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Chapter 7: Leaving Comporellon
26Luncheon consisted of a heap of soft, crusty balls thatcame in different shades and that contained a variety of fillings.
Deniador picked up a small object which unfolded into a pair of thin,transparent gloves, and put them on. His guests followed suit.
Bliss said, "What is inside these objects, please?"Deniador said, "The pink ones are filled with spicy chopped fish, agreat Comporellian delicacy. These yellow ones contain a cheese fillingthat is very mild. The green ones contain a vegetable mixture. Do eatthem while they are a quite warm. Later we will have hot almond pie andthe usual beverages. I might recommend the hot cider. In a cold climate,we have a tendency to heat our foods, even desserts.""You do yourself well," said Pelorat.
"Not really," said Deniador. "I'm being hospitable to guests. Formyself, I get along on very little. I don't have much body mass tosupport, as you have probably noticed."Trevize bit into one of the pink ones and found it very fishy indeed,with all overlay of spices that was pleasant to the taste but which,he thought, along with the fish itself, would remain with him for therest of the day and, perhaps, into the night.
When he withdrew the object with the bite taken out of it, he foundthat the crust had closed in over the contents. There was no squirt,no leakage, and, for a moment, he wondered at the purpose of thegloves. These seemed no chance of getting his hands moist and stickyif he didn't use them, so he decided it was a matter of hygiene. Thegloves substituted for a washing of the hands if that were inconvenientand custom, probably, now dictated their use even if the hands werewashed. (Lizalor hadn't used gloves when he had eaten with her the daybefore. Perhaps that was because she was a mountain woman.)He said, "Would it be unmannerly to talk business over lunch?""By Comporellian standards, Councilman, it would be, but you are myguests, and we will go by your standards. If you wish to speak seriously,and do not think or care that that might diminish yourpleasure in the food, please do so, and I will join you."Trevize said, "Thank you. Minister Lizalor implied no, shestated quite bluntly that Skeptics were unpopular on this world. Isthat so?"Deniador's good humor seemed to intensify. "Certainly. How hurt we'd beif we weren't. Comporellon, you see, is a frustrated world. Without anyknowledge of the details, there is the general mythic belief, that once,many millennia ago, when the inhabited Galaxy was small, Comporellonwas the leading world. We never forget that, and the fact that in knownhistory we have not been leaders irks us, fills us thepopulation in general, that is with a feeling of injustice.
"Yet what can we do? The government was forced to be a loyal vassalof the Emperor once, and is a loyal Associate of the Foundation now. Andthe more we are made aware of our subordinate position, the strongerthe belief in the great, mysterious days of the past become.
"What, then, can Comporellon do? They could never defy the Empire inolder times and they can't openly defy the Foundation now. They takerefuge, therefore, in attacking and hating us, since we don't believethe legends and laugh at the superstitions.
"Nevertheless, we are safe from the grosser effects ofpersecution. We control the technology, and we fill the faculties of theUniversities. Some of us, who are particularly outspoken, have difficultyin teaching classes openly. I have that difficulty, for instance, thoughI have my students and hold meetings quietly off-campus. Nevertheless,if we were really driven out of public life, the technology wouldfail and the Universities would lose accreditation with the Galaxygenerally. Presumably, such is the folly of human beings, the prospectsof intellectual suicide might not stop them from indulging their hatred,but the Foundation supports us. Therefore, we are constantly scoldedand sneered at and denounced and never touched."Trevize said, "Is it popular opposition that keeps you from tellingus where Earth is? Do you fear that, despite everything, the anti-Skepticfeeling might turn ugly if you go too far?"Deniador shook his head. "No. Earth's location is unknown. I am nothiding anything from you out of fear or for any other reason.""But look," said Trevize urgently. "There are a limited numberof planets in this sector of the Galaxy that possess the physicalcharacteristics associated with habitability, and almost all ofthem must be not only inhabitable, but inhabited, and therefore wellknown to you. How difficult would it be to explore the sector for aplanet that would be habitable were it not for the fact that it wasradioactive? Besides that, you would look for such a planet with a large,satellite in attendance. Between radioactivity and a large satellite,Earth would be absolutely unmistakable and could not be missed evenwith only a casual search. It might take some time but that would bethe only difficulty."Deniador said, "The Skeptic's view is, of course, that Earth'sradioactivity and its large satellite are both simply legends. If welook for them, we look for sparrow-milk and rabbit-feathers.""Perhaps, but that shouldn't stop Comporellon from at least takingon the search. If they find a radioactive world of the proper size forhabitability, with a large satellite, what an appearance of credibilityit would lend to Comporellian legendry in general."Deniador laughed. "It may be that Comporellon