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Part Four - Solaria Chapter 10: Robots
41Trevize seemed lost in thought during dinner, and Blissconcentrated on the food.
Pelorat, the only one who seemed anxious to speak, pointed out that ifthe world they were on was Aurora and if it was the first settled world,it ought to be fairly close to Earth.
"It might pay to scour the immediate stellar neighborhood," hesaid. "It would only mean sifting through a few hundred stars atmost."Trevize muttered that hit-and-miss was a last resort and he wanted asmuch information about Earth as possible before attempting to approachit even if he found it. He said no more and Pelorat, clearly squelched,dwindled into silence as well.
After the meal, as Trevize continued to volunteer nothing, Peloratsaid tentatively, "Are we to be staying here, Golan?""Overnight, anyway," said Trevize. "I need to do a bit morethinking.""Is it safe?""Unless there's something worse than dogs about," said Trevize,"we're quite safe here in the ship."Pelorat said, "How long would it take to lift off, if there issomething worse than dogs about?"Trevize said, "The computer is on launch alert. I think we can manageto take off in between two and three minutes. And it will warn us quiteeffectively if anything unexpected takes place, so I suggest we allget some sleep. Tomorrow morning, I'll come to a decision as to thenext move."Easy to say, thought Trevize, as he found himself staring at thedarkness. He was curled up, partly dressed, on the floor of the computerroom. It was quite uncomfortable, but he was sure that his bed would beno more conducive to sleep at this time and here at least he could takeaction at once if the computer sounded an alarm.
Then he heard footsteps and automatically sat up, hitting his headagainst the edge of the desk not hard enough to do damage, buthard enough to make rubbing and grimacing a necessity.
"Janov?" he said in a muffled voice, eyes tearing.
"No. It's Bliss."Trevize reached over the edge of the table with one hand to make atleast semicontact with the computer, and a soft light showed Bliss ina light pink wraparound.
Trevize said, "What is it?""I looked in your bedroom and you weren't there. There was no mistakingyour neuronic activity, however, and I followed it. You were clearlyawake so I walked in.""Yes, but what is it you want?"She sat down against the wall, knees up, and cradled her chin againstthem. She said, "Don't be concerned. I have no designs on what's leftof your virginity.""I don't imagine you do," said Trevize sardonically. "Why aren't youasleep? You need it more than we do.""Believe me," she said in a low, heartfelt tone, "that episode withthe dogs was very draining.""I believe that.""But I had to talk to you when Pel was sleeping.""About what?"Bliss said, "When he told you about the robot, you said that thatchanges everything. What did you mean?"Trevize said, "Don't you see that for yourself? We have three setsof coordinates; three Forbidden Worlds. I want to visit all three tolearn as much as possible about Earth before trying to reach it."He edged a bit closer so that he could speak lower still, then drewaway sharply. He said, "Look, I don't want Janov coming in here lookingfor us. I don't know what he'd think.""It's not likely. He's sleeping and I've encouraged that just a bit. Ifhe stirs, I'll know. Go on. You want to visit all three. What'schanged?""It wasn't part of my plan to waste time on any world needlessly. Ifthis world, Aurora, had been without human occupation for twenty thousandyears, then it is doubtful that any information of value has survived. Idon't want to spend weeks or months scrabbling uselessly about theplanetary surface, fighting off dogs and cats and bulls or whatever elsemay have become wild and dangerous, just on the hope of finding a scrap ofreference material amid the dust, rust, and decay. It may be that on oneor both of the other Forbidden Worlds there may be human beings and intactlibraries. So it was my intention to leave this world at once. We'dbe out in space now, if I had done so, sleeping in perfect security.""But?""But if there are robots still functioning on this world, they mayhave important information that we could use. They would be safer todeal with than human beings would be, since, from what I've heard,they must follow orders and can't harm human beings.""So you've changed your plan and now you're going to spend time onthis world searching for robots.""I don't want to, Bliss. It seems to me that robots can't last twentythousand years without maintenance. Yet since you've seen one witha spark of activity still, it's clear I can't rely on my commonsenseguesses about robots. I mustn't lead out of ignorance. Robots may bemore enduring than I imagine, or they may have a certain capacity forself-maintenance."Bliss said, "Listen to me, Trevize, and please keep thisconfidential.""Confidential?" said Trevize, raising his voice in surprise. "Fromwhom?""Sh! From Pel, of course. Look, you don't have to change yourplans. You were right the first time. There are no functioning robotson this world. I detect nothing.""You detected that one, and one is as good as ""I did not detect that one. It was nonfunctioning; long nonfunctioning.""You said ""I know what I said. Pel thought he saw motion and heard sound. Pelis a romantic. He's spent his working life gathering data, but that is adifficult way of making one's mark in the scholarly world. He would dearlylove to make an important discovery of his own. His finding of the word`Aurora' was legitimate and made him happier than you can imagine. Hewanted desperately to find more."Trevize said, "Are you telling me he wanted to make a discovery sobadly he convinced himself he had come upon a functioning robot whenhe hadn't?""What he came upon was a lump of rust containing no more consciousnessthan the rock against which it rested.""But you supported his story.""I could not bring myself to rob him of his discovery. He means somuch to me.
