(original photographs: Jessica Truscott)
I recently described the fact that one of my first questions for Zeta was "Why now?" What could she say? She is as ignorant as I am when it comes the shape of the future. However, some answers have quickly started to come in...
At first, I thought I was having new contact with the Hierion Domain via the Bimanoid Interface. Then my senses cleared and I stretched my arms and legs luxuriously. My whole body felt tingly and odd, a sensation I remembered from several past dreams. My left hand bumped into Zeta. She said, "Oh, no."
We were in a completely dark room, laying on what I now know to be a high-tech bed. I asked, "Where are we?"
Now Zeta's voice came from farther away. "Not Kansas." I sat up and unsuccessfully tried to see Zeta in the dark. Suddenly the door opened and a figure stood there in the doorway, silhouetted against the light of the adjacent room.
Zeta reached the doorway, closed the door and activated the lighting in our room. I rolled off the giant bed and joined Zeta where she was pulling on a jumpsuit. I found a second suit and quickly dressed while asking, "Who was that? And did she say 'Asimov'?"
Zeta was dressed and already heading back towards the doorway. "Hurry up."
I followed Zeta into the next room, feeling like my head was floating on air. And there he was: what looked like a healthy an vigorous Isaac Asimov from the previous millennium. Sitting next to him on a couch was a woman who gestured to an adjacent couch, indicating that we should be seated. As Zeta and I sat down, I silently gave thanks that my jumpsuit had automatically adjusted to my body and dressed me. My eyes were fixed on Asimov, who I had previously met once before, almost 40 years previously. Yōd said, "In a few minutes we'll teleport back to Earth, but Isaac wanted to say 'hi'."
|the view from inside Many Sails|
I should have simply let Asimov speak and tell us what he had on his mind, but I could not restrain a question that leaped out of my mouth, "Where are we?"
Yōd replied, "We're just outside the galaxy. This spaceship won't reach Earth until next year."
Asimov was amused by the look of dismay on my face. "So, I won't be back on Earth until next year, but I wanted to share with you a suggestion for your little writing project."
Yōd said, "Quickly, Isaac."
Asimov scowled at Yōd then concisely explained, "At this distance, teleportation is only possible through a maximal exertion by Many Sails. Your return to Earth is timed to the nanosecond. I just want to tell you that in the Asimov Reality, First Contact was with the-"
At that moment the universe split and I was back in the dream state from which my mind had been snatched and teleported half a million light-years out of the galaxy. In the morning, when I awoke, I began trying to quickly write down what seemed like a startling and vivid dream (the events described, above). Zeta saw what I was writing and she said, "That was no dream."
|The Zeptite Endosymbionts|
"Well, it depends of what you mean by 'we'. You might not have noticed, but you were not actually in your body when we were on board Many Sails."
"Ah, so that 's why I felt so strange."
Zeta explained, " I suspect that they teleported a fragment of our zeptite endosymbionts out there, but our biobodies never got out of bed."
I asked suspiciously, "You suspect? You've never traveled like that before?"
|Return to Tar'tron|
That was the first time I'd heard the name 'Yōd'. I asked, "Who?"
|Mission to Andromeda|
"I wonder why they had to go back to that galaxy." I tried to remember exactly what Yōd looked like. While on Many Sails, I'd been staring at Asimov. "And why do you say that woman was a Gohrlay clone? She did not look like you, although there was something strangely familiar about her."
Zeta went over to a nearby shelf and picked up a photograph that was in a plastic framing sleeve. She pointed at one of the people in the family portrait. I gasped, "My word! Yōd did look remarkably similar." I was looking at a twenty year old photograph of my niece, Sally. "That's crazy."
|original cover art by Ned Dameron|
I looked at the woman who had just come in and I asked, "Sally?" I had not seen my niece in twenty years, but Yōd had an appearance that exactly matched my expectations of the woman that the 12-year old Sally in the photograph might have become.
Yod flopped into a chair and replied to my question, "Please don't call me Sally. Sally was teleported to Tar'tron. I'm Zeta's sister, Yōd."
|Clones of Gohrlay|
I looked back and forth between Zeta and Yōd and the photograph of my family members. I demanded, "Just how many of you clones have infiltrated Earth?"
Ignoring my question, Zeta asked Yōd. "Can I get you anything? How was your trip?"
Yōd sighed. "I suppose it will take me a while to adjust to this body. I think I'm hungry. And thirsty."
Zeta went to the kitchen. I asked Yōd, "What was Asimov trying to tell me?"
Yōd giggled. "Well, you know, it is important that you not know too much about your future."
|The Asimov Reality|
"Past, future... such ambiguous terms."
