Chapter One of The Start of EternityEdit
With the planet of human origin lost in the deep past, only speculation can be offered concerning the origin of interstellar travel. However, many Robot Myths link the origin of hyperspatial travel to artificial minds... -Encyclopedia Galactica
Major Marcel kicked open the outside door of Hut 12 and shouted, "Asimov! Asimov!" Marcel dragged a heavy wooden crate into the outer office that held Asimov's desk.
Corporal Isaac Asimov, having completed a personal mission to the latrine, came in the door behind the Major and was immediately puzzled by what he saw in the crate. He asked, "What's that?"
Marcel, jittery from what he had seen that day, was startled and turned quickly. "Oh! There you are. Never mind what this is. I want every item in this box cataloged and then locked in the brig. There's more in the truck. I'm going home to eat and try to get a few hours sleep. When I get back I want this stuff all ready to be shipped. There is supposed to be a cargo B-liner coming in before noon." Marcel stepped into his office and spoke on the phone for a few minutes.
Asimov knew that the Major had been called out to the Brazel ranch earlier in the day to look into claims about a possible crash site. With all the flight activity in New Mexico, Asimov was used to occasional calls from civilians. More often than not the calls concerned weather balloons.
Earlier that night, when it had grown late, Asimov had assumed he would not see the Major again until morning. Having completed his clerical duties and eaten, Asimov had returned to the office to use the typewriter and had worked late into the night.
Asimov pulled a long thin rod out of the crate: the first item that his hand had touched. At first he thought it must be a type of light wood or paper, but closer inspection suggested metal, of a type even lighter than aluminum. Asimov was puzzled by the strange markings on the rod. The Major backed into the outer office, closing the door to his office and shutting off the light.
Major Marcel turned and looked at the papers Asimov had been working on. He picked a sheet up from the desk. "'Schuylkill Cloak'? What the hell is this, Asimov?"
Asimov had previously been warned about using Army resources for personal purposes, but Marcel tended to look the other way as long as Army business was taken care of. He sheepishly replied, "It's a story, sir."
The Major was too tired to argue with a bone head like Asimov. He'd told Asimov a dozen times to be discrete about personal use of Army equipment, but here he was, at it again. "Dammit, Asimov, this place is probably going to be crawling with MI in a few hours. Apparently this was some secret payload out of White Sands. Clean up your act! Good night." Marcel marched off into the night. Asimov watched the Major slip away into the dark and took note of the three military police who stood next to the truck, smoking.
White Sands! Asimov instantly forgot completely about the pages of his novel that were scattered across the desk. He'd come to New Mexico in an effort to learn about secret goings on at White Sands. Asimov returned to the crate and lifted out the largest pieces of debris, setting them on his desk. A spark flashed from one of the pieces and charred several pages of "Schuylkill Cloak".
Asimov picked up the object that had burned the pieces of paper. He was uncertain about what he was looking at. Its surface was of two distinct types. On one side it looked like human skin, or a simulated skin. On the side that had sparked it looked like something ripped out of am IBM card reader, similar those he had seen in Philadelphia. However, rather than normal resistors and capacitors, this had tiny components, almost like a rough knit fabric. He looked back in the crate and something glowing attracted his attention. He dug down into the pieces of -what?- and pulled out what looked like a head.
He guessed that he was looking at broken fragments of a mannequin, probably one that had been used in some kind of air force flight test. By the look of it, it was an expensive piece of equipment and probably loaded with sensitive components that allowed for measurement of pressure and other parameters. He put a fresh sheet of paper into the typewriter and typed:
1. mannequin fragments; head, limbs
Asimov looked at the wall clock and yawned. Now that he faced what would presumably be hours of tedious work, he suddenly felt tired. He looked back at the head and was alarmed by the mouth of the mannequin since it was moving. He leaned close and thought he could hear a voice. The worst thing was, the partially burned lips looked like a woman's lips. That was the last thing he remembered.
