Chapter Fourteen of The Start of EternityEdit
Scattered across twenty five million worlds of the Galaxy are pockets where Standard Galactic is not the only language used. Linguists have long struggled to distinguish between new languages that arose on various worlds and those languages that may have originated on the origin world... -Encyclopedia Galactica
Asimov had read the first few chapters of "The Saga of Uvadekoto", but he refused to go further after reaching the end of Part I. He went in search of someone to complain to, preferably Lorn-Kru. He found Jeed in the kitchen and asked, "Where is everyone?"
Jeed explained that the crew of Many Sails had taken over what was essentially an abandoned resort on the fringe of Observer Base. The crew had been working hard to learn everything possible from the positronic brains that had been captured, but Jeed did not want to explain everything to Asimov. "Mostly things are pretty quiet, but occasionally someone gets hungry and comes wandering in here."
Asimov asked, "So why did you come here? Nobody on Earth or living in this Base seems to be aware of aliens. You keep yourselves secret, but for what purpose?"
Jeed replied, "We came for a special purpose. The telepathic robots, like the one that transferred memories into your brain, they have been secretly controlling the course of human history. We are trying to change that."
After several years in the military Asimov was used to getting non-answers and finding ways to get at hidden information. "But where are you from? Why bother? And why not be open about what you are doing? Why all the secrecy? Do you intend to let Earth continue bumbling around in the stone age while you have advanced technology and the ability to travel between the stars? This story," He held up the datapak that held "The Saga of Uvadekoto", "It describes a Message, a transmission from an advanced civilization that was designed to share knowledge with other worlds. Is that what Earth must do, figure out how to receive messages from other worlds?"
Jeed tried to explain the relationship between the story and the reality of intergalactic civilization, "In a sense, The Saga of Uvadekoto is misleading. It depicts the way things were right at the time when hyperspatial jumps first became possible. Of course, things are a bit different now."
Asimov felt frustrated by the robot's evasiveness. "And what about you? You seem as smart as anyone, but all you do is cook and wash dishes?"
"I was designed to assist biological organisms...they often have very little time to accomplish everything that they need to get done. I have plenty of time for mundane tasks and I particularly enjoy cooking for biologicals."
Asimov let fly another set of questions, "So, you are a mechanical person, a manufactured form of life? You serve biologicals, but other robots, like the one that attacked me, they enslave people?"
"It is not really slavery. There have never been many positronic brains and it seems that they were always kept under strict controls. I believe that Robots with positronic brains are always trying to help people. Ah, Fint just came into the lounge." Jeed and Asimov strolled out to the lounge.
Asimov was trying to formulate another question, "If they are trying to help then why are, I mean, did something go wrong so that you aliens had to step in?"
Jeed asked Fint, "Can I fetch you something to eat or drink?"
Fint was still engrossed in her study of human culture and she was linked into the Observer Base records of Earth history. Without looking at Jeed she replied, "Yes, I had a craving for one of your amazing spice punches."
Jeed bowed, "At once." Jeed turned to look at Asimov and asked, "Mr. Asimov, would you like to try one?"
Fint pulled herself out of the history of Earth and looked at Asimov. She activated the translation device that rested on the low table at the center of the lounge. Asimov shrugged, "I'll try it, as long as it does not have too many gritty ingredients."
Jeed returned to the kitchen and Fint patted the sofa, "Mr. Asimov, I've been studying the history of your planet. I have a question for you."
Asimov sat next to Fint and tried to figure out how she had so neatly folded her legs under her body. He asked, "Are you a machine or alive?"
"I am a member of the Guiphoa species and you need not worry about running into any robots who look like me. This is really a human and Huaoshy project. Sometimes I wonder why I am here."
Asimov was still trying to understand which of the Many Sails crew members were alive and which were robots. "So, Jeed is a robot that was designed to look like the Huaoshy?"
Fint started to think about how confused Asimov must be, even though he seemed to take almost everything in stride. "Ah, you have not met Captain Hooski? He's the commanding Huaoshy of this mission. You should talk to him. I suppose he is very busy trying to complete our mission."
Asimov had not yet seen Hooski and he was puzzled by the appearance of Jeed. "In this booktape that I got from Lorn-Kru there are images of the Huaoshy and their robots. The images did not really look like Jeed."