Trevize stared at her for a full minute; then he said, "Do you mindexplaining why he means so much to you? I want to know. Ireally want to know. To you he must seem an elderly man with nothingromantic about him. He's an Isolate, and you despise Isolates. You'reyoung and beautiful and there must be other parts of Gaia that havethe bodies of vigorous and handsome young men. With them you can havea physical relationship that can resonate through Gaia and bring peaksof ecstasy. So what do you an in Janov?"Bliss looked at Trevize solemnly. "Don't you love him?"Trevize shrugged and said, "I'm fond of him. I suppose you could say,in a nonsexual way, that I love him.""You haven't known him very long, Trevize. Why do you love him,in that nonsexual way of yours?"Trevize found himself smiling without being aware of it. "He's suchan odd fellow. I honestly think that never in his life hashe given a single thought to himself. He was ordered to go along with me,and he went. No objection. He wanted me to go to Trantor, but when I saidI wanted to go to Gaia, he never argued. And now he's come along withme in this search for Earth, though he must know it's dangerous. I feelperfectly confident that if he had to sacrifice his life for me orfor anyone he would, and without repining.""Would you give your life for him, Trevize?""I might, if I didn't have time to think. If I did have time to think,I would hesitate and I might funk it. I'm not as good as heis. And because of that, I have this terrible urge to protect and keephim good. I don't want the Galaxy to teach him not to begood. Do you understand? And I have to protect him from you particularly. I can't bear the thought of you tossing him aside whenwhatever nonsense amuses you now is done with.""Yes, I thought you'd think something like that. Don't you supposeI see in Pel what you see in him and even more so, since I cancontact his mind directly? Do I act as though I want to hurt him? WouldI support his fantasy of having seen a functioning robot, if it weren'tthat I couldn't bear to hurt him? Trevize, I am used to what you wouldcall goodness, for every part of Gaia is ready to be sacrificed for thewhole. We know and understand no other course of action. But we give upnothing in so doing, for each part is the whole, though I don't expectyou to understand that. Pel is something different."Bliss was no longer looking at Trevize. It was as though she weretalking to herself. "He is an Isolate. He is not selfless because he isa part of a greater whole. He is selfless because he is selfless. Doyou understand me? He has all to lose and nothing to gain, and yet heis what he is. He shames me for being what I am without fear of loss,when he is what he is without hope of gain."She looked up at Trevize again now, very solemnly. "Do you know howmuch more I understand about him than you possibly can? And do you thinkI would harm him in any way?"Trevize said, "Bliss, earlier today, you said, `Come, let us befriends,' and all I replied was, `If you wish.' That was grudging ofme, for I was thinking of what you might do to Janov. It is my turn,now. Come, Bliss, let us be friends. You can keep on pointing out theadvantage of Galaxia and I may keep on refusing to accept your arguments,but even so, and despite that, let us be friends." And he held outhis hand.
