:

27




Maybe he's right. Maybe it's not too warm for life.

Also, he admits it's possible that the warmth might possibly arise from a radioactive crust, but he is refusing to believe that also. In a day or two, we'll be close enough so that the truth of the matter will be unmistakable. What if Earth is radioactive?

Then he'll have to accept the fact.

But-I don't know how to say this, or how to put it in mental terms. What if his mind...

Bliss waited, then said wryly, Blows a fuse?

Yes. Blows a fuse. Shouldn't you do something now to strengthen him? Keep him level and under control, so to speak?

No, Pel. I can't believe he's that fragile, and there is a firm Gaian decision that his mind must not be tampered with.

But that's the very point. He has this unusual rightness, or whatever you want to call it. The shock of his entire project falling to nothingness at the moment when it seems successfully concluded may not destroy his brain, but it may destroy his rightness. It's a very unusual property he has. Might it not be unusually fragile, too?

Bliss remained for a moment in thought. Then she shrugged. Well, perhaps I'll keep an eye on him.

 

 

93.

 

FOR THE next thirty-six hours, Trevize was vaguely aware that Bliss and, to a lesser degree, Pelorat, tended to dog his footsteps. Still, that was not utterly unusual in a ship as compact as theirs, and he had other things on his mind.

Now, as he sat at the computer, he was aware of them standing just inside the doorway. He looked up at them, his face blank.

Well? he said, in a very quiet voice.

Pelorat said, rather awkwardly, How are you, Golan?

Trevize said, Ask Bliss. She's been staring at me intently for hours. She must be poking through my mind. Aren't you, Bliss?

No, I am not, said Bliss evenly, but if you feel the need for my help, I can try. Do you want my help?

No, why should I? Leave me alone. Both of you.

Pelorat said, Please tell us what's going on.

Guess!

Is Earth...

Yes, it is. What everyone insisted on telling us is perfectly true. Trevize gestured at the viewscreen, where Earth presented its nightside and was eclipsing the sun. It was a solid circle of black against the starry sky, its circumference outlined by a broken orange curve.

Pelorat said, Is that orange the radioactivity?

No. Just refracted sunlight through the atmosphere. It would be a solid orange circle if the atmosphere weren't so cloudy. We can't see the radioactivity. The various radiations, even the gamma rays, are absorbed by the atmosphere. However, they do set up secondary radiations, comparatively feeble ones, but the computer can detect them. They're still invisible to the eye, but the computer can produce a photon of visible light for each particle or wave of radiation it receives and put Earth into false color. Look.

And the black circle glowed with a faint, blotchy blue.

How much radioactivity is there? asked Bliss, in a low voice. Enough to signify that no human life can exist there?

No life of any kind, said Trevize. The planet is uninhabitable. The last bacterium, the last virus, is long gone.

Can we explore it? said Pelorat. I mean, in space suits.

For a few hours-before we come down with irreversible radiation sickness.

Then what do we do, Golan?

Do? Trevize looked at Pelorat with that same expressionless face. Do you know what I would like to do? I would like to take you and Bliss-and the child-back to Gaia and leave you all there forever. Then I would like to go back to Terminus and hand back the ship. Then I would like to resign from the Council, which ought to make Mayor Branno very happy. Then I would like to live on my pension and let the Galaxy go as it will. I won't care about the Seldon Plan, or about the Foundation, or about the Second Foundation, or about Gaia. The Galaxy can choose its own path. It will last my time and why should I care a snap as to what happens afterward?

Surely, you don't mean it, Golan, said Pelorat urgently.

Trevize stared at him for a while, and then he drew a long breath. No, I don't, but, oh, how I wish I could do exactly what I have just outlined to you.

Never mind that. What will you do?

Keep the ship in orbit about the Earth, rest, get over the shock of all this, and think of what to do next. Except that...

Yes?

And Trevize blurted out, What can I do next? What is there further to look for? What is there further to find?

 

 

Chapter 20

The Nearby World

94.