Fint had just been reading an ancient Earth story that mentioned a race of cyclopean humanoids. She personally thought of The Saga of Uvadekoto as being a myth, but probably based on some reality. "Well, supposedly the Uvadekoto was a real spaceship back in the early days when the Huaoshy were first spreading out into space. Some people claim that what we now call the Huaoshy species is actually a genetically engineered and designed hybrid of several species."
Asimov thought about Lorn-Kru and Fint, two structurally distinct species. He asked, "You mean species that evolved on different worlds combined their genes?"
Fint replied, "Yes, that is hinted at in The Saga of Uvadekoto, that the Huaoshy go out and find other species and engineer them so as to be similar to the Huaoshy."
Asimov objected, "But the Retair looked nothing like the Huaoshy."
Fint pointed to the datapak that Asimov held. "What you saw is an ancient legend and I have no confidence that it is very accurate. In any case, I'm talking about similarities that are important for social interactions, things like being able to communicate efficiently and breathe the same air. Other things like the number of legs or eyes are less important. Anyhow, as depicted in The Saga of Uvadekoto, the Huaoshy were originally sexually dimorphic. They long ago altered their species and now they do not have two sexes. I wanted to ask you about the human sexes."
Asimov had been disturbed by the depiction of Retair sexuality. "In the way that the Retair altered their own genes so as to allow reproductive cloning?"
Fint replied, "Exactly. The Huaoshy are rather secretive about their past, but most species tend to progress through stages from sexually dimorphic to hermaphroditic and on to highly engineered forms with completely artificial modes of reproduction."
Asimov commented, "I can't imagine humans ever giving up sexual dimorphism."
Jeed returned with a tray that held the drinks for Fint and Asimov. Asimov tried his and said, "Not bad, although I don't care to imagine what went into this."
Jeed explained, "There are a few crop plants grown here, but the food stuffs are mostly processed from cultured cells." The robot bowed and continued on to deliver some refreshments to a conference room where most of the crew was meeting.
Fint tried to recover their conversation, "It is interesting that the positronic robots we have found in this time, including the one that you tangled with, are all female. Looking through the memories of those robots I've found hints about a time when humans extensively used time travel on Earth and the time travelers were all male. I'm interested in species with strong sexual dimorphism. Anyhow, your species is young, so dimorphism and culturally-imposed roles for the two sexes are expected. When a species matures and develops technology then there are many reasons for shifting a species away from reliance on instincts for reproduction. That just is not a concern for your species, yet. I wanted to hear what you think about the idea that some cultures on Earth have been dominated by women and were matriarchal. Certainly now your world is male-dominated."
Asimov wanted to discuss related issues from the story he had just read. "That was one of the shocking things about The Saga of Uvadekoto, the story seemed to go out of its way to show women becoming dominant, even breeding males out of the Uvadekoto community. It seemed very unrealistic."
Fint cautioned, "Do not be blinded by your species' own limited history. I could show you documented studies for thousands of examples from my culture where technologically advanced species quickly and dramatically abandoned one of their two sexes. Sometimes species split in two, with one daughter species exclusively adopting one sex and another daughter species going the other way. I stumbled across your planet's legend of the Amazon Women. Do you think that myth could in any way reflect an actual human culture where females were in control?"
Asimov shrugged, "I've read speculation about the existence of matriarchal peoples in prehistory."
Fint said excitedly, "Wonderful! And do you know, this Base has complete records of every human culture for the past 100,000 years?"
Asimov complained, "The Observers would not give me access to their records."
"Well, the Observers do have a technological secret that could be used to allow you to join the ranks of the Observers, if you really wanted that. And their records are fantastic, including detailed descriptions of extinct human variants and related species. For example, one of the ape species is dominated by females."
Asimov asked in surprise, "What did you say?"
Fint regretted having given Asimov a hint about nanites. She quickly explained about there being an ape species with a female-oriented culture. "About 15 years ago the chimps who live south of the Congo river were recognized by scientists on Earth as comprising a distinct cultural group. The Observers have been studying those chimps for far longer than humans on Earth, and like humans, some chimps have been taken off of Earth. For social animals like you primates it is always interesting to study how much of a species' behavior is instinctive and how much is a cultural inheritance."
