小说搜索     点击排行榜   最新入库
首页 » 英文科幻小说 » 基地系列 Foundation and Earth 基地与地球 » Chapter 12: To the Surface
选择底色: 选择字号:【大】【中】【小】
Chapter 12: To the Surface
51Trevize turned his head at once to look at Bliss. Herface was expressionless, but taut, and her eyes were fixed on Banderwith an intensity that made her seem oblivious to all else.
Pelorat's eyes were wide, disbelieving.
Trevize, not knowing what Bliss would or could do,struggled to fight down an overwhelming sense of loss (not so muchat the thought of dying, as of dying without knowing where Earth was,without knowing why he had chosen Gaia as humanity's future). He had toplay for time.
He said, striving to keep his voice steady, and his words clear,"You have shown yourself a courteous and gentle Solarian, Bander. Youhave not grown angry at our intrusion into your world. You have beenkind enough to show us over your estate and mansion, and you haveanswered our questions. It would suit your character better to allow usto leave now. No one need ever know we were on this world and we wouldhave no cause to return. We arrived in all innocence, seeking merelyinformation.""What you say is so," said Bander lightly, "and, so far, I havegiven you life. Your lives were forfeit the instant you entered ouratmosphere. What I might have done and should have done onmaking close contact with you, would be to have killed you at once. Ishould then have ordered the appropriate robot to dissect your bodiesfor what information on Outworlders that might yield me.
"I have not done that. I have pampered my own curiosity and given into my own easygoing nature, but it is enough. I can do it no longer. Ihave, in fact, already compromised the safety of Solaria, for if,through some weakness, I were to let myself be persuaded to let you go,others of your kind would surely follow, however much you might promisethat they would not.
"There is, however, at least this. Your death will be painless. I willmerely heat your brains mildly and drive them into inactivation. You willexperience no pain. Life will merely cease. Eventually, when dissectionand study are over, I will convert you to ashes in an intense flash ofheat and all will be over."Trevize said, "If we must die, then I cannot argue against a quickpainless death, but why must we die at all, having given no offense?""Your arrival was an offense.""Not on any rational ground, since we could not know it was anoffense.""Society defines what constitutes an offense. To you, it may seemirrational and arbitrary, but to us it is not, and this is our world onwhich we have the full right to say that in this and that, you have donewrong and deserve to die."Bander smiled as though it were merely making pleasant conversationand went on, "Nor have you any right to complain on the ground of yourown superior virtue. You have a blaster which uses a beam of microwavesto induce intense killing heat. It does what I intend to do, but doesit, I am sure, much more crudely and painfully. You would have nohesitation in using it on me right now, had I not drained its energy,and if I were to be so foolish as to allow you the freedom of movementthat would enable you to remove the weapon from its holster."Trevize said despairingly, afraid even to glance again at Bliss, lestBander's attention be diverted to her, "I ask you, as an act of mercy,not to do this."Bandar said, turning suddenly grim, "I must first be merciful tomyself and to my world, and to do that, you must die."He raised his hand and instantly darkness descended upon Trevize.
52For a moment, Trevize felt the darkness choking himand thought wildly, Is this death?
And as though his thoughts had given rise to an echo, he heard awhispered, "Is this death?" It was Pelorat's voice.
Trevize tried to whisper, and found he could. "Why ask?" he said,with a sense of vast relief. "The mere fact that you can ask shows itis not death.""Mere are old legends that there is life after death.""Nonsense," muttered Trevize. "Bliss? Are you here, Bliss?"There was no answer to that.
Again Pelorat echoed, "Bliss? Bliss? What happened, Golan?"Trevize said, "Bender must be dead. He would, in that case, be unableto supply the power for his estate. The lights would go out.""But how could? You mean Bliss did it?""I suppose so. I hope she did not come to harm in the process." Hewas on his hands and knees crawling about in the total darkness of theunderground (if one did not count the occasional subvisible flashing ofa radioactive atom breaking down in the walls).
Then his hand came on something warm and soft. He felt along itand recognized a leg, which he seized. It was clearly too small to beBander's. "Bliss?"The leg kicked out, forcing Trevize to let go.
He said, "Bliss? Say something!""I am alive," came Bliss's voice, curiously distorted.
Trevize said, "But are you well?""No." And, with that, light returned to theirsurroundings weakly. The walls gleamed faintly, brightening anddimming erratically.
Bander lay crumpled in a shadowy heap. At its side, holding its head,was Bliss.
