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Chapter 6: The Nature of Earth
22Trevize felt almost drugged, and wondered how much time hadelapsed.
Beside him lay Mitza Lizalor, Minister of Transportation. She was onher stomach, head to one side, mouth open, snoring distinctly. Trevizewas relieved that she was asleep. Once she woke up, he hoped she wouldbe quite aware that she had been asleep.
Trevize longed to sleep himself, but he felt it important that henot do so. She must not wake to find him asleep. She must realize thatwhile she had been ground down to unconsciousness, he had endured. Shewould expect such endurance from a Foundation-reared immoralist and,at this point, it was better she not be disappointed.
In a way, he had done well. He had guessed, correctly, that Lizalor,given her physical size and strength, her political power, her contemptfor the Comporellian men she had encountered, her mingled horrorand fascination with tales (what had she heard? Trevize wondered)of the sexual feats of the decadents of Terminus, would want to bedominated. She might even expect to be, without being able to expressher desire and expectation.
He had acted on that belief and, to his good fortune, found he wascorrect. (Trevize, the ever-right, he mocked himself.) It pleased thewoman and it enabled Trevize to steer activities in a direction thatwould tend to wear her out while leaving himself relatively untouched.
It had not been easy. She had a marvelous body (forty-six, she hadsaid, but it would not have shamed a twenty-five-year-old athlete) andenormous stamina a stamina exceeded only by the careless zest withwhich she had spent it.
Indeed, if she could be tamed and taught moderation; if practice(but could he himself survive the practice?) brought her to a bettersense of her own capacities, and, even more important, his ,it might be pleasant to The snoring stopped suddenly and she stirred. He placed his handon the shoulder nearest him and stroked it lightly and her eyesopened. Trevize was leaning on his elbow, and did his best to look unwornand full of life.
"I'm glad you were sleeping, dear," he said. "You needed yourrest."She smiled at him sleepily and, for one queasy moment, Trevize thoughtshe might suggest renewed activity, but she merely heaved herself abouttill she was resting on her back. She said, in a soft and satisfiedvoice, "I had you judged correctly from the start. You are a king ofsexuality."Trevize tried to look modest. "I must be more moderate.""Nonsense. You were just right. I was afraid that you had been keptactive and drained by that young woman, but you assured me you hadnot. That it true, isn't it?""Have I acted like someone who was half-sated to begin with?""No, you did not," and her laughter boomed.
"Are you still thinking of Psychic Probes?"She laughed again. "Are you mad? Would I want to lose younow ?""Yet it would be better if you lost me temporarily ""What!" She frowned.
"If I were to stay here permanently, my my dear, how longwould it be before eyes would begin to watch, and mouths would begin towhisper? It I went off on my mission, however, I would naturally returnperiodically to, report, and it would then be only natural that we shouldbe closeted together for a while and my mission is important."She thought about that, scratching idly at her right hip. Then shesaid, "I suppose you're right. I hate the thought but I supposeyou're right.""And you need not think I would not come back," said Trevize. "I amnot so witless as to forget what I would have waiting for me here."She smiled at him, touched his cheek gently, and said, looking intohis eyes, "Did you find it pleasant, love?""Much more than pleasant, dear.""Yet you are a Foundationer. A man in the prime of youth fromTerminus itself. You must be accustomed to all sorts of women with allsoul skills ""I have encountered nothing nothing  in theleast like you," said Trevize, with a forcefulness that came easily tosomeone who was but telling the truth, after all.
Lizalor said complacently, "Well, if you say so. Still, old habitsdie hard, you know, and I don't think I could bring myself to trust aman's word without some sort of surety. You and your friend, Pelorat,might conceivably go on this mission of yours once I hear about it andapprove, but I will keep the young woman here. She will be well treated,never fear, but I presume your Dr. Pelorat will want her, and he willsee to it that there are frequent returns to Comporellon, even if yourenthusiasm for this mission you to stay away too long.""But, Lizalor, that's impossible.""Indeed?" Suspicion at once seeped into her eyes. "Why impossible? Forwhat purpose would you need the woman?""Not for sex. I told you that, and I told you truthfully. She isPelorat's and I have no interest in her. Besides, I'm sure she'd breakin two if she attempted what you so triumphantly carried through."Lizalor almost smiled, but repressed it and said severely, "What isit to you, then, if she remains on Comporellon?""Because she is of essential importance to our mission. That is whywe must have her.""Well, then, what is your mission? It is time you told me."Trevize hesitated very briefly. It would have to be the truth. Hecould think of no lie as effective.
"Listen to me," he said. "Comporellon may be an old world, even amongthe oldest, but it can't be the oldest. Human life did notoriginate here. The earliest human beings reached here from some otherworld, and perhaps human life didn't originate there either, but camefrom still another and still older world. Eventually, though, thoseprobings back into time must stop, and we must reach the first world,the world of human origins. I am seeking Earth."The change that suddenly came over Mitza Lizalor staggered him.
Her eyes had widened, her breathing took on a sudden urgency, andevery muscle seemed to stiffen as she lay there in bed. Her arms shotupward rigidly, and the first two fingers of both hands crossed.
"You named it," she whispered hoarsely.
23She didn't say anything after that; she didn't look athim. Her arms slowly came down, her legs swung over the side of the bed,and she sat up, back to him. Trevize lay where he was, frozen.
He could hear, in memory, the words of Munn Li Compor, as theystood there in the empty tourist center at Sayshell. He could hear himsaying of his own ancestral planet the one that Trevize was onnow "They're superstitious about it. Every time they mention theword, they lift up both hands with first and second fingers crossed toward off misfortune."How useless to remember after the fact.
"What should I have said, Mitza?" he muttered.
She shook her head slightly, stood up, stalked toward and then througha door. It closed behind her and, after a moment, there was the soundof water running.
He had no recourse but to wait, bare, undignified, wondering whetherto join her in the shower, and then quite certain he had better not. Andbecause, in a way, he felt the shower denied him, he at once experienceda growing need for one.
She emerged at last and silently began to select clothing.
He said, "Do you mind if I "She said nothing, and he took silence for consent. He tried to strideinto the room in a strong and masculine way but he felt uncommonly ashe had in those days when his mother, offended by some misbehavior onhis part, offered him no punishment but silence, causing him to shrivelin discomfort.
He looked about inside the smoothly walled cubicle that wasbare-completely bare. He looked more minutely. There wasnothing.
He opened the door again, thrust his head out, and said, "Listen,how are you supposed to start the shower?"She put down the deodorant (at least, Trevize guessed that was itsfunction), strode to the shower-room and, still without looking at him,pointed. Trevize followed the finger and noted a spot on the wall that wasround and faintly pink, barely colored, as though the designer resentedhaving to spoil the starkness of the white, for no reason more importantthan to give a hint of function.
Trevize shrugged lightly, leaned toward the wall, and touched thespot. Presumably that was what one had to do, for in a moment a deluge offine-sprayed water struck him from every direction. Gasping, he touchedthe spot again and it stopped.
He opened the door, knowing he looked several degrees more undignifiedstill as he shivered hard enough to make it difficult to articulatewords. He croaked, "How do you get hot water?"Now she looked at him and, apparently, his appearance overcame heranger (or fear, or whatever emotion was victimizing her) for she snickeredand then, without warning, boomed her laughter at him.
"What hot water?" she said. "Do you think we're going to wastethe energy to heat water for washing? That's good mild water you had,water with the chill taken off. What more do you want? You sludge-softTerminians! Get back in there and wash!"Trevize hesitated, but not for long, since it was clear he had nochoice in the matter.
With remarkable reluctance he touched the pink spot again and this timesteeled his body for the icy spray. Mild water? He foundsuds forming on his body and he rubbed hastily here, there, everywhere,judging it to be the wash cycle and suspecting it would not last long.
Then came the rinse cycle. Ah, warm Well, perhaps not warm, butnot quite as cold, and definitely feeling warm to his thoroughly chilledbody. Then, even as he was considering touching the contact spot againto stop the water, and was wondering how Lizalor had come out dry whenthere was absolutely no towel or towel-substitute in the place thewater stopped. It was followed by a blast of air that would have certainlybowled him over if it had not come from various directions equally.
It was hot; almost too hot. It took far less energy, Trevize knew,to heat air than to heat water. The hot air steamed the water off himand, in a few minutes, he was able to step out as dry as though he hadnever encountered water in his life.
Lizalor seemed to have recovered completely. "Do you feel well?""Pretty well," said Trevize. Actually, he felt astonishinglycomfortable. "All I had to do was prepare myself for the temperature. Youdidn't tell me ""Sludge-soft," said Lizalor, with mild contempt.
He borrowed her deodorant, then began to dress, conscious of the factthat she had fresh underwear and he did not. He said, "What should Ihave called that world?"She said, "We refer to it as the Oldest."He said, "How was I to know the name I used was forbidden? Did youtell me?""Did you ask?""How was I to know to ask?""You know now.""I'm bound to forget.""You had better not.""What's the difference?" Trevize felt his temper rising. "It's justa word, a sound."Lizalor said darkly, "There are words one doesn't say. Do you sayevery word you know under all circumstances?""Some words are vulgar, some are inappropriate, some under particularcircumstances would be hurtful. Which is that word I used?"Lizalor said, "It's a sad word, a solemn word. It represents a worldthat was ancestor to us all and that now doesn't exist. It's tragic,and we feel it because it was near to us. We prefer not to speak of itor, if we must, not to use its name.""And the crossing of fingers at me? How does that relieve the hurtand sadness?"Lizalor's face flushed. "That was an automatic reaction, and I don'tthank you for forcing it on me. There are people who believe that theword, even the thought, brings on misfortune and that is how theyward it off.""Do you, too, believe crossing fingers wards off misfortune?""No. Well, yes, in a way. It makes me uneasy if I don't doit." She didn't look at him. Then, as though eager to shift the subject,she said quickly, "And how is that black-haired woman of yours of theessence with respect to your mission to reach that world youmentioned.""Say `the Oldest.' Or would you rather not even say that?""I would rather not discuss it at all, but I asked you a question.""I believe that her people reached their present world as emigrantsfrom the Oldest.""As we did," said Lizalor proudly.
"But her people have traditions of some sort which she says are thekey to understanding the Oldest, but only if we reach it and can studyits records.""She is lying.""Perhaps, but we must check it out.""If you have this woman with her problematical knowledge, and if youwant to reach the Oldest with her, why did you come to Comporellon?""To find the location of the Oldest. I had a friend once, who, likemyself, was a Foundationer. He, however, was descended from Comporellianancestors and he assured me that much of the history of the Oldest waswell known, on Comporellon.""Did he indeed? And did he tell you any of itshistory?""Yes," said Trevize, reaching for the truth again. "He said thatthe Oldest was a dead world, entirely radioactive. He did not know why,but he thought that it might be the result of nuclear explosions. In awar, perhaps.""No!" said Lizalor explosively.
"No, there was no war? Or no, the Oldest is not radioactive?""It is radioactive, but there was no war.""Then how did it become radioactive? It could not have been radioactiveto begin with since human life began on the Oldest. There would havebeen no life on it ever."Lizalor seemed to hesitate. She stood erect, and was breathing deeply,almost gasping. She said, "It was a punishment. It was a world that usedrobots. Do you know what robots are?""Yes.""They had robots and for that they were punished. Every world thathas had robots has been punished and no longer exists.""Who punished them, Lizalor?""He Who Punishes. The forces of history. I don't know." She looked awayfrom him, uncomfortable, then said, in a lower voice, "Ask others.""I would like to, but whom do I ask? Are there those on Comporellonwho have studied primeval history?""There are. They are not popular with us with the averageComporellian but the Foundation, your Foundation,insists on intellectual freedom, as they call it.""Not a bad insistence, in my opinion," said Trevize.
"All is bad that is imposed from without," said Lizalor.
Trevize shrugged. There was no purpose in arguing the matter. He sald,"My friend, Dr. Pelorat, is himself a primeval historian of a sort. Hewould, I'm sure, like to meet his Comporellian colleagues. Can youarrange that, Lizalor?"She nodded. "There is a historian named Vasil Deniador, who is basedat the University here in the city. He does not teach class, but he maybe able to tell you what you want to know.""Why doesn't he teach class?""It's not that he is forbidden; it's just that students do not electhis course.""I presume," said Trevize, trying not to say it sardonically, "thatthe students are encouraged not to elect it.""Why should they want to? He is a Skeptic. We have them, youknow. There are always individuals who pit their minds against thegeneral modes of thought and who are arrogant enough to feel that theyalone are right and that the many are wrong.""Might it not be that that could actually be so in some cases?""Never!" snapped Lizalor, with a firmness of belief that made itquite clear that no further discussion in that direction would be of anyuse. "And for all his Skepticism, he will be forced to tell you exactlywhat any Comporellian would tell you.""And that is?""That if you search for the Oldest, you will not find it."24In the private quarters assigned them, Pelorat listenedto Trevize thoughtfully, his long solemn face expressionless, then said,"Vasil Deniador? I do not recall having heard of him, but it may be thatback on the ship I will find papers by him in my library.""Are you sure you haven't heard of him? Think!" said Trevize.
"I don't recall, at the moment, having heard of him," said Peloratcautiously, "but after all, my dear chap, there must be hundreds ofestimable scholars I haven't heard of; or have, but can't remember.""Still, he can't be first-class, or you would have heard of him.""The study of Earth ""Practice saying `the Oldest,' Janov. It would complicate mattersotherwise.""The study of the Oldest," said Pelorat, "is not a well-rewarded nichein the corridors of learning, so that first-class scholars, even in thefield of primeval history, would not tend to find their way there. Or,if we put it the other way around, those who are already there do notmake enough of a name for themselves in an uninterested world to beconsidered first-class, even if they were. I am notfirst-class in anyone's estimation, I am sure."Bliss said tenderly, "In mine, Pel.""Yes, certainly in yours, my dear," said Pelorat, smiling slightly,"but you are not judging me in my capacity as scholar."It was almost night now, going by the clock, and Trevize felt himselfgrow slightly impatient, as he always did when Bliss and Pelorat tradedendearments.
He said, "I'll try to arrange our seeing this Deniador tomorrow,but if he knows as little about the matter as the Minister does, we'renot going to be much better off than we are now."Pelorat said, "He may be able to lead us to someone more useful.""I doubt it. This world's attitude toward Earth but I had betterpractice speaking of it elliptically, too. This world's attitude towardthe Oldest is a foolish and superstitious one." He turned away. "Butit's been a rough day and we ought to think of an evening meal ifwe can face their uninspired cookery and then begin thinking ofgetting some sleep. Have you two learned how to use the shower?""My dear fellow," said Pelorat, "we have been very kindlytreated. We've received all sorts o............
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