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首页 » 英文科幻小说 » 基地系列 Foundation and Earth 基地与地球 » Chapter 2: Toward Comporellon
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Chapter 2: Toward Comporellon
5It was raining lightly. Trevize looked up at the sky, which was asolid grayish white.
He was wearing a rain hat that repelled the drops and sent themflying well away from his body in all directions. Pelorat, standing outof range of the flying drops, had no such protection.
Trevize said, "I don't see the point of your letting yourself getwet, Janov.""The wet doesn't bother me, my dear chap," said Pelorat, looking assolemn as he always did. "It's a light and warm rain. There's no windto speak of. And besides, to quote the old saying: `In Anacreon, do asthe Anacreonians do.'" He indicated the few Gaians standing near theFar Star , watching quietly. They were well scattered, as thoughthey were trees in a Gaian grove, and none wore rain hats.
"I suppose," said Trevize, "they don't mind being wet, because allthe rest of Gaia is getting wet. The trees the grass thesoil all wet, and all equally part of Gaia, along with theGaians.""I think it makes sense," said Pelorat. "The sun will come out soonenough and everything will dry quickly. The clothing won't wrinkleor shrink, there's no chilling effect, and, since there aren't anyunnecessary pathogenic microorganisms, no one will get colds, or flu,or pneumonia. Why worry about a bit of damp then?"Trevize had no trouble in seeing the logic of that, but he hated tolet go of his grievance. He said, "Still, there is no need for it to rainas we are leaving. After all, the rain is voluntary. Gaia wouldn't rainif it didn't want to. It's almost as though it were showing its contemptfor us.""Perhaps" and Pelorat's lip twitched a bit "Gaia isweeping with sorrow at our leaving."Trevize said, "That may be, but I'm not.""Actually," Pelorat went on, "I presume that the soil in this regionneeds a wetting down, and that need is more important than your desireto have the sun shine."Trevize smiled. "I suspect you really like this world, don't you? Evenaside from Bliss, I mean.""Yes, I do," said Pelorat, a trace defensively. "I've always led aquiet, orderly life, and think how I could manage here, with a wholeworld laboring to keep it quiet and orderly. After all, Golan,when we build a house or that ship we try to create aperfect shelter. We equip it with everything we need; we arrange tohave its temperature, air quality, illumination, and everything else ofimportance, controlled by us and manipulated in a way to make it perfectlyaccommodating to us. Gaia is just an extension of the desire for comfortand security extended to an entire planet. What's wrong with that?""What's wrong with that," said Trevize, "is that my house or myship is engineered to suit me . I am not engineered to suitit . If I were part of Gaia, then no matter how ideally theplanet was devised to suit me, I would be greatly disturbed over thefact that I was also being devised to suit it."Pelorat pursed his lips. "One could argue that every society moldsits population to fit itself. Customs develop that make sense withinthe society, and that chain every individual firmly to its needs.""In the societies I know, one can revolt. There are eccentrics,even criminals.""Do you want eccentrics and criminals?""Why not? You and I are eccentrics. We're certainly not typicalof the people living on Terminus. As for criminals, that's a matterof definition. And if criminals are the price we must pay for rebels,heretics, and geniuses, I'm willing to pay it. I demandthe price be paid.""Are criminals the only possible payment? Can't you have geniuswithout criminals?""You can't have geniuses and saints without having people far outsidethe norm, and I don't see how you can have such things on only one sideof the norm. There is bound to be a certain symmetry. In any case,I want a better reason for my decision to make Gaia the model for thefuture of humanity than that it is a planetary version of a comfortablehouse.""Oh, my dear fellow. I wasn't trying to argue you into being satisfiedwith your decision. I was just making an observa "He broke off. Bliss was striding toward them, her dark hair wet andher robe clinging to her body and emphasizing the rather generous widthof her hips. She was nodding to them as she came.
"I'm sorry I delayed you," she said, panting a little. "It took longerto check with Dom than I had anticipated.""Surely," said Trevize, "you know everything he knows.""Sometimes it's a matter of a difference in interpretation. We arenot identical, after all, so we discuss. Look here," she said, witha touch of asperity, "you have two hands. They are each part of you,and they seem identical except for one being the mirror-image of theother. Yet you do not use them entirely alike, do you? There are somethings you do with your right hand most of the time, and some with yourleft. Differences in interpretation, so to speak.""She's got you," said Pelorat, with obvious satisfaction.