Zeta returned from the kitchen and handed Yōd a tall glass full of lemonade. She asked, "Ya, why take us all the way out of the galaxy to get a message from Asimov, and then the message gets chopped off?"
Yōd tried to explain the situation to us. "Look, I'm sure you two got the message exactly as intended. You have been reminded of a mystery. You tell me why that was so important."
Zeta shrugged and said, "I'm making omelettes."
Yōd muttered. "Yuck. Earth food. Whatever."
Yōd shrugged. "How would I know?"
"Well, if you don't know such things, then why are you here?"
Yōd shook her head, "Do you want my answer or do you want me to provide my guess about what motivated Egrosū̆ to bring me here now? Certainly I was bored on Many Sails. Intergalactic travel is so annoying. I suppose that when Egrosū̆ gave up trying to work with you, she decided to send the second team onto the field. My guess is, she had originally intended to spend another year with you, but she simply could not stand to be with you that long."
I complained, "That's not a very nice thing to say."
Yōd laughed at me. "You asked, I told you."
Determined to be equally blunt, I asked, "So you have permanently stolen the body of my niece?"
"I stole nothing. Isn't it obvious to you that Sally was inserted into Earth's timeline as a place-keeper for me? I was to arrive next year, but the schedule had to be moved up a bit. By now, Sally is enjoying herself in the Galactic Core."
I have to admit that I was not really feeling outrage at the substitution of Yōd for Sally. I'd occasionally wondered why Sally had never married and had children. In fact, I was now a little jealous of Sally who had won a ticket off of Earth. For a minute I imagined the wonders she would experience during her visit to Tar'tron. I asked, "Why was Asimov taken to the Andromeda Galaxy?"
Zeta came in and handed a plate to Yōd who recoiled from the food and exclaimed, "My word, what a stink!"
Zeta said, "Oh, shut up. You'll get used to it. Be careful, it's hot."
I placed a folding tray in front of Yōd and set one up for myself. Zeta asked her sister, "So, you have no specific mission here on Earth?"
Yōd replied, "Well, I can tell you what Egrosū̆ told me. I doubt if 'mission' is the correct word to use." Zeta had to return to the kitchen, but Yōd continued speaking to me. "As soon as my consciousness arrived in this new body, Egrosū̆ was pushing me out of bed and rushing me to the airport. She had two tickets for our late night flight, so I got to talk to her for several hours."
I was intrigued by the fact that Alpha Gohrlay would be skulking around the home of my niece. "So Egrosū̆ knew that you would be arriving on Earth a year early?"
"I don't trouble to wonder about all the things that Egrosū̆ knows. She rushed me here as quickly as possible, so I suppose it is important that I start working with you and Zeta, now, today." She tried eating a small piece of the omelette, spit it out of her mouth and then set down the fork and leaned back into her chair.
I asked her, "Are you a story writer like Zeta?"
Yōd laughed. "Not at all."
"Tell, me. how can you be a clone of Gohrlay and yet be so different physically?"
"There have been many clones of Gohrlay. Many of those clones were kept physically identical to Zeta by allowing one standard biodevelopmental program to run in each clone's body. However, most Gohrlay clones have been subject to other developmental programs and we each have our own unique physical appearances."
"But you and Zeta are genetically identical?"
"Yes." She picked up the fork and tried to gag down another bite. She washed the omelette down with a swig of lemonade.
I was sitting there watching Yōd try to eat and imagining the possibility of revealing to the world the existence of Yōd and Zeta, two genetically identical women who looked quite different physically.
|The Secret History of Humanity|
Zeta returned from the kitchen with a plate for me. She glared at me and said, "Don't even think about it!"
Yōd asked, "What?"
Zeta sat down and said to Yōd, "He's always looking for physical evidence of aliens on Earth. He can never accept that there are real constraints on his behavior."
I muttered, "Can you read my mind?"
I asked Yōd, "Can you also use the Bimanoid Interface?"
Yōd replied, "Of course, that was the whole point of the Asimov Reality: the creation of human brains and femtobot adapters that would allow humans to use the Interface."
Zeta asked Yōd, "So what instructions did you get from Egrosū̆?"
I interrupted Yōd to say, "I call it the Exode Trilogy."
Zeta complained, "And I've been trying to convince him that there is nothing magical about a trilogy. In fact, there are five different Realities that must be explained to the people of Earth, so I believe there should be five books." Zeta got up and handed her tablet to Yōd.
Yōd read the short outline of the five volumes that Zeta had mapped out for the Secret History of Humanity. "Well, I don't know most of this history. Why is it important to go into so much detail?"