Asimov woke up in a comfortable room. As his head started to clear he remembered what he had assumed to be a mannequin head, but he now knew that it had not been anything like a crash dummy. Something said with certainty: that was me...R. Fengtol.
Asimov jumped off of the luxurious bed he had been resting on. There was nobody else in the room. What had seemed like another person's voice was inside his own head. The door opened and what looked like an oddly shaped person stood there, but somehow Asimov knew that he was face to face with a robot. Something inside Asimov told him that what he was face-to-face with was functioning version of what Major Marcel had dragged into Asimov's life in the form of a collection of fragments in a crate. However, this robot had been designed to look like an extraterrestrial humanoid.
Jeed spoke in Standard Galactic, but Asimov could understand it. The robot pointed to a closed door behind Asimov, "I sense you need to empty you bladder, Corporal. When you are ready, I can feed you breakfast. Be quick, we're almost to the Moon."
Half of Asimov's consciousness was perplexed and amazed at his plight, but another side of his mind was quite at home with these surroundings and knew that they were on a spaceship. Asimov emptied his bladder and found Jeed in the galley. The robot set a plate of what looked like squash and carrots in front of Asimov and said, "I'm Jeed, cook and nanny. I suppose you have a few questions."
Asimov tried hard to remember how he had gotten where he was, but he could not remember anything more recent than Major Marcel showing up with the crate full of what he now knew to be robot parts. Even without trying to access them, other memories flooded his consciousness. Those foreign memories were interesting, but seemed like a dream recollection. He asked, "What happened to me?"
Jeed explained, "There was an accident. A damaged robot transferred some memories into your brain. I don't know much beyond that."
Asimov wondered if he was ill and fantasizing, but he was hungry. He tried the food and it tasted nothing like vegetables. He found that he did not want to stop eating. While he ate he experimented with the foreign language he was using and soon found himself holding a conversation with "Fengtol", a conversation that was totally in his head. Fengtol seemed to slowly slip away and become quiet. Jeed cleared away Asimov's now empty plate and the door that connected the galley to the control room opened. Creal looked in and said, "Asimov? Come on. Come with me."
Asimov followed Creal and Jeed followed Asimov. They passed through the control room, exited the ship and entered Moon Base. Everything was simultaneously new and familiar to Asimov. After they got through the air locks, Creal asked Jeed, "How is he reacting?"
Jeed replied, "Good. I did not have a chance to explain anything. Maybe he can piece together what's happening by using the memories that he got from Fengtol."
After several turns around corners and stretches along industrial corridors the surroundings became more friendly. Creal opened a door and took Asimov into what looked like a luxury hotel suite. Jeed had not come in with them. Creal said, "Mr. Asimov, we're sorry to put you through all this, but you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Your brain was invaded by the mind of a telepathic robot. I'm interested in sorting out exactly what happened to your brain, but the details do not matter. I'm afraid that I have no choice but to treat you like a potentially dangerous adversary...at least until I have a chance to examine your brain."
Asimov objected, "It seems likely that you were in conflict with...Fengtol. I seem to have memories from Fengtol inside me, but that does not mean that I care to continue your conflict. Must you treat me like a prisoner?"
Creal gestured to the room they were in, "You'll be comfortable until we figure out if you are a danger." With that, Creal left the room. Asimov tried to open the door and was not surprised to find that he could not open it. Using memories from Fengtol, Asimov activated a virtual reality interface that gave him access to the Moon Base computer network. Asimov was delighted by the idea of instant access to data and computing power, but Fengtol was testing the security precautions that had been placed on Asimov's computer access.
Creal appeared in the projection space of Asimov's computer interface. Creal ignored Asimov and spoke directly to what ever fragments of the robot's personality remained inside Asimov, "Fengtol, I suggest you not make things difficult for Mr. Asimov."
Asimov felt a brief struggle take place in his thoughts. He had no way of knowing that nanites were inside his brain and watching for attempts by Fengtol to take control of Asimov's neural networks. Asimov said, "I feel like there is a new side to my mind, but I think I'm getting some control over that."
