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Chapter 9 :Facing the Pack
35The Far Star came to rest at the bottom of a smallrise, a hill in the generally flat countryside. Almost without thought,Trevize had taken it for granted that it would be best for the ship notto be visible for miles in every direction.
He said, "The temperature outside is 24 C., the wind is about elevenkilometers per hour from the west, and it is partly cloudy. The computerdoes not know enough about the general air circulation to be able topredict the weather. However, since the humidity is some forty percent,it seems scarcely about to rain. On the whole, we seem to have chosen acomfortable latitude or season of the year, and after Comporellon that'sa pleasure.""I suppose," said Pelorat, "that as the planet continues tounterraform, the weather will become more extreme.""I'm sure of that," said Bliss.
"Be as sure as you like," said Trevize. "We have thousands of yearsof leeway. Right now, it's still a pleasant planet and will continue tobe so for our lifetimes and far beyond."He was clasping a broad belt about his waist as he spoke, and Blisssaid sharply, "What's that, Trevize?""Just my old navy training," said Trevize. "I'm not going into anunknown world unarmed.""Are you seriously intending to carry weapons?""Absolutely. Here on my right" he slapped a holster thatcontained a massive weapon with a broad muzzle "is my blaster,and here on my left" a smaller weapon with a thin muzzle thatcontained no opening "is my neuronic whip.""Two varieties of murder," said Bliss, with distaste.
"Only one. The blaster kills. The neuronic whip doesn't. It juststimulates the pain nerves, and it hurts so that you can wish you weredead, I'm told. Fortunately, I've never been at the wrong end of one.""Why are you taking them?""I told you. It's an enemy world.""Trevize, it's an empty world.""Is it? There's no technological society, it would seem, but what ifthere are post-technological primitives. They may not possess anythingworse than clubs or rocks, but those can kill, too."Bliss looked exasperated, but lowered her voice in an effort to bereasonable. "I detect no human neuronic activity, Trevize. That eliminatesprimitives of any type, post-technological or otherwise.""Then I won't have to use my weapons," said Trevize. "Still, what harmwould there be in carrying them? They'll just make me a little heavier,and since the gravitational pull at the surface is about ninety-onepercent that of Terminus, I can afford the weight. Listen,the ship may be unarmed as a ship, but it has a reasonable supply ofhand-weapons. I suggest that you two also ""No," said Bliss at once. "I will not make even a gesture in thedirection of killing or of inflicting pain, either.""It's not a question of killing, but of avoiding being killed, ifyou see what I mean.""I can protect myself in my own way.""Janov?"Pelorat hesitated. "We didn't have arms on Comporellon.""Come, Janov, Comporellon was a known quantity, a world associatedwith the Foundation. Besides we were at once taken into custody. If we hadhad weapons, they would have been taken away. Do you want a blaster?"Pelorat shook his head. "I've never been in the Navy, old chap. Iwouldn't know how to use one of those things and, in an emergency, I wouldnever think of it in time. I'd just run and and get killed.""You won't get killed, Pel," said Bliss energetically. "Gaia has youin my/our/its protection, and that posturing naval hero as well."Trevize said, "Good. I have no objection to being protected, but I amnot posturing. I am simply making assurance doubly sure, and if I neverhave to make a move toward these things, I'll be completely pleased,I promise you. Still I must have them."He patted both weapons affectionately and said, "Now let's step outon this world which may not have felt the weight of human beings uponits surface for thousands of years."36"I have a feeling," said Pelorat, "that it must berather late in the day, but the sun is high enough to make it near noon,perhaps.""I suspect," said Trevize, looking about the quiet panorama, "thatyour feeling originates out of the sun's orange tint, which gives it asunset feel. If we're still here at actual sunset and the cloud formationsare proper, we ought to experience a deeper red than we're used to. Idon't know whether you'll find it beautiful or depressing. Forthat matter it was probably even more extreme on Comporellon, but therewe were indoors virtually all the time."He turned slowly, considering the surroundings in all directions. Inaddition to the almost subliminal oddness of the light, there was thedistinctive smell of the world or this section of it. It seemeda little musty, but far from actively unpleasant.
The trees nearby were of middling height, and looked old, with gnarledbark and trunks a little off the vertical, though because of a prevailingwind or something off-color about the soil he couldn't tell. Was itthe trees that lent a somehow menacing ambience to the world or was itsomething else less material?
