"It is permissible for an action to be performed, even if it will cause harm to people, as long as that harm is not intended by the robot who performs the action." - Vicktir Klempse
The Third Chapter of The Start of EternityEdit
This chapter was given the numerical designation 0.007297352569 in honor of the fine-structure "constant".
Noÿs Lambent sat on the windowsill of the large bedroom window that looked out over the Menai Strait and the Isle of Anglesey. There was a cooling sea breeze that pushed at her long dark hair. For eight years Noÿs and Andrew Harlan had lived peacefully at the north end of Bangor in Gwynedd county, Wales. They had been largely insulated from the war by the wealth -in gold- that they had brought downwhen.
This was a favorite time of day for Noÿs, with the two children asleep and the warm summer evening slowly giving way to night. The tranquility of the evening was shattered when a large cumulus cloud to the northwest glowed orange in the light of the setting sun. Noÿs could not stop herself from thinking about mushroom clouds and atomic bombs. It was Noÿs and Andrew who, ten years earlier, had artificially stimulated the study of nuclear fission. She knew that the wars with Germany and Japan had deflected physics researchers away from the basic science of nuclear physics, but the military implications of fission as a source of energy had certainly not been lost on America and England.
Noÿs had come downwhen to the twentieth century with the specifically goal of advancing the pace of nuclear science. During the war years, Noÿs and Andrew had often wondered and speculated about the chain of events that they had started in this Reality. They were well aware that time has a momentum. It was one of the first lessons that had been learned by time travelers: make only a small change in the past and the course of events was likely to diverge from its original course for only a short time and then, almost magically, return to its original pattern. In the far future some had speculated that the universe was a multiverse, with a vast number of alternate timelines existing simultaneously. The momentum of time might reflect a tendency of all Realities to drift towards some average or most probable Reality. However, even in the homewhen of Noÿs, far in the future, there were still remaining mysteries in the hows and whys of time travel.
For Noÿs and Andrew, their shared anxiety over the unknown success of their time travel mission became the focus of their relationship, drawing them closer and closer together. Their worries about the future wove a strong bond of mutual support that provided a kind of psychic defense against the strange world they found themselves in. That tense intimacy lasted for years, like a magical extended honeymoon. When their first child was on the way, they had submitted to the local customs and were officially married.
Noÿs was happy with Andrew and their life together in the Primitive era of Earth had become all that she had imagined it would be. While still in her own time, Noÿs had viewed her future life with Andrew -it mattered not that it was a life that actually took place far in the past- and weighed it as just one of many possible futures that she might live. Noÿs had selected a future with Andrew: why shouldn't she select a Reality in which she was happy? True, she had never seen exactly this Reality, but she was quite satisfied...particularly since they now had evidence that their attempt to alter Earth's technological development in a particular way might yet prove to have been successful. The fact that they had received no visitors from the future was a good sign and they both believed that their intervention in the past had eliminated time travel from Earth for all time.
Since they did not want to risk attracting attention to themselves by trying to get information about progress inside secret atomic weapons programs, they had gone through a rather agonizing period during the war while they waited for evidence that they had actually stimulated research into nuclear fission. Through their correspondence with scientists they had been able to tell that civilian nuclear research was quietly absorbed into government weapons projects during the war. It had become clear that there was some type of large physics-related weapon development project in the United States, but the lightening fast end of the war with Japan proved to be the first public notice that the big military secret of the war had been development of nuclear weapons. Noÿs and Andrew were now waiting for the other shoe to drop...inevitably, nuclear fusion would be the next step in nuclear physics...along with the danger of much more powerful and dangerous nuclear bombs. Still, Noÿs had reason to count her happiness with Andrew as ample compensation for lingering doubts about the dangers that came along with stimulating nuclear science in an age where nationalism still held sway.
In all other Realities nuclear power had not been unleashed on Earth until after nationalism was in deep decline, the world was linked by global communications and trade networks and fossil fuels had been depleted to the point that nuclear power was enthusiastically welcomed. If there was no pressing need to develop nuclear weapons then nuclear power could be a boon for civilization. After having unnaturally accelerated the development of nuclear science in this century, a century that was plagued by warfare on a global scale, Noÿs and Andrew had then been powerless to do anything to influence how the warring nations of the world might decide to make use of nuclear technology.