Trevize nodded. "It's an effective analogy, if it were relevant,and I'm not at all sure it is. In any case, does this mean we can boardthe ship now? It is raining.""Yes, yes. Our people are all off it, and it's in perfect shape." Then,with a sudden curious look at Trevize, "You're keeping dry. The raindropsare missing you.""Yes, indeed," said Trevize. "I am avoiding wetness.""But doesn't it feel good to be wet now and then?""Absolutely. But at my choice, not the rain's."Bliss shrugged. "Well, as you please. All our baggage is loaded solet's board."The three walked toward the Far Star . The rain was growingstill lighter, but the grass was quite wet. Trevize found himselfwalking gingerly, but Bliss had kicked off her slippers, which she wasnow carrying in one hand, and was slogging through the grass barefoot.
"It feels delightful," she said, in response to Trevize's downwardglance.
"Good," he said absently. Then, with a touch of irritation, "Why arethose other Gaians standing about, anyway?"Bliss said, "They're recording this event, which Gaia findsmomentous. You are important to us, Trevize. Consider that if you shouldchange your mind as a result of this trip and decide against us, wewould never grow into Galaxia, or even remain as Gaia.""Then I represent life and death for Gaia; for the whole world.""We believe so."Trevize stopped suddenly, and took off his rain hat. Blue patcheswere appearing in the sky. He said, "But you have my vote in your favornow . If you kill me, I'll never be able to change it.""Golan," murmured Pelorat, shocked. "That is a terrible thing tosay.""Typical of an Isolate," said Bliss calmly. "You must understand,Trevize, that we are not interested in you as a person, or even inyour vote, but in the truth, in the facts of the matter. You are onlyimportant as a conduit to the truth, and your vote as an indication of thetruth. That is what we want from you, and if we kill you to avoid a changein your vote, we would merely be hiding the truth from ourselves.""If I tell you the truth is non-Gaia, will you all then cheerfullyagree to die?""Not entirely cheerfully, perhaps, but it's what it would amount toin the end."Trevize shook his head. "If anything ought to convince me that Gaiais a horror and should die, it might be that very statementyou've just made." Then he said, his eyes returning to the patientlywatching (and, presumably, listening) Gaians, "Why are they spread outlike that? And why do you need so many? If one of them observes thisevent and stores it in his or her memory, isn't it available to all therest of the planet? Can't it be stored in a million different places ifyou want it to be?"Bliss said, "They are observing this each from a different angle,and each is storing it in a slightly different brain. When all theobservations are studied, it will be seen that what is taking place willbe far better understood from all the observations together than fromany one of them, taken singly.""The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, in other words.""Exactly. You have grasped the basic justification of Gaia'sexistence. You, as a human individual, are composed of perhaps fiftytrillion cells, but you, as a multicellular individual, are far moreimportant than those fifty trillion as the sum of their individualimportance. Surely you would agree with that.""Yes," said Trevize. "I agree with that."He stepped into the ship, and turned briefly for one more look atGaia. The brief rain had lent a new freshness to the atmosphere. He sawa green, lush, quiet, peaceful world; a garden of serenity set amid theturbulence of the weary Galaxy.
 And Trevize earnestly hoped he would never see it again.
6When the airlock closed behind them, Trevize feltas though he had shut out not exactly a nightmare, but something soseriously abnormal that it had prevented him from breathing freely.
He was fully aware that an element of that abnormality was still withhim in the person of Bliss. While she was there, Gaia was there andyet he was also convinced that her presence was essential. It was theblack box working again, and earnestly he hoped he would never beginbelieving in that black box too much.
He looked about the vessel and found it beautiful. It had been hisonly since Mayor Harla Branno of the Foundation had forced him into itand sent him out among the stars a living lightning rod designed todraw the fire of those she considered enemies of the Foundation. That taskwas done but the ship was still his, and he had no plans to return it.
It had been his for merely a matter of a few months, but it seemedlike home to him and he could only dimly remember what had once beenhis home in Terminus.
Terminus! The off-center hub of the Foundation, destined, by Seldon'sPlan, to form a second and greater Empire in the course of the next fivecenturies, except that he, Trevize, had now derailed it. By his owndecision he was converting the Foundation to nothing, and was makingpossible instead, a new society, a new scheme of life, a frighteningrevolution that would be greater than any since the development ofmulticellular life.