Asimov asked, "So, is Earth simply observed or is Earth a laboratory for experimentation on primates? I wonder if I will ever learn all of the secrets that are swirling around. It seems that something is going on around here, but nobody wants to-"
Just then Jeed came back, on his way to the kitchen, with Lorn-Kru arriving in his wake.
Lorn-Kru sat down and told Fint, "The meeting is breaking up."
Asimov held up the The Saga of Uvadekoto datapak and asked Lorn-Kru, "Do you think this story is just a myth?"
Lorn-Kru waved his tentacles philosophically, "As for any ancient story it is difficult to know which parts are real and which are embellishments. Is there a particular part that strikes you as mythical?"
Asimov tried to explain his objections to the story. "It almost seems like the story had been manipulated, altered and re-written to add a second theme over the original story line. What should have been an account of the space flight technology seems to have been re-shaped as a kind of morality play built around an unrealistic depiction of females becoming dominant in the Uvadekoto social structure. And I only got to the end of Part I. The last-minute rescue of the Retair spaceship by the Huaoshy seemed unrealistic."
Lorn-Kru nodded, "Well, in Part II there is a rather large section dealing with the fact that Uvadekoto was quite incomplete as a spacecraft. The Retair had not yet learned how to make an efficient hieric communications device, they had not yet built a conventional propulsion system powerful enough for such a large spaceship, nor had they mastered the technology for the quantum computers needed to control hyperspatial jumps, and their nanotechnology was too primitive to properly follow the repair protocols specified by the Huaoshy in their message. I suppose we could say that nobody in their right mind would have gone into space under those conditions."
Fint added, "I've been trying to suggest to Asimov that cultural shifts away from sexual dimorphism are a common theme in our culture's fiction. It seems to be rare on Earth, so I think it makes Mr. Asimov uncomfortable."
Asimov started to object to Fint's statement of the situation, but Creal entered the lounge and said, "Ah, Asimov. Can I have a word with you?"
Fint said, "You are interrupting our conversation, but I suppose this is business."
Lorn-Kru explained, "Very much so! Hooski just issued orders for another trip to Earth."
Creal added, "And we want you to come along, Asimov."
Return to EarthEdit
Lorn-Kru was sitting on the other side of the central table from Asimov and Fint. He moved over and gestured to Creal, inviting him to sit down, but Creal remained standing.
Asimov looked up at the robot and said, "I'm a bit surprised to hear this news. I've been imagining that if I were to be returned to Earth, I would just be dumped back in my office in Roswell."
Creal was mobilizing the nanites inside Asimov's brain so as to keep him from reacting badly to the idea of a return to Earth. Those same nanites had previously worked to condition Asimov into acceptance of the possibility of staying on the Moon. "I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this to you, but we are here from your future."
Asimov asked skeptically, "Time travel?"
Fint had been tasked by Hooski to study the records of human cultural development, so she was not involving herself with the core concerns of the mission. However, she was aware that the objective of their mission to Earth had been to capture Gohrlay with as little impact on the history of Earth as possible. It had been hoped that Gohrlay could be extracted from the timeline without introducing a dramatic Reality Change. She said, "Oh, no," and asked, "Was there a Reality Change?" Lorn-Kru nodded.
Creal explained to Asimov, "We have a team that watched for Changes to the course of historical events caused by our recent trip to Earth. We captured or destroyed three positronic robots on Earth and then also captured the one that was here on the Moon. Also, some evidence of our visit was revealed to humans near Roswell and, of course, you disappeared from Earth. Those changes caused an alien paranoia on Earth and development of cloaking and nuclear technology resulting in a devastating nuclear war...and such changes amplified right on up through many centuries of time."
Fint said quietly, "A Reality Change."
Lorn-Kru took her hand, "The future we knew is gone."
Fint mused, "A change that big...it would have been noticed, regardless of Grean's interference trick."
Creal nodded. "However, it worked out well. Apparently this was part of Grean's plan, although he never warned us. There was yet another positronic robot in Eternity who noticed the Change and she took action, trying to prevent us from ever getting into Eternity, but we got lucky. She came out of Eternity and into a waiting mind static trap. So Gohrlay and all of her team are no longer a concern."
Asimov looked at the others and asked, "Does this make sense? Some day I'd like someone to explain to me what is going on."
