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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 5: Struggle for the Ship
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Chapter 5: Struggle for the Ship
17Trevize's first impression was that he was on the set ofa hyperdrama specifically, that of a historical romance of Imperialdays. There was a particular set, with few variations (perhaps only oneexisted and was used by every hyperdrama producer, for all he knew),that represented the great world-girdling planet-city of Trantor inits prime.
There were the large spaces, the busy scurry of pedestrians, thesmall vehicles speeding along the lanes reserved for them.
Trevize looked up, almost expecting to see air-taxis climbing into dimvaulted recesses, but that at least was absent. In fact, as his initialastonishment subsided, it was clear that the building was far smallerthan one would expect on Trantor. It was only a buildingand not part of a complex that stretched unbroken for thousands of milesin every direction.
The colors were different, too. On the hyperdramas, Trantor wasalways depicted as impossibly garish in coloring and the clothing was,if taken literally, thoroughly impractical and unserviceable. However,all those colors and frills were meant to serve a symbolic purpose forthey indicated the decadence (a view that was obligatory, these days)of the Empire, and of Trantor particularly.
If that were so, however, Comporellon was the very reverse of decadent,for the color scheme that Pelorat had remarked upon at the spaceportwas here borne out.
The walls were in shades of gray, the ceilings white, the clothingof the population in black, gray, and white. Occasionally, there was anall-black costume; even more occasionally, an all-gray; never an all-whitethat Trevize could see. The pattern was always different, however,as though people, deprived of color, still managed, irrepressibly,to find ways of asserting individuality.
Faces tended to be expressionless or, if not that, then grim. Womenwore their hair short; men longer, but pulled backward into shortqueues. No one looked at anyone else as he or she passed. Everyone seemedto breathe a purposefulness, as though there was definite businesson each mind and room for nothing else. Men and women dressed alike,with only length of hair and the slight bulge of breast and width ofhip marking the difference.
The three were guided into an elevator that went down fivelevels. There they emerged and were moved on to a door on which thereappeared in small and unobtrusive lettering, white on gray, "MitzaLizalor, MinTrans."The Comporellian in the lead touched the lettering, which, after amoment, glowed in response. The door opened and they walked in.
It was a large room and rather empty, the bareness of content serving,perhaps, as a kind of conspicuous consumption of space designed to showthe power of the occupant.
Two guards stood against the far wall, faces expressionless andeyes firmly fixed on those entering. A large desk filled the center ofthe room, set perhaps just a little back of center. Behind the deskwas, presumably, Mitza Lizalor, large of body, smooth of face, darkof eyes. Two strong and capable hands with long, square-ended fingersrested on the desk.
The MinTrans (Minister of Transportation, Trevize assumed) had thelapels of the outer garment a broad and dazzling white against thedark gray of the rest of the costume. The double bar of white extendeddiagonally below the lapels, across the garment itself and crossing atthe center of the chest. Trevize could see that although the garment wascut in such a fashion as to obscure the swelling of a woman's breastson either side, the white X called attention to them.
The Minister was undoubtedly a woman. Even if her breasts were ignored,her short hair showed it, and though there was no makeup on her face,her features showed it, too.
Her voice, too, was indisputably feminine, a rich contralto.
She said, "Good afternoon. It is not often that we are honoredby a visit of men from Terminus. And of an unreported woman aswell." Her eyes passed from one to another, then settled on Trevize,who was standing stiffly and frowningly erect. "And one of the men amember of the Council, too.""A Councilman of the Foundation," said Trevize, trying to makehis voice ring. "Councilman Golan Trevize on a mission from theFoundation.""On a mission?" The Minister's eyebrows rose.
"On a mission," repeated Trevize. "Why, then, are we being treated asfelons? Why have we been taken into custody by armed guards and broughthere as prisoners? The Council of the Foundation, I hope you understand,will not be pleased to hear of this.""And in any case," said Bliss, her voice seeming a touch shrill incomparison with that of the older woman, "are we to remain standingindefinitely?"The Minister gazed coolly at Bliss for a long moment, then raised anarm and said, "Three chairs! Now!"A door opened and three men, dressed in the usual somber Comporellianfashion, brought in three chairs at a semitrot. The three people standingbefore the desk sat down.
