Nov 19, 2019

Portee Old Town

The Book of Dreams
Jack Vance published Star King in 1963. The last of the five novels in the Demon Princes series was finally published in 1981. In The Book of Dreams, Vance depicts a matured and mellowed Kirth Gersen. Some 40 years after Vance was done with Gersen's saga, I recently wrote a fan fiction story about Kirth Gersen, but my story depicted Gersen in his prime, while he was still engaged in his heroic effort to destroy the five Demon Princes. I can't really picture Gersen as an old man. Can a fictional character be frozen in time and never age?

Mary Godwin as a Fictional Character
Three years ago, I wrote a 6,000 word story which was my attempt to imagine a science fiction story that Mary Godwin might have written in an alternate universe where it might be possible for a woman born in 1797 to actually write science fiction.

At that time (July 2016), I completed Part 1 of Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus and optimistically expected to quickly write Part 2. However, I got distracted and never wrote Part 2 (8,000 words) until this month, November 2019.

Vance paused 12 years between publishing The Palace of Love and The Face, so my 3 year break between Part 1 and Part 2 of Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus can't hold a candle to Vance.

The Mary Godwin character who appeared in Part 1 of Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus is very young, still a teenager. The Mary who appears in Part 2 is at least 140 years older. Living such a long life is not explained by good genes and clean living. The original Mary in 1816 is intrigued by the idea that alien agents are at work on Earth, shaping the course of human history. When she displays a burning desire to learn more about the aliens, a copy of Mary is made.

Mary2 is an artificial life form, composed of nanoscopic components. The Exode Saga features several such artificial life forms, including Betty.

Mary2 can assemble her nanite components into any desired physical form. During part of her artificial life she uses the bodily form of a Nereid and lives in the ocean of Ver'la. Eventually, Mary2 returns from the Galactic Core to Observer Base and lives again among the humans of the Writers Block. I'm not sure what age a woman would select as her desired age if she could control her physical appearance. For Part 2 of Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus I provide no description of Mary2. I don't really care how old Mary appears to be, so I leave her appearance up to the imagination of readers.

Super Powers
Investigating artificial life forms.
Getting a head in the Ekcolir Reality.
Original cover art by
Walter Popp, Earle Bergey and this.
If Mary2 can alter her physical form then what are the limits to her abilities? I imagine that Mary2 was equipped with a "nanite control program" that allows her to shape her own physical form, but I do not imagine that she has other "super powers". In particular, in the course of the story it becomes apparent that Grean can take control of Mary2's behavior. In some sense, Grean has access to even more sophisticated nanite control technology than does Mary2.

1 more Twist
Not only is Mary2 and artificial life form; when she is interviewed by Colleen Liscan, they are inside the Ekcolir Reality Simulator. Thus, the Mary who is depicted in Part 2 of Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus is a simulation of an artificial life form. Grean is aware that they are inside a simulator, so she may have means besides infites that make it possible to control the behavior of Mary and John Vance. Maybe Grean can control some features of the ER Simulator.

The End?
In The Book of Dreams, Kirth Gersen is fabulously wealthy. He has arranged to live in the city Pontefract on the planet Aloysius. It is here that he meets Alice Wroke and takes her to dinner at Murdock's Bay View Grill in Partee Old Town. Poor Alice is on edge; she is being used by master criminal Howard Treesong to infiltrate Gersen's magazine, Extant, which Gersen created and published as a means of trapping Treesong. Alice has been ordered to seduce Gersen and learn his secrets. Having tapped into her communications with Treesong, Gersen knows the pickle that Alice is in when she invites him up to her room for a drink.

Alice Wroke
Gersen is smitten by the miraculous Alice, so he can't even begin to think about taking advantage of her difficult situation. He tells her everything she wants to know and bids her good night.

"animated by an almost supernatural enthusiasm"

At the end of Part 2 of Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus, Colleen knows that Grean the Kac'hin used her advanced nanite technology to make Colleen fall in love with Georgy White. Colleen talks Grean into reversing that "magic spell", and she no longer has her erotic infatuation with Georgy. However, as the story ends, Colleen still does not know if Georgy remains under Grean's "magic love spell".

How did the alien Fru'wu
help create the human species?
Jack Vance usually arranged for his novels to end rather abruptly, with readers wondering what will happen next to the protagonist. Maybe in 12 years I will write Part 3 of Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus, and reveal what happens to the steamy relationship between Colleen and Georgy.

Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus
Also, after three years, I don't really remember why I originally called the story Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus and not Nereid: Our Alien Prometheus. I suspect it was only because "Frankenstein" and "Fru'wu" both start with the letter 'F', but maybe Part 3 will have a larger role for both Mary and the alien Fru'wu.

Related Reading: 200 Years of Frankenstein


Visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.

Nov 18, 2019

Mary on the Moon

Original cover art by John R. Forte, Jr.,
Earle Bergey and Allen Anderson.
Part 2 of  Fru'wu: Our Alien Prometheus (Part 1)
Related Reading: Phari Tale

Georgy and Colleen were walking downtown, on their way to the ancient building that had once been the center of Earth Observer activity. Georgy asked nervously, "Are you sure this is a good idea?" Georgy moved close to Colleen and placed a hand on her arm.

Colleen replied, "Go back home if you are nervous." She looked down and felt a rush of excitement as Georgy's breast pressed against her arm. Colleen told herself: I will not feel jealous because Georgy is a mom and I've never had my own baby!

"I'm not nervous. The Overseers are gone." Georgy tried to talk herself into a feeling of confidence. She gestured to the empty street. "Observer Base is mostly deserted. Who can stop us?"

Observer Base
Colleen put her hands on Georgy's shoulders and pushed her against the wall of the building they were passing. Colleen kissed Georgy's neck and slowly worked her lips upward, eventually reaching her ear. Colleen whispered, "We can go back to my place. No baby... no robot... no interruptions..."

Georgy giggled and pulled open Colleen's shirt. "We could make love right here on the street." For a minute they toyed with the idea. On Earth, Georgy had tussled with a few horny lovers in the back of barns and here there were not even any livestock to startle with their antics. Then suddenly they were not alone; one of the ubiquitous robots of Observer Base walked by and said, "Hi Colleen. Hello Georgy."

humanoid robots: making R. Gohrlay
On her knees and glancing past Georgy's hip, Colleen told the robot, "Hello." Colleen felt ridiculous. What has come over me? For the past week she had been unable to resist the charms of Georgy.

Colleen stood up and said to Georgy, "Please stop distracting me. You should go back to Alex. I'll go to the fishbowl alone... I really need to know why the other Colleen's story was hidden, its publication suppressed." She pulled her clothing back into place, turned her back on Georgy and set off down the street.

Lost World trilogy
After pulling up her skirt from around her ankles, Georgy ran and caught up with Colleen. Matching the older girl's long strides, she asked, "Who would have blocked publication of Doyle's novel?"

"I don't know. This goes far beyond Overseers." They had reached the center of the city. Colleen glanced upwards and then led the way into the Observer Corps Building.

The old hallways echoed with the sound of their footsteps and Georgy further disturbed the ghosts of a thousand generations of Observers by saying, "When Stacy brought me here, she teleported us into the fishbowl."

Components of advanced nanites.
Colleen pointed towards the hidden entrance of the fishbowl and a stream of nanites flew out of her hand. Those nanites acted like a key and the big door swung open. The door was also an elevator. They stepped inside the chamber and were taken up towards the middle of the building by a quick burst of acceleration. The back door of the elevator now opened and they walked into the fishbowl.

Off to one side, two technicians were at work, monitoring the Asimov Reality Simulator and a few other people were scattered among the workstations, working to access records of the history of Earth. Colleen led Georgy by the hand to an available workstation. "Have a seat."

Georgy on Earth
Georgy sat down at the control panel and Colleen flicked the power switch. The display screen came alive with a complex menu of the available options. Georgy's attention went to central image which showed the Earth-Moon system. She touched the image of Earth and spun the globe, revealing Australia. Georgy zoomed in on her home town, found the farm where she had grown up and then she used the voice-activated temporal controls: "Show me Georgy White, tenth birthday party."

The screen filled up with a collage of images. She saw her horse, Lightmare and touched that image. Soon, Georgy and Colleen were watching the scene of when she had received Lightmare as a surprise birthday gift from her parents. Georgy shook her head in wonder, "I still can't believe that all of Earth history is available here, in such precise detail."

Colleen no longer felt a sense of awe when thinking about the quality the historical records that were available there in the fishbowl, only frustration that the recordings of Earthly events ended about two years previously. Now it was nearly impossible to find out what was currently happening back on Earth. Once more, Colleen felt a powerful sense of jealousy; this time her emotion was centered on the fact that Georgy shared a telepathic link to Rylla, a mysterious connection that was now the best communications link between Earth and Observer Base. Colleen forced herself to suppress her irrational jealousy and focus on the business at hand. "Billions of years ago the pek infested Earth with zeptites."

Georgy asked, "So there was a tiny zeptite camera recording my birthday party? Just so that years latter I could show you my horse Lightmare?"

Teleportation Technology
Colleen giggled, "Lightmare?"

"She was my favorite pony."

Colleen explained, "These images were not recorded by a camera. The pek zeptites automatically create a copy of Earth in the Sedron Domain. The equipment here in the fishbowl can turn the data that are stored inside the Sedronic Domain into still and video images. The real mystery is why we can't view recent events on Earth. Someone sabotaged the equipment here in the fishbowl, blocking our access to current events on Earth."

Colleen reached past Georgy's shoulder and zoomed out the display, out past the original level of zoom. Now the Sun could be seen. Her arm brushed Georgy's beautiful hair where it cascaded over her shoulder. Colleen let her hand push into that mop of hair and she allowed her finger tips to gently tickle Georgy's neck. Realizing what she was doing, Colleen jerked her hand away from Georgy. She asked herself: Why can't I keep my mind focused on business? Giving her head a small shake of annoyance, Colleen told Georgy, "Zoom in on Mars."

Georgy glanced over her shoulder and smiled at Colleen then she turned her attention back to the data display and worked the zoom controls. She asked, "Is this Mars as it now exists or are we looking at a recording from the past?"

Colleen was silent, looking intently at the display screen. Now they could see the red planet and its northern ice cap. Georgy looked over her shoulder at Colleen, "Who would have the power to alter this equipment? Grean? R. Gohrlay?"

"The positronic robots were driven out of Eternity long ago, way back in the Foundation Reality."

"Rylla has told me stories about Grean's workshop. Do you know where it is located?"

Earth's Reality Chain
"No." Colleen pointed at the display screen and said, "Zoom in on Earth, again." Georgy manipulated the manual controls and the image shifted to a view of Earth as if seen from the Moon's position. Colleen said, "Now back to Mars." The display responded to Colleen's verbal command and automatically shifted back to again show the image of Mars. Colleen pointed at the red planet, "Interesting. Notice that Mars is displaced, off towards the the side of this image. It is almost as if something is missing at the center of the display screen..."

Georgy said, "You are right.... Ver'la!"

Asimov Reality Simulator
Colleen gave another voice command to the workstation: "Show planet Ver'la." Nothing happened. She then manually entered "Ver'la" into the workstation. Red letters flashed on the screen:


Georgy pointed at the flashing red text and exclaimed excitedly, "It does not say that "Ver'la" is an invalid keyword, only that the data are gone!"

Colleen nodded with satisfaction. "That was quick. I'd say we have confirmed that Ver'la is real, not just an imaginary planet in a science fiction story from the Ekcolir Reality. But if Ver'la is an actual world, then who could have erased an entire planet from existence?"