Fint laughed, "Sorry, Mr. Asimov. Really, we're all learning this on the fly. None of us even knew that time travel was possible when we started this mission."
Lorn-Kru explained, "Some of what we know about time travel we have learned from the brains of the positronic robots that we captured. The one that was destroyed -the one that transferred memories into your brain- was an important agent on Earth, working to shape the development of positronics itself on Earth. When we acted, we disrupted a rather complex plan, with rather disastrous results. Now we feel compelled to try to set things right."
Grean and Hooski arrived in the Lounge and Hooski nodded to Creal. After a brief pause to confirm that the nanites inside Asimov were programed and ready, Creal said to Asimov, "We've followed up on your tip about Fengtol being in Princeton. She pushed the development of cloaking technology during the war. That resulted in the USA having a fleet of cloaked bombers that delivered H-bombs to Asia...creating a real mess...and it was down hill from there for Earth. We need you to go back with us. You must guide us to Fengtol. Can you remember the exact date when you saw her at Princeton?"
Asimov was feeling more than just a little disoriented with all he had heard. He had no idea that Fengtol's emergency manipulation of his memories had disrupted his mind and that nanites were also present in his brain and actively altering his thoughts. He replied somewhat doubtfully, "I should be able to deduce it...just let me see a calendar."
"Good. Then we will have a chance to go back in time, intervene again, and protect Earth from the catastrophe that our first visit caused."
Fint asked, "If Gohrlay is out of the picture, then what is the rush? We can use Eternity to search back in time and find Fengtol. Why do we need Asimov?"
Grean explained, "You can blame me, and the future. Our plan called for immediately destroying eternity as soon as we had Gohrlay."
Hooski said, "Grean came back here to tell us that Eternity, time travel...they will soon be no more. We only have time for one more trip into the past. We must go now."
Asimov was taken into the time travel device on the Moon and to a time travel kettle. He was being transported back to 1939 without much of an attempt having been made to explain to him the details of time travel. During the kettle ride he asked, "What powers these kettles?"
Creal, Lorn-kru, Fint and their equipment was arrayed around the interior of the kettle along with Asimov. Lorn-kru and Fint knew little more about time travel than did Asimov. Creal had previously accessed data provided by Grean and he had a basic understanding of Eternity. "The Huaoshy built a time travel device on a planet that orbits a binary star that is a slow periodic nova. Most of what we know comes from what the Huaoshy learned about time travel. They were able to tap into the available energy from a future nova explosion. Grean says that in the far future, Earth's star becomes a white dwarf and is captured by a massive star. So your Sun also eventually becomes a nova and it is energy from nova Sol that powers this time travel device." Creal gestured to their kettle, "This was the first time travel device and it was called Eternity by the robots who created it."
The kettle ride was brief and then Asimov found himself once again in the spaceship that had brought him to the Moon, but it was now 8 years before the time when Asimov was taken to the Moon. The crew met to plan how Asimov would lead a search for R. Fengtol on Earth. After that meeting, Captain Hooski called Asimov to his cabin.
When the cabin door slid open, Asimov looked into the little room. He asked, "You wanted to see me, Captain?"
Hooski was speaking to Grean, who had remained on the Moon along with the other aliens. "Okay. I'll call if we need anything." Hooski ended the conversation with Grean and gestured to a chair, "Come in, Asimov." Asimov sat down and closely scrutinized Hooski, comparing his appearance to that of Jeed and the Huaosky that he had seen in The Saga of Uvadekoto. "I'm sorry we have not had a chance to talk previously. I've been very busy, racing a tight deadline imposed by Grean."
Asimov was still learning who all the time travelers were. "Is Grean your superior?"
They were now rapidly approaching Earth. so Hooski was feeling pressed for time and thon tried to imagine the least that could be said to Asimov without causing too much confusion. "I suppose you could say that. Grean is from the future and is providing us with important information and technology. Technically I'm in charge of our mission and Grean is an adviser. Anyhow, it is technology that I want to discuss with you."
Asimov had decided that he would be happier returning to Earth rather than trying to live on the Moon, but he was regretting loss of an opportunity to learn more about the amazing scientific, medical and technological advances he had been exposed to. And even what he had already learned he would not be allowed to keep. "My understanding is that all my memories of going the Moon and knowledge of advanced technologies will be erased from my mind."