"Of course, Trevize," she said, and their hands gripped each otherstrongly.
42Trevize grinned quietly to himself. It was an internalgrin, for the line of his mouth didn't budge.
When he had worked with the computer to find the star (if any) of thefirst set of co-ordinates, both Pelorat and Bliss had watched intentlyand had asked questions. Now they stayed in their room and slept or,at any rate, relaxed, and left the job entirely to Trevize.
In a way, it was flattering, for it seemed to Trevize that by now theyhad simply accepted the fact that Trevize knew what he was doing andrequired no supervision or encouragement. For that matter, Trevize hadgained enough experience from the first episode to rely more thoroughlyon the computer and to feel that it needed, if not none, then at leastless supervision.
Another star luminous and unrecorded on the Galactic map-showedup. This second star was more luminous than the star about which Auroracircled, and that made it all the more significant that the star wasunrecorded in the computer.
Trevize marveled at the peculiarities of ancient tradition. Wholecenturies might be telescoped or dropped out of consciousnessaltogether. Entire civilizations might be banished into forgetfulness. Yetout of the midst of these centuries, snatched from those civilizations,might be one or two factual items that would be rememberedundistorted such as these co-ordinates.
He had remarked on this to Pelorat some time before, and Pelorathad at once told him that it was precisely this that made the studyof myths and legends so rewarding. "The trick is," Pelorat had said,"to work out or decide which particular components of a legend representaccurate underlying truth. That isn't easy and different mythologistsare likely to pick different components, depending, usually, on whichhappen to suit their particular interpretations." .
In any case, the star was right where Deniador's co-ordinates,corrected for time, said it would be. Trevize was prepared, at thismoment, to wager a considerable sum that the third star would be inplace as well. And if it was, Trevize was prepared to suspect that thelegend was further correct in stating that there were fifty ForbiddenWorlds altogether (despite the suspiciously even number) and to wonderwhere the other forty-seven might be.
A habitable world, Forbidden World, was found circling thestar and by this time its presence didn't cause even a ripple ofsurprise in Trevize's bosom. He had been absolutely sure it would bethere. He set the Far Star into a slow orbit about it.
The cloud layer was sparse enough to allow a reasonable view of thesurface from space. The world was a watery one, as almost all habitableworlds were. There was an unbroken tropical ocean and two unbrokenpolar oceans.
In one set of middle latitudes, there was a more or less serpentinecontinent encircling the world with bays on either side producing anoccasional narrow isthmus. In the other set of middle latitudes, theland surface was broken into three large parts and each of the threewere thicker north-south than the opposite continent was.
Trevize wished he knew enough climatology to be able to predict,from what he saw, what the temperatures and seasons might be like. Fora moment, he toyed with the idea of having the computer work on theproblem. The trouble was that climate was not the point at issue.
Much more important was that, once again, the computer detected noradiation that might be of technological origin. What his telescope toldhim was that the planet was not moth-eaten and that there were no signs ofdesert. The land moved backward in various shades of green, but there wereno signs of urban areas on the dayside, no lights on the nightside.
Was this another planet filled with every kind of life but human?
He rapped at the door of the other bedroom.
"Bliss?" he called out in a loud whisper, and rapped again.
There was a rustling, and Bliss's voice said, "Yes?""Could you come out here? I need your help ""If you wait just a bit, I'll make myself a bit presentable."When she finally appeared, she looked as presentable as Trevize hadever seen her. He felt a twinge of annoyance at having been made to wait,however, for it made little difference to him what she looked like. Butthey were friends now, and he suppressed the annoyance.
