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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 6: The Nature of Earth
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Chapter 6: The Nature of Earth
22Trevize felt almost drugged, and wondered how much time hadelapsed.
Beside him lay Mitza Lizalor, Minister of Transportation. She was onher stomach, head to one side, mouth open, snoring distinctly. Trevizewas relieved that she was asleep. Once she woke up, he hoped she wouldbe quite aware that she had been asleep.
Trevize longed to sleep himself, but he felt it important that henot do so. She must not wake to find him asleep. She must realize thatwhile she had been ground down to unconsciousness, he had endured. Shewould expect such endurance from a Foundation-reared immoralist and,at this point, it was better she not be disappointed.
In a way, he had done well. He had guessed, correctly, that Lizalor,given her physical size and strength, her political power, her contemptfor the Comporellian men she had encountered, her mingled horrorand fascination with tales (what had she heard? Trevize wondered)of the sexual feats of the decadents of Terminus, would want to bedominated. She might even expect to be, without being able to expressher desire and expectation.
He had acted on that belief and, to his good fortune, found he wascorrect. (Trevize, the ever-right, he mocked himself.) It pleased thewoman and it enabled Trevize to steer activities in a direction thatwould tend to wear her out while leaving himself relatively untouched.
It had not been easy. She had a marvelous body (forty-six, she hadsaid, but it would not have shamed a twenty-five-year-old athlete) andenormous stamina a stamina exceeded only by the careless zest withwhich she had spent it.
Indeed, if she could be tamed and taught moderation; if practice(but could he himself survive the practice?) brought her to a bettersense of her own capacities, and, even more important, his ,it might be pleasant to The snoring stopped suddenly and she stirred. He placed his handon the shoulder nearest him and stroked it lightly and her eyesopened. Trevize was leaning on his elbow, and did his best to look unwornand full of life.
"I'm glad you were sleeping, dear," he said. "You needed yourrest."She smiled at him sleepily and, for one queasy moment, Trevize thoughtshe might suggest renewed activity, but she merely heaved herself abouttill she was resting on her back. She said, in a soft and satisfiedvoice, "I had you judged correctly from the start. You are a king ofsexuality."Trevize tried to look modest. "I must be more moderate.""Nonsense. You were just right. I was afraid that you had been keptactive and drained by that young woman, but you assured me you hadnot. That it true, isn't it?""Have I acted like someone who was half-sated to begin with?""No, you did not," and her laughter boomed.
"Are you still thinking of Psychic Probes?"She laughed again. "Are you mad? Would I want to lose younow ?""Yet it would be better if you lost me temporarily ""What!" She frowned.
"If I were to stay here permanently, my my dear, how longwould it be before eyes would begin to watch, and mouths would begin towhisper? It I went off on my mission, however, I would naturally returnperiodically to, report, and it would then be only natural that we shouldbe closeted together for a while and my mission is important."She thought about that, scratching idly at her right hip. Then shesaid, "I suppose you're right. I hate the thought but I supposeyou're right.""And you need not think I would not come back," said Trevize. "I amnot so witless as to forget what I would have waiting for me here."She smiled at him, touched his cheek gently, and said, looking intohis eyes, "Did you find it pleasant, love?""Much more than pleasant, dear.""Yet you are a Foundationer. A man in the prime of youth fromTerminus itself. You must be accustomed to all sorts of women with allsoul skills ""I have encountered nothing nothing  in theleast like you," said Trevize, with a forcefulness that came easily tosomeone who was but telling the truth, after all.
Lizalor said complacently, "Well, if you say so. Still, old habitsdie hard, you know, and I don't think I could bring myself to trust aman's word without some sort of surety. You and your friend, Pelorat,might conceivably go on this mission of yours once I hear about it andapprove, but I will keep the young woman here. She will be well treated,never fear, but I presume your Dr. Pelorat will want her, and he willsee to it that there are frequent returns to Comporellon, even if yourenthusiasm for this mission you to stay away too long.""But, Lizalor, that's impossible.""Indeed?" Suspicion at once seeped into her eyes. "Why impossible? Forwhat purpose would you need the woman?""Not for sex. I told you that, and I told you truthfully. She isPelorat's and I have no interest in her. Besides, I'm sure she'd breakin two if she attempted what you so triumphantly carried through."Lizalor almost smiled, but repressed it and said severely, "What isit to you, then, if she remains on Comporellon?""Because she is of essential importance to our mission. That is whywe must have her.""Well, then, what is your mission? It is time you told me."Trevize hesitated very briefly. It would have to be the truth. Hecould think of no lie as effective.