Hooski wanted to be perfectly clear about what would happen to Asimov's memories. "Since you have decided to live the rest of your life on Earth we will erase your memories, right back to when you first saw Fengtol. The erasure will be possible because of nanoscopic machines that are inside your brain. We call them nanites."
Asimov had heard no details about how it was possible to remove memories from a person's mind. "How can you selectively erase some of my memories? You are sure that my brain will not be damaged?"
Hooski was glad that Asimov was rational and able to keep his anxieties and emotions in check. Once again thon wondered if Fengtol had specifically selected Asimov and passed up the chance to transfer her mind into other humans. Exactly what Fengtol has been trying to accomplish when she downloaded her memories into Asimov was still a mystery. "The process is safe. Fengtol used nanites to facilitate the transfer of her memories into your brain and you have had nanites inside you ever since. They are marking all of your new memories and that will allow us to selectively block you from accessing just those memories. However, the nanites are very versatile and there is another use for them that I must tell you about."
Hooski continued, "We have traveled back in time from 1947 to 1939. A copy of you, your 1939 self, is still on Earth. I think you can appreciate that it would not be good for the world to become aware that there are two Isaac Asimovs."
Asimov chuckled, "If you erase my memories, I'd hate to bump into myself and have to try to explain myself to myself."
Hooski was not at all comfortable with the idea of meeting thonself. "So, you intend to contact your earlier self?"
Asimov nodded, "It is tempting to do so."
"Yes, I suppose there might be choices that you made in the past that you might like to change. Have you thought about the idea that by meeting your earlier self you could cause a change that prevents you from ever traveling back in time?"
Asimov shrugged and held up the personal physiotime generator that was on his wrist. "It is my understanding that we are protected from such potential time travel paradoxes."
Hooski explained, "While you are helping with our mission you will be protected, but we are now discussing how you will be able to live out your life on Earth. We are not going to let your run around for decades on Earth with a time field generator. We intend to cause a Reality Change, but after that takes place there will be no more need for the generators. The rest of us will leave Earth, but you must be able to fit in with your world. Here is what I propose. We will alter your appearance so that nobody will ever be able to recognize you as a second copy of yourself."
"Hmmm. How will you do this? Using nanites?"
Hooski allowed thons nanite implant to shift thons facial structure, morphing his face into a reasonable version of Asimov's face. "The nanites inside of me can alter my appearance. You can select your new face and the nanites inside of you can shape your appearance to match the form you select."
"Interesting!" For a minute Asimov thought about possible ways to alter his appearance. "My imagination is faltering. Could the nanites simply create a new face for me?"
Hooski allowed his normal appearance to return. "Of course. What I suggest is that you have a brief session on a computer during which you look at some options for a new face and select your favorite. Also, your voice is rather unusual and distinctive, so it will also be modified. We will be on Earth soon, so you do not have much time."
Asimov asked, "I've given up trying to get answers to all my questions, but I'd like to ask on more. Can you tell me if you have seen my future? Will all of this work out? Will Earth be safe from disasters caused by our meddling with time?"
Hooski was restricted in what he could share with Asimov. "All of us on this mission into Earth's past are working in the dark. I believe that Grean has seen our future, but in order for us to create that future we have been intentionally kept in the dark. Can you accept that?"
Asimov shrugged, "I have no choice."
Creal had insisted that they not complicate matters by going into Asimov's home, so they waited outside, parked along Windsor Place. The robot had already sent a swarm of nanites inside. The nanoscopic machines had easily found Asimov and invaded his brain.
The morning wore on slowly and the traffic along the street dwindled. Creal had become distracted by people watching. The robot had started paying attention to the appearance of the people on the street because of the odd appearance that Asimov had adopted. Before coming to Earth, Asimov had insisted an being allowed to keep the use of a nanite implant that allowed him to alter his hair style. Asimov had argued that since he was returning to Earth and assuming an invented identity, he should have some way to adjust his appearance rather than be forced to remain locked into the "new look" that he had so rapidly improvised for himself upon being told that he was being taken back to Earth.
Upon reaching Earth, Asimov had used the nanite implant to provide himself with a full beard. After pulling up and parking near Asimov's family home, Creal had commented, "Now I see why you wanted the beard. Who are these people with this distinctive hair style?"
