I agreed to a truce with Gohrlay in order to create the conditions under which the Time War could be ended. While the truce was in effect, I had time to craft the Ek'col, a special Sedronite that had the power to merge Asterothrope gene combinations into the gene pool of planet Earth. The Ek'col (and specifically the prototypical Ek'col named Ekcolir) allowed Trysta to have descendants who would live into the future, thus removing the final barrier to creation of the Final Reality. - from Grean's final mission report to the Huaoshy
Yrovi took hold of Asimov's arm and his world blinked out. He woke up with Yrovi prodding his shoulder with a finger. "Wake up. Asimov! Get up."
Asimov opened his eyes. The room was dimly lit, but Isaac could feel that he was on a comfortable bed and he saw that Yrovi was there, seated on the edge of the bed. She stood up and turned on a small lamp. Isaac muttered, "We have to stop meeting like this."
Yrovi was walking out of the bedroom. Without looking back at Asimov, she said, "Get dressed. We need to talk."
Asimov rolled off of the bed and looked for the orange jumpsuit. He opened a closet and found a large collection of clothes that seemed to fit him perfectly and a rack of decorative bolo ties. Now comfortably dressed, Isaac went out through the door of the bedroom and into a long hallway. He followed the sound of voices and found Yrovi and Mahasvin standing in front of a large holographic display screen that showed a very complex flow chart. Mahasvin waved her hand and the chart vanished.
Yrovi asked, "Do you remember our excursion into the Asimov Reality?"
Asimov nodded, "It seems like a dream fragment." Isaac struggled to reactivate his sluggish memories. "I recall meeting an older copy of myself and then you got very excited by something that he said."
Mahasvin explained, "Actually, what we discovered inside that simulation was a tool that could be very useful to us."
Asimov rubbed his forehead. "I feel like there was something more...."
Yrovi laughed nervously. "I'll be honest with you, Isaac. While we were in the simulation, you heard something that we then had to erase from your mind. Something about your future."
Asimov was feeling toyed with, used and deceived. In a testy voice he demanded, "Look, I don't know what game you are trying to play. Tell me one thing: can you travel through time or not?"
Mahasvin shook her head. "The truth is, time travel is no longer possible. However, during most of your life on Earth, time travel was still being used... by others. Eventually, the Huaoshy changed the dimensional structure of the universe, making any further time travel impossible. However, our situation is complicated by the fact that when time travel was still possible, some people looked into the future. Records of what they saw still exist. As you can well imagine, all kinds of temporal paradoxes become possible if you were to know your own future."
Asimov took a deep breath and sighed. "If you say so. I'm not at all convinced that you are telling me the truth. In fact, it is easiest for me to believe that you are using all this silly talk of time travel in order to trick me."
Yrovi held out one arm and in her hand was a small vial. "Let's do an experiment."
Suspecting more trickery, Asimov asked, "What's in that vial?"
Yrovi replied, "You were trained as a chemist. What do you think this is?" She handed the vial to Asimov.
He looked into the vial, peering through the shaded glass. Inside, there seemed to be an oddly swirling mist. "Give me access to a chemistry lab and I'll do a chemical analysis."
"Isaac, you would learn nothing from a chemical analysis. The vial contains hierions."
Mahasvin told Asimov, "Uncap the vial and let the hierions enter your body."
Asimov asked, "What will happen if I do?"
Yrovi provided a brief account of the experiment that she and Mahasvin wanted to perform on Asimov. "Your artificial body is composed of tiny subunits called femtobots. The vial contains some special femtobots that can modify your mind, in a way that is rather similar to how ethanol might perturb the function of a biobrain."
Asimov tossed the vial to Yrovi. "Why should I allow my mind to be altered by these femtobots?"
"We want to demonstrate to you that we can.... how should I put it?" Mahasvin smiled enigmatically, "Change your mind."
Yrovi added, "We could have put these femtobots into you while you slept. However, we want you to perform this experiment yourself, while you are alert."
Asimov complained, "And if I won't agree to your little science experiment then I suppose you'll simply go ahead and perform the experiment without my consent."
"But we'd rather have your cooperation."
"Sorry, but my answer is no."
Mahasvin said to Yrovi, "He's not going to change his mind." She activated the holographic display and now Asimov could see a recorded session with himself, Yrovi and Mahasvin. As he watched the session, Yrovi and Mahasvin "again" tried to get Asimov to put the femtobots into his body.