Creal now spoke to Asimov, "Yes, your self control should continue to improve. You are free to make use of the computer, but in a one-way mode. If you need help with anything just call out. By the way, I'm Creal and Jeed is also here to serve you." The image of the robot faded out of the virtual reality display.
For a minute Asimov tried to imagine what was going on back in New Mexico. He thought: surely by now Marcel has discovered that I'm missing. He wondered how much time would pass before his parents were notified that he was AWOL. He thought briefly about how close he had come to getting married at the start of the war and was thankful that there would be no wife or children puzzling over his mysterious disappearance. He'd seen the banks of calculating machines at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia and realized that he now had at his finger tips a similar but much more powerful computing system. He felt like a kid in a candy factory and he dived into study of the fantastic world that he found himself in. Somehow, most things already seemed familiar...
Creal approached Jeed and asked, "How's he doing?"
Jeed was well aware who 'he' was. "Mr. Asimov wants to know when he will be taken back to Earth."
Creal noted, "Returning him to Earth is not high on our list of priorities."
Jeed nodded, "Other than that, he seems to be adjusting well. Apparently he is a writer. Speculative fiction. He seems perfectly willing to accept that there is a population of technologically advanced humans living on the Moon."
Creal was reluctant to confront Asimov...there was something alien about the man's mind, different from the humans who Creal had long experience with. Creal had learned to respect the insights Jeed had into alien minds. "I've been sorting through his thoughts from the nanite perspective. He got a significant fraction of Fengtol's memories, but the nanites have now almost completely walled that off from Asimov's conscious mind. However, I've allowed Asimov to retain access to Fengtol's knowledge of Standard InterGalactic."
Jeed had been making an effort to learn human languages. "I've been using the English language resources that are available to robots here at Moon Base and speaking English with Asimov. It is a bit challenging because Asimov has a strange accent due to where he grew up." Jeed had noticed Asimov's fascination with robots, "He still remembers that a robot telepathically invaded his mind. He does not really trust any of us. He does not really understand the difference between robots with positronic brains and us."
Creal shrugged, "I still do not really have a feel for these positronic brains. Our nanites do not allow us to trace the positronic linkages. Apparently the entire network design for positronic brains depend on quantum computing nodes."
Jeed noted, "But here you have access to a copy of Fengtol's mind in human brain format."
"Fengtol did not successfully transfer her mind into Asimov. Lucky for us we got there in time to interrupt the process. But, yes, we are learning a lot."
"Asimov has a certain amount of resentment. He might be unconsciously biased against us because of what Fengtol did."
"That's not important. Asimov can hate us, fear us, anything he likes. Thanks for the warning about his English. I've not had a chance to practice speaking it, so I'll stick to Standard Galactic. What concerns me is that when Fengtol dumped her memories into Asimov there may have been damage done to Asimov's neural networks. Some of Asimov's memory patterns seem fragmented. I'm going to need his help to sort through it."
Jeed asked, "Does it matter?"
"We're trying to decide if it is safe to send Asimov back to Earth. Fengtol apparently tried to take over Asimov's brain by performing a complete mind transfer. It may be that Fengtol's nanites introduced some false memories and it might be that Fengtol permanently erased some of Asimov's memories. This might not actually be Asimov anymore, from a personality perspective."
Jeed was puzzled, "Why would Fengtol have bothered?"
"We'll never know for sure. Her positronic brain is a fused lump now. Asimov's brain might hold some clues, but nanite probes have not allowed me to make much sense of what Fengtol's motivations were. I can tell this: Asimov thinks he met Fengtol several years before this."
That surprised Jeed. "Well, Gohrlay said that Fengtol had been stationed on Earth since the mid 1930s. Still, it seems unlikely that Asimov would have...hmm..."
