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Chapter 11: Underground
47Trevize felt frozen. Trying to breathe normally, heturned to look at Bliss. She was standing with her arm protectivelyabout Pelorat's waist, and, to all appearances, was quite calm. Shesmiled slightly and, even more slightly, nodded her head.
Trevize turned back to Bander. Having interpreted Bliss's actions assignifying confidence, and hoping with dreadful earnestness that he wascorrect, he said grimly, "How did you do that, Bander?"Bander smiled, obviously in high good humor. "Tell me, littleOutworlders, do you believe in sorcery? In magic?""No, we do not, little Solarian," snapped Trevize.
Bliss tugged at Trevize's sleeve and whispered, "Don't irritatehim. He's dangerous.""I can see he is," said Trevize, keeping his voice low withdifficulty. "You do something, then."Her voice barely heard, Bliss said, "Not yet. He will be less dangerousif he feels secure."Bander paid no attention to the brief whispering among theOutworlders. It moved away from them uncaringly, the robots separatingto let it pass.
Then it looked back and crooked a finger languidly. "Come. Followme. All three of you. I will tell you a story that may not interest you,but that interests me." It continued to walk forward leisurely.
Trevize remained in place for a while, uncertain as to the best courseof action. Bliss walked forward, however, and the pressure of her armled Pelorat forward as well. Eventually, Trevize moved; the alternativewas to be left standing alone with the robots.
Bliss said lightly, "If Bander will be so kind as to tell the storythat may not interest us "Bander turned and looked intently at Bliss as though he were trulyaware of her for the first time. "You are the feminine half-human,"he said, "aren't you? The lesser half?""The smaller half, Bander. Yes.""These other two are masculine half-humans, then?""So they are.""Have you had your child yet, feminine?""My name, Bander, is Bliss. I have not yet had a child. This isTrevize. This is Pel.""And which of these two masculines is to assist you when it is yourtime? Or will it be both? Or neither?""Pel will assist me, Bander."Bander turned his attention to Pelorat. "You have white hair,I see."Pelorat said, "I have.""Was it always that color?""No, Bander, it became so with age.""And how old are you?""I am fifty-two years old, Bander," Pelorat said, then added hastily,"That's Galactic Standard Years."Bander continued to walk (toward the distant mansion, Trevize assumed),but more slowly. It said, "I don't know how long a Galactic StandardYear is, but it can't be very different from our year. And how old willyou be when you die, Pel?""I can't say. I may live thirty more years.""Eighty-two years, then. Short-lived, and divided inhalves. Unbelievable, and yet my distant ancestors were like you andlived on Earth. But some of them left Earth to establish new worldsaround other stars, wonderful worlds, well organized, and many."Trevize said loudly, "Not many. Fifty."Bander turned a lofty eye on Trevize. There seemed less humor in itnow. "Trevize. That's your name.""Golan Trevize in full. I say there were fifty Spacerworlds. Our worlds number in the millions.""Do you know, then, the story that I wish to tell you?" said Bandersoftly.
"If the story is that there were once fifty Spacer worlds, we knowit.""We count not in numbers only, little half-human," said Bander. "Wecount the quality, too. There were fifty, but such a fifty that not allyour millions could make up one of them. And Solaria was the fiftieth and,therefore, the best. Solaria was as far beyond the other Spacer worlds,as they were beyond Earth.
"We of Solaria alone learned how life was to be lived. We did notherd and flock like animals, as they did on Earth, as they did on otherworlds, as they did even on the other Spacer worlds. We lived each alone,with robots to help us, viewing each other electronically as often as wewished, but coming within natural sight of one another only rarely. It ismany years since I have gazed at human beings as I now gaze at you but,then, you are only half-humans and your presence, therefore, does notlimit my freedom any more than a cow would limit it, or a robot.
"Yet we were once half-human, too. No matter how we perfected ourfreedom; no matter how we developed as solitary masters over countlessrobots; the freedom was never absolute. In order to produce young therehad to be two individuals in co-operation. It was possible, of course,to contribute sperm cells and egg cells, to have the fertilization processand the consequent embryonic growth take place artificially in automatedfashion. It was possible for the infant to live adequately under roboticcare. It could all be done, but the half-humans would not give up thepleasure that went with biological impregnation. Perverse emotionalattachments would develop in consequence and freedom vanished. Do yousee that that had to be changed?"Trevize said, "No, Bander, because we do not measure freedom by yourstandards.""That is because you do not know what freedom is. You have never livedbut in swarms, and you know no way of life but to be constantly forced,in even the smallest things, to bend your wills to those of others or,which is equally vile, to spend your days struggling to force others tobend their wills to yours. Where is any possible freedom there? Freedomis nothing if it is not to live as you wish! Exactly as you wish!
