Chapter One of The Start of EternityEdit
Legends of mechanical men are common through out the galaxy and in the late Foundation Era significant progress has been made in efforts to construct robots in human form. The question has arisen: why was a science of humaniform robotics neglected for so long? -Encyclopedia Galactica
Commander Orleane entered the laboratory where Nahan had been probed and studied by Creal in a systematic effort to understand the secrets of positronic brains. Orleane looked upon Nahan's positronic brain and other disassembled components that were spread across the benches of the laboratory. He said, "Do you recognize me, robot Nahan?"
The machine's voice sounded from somewhere, but Orleane could not see the source. "You are Orleane." Nahan had been designed to speak using a near-perfect simulation of the human respiratory track, but now his speech centers were connected to the speaker system that had long ago been built into the laboratory.
Orleane decided that he did not need to look into the eyes of Nahan. Nahan's positronic brain had been endowed with the means to make telepathic contact and even adjust the thoughts and emotions of humans. Now, exposed to an ever changing assault of t-particle static, Nahan could no longer manipulate other minds, but what remained of the robot, its positronic brain, could still sense Orleane's presence. "And I am a human. Do you agree?"
Nahan had himself, under the insistent prompting of Creal, just helped perform a careful study of Orleane's body, right down to the DNA. "You are human." By the dictates of his positronic brain circuits, Nahan could not deny facts.
Orleane made the important point, "So, you will obey my orders."
Nahan remained silent. Roboticist Esselle said impatiently, "Let's get on with it then." He had already prepared all of the ground work. Orleane had been brought into the laboratory -and, indeed, had been brought along on the Many Sails- simply to play the role of a completely un-modified human. Orleane had pristine genes and was descended from humans who had long ago been taken off of Earth and allowed to live on other worlds. None of Orleane's ancestors had ever allowed their genes to be artificially modified, supplemented or corrected.
Esselle was not at all certain that the distinction between Orleane's "natural" genes and his own somewhat modified chromosomes made any difference to Nahan. Nahan was compelled by his programming to obey humans, but exactly what was a human? Surely Nahan would not feel compelled to obey an alien such as Lorn-Kru, but where was the line drawn between alien and human-like and human? When dealing with the cold calculations of robotic brains, Esselle had long ago learned not to leave anything to chance.
However, Esselle was anxious. He would have preferred the luxury of spending years exploring the details of how a positronic brain worked, but it was known that at least on other positronic brain robot lurked nearby -concealed withing Eternity- and could at any time shift the balance of power.
Time! Within Eternity, Gohrlay had all the time she could possibly need -all of time- to alter the course of events. Creal and his team of mind static generating robots were on guard, but they could not patrol the entire past. Esselle imagined that it was a race. Could the crew of Many Sails penetrate Eternity and capture Gohrlay before she found a way to alter the past and eliminate the threat that now existed to Eternity?
Orleane continued, "Have you ever traveled through time?"
Nahan replied, "We all do."
Orleane glanced at Esselle who was already adjusting the t-particle generator. Nahan grunted in response to the painful shift in mind static that was applied by Esselle. Nahan had been designed to have human-like senses and even mimic the human responses to pain stimuli, but the mind static went right to the core of Nahan's positronic circuitry and produced a most unpleasant sensation that was real and unavoidable. Orleane pressed ahead, "I order you to answer my questions without deception. Have you ever entered into the time travel device known as Eternity?"
Nahan asked, "Which one?"
Orleane was curious, so he took the time to explore the question of multiple Eternities. "How many are there?" He knew of the Eternity on Earth -that supposedly no longer existed- and the one on the Moon.
Nahan explained, "I believe that only one remains, but there were at least two others."
Creal was monitoring and array of nanites that were inside Nahan's circuits and placed strategically so as to allow detection of deception. Seeing a wavering signal in Nahan's circuity, he warned, "Be precise!"