With no control of, or even a view into the secret nuclear weapons programs, Noÿs and Andrew had turned their efforts towards finding ways to stimulate 20th century Earth's development of other technologies such as genetics and computing. Noÿs was particularly concerned about the fact that she and her descendants would become recognizable as genetic aberrations as soon as the technology for gene analysis was developed. Noÿs had been born more than 10,000,000 years in the future and genetically she was significantly different from the primitive humans who populated 20th century Earth. One of the ways she differed from primitive humans (which included Andrew) was that she was genetically predisposed to live much longer. She was actually twice as old as Andrew, but she allowed him to believe that she was younger. She had worried for years that it might be hard for her egg cells to correctly interact with Andrew's sperm cells, but their concerted reproductive effort did eventually produce two happy and healthy children.
Andrew had grown up as part of the aberrant culture of Eternity where he had developed a fascination with the profession of Computing. He often spoke to Noÿs about his mentor, Senior Computer Twissel. Twissel had suggested to Andrew that (had he stayed in Eternity) he might have risen to the pinnacle of Eternity's pecking order and himself been promoted to the rank of Computer, the most respected profession within Eternity.
Noÿs had known Twissel briefly before coming downwhen with Andrew. Twissel was a human from 3,000,000 years in Andrew's future, the top ranking Computer of Eternity and the man who had spent his long career in working to "close the loop" by which Eternity had been initiated on Earth. Eternity became possible with the invention of temporal mechanics in the 24th century by Vikkor Mallansohn. Time travel had been used to take knowledge of temporal mechanics back in time, forcing Earth to become involved in the development of time travel technology at an early time in Earth's scientific age. Early development of time travel technology defined the Reality of both Andrew and Noÿs, what they called the Mallansohn Reality, a timeline in which time travel was vigorously used to improve human welfare, but humanity never made use of interstellar travel to spread among the stars.
Noÿs and Andrew had come back to the 20th century from the far future. Their intention had been to terminate the Mallansohn Reality and turn the technological course of humanity on its head. Noÿs had viewed many possible Realities and seen that by launching nuclear technology in the 20th century it would be possible to put humanity on a path towards interstellar space travel...at the cost of destroying Eternity and deflecting Earth from becoming involved in time travel.
Given Andrew's interest in computing, he was now concerned with the need to assure that electronic computing technology was developed as quickly as possible. Computers would be needed in order to allow fusion energy to be harnessed on Earth as a safe and cheap source of energy.
Before coming back in time to the 20th century, Andrew had been a student of primitive Earth history and was familiar with Alan Turing's reputation as one of the first people to recognize the possibility of using electronic computers to replicate the thought patterns of human brains. When Andrew saw mention of Turing in the newspaper (Turing was to receive government recognition for his role in breaking German military codes during the war) he had begun corresponding with Turing. Turing was part of one of the three research projects in England that were starting to work towards an understanding of how to build electronic computers with programs held in rapid and efficient electronic memory banks. This week, Noÿs was left home with the children while Andrew was away on a visit with Turing. Andrew hoped to provide hints and motivation that might help Turing achieve rapid progress in the development of electronic computers.
Noÿs knew that it would not be easy for Andrew to help Turing. Andrew was not an expert in the primitive technologies that were available for storing data and programs in electronic memory. About the most that Andrew could do was build up Turing's enthusiasm for the difficult task of bringing unproven methods into use as electronic memory storage devices.
Noÿs was familiar with the frustrations that came from trying to push technological advances along at a pace faster than Earth was ready for. Before becoming pregnant with their first child, Noÿs had worked for a time in the research laboratory of William Astbury. Posing as a research technician, Noÿs had made possible the first truly successful x-ray crystallographic analysis of DNA. Still, Noÿs had never been able to get Astbury to accept the idea that DNA might be the genetic storage molecule. They had argued over that repeatedly, but Astbury could not be deflected from his belief, a belief he shared with most scientists, that protein molecules were more important than nucleic acids.
Sitting there in the twilight, Noÿs reflected on the fact that it was only in 1945 that the first evidence had been published linking DNA to a genetic trait, a discovery that came years too late to aid Noÿs in her effort to draw attention to the need to more carefully study the structure of DNA. However, now that the war was over, biophysicists were rushing towards success in their attempt to understand the molecular structure of DNA.
