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Part Four - Solaria Chapter 10: Robots
41Trevize seemed lost in thought during dinner, and Blissconcentrated on the food.
Pelorat, the only one who seemed anxious to speak, pointed out that ifthe world they were on was Aurora and if it was the first settled world,it ought to be fairly close to Earth.
"It might pay to scour the immediate stellar neighborhood," hesaid. "It would only mean sifting through a few hundred stars atmost."Trevize muttered that hit-and-miss was a last resort and he wanted asmuch information about Earth as possible before attempting to approachit even if he found it. He said no more and Pelorat, clearly squelched,dwindled into silence as well.
After the meal, as Trevize continued to volunteer nothing, Peloratsaid tentatively, "Are we to be staying here, Golan?""Overnight, anyway," said Trevize. "I need to do a bit morethinking.""Is it safe?""Unless there's something worse than dogs about," said Trevize,"we're quite safe here in the ship."Pelorat said, "How long would it take to lift off, if there issomething worse than dogs about?"Trevize said, "The computer is on launch alert. I think we can manageto take off in between two and three minutes. And it will warn us quiteeffectively if anything unexpected takes place, so I suggest we allget some sleep. Tomorrow morning, I'll come to a decision as to thenext move."Easy to say, thought Trevize, as he found himself staring at thedarkness. He was curled up, partly dressed, on the floor of the computerroom. It was quite uncomfortable, but he was sure that his bed would beno more conducive to sleep at this time and here at least he could takeaction at once if the computer sounded an alarm.
Then he heard footsteps and automatically sat up, hitting his headagainst the edge of the desk not hard enough to do damage, buthard enough to make rubbing and grimacing a necessity.
"Janov?" he said in a muffled voice, eyes tearing.
"No. It's Bliss."Trevize reached over the edge of the table with one hand to make atleast semicontact with the computer, and a soft light showed Bliss ina light pink wraparound.
Trevize said, "What is it?""I looked in your bedroom and you weren't there. There was no mistakingyour neuronic activity, however, and I followed it. You were clearlyawake so I walked in.""Yes, but what is it you want?"She sat down against the wall, knees up, and cradled her chin againstthem. She said, "Don't be concerned. I have no designs on what's leftof your virginity.""I don't imagine you do," said Trevize sardonically. "Why aren't youasleep? You need it more than we do.""Believe me," she said in a low, heartfelt tone, "that episode withthe dogs was very draining.""I believe that.""But I had to talk to you when Pel was sleeping.""About what?"Bliss said, "When he told you about the robot, you said that thatchanges everything. What did you mean?"Trevize said, "Don't you see that for yourself? We have three setsof coordinates; three Forbidden Worlds. I want to visit all three tolearn as much as possible about Earth before trying to reach it."He edged a bit closer so that he could speak lower still, then drewaway sharply. He said, "Look, I don't want Janov coming in here lookingfor us. I don't know what he'd think.""It's not likely. He's sleeping and I've encouraged that just a bit. Ifhe stirs, I'll know. Go on. You want to visit all three. What'schanged?""It wasn't part of my plan to waste time on any world needlessly. Ifthis world, Aurora, had been without human occupation for twenty thousandyears, then it is doubtful that any information of value has survived. Idon't want to spend weeks or months scrabbling uselessly about theplanetary surface, fighting off dogs and cats and bulls or whatever elsemay have become wild and dangerous, just on the hope of finding a scrap ofreference material amid the dust, rust, and decay. It may be that on oneor both of the other Forbidden Worlds there may be human beings and intactlibraries. So it was my intention to leave this world at once. We'dbe out in space now, if I had done so, sleeping in perfect security.""But?""But if there are robots still functioning on this world, they mayhave important information that we could use. They would be safer todeal with than human beings would be, since, from what I've heard,they must follow orders and can't harm human beings.""So you've changed your plan and now you're going to spend time onthis world searching for robots.""I don't want to, Bliss. It seems to me that robots can't last twentythousand years without maintenance. Yet since you've seen one witha spark of activity still, it's clear I can't rely on my commonsenseguesses about robots. I mustn't lead out of ignorance. Robots may bemore enduring than I imagine, or they may have a certain capacity forself-maintenance."Bliss said, "Listen to me, Trevize, and please keep thisconfidential.""Confidential?" said Trevize, raising his voice in surprise. "Fromwhom?""Sh! From Pel, of course. Look, you don't have to change yourplans. You were right the first time. There are no functioning robotson this world. I detect nothing.""You detected that one, and one is as good as ""I did not detect that one. It was nonfunctioning; long nonfunctioning.""You said ""I know what I said. Pel thought he saw motion and heard sound. Pelis a romantic. He's spent his working life gathering data, but that is adifficult way of making one's mark in the scholarly world. He would dearlylove to make an important discovery of his own. His finding of the word`Aurora' was legitimate and made him happier than you can imagine. Hewanted desperately to find more."Trevize said, "Are you telling me he wanted to make a discovery sobadly he convinced himself he had come upon a functioning robot whenhe hadn't?""What he came upon was a lump of rust containing no more consciousnessthan the rock against which it rested.""But you supported his story.""I could not bring myself to rob him of his discovery. He means somuch to me.
