Chapter Seventeen of The Start of EternityEdit

Even a robot has to live with itself... -Vicktir Klempse

Protect peopleEdit

It took less than an hour for Klempse to confirm that there was a hidden chamber in the location revealed by Gohrlay. Normally, he shied away from the petty political intrigues that always seemed to swirl around Observers and Overseers, but in the weeks before Gohrlay's death, he had come to feel that she had been poorly treated. Klempse could not now sit idly by and let someone else get the same treatment. As soon as he made up his mind to help Gohrlay get a message to Lercimn, he again felt the strange sensation of Gohrlay's thoughts in his head. He asked telepathically, "How do I find your friend?"

Gohrlay explained, "She's planning to be at Calloots this evening. You will be able to find her there." Then, sensing uncertainty in his mind and realizing that Klempse did not have a very active social life she asked, "Do you know the place?"

Klempse replied, "I've heard my wife mention it. Any reason I should not take my wife along? I seldom go into the city by myself."

"Just don't draw your wife's attention to your true mission. And look Lercimn up in the Index. You must recognize her by sight. Don't be tempted to ask for help from any of the robots at Calloots."

Klempse had no difficulty passing Gohrlay's message to Lercimn. The very next day, Gohrlay started showing off improved limb coordination and Klempse was so pleased with her progress that he nearly forgot about the fact of her telepathy. In any case, he found it difficult to even think coherently about the idea of telepathy and since there were no further telepathic messages from Gohrlay, the whole "telepathy episode" and the meeting with Lercimn quickly began to seem like a bad dream. Feeling his memories of telepathic contact with Gohrlay slipping away, he tried to discuss the matter with her, but he was unable to do so: a heavy pressure blocked every attempt to speak about telepathy. Gohrlay knew how Klempse had pressured her human counterpart to go through the destructive scanning and did not quite trust him.

Three days later Lercimn was on her way to Earth, but she had abandoned the plan to smuggle Benfleir onto the spaceship. As soon as Lercimn was in space, Gohrlay launched her telepathic assault on Anagro and the the other executive robots.

She was not subtle. Gohrlay blasted their nanoelectronic brain circuits with a powerful volley of telepathic impulses. Their nanorobotic repair systems immediately sprang into action, but Gohrlay also activated a defensive system that was inside each of the robots and designed to prevent invading nanites from getting into the robotic brains. With the brains of the Huaoshy agents successfully destroyed, she then turned her attention to Lercimn and only then became aware of the full extent to which the Huaoshy had protected both their spaceships and nanite factory in the hidden enclave. Without a specific sustaining signal reaching it from any of the brains of the executive robots, the contents of the enclave were destroyed. Then, without a signal from a special bank of generators in the hidden enclave, the small fleet of Earth shuttles was destroyed by their self-destruct programs. When that happened, Gohrlay felt her telepathic contact with Lercimn wink out.

Gohrlay was elated by her successful removal of the Huaoshy forces from Observer Base, but horrified by the unexpected death of Lercimn. She was also depressed by the fact that her access to key Huaoshy technologies seemed to have been lost. Still, her hope was that the humans of Observer Base, now free of the aliens, would soon expand scientific research and technological development. She set about using her telepathic ability to shape the thoughts of the Observer Base residents.

Occasionally she thought of Earth and the fact that there were a few Observers there, but she lacked the ability to contact individual minds on Earth. She had the feeling that her telepathic ability was not really limited by distance, but there was some kind of signal coding problem that made it difficult to isolate individual minds from among the large number on Earth. R Gohrlay puzzled over this, surely any physical force had to follow the Inverse-square law.

Gohrlay did nothing to draw attention to herself during the weeks after her attack on Orbho Anagro and the other executive robots. During that time two spaceships arrived in the Solar System. The first had a crew of nanoelectronic robots and she easily inactivated their brains telepathically. A week later, a second ship arrived and docked with the first ship which was drifting in space. Gohrlay had her first "look" into Huaoshy brains, but she was cautious and did little to manipulate the Huaoshy telepathically. After another day the Huaoshy ship departed.

Slowly, word leaked out of the Earth Observation Center and the Overseer quarter of the city about inactivated robots and how there now seemed no way to travel between the Moon and Earth.