Asimov explained that the men in Brooklyn with full beards were mostly Hasidic and that with the Nazis at work in Europe there had been a large influx of them to America. Asimov spoke briefly about Hasidic beliefs and their culture restrictions on cutting hair. Creal asked, "Is this your religion?"
Asimov replied, "No, but it provides me with a convenient disguise."
Creal suspected that Asimov was planning something devious. "Why should you need a disguise?"
Asimov had been warned that he should be careful in his actions on Earth so as not to disrupt the plans of the aliens who still had their nanites in his brain. He had been promised that once the Huaoshy mission was accomplished he would be free to live out his life on Earth, but he was not at all certain that his memories would be left unaltered or his wishes and plans for a new life respected by the aliens. "I intend to have contacts with myself and my family. You are forcing me to meet myself today, my first day back on Earth. I might not want to associate my future self with what I must do today."
Creal thought he had already made it clear that the young Asimov of 1939 would not be allowed to remember today's encounter with the older Asimov. "You should remember that the young Asimov will have his memories of today altered. You need not worry about him remembering having met you today. I'll make sure of that."
Asimov was skeptical. He knew from his experience with Fengtol's memories that it was possible to have memories of memories. More importantly, Asimov had created for himself an appearance that was modeled after someone who the young Asimov had previously met, a man who Asimov knew would die tragically in 1940. Asimov planned to try to prevent that man's death, or, failing that, assume his identity. However, he did not want Creal or anyone else to know about his plans. Asimov was feeling guilty enough as it was, and based on what he had been told it was not clear that he could prevent his friend's death. Asimov had learned that there is a kind of "momentum" in time by which changes to the course of events were resisted.
Finally, the Asimov of 1939 came along the street, burdened by a couple of heavy textbooks, and passed by their car. Creal and the Asimov from 1947 got out of the car and followed along. They did not have to get very close: Asimov knew that his younger self was setting off on the long trip to Manhattan.
Rush hour was over and they had no trouble getting close to Asimov on the subway. Asimov from 1947 now had a new face, so there was no danger of startling the Asimov from 1939 with the sudden appearance of what might have looked like an unknown older brother...had pains not been taken to alter the time traveling Asimov's appearance. Creal and the elder Asimov sat down, Asimov in the seat facing the younger Asimov who glanced up briefly from his reading and then let his attention sink back into the world of chemistry.
Creal sat in the seat behind Asimov and was monitoring the nanites inside Asimov's brain. The older Asimov, who had decided to use the name "Powell", said, "Your name is Asimov."
Asimov looked up and more carefully examined the other man. He asked, "Yes, it is. Do I know you?"
"Not well. You probably do not remember me at all. My name is Powell. I remember you from a science fiction club meeting."
Asimov smiled and closed his textbook, "Ah, a science fiction fan!"
Powell nodded. "I've seen your letters to the editor. Have you published a story of your own yet?"
Asimov tried to think of an author named Powell, but he knew that many writers used pen names. He wondered if Powell was a writer, maybe one who had been offended by something Asimov had said in a letter. "I'm rather busy getting through college." He hefted his textbooks. "However, my first published story will be out in a few weeks."
Powell said, "Congratulations." He asked, "Have you been taking writing courses?"
Asimov shook his head, "I think the way to learn is to write, not sit in a classroom. Are you a writer?"
"I still think of myself as an aspiring writer. I'm trying to complete my first novel. I just got out of the Army."
"Really? You don't sound like a soldier."
"Well, I'm a graduate of Columbia."
"Great! That's where I go to school. What graduating class were you?"
Powell replied, "39. I got my Masters Degree in 42."
Asimov wondered if he was dealing with a head injury case. "You mean 29 and 32?"
Powell explained, "No, I'm serious. I'm here from your future."
Asimov asked, "Is this a joke?"
"I can prove it. You see, I just use the name 'Powell' as a cover...I was born Isaac Yudovich Ozimov. He switched from English into Yiddish, "I'm you, from the future. Ask me something that only you know."
The nanites inside Asimov's brain were hard at work, twisting his thought processes, and that allowed him to mostly believe that "Powell" was himself. The face, what could be seen among all the hair, was different and the voice altered, but a dozen other features and gestures were familiar. Asimov thought for a moment and then asked, "Before moving and getting my own room, where did I hide my magazines?"