Creal could sense that Jeed had thought of the possibility of a connection between Asimov and White Sands. "Right. Fengtol's positronics project was at White Sands. There must be a reason why Fengtol was meeting Rycleu in Roswell. Maybe that reason was Asimov."
Jeed said, "A typist? A file clerk? Well, since you are going in...Asimov forgets to eat. Ask him if he wants me to bring him anything."
Creal let himself into Asimov's suite. The human was completely absorbed with what he was viewing in the computer interface. Creal had to inactivate the virtual reality generator in order to get Asimov's attention.
Asimov said, in English, "Hey, what..." Then he saw the robot. "Oh, you're the humaniform robot...Creal, right?"
Creal was able to translate and understand the English, but he replied in Standard Galactic. "Yes, I brought you here two days ago. Jeed wants to know if you're hungry."
Asimov realized that he was hungry and had forgotten to ask for food. Almost without thinking he shifted over to Standard Galactic. "Ya, I'd like to eat. And..." He went to the personal and emptied his bladder.
After Jeed brought food and Asimov was eating, Creal spoke again. "What do you remember about Fengtol?"
Asimov had been studying the fascinating electronic records of Moon Base and memories of Fengtol had mostly slipped from his thoughts. "I'm quite certain that machine wanted to take control of my brain. Really, aren't there any safe guards to prevent robots from attacking-" Here Asimov paused and then he used and English word, "...people?"
Asimov had a long-standing disgust for robot stories: they always ended with the robot running wild and having to be destroyed. He thought about Jeed, who did not really look human, but Jeed seemed perfectly well behaved. And it was clear that Moon Base was full of robots that peacefully served and worked with the human residents. Somehow Fengtol seemed to be a special case. He asked, "Was Fengtol some kind of runaway robot, a renegade?"
Creal did not want to try to explain everything about Fengtol to Asimov. He replied, "Fengtol was damaged and...dying...she took the opportunity to transfer some of her memories into your brain. I suppose she thought there was a good reason to do that."
Asimov rubbed his chin while chewing his lunch. "Jeed says that Fengtol was a telepathic robot and that telepathy is unusual. It seems like Fengtol was going far beyond mere telepathy. Is it common for robots to push their minds into biological brains? How is such a thing even possible?"
Creal did not want to explain nanite technology to Asimov and even Creal could only guess at the mixture of nanite probes and telepathic manipulations that Fengtol had used to assault Asimov. "I have only had a short time to study these positronic robots. Our best guess is that positronic circuits are particularly well suited for interacting with forms of matter and energy that your science has not yet discovered."
Asimov could easily accept that human science had not yet learned everything that there was to know about physics. But Creal and his comrades seemed quite advanced. "And your people are only now learning the science of telepathy from these positronic robots?"
Creal acknowledged that the positronic robots were the masters of telepathy. "The positronic robots had many thousands of years to learn about telepathy before anyone else imagined that telepathy was possible. The first robots with positronic brains discovered that biological brains are weak sources of telepathic signals. Those robots started experimenting and genetically engineering living cells. They studied how to increase the telepathic powers of biological organisms."
Asimov was intrigued by the idea of genetic engineering. "The positronic robots designed people who share their advanced telepathic abilities?"
Creal was not certain about the history of telepathy. "I suspect that when the robots realized that biological organisms had a weak capacity to produce and detect telepathic signals they began to perform selective breeding experiments. There is a world called Gaia where many of the human telepathy experiments were carried out. I also have seen references to a secret star called 'Nemesis'. In that star system, positronic robots began telepathy experiments by using simpler forms of life. Unicellular organisms."
Asimov chuckled. He asked, "Why would single-celled organisms possibly need to communicate telepathically?"
Creal only had a theory. "I can imagine simple organisms sharing information about food sources. However, it is common for scientists to select a simple organism that is easy to work with for early experiments of any given type. I suppose that the positronic robots wanted to explore cellular mechanisms for telepathic signal production and reception before dealing with the complexities of brains."
