I previously blogged about the idea that R. Gohrlay has good intentions and wants to help humanity, but she is thrust into a position of responsibility where she must learn the limits of her ability to be helpful. In 1945, Asimov's story "Dead Hand" was published. In that story, an agent of the Foundation (Devers) struggles mightily to save the Foundation from being crushed by the Galactic Empire. The desperate actions of Devers only seem to make matters worse for the Foundation. In the end, the military campaign against the Foundation collapses due to its own weight of psychohistorical necessity. The "dead hand" of Hari Seldon defeats the Empire's last great military leader (Bel Riose) because the Emperor, in his weakness, cannot afford to allow popular generals to exist. On the verge of victory over the Foundation, Bel Riose is recalled from the war and murdered by the Emperor. After the danger to the Foundation has passed, it becomes clear that Devers would have been better off to have relaxed and not ineptly tried to try to protect the Foundation.

R. Gohrlay and her fellow positronic robots are programmed to follow the Zeroth Law of Robotics which means they must act so as to protect humanity. Unfortunately, R. Gohrlay ends up on a path that is far from the idea of wu wei and being in harmony with all of the forces in the universe.

In The Start of Eternity, it is imagined that an important part of "the forces in the universe" is the vast intergalactic civilization of the Huaoshy. The agents of the Huaoshy do not follow the Laws of Robotics, but they have their own set of rules, the Rules of Intervention. To a first approximation, The Start of Eternity is the story of a clash of cultures that occurs when positronic robots who follow the Laws of Robotics come into conflict with the Huaoshy.

Overseer Doltun plays an important role in the start of that great conflict. We are meant to pretend that the names "Gohrlay" and "Doltun" come from ancient human languages that are now lost in the mists of prehistory. However, the names are not meant to invoke a sense of confidence in the abilities of these two characters. Doltun is an administrator who is good at the routine of his job, a routine that has seldom been interrupted during the course of many millennia, a routine that has not been disrupted during Doltun's tenure as the head Overseers until Gohrlay comes along. We could say that Observer Gohrlay is in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and so she discovers a great secret that Overseer Doltun must keep from the Observers.

Members of the Observer Corps (such as Gohrlay) are trained to observe humans on Earth. Their role is similar to the Observers in Asimov's time travel novel, The End of Eternity. The Observers are not invited to think too much about what they are observing. Observers simply carry out a data collection function. Of course, it is only natural for Observers like Gohrlay to sometimes become concerned about the plight of the Earthlings, so new Observers are carefully indoctrinated with the Rules of Observation and those rules are endlessly enforced by the Overseers. Gohrlay violates the Rules of Observation and is caught illegally visiting Earth. Normally a criminal like Gohrlay would simply be excluded from the Observer Corps and everything would continue on, as it has for tens of thousands of years.

The departure from normality occurs when, during a trip to Earth, Gohrlay obtains evidence that genes are being transferred from the Moon to the human population of Earth. Gohrlay is shocked by this evidence and suspects that the Overseers must be responsible. Gohrlay believes that the Overseers claim to enforce the Rules of Observation while they actually find ways to violate those rules.

According to the Rules of Intervention, humans on Earth must be kept ignorant of the existence of humans on the Moon. Similarly, the Observers are kept ignorant of the fact that Overseers do genetically modify the human population of Earth. According to the Rules of Intervention, if someone like Gohrlay stumbles upon the truth and becomes aware of the fact that a more advanced culture has been manipulating her own culture then she is supposed to be lifted out of her culture and put into the culture that has been manipulating her own people. However, Doltun fails to realize the nature of Gohrlay's discovery and he mistakenly treats Gohrlay as a simple violator of travel restrictions. Gohrlay is returned to the Moon, but she begins to investigate the Overseers, suspecting that there is some secret agenda (which there is!).

The scientific research enclave that exists on the fringe of Observer Base was originally established as a kind of "limbo" for members of the Observer culture who become disenchanted with their lives. Normally someone like Gohrlay might find a place within the scientific research community or even be taken away from Observer Base and integrated into the Huaoshy intergalactic culture (see Rule Three). However, Anagro has become fascinated by the positronic robot project and wants to find a volunteer for the mind downloading experiment. Anagro secretly has Doltun "make a mistake" that allows Gohrlay to become aware of the fact that genes are transferred from the Moon to Earth. Large parts of Gohrlay's memories must be disrupted in order to prevent her from continuing her efforts to understand the Observer secrets that have been revealed to her. Anagro pushes Gohrlay towards becoming a volunteer for the mind downloading experiment. Doltun, Klempse and the other humans are just puppets for Anagro, but Gohrlay is allowed to focus her resentments on Doltun. Doltun fears that he was inept in his handling of Gohrlay and it is easy for Anagro to obtain Doltun's help in maneuvering Gohrlay towards participation in the downloading experiment.

Klempse has some regrets about facilitating Gohrlay's participation in the mind downloading experiment, but he knows that Gohrlay learned some dark secret which led to her memories being severely disrupted. Klempse knows that Gohrlay is not happy living with huge gaps in her mind, so he is willing to let her decide if she wants to participate in the mind downloading experiment.

Even if Gohrlay blames Doltun for her troubles or if Klempse blames himself for facilitating Gohrlay's death, the true cause of Gohrlay's death is Anagro's desire to find ways to push the positronic robot project forward. It might appear that Gohrlay is sent down her path in life by a bumbling Doltun, even Doltun blames himself or rather a hallucinated image of Romlev Guardian of the Dead accuses him of murder and punishes him. Also the reader might feel tempted to adopt Gohrlay's dislike for Dolton, but eventually the telepathic R. Gohrlay comes to realize that Anagro is the true power at Observer Base. After Anagro is gone, I'd like to see Doltun and R. Gohrlay learn how to work together.

R. Gohrlay ends up causing the Huaoshy a whole lot of trouble. It is amusing to think that the Huaoshy agent, Anagro, is responsible for stirring up the trouble in the first place.

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