Now he was engaged in a journey designed to prove to himself (or todisprove) that what he had done was right.
He found himself lost in thought and motionless, so that he shookhimself in self-irritation. He hastened to the pilot-room and foundhis computer still there.
It glistened; everything glistened. There had been a most carefulcleaning. The contacts he closed, nearly at random, worked perfectly,and, it surely seemed, with greater ease than ever. The ventilatingsystem was so noiseless that he had to put his hand over the vents tomake sure he felt air currents.
The circle of light on the computer glowed invitingly. Trevize touchedit and the light spread out to cover the desk top and the outline of aright and left hand appeared on it. He drew a deep breath and realizedthat he had stopped breathing for a while. The Gaians knew nothing aboutFoundation technology and they might easily have damaged the computerwithout meaning any malice. Thus far they had not the hands werestill there.
The crucial test came with the laying on of his own hands, however,and, for a moment, he hesitated. He would know, almost at once, ifanything were wrong but if something was, what could he do? Forrepairs, he would have to go back to Terminus, and if he did, he feltquite confident that Mayor Branno would not let him leave again. And ifhe did not He could feel his heart pounding, and there was clearly no point indeliberately lengthening the suspense.
He thrust his hands out, right, left, and placed them on the outlinesupon the desk. At once, he had the illusion of another pair of handsholding his. His senses extended, and he could see Gaia in all directions,green and moist, the Gaians still watching. When he willed himself tolook upward, he saw a largely cloudy sky. Again, at his will, the cloudsvanished and he looked at an unbroken blue sky with the orb of Gaia'ssun filtered out.
Again he willed and the blue parted and he saw the stars.
He wiped them out, and willed and saw the Galaxy, like a foreshortenedpinwheel. He tested the computerized image, adjusting its orientation,altering the apparent progress of time, making it spin first in onedirection, then the other. He located the sun of Sayshell, the nearestimportant star to Gaia; then the sun of Terminus; then of Trantor; oneafter the other. He traveled from star to star in the Galactic map thatdwelt in the bowels of the computer.
Then he withdrew his hands and let the world of reality surround himagain and realized he had been standing all this time, half-bowingover the computer to make the hand contact. He felt stiff and had tostretch his back muscles before sitting down.
He stared at the computer with warm relief. It had worked perfectly. Ithad been, if anything, more responsive, and what he felt for it he couldonly describe as love. After all, while heeeeld its hands (he resolutelyrefused to admit to himself that he thought of it as her hands) they were part of each other, and his will directed, controlled,experienced, and was part of a greater self. He and it must feel, in asmall way (he suddenly, and disturbingly, thought), what Gaia did in amuch larger way.
He shook his head. No! In the case of the computer and himself, itwas he Trevize who was in entire control. The computer wasa thing of total submission.
He rose and moved out to the compact galley and dining area. There wasplenty of food of all kinds, with proper refrigeration and easy-heatingfacilities. He had already noted that the book-films in his room werein the proper order, and he was reasonably sure no, completelysure that Pelorat had his personal library in safe storage. Hewould otherwise surely have heard from him by now.
Pelorat! That reminded him. He stepped into Pelorat's room. "Is thereroom for Bliss here, Janov?""Oh yes, quite.""I can convert the common room into her bedroom."Bliss looked up, wide-eyed. "I have no desire for a separate bedroom. Iam quite content to stay here with Pel. I suppose, though, that I mayuse the other rooms when needed. The gym, for instance.""Certainly. Any room but mine.""Good. That's what I would have suggested be the arrangement, if Ihad had the making of it. Naturally, you will stay out of ours.""Naturally," said Trevize, looking down and realizing that his shoesoverlapped the threshold. He took a half-step backward and said grimly,"These are not honeymoon quarters, Bliss.""I should say, in view of its compactness, that it is exactly thateven though Gaia extended it to half again as wide as it was."Trevize tried not to smile. "You'll have to be very friendly.""We are," said Pelorat, clearly ill at ease at the topic ofconversation, "but really, old chap, you can leave it to us to make ourown arrangements.""Actually, I can't," said Trevize slowly. "I still want to make itclear that these are not honeymoon accommodations. I have no objectionto anything you do by mutual consent, but you must realize that you willhave no privacy. I hope you understand that, Bliss.""There is a door," said Bliss, "and I imagine you will not disturbus who it is locked short of a real emergency, that is.""Of course I won't. However, there is no soundproofing.""What you are trying to say, Trevize," said Bliss, "is that you willhear, quite clearly, any conversation we may have, and any sounds wemay make in the course of sex.""Yes, that is what I am trying to say. With that in mind, I expect youmay find you will have to limit your activities here. This may discommodeyou, and I'm sorry, but that's the situation as it is."Pelorat cleared his throat, and said gently, "Actually, Golan, this isa problem I've already had to face. You realize that any sensation Blissexperiences, when together with me, is experienced by all of Gaia.""I have thought of that, Janov," said Trevize, looking as though hewere repressing a wince. "I didn't intend to mention it just in casethe thought had not occurred to you.""But it did, I'm afraid," said Pelorat.