Trevize stared at her for a full minute; then he said, "Do you mindexplaining why he means so much to you? I want to know. Ireally want to know. To you he must seem an elderly man with nothingromantic about him. He's an Isolate, and you despise Isolates. You'reyoung and beautiful and there must be other parts of Gaia that havethe bodies of vigorous and handsome young men. With them you can havea physical relationship that can resonate through Gaia and bring peaksof ecstasy. So what do you an in Janov?"Bliss looked at Trevize solemnly. "Don't you love him?"Trevize shrugged and said, "I'm fond of him. I suppose you could say,in a nonsexual way, that I love him.""You haven't known him very long, Trevize. Why do you love him,in that nonsexual way of yours?"Trevize found himself smiling without being aware of it. "He's suchan odd fellow. I honestly think that never in his life hashe given a single thought to himself. He was ordered to go along with me,and he went. No objection. He wanted me to go to Trantor, but when I saidI wanted to go to Gaia, he never argued. And now he's come along withme in this search for Earth, though he must know it's dangerous. I feelperfectly confident that if he had to sacrifice his life for me orfor anyone he would, and without repining.""Would you give your life for him, Trevize?""I might, if I didn't have time to think. If I did have time to think,I would hesitate and I might funk it. I'm not as good as heis. And because of that, I have this terrible urge to protect and keephim good. I don't want the Galaxy to teach him not to begood. Do you understand? And I have to protect him from you particularly. I can't bear the thought of you tossing him aside whenwhatever nonsense amuses you now is done with.""Yes, I thought you'd think something like that. Don't you supposeI see in Pel what you see in him and even more so, since I cancontact his mind directly? Do I act as though I want to hurt him? WouldI support his fantasy of having seen a functioning robot, if it weren'tthat I couldn't bear to hurt him? Trevize, I am used to what you wouldcall goodness, for every part of Gaia is ready to be sacrificed for thewhole. We know and understand no other course of action. But we give upnothing in so doing, for each part is the whole, though I don't expectyou to understand that. Pel is something different."Bliss was no longer looking at Trevize. It was as though she weretalking to herself. "He is an Isolate. He is not selfless because he isa part of a greater whole. He is selfless because he is selfless. Doyou understand me? He has all to lose and nothing to gain, and yet heis what he is. He shames me for being what I am without fear of loss,when he is what he is without hope of gain."She looked up at Trevize again now, very solemnly. "Do you know howmuch more I understand about him than you possibly can? And do you thinkI would harm him in any way?"Trevize said, "Bliss, earlier today, you said, `Come, let us befriends,' and all I replied was, `If you wish.' That was grudging ofme, for I was thinking of what you might do to Janov. It is my turn,now. Come, Bliss, let us be friends. You can keep on pointing out theadvantage of Galaxia and I may keep on refusing to accept your arguments,but even so, and despite that, let us be friends." And he held outhis hand.
"Of course, Trevize," she said, and their hands gripped each otherstrongly.
42Trevize grinned quietly to himself. It was an internalgrin, for the line of his mouth didn't budge.
When he had worked with the computer to find the star (if any) of thefirst set of co-ordinates, both Pelorat and Bliss had watched intentlyand had asked questions. Now they stayed in their room and slept or,at any rate, relaxed, and left the job entirely to Trevize.
In a way, it was flattering, for it seemed to Trevize that by now theyhad simply accepted the fact that Trevize knew what he was doing andrequired no supervision or encouragement. For that matter, Trevize hadgained enough experience from the first episode to rely more thoroughlyon the computer and to feel that it needed, if not none, then at leastless supervision.
Another star luminous and unrecorded on the Galactic map-showedup. This second star was more luminous than the star about which Auroracircled, and that made it all the more significant that the star wasunrecorded in the computer.
Trevize marveled at the peculiarities of ancient tradition. Wholecenturies might be telescoped or dropped out of consciousnessaltogether. Entire civilizations might be banished into forgetfulness. Yetout of the midst of these centuries, snatched from those civilizations,might be one or two factual items that would be rememberedundistorted such as these co-ordinates.
He had remarked on this to Pelorat some time before, and Pelorathad at once told him that it was precisely this that made the studyof myths and legends so rewarding. "The trick is," Pelorat had said,"to work out or decide which particular components of a legend representaccurate underlying truth. That isn't easy and different mythologistsare likely to pick different components, depending, usually, on whichhappen to suit their particular interpretations." .
In any case, the star was right where Deniador's co-ordinates,corrected for time, said it would be. Trevize was prepared, at thismoment, to wager a considerable sum that the third star would be inplace as well. And if it was, Trevize was prepared to suspect that thelegend was further correct in stating that there were fifty ForbiddenWorlds altogether (despite the suspiciously even number) and to wonderwhere the other forty-seven might be.
A habitable world, Forbidden World, was found circling thestar and by this time its presence didn't cause even a ripple ofsurprise in Trevize's bosom. He had been absolutely sure it would bethere. He set the Far Star into a slow orbit about it.
The cloud layer was sparse enough to allow a reasonable view of thesurface from space. The world was a watery one, as almost all habitableworlds were. There was an unbroken tropical ocean and two unbrokenpolar oceans.
In one set of middle latitudes, there was a more or less serpentinecontinent encircling the world with bays on either side producing anoccasional narrow isthmus. In the other set of middle latitudes, theland surface was broken into three large parts and each of the threewere thicker north-south than the opposite continent was.
Trevize wished he knew enough climatology to be able to predict,from what he saw, what the temperatures and seasons might be like. Fora moment, he toyed with the idea of having the computer work on theproblem. The trouble was that climate was not the point at issue.
Much more important was that, once again, the computer detected noradiation that might be of technological origin. What his telescope toldhim was that the planet was not moth-eaten and that there were no signs ofdesert. The land moved backward in various shades of green, but there wereno signs of urban areas on the dayside, no lights on the nightside.
Was this another planet filled with every kind of life but human?
He rapped at the door of the other bedroom.
"Bliss?" he called out in a loud whisper, and rapped again.
There was a rustling, and Bliss's voice said, "Yes?""Could you come out here? I need your help ""If you wait just a bit, I'll make myself a bit presentable."When she finally appeared, she looked as presentable as Trevize hadever seen her. He felt a twinge of annoyance at having been made to wait,however, for it made little difference to him what she looked like. Butthey were friends now, and he suppressed the annoyance.
She said with a smile and in a perfectly pleasant tone, "What can Ido for you, Trevize?"Trevize waved at the viewscreen. "As you can see, we're passing overthe surface of what looks like a perfectly healthy world with a quitesolid vegetation cover over its land area. No lights at night, however,and no technological radiation. Please listen and tell me if there's anyanimal life. There was one point at which I thought I could see herdsof grazing animals, but I wasn't sure. It might be a case of seeing whatone desperately wants to see."Bliss "listened." At least, a curiously intent look came across herface. She said, "Oh yes rich in animal life.""Mammalian?""Must be.""Human?"Now she seemed to concentrate harder. A full minute passed, andthen another, and finally she relaxed. "I can't quite tell. Every oncein a while it seemed to me that I detected a whiff of intelligencesufficiently intense to be considered human. But it was so feeble andso occasional that perhaps I, too, was only sensing what I desperatelywanted to sense. You see "She paused in thought, and Trevize nudged her with a "Well?"She said, "The thing is I seem to detect something else. It is notsomething I'm familiar with, but I don't see how it can be anythingbut "Her face tightened again as she began to "listen" with still greaterintensity.