"Listen to me," he said. "Comporellon may be an old world, even amongthe oldest, but it can't be the oldest. Human life did notoriginate here. The earliest human beings reached here from some otherworld, and perhaps human life didn't originate there either, but camefrom still another and still older world. Eventually, though, thoseprobings back into time must stop, and we must reach the first world,the world of human origins. I am seeking Earth."The change that suddenly came over Mitza Lizalor staggered him.
Her eyes had widened, her breathing took on a sudden urgency, andevery muscle seemed to stiffen as she lay there in bed. Her arms shotupward rigidly, and the first two fingers of both hands crossed.
"You named it," she whispered hoarsely.
23She didn't say anything after that; she didn't look athim. Her arms slowly came down, her legs swung over the side of the bed,and she sat up, back to him. Trevize lay where he was, frozen.
He could hear, in memory, the words of Munn Li Compor, as theystood there in the empty tourist center at Sayshell. He could hear himsaying of his own ancestral planet the one that Trevize was onnow "They're superstitious about it. Every time they mention theword, they lift up both hands with first and second fingers crossed toward off misfortune."How useless to remember after the fact.
"What should I have said, Mitza?" he muttered.
She shook her head slightly, stood up, stalked toward and then througha door. It closed behind her and, after a moment, there was the soundof water running.
He had no recourse but to wait, bare, undignified, wondering whetherto join her in the shower, and then quite certain he had better not. Andbecause, in a way, he felt the shower denied him, he at once experienceda growing need for one.
She emerged at last and silently began to select clothing.
He said, "Do you mind if I "She said nothing, and he took silence for consent. He tried to strideinto the room in a strong and masculine way but he felt uncommonly ashe had in those days when his mother, offended by some misbehavior onhis part, offered him no punishment but silence, causing him to shrivelin discomfort.
He looked about inside the smoothly walled cubicle that wasbare-completely bare. He looked more minutely. There wasnothing.
He opened the door again, thrust his head out, and said, "Listen,how are you supposed to start the shower?"She put down the deodorant (at least, Trevize guessed that was itsfunction), strode to the shower-room and, still without looking at him,pointed. Trevize followed the finger and noted a spot on the wall that wasround and faintly pink, barely colored, as though the designer resentedhaving to spoil the starkness of the white, for no reason more importantthan to give a hint of function.
Trevize shrugged lightly, leaned toward the wall, and touched thespot. Presumably that was what one had to do, for in a moment a deluge offine-sprayed water struck him from every direction. Gasping, he touchedthe spot again and it stopped.
He opened the door, knowing he looked several degrees more undignifiedstill as he shivered hard enough to make it difficult to articulatewords. He croaked, "How do you get hot water?"Now she looked at him and, apparently, his appearance overcame heranger (or fear, or whatever emotion was victimizing her) for she snickeredand then, without warning, boomed her laughter at him.
"What hot water?" she said. "Do you think we're going to wastethe energy to heat water for washing? That's good mild water you had,water with the chill taken off. What more do you want? You sludge-softTerminians! Get back in there and wash!"Trevize hesitated, but not for long, since it was clear he had nochoice in the matter.
With remarkable reluctance he touched the pink spot again and this timesteeled his body for the icy spray. Mild water? He foundsuds forming on his body and he rubbed hastily here, there, everywhere,judging it to be the wash cycle and suspecting it would not last long.
Then came the rinse cycle. Ah, warm Well, perhaps not warm, butnot quite as cold, and definitely feeling warm to his thoroughly chilledbody. Then, even as he was considering touching the contact spot againto stop the water, and was wondering how Lizalor had come out dry whenthere was absolutely no towel or towel-substitute in the place thewater stopped. It was followed by a blast of air that would have certainlybowled him over if it had not come from various directions equally.
It was hot; almost too hot. It took far less energy, Trevize knew,to heat air than to heat water. The hot air steamed the water off himand, in a few minutes, he was able to step out as dry as though he hadnever encountered water in his life.
Lizalor seemed to have recovered completely. "Do you feel well?""Pretty well," said Trevize. Actually, he felt astonishinglycomfortable. "All I had to do was prepare myself for the temperature. Youdidn't tell me ""Sludge-soft," said Lizalor, with mild contempt.