Bliss said, "What do you intend to do, Trevize? Surely we didn't comeall this distance to enjoy the view?"Trevize said, "Actually, perhaps that ought to be my part of it justnow. I would suggest that Janov explore this place. There are ruinsoff in that direction and he's the one who can judge the value of anyrecords he might find. I imagine he can understand writings or films inarchaic Galactic and I know quite well I wouldn't. And I suppose, Bliss,you want to go with him in order to protect him. As for me, I will stayhere as a guard on the outer rim.""A guard against what? Primitives with rocks and clubs?""Perhaps." And then the smile that had hovered about his lips fadedand he said, "Oddly enough, Bliss, I'm a little uneasy about this place. Ican't say why."Pelorat said, "Come, Bliss. I've been a home-body collector ofold tales all my life, so I've never actually put my hands on ancientdocuments. Just imagine if we could find "Trevize watched them walk away, Pelorat's voice fading as he walkedeagerly toward the ruins; Bliss swinging along at his side.
Trevize listened absently and then turned back to continue his studyof the surroundings. What could there be to rouse apprehension?
He had never actually set foot upon a world without a human population,but he had viewed many from space. Usually, they were small worlds, notlarge enough to hold either water or air, but they had been useful asmarking a meeting site during naval maneuvers (there had been no war inhis lifetime, or for a century before his birth but maneuvers went on),or as an exercise in simulated emergency repairs. Ships he had been onhad been in orbit about such worlds, or had even rested on them, but hehad never had occasion to step off the ships at those times.
Was it that he was now actually standing on an empty world? Would hehave felt the same if he had been standing on one of the many small,airless worlds he had encountered in his student days and evensince?
He shook his head. It wouldn't have bothered him. He was sure ofthat. He would have been in a space suit, as he had been innumerabletimes when he was free of his ship in space. It was a familiar situationand contact with a mere lump of rock would have produced no alterationin the familiarity. Surely!
Of course He was not wearing a space suit now.
He was standing on a habitable world, as comfortable to the feel asTerminus would be far more comfortable than Comporellon had been. Heexperienced the wind against his cheek, the warmth of the sun on his back,the rustle of vegetation in his ears. Everything was familiar, exceptthat there were no human beings on it at least, not any longer.
Was that it? Was it that that made the world seem so eerie? Was itthat it was not merely an uninhabited world, but a deserted one?
He had never been on a deserted world before; never heard of a desertedworld before; never thought a world could be deserted. Allthe worlds he had known of till now, once they had been populated byhuman beings, remained so populated forever.
He looked up toward the sky. Nothing else had deserted it. Anoccasional bird flew across his line of vision, seeming more natural,somehow, than the slate-blue sky between the orange-tinted fair-weatherclouds. (Trevize was certain that, given a few days on the planet, hewould become accustomed to the off-color so that sky and clouds wouldgrow to seem normal to him.)He heard birdsongs from the trees, and the softer noise ofinsects. Bliss had mentioned butterflies earlier and here theywere in surprising numbers and in several colorful varieties.
There were also occasional rustlings in the clumps of grass thatsurrounded the trees, but he could not quite make out what was causingthem.
Nor did the obvious presence of life in his vicinity rouse fear inhim. As Bliss had said, terraformed worlds had, from the very first,lacked dangerous animals. The fairy tales of childhood, and the heroicfantasies of his teenage years were invariably set on a legendary worldthat must have been derived from the vague myths of Earth. The hyperdramaholoscreen had been filled with monsters lions, unicorns, dragons,whales, brontosaurs, bears. There were dozens of them with names hecould not remember; some of them surely mythical, and perhaps all ofthem. There were smaller animals that bit and stung, even plants thatwere fearful to the touch but only in fiction. He had once heardthat primitive honeybees were able to sting, but certainly no red beeswere in any way harmful.
Slowly, he walked to the right, skirting the border of the hill. Thegrass was tall and rank, but sparse, growing in clumps. He made his wayamong the trees, also growing in clumps.
Then he yawned. Certainly, nothing exciting was happening, andhe wondered if he might not retreat to the ship and take a nap. No,unthinkable. Clearly, he had to stand on guard.
Perhaps he ought to do sentry duty-marching, one, two, one two,swinging about with a snap and performing complicated maneuverings witha parade electro-rod. (It was a weapon no warrior had used in threecenturies, but it was still absolutely essential at drill, for no reasonanyone could ever advance.)He grinned at the thought of it, then wondered if he ought to joinPelorat and Bliss in the ruins. Why? What good would he do?