Asimov nodded, "Yes, much progress in the study of biochemistry has been made by using bacteria. One can first determine the chemical components of a molecule like DNA in bacteria and then go on to show that DNA in humans is chemically the same."
"Yes, DNA is the genetic polymer of your world, all Earthly life uses the dame genetic code. Life has often used other polymers on other worlds, but cellular life, based on lipid membranes, is often quite similar even if different sets of nucleotides and amino acids are used. The records I have studied indicate that the the positronic robots were initially worried about genetically altering Earth life so as to increase telepathic signaling. Those robots worried that strongly telepathic life forms might have an advantage over Earth's naturally-evolved life forms. Rather than risk crating variants of Earthly life forms that might go out of control, the positronic robots found a new world with an alien form of life in the Nemesis star system."
"So, you are saying 'Nemesis', Do you know the Earth legend of Nemesis?"
Creal scanned the data banks of Observer Base and replied, "Interesting. I now see in the records of Earth's history that the name of that star, Nemesis, is a word that was once used on Earth to refer to the idea of a magical element of fate."
Asimov, thinking out loud, said, "Maybe you robots don't believe in fate, but then why would the positronic robots name a secret star 'Nemesis'? Maybe their telepathy experiments did go wrong and back fire. Maybe Fengtol's attack on me is the kind of unintended consequence that comes from experiments on telepathy."
Creal explained, "I believe that the positronic robots only recently perfected a means to transfer their minds into biological brains. Fengtol's attempt to use that kind of transfer on you seems to have been an act of desperation, no doubt provoked by my own people attacking the positronic robots. You got caught up in a struggle that has been going on for thousands of years."
Asimov suggested, "Well, maybe you will someday find the secret location of Nemesis and learn what actually took place there. If the telepathy experiments were thousands of years ago then maybe that star is now better known by another name. Maybe you have been there and do not even know it!"
Creal thought that Asimov could probably now recognize the fact that many mysteries remained about the secretive positronic robots. "There are many unanswered questions about telepathy, but I must keep focused on my mission."
Asimov asked, "Will you ever get around to telling me what your mission is?"
Creal apologized, "I'm reluctant to reveal some secrets to you because I do not trust Fengtol. Could she even now take control of your brain and body? Your partial 'sharing of minds' with Fengtol has been an opportunity for me to try to learn more about the positronic robots. However, I felt the need to take no risk, so I have tried to make sure that the remnants of Fengtol's mind cannot take over your body. Since that was my priority, you had only a limited window for observing Fengtol's thoughts from inside your shared brain. We have lost a chance to learn more about the positronic robots, but safety must come first."
"I do not have friendly thoughts for Fengtol after the way she crashed into my brain uninvited. I would help you if I could. Asimov thought back to his last days and weeks on Earth. It is strange, because in recent days...the days before I was brought here, I had the strange feeling that I was being watched."
Creal asked suspiciously, "What do you mean by 'feeling'?"
For a moment Asimov wondered if the robot was unable to understand human feelings and intuitions. He decided that Creal just wanted more details. "Well, normally nobody cares what I do. Since being stationed at Roswell I have not had much work to do. I spend a couple hours typing and filing reports and then I have nothing to do. So I write stories. I'm a writer."
Creal could not imagine what this had to do with Fengtol or anything important. He asked, "What kind of writing?"
Asimov explained, "Technical topics. Since the war and the growing public awareness of the amazing weapons that won the war, there is a market for stories about advanced technology. Since I got drafted, I've written almost exclusively about military technology and weapons research. I got to witness a secret A-bomb test last year....of course the public is still unaware of the existence of nuclear weapons. Thankfully they were not ready before the war ended. I can't write about military secrets, but I write stories that sell as speculative fiction. They sell quite well. I use pseudonyms and the army has no idea where the ideas for the stories come from."
Creal asked, "What does this have to do with Fengtol?"
Asimov chewed and swallowed another bite of his lunch. "Major Marcel gave up trying to discourage me from my writing, but he warned me not to get caught at it by any other officers. Marcel knows about my novel."