For the past eight years Noÿs had stayed close to home and devoted all of her efforts to raising her two children. During those years her mental world had contracted and now seldom extended outside the comfortable home that she and Andrew had bought. Now, on the few occasions when she left home, she only went to downtown Bangor to shop. With the children growing older she sometimes thought about a future time when she might get back into genetics research. Once the children were grown up she would have plenty of time to again involve herself with the course of technological change, but for now she was content to enjoy the rewards of motherhood. Her thoughts were interrupted at that point by the sound of the front door knocker.
Noÿs hurried down the stairs and looked out a window to see who was at the door. A woman who she did not recognize was again lifting the door knocker. Before she again let the heavy knocker strike the door, she noticed Noÿs through the window and silently lowered the knocker back to its resting position. Noÿs could tell that the stranger was not from Wales: her clothing was not at all in the local style.
Noÿs pulled open the heavy door and said, "Good evening." She asked, "Are you lost?"
The woman shook her head. "No, I'm not lost. I believe you are Noÿs Lambent. I'm here to see you and Andrew Harlan." Noÿs was still learning the subtleties of English and she had some difficulty understanding the strange woman's unusual accent. "My name is Smith. May I come in?"
"Yes, do come in." Noÿs let Ms. Smith into the house. For a moment, while Smith passed through the doorway, Noÿs looked outside and tried to imagine how Ms. Smith had arrived. There was no sign of a vehicle, yet all Ms. Smith wore on her feet was what looked like a pair of comfortable booties or slippers. Noÿs closed the door and with daylight nearly gone she paused to light a gas lamp on the wall. Turning from the now glowing lamp, Noÿs asked, "Should I know you, Miss. Smith? Mrs.?" Noÿs gestured towards a chair.
The visitor remained standing. "I'm not married. When we are alone I'd prefer that you call me Rycleu."
"Rycleu Smith?" Noÿs lit the lamp on the other side of the room. Returning to her guest she looked carefully at Smith's clothing, which did not look like it belonged to the 20th century. A shiver ran up her back, but Noÿs tried not to panic. "That is an unusual name. Is it French?"
Smith/Rycleu seemed bored with the matter of names. She quietly replied, "Just Rycleu," And for a moment she seemed to stare at the exact location of the upstairs bedroom where the two children were sleeping. Rycleu said, "Andrew is not here." It was a definite statement.
Now quite nervous about the strange woman's intentions, Noÿs decided to fib. "He will be back soon. Have you been corresponding with him?"
The woman lowered her gaze and turned her hard and piercing eyes back to Noÿs. "No, I just arrived in England yesterday. It took me a day to locate you and get out here. This is a rather remote location."
Noÿs noted that Rycleu seemed unhappy with the inconvenience of having to journey to the far end of Wales. Noÿs asked, "What is your business with us...Rycleu?"
Rycleu replied decisively, but mysteriously, "Computers and robotics."
Noÿs was surprised to hear those two words and certain that she had never previously heard them both in an English sentence. She stammered, "Ro-robotics?"
Rycleu expanded slightly, in an off hand manner as if expecting Noÿs to not actually need any explanation of the term. "Mechanical men. Androids."
"Yes, I know the word 'robot', it is even a word in my own language. I just don't expect stray women to come into my home and start bandying it about. However, Andrew is also interested in computers. Do you mind telling me how you found your way here?" Noÿs had been very certain that Eternity no longer existed, but now she wondered if "Smith" or "Rycleu" was a time traveler. Her clothing looked like it was from another world -or another time. Noÿs and Andrew were trying not to draw any attention to themselves here in this century. How could an utter stranger find them? A stranger who went around using words like computer and robotics in a way that was totally anachronistic.
Rycleu explained, "I want you to use the name 'Smith' as my cover. I am actually R. Rycleu, a robot. I'm here to help you push the people of Earth towards the development of interstellar space travel."
Noÿs felt her knees go weak. She sat down and clutched at the arm of her chair, but Rycleu still continued to stand. Noÿs now seriously wondered if she and Andrew had failed to destroy Eternity, but if Eternity still existed then why would the Eternals send a robot back in time? For Noÿs, robots were essentially mythological beings. Robots had only a very small role within most of human history all the way out to her own time, 10 million years in the future. Or had the changes introduced by herself and Andrew in these primitive times changed that? Rycleu explained, "No, we robots still keep ourselves hidden. There is a simpler explanation for why a robot was sent on this mission. You really did destroy the Eternity you knew, but it was wrong for you to ever imagine that there could only be one Eternity."