"Then came the time when the Earthpeople began to swarm outwardonce more, when their clinging crowds again swirled through space. Theother Spacers, who did not flock as the Earthpeople did, but who flockednevertheless, if to a lesser degree, tried to compete.
"We Solarians did not. We foresaw inevitable failure in swarming. Wemoved underground and broke off all contact with the rest of theGalaxy. We were determined to remain ourselves at all costs. We developedsuitable robots and weapons to protect our apparently empty surface,and they did the job admirably. Ships came and were destroyed, andstopped coming. The planet was considered deserted, and was forgotten,as we hoped it would be.
"And meanwhile, underground, we worked to solve our problems. Weadjusted our genes gingerly, delicately. We had failures, but somesuccesses, and we capitalized on the successes. It took us many centuries,but we finally became whole human beings, incorporating both the masculineand feminine principles in one body, supplying our own complete pleasureat will, and producing, when we wished, fertilized eggs for developmentunder skilled robotic care.""Hermaphrodites," said Pelorat.
"Is that what it is called in your language?" asked Banderindifferently. "I have never heard the word.""Hermaphroditism stops evolution dead in its tracks," saidTrevize. "Each child is the genetic duplicate of its hermaphroditicparent.""Come," said Bander, "you treat evolution as a hit-and-miss affair. Wecan design our children if we wish. We can change and adjust the genesand, on occasion, we do. But we are almost at my dwelling. Letus enter. It grows late in the day. The sun already fails to give itswarmth adequately and we will be more comfortable indoors."They passed through a door that had no locks of any kind butthat opened as they approached and closed behind them as they passedthrough. There were no windows, but as they entered a cavernous room,the walls glowed to luminous life and brightened. The floor seemed bare,but was soft and springy to the touch. In each of the four corners ofthe room, a robot stood motionless.
"That wall," said Bander, pointing to the wall opposite thedoor a wall that seemed no different in any way from the otherthree is my visionscreen. The world opens before me through thatscreen but it in no way limits my freedom for I cannot be compelled touse it."Trevize said, "Nor can you compel another to use his if you wish tosee him through that screen and he does not.""Compel?" said Bander haughtily. "Let another do as it pleases, ifit is but content that I do as I please. Please note that we do not usegendered pronouns in referring to each other."There was one chair in the room, facing the vision-screen, and Bandersat down in it.
Trevize looked about, as though expecting additional chairs to springfrom the floor. "May we sit, too?" he said.
"If you wish," said Bander.
Bliss, smiling, sat down on the floor. Pelorat sat down besideher. Trevize stubbornly continued to stand.
Bliss said, "Tell me, Bander, how many human beings live on thisplanet?""Say Solarians, half-human Bliss. The phrase `human being' iscontaminated by the fact that half-humans call themselves that. Wemight call ourselves whole-humans, but that is clumsy. Solarian is theproper term.""How many Solarians, then, live on this planet?""I am not certain. We do not count ourselves. Perhaps twelvehundred.""Only twelve hundred on the entire world?""Fully twelve hundred. You count in numbers again, while we countin quality. Nor do you understand freedom. If one other Solarianexists to dispute my absolute mastery over any part of my land, overany robot or living thing or object, my freedom is limited. Since otherSolarians exist, the limitation on freedom must be removed as far aspossible by separating them all to the point where contact is virtuallynonexistent. Solaria will hold twelve hundred Solarians under conditionsapproaching the ideal. Add more, and liberty will be palpably limitedso that the result will be unendurable.""That means each child must be counted and must balance deaths,"said Pelorat suddenly.
"Certainly. That must be true of any world with a stablepopulation even yours, perhaps.""And since there are probably few deaths, there must therefore befew children.""Indeed."Pelorat nodded his head and was silent.