I tried to quickly explain to Yōd why I had been tasked with telling the hidden history of Earth. "My understanding is, at some point in the future, something that is written down in this Secret History of Humanity will become important. It will allow Humanity to avoid some sort of catastrophe."
Zeta added, "This is R. Gohrlay's gift to Humanity. A way to allow the human species to survive its adolescence and reach the stars."
Yōd shook her head. "So we three sit here, ignorant of any detailed understanding of what we must accomplish. So, typical. Egrosū̆ told me nothing specific, but she seems certain that I will help you two with your story telling project. I can't say I understand why this important message to future Earthlings must take the form of a science fiction story."
"The information must be "hidden in plain sight". Most people will only view the Secret History of Humanity as fiction. Because of that, providing this information to Earthlings is not technically a violation of Huaoshy ethical law."
Yōd was trying to swallow another bite of the omelette. I noticed that she was looking quite pale and obviously was not enjoying the food. Suddenly she vomited the contents of her stomach onto her plate.
Zeta rushed to clear away the mess. Yōd was perspiring and looked quite ill. She said, "I'm going to go lie down."
I watched her head off down the hallway towards the bedrooms and I turned the other way. I carried my plate into the kitchen and said to Zeta, "The poor girl is really sick."
"That's not too unusual for the aftermath of a mind transfer." Zeta ran the remnants of Yōd's omelette down the garbage disposal.
When the noise of the disposal ended, I said, "So, tell me about your sister."
"I don't know her at all well. There were many such clones, each one taken along different developmental paths by their endosymbionts. I've always assumed that they were not intended to have missions on Earth."
"Well, it seems we are now living out a back-up plan that involves Yōd being here on Earth with us. Do you have any idea how she might help us?"
|in the Hierion Domain|
"Hmm. Much of my reluctance to adopt your planned five volume strategy derives from me avoiding the drudgery involved with creating more websites that would hold the content of the additional volumes. Do you think Yōd could help with that?"
For a moment Zeta seemed to stare off in the direction of the bedroom where Yōd had gone to rest. "Interesting! My replicoid seems to be confirming your hypothesis. Sally's replicoid is now in contact with our replicoids in the Hierion Domain."
I snapped my fingers. "Right! And now I remember: Sally has worked in website design for years. Now all of her experience in online publishing is at the disposal of Yōd."
However, much has changed on Earth since Asimov's death and his departure from our world. Wouldn't the tryp'At view Asimov and his great knowledge of aliens as a danger to Earth and the Huaoshy principle that we Earthlings be kept ignorant of Genesaunt society? So, how could the tryp'At allow Asimov to return to Earth? And what about Yōd? With her genetic profile, she was a prime target to come under the scrutiny of the tryp'At Overseers. Did Yōd know the danger she was in?
I took a step towards the bedroom where Yōd was resting, but Zeta stopped me. "Don't badger the poor girl. You can set her to the task of making two new booksites when she's feeling better. In the mean time, let's try to come to an agreement about the content of those sites."
I said, "I'm worried that Yōd might attract the attention of tryp'At Overseers."
Zeta noded, "Possible, but not likely. Just like you and I, Yōd is constrained. In her case, by her nanites."
"You mean she can't tell anyone what she knows about aliens?"
"She can tell us anything known to Yōd, but according to Sally's replicoid, if questioned by anyone else, the Sally endosymbiont will take control. From the perspective of other Earthlings, Yōd is still your niece Sally. Nothing can change that."
"There is still the genetic evidence."
"I'm not so sure." For a minute Zeta seemed to be listening to her replicoid. "Apparently it would be a trivial matter for the tryp'At to confound any DNA testing performed on Yōd, forcing Earthlings who analyzed her DNA to read out a different sequence than mine, a sequence that would be exactly as expected for your niece."
|Clones of Gohrlay|
Zeta nodded, "If you like, think of us as being from two different generations of Gohrlay clones. And there is one other item, which I hesitate to mention to you, but it is my understanding that Yōd and everyone in her clone cohort was shaped by her developmental control nanites so as to have the physical form of an hermaphrodite. That was intended to make it easier for them to function within mainstream society on Tar'tron."
"Wait, are you saying that my niece Sally was a hermaphrodite?"
|Oracles of Luk'ru|
For a minute I thought about Yōd and Asimov together on Many Sails for the long flight from the Andromeda Galaxy to Earth. I wondered out loud, "What might Asimov have been telling me about First Contact in the Asimov Reality?"
Zeta shrugged, "We obviously were not meant to know, but the intention seems to have been to focus our thoughts on the Asimov Reality. Maybe you should ask Yōd to prioritize creation of a new booksite that will hold the story of that Reality."
Next: the origins of the Intersplit space-drive
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