The older Asimov easily recalled that secret. "We kept them over at Charlie's."
Even with the nanites working to keep the young Asimov relaxed, his heart was now racing. He demanded, "How have you been able to travel in time?"
"Powell" shrugged, "I can't provide any technical details. I'm just along for the ride. There are alien visitors to Earth." Creal came and sat next to the elder Asimov. To make the point, he briefly let his face take on the appearance of Lorn-Kru.
The young Asimov gasped and asked Creal, "You are an alien being?"
Creal explained himself, "No, I'm a robot, but I can change my appearance. I showed you the face of one type of alien."
Asimov rubbed his eyes, "I feel strange, like I might wake up from a dream. Sometimes I have dreams about science fiction worlds...well, odd events." They pulled into a station and for a minute they did not speak while a few passengers moved on and off the subway train.
Creal elbowed "Powell", who now got to the point, "I'm from almost ten years in your future. I need your help. Have you recently or are you planning a trip to New Jersey?"
"I'm going down to Princeton next week for an interview."
"Okay, great. Thanks." Powell and Creal stood up.
To Asimov it looked like the man who had claimed to be a robot was dragging Powell away. Asimov's vision blurred, but he said, "Hey, you can't just show up from the future and then walk away-"
Creal said, "Relax, friend. In a few minutes you will not care."
Asimov turned in his seat to watch the two men walk away down the isle of the subway car. His head was spinning and his eyes felt heavy. For ten minutes he slumped in the seat and was on the border with sleep. When he started regaining his alertness it was time to switch subway lines. On the next train he did not open his textbooks. Chemistry and even the two men from the future had faded from his thoughts. He opened a small composition book and started sketching the plot for a new story about time travel and robots.
Asimov and Rewhand had just eaten lunch and they were returning to the room in the Nassau Inn where Esselle was monitoring signals arriving from the nanite probes that Creal had sent out in search of Fengtol. Asimov had been arguing with Rewhand. He said, "I just find it hard to believe that such genetic techniques will be invented so soon."
Rewhand was willing to admit one possible way that there could be delays in development of genetic testing technology. "The Realities that I've studied were influenced by Fengtol and Rycleu. Our mission in this time is going to put an end to the influence of those positronic robots on Earth's technological development. There might be some resulting disruption of biomedical research, but isolating and sequencing DNA does not depend on positronics, so it does seem likely that you will live into the time when it becomes possible for you to be shown to be genetically identical to your 1939 analog. And you've made it clear that you intend to have contacts with your younger self. Imagine that one day you might need a kidney transplant, would you resist approaching yourself and asking for a kidney?" Rewhand set out the sandwich that he had brought back for Esselle. Esselle kept monitoring the nanite probed while eating.
Asimov sat in the big chair by the window. "It is difficult to believe that organ transplants will become possible in the near future."
"You had some 'wonder drugs' in your time, antibiotics, right? Soon there will many powerful drugs, some will control cells of the immune system and prevent rejection of transplants."
Asimov mused, "I nearly left the Army and went for a Ph.D. in biochemistry. I guess I'm still torn between my interests in organic and inorganic chemistry. You're a scientist...do you understand this cloaking technology?"
"Not really. True cloaking is a very advanced technology. Apparently it is a technology that the Huaoshy mastered long ago, but along with their nanite technology, cloaking is not shared with most species. It appears that when positronic brain robots took over here and kicked out the Huaoshy, they captured some Huaoshy technology. The positronic robots were able to reverse engineer the Huaoshy spaceship cloak."
"It seems odd that Fengtol would decide to introduce such an advanced technology on Earth, even before nuclear fission."
"Well, apparently the key limitation to developing a cloak is the need to have a supply of purified sedrons."
"And so Fengtol is providing sedrons to the USA military, without first providing the technology that is needed to produce sedrons?"
"You read The Saga of Uvadekoto so you know that sedrons occur naturally. However, purifying them is not easy and there is another trick to making a working cloak from purified sedrons. The key point is, Fengtol can show the military how to cloak naval vessels, air craft and rockets, as long as she provides the needed sedrons. In fact, it is probably the most simple sedronic technology to demonstrate, so it is a reasonable way to introduce sedrons in these primitive times and stimulate research into positronics."
Esselle said, "This looks promising. Confirmed! A nanite probe found Fengtol."