Bliss said, "Don't make too much of that, Trevize. At any given moment,there may be thousands of human beings on Gaia who are engaged in sex;millions who are eating, drinking, or engaged in other pleasure-givingactivities. This gives rise to a general aura of delight that Gaia feels,every part of it. The lower animals, the plants, the minerals have theirprogressively milder pleasures that also contribute to a generalizedjoy of consciousness that Gaia feels in all its parts always, and thatis unfelt in any other world.""We have our own particular joys," said Trevize, "which we can shareafter a fashion, if we wish; or keep private, if we wish.""If you could feel ours, you would know how poverty-stricken youIsolates are in that respect.""How can you know what we feel?""Without knowing how you feel, it is still reasonable to suppose thata world of common pleasures must be more intense than those availableto a single isolated individual.""Perhaps, but even if my pleasures were poverty-stricken, I would keepmy own joys and sorrows and be satisfied with them, thin as they are,and be me and not blood brother to the nearest rock.""Don't sneer," said Bliss. "You value every mineral crystal in yourbones and teeth and would not have one of them damaged, though they haveno more consciousness than the average rock crystal of the same size.""That's true enough," said Trevize reluctantly, "but we've managed toget off the subject. I don't care if all Gaia shares your joy, Bliss, butI don't want to share it. We're living here in close quarters and I do notwish to be forced to participate in your activities even indirectly."Pelorat said, "This is an argument over nothing, my dear chap. Iam no more anxious than you to have your privacy violated. Nor mine,for that matter. Bliss and I will be discreet; won't we, Bliss?""It will be as you wish, Pel.""After all," said Pelorat, "we are quite likely to be planet-boundfor considerably longer periods than we will space-borne, and on planets,the opportunities for true privacy ""I don't care what you do on planets," interrupted Trevize, "but onthis ship, I am master.""Exactly," said Pelorat.
"Then, with that straightened out, it is time to take off.""But wait." Pelorat reached out to tug at Trevize's sleeve. "Take offfor where? You don't know where Earth is, nor do I, nor does Bliss. Nordoes your computer, for you told me long ago that it lacks any informationon Earth. What do you intend doing, then? You can't simply drift throughspace at random, my dear chap."At that, Trevize smiled with what was almost joy. For the firsttime since he had fallen into the grip of Gaia, he felt master of hisown fate.
"I assure you," he said, "that it is not my intention to drift,Janov. I know exactly where I am going."7Pelorat walked quietly into the pilot-room afterhe had waited long moments while his small tap on the door had goneunanswered. He found Trevize looking with keen absorption at thestarfield.
Pelorat said, "Golan " and waited.
Trevize looked up. "Janov! Sit down. Where's Bliss?""Sleeping. We're out in space, I see.""You see correctly." Trevize was not surprised at the other's mildsurprise. In the new gravitic ships, there was simply no way of detectingtakeoff. There were no inertial effects; no accelerational push; no noise;no vibration.
Possessing the capacity to insulate itself from outside gravitationalfields to any degree up to total, the Far Star lifted from aplanetary surface as though it were floating on some cosmic sea. Andwhile it did so, the gravitational effect within the ship,paradoxically, remained normal.
While the ship was within the atmosphere, of course, there was no needto accelerate so that the whine and vibration of rapidly passing air wouldbe absent. As the atmosphere was left behind, however, acceleration couldtake place, and at rapid rates, without affecting the passengers.
It was the ultimate in comfort and Trevize did not see how it couldbe improved upon until such time as human beings discovered a way ofwhisking through hyperspace without ships, and without concern aboutnearby gravitational fields that might be too intense. Right now, theFar Star would have to speed away from Gaia's sun for severaldays before the gravitational intensity was weak enough to attemptthe Jump.
