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Asimov’s Future History Volume 8

Isaac Asimov

  Asimov’s Future History

  Volume VIII

  All stories copyright Isaac Asimov and the Estate of Isaac Asimov, unless otherwise noted below.

  All other stories copyright by the respective authors listed below.

  Maverick-By Bruce Bethke. First published as Isaac Asimov’s Robot City: Robots and Aliens 5: Maverick, August, 1990

  Humanity-By Jerry Oltion. First published as Isaac Asimov’s Robot City: Robots and Aliens 6: Humanity, November, 1990

  Mirage-By Mark W. Tiedemann. First published as Asimov's Mirage, April, 2000

  This ePub edition v1.0 by Dead^Man March, 2011

  Layout and design by Dead^Man

  Cover art “Celistic_08” Maxim Revin.

  Future History inlay “Summer days” by Talros of DeviantArt

  Cover design by Dead^Man

  Chronology of events in Isaac Asimov’s positronic robot and Foundation stories, compiled by Johnny Pez.

  Table of Contents


  3605 AD Maverick

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25


  3605 AD Humanity

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  3620 AD Mirage

































  Sources of Dates


  3605 A.D.

  Chapter 7


  THE SPUR OF rock jutted straight out from the side of the mountain forming a natural balcony. Maverick sat on the edge of the spur, drinking in the clean pine smell of the forested valley below and watching the moons’ light glitter and dance on the river in the distance. Smallface was now near its zenith, and it cast a cool, white light with almost no shadow. Largeface, just barely above the horizon, was a dull orange globe the color and shape of a vingfruit with a bite taken out of it.

  Somehow, the sight of the two moons together in the sky stirred something deep and primal in Maverick’s soul. As if the two were directly linked, his excitement grew as Largeface rose. He paced nervously around the rock spur. A half-dozen times he yelped sharply when he thought he heard something. His excitement only grew stronger when the sounds turned out to be false alarms.

  Then the sound he’d been waiting for came wafting gently on the wind, and it was raw, beautiful, and absolutely unmistakable.

  At first, it was very soft and distant. Arooo. Just one voice at first, lonely, plaintive, and far away. The sound sent chills up and down Maverick’s spine and set his hackles standing on end.

  Then another voice joined in, a little closer. Arooooo! The first voice responded, and the forests and mountains threw back the echo of the ancient, wordless cry.

  No, those weren’t echoes, those were yet more voices, joining in the chorus of a song that was as old as his race. Voices joined, and picked up, and repeated. AROOO! The call carried for miles across the hills and valleys. Not just miles; hundreds of miles, as the voices followed the rising moon west across the land. As it had on certain nights for thousands of years, the song chased the twin moons clear across the world, from the eastern shores to the western sea.

  When he judged the time to be right, Maverick threw his head back, flattened his ears, and joined in. AROOOO! I am Maverick! I am here, my brothers! I join you! AROOOOOO!

  Other intelligible words began rising out of the joyous, incoherent howl of BeastTongue. I am ChippedFang.

  I am DoesNotFollow.

  I am RaggedEar.

  I am SmellsBad. I join you!

  The Howl Network had just come on line.

  The Howl Network reached from sea to sea, and from the land of AlwaysSnow to the Uncrossable Desert. It covered the land, but it was not terribly efficient. Maverick had plenty of time to think while listening to the threads of news that twisted through the air.

  This time, though, he thought silently. How strange, lad. The pack-kin insult and despise the outcasts. If they catch you in their territory — and outnumber you by at least three to one — they’ll attack you, and even try to kill you.

  Yet if it weren’t for the outcasts, not a one of them would ever know what was happening just fifty trots outside his pack’s territory.

  Oops. A message that he found interesting echoed through the night. Maverick picked it up, repeated it, and added a few comments of his own. Then he went back to thinking.

  Hmm. I add comments, and ChippedFang adds comments, and DoesNotFollow adds comments.... Might be interesting sometime to get the originator and the final receiver of the message together, to see how much the message changes along the line.

  More messages wafted through the damp spring air. Weather reports from out west; looked like heavy rain this year. Further accounts of renewed fighting between two feuding packs in the southeast; oh, those two had been fighting for years without resolution. A hunting report on the grazer migration in the north; it seemed the calves were fat and slow this year, and the sharpfangs few in number. Maverick dutifully picked up and repeated each message without comment, then went back to his first line of thought.