doesn't search for thatvery reason. If we fail, or if we find an Earth obviously differentfrom the legends, the reverse would take place. Comporellian legendryin general would be blasted and made into a laughingstock. Comporellonwouldn't risk that."Trevize paused, then went on, very earnestly, "Besides, even ifwe discount those two uniquities if there is such a word inGalactic of radioactivity and a large satellite, there is a thirdthat, by definition, must exist, without any reference to legends. Earthmust have upon it either a flourishing life of incredible diversity,or the remnants of one, or, at the very least, the fossil record of sucha one."Deniador said, "Councilman, while Comporellon has sent out noorganized search party for Earth, we do have occasion totravel through space, and we occasionally have reports from ships thathave strayed from their intended routes for one reason or another. Jumpsare not always perfect, as perhaps you know. Nevertheless, there havebeen no reports of any planets with properties resembling those of thelegendary Earth, or any planet that is bursting with life. Nor is any shiplikely to land on what seems an uninhabited planet in order that the crewmight go fossil-hunting. If, then, in thousands of years nothing of thesort has been reported, I am perfectly willing to believe that locatingEarth is impossible, because Earth is not there to be located."Trevize said, in frustration, "But Earth must besomewhere . Somewhere there is a planet on which humanityand all the familiar forms of life associated with humanity evolved. IfEarth is not in this section of the Galaxy, it must be elsewhere.""Perhaps," said Deniador cold-bloodedly, "but in all this time,it hasn't turned up anywhere.""People haven't really looked for it.""Well, apparently you are. I wish you luck, but I would never bet onyour success."Trevize said, "Have there been attempts to determine the possibleposition of Earth by indirect means, by some means other than a directsearch?""Yes," said two voices at once. Deniador, who was the owner of one ofthe voices, said to Pelorat, "Are you thinking of Yariff's project?""I am," said Pelorat.
"Then would you explain it to the Councilman? I think he would morereadily believe you than me."Pelorat said, "You see, Golan, in the last days of the Empire, therewas a time when the Search for Origins, as they called it, was a popularpastime, perhaps to get away from the unpleasantness of the surroundingreality. The Empire was in a process of disintegration at that time,you know.
"It occurred to a Livian historian, Humbal Yariff, that whatever theplanet of origin, it would have settled worlds near itself sooner thanit would settle planets farther away. In general, the farther a worldfrom the point of origin the later it would have been settled.
"Suppose, then, one recorded the date of settlement of all habitableplanets in the Galaxy, and made networks of all that were a given numberof millennia old. There could be a network drawn through all planets tenthousand years old; another through those twelve thousand years old, stillanother through those fifteen thousand years old. Each network would, intheory, be roughly spherical and they should be roughly concentric. Theolder networks would form spheres smaller in radius than the youngerones, and if one worked out all the centers they should fall within acomparatively small volume of space that would include the planet oforigin Earth."Pelorat's face was very earnest as he kept drawing spherical surfaceswith his cupped hands. "Do you see my point, Golan?"Trevize nodded. "Yes. But I take it that it didn't work.""Theoretically, it should have, old fellow. One trouble was that timesof origin were totally inaccurate. Every world exaggerated its own ageto one degree or another and there was no easy way of determining ageindependently of legend."Bliss said, "Carbon-14 decay in ancient timber.""Certainly, dear," said Pelorat, "but you would have had to getco-operation from the worlds in question, and that was never given. Noworld wanted its own exaggerated claim of age to be destroyed and theEmpire was then in no position to override local objections in a matterso unimportant. It had other things on its mind.
"All that Yariff could do was to make use of worlds that were onlytwo thousand years old at most, and whose founding had been meticulouslyrecorded under reliable circumstances. There were few of those, andwhile they were distributed in roughly spherical symmetry, the centerwas relatively close to Trantor, the Imperial capital, because that waswhere the colonizing expeditions had originated for those relativelyfew worlds.
"That, of course, was another problem. Earth was not the only point oforigin of settlement for other worlds. As time went on, the older worldssent out settlement expeditions of their own, and at the time of theheight of Empire, Trantor was a rather copious source of those. Yariffwas, rather unfairly, laughed at and ridiculed and his professionalreputation was destroyed."Trevize said, "I get the story, Janov. Dr. Deniador, is therethen nothing at all you could give me that represents the faintestpossibility of hope? Is there any other world where it is conceivablethere may be some information concerning Earth?"Deniador sank into doubtful thought for a while. "We-eeell," he saidat last, drawing out the word hesitantly, "as a Skeptic I must tell youthat I'm not sure that Earth exists, or has ever existed. However "He fell silent again.
Finally, Bliss said, "I think you've thought of something that mightbe important, Doctor.""Important? I doubt it," said Deniador faintly. "Perhaps amusing,however. Earth is not the only planet whose position is a mystery. Thereare the worlds of the first group of Settlers; the Spacers, as theyare called in our legends. Some call the planets they inhabited the`Spacer worlds'; others call them the `Forbidden Worlds.' The lattername is now the usual one.
"In their pride and prime, the legend goes, the Spacers had lifetimesstretching out for centuries, and refused to allow our own short-livedancestors to land on their worlds. After we had defeated them, thesituation was reversed. We scorned to deal with them and left them tothemselves, forbidding our own ships and Traders to deal with them. Hencethose planets became the Forbidden Worlds. We were certain, so the legendstates, that He Who Punishes would destroy them without our intervention,and, apparently, He did. At least, no Spacer has appeared in the Galaxyto our knowledge, in many millennia.""Do you think that the Spacers would know about Earth?" saidTrevize.
"Conceivably, since their worlds were older than any of ours. That is,if any Spacers exist, which is extremely unlikely.""Even if they don't exist, their worlds do and may containrecords.""If you can find the worlds."Trevize looked exasperated. "Do you mean to say that the key to Earth,the location of which is unknown, may be found on Spacer worlds, thelocation of which is also unknown?"Deniador shrugged. "We have had no dealings with them for twentythousand years. No thought of them. They, too, like Earth, have recededinto the mists.""How many worlds did the Spacers live on?""The legends speak of fifty such worlds a suspiciously roundnumber. There were probably far fewer.""And you don't know the location of a single one of the fifty?""Well, now, I wonder ""What do you wonder?"Deniador said, "Since primeval history is my hobby, as it isDr. Pelorat's, I have occasionally explored old documents in search ofanything that might refer to early time; something more than legends. Lastyear, I came upon the records of an old ship, records that were almostindecipherable. It dated back to the very old days when our world wasnot yet known as Comporellon. The name `Baleyworld' was used, which,it seems to me, may be an even earlier form of the `Benbally world'
of our legends."Pelorat said, excitedly, "Have you published?""No," said Deniador. "I do not wish to dive until I am sure thereis water in the swimming pool, as the old saying has it. You see, therecord says that the captain of the ship had visited a Spacer world andtaken off with him a Spacer woman."Bliss said, "But you said that the Spacers did not allow visitors.""Exactly, and that is the reason I don't publish the material. Itsounds incredible. There are vague tales that could be interpreted asreferring to the Spacers and to their conflict with the Settlers ourown ancestors. Such tales exist not only on Comporellon but onmany worlds in many variations, but all are in absolute accord in onerespect. The two groups, Spacers and Settlers, did not mingle. Therewas no social contact, let alone sexual contact, and yet apparentlythe Settler captain and the Spacer woman were held together by bondsof love. This is so incredible that I see no chance of the story beingaccepted as anything but, at best, a piece of romantic historicalfiction."Trevize looked disappointed. "Is that all?""No, Councilman, there is one more matter. I came across somefigures in what was left of the log of the ship that might or mightnot represent spatial co-ordinates. If they were and I repeat,since my Skeptic's honor compels me to, that they might not be theninternal evidence made me conclude they were the spatial co-ordinatesof three of the Spacer worlds. One of them might be the Spacer worldwhere the captain landed and from which he withdrew his Spacer love."Trevize said, "Might it not be that even if the tale is fiction,the coordinates are real?""It might be," said Deniador. "I will give you the figures, and youare free to use them, but you might get nowhere. And yet I havean amusing notion." His quick smile made its appearance.
"What is that?" said Trevize.
"What if one of those sets of co-ordinates represented Earth?"27Comporellon's sun, distinctly orange, was larger inappearance than the sun of Terminus, but it was low in the sky and gaveout little heat. The wind, fortunately light, touched Trevize's cheekwith icy fingers.
He shivered inside the electrified coat he had been given by MitzaLizalor, who now stood next to him. He said, "It must warm up sometime,Mitza."She glanced up at the sun briefly, and stood there in the emptiness ofthe spaceport, showing no signs of discomfort tall, large, wearinga lighter coat than Trevize had on, and if not impervious to the cold,at least scornful of it.