Noÿs finally remembered to breath and she tried to calm and order her thoughts which were in disarray due to the shocking idea that Rycleu was a robot. Noÿs contemplated the idea of there being more than one Eternity. "While planning how to destroy Eternity we often discussed the idea that if humans first took control of the galaxy then they might, at a much later time, again get around to discovering time travel technology and creating a new Eternity." Greatly agitated and feeling defenseless, Noÿs then began to think about the possibility of contacting Andrew and telling him to rush back home.
Rycleu had no interest in telling Noÿs the truth about there being a second time travel device that was only accessible from the Moon. However, Rycleu was following the thoughts of Noÿs and did not mind if Noÿs knew that she could read her thoughts. "There is no need for Andrew to rush back. I approve of the idea that he develop contacts with computer scientists, particularly Turing. Turing is one of the people I hope we can involve in the task of developing a positronics industry."
Noÿs was wondering if Rycleu could read her mind, but that was only one of her concerns. "So, you are a time traveler. And you know my future."
Rycleu shook her head, "No, I never bothered to study your future. I intend to completely alter your future: we will be creating a new Reality, starting today, so there is no point in worrying about the details of your future in some other Reality. You have done well to accelerate the development of nuclear technology on Earth and now we can take the next step."
Noÿs wondered about "positronics". She had never heard the term before. Before she could formulate a coherent question about positronics, the robot explained, "In the language of your homewhen you might say 'sedronic circuitry'. We need to deflect Earthlings away from electronics and get them to develop positronics. Even in your age the advantages of positronics were not widely recognized on Earth. In the new Reality that we will create, Earth will have robots with positronic brains...and in this century....if all goes well."
Noÿs commented, "You really can read my thoughts."
Rycleu nodded, "I have that ability. It is one of the implications of positronics that telepathic robots become possible." Noÿs wondered how the goal of rushing humanity towards interstellar space travel was related to positronics. Before Noÿs could put that thought into spoken words, Rycleu explained, "Positronics is what will make it possible for Earthlings to develop the hyperspatial jump in this century. There is much to explain. I'll outline the key technological issues for you before I leave. It will be up to you and Andrew to decide which scientists and industrialists to assist in the creation of a positronics industry here in Britain."
Noÿs rubbed her forehead...her thoughts were spinning. She had no way of knowing that Rycleu was altering her emotions so as to induce Noÿs to unconditionally trust in this plan for once more altering the course of technological change on Earth. Noÿs was trying to formulate a question about robots. She had a suspicion that the myths about robots in her homewhen might have been based on actual robots who secretly manipulated human society, but even while she struggled to formulate those thoughts Rycleu was erasing them from her mind.
Rycleu needed Noÿs to remain focused on the details of how to change the course of technological progress in the 20th century. It would be a useless distraction if Noÿs concerned herself with the larger implications of robots for human civilization and how telepathic robots guided the course of humanity through the ages. Doubtlessly Noÿs would be particularly upset and distracted if she began to realize how telepathic robots, including Rycleu, had previously -and secretly- manipulated her personally. It was easier for everyone if Noÿs continued to believe that humans of the far future had been the ones who decided to terminate Earth's Eternity and put an end to the human obsession with time travel.
Rycleu had arrived late in the day for a reason. Now that Rycleu had altered the pattern of Noÿs' thoughts, a period of sleep would be useful for permanently fixing and consolidating the changes to her memory. In the morning, Rycleu would be able to move ahead and teach Noÿs some details about positronics. Noÿs slumped in her chair and nodded off into a deep sleep. The robot scooped Noÿs up and carried her up stairs.
Three days later Andrew returned home. By then the children and Noÿs had integrated Rycleu into their domestic routines and they were completely comfortable around the robot. Of course, the children had no idea that she was a robot and Noÿs almost never thought about it. The children referred to Rycleu as "auntie Smith" and Noÿs only used the name "Rycleu" when they were alone and discussing positronics.
It was only after dinner and after getting the children off to bed that Andrew was alone with Rycleu. There had been almost no discussion of her business in front of the children. Noÿs had made hints such as, "Miss Smith wants to discuss computers with you, dear. She has a remarkable insight into the field."
His interest piqued, Andrew had spoken about Ada Lovelace and her description of the analytical engine, a computing device imagined by Charles Babbage in the 19th century. Andrew also provided an account of Alan Turing and his frustrations in trying to find a workable computer memory technology.
When the children said goodnight and went upstairs with Noÿs, the first floor of the house became quiet. Andrew was still struggling to place Miss Smith's mysterious accent. Noÿs had taken the robot into town and Rycleu now wore conventional clothing from 1940s England, removing a set of clues suggesting that she was out of place- or out of her normal time. Andrew poured a small amount of whiskey into a glass for himself and asked, "Would you care for a drink, Miss Smith?"
Rycleu declined, "I'd feel badly about wasting your fine liquor, Mr. Harlan. You see, I am a robot and my gustatory sense is quite pedestrian, also, my positronic brain not at all susceptible to the effects of ethanol."
Harlan's first reaction was one of horror at the idea of a robot having been in the house with his wife and children. In the mythology of Harlan's homewhen, robots were depicted as sinister beings threatening to use their superior intellects to trick humans, often by pretending to be humans. Andrew had never really believed that such robotic masterminds were possible. Through all of human existence, all the ages of humanity that had been accessible to Eternity, powerful computers with any chance of replicating the powers of a human mind were too large to be carried around in a human-shaped robot. Andrew took it for granted that electronic computing devices simply could not match the human brain in packing computational capacity into a compact space. Yet, at that moment he had no doubt that "Miss Smith" was speaking the truth.
Andrew felt his limbs start to tremble and he sank down into his favorite chair. He gulped some whiskey and finally managed to ask, "You are from Eternity?"
"I am R. Rycleu...Robot Rycleu. 'Smith' is my cover name. Please believe me: you and Noÿs completely succeeded in your mission. You destroyed the Mallansohn Reality and the Eternity you knew is gone. You need not concern yourself with where -or when- I come from. I am here to help you and Noÿs push the people of this century towards space travel. I'm here with a plan for how to help humanity achieve faster-than-light space travel in this century."
Andrew was skeptical about the idea of bringing advanced space travel technology into use on Earth so soon. Achieving faster-than-light space travel as quickly as possible was one of the goals he and Noÿs shared, but they had always spoken about that as a long-term goal for the future, several centuries in the future. "This century? Poor Turing cannot even find a workable electronic memory storage device for a computer -hell, and this house is still not on the electric power grid- and you are dreaming of achieving interstellar space travel within fifty years?" Rycleu simply nodded. Andrew drained the rest of the whiskey from his glass and then rolled the empty glass between his hands. His thoughts were swirling and he had no idea that Rycleu was at work inside his brain, pushing his thought processes in desired directions. Finally Andrew asked, "What did you say about your brain? Positronic?"
Rycleu nodded, "The related term used in temporal mechanics is 'sedronic'." The robot grabbed the whiskey dispenser and brought it to Andrew. Andrew held up his glass, doubtful that he should have more. Rycleu poured the glass full.
Andrew had never concerned himself with the technical details of time travel, the actual nuts and bolts of it, but he had heard the term "sedronic matter". He recalled that the Cub, Cooper, had once tried to explain some of the mathematical symmetries of sedrons and how they formed the basis for moving matter through time. "My understanding is that sedrons are an exotic form of matter. Eternity used vast amounts of energy to manufacture sedrons that were then built into the transport rings around the time travel kettles. All I know is that time travel requires a catalytic amount of sedronic matter."
Rycleu explained, "Precisely, and the same trick can be applied to space travel. Just as sedrons can be used to push matter through time -in ways ordinarily not possible- they can also be used to push matter through space, in jumps...as if the matter followed a hyperspatial shortcut through space."
Andrew rubbed his head and tried to fit what he was hearing into a logical pattern. "If it is the same basic trick then why did humans within the Mallansohn Reality fail to develop a viable technology for interstellar space travel until the very far future...millions of years after even the time when Noÿs was born?"