Creal suspected that not only had Asimov's memories been disrupted by Fengtol, but he probably lived in a fantasy world where he had trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy. "What novel?"
"It is called, 'Schuylkill Cloak'. Actually, it is why I'm still in the army. I could have gone back to civilian life when the war wound down, but I was onto some leads about the Cloak. That's why I volunteered for the A-bomb work and that led to the rocketry program-"
Creal interrupted, "Cloak?"
Asimov nodded, "I've been searching through the records here." He gestured to the computer interface. "It is clear that you can send your spaceships to Earth and go unobserved because you have some kind of cloaking device, but I have not been able to find any of the technical details. Is it atomic powered?"
Creal was annoyed by Asimov's leaps from topic to topic. He started to become concerned that Asimov no longer had a coherent set of thought processes. "What does this have to do with your novel?"
"It goes back to when I worked at the Air Station in Philadelphia. They'd brought in a bunch of chemists and had us making thin films of various compositions. The cover story was that our films were all taken out for field radar reflection testing, but skuttlebutt said it was more than that...that the military wanted an invisibility cloak. Anyhow, I wrote a short story about cloaking technology back in '43 and it was popular. I have a contract for a novel that involves cloaking technology."
Creal searched and finally found "skuttlebutt" in the Moon Base's linguistic database. He wondered: was it possible that Fengtol had decided to push towards a positronics industry by way of cloaking technology? Creal was in no position to judge since the kinds of cloaks that the Moon Base spaceships used were beyond any kind of technology that Creal was familiar with. "What does this skuttlebutt have to do with Fengtol?"
Asimov pushed away his empty plate and leaned back in his chair. "It goes back further, to when I was still in college. I was starting to think about getting a job but I was also looking at graduate schools. I'd seen an advertised position for a graduate level chemistry researchship at Princeton, so I took the train to New Jersey. It was a strange job interview."
"Strange in what way?"
"First they made me sign a form saying that I would never discuss anything about the interview. Then I met with two-" Again Asimov paused. He smiled grimly and continued, "...goons who warned me not to even think about revealing what I saw there."
"I suppose they were military intelligence. Anyhow, I never saw anything. They walked me past a door and said it was Einstein's office. At the time, that was the high point of the day for me. They said that they would be in touch and I went back home. Nothing ever came of it. In retrospect, there may have been something much more important that passed me by."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, they gave me a walk through of the facilities. I suppose they wanted to impress me with their modern equipment. I remember looking into one laboratory through a window in the door. There were about half a dozen people standing next to a bench. One of them was a woman. She looked up and glared at me through the window. I was intrigued by the idea of a woman scientist...I was just a kid and knew nothing about women." Asimov fell silent.
Creal asked, "Is there more to this story-" He was still getting feedback from the nanites inside Asimov's brain. It seemed that Asimov was trying to match his own memory of that woman scientist to Fengtol's memories of her own appearance, but the nanites had almost completely walled off Fengtol's memories from access to Asimov's conscious recall. "Do you mean...?"
Asimov scratched his head, "It's strange. Normally I have an excellent memory, but...I remember thinking that the robot, Fengtol, looked like that woman in Princeton....but that can't be, can it? Now all I can remember is the half burned face on that robot's head in the crate..."
Creal thought, Why not? Fengtol had been somewhere in North America at that time. Had she been at Princeton? In any case, Creal had satisfied himself that Fengtol's memories were rapidly fading from Asimov's mind. Okay, Mr. Asimov, I can tell you this. Fengtol had been stationed on Earth for quite a few years."
Asimov had been reading about the function of Moon Base and the program for observing events on Earth. "I see. She was on Observer?"
Creal did not want to get into fine distinctions, but said, "Fengtol was an Interventionist, trying to change the course of Earth history. I'm sorry that you got caught up in all this, but it is clear that you had nothing to do with Fengtol's efforts." Creal was still wondering why Fengtol and Rycleu were in Roswell, but that did not change Asimov's innocence. "You are now free to move around Moon Base."