  Yes, the pack-kin hate loners. They attack you; they warn their pups that they’ II turn out like you if they aren’t good. They call you pups o/the FirstBeast, and blame you/or everything that’s wrong with their cozy little world.

  Maverick thought of the last pack he’d encountered, less than a week before. The freshly healed scar on his leg gave him another sharp twinge, but he smiled anyway, and for a moment lost himself in a memory of soft young fur and a certain long pink tongue.

  Yes, the pack-kin hate you. But on warm spring evenings when the mood is in the air, their virgin daughters seek you out.

  And when their huntleaders are all dead or driven off by internal fighting, who do they ask to be their new leaders?

  Maverick stood up on all fours a moment, yawned as wide as his jaw would allow, and indulged in a long stretch that ran from his haunches clear out to the toes of his forepaws. Then he treated himself to one more smile.

  “Face it, kid. They’re just plain jealous.”

  Oops! A new message was coming through the night, and he’d almost missed it. Maverick quickly sat down, cocked his ears, and listened attentively to the voice-he thought it was RaggedEar-that relayed the story.

  “— report from the eastern lakes countr
y. The kin of PackHome are seeing GodBeings again.

  “PackHome was the scene of last year’s so-called ‘Hill of Stars’ incident, in which an enormous, shining sanddigger’s nest reportedly appeared in the midst of isolated hunting territory.

  “The sudden appearance of the Hill of Stars was accompanied by an invasion of ‘WalkingStones.’ These creatures, which walked on their hind legs at all times and had no smell, killed several kin by throwing lightning from their fingertips.

  “At about the same time, a mysterious kin known as SilverSides joined the pack. She destroyed several of the WalkingStones, and forced the GodBeing that lived in the Hill of Stars to come out for single combat. Local kin say that SilverSides became a GodBeing herself and went into the Hill of Stars.

  “Since then, SilverSides has been seen only once, in the company of a strange, half-kin, half-GodBeing creature named Wolruf.”

  Wolruf? Maverick wondered. What’s a wolruf?

  “LifeCrier, who speaks the history for the kin of PackHome, says that SilverSides was a gift of the OldMother and has returned to her. LifeCrier insists that SilverSides will return to lead the hunt and protect all the kin.

  “Young kin from many packs have come to the eastern lakes country to hear LifeCrier speak and hoping to glimpse the GodBeings. But there are stories of widespread confusion.

  “In the meantime, the faithful wait, and the Hill of Stars itself remains silent. This report was first cried by StormBringer on the eastern lakes echo.”

  Maverick sat quietly a few moments longer, listening to the last reverberations of the message die out against the mountainside. Then the yips and howls started up again as other kin picked up the story and repeated it. Maverick cleared his throat, laid his ears back, took a deep breath

  And thought better of it. “PackHome, eh? In the eastern lakes country?” He squeezed out a tight-lipped smile, got to his feet, and trotted over to where the spur of rock joined the side of the mountain. “Sounds like a chaotic, leaderless mess to me.” At the top of the trail he paused to look at the stars and get a good fix on the direction he was heading. Then he started carefully picking his way down the talus-covered slope.

  “Just the place for a strong kin with a little ambition, eh, lad?”

  He looked up at the stars one more time and noted that LargeFace was now well up in the sky. In this phase the shadowy outline of SplitEar, the kin in the moon, stood out very clearly.

  Maverick couldn’t help but feel that old SplitEar, first pup of the OldMother, was smiling down on him.

  Chapter 8


  DR. AVERY WAS hunched over a data terminal in the ship’s robotics lab, deeply engrossed in a dense mass of hex code, when Derec called out, “Hi, Dad!” and came bouncing into the room.

  Avery pulled his face away from the terminal just long enough to glare at Derec. “Will you please stop calling me that?” he asked, his white mustache bristling with anger. “You know how much it annoys me.”

  “Sure, Dad.”

  Avery shot his son one more if-looks-could-kill glance, ran his fingers through his long white hair, and turned back to the terminal. He would never have said it out loud, of course, but in his heart, Avery admitted that Derec certainly had every right to try to annoy him. After all, it was Avery’s megalomaniacal experiment that had erased Derec’s memory and infected Ariel with amnemonic plague. Now he could not reconstruct how, in his madness, he had caused the amnesia, much less how to reverse it. And while his little chemfet nanomachines had ultimately worked to perfection, they’d nearly killed Derec twice, and they had killed Derec and Ariel’s unborn child.

