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Chapter 20: The Nearby World
94For four successive meals, Pelorat and Bliss had seenTrevize only at meals. During the rest of the time, he was either inthe pilot-room or in his bedroom. At mealtimes, he was silent. His lipsremained pressed together and he ate little.
At the fourth meal, however, it seemed to Pelorat that some ofthe unusual gravity had lifted from Trevize's countenance. Peloratcleared his throat twice, as though preparing to say something and thenretreating.
Finally, Trevize looked up at him and said, "Well?""Have you have you thought it out, Golan?""Why do you ask?""You seem less gloomy.""I'm not less gloomy, but I have beenthinking. Heavily.""May we know what?" asked Pelorat.
Trevize glanced briefly in Bliss's direction. She was looking firmlyat her plate, maintaining a careful silence, as though certain thatPelorat would get further than she at this sensitive moment.
Trevize said, "Are you also curious, Bliss?"She raised her eyes for a moment. "Yes. Certainly."Fallom kicked a leg of the table moodily, and said, "Have we foundEarth?"Bliss squeezed the youngster's shoulder. Trevize paid no attention.
He said, "What we must start with is a basic fact. All informationconcerning Earth has been removed on various worlds. That is bound tobring us to an inescapable conclusion. Something on Earth is beinghidden. And yet, by observation, we see that Earth is radioactivelydeadly, so that anything on it is automatically hidden. No one can landon it, and from this distance, when we are quite near the outer edge ofthe magnetosphere and would not care to approach Earth any more closely,there is nothing for us to find.""Can you be sure of that?" asked Bliss softly.
"I have spent my time at the computer, analyzing Earth in every wayit and I can. There is nothing. What's more, I feel there isnothing. Why, then, has data concerning the Earth been wiped out? Surely,whatever must be hidden is more effectively hidden now than anyone caneasily imagine, and there need be no human gilding of this particularpiece of gold.""It may be," said Pelorat, "that there was indeