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HOME > Science Fiction > Foundation and Earth > Part Five - Melpomenia Chapter 13: Away from Solaria
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Part Five - Melpomenia Chapter 13: Away from Solaria
56The leaving was a blur. Trevize had gathered up hisfutile weapons, had opened the airlock, and they had tumbled in. Trevizedidn't notice until they were off the surface that Fallom had beenbrought in as well.
They probably would not have made it in time if the Solarian useof airflight had not been so comparatively unsophisticated. It tookthe approaching Solarian vessel an unconscionable time to descend andland. On the other hand, it took virtually no time for the computer ofthe Far Star to take the gravitic ship vertically upward.
And although the cut-off of the gravitational interaction and,therefore, of inertia wiped out the otherwise unbearable effects ofacceleration that would have accompanied so speedy a takeoff, it didnot wipe out the effects of air resistance. The outer hull temperaturerose at a distinctly more rapid rate than navy regulations (or shipspecifications, for that matter) would have considered suitable.
As they rose, they could see the second Solarian ship land andseveral more approaching. Trevize wondered how many robots Bliss couldhave handled, and decided they would have been overwhelmed if they hadremained on the surface fifteen minutes longer.
Once out in space (or space enough, with only tenuous wisps of theplanetary exosphere around them), Trevize made for the nightside of theplanet. It was a hop away, since they had left the surface as sunsetwas approaching. In the dark, the Far Star would have a chanceto cool more rapidly, and there the ship could continue to recede fromthe surface in a slow spiral.
Pelorat came out of the room he shared with Bliss. He said, "Thechild is sleeping normally now. We've showed it how to use the toiletand it had no trouble understanding.""That's not surprising. It must have had similar facilities in themansion.""I didn't see any there and I was looking," said Pelorat feelingly. "Wedidn't get back on the ship a moment too soon for me.""Or any of us. But why did we bring that child on board?"Pelorat shrugged apologetically. "Bliss wouldn't let go. It was likesaving a life in return for the one she took. She can't bear ""I know," said Trevize.
Pelorat said, "It's a very oddly shaped child.""Being hermaphroditic, it would have to be," said Trevize.
"It has testicles, you know.""It could scarcely do without them.""And what I can only describe as a very small vagina."Trevize made a face. "Disgusting.""Not really, Golan," said Pelorat, protesting. "It's adapted to itsneeds. It only delivers a fertilized egg-cell, or a very tiny embryo,which is then developed under laboratory conditions, tended, I dare say,by robots.""And what happens if their robot-system breaks down? If that happens,they would no longer be able to produce viable young.""Any world would be in serious trouble if its social structure brokedown completely.""Not that I would weep uncontrollably over the Solarians.""Well," said Pelorat, "I admit it doesn't seem a very attractiveworld to us, I mean. But that's only the people and the socialstructure, which are not our type at all, dear chap. But subtract thepeople and the robots, and you have a world which otherwise ""Might fall apart as Aurora is beginning to do," said Trevize. "How'sBliss, Janov?""Worn out, I'm afraid. She's sleeping now. She had a very bad time, Golan.""I didn't exactly enjoy myself either."Trevize closed his eyes, and decided he could use some sleep himselfand would indulge in that relief as soon as he was reasonably certainthe Solarians had no space capability and so far the computer hadreported nothing of artifactitious nature in space.
He thought bitterly of the two Spacer planets they hadvisited hostile wild dogs on one hostile hermaphroditicloners on the other and in neither place the tiniest hint as tothe location of Earth. All they had to show for the double visit wasFallom.
He opened his eyes. Pelorat was still sitting in place at the otherside of the computer, watching him solemnly.
Trevize said, with sudden conviction, "We should have left thatSolarian child behind."Pelorat said, "The poor thing. They would have killed it.""Even so," said Trevize, "it belonged there. It's part of thatsociety. Being put to death because of being superfluous is the sort ofthing it's born to.""Oh, my dear fellow, that's a hardhearted way to look at it.""It's a rational way. We don't know how to care for it,and it may suffer more lingeringly with us and die anyway. What doesit eat?""Whatever we do, I suppose, old man. Actually, the problem is whatdo we eat? How much do we have in the way of supplies?""Plenty. Plenty. Even allowing for our new passenger."Pelorat didn't look overwhelmed with happiness at this remark. He said,"It's become a pretty monotonous diet. We should have taken some itemson board on Comporellon not that their cooking was excellent.""We couldn't. We left, if you remember, rather hurriedly, as we leftAurora, and as we left, in particular, Solaria. But what's a littlemonotony? It spoils one's pleasure, but it keeps one alive.""Would it be possible to pick up fresh supplies if we need to?""Anytime, Janov. With a gravitic ship and hyperspatial engines, theGalaxy is a small place. In days, we can be anywhere. It's just thathalf the worlds in the Galaxy are alerted to watch for our ship and Iwould rather stay out of the way for a time.""I suppose that's so. Bander didn't seem interested in theship.""It probably wasn't even consciously aware of it. I suspect thatthe Solarians long ago gave up space flight. Their prime desire is tobe left completely alone and they can scarcely enjoy the security ofisolation if they are forever moving about in space and advertisingtheir presence.""What are we going to do next, Golan?"Trevize said, "We have a third world to visit."Pelorat shook his head. "Judging from the first two, I don't expectmuch from that .""Nor do I at the moment, but just as soon as I get a little sleep,I'm going to get the computer to plot our course to that third world."57Trevize slept considerably longer than he had expectedto, but that scarcely mattered. There was neither day nor night, inany natural sense, on board ship, and the circadian rhythm neverworked absolutely perfectly. The hours were what they were made to be,and it wasn't uncommon for Trevize and Pelorat (and particularly Bliss)to be somewhat out-of-sync as far as the natural rhythms of eating andsleeping were concerned.