 

FOR Four successive meals, Pelorat and Bliss had seen Trevize only at meals. During the rest of the time, he was either in the pilot-room or in his bedroom. At mealtimes, he was silent. His lips remained pressed together and he ate little.

At the fourth meal, however, it seemed to Pelorat that some of the unusual gravity had lifted from Trevize's countenance. Pelorat cleared his throat twice, as though preparing to say something and then retreating.

Finally, Trevize looked up at him and said, Well?

Have you-have you thought it out, Golan?

Why do you ask?

You seem less gloomy.

I'm not less gloomy, but I have been thinking. Heavily.

May we know what? asked Pelorat.

Trevize glanced briefly in Bliss's direction. She was looking firmly at her plate, maintaining a careful silence, as though certain that Pelorat would get further than she at this sensitive moment.

Trevize said, Are you also curious, Bliss?

She raised her eyes for a moment. Yes. Certainly.

Fallom kicked a leg of the table moodily, and said, Have we found Earth?

Bliss squeezed the youngster's shoulder. Trevize paid no attention.

He said, What we must start with is a basic fact. All information concerning Earth has been removed on various worlds. That is bound to bring us to an inescapable conclusion. Something on Earth is being hidden. And yet, by observation, we see that Earth is radioactively deadly, so that anything on it is automatically hidden. no one can land on it, and from this distance, when we are quite near the outer edge of the magnetosphere and would not care to approach Earth any more closely, there is nothing for us to find.

Can you be sure of that? asked Bliss softly.

I have spent my time at the computer, analyzing Earth in every way it and I can. There is nothing. What's more, I feel there is nothing. Why, then, has data concerning the Earth been wiped out? Surely, whatever must be hidden is more effectively hidden now than anyone can easily imagine, and there need be no human gilding of this particular piece of gold.

It may be, said Pelorat, that there was indeed something hidden on Earth at a time when it had not yet grown so severely radioactive as to preclude visitors. People on Earth may then have feared that someone might land and find this whatever-it-is. It was then that Earth tried to remove information concerning itself. What we have now is a vestigial remnant of that insecure time.

No, I don't think so, said Trevize. The removal of information from the Imperial Library at Trantor seems to have taken place very recently. He turned suddenly to Bliss, Am I right?

Bliss said evenly, I/we/Gaia gathered that much from the troubled mind of the Second Foundationer Gendibal, when he, you, and I had the meeting with the Mayor of Terminus.

Trevize said, So whatever must have had to be hidden because there existed the chance of finding it must still be in hiding now, and there must be danger of finding it now despite the fact that Earth is radioactive.

How is that possible? asked Pelorat anxiously.

Consider, said Trevize. What if what was on Earth is no longer on Earth, but was removed when the radioactive danger grew greater? Yet though the secret is no longer on Earth, it may be that if we can find Earth, we would be able to reason out the place where the secret has been taken. If that were so, Earth's whereabouts would still have to be hidden.

Fallom's voice piped up again. Because if we can't find Earth, Bliss says you'll take me back to Jemby.

Trevize turned toward Fallom and glared-and Bliss said, in a low voice, I told you we might, Fallom. We'll talk about it later. Right now, go to your room and read, or play the flute, or anything else you want to do. Go-go.

Fallom, frowning sulkily, left the table.

Pelorat said, But how can you say that, Golan? Here we are. We've located Earth. Can we now deduce where whatever it is might be if it isn't on Earth?

It took a moment for Trevize to get over the moment of ill humor Fallom had induced. Then, he said, Why not? Imagine the radioactivity of Earth's crust growing steadily worse. The population would be decreasing steadily through death and emigration, and the secret, whatever it is, would be in increasing danger. Who would remain to protect it? Eventually, it would have to be shifted to another world, or the use of-whatever it was-would be lost to Earth. I suspect there would be reluctance to move it and it is likely that it would be done more or less at the last minute. Now, then, Janov, remember the old man on New Earth who filled your ears with his version of Earth's history?

Monolee?

Yes. He. Did he not say in reference to the establishment of New Earth that what was left of Earth's population was brought to the planet?