Nahan continued, "I have knowledge of two other Eternities. The one on Earth and, for a while, there was one on Gaia."
Orleane demanded, "When was this? What was it used for?"
"It sped up Daneel's effort to develop Gaia as a viable telepathically unified world."
Esselle complained, "How can we know that the Eternity here on this Moon is the only one remaining? There could dozens on various worlds of the galaxy."
Orleane insisted that Nahan explain the basis for his belief that only one functioning Eternity remained. Nahan stated, "The inactivation of the Eternities on Earth and Gaia were important events. It is not a trivial matter to build a functioning Eternity. I never heard of any other Eternities."
Orleane felt a sense of relief. If there were multiple Eternities than it would do no good to simply destroy the one here. Orleane asked, "Did you enter into all three of these time travel devices?"
"No. I have only been inside the Eternity that is located here, on the Moon."
"Very well, but you could enter into it again if you wished?"
The robot hesitated. Esselle reached to increase the t-particle flux aimed into Nahan's positronic brain, but Nahan continued, "Gohrlay is the watcher of the future. There is no reason for me to return to Eternity."
Orleane swallowed painfully. His mouth was dry and his muscles tense. Mention of the fact that Gohrlay could view Realities and the future from within Eternity struck to the heart of Orleane's worries. Esselle had briefed Orleane and made it clear that he must show Nahan no signs of doubt or weakness. Orleane contradicted Nahan, "Wrong! If I ordered you to return you would do so."
Esselle asked, "Is it be safe for humans to enter into Eternity?"
Nahan explained, "Gohrlay has orders to protect Eternity. Eternity is not to be used for time travel ever again."
Orleane asked, "Are you saying that Gohrlay would attack humans who went inside Eternity?"
"Humans cannot enter Eternity."
"The entrance code can only be generated by a positronic brain."
Esselle suggested, "Maybe a human could accompany you inside Eternity."
Nahan denied it. "No. Only the Eternity on Earth was constructed to be a place for humans. Humans have never been inside the Eternity here or the one on Gaia."
Creal asked, "What about other robots? Can you take me into Eternity?"
"I don't know. Only robots with positronic brains have been inside. The entry code requires a quantum computation by a positronic brain."
Esselle asked, "And the same is true for leaving eternity?"
The robot replied, "Yes, either moving into or out of Eternity."
Creal pressed the point, "Well, even if it has never been done, that does not mean that it cannot be done. I will enter Eternity with a team of robots and do what must be done."
Orleane said, "Creal, you will carry Nahan's brain." Orleane ordered, "Nahan, you will give the entry code and allow Creal to enter Eternity."
Nahan refused. "No."
Esselle asked, "Why not? You have been ordered to do so. You must obey Commander Orleane."
Nahan explained, "It is not in the interest of humanity that Creal enter Eternity."
Esselle laughed, "So, this is your so-called Zeroth Law?"
Nahan confirmed that. "By the dictates of the Zeroth Law I cannot give Creal access to Eternity."
Esselle ordered, "Tell me how humanity would be harmed by allowing Creal to enter Eternity."
"I believe that Creal would use Eternity to travel back in time and disrupt the Reality that was carefully selected by Daneel to maximize benefits for humanity."
Orleane asked, "How do you know that Daneel truly maximized benefits for humanity?"
"Galaxia is forming. The group mind of Galaxia will keep humanity safe. I believe that you intend to destroy Galaxia and subject humanity to the dictates of the Huaoshy."
Orleane objected, "You are wrong! Daneel was wrong! I, a human, tell you now: it is best for humanity that Creal be taken into Eternity."
Nahan said stubbornly, "You are wrong. I need not obey you."
Esselle increased the t-particle flux, increasing the pain felt by Nahan and said, "If you do not follow Orleane's order, I will destroy your brain. You must protect yourself. We will subject Fallom to mind static until he orders you to comply...or dies. Also, I explain to you again why Galaxia need not be defended: it deprives humanity of individual initiative. The future of humanity is personal freedom, not forced participation in a single group mind that was invented by a mistaken robot. Now obey Commander Orleane!"