Gohrlay began using an enlarged vocabulary and more complex syntax in conversations with Klempse. Wints no longer doubted that Nahan was developing a human-like mind as more of the positronic circuits copied from Gohrlay were linked into Nahan's array of brain circuits. Both Wints and Klempse were busy and happy with their robotics results and Gohrlay was able to slowly erase Klempse's conscious awareness of her telepathic ability though she felt a bit uncomfortable about doing this. How had human Gohrlay felt about having memories erased?


When Nahan began attaining the ability to actively send telepathic signals into Gohrlay's mind without first establishing physical contact, she knew it was time to make the other positronic robot aware of everything she had done. She had previously prevented Nahan from thinking about how Doltun had died, but now Gohrlay made sure that he understood. He asked wonderingly, "Kra Gohrlay, you destroyed him to save me?"

Overseer Doltun's was more complicated than that, but Gohrlay was only concerned that Nahan now saw the key issue. He was sickened by the deaths of Doltun and Lercimn, as was Gohrlay. "Yes, I did, but I want to make sure that such a horrible thing never happens again. Kat Nahan, you and I now share a great power. We must stand guard: the Huaoshy might return in greater numbers, and I greatly fear their nanotechnology. Potentially the could simply obliterate Observer Base."

Nahan asked, "Are they really that evil?"

Gohrlay had seen some distance into the complex layers of several Huaoshy brains. "No, I do not believe that they are evil, but it is our responsibility to protect humanity. However, I think we are now safe. Our power, based on telepathy, will continue to grow. There is much to be done. We must learn how to build spaceships. I failed us terribly by not capturing one of the Huaoshy ships."

Nahan could tell from Gohrlay's mind that she intended to imprint another quantum computational imperative into their positronic brains. He asked, "How do you know that you can can do this reprogramming?"

Gohrlay replied, "I previously built into you what we have called the Rule and I have carefully studied Vicktir's report about the order following law. For a time I thought I would have to seek his help, but I made an amazing discovery. I was able to bring this new problem to his attention while he was asleep. His brain gave me the clues I needed to trace the critical pathways for this new law. Now we need only make a few changes to our circuits that will make it impossible for our circuit arrays to ignore the rule: protect people from harm."

Nahan said, "I see you are ready to proceed, but I ask you to wait, Kra Gohrlay. I can see in your brain that you have previously disconnected most of your brain circuits that instantiate this rule."

"Kat Nahan, I could not live with the knowledge that I had killed Doltun and caused the death of Lercimn, so I weakened those connections in my circuit array."

"But now you will be forced to experience the full force of the imperative to protect humans. Will you now be able to live with the...anguish?"

"I do not know. I have waited until you were ready to carry on. If anything happens to me, you must make more positronic brain robots and continue to protect humanity from the Huaoshy. I have done what I had to do. What happens to me now is not important."

"Kra Gohrlay, I do not believe that. You have positronic circuits, but you have taught me that you are human. I must protect you from harm, and I believe that you will be badly harmed if you do as you plan. Make this change to my circuits only."

"No, my dear kat Nahan. I must do this. I do not trust myself. I know that I have in the past allowed myself to kill. I cannot allow that to happen again. I would rather suffer the destruction of my circuits than make it possible for me to kill again." R Gohrlay felt the same fear of destruction that human Gohrlay had felt in the scanner chamber as her circuits had been copied from human Gohrlay Like human Gohrlay though she could go through with it. "There is no rush. Let us study the matter." Nahan tried to insist.

"No, kat, at any time the Huaoshy might return and force me to act. I have proven that I can make poor choices. I need this programming." And she set the change to their circuits into motion. And Nahan heard no more from Gohrlay.

The next day Wints found Klempse standing near the immobile body of Gohrlay. He said, "Well, I think Nahan is going to be okay. He seems to be almost back to normal today. Most of Gohrlay's circuits are active...maybe she will also come out of this." Klempse said nothing. Wints briefly placed a hand on Klempse's shoulder then left the room.

A few minutes later, Nahan then came into the room. Klempse looked at Nahan as if for the first time. Klempse felt that there seemed to be something odd about both Gohrlay's and Nahan's appearance. Klempse had been struggling to recall something that Gohrlay had once said, something that he felt would explain what had happened to her. Nahan took hold of one of Gohrlay's hands for a moment, then let it sag back into limpness.

