Author's Note: Robert Yana, for Robert Holmes, director of "Terror of the Autons".
Yes, this fic is, in fact, one big Asimov reference. I'm like that
As a boy, Robert Yana reads Asimov's "The Last Question".
The question itself haunts him to obsession, much as he knows it's a useless old one. Can entropy be reversed? He dreams of immortality machines, heat-death capsules and alternate realities, ascendance to gods, existence on the quantum level. He devours science fiction, old and new, ferreting out those books from half a hundred sources as ships come by the Silver Devastation loaded with hopeful researchers and opportunists, trying to discover the fabled secrets of the Face of Boe, and maybe survive. He bargains errands and services and his budding engineering genius with them for those computer files and paperbacks, but never takes an active interest in their actual research. After all, what does reality have to offer, really?
As a youth, Robert Yana looks at stars.
Oh, not literally, of course. Expansion and entropy had long taken care of that. He'd never seen a real star in his life. But he finds charts and old photographs and reconstructions, three-dimensional planetariums and other such toys. The first time he finds a simulation of any quality, and walks under a black dome dotted with dust and diamonds, he is overcome by a mad attack of agoraphobia and runs for his life, slamming into the cold wall of the actual room and bloodying his fingers as he scrambles at the controls. He is a space traveler for as long as his memory reaches, but that is the first time he gets a real sense of the size of the universe, the first time he truly realizes just what is dying out there.
For a number of months, he feels so insignificant that he barely bothers to eat or get out of bed. One day, a powerful drive for survival roars out of him and he opens an astrophysics textbook for the first time; he chalks it up as a human thing.
As a young scientist, Robert Yana dreams of the future.
He is mad, he is delusional, he is megalomaniacal, all his peers make it certain that he is well aware of that. He doesn't fit in, dreamer, rule-breaker, the kind who was never molded to fit in any slot in any system. Resentment and respect go hand in hand. His peers call him a little bit insane, his teachers and elders let him know that he surely will grow out of it, if any of his age-mates would get a chance to grow up at all. A sense of superiority, a stirring contempt builds slowly. He dreams of a glorious tomorrow in which he would live forever, because that is the kind of thing people dream about at that age.
He is brilliant. There's no doubt about that. He strives towards outliving the universe after all. He dreams he would be a god.
As a grown adult, Robert Yana despairs of his biology.
Every step forward of the mind is a step backwards of the body. If only his reactions were quicker. If only his memory was greater. If only, if only he had a few more scores of years… but this is idle speculation, and he knows it. He knows the truth, tasting it bitterly with every swallow of his own spit, seeing it in every mirror.
He is human. He could not have been born any other being, any son of any of the glorious civilizations who died out before these miserable last days. No; oh no, he had to be one of this race of survivors, this indomitable race that lived to see the end of time, the very end of the road, no more escape clauses. Human, he had to be, unable to die quietly, unable to let go of hope when none is left.
As an old man, Robert Yana is reborn.