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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 7: Leaving Comporellon
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Chapter 7: Leaving Comporellon
26Luncheon consisted of a heap of soft, crusty balls thatcame in different shades and that contained a variety of fillings.
Deniador picked up a small object which unfolded into a pair of thin,transparent gloves, and put them on. His guests followed suit.
Bliss said, "What is inside these objects, please?"Deniador said, "The pink ones are filled with spicy chopped fish, agreat Comporellian delicacy. These yellow ones contain a cheese fillingthat is very mild. The green ones contain a vegetable mixture. Do eatthem while they are a quite warm. Later we will have hot almond pie andthe usual beverages. I might recommend the hot cider. In a cold climate,we have a tendency to heat our foods, even desserts.""You do yourself well," said Pelorat.
"Not really," said Deniador. "I'm being hospitable to guests. Formyself, I get along on very little. I don't have much body mass tosupport, as you have probably noticed."Trevize bit into one of the pink ones and found it very fishy indeed,with all overlay of spices that was pleasant to the taste but which,he thought, along with the fish itself, would remain with him for therest of the day and, perhaps, into the night.
When he withdrew the object with the bite taken out of it, he foundthat the crust had closed in over the contents. There was no squirt,no leakage, and, for a moment, he wondered at the purpose of thegloves. These seemed no chance of getting his hands moist and stickyif he didn't use them, so he decided it was a matter of hygiene. Thegloves substituted for a washing of the hands if that were inconvenientand custom, probably, now dictated their use even if the hands werewashed. (Lizalor hadn't used gloves when he had eaten with her the daybefore. Perhaps that was because she was a mountain woman.)He said, "Would it be unmannerly to talk business over lunch?""By Comporellian standards, Councilman, it would be, but you are myguests, and we will go by your standards. If you wish to speak seriously,and do not think or care that that might diminish yourpleasure in the food, please do so, and I will join you."Trevize said, "Thank you. Minister Lizalor implied no, shestated quite bluntly that Skeptics were unpopular on this world. Isthat so?"Deniador's good humor seemed to intensify. "Certainly. How hurt we'd beif we weren't. Comporellon, you see, is a frustrated world. Without anyknowledge of the details, there is the general mythic belief, that once,many millennia ago, when the inhabited Galaxy was small, Comporellonwas the leading world. We never forget that, and the fact that in knownhistory we have not been leaders irks us, fills us thepopulation in general, that is with a feeling of injustice.
"Yet what can we do? The government was forced to be a loyal vassalof the Emperor once, and is a loyal Associate of the Foundation now. Andthe more we are made aware of our subordinate position, the strongerthe belief in the great, mysterious days of the past become.
"What, then, can Comporellon do? They could never defy the Empire inolder times and they can't openly defy the Foundation now. They takerefuge, therefore, in attacking and hating us, since we don't believethe legends and laugh at the superstitions.
"Nevertheless, we are safe from the grosser effects ofpersecution. We control the technology, and we fill the faculties of theUniversities. Some of us, who are particularly outspoken, have difficultyin teaching classes openly. I have that difficulty, for instance, thoughI have my students and hold meetings quietly off-campus. Nevertheless,if we were really driven out of public life, the technology wouldfail and the Universities would lose accreditation with the Galaxygenerally. Presumably, such is the folly of human beings, the prospectsof intellectual suicide might not stop them from indulging their hatred,but the Foundation supports us. Therefore, we are constantly scoldedand sneered at and denounced and never touched."Trevize said, "Is it popular opposition that keeps you from tellingus where Earth is? Do you fear that, despite everything, the anti-Skepticfeeling might turn ugly if you go too far?"Deniador shook his head. "No. Earth's location is unknown. I am nothiding anything from you out of fear or for any other reason.""But look," said Trevize urgently. "There are a limited numberof planets in this sector of the Galaxy that possess the physicalcharacteristics associated with habitability, and almost all ofthem must be not only inhabitable, but inhabited, and therefore wellknown to you. How difficult would it be to explore the sector for aplanet that would be habitable were it not for the fact that it wasradioactive? Besides that, you would look for such a planet with a large,satellite in attendance. Between radioactivity and a large satellite,Earth would be absolutely unmistakable and could not be missed evenwith only a casual search. It might take some time but that would bethe only difficulty."Deniador said, "The Skeptic's view is, of course, that Earth'sradioactivity and its large satellite are both simply legends. If welook for them, we look for sparrow-milk and rabbit-feathers.""Perhaps, but that shouldn't stop Comporellon from at least takingon the search. If they find a radioactive world of the proper size forhabitability, with a large satellite, what an appearance of credibilityit would lend to Comporellian