Georgy spoke a new command, "Show instances of Mary Godwin at Observer Base."


Colleen said, "Show instances of Auryol Colleen Doyle at Observer Base." She manually entered in the spelling of "Auryol" into the workstation.

4) AIMEE COLLEEN DOYLE, 1887-1939 Earth

Rylla Observed
The list of Colleens continued, running off the bottom of the screen. Georgy felt Rylla in her mind and she told Colleen, "Rylla is linking..."

Colleen reached out a hand towards the display screen and scrolled down through the long list of Colleen Doyles. Georgy telepathically connected her mind to Rylla's: Hi Rylla.

Hi, Georgy. In her thoughts, Georgy quickly summarized the results of the past few minutes for Rylla. Rylla's mind filled with a flush of frustration. So, there is nothing in the Observer Base records for either Mary or Auryol. I guess we should not be surprised, but I was hoping.... Well, you are going to have to search the Deep Time archives.

from the archives of the Writers Block
Georgy asked: What do you mean? The Archives of the Writers Block?

No. My grandfather suggests that you use the Ekcolir Reality Simulator.

Georgy asked Colleen, "Can we access data for the Ekcolir Reality?"

Colleen was tired of scrolling through the list of every Colleen Doyle who had ever lived on Earth. "Let's find out." She cleared the display screen, taking them back to the workstation's startup screen. She tried a verbal request: "Display access protocol for the ER Simulator."


The Pasimov Project
Via their telepathic link, Georgy told Rylla: We need some sort of key.

Rylla told Georgy: You need to make use of Colleen's skills as a hacker.

Colleen typed into the workstation:

passkey: Pasimov

Nothing happened. Colleen tried again:

passkey: Azynov

Georgy asked, "What are you doing?"

Colleen muttered. "Wasting time. Look, we know that Azynov was the key to getting access to the Asimov Reality Simulator. Maybe Stacy is the key to gaining access to the ER Simulator."

Georgy shook her head. "If so, Stacy would have long ago made use of the ER Simulator. No, there is a reason for your involvement in the Pasimov Project. You were sent to Earth, trained to hack data systems and then brought here to Observer Base."

Colleen kissed Georgy's cheek. "It is sweet of you to express confidence in my hacking skill, but I know nothing about these fishbowl workstations." Colleen placed her right hand on the display screen and said, "Verify identity: Colleen Liscan."

ENTER COORDINATES: _______ _______ _______ _______ ________ ________

Georgy felt a wave of relief and satisfaction, then a chill of apprehension. Someone had programmed the fishbowl systems to recognize Colleen. Georgy repeated one of her mother's favorite dictums: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Rylla was still following Georgy's thoughts. Rylla asked: what is happening?

Georgy complained, "Nobody has been able to teleport for the past year!"

Colleen typed into the workstation:

List the locations of all active teleportation devices at Observer Base.

The workstation did not respond.

Rylla suggested: Ask about direct physical entry to the Simulator.

The Rossi Intervention
Georgy asked Colleen, "Is there a physical access point for the Simulator?"

Responding to Georgy's spoken question, the display screen shifted, showing a map of the building and a snaking line that led from from their current position in the fishbowl to a room on another floor. Colleen pointed at the display screen and laughed, "The answer seems to be yes, but we are still going to need to specify a set of coordinates inside the ER Simulation."

Georgy shrugged and telepathically consulted with Rylla: Where should we begin our search?

Bangor, Wales, 1935
Rylla suggested: Mary was in Bangor, England during August 1816. She met Wyn Skyriotus, an Ek'col Interventionist.

Georgy told Rylla: Thanks! Georgy stood up and grabbed Colleen's hand. "Come on. Rylla just gave me a set of coordinates!"

Georgy and Colleen exited from the fishbowl and made their way to the top floor of the building. They found themselves in a nearly empty circular room that looked as if large pieces of equipment had been removed from it. Colleen pointed to the floor, "Something was removed from this room."
Grean's workshop, complete with time travel equipment

Georgy said, "Damn! Someone removed the Simulation equipment?" There was one small data processing workstation at the center of the room, similar in design to those inside the fishbowl.

Colleen approached the far wall of the room and tapped on it. "This is a giant display screen." She pressed her palm to the screen and it lit up with an image of Earth as seen from orbit.

Georgy stood beside Colleen and put her arm around Colleen's waist. "Show instances of Mary Godwin during August 1816, in Bangor, England."


Colleen snapped her fingers and said, "They used a different calendar in the Ekcolir Reality. Show instances of Mary Godwin, Aminth 2847, Bangor, England."

Wyn Skyriotus, the Ek'col
The huge display screen filled up with dozens of images. Georgy touched an image of a tall figure who was gazing at Mary. That single image expanded to fill the display screen. "This must be Skyriotus, the alien who Mary met in Bangor that summer."

Colleen said, "Display time sequence, this room location, daily for the next month. Show instances of Mary Godwin."

Only two new images were added to the previous one. Georgy said, "Okay, Mary was at the Skyriotus mansion for just a few days." The dates were shown under the three images. Georgy tapped the third image and said, "Video sequence, Mary Godwin with Wyn Skyriotus... just their last 30 minutes together."

The display screen came alive with a view inside the mansion. Wyn and Mary were seated at the big dining table, the remnants of a meal before them. The casually discussed aliens and how alien visitors to Earth had long shaped human civilization. Mary glanced out the window and said, "I hate to run, but if we are going to arrive home before dark, we should be on our way."

Wyn said, "Remember, my dear, you are always welcome here."

Mary glanced up at the ceiling, "Where is Ralph?"

Wyn chuckled, "He is quite infatuated with Cerys. I believe I hear them now." Wyn and Marry got up from the table and went to the front rotunda. They watched Ralph and Cerys come down the stairway.