"There," said the Minister, with a wintry smile, "are wecomfortable?"Trevize thought not. The chairs were uncushioned, cold to the touch,flat of surface and back, making no compromise with the shape of thebody. He said, "Why are we here?"The Minister consulted papers lying on her desk. "I will explainas soon as I am certain of my facts. Your ship is the Far Star out of Terminus. Is that correct, Councilman?""It is."The Minister looked up. "I used your title, Councilman. Will you,as a courtesy, use mine?""Would Madam Minister be sufficient? Or is there an honorific?""No honorific, sir, and you need not double your words. `Minister'
is sufficient, or `Madam' if you weary of repetition.""Then my answer to your question is: It is, Minister.""The captain of the ship is Golan Trevize, citizen of the Foundationand member of the Council on Terminus a freshman Councilman,actually. And you are Trevize. Am I correct in all this, Councilman?""You are, Minister. And since I am a citizen of theFoundation ""I am not yet done, Councilman. Save your objections till Iam. Accompanying you is Janov Pelorat, scholar, historian, and citizenof the Foundation. And that is you, is it not, Dr. Pelorat?"Pelorat could not suppress a slight start as the Minister turnedher keen glance on him. He said, "Yes, it is, my d " He paused,and began again, "Yes, it is, Minister."The Minister clasped her hands stiffly. "There is no mention in thereport that has been forwarded to me of a woman. Is this woman a memberof the ship's complement?""She is, Minister," said Trevize.
"Then I address myself to the woman. Your name?""I am known as Bliss," said Bliss, sitting erectly and speakingwith calm clarity, "though my full name is longer, madam. Do you wishit all?""I will be content with Bliss for the moment. Are you a citizen ofthe Foundation, Bliss?""I am not, madam.""Of what world are you a citizen, Bliss?""I have no documents attesting to citizenship with respect to anyworld, madam.""No papers, Bliss?" She made a small mark on the papers beforeher. "That fact is noted. What is it you are doing on board the ship?""I am a passenger, madam.""Did either Councilman Trevize or Dr. Pelorat ask to see your papersbefore you boarded, Bliss?""No, madam.""Did you inform them that you were without papers, Bliss?""No, madam.""What is your function on board ship, Bliss? Does your name suityour function?"Bliss said proudly, "I am a passenger and have no other function."Trevize broke in. "Why are you badgering this woman, Minister? Whatlaw has she broken?"Minister Lizalor's eyes shifted from Bliss to Trevize. She said, "Youare an Outworlder, Councilman, and do not know our laws. Nevertheless,you are subject to them if you choose to visit our world. You do notbring your laws with you; that is a general rule of Galactic law,I believe.""Granted, Minister, but that doesn't tell me which of your laws shehas broken.""It is a general rule in the Galaxy, Councilman, that a visitor froma world outside the dominions of the world she is visiting have heridentification papers with her. Many worlds are lax in this respect,valuing tourism, or indifferent to the rule of order. We of Comporellonare not. We are a world of law and rigid in its application. She is aworldless person, and as such, breaks our law."Trevize said, "She had no choice in the matter. I was piloting theship, and I brought it down to Comporellon. She had to accompany us,Minister, or do you suggest she should have asked to be jettisonedin space?""This merely means that you, too, have broken our law, Councilman.""No, that is not so, Minister. I am not an Outworlder. I am a citizenof the Foundation, and Comporellon and the worlds subject to it arean Associated Power of the Foundation. As a citizen of the Foundation,I can travel freely here.""Certainly, Councilman, as long as you have documentation to provethat you are indeed a citizen of the Foundation.""Which I do, Minister.""Yet even as citizen of the Foundation, you do not have the right tobreak our law by bringing a worldless person with you."Trevize hesitated. Clearly, the border guard, Kendray, had notkept faith with him, so there was no point in protecting him. He said,"We were not stopped at the immigration station and I considered thatimplicit permission to bring this woman with me, Minister.""It is true you were not stopped, Councilman. It is true thewoman war not reported by the immigration authorities and was passedthrough. I can suspect, however, that the officials at the entry stationdecided and quite correctly that it was more important to getyour ship to the surface than to worry about a worldless person. Whatthey did was, strictly speaking, an infraction of the rules, and thematter will have to be dealt with in the proper fashion, but I have nodoubt that the decision will be that the infraction was justified. Weare a world of rigid law, Councilman, but we are not rigid beyond thedictates of reason."Trevize said at once, "Then I call upon reason to bend your rigor now,Minister. If, indeed, you received no information from the immigrationstation to the effect that a worldless person was on board ship, then youhad no knowledge that we were breaking any law at the time we landed. Yetit is quite apparent that you were prepared to take us into custodythe moment we landed, and you did, in fact, do so. Why did you do so,when you had no reason to think any law was being broken?"The Minister smiled. "I understand your confusion, Councilman. Pleaselet me assure you that whatever knowledge we had gained or had notgained as to the worldless condition of your passenger had nothingto do with your being taken into custody. We are acting on behalf of theFoundation, of which, as you point out, we are an Associated Power."Trevize stared at her. "But that's impossible, Minister. It's evenworse. It's ridiculous."The Minister's chuckle was like the smooth flow of honey. She said,"I am interested in the way you consider it worse to be ridiculous thanimpossible, Councilman. I agree with you there. Unfortunately for you,however, it is neither. Why should it be?""Because I am an official of the Foundation government, on a missionfor them, and it is absolutely inconceivable that they would wish toarrest me, or that they would even have the power to do so, since I havelegislative immunity.""Ah, you omit my title, but you are deeply moved and that is perhapsforgivable. Still, I am not asked to arrest you directly. I do so onlythat I may carry out what I am asked to do, Councilman.""Which is, Minister?" said Trevize, trying to keep his emotion undercontrol in the face of this formidable woman.