The conversation in the recorded session was very similar to the one that Asimov had just participated in. The "other Asimov" in the recorded session also refused to participate in the femtobot 'experiment'.
Finally, in the recording, Yrovi opened the vial and a misty cloud spread from the little bottle and entered into Asimov. After a few moments, Mahasvin asked Asimov, "How do you feel?"
With anger in his voice, Asimov replied, "I'm upset that you are forcing me to participate in this experiment."
Mahasvin said. "Fine. Now how do you feel?"
A puzzled look came to Asimov's face. "Strange! I was quite upset, but now that anger is gone. Like someone threw a switch."
Yrovi nodded and pushed the point further. "And will you now cooperate with us in this experiment?"
Asimov laughed as if embarrassed and replied, "Of course. I now understand that you only want to show me how easy it would be for you to edit my memories and control my emotions."
"And you feel no resentment over that?"
"No, why should I?"
Yrovi said, "Excellent. The experiment was a success." She held out the vial towards Asimov. "Now I'm recalling the infites from your body." The little cloud of femtobots returned to the vial. "Now, how do you feel?"
Asimov's face quickly switched from an expression of calm good nature to one of anger. "Okay, so you can control my mind. Do you expect me to be happy about that?"
Yrovi turned off the holographic display.
Asimov had no memory of having been a participant in the scene he had just witnessed. He asked, "Was that actually me or some kind of simulation?"
Mahasvin replied, "We made several attempts to talk you into voluntarily allowing us to perform the femtobot experiment. Finally, we gave up and just gave you the demo. Then we erased your memory of those sessions."
Asimov shook his head in dismay. "Well then, to quote myself, do you expect me to be happy about that?"
"No, Isaac, but we hope you can learn from this experiment. The lesson is: we could force you to cooperate with us, but it would be best if you voluntarily collaborate with us."
Asimov demanded, "What do you expect me to do for you?"
Yrovi took Asimov's hand and led him to a comfortable couch. They sat down and Mahasvin sat in a nearby chair. "For now, relax and listen. We'll explain our plan."
Mahasvin began, "Isaac, I know you don't believe in time travel. That's fine. Tell me this: what about robots? What if I told you that everything here," She gestured to their surroundings, "Was created by positronic robots. You see, Eternity was the creation of positronic robots."
Asimov laughed. "I'm sure you can appreciate how I feel. When I wrote my science fiction stories about time travel and robots, how could I have possibly imagined that some sort of insane religion would grow up... that an army of 'true believers' would be unable to distinguish reality from my fictional creations?" He laughed loudly, but as his laughter dwindled, there was a noticeable quaver of uncertainty.
Mahasvin stated the alternative hypothesis, "Yes, you believed that you had invented fictional positronic robots and a fictional Eternity. However, you have spent the past 25 years traveling to distant planets. You have experienced the virtual reality system here in Eternity and I hope we have convinced you that we have the power to force you to cooperate with us. Now, I ask you to listen. We need your help."
Yrovi continued, "A very delicate balance exists on Earth. That balance is generally referred to as the Trysta-Grean Pact."
Asimov grunted. "I've heard it mentioned, but nobody really seems to know what the terms of that Pact actually are."
Mahasvin laughed. "That's part of what makes everything so delicate and fragile. We are dealing with time paradoxes here. None of us have been allowed to know our own futures. Think of the Pact as a big mystery that you can help us unravel."
Asimov noted, "Figuring out a mystery inside a novel can be fun." He looked first at Yrovi then at Mahasvin and responding to the grave looks on their faces, he allowed himself to get into the spirit of their game. He suggested, "However, solving the mystery of the Trysta-Grean Pact could lead to a dangerous temporal paradox."
"Exactly! That is our predicament. It was also the great challenge that confronted Thomas. He believed that it was imperative that you eventually come to believe in the existence of time travel and positronic robots. He had learned that much from the mind of his mother, Trysta. Unfortunately, his efforts backfired, hardening your attitudes and making you reluctant to believe the truth."
Asimov exclaimed, "Aha! So this mysterious Trysta was the mother of Thomas... And what about Grean? Everyone on Tar'tron was always talking about Grean, but I never understood her importance."