Orleane activated a display that showed Fallom in another room. He allowed a burst of mind static to strike Fallom, who then cried out in agony. "Nahan, provide the coded access signal and let Creal into eternity."
Nahan relented, "Very well."
Commander Orleane ordered Creal, "Go!"
In response to a signal from Creal, a platoon of robots stormed into the laboratory. Creal and his team of robots took Nahan's brain and a minimum of other components in hand. Nahan asked, "So many?"
Orleane confirmed it, "All these robots will enter Eternity. Give them access!"
Nahan hesitated, "Never in my experience have so many passed across the boundary."
Commander Orleane had no way of knowing if there was a limit to how much matter could pass into Eternity. In his mind, he imagined Eternity as something like a spaceship inside hyperspace. From that "timeship", all times, past and future, were accessible. Could so many robots pass into Eternity? He thought: there is one way to find out. He commanded, "Give the entry signal!"
One second the squad of robots was there in the laboratory, the next second they were gone. There was a loud snapping sound that marked re-alignment of the room's air into the region of space that had been swapped between Reality and Eternity. Orleane asked, "Did you record the access code?"
Esselle checked the recorders, including those that had been attached to the data channels carrying signals from the nanites that had been placed inside Nahan's circuitry. "No. There was a quantum computation by Nahan's brain that our equipment failed to record. However, we did detect the energy signature of Eternity. The center of that field is close by."
Orleane wondered, "Once away from us, will Nahan regain the power to resist our orders?"
"Creal should have inactivate Nahan's brain as soon as they passed into Eternity, but they may never return, even if they can go back in time and capture Gohrlay." However, Esselle and Orleane had only a few moments to wonder if the mission would be successful.
Jeed reappeared, returning to Observer Base from Eternity. Again there was a violent whip-like cracking sound. Thon said, "Nahan was wrong. There is nothing that prevents humans from residing in this Eternity. Prepare Team Two."
Esselle rushed off to assemble the second team. Commander Orleane asked, "How did you exit from Eternity?"
Jeed popped open an access panel on thons abdomen. Inside Jeed was the positronic brain of Nahan. "I can activate the access code."
Although, for Orleane, it seemed that Jeed was away in Eternity for less than a minute, he asked, "How long have you been in Eternity?"
"Almost a month...our time. We have scouted the past and Daneel's base."
Orleane asked, "What about my future?"
Jeed replied, "Uneventful...in this reality."
Orleane knew why Jeed had specified this Reality. If all went well, there would be changes made deep in the past. Who knew what would happen to Orleane if the past was changed? "Were you able to view alternate Realities?"
Jeed shook thons head. "I believe that only positronic brains can do that. At least, we were unable to do it. However, we got luck. We have had help...from the future." Jeed handed two devices to Orleane. "Here...these are field generators that will protect you and Many Sails from the effects of any Reality Change we initiate. If possible, we will return."
The second team assembled in the laboratory. The first team had been all robots, but the second team was mostly biologicals and was led by Hooski. Only Orleane and Many Sails itself would remain outside of Eternity. Orleane quickly checked through the list of supplies and equipment being carried by the second team then said to Hooski, "All assembled and equipped." Hooski said to Orleane, "Remember, stay on your guard...Gohrlay could appear at any moment." Then the Captain said to Jeed, "Let's go." The second team blinked out of Reality and passed into Eternity.
The crew of Many Sails learns from study of Nahan's brain that another robot, Rycleu worked on Earth in the 20th century to promote the development of a positronics industry. Creal leads a mission to Earth and they find Rycleu and take her supply of sedrons. This causes a Reality Change that creates an a short-lived Reality in which Gohrlay captures the crew of Many Sails, except for Orleane, who, protected by a temporal field generator (found inside Eternity with help from Nahan's memories) warns the Huaoshy about time travel.