Pelorat said, Do you mean, old chap, that what we're searching for is now on New Earth? Brought there by the last of Earth's population to leave?

Trevize said, Might that not be so? New Earth is scarcely better known to the Galaxy in general than Earth is, and the inhabitants are suspiciously eager to keep all Outworlders away.

We were there, put in Bliss. We didn't find anything.

We weren't looking for anything but the whereabouts of Earth.

Pelorat said, in a puzzled way, But we're looking for something with a high technology; something that can remove information from under the nose of the Second Foundation itself, and even from under the nose-excuse me, Bliss-of Gaia. Those people on New Earth may be able to control their patch of weather and may have some techniques of biotechnology at their disposal, but I think you'll admit that their level of technology is, on the whole, quite low.

Bliss nodded. I agree with Pel.

Trevize said, We're judging from very little. We never did see the men of the fishing fleet. We never saw any part of the island but the small patch we landed on. What might we have found if we had explored more thoroughly? After all, we didn't recognize the fluorescent lights till we saw them in action, and if it appeared that the technology was low, appeared, I say...

Yes? said Bliss, clearly unconvinced.

That could be part of the veil intended to obscure the truth.

Impossible, said Bliss.

Impossible? It was you who told me, back on Gaia, that at Trantor, the larger civilization was deliberately held at a level of low technology in order to hide the small kernel of Second Foundationers. Why might not the same strategy be used on New Earth?

Do you suggest, then, that we return to New Earth and face infection again-this time to have it activated? Sexual intercourse is undoubtedly a particularly pleasant mode of infection, but it may not be the only one.

Trevize shrugged. I am not eager to return to New Earth, but we may have to.

May! After all, there is another possibility.

What is that?

New Earth circles the star the people call Alpha. But Alpha is part of a binary system. Might there not be a habitable planet circling Alpha's companion as well?

Too dim, I should think, said Bliss, shaking her head. The companion is only a quarter as bright as Alpha is.

Dim, but not too dim. If there is a planet fairly close to the star, it might do.

Pelorat said, Does the computer say anything about any planets for the companion?

Trevize smiled grimly. I checked that. There are five planets of moderate size. no gas giants.

And are any of the five planets habitable?

The computer gives no information at all about the planets, other than their number, and the fact that they aren't large.

Oh, said Pelorat deflated.

Trevize said, That's nothing to be disappointed about. None of the Spacer worlds are to be found in the computer at all. The information on Alpha itself is minimal. These things are hidden deliberately and if almost nothing is known about Alpha's companion, that might almost be regarded as a good sign.

Then, said Bliss, in a business-like manner, what you are planning to do is this-visit the companion and, if that draws a blank, return to Alpha itself.

Yes. And this time when we reach the island of New Earth, we will be prepared. We will examine the entire island meticulously before landing and, Bliss, I expect you to use your mental abilities to shield...

And at that moment, the Far Star lurched slightly, as though it had undergone a ship-sized hiccup, and Trevize cried out, halfway between anger and perplexity, Who's at the controls?

And even as he asked, he knew very well who was.

 

 

95.

 

FALLOM, at the computer console, was completely absorbed. Her small, longfingered hands were stretched wide in order to fit the faintly gleaming handmarks on the desk. Fallom's hands seemed to sink into the material of the desk, even though it was clearly felt to be hard and slippery.

She had seen Trevize hold his hands so on a number of occasions, and she hadn't seen him do more than that, though it was quite plain to her that in so doing he controlled the ship.

On occasion, Fallom had seen Trevize close his eyes, and she closed hers now. After a moment or two, it was almost as though she heard a faint, far-off voice-far off, but sounding in her own head, through (she dimly realized) her transducer-lobes. They were even more important than her hands. She strained to make out the words.

Instructions, it said, almost pleadingly. What are your instructions?

Fallom didn't say anything. She had never witnessed Trevize saying anything to the computer-but she knew what it was that she wanted with all her heart. She wanted to go back to Solaria, to the comforting endlessness of the mansion, to Jemby-Jemby-Jemby

She wanted to go there and, as she thought of the world she loved, she imagined it visible on the viewscreen as she had seen other worlds she didn't want. She opened her eyes and stared at the viewscreen willing some other world there than this hateful Earth, then staring at what she saw, imagining it to be Solaria. She hated the empty Galaxy to which she had been introduced against her will. Tears came to her eyes, and the ship trembled.

