future time when the tryp'At were finally created."
Thomas shrugged, "According to Lili, she could have run the simulation at an accelerated rate. It might only have taken decades."
Yōd shouted, "Decades! Lili was going to lock Asimov inside the simulator for decades?"
Zeta patted Yōd's shoulders. "But it is not going to be that way. The new nanites should allow Asimov to be tracked through the simulation and today they are testing if insertions and extractions can be performed anywhen."
Yōd mumbled dismally, "Tested?"
Thomas tried to sound cheerful, but everyone could hear a shade of doubt in his voice, "We should be hearing from Lili soon."
Zeta asked, "Why did they have to risk going into the simulation at a point so close to the Sedron War?"
Cecilie pointed into the depths of the temporal attractor as shown by the holographic display. "The tryp'At Overseers have been intent on obtaining information about sedrons. Lili has been worried that were the tryp'At to obtain a supply of sedrons then they could fully activate the systems inside Observer Base. The obvious place to look for information about Sedrons is within the Asimov Reality... and..." Cecilie listened to her technology-assisted telepathy channel for a moment then continued, "Lili just confirmed success. Complete success for today's I/E test run!"
Thomas added ominously, "We can't let our guard down on the tryp'At. Almost certainly there is an easily accessible source of sedrons. Many stories from the Ekcolir Reality hint at such a thing. Asimov himself read about a method for manufacturing sedrons in the first Sci Fi story that Grean gave him to read. Lili wants to learn what that source of sedrons is so that she can make sure it does not become accessible to the Overseers."
Cecilie kissed Thomas on the cheek. Without any further comment, Cecilie turned away from Thomas and rode the polie up to the main floor and went off to confer with Lili.
Yōd turned to Zeta and scolded, "You should stop hanging out with Irhit. Clearly he's a spy for the Overseers."
Zeta shrugged, "I know what I'm doing. I don't tell Irhit everything. In any case, I can keep an eye on Irhit... we constantly learn more about the Overseers from him."
Thomas asked Zeta, "Speaking of our secrets... did you get word about that new Dead Widower story to the Editor?"
Yōd was also watching events on Earth. She muttered, "Ug, Zeta, you have no concept of artistic design."
"I know that," Zeta admitted, "And so bio-Yōd can make her own cover."
Just then they heard the musical sound that signaled someone was at the door of Angela's house. Angela called out, "Who's there?" A holographic image blossomed within the display, showing that Yrovi and Asimov were at the front door. Angela allowed the door to open and Yōd quickly rode up the slide polie to greet Asimov.
Watching the display, Angela saw Yōd throw her arms around Asimov. Angela asked Yrovi, "What's the word from Lili? How did the test I/E turn out?"
Yrovi replied, "Everything went very smoothly. It appears that Asimov has complete random access to the AR simulation. The extraction was perfectly clean... no difficulties."
Yōd said to Asimov, "I was so worried that you'd get trapped in the simulator."
Asimov shrugged, "Lili assured me that I'd been duplicated. Had I been lost on the mission today, I would have been replaced by my copy."
Yōd complained, "If the Kac'hin have that kind of power then why did they have to make a swarm of Gohrlay clones?"
Yōd and Asimov came down the polie. Yōd could not keep her hands off of Asimov, but he held Yōd at arms length and examined her carefully. "You seem different, my dear."
Yrovi told Asimov, "This is Yōd's replicoid."
Angela asked Asimov, "What happened to you in the Asimov Reality?"
Asimov looked first at Zeta then at Yrovi. Zeta took Angela by the hand and pulled her towards the slide polie. "Come on Angela, I need your help back in the lounge." The two women rode up the polie and quickly departed Angela's house.
Yrovi spoke to the group, "I've warned Asimov that we all have to deal with the Overseers and their spy, Irhit." She told Asimov, "It is best not to include Zeta in this discussion."
Asimov nodded and then replied to the question that Angela had raised. "I've been told that the Overseers are rather desperate to gain full control of Observer Base." He looked questioningly at Yrovi.