He borrowed her deodorant, then began to dress, conscious of the factthat she had fresh underwear and he did not. He said, "What should Ihave called that world?"She said, "We refer to it as the Oldest."He said, "How was I to know the name I used was forbidden? Did youtell me?""Did you ask?""How was I to know to ask?""You know now.""I'm bound to forget.""You had better not.""What's the difference?" Trevize felt his temper rising. "It's justa word, a sound."Lizalor said darkly, "There are words one doesn't say. Do you sayevery word you know under all circumstances?""Some words are vulgar, some are inappropriate, some under particularcircumstances would be hurtful. Which is that word I used?"Lizalor said, "It's a sad word, a solemn word. It represents a worldthat was ancestor to us all and that now doesn't exist. It's tragic,and we feel it because it was near to us. We prefer not to speak of itor, if we must, not to use its name.""And the crossing of fingers at me? How does that relieve the hurtand sadness?"Lizalor's face flushed. "That was an automatic reaction, and I don'tthank you for forcing it on me. There are people who believe that theword, even the thought, brings on misfortune and that is how theyward it off.""Do you, too, believe crossing fingers wards off misfortune?""No. Well, yes, in a way. It makes me uneasy if I don't doit." She didn't look at him. Then, as though eager to shift the subject,she said quickly, "And how is that black-haired woman of yours of theessence with respect to your mission to reach that world youmentioned.""Say `the Oldest.' Or would you rather not even say that?""I would rather not discuss it at all, but I asked you a question.""I believe that her people reached their present world as emigrantsfrom the Oldest.""As we did," said Lizalor proudly.
"But her people have traditions of some sort which she says are thekey to understanding the Oldest, but only if we reach it and can studyits records.""She is lying.""Perhaps, but we must check it out.""If you have this woman with her problematical knowledge, and if youwant to reach the Oldest with her, why did you come to Comporellon?""To find the location of the Oldest. I had a friend once, who, likemyself, was a Foundationer. He, however, was descended from Comporellianancestors and he assured me that much of the history of the Oldest waswell known, on Comporellon.""Did he indeed? And did he tell you any of itshistory?""Yes," said Trevize, reaching for the truth again. "He said thatthe Oldest was a dead world, entirely radioactive. He did not know why,but he thought that it might be the result of nuclear explosions. In awar, perhaps.""No!" said Lizalor explosively.
"No, there was no war? Or no, the Oldest is not radioactive?""It is radioactive, but there was no war.""Then how did it become radioactive? It could not have been radioactiveto begin with since human life began on the Oldest. There would havebeen no life on it ever."Lizalor seemed to hesitate. She stood erect, and was breathing deeply,almost gasping. She said, "It was a punishment. It was a world that usedrobots. Do you know what robots are?""Yes.""They had robots and for that they were punished. Every world thathas had robots has been punished and no longer exists.""Who punished them, Lizalor?""He Who Punishes. The forces of history. I don't know." She looked awayfrom him, uncomfortable, then said, in a lower voice, "Ask others.""I would like to, but whom do I ask? Are there those on Comporellonwho have studied primeval history?""There are. They are not popular with us with the averageComporellian but the Foundation, your Foundation,insists on intellectual freedom, as they call it.""Not a bad insistence, in my opinion," said Trevize.
"All is bad that is imposed from without," said Lizalor.
Trevize shrugged. There was no purpose in arguing the matter. He sald,"My friend, Dr. Pelorat, is himself a primeval historian of a sort. Hewould, I'm sure, like to meet his Comporellian colleagues. Can youarrange that, Lizalor?"She nodded. "There is a historian named Vasil Deniador, who is basedat the University here in the city. He does not teach class, but he maybe able to tell you what you want to know.""Why doesn't he teach class?""It's not that he is forbidden; it's just that students do not electhis course.""I presume," said Trevize, trying not to say it sardonically, "thatthe students are encouraged not to elect it.""Why should they want to? He is a Skeptic. We have them, youknow. There are always individuals who pit their minds against thegeneral modes of thought and who are arrogant enough to feel that theyalone are right and that the many are wrong.""Might it not be that that could actually be so in some cases?""Never!" snapped Lizalor, with a firmness of belief that made itquite clear that no further discussion in that direction would be of anyuse. "And for all his Skepticism, he will be forced to tell you exactlywhat any Comporellian would tell you.""And that is?""That if you search for the Oldest, you will not find it."24In the private quarters assigned them, Pelorat listenedto Trevize thoughtfully, his long solemn face expressionless, then said,"Vasil Deniador? I do not recall having heard of him, but it may be thatback on the ship I will find papers by him in my library.""Are you sure you haven't heard of him? Think!" said Trevize.