She could feel that tremble, and she swayed a little in response.

And then she heard loud steps in the corridor outside and, when she opened her eyes, Trevize's face, distorted, filled her vision, blocking out the viewscreen, which held all she wanted. He was shouting something, but she paid no attention. It was he who had taken her from Solaria by killing Bander, and it was he who was preventing her from returning by thinking only of Earth, and she was not going to listen to him.

She was going to take the ship to Solaria, and, with the intensity of her resolve, it trembled again.

 

 

96.

 

BLISS clutched wildly at Trevize's arm. Don't! Don't!

She clung strongly, holding him back, while Pelorat stood, confused and frozen, in the background.

Trevize was shouting, Take your hands off the computer! Bliss, don't get in my way. I don't want to hurt you.

Bliss said, in a tone that seemed almost exhausted, Don't offer violence to the child. I'd have to hurt you-against all instructions.

Trevize's eyes darted wildly from Fallom to Bliss. He said, Then you get her off, Bliss. Now!

Bliss pushed him away with surprising strength (drawing it, Trevize thought afterward, from Gaia, perhaps).

Fallom, she said, lift your hands.

No, shrieked Fallom. I want the ship to go to Solaria. I want it to go there. There. She nodded toward the viewscreen with her head, unwilling to let even one hand release its pressure on the desk for the purpose.

But Bliss reached for the child's shoulders and, as her hands touched Fallom, the youngster began to tremble.

Bliss's voice grew soft. Now, Fallom, tell the computer to be as it was and come with me. Come with me. Her hands stroked the child, who collapsed in an agony of weeping.

Fallom's hands left the desk, and Bliss, catching her under the armpits, lifted her into a standing position. She turned her, held her firmly against her breast, and allowed the child to smother her wrenching sobs there.

Bliss said to Trevize, who was now standing dumbly in the doorway, Step out of the way, Trevize, and don't touch either of us as we pass.

Trevize stepped quickly to one side.

Bliss paused a moment, saying in a low voice to Trevize, I had to get into her mind for a moment. If I've caused any damage, I won't forgive you easily.

It was Trevize's impulse to tell her he didn't care a cubic millimeter of vacuum for Fallom's mind; that it was the computer for which he feared. Against the concentrated glare of Gaia, however (surely it wasn't only Bliss whose sole expression could inspire the moment of cold terror he felt), he kept silent.

He remained silent for a perceptible period, and motionless as well, after Bliss and Fallom had disappeared into their room. He remained so, in fact, until Pelorat said softly, Golan, are you all right? She didn't hurt you, did she?

Trevize shook his head vigorously, as though to shake off the touch of paralysis that had afflicted him. I'm all right. The real question is whether that's all right. He sat down at the computer console, his hands resting on the two handmarks which Fallom's hands had so recently covered.

Well? said Pelorat anxiously.

Trevize shrugged. It seems to respond normally. I might conceivably find something wrong later on, but there's nothing that seems off now. Then, more angrily, The computer should not combine effectively with any hands other than mine, but in that hermaphrodite's case, it wasn't the hands alone. It was the transducer-lobes, I'm sure...

But what made the ship shake? It shouldn't do that, should it?

No. It's a gravitic ship and we shouldn't have these inertial effects. But that she-monster... He paused, looking angry again.

Yes?

I suspect she faced the computer with two self-contradictory demands, and each with such force that the computer had no choice but to attempt to do both things at once. In the attempt to do the impossible, the computer must have released the inertia-free condition of the ship momentarily. At least that's what I think happened.

And then, somehow, his face smoothed out. And that might be a good thing, too, for it occurs to me now that all my talk about Alpha Centauri and its companion was flapdoodle. I know now where Earth must have transferred its secret.

 

 

97.

