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Chapter 17: New Earth
74"Four planets," muttered Trevize. "All are small,plus a trailing off of asteroids. No gas giants."Pelorat said, "Do you find that disappointing?""Not really. It's expected. Binaries that circle each other at smalldistances can have no planets circling one of the stars. Planets cancircle the center of gravity of both, but it's very unlikely that theywould be habitable too far away.
"On the other hand if the binaries are reasonably separate, there canbe planets in stable orbits about each, if they are close enough to oneor the other of the stars. These two stars, according to the computer'sdata bank, have an average separation of 3.5 billion kilometers and evenat periastron, when they are closest together, are about 1.7 billionkilometers apart. A planet in an orbit of less than 200 million kilometersfrom either star would be stably situated, but there can be no planetwith a larger orbit. That means no gas giants since they would haveto be farther away from a star, but what's the difference? Gas giantsaren't habitable, anyway.""But one of those four planets might be habitable.""Actually the second planet is the only real possibility. For onething, it's the only one of them large enough to have an atmosphere."They approached the second planet rapidly and over a period of two daysits image expanded; at first with a majestic and measured swelling. Andthen, when there was no sign of any ship emerging to intercept them,with increasing and almost frightening speed.
The Far Star was moving swiftly along a temporary orbit athousand kilometers above the cloud cover, when Trevize said grimly,"I see why the computer's memory banks put a question mark after thenotation that it was inhabited. There's no clear sign of radiation;either light in the night-hemisphere, or radio anywhere.""The cloud cover seems pretty thick," said Pelorat.
"That should not blank out radio radiation."They watched the planet wheeling below them, a symphony in swirlingwhite clouds, through occasional gaps of which a bluish wash indicatedocean.
Trevize said, "The cloud level is fairly heavy for an inhabitedworld. It might be a rather gloomy one. What bothers me most,"he added, as they plunged once more into the night-shadow, "is that nospace stations have hailed us.""The way they did back at Comporellon, you mean?" said Pelorat.
"The way they would in any inhabited world. We would have to stopfor the usual checkup on papers, freight, length of stay, and so on."Bliss said, "Perhaps we missed the hail for some reason.""Our computer would have received it at any wavelength they mighthave cared to use. And we've been sending out our own signals, but haveroused no one and nothing as a result. Dipping under the cloud layerwithout communicating with station officials violates space courtesy,but I don't see that we have a choice."The Far Star slowed, and strengthened its antigravityaccordingly, so as to maintain its height. It came out into thesunlight again, and slowed further. Trevize, in co-ordination with thecomputer, found a sizable break in the clouds. The ship sank and passedthrough it. Beneath them heaved the ocean in what must have been a freshbreeze. It lay, wrinkled, several kilometers below, them, faintly stripedin lines of froth.
They flew out of the sunlit patch and under the cloud cover. Theexpanse of water immediately beneath them turned a slate-gray, and thetemperature dropped noticeably.
Fallom, staring at the viewscreen, spoke in her own consonant-richlanguage for a few moments, then shifted to Galactic. Her voicetrembled. "What is that which I see beneath?""That is an ocean," said Bliss soothingly. "It is a very large massof water.""Why does it not dry up?"Bliss looked at Trevize, who said, "There's too much water for it todry up."Fallom said in a half-choked manner, "I don't want all that water. Letus go away." And then she shrieked, thinly, as the Far Star movedthrough a patch of storm clouds so that the viewscreen turned milky andwas streaked with the mark of raindrops.
The lights in the pilot-room dimmed and the ship's motion becameslightly jerky.
Trevize looked up in surprise and cried out. "Bliss, your Fallom isold enough to transduce. She's using electric power to try to manipulatethe controls. Stop her!"Bliss put her arms about Fallom, and hugged her tightly, "It's allright, Fallom, it's all right. There's nothing to be afraid of. It'sjust another world, that's all. There are many like this."Fallom relaxed somewhat but continued to tremble.
Bliss said to Trevize, "The child has never seen an ocean, andperhaps, for all I know, never experienced fog or rain. Can't you besympathetic?""Not if she tampers with the ship. She's a danger to all of us,then. Take her into your room and calm her down."Bliss nodded curtly.
Pelorat said, "I'll come with you, Bliss.""No, no, Pel," she responded. "You stay here. I'll soothe Fallom andyou soothe Trevize." And she left.