She said with a smile and in a perfectly pleasant tone, "What can Ido for you, Trevize?"Trevize waved at the viewscreen. "As you can see, we're passing overthe surface of what looks like a perfectly healthy world with a quitesolid vegetation cover over its land area. No lights at night, however,and no technological radiation. Please listen and tell me if there's anyanimal life. There was one point at which I thought I could see herdsof grazing animals, but I wasn't sure. It might be a case of seeing whatone desperately wants to see."Bliss "listened." At least, a curiously intent look came across herface. She said, "Oh yes rich in animal life.""Mammalian?""Must be.""Human?"Now she seemed to concentrate harder. A full minute passed, andthen another, and finally she relaxed. "I can't quite tell. Every oncein a while it seemed to me that I detected a whiff of intelligencesufficiently intense to be considered human. But it was so feeble andso occasional that perhaps I, too, was only sensing what I desperatelywanted to sense. You see "She paused in thought, and Trevize nudged her with a "Well?"She said, "The thing is I seem to detect something else. It is notsomething I'm familiar with, but I don't see how it can be anythingbut "Her face tightened again as she began to "listen" with still greaterintensity.
"Well?" said Trevize again.
She relaxed. "I don't see how it can be anything but robots.""Robots!""Yes, and if I detect them, surely I ought to be able to detect humanbeings, too. But I don't.""Robots!" said Trevize again, frowning.
"Yes," said Bliss, "and I should judge, in great numbers."43Pelorat also said "Robots!" in almost exactly Trevize'stone when he was told of them. Then he smiled slightly. "You were right,Golan, and I was wrong to doubt you.""I don't remember your doubting me, Janov.""Oh well, old man, I didn't think I ought to express it. I justthought, in my heart, that it was a mistake to leave Aurora while therewas a chance we might interview some surviving robot. But then it'sclear you knew there would be a richer supply of robots here.""Not at all, Janov. I didn't know . I merely chancedit. Bliss tells me their mental fields seem to imply they are fullyfunctioning, and it seems to me they can't very well be fully functioningwithout human beings about for care and maintenance. However, she can'tspot anything human so we're still looking."Pelorat studied the viewscreen thoughtfully. "It seems to be allforest, doesn't it?""Mostly forest. But there are clear patches that may be grasslands. Thething is that I see no cities, or any lights at night, or anything butthermal radiation at any time.""So no human beings after all?""I wonder. Bliss is in the galley trying to concentrate. I've setup an arbitrary prime meridian for the planet which means that it'sdivided into latitude and longitude in the computer. Bliss has a littledevice which she presses whenever she encounters what seems an unusualconcentration of robotic mental activity I suppose you can't say`neuronic activity' in connection with robots or any whiff ofhuman thought. The device is linked to the computer, which thus getsa fix on all the latitudes and longitudes, and we'll let it make thechoice among them and pick a good place for landing."Pelorat looked uneasy. "Is it wise to leave the matter of choice tothe computer?""Why not, Janov? It's a very competent computer. Besides, when youhave no basis on which to make a choice yourself, where's the harm inat least considering the computer's choice?"Pelorat brightened up. "There's something to that, Golan. Some of theoldest legends include tales of people making choices by tossing cubesto the ground.""Oh? What does that accomplish?""Each face of the cube has some decision onit yes no perhaps postpone and soon. Whichever face happens to come upward on landing would be taken asbearing the advice to be followed. Or they would set a ball rolling abouta slotted disc with different decisions scattered among the slots. Thedecision written on the slot in which the ball ends is to be taken. Somemythologists think such activities represented games of chance ratherthan lotteries, but the two are much the same thing in my opinion.""In a way," said Trevize, "we're playing a game of chance in choosingour place of landing."Bliss emerged from the galley in time to hear the last comment. Shesaid, "No game of chance. I pressed several `maybes' and then onesure-fire `yes,' and it's to the `yes' that we'll be going.""What made it a `yes'?" asked Trevize.
"I caught a whiff of human thought. Definite. Unmistakable."44It had been raining, for the grass was wet. Overhead,the clouds were scudding by and showing signs of breaking up.
The Far Star had come to a gentle rest near a small grove oftrees. (In case of wild dogs, Trevize thought, only partly in jest.) Allabout was what looked like pasture land, and coming down from the greaterheight at which a better and wider view had been possible, Trevize hadseen what looked like orchards and grain fields and this time,an unmistakable view of grazing animals.
There were no structures, however. Nothing artificial, except thatthe regularity of the trees in the orchard and the sharp boundaries thatseparated fields were themselves as artificial as a microwave-receivingpower station would have been.