Trevize said, "What I want to know is how you made my weapons flythrough the air. You haven't explained that.""I offered you sorcery or magic as an explanation. Do you refuse toaccept that?""Of course I refuse. What do you take me for?""Will you, then, believe in the conservation of energy, and in thenecessary increase of entropy?""That I do. Nor can I believe that even in twenty thousand years youhave changed these laws, or modified them a micrometer.""Nor have we, half-person. But now consider. Outdoors, there issunlight." There was its oddly graceful gesture, as though marking outsunlight all about. "And there is shade. It is warmer in the sunlightthan in the shade, and heat flows spontaneously from the sunlit areainto the shaded area.""You tell me what I know," said Trevize.
"But perhaps you know it so well that you no longer think aboutit. And at night, Solaria's surface is warmer than the objects beyondits atmosphere, so that heat flows spontaneously from the planetarysurface into outer space.""I know that, too.""And day or night, the planetary interior is warmer than the planetarysurface. Heat therefore flows spontaneously from the interior to thesurface. I imagine you know that, too.""And what of all that, Bander?""The flow of heat from hotter to colder, which must take place bythe second law of thermodynamics, can be used to do work.""In theory, yes, but sunlight is dilute, the heat of the planetarysurface is even more dilute, and the rate at which heat escapes from theinterior makes that the most dilute of all. The amount of heat-flow thatcan be harnessed would probably not be enough to lift a pebble.""It depends on the device you use for the purpose," said Bander. "Ourown tool was developed over a period of thousands of years and it isnothing less than a portion of our brain."Bander lifted the hair on either side of its head, exposing thatportion of its skull behind its ears. It turned its head this way andthat, and behind each ear was a bulge the size and shape of the bluntend of a hen's egg.
"That portion of my brain, and its absence in you, is what makes thedifference between a Solarian and you."48Trevize glanced now and then at Bliss's face, whichseemed entirely concentrated on Bander. Trevize had grown quite certainhe knew what was going on.
Bander, despite its paean to freedom, found this unique opportunityirresistible. There was no way it could speak to robots on a basis ofintellectual equality, and certainly not to animals. To speak to itsfellow-Solarians would be, to it, unpleasant, and what communicationthere must be would be forced, and never spontaneous.
As for Trevize, Bliss, and Pelorat, they might be half-human to Bander,and it might regard them as no more an infringement on its liberty thana robot or a goat would be but they were its intellectual equals(or near equals) and the chance to speak to them was a unique luxury ithad never experienced before.
No wonder, Trevize thought, it was indulging itself in this way. AndBliss (Trevize was doubly sure) was encouraging this, just pushingBander's mind ever so gently in order to urge it to do what it very muchwanted to do in any case.
Bliss, presumably, was working on the supposition that if Bander spokeenough, it might tell them something useful concerning Earth. That madesense to Trevize, so that even if he had not been truly curious aboutthe subject under discussion, he would nevertheless have endeavored tocontinue the conversation.
"What do those brain-lobes do?" Trevize asked.
Bander said, "They are transducers. They are activated by the flowof heat and they convert the heat-flow into mechanical energy.""I cannot believe that. The flow of heat is insufficient.""Little half-human, you do not think. If there were many Solarianscrowded together, each trying to make use of the flow of heat, then, yes,the supply would be insufficient. I, however, have over forty thousandsquare kilometers that are mine, mine alone. I can collect heat-flowfrom any quantity of those square kilometers with no one to dispute me,so the quantity is sufficient. Do you see?""Is it that simple to collect heat-flow over a wide area? The mereact of concentration takes a great deal of energy.""Perhaps, but I am not aware of it. My transducer-lobes are constantlyconcentrating heat-flow so that as work is needed, work is done. WhenI drew your weapons into the air, a particular volume of the sunlitatmosphere lost some of its excess heat to a volume of the shaded area,so that I was using solar energy for the purpose. Instead of usingmechanical or electronic devices to bring that about, however, I useda neuronic device." It touched one of the transducer-lobes gently. "Itdoes it quickly, efficiently, constantly and effortlessly.""Unbelievable," muttered Pelorat.