Suppose he saw something that Pelorat had happened tooverlook? Well, time enough to make the attempt after Peloratreturned. If there was anything that might be found easily, by all meanslet Pelorat make the discovery.
Might the two be in trouble? Foolish! What possible kind oftrouble?
And if there were trouble, they would call out.
He stopped to listen. He heard nothing.
And then the irresistible thought of sentry duty recurred to himand he found himself marching, feet moving up and down with a stamp,an imaginary electro-rod coming off one shoulder, whirling, and beingheld out straight before him, exactly vertical-whirling again, end overend, and back over the other shoulder. Then, with a smart about-face,he was looking toward the ship (rather far-off now) once more.
And when he did that, he froze in reality, and not in sentrymake-believe.
He was not alone.
Until then, he had not seen any living creature other than plantgrowth, insects, and an occasional bird. He had neither seen nor heardanything approach but now an animal stood between him and theship.
Sheer surprise at the unexpected event deprived him, for a moment, ofthe ability to interpret what he saw. It was not till after a perceptibleinterval that he knew what he was looking at.
It was only a dog.
Trevize was not a dog person. He had never owned a dog and hefelt no surge of friendliness toward one when he encountered it. Hefelt no such surge this time, either. He thought, rather impatiently,that there was no world on which these creatures had not accompaniedmen. They existed in countless varieties and Trevize had long had theweary impression that each world had at least one variety characteristicof itself. Nevertheless, all varieties were constant in this: whether theywere kept for entertainment, show, or some form of useful work theywere bred to love and trust human beings.
It was a love and trust Trevize had never appreciated. He had oncelived with a woman who had had a dog. That dog, whom Trevize toleratedfor the sake of the woman, conceived a deep-seated adoration for him,followed him about, leaned against him when relaxing (all fifty poundsof him), covered him with saliva and hair at unexpected moments, andsquatted outside the door and moaned whenever he and the woman weretrying to engage in sex.
From that experience, Trevize had emerged with the firm convictionthat for some reason known only to the canine mind and its odor-analyzingability, he was a fixed object of doggish devotion.
Therefore, once the initial surprise was over, he surveyed thedog without concern. It was a large dog, lean and rangy, and with longlegs. It was staring at him with no obvious sign of adoration. Its mouthwas open in what might have been taken as a welcoming grin, but theteeth displayed were somehow large and dangerous, and Trevize decidedthat he would be more comfortable without the dog in his line of view.
It occurred to him, then, that the dog had never seen a human being,and that countless canine generations preceding had never seen one. Thedog might have been as astonished and uncertain at the sudden appearanceof a human being as Trevize had been at that of the dog. Trevize, atleast, had quickly recognized the dog for what it was, but the dog didnot have that advantage. It was still puzzled, and perhaps alarmed.
Clearly, it would not be safe to leave an animal that large, andwith such teeth, in an alarmed state. Trevize realized that it would benecessary to establish a friendship at once.
Very slowly, he approached the dog (no sudden motions, of course). Heheld out his hand, ready to allow it to be sniffed, and made soft,soothing sounds, most of which consisted of "Nice doggy" somethinghe found intensely embarrassing.
The dog, eyes fixed on Trevize, backed away a step or two, as thoughin distrust, and then its upper lip wrinkled into a snarl and from itsmouth there issued a rasping growl. Although Trevize had never seen a dogbehave so, there was no way of interpreting the action as representinganything but menace.
Trevize therefore stopped advancing and froze. His eyes caughtmotion to one side, and his head turned slowly. There were two otherdogs advancing from that direction. They looked just as deadly as thefirst.
Deadly? That adjective occurred to him only now, and its dreadfulappropriateness was unmistakable.
His heart was suddenly pounding. The way to the ship was blocked. Hecould not run aimlessly, for those long canine legs would reach him inyards. If he stood his ground and used his blaster, then while he killedone, the other two would be upon him. Off in the distance, he could seeother dogs approaching. Was there some way in which they communicated? Didthey hunt in packs?
Slowly, he shifted ground leftward, in a direction in which therewere no dogs as yet. Slowly.........
The dogs shifted ground with him. He felt certain that all that savedhim from instant attack was the fact that the dogs had never seen orsmelled anything like himself before. They had no established behaviorpattern they could follow in his case.
If he ran, of course, that would represent something familiar to thedogs. They would know what to do if something the size of Trevize showedfear and ran. They would run, too. Faster.