Trevize even speculated, in the course of his scrapedown (theimportance of conserving water made it advisable to scrape off the sudsrather than rinse them off), about sleeping another hour or two, whenhe turned and found himself staring at Fallom, who was as undressed ashe was.
He could not help jumping back, which, in the restricted area of thePersonal, was bound to bring part of his body against something hard. Hegrunted Fallom was staring curiously at him and was pointing at Trevize'spenis. What it said was incomprehensible but the whole bearing of thechild seemed to bespeak a sense of disbelief. For his own peace of mind,Trevize had no choice but to put his hands over his penis.
Then Fallom said, in its high-pitched voice, "Greetings."Trevize started slightly at the child's unexpected use of Galactic,but the word had the sound of having been memorized.
Fallom continued, a painstaking word at a time,"Bliss say you wash me.
"Yes?" said Trevize. He put his hands on Fallom'sshoulders. "You stay here."He pointed downward at the floor and Fallom, of course, lookedinstantly at the place to which the finger pointed. It showed nocomprehension of the phrase at all.
"Don't move," said Trevize, holding the child tightly by both arms,pressing them toward the body as though to symbolize immobility. Hehastily dried himself and put on his shorts, and over them histrousers.
He stepped out and roared, "Bliss!"It was difficult for anyone to be more than four meters from any oneelse on the ship and Bliss came to the door of her room at once. Shesaid, smiling, "Are you calling me, Trevize; or was that the soft breezesighing through the waving grass?""Let's not be funny, Bliss. What is that?" He jerked his thumb overhis shoulder.
Bliss looked past him and said, "Well, it looks like the young Solarianwe brought on board yesterday."" You brought on board. Why do you want me to wash it?""I should think you'd want to. It's a very bright creature. It'spicking up Galactic words quickly. It never forgets once I explainsomething. Of course, I'm helping it do so.""Naturally.""Yes. I keep it calm. I kept it in a daze during most of the disturbingevents on the planet. I saw to it that it slept on board ship and I'mtrying to divert its mind just a little bit from its lost robot, Jemby,that, apparently, it loved very much.""So that it ends up liking it here, I suppose.""I hope so. It's adaptable because it's young, and I encourage thatby as much as I dare influence its mind. I'm going to teach it to speakGalactic.""Then you wash it. Understood?"Bliss shrugged. "I will, if you insist, but I would want it to feelfriendly with each of us. It would be useful to have each of us performfunctions. Surely you can co-operate in that.""Not to this extent. And when you finish washing it, get rid of it. Iwant to talk to you."Bliss said, with a sudden edge of hostility, "How do you mean, getrid of it?""I don't mean dump it through the airlock. I mean, put it in yourroom. Sit it down in a corner. I want to talk at you.""I'll be at your service," she said coldly.
He stared after her, nursing his wrath for the moment, then movedinto the pilot-room, and activated the viewscreen.
Solaria was a dark circle with a curving crescent of light at theleft. Trevize placed his hands on the desk to make contact with thecomputer and found his anger cooling at once. One had to be calm to linkmind and computer effectively and, eventually, conditioned reflex linkedhandhold and serenity.
There were no artifactitious objects about the ship in any direction,out as far as the planet itself. The Solarians (or their robots, mostlikely) could not, or would not, follow.
Good enough. He might as well get out of the night-shadow, then. Ifhe continued to recede, it would, in any case, vanish as Solaria's discgrew smaller than that of the more distant, but much larger, sun thatit circled.
He set the computer to move the ship out of the planetary planeas well, since that would make it possible to accelerate with greatersafety. They would then more quickly reach a region where space curvaturewould be low enough to make the Jump secure.
And, as often on such occasions, he fell to studying the stars. Theywere almost hypnotic in their quiet changelessness. All their turbulenceand instability were wiped out by the distance that left them only dotsof light.
One of those dots might well be the sun about which Earthrevolved the original sun, under whose radiation life began,and under whose beneficence humanity evolved.