"Not at all unbelievable," said Bander. "Consider the delicacy of theeye and ear, and how they can turn small quantities of photons and airvibrations into information. That would seem unbelievable if you had nevercome across it before. The transducer-lobes are no more unbelievable,and would not be so to you, were they not unfamiliar."Trevize said, "What do you do with these constantly operatingtransducerlobes?""We run our world," said Bander. "Every robot on this vast estateobtains its energy from me; or, rather, from natural heat-flow. Whethera robot is adjusting a contact, or felling a tree, the energy is derivedfrom mental transduction my mental transduction.""And if you are asleep?""The process of transduction continues waking or sleeping, littlehalf-human," said Bander. "Do you cease breathing when you sleep? Doesyour heart stop beating? At night, my robots continue working at the costof cooling Solaria's interior a bit. The change is immeasurably smallon a global scale and there are only twelve hundred of us, so that allthe energy we use does not appreciably shorten our sun's life or drainthe world's internal heat.""Has it occurred to you that you might use it as a weapon?"Bander stared at Trevize as though he were something peculiarlyincomprehensible. "I suppose by that," he said, "you mean that Solariamight confront other worlds with energy weapons based on transduction? Whyshould we? Even if we could beat their energy weapons based on otherprinciples which is anything but certain what would wegain? The control of other worlds? What do we want with other worlds whenwe have an ideal world of our own? Do we want to establish our dominationover half-humans and use them in forced labor? We have our robots thatare far better than half-humans for the purpose. We have everything.
We want nothing except to be left to ourselves. See here I'lltell you another story.""Go ahead," said Trevize.
"Twenty thousand years ago when the half-creatures of Earth began toswarm into space and we ourselves withdrew underground, the other Spacerworlds were determined to oppose the new Earth-settlers. So they struckat Earth.""At Earth," said Trevize, trying to hide his satisfaction over thefact that the subject had come up at last.
"Yes, at the center. A sensible move, in a way. If you wish to killa person, you strike not at a finger or a heel, but at the heart. Andour fellow-Spacers, not too far removed from human beings themselves inpassions, managed to set Earth's surface radioactively aflame, so thatthe world became largely uninhabitable.""Ah, that's what happened," said Pelorat, clenching a fist and movingit rapidly, as though nailing down a thesis. "I knew it could not be anatural phenomenon. How was it done?""I don't know how it was done," said Bander indifferently, "and inany case it did the Spacers no good. That is the point of the story. TheSettlers continued to swarm and the Spacers-died out. They had triedto compete, and vanished. We Solarians retired and refused to compete,and so we are still here.""And so are the Settlers," said Trevize grimly.
"Yes, but not forever. Swarmers must fight, must compete, andeventually must die. That may take tens of thousands of years, but wecan wait. And when it happens, we Solarians, whole, solitary, liberated,will have the Galaxy to ourselves. We can then use, or not use, anyworld we wish to in addition to our own.""But this matter of Earth," said Pelorat, snapping his fingersimpatiently. "Is what you tell us legend or history?""How does one tell the difference, half-Pelorat?" said Bander. "Allhistory is legend, more or less.""But what do your records say? May I see the records on the subject,Bander? Please understand that this matter of myths, legends, andprimeval history is my field. I am a scholar dealing with such mattersand particularly with those matters as related to Earth.""I merely repeat what I have heard," said Bander. "There are no recordson the subject. Our records deal entirely with Solarian affairs and otherworlds are mentioned in them only insofar as they impinge upon us.""Surely, Earth has impinged on you," said Pelorat.
"That may be, but, if so, it was long, long ago, and Earth, of allworlds, was most repulsive to us. If we had any records of Earth, I amsure they were destroyed out of sheer revulsion."Trevize gritted his teeth in chagrin. "By yourselves?" he asked.
Bander turned its attention to Trevize. "There is no one else todestroy them."Pelorat would not let go of the matter. "What else have you heardconcerning Earth?"Bander thought. It said, "When I was young, I heard a tale from arobot about an Earthman who once visited Solaria; about a Solarian womanwho left with him and became an important figure in the Galaxy. That,however, was, in my opinion, an invented tale."Pelorat bit at his lip. "Are you sure?""How can I be sure of anything in such matters?" said Bander. "Still,it passes the bounds of belief that an Earthman would dare come toSolaria, or that Solaria would allow the intrusion. It is even lesslikely that a Solarian woman we were half-humans then, but evenso should voluntarily leave this world. But come, let meshow you my home.""Your home?" said Bliss, looking about. "Are we not in your home?""Not at all," said Bander. "This is an anteroom. It is a viewingroom. In it I see my fellow-Solarians when I must. Their images appearon that wall, or three-dimensionally in the space before the wal............
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