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Part Six - Alpha Chapter 16: The Center of the Worlds
69Trevize stared at Pelorat for a long moment, and withan expression of clear displeasure. Then he said, "Is there somethingyou saw that I did not, and that you did not tell me about?""No," answered Pelorat mildly. "You saw it and, as I just said,I tried to explain, but you were in no mood to listen to me.""Well, try again."Bliss said, "Don't bully him, Trevize.""I'm not bullying him. I'm asking for information. And don't youbaby him.""Please," said Pelorat, "listen to me, will you, and not to eachother. Do you remember, Golan, that we discussed early attemptsto discover the origin of the human species? Yariff's project? Youknow, trying to plot the times of settlement of various planets on theassumption that planets would be settled outward from the world of originin all directions alike. Then, as we moved from newer to older planets,we would approach the world of origin from all directions."Trevize nodded impatiently. "What I remember is that it didn't workbecause the dates of settlement were not reliable.""That's right, old fellow. But the worlds that Yariff was workingwith were part of the second expansion of the human race. By then,hyperspatial travel was far advanced, and settlement must have grown quiteragged. Leapfrogging very long distances was very simple and settlementdidn't necessarily proceed outward in radial symmetry. That surely addedto the problem of unreliable dates of settlement.
"But just think for a moment, Golan, of the Spacer worlds. Theywere in the first wave of settlement. Hyperspatial travel was lessadvanced then, and there was probably little or no leapfrogging. Whereasmillions of worlds were settled, perhaps chaotically, during the secondexpansion, only fifty were settled, probably in an orderly manner, inthe first. Whereas the millions of worlds of the second expansion weresettled over a period of twenty thousand years; the fifty of the firstexpansion were settled over a period of a few centuries almostinstantaneously, in comparison. Those fifty, taken together, shouldexist in roughly spherical symmetry about the world of origin.
"We have the co-ordinates of the fifty worlds. You photographed them,remember, from the statue. Whatever or whoever it is that is destroyinginformation that concerns Earth, either overlooked those co-ordinates, ordidn't stop to think that they would give us the information we need. Allyou have to do, Golan, is to adjust the co-ordinates to allow for thelast twenty thousand years of stellar motions, then find the center ofthe sphere. You'll end up fairly close to Earth's sun, or at least towhere it was twenty thousand years ago."Trevize's mouth had fallen slightly open during the recital and ittook a few moments for him to close it after Pelorat was done. He said,"Now why didn't I think of that?""I tried to tell you while we were still on Melpomenia.""I'm sure you did. I apologize, Janov, for refusing to listen. Thefact is it didn't occur to me that " He paused in embarrassment.
Pelorat chuckled quietly, "That I could have anything of importanceto say. I suppose that ordinarily I wouldn't, but this was somethingin my own field, you see. I am sure that, as a general rule, you'd beperfectly justified in not listening to me.""Never," said Trevize. "That's not so, Janov. I feel like a fool,and I well deserve the feeling. My apologies again and I must nowget to the computer."He and Pelorat walked into the pilot-room, and Pelorat, as always,watched with a combination of marveling and incredulity as Trevize'shands settled down upon the desk, and he became what was almost a singleman computer organism.
"I'll have to make certain assumptions, Janov," said Trevize, ratherblankfaced from computer-absorption. "I have to assume that the firstnumber is a distance in parsecs, and that the other two numbers are anglesin radians, the first being up and down, so to speak, and the other,right and left. I have to assume that the use of plus and minus in thecase of the angles is Galactic Standard and that the zero-zzzzzzzzz markis Melpomenia's sun.""That sounds fair enough," said Pelorat.
"Does it? There are six possible ways of arranging the numbers, fourpossible ways of arranging the signs, distances may be in light-yearsrather than parsecs, the angles in degrees, rather than radians. That'sninety-six diferent variations right there. Add to that, the point thatif the distances are light-years, I'm uncertain as to the length of theyear used. Add also the fact that I don't know the actual conventionsused to measure the angles from the Melpomenian equator in one case,I suppose, but what's their prime meridian?"Pelorat frowned. "Now you make it sound hopeless.""Not hopeless. Aurora and Solaria are included in the list, and Iknow where they are in space. I'll use the co-ordinates, and see ifI can locate them. If I end up in the wrong place, I will adjust theco-ordinates until they give me the right place, and that will tell mewhat mistaken assumptions I am making as far as the standards governingthe co-ordinates are concerned. Once my assumptions are corrected,I can look for the center of the sphere.""With all the possibilities for change, won't it make it difficultto decide what to do?""What?" said Trevize. He was increasingly absorbed. Then, whenPelorat repeated the question, he said, "Oh well, chances are that theco-ordinates follow the Galactic Standard and adjusting for an unknownprime meridian isn't difficult. These systems for locating points in spacewere worked out long ago, and most astronomers are pretty confident theyeven antedate interstellar travel. Human beings are very conservativein some ways and virtually never change numerical conventions once theygrow used to them. They even come to mistake them for laws of nature,I think. Which is just as well, for if every world had its ownconventions of measurement that changed every century, I honestly thinkscientific endeavor would stall and come to a permanent stop."He was obviously working while he was talking, for his words camehaltingly. And now he muttered, "But quiet now."After that, his face grew furrowed and concentrated until, afterseveral minutes, he leaned back and drew a long breath. He said quietly,"The conventions hold. I've located Aurora. There's no question aboutit. See?"Pelorat stared at the field of stars, and at the bright one near thecenter and said, "Are you sure?"Trevize said, "My own opinion doesn't matter. Thecomputer is sure. We've visited Aurora, after all. We haveits characteristics its diameter, mass, luminosity, temperature,spectral details, to say nothing of the pattern of neighboring stars. Thecomputer says it's Aurora.""Then I suppose we must take its word for it.""Believe me, we must. Let me adjust the viewscreen and the computercan get to work. It has the fifty sets of co-ordinates and it will usethem one at a time."Trevize was working on the screen as he spoke. The computer worked inthe four dimensions of space-time routinely, but, for human inspection,the viewscreen was rarely needed in more than two dimensions. Now thescreen seemed to unfold into a dark volume as deep as it, was tall andbroad. Trevize dimmed the room lights almost totally to make the viewof star-shine easier to observe.
"It will begin now," he whispered.
A moment later, a star appeared then another thenanother. The view on the screen shifted with every addition so that allmight be included. It was as though space was moving backward from theeye so that a more and more panoramic view could be taken. Combine thatwith shifts up or down, right or left Eventually, fifty dots of light appeared, hovering in three-dimensionalspace.
Trevize said, "I would have appreciated a beautiful sphericalarrangement, but this looks like the skeleton of a snowball that hadbeen patted into shape in a big hurry, out of snow that was too hardand gritty.""Does that ruin everything?""It introduces some difficulties, but that can't be helped, Isuppose. The stars themselves aren't uniformly distributed, and certainlyhabitable planets aren't, so there are bound to be unevennesses in theestablishment of new worlds. The computer will adjust each of thosedots to its present position, allowing for its likely motion in thelast twenty thousand years even in that time it won't mean muchof an adjustment and then fit them all into a `best-sphere.' Itwill find a spherical surface, in other words, from which the distanceof all the dots is a minimum. Then we find the center of the sphere,and Earth should be fairly close to that center. Or so we hope. Itwon't take long."70It didn't. Trevize, who was used to accepting miraclesfrom the computer, found himself astonished at how little time ittook.
Trevize had instructed the computer to sound a soft, reverberatingnote upon deciding upon the co-ordinates of the best-center. There wasno reason for that, except for the satisfaction of hearing it and knowingthat perhaps the search had been ended.
The sound came in a matter of minutes, and was like the gentlestroking of a mellow gong. It swelled till they could feel the vibrationphysically, and then slowly faded.
Bliss appeared at the door almost at once. "What's that?" she asked,her eyes big. "An emergency?"Trevize said, "Not at all."Pelorat added eagerly, "We may have located Earth, Bliss. That soundwas the computer's way of saying so."She walked into the room. "I might have been warned."Trevize said, "I'm sorry, Bliss. I didn't mean it to be quite thatloud."Fallom had followed Bliss into the room and said, "Why was there thatsound, Bliss?""I see she's curious, too," said Trevize. He sat back, feelingdrained. The next step was to try the finding on the real Galaxy, tofocus on the coordinates of the center of the Spacer worlds and see if aG-type star was actually present. Once again, he was reluctant to takethe obvious step, unable to make himself put the possible solution tothe actual test.