legendry in general."Deniador laughed. "It may be that Comporellon doesn't search for thatvery reason. If we fail, or if we find an Earth obviously differentfrom the legends, the reverse would take place. Comporellian legendryin general would be blasted and made into a laughingstock. Comporellonwouldn't risk that."Trevize paused, then went on, very earnestly, "Besides, even ifwe discount those two uniquities if there is such a word inGalactic of radioactivity and a large satellite, there is a thirdthat, by definition, must exist, without any reference to legends. Earthmust have upon it either a flourishing life of incredible diversity,or the remnants of one, or, at the very least, the fossil record of sucha one."Deniador said, "Councilman, while Comporellon has sent out noorganized search party for Earth, we do have occasion totravel through space, and we occasionally have reports from ships thathave strayed from their intended routes for one reason or another. Jumpsare not always perfect, as perhaps you know. Nevertheless, there havebeen no reports of any planets with properties resembling those of thelegendary Earth, or any planet that is bursting with life. Nor is any shiplikely to land on what seems an uninhabited planet in order that the crewmight go fossil-hunting. If, then, in thousands of years nothing of thesort has been reported, I am perfectly willing to believe that locatingEarth is impossible, because Earth is not there to be located."Trevize said, in frustration, "But Earth must besomewhere . Somewhere there is a planet on which humanityand all the familiar forms of life associated with humanity evolved. IfEarth is not in this section of the Galaxy, it must be elsewhere.""Perhaps," said Deniador cold-bloodedly, "but in all this time,it hasn't turned up anywhere.""People haven't really looked for it.""Well, apparently you are. I wish you luck, but I would never bet onyour success."Trevize said, "Have there been attempts to determine the possibleposition of Earth by indirect means, by some means other than a directsearch?""Yes," said two voices at once. Deniador, who was the owner of one ofthe voices, said to Pelorat, "Are you thinking of Yariff's project?""I am," said Pelorat.
"Then would you explain it to the Councilman? I think he would morereadily believe you than me."Pelorat said, "You see, Golan, in the last days of the Empire, therewas a time when the Search for Origins, as they called it, was a popularpastime, perhaps to get away from the unpleasantness of the surroundingreality. The Empire was in a process of disintegration at that time,you know.
"It occurred to a Livian historian, Humbal Yariff, that whatever theplanet of origin, it would have settled worlds near itself sooner thanit would settle planets farther away. In general, the farther a worldfrom the point of origin the later it would have been settled.
"Suppose, then, one recorded the date of settlement of all habitableplanets in the Galaxy, and made networks of all that were a given numberof millennia old. There could be a network drawn through all planets tenthousand years old; another through those twelve thousand years old, stillanother through those fifteen thousand years old. Each network would, intheory, be roughly spherical and they should be roughly concentric. Theolder networks would form spheres smaller in radius than the youngerones, and if one worked out all the centers they should fall within acomparatively small volume of space that would include the planet oforigin Earth."Pelorat's face was very earnest as he kept drawing spherical surfaceswith his cupped hands. "Do you see my point, Golan?"Trevize nodded. "Yes. But I take it that it didn't work.""Theoretically, it should have, old fellow. One trouble was that timesof origin were totally inaccurate. Every world exaggerated its own ageto one degree or another and there was no easy way of determining ageindependently of legend."Bliss said, "Carbon-14 decay in ancient timber.""Certainly, dear," said Pelorat, "but you would have had to getco-operation from the worlds in question, and that was never given. Noworld wanted its own exaggerated claim of age to be destroyed and theEmpire was then in no position to override local objections in a matterso unimportant. It had other things on its mind.
"All that Yariff could do was to make use of worlds that were onlytwo thousand years old at most, and whose founding had been meticulouslyrecorded under reliable circumstances. There were few of those, andwhile they were distributed in roughly spherical symmetry, the centerwas relatively close to Trantor, the Imperial capital, because that waswhere the colonizing expeditions had originated for those relativelyfew worlds.
"That, of course, was another problem. Earth was not the only point oforigin of settlement for other worlds. As time went on, the older worldssent out settlement expeditions of their own, and at the time of theheight of Empire, Trantor was a rather copious source of those. Yariffwas, rather unfairly, laughed at and ridiculed and his professionalreputation was destroyed."Trevize said, "I get the story, Janov. Dr. Deniador, is therethen nothing at all you could give me that represents the faintestpossibility of hope? Is there any other world where it is conceivablethere may be some information concerning Earth?"Deniador sank into doubtful thought for a while. "We-eeell," he saidat last, drawing out the word hesitantly, "as a Skeptic I must tell youthat I'm not sure that Earth exists, or has ever existed. However "He fell silent again.