At the foot of the stairs, Ralph put his arms around Cerys and they kissed one last time. Mary impatiently told her little brother, "Stop molesting the poor girl. We need to be on our way." Mary was not actually angry; she new that Cerys was an artificial life form. Cerys had done a good job of keeping Ralph busy, allowing Mary to spend time speaking with Wyn about his mission on Earth.

Ralph reluctantly pulled his lips away from Cerys and said to Mary, "Couldn't I stay for just-"

"No. Mother would never forgive me if I left you here with this-" She fell silent and glared at the smirking Cerys. Realizing it did no good to chastise either Ralph or Cerys, Mary shrugged and turned to Wyn. "Thank you for your hospitality." He pulled open the front door and they all stepped outside. It was a dismal gray day.

Ralph and Cerys ran through the rain to the waiting carriage and climbed inside the cab. Mary and Wyn stood in the shelter of the front porch, watching the rain fall. Mary told Wyn, "I'd be more eager to return for another visit if I had any faith that you would tell me details about the aliens who have shaped and guided human history." Wyn had been vague about the multiple types of aliens who inhabited the galaxy. Specifically, Mary wanted to get her hands on physical evidence of aliens; some artifact that she could share with the world, some wonderful alien device that would even convince skeptical scientists that aliens routinely visited Earth.

"I am operating under strict restraints." Wyn ran his delicate and long fingers through Mary's hair. "I could tell you much more, but then what you learned would have to be erased from your mind. During your trip home today, much of what I have told you will be erased from your memories of the past two days."

Mary stamped her foot in frustration, "It pains me to be so close to knowing... there must be some way around these restrictions..."

A flash of lightening brightened the sky and then there was a slow rumble of thunder. Wyn glanced briefly upwards and then looked towards the carriage. He took hold of Mary's hand and then guided her back inside the house. He pointed up at the top of the staircase to where a copy of Mary stood, looking down at them. Wyn said, "I made a teleportation duplicate of you last night while you slept. This copy of you will have the opportunity to learn all that you want to know about me and the other aliens who visit Earth."

The copy of Mary standing at the top of the stairs waved and then turned away. Wyn tugged on the other Mary's hand and led her back outside. They walked slowly through the rain to the carriage. As they approached, Cerys suddenly popped out of the cab. Ralph called after her, "Farewell my love!"

Wyn helped Mary climb up into the cab. As soon as he closed the door, the horse trotted away down the drive. Cerys and Wyn returned inside the mansion; strangely, the rain drops did not seem to accumulate on either of them. Wyn found the duplicate Mary in his room on the second floor. He asked her, "So, my dear, you are still eager to be on your way?"

"Yes, I want to see the alien-designed base on the Moon. Observer Base." A loud crash of thunder sounded.

Repeating the gesture with this copy of Mary, Wyn placed his hand on the side of her head, slipping his fingers into the nest of her soft hair. Wyn whispered to Mary, "It will be lonely here without you."

The duplicated Mary asked, "Why not come with me?"

"Last night was my one change for that!" Wyn brushed her soft cheek with his lips. "No, sadly I must complete my mission here on Earth." They briefly held each other in their arms. Cerys came in to the room and said, "The teleportation chamber is ready. Coordinates are programmed. The storm is reaching its electrical intensity peak."

Wyn quickly took Mary to the teleportation chamber. "We should take advantage of this storm; it will help prevent the Overseers from detecting the teleportation event. I'm sending you to a kind of annex of Observer Base; the Writers Block."

Mary stood on the teleportation pad and smiled at Wyn. "Thank you for this gift."

Cerys triggered the teleportation sequence and a second later Mary was gone.

That scene of Wyn and Cerys in the teleportation chamber remained frozen on the display screen of the workshop.

Colleen told Georgy, "Apparently one copy of Mary remained on Earth, but the other copy was teleported to Observer Base."

Using their shared telepathic link, Georgy asked Rylla: "Were you able to follow that?

Rylla had been following along in Georgy's mind while Colleen and Georgy had watched the displayed events from when Mary had met Wyn in the Ekcolir Reality. Rylla replied: I understand. You are so lucky! You should now be able to visit the Writers Block during its active phase in the Ekcolir Reality.

Colleen was already adjusting the ER Simulator display to show the Writers Block. She said, "Show Mary Godwin's arrival in the Writers Block; Hierion Domain."


The image on the display screen had shifted. There was now an oddly pulsating portable being shown on the display screen. Georgy pointed at the display and asked Colleen, "What is that?"

"That must be the physical portal for entry into the ER Simulator." She pushed her hand into the display screen and watched it disappear. Then she pulled her hand back out of the portal.

Georgy rushed forward, "The portal is open!"

Colleen pushed Georgy away, shoving her back, away from the portal. "Not you! I'll go into the simulation!"

Georgy gave a nervous laugh and asked, "What's wrong?"

Colleen explained, "You have to stay here and take care of Alexina. And I need you to set up a watch here on this side of the portal. Get Stacy to help you... I don't know how long I'll be inside the Simulation. I might need your help getting out of the Simulation."

Rylla was still telepathically linked to Georgy. She told Georgy: Colleen is right. She'll need help exiting from the simulation. And don't just send her through the portal. First, set up a tracking program.

Georgy used her comunit to call Stacy. "We found a portal for access to the ER Simulator. Colleen is going to follow Mary Godwin into the Writers Block."

Stacy tried to create a telepathic link to Georgy, which broke Georgy's link to Rylla. Stacy said, "Wait until I get there. You are in the Observation Building?"

Portal to another Reality.
"Yes, the top floor."

Colleen was bending over the manual control workstation at the center of the room, entering in a tracking program.

Stacy muttered, "There's nothing on the top floor..." Then she told Georgy, "Okay, I'm on my way." Then Stacy told her robot assistant, "Take Ami."

