The Memory of Earth



The master computer of the planet Harmony was afraid. Not in a way that any human would recognize-no clammy palms, no dry mouth, no sick dread in the pit of the stomach. It was only a machine without moving parts, drawing power from the sun and data from its satellites, its memory, and the minds of half a billion human beings. Yet it could feel a kind of fear, a sense that things were slipping out of its control, that it no longer had the power to Influence the world as it had before.

What it felt was, in short, the fear of death. Not its own death, for the master computer had no ego and cared not at all whether It continued to exist or not. Instead it had a mission, programmed into it millions of years before, to be the guardian of humanity on this world, If the computer became so feeble that it could no longer fulfill Its mission, then It knew without doubt-every projection it was capable of making confirmed it-that within a few thousand years humanity would once again be faced with the one enemy that could destroy it: humanity Itself, armed with such weapons that a whole planet could be killed.

Now is the time, the master computer decided. I must act now, while I still have some influence in the world, or o world will die again.

Yet the master computer had no idea how to act. One of the symptoms of its decline was the very confusion that kept it from being able to make a decision. It couldn't trust it's own conclusions, even If it could reach one. it needed guidance. It needed to be clarified, reprogrammed, or perhaps even replaced with a machine more sophisticated, better able to deal with the new challenges evolving among the human race.

The trouble was, there was only one source it could trust to give valid advice, and that source was so for away that the Oversoul would have to go there to get it. Once the Oversoul had been capable of movement but that was forty million years ago, and even inside a stasis field there had been decay. The Oversoul could not undertake its quest alone. It needed human help.

For two weeks the master computer searched its vast database, evaluating the potential usefulness of every human being currently alive. Most were too stupid or unreceptive; of those who could still receive direct communications from the master computer, only a few were in a position where they could do what was needed.

Thus it was that the master computer turned its attention to a handful of human beings in the ancient city Basilica. In the dark of night as one of the master computer's most reliable satellites passed overhead, it began its work, sending a steady stream of information and instructions in a tightbeam transmission to those who might be useful in the effort to save a world named Harmony.

Chapter 1


Nafai woke before dawn on his mat in his father's house. He wasn't allowed to sleep in his mother's house anymore, being fourteen years old. No self-respecting woman of Basilica would put her daughter in Rasa's household if a fourteen-year-old boy were in residence- especially since Nafai had started a growth spurt at the age of twelve that showed no signs of stopping even though he was already near two meters in height.

Only yesterday he had overheard his mother talking with her friend Dhelembuvex. "People are beginning to speculate on when you're going to find an auntie for him," said Dhel.

"He's still just a boy," said Mother.

Dhel hooted with laughter. "Rasa, my dear, are you so afraid of growing old that you can't admit your little baby is a man?"

"It's not fear of age," said Mother. "There's time enough for aunties and mates and all that business when he starts thinking about it himself."

"Oh, he's thinking about it already," said Dhel. "He's just not talking to you about it."

It was true enough; it had made Nafai blush when he heard her say it, and it made him blush again when he remembered it. How did Dhel know, just to look at him for a moment that day, that his thoughts were so often on "that business"? But no, Dhel didn't know it because of anything she had seen in Nafai. She knew it because she knew men. I'm just going through an age, thought Nafai. All boys start thinking these thoughts at about this