Rycleu did not mind explaining that puzzle to Harlan since he would not be allowed to remember any of the the answers to such questions. With a small mental push from Rycleu, Noÿs had already fallen asleep upstairs while nursing her younger child. With some help from the whiskey, Rycleu planned to have Andrew asleep shortly, the needed changes to his neural circuits complete and ready to solidify into permanent patterns of thought during the night. Rycleu was only concerned that Harlan not become enraged...which was quite possible if he quickly learned the full extent to which robots had manipulated human civilization in general and his own personal life in particular. "The reason for that is what we call the Zeroth Law of Robotics." Rycleu saw in Harlan's mind that he wanted to know what Rycleu meant by "we", but Rycleu suppressed the force behind that questioning thought and kept the focus on robotics. "We robots are guided by the need to protect and promote the interests of humanity, but we find it nearly impossible to judge what is best for humanity. For us, it is far easier to understand the needs of humanity when humans are restricted to a single world."
Andrew was shocked by what he was hearing. "So robots...you robots...you secretly took it upon yourselves to prevent the development of interstellar space travel technology?"
"Yes." Rycleu used her mentalic powers to clamp down on Andrew's reaction of outrage at the idea of robots taking control of human civilization. "We had decided to make use of time travel as our tool for perfecting human existence. That method had much appeal. If we made an error we could always just go back in time and try again. We feared releasing humans into the vastness of space. How could we ever hope to understand and protect humanity once it spread between the stars?"
Andrew sipped the whiskey and seriously considered that rhetorical question. "So why are you now ready to help Noÿs and I bring technology for interstellar space travel into use on Earth?"
Rycleu was perfectly willing to continue to make use of the story that Noÿs had previously told to Andrew. It was convenient that both Noÿs and Andrew believed it. "Noÿs has correctly explained all that to you. In the far future of the Mallansohn Reality, humanity could not deal successfully with the idea that other species of organisms had colonized the galaxy before humans. A tranquil human civilization on Earth was not enough to satisfy humanity. We robots had miscalculated and ignored the human need for a frontier. By over-emphasizing safety we cheated humanity out of the adventure of galactic exploration. In any Reality where humans are restricted to Earth the species eventually sputters and dies out...but it is not too late to change Reality and avoid that fate."
Andrew felt his eyes threatening to close. Vaguely he wondered why Noÿs had not come down stairs and joined them. He listened carefully and all seemed quiet upstairs. His eyes half closed and he thought about what might be meant by a positronic brain. He realized that within a circuit of sedronic matter it would be possible to trap positrons and have functioning positronic currents. But why bother? Sedronic matter was frightfully hard to produce while electronic circuits were simple to construct.
Rycleu was following Andrew's thoughts and said, "The power of positronics is subtle. It has to do with a fundamental asymmetry that exists in our universe by which quantum computation is far more powerful when done using positronics rather than electronics."
Andrew realized that the robot was reading his thoughts. It all suddenly made sense. If positronic robots had telepathic powers...then he wondered if those powers extended past merely reading thoughts and into additional domains such as actively controlling the thoughts of people. Rycleu said, "Exactly. You have it." At that moment the robot could identify all of Andrew's neural circuits that contributed to his concept of mind control. As expected, Andrew was outraged by the idea of telepathic robots manipulating human behavior. Rycleu pushed Andrew into sleep and stepped forward to catch the whiskey glass as it slipped from Andrew's limp fingers. Reclue looked down on Andrew, confident that when he awoke he would be incapable of resenting the control that telepathic robots exerted over humans and he would then be ready to move on with the details of planning how to develop positronics as a central part of 20th century science.
Harlan woke up in the middle of the night and was surprised to find that he had fallen asleep in the chair. The house was completely silent and someone had turned off the lamps, but moon light was shining in the windows on the south side of the house. Harlen went upstairs and found Noÿs, snoring quietly, still in bed with their youngest child where she had fallen asleep. He took hold of her hand and she woke up. "Andrew! Sorry I fell asleep in here." She stood up and they embraced. Noÿs wondered what time it was and if Rycleu had gone to bed. She decided that she really did not care.
Andrew and Noÿs went to their bedroom and hungrily renewed their acquaintances with each others bodies. Rycleu was out walking along the shore. Although she was more than a mile from the house, Rycleu had no difficulty following the thoughts of Andrew and Noÿs.
Noÿs used Andrew's chest to wipe sweat off of her brow and whispered, "I'm so glad you are back. I was quite alarmed when Rycleu showed up."
Andrew ran his hands up and down her back and then took hold of her hair, lifting it off of her hot neck. "I'm sorry I was not here. Really, the trip to visit with Turing was a waste of time. He's frustrated because he has a clear vision of the potential of computers while at the same time he is unable to find a practical memory storage device."