Georgy could tell that Stacy was handing her son, Amiante, to her household assistant robot. Colleen got up from the workstation, glanced once at Georgy and then walked through the portal. Georgy cried out, "Wait! Colleen!" She rushed to the portal and reached out. Her hand hit the solid display screen.

Stacy was still listening via the active comunit. She asked Georgy, "What's going on?"

Georgy went to the workstation and saw the readout:

Tracking program: will advise when Colleen Liscam is within 3 meters of the portal.

Georgy watched as a digital readout on the screen counted up: 1, 2, 3 then kept flashing: out of range

Georgy told Stacy, "Colleen is gone... she went into the Simulator."

Colleen passed through the portal of the ER Simulator and arrived inside the Writers Block. She knew that she was inside a simulated reality, but the only change she noticed was an increase in gravity. She was inside some sort of workshop or laboratory that was packed with odd looking equipment and many control tabs of an unusual design, not familiar to Colleen. She turned around and pressed her hand to the flat, featureless wall that she had just walked through. It was now a solid barrier. Trapped! She muttered, "Stacy will know how to extract me." Colleen turned around once more and walked across the workshop, through a doorway and down a long corridor. Passing through a big archway, she could now see what looked like the inside of a cathedral, if a cathedral had ever been built by plastic-loving engineers.

Laughter echoed through the big chamber. Colleen followed the sound of voices to a group of three people (two women and one man) who were seated at a little table, drinking from mugs and talking. They noticed Colleen and fell silent. As Colleen approached, one of the women got up out of her chair and asked, "New arrival?" She spoke English with a strange accent.

Colleen nodded and replied, "Yes, I just arrived. This is the Writers Block?"

The woman smirked and replied, "That's what some folks are calling it. I call this prison. With an endless supply of coffee. My name is Reynette."

Colleen put out her hand and said, "I'm Colleen."

Gently grasping Colleen's hand, Reynette turned and gestured to her companions, "Colleen, this is Roberta and this is John."

Roberta nodded to Colleen and John put out his hand and said, "Welcome. Have a seat."

Colleen shook John's hand and sat next to the table where Reynette had been sitting. Reynette pulled over another chair from a nearby table and signaled to a seemingly robotic waiter. She sat down and the robot approached. Reynette asked Colleen, "What would you like to drink? Are you hungry?"

Colleen looked at the cups and plates on the table. She could smell a fragrant tea; she told the robot, "I'll have tea."

The robot nodded to Colleen and said, "At once, madam!" The robot turned disappeared, having teleported to the community kitchen of the Writers Block.

John said, "So, another Colleen. Who would have guessed? Auryol will be amused."

Roberta said, "Earth really is a small world."

The Final Reality
Reynette told Colleen, "Ignore these two buffoons."

Temporarily startled by the casual use of teleportation technology in the Ekcolir Reality, Colleen had to remind herself: The Writers Block is an isolated community in the Hierion Domain. She tried to fix her attention on what John had said about the 'other Colleen'. Colleen was excited to learn that her namesake, Auryol Colleen Doyle was apparently in residence at the Writers Block. However, she distracted from immediately asking about the writings of Auryol Doyle because she recognized John. "Excuse me, but you are John Vance?"

John smiled, "You recognize me?"

The robot returned and set a steaming mug of tea on the table in front of Colleen. She told John, "Yes. I'm a fan of your writing."

John shrugged and did not seem disposed to make himself and his writing a topic of conversation. Reynette frowned and asked Colleen, "You are not a writer yourself?"

Colleen sipped the tea and then replied, "No, I'm not a published writer."

Roberta sat up and became interested. "Then why are you here?"

"As you can probably guess from the way I speak, I'm not from your Reality."

John said, "My word, you mean..." He fell silent and glanced quickly at Reynette and then at Roberta.

Reynette asked John, "What's going on?"

John stood up and said, "I'm going to take Colleen to the Office. She's here from Observer Base, on important business."

Colleen told Roberta and Reynette, "Nice to meet you," then went with John.

Leading Colleen across the 'cathedral' floor, John told Colleen, "Grean warned me that this could happen, but I never quite..." He laughed and said, "I suppose everyone imagines that they will be from the last Reality."

Colleen explained, "You were close to the end of the Reality Chain. There was only one more Reality after yours."

John was not so sure. He told Colleen, "So you think! See... you also believe that yours will be the last Reality, but there can always be another."

"No, that is the amazing thing about my Reality. There is no more time travel. The Huaoshy altered the dimensional structure of the universe, and in my Reality, it is no longer possible to travel through time. So you see, I really am from the Final Reality."

in the Ekcolir Reality
in the Ekcolir Reality
They had reached the end of the high-ceiling part of the building and John led Colleen through a door and down a short set of stairs to a comfortable little room that appeared to be an office for a publishing company. Mock-ups of journal front pages and book covers were on the many display screens that adorned the walls.

Vance picked up the handset of what looked like an old-fashioned telephone and said, "Grean? Can you step over to the Office? We have a guest, from outside..."

Grean the Kac'hin
Before John could set down the handset, Grean appeared in the room, having teleported in. She fixed her eyes on Colleen and said, "Welcome to the Writers Block, Colleen. I've been expecting you."

Colleen looked carefully at Grean, taking note of her odd Kac'hin features. "How could you know I would arrive from your future?"

"My analogue from your Reality told me that you would show up here, inside this Simulation."

Vance asked, "Simulation?"

Grean explained, "We are inside a sophisticated simulation. Colleen is from our future, here to do some historical research."

John laughed. "Grean, I've come to expect miracles from you, but this is just too much. I feel fine, like normal. This can't be some dream world!"