"I don't need soothing," growled Trevize to Pelorat. "I'm sorry if Iflew off the handle, but we can't have a child playing with the controls,can we?""Of course we can't," said Pelorat, "but Bliss was caught bysurprise. She can control Fallom, who is really remarkably well behavedfor a child taken from her home and her her robot, and thrown,willy-nilly, into a life she doesn't understand.""I know. It wasn't I who wanted to take her along, remember. It wasBliss's idea.""Yes, but the child would have been killed, if we hadn't takenher.""Well, I'll apologize to Bliss later on. To the child, too."But he was still frowning, and Pelorat said gently, "Golan, old chap,is there anything else bothering you?""The ocean," said Trevize. They had long emerged from the rain storm,but the clouds persisted.
"What's wrong with it?" asked Pelorat.
"There's too much of it, that's all."Pelorat looked blank, and Trevize said, with a snap, "No land. Wehaven't seen any land. The atmosphere is perfectly normal, oxygen andnitrogen in decent proportions, so the planet has to be engineered,and there has to be plant life to maintain the oxygen level. In thenatural state, such atmospheres do not occur except, presumably,on Earth, where it developed, who knows how. But, then, on engineeredplanets there are always reasonable amounts of dry land, up to one thirdof the whole, and never less than a fifth. So how can this planet beengineered, and lack land?"Pelorat said, "Perhaps, since this planet is part of a binarysystem, it is completely atypical. Maybe it wasn't engineered, butevolved an atmosphere in ways that never prevail on planets about singlestars. Perhaps life developed independently here, as it once did on Earth,but only sea life.""Even if we were to admit that," said Trevize, "it would do us nogood. There's no way life in the sea can develop a technology. Technologyis always based on fire, and fire is impossible in the sea. A life-bearingplanet without technology is not what we're looking for.""I realize that, but I'm only considering ideas. After all, as far aswe know, technology only developed once on Earth. Everywhere else,the Settlers brought it with them. You can't say technology is `always'
anything, if you only have one case to study.""Travel through the sea requires streamlining. Sea life cannot haveirregular outlines and appendages such as hands.""Squids have tentacles."Trevize said, "I admit we are allowed to speculate, but if you'rethinking of intelligent squid-like creatures evolving independentlysomewhere in the Galaxy, and developing a technology not based on fire,you're supposing something not at all likely, in my opinion.""In your opinion ," said Pelorat gently.
Suddenly, Trevize laughed. "Very well, Janov. I see you'relogic-chopping in order to get even with me for speaking harshly toBliss, and you're doing a good job. I promise you that if we find noland, we will examine the sea as best we can to see if we can find yourcivilized squids."As he spoke, the ship plunged into the night-shadow again, and theviewscreen turned black.
Pelorat winced. "I keep wondering," he said. "Is this safe?""Is what safe, Janov?""Racing through the dark like this. We might dip, and dive into theocean, and be destroyed instantly.""Quite impossible, Janov. Really! The computer keeps us travelingalong a gravitational line of force. In other words, it remains alwaysat a constant intensity of the planetary gravitational force which meansit keeps us at a nearly constant height above sea level.""But how high?""Nearly five kilometers.""That doesn't really console me, Golan. Might we not reach land andsmash into a mountain we don't see?"" We don't see, but ship's radar will see it, and thecomputer will guide the ship around or over the mountain.""What if there's level land, then? We'll miss it in the dark.""No, Janov, we won't. Radar reflected from water is not at all likeradar reflected from land. Water is essentially flat; land is rough. Forthat reason, reflection from land is substantially more chaotic thanreflection from water. The computer will know the difference and it willlet me know if there's land in view. Even if it were day and the planetwere sun-lit, the computer might well detect land before I would."They fell silent and, in a couple of hours, they were back indaylight, with an empty ocean again rolling beneath them monotonously,but occasionally invisible when they passed through one of the numerousstorms. In one storm, the wind drove the Far Star out of itspath. The computer gave way, Trevize explained, in order to preventan unnecessary waste of energy and to minimize the chance of physicaldamage. Then, when the turbulence had passed, the computer eased theship back into its path.
"Probably the edge of a hurricane," said Trevize.