"Which is to commandeer your ship, Councilman, and return it to theFoundation.""What?""Again you omit my title, Councilman. That is very slipshod of youand no way to press your own case. The ship is not yours, I presume. Wasit designed by you, or built by you, or paid for by you?""Of course not, Minister. It was assigned to me by the Foundationgovernment.""Then, presumably, the Foundation government has the right to cancelthat assignment, Councilman. It is a valuable ship, I imagine."Trevize did not answer.
The Minister said, "It is a gravitic ship, Councilman. There cannotbe many and even the Foundation must have but a very few. They mustregret having assigned one of those very few to you. Perhaps you canpersuade them to assign you another and less valuable ship that willnevertheless amply, suffice for your mission. But we must havethe ship in which you have arrived.""No, Minister, I cannot give up the ship. I cannot believe theFoundation asks it of you."The Minister smiled. "Not of me solely, Councilman. Not of Comporellon,specifically. We have reason to believe that the request was sent out toevery one of the many worlds and regions under Foundation jurisdictionor association. From this, I deduce that the Foundation does not knowyour itinerary and is seeking you with a certain angry vigor. From whichI further deduce that you have no mission to deal with Comporellon onbehalf of the Foundation since in that case they would know whereyou were and deal with us specifically. In short, Councilman, you havebeen lying to me."Trevize said, with a certain difficulty, "I would like to see a copyof request you have received from the Foundation government, Minister. Ientitled, I think, to that.""Certainly, if all this comes to legal action. We take our legal formsvery seriously, Councilman, and your rights will be fully protected,I assure you. It would be better and easier, however, if we come to anagreement here without the publicity and delay of legal action. We wouldprefer that, and, I am certain, so would the Foundation, which cannotwish the Galaxy at large to know of a runaway Legislator. That would putthe Foundation in a ridiculous light, and, by your estimate and mine,that would be worse than impossible."Trevize was again silent.
The Minister waited a moment, then went on, as imperturbable asever. "Come, Councilman, either way, by informal agreement or by legalaction, we intend to have the ship. The penalty for bringing in aworldless passenger will depend on which route we take. Demand the lawand she will represent an additional point against you and you will allsuffer the full punishment for the crime, and that will not be light,I assure you. Come to an agreement, and your passenger can be sent awayby commercial flight to any destination she wishes, and, for that matter,you two can accompany her, if you wish. Or, if the Foundation is willing,we can supply you with one of our own ships, a perfectly adequateone, provided, of course, that the Foundation will replace it with anequivalent ship of their own. Or, if, for any reason, you do not wish toreturn to Foundation-controlled territory, we might be willing to offeryou refuge here and, perhaps, eventual Comporellian citizenship. You see,you have many possibilities of gain if you come to a friendly arrangement,but none at all if you insist on your legal rights."Trevize said, "Minister, you are too eager. You promise what you cannotdo. You cannot offer me refuge in the face of a Foundation request thatI be delivered to them."The Minister said, "Councilman, I never promise what I cannot do. TheFoundation's request is only for the ship. They make no request concerningyou as an individual, or for anyone else on the ship. Their sole requestis for the vessel."Trevize glanced quickly at Bliss, and said, "May I have yourpermission, Minister, to consult with Dr. Pelorat and Miss Bliss for ashort while?""Certainly, Councilman. You may have fifteen minutes.""Privately, Minister.""You will be led to a room and, after fifteen minutes, you will be ledback, Councilman. You will not be interfered with while you are therenor will we attempt to monitor your conversation. You have my word onthat and I keep my word. However, you will be adequately guarded so donot be so foolish as to think of escaping.""We understand, Minister.""And when you come back, we will expect your free agreement to giveup the ship. Otherwise, the law will take its course, and it will bemuch the worse for all of you, Councilman. Is that understood?""That is understood, Minister," said Trevize, keeping his rage undertight control, since its expression would do him no good at all.
18It was a small room, but it was well lighted. Itcontained a couch and two chairs, and one could hear the soft sound ofa ventilating fan. On the whole, it was clearly more comfortable thanthe Minister's large and sterile office.