Finally, Bliss said, "I think you've thought of something that mightbe important, Doctor.""Important? I doubt it," said Deniador faintly. "Perhaps amusing,however. Earth is not the only planet whose position is a mystery. Thereare the worlds of the first group of Settlers; the Spacers, as theyare called in our legends. Some call the planets they inhabited the`Spacer worlds'; others call them the `Forbidden Worlds.' The lattername is now the usual one.
"In their pride and prime, the legend goes, the Spacers had lifetimesstretching out for centuries, and refused to allow our own short-livedancestors to land on their worlds. After we had defeated them, thesituation was reversed. We scorned to deal with them and left them tothemselves, forbidding our own ships and Traders to deal with them. Hencethose planets became the Forbidden Worlds. We were certain, so the legendstates, that He Who Punishes would destroy them without our intervention,and, apparently, He did. At least, no Spacer has appeared in the Galaxyto our knowledge, in many millennia.""Do you think that the Spacers would know about Earth?" saidTrevize.
"Conceivably, since their worlds were older than any of ours. That is,if any Spacers exist, which is extremely unlikely.""Even if they don't exist, their worlds do and may containrecords.""If you can find the worlds."Trevize looked exasperated. "Do you mean to say that the key to Earth,the location of which is unknown, may be found on Spacer worlds, thelocation of which is also unknown?"Deniador shrugged. "We have had no dealings with them for twentythousand years. No thought of them. They, too, like Earth, have recededinto the mists.""How many worlds did the Spacers live on?""The legends speak of fifty such worlds a suspiciously roundnumber. There were probably far fewer.""And you don't know the location of a single one of the fifty?""Well, now, I wonder ""What do you wonder?"Deniador said, "Since primeval history is my hobby, as it isDr. Pelorat's, I have occasionally explored old documents in search ofanything that might refer to early time; something more than legends. Lastyear, I came upon the records of an old ship, records that were almostindecipherable. It dated back to the very old days when our world wasnot yet known as Comporellon. The name `Baleyworld' was used, which,it seems to me, may be an even earlier form of the `Benbally world'
of our legends."Pelorat said, excitedly, "Have you published?""No," said Deniador. "I do not wish to dive until I am sure thereis water in the swimming pool, as the old saying has it. You see, therecord says that the captain of the ship had visited a Spacer world andtaken off with him a Spacer woman."Bliss said, "But you said that the Spacers did not allow visitors.""Exactly, and that is the reason I don't publish the material. Itsounds incredible. There are vague tales that could be interpreted asreferring to the Spacers and to their conflict with the Settlers ourown ancestors. Such tales exist not only on Comporellon but onmany worlds in many variations, but all are in absolute accord in onerespect. The two groups, Spacers and Settlers, did not mingle. Therewas no social contact, let alone sexual contact, and yet apparentlythe Settler captain and the Spacer woman were held together by bondsof love. This is so incredible that I see no chance of the story beingaccepted as anything but, at best, a piece of romantic historicalfiction."Trevize looked disappointed. "Is that all?""No, Councilman, there is one more matter. I came across somefigures in what was left of the log of the ship that might or mightnot represent spatial co-ordinates. If they were and I repeat,since my Skeptic's honor compels me to, that they might not be theninternal evidence made me conclude they were the spatial co-ordinatesof three of the Spacer worlds. One of them might be the Spacer worldwhere the captain landed and from which he withdrew his Spacer love."Trevize said, "Might it not be that even if the tale is fiction,the coordinates are real?""It might be," said Deniador. "I will give you the figures, and youare free to use them, but you might get nowhere. And yet I havean amusing notion." His quick smile made its appearance.
"What is that?" said Trevize.
"What if one of those sets of co-ordinates represented Earth?"27Comporellon's sun, distinctly orange, was larger inappearance than the sun of Terminus, but it was low in the sky and gaveout little heat. The wind, fortunately light, touched Trevize's cheekwith icy fingers.
He shivered inside the electrified coat he had been given by MitzaLizalor, who now stood next to him. He said, "It must warm up sometime,Mitza."She glanced up at the sun briefly, and stood there in the emptiness ofthe spaceport, showing no signs of discomfort tall, large, wearinga lighter coat than Trevize had on, and if not impervious to the cold,at least scornful of it.
She said, "We have a beautiful summer. It is not a long one but ourfood crops are adapted to it. The strains are carefully chosen so thatthey grow quickly in the sun and do not frostbite easily. Our domesticanimals are well furred, and Comporellian wool is the best in the Galaxyby general admission. Then, too, we have farm settlements in orbitabout Comporellon that grow tropical fruit. We actually export cannedpineapples of superior flavor. Most people who know us as a cold worlddon't know that."Trevize said, "I thank you for coming to see us off, Mitza, and forbeing willing to co-operate with us on this mission of ours. For my ownpeace of mind, however, I must ask whether you will find yourself inserious trouble over this.""No!" She shook her head proudly. "No trouble. In the first place, Iwill not be questioned. I am in control of transportation, which meansI alone set the rules for this spaceport and others, for the entrystations, for the ships that come and go. The Prime Minister dependson me for all that and is only too delighted to remain ignorant of itsdetails. And even if I were questioned, I have but to tell thetruth. The government would applaud me for not turning the ship over tothe Foundation. So would the people if it were safe to let them know. Andthe Foundation itself would not know of it."Trevize said, "The government might be willing to keep the ship fromthe Foundation, but would they be willing to approve your letting ustake it away?"Lizalor smiled. "You are a decent human being, Trevize. You havefought tenaciously to keep your ship and now that you have it you takethe trouble to concern yourself with my welfare." She reached toward himtentatively as though tempted to give some sign of affection and then,with obvious difficulty, controlled the impulse.
She said, with a renewed brusqueness, "Even if they question mydecision, I have but to tell them that you have been, and still are,searching for the Oldest, and they will say I did well to get rid ofyou as quickly as I did, ship and all, And they will perform the ritesof atonement that you were ever allowed to land in the first place,though there was no way we might have guessed what you were doing.""Do you truly fear misfortune to yourself and the world because ofmy presence?""Indeed," said Lizalor stolidly. Then she said, more softly, "Youhave brought misfortune to me, already, for now that I have known you,Comporellian men will seem more sapless still. I will be left with anunappeasable longing. He Who Punishes has already seen to that."Trevize hesitated, then said, "I do not wish you to change your mindon this matter, but I do not wish you to suffer needless apprehension,either. You must know that this matter of my bringing misfortune on youis simply superstition.""The Skeptic told you that, I presume.""I know it without his telling me."Lizalor brushed her face, for a thin rime was gathering on herprominent eyebrows and said, "I know there are some who think itsuperstition. That the Oldest brings misfortune is, however, a fact. Ithas been demonstrated many times and all the clever Skeptical argumentscan't legislate the truth out of existence."She thrust out her hand suddenly. "Good-bye, Golan. Get on the shipand join your companions before your soft Terminian body freezes in ourcold, but kindly wind.""Good-bye, Mitza, and I hope to see you when I return.""Yes, you have promised to return and I have tried to believe thatyou would. I have even told myself that I would come out and meet youat your ship in space so that misfortune would fall only on me and notupon my world but you will not return.""Not so! I will! I would not give you up that easily, having hadpleasure of you." And at that moment, Trevize was firmly convinced thathe meant it.
"I do not doubt your romantic impulses, my sweet Foundationer, butthose who venture outward on a search for the Oldest will never comeback anywhere. I know that in my heart."Trevize tried to keep his teeth from chattering. It was from coldand he didn't want her to think it was from fear. He said, "That, too,is superstition.""And yet," she said, "that, too, is true."28It was good to be back in the pilot-room of theFar Star . It might be cramped for room. It might be a bubble ofimprisonment in infinite space. Nevertheless, it was familiar, friendly,and warm.
Bliss said, "I'm glad you finally came aboard. I was wondering howlong you would remain with the Minister.""Not long," said Trevize. "It was cold.""It seemed to me," said Bliss, "that you were considering remainingwith her and postponing the search for Earth. I do not like to probeyour mind even lightly, but I was concerned for you and that temptationunder which you labored seemed to leap out at me."Trevize said, "You're quite right. Momentarily at least, I felt thetemptation. The Minister is a remarkable woman and I've never met anyonequite like her. Did you strengthen my resistance, Bliss?"She said, "I've told you many times I must not and will not tamper withyour mind in any way, Trevize. You beat down the temptation, I imagine,through your strong sense of duty.""No, I rather think not." He smiled wryly. "Nothing so dramatic andnoble. My resistance was strengthened, for one thing, by the fact thatis was cold, and for another, by the sad thought that it wouldn't takemany sessions with her to kill me. I could never keep up the pace."Pelorat said, "Well, anyway, you are safely aboard. What are we goingto do next?""In the immediate future, we are going to move outward throughthe planetary system at a brisk pace until we are far enough fromComporellon's sun to make a Jump.""Do you think we will be stopped or followed?""No, I really think that the Minister is anxious only that we go awayas rapidly as possible and stay away, in order that the vengeance of HeWho Punishes not fall upon the planet. In fact ""Yes?""She believes the vengeance will surely fall on us. She is underthe firm conviction that we will never return. This, I hasten to add,is not an estimate of my probable level of infidelity, which she has hadno occasion to measure. She meant that Earth is so terrible a bearer ofmisfortune that anyone who seeks it must die in the process."Bliss said, "How many have left Comporellon in search of Earth thatshe can make such a statement?""I doubt that any Comporellian has ever left on such a search. I toldher that her fears were mere superstition.""Are you sure you believe that, or have you let hershake you?""I know her fears are the purest superstition in the form she expressesthem, but they may be well founded just the same.""You mean, radioactivity will kill us if we try to land on it?""I don't believe that Earth is radioactive. What I do believe is thatEarth protects itself. Remember that all reference to Earth in the Libraryon Trantor has been removed. Remember that Gaia's marvelous memory, inwhich all the planet takes part down to the rock strata of the surfaceand the molten metal at the core, stops short of penetrating far enoughback to tell us anything of Earth.
"Clearly, if Earth is powerful enough to do that, it might also becapable of adjusting minds in order to force belief in its radioactivity,and thus preventing any search for it. Perhaps because Comporellon isso close that it represents a particular danger to Earth, there is thefurther reinforcement of a curious blankness. Deniador, who is a Skepticand a scientist, is utterly convinced that there is no use searching forEarth. He says it cannot be found. And that is why the Minister'ssuperstition may be well founded. If Earth is so intent on concealingitself, might it not kill us, or distort us, rather than allow us tofind it?"Bliss frowned and said, "Gaia "Trevize said quickly, "Don't say Gaia will protect us. Since Earthwas able to remove Gaia's earliest memories, it is clear that in anyconflict between the two Earth will win."Bliss said coldly, "How do you know that the memories were removed? Itmight be that it simply took time for Gaia to develop a planetary memoryand that we can now probe backward only to the time of the completionof that development. And if the memory was removed, howcan you be sure that it was Earth that did it?"Trevize said, "I don't know. I merely advance my speculations."Pelorat put in, rather timidly, "If Earth is so powerful, and so intenton preserving its privacy, so to speak, of what use is our search? Youseem to think Earth won't allow us to succeed and will kill us if thatwill be what it takes to keep us from succeeding. In that case, is thereany sense in not abandoning this whole thing?""It might seem we ought to give up, I admit, but I have this powerfulconviction that Earth exists, and I must and will find it. And Gaiatells me that when I have powerful convictions of this sort, I am alwaysright.""But how can we survive the discovery, old chap?""It may be," said Trevize, with an effort at lightness, "that Earth,too, will recognize the value of my extraordinary rightness and will leaveme to myself. But  and this is what I am finally gettingat I cannot be certain that you two will survive and that is ofconcern to me. It always has been, but it is increasing now and it seemsto me that I ought to take you two back to Gaia and then proceed on myown. It is I, not you, who first decided I must search for Earth; it is I,not you, who see value in it; it is I, not you, who am driven. Let it beI, then, not you, who take the risk. Let me go on alone. Janov?"Pelorat's long face seemed to grow longer as he buried his chin inhis neck. "I won't deny I feel nervous, Golan, but I'd be ashamed toabandon you. I would disown myself if I did so.""Bliss?""Gaia will not abandon you, Trevize, whatever you do. If Earth shouldprove dangerous, Gaia will protect you as far as it can. And in any case,in my role as Bliss, I will not abandon Pel, and if he clings to you,then I certainly cling to him."Trevize said grimly, "Very well, then. I've given you your chance. Wego on together.""Together," said Bliss.
Pelorat smiled slightly, and gripped Trevize'sshoulder. "Together. Always."29Bliss said, "Look at that, Pel."She had been making use of the ship's telescope by hand, almostaimlessly, as a change from Pelorat's library of Earth-legendry.
Pelorat approached, placed an arm about her shoulders and looked atthe viewscreen. One of the gas giants of the Comporellian planetary systemwas in sight, magnified till it seemed the large body it really was.
In color it was a soft orange streaked with paler stripes. Viewedfrom the planetary plane, and more distant from the sun than the shipitself was, it was almost a complete circle of light.
"Beautiful," said Pelorat.
"The central streak extends beyond the planet, Pel."Pelorat furrowed his brow and said, "You know, Bliss, I believeit does.""Do you suppose it's an optical illusion?"Pelorat said, "I'm not sure, Bliss. I'm as much a space-novice asyou are Golan!"Trevize answered the call with a rather feeble "What is it?" andentered the pilot-room, looking a bit rumpled, as though he had just beennapping on his bed with his clothes on which was exactly what hehad been doing.
He said, in a rather peevish way, "Please! Don't be handling theinstruments.""It's just the telescope," said Pelorat. "Look at that."Trevize did. "It's a gas giant, the one they call Gallia, accordingto the information I was given.""How can you tell it's that one, just looking?""For one thing," said Trevize, "at our distance from the sun, andbecause of the planetary sizes and orbital positions, which I've beenstudying in plotting our course, that's the only one you could magnifyto that extent at this time. For another thing, there's the ring.""Ring?" said Bliss, mystified.