"Golan, my dear fellow," said Pelorat. "May I speak with you for amoment or two? You are not too busy?""Not at all busy. The computer handles everything once I instruct itproperly. And sometimes it seems to guess what my instructions will be,and satisfies them almost before I can articulate them." Trevize brushedthe top of the desk lovingly.
Pelorat said, "We've grown very friendly, Golan, in the short timewe've known each other, although I must admit that it scarcely seemsa short time to me. So much has happened. It's really peculiar when Istop to think of my moderately long life, that half of all the events Ihave experienced were squeezed into the last few months. Or so it wouldseem. I could almost suppose "Trevize held up a hand "Janov, you're spinning outward from youroriginal point, I'm sure. You began by saying we've grown very friendly ina very short time. Yes, we have, and we still are. For that matter, you'veknown Bliss an even shorter time and have grown even friendlier.""That's different, of course," said Pelorat, clearing his throat insome embarrassment.
"Of course," said Trevize, "but what follows from our brief butenduring friendship?""If, my dear fellow, we still are friends, as you've just said, thenI must pass on to Bliss, whom, as you've also just said, is peculiarlydear to me.""I understand. And what of that?""I know, Golan, that you are not fond of Bliss, but for my sake,I wish "Trevize raised a hand. "One moment, Janov. I am not overwhelmed byBliss, but neither is she an object of hatred to me. Actually, I haveno animosity toward her at all. She's an attractive young woman and,even if she weren't, then, for your sake, I would be prepared to findher so. It's Gaia I dislike.""But Bliss is Gaia.""I know, Janov. That's what complicates things so. As long as I thinkof Bliss as a person, there's no problem. If I think of her as Gaia,there is.""But you haven't given Gaia a chance, Golan. Look, old chap,let me admit something. When Bliss and I are intimate, she sometimes letsme share her mind for a minute or so. Not for more than that becauseshe says I'm too old to adapt to it. Oh, don't grin, Golan, youwould be too old for it, too. If an Isolate, such as you or I, wereto remain part of Gaia for more, than a minute or two, there might bebrain damage and if it's as much as five or ten minutes, it would beirreversible. If you could only experience it, Golan.""What? Irreversible brain damage? No, thanks.""Golan, you're deliberately misunderstanding me. I mean, justthat small moment of union. You don't know what you're missing. It'sindescribable. Bliss rays there's a sense of joy. That's like sayingthere's a sense of joy when you finally drink a bit of water after youhave all but died of thirst. I couldn't even begin to tell you whatit's like. You share all the pleasures that a billion people separatelyexperience. It isn't a steady joy; if it were you would quickly stopfeeling it. It vibrates twinkles has a strange pulsing rhythmthat doesn't let you go. It's more joy no, not more it'sa better joy than you could ever experience separately. Icould weep when she shuts the door on me "Trevize shook his head. "You are amazingly eloquent, my good friend,but you sound very much as though you're describing pseudendorphinaddiction, or that of some other drug that admits you to joy in theshort term at the price of leaving you permanently in horror in the longterm. Not for me! I am reluctant to sell my individuality for some brieffeeling of joy.""I still have my individuality, Golan.""But for how long will you have it if you keep it up, Janov? You'llbeg for more and more of your drug until, eventually, your brain willbe damaged. Janov, you mustn't let Bliss do this to you. PerhapsI had better speak to her about it.""No! Don't! You're not the soul of tact, you know, and I don't wanther hurt. I assure you she takes better care of me in that respect thanyou can imagine. She's more concerned with the possibility of braindamage than I am. You can be sure of that.""Well, then, I'll speak to you. Janov, don't do this anymore. You'velived for fifty-two years with your own kind of pleasure and joy,and your brain is adapted to withstanding that. Don't be snapped up bya new and unusual vice. There is a price for it; if not immediately,then eventually.""Yes, Golan," said Pelorat in a low voice, looking down at the tipsof his shoes. Then he said, "Suppose you look at it this way. What ifyou were a one-celled creature ""I know what you're going to say, Janov. Forget it. Bliss and I havealready referred to that analogy.""Yes, but think a moment. Suppose we imagine single-celled organismswith a human level of consciousness and with the power