  Given all that, Avery resolved once more to put up with whatever juvenile revenge Derec was in the mood to exact today. He waited patiently while Derec found a noisy tin stool, dragged it over, and sat down. Then, when it appeared that Derec wasn’t going to say anything, he called up another bloc of code.

  “Whatcha doing, Dad?” Derec asked brightly.

  Avery sighed and turned to his son. ‘. I’m going through the ship’s systems software, in hopes of finding the shape-changing algorithm.”


  “I’d like to stop the polymorphism, or at least slow it down a great deal.”


  Avery sighed again and ran his fingers through his hair. That’s one of the problems with having children raised by robots, he thought. When they’re about three years old, they go through a “Why, daddy?” stage. The Second Law forces the robots to answer. So the kids never outgrow it.

  Avery straightened his lab coat, pasted on his best imitation paternal smile, and answered the question with another question.

  “Have you ever walked off the edge of a gravity field?”

  Derec sifted through his attenuated memories. “I don’t think so. Why?”

  “I did, last night. You‘ve seen how minimal the environment on the second deck is? I was looking for Lucius last night and I walked into a pitch-dark cabin that had no gravity field.”

  “What happened?”

  “When you reach the edge of a gravity field, you don’t float up into the air. Rather, down suddenly becomes the floor of the room you just left. There’s no sensation of falling; you simply pivot on the doorsill and follow the field through a 90-degree curve.”


  “Have you ever heard the expression,. the floor jumped up and hit me in the face’?”

  Derec snickered.

  “Blast it, Derec, it’s not funny! If the floor hadn’t realized what was going on and softened itself an instant before impact, I would have broken my nose!”

  Derec tried to keep the laugh suppressed, but a small giggle found a crack and wiggled through.

  Avery scowled at Derec through his bushy white eyebrows. “You think that’s funny? This morning I happened to think out loud that I needed to use the Personal, and frost me if the chair I was sitting on didn’t transform itself into a toilet!” Avery shot a savage glare at the ceiling of the cabin. “And no, I do not need to use the Personal now!” His chair, which had begun to soften around the edges, quickly firmed up again.

  Derec sputtered twice and then exploded into uncontrolled laughter.

  Avery’s scowl melted. “Okay, maybe it’s a little funny. But I’ll tell you, the thing that finally pushed me over the edge was the nightmare I had about one this morning. I dreamed that the ship had transformed itself into a giant humanoid robot and was insisting that its name was ‘Optimus Prime.’”

  Derec abruptly stopped laughing, and his face went pale. “Gad, that’s a horrible thought.”

  “Woke me up in a cold sweat, I can tell you.”

  After a few seconds of thoughtful silence, Avery turned back to his workstation and slapped a hand on the data display.,, Anyway, that’s when I decided that the shape-changing program had to go. Or at least, it had to get toned down some.” He looked at Derec, attempted a tentative smile, and then looked around the robotics lab.

  “You know, son, there are some really good ideas here. Take this ship’s skin, for instance; cellular robotics is the perfect technology for seamless, self-sealing spacecraft hulls. If we could just find some way to bond the robotic skin permanently to a titanium-aluminide frame, we might really be on to something.” He turned to Derec and cautiously met his eyes.

  “Derec? When we get back to Robot City, we’re going to have to work on this design some more.”

  Derec nodded and looked away. He never enjoyed admitting it, but every once in a great while his father could be right.

  While Derec’s face was turned, Avery stole a few moments to really look at his son. It was funny, but despite the nearly twenty years that had passed since Derec was born, Avery couldn’t remember ever once just looking at the boy and seeing him for what he was. He’d always looked at the boy and seen what he wanted him to become. For most of the boy’s life, Avery now noted with a little sadness, he’d treated Derec more like an experiment than a so

  Derec. Even that name was part of an experiment. The boy’s real name was David, but Avery had wiped out that memory along with everything else. This young man who stood before him now, fidgeting uncomfortably and staring at the wall — this Derec — was a stranger.

  But blood will tell. While Derec looked away, Avery studied the line of his jaw and the shape of his cheekbones. He saw his ex-wife Janet’s genes everywhere; from the sandy blond hair, through the pale complexion, to his thin, expressive lips.