"Well?" said Trevize again.
She relaxed. "I don't see how it can be anything but robots.""Robots!""Yes, and if I detect them, surely I ought to be able to detect humanbeings, too. But I don't.""Robots!" said Trevize again, frowning.
"Yes," said Bliss, "and I should judge, in great numbers."43Pelorat also said "Robots!" in almost exactly Trevize'stone when he was told of them. Then he smiled slightly. "You were right,Golan, and I was wrong to doubt you.""I don't remember your doubting me, Janov.""Oh well, old man, I didn't think I ought to express it. I justthought, in my heart, that it was a mistake to leave Aurora while therewas a chance we might interview some surviving robot. But then it'sclear you knew there would be a richer supply of robots here.""Not at all, Janov. I didn't know . I merely chancedit. Bliss tells me their mental fields seem to imply they are fullyfunctioning, and it seems to me they can't very well be fully functioningwithout human beings about for care and maintenance. However, she can'tspot anything human so we're still looking."Pelorat studied the viewscreen thoughtfully. "It seems to be allforest, doesn't it?""Mostly forest. But there are clear patches that may be grasslands. Thething is that I see no cities, or any lights at night, or anything butthermal radiation at any time.""So no human beings after all?""I wonder. Bliss is in the galley trying to concentrate. I've setup an arbitrary prime meridian for the planet which means that it'sdivided into latitude and longitude in the computer. Bliss has a littledevice which she presses whenever she encounters what seems an unusualconcentration of robotic mental activity I suppose you can't say`neuronic activity' in connection with robots or any whiff ofhuman thought. The device is linked to the computer, which thus getsa fix on all the latitudes and longitudes, and we'll let it make thechoice among them and pick a good place for landing."Pelorat looked uneasy. "Is it wise to leave the matter of choice tothe computer?""Why not, Janov? It's a very competent computer. Besides, when youhave no basis on which to make a choice yourself, where's the harm inat least considering the computer's choice?"Pelorat brightened up. "There's something to that, Golan. Some of theoldest legends include tales of people making choices by tossing cubesto the ground.""Oh? What does that accomplish?""Each face of the cube has some decision onit yes no perhaps postpone and soon. Whichever face happens to come upward on landing would be taken asbearing the advice to be followed. Or they would set a ball rolling abouta slotted disc with different decisions scattered among the slots. Thedecision written on the slot in which the ball ends is to be taken. Somemythologists think such activities represented games of chance ratherthan lotteries, but the two are much the same thing in my opinion.""In a way," said Trevize, "we're playing a game of chance in choosingour place of landing."Bliss emerged from the galley in time to hear the last comment. Shesaid, "No game of chance. I pressed several `maybes' and then onesure-fire `yes,' and it's to the `yes' that we'll be going.""What made it a `yes'?" asked Trevize.
"I caught a whiff of human thought. Definite. Unmistakable."44It had been raining, for the grass was wet. Overhead,the clouds were scudding by and showing signs of breaking up.
The Far Star had come to a gentle rest near a small grove oftrees. (In case of wild dogs, Trevize thought, only partly in jest.) Allabout was what looked like pasture land, and coming down from the greaterheight at which a better and wider view had been possible, Trevize hadseen what looked like orchards and grain fields and this time,an unmistakable view of grazing animals.
There were no structures, however. Nothing artificial, except thatthe regularity of the trees in the orchard and the sharp boundaries thatseparated fields were themselves as artificial as a microwave-receivingpower station would have been.
Could that level of artificiality have been produced by robots,however? With............
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