"All you can see is a thin, pale marking, because we're viewing italmost edge-on. We can zoom up out of the planetary plane and give youa better view. Would you like that?"Pelorat said, "I don't want to make you have to recalculate positionsand courses, Golan. ""Oh well, the computer will do it for me with little trouble." He satdown at the computer as he spoke and placed his hands on the markings thatreceived them. The computer, finely attuned to his mind, did the rest.
The Far Star , free of fuel problems or of inertial sensations,accelerated rapidly, and once again, Trevize felt a surge of love for acomputer-and-ship that responded in such a way to him as thoughit was his thought that powered and directed it, as though it were apowerful and obedient extension of his will.
It was no wonder the Foundation wanted it back; no wonder Comporellonhad wanted it for itself. The only surprise was that the force ofsuperstition had been strong enough to cause Comporellon to be willingto give it up.
Properly armed, it could outrun or outfight any ship in the Galaxy,or any combination of ships provided only that it did not encounteranother ship like itself.
Of course, it was not properly armed. Mayor Branno, in assigning himthe ship, had at least been cautious enough to leave it unarmed.
Pelorat and Bliss watched intently as the planet, Gallia, slowly,slowly, tipped toward them. The upper pole (whichever it was) becamevisible, with turbulence in a large circular region around it, whilethe lower pole retired behind the bulge of the sphere.
At the upper end, the dark side of the planet invaded the sphere oforange light, and the beautiful circle became increasingly lopsided.
What seemed more exciting was that the central pale streak was nolonger straight but had come to be curved, as were the other streaks tothe north and south, but more noticeably so.
Now the central streak extended beyond the edges of the planet verydistinctly and did so in a narrow loop on either side. There was noquestion of illusion; its nature was apparent. It was a ring of matter,looping about the planet, and hidden on the far side.
"That's enough to give you the idea, I think," said Trevize. "If wewere to move over the planet, you would see the ring in its circularform, concentric about the planet, touching it nowhere. You'll probablysee that it's not one ring either but several concentric rings.""I wouldn't have thought it possible," said Pelorat blankly. "Whatkeeps it in space?""The same thing that keeps a satellite in space," said Trevize. "Therings consist of tiny particles, every one of which is orbiting theplanet. The rings are so close to the planet that tidal effects preventit from coalescing into a single body."Pelorat shook his head. "It's horrifying when I think of it, oldman. How is it possible that I can have spent my whole life as a scholarand yet know so little about astronomy?""And I know nothing at all about the myths of humanity. No one canencompass all of knowledge. The point is that these planetaryrings aren't unusual. Almost every single gas giant has them, even ifit's only a thin curve of dust. As it happens, the sun of Terminus has notrue gas giant in its planetary family, so unless a Terminian is a spacetraveler, or has taken University instruction in astronomy, he's likelyto know nothing about planetary rings. What is unusual is a ring thatis sufficiently broad to be bright and noticeable, like that one. It'sbeautiful. It must be a couple of hundred kilometers wide, at least."At this point, Pelorat snapped his fingers. " That's what it meant."Bliss looked startled. "What is it, Pel?"Pelorat said, "I came across a scrap of poetry once, very ancient,and in an archaic version of Galactic that was hard to make out but thatwas good evidence of great age. Though I shouldn't complain of thearchaism, old chap. My work has made me an expert on various varietiesof Old Galactic, which is quite gratifying even if it is of no use tome whatever outside my work. What was I talking about?"Bliss said, "An old scrap of poetry, Pel dear.""Thank you, Bliss," he said. And to Trevize, "She keeps close trackof what I say in order to pull me back whenever I get off-course, whichis most of the time.""It's part of your charm, Pel," said Bliss, smiling.
"Anyway, this scrap of poetry purported to describe the planetarysystem of which Earth was part. Why it should do so, I don't know,for the poem as a whole does not survive; at least, I was never ableto locate it. Only this one portion survived, perhaps because of itsastronomical content. In any case, it spoke of the brilliant triplering of the sixth planet `both brade and large, sae the woruld shronk incomparisoun.' I can still quote it, you see. I didn't understand what aplanet's ring could be. I remember thinking of three circles on one sideof the planet, all in a row. It seemed so nonsensical, I didn't botherto include it in my library. I'm sorry now I didn't inquire." He shookhis head. "Being a mythologist in today's Galaxy is so solitary a job,one forgets the good of inquiring."Trevize said consolingly, "You were probably right to ignore it,Janov. It's a mistake to take poetic chatter literally.""But that's what was meant," said Pelorat, pointing at thescreen. "That's what the poem was speaking of. Three wide rings,concentric, wider than the planet itself."Trevize said, "I never heard of such a thing. I don't think ringscan be that wide. Compared to the planet they circle, they are alwaysvery narrow."Pelorat said, "We never heard of a habitable planet with a giantsatellite, either. Or one with a radioactive crust. This is uniquenessnumber three. If we find a radioactive planet that might be otherwisehabitable, with a giant satellite, and with another planet in thesystem that has a huge ring, there would be no doubt at all that we hadencountered Earth."Trevize smiled. "I agree, Janov. If we find all three, we willcertainly have found Earth.""If!" said Bliss, with a sigh.