"I don't recall, at the moment, having heard of him," said Peloratcautiously, "but after all, my dear chap, there must be hundreds ofestimable scholars I haven't heard of; or have, but can't remember.""Still, he can't be first-class, or you would have heard of him.""The study of Earth ""Practice saying `the Oldest,' Janov. It would complicate mattersotherwise.""The study of the Oldest," said Pelorat, "is not a well-rewarded nichein the corridors of learning, so that first-class scholars, even in thefield of primeval history, would not tend to find their way there. Or,if we put it the other way around, those who are already there do notmake enough of a name for themselves in an uninterested world to beconsidered first-class, even if they were. I am notfirst-class in anyone's estimation, I am sure."Bliss said tenderly, "In mine, Pel.""Yes, certainly in yours, my dear," said Pelorat, smiling slightly,"but you are not judging me in my capacity as scholar."It was almost night now, going by the clock, and Trevize felt himselfgrow slightly impatient, as he always did when Bliss and Pelorat tradedendearments.
He said, "I'll try to arrange our seeing this Deniador tomorrow,but if he knows as little about the matter as the Minister does, we'renot going to be much better off than we are now."Pelorat said, "He may be able to lead us to someone more useful.""I doubt it. This world's attitude toward Earth but I had betterpractice speaking of it elliptically, too. This world's attitude towardthe Oldest is a foolish and superstitious one." He turned away. "Butit's been a rough day and we ought to think of an evening meal ifwe can face their uninspired cookery and then begin thinking ofgetting some sleep. Have you two learned how to use the shower?""My dear fellow," said Pelorat, "we have been very kindlytreated. We've received all sorts of instructions, most of which wedidn't need."Bliss said, "Listen, Trevize. What about the ship?""What about it?""Is the Comporellian government confiscating it?""No. I don't think they will.""Ah. Very pleasant. Why aren't they?""Because I persuaded the Minister to change her mind."Pelorat said, "Astonishing. She didn't seem a particularly persuadableindividual to me."Bliss said, "I don't know. It was clear from the texture of her mindthat she was attracted to Trevize."Trevize looked at Bliss with sudden exasperation. "Did you do that,Bliss?""What do you mean, Trevize?""I mean tamper with her ""I didn't tamper. However, when I noted that she was attracted toyou, I couldn't resist just snapping an inhibition or two. It was avery small thing to do. Those inhibitions might have snapped anyway,and it seemed to be important to make certain that she was filled withgood will toward you.""Good will? It was more than that! She softened, yes, butpost-coitally."Pelorat said, "Surely you don't mean, old man ""Why not?" said Trevize testily. "She may be past her first youth,but she knew the art well. She was no beginner, I assure you. Nor will Iplay the gentleman and lie on her behalf. It was her idea thanksto Bliss's fiddling with her inhibitions and I was not in aposition to refuse, even if that thought had occurred to me, which itdidn't. Come, Janov, don't stand there looking puritanical. It'sbeen months since I've had an opportunity. You've " And he wavedhis hand vaguely in Bliss's direction.