A guard had led them there, grave and tall, his hand hovering nearthe butt of his blaster. He remained outside the door as they enteredand said, in a heavy voice, "You have fifteen minutes."He had no sooner said that than the door slid shut, with a thud.
Trevize said, "I can only hope that we can't be overheard."Pelorat said, "She did give us her word, Golan.""You judge others by yourself, Janov. Her so-called `word' will notsuffice. She will break it without hesitation if she wants to.""It doesn't matter," said Bliss. "I can shield this place.""You have a shielding device?" asked Pelorat.
Bliss smiled, with a sudden flash of white teeth. "Gaia's mind is ashielding device, Pel. It's an enormous mind.""We are here," said Trevize angrily, "because of the limitations ofthat enormous mind.""What do you mean?" said Bliss.
"When the triple confrontation broke up, you withdrew me from theminds of both the Mayor and that Second Foundationer, Gendibal. Neitherwas to think of me again, except distantly and indifferently. I was tobe left to myself.""We had to do that," said Bliss. "You are our most importantresource.""Yes. Golan Trevize, the ever-right. But you did not withdraw my shipfrom their minds, did you? Mayor Branno did not ask for me; she had nointerest in me, but she did ask for the ship. She has notforgotten the ship."Bliss frowned.
Trevize said, "Think about it. Gaia casually assumed that I included myship; that we were a unit. If Branno didn't think of me, she wouldn'tthink of the ship. The trouble is that Gaia doesn't understandindividuality. It thought of the ship and me as a single organism,and it was wrong to think that."Bliss said softly, "That is possible.""Well, then," said Trevize flatly, "it's up to you to rectify thatmistake. I must have my gravitic ship and my computer. Nothing elsewill do. Therefore, Bliss, make sure that I keep the ship. You cancontrol minds.""Yes, Trevize, but we do not exercise that control lightly. Wedid it in connection with the triple confrontation, but do youknow how long that confrontation was planned? Calculated? Weighed?
It took literally many years. I cannot simply walk up to awoman and adjust the mind to suit someone's convenience.""Is this a time "Bliss went on forcefully. "If I began to follow such a course ofaction, where do we stop? I might have influenced the agent's mind atthe entry station and we would have passed through at once. I mighthave influenced the agent's mind in the vehicle, and he would have letus go.""Well, since you mention it, why didn't you do these things?""Because we don't know where it would lead. We don't know the sideeffects, which may well turn out to make the situation worse. If I adjustthe Minister's mind now, that will affect her dealings with others withwhom she will come in contact and, since she is a high official in hergovernment, it may affect interstellar relations. Until such time asthe matter is thoroughly worked out, we dare not touch her mind.""Then why are you with us?""Because the time may come when your life is threatened. I must protectyour life at all costs, even at the cost of my Pel or of myself. Yourlife was not threatened at the entry station. It is not threatenednow. You must work this out for yourself, and do so at least until Gaiacan estimate the consequence of some sort of action and take it."Trevize fell into a period of thought. Then he said, "In that case,I have to try something. It may not work."The door moved open, thwacking into its socket as noisily as ithad closed.
The guard said, "Come out."As they emerged, Pelorat whispered, "What are you going to do,Golan?"Trevize shook his head and whispered, "I'm not entirely sure. I willhave to improvise."19Minister Lizalor was still at her desk when they returnedto her office. Her face broke into a grim smile as they walked in.