Asimov asked, "And when can I go back to Earth?"
"I'll be honest, Mr. Asimov. We might not be able to take you back."
Asimov nodded, "It might not be bad living here. I've been reading about the culture that exists here in this Base. I might fit in here."
Creal said, "I'm pleased that you are approaching this with a positive attitude. One more thing, Asimov. You hinted at feeling watched? What exactly did you mean by that?"
Asimov tried to bring back memories from when he had first woken up on the way to the Moon. "I seem to recall...a feeling...that Fengtol was trying to hide some of her memories from me. The more she tried the more it attracted my attention to just the memories she wanted to hide. Sharing memories with another mind inside one brain is rather a strange affair, let me tell you. Anyhow, there was a name...another robot: Recleu. Fengtol was bringing Recleu to Roswell so that they could...well, I don't know. I've been searching the Moon Base database for a word she used: nanite. They were up to something that involved me and nanites. Does that make any sense?
Creal thought that it did make sense, particularly if Asimov was revealing, or threatening to reveal through his writing, secrets about a program for helping Earth Humans develop cloaking technology in the 20th century. Creal also knew that most of the humans in Moon Base knew nothing about nanites and their uses by Observers and Overseers...certainly there was no mention of nanites in the database that Asimov had been given access to. Creal said, "I'll look into what Fengtol might have been doing with 'nanites'...it sounds like a secret project. We know she was attempting to alter the development of technology on Earth. If you think of anything else related to her activities, let me know.
Asimov furrowed his brow. "It's odd, but my memories of Fengtol seem to be fading. Already the idea of a telepathic robot invading my thoughts seems like a silly dream."
Creal left the room. For a minute Asimov sat and wondered if he would be able to adjust to this strange new world. He got up and tested the door. It opened for him.
Asimov stepped out of the room he had been confined to for two days. Jeed was coming up the hallway and asked, "Did you want dessert, Mr. Asimov?"
Asimov replied, "I do enjoy your cooking, Jeed, but I'll pass. I'm excited about having a chance to explore this Base."
"Very well, I'll fix you a nice dessert to go with your dinner this evening." He opened the door to Asimov's suite so he could retrieve the dishes from lunch.
Asimov said, "I'm not sure I'll be back. My understanding is that I can move into any vacant residence here."
Jeed nodded, "True, but I suggest that you not divorce yourself from Creal. We are on a special mission: we're visitors from beyond this base and if you are going to return to Earth, it will almost certainly be Creal who takes you back."
"Well, what if I decide that I like it here? I've always been interested in history. It is my understanding that the Observers here have a complete record of human history!"
"I suppose you can remain here if that is your choice." Jeed gave a little bow and went to retrieve the dishes.
Asimov explored the base, but did return for dinner to the rooms being used by the crew of Many Sails. He had explored several vacant homes, but decided not to try to move into one. He was somewhat put off by his treatment when he had tried to visit the Observers. Finally they had found the one Observer who spoke English. Asimov had said, "Only one Observer who speaks English? How can that be?" The reply was that human Observers were being phased out in favor of automated systems and robots. He was also told that his experience with Fengtol made him a bad risk for acceptance into the Earth Observation program.
Asimov then spent the night in a kind of saloon where the patrons seemed to mostly be artists. He found some fellow writers, but they either were not interested in Asimov's type of speculative fiction or did not speak English. Dejected, Asimov finally returned to his suite and slept.
Upon waking, Asimov went in search of Jeed and found the robot serving a meal to Lorn-Kru and Fint. Asimov had been troubled by the alien appearance of Jeed, but Lorn-Kru and Fint sent chills up his spine. He was finally able to calm down and sit at the same table with the aliens. Lorn-Kru activated a translation machine and said to Asimov, "I have this translator tied into the Moon Base linguistic database."
Jeds explained, "I could do the translations. And by the way, Asimov can speak Standard Galactic."