of thought andimagine them faced with the possibility of becoming a multicellularorganism. Would not the single-celled organisms mourn their lossof individuality, and bitterly resent their forthcoming enforcedregimentation into the personality of an overall organism? And wouldthey not be wrong? Could an individual cell even imagine the power ofthe human brain?"Trevize shook his head violently. "No, Janov, it's a falseanalogy. Single-celled organisms don't have consciousnessor any power of thought or if they do it is so infinitesimalit might as well be considered zero. For such objects to combine andlose individuality is to lose something they have never really had. Ahuman being, however, is conscious and does have the power of thought. He has an actual consciousness and an actualindependent intelligence to lose, so the analogy fails."There was silence between the two of them for a moment; an almostoppressive silence; and finally Pelorat, attempting to wrench theconversation in a new direction, said, "Why do you stare at theviewscreen?""Habit," said Trevize, smiling wryly. "The computer tells me thatthere are no Gaian ships following me and that there are no Sayshellianfleets coming to meet me. Still I look anxiously, comforted by my ownfailure to see such ships, when the computer's sensors are hundreds oftimes keener and more piercing than my eyes. What's more, the computer iscapable of sensing some properties of space very delicately, propertiesthat my senses can't perceive under any conditions. Knowing allthat, I still stare."Pelorat said, "Golan, if we are indeed friends ""I promise you I will do nothing to grieve Bliss; at least, nothingI can help.""It's another matter now. You keep your destination from me, as thoughyou don't trust me with it. Where are we going? Are you of the opinionyou know where Earth is?"Trevize looked up, eyebrows lifted. "I'm sorry. I have been huggingthe secret to my own bosom, haven't I?""Yes, but why?"Trevize said, "Why, indeed. I wonder, my friend, if it isn't a matterof Bliss.""Bliss? Is it that you don't want her to know. Really,old fellow, she is completely to be trusted.""It's not that. What's the use of not trusting her? I suspect shecan tweak any secret out of my mind if she wishes to. I think I have amore childish reason than that. I have the feeling that you are payingattention only to her and that I no longer really exist."Pelorat looked horrified. "But that's not true, Golan.""I know, but I'm trying to analyze my own feelings. You came to mejust now with fears for our friendship, and thinking about it, I feel asthough I've had the same fears. I haven't openly admitted it to myself,but I think I have felt cut out by Bliss. Perhaps I seek to `get even'
by petulantly keeping things from you. Childish, I suppose.""Golan!""I said it was childish, didn't I? But where is the person who isn'tchildish now and then? However, we are friends. We'vesettled that and therefore I will play no further games. We're goingto Comporellon.""Comporellon?" said Pelorat, for the moment not remembering.
"Surely you recall my friend, the traitor, Munn Li Compor. We threemet on Sayshell."Pelorat's face assumed a visible expression of enlightenment. "Ofcourse I remember. Comporellon was the world of his ancestors."" If it was. I don't necessarily believe anythingCompor said. But Comporellon is a known world, and Compor said that itsinhabitants knew of Earth. Well, then, we'll go there and find out. Itmay lead to nothing but it's the only starting point we have."Pelorat cleared his throat and looked dubious. "Oh, my dear fellow,are you sure?""There's nothing about which to be either sure or not sure. We haveone starting point and, however feeble it might be, we have no choicebut to follow it up.""Yes, but if we're doing it on the basis of what Compor told us,then perhaps we ought to consider everything he told us. Iseem to remember that he told us, most emphatically, that Earth didnot exist as a living planet that its surface was radioactive andthat it was utterly lifeless. And if that is so, then we are going toComporellon for nothing."8The three were lunching in the dining room, virtuallyfilling it as they did so.
"This is very good," said Pelorat, with considerable satisfaction. "Isthis part of our original Terminus supply?""No, not at all," said Trevize. "That's long gone. This is partof the supplies we bought on Sayshell, before we headed out towardGaia. Unusual, isn't it? Some sort of seafood, but rather crunchy. Asfor this stuff I was under the impression it was cabbage when Ibought it, but it doesn't taste anything like it."Bliss listened but said nothing. She picked at the food on her ownplate gingerly.