Yrovi explained, "The important thing to know about Grean is that she was the one who gave us access to Eternity. Both Trysta and Grean were able to look into the future and see how the humans of Earth might survive their technological adolescence and be put on a path that would allow them to reach the stars. Apparently, in order for that desired future to come to pass, eventually both Trysta and Grean had to remove themselves from the playing field."
"I see." Actually, Asimov was still very confused. "But before there could be that Pact, there was first a truce between Trysta and Grean?"
"The Trysta Truce was during the Asimov Reality, that part of Deep Time that we showed to you in the simulation."
Mahasvin added, "We are quite ignorant about events in that Reality. You see, when the positronic robots created the virtual reality simulation system inside Eternity, they designed it for human use. In fact, as a security feature, all of the control systems of Eternity were designed to only respond to humans and positronic robots."
"Hmm..." Asimov gazed with intense speculation upon Mahasvin. "I begin to understand why I was brought to Earth. You think there is some great secret hidden away inside of Eternity. Something that only I can access?"
Yrovi applauded gently. "Very nice deduction, Isaac. When the positronic robots abandoned Eternity, they had presented Grean with a great challenge. Ever since then, attempts have been made to hack into the vast databases that remain here inside Eternity. Those databanks contain information about all of Deep Time, but so far we have only learned how to access a small fraction of what was recorded."
"A critical aspect of our problem is that the database for the Asimov Reality holds information about the tryp'At, important information that we cannot access."
"I see. And these tryp'At are your adversaries."
"The tryp'At Overseers perform a useful function. They prevent Interventionists from disrupting the Trysta-Grean Pact. However, we fear that the tryp'At have gone too far. We need to know how and why the tryp'At were created so that we can make informed decisions about how to deal with the Overseers."
"And the information that you need is in the Asimov Reality?"
"The tryp'At were designed and crafted in the far future of the Asimov Reality. We believe that the story of how that was accomplished is in the AR database here inside Eternity." Yrovi sighed. "So far, we have not been able to get past the interlocks that the positronic robots put in place to guard that information."
Mahasvin continued, "Apparently Grean cracked the interlock codes; that's how she was able to take control of Eternity from the positronic robots. Do you remember the Asimov analogue who you met in the simulator? We believe that he was provided by Grean with a special set of femtobots that allowed him to have access to all the information about the future of the Asimov Reality. Eventually, that Asimov died, but his knowledge and those femtobots were passed on to his replicoid in the Hierion Domain. However, that replicoid disappeared from the Ekcolir Reality, right when Trysta and Grean also abandoned their efforts on Earth."
"I see. And you think I can take the place of that Asimov replicoid?"
"We don't know for certain, but we hope so. We know one thing for certain... that we made a big mistake when we tried to use the Asimov replicoid from the Ekcolir Reality for this purpose. He's now permanently locked out from all access to the simulator system."
Asimov asked, "Just how many Asimov Replicoids are there?"
Yrovi laughed nervously. "The positronic robots created a system for endowing the people of Earth with temporal momentum, thus assuring that the same people would appear in successive Realities. That system involved making replicoids, copies of each person inside the Hierion Domain. Isaac, you are a special case, a Fixed Point, a person who has existed in all of the many different Realities."
"And, therefor, I assume that there have been many Asimov replicoids. But most were lost in Deep Time?"
"Yes, exactly. However, the Asimov replicoid from the Asimov Reality was brought into Eternity and protected from the Reality Change that brought the Ekcolir Reality into existence. That replicoid created the Writers Block, which profoundly influenced the science fiction genre in the Ekcolir Reality."
"Writers Block? Is that a joke?"
"No, think of the Writers Block as a tool for passing information about aliens to the people of Earth, but doing so in a way that would not violate the Rules of Intervention."
Asimov muttered, "Ah, yes. Rules of Intervention. Thomas was always ranting about the Rules of Intervention and how the alien Overseers prevented him from providing physical evidence for the presence of aliens on Earth." Asimov produced some laughter, but it was quite forced.
Mahasvin explained, "The Rules of Intervention are very real. They exist to protect primitive species such as humans. Even though we are Interventionists," She nodded towards Yrovi, "We still recognize the fact that it is dangerous to provide humans with access to certain technologies."
Yrovi reminded Asimov about the Editor. "At this point in human history, the only allowed way to inform the people of Earth about aliens is through the medium of science fiction stories."
Asimov laughed long and loud. "I see. That is why Thomas was writing all those crazy stories about aliens."