Pelorat said, "See here, old chap, we're just traveling west toeast or east to west. All we're examining is the equator."Trevize said, "That would be foolish, wouldn't it? We're followinga great-circle route northwest-southeast. That takes us through thetropics and both temperate zones and each time we repeat the circle, thepath moves westward, as the planet rotates on its axis beneath us. We'remethodically criss-crossing the world. By now, since we haven't hit land,the chances of a sizable continent are less than one in ten, accordingto the computer, and of a sizable island less than one in four, withthe chances going down each circle we make.""You know what I would have done," said Pelorat slowly, as the nighthemisphere engulfed them again. "I'd have stayed well away from theplanet and swept the entire hemisphere facing me with radar. The cloudswouldn't have mattered, would they?"Trevize said, "And then zoom to the other side and do the samethere. Or just let the planet turn once. That's hindsight,Janov. Who would expect to approach a habitable planet without stoppingat a station and being given a path or being excluded? And if onewent under the cloud layer without stopping at a station, who would expectnot to find land almost at once? Habitable planets are land!""Surely not all land," said Pelorat.
"I'm not talking about that," said Trevize, in sudden excitement. "I'msaying we've found land! Quiet!"Then, with a restraint that did not succeed in hiding his excitement,Trevize placed his hands on the desk and became part of the computer. Hesaid, "It's an island about two hundred and fifty kilometers long andsixty-five kilometers wide, more or less. Perhaps fifteen thousand squarekilometers in area or thereabout. Not large, but respectable. More thana dot on the map. Wait "The lights in the pilot-room dimmed and went out.
"What are we doing?" said Pelorat, automatically whispering as thoughdarkness were something fragile that must not be shattered.
"Waiting for our eyes to undergo dark-adaptation. The ship is hoveringover the island. Just watch. Do you see anything?""No Little specks of light, maybe. I'm not sure.""I see them, too. Now I'll throw in the telescopic lens."And there was light! Clearly visible. Irregular patches of it.
"It's inhabited," said Trevize. "It may be the only inhabited portionof the planet.""What do we do?""We wait for daytime. That gives us a few hours in which we canrest.""Might they not attack us?""With what? I detect almost no radiation except visible light andinfrared. It's inhabited and the inhabitants are clearly intelligent. Theyhave a technology, but obviously a preelectronic one, so I don't thinkthere's anything to worry about up here. If I should be wrong, thecomputer will warn me in plenty of time.""And once daylight comes?""We'll land, of course."75They came down when the first rays of the morning sunshone through a break in the clouds to reveal part of the island-freshlygreen, with its interior marked by a line of low, rolling hills stretchinginto the purplish distance.
As they dropped closer, they could see isolated copses of treesand occasional orchards, but for the most part there weeeeeell-keptfarms. Immediately below them, on the southeastern shore of the islandwas a silvery beach backed by a broken line of boulders, and beyond itwas a stretch of lawn. They caught a glimpse of an occasional house,but these did not cluster into anything like a town.
Eventually, they made out a dim network of roads, sparsely lined bydwelling places, and then, in the cool morning air, they spied an air-carin the far distance. They could only tell it was an air-car, and nota bird, by the manner of its maneuvering. It was the first indubitablesign of intelligent life in action they had yet seen on the planet.
"It could be an automated vehicle, if they could manage that withoutelectronics," said Trevize.
Bliss said, "It might well be. It seems to me that if there were ahuman being at the controls, it would be heading for us. We must be quitea sight a vehicle sinking downward without the use of braking jetsof rocket fire.""A strange sight on any planet," said Trevize thoughtfully. "Therecan't be many worlds that have ever witnessed the descent of a graviticspace-vessel. The beach would make a fine landing place, but ifthe winds blow I don't want the ship inundated. I'll make for the stretchof grass on the other side of the boulders.""At least," said Pelorat, "a gravitic ship won't scorch privateproperty in descending."Down they came gently on the four broad pads that had moved slowlyoutward during the last stage. These pressed down into the soil underweight of the ship.
Pelorat said, "I'm afraid we'll leave marks, though.""At least," said Bliss, and there was that in her voice that was noten approving, "the climate is evidently equable I would even say,warm."A human being was on the grass, watching the ship descend and showingno evidence of fear or surprise. The look on her face showed only raptinterest.
She wore very little, which accounted for Bliss's estimate of theclimate. Her sandals seemed to be of canvas, and about her hips was awraparound skirt with a flowered pattern. There were no leg-coveringsand there was nothing above her waist.
Her hair was black, long, and very glossy, descending almost to herwaist; Her skin color was a pale brown and her eyes were narrow.
Trevize scanned the surroundings and there was no other human being insight. He shrugged and said, "Well, it's early morning and the inhabitantsmay be mostly indoors, or even asleep. Still, I wouldn't say it was awell-populated area."He turned to the others and said, "I'll go out and talk to the woman,if she, speaks anything comprehensible. The rest of you ""I should think," said Bliss firmly, "that we might as well allstep out. That woman looks completely harmless and, in any case, I wantto stretch my legs and breathe planetary air, and perhaps arrange forplanetary food. I want Fallom to get the feel of a world again, too,and I think Pel would like to examine the woman at closer range.""Who? I?" said Pelorat, turning faintly pink. "Not at all, Bliss,but I am the linguist of our little party."Trevize shrugged. "Come one, come all. Still, though she may lookharmless, I intend to take my weapons with me.""I doubt," said Bliss, "that you will be much tempted to use them onthat young woman."Trevize grinned. "She is attractive, isn't she?"Trevize left the ship first, then Bliss, with one hand swung backwardto enclose Fallom's, who carefully made her way down the ramp afterBliss. Pelorat was last.
The black-haired young woman continued to watch with interest. Shedid not back away an inch.
Trevize muttered, "Well, let's try."He held his arms away from his weapons and said, "I greet you."The young woman considered that for a moment, and said, "I greet theeand I greet thy companions."Pelorat said joyfully, "How wonderful! She speaks Classical Galacticand with a correct accent.'""I understand her, too," said Trevize, oscillating one hand to indicatehis understanding wasn't perfect. "I hope she understands me."He said, smiling, and assuming a friendly expression, "We come fromacross space. We come from another world.""That is well," said the young woman, in her clear soprano. "Comesthy ship from the Empire?""It comes from a far star, and the ship is named Far Star ."The young woman looked up at the lettering on the ship. "Is thatwhat that sayeth? If that be so, and if the first letter is an F, then,behold, it is imprinted backward."Trevize was about to object, but Pelorat, in an ecstasy of joy, said,"She's right. The letter F did reverse itself about two thousand yearsago. What a marvelous chance to study Classical Galactic in detail andas a living language."Trevize studied the young woman carefully. She was not much more than1.5 meters in height, and her breasts, though shapely, were small. Yetshe did not seem unripe. The nipples were large and the areolae dark,though that might be the result of her brownish skin color.
He said, "My name is Golan Trevize; my friend is Janov Pelorat;the woman is Bliss; and the child is Fallom.""Is it the custom, then, on the far star from which you come, thatthe men be given a double name? I am Hiroko, daughter of Hiroko.""And your father?" interposed Pelorat suddenly.
To which Hiroko replied with an indifferent shrug of her shoulder,"His name, so sayeth my mother, is Smool, but it is of no importance. Iknow him not.""And where are the others?" asked Trevize. "You seem to be the onlyone to be here to greet us."Hiroko said, "Many men are aboard the fishboats; many women are in thefields. I take holiday these last two days and so am fortunate enough tosee this great thing. Yet people are curious and the ship will have beenseen as it descended, even from a distance. Others will be here soon.""Are there many others on this island?""There are more than a score and five thousand," said Hiroko withobvious pride.
"And are there other islands in the ocean?""Other islands, good sir?" She seemed puzzled.
Trevize took that as answer enough. This was the one spot on theentire planet that was inhabited by human beings.
He said, "What do you call your world?""It is Alpha, good sir. We are taught that the whole name is AlphaCentauri, if that has more meaning to thee, but we call it Alpha only and,see, it is a fair-visaged world.""A what world?" said Trevize, turning blankly toPelorat.
"A beautiful world, she means," said Pelorat.
"That it is," said Trevize, "at least here, and at this moment." Helooked up at the mild blue morning sky, with its occasional drift ofclouds. "You have a nice sunny day, Hiroko, but I imagine there aren'tmany of those on Alpha."Hiroko stiffened. "As many as we wish, sir. The clouds may come whenwe need rain, but on most days it seemeth good to us that the sky isfair above. Surely a goodly sky and a quiet wind are much to be desiredon those days when the fishboats are at sea.""Do your people control the weather, then, Hiro............
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