30They were beyond the main worlds of the planetarysystem, plunging outward between the positions of the two outermostplanets so that there was now no significant mass within 1.5 billionkilometers. Ahead lay only the vast cometary cloud which, gravitationally,was insignificant.
The Far Star had accelerated to a speed of 0.1 c , onetenth the speed of light. Trevize knew well that, in theory, the shipcould be accelerated to nearly the speed of light, but he also knew that,in practice, 0.1 c was the reasonable limit.
At that speed, any object with appreciable mass could be avoided,but there was no way of dodging the innumerable dust particles in space,and, to a far greater extent even, individual atoms and molecules. Atvery fast speeds, even such small objects could do damage, scouring andscraping the ship's hull. At speeds near the speed of light, each atomsmashing into the hull had the properties of a cosmic ray particle. Underthat penetrating cosmic radiation, anyone on board ship would not longsurvive.
The distant stars showed no perceptible motion in the viewscreen,and even though the ship was moving at thirty thousand kilometers persecond, there was every appearance of its standing still.
The computer scanned space to great distances for any oncoming objectof small but significant size that might be on a collision course, andthe ship veered gently to avoid it, in the extremely unlikely case thatthat would be necessary. Between the small size of any possible oncomingobject, the speed with which it was passed, and the lack of inertialeffect as the result of the course change, there was no way of tellingwhether anything ever took place in the nature of what might be termed a"close call."Trevize, therefore, did not worry about such things, or even giveit the most casual thought. He kept his full attention on the threesets of co-ordinates he had been given by Deniador, and, particularly,on the set which indicated the object closest to themselves.
"Is there something wrong with the figures?" asked Peloratanxiously.
"I can't tell yet," said Trevize. "Co-ordinates in themselves aren'tuseful, unless you know the zero point and the conventions used insetting them up the direction in which to mark off the distance,so to speak, what the equivalent of a prime meridian is, and so on.""How do you find out such things?" said Pelorat blankly.
"I obtained the co-ordinates of Terminus and a few other knownpoints, relative to Comporellon. If I put them into the computer,it will calculate what the conventions must be for such co-ordinatesif Terminus and the other points are to be correctly located. I'm onlytrying to organize things in my mind so that I can properly program thecomputer for this. Once the conventions are determined, the figures wehave for the Forbidden Worlds might possibly have meaning.""Only possibly?" said Bliss.
"Only possibly, I'm afraid," said Trevize. "These are old figuresafter all presumably Comporellian, but not definitely. What ifthey are based on other conventions?""In that case?""In that case, we have only meaningless figures. But we justhave to find out."His hands flickered over the softly glowing keys of the computer,feeding it the necessary information. He then placed his hands onthe handmarks on the desk. He waited while the computer worked out theconventions of the known co-ordinates, paused a moment, then interpretedthe co-ordinates of the nearest Forbidden World by the same conventions,and finally located those co-ordinates on the Galactic map in itsmemory.
A starfield appeared on the screen and moved rapidly as it adjusteditself. When it reached stasis, it expanded with stars bleeding off theedges in all directions until they were almost all gone. At no pointcould the eye follow the rapid change; it was all a speckled blur. Untilfinally, a space one tenth of a parsec on each side (according to theindex figures below the screen) was all that remained. There was nofurther change, and only half a dozen dial sparks relieved the darknessof the screen.
"Which one is the Forbidden World?" asked Pelorat softly.
"None of them," said Trevize. "Four of them are red dwarfs, one anear-red dwarf, and the last a white dwarf. None of them can possiblyhave a habitable world in orbit about them.""How do you know they're red dwarfs just by looking at them?"Trevize said, "We're not looking at real stars; we're looking at asection of the Galactic map stored in the computer's memory. Each oneis labeled. You can't see it and ordinarily I couldn't see it either,but as long as my hands are making contact, as they are, I am aware of aconsiderable amount of data on any star on which my eyes concentrate."Pelorat said in a woebegone tone, "Then the co-ordinates areuseless."Trevize looked up at him, "No, Janov. I'm not finished. There'sstill the matter of time. The co-ordinates for the Forbidden Worldare those of twenty thousand years ago. In that time, both it andComporellon have been revolving about the Galactic Center, and theymay well be revolving at different speeds and in orbits of differentinclinations and eccentricities. With time, therefore, the two worldsmay be drifting closer together or farther apart and, in twenty thousandyears, the Forbidden World may have drifted anywhere from one-half tofive parsecs off the mark. It certainly wouldn't be included in thattenth-parsec square.""What do we do, then?""We have the computer move the Galaxy twenty thousand years back intime relative to Comporellon.""Can it do that?" asked Bliss, sounding rather awe-struck.