Reality Chain
Grean simply shrugged and winked at Colleen, "It is a good simulation, is it not? One of the features is careful mind control." She told John, "If you ever did start to feel like you were living in a fake world, the simulator would automatically make adjustments and fix that problem." Grean turned her attention back to Colleen, "I suppose you are eager to meet Mary."

Colleen nodded. "So.... she is here... at the Writers Block?"

Grean explained, "She just got back to Observer Base from Ver'la and has started working here in the Writers Block in tandem with our resident Auryol Doyle analogue. It is the Auryol Doyle analogue on Earth who will publish an account of how the Nereids created the human species. We are trying to get that accomplished before the Fru'wu arrive on Earth."

Colleen pointed to one of the magazine covers on a wall display. "If these magazine dates are current, then by my calculations, Mary must be about a hundred and fifty years old."

Grean shrugged and said, "Yes, our Mary got the full treatment. When Wyn made the teleportation duplicate, a copy of Mary's mind was placed into an artificial body. You see, Colleen, our Mary is immortal, for all practical purposes. Her wish was to visit the Nereids on Ver'la, and a mere human could not have survived on that world. The original biological Mary died on Earth long ago."

A flutter of footsteps sounded on the stairs. Colleen turned and saw Mary as she reached the bottom of the stairway. Grean said, "Thank you for dropping your work, Mary. This is Colleen Liscan, she is interested in the Nereids and she'd like to hear what you know about them."

Mary reached out a hand towards Colleen and said, "A strange coincidence! I'm already working with two other 'Colleens', one here and another Colleen, on Earth."

The Lost World
Colleen Liscan shook Mary's hand, "Yes, I know about Auryol Colleen Doyle. I've read parts of The Lost World."

"But that book has not yet been written!" Mary looked at Grean and asked, "Time travel?"

Grean shook her head. "Not in the conventional sense. This Colleen is not from our Reality."

Mary sat down in a chair beside Vance's desk. "This is so confusing." John opened a bottle of hard liquor and poured a small glass full for Mary and one for himself. He pushed the bottle towards Colleen and sat down behind the desk, his eyes fixed on Mary. Mary told John, "I only just started to get Auryol thinking about Ver'la as a planet that used to exist in the Solar System."

John reached across the desk and patted Mary's hand reassuringly. "The story you have to tell is startling. Be patient."

Mary batted her long eye lashes at John, "Thank you for all of your support." She took a sip of the alcohol.

"My pleasure, my dear!" John downed his shot and poured himself another.

Colleen sat down in the chair at the other corner of the desk and asked Mary, "How long were you on Ver'la?"

Mary replied, "Time has a different meaning on Ver'la, but in Earth's terms, it was more than a century. There was much to do... time passed quickly, both in the cloud palaces of the Fru'wu and in the ocean of the Nereids."

Colleen asked, "You lived with the Nereids?"

"I lived as a Nereid. I was able to take on the physical form of a Nereid... I swam the deep oceans and I even gave birth to my Nereid children." Mary looked at Colleen and grinned. "You don't believe me."

Replicoid Games
Colleen shook her head. "I don't doubt your story. If you are an artificial life form, composed of nanites, then such an altered existence on Ver'la should have been possible for you. Tell, me about the Nereids."

Grean interjected, "Most people imagine that the Nereids were humanoids, created from apes on Earth."

Mary sighed. "It is rather more complicated than that. The original Nereids evolved on a world in the Andromeda galaxy, about half a billion years ago... on a water world, not too different from Ver'la. They were similar to Earthly fish in many ways; they evolved great minds, but as creatures of the ocean, they had almost no tools and only primitive mechanical technologies. With help from the pek, the Nereids transcended from the Hadronic Domain into the Sedron Domain, but they left behind some rebels. What happened next, even the Nereids do not know. Most likely, the bumpha got involved and arranged for an evolutionary offshoot of the Nereids to develop on a planet of the galactic core. With time, after tens of millions of years, a humanoid version of the Nereids came into existence."

Colleen asked, "This Nereid off-shoot species lived on land?"

Sedronic Domain
"They could move back and forth between water and land. They were versatile and creative, but of course, they attracted the attention of the Huaoshy. Once more, the pek became involved and those neo-Nereids were pushed towards the Sedronic Domain. Once again, there was resistance. No doubt, the bumpha helped some of the neo-Nereids escape. They came to our galaxy and eventually made their way to Ver'la."

"Do the Nereids have records of that time?"

"They have legends." Mary drifted into silent thought, trying to find a way to summarize what she had spent a hundred years learning. After a few minutes she continued, "It was about 300 million years ago when the Nereids arrived on Ver'la. Higher plants were just evolving on Earth. The Nereids began guiding evolution on Earth, and they helped bring into existence the dinosaurs."

Colleen asked, "What was their goal?"

extinction curve
"Those Nereids wanted to prove the pek wrong. They wanted to show that a stable civilization, composed of biological organisms, could exist and persist, spreading from star to star, nurturing life and always creating new forms of life. You see, the pek are pessimists."

Grean said, "The pek have seen thousands of self-destructing species."

 Mary continued, "And so the pek were relentless, always offering the easy way out; transcendence to the Sedronic Domain. One clever type of dinosaur was taken by the pek to a world of the Galactic Core. After a few million years of guided evolution, they also transcended to the Sedronic Domain. After that, for a time, the Nereids and the pek both lost interest in Earth. Then the age of dinosaurs ended and a new age, the age of mammals began. When the Nereids again returned to Earth, after having been away, working on other projects for a hundred million years, they found some primitive tool-using apes."

R. Gohrlay and Gohrlay
Colleen nodded. "And they genetically modified those apes. This is the history of the Nereids that I have previously heard."

"A wonderful story, is it not?" Mary looked at Grean and asked, "How many Nereid genetic projects were there? The dinosaurs, the Fru'wu, we humans... how many other species owe their existence to the Nereids?"

Grean shrugged and said, "All of my attention has been focused on Earth and the human species."