Surely, if the Spacer worlds circled stars that were bright andprominent members of the stellar family, and that were neverthelessunlisted in the computer's Galactic map, the same might be true ofthe sun.
Or was it only the suns of the Spacer worlds that were omitted becauseof some primeval treaty agreement that left them to themselves? WouldEarth's sun be included in the Galactic map, but not marked off fromthe myriads of stars that were sun-like, yet had no habitable planet inorbit about itself?
There were after all, some thirty billion sun-like stars in the Galaxy,and only about one in a thousand had habitable planets in orbits aboutthem. There might be a thousand such habitable planets within a fewhundred parsecs of his present position. Should he sift through thesun-like stars one by one, searching for them?
Or was the original sun not even in this region of the Galaxy? Howmany other regions were convinced the sun was one of their neighbors,that they were primeval Settlers ?
He needed information, and so far he had none.
He doubted strongly whether even the closest examination of themillennial ruins on Aurora would give information concerning Earth'slocation. He doubted even more strongly that the Solarians could be madeto yield information.
Then, too, if all information about Earth had vanished out of thegreat Library at Trantor; if no information about Earth remained in thegreat Collective Memory of Gaia; there seemed little chance that anyinformation that might have existed on the lost worlds of the Spacerswould have been overlooked.
And if he found Earth's sun and, then, Earth itself, by the sheerestgood fortune would something force him to be unaware of thefact? Was Earth's defense absolute? Was its determination to remain inhiding unbreakable?
What was he looking for anyway?
Was it Earth? Or was it the flaw in Seldon's Plan that he thought(for no clear reason) he might find on Earth?
Seldon's Plan had been working for five centuries now, and wouldbring the human species (so it was said) to safe harbor at last inthe womb of a Second Galactic Empire, greater than the First, a noblerand a freer one and yet he, Trevize, had voted against it, andfor Galaxia.
Galaxia would be one large organism, while the Second GalacticEmpire would, however great in size and variety, be a mere union ofindividual organisms of microscopic size in comparison with itself. TheSecond Galactic Empire would be another example of the kind of union ofindividuals that humanity had set up ever since it became humanity. TheSecond Galactic Empire might be the largest and best of the species,but it would still be but one more member of that species.
For Galaxia, a member of an entirely different species of organization,to be better than the Second Galactic Empire, there must be a flaw inthe Plan, something the great Hari Seldon had himself overlooked.
But if it were something Seldon had overlooked, how could Trevizecorrect the matter? He was not a mathematician; knew nothing, absolutelynothing, about the details of the Plan; would understand nothing,furthermore, even if it were explained to him.
All he knew were the assumptions that a great number ofhuman beings be involved and that they not be aware of the conclusionsreached. The first assumption was self-evidently true, considering thevast population of the Galaxy, and the second had to be true since onlythe Second Foundationers knew the details of the Plan, and they kept itto themselves securely enough.
That left an added unacknowledged assumption, a taken-for-grantedassumption, one so taken for granted it was never mentioned nor thoughtof and yet one that might be false. An assumption that, if itwere false, would alter the grand conclusion of the Planand make Galaxia preferable to Empire.
But if the assumption was so obvious and so taken for granted thatit was never even expressed, how could it be false? And if no one evermentioned it, or thought of it, how could Trevize know it was there,or have any idea of its nature even if he guessed its existence?
Was he truly Trevize, the man with the flawless intuition asGaia insisted? Did he know the right thing to do even when he didn'tknow why he was doing it?
Now he was visiting every Spacer world he knew about. Was thatthe right thing to do? Did the Spacer worlds hold the answer? Or atleast the beginning of the answer?
What was there on Aurora but ruins and wild dogs? (And, presumably,other feral creatures. Raging bulls? Overgrown rats? Stalking green-eyedcats?) Solaria was alive, but what was there on it but robots andenergy-transducing human beings? What had either world to do with Seldon'sPlan unless they contained the secret of the location of the Earth?
And if they did, what had Earth to do with Seldon'sPlan? Was this all madness? Had he listened too long and too seriouslyto the fantasy of his own infallibility?
An overwhelming weight of shame came over him and seemed to pressupon him to the point where he could barely breathe. He looked at thestars remote, uncaring and thought: I must be the Great Foolof the Galaxy.
58Bliss's voice broke in on him. "Well, Trevize, why doyou want to see Is anything wrong?" Her voice had twisted intosudden concern.
Trevize looked up and, for a moment, found it momentarily difficultto brush away his mood. He stared at her, then said, "No, no. Nothing'swrong. I I was merely lost in thought. Every once in a while,after all, I find myself thinking."He was uneasily aware that Bliss could read his emotions. He hadonly her word that she was voluntarily abstaining from any oversight ofhis mind.
She seemed to accept his statement, however. She said, "Pelo............
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