She said, "I trust, Councilman Trevize, that you have returned totell me that you are giving up this Foundation ship you have.""I have come, Minister," said Trevize calmly, "to discuss terms.""There are no terms to discuss, Councilman. A trial, if you insiston one, can be arranged very quickly and would be carried through evenmore quickly. I guarantee your conviction even in a perfectly fairtrial since your guilt in bringing in a worldless person is obviousand indisputable. After that, we will be legally justified in seizingthe ship and you three would suffer heavy penalties. Don't force thosepenalties on yourself just to delay us for a day.""Nevertheless, there are terms to discuss, Minister, because nomatter how quickly you convict us, you cannot seize the ship without myconsent. Any attempt you make to force your way into the ship withoutme will destroy it, and the spaceport with it, and every human beingin the spaceport. This will surely infuriate the Foundation, somethingyou dare not do. Threatening us or mistreating us in order to forceme to open the ship is surely against your law, and if you break yourown law in desperation and subject us to torture or even to a periodof cruel and unusual imprisonment, the Foundation will find out aboutit and they will be even more furious. However much they want the shipthey cannot allow a precedent that would permit the mistreatment ofFoundation citizens. Shall we talk terms?""This is all nonsense," said the Minister, scowling. "If necessary,we will call in the Foundation itself. They will know how to open theirown ship, or they will force you to open it."Trevize said, "You do not use my title, Minister, but you areemotionally moved, so that is perhaps forgivable. You know that thevery last thing you will do is call in the Foundation, since you haveno intention of delivering the ship to them."The smile faded from the Minister's face. "What nonsense is this,Councilman?""The kind of nonsense, Minister, that others, perhaps, ought not tohear. Let my friend and the young woman go to some comfortable hotelroom and obtain the rest they need so badly and let your guards leave,too. They can remain just outside and you can have them leave you ablaster. You are not a small woman and, with a blaster, you have nothingto fear from me. I am unarmed."The Minister leaned toward him across the desk. "I have nothing tofear from you in any case."Without looking behind her, she beckoned to one of the guards, whoapproached at once and came to a halt at her side with a stamp of hisfeet. said, "Guard, take that one and that one to Suite 5. They are tostay there and to be made comfortable and to be well guarded. You willbe held responsible for any mistreatment they may receive, as well asfor any breach of security."She stood up, and not all of Trevize's determination to maintain anabsolute composure sufficed to keep him from flinching a little. Shewas tall; quite tall, at least, as Trevize's own 1.85 meters, perhaps acentimeter or so taller. She had a narrow waistline, with the two whitestrips across her chest continuing into an encirclement of her waist,making it look even narrower, There was a massive grace about her andTrevize thought ruefully that her statement that she had nothing tofear from him might well be correct. In a rough-and-tumble, he thought,she would have no trouble pinning his shoulders to the mat.
She said, "Come with me, Councilman. If you are going to talk nonsensethen, for your own sake, the fewer who hear you, the better."She led the way in a brisk stride, and Trevize followed, feelingshrunken in her massive shadow, a feeling he had never before had witha woman.
They entered an elevator and, as the door closed behind them, she said,"We are alone now and if you are under the illusion, Councilman, thatYou can use force with me in order to accomplish some imagined purpose,please forget that." The singsong in her voice grew more pronounced as shesaid, with clear amusement, "You look like a reasonably strong specimen,but I assure you I will have no trouble in breaking your arm or yourback, if I must. I am armed, but I will not have to use any weapon."Trevize scratched at his cheek as his eyes drifted first down, thenup her body. "Minister, I can hold my own in a wrestling match with anyman my weight, but I have already decided to forfeit a bout with you. Iknow when I am outclassed.""Good," said the Minister, and looked pleased.
Trevize said, "Where are we going, Minister?""Down! Quite far down. Don't be upset, however. In the hyperdramas,this would be a preliminary to taking you to a dungeon, I suppose, butwe have no dungeons on Comporellon only reasonable prisons. Weare going to my private apartment; not as romantic as a dungeon in thebad old Imperial days, but more comfortable."Trevize estimated that they were at least fifty meters below thesurface of the planet, when the elevator door slid to one side and theystepped out.
20Trevize looked about the apartment with clearsurprise.
The Minister said grimly, "Do you disapprove of my living quarters,Councilman?""No, I have no reason to, Minister. I am merely surprised. I find itunexpected. The impression I had of your world from what little I sawand heard since arriving was that it was an aaaabstemious one,eschewing useless luxury.""So it is, Councilman. Our resources are limited, and our life mustbe as harsh as our climate.""But this, Minister," and Trevize held out both hands as thoughto embrace the room where, for the first time on this world, he sawcolor, where the couches were well cushioned, where the light from theilluminated walls was soft, and where the floor was force-carpeted sothat steps were springy and silent. "This is surely luxury.""We eschew, as you say, Councilman, useless luxury; ostentatiousluxury; wastefully excessive luxury. This, however, is private luxury,which has its use. I work hard and bear much responsibility. I need aplace where I can forget, for a while, the difficulties of my post."Trevize said, "And do all Comporellians live like this when the eyesof others are averted, Minister?""It depends on the degree of work and responsibility. Few can affordto, or deserve to, or, thanks to our code