 

PELORAT stared, then ignored the final remark and went back to an earlier puzzle. In what way did Fallom ask for two self-contradictory things?

Well, she said she wanted the ship to go to Solaria.

Yes. Of course, she would.

But what did she mean by Solaria? She can't recognize Solaria from space. She's never really seen it from space. She was asleep when we left that world in a hurry. And despite her readings in your library, together with whatever Bliss has told her, I imagine she can't really grasp the truth of a Galaxy of hundreds of billions of stars and millions of populated planets. Brought up, as she was, underground and alone, it is all she can do to grasp the bare concept that there are different worlds-but how many? Two? Three? Four? To her any world she sees is likely to be Solaria, and given the strength of her wishful thinking, is Solaria. And since I presume Bliss has tried to quiet her by hinting that if we don't find Earth, we'll take her back to Solaria, she may even have worked up the notion that Solaria is close to Earth.

But how can you tell this, Golan? What makes you think it's so?

She as much as told us so, Janov, when we burst in upon her. She cried out that she wanted to go to Solaria and then added there-there, nodding her head at the viewscreen. And what is on the viewscreen? Earth's satellite. It wasn't there when I left the machine before dinner; Earth was. But Fallom must have pictured the satellite in her mind when she asked for Solaria, and the computer, in response, must therefore have focused on the satellite. Believe me, Janov, I know how this computer works. Who would know better?

Pelorat looked at the thick crescent of light on the viewscreen and said thoughtfully, It was called moon in at least one of Earth's languages; Luna, in another language. Probably many other names, too. Imagine the confusion, old chap, on a world with numerous languages-the misunderstandings, the complications, the...

Moon? said Trevize. Well, that's simple enough. Then, too, come to think of it, it may be that the child tried, instinctively, to move the ship by means of its transducer-lobes, using the ship's own energy-source, and that may have helped produce the momentary inertial confusion. But none of that matters, Janov. What does matter is that all this has brought this moon yes, I like the name-to the screen and magnified it, and there it still is. I'm looking at it now, and wondering.

Wondering what, Golan?

At the size of it. We tend to ignore satellites, Janov. They're such little things, when they exist at all. This one is different, though. It's a world. It has a diameter of about thirty-five hundred kilometers.

A world? Surely you wouldn't call it a world. It can't be habitable. Even a thirty-five-hundred-kilometer diameter is too small. It has no atmosphere. I can tell that just looking at it. no clouds. The circular curve against space is sharp, so is the inner curve that bounds the light and dark hemisphere.

Trevize nodded, You're getting to be a seasoned space traveler, Janov. You're right. no air. no water. But that only means the moon's not habitable on its unprotected surface. What about underground?

Underground? said Pelorat doubtfully.

Yes. Underground. Why not? Earth's cities were underground, you tell me. We know that Trantor was underground. Comporellon has much of its capital city underground. The Solarian mansions were almost entirely underground. It's a very common state of affairs.

But, Golan, in every one of these cases, people were living on a habitable planet. The surface was habitable, too, with an atmosphere and with an ocean. Is it possible to live underground when the surface is uninhabitable?

Come, Janov, think! Where are we living right now? The Far Star is a tiny world that has an uninhabitable surface. There's no air or water on the outside. Yet we live inside in perfect comfort. The Galaxy is full of space stations and space settlements of infinite variety, to say nothing of spaceships, and they're all uninhabitable except for the interior. Consider the moon a gigantic spaceship.

With a crew inside?

Yes. Millions of people, for all we. know; and plants and animals; and an advanced technology. Look, Janov, doesn't it make sense? If Earth, in its last days, could send out a party of Settlers to a planet orbiting Alpha Centauri; and if, possibly with Imperial help, they could attempt to terraform it, seed its oceans, build dry land where there was none; could Earth not also send a party to its satellite and terraform its interior?

Pelorat said reluctantly, I suppose so.