Pelorat said gently, "You've got to eat, dear.""I know, Pel, and I'm eating."Trevize said, with a touch of impatience he couldn't quite suppress,"We do have Gaian food, Bliss.""I know," said Bliss, "but I would rather conserve that. We don'tknow how long we will be out in space and eventually I must learn toeat Isolate food. ""Is that so bad? Or must Gaia eat only Gaia."Bliss sighed. "Actually, there's a saying of ours that goes: `WhenGaia eats Gaia, there is neither loss nor gain.' It is no more than atransfer of consciousness up and down the scale. Whatever I eat on Gaiais Gaia and when much of it is metabolized and becomes me, itis still Gaia. In fact, by the fact that I eat, some of whatI eat has a chance to participate in a higher intensity of consciousness,while, of course, other portions of it are turned into waste of one sortor another and therefore sink in the scale of consciousness."She took a firm bite of her food, chewed vigorously for a moment,swallowed, and said, "It represents a vast circulation. Plants growand are eaten by animals. Animals eat and are eaten. Any organismthat dies is incorporated into the cells of molds, decay bacteria,and so on still Gaia. In this vast circulation of consciousness,even inorganic matter participates, and everything in the circulationhas its chance of periodically participating in a high intensity ofconsciousness.""All this," said Trevize, "can be said of any world. Every atom inme has a long history during which it may have been part of many livingthings, including human beings, and during which it may also have spentlong periods as part of the sea, or in a lump of coal, or in a rock,or as a portion of the wind blowing upon us.""On Gaia, however," said Bliss, "all atoms are also continually partof a higher planetary consciousness of which you know nothing.""Well, what happens, then," said Trevize, "to these vegetables fromSayshell that you are eating? Do they become part of Gaia?""They do rather slowly. And the wastes I excrete as slowly ceasebeing part of Gaia. After all, what leaves me is altogether lacking incontact with Gaia. It lacks even the less-direct hyperspatial contactthat I can maintain, thanks to my high level of conscious intensity. Itis this hyperspatial contact that causes non-Gaian food to become partof Gaia slowly once I eat it.""What about the Gaian food in our stores? Will that slowly becomenon-Gaian? If so, you had better eat it while you can.""There is no need to be concerned about that," said Bliss. "Our Gaianstores have been treated in such a way that they will remain part ofGaia over a long interval."Pelorat said, suddenly, "But what will happen when we eat the Gaian food. For that matter, what happened to us when we ateGaian food on Gaia itself. Are we ourselves slowly turning into Gaia?"Bliss shook her head and a peculiarly disturbed expression crossed herface. "No, what you ate was lost to us. Or at least the portions thatwere metabolized into your tissues were lost to us. What you excretedstayed Gaia or very slowly became Gaia so that in the end the balancewas maintained, but numerous atoms of Gaia became non-Gaia as a resultof your visit to us.""Why was that?" asked Trevize curiously.
"Because you would not have been able to endure the conversion,even a very partial one. You were our guests, brought to our worldunder compulsion, in a manner of speaking, and we had to protect youfrom danger, even at the cost of the loss of tiny fragments of Gaia. Itwas a willing price we paid, but not a happy one.""We regret that," said Trevize, "but are you sure that non-Gaianfood, or some kinds of non-Gaian food, might not, in their turn, harmyou ?""No," said Bliss. "What is edible for you would be edible to me. Imerely have the additional problem of metabolizing such food into Gaiaas well as into my own tissues. It represents a psychological barrierthat rather spoils my enjoyment of the food and causes me to eat slowly,but I will overcome that with time.""What about infection?" said Pelorat, in high-pitched alarm. "Ican't understand why I didn't think of this earlier. Bliss! Any worldyou land on is likely to have microorganisms against which you have nodefense and you will die of some simple infectious disease. Trevize,we must turn back.""Don't be panicked, Pel dear," said Bliss, smiling. "Microorganisms,too, are assimilated into Gaia when they are part of my food, or whenthey enter my body in any other way. If they seem to be in the processof doing harm, they will be assimilated the more quickly, and once theyare Gaia, they will do me no harm."The meal drew to its end and Pelorat sipped at his spiced and heatedmixture of fruit juices. "Dear me," he said, licking his lips, "I thinkit is time to change the subject again. It does seem to me that my soleoccupation on board ship is subject-changing. Why is that?"Trevize said solemnly, "Because Bliss and I cling to whatever subjectswe discuss, even to the death. We depend upon you, Janov, to save oursanity. What subject do you want to change to, old friend?""I've gone through my reference material on Comporellon and the entiresector of which it is part is rich in legends of age. They set theirsettlement far back in time, in the first millennium of hyperspatialtravel. Comporellon even speaks of a legendary founder named Benbally,though they don't say when he came from. They say that the original nameof their planet was Benbally World.""And how much truth is there in that, in your opinion, Janov?""A kernel, perhaps, but who can guess what the kernel might be.""I never heard of anyone named Benbally in actual history. Haveyou?""No, I haven't, but you know that in the late Imperial era therewas a deliberate suppression of pre-Imperial history. The Emperors,in the turbulent last centuries of the Empire, were anxious to reducelocal patriotism since they considered it, with ample justification,to be a disintegrating influence. In almost every sector of the Galaxy,therefore, true history, with complete records and accurate chronology,begins only with the days when Trantor's influence made itself felt andthe sector in question had allied Itself to the Empire or been annexedby it.""I shouldn't think that history would be that easy to eradicate,"said Trevize.