of ethics, want to.""But you, Minister, can afford to, deserve to and want to?"The Minister said, "Rank has its privileges as well as its duties. Andnow sit down, Councilman, and tell me of this madness of yours." Shesat down on the couch, which gave slowly under her solid weight, andpointed to an equally soft chair in which Trevize would be facing herat not too great a distance."Trevize sat down. "Madness, Minister?"The Minister relaxed visibly, leaning her right elbow on apillow. "In private conversation, we need not observe the rules of formaldiscourse too punctiliously. You may call me Lizalor. I will call you,Trevize. Tell me what is on your mind, Trevize, and let us inspectit."Trevize crossed his legs and sat back in his chair. "See here, Lizalor,you gave me the choice of either agreeing to give up the ship voluntarily,or of being subjected to a formal trial. In both cases, you would end upwith the ship. Yet you have been going out of your way to persuademe to adopt the former alternative. You are willing to offer me anothership to replace mine, so that my friends and I might go anywhere wechose. We might even stay here on Comporellon and qualify for citizenship,if we chose. In smaller things, you were willing to allow me fifteenminutes to consult with my friends. You were even willing to bring mehere to your private apartment, while my friends are now, presumably,in comfortable quarters. In short, you are bribing me, Lizalor, ratherdesperately, to grant you the ship without the necessity of a trial.""Come, Trevize, are you in no mood to give me credit for humaneimpulses?""None.""Or the thought that voluntary surrender would be quicker and moreconvenient than a trial would be?""No! I would offer a different suggestion.""Which is?""A trial has one thing in its strong disfavor; it is a publicaffair. You have several times referred to this world's rigorous legalsystem, and I suspect it would be difficult to arrange a trial withoutits being fully recorded. If were so, the Foundation would know of itand you would have to hand the ship to it once the trial was over.""Of course," said Lizalor, without expression. "It is the Foundationowns the ship.""But," said Trevize, "a private agreement with me would not haveto be placed on formal record. You could have the ship and, since theFoundation would not know of the matter they don't even know thatwe are on this world Comporellon could keep the ship. That, I amsure, is what you intend to do.""Why should we do that?" She was still without expression. "Are wenot part of the Foundation Confederation?""Not quite. Your status is that of an Associated Power. In any map onwhich the member worlds of the Federation are shown in red, Comporellonand its dependent worlds would show up as a patch of pale pink.""Even so, as an Associated Power, we would surely co-operate withthe Foundation.""Would you? Might not Comporellon be dreaming of total independence;even leadership? You are an old world. Almost all worlds claim to beolder than they are, but Comporellon is an old world."Minister Lizalor allowed a cold smile to cross her face. "The oldest,if some of our enthusiasts are to be believed.""Might there not have been a time when Comporellon was indeed theleading world of a relatively small group of worlds? Might you not stilldream of recovering that lost position of power?""Do you think we dream of so impossible a goal? I called it madnessbefore I knew your thoughts, and it is certainly madness now thatI do.""Dreams may be impossible, yet still be dreamed. Terminus, locatedat the very edge of the Galaxy and with a five-century history that isbriefer than that of any other world, virtually rules the Galaxy. Andshall Comporellon not? Eh?" Trevize was smiling.
Lizalor remained grave. "Terminus reached that position, we are givento understand, by the working out of Hari Seldon's Plan.""That is the psychological buttress of its superiority and it willhold only as long, perhaps, as people believe it. It may be that theComporellian government does not believe it. Even so, Terminus also enjoysa technological buttress. Terminus's hegemony over the Galaxy undoubtedlyrests on its advanced technology of which the gravitic ship you areso anxious to have is an example. No other world but Terminus disposesof gravitic ships. If Comporellon could have one, and could learn itsworkings in detail, it would be bound to have taken a giant technologicalstep forward. I don't think it would be sufficient to help you overcomeTerminus's lead, but your government might think so."Lizalor said, "You can't be serious in this. Any government that keptthe ship in the face of the Foundation's desire to have it would surelyexperience the Foundation's wrath, and history shows that the Foundationcan be quite uncomfortably wrathful."Trevize said, "The Foundation's wrath would only be exerted if theFoundation knew there was something to be wrathful about.""In that case; Trevize if we assume your analysis of thesituation is something other than mad would it not be to yourbenefit to give us the ship and drive a hard bargain? We would paywell for the chance of having it quietly, according to your line ofargument.""Could you then rely on my not reporting the matter to theFoundation?""Certainly. Since you would have to report your own part in it.""I could report having acted under duress.""Yes. Unless your good sense told you that your Mayor would neverbelieve that. Come, make a deal."Trevize shook his head. "I will not, Madam Lizalor. The ship ismine and it must stay mine. As I have told you, it will blow up withextraordinary power if you attempt to force an entry. I assure you I amtelling you the truth. Don't rely on its being a bluff."" You could open it, and reinstruct the computer.""Undoubtedly, but I won't do that."Lizalor drew a heavy sigh. "You know we could make you change yourmind if not by what we could do to you, then by what we could doto your friend, Dr. Pelorat, or to the young woman.""Torture, Minister? Is that your law?""No, Councilman. But we might not have to do anything so crude. Thereis always the Psychic Probe."For the first time since entering the Minister's apartment, Trevizefelt an inner chill.