Mary told Colleen, "There is some dirty secret that nobody wants to talk about. Sure, the Nereid experiments led to many disasters. The Fru'wu home-world was ruined by ecological catastrophe, but they moved on. Some remnants of the Fru'wu reached Ver'la and so for a time there were three great civilizations in the Solar System: the Nereids and the Fru'wu on Ver'la and the humans on Earth."

Grean added, "But the pek had their own plans for the humans."

Mary nodded, "Yes, there is always a struggle between the pek view of life and the bumpha view. So, the Prelands were designed to replace the humans of Earth. According to the Nereids, that was a compromise between the pek and the bumpha. A time limit was placed on the humans of Earth, a count-down to the time when the Prelands would replace humans."

Colleen interrupted. "This recent history of humans and Prelands I already know. I came here to discover what happened to Ver'la. How was an entire planet subtracted from the Solar System and why was the existence of that world hidden, concealed?"

Mary explained, "It all started in the previous Reality."

John said, "What we here in the Writers Block call the Phari Reality."

Grean added, "It was the positronic robots of Earth who threw a wrench into the plans of the pek and the bumpha. R. Gohrlay went far back in time... two billion years and revived the Phari."

Mary nodded in agreement. "The Phari were planetary engineers. They had the power to move entire planets. They moved Ver'la to the Galactic Core."

Colleen asked, "When was that?"

"In the Phari Reality."

Colleen asked Grean, "So let's be clear. Ver'la was moved during the Asimov Reality?"

Grean nodded, "Yes, as you name the Realities."

Return to Tar'tron
Colleen nodded. "Well, I know almost nothing about the Core... the names of a few worlds... Hemmal, Tar'tron, Klyz..."

Mary said, "I visited Klyz. It is now the sister planet of Ver'la."

Colleen shook her head in wonder. "Why was Ver'la removed from history?"

Mary looked speculatively at Grean then replied, "I'm not sure what you mean. I've been told that I can share what I know about Ver'la with the people of Earth. Although, now that I think about it, according to the Nereids, there was an agreement between the pek and the bumpha. The bumpha had developed a special interest in the apes of Earth. They were tired of Grendel interference in evolutionary processes on Earth."

John Vance entered into the discussion. "Ah, yes, the Grendels. Agents of the Nereids."

Mary nodded at John. "The bumpha wanted to restrict the meddling of the Grendel Interventionists, so they arranged for the Phari to move Ver'la to the Core."

Colleen looked from Mary to John to Grean. "And yet, here you are, working to prepare Earth for the arrival of the Fru'wu."

Grean smiled at Colleen. "Well, it seems possible that the bumpha worked for for a billion years, trying to find a way for a hadronic life form to successfully spread between the stars and not self-destruct. The Nereids were a great experiment, perhaps the greatest success of the bumpha: a chain of space-faring life forms that lasted for hundreds of millions of years. That chain culminated in the Fru'wu and the human species."

Mary added, "Yet, in the end, each Nereid variant has eventually transcended to the Sedron Domain."

Colleen asked, "But what about we humans, aren't we the next step in the Nereid lineage? Must we pass into the Sedron Domain or will we be able to have the great adventure of spreading between the stars?"

Grean cautioned Colleen, "Human history is actually more complex then some evolutionary lineage. Once the positronic robots of Earth introduced time travel into the process, it opened up the possibility of future sets of genes being brought into the past."

They fell into silence, each of the four thinking about the vast periods of time during which the Nereids had struggled for success, had again and again reinvented themselves, and then finally they had run into the impossible: telepathic robots with time travel technology. What would be the outcome of the human saga? John Vance jumped to his feet and said to Mary, "Let's get back to work on your Lost Planet trilogy."

Mary was also on her feet. She said, "Well, slow down. I can't get Auryol to even contemplate planetary engineering..." John and Mary went up the stairway together, continuing their conversation. John slipped an arm around Mary's waist.

Colleen watched Mary and John depart then she turned and said to Grean, "What just happened?"

Grean smiled, showing her sharp alien teeth. "I had to get rid of them. They don't really believe in a larger Reality beyond this Simulation and I don't want them distracted by such things." Grean mused, "They enjoy nerding-out over a good science fiction tale. It is nice that they can work together towards publication of the Lost World saga."

Colleen accused Grean: "You just did to them what happened to me. A week ago I suddenly became obsessed with Georgy..."

Grean explained, "I find that a good, exciting sexual relationship works wonders on human psychology. Think about it! In this case, a crazy woman shows up from an alternate Reality," Grean pointed at Colleen, "And there is serious danger that Mary might stop working on her project, having become hopelessly distracted by talk of other Realities and Reality Simulators, etc etc."

Colleen said, "So you just made Mary get the hots for John. Just to distract her from me and my concerns."

"And John has been bored lately. He'll enjoy a good romp with Mary. Where is the harm?"

Another Grean Adventure
Colleen complained. "I suppose there is no harm, but I'm just not happy knowing that my own emotions can be so easily controlled. For the past week I've been struggling to understand why I'm constantly horny."

"You feel you were harmed by too much sex?" Grean smiled. "Strange... that's a complaint I've never heard from a human."

Colleen tried to explain to herself why she was annoyed with Grean. I wish I could have learned more from Mary about the time that she spent living with the Nereids and the Fru'wu. She told Grean, "I'm not complaining about the hot sex. I just don't want to believe that I'm a puppet, doing what some unseen puppet master wants me to do."

"Well, we can't change the human condition, now can we?" Grean moved close to Colleen. "Now, we should be getting you back to the portal." Grean took hold of Colleen's hand and they teleported back to the workshop. "This is my branch office, here in the Writers Block. John does a good job of keeping the writers on task, so I don't have to spend much time here... it is not often that we have visitors from outside."