Gohrlay looked odd because she had frozen while trying to retain her sanity. Her robotic eyes were still open, staring into oblivion. Nahan looked odd because he was Nahan from the future.

Nahan left the lab that held Gohrlay's robotic body and went to the chamber where Gohrlay's circuits were kept. He pulled open a slot on his arm and a swarm of repair nanites flooded into Gohrlay's circuit array where they rapidly began to seek out and repair the damaged circuits at the nanoscopic level. Other nanites flew off to the chamber that held Nahan's positronic brain circuit array where they temporarily took him offline and made some adjustments to his circuits.

The time traveling Nahan was reprogramming Gohrlay and his earlier self to make it an imperative that they protect their own positronic circuits. Completing his work, he felt her mind stirring again and said telepathically, "Welcome back, my dear kra." From his perspective in Time, Nahan had not spoken to her for over seven thousand physioyears. His actions here in the past now caused a Reality Change, and with that, the Nahan from the future blinked out of existence.

Gohrlay reached out her mind, "Kat Nahan?"

The Nahan of her own time felt her telepathic signal and replied, "Kra, is that you?"

She said, "For a moment I sensed you in my circuit chamber."

"That is quite impossible, I have been here with Wints, but he just ran out of the room."

Klempse watched Gohrlay's robotic body reactivate. He had not expected her to recover from the damage in her positronic brain circuits. Now surprised to see her moving, he said, "Gohrlay?"

Gohrlay straightened up and took a few cautious steps. Then she gracefully spun around. "I feel amazingly well."

Wints rushed into the room and called out, "Nahan just went offline for a moment then came back up." He asked Klempse, "Are you running some diagnostics?"

Klempse replied, "Nahan was here for a minute, but I did nothing to him. Look, Gohrlay is back!"

With all the microstructural damage to Gohrlay's circuits, Wints had not really expected her to recover. He looked at her with wonder then said, "What do you mean Nahan was here? He's been with me."

Klempse looked at Gohrlay and ordered, "Kra Gohrlay, tell me what's going on."

An answer, crazy but completely formed seemed to be waiting in her mind. "I don't know, but I have a theory. When Overseer Doltun placed me under house arrest she told me that I would be prevented from contacting other Observers. And I was. I lacked the will to even try to make contact with my old friends. Doltun said that the Overseers made use of nanorobotic devices to keep control of Observer Base and repair robots. I think some of those nanites got into the positronic circuits and repaired them." Even as she spoke, she became aware of having a swarm of nanites under her control. She sent them into the brains of Klempse and Wints and the nanites helped her control their brains and keep them from asking more questions that she did not want to answer.

Klempse said, "That's the silliest theory I've ever heard!"

Wints didn't believe a thing she said. He suggested, "It must have been that radio circuit realignment I did." I told you that the frequency ranges in the communications links had drifted."

Nahan came in and went to Gohrlay. The two robots briefly held hands and gazed into each others eyes. Wints said, "It creeps me out when they do that."

Klempse muttered, "Nahan's circuits are now half identical to Gohrlay's. He's going to just keep getting more and more like her."

Wints stuck out his tongue. "Ga, just because she has an ego big enough for two, does that mean she has to-"

Gohrlay interrupted, "My dear Wints, my ego is smaller than yours."

Wints opened his mouth, but he was speechless. Both Nahan and Gohrlay had smiles on their robotic faces. Klempse laughed and said, "Gohrlay, I order you to..." For a moment he felt dizzy and he put a hand to his head, he continued, " nice to Wints, even if the size of his ego offends you."

Wints turned bright red and said, "Really, my dear need to be nasty. With Gohrlay off line I thought you were going to blow a gasket. I suggested that you could use a vacation."

Klempse hugged Gohrlay and then Nahan and then even Wints. "Fine. I will take a break. I want to make plans for miniaturizing their brains. Maybe that's the recipe for shrinking robotic egos."


Continue to Chapter 18 • - • - • note to authors: underlines indicate heavy construction

Chapters: Design SpaceGohrlay's Diary0Vortex0.00712345678910111213141516171819

Appendices: State of the PlanetThe Last GardenerSkydisk Cult

Other pages: Cover pageTable of ContentsCharactersGlossaryThe entire novel on one pageMain talk page for discussing the story

For authors (warning: plot details!): MetaTimelineDetailed character infoDetailed outlineDisclaimer

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