Could that level of artificiality have been produced by robots,however? Without human beings?
Quietly, Trevize was putting on his holsters. This time, he knew thatboth weapons were in working order and that both were fully charged. Fora moment, he caught Bliss's eye and paused.
She said, "Go ahead. I don't think you'll have any use for them,but I thought as much once before, didn't I?"Trevize said, "Would you like to be armed, Janov?"Pelorat shuddered. "No, thank you. Between you and your physicaldefense, and Bliss and her mental defense, I feel in no danger at all. Isuppose it is cowardly of me to hide in your protective shadows, butI can't feel proper shame when I'm too busy feeling grateful that Ineedn't be in a position of possibly having to use force."Trevize said, "I understand. Just don't go anywhere alone. If Blissand I separate, you stay with one of us and don't dash off somewhereunder the spur of a private curiosity.""You needn't worry, Trevize," said Bliss. "I'll see to that."Trevize stepped out of the ship first. The wind was brisk and justa trifle cool in the aftermath of the rain, but Trevize found thatwelcome. It had probably been uncomfortably warm and humid before therain.
He took in his breath with surprise. The smell of the planet wasdelightful. Every planet had its own odor, he knew, an odor always strangeand usually distasteful perhaps only because it was strange. Mightnot strange be pleasant as well? Or was this the accident of catching theplanet just after the rain at a particular season of the year. Whicheverit was "Come on," he called. "It's quite pleasant out here."Pelorat emerged and said, "Pleasant is definitely the word for it. Doyou suppose it always smells like this?""It doesn't matter. Within the hour, we'll be accustomed to the aroma,and our nasal receptors will be sufficiently saturated, for us to smellnothing.""Pity," said Pelorat.
"The grass is wet," said Bliss, with a shade of disapproval.
"Why not? After all, it rains on Gaia, too!" said Trevize, and as hesaid that a shaft of yellow sunlight reached them momentarily througha small break in the clouds. There would soon be more of it.
"Yes," said Bliss, "but we know when and we're prepared for it.""Too bad," said Trevize; "you lose the thrill of the unexpected."Bliss said, "You're right. I'll try not to be provincial."Pelorat looked about and said, in a disappointed tone, "There seemsto be nothing about.""Only seems to be," said Bliss. "They're approaching from beyondthat rise." She looked toward Trevize. "Do you think we ought to go tomeet them?"Trevize shook his head. "No. We've come to meet them across manyparsecs. Let them walk the rest of the way. We'll wait for them here."Only Bliss could sense the approach until, from the direction of herpointing finger, a figure appeared over the brow of the rise. Then asecond, and a third.
"I believe that is all at the moment," said Bliss.
Trevize watched curiously. Though he had never seen robots, therewas not a particle of doubt in him that that was what they were. Theyhad the schematic and impressionistic shape of human beings and yet werenot obviously metallic in appearance. The robotic surface was dull andgave the illusion of softness, as though it were covered in plush.
But how did he know the softness was an illusion? Trevize felt a suddendesire to feel those figures who were approaching so stolidly. If it weretrue that this was a Forbidden World and that spaceships never approachedit and surely that must be so since the sun was not includedin the Galactic map then the Far Star and the people itcarried must represent something the robots had never experienced. Yetthey were reacting with steady certainty, as though they were workingtheir way through a routine exercise.
Trevize said, in a low voice, "Here we may have information we canget nowhere else in the Galaxy. We could ask them for the location ofEarth with reference to this world, and if they know, they will tellus. Who knows how long these things have functioned and endured? Theymay answer out of personal memory. Think of that.""On the other hand," said Bliss, "they may be recently manufacturedand may know nothing.""Or," said Pelorat, "they may know, but may refuse to tell us."Trevize said, "I suspect they can't refuse unless they've been orderednot to tell us, and why should such orders be issued when surely no oneon this planet could have expected our coming?"At a distance of about three meters, the robots stopped. They saidnothing and made no further movement.
Trevize, his hand on his blaster, said to Bliss, without taking hiseyes from the robot, "Can you tell whether they are hostile?""You'll have to allow for the fact that I have no experience whatsoeverwith their mental workings, Trevize, but I don't detect anything thatseems hostile."Trevize took his right hand away from the butt of the weapon, butkept it near. He raised his left hand, palm toward the robots, in what hehoped would be recognized as a gesture of peace and said, speaking slowly,"I greet you. We come to this world as friends."The central robot of the three ducked his head in a kind of abortivebow that might also have been taken as a gesture of peace by an optimist,and replied.
Trevize's jaw dropped in astonishment. In a world of Galacticcommunication, one did not think of failure in so fundamental aneed. However, the robot did not speak in Galactic Standard or anythingapproaching it. In fact, Trevize could not understand a word.
45Pelorat's surprise was as great as that of Trevize,but there was an obvious element of pleasure in it, too.
"Isn't that strange?" he said.
Trevize turned to him and said, with more than a touch of asperityin his voice, "It's not strange. It's gibberish."Pelorat said, "Not gibberish at all. It's Galactic, but very archaic. Icatch a few words. I could probably understand it easily if it werewritten down. It's the pronunciation that's the real puzzle.""Well, what did it say?""I think it told you it didn't understand what you said."Bliss said, "I can't tell what it said, but what I sense ispuzzlement, which fits. That is, if I can trust my analysis of roboticemotion or if there is such a thing as robotic emotion."Speaking very slowly, and with difficulty, Pelorat said something,and the three robots ducked their head in unison.
"What was that?" said Trevize.
Pelorat said, "I said I couldn't speak well, but I would try. I askedfor a little time. Dear me, old chap, this is fearfully interesting.""Fearfully disappointing," muttered Trevize.
"You see," said Pelorat, "every habitable planet in the Galaxy managesto work out its own variety of Galactic so that there are a milliondialects that are sometimes barely intercomprehensible, but they're allpulled together by the development of Galactic Standard. Assuming thisworld to have been isolated for twenty thousand years, the language wouldordinarily drift so far from that of the rest of the Galaxy as to be anentirely different language. That it isn't may be because the world hasa social system that depends upon robots which can only understand thelanguage as spoken in the fashion in which they were programmed. Ratherthan keep reprogramming, the language remained static and we now havewhat is to us merely a very archaic form of Galactic.""There's an example," said Trevize, "of how a robotized society canbe held static and made, to turn degenerate.""But, my dear fellow," protested Pelorat, "keeping a languagerelatively unchanged is not necessarily a sign of degeneration. There areadvantages to it. Documents preserved for centuries and millennia retaintheir meaning and give greater longevity and authority to historicalrecords. In the rest of the Galaxy, the language of Imperial edicts ofthe time of Hari Seldon already begins to sound quaint.""And do you know this archaic Galactic?""Not to say know , Golan. It's just that in studyingancient myths and legends I've picked up the trick of it. The vocabularyis not entirely different, but it is inflected differently, and thereare idiomatic expressions we don't use any longer and, as I have said,the pronunciation is totally changed. I can act as interpreter, but notas a very good one."Trevize heaved a tremulous sigh. "A small stroke of good fortune isbetter than none. Carry on, Janov."Pelorat turned to the robots, waited a moment, then looked back atTrevize. "What am I supposed to say?""Let's go all the way. Ask them where Earth is."Pelorat said the words one at a time, with exaggerated gestures ofhis hands.
The robots looked at each other and made a few sounds. The middleone then spoke to Pelorat, who replied while moving his hands apart asthough he were stretching a length of rubber. The robot responded byspacing his words as carefully as Pelorat had.
Pelorat said to Trevize, "I'm not sure I'm getting across what I meanby `Earth.' I suspect they think I'm referring to some region on theirplanet and they say they don't know of any such region.""Do they use the name of this planet, Janov?""The closest I can come to what I think they are using as the name is`Solaria.'""Have you ever heard of it in your legends?""No any more than I had ever heard of Aurora.""Well, ask them if there is any place named Earth in thesky among the stars. Point upward."Again an exchange, and finally Pelorat turned and said, "All I canget from them, Golan, is that there are no places in the sky."Bliss said, "Ask those robots how old they are; or rather, how longthey have been functioning.""I don't know how to say `functioning,'" said Pelorat, shaking hishead. In fact, I'm not sure if I can say `how old.' I'm not a very good interpreter.""Do the best you can, Pel dear," said Bliss.
And after several exchanges, Pelorat said, "They've been functioningfor twenty-six years.""Twenty-six years," muttered Trevize in disgust. "They're hardlyolder than you are, Bliss."Bliss said, with sudden pride, "It so happens ""I know. You're Gaia, which is thousands of years old. In anycase, these robots cannot talk about Earth from personal experience,and their memory-banks clearly do not include anything not necessary totheir functioning. So they know nothing about astronomy."Pelorat said, "There may be other robots somewhere on the planet thatare primordial, perhaps.""I doubt it," said Trevize, "but ask them, if you can find the wordsfor it, Janov."This time there was quite a long conversation and Pelorat eventuallybroke it off with a flushed face and a clear air of frustration.
"Golan," he said, "I don't understand part of what they're trying tosay, but I gather that the older robots are used for manual labor anddon't know anything. If this robot were a human, I'd say he spoke ofthe older robots with contempt. These three are house robots, they say,and are not allowed to grow old before being replaced. They're the oneswho really know things their words, not mine.""They don't know much," growled Trevize. "At least of the things wewant to know.""I now regret," said Pelorat, "that we left Aurora so hurriedly. Ifwe had found a robot survivor there, and we surely would have, sincethe very first one I encountered still had a spark of life left in it,they would know of Earth through personal memory.""Provided their memories were intact, Janov," said Trevize. "Wecan always go back there and, if we have to, dog packs or not, wewill. But if these robots are only a couple of decades old,there must be those who manufacture them, and the manufacturers must behuman, I should think." He turned to Bliss. "Are you sure you sensed "But she raised a hand to stop him and there was a strained and intentlook on her face. "Coming now," she said, in a low voice.
Trevize turned his face toward the rise and there, first appearingfrom behind it, and then striding toward them, was the unmistakablefigure of a human being. His complexion was pale and his hair light andlong, standing out slightly from the sides of his head. His face wasgrave but quite young in appearance. His bare arms and legs were notparticularly muscled.
The robots stepped aside for him, and he advanced till he stood intheir midst.
He then spoke in a clear, pleasant voice and his words, although usedarchaically, were in Galactic Standard, and easily understood.
"Greetings, wanderers from space," he said. "What would you withmy robots?"46Trevize did not cover himself with glory. He saidfoolishly, "You speak Galactic?"The Solarian said, with a grim smile, "And why not, since I am notmute?""But these?" Trevize gestured toward the robots.
"These are robots. They speak our language, as I do. But I amSolarian and hear the hyperspatial communications of the worlds beyondso that I have learned your way of speaking, as have my predecessors. Mypredecessors have left descriptions of the language, but I constantlyhear new words and expressions that change with the years, as though youSettlers can settle worlds, but not words. How is it you are surprisedat my understanding of your language?""I should not have been," said Trevize. "I apologize. It was justthat speaking to the robots, I had not thought to hear Galactic onthis world."He studied the Solarian. He was wearing a thin white robe, drapedloosely over his shoulder, with large openings for his arms. It was openin front, exposing a bare chest and loincloth below. Except for a pairof light sandals, he wore nothing else.
It occurred to Trevize that he could not tell whether the Solarianwas male or female. The breasts were male certainly but the chest washairless and the thin loincloth showed no bulge of any kind.