She looked up at Trevize and Pelorat. "The Solarian is dead," she said,and her cheeks glistened with tears in the weak light.
Trevize was dumbfounded. "Why are you crying?""Should I not cry at having killed a living thing of thought andintelligence? That was not my intention."Trevize leaned down to help her to her feet, but she pushed himaway.
Pelorat knelt in his turn, saying softly, "Please, Bliss, even youcan't bring it back to life. Tell us what happened."She allowed herself to be pulled upward and said dully, "Gaia cando what Bander could do. Gaia can make use of the unevenly distributedenergy of the Universe and translate it into chosen work by mentalpower alone.""I knew that," said Trevize, attempting to be soothing without quiteknowing how to go about it. "I remember well our meeting in space whenyou or Gaia, rather held our spaceship captive. I thoughtof that when Bander held me captive after it had taken my weapons. Itheld you captive, too, but I was confident you could have broken freeif you had wished.""No. I would have failed if I had tried. When your ship was in my/our/Gaia's grip," she said sadly, "I and Gaia were truly one. Now there is ahyperspatial separation that limits my/our/Gaia's efficiency. Besides,Gaia does what it does by the sheer power of massed brains. Even so,all those brains together lack the transducer-lobes this one Solarianhas. We cannot make use of energy as delicately, as efficiently, astirelessly as he could. You see that I cannot make the lights gleammore brightly, and I don't know how long I can make them gleam at allbefore tiring. Bander could supply the power for an entire vast estate,even when it was sleeping.""But you stopped it," said Trevize.
"Because it didn't suspect my powers," said Bliss, "and because Idid nothing that would give it evidence of them. It was thereforewithout suspicion of me and gave me none of its attention. Itconcentrated entirely on you, Trevize, because it was you who borethe weapons again, how well it has served that you armedyourself and I had to wait my chance to stop Bander with onequick and unexpected blow. When it was on the point of killing us,when its whole mind was concentrated on that, and on you, I was ableto strike.""And it worked beautifully.""How can you say something so cruel, Trevize? It was only my intentionto stop it. I merely wished to block its use of its transducer. In themoment of surprise when it tried to blast us and found it could not,but found, instead, that the very illumination about us was fadinginto darkness, I would tighten my grip and send it into a prolongednormal sleep and release the transducer. The power would then remainon, and we could get out of this mansion, into our ship, and leave theplanet. I hoped to so arrange things that, when Bander finally woke,it would have forgotten all that had happened from the instant of itssighting us. Gaia has no desire to kill in order to accomplish what canbe brought about without killing.""What went wrong, Bliss?" said Pelorat softly.
"I had never encountered any such thing as those transducer-lobes andI lacked any time to work with them and learn about them. I merely struckout forcefully with my blocking maneuver and, apparently, it didn't workcorrectly. It was not the entry of energy into the lobes that was blocked,but the exit of that energy. Energy is always pouring into those lobes ata reckless rate but, ordinarily, the brain safeguards itself by pouringout that energy just as quickly. Once I blocked the exit, however, energypiled up within the lobes at once and, in a tiny fraction of a second,the temperature had risen to the point where the brain protein inactivatedexplosively and it was dead. The lights went out and I removed my blockimmediately, but, of course, it was too late.""I don't see that you could have done anything other than that whichyou did, dear," said Pelorat.
"Of what comfort is that, considering that I have killed.""Bander was on the point of killing us," said Trevize.
"That was cause for stopping it, not for killing it."Trevize hesitated. He did not wish to show the impatience he felt forhe was unwilling to offend or further upset Bliss, who was, after all,their only defense against a supremely hostile world.
He said, "Bliss, it is time to look beyond Bander's death. Because itis dead, all power on the estate is blanked out. This will be noticed,sooner or later, probably sooner, by other Solarians. They will be forcedto investigate. I don't think you will be able to hold off the perhapscombined attack of several. And, as you have admitted yourself, you won'tbe able to supply for very long the limited power you are managing tosupply now. It is important, therefore, that we get back to the surface,and to our ship, without delay.""But, Golan," said Pelorat, "how do we do that? We came for manykilometers along a winding path. I imagine it's quite a maze down hereand, for myself, I haven't the faintest idea of where to go to reachthe surface. I've always had a poor sense of direction."Trevize, looking about, realized that Pelorat was correct. He said,"I imagine there are many openings to the surface, and we needn't findthe one we entered.""But we don't know where any of the openings are. How do we findthem?"Trevize turned again to Bliss. "Can you detect anything. mentally,that will help us find our way out?"Bliss said, "The robots on this estate are all inactive. I can detecta thin whisper of subintelligent life straight up, but all that tellsus is that the surface is straight up, which we know.""Well, then," said Trevize, "we'll just have to look for someopening.""Hit-and-miss," said Pelorat, appalled. "We'll never succeed.""We might, Janov," said Trevize. "If we search, there will be a chance,however small. The alternative is simply to stay here, and if we do thatthen we will never succeed. Come, a small chance is better than none.""Wait," said Bliss. "I do sense something.""What?" said Trevize.
"A mind.""Intelligence?""Yes, but limited, I think. What reaches me most clearly, though,is something else.""What?" said Trevize, again fighting impatience.
"Fright! Intolerable fright!" said Bliss, in a whisper.
53Trevize looked about ruefully. He knew where they hadentered but he had no illusion on the score of being able to retrace thepath by which they had come. He had, after all, paid little attentionto the turnings and windings. Who would have thought they'd be in theposition of having to retrace the route alone and without help, and withonly a flickering, dim light to be guided by?
He said, "Do you think you can activate the car, Bliss?"Bliss said, "I'm sure I could, Trevize, but that doesn't mean I canrun it."Pelorat said, "I think that Bander ran it mentally. I didn't see ittouch anything when it was moving."Bliss said gently, "Yes, it did it mentally, Pel, buthow , mentally? You might as well say that it did it byusing the controls. Certainly, but if I don't know the details of usingthe controls, that doesn't help, does it?""You might try," said Trevize.
"If I try, I'll have to put my whole mind to it, and if I do that,then I doubt that I'll be able to keep the lights on. The car will dous no good in the dark even if I learn how to control it.""Then we must wander about on foot, I suppose?""I'm afraid so."Trevize peered at the thick and gloomy darkness that lay beyond the dimlight in their immediate neighborhood. He saw nothing, heard nothing.
He said, "Bliss, do you still sense this frightened mind?""Yes, I do.""Can you tell where it is? Can you guide us to it?""The mental sense is a straight line. It is not refracted sensiblyby ordinary matter, so I can tell it is coming from that direction."She pointed to a spot on the dusky wall, and said, "But we can't walkthrough the wall to it. The best we can do is follow the corridors andtry to find our way in whatever direction will keep the sensation growingstronger. In short, we will have to play the game of hot-and-cold.""Then let's start right now."Pelorat hung back. "Wait, Golan; are we sure we want to find thisthing, whatever it is? If it is frightened, it may be that we will havereason to be frightened, too."Trevize shook his head impatiently. "We have no choice, Janov. It'sa mind, frightened or not, and it may be willing to or may be madeto direct us to the surface.""And do we just leave Bander lying here?" said Pelorat uneasily.
Trevize took his elbow. "Come, Janov. We have no choice in that,either. Eventually some Solarian will reactivate the place, and a robotwill find Bander and take care of it I hope not before we aresafely away."He allowed Bliss to lead the way. The light was always strongestin her immediate neighborhood and she paused at each doorway, at eachfork in the corridor, trying to sense the direction from which thefright came. Sometimes she would walk through a door, or move around acurve, then come back and try an alternate path, while Trevize watchedhelplessly.
Each time Bliss came to a decision and moved firmly in a particulardirection, the light came on ahead of her. Trevize noticed that it seemeda bit brighter now either because his eyes were adapting to thedimness, or because Bliss was learning how to handle the transductionmore efficiently. At one point, when she passed one of the metal rodsthat were inserted into the ground, she put her hand on it and the lightsbrightened noticeably. She nodded her head as though she were pleasedwith herself.
Nothing looked in the least familiar; it seemed certain they werewandering through portions of the rambling underground mansion they hadnot passed through on the way in.
Trevize kept looking for corridors that led upward sharply, and hevaried that by studying the ceilings for any sign of a trapdoor. Nothingof the sort appeared, and the frightened mind remained their only chanceof getting out.
They walked through silence, except for the sound of their own steps;through darkness, except for the light in their immediate vicinity;through death, except for their own lives. Occasionally, they made outthe shadowy bulk of a robot, sitting or standing in the dusk, with nomotion. Once they saw a robot lying on its side, with legs and arms inqueer frozen positions. It had been caught off-balance, Trevize thought,at the moment when power had been turned off, and it had fallen. Bander,either alive or dead, could not affect the force of gravity. Perhapsall over the vast Bander estate, robots were standing and lying inactiveand it would be that that would quickly be noted at the borders.
Or perhaps not, he thought suddenly. Solarians would know when oneof their number would be dying of old age and physical decay. The worldwould be alerted and ready. Bander, however, had died suddenly, withoutpossible foreknowledge, in the prime of its existence. Who would know? Whowould expect? Who would be watching for inactivation?
But no (and Trevize thrust back optimism and consolation as dangerouslures into overconfidence). The Solarians would note the cessation ofall activity on the Bander estate and take action at once. They allhad too great an interest in the succession to estates to leave deathto itself.
Pelorat murmured unhappily, "Ventilation has stopped. A place likethis, underground, must be ventilated, and Bander supplied the power. Nowit has stopped.""It doesn't matter, Janov," said Trevize. "We've got enough air downin this empty underground place to last us for years.""It's close just the same. It's psychologically bad.""Please, Janov, don't get claustrophobic. Bliss, are we anycloser?""Much, Trevize," she replied. "The sensation is stronger and I amclearer as to its location."She was stepping forward more surely, hesitating less at points ofchoice of direction.
"There! There!" she said. "I can sense it intensely."Trevize said dryly, "Even I can hear it now."All three stopped and, automatically, held their breaths. They couldhear a soft moaning, interspersed with gasping sobs.
They walked into a large room and, as the lights went on, they sawthat, unlike all those they had hitherto seen, it was rich and colorfulin furnishings.
In the center of the room was a robot, stooping slightly, its armsstretched out in what seemed an almost affectionate gesture and, ofcourse, it was absolutely motionless.
Behind the robot was a flutter of garments. A round frightened eyeedged to one side of it, and there was still the sound of a brokenheartedsobbing.
Trevize darted around the robot and, from the other side, a smallfigure shot out, shrieking. It stumbled, fell to the ground, andlay there, covering its eyes, kicking its legs in all directions, asthough to ward off some threat from whatever angle it might approach,and shrieking, shrieking Bliss said, quite unnecessarily, "It's a child!"54Trevize drew back, puzzled. What was a child doinghere? Bander had been so proud of its absolute solitude, so insistentupon it.
Pelorat, less apt to fall back on iron reasoning in the face of anobscure event, seized upon the solution at once, and said, "I supposethis is the successor.""Bander's child," said Bliss, agreeing, "but too young, I think,to be a successor. The Solarians will have to find one elsewhere."She was gazing at the child, not in a fixed glare, but in a soft,mesmerizing way, and slowly the noise the child was making lessened. Itopened its eyes and looked at Bliss in return. Its outcry was reducedto an occasional soft whimper.
Bliss made sounds of her own, now, soothing ones, broken words thatmade little sense in themselves but were meant only to reinforce thecalming effect of her thoughts. It was as though she were mentallyfingering the child's unfamiliar mind and seeking to even out itsdisheveled emotions.
Slowly, never taking its eyes off Bliss, the child got to its feet,stood there swaying a moment, then made a dash for the silent, frozenrobot. It threw its arms about the sturdy robotic leg as though avidfor the security of its touch.
Trevize said, "I suppose that the robot is its nursemaid orcaretaker. I suppose a Solarian can't care for another Solarian, noteven a parent for a child."Pelorat said, "And I suppose the child is hermaphroditic.""It would have to be," said Trevize.
Bliss, still entirely preoccupied with the child, was approachingit slowly, hands held half upward, palms toward herself, as thoughemphasizing that there was no intention of seizing the small creature. Thechild was now silent, watching the approach, and holding on the moretightly to the robot.
Bliss said, "There, child warm, child soft, warm,comfortable, safe, child safe safe."She stopped and, without looking round, said in a low voice, "Pel,speak to it in its language. Tell it we're robots come to take care ofit because the power failed.""Robots!" said Pelorat, shocked.
"We must be presented as robots. It's not afraid of robots. And it'snever seen a human being, maybe can't even conceive of them."Pelorat said, "I don't know if I can think of the right expression. Idon't know the archaic word for `robot.'""Say `robot,' then, Pel. If that doesn't work, say `iron thing.' Saywhatever you can."Slowly, word by word, Pelorat spoke archaically. The child looked athim, frowning intensely, as though trying to understand.
Trevize said, "You might as well ask it how to get out, while you'reat it."Bliss said, "No. Not yet. Confidence first, then information."The child, looking now at Pelorat, slowly released its hold on therobot and spoke in a high-pitched musical voice.
Pelorat said anxiously, "It's speaking too quickly for me."Bliss said, "Ask it to repeat more slowly. I'm doing my best to calmit and remove its fears."Pelorat, listening again to the child, said, "I think it's askingwhat made Jemby stop. Jemby must be the robot.""Check and make sure, Pel."Pelorat spoke, then listened, and said, "Yes, Jemby is the robot. Thechild calls itself Fallom.""Good!" Bliss smiled at the child, a luminous, happy smile, pointedto it, and said, "Fallom. Good Fallom. Brave Fallom." She placed a handon her chest and said, "Bliss."The child smiled. It looked very attractive when it smiled. "Bliss,"it said, hissing the "s" a bit imperfectly.
Trevize said, "Bliss, if you can activate the robot, Jemby, it mightbe able to tell us what we want to know. Pelorat can speak to it aseasily as to the child.""No," said Bliss. "That would be wrong. The robot's first duty is toprotect the child. If it is activated and instantly becomes aware of us,aware of strange human beings, it may as instantly attack us. No strangehuman beings belong here. If I am then forced to inactivate it, it cangive us no information, and the child, faced with a second inactivationof the only parent it knows Well, I just won't do it.""But we were told," said Pelorat mildly, "that robots can't harmhuman beings.""So we were," said Bliss, "but we were not told what kind of robotsthese Solarians have designed. And even if this robot were designed todo no harm, it would have to make a choice between its child, or thenearest thing to a child it can have, and three objects whom it might noteven recognize as human beings, merely as illegal intruders. Naturally,it would choose the child and attack us."She turned to the child again. "Fallom," she said, "Bliss." Shepointed, "Pel Trev.""Pel. Trev," said the child obediently.
She came closer to the child, her hands reaching toward it slowly. Itwatched her, then took a step backward.
"Calm, Fallom," said Bliss. "Good, Fallom. Touch, Fallom. Nice,Fallom."It took a step toward her, and Bliss sighed. "Good, Fallom."She touched Fallom's bare arm, for it wore, as its parent had,only a long robe, open in front, and with a loincloth beneath. Thetouch was gentle. She removed her arm, waited, and made contact again,stroking softly.
The child's eyes half-closed under the strong, calming effect ofBliss's mind.
Bliss's hands moved up slowly, softly, scarcely touching, to thechild's shoulders, its neck, its ears, then under its long brown hairto a point just above and behind its ears.
Her hands dropped away then, and she said, "The transducer-lobesare still small. The cranial bone hasn't developed yet. There's just atough layer of skin there, which will eventually expand outward and befenced in with bone after the lobes have fully grown. Which meansit can't, at the present time, control the estate or even activate itsown personal robot. Ask it how old it is, Pel."Pelorat said, after an exchange, "It's fourteen years old, if Iunderstand it rightly."Trevize said, "It looks more like eleven."Bliss said, "The length of the years used on this world may notcorrespond closely to Standard Galactic Years. Besides, Spacers aresupposed to have extended lifetimes and, if the Solarians are likethe other Spacers in this, they may also have extended developmentalperiods. We can't go by years, after all."Trevize said, with an impatient click of his tongue, "Enoughanthropology. We must get to the surface and since we are dealing witha child, we may be wasting our time uselessly. It may not know the routeto the surface. It may not ever have been on the surface."Bliss said, "Pel!"Pelorat knew what she meant and there followed the longest conversationhe had yet had with Fallom.
Finally, he said, "The child knows what the sun is. It says it's seenit. I think it's seen trees. It didn't act as though it weresure what the word meant or at least what the word I used meant ""Yes, Janov," said Trevize, "but do get to the point.""I told Fallom that if it could get us out to the surface, thatmight make it possible for us to activate the robot. Actually, I saidwe would activate the robot. Do you suppose we might?"Trevize said, "We'll worry about that later. Did it say it wouldguide us?""Yes. I thought the child would be more anxious to do it, you see,if I made that promise. I suppose we're running the risk of disappointingit ""Come," said Trevize, "let's get started. All this will be academicif we are caught underground."Pelorat said something to the child, who began to walk, then stoppedand looked back at Bliss.
Bliss held out her hand and the two then walked hand in hand.
"I'm the new robot," she said, smiling slightly.
"It seems reasonably happy over that," said Trevize.
Fallom skipped along and, briefly, Trevize wondered if it were happysimply because Bliss had labored to make it so, or if, added to that,there was the excitement of visiting the surface and of having threenew robots, or whether it was excitement at the thought of having itsJemby foster-parent back. Not that it mattered as long as thechild led them.
There seemed no hesitation in the child's progress. It turned withoutpause whenever there was a choice of paths. Did it really know where itwas going, or was it all simply a matter of a child's indifference? Wasit simply playing a game with no clear end in sight?
But Trevize was aware, from the slight burden on his progress, thathe was moving uphill, and the child, bouncing self-importantly forward,was pointing ahead and chattering.
Trevize looked at Pelorat, who cleared his throat and said, "I thinkwhat it's saying is `doorway.'""I hope your thought is correct," said Trevize.
The child broke away from Bliss, and was running now. It pointed to aportion of the flooring that seemed darker than the sections immediatelyneighboring it. The child stepped on it, jumping up and down a few times,and then turned with a clear expression of dismay, and spoke with shrillvolubility.
Bliss said, with a grimace, "I'll have to supply the power. Thisis wearing me out."Her face reddened a bit and the lights dimmed, but a door opened justahead of Fallom, who laughed in soprano delight.
The child ran out the door and the two men followed. Bliss camelast, and looked back as the lights just inside darkened and the doorclosed. She then paused to catch her breath, looking rather worn out.
"Well," said Pelorat, "we're out. Where's the ship?"All of them stood bathed in the still luminous twilight.
Trevize muttered, "It seems to me that it was in that direction.""It seems so to me, too," said Bliss. "Let's walk," and she held outher hand to Fallom.
There was no sound except those produced by the wind and by themotions and calls of living animals. At one point they passed a robotstanding motionless near the base of a tree, holding some object ofuncertain purpose.
Pelorat took a step toward it out of apparent curiosity, but Trevizesaid, "Not our business, Janov. Move on."They passed another robot, at a greater distance, who had tumbled.
Trevize said, "There are robots littered over many kilometers inall directions, I suppose." And then, triumphantly, "Ah, there's theship."They hastened their steps now, then stopped suddenly. Fallom raisedits voice in an excited squeak.
On the ground near the ship was what appeared to be an air-vessel ofprimitive design, with a rotor that looked energy-wasteful, and fragilebesides. Standing next to the air-vessel, and between the little partyof Outworlders and their ship, stood four human figures.
"Too late," said Trevize. "We wasted too much time. Now what?"Pelorat said wonderingly, "Four Solarians? It can't be. Surely theywouldn't come into physical contact like that. Do you suppose thoseare holoimages?""They are thoroughly material," said Bliss. "I'm sure of that. They'renot Solarians either. There's no mistaking the minds. They're robots."55"Well, then," said Trevize wearily, "onward!" He resumedhis walk toward the ship at a calm pace and the others followed.
Pelorat said, rather breathlessly, "What do you intend to do?""If they're robots, they've got to obey orders."The robots were awaiting them, and Trevize watched them narrowly asthey came closer.
Yes, they must be robots. Their faces, which looked as though they weremade of skin underlain with flesh, were curiously expressionless. Theywere dressed in uniforms that exposed no square centimeter of skinoutside the face. Even the hands were covered by thin, opaque gloves.
Trevize gestured casually, in a fashion that was unquestionably abrusque request that they step aside.
The robots did not move.
In a low voice, Trevize said to Pelorat, "put it into words, Janov. Befirm."Pelorat cleared his throat and, putting an unaccustomed baritone intohis voice, spoke slowly, gesturing them aside much as Trevize had done. Atthat, one of the robots, who was perhaps a shade taller than the rest,said something in a cold and incisive voice.
Pelorat turned to Trevize. "I think he said we were Outworlders.""Tell him we are human beings and must be obeyed."The robot spoke then, in peculiar but understandable Galactic. "Iunderstand you, Outworlder. I speak Galactic. We are Guardian Robots.""Then you have heard me say that we are human beings and that youmust therefore obey us.""We are programmed to obey Rulers only, Outworlder. You are notRulers and not Solarian. Ruler Bander has not responded to the normalmoment of Contact and we have come to investigate at close quarters. Itis our duty to do so. We find a spaceship not of Solarian manufacture,several Outworlders present, and all Bander robots inactivated. Whereis Ruler Bander?"Trevize shook his head and said slowly and distinctly, "We knownothing of what you say. Our ship's computer is not working well. Wefound ourselves near this strange planet against our intentions. Welanded to find our location. We found all robots inactivated. We knownothing of what might have happened.""That is not a credible account. If all robots on the estate areinactivated and all power is off, Ruler Bander must be dead. It is notlogical to suppose that by coincidence it died just as you landed. Theremust be some sort of causal connection."Trevize said, with no set purpose but to confuse the issue and toindicate his own foreigner's lack of understanding and, therefore, hisinnocence, "But the power is not off. You and the others are active."The robot said, "We are Guardian Robots. We do not belong to anyRuler. We belong to all the world. We are not Ruler-controlled but arenuclear-powered. I ask again, where is Ruler Bander?"Trevize looked about him. Pelorat appeared anxious; Bliss wastight-lipped but calm. Fallom was trembling, but Bliss's hand touchedthe child's shoulder and it stiffened somewhat and lost facialexpression. (Was Bliss sedating it?)The robot said, "Once again, and for the last time, where is RulerBander?""I do not know," said Trevize grimly.
The robot nodded and two of his companions left quickly. The robotsaid, "My fellow Guardians will search the mansion. Meanwhile, you willbe held for questioning. Hand me those objects you wear at your side."Trevize took a step backward. "They are harmless.""Do not move again. I do not question their nature, whether harmfulor harmless. I ask for them.""No."The robot took a quick step forward, and his arm flashed out tooquickly for Trevize to realize what was happening. The robot's hand wason his shoulder; the grip tightened and pushed downward. Trevize wentto his knees.
The robot said, "Those objects." It held out its other hand.
"No," gasped Trevize.
Bliss lunged forward, pulled the blaster out of its holster beforeTrevize, clamped in the robot's grip, could do anything to preventher, and held it out toward the robot. "Here, Guardian," she said,"and if you'll give me a moment here's the other. Now releasemy companion."The robot, holding both weapons, stepped back, and Trevize roseslowly to his feet, rubbing his left shoulder vigorously, face wincingwith pain.
(Fallom whimpered softly, and Pelorat picked it up in distraction,and held it tightly.)Bliss said to Trevize, in a furious whisper, "Why are you fightinghim? He can kill you with two fingers."Trevize groaned and said, between gritted teeth, "Why don'tyou handle him.
"I'm trying to. It takes time. His mind is tight, intensely programmed,and leaves no handle. I must study it. You play for time.""Don't study his mind. Just destroy it," said Trevize, almostsoundlessly.
Bliss looked quickly toward the robot. It was studying the weaponsintently, while the one other robot that still remained with it watchedthe Outworlders. Neither seemed interested in the whispering that wasgoing on between Trevize and Bliss.
Bliss said, "No. No destruction. We killed one dog and hurt another onthe first world. You know what happened on this world." (Another quickglance at the Guardian Robots.) "Gaia does not needlessly butcher lifeor intelligence. I need time to work it out peacefully."She stepped back and stared at the robot fixedly.
The robot said, "These are weapons.""No," said Trevize.
"Yes," said Bliss, "but they are no longer useful. They are drainedof energy.""Is that indeed so? Why should you carry weapons that are drainedof energy? Perhaps they are not drained." The robot held one of theweapons in its fist and placed its thumb accurately. "Is this the wayit is activated?""Yes," said Bliss; "if you tighten the pressure, it would be activated,if it contained energy but it does not.""Is that certain?" The robot pointed the weapon at Trevize. "Do youstill say that if I activate it now, it will not work?""It will not work," said Bliss.
Trevize was frozen in place and unable to articulate. He had testedthe blaster after Bander had drained it and it was totally dead, butthe robot was holding the neuronic whip. Trevize had not tested that.
If the whip contained even a small residue of energy, there wouldbe enough for a stimulation of the pain nerves, and what Trevize wouldfeel would make the grip of the robot's hand seem to have been a patof affection.
When he had been at the Naval Academy, Trevize had been forced totake a mild neuronic whipblow, as all cadets had had to. That was justto know what it was like. Trevize felt no need to know anything more.
The robot activated the weapon and, for a moment, Trevize stiffenedpainfully and then slowly relaxed. The whip, too, was thoroughlydrained.
The robot stared at Trevize and then tossed both weapons to oneside. "How do these come to be drained of energy?" it demanded. "If theyare of no use, why do you carry them?"Trevize said, "I am accustomed to the weight and carry them evenwhen drained."The robot said, "That does not make sense. You are all undercustody. You will be held for further questioning, and, if the Rulersso decide, you will then be inactivated. How does one open thisship? We must search it.""It will do you no good," said Trevize. "You won't understand it.""If not I, the Rulers will understand.""They will not understand, either.""Then you will explain so that they will understand.""I will not.""Then you will be inactivated.""My inactivation will give you no explanation, and I think I will beinactivated even if I explain."Bliss muttered, "Keep it up. I'm beginning to unravel the workingsof its brain."The robot ignored Bliss. (Did she see to that? thought Trevize,and hoped savagely that she had.)Keeping its attention firmly on Trevize, the robot said, "If you makedifficulties, then we will partially inactivate you. We will damage youand you will then tell us what we want to know."Suddenly, Pelorat called out in a half-strangled cry. "Wait, youcannot do this. Guardian, you cannot do this.""I am under detailed instructions," said the robot quietly. "I cando this. Of course, I shall do as little damage as is consistent withobtaining information.""But you cannot. Not at all. I am an Outworlder, and so are thesetwo companions of mine. But this child," and Pelorat looked at Fallom,whom he was still carrying, "is a Solarian. It will tell you what to doand you must obey it."Fallom looked at Pelorat with eyes that were open, but seemedempty.
Bliss shook her head, sharply, but Pelorat looked at her without anysign of understanding.
The robot's eyes rested briefly on Fallom. It said, "The child is ofno importance. It does not have transducer-lobes.""It does not yet have fully developed transducer-lobes," said Pelorat,panting, "but it will have them in time. It is a Solarian child.""It is a child, but without fully developed transducer-lobes it isnot a Solarian. I am not compelled to follow its orders or to keep itfrom harm.""But it is the offspring of Ruler Bander.""Is it? How do you come to know that?"Pelorat stuttered, as he sometimes did when overearnest. "Wh whatother child would be on this estate?""How do you know there aren't a dozen?""Have you seen any others?""It is I who will ask the questions."At this moment, the robot's attention shifted as the second robottouched its arm. The two robots who had been sent to the mansion werereturning at a rapid run that, nevertheless, had a certain irregularityto it.
There was silence till they arrived and then one of them spoke inthe Solarian language at which all four of the robots seemed tolose their elasticity. For a moment, they appeared to wither, almostto deflate.
Pelorat said, "They've found Bander," before Trevize could wavehim silent.
The robot turned slowly and said, in a voice that slurred thesyllables, "Ruler Bander is dead. By the remark you have just made,you show us you were aware of the fact. How did that come to be?""How can I know?" said Trevize defiantly.
"You knew it was dead. You knew it was there to be found. How couldyou know that, unless you had been there unless it was you thathad ended the life?" The robot's enunciation was already improving. Ithad endured and was absorbing the shock.
Then Trevize said, "How could we have killed Bander? With itstransducer-lobes it could have destroyed us in a moment.""How do you know what, or what not, transducer-lobes could do?""You mentioned the transducer-lobes just now.""I did no more than mention them. I did not describe their propertiesor abilities.""The knowledge came to us in a dream.""That is not a credible answer."Trevize said, "To suppose that we have caused the death of Bander isnot credible, either."Pelorat added, "And in any case, if Ruler Bander is dead, then RulerFallom now controls this estate. Here the Ruler is, and it is it whomyou must obey.""I have already explained," said the robot, "that an offspring withundeveloped transducer-lobes is not a Solarian. It cannot be a Successor,therefore, Another Successor, of the appropriate age, will be flown inas soon as we report this sad news.""What of Ruler Fallom?""There is no Ruler Fallom. There is only a child and we have an excessof children. It will be destroyed."Bliss said forcefully, "You dare not. It is a child!""It is not I," said the robot, "who will necessarily do the act and itis certainly not I who will make the decision. That is for the consensusof the Rulers. In times of child-excess, however, I know well what thedecision will in.""No. I say no.""It will be painless. But another ship is coming. It isimportant that we go into what was the Bander mansion and set up aholovision Council that will supply a Successor and decide on what todo with you. Give me the child."Bliss snatched the semicomatose figure of Fallom from Pelorat. Holdingit tightly and trying to balance its weight on her shoulder, she said,"Do not touch this child."Once again, the robot's arm shot out swiftly and it stepped forward,reaching for Fallom. Bliss moved quickly to one side, beginning her motionwell before the robot had begun its own. The robot continued to moveforward, however, as though Bliss were still standing before it. Curvingstiffly downward, with the forward tips of its feet as the pivot, it wentdown on its face. The other three stood motionless, eyes unfocused.
Bliss was sobbing, partly with rage. "I almost had the proper method ofcontrol, and it wouldn't give me the time. I had no choice but to strikeand now all four are inactivated. Let's get on the ship beforethe other ship lands. I am too ill to face additional robots, now."


©英文小说网 2005-2010

有任何问题,请给我们留言,管理员邮箱:tinglishi@gmail.com  站长QQ :点击发送消息和我们联系56065533