"You can't do that either. The use of the Psychic Probe for anythingbut medical purposes is outlawed throughout the Galaxy.""But if we are driven to desperation ""I am willing to chance that," said Trevize calmly, "for it woulddo you no good. My determination to retain my ship is so deep that thePsychic Probe would destroy my mind before it twisted it into givingit to you." ( That was a bluff, he thought, and the chillinside him deepened.) "And even if you were so skillful as to persuademe without destroying my mind and if I were to open the ship and disarmit and hand it over to you, it would still do you no good. The ship'scomputer is even more advanced than the ship is, and it is designedsomehow I don't know how to work at its full potential onlywith me. It is what I might call a one-person computer.""Suppose, then, you retained your ship, and remained its pilot. Wouldyou consider piloting it for us as an honored Comporelliancitizen? A large salary. Considerable luxury. Your friends, too.""No.""What is it you suggest? That we simply let you and your friendslaunch your ship and go off into the Galaxy? I warn you that before weallow you to do this, we might simply inform the Foundation that youare here with your ship, and leave all to them.""And lose the ship yourself?""If we must lose it, perhaps we would rather lose it to the Foundationthan to an impudent Outworlder.""Then let me suggest a compromise of my own.""A compromise? Well, I will listen. Proceed."Trevize said carefully, "I am on an important mission. It began withFoundation support. That support seems to have been suspended, but themission remains important. Let me have Comporellian support instead andif I complete the mission successfully, Comporellon will benefit." `Lizalor wore a dubious expression. "And you will not return the shipto the Foundation?""I have never planned to do that. The Foundation would not be searchingfor the ship so desperately if they thought there was anyintention of my casually returning it to them.""That is not quite the same thing as saying that you will give theship to us.""Once I have completed the mission, the ship may be of no furtheruse to me. In that case, I would not object to Comporellon having it."The two looked at each other in silence for a few moments.
Lizalor said, "You use the conditional. The ship `may be.' That isof no value to us.""I could make wild promises, but of what value would that be toyou? The fact that my promises are cautious and limited should show youthat they are at least sincere.""Clever," said Lizalor, nodding. "I like that. Well, what is yourmission and how might it benefit Comporellon?"Trevize said, "No, no, it is your turn. Will you support me if I showyou that the mission is of importance to Comporellon?"Minister Lizalor rose from the couch, a tall, overpoweringpresence. "I am hungry, Councilman Trevize, and I will get no further onan empty stomach. I will offer you something to eat and drink inmoderation. After that, we will finish the matter."And it seemed to Trevize that there was a rather carnivorous lookof anticipation about her at that moment, so that he tightened his lipswith just a bit of unease.
21The meal might have been a nourishing one, but it wasnot one to delight the palate. The main course consisted of boiled beefin a mustardy sauce, resting on a foundation of a leafy vegetable Trevizedid not recognize. Nor did he like it for it had a bitter-salty tastehe did not enjoy. He found out later it was a form of seaweed.
There was, afterward, a piece of fruit that tasted something likean apple tainted by peach (not bad, actually) and a hot, dark beveragethat was bitter enough for Trevize to leave half behind and ask if hemight have some cold water instead. The portions were all small, but,under the circumstances, Trevize did not mind.
The meal had been private, with no servants in view. The Minister hadherself heated and served the food, and herself cleared away the dishesand cutlery.
"I hope you found the meal pleasant," said Lizalor, as they left thedining room.
"Quite pleasant," said Trevize, without enthusiasm.
The Minister again took her seat on the couch. "Let us return then,"she said, "to our earlier discussion. You had mentioned that Comporellonmight resent the Foundation's lead in technology and its overlordship ofthe Galaxy. In a way that's true, but that aspect of the situation wouldinterest only those who are interested in interstellar politics, and theyare comparatively few. What is much more to the point is that the averageComporellian is horrified at the immorality of the Foundation. Thereis immorality in most worlds, but it seems most marked in Terminus. Iwould say that any anti-Terminus animus that exists on this world isrooted in that, rather than in more abstract matters.""Immorality?" said Trevize, puzzled. "Whatever the faults ofthe Foundation you have to admit it runs its part of the Galaxy withreasonable efficiency and fiscal honesty. Civil rights are, by and large,respected and ""Councilman Trevize, I speak of sexual morality.""In that case, I certainly don't understand you. We are a thoroughlymoral society, sexually speaking. Women are well represented in everyfacet of social life. Our Mayor is a woman and nearly half the Councilconsists of "The Minister allowed a look of exasperation to fleet across herface. "Councilman, are you mocking me? Surely you know what sexualmorality meant. Is, or is not, marriage a sacrament upon Terminus?""What do you mean by sacrament?""Is there a formal marriage ceremony binding a couple together?""Certainly, if people wish it. Such a ceremony simplifies tax problemsand inheritance.""But divorce can take place.""Of course. It would certainly be sexually immoral