"In many ways, it isn't," said Pelorat, "but a determined and powerfulgovernment can weaken it greatly. If it is sufficiently weakened, earlyhistory comes to depend on scattered material and tends to degenerateinto folk tales. Invariably such folk tales will fill with exaggerationand come to show the sector to be older and more powerful than, in alllikelihood, it ever really was. And no matter how silly a particularlegend is, or how impossible it might be on the very face of it, itbecomes a matter of patriotism among the locals to believe it. I canshow you tales from every corner of the Galaxy that speak of originalcolonization as having taken place from Earth itself, though that isnot always the name they give the parent planet.""What else do they call it?""Any of a number of names. They call it the Only, sometimes; andsometimes, the Oldest. Or they call it the Mooned World, which, accordingto some authorities is a reference to its giant satellite. Others claimit means `Lost World' and that `Mooned' is a version of `Marooned,'
a pre-Galactic word meaning `lost' or `abandoned.'"Trevize said gently, "Janov, stop! You'll continue forever withyour authorities and counterauthorities. These legends are everywhere,you say?""Oh yes, my dear fellow. Quite. You have only to go through them togain a feel for this human habit of beginning with some seed of truthand layering about it shell after shell of pretty falsehood inthe fashion of the oysters of Rhampora that build pearls about a pieceof grit. I came across just exactly that metaphor once when ""Janov! Stop again! Tell me, is there anything about Comporellon'slegends that is different from others?""Oh!" Pelorat gazed at Trevize blankly for a moment. "Different? Well,they claim that Earth is relatively nearby and that's unusual. On mostworlds that speak of Earth, under whatever name they choose, there isa tendency to be vague about its location placing it indefinitelyfar away or in some never-never land."Trevize said, "Yes, as some on Sayshell told us that Gaia was locatedin hyperspace."Bliss laughed.
Trevize cast her a quick glance. "It's true. That's what we weretold.""I don't disbelieve it. It's amusing, that's all. It is, of course,what we want them to believe. We only ask to be left alone right now,and where can we be safer and more secure than in hyperspace? If we'renot there, we're as good as there, if people believe that to be ourlocation.""Yes," said Trevize dryly, "and in the same way there is somethingthat causes people to believe that Earth doesn't exist, or that it isfar away, or that it has a radioactive crust.""Except," said Pelorat, "that the Comporellians believe it to berelatively close to themselves.""But nevertheless give it a radioactive crust. One way or another everypeople with an Earth-legend consider Earth to be unapproachable.""That's more or less right," said Pelorat.
Trevize said, "Many on Sayshell believed Gaia to be nearby;some even identified its star correctly; and yet all considered itunapproachable. There may be some Comporellians who insist that Earthis radioactive and dead, but who can identify its star. We will thenapproach it, unapproachable though they may consider it. We did exactlythat in the case of Gaia."Bliss said, "Gaia was willing to receive you, Trevize. You werehelpless in our grip but we had no thought of harming you. What if Earth,too, is powerful, but not benevolent. What then?""I must in any case try to reach it, and accept theconsequences. However, that is my task. Once I locateEarth and head for it, it will not be too late for you to leave. I willput you off on the nearest Foundation world, or take you back to Gaia,if you insist, and then go on to Earth alone.""My dear chap," said Pelorat, in obvious distress. "Don't say suchthings. I wouldn't dream of abandoning you.""Or I of abandoning Pel," said Bliss, as she reached out a hand totouch Pelorat's cheek.
"Very well, then. It won't be long before we're ready to take theJump to Comporellon and thereafter, let us hope, it will be onto Earth."Part Two - Comporellon


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