The main character is Andrew Harlan, he is a technician from the 95th century who travels by a time machine towards the 2456th century to talk to Sociologist Kantor Voy about changing Reality somewhere in Time, in order to solve a problem. While travelling into time, Observers and Technicians are supposed to be as objective as possible, so that the changes they initiate are minimal. This time however Harlan is not fully stable in this and he can think of only one cause: Noÿs Lambent, a female he met somewhere on a journey into time.
As first being an Observer, gathering data about all centuries he had to travel to, his reports were of such quality that Senior Computer Twissell made him his personal Technician. An other reason for doing so was Harlan’s hobby: studying primitive history. Twissell wants him to teach Cub Brinsley Sheridan Cooper, from the 78th, about this.
One time, Harlan has an appointment with a man in the far future and Cooper wants to go there with him. Afterwards Twissell is quite angry with him and he is not allowed to take one with him again.
Assistent Computer Hobbe Finge wants to speak to Harlan about an observation he should perform and then Harlan meets Noÿs Lambent. Harlan is quite angry with Finge about her, because feelings initiatied by something, also a woman, is not good for the stability of the Eternity they control as Eternals. Finge however, wants Harlan in company of Noÿs to study the century where Noÿs comes from, the 482th century. During this period of observation, Noÿs somewhat seduces Harlan and (probably) because of a drink from her, he is unable to resist and in the morning he finds themselves in the same bed. On the one hand he is very angry about it, but on the other hand such feelings are quite nice.
Back in Eternity Finge has read his report on the observation and then likes to talk to him. Finge assumes there is a topic that Harlan hasn’t mentioned in the report, namely of the seduction by Noÿs. Harlan says he is speaking nonsense, but Finge then explains why he had to observe Noÿs’ century. The people back then had a negative attitude towards the Eternals and Eternity, they were jealous so to speak. To verify if this was really the case, Harlan had to observe for a possible necessary Reality Change; if Noÿs would seduce him, their theory would be right, because there was no other reason for her to seduce an Eternal as little attractive as Harlan. And indeed, Noÿs acted as they thought she would. Then Harlan realizes that he has been used as some sort of guiny-pig and that her love for him wasn’t real at all. His love for her he realizes, was real and he wants to do anything necessary to get her, before she otherwise would have been changed by an initiated Reality Change.
Harlan manages to get Noÿs from her century into the kettle in which the Eternals can move in time and takes her into the far future, to the 111,934th century. A time/place where no one will find her. During their trip he asks her why she made love to him the first night he was with her in her century and she tells him that partly it was because of the believe common in her time, that a girl could become an Eternal that way, but especially because she liked him.
Later on, when he is with Noÿs again in the far future, he wants to make her feel comfortable the time she is about to spend in Eternity until the Reality Change in her homewhen has been initiated. To do so he goes to her home to get some of her property, some films, but as he is there, a bit fantasizing in his mind and uttering a laugh, he hears someone elsewhere in the house drop something. He goes back to Eternity and when he returns to the house again, shortly after, and gets a few films he hears someone else laugh. Looking through a door and seeing a man turning, he frightenes and drops his bag on the ground and then he realizes that it must have been himself! He had calculated the time of entering Reality wrong.
In the few days thereafter he studied on the Change that had been initiated and found no analogue of Noÿs in the new Reality, which now meant that she could be put back in her time without worrying. As he then moved in Eternity towards the century where Noÿs was waiting for him to tell her all the good news, his kettle suddenly came to a halt at the 100,000th century and he wasn’t able no more in any way to get past that barrier to reach Noÿs. He went to see Finge to hear the truth about what happened regarding the barrier in the far upwhen in Eternity, but Finge sayd he didn’t know and that Harlan should consult the Allwhen Council, they undoubtedly knew more about it. Then it happens that Harlan is invited to attend a lunch with a subcommittee of the Allwhen Council. The members at the table talk with and ask Harlan about issues involving time of which he doesn’t see the intention regarding what he did in Eternity with Noÿs; he suspected they would try him to admit his secret actions but they didn’t. At the end of the luncheon he talks to Twissell who then sees that they can’t hold back the truth any longer, while Harlan says he discovered that the ecuations necessary back in the 24th century to invent and start the Temporal Field that is Eternity, were not invented until the 27th century. Twissell tells him that the inventor and creator of the Field in the 24th, Vikkor Mallansohn, was instructed by Cooper (Harlan’s Primitive History student) who was sent from Eternity back in time to the 24th, where Cooper learnt him the fundemental Lefebvre ecuations and other mathematics necessary for building a machine that could set up the Field. It happened back then, that Mallansohn died before the machine was build and so Cooper had to continue the work he had instructed Mallansohn on. One time he suddenly realizes that he, Cooper himself is Mallansohn! From that time onwards he keeps a record of his life, a memoir, so that the Eternals will know in future how to make Eternity start its existence just as it had. Harlan all of a sudden understand why he was given the special function of Twissell’s personal Technician; he was indispensable as Cooper’s history teacher.