Colleen was feeling some disorientation from having teleported; she stumbled and leaned against Grean. Looking out through the portal, Colleen could see that Stacy was there, waiting outside of the Simulator. Grean was moving across the workshop towards the portal, but Colleen stopped walking and said to Grean, "There are many questions I need to ask you."

sedron bombs
Grean giggled and said, "Be careful what you ask for. I've found that too much information can make my agents inept."

"I'm your agent?"

"Well, almost. I've been told by my analogue in your Reality that she is using you for a special purpose. Actually, the original Colleen Intervention was in the Phari Reality, when I had to deal with the first deployment of sedronic technology on Earth. Back in the Phari Reality, I sent you to Earth so that you could help provide the Earthlings with reports on the use of sedron bombs and their possible alien origins."

Colleen asked, "Are you saying that my entire life has been controlled, all my actions directed by you?"

"You see, this is why I warned you about asking questions." Grean put her hands on her hips. "Colleen, be honest with me... don't try to tell me that you have never questioned your own actions, your own motivations."

The Last Grendel on Earth
Colleen shrugged. "What has been bothering me lately is my obsession with Georgy. I can't get her out of my mind. I've tried to tell myself that she needs help caring for her little daughter, that I'm her ideal partner, but that is not true. The robot maid can take care of everything."

Grean explained, "Having been trained on Earth as a secretive hacker, if left to yourself, you would have gone to the fishbowl alone and even tried to come inside this simulation all by yourself, without any backup. That would have been a disaster caused by your youthful enthusiasm and over-confidence."

"So, to prevent disaster, you gave me an artificial sexual obsession with Georgy?"

Alien Noir
Grean shrugged. "Don't blame me; I was here in the Simulator, your were outside, in your Reality. However, if I were the 'Grean' analogue in your Reality, then that is probably what I would have done. It is not hard to control human behavior with nanites."

Colleen complained, "Well, I don't want to go through the rest of my life suffering from some imposed infatuation with Georgy."

Grean asked, "You don't like Georgy?"

"I like her just fine, but until this past week we were friends. Good friends. Now every minute of the day and night I want to drag her into the nearest bed and ravish her. It is not natural... it is not me."

Grean chuckled. "I'm reluctant to interfere. Your 'problem' sounds like the standard human condition. You are caught up in a hot love affair. With time your emotions will cool off. Enjoy being with Georgy while you have this opportunity... save up your orgasms for lean times to come."

the Mind Clone Network
Grean again tugged Colleen towards the portal. "It is time for you to go back to your world. You can return here again, when the Mind Clones have gotten older. Or, if you are too busy at that time, Georgy would be well suited to explore this simulation. But for now, your mission here was a success. You should return to your Reality and share with your friends what you learned about Mary and Ver'la."

"And what of you? You just go on, knowing that you are trapped here in this simulator?"

Grean grinned her sly grin. "And what of you? Are your actions any more free than my own?" Grean pointed through the portal towards Stacy, "You have triggered the proximity detector. Stacy has opened the portal. Go!"

Colleen pushed her right hand through the portal, but she turned back to Grean. "You accomplish nothing here. Come with me. We need help with teleportation and re-activating a replicoid..."

Grean shook her head. "No, my analogue in your Reality was removed from Earth for good reasons. I concur. It would be a violation of the Pact if I went with you now. This is my place, here in this simulation. I will be here when you or Georgy return." Grean put out her hand and Colleen took hold. They shook hands.

Colleen could feel Stacy pulling her other arm. Colleen turned away from Grean and passed through the portal. Pulled by Colleen, Grean's hand had come through the portal. Colleen let go of Grean's hand, which appeared to end at the now featureless black of the giant display screen. Grean pointed a finger towards Colleen and a cloud of nanites moved quickly from the finger and into Colleen's brain. Then Grean's hand was pulled back into the Simulator.

Stacy asked, "What was going on in there? Someone was trying to prevent you from leaving the simulator?"

"No, quite the opposite, actually." Colleen threw her arms around Stacy and hugged her, happy to be back in Reality.

Stacy asked, "Did you find Mary?"

in the Hierion Domain (source)
Colleen nodded. "I think my use of the Simulator was all pre-programmed by Grean. She showed me just what she wanted us to know about... another part of the Nereid saga, how they slowly crafted life on Earth and we humans over a vast span of time... and nothing more."

Eager to hear what Colleen had learned inside the Simulation, she asked, "And Mary told you all about Ver'la?"

Colleen took Stacy by the hand. "Let's get you back to Amiante. I'll tell you about my simulated adventure." They made their way to the ground floor of the Observer Building and out into the nearly deserted street. "It was almost Mary Godwin... a simulated version of an artificial copy of Mary..." Colleen looked up at the simulated sky of the artificial city that was Observer Base, a city that pretended to be on the Moon but was somewhere in the Hierion Domain. And when Georgy sent this story about Mary and the Nereids of Ver'la back to Rylla, who on Earth would possibly believe it to be anything other than science fiction?

infite-generated memories
After briefing Stacy on what had happened inside the ER Simulation, Colleen departed from Stacy's house. She knew that Georgy was still asleep, but upon waking she would be eager to hear about Ver'la and the Nereids. Walking towards Georgy's house, Stacy realized that she was no longer obsessed with Georgy. The copy of Grean from inside the ER Simulator had provided Colleen with a set of infites and now Colleen once again thought of Georgy as a friend, not a wild and flamboyant lover.

Colleen arrived at the front door of Georgy's house and the household robot opened the door as she approached. The robot said, "Welcome back, Colleen."

Colleen ignored the robot; she was worried about Georgy and was wondering if Georgy would be heartbroken to discover that Colleen's mind and emotions had been altered, bringing to an end their week-long love affair.
          -the end- (for now)

Next: super powers conferred by nanites

Visit the Gallery of Book and Magazine Covers.