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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 11: Underground
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Chapter 11: Underground
47Trevize felt frozen. Trying to breathe normally, heturned to look at Bliss. She was standing with her arm protectivelyabout Pelorat's waist, and, to all appearances, was quite calm. Shesmiled slightly and, even more slightly, nodded her head.
Trevize turned back to Bander. Having interpreted Bliss's actions assignifying confidence, and hoping with dreadful earnestness that he wascorrect, he said grimly, "How did you do that, Bander?"Bander smiled, obviously in high good humor. "Tell me, littleOutworlders, do you believe in sorcery? In magic?""No, we do not, little Solarian," snapped Trevize.
Bliss tugged at Trevize's sleeve and whispered, "Don't irritatehim. He's dangerous.""I can see he is," said Trevize, keeping his voice low withdifficulty. "You do something, then."Her voice barely heard, Bliss said, "Not yet. He will be less dangerousif he feels secure."Bander paid no attention to the brief whispering among theOutworlders. It moved away from them uncaringly, the robots separatingto let it pass.
Then it looked back and crooked a finger languidly. "Come. Followme. All three of you. I will tell you a story that may not interest you,but that interests me." It continued to walk forward leisurely.
Trevize remained in place for a while, uncertain as to the best courseof action. Bliss walked forward, however, and the pressure of her armled Pelorat forward as well. Eventually, Trevize moved; the alternativewas to be left standing alone with the robots.
Bliss said lightly, "If Bander will be so kind as to tell the storythat may not interest us "Bander turned and looked intently at Bliss as though he were trulyaware of her for the first time. "You are the feminine half-human,"he said, "aren't you? The lesser half?""The smaller half, Bander. Yes.""These other two are masculine half-humans, then?""So they are.""Have you had your child yet, feminine?""My name, Bander, is Bliss. I have not yet had a child. This isTrevize. This is Pel.""And which of these two masculines is to assist you when it is yourtime? Or will it be both? Or neither?""Pel will assist me, Bander."Bander turned his attention to Pelorat. "You have white hair,I see."Pelorat said, "I have.""Was it always that color?""No, Bander, it became so with age.""And how old are you?""I am fifty-two years old, Bander," Pelorat said, then added hastily,"That's Galactic Standard Years."Bander continued to walk (toward the distant mansion, Trevize assumed),but more slowly. It said, "I don't know how long a Galactic StandardYear is, but it can't be very different from our year. And how old willyou be when you die, Pel?""I can't say. I may live thirty more years.""Eighty-two years, then. Short-lived, and divided inhalves. Unbelievable, and yet my distant ancestors were like you andlived on Earth. But some of them left Earth to establish new worldsaround other stars, wonderful worlds, well organized, and many."Trevize said loudly, "Not many. Fifty."Bander turned a lofty eye on Trevize. There seemed less humor in itnow. "Trevize. That's your name.""Golan Trevize in full. I say there were fifty Spacerworlds. Our worlds number in the millions.""Do you know, then, the story that I wish to tell you?" said Bandersoftly.
"If the story is that there were once fifty Spacer worlds, we knowit.""We count not in numbers only, little half-human," said Bander. "Wecount the quality, too. There were fifty, but such a fifty that not allyour millions could make up one of them. And Solaria was the fiftieth and,therefore, the best. Solaria was as far beyond the other Spacer worlds,as they were beyond Earth.
"We of Solaria alone learned how life was to be lived. We did notherd and flock like animals, as they did on Earth, as they did on otherworlds, as they did even on the other Spacer worlds. We lived each alone,with robots to help us, viewing each other electronically as often as wewished, but coming within natural sight of one another only rarely. It ismany years since I have gazed at human beings as I now gaze at you but,then, you are only half-humans and your presence, therefore, does notlimit my freedom any more than a cow would limit it, or a robot.
"Yet we were once half-human, too. No matter how we perfected ourfreedom; no matter how we developed as solitary masters over countlessrobots; the freedom was never absolute. In order to produce young therehad to be two individuals in co-operation. It was possible, of course,to contribute sperm cells and egg cells, to have the fertilization processand the consequent embryonic growth take place artificially in automatedfashion. It was possible for the infant to live adequately under roboticcare. It could all be done, but the half-humans would not give up thepleasure that went with biological impregnation. Perverse emotionalattachments would develop in consequence and freedom vanished. Do yousee that that had to be changed?"Trevize said, "No, Bander, because we do not measure freedom by yourstandards.""That is because you do not know what freedom is. You have never livedbut in swarms, and you know no way of life but to be constantly forced,in even the smallest things, to bend your wills to those of others or,which is equally vile, to spend your days struggling to force others tobend their wills to yours. Where is any possible freedom there? Freedomis nothing if it is not to live as you wish! Exactly as you wish!
"Then came the time when the Earthpeople began to swarm outwardonce more, when their clinging crowds again swirled through space. Theother Spacers, who did not flock as the Earthpeople did, but who flockednevertheless, if to a lesser degree, tried to compete.
"We Solarians did not. We foresaw inevitable failure in swarming. Wemoved underground and broke off all contact with the rest of theGalaxy. We were determined to remain ourselves at all costs. We developedsuitable robots and weapons to protect our apparently empty surface,and they did the job admirably. Ships came and were destroyed, andstopped coming. The planet was considered deserted, and was forgotten,as we hoped it would be.
"And meanwhile, underground, we worked to solve our problems. Weadjusted our genes gingerly, delicately. We had failures, but somesuccesses, and we capitalized on the successes. It took us many centuries,but we finally became whole human beings, incorporating both the masculineand feminine principles in one body, supplying our own complete pleasureat will, and producing, when we wished, fertilized eggs for developmentunder skilled robotic care.""Hermaphrodites," said Pelorat.
"Is that what it is called in your language?" asked Banderindifferently. "I have never heard the word.""Hermaphroditism stops evolution dead in its tracks," saidTrevize. "Each child is the genetic duplicate of its hermaphroditicparent.""Come," said Bander, "you treat evolution as a hit-and-miss affair. Wecan design our children if we wish. We can change and adjust the genesand, on occasion, we do. But we are almost at my dwelling. Letus enter. It grows late in the day. The sun already fails to give itswarmth adequately and we will be more comfortable indoors."They passed through a door that had no locks of any kind butthat opened as they approached and closed behind them as they passedthrough. There were no windows, but as they entered a cavernous room,the walls glowed to luminous life and brightened. The floor seemed bare,but was soft and springy to the touch. In each of the four corners ofthe room, a robot stood motionless.
"That wall," said Bander, pointing to the wall opposite thedoor a wall that seemed no different in any way from the otherthree is my visionscreen. The world opens before me through thatscreen but it in no way limits my freedom for I cannot be compelled touse it."Trevize said, "Nor can you compel another to use his if you wish tosee him through that screen and he does not.""Compel?" said Bander haughtily. "Let another do as it pleases, ifit is but content that I do as I please. Please note that we do not usegendered pronouns in referring to each other."There was one chair in the room, facing the vision-screen, and Bandersat down in it.
Trevize looked about, as though expecting additional chairs to springfrom the floor. "May we sit, too?" he said.
"If you wish," said Bander.
Bliss, smiling, sat down on the floor. Pelorat sat down besideher. Trevize stubbornly continued to stand.
Bliss said, "Tell me, Bander, how many human beings live on thisplanet?""Say Solarians, half-human Bliss. The phrase `human being' iscontaminated by the fact that half-humans call themselves that. Wemight call ourselves whole-humans, but that is clumsy. Solarian is theproper term.""How many Solarians, then, live on this planet?""I am not certain. We do not count ourselves. Perhaps twelvehundred.""Only twelve hundred on the entire world?""Fully twelve hundred. You count in numbers again, while we countin quality. Nor do you understand freedom. If one other Solarianexists to dispute my absolute mastery over any part of my land, overany robot or living thing or object, my freedom is limited. Since otherSolarians exist, the limitation on freedom must be removed as far aspossible by separating them all to the point where contact is virtuallynonexistent. Solaria will hold twelve hundred Solarians under conditionsapproaching the ideal. Add more, and liberty will be palpably limitedso that the result will be unendurable.""That means each child must be counted and must balance deaths,"said Pelorat suddenly.
"Certainly. That must be true of any world with a stablepopulation even yours, perhaps.""And since there are probably few deaths, there must therefore befew children.""Indeed."Pelorat nodded his head and was silent.
Trevize said, "What I want to know is how you made my weapons flythrough the air. You haven't explained that.""I offered you sorcery or magic as an explanation. Do you refuse toaccept that?""Of course I refuse. What do you take me for?""Will you, then, believe in the conservation of energy, and in thenecessary increase of entropy?""That I do. Nor can I believe that even in twenty thousand years youhave changed these laws, or modified them a micrometer.""Nor have we, half-person. But now consider. Outdoors, there issunlight." There was its oddly graceful gesture, as though marking outsunlight all about. "And there is shade. It is warmer in the sunlightthan in the shade, and heat flows spontaneously from the sunlit areainto the shaded area.""You tell me what I know," said Trevize.
"But perhaps you know it so well that you no longer think aboutit. And at night, Solaria's surface is warmer than the objects beyondits atmosphere, so that heat flows spontaneously from the planetarysurface into outer space.""I know that, too.""And day or night, the planetary interior is warmer than the planetarysurface. Heat therefore flows spontaneously from the interior to thesurface. I imagine you know that, too.""And what of all that, Bander?""The flow of heat from hotter to colder, which must take place bythe second law of thermodynamics, can be used to do work.""In theory, yes, but sunlight is dilute, the heat of the planetarysurface is even more dilute, and the rate at which heat escapes from theinterior makes that the most dilute of all. The amount of heat-flow thatcan be harnessed would probably not be enough to lift a pebble.""It depends on the device you use for the purpose," said Bander. "Ourown tool was developed over a period of thousands of years and it isnothing less than a portion of our brain."Bander lifted the hair on either side of its head, exposing thatportion of its skull behind its ears. It turned its head this way andthat, and behind each ear was a bulge the size and shape of the bluntend of a hen's egg.
"That portion of my brain, and its absence in you, is what makes thedifference between a Solarian and you."48Trevize glanced now and then at Bliss's face, whichseemed entirely concentrated on Bander. Trevize had grown quite certainhe knew what was going on.
Bander, despite its paean to freedom, found this unique opportunityirresistible. There was no way it could speak to robots on a basis ofintellectual equality, and certainly not to animals. To speak to itsfellow-Solarians would be, to it, unpleasant, and what communicationthere must be would be forced, and never spontaneous.
As for Trevize, Bliss, and Pelorat, they might be half-human to Bander,and it might regard them as no more an infringement on its liberty thana robot or a goat would be but they were its intellectual equals(or near equals) and the chance to speak to them was a unique luxury ithad never experienced before.
No wonder, Trevize thought, it was indulging itself in this way. AndBliss (Trevize was doubly sure) was encouraging this, just pushingBander's mind ever so gently in order to urge it to do what it very muchwanted to do in any case.
Bliss, presumably, was working on the supposition that if Bander spokeenough, it might tell them something useful concerning Earth. That madesense to Trevize, so that even if he had not been truly curious aboutthe subject under discussion, he would nevertheless have endeavored tocontinue the conversation.
"What do those brain-lobes do?" Trevize asked.
Bander said, "They are transducers. They are activated by the flowof heat and they convert the heat-flow into mechanical energy.""I cannot believe that. The flow of heat is insufficient.""Little half-human, you do not think. If there were many Solarianscrowded together, each trying to make use of the flow of heat, then, yes,the supply would be insufficient. I, however, have over forty thousandsquare kilometers that are mine, mine alone. I can collect heat-flowfrom any quantity of those square kilometers with no one to dispute me,so the quantity is sufficient. Do you see?""Is it that simple to collect heat-flow over a wide area? The mereact of concentration takes a great deal of energy.""Perhaps, but I am not aware of it. My transducer-lobes are constantlyconcentrating heat-flow so that as work is needed, work is done. WhenI drew your weapons into the air, a particular volume of the sunlitatmosphere lost some of its excess heat to a volume of the shaded area,so that I was using solar energy for the purpose. Instead of usingmechanical or electronic devices to bring that about, however, I useda neuronic device." It touched one of the transducer-lobes gently. "Itdoes it quickly, efficiently, constantly and effortlessly.""Unbelievable," muttered Pelorat.
"Not at all unbelievable," said Bander. "Consider the delicacy of theeye and ear, and how they can turn small quantities of photons and airvibrations into information. That would seem unbelievable if you had nevercome across it before. The transducer-lobes are no more unbelievable,and would not be so to you, were they not unfamiliar."Trevize said, "What do you do with these constantly operatingtransducerlobes?""We run our world," said Bander. "Every robot on this vast estateobtains its energy from me; or, rather, from natural heat-flow. Whethera robot is adjusting a contact, or felling a tree, the energy is derivedfrom mental transduction my mental transduction.""And if you are asleep?""The process of transduction continues waking or sleeping, littlehalf-human," said Bander. "Do you cease breathing when you sleep? Doesyour heart stop beating? At night, my robots continue working at the costof cooling Solaria's interior a bit. The change is immeasurably smallon a global scale and there are only twelve hundred of us, so that allthe energy we use does not appreciably shorten our sun's life or drainthe world's internal heat.""Has it occurred to you that you might use it as a weapon?"Bander stared at Trevize as though he were something peculiarlyincomprehensible. "I suppose by that," he said, "you mean that Solariamight confront other worlds with energy weapons based on transduction? Whyshould we? Even if we could beat their energy weapons based on otherprinciples which is anything but certain what would wegain? The control of other worlds? What do we want with other worlds whenwe have an ideal world of our own? Do we want to establish our dominationover half-humans and use them in forced labor? We have our robots thatare far better than half-humans for the purpose. We have everything.
We want nothing except to be left to ourselves. See here I'lltell you another story.""Go ahead," said Trevize.
"Twenty thousand years ago when the half-creatures of Earth began toswarm into space and we ourselves withdrew underground, the other Spacerworlds were determined to oppose the new Earth-settlers. So they struckat Earth.""At Earth," said Trevize, trying to hide his satisfaction over thefact that the subject had come up at last.
"Yes, at the center. A sensible move, in a way. If you wish to killa person, you strike not at a finger or a heel, but at the heart. Andour fellow-Spacers, not too far removed from human beings themselves inpassions, managed to set Earth's surface radioactively aflame, so thatthe world became largely uninhabitable.""Ah, that's what happened," said Pelorat, clenching a fist and movingit rapidly, as though nailing down a thesis. "I knew it could not be anatural phenomenon. How was it done?""I don't know how it was done," said Bander indifferently, "and inany case it did the Spacers no good. That is the point of the story. TheSettlers continued to swarm and the Spacers-died out. They had triedto compete, and vanished. We Solarians retired and refused to compete,and so we are still here.""And so are the Settlers," said Trevize grimly.
"Yes, but not forever. Swarmers must fight, must compete, andeventually must die. That may take tens of thousands of years, but wecan wait. And when it happens, we Solarians, whole, solitary, liberated,will have the Galaxy to ourselves. We can then use, or not use, anyworld we wish to in addition to our own.""But this matter of Earth," said Pelorat, snapping his fingersimpatiently. "Is what you tell us legend or history?""How does one tell the difference, half-Pelorat?" said Bander. "Allhistory is legend, more or less.""But what do your records say? May I see the records on the subject,Bander? Please understand that this matter of myths, legends, andprimeval history is my field. I am a scholar dealing with such mattersand particularly with those matters as related to Earth.""I merely repeat what I have heard," said Bander. "There are no recordson the subject. Our records deal entirely with Solarian affairs and otherworlds are mentioned in them only insofar as they impinge upon us.""Surely, Earth has impinged on you," said Pelorat.
"That may be, but, if so, it was long, long ago, and Earth, of allworlds, was most repulsive to us. If we had any records of Earth, I amsure they were destroyed out of sheer revulsion."Trevize gritted his teeth in chagrin. "By yourselves?" he asked.
Bander turned its attention to Trevize. "There is no one else todestroy them."Pelorat would not let go of the matter. "What else have you heardconcerning Earth?"Bander thought. It said, "When I was young, I heard a tale from arobot about an Earthman who once visited Solaria; about a Solarian womanwho left with him and became an important figure in the Galaxy. That,however, was, in my opinion, an invented tale."Pelorat bit at his lip. "Are you sure?""How can I be sure of anything in such matters?" said Bander. "Still,it passes the bounds of belief that an Earthman would dare come toSolaria, or that Solaria would allow the intrusion. It is even lesslikely that a Solarian woman we were half-humans then, but evenso should voluntarily leave this world. But come, let meshow you my home.""Your home?" said Bliss, looking about. "Are we not in your home?""Not at all," said Bander. "This is an anteroom. It is a viewingroom. In it I see my fellow-Solarians when I must. Their images appearon that wall, or three-dimensionally in the space before the wall. Thisroom is a public assembly, therefore, and not part of my home. Comewith me."It walked on ahead, without turning to see if it were followed, butthe four robots left their corners, and Trevize knew that if he and hiscompanions did not follow spontaneously, the robots would gently coercethem into doing so.
The other two got to their feet and Trevize whispered lightly to Bliss,"Have you been keeping it talking?"Bliss pressed his hand, and nodded. "Just the same, I wish I knewwhat its intentions were," she added, with a note of uneasiness inher voice.
49They followed Bander. The robots remained at a politedistance, but their presence was a constantly felt threat.
They were moving through a corridor, and Trevize mumbledlow-spiritedly, "There's nothing helpful about Earth on this planet. I'msure of it. Just another variation on the radioactivity theme." Heshrugged. "We'll have to go on to the third set of co-ordinates."A door opened before them, revealing a small room. Bander said,"Come, half-humans, I want to show you how we live."Trevize whispered, "It gets infantile pleasure out of display. I'dlove to knock it down.""Don't try to compete in childishness," said Bliss.
Bander ushered all three into the room. One of the robots followedas well. Bander gestured the other robots away and entered itself. Thedoor closed behind it.
"It's an elevator," said Pelorat, with a pleased air of discovery.
"So it is," said Bander. "Once weeeent underground, we nevertruly emerged. Nor would weeeant to, though I find it pleasant tofeel the sunlight on occasion. I dislike clouds or night in the open,however. That gives one the sensation of being underground without trulybeing underground, if you know what I mean. That is cognitive dissonance,after a fashion, and I find it very unpleasant.""Earth built underground," said Pelorat. "The Caves of Steel, theycalled their cities. And Trantor built underground, too, even moreextensively, in the old Imperial days. And Comporellon builds undergroundright now. It is a common tendency, when you come to think of it.""Half-humans swarming underground and weeliving underground in isolatedsplendor are two widely different things," said Bander.
Trevize said, "On Terminus, dwelling places are on the surface.""And exposed to the weather," said Bander. "Very primitive."The elevator, after the initial feeling of lower gravity thathad given away its nature to Pelorat, gave no sensation of motionwhatsoever. Trevize was wondering how far down it would penetrate,when there was a brief feeling of higher gravity and the door opened.
Before them was a large and elaborately furnished room. It was dimlylit, though the source of the light was not apparent. It almost seemedas though the air itself were faintly luminous.
Bander pointed its finger and where it pointed the light grew a bitmore intense. It pointed it elsewhere and the same thing happened. Itplaced its left hand on a stubby rod to one side of the doorway and, withits right hand, made an expansive circular gesture so that the whole roomlit up as though it were in sunlight, but with no sensation of heat.
Trevize grimaced and said, half-aloud, "The man's a charlatan."Bander said sharply. "Not `the man,' but `the Solarian.' I'm notsure what the word `charlatan' means, but if I catch the tone of voice,it is opprobrious."Trevize said, "It means one who is not genuine, who arranges effectsto make what is done seem more impressive than it really is."Bander said, "I admit that I love the dramatic, but what I have shownyou is not an effect. It is real."It tapped the rod on which its left hand was resting. "Thisheat-conducting rod extends several kilometers downward, and there aresimilar rods in many convenient places throughout my estate. I knowthere are similar rods on other estates. These rods increase the rate atwhich heat leaves Solaria's lower regions for the surface and eases itsconversion into work. I do not need the gestures of the hand to producethe light, but it does lend an air of drama or, perhaps, as you point out,a slight touch of the not-genuine, I enjoy that sort of thing."Bliss said, "Do you have much opportunity to experience the pleasureof such little dramatic touches?""No," said Bander, shaking its head. "My robots are not impressedwith such things. Nor would my fellow-Solarians be. This unusual chanceof meeting half-humans and displaying for them is most amusing."Pelorat said, "The light in this room shone dimly when we entered. Doesit shine dimly at all times?""Yes, a small drain of power like keeping the robots working. Myentire estate is always running, and those parts of it not engaged inactive labor are idling.""And you supply the power constantly for all this vast estate?""The sun and the planet's core supply the power. I am merely theconduit. Nor is all the estate productive. I keep most of it as wildernessand well stocked with a variety of animal life; first, because thatprotects my boundaries, and second, because I find esthetic value init. In fact, my fields and factories are small. They need only supply myown needs, plus some specialties to exchange for those of others. I haverobots, for instance, that can manufacture and install the heat-conductingrods at need. Many Solarians depend upon me for that.""And your home?" asked Trevize. "How large is that?"It must have been the right question to ask, for Bander beamed. "Verylarge. One of the largest on the planet, I believe. It goes on forkilometers in every direction. I have as many robots caring for myhome underground, as I have in all the thousands of square kilometersof surface.""You don't live in all of it, surely," said Pelorat.
"It might conceivably be that there are chambers I have never entered,but what of that?" said Bander. "The robots keep every room clean,well ventilated, and in order. But come, step out here."They emerged through a door that was not the one through which theyhad entered and found themselves in another corridor. Before them wasa little topless ground-car that ran on tracks.
Bander motioned them into it, and one by one they clamberedaboard. There was not quite room for all four, plus the robot, but Peloratand Bliss squeezed together tightly to allow room for Trevize. Bandersat in the front with an air of easy comfort, the robot at its side,and the car moved along with no sign of overt manipulation of controlsother than Bander's smooth hand motions now and then.
"This is a car-shaped robot, actually," said Bander, with an air ofnegligent indifference.
They progressed at a stately pace, very smoothly past doors thatopened as they approached, and closed as they receded. The decorationsin each were of widely different kinds as though robots had been orderedto devise combinations at random.
Ahead of them the corridor was gloomy, and behind them as well. Atwhatever point they actually found themselves, however, they were in theequivalent of cool sunlight. The rooms, too, would light as the doorsopened. And each time, Bander moved its hand slowly and gracefully.
There seemed no end to the journey. Now and then they found themselvescurving in a way that made it plain that the underground mansion spreadout in two dimensions. (No, three, thought Trevize, at one point, asthey moved steadily down a shallow declivity.)Wherever they went, there were robots, by thedozens scores hundreds engaged in unhurried work whosenature Trevize could not easily divine. They passed the open door ofone large room in which rows of robots were bent quietly over desks.
Pelorat asked, "What are they doing, Bander?""Bookkeeping," said Bander. "Keeping statistical records, financialaccounts, and all sorts of things that, I am very glad to say, I don'thave to bother with. This isn't just an idle estate. About a quarter ofits growing area is given over to orchards. An additional tenth are grainfields, but it's the orchards that are really my pride. We grow the bestfruit in the world and grow them in the largest number of varieties,too. A Bander peach is the peach on Solaria. Hardly anyone else evenbothers to grow peaches. We have twenty-seven varieties of applesand and so on. The robots could give you full information.""What do you do with all the fruit?" asked Trevize. "You can't eatit all yourself.""I wouldn't dream of it. I'm only moderately fond of fruit. It'straded to the other estates.""Traded for what?""Mineral material mostly. I have no mines worth mentioning on myestates. Then, too, I trade for whatever is required to maintain ahealthy ecological balance. I have a very large variety of plant andanimal life on the estate.""The robots take care of all that, I suppose," said Trevize.
"They do. And very well, too.""All for one Solarian.""All for the estate and its ecological standards. I happen to be theonly Solarian who visits the various parts of the estate when Ichoose but that is part of my absolute freedom."Pelorat said, "I suppose the others the otherSolarians also maintain a local ecological balance and havemarshlands, perhaps, or mountainous areas or seafront estates."Bander said, "I suppose so. Such things occupy us in the conferencesthat world affairs sometimes make necessary.""How often do you have to get together?" asked Trevize. (They weregoing through a rather narrow passageway, quite long, and with no roomson either side. Trevize guessed that it might have been built throughan area that did not easily allow anything wider to be constructed, sothat it served as a connecting link between two wings that could eachspread out more widely.
"Too often. It's a rare month when I don't have to pass some time inconference with one of the committees I am a member of. Still, althoughI may not have mountains or marshlands on my estate, my orchards, myfishponds, and my botanical gardens are the best in the world."Pelorat said, "But, my dear fellow I mean, Bander Iwould assume you have never left your estate and visited those ofothers ""Certainly not ," said Bander, with an air of outrage.
"I said I assumed that," said Pelorat mildly. "But in that case,how can you be certain that yours are best, never having investigated,or even seen the others?""Because," said Bander, "I can tell from the demand for my productsin interestate trade."Trevize said, "What about manufacturing?"Bander said, "There are estates where they manufacture tools andmachinery. As I said, on my estate we make the heat-conducting rods,but those are rather simple.""And robots?""Robots are manufactured here and there. Throughout history,Solaria has led all the Galaxy in the cleverness and subtlety of robotdesign.""Today also, I imagine," said Trevize, carefully having the intonationmake the remark a statement and not a question.
Bander said, "Today? With whom is there to compete today? Only Solariamakes robots nowadays. Your worlds do not, if I interpret what I hearon the hyperwave correctly.""But the other Spacer worlds?""I told you. They no longer exist.""At all?""I don't think there is a Spacer alive anywhere but on Solaria.""Then is there no one who knows the location of Earth?""Why would anyone want to know the location of Earth?"Pelorat broke in, "I want to know. It's my field of study.""Then," said Bander, "you will have to study something else. I knownothing about the location of Earth, nor have I heard of anyone who everdid, nor do I care a sliver of robot-metal about the matter."The car came to a halt, and, for a moment, Trevize thought thatBander was offended. The halt was a smooth one, however, and Bander,getting out of the car, looked its usual amused self as it motioned theothers to get out also.
The lighting in the room they entered was subdued, even after Banderhad brightened it with a gesture. It opened into a side corridor, on bothsides of which were smaller rooms. In each one of the smaller rooms wasone or two ornate vases, sometimes flanked by objects that might havebeen film projectors.
"What is all this, Bander?" asked Trevize.
Bander said, "The ancestral death chambers, Trevize."50Pelorat looked about with interest. "I suppose you havethe ashes of your ancestors interred here?""If you mean by `interred,'" said Bander, "buried in the ground,you are not quite right. We may be underground, but this is my mansion,and the ashes are in it, as we are right now. In our own language wesay that the ashes are `inhoused.'" It hesitated, then said, "`House'
is an archaic word for `mansion.'"Trevize looked about him perfunctorily. "And these are all yourancestors? How many?""Nearly a hundred," said Bander, making no effort to hide the pridein its voice. "Ninety-four, to be exact. Of course, the earliest arenot true Solarians not in the present sense of the word. They werehalf-people, masculine and feminine. Such half-ancestors were placed inadjoining urns by their immediate descendants. I don't go into thoserooms, of course. It's rather `shamiferous.' At least, that's theSolarian word for it; but I don't know your Galactic equivalent. Youmay not have one.""And the films?" asked Bliss. "I take it those are filmprojectors?""Diaries," said Bander, "the history of their lives. Scenes ofthemselves in their favorite parts of the estate. It means they do notdie in every sense. Part of them remains, and it is part of my freedomthat I can join them whenever I choose; I can watch this bit of film orthat, as I please.""But not into the shamiferous ones."Bander's eyes slithered away. "No," it admitted, "but then we allhave that as part of the ancestry. It is a common wretchedness.""Common? Then other Solarians also have these death chambers?" askedTrevize.
"Oh yes, we all do, but mine is the best, the most elaborate, themost perfectly preserved."Trevize said, "Do you have your own death chamber alreadyprepared?""Certainly. It is completely constructed and appointed. That wasdone as my first duty when I inherited the estate. And when I am laid toash to be poetic my successor will go about the constructionof its own as its first duty.""And do you have a successor?""I will have when the time comes. There is as yet ample scope forlife. When I must leave, there will be an adult successor, ripe enoughto enjoy the estate, and well lobed for power-transduction.""It will be your offspring, I imagine.""Oh yes.""But what if," said Trevize, "something untoward takes place? I presumeaccidents and misfortunes take place even on Solaria. What happens if aSolarian is laid to ash prematurely and it has no successor to take itsplace, or at least not one who is ripe enough to enjoy the estate?""That rarely happens. In my line of ancestors, that happened onlyonce. When it does, however, one need only remember that there are othersuccessors waiting for other estates. Some of those are old enough toinherit, and yet have parents who are young enough to produce a seconddescendant and to live on till that second descendant is ripe enough forthe succession. One of these old/young successors, as they are called,would be assigned to the succession of my estate.""Who does the assigning?""We have a ruling board that has this as one of its fewfunctions the assignment of a successor in case of prematureashing. It is all done by holovision, of course."Pelorat said, "But see here, if Solarians never see each other, howwould anyone know that some Solarian somewhere has unexpectedly orexpectedly, for that matter been laid to ash."Bander said, "When one of us is laid to ash, all power at the estateceases. If no successor takes over at once, the abnormal situation iseventually noticed and corrective measures are taken. I assure you thatour social system works smoothly."Trevize said, "Would it be possible to view some of these films youhave here?"Bander froze. Then it said, "It is only your ignorance that excusesyou. What you have said is crude and obscene.""I apologize for that," said Trevize. "I do not wish to intrudeon you, but we've already explained that we are very interested inobtaining information on Earth. It occurs to me that the earliest filmsyou have would date back to a time before Earth was radioactive. Earthmight therefore be mentioned. There might be details given about it. Wecertainly do not wish to intrude on your privacy, but would there be anyway in which you yourself could explore those films, or have a robot doso, perhaps, and then allow any relevant information to be passed on tous? Of course, if you can respect our motives and understand that wewill try our best to respect your feelings in return, you might allowus to do the viewing ourselves."Bander said frigidly, "I imagine you have no way of knowing that youare becoming more and more offensive. However, we can end all this atonce, for I can tell you that there are no films accompanying my earlyhalf-human ancestors.""None?" Trevize's disappointment was heart-felt.
"They existed once. But even you can imagine what might have been onthem. Two half-humans showing interest in each other or, even," Bandercleared its throat, and said, with an effort, "interacting. Naturally,all half-human films were destroyed many generations ago.""What about the records of other Solarians?""All destroyed.""Can you be sure?""It would be mad not to destroy them.""It might be that some Solarians were mad, or sentimental,or forgetful. We presume you will not object to directing us toneighboring estates."Bander looked at Trevize in surprise. "Do you suppose others will beas tolerant of you as I have been?""Why not, Bander?""You'll find they won't be.""It's a chance we'll have to take.""No, Trevize. No, any of you. Listen to me."There were robots in the background, and Bander was frowning.
"What is it, Bander?" said Trevize, suddenly uneasy.
Bander said, "I have enjoyed speaking to all of you, and observingyou in all your strangeness. It was a unique experience, whichI have been delighted with, but I cannot record it in my diary, normemorialize it in film.""Why not?""My speaking to you; my listening to you; my bringing you into mymansion; my bringing you here into the ancestral death chambers; areshameful acts.""We are not Solarians. We matter to you as little as these robots do,do we not?""I excuse the matter to myself in that way. It may not serve as anexcuse to others.""What do you care? You have absolute liberty to do as you choose,don't you?""Even as we are, freedom is not truly absolute. If I were theonly Solarian on the planet, I could do even shameful thingsin absolute freedom. But there are other Solarians on the planet, and,because of that, ideal freedom, though approached, is not actuallyreached. There are twelve hundred Solarians on the planet who woulddespise me if they knew what I had done.""There is no reason they need know about it.""That is true. I have been aware of that since you've arrived. I'vebeen aware of it all this time that I've been amusing myself with you. Theothers must not find out."Pelorat said, "If that means you fear complications as a result ofour visits to other estates in search of information about Earth, why,naturally, we will mention nothing of having visited you first. That isclearly understood."Bander shook its head. "I have taken enough chances. I will not speakof this, of course. My robots will not speak of this, and will even beinstructed not to remember it. Your ship will be taken underground andexplores for what information it can give us ""Wait," said Trevize, "how long do you suppose we can wait here whileyou inspect our ship? That is impossible.""Not at all impossible, for you will have nothing to say about it. Iam sorry. I would like to speak to you longer and to discuss many otherthings with you, but you see the matter grows more dangerous.""No, it does not," said Trevize emphatically.
"Yes, it does, little half-human. I'm afraid the time has come whenI must do what my ancestors would have done at once. I must kill you,all three."


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