It would be done. If Earth has something to hide, why send it over a parsec away, when it could be hidden on a world less than a hundred millionth the distance to Alpha. And the moon would be a more efficient hiding place from the psychological standpoint. no one would think of satellites in connection with life. For that matter I didn't. With the moon an inch before my nose, my thoughts went haring off to Alpha. If it hadn't been for Fallom... His lips tightened, and he shook his head. I suppose I'll have to credit her for that. Bliss surely will if I don't.

Pelorat said, But see here, old man, if there's something hiding under the surface of the moon, how do we find it? There must be millions of square kilometers of surface...

Roughly forty million.

And we would have to inspect all of that, looking for what? An opening? Some sort of airlock?

Trevize said, Put that way, it would seem rather a task, but we're not just looking for objects, we're looking for life; and for intelligent life at that. And we've got Bliss, and detecting intelligence is her talent, isn't it?

 

 

98.

 

BLISS looked at Trevize accusingly. I've finally got her to sleep. I had the hardest time. She was wild. Fortunately, I don't think I've damaged her.

Trevize said coldly, You might try removing her fixation on Jemby, you know, since I certainly have no intention of ever going back to Solaria.

Just remove her fixation, is that it? What do you know about such things, Trevize? You've never sensed a mind. You haven't the faintest idea of its complexity. If you knew anything at all about it, you wouldn't talk about removing a fixation as though it were just a matter of scooping jam out of a jar.

Well, weaken it at least.

I might weaken it a bit, after a month of careful dethreading.

What do you mean, dethreading?

To someone who doesn't know, it can't be explained.

What are you going to do with the child, then?

I don't know yet; it will take a lot of consideration.

In that case, said Trevize, let me tell you what we're going to do with the ship.

I know what you're going to do. It's back to New Earth and another try at the lovely Hiroko, if she'll promise not to infect you this time.

Trevize kept his face expressionless. He said, No, as a matter of fact. I've changed my mind. We're going to the moon-which is the name of the satellite, according to Janov.

The satellite? Because it's the nearest world at hand? I hadn't thought of that.

Nor I. Nor would anyone have thought of it. Nowhere in the Galaxy is there a satellite worth thinking about-but this satellite, in being large, is unique. What's more, Earth's anonymity covers it as well. Anyone who can't find the Earth can't find the moon, either.

Is it habitable?

Not on the surface, but it is not radioactive, not at all, so it isn't absolutely uninhabitable. It may have life-it may be teeming with life, in fact-under the surface. And, of course, you'll be able to tell if that's so, once we get close enough.

Bliss shrugged. I'll try. But, then, what made you suddenly think of trying the satellite?

Trevize said quietly, Something Fallom did when she was at the controls.

Bliss waited, as though expecting more, then shrugged again. Whatever it was, I suspect you wouldn't have gotten the inspiration if you had followed your own impulse and killed her.

I had no intention of killing her, Bliss.

Bliss waved her hand. All right. Let it be. Are we moving toward the moon now?

Yes. As a matter of caution, I'm not going too fast, but if all goes well, we'll be in its vicinity in thirty hours.

 

 

99.

 

THE MOON was a wasteland. Trevize watched the bright daylit portion drifting past them below. It was a monotonous panorama of crater rings and mountainous areas, and of shadows black against the sunlight. There were subtle color changes in the soil and occasional sizable stretches of flatness, broken by small craters.

As they approached the nightside, the shadows grew longer and finally fused together. For a while, behind them, peaks glittered in the sun, like fat stars, far outshining their brethren in the sky. Then they disappeared and below was only the fainter light of the Earth in the sky, a large bluish-white sphere, a little more than half full. The ship finally outran the Earth, too, which sank beneath the horizon so that under them was unrelieved blackness, and above only the faint powdering of stars, which, to Trevize, who had been brought up on the starless world of Terminus, was always miracle enough.

Then, new bright stars appeared ahead, first just one or two, then others, expanding and thickening and finally coalescing. And at once they passed the terminator into the daylit side. The sun rose with infernal splendor, while the viewscreen shifted away from it at once and polarized the glare of the ground beneath.


, , , , , -





: 2015-10-12; : 219. ; !

Studopedia.info - - 2014-2022 . (0.086 .) |

> , , 25%
3 569 , 24/7