Mahasvin patiently explained, "Except there was truth in his stories. His mother, Trysta, was an alien creature, what is known as an Asterothrope. Thomas was a hybrid, the son of an Ek'col."
Yrovi added, "The father of Thomas was named Ekcolir, the man who the Ekcolir Reality is named for."
Asimov shook his head in wonder. "I must say, your fantasy world of aliens and time travel is quite elaborate. I have to wonder how you keep it all straight."
"That is the problem that confronts the Editor. He has been given the opportunity to write about Deep Time and the hidden history of how aliens have guided the development of human civilization. However, when the Asimov replicoid from the Asimov Reality disappeared, that loss left a huge gap in our understanding, particularly with respect to the tryp'At."
Asimov asked, "Why are these tryp'At of such importance to you and the Editor?"
Yrovi shook her head sadly. "The tryp'At Overseers took Ivory to Observer Base and killed her. Worse, the Editor is tryp'At and that fact may be all that has kept the Overseers from removing him from Earth."
Asimov could feel a burning hatred for the tryp'At that emanated from Yrovi. He pulled his eyes away from her intense gaze and said to Mahasvin, "I'm still not sure why you need me."
"For a long time we thought that there was another solution to our problem, but that opportunity died with Ivory. You see, Ivory was created by Lili as a tool for gaining access to information that exists in the Sedronic Domain."
Asimov groaned. "You tell me that I'm now in the Hierion Domain, but I don't understand what that means. Many Sails tried to tell me about sedrons. Nothing she said made sense... it was all theoretical... like fantasy physics." Asimov wondered if this Mahasvin would say anything about Many Sails. "Do you know Many Sails?"
Mahasvin replied, "I've never gone for a ride in her. Why do you ask?"
Yrovi answered for Asimov, telling Mahasvin, "Apparently Many Sails used your physical form as the model when she crafted an appendage that she used to bring Asimov down to Earth."
Mahasvin laughed, "Really? I suppose I should be honored."
Asimov was confused, but he tried to recover and reconstruct and summarize the flow of the story that he was being told. "So, Ivory was an important source of information for the Editor... a source that involved sedrons?"
"Well, only Ivory's clone sister Angela could actually access information in the Sedronic Domain." Yrovi shrugged and continued. "Suffice it to say that Ivory and her sisters were designed so that they could access a valuable source of information about Deep Time. For a while they made good progress and channeled much useful information to the Editor. Unfortunately, the tryp'At Overseers cut short that process of educating the Editor. The Atlantis clones and all the Dead Widowers were removed from Earth. The Editor had his use of the Bimanoid Interface terminated."
Asimov laughed. "Atlantis? I knew Atlantis would come into this eventually!" He laughed again.
Yrovi explained, "That name was a joke, derived from the hiding place that the Ivory clones used while on Earth. Some day I'll tell you that story, since it involves your buddy, Many Sails."
Asimov shook his head and politely said, "I look forward to hearing your story of Atlantis."
Yrovi ignored his sarcasm. "We are now looking for a new way to obtain access to information that is locked away here in Eternity. That's why we need you."
"And we now suspect that we have found the key that will unlock the doors that have so far kept us from the critical information. We believe that if you were to carry a copy of the femtobots that were long ago given to the Asimov analog from the Foundation Reality then you would be able to get past the data interlocks."
Asimov now understood why he was needed. "These... this 'key', it is those femtobots that you discovered when we we in the simulated Space Station of the Asimov Reality. And you think that your scheme will only work if I'm holding the 'key'... me specifically?"
"Yes, we need you." Mahasvin asked, "Are you ready to give it a try?"
Asimov shrugged. "What is the worst that could happen?"
Yrovi placed one of her thin hands on Isaac's arm. "It is possible that you will trigger a defensive data interlock and you might be destroyed. Physically destroyed."
Asimov wondered, "Are you serious?"
Mahasvin replied, "That is a worst case scenario. That might be what happened to the Asimov replicoid from the Asimov Reality... why he disappeared. I don't think it will happen, but just to play it safe, we'll make a backup copy of you before you make your attempt to access the restricted data from the Asimov Reality."
"A simple matter. When you go through a teleporter, multiple copies of your body can be produced."
Asimov laughed. "Sure, why not. I'm only on my second life. It sounds like you can provide me with another body and a third life if anything goes wrong.
Next Chapter: the Sedron War
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.