Fint was surprised, "I was not aware that Galactic was spoken on Earth."
Jeed explained to Lorn-Kru and Fint that Asimov had attained the ability to speak Galactic because of memories from Fengtol.
Lorn-Kru said, "Oh! So, you're the Earthling who tangled with Fengtol."
Asimov was intrigued by the idea of aliens. By way of the translator he asked, "So, you work as a team with Creal and humans? I've seen no mention of aliens in the Moon Base records."
Jeed tried to explain, "We're not from this Base. We're visitors."
Fint added, "And we haven't interacted with the humans here. Creal was made by humans who live in another galaxy."
Asimov was suitably shocked. "Another galaxy?" Creal came into the dining room and sat down. Asimov continued, "Is anyone planning on telling me what's going on?"
Lorn-Kru muttered, "It's rather hard to know where to start."
Creal commented, "And it might be wasted breath to explain things, anyhow."
Asimov asked, "How so? As someone who has speculated about life on other planets, I'd be quite interested to hear the truth of what is out there." He corrected himself, "Out here."
Creal explained, "We still have not finalized our plans, but it might be that we will be able to return you to Earth. If so, it will involve erasing all of your recent memories."
Fint asked, "What have your speculations been about aliens, Mr. Asimov? I've been exploring the speculative literature here at this Base and find it rather uninteresting."
Asimov explained that he was a writer. "I'm also disappointed with the literature I've found here. It was one of the first things I investigated when I got here. I think I now understand the source of my disappointment. I grew up enjoying the space stories that I read on Earth, but they are full of silly assumptions and a few over-used themes. Seeing a second such set of limited conceptualizations here opened my eyes."
Lorn-Kru suggested, "Well, if you are a story teller then maybe you should read some of the stories from our culture. I recently read an account of the first two alien species that ever met among the stars. It's apparently a classic."
Asimov was interested. He asked, "The first two?"
Jeed explained, "My body is modeled on that of the Huaoshy, one of those first two species that managed to spread among the stars."
Fint said, "Jeed is modest. The Huaoshy were the first space faring species."
Jeed qualified that, "Not quite. There were other earlier ones, but they all died out before meeting another species."
Asimov asked, "How long ago was that?"
Lorn-Kru handed Hoosky's copy of "The Saga of Uvadekoto" to Asimov. "The events of this story took place almost a billion years ago...if you believe the Huaoshy."
Asimov took the recording from Lorn-Kru. He was startled by the idea that a species might exist for so long. "A billion years?"
Jeed nodded. "The Huaoshy have spent the past billion years building up an inter-galactic civilization."
Asimov shook his head in wonder. "I think I'm starting to understand something. I've been puzzled by the fact that there seems to be nobody at this Base who is interest in research, discovery, pushing the boundaries of known science and technology. It is as if someone -or something- must suppress change in your culture."
Lorn-Kru remarked, "That is very perceptive. I lived my whole life failing to notice that and only recently had the fact of that intentional stasis pointed out to me. I suppose your perspective -coming from a primitive culture where technological change is rapid- made it obvious to you that things are different here."
"Well, I was trained in science, experimental chemistry. At first I was excited by the prospect of learning wonderful things here in this Base, but I quickly found that the people here have no interest in science or discovery. I'd rather go back to Earth where there is the excitement of change and growth."
Lorn-Kru pointed to the copy of "The Saga of Uvadekoto" that Asimov now held. "I think this story will interest you. It is about a species that rapidly developed technology including nanites and the means for interstellar space travel. They kept getting themselves into trouble with their rapid technological change."
Fint added, "Species that ride the wave of change and technology either destroy themselves or transform themselves, usually into a kind of synthetic life that escapes the concerns of biological organisms."
Asimov agreed to read the story. "I'll check it out. What language is it in?"
Lorn-Kru handed Asimov the translating machine. "It is in our Standard Intergalactic, but this will translate it for you, either into Galactic or English."