Sep 2, 2013

Ekcolir and Gohrlay

The pek think of the human species as just one in a series of primate variants that will ultimately become extinct and be replaced. Our replacement, the Prelands, are being honed and perfected and will soon take our place as the dominant species on Earth.

The pek are an artificial lifeform composed of of hierions and nanites rather than conventional matter and cells. In general, the pek confine their activities to the Galactic Core. On planets like Hemmal they have been gradually crafting the hermaphroditic Prelands over the course of hundreds of thousands of years.

At the same time, humans have been evolving on Earth under the watchful eyes of the Observer Corps and a police force known as the Overseers. The Observers and Overseers reside at a secret Base on the Moon. The Observers are humans, and occasionally Observers are sent to Earth for special missions. Observers who go to Earth must be genetically indistinguishable from Earthlings. The Overseers are a genetically distinct human group that can trace its ancestry to a now extinct human variant.

Gohrlay the Observer
The Foundations of Eternity starts with the story of Gohrlay, an Observer. The mysterious device on the cover of The Foundations of Eternity might be a teleporter or a time travel device or a magnetic field generator used to inactivate nanites. However, Observer Base is equipped with a teleporter for emergency use. For routine travel, such as when Gohrlay visits Earth, she rides in a shuttle; an unsophisticated spaceship that is used by Observers for short distance travel between the Moon and Earth.

Gohrlay on Earth
The Overseers believe that they are in command of Observer Base. During the time when Gohrlay is in training as an Observer, Overseer Doltun is the top ranking Overseer. Doltun and the other Overseers enforce the Rules of Observation which assure that external forces do not alter the course of events on Earth. Occasionally there are visitors to Observer Base from the Galactic Core. Sometimes genetic material is collected from Earth and taken to the Core Worlds.

The spaceships that arrive at Observer Base from the Core are commanded by a Kac'hin. The Kac'hin are a human variant that the pek originally designed for the purpose of mediating human interactions with other species from other worlds. In particular, the Fru'wu and the Nereids have occasionally tried to interfere with the course of human evolution and human cultural development. The Kac'hin are much more interested in the events of the Galactic Core and they are generally bored and uninterested when they visit Earth, being well aware that eventually the humans of Earth will be replaced by Prelands.

orbho Nan
Observers, Overseers, Kac'hin, Prelands and all lifeforms that trace their ancestry back to Earth are known as Genesaunts.

The Observers, Overseers and Kac'hin have robotic assistants. These artificial lifeforms are much less sophisticated than the pek. At Observer Base the robots are known as orbho. The orbho are composed of conventional matter. Their nanorobotic components have some capacity to shapeshift, allowing orbho to alter their superficial layers and appearance at will. Humans believe that the orbho are nothing more than useful assistants who do manual labor and boring jobs.

In fact, the brains of Genesaunts are routinely infested by a swarm of symbiotic nanites. The nanites in their brains allow the orbho to essentially "read the minds" of Genesaunts. For example, Gohrlay can keep no secrets from her personal aide, Nan, but in general Genesaunts are not consciously aware of the fact that they have nanites in their brains. They think of nanites as useful tools that perform functions like cleaning and it is known that medical nanites can enter human bodies to repair tissue damage, but the fact that nanites provide a means by which Genesaunt behavior can be controlled is kept secret from the Genesaunts.

At Observer Base there is a small cadre of "executive orbho" who are actually in control of the Base and the Earth Observer program. The personal aide of Overseer Doltun, Orbho Anagro, is actually in command of the Base and its operations. In addition to their role in watching for and preventing Interventionist missions to Earth, Anagro and his executive staff carry out experiments on the humans that evolve on Earth. Also, the orbho do not completely prevent Interventionist operations on Earth. Sometimes the pek want to introduce certain gene patterns to Earth from the Galactic Core and this can readily be accomplished by letting Interventionists do the "dirty work" that violates the Rules of Intervention. As long as the pek do not directly alter the course of evolution on Earth they are technically in compliance with Huaoshy ethical standards.

Gohrlay is a key player in one of Anagro's experiments. Anagro is testing the capacity of humans to create and use advanced technology. He is particularly interested in the instincts that shape human ethical thought and the degree to which humans are likely to misuse technology. Through long experience, the pek know that primitive tool users like humans are at great risk of developing advanced technologies that can lead to their own extinction. Earth seems a near perfect laboratory for a strange phenomenon that has been observed in many species: human subspecies like the Neanderthals that instinctively have a high degree of ethical self-control over their own use of tools and technology tend to be exterminated by other subspecies who have weaker instincts for ethical behavior. Thus, the Neanderthals have nearly become extinct on Earth by the time Gohrlay is born.

There has long been a population of Neanderthals at Observer Base who were permitted by the executive orbho to develop a small scientific subculture. These Neanderthal scientists and engineers developed a sophisticated science of positronics and, not being allowed to develop nanite technology or electronics, they began to apply positronics to their goal of making robots. Searching the vast data bases of Genesaunt Civilization, which contain the records of thousands of species across many galaxies, Anagro has found no previous example of extensive research into positronics.

Over time, Anagro has been worked into an uncomfortable position. During the slow development of positronics at Observer Base, the populations of human subtypes on Earth with strong ethical instincts have been in rapid decline. Wishing to continue to experiment on Neanderthals and Denisovans, Anagro has taken extreme measures to prevent those human subtypes from becoming extinct.