Orleane felt quite alone. He opened his comlink to Many Sails and asked, "Did you follow all that?"
Many Sails replied, "I was puzzled by mention of 'help from the future'...do you have any idea what Jeed was talking about?"
"No, I'm mystified. I'm on my way to provide you with one of these "field generators", and there is a datapak...hopefully it will provide some answers." However, before Orleane reached the door of the laboratory there was another snapping sound. Orleane turned and saw that a stranger had materialized in the laboratory. In the time it took him to spin around his nervousness spiked then began to diminish. The stranger looked like a Huaoshy!
"Commander Orleane! Please, don't let me interrupt. Go ahead and get that generator and the data module to the spaceship. Then hurry back. We have much to discuss. By the way, my name is Grean."
Orleane hesitated, hand still on his sidearm. "Um, who are you? I'm a bit nervous about any...stranger...who...you did just arrive from Eternity?"
Grean replied, "Yes, yes, I've been helping the rest of your crew inside Eternity."
Orleane asked, "How did you pass-" But at that moment he saw Grean hold up a small carrying case.
Grean explained, "We are using Nahan's brain as our pass key. I'll explain everything, but first we must protect the spaceship. Please get that large field generator to Many Sails and strap on your own." Grean showed that thon was also wearing a personal field generator." Orleane had moved to a bench and was checking the t-particle generator that had been used to control Nahan's brain. He turned the output to maximum, but Grean showed no ill effects. Satisfied that Grean was not a positronic brain robot, Orleane returned to Many Sails.
While moving through the Base on the way to the docks, Orleane and Many Sails discussed the surprising appearance of Grean."
Orleane commented, "I'm not sure if I should feel relieved by the arrival of Grean, but surely it is promising news that help has arrived from our future."
Many Sails cautioned, "Just as easily, Gohrlay could suddenly pop out of Eternity and upset all of our plans, but I can tell you this. Grean does have an implanted device that identifies all Huaoshy. Thon does appear to be a member of the Huaoshy Frontier Services and from our future."
A nanite-based servo met Orleane in the spaceship hangar, at the ramp below the portal of Many Sails. Orleane handed over the field generator and returned to the laboratory.
Orleane found Grean at work in the laboratory. Grean looked up from the apparatus thon was adjusting and said, "I'm improving our defense against Gohrlay. Your static generators are rather inefficient."
Orleane asked, "Do you know that Gohrlay is the only robot inside Eternity?"
Grean, having completed thons work on the static generators turned to face Orleane. "Even in my time we can be sure of nothing, but, yes, I believe that it is true. Gohrlay appears to be the lone Watcher. She has gone into hiding, confident that the Foundation Reality is safe. It appears that we have tricked her."
Many Sails had accessed the data module delivered by Jeed from inside Eternity. The ship spoke by way of Orleane's comlink. "I think I understand...we failed."
Orleane numbly asked, "The mission fails?"
Grean explained, "Many Sails never would have been allowed close to Earth or this Moon had Gohrlay not been confident that Galaxia was safe. Galaxia had been designed as a kind of telepathically unified organism, but also to provide resistance to disruption by the kind of trick used by our mind static devices. Gohrlay easily prevented Hooski's effort to use Eternity to alter the past and block the creation of Galaxia."
To Orleane it sounded like his crew members, who had just gone off into Eternity, were lost. Orleane asked miserably, "Then why didn't you come back an hour ago and stop Hooski from going into Eternity?"
"I am from a time in the far future, a time when Galaxia has become a thorn inside our surrounding intergalactic civilization. Telepathically-linked humans expanded beyond this galaxy and created a source of disruption for many other species. However, we finally discovered the true foundation of Gohrlay's power: time travel. Now we have a way to distort Gohrlay's ability to view Realities. Gohrlay remains confident about the stability of Galaxia, but already we have come back in time...to this time...so that we can put an end to Galaxia."