"Believe me, Golan," said Pelorat, embarrassed, "if you areinterpreting my expression as puritanical, you mistake me. I have noobjection."Bliss said, "But she is puritanical. I meant to makeher warm toward you; I did not count on a sexual paroxysm."Trevize said, "But that is exactly what you brought on, my littleinterfering Bliss. It may be necessary for the Minister to play thepuritan in public, but if so, that seems merely to stoke the fires.""And so, provided you scratch the itch, she will betray theFoundation ""She would have done that in any case," said Trevize. "She wantedthe ship " He broke off, and said in a whisper, "Are we beingoverheard?"Bliss said, "No!""Are you sure?""It is certain. It is impossible to impinge upon the mind of Gaia inany unauthorized fashion without Gaia being aware of it.""In that case, Comporellon wants the ship for itself a valuableaddition to its fleet.""Surely, the Foundation would not allow that.""Comporellon does not intend to have the Foundation know."Bliss sighed. "There are your Isolates. The Minister intends tobetray the Foundation on behalf of Comporellon and, in return for sex,will promptly betray Comporellon, too. And as for Trevize, he willgladly sell his body's services as a way of inducing the betrayal. Whatanarchy there is in this Galaxy of yours. What chaos ."Trevize said coldly, "You are wrong, young woman ""In what I have just said, I am not a young woman, I am Gaia. I amall of Gaia.""Then you are wrong, Gaia . I did not sell my body'sservices. I gave them gladly. I enjoyed it and did no one harm. As forthe consequences, they turned out well from my standpoint and I acceptthat. And if Comporellon wants the ship for its own purposes, who is tosay who is right in this matter? It is a Foundation ship, but it wasgiven to me to search for Earth. It is mine then until I complete thesearch and I feel that the Foundation has no right to go back on itsagreement. As for Comporellon, it does not enjoy Foundation domination,so it dreams of independence. In its own eyes, it is correct to do soand to deceive the Foundation, for that is not an act of treason to thembut an act of patriotism. Who knows?""Exactly. Who knows? In a Galaxy of anarchy, how is it possible to sortout reasonable actions from unreasonable ones? How decide between rightand wrong, good and evil, justice and crime, useful and useless? Andhow do you explain the Minister's betrayal of her own government, whenshe lets you keep the ship? Does she long for personal independencefrom an oppressive world? Is she a traitor or a personal one-womanself-patriot?""To be truthful," said Trevize, "I don't know that she was willing tolet me have my ship simply because she was grateful to me for the pleasureI gave her. I believe she made that decision only when I told her I wassearching for the Oldest. It is a world of ill-omen to her and we andthe ship that carries us, by searching for it, have become ill-omened,too. It is my feeling that she feet/ she incurred the ill-omen for herselfand her world by attempting to take the ship, which she may, by now,be viewing with horror. Perhaps she feels that by allowing us and ourship to leave and go about our business, she is averting the misfortunefrom Comporellon and is, in that way, performing a patriotic act.""If that were so, which I doubt, Trevize, superstition is the springof the action. Do you admire that?""I neither admire nor condemn. Superstition always directs action inthe absence of knowledge. The Foundation believes in the Seldon Plan,though no one in our realm can understand it, interpret its details,or use it to predict. We follow blindly out of ignorance and faith,and isn't that superstition?""Yes, it might be.""And Gaia, too. You believe I have given the correct decision injudging that Gaia should absorb the Galaxy into one large organism, butyou do not know why I should be right, or how safe it would be for you tofollow that decision. You are willing to go along only out of ignoranceand faith, and are even annoyed with me for trying to find evidencethat will remove the ignorance and make mere faith unnecessary. Isn'tthat superstition?""I think he has you there, Bliss," said Pelorat.
Bliss said, "Not so. He will either find nothing at all in this search,or he will find something that confirms his decision."Trevize said, "And to back up that belief, you have only ignoranceand faith. In other words, superstition!"25Vasil Deniador was a small man, little of feature, with a way oflooking up by raising his eyes without raising his head. This, combinedwith the brief smiles that periodically lit his face, gave him theappearance of laughing silently at the world.
His office was long and narrow, filled with tapes that seemed tobe in wild disorder, not because there was any definite evidence forthat, but because they were not evenly placed in their recesses so thatthey gave the shelves a snaggle-toothed appearance. The three seats heindicated for his visitors were not matched and showed signs of havingbeen recently, and imperfectly, dusted.
He said, "Janov Pelorat, Golan Trevize, and Bliss. I do nothave your second name, madam.""Bliss," she said, "is all I am usually called," and sat down.