Yrovi explained, "The tryp'At, as humans, are in the same predicament as we. We know that sedrons exist, but we are being kept from using any sedron-based technologies. That means that the Overseers can't fully use the facilities at Observer Base and that is a major liability."
Thomas added, "But we know humans had access to sedron-powered interstellar space travel in the Asimov Reality."
Yrovi nodded. "We are interested to learn if Asimov can retrieve knowledge of interstellar space travel from the Asimov Reality simulator in Eternity. As a test run, we sent him to investigate the first known mention of sedrons in the Asimov Reality."
Asimov chuckled. "Apparently it was my analogue in that Reality who coined the term 'sedron', in a science fiction story."
Thomas nodded, "That particular story was of great interest to the Writers Block authors in the Ekcolir Reality. Several accounts of how that Asimov analogue came to write about sedrons were published on Earth in the Ekcolir Reality. And those accounts helped prepare the people of Earth for the arrival of the Fru'wu and the hierion-based technology that the Fru'wu provided."
Asimov shook his head. "Sedrons, hierion, it all seems like science fiction."
Yrovi sighed and suggested, "With time you might come to accept the reality of hierions and sedrons: they are forms of matter that await analysis by Earthly science here in the Final Reality. You proved today that you can freely enter and exit to and from the AR simulation, so there is nothing to prevent you from learning how sedrons were used by humans in the Asimov Reality."
Thomas muttered, "Sadly, nobody has ever been able to obtain an actual copy of 'The Atlan Intervention'."
Yrovi said, "That was true," She pulled a rolled-up pulp magazine out of the large cargo pocket of her pants leg, "Until today." She handed the magazine to Thomas.
Thomas thumbed through the pages of the magazine, confirming that it did indeed contain a copy of the long-sought story from the Asimov Reality: a copy of 'The Atlan Intervention'. "Wonderful!" Unable to resist the opportunity, he began reading the story.
Yrovi had one more surprise. "Look at the dedication. That provided us with the code needed to unlock access to Ivory's version of the story."
Thomas flipped to the last page of the story and read the short afterword, "To Virginia, with thanks. -Isaac"
Yrovi explained, "It all makes sense. Virginia was one of the original Futurians. Ivory used Virginia's name as the password on her work files here in the Hierion Domain."
Thomas chuckled. "Marvelous! Going forward, we can funnel everything that Asimov pulls out of the AR through the old conduit that was createdby the Atlantis Clones."
Yōd gave sharp cry, "Whoop! I just got word from Earth. Bio-Yōd received the infites... and the Overseers will never know!"
Yrovi warned, "As long as we take precautions." She warned, "Irhit is almost here."
Thomas rode the polie up to the main floor of Angela's house.
Asimov asked, "Why do you put up with the intrusions of this character, Irhit?"
The door signaled the arrival of Irhit and Thomas let the replicoid in. Yrovi said cryptically, "As long as we pretend to be powerless against him, the Overseers feel confident. Over-confident."
Thomas and Irhit arrived, riding down the pole. Irhit asked, "What about the Overseers?"
Yrovi replied, "I was just telling Asimov that you tryp'At are over-confident. You never question your terrible decision to break up the Dead Widowers."
Irhit shrugged. "Well, I'm not certain about that. I just had a quick look at Ivory's theory. If she was right then no harm can come to Earth just by making mention of hierions and sedrons."
Thomas laughed. "Finally you admit what has been known since the Asimov Reality."
Irhit was not willing to go that far. "No, we cannot simply make that asumption. The entire Asimov Reality was disposable and carefully controlled by Grean. However, if Ivory was correct, then there never was any real danger from the Dead Widowers. I'm strongly persuaded in that direction, but the Overseer Council will have to make that determination."
Yōd led Asimov by the hand towards the polie. "I'll leave you three to split tryp'At hairs. We have better things to do."
Next Chapter: Angels and Dead Widowers
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.