But he thinks further and then suggests the possibility what would happen if he did not do as he ought to according to the memoir, but Twissell replies that that won’t happen simply because it hasn’t happened.
Harlan is taken into a room containing a large sphere what turnes out to be a time machine which has not the limitations of the ordinary kettles that the Eternals use to travel through time. This machine can travel even “beyond the downwhen terminus of Eternity” which means that with this it is possible to go to a time period before the Temporal Field was created; before the 24th century.
They go inside and unexpectedly Harlan is locked up. Twissell says that is necessary, because according to the memoir Cooper would see him from outside stay at the window of the machine and Harlan wouldn’t have done this voluntarily. Next, Cooper and Harlan are being instructed on what to do when Cooper will be sent back through time, to the year 2317. So it happens, but Harlan does something out of revenge, in order to let the project still fail finally: he adjusts the controles so, that Cooper will end further down in history.
Twissell is very excited about the project succeeded, but then Harlan says he didn’t act as he should have, that Eternity would end shortly. He acted out of revenge because they as the Council had taken Noÿs from him. But then Twissell, he was almost scared to death by hearing this unexpected course of events, says that he would have personally seen to it that Harlan should get Noÿs back, because he knew about such feeling and wouldn’t let such happen to anyone else: Twissell had had a prohibited son in Reality and because of a Reality Change initiated by himself, the excisting analogue of his son had lived (and still did in the appropriate century) a life lying on his bed being paralysed. Twissell wants to give Harlan all the luck he can give and comes with the opportunity to reverse the Change they made with Cooper. A Reality Change had never been reversed yet, but it had to be possible. Actually it was already quite clear that they would succeed, because otherwise Eternity would have ended already and that hadn’t happened.
To get Cooper back from the Primitive he first needed to be located in time, he would most likely be in the second quarter of the 20th century. Cooper in the mean time of Reality would have found out that he wasn’t in the right Century and would have managed to contact Eternity. Harlan comes to the idea that there should have been only one way for Cooper to so, namely by a for the Timers unsuspicious advertisement in a paper, and in the library so they find! However Harlan wants Noÿs back before he tells Twissell the date and tells him that he must remove the barrier from the 100,000th, but Twissell doesn’t know anything about it, neither does the Council, he says, just because such isn’t possible. Together they go in a kettle towards the far upwhen and remarkable is it, that the barrier is gone and they reach Noÿs in the 111,934th.
Harlan has to tell Twissell the date then: March 28, 1932. A mission is prepared for Harlan to go to the Primitive in order to get Cooper back, but he insist on taking Noÿs with him. The mission must be set up so that the Council will not get suspicious about Harlan’s previous intensions to let the project fail and also that Cooper will not get suspicious about the mistake of the wrong century; he must not go and note it in his memoir later on, simply because it held nothing about it.
As Harlan and Noÿs are in the 19th century, he had just made up his mind about the cause of the barrier while the matter hadn’t stopped disturbing him. Twissell had speculated on highly advanced offsprings of humanity living in the far upwhen blocking the Eternals actions there (after the 70,000th century, the Hidden Centuries, because the Eternals weren’t able to observe there), but had abandoned that idea as there was no barrier anymore. But Harlan had thought about it though and concluded, that Noÿs must be from the Hidden Centuries and that she, together with her contemporaries, had accomplished the way Eternity had excisted as it had. Indeed, Noÿs admits that it is the truth and also explains why. She tells him why humanity did not excist beyond the 150,000th century: the influence of the Eternals on Reality had made, that repeatedly in history space travelling activities by man ended without success. As a result, travelling throughout the galaxy with hyperspace techniques and so establishing civilizations in the universe was not possible until the 125,000th century. By that time other species in the universe had already spread and taken possesion of planets. So humanity was too late to establish more civilizations and eventually died out.
To prevent this from happening and guarantee the future of mankind, Noÿs’ people had searched for only one Reality Change to be initiated and Noÿs had chosen for this one where her love for Andrew Harlan would become true, because she loved him from the very first time she got to know him. The only thing left for Harlan to do, was to let Noÿs take care of one thing that would alter Reality; Cooper would not have created Eternity and so humanity should be able to spread throughout the Galaxy before other species could and with this man’s existence into the Infinity was set and Harlan and Noÿs lived their lives happily together in the 20th century.
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