"It is enough after all," said Deniador, twinkling at her. "You areattractive enough to be forgiven if you had no name at all."All were sitting now. Deniador said, "I have heard of you, Dr. Pelorat,though we have never corresponded. You are a Foundationer, are younot? From Terminus?""Yes, Dr. Deniador.""And you, Councilman Trevize. I seem to have heard that recently youwere expelled from the Council and exiled. I don't think I have everunderstood why.""Not expelled, sir. I am still a member of the Council although Idon't know when I will take up my duties again. Nor exiled, quite. Iwas assigned a mission, concerning which we wish to consult you.""Happy to try to help," said Deniador. "And the blissful lady? Isshe from Terminus, too."Trevize interposed quickly. "She is from elsewhere, Doctor.""Ah, a strange world, this Elsewhere. A most unusual collection ofhuman beings are native to it. But since two of you are from theFoundation's capital at Terminus, and the third is an attractive youngwoman, and Mitza Lizalor is not known for her affection for eithercategory, how is it that she recommends you to my care so warmly?""I think," said Trevize, "to get rid of us. The sooner you help us,you see, the sooner we will leave Comporellon."Deniador eyed Trevize with interest (again the twinkling smile) andsaid, "Of course, a vigorous young man such as yourself might attracther whatever his origin. She plays the role of cold vestal well, butnot perfectly.""I know nothing about that," said Trevize stiffly.
"And you had better not. In public, at least. But I am a Skepticand I am professionally unattuned to believing in surfaces. So come,Councilman, what is your mission? Let me find out if I can help you."Trevize said, "In this, Dr. Pelorat is our spokesman.""I have no objection to that," said Deniador. "Dr. Pelorat?"Pelorat said, "To put it at the simplest, dear Doctor, I have allmy mature life attempted to penetrate to the basic core of knowledgeconcerning the world on which the human species originated, and I wassent out along with my good friend, Golan Trevize although, tobe sure, I did not know him at the time to find, if we could,the uh Oldest, I believe you call it.""The Oldest?" said Deniador. "I take it you mean Earth."Pelorat's jaw dropped. Then he said, with a slight stutter, "I wasunder the impression that is, I was given to understand thatone did not "He looked at Trevize, rather helplessly.
Trevize said, "Minister Lizalor told me that that word was not usedon Comporellon.""You mean she did this?" Deniador's mouth turned downward, his nosescrewed up, and he thrust his arms vigorously forward, crossing thefirst two fingers on each hand.
"Yes," said Trevize. "That's what I mean."Deniador relaxed and laughed. "Nonsense, gentlemen. We do it as amatter of habit, and in the backwoods they may be serious about it but,on the whole, it doesn't matter. I don't know any Comporellian whowouldn't say `Earth' when annoyed or startled. It's the most commonvulgarism we have.""Vulgarism?" said Pelorat faintly.
"Or expletive, if you prefer.""Nevertheless," said Trevize, "the Minister seemed quite upset whenI used the word.""Oh well, she's a mountain woman.""What does that mean, sir?""What it says. Mitza Lizalor is from the Central Mountain Range. Thechildren out there are brought up in what is called the good old-fashionedway, which means that no matter how well educated they become you cannever knock those crossed fingers out of them.""Then the word `Earth' doesn't bother you at all, does it,Doctor?" said Bliss.
"Not at all, dear lady. I am a Skeptic."Trevize said, "I know what the word `skeptic' means in Galactic,but how do you use the word?""Exactly as you do, Councilman. I accept only what I am forcedto accept by reasonably reliable evidence, and keep that acceptancetentative pending the arrival of further evidence. That doesn't makeus popular.""Why not?" said Trevize.
"We wouldn't be popular anywhere. Where is the world whose people don'tprefer a comfortable, warm, and well-worn belief, however illogical,to the chilly winds of uncertainty? Consider how you believe inthe Seldon Plan without evidence.""Yes," said Trevize, studying his finger ends. "I put that forwardyesterday as an example, too."Pelorat said, "May I return to the subject, old fellow? What is knownabout Earth that a Skeptic would accept?"Deniador said, "Very little. We can assume that there is a singleplanet on which the human species developed, because it is unlikelyin the extreme that the same species, so nearly identical as to beinterfertile, would develop on a number of worlds, or even on just two,independently. We can choose to call this world of origin Earth. Thebelief is general, here, that Earth exists in this corner of the Galaxy,for the worlds here are unusually old and it is likely that the firstworlds to be settled were close to Earth rather than far from it.""And has the Earth any unique characteristics aside from being theplanet of origin?" asked Pelorat eagerly.
"Do you have something in mind?" said Deniador, with his quicksmile.