"Well, it can't move the Galaxy itself back in time, but it can movethe map in its memory banks back in time."Bliss said, "Will we see anything happen?""Watch," said Trevize.
Very slowly, the half-dozen stars crawled over the face of thescreen. A new star, not hitherto on the screen, drifted in from the lefthand edge, and Pelorat pointed in excitement. "There! There!"Trevize said, "Sorry. Another red dwarf. They're very common. Atleast three fourths of all the stars in the Galaxy are red dwarfs."The screen settled down and stopped moving.
"Well?" said Bliss.
Trevize said, "That's it. That's the view of that portion of theGalaxy as it would have been twenty thousand years ago. At the verycenter of the screen is a point where the Forbidden World ought to beif it had been drifting at some average velocity.""Ought to be, but isn't," said Bliss sharply.
"It isn't," agreed Trevize, with remarkably little emotion.
Pelorat released his breath in a long sigh. "Oh, too bad, Golan."Trevize said, "Wait, don't despair. I wasn't expecting to see thestar there.""You weren't?" said Pelorat, astonished.
"No. I told you that this isn't the Galaxy itself, but the computer'smap of the Galaxy. If a real star is not included in the map, we don'tsee it. If the planet is called `Forbidden' and has been called so fortwenty thousand years, the chances are it wouldn't be included in themap. And it isn't, for we don't see it."Bliss said, "We might not see it because it doesn't exist. TheComporellian legends may be false, or the co-ordinates may be wrong.""Very true. The computer, however, can now make an estimate as towhat the co-ordinates ought to be at this time, now that it has locatedthe spot where it may have been twenty thousand years ago. Using theco-ordinates corrected for time, a correction I could only have madethrough use of the star map, we can now switch to the real starfield ofthe Galaxy itself."Bliss said, "But you only assumed an average velocity for the ForbiddenWorld. What if its velocity was not average? You would not now have thecorrect co-ordinates.""True enough, but a correction, assuming average velocity, is almostcertain to be closer to its real position, than if we had made no timecorrection at all.""You hope!" said Bliss doubtfully.
"That's exactly what I do," said Trevize. "I hope. And nowlet's look at the real Galaxy."The two onlookers watched tensely, while Trevize (perhaps to reducehis own tensions and delay the zero moment) spoke softly, almost asthough he were lecturing.
"It's more difficult to observe the real Galaxy," he said. "The map inthe computer is an artificial construction, with irrelevancies capable ofbeing eliminated. If there is a nebula obscuring the view, I can removeit. If the angle of view is inconvenient for what I have in mind, I canchange the angle, and so on. The real Galaxy, however, I must take asI find it, and if I want a change I must move physically through space,which will take far more time than it would take to adjust a map."And as he spoke, the screen showed a star cloud so rich in individualstars as to seem an irregular heap of powder.
Trevize said, "That's a large angle view of a section of the MilkyWay, and I want the foreground, of course. If I expand the foreground,the background will tend to fade in comparison. The co-ordinate spotis close enough to Comporellon so that I should be able to expand itto about the situation I had on the view of the map. Just let me putin the necessary instructions, if I can hold on to my sanity longenough. Now ."The starfield expanded with a rush so that thousands of stars pushedoff every edge, giving the watchers so real a sensation of moving towardthe screen that all three automatically leaned backward as though inresponse to a forward rush.
The old view returned, not quite as dark as it had been on the map,but with the half-dozen stars shown as they had been in the originalview. And there, close to the center, was another star, shining far morebrightly than the others.
"There it is," said Pelorat, in an awed whisper.
"It may be. I'll have the computer take its spectrum and analyzeit." There was a moderately long pause, then Trevize said, "Spectralclass, G-4, which makes it a trifle dimmer and smaller than Terminus'ssun, but rather brighter than Comporellon's sun. And no G-class starshould be omitted from the computer's Galactic map. Since this one is,that is a strong indication that it may be the sun about which theForbidden World revolves."Bliss said, "Is there any chance of its turning out that there is nohabitable planet revolving about this star after all?""There's a chance, I suppose. In that case, we'll try to find theother two Forbidden Worlds."Bliss persevered. "And if the other two are false alarms, too?""Then we'll try something else.""Like what?""I wish I knew," said Trevize grimly.


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