She said, "We have a beautiful summer. It is not a long one but ourfood crops are adapted to it. The strains are carefully chosen so thatthey grow quickly in the sun and do not frostbite easily. Our domesticanimals are well furred, and Comporellian wool is the best in the Galaxyby general admission. Then, too, we have farm settlements in orbitabout Comporellon that grow tropical fruit. We actually export cannedpineapples of superior flavor. Most people who know us as a cold worlddon't know that."Trevize said, "I thank you for coming to see us off, Mitza, and forbeing willing to co-operate with us on this mission of ours. For my ownpeace of mind, however, I must ask whether you will find yourself inserious trouble over this.""No!" She shook her head proudly. "No trouble. In the first place, Iwill not be questioned. I am in control of transportation, which meansI alone set the rules for this spaceport and others, for the entrystations, for the ships that come and go. The Prime Minister dependson me for all that and is only too delighted to remain ignorant of itsdetails. And even if I were questioned, I have but to tell thetruth. The government would applaud me for not turning the ship over tothe Foundation. So would the people if it were safe to let them know. Andthe Foundation itself would not know of it."Trevize said, "The government might be willing to keep the ship fromthe Foundation, but would they be willing to approve your letting ustake it away?"Lizalor smiled. "You are a decent human being, Trevize. You havefought tenaciously to keep your ship and now that you have it you takethe trouble to concern yourself with my welfare." She reached toward himtentatively as though tempted to give some sign of affection and then,with obvious difficulty, controlled the impulse.
She said, with a renewed brusqueness, "Even if they question mydecision, I have but to tell them that you have been, and still are,searching for the Oldest, and they will say I did well to get rid ofyou as quickly as I did, ship and all, And they will perform the ritesof atonement that you were ever allowed to land in the first place,though there was no way we might have guessed what you were doing.""Do you truly fear misfortune to yourself and the world because ofmy presence?""Indeed," said Lizalor stolidly. Then she said, more softly, "Youhave brought misfortune to me, already, for now that I have known you,Comporellian men will seem more sapless still. I will be left with anunappeasable longing. He Who Punishes has already seen to that."Trevize hesitated, then said, "I do not wish you to change your mindon this matter, but I do not wish you to suffer needless apprehension,either. You must know that this matter of my bringing misfortune on youis simply superstition.""The Skeptic told you that, I presume.""I know it without his telling me."Lizalor brushed her face, for a thin rime was gathering on herprominent eyebrows and said, "I know there are some who think itsuperstition. That the Oldest brings misfortune is, however, a fact. Ithas been demonstrated many times and all the clever Skeptical argumentscan't legislate the truth out of existence."She thrust out her hand suddenly. "Good-bye, Golan. Get on the shipand join your companions before your soft Terminian body freezes in ourcold, but kindly wind.""Good-bye, Mitza, and I hope to see you when I return.""Yes, you have promised to return and I have tried to believe thatyou would. I have even told myself that I would come out and meet youat your ship in space so that misfortune would fall only on me and notupon my world but you will not return.""Not so! I will! I would not give you up that easily, having hadpleasure of you." And at that moment, Trevize was firmly convinced thathe meant it.
"I do not doubt your romantic impulses, my sweet Foundationer, butthose who venture outward on a search for the Oldest will never comeback anywhere. I know that in my heart."Trevize tried to keep his teeth from chattering. It was from coldand he didn't want her to think it was from fear. He said, "That, too,is superstition.""And yet," she said, "that, too, is true."28It was good to be back in the pilot-room of theFar Star . It might be cramped for room. It might be a bubble ofimprisonment in infinite space. Nevertheless, it was familiar, friendly,and warm.
Bliss said, "I'm glad you finally came aboard. I was wondering howlong you would remain with the Minister.""Not long," said Trevize. "It was cold.""It seemed to me," said Bliss, "that you were considering remainingwith her and postponing the search for Earth. I do not like to probeyour mind even lightly, but I was concerned for you and that temptationunder which you labored seemed to leap out at me."Trevize said, "You're quite right. Momentarily at least, I felt thetemptation. The Minister is a remarkable woman and I've never met anyonequite like her. Did you strengthen my resistance, Bliss?"She said, "I've told you many times I must not and will not tamper withyour mind in any way, Trevize. You beat down the temptation, I imagine,through your strong sense of duty.""No, I rather think not." He smiled wryly. "Nothing so dramatic andnoble. My resistance was strengthened, for one thing, by the fact thatis was cold, and for another, by the sad thought that it wouldn't takemany sessions with her to kill me. I could never keep up the pace."Pelorat said, "Well, anyway, you are safely aboard. What are we goingto do next?""In the immediate future, we are going to move outward throughthe planetary system at a brisk pace until we are far enough fromComporellon's sun to make a Jump.""Do you think we will be stopped or followed?""No, I really think that the Minister is anxious only that we go awayas rapidly as possible and stay away, in order that the vengeance of HeWho Punishes not fall upon the planet. In fact ""Yes?""She believes the vengeance will surely fall on us. She is underthe firm conviction that we will never return. This, I hasten to add,is not an estimate of my probable level of infidelity, which she has hadno occasion to measure. She meant that Earth is so terrible a bearer ofmisfortune that anyone who seeks it must die in the process."Bliss said, "How many have left Comporellon in search............
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