"I'm thinking of its satellite, which some call the moon. That wouldbe unusual, wouldn't it?""That's a leading question, Dr. Pelorat. You may be putting thoughtsinto my mind.""I do not say what it is that would make the moon unusual.""Its size, of course. Am I right? Yes, I see I am. All thelegends of Earth speak of its vast array of living species and of itsvast satellite one that is some three thousand to three thousandfive hundred kilometers in diameter. The vast array of life is easyto accept since it would naturally have come about through biologicalevolution, if what we know of the process is accurate. A giant satelliteis more difficult to accept. No other inhabited world in the Galaxy hassuch a satellite. Large satellites are invariably associated with theuninhabited and uninhabitable gas-giants. As a Skeptic, then, I prefernot to accept the existence of the moon."Pelorat said, "If Earth is unique in its possession of millionsof species, might it not also be unique in its possession of a giantsatellite? One uniqueness might imply the other."Deniador smiled. "I don't see how the presence of millions of specieson Earth could create a giant satellite out of nothing.""But the other way around Perhaps a giant satellite could helpcreate the millions of species.""I don't see how that could be either."Trevize said, "What about the story of Earth's radioactivity?""That is universally told; universally believed.""But," said Trevize, "Earth could not have been so radioactive as topreclude life in the billions of years when it supported life. How didit become radioactive? A nuclear war?""That is the most common opinion, Councilman Trevize.""From the manner in which you say that, I gather you don't believeit.""There is no evidence that such a war took place. Common belief,even universal belief, is not, in itself, evidence.""What else might have happened?""There is no evidence that anything happened. The radioactivity mightbe as purely invented a legend as the large satellite."Pelorat said, "What is the generally accepted story of Earth'shistory? I have, during my professional career, collected a large numberof origin-legends, many of them involving a world called Earth, or somename very much like that. I have none from Comporellon, nothing beyondthe vague mention of a Benbally who might have come from nowhere forall that Comporellian legends say.""That's not surprising. We don't usually export our legends and I'mastonished you have found references even to Benbally. Superstition,again.""But you are not superstitious and you would not hesitate to talkabout it, would you?""That's correct," said the small historian, casting his eyes upwardat Pelorat. "It would certainly add greatly, perhaps even dangerously,to my unpopularity if I did, but you three are leaving Comporellon soonand I take it you will never quote me as a source.""You have our word of honor," said Pelorat quickly.
"Then here is a summary of what is supposed to have happened,shorn of any supernaturalism or moralizing. Earth existed as thesole world of human beings for an immeasurable period and then, abouttwenty to twenty-five thousand years ago, the human species developedinterstellar travel by way of the hyperspatial Jump and colonized agroup of planets.
"The Settlers on these planets made use of robots, which had firstbeen devised on Earth before the days of hyperspatial travel and doyou know what robots are, by the way?""Yes," said Trevize. "We have been asked that more than once. We knowwhat robots are.""The Settlers, with a thoroughly roboticized society, developeda high technology and unusual longevity and despised their ancestralworld. According to more dramatic versions of their story, they dominatedand oppressed the ancestral world.
"Eventually, then, Earth sent out a new group of Settlers, amongwhom robots were forbidden. Of the new worlds, Comporellon was amongthe first. Our own patriots insist it was the first, butthere is no evidence of that that a Skeptic can accept. The first groupof Settlers died out, and "Trevize said, "Why did the first set die out, Dr. Deniador?""Why? Usually they are imagined by our romantics as having beenpunished for their crimes by He Who Punishes, though no one bothersto say why He waited so long. But one doesn't have to resort to fairytales. It is easy to argue that a society that depends totally on robotsbecomes soft and decadent, dwindling and dying out of sheer boredom or,more subtly, by losing the will to live.
"The second wave of Settlers, without robots, lived on and took overthe entire Galaxy, but Earth grew radioactive and slowly dropped out ofsight. The reason usually given for this is that there were robots onEarth, too, since the first wave had encouraged that."Bliss, who had listened to the account with some visible impatience,said, "Well, Dr. Deniador, radioactivity or not, and however many wavesof settlers there might have been, the crucial question is a simpleone. Exactly where is Earth? What are its co-ordinates?"Deniador said, "The answer to that question is: I don't know. Butcome, it is time for lunch. I can have one brought in, and we can discussEarth over it for as long as you want.""You don't know ?" said Trevize, the sound of his voicerising in pitch and intensity.
"Actually, as far as I know, no one knows.""But that is impossible.""Councilman," said Deniador, with a soft sigh, "if you wish tocall the truth impossible, that is your privilege, but it will get younowhere."


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