Trevize kept sidling toward a tree. He had the wildest desire to moveupward where the dogs could not follow. They moved with him, snarlingsoftly, coming closer. All three had their eyes fixed unwinkingly uponhim. Two more were joining them and, farther off, Trevize could seestill other dogs approaching. At some point, when he was close enough,he would have to make the dash. He could not wait too long, or run toosoon. Either might be fatal.
He probably set a personal record for acceleration and even so it wasa near thing. He felt the snap of jaws close on the heel of one foot,and for just moment he was held fast before the teeth slid off thetough ceramoid.
He was not skilled at climbing trees. He had not climbed one since hewas ten and, as he recalled, that had been a clumsy effort. In this case,though, the trunk was not quite vertical, and the bark was gnarled andoffered handholds. What was more, he was driven by necessity, and it isremarkable what one can do if the need is great enough.
Trevize found himself sitting in a crotch, perhaps ten meters aboveground. For the moment he was totally unaware that he had scraped handand that it was oozing blood. At the base of the tree, five dogs now ontheir haunches, staring upward, tongues lolling, all looking patientlyexpectant.
What now?
37Trevize was not in a position to think about thesituation in logical detail. Rather, he experienced flashes of thought inodd and distorted sequence which, if he had eventually sorted them out,would have come to this Bliss had earlier maintained that in terraforming a planet, humanbeings would establish an unbalanced economy, which they would be able tokeep from falling apart only by unending effort. For instance, no Settlershad brought with them any of the large predators. Small ones could not behelped. Insects, parasites even small hawks, shrews, and so on.
Those dramatic animals of legend and vague literaryaccounts tigers, grizzly bears, orcs, crocodiles? Who would carrythem from world to world even if there were sense to it? And where wouldthere be sense to it?
It meant that human beings were the only large predators, and it wasup to them to cull those plants and animals that, left to themselves,would smother in their own overplenty.
And if human beings somehow vanished, then other predators must taketheir place. But what predators? The most sizable predators toleratedby human beings were dogs and cats, tamed and living on human bounty.
What if no human beings remained to feed them? They must thenfind their own food for their survival and, in all truth, forthe survival of those they preyed on, whose numbers had to be kept incheck lest overpopulation do a hundred times the damage that predationswould do.
So dogs would multiply, in their variations, with the large onesattacking the large, untended herbivores; the smaller ones preying onbirds and rodents. Cats would prey by night as dogs did by day; theformer singly, the latter in packs.
And perhaps evolution would eventually produce more varieties, tofill additional environmental niches. Would some dogs eventually developsea-going characteristics to enable them to live on fish; and would somecats develop gliding abilities to hunt the clumsier birds in the air aswell as on the ground?
In flashes, all this came to Trevize while he struggled with moresystematic thought to tell him what he might do.
The number of dogs kept growing. He counted twenty-three nowsurrounding the tree and there were others approaching. How large wasthe pack? What did it matter? It was large enough already.
He withdrew his blaster from its holster, but the solid feel of thebutt in his hand did not give him the sense of security he would haveliked. When had he last inserted an energy unit into it and how manycharges could he fire? Surely not twenty-three.
What about Pelorat and Bliss? If they emerged, would the dogs turnon them? Were they safe even if they did not emerge? If the dogs sensedthe presence of two human beings inside the ruins, what could stop themfrom attacking them there? Surely there would be no doors or barriersto hold them off.
Could Bliss stop them, and even drive them away? Could she concentrateher powers through hyperspace to the desired pitch of intensity? Forhow long could she maintain them?
Should he call for help then? Would they come running if he yelled,and would the dogs flee under Bliss's glare? (Would it take a glare orwas it simply a mental action undetectable to onlookers without theability?) Or, if they appeared, would they then be torn apart underthe eyes of Trevize, who would be forced to watch, helplessly, from therelative safety of his post in the tree?
No, he would have to use his blaster. If he could kill one dog andfrighten them off for just a while, he could scramble down the tree,yell for Pelorat and Bliss, kill a second dog if they showed signs ofreturning, and all three could then hustle into the ship.
He adjusted the intensity of the microwave beam to the three-quartermark. That should be ample to kill a dog with a loud report. The reportwould serve to frighten the dogs away, and he would be conservingenergy.
He aimed carefully at a dog in the middle of the pack, one who seemed(in Trevize's own imagination, at least) to exude a greater malignancythan the rest perhaps only because he sat more quietly and,therefore, seemed more cold-bloodedly intent on............
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