to keep peopletied to, each other, when ""Are there no religious restrictions?""Religious? There are people who make a philosophy out of ancientcults, but what has that to do with marriage?""Councilman, here on Comporellon, every aspect of sex is stronglycontrolled. It may not take place out of marriage. Its expression islimited even within marriage. We are sadly shocked at those worlds, atTerminus, particularly, where sex seems to be considered a mere socialpleasure of no great importance to be indulged in when, how, and withwhom one pleases without regard to the values of religion."Trevize shrugged. "I'm sorry, but I can't undertake to reform theGalaxy, or even Terminus and what has this to do with the matterof my ship?""I'm talking about public opinion in the matter of your ship and howit limits my ability to compromise the matter. The people of Comporellonwould be horrified if they found you had taken a young and attractivewoman on board to serve the lustful urges of you and your companion. Itis out consideration for the safety of the three of you that I have beenurging you to accept peaceful surrender in place of a public trial."Trevize said, "I see you have used the meal to think of a new typeof persuasion by threat. Am I now to fear a lynch mob?""I merely point out dangers. Will you be able to deny that thewoman you have taken on board ship is anything other than a sexualconvenience?""Of course I can deny it. Bliss is the companion of my friend,Dr. Pelorat. He has no other competing companion. You may not definetheir state as marriage, but I believe that in Pelorat's mind, and inthe woman's, too, there is a marriage between them.""Are you telling me you are not involved yourself?""Certainly not," said Trevize. "What do you take me for?""I cannot tell. I do not know your notions of morality.""Then let me explain that my notions of morality tell me that I don'ttrifle with my friend's possessions or his companionships.""You are not even tempted?""I can't control the fact of temptation, but there's no chance of mygiving in to it.""No chance at all? Perhaps you are not interested in women.""Don't you believe that. I am interested.""How long has it been since you have had sex with a woman?""Months. Not at all since I left Terminus.""Surely you don't enjoy that.""I certainly don't," said Trevize, with strong feeling, "but thesituation is such that I have no choice.""Surely your friend, Pelorat, noting your suffering, would be willingto share his woman.""I show him no evidence of suffering, but if I did, he would not bewilling to share Bliss. Nor, I think, would the woman consent. She isnot attracted to me.""Do you say that because you have tested the matter?""I have not tested it. I make the judgment without feeling the needto test it. In any case, I don't particularly like her.""Astonishing! She is what a man would consider attractive.""Physically, she is attractive. Nevertheless, she doesnot appeal to me. For one thing, she is too young, too child-like insome ways.""Do you prefer women of maturity, then?"Trevize paused. Was there a trap here? He said cautiously, "I am oldenough to value some women of maturity. And what has this to do withmy ship?"Lizalor said, "For a moment, forget your ship. I am forty-sixyears old, and I am not married. I have somehow been too busy tomarry.""In that case, by the rules of your society, you must have remainedcontinent all your life. Is that why you asked how long it had been sinceI have had sex? Are you asking my advice in the matter? If so,I say it is not food and drink. It is uncomfortable to do without sex,but not impossible."The Minister smiled and there was again that carnivorous look inher eyes. "Don't mistake me, Trevize. Rank has its privileges and it ispossible to be discreet. I am not altogether an abstainer. Nevertheless,Comporellian men are unsatisfying. I accept the fact that morality isan absolute good, but it does tend to burden the men of this world withguilt, so that they become unadventurous, unenterprising, slow to begin,quick to conclude, and, in general, unskilled."Trevize said, very cautiously, "There is nothing I can do about that,either.""Are you implying that the fault may be mine? That I amuninspiring?"Trevize raised a hand. "I don't say that aaaall.""In that case, how would you react, given theopportunity? You, a man from an immoral world, who must have had a vastvariety of sexual experiences of all kinds, who is under the pressureof several months of enforced abstinence even though in the constantpresence of a young and charming woman. How would you reactin the presence of a woman such as myself; who is the mature type youprofess to like?"Trevize said, "I would behave with the respect and decency appropriateto your rank and importance.""Don't be a fool!" said the Minister. Her hand went to the rightside of her waist. The strip of white that encircled it came looseand unwound from her chest and neck. The bodice of her black gown hungnoticeably looser.
Trevize sat frozen. Had this been in her mind since when? Orwas it a bribe to accomplish what threats had not?
The bodice flipped down, along with its sturdy reinforcement aaathebreasts. The Minister sat there, with a look of proud disdain on herface, and bare from the waist up. Her breasts were a smaller version ofthe woman herself massive, firm, and overpoweringly impressive.
"Well?" she said.
Trevize said, in all honesty, "Magnificent!""And what will you do about it?""What does morality dictate on Comporellon, Madam Lizalor?""What is that to a man of Terminus? What does your morality dictate? And begin. My chest is cold and wisheswarmth."Trevize stood up and began to disrobe.


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