He turned to Bliss and said in a low voice, "This might still be arobot, but very like a human being in "Bliss said, her lips hardly moving, "The mind is that of a human being,not a robot."The Solarian said, "Yet you have not answered my original question. Ishall excuse the failure and put it down to your surprise. I now ask againand you must not fail a second time. What would you with my robots?"Trevize said, "We are travelers who seek information to reach ourdestination. We asked your robots for information that would help us,but they lacked the knowledge.""What is the information you seek? Perhaps I can help you.""We seek the location of Earth. Could you tell us that?"The Solarian's eyebrows lifted. "I would have thought that yourfirst object of curiosity would have been myself. I will supply thatinformation although you have not asked for it. I am Sarton Bander andyou stand upon the Bander estate, which stretches as far as your eye cansee in every direction and far beyond. I cannot say that you are welcomehere, for in coming here, you have violated a trust. You are the firstSettlers to touch down upon Solaria in many thousands of years and, asit turns out, you have come here merely to inquire as to the best wayof reaching another world. In the old days, Settlers, you and your shipwould have been destroyed on sight.""That would be a barbaric way of treating people who mean no harmand offer none," said Trevize cautiously.
"I agree, but when members of an expanding society set foot upon aninoffensive and static one, that mere touch is filled with potentialharm. While we feared that harm, we were ready to destroy those who cameat the instant of their coming. Since we no longer have reason to fear,we are, as you see, ready to talk."Trevize said, "I appreciate the information you have offered us sofreely, and yet you failed to answer the question I did ask. I willrepeat it. Could you tell us the location of the planet Earth?""By Earth, I take it you mean the world on which the human species,and the various species of plants and animals" his hand movedgracefully about as though to indicate all the surroundings aboutthem "originated.""Yes, I do, sir."A queer look of repugnance flitted over the Solarian's face. He said,"Please address me simply as Bander, if you must use a form of address. Donot address me by any word that includes a sign of gender. I am neithermale nor female. I am whole ."Trevize nodded (he had been right). "As you wish, Bander. What, then,is the location of Earth, the world of origin of all of us?"Bander said, "I do not know. Nor do I wish to know. If I did know,or if I could find out, it would do you no good, for Earth no longerexists as a world. Ah," he went on, stretching out his arms. "Thesun feels good. I am not often on the surface, and never when the sun doesnot show itself. My robots were sent to greet you while the sun was yethiding behind the clouds. I followed only when the clouds cleared.""Why is it that Earth no longer exists as a world?" said Trevizeinsistently, steeling himself for the tale of radioactivity onceagain.
Bander, however, ignored the question or, rather, put it to one sidecarelessly. "The story is too long," he said. "You told me that you camewith no intent of harm.""That is correct.""Why then did you come armed?""That is merely a precaution. I did not know what I might meet.""It doesn't matter. Your little weapons represent no danger tome. Yet I am curious. I have, of course, heard much of your arms, andof your curiously barbaric history that seems to depend so entirely uponarms. Even so, I have never actually seen a weapon. May I see yours?"Trevize took a step backward. "I'm afraid not, Bander."Bander seemed amused. "I asked only out of politeness. I need nothave asked at all."It held out its hand and from Trevize's right holster, there emergedhis blaster, while from his left holster, there rose up his neuronicwhip. Trevize snatched at his weapons but felt his arms held back asthough by stiffly elastic bonds. Both Pelorat and Bliss started forwardand it was clear that they were held as well.
Bander said, "Don't bother trying to interfere. You cannot." Theweapons flew to its hands and it looked them over carefully. "This one,"it said, indicating the blaster, "seems to be a microwave beamer thatproduces heat, thus exploding any fluid-containing body. The other ismore subtle, and, I must confess, I do not see at a glance what it isintended to do. However, since you mean no harm and offer no harm, youdon't need arms. I can, and I do, bleed the energy content of the unitsof each weapon. That leaves them harmless unless you use one or the otheras a club, and they would be clumsy indeed if used for that purpose."The Solarian released the weapons and again they drifted throughthe air, this time back toward Trevize. Each settled neatly into itsholster.
Trevize, feeling himself released, pulled out his blaster, but therewas no need to use it. The contact hung loosely, and the energy unithad clearly been totally drained. That was precisely the case with theneuronic whip as well.
He looked up at Bander, who said, smiling, "You are quite helpless,Outworlder. I can as easily, if I so desired, destroy your ship and,of course, you."


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