Noÿs said, "Rycleu has suggested that now is the time to push people like Turing in the direction of positronics...before they become devoted to electronics."
Andrew was still struggling a bit to believe that Rycleu was a robot and that primitive humans of the twentieth century would be able to begin manufacturing robots with positronic brains. "Positronics...it seems like a dream."
Noÿs thought about what Rycleu had shown her two days before. "I've seen her brain. Much of her body is actually biological and designed to fool humans into thinking that she is human, but she pulled open her head and showed me her brain." The freakish image of the robot's insides still haunted Noÿs. She trembled and was not sure if it was from the memory of seeing Rycleu's brain or her cooling sweat. Intellectually, Noÿs still remembered being afraid of Rycleu, but somehow the strength of that emotion had been subverted and she was excited about the idea of having positronics as a peaceful application for nuclear science. Noÿs asked, "Did she tell you about her plans?"
Andrew was still trying to sort out his memories and he could not clearly recall everything Rycleu had said before he fell asleep. "No, she just hinted."
Noÿs explained, "She has a plan for how to start a positronics industry. A key step is creating a particle accelerator that can produce sedrons. According to Rycleu, there is a particle accelerator project at a former military research site near Malvern College that could soon be producing sedrons...if they knew of the existence of sedrons."
Andrew had been struggling to remember the history of sedronic physics as it had been in the Mallansohn Reality. "As I recall, sedronic physics never got established until the 27th century, and that was only as part of the development of time travel. This is sounding like the creation of another situation similar to what existed with Cooper bringing back into the past critical knowledge from the future that would allow Eternity to be created. Presumably we could explain to current physicists how to produce and capture sedrons, but the theoretical basis for sedronic physics lies centuries in the future. Didn't development of sedron theory depend on simulations using quantum computers?"
"Right." Noÿs pushed herself up into a vertical position above Andrew. She was reaching towards the table at the side of the bed. "And people like Turing can't even get the first electronic computer assembled, but according to Rycleu, there is a short-cut to quantum computing...high-temperature superconductivity." Noÿs ordered Andrew, "Move your butt over towards the side of the bed. Rycleu says that there is no reason why high-temperature superconductors can't be made now. She says there is someone named Heinz London here in England who even has developed a mathematical foundation for a theory of high-temperature superconductivity."
Andrew complained, "I still do not see that people like Turing will be willing to abandon the obvious path to computers, electronics, in favor of some pie in the sky dream of positronics, particularly if it will require the simultaneous development of accelerator technology and high-temperature superconductors just to produce a few milligrams of sedronic matter."
Noÿs had pulled a small object out of the drawer of the table that was beside the bed. She placed it into Andrew's hand. "This locket contains a gram of sedronic matter."
Andrew chuckled, "So...Rycleu expects us to just walk up to...who? Turing? Heinz London? Anyone of this century and say, 'Here is a remarkable substance, unknown to science, that will allow you to travel in time and perform quantum computing'?"
Noÿs snuggled next to Andrew. "Rycleu thinks that having some available sedrons will allow the rapid development of sedron detectors and motivate construction of the correct type of particle accelerator for production of more sedrons. She calls it 'seed sedron' and I think she's right: it will show everyone that sedron physics is not just some crazy idea."
Andrew sighed. "I still don't see how you and I and a robot can just 'show everyone'...it will blow our cover. People will start asking who we are and where we came from...and where the sedrons came from."
Noÿs moved a hand down Andrew's torso, "Some games take team work...it's more fun that way. Anyhow, I suppose that if this was going to be easy then Rycleu would have just done it herself."
As always, Andrew was impressed with magical effects that came from being touched by Noÿs. He asked, "Are you suggesting that I need to play with Rycleu and save her from doing it herself?"
Noÿs rolled back onto Andrew. "Not at all. I'm officially reserving all your play time for myself. I do suspect that she will not hesitate to play with you...she didn't with me. But let's restrict your interactions with Rycleu to work, okay? I'm very jealous, you know."
Andrew commented, "It's just your hyped-up libido from the far future...hey! Are you saying that you and that robot...?" Andrew also had a jealous streak and resented the fact that Noÿs was from a culture where sexual promiscuity was the norm. Still, they had come to an agreement and as long as Noÿs limited herself to extramarital relationships with women then Andrew looked the other way. He commented, "I'm still amazed that humans of the far future died out. You seem to be quite motivated to propagate humans into the future."