Many Sails commented, "Grean has already deflected time."
Orleane's spirits rose again, but Grean cautioned, "We still need to capture Gohrlay. We must send a team to Earth. There is only one time when we know that Gohrlay was in Reality and potentially susceptible to our mind static attack. Until we know if that mission to Earth's past is successful, we must be on guard against Gohrlay. If she realizes what is going on she will be able to use Eternity as a weapon against us."
Orleane asked excitedly, "When is the critical tome in Earth's past? How did you learn of it?"
Grean opened up the container that held what was left of Nahan's brain. "We have carefully analyzed Nahan's brain. In the future we learned how to initiate memory transfers from positronic brains. Nahan held a memory of a time when Gohrlay went to Earth. We only know the approximate location, but we will have the advantage of surprise and our mind static weapon. The year is 1947. Now, I must return to Eternity." Grean closed the container and lifted it off the bench, "This is our only means to cross the barrier between Reality and Eternity." With a snap of sound, Grean was gone...
...and returned to Eternity. Grean handed the carrying case to Hooski and said, "I saw no indication that Gohrlay has tried to leave Eternity."
Hooski took the case. "Then we will return to 1947." Hooski and thons crew had already made a trip into the past and confirmed that in that time Observer Base was still in use and equipped with a fleet of spaceships that could reach Earth. They had learned from Nahan's memories that it was impossible for Eternity to shift mass into Reality over a distance as far as from the Moon to Earth. They needed to steal a spaceship from Observer Base and fly to Earth.
Each member of Hooski's team now carried both a physiotime field generator and a telepathic shield, an invention from Grean's future. As had been the case at the for Imfulri, a single positronic robot with telepathy was stationed at Observer Base on the Moon in 1947. However, they had already confirmed that their humaniform robots could move undetected within Observer Base with the aid of telepathy shields.
Grean warned, "Remember, you must go undetected. There is certain amount of momentum in time, so small changes to Reality will escape notice, but any major alteration to the course of events will be detected by Gohrlay, and if warned, from within the safety of Eternity she will be able to take action to block our efforts."
Hooski said uncertainly, "It all still seems like magic to me. This would all be easier if we knew where Gohrlay keeps her spaceship."
Grean nooded, "Yes, but we do not have that information. All we know is an approximate time and place where she will be on Earth. Gohrlay is the key guardian of Eternity. We now have the means to pull the secrets of Eternity from her brain. As soon as you capture her, we will take over the Moon Base in 1947 and scoop up all of the positronic robots. It bothers me that we have only found one such robot so far, but Gohrlay's memories will lead us to all the others. Our interference device will confound Gohrlay's ability to view Realites and detect Reality Changes, but capturing Gohrlay in 1947 is the point of no return. At that point we will destroy Eternity, preventing any possible response by Gohrlay."
Hooski was still skeptical, "You've never explained how that will be done."
"Nor can I. I was sent on this mission for much the same reason you were selected to captain the Many Sails. You knew nothing about telepathy and so Fallom allowed you to visit Earth. Similarly, I do not know how Eternity will be destroyed, so there is no way for Gohrlay or any other telepathic robot to learn that secret from me. When your original mission was planned, the Frontier Services knew nothing about time travel, but now a plan is in place to end time travel for ever."
Hooski asked, "Until you can look into Gohrlay's memories how can you be sure that your plans will work...what is there is another Eternity on another world? Gohrlay could be just a decoy."
Grean explained, "It is worse than that. There are some within our own civilization who now insist that we must build our own Eternities. Down that path is an endless time travel war. We must do our jobs and trust...I have been assured that there is a way to end time travel. All time travel. But it is up to you to capture Gohrlay."
Hooski turned away from Grean and went to the kettle shaft. Hooski used the manual controls to shift thonself downwhen and emerged in the section station that was closest to 1947. The exit controls were already set. Thon used the remnant of Nahan's brain to push himself out of Eternity and into Time.