Anagro's most recent frustration is that just when the Neanderthal scientists were ready to create the first positronic brain with human-like cognitive abilities, they abandoned the project. In order to make a human-like positronic brain, the Neanderthal scientists needed to "destructively scan" the structure of a human brain. Rather than destroy the brain of a human, they terminated their positronic robot project.

After much thought and scheming, Anagro finally devises a plan that will allow the positronic brain research to continue. By revealing to her the fact that artificial means have been used to keep Neanderthals from becoming extinct, Anagro knows that he can trick Gohrlay into violating the Rules of Observation. Gohrlay will then be given the choice: live out her life with her memories modified so as to erase her past criminality or she can volunteer to have the structure of her brain converted into positronic circuits.

Anagro makes continued life so uncomfortable for Gohrlay that she "volunteers" to undergo a destructive brain scan. The rest of the story unfolds in The Foundations of Eternity, leading to telepathic robots, time travel and the entire Foundation Reality as described by Asimov.

Ekcolir the Interventionist
Then, in book two of the Exode Trilogy, it becomes Ekcolir's mission to travel back in time from the 20th century to just before Gohrlay falls into Anagro's trap. Ekcolir arrives on Earth, 20,000 years in our past: his mission, to prevent the creation of positronic robots.

Ekcolir introduces himself to Gohrlay when she is on Earth during her first mission on planet. Ekcolir demonstrates to Gohrlay that she has been duped, that her illegal trip to Earth is part of Anagro's devious plan entice Gohrlay into criminal Interventionism. Ekcolir helps Gohrlay turn the tables on Anagro.

With the help of some advanced nanites provided by Trysta, Gohrlay and Ekcolir penetrate the Overseer district of Observer Base and collect evidence of how Anagro has been systematically intervening on Earth to slow the decline of the Neanderthal population. They are able to document how Anagro has worked to entrap Gohrlay: her entire life was planned and shaped so that the microscopic structure of her brain could become the template for making positronic brains of robots. When Many Sails arrives at Observer Base, Ekcolir teleports on board and presents the evidence he has collected to Captain Ayoost. Believing that Ekcolir is an undercover agent for the Kac'hin, Ayoost terminates Anagro's little science project. Gohrlay and the other Neanderthals at Observer Base become the new Overseers, replacing Doltun and his cadre of Overseers.

Ekcolir remains at Observer Base, helping Gohrlay establish a new set of priorities for the Earth Observation Program. No longer are cultural and technological advances kept under strict control by the Overseers. Humanity starts the slow climb towards establishment of a technological society. The Overseers shift their efforts towards preventing blatant Interventionism by the Fru'wu and the Nereids, but Nereid-sponsored Interventionist missions by a small group of specially trained humans is allowed, replicating what happened in the Foundation Reality when R. Gohrlay's actions at Observer Base first allowed humans on Earth to develop a technological civilization. Thus, Ekcolir completes the critical first step in his part of the Reality Change by which the Buld Reality is brought into existence. 

Syon and Rilocke
When Trysta travels back in time to play her part in creating the Buld Reality, she lives out her life 10,000 years in our past then transfers her nanite symbiont into a robot of Fru'wu design. That robot uses the name Syon. Syon is able to continue to influence the Pla Interventionists right up until the time of Parthney's mission in the 20th century.

Similarly, in order to shape the Buld Reality, Ekcolir must play a continuing role for 5,000 years. When his biological body reaches its end, he offloads his nanites into a Fru'wu robot. That robot uses the name "Rilocke" and plays an important role in getting the Buld into position so that they can send a spaceship to Earth. That ship, a multi-generation spacecraft that travels just below the speed of light, takes 15,000 years to reach Earth from the Galactic Core, arriving in the Solar System near the start of the 21st century.

Grean also travels into the past. I might arrange for Grean and Rilocke to cross paths in the Koly star system 15,000 years ago.

Time Contraction
I've previously mentioned how Asimov put a 20,000 year limit on Daneel's positronic brain. Rilocke and Syon are quite different artificial lifeforms than Daneel. However, I'm constrained by the fact that even if Rilocke and Syon are essentially immortal, I'm supposed to be crafting Trysta and Ekcolir into a love story. I've been imagining that there is a rather tragic end to that story: Trysta and Ekcolir and Merion make a great team in the 20th century, but then their time-twisted love triangle falls apart. First, Merion is captured by Overseers and taken to the Moon. Later, Ekcolir must travel into the past, 10,000 years further back than Trysta. Is there no way to avoid a tragic ending for this trio? Must the Exode Trilogy end with Trysta, Merion and Ekcolir scattered through time and space, each dying alone and lonely?

When Trysta passes a copy of her mind to Syon, she hopes to eventually find Ekcolir's "robotic instantiation", perhaps in the Koly system. However, Rilocke, having spent 5,000 long years without Trysta/Syon, decides to cheat time. He goes along on board the Buld spaceship to Earth. Due to relativistic time contraction, that 15,000 year journey is only 300 years in duration for Rilocke. I'm now thinking that Rilocke can teleport off of Earth with Kach. At the end of Exode, Parthney and Kach are reunited, as are Syon and Rilocke. I'm still trying to decide if Merion can survive until the arrival of the Buld spaceship. He will be about 110, but given the medical nanites at Observer Base, it is possible that he could last that long.
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