Noÿs giggled. "Don't complain to me about checking out Rycleu...including her brain...it was all done in the interest of science. Anyhow, I blame you, Andrew. If Eternity had sent a few men from the primitive into the far future, human kind might not have died out."
"You've never explained what you see in me."
"I have no need to explain. Before I ever met you, your buddies in Eternity all agreed that you have a magic touch...Minimum Necessary Change, and all that. What girl could have resisted asking you to make her an Eternal?"
"Well, after having two children you are no longer a girl, and I'm not getting any younger, either. Don't you ever plan on slowing down?"
For a moment Noÿs reflected unhappily on the fact that she would age much more slowly than her husband. But she dismissed that issue from her thoughts. "No, I'm not worried about that, although I am a bit puzzled about why I fell asleep so early tonight. All week while you were away I'd been planning to keep you up all night the day of your return home."
Andrew was amazed by the way Noÿs had gone through two pregnancies and yet still behaved like the same girl he had fallen in love with so many years before. In accounting for her seemingly perpetual youth, all she would ever admit to was having good genes. Andrew commented, "None of us can escape the flow of physiotime."
Noÿs asked, "Not even a robot?"
For a moment Andrew contemplated the horrifying possibility that Noÿs might be a robot or some kind of cyborg. Noÿs continued, "I will confess that it has been nice to have a robot around the house. She's been helping a lot, cooking...even doing the laundry, but she did complain and suggest installing solar energy collectors on the roof and an electric washing machine."
"I hope none of these antics have been in front of the kids. All we need is word of our unusual guest spreading into town."
"Rycleu is perfectly well behaved in front of the children. When we went into town she kept her mouth shut and did nothing outrageous. You should have seen her that first day, when she showed up on our door step dressed like a visitor from the far future. Luckily she fits in my clothing, so I was able to get her to town in disguise and buy her some local style clothing."
Andrew asked, "Has she said how long she plans to be staying here with us?"
"She is anxious to launch a positronics industry in England. She's been talking in terms of a week or two. She claims to have traveled extensively in America and Europe and will continue to do so. We are to become her eyes and hands in England."
"Hmm...not putting all her eggs in one basket. I suspect that the Americans must be ahead in accelerator technology, what with their atomic bomb project. I doubt if most of the British scientists who worked over there during the war are back on this side of the Atlantic yet. Maybe pushing for positronics in England is stretching thin resources too widely."
"Well, if there is going to be competition between the Old and New Worlds for developing positronics, what Rycleu has going for her is us. You heard her accent. She could never pass as a native English speaker. You have developed a quite good command of English."
For a moment Andrew wondered how easy it was for a robot to learn new languages. "With my accent, nobody will ever confuse me with a native of England. Now you have me wondering if there are other time travelers in play...maybe in America...if Rycleu can just drop in on us out of the blue, who's to say there were not other human time travelers besides us who were sent back to the primitive?"
Noÿs explained, "Rycleu claims that there is no more time travel on Earth, that Eternity was destroyed. She told me that she came to Earth by spaceship...from the Moon."
"I suspect she'll tell us anything to get us to cooperate. How can we ever know if she is telling us the truth?" But that question was the closest that either Andrew or Noÿs could come to seriously resisting participation in the positronics technology development program proposed by Rycleu. Regardless of the efforts of Noÿs to keep Andrew awake, he dozed off again and when he awoke later in the morning his neural circuits had settled into a new pattern for which resistance to Rycleu and her scheme was no longer possible.
Rycleu stood on the moon-lit shore and felt confident that Andrew and Noÿs had both been successfully guided into cooperation with Gohrlay's plan for the future of humanity. There were still many uncertainties about the details of how their work on Earth during next few decades would unfold, but Rycleu had no doubt that humanity was safely on the path towards a future among the stars. Still, Rycleu knew that she was ignorant of important features of the future, features that only Gohrlay had seen. When first the thoughts of Andrew and then those of Noÿs became quiet, Rycleu thought of the dangers ahead and the many ways Gohrlay's plan might fail and how the Huaoshy might regain control over the fate of humanity. It had been simple for Rycleu to fly to Earth from the Moon, and the Huaoshy could just as easily return to Earth at any moment. Would she be able to deal with the aliens if they did?