"Yes," said Bliss. "Why shouldn't she? She's as human as we are.""Her parent wouldn't have thought so," said Trevize abstractedly. "Iworry about the kid. She's bad news.""In what way has she proven so?" demanded Bliss.
Trevize spread his arms. "Just a feeling."Bliss gave him a disdainful look, and turned to Fallom. "We are tryingto locate Earth, Fallom." ,"What's Earth?""Another world, but a special one. It's the world our ancestors camefrom. Do you know what the word `ancestors' means from your reading,Fallom?""Does it mean   ?" But the last word was not inGalactic.
Pelorat said, "That's an archaic word for `ancestors,' Bliss. Our word`forebears' is closer to it.""Very well," said Bliss, with a sudden brilliant smile. "Earth is theworld where our forebears came from, Fallom. Yours and mine and Pel'sand Trevize's.""Yours, Bliss and mine also." Fallom sounded puzzled. "Bothof them?""There's just one set of forebears," said Bliss. "We had the sameforebears, all of us."Trevize said, "It sounds to me as though the child knows very wellthat she's different from us."Bliss said to Trevize in a low voice, "Don't say that. She must bemade to see she isn't. Not in essentials.""Hermaphrodism is essential, I should think.""I'm talking about the mind.""Transducer-lobes are essential, too.""Now, Trevize, don't be difficult. She's intelligent and humanregardless of details."She turned to Fallom, her voice rising to its normal level. "Thinkquietly about this, Fallom, and see what it means to you. Your forebearsand mine were the same. All the people on all the worlds many,many worlds all had the same forebears, and those forebears livedoriginally on the world named Earth. That means we're all relatives,doesn't it? Now go back to our room and think of that."Fallom, after bestowing a thoughtful look on Trevize, turned and ranoff, hastened on by Bliss's affectionate slap on her backside.
Bliss turned to Trevize, and said, "Please, Trevize, promise me youwon't make any comments in her hearing that will lead her to think she'sdifferent from us."Trevize said, "I promise. I have no wish to impede or subvert theeducational procedure, but, you know, she is different from us.""In ways. As I'm different from you, and as Pel is.""Don't be na飗e, Bliss. The differences in Fallom's case aremuch greater.""A little greater. The similarities are vastly moreimportant. She, and her people, will be part of Galaxia some day, anda very useful part, I'm sure.""All right. We won't argue." He turned to the computer with clearreluctance. "And meanwhile, I'm afraid I have to check the supposedposition of Earth in real space.""Afraid?""Well," Trevize lifted his shoulders in what he hoped was ahalf-humorous way, "what if there's no suitable star near the place?""Then there isn't," said Bliss.
"I'm wondering if there's any point in checking it out now. We won'tbe able to make a Jump for several days.""And you'll be spending them agonizing over the possibilities. Findout now. Waiting won't change matters."Trevize sat there with his lips compressed for a moment, then said,"You're right. Very well, then here goes."He turned to the computer, placed his hands on the handmarks on thedesk, and the viewscreen went dark.
Bliss said, "I'll leave you, then. I'll make you nervous if Istay." She left, with a wave of her hand.
"The thing is," he muttered, "that we're going to be checking thecomputer's Galactic map first and even if Earth's sun is in the calculatedposition, the map should not include it. But we'll then "His voice trailed off in astonishment as the viewscreen flashedwith a background of stars. These were fairly numerous and dim, with anoccasional brighter one sparkling here and there, well scattered overthe face of the screen. But quite close to the center was a star thatwas brighter than all the rest.
"We've got it," said Pelorat jubilantly. "We've got it, old chap. Lookhow bright it is.""Any star at centered co-ordinates would look bright," said Trevize,clearly trying to fight off any initial jubilation that might proveunfounded. "The view, after all, is presented from a distance of a parsecfrom the centered co-ordinates. Still, that centered star certainly isn'ta red dwarf, or a red giant, or a hot blue-white. Wait for information;the computer is checking its data banks."There was silence for a few seconds and then Trevize said,"Spectral class G-2." Another pause, then, "Diameter, 1.4 millionkilometers mass, 1.02 times that of Terminus's sun surfacetemperature, 6,000 absolute rotation slow, just under thirtydays no unusual activity or irregularity."Pelorat said, "Isn't all that typical of the kind of star about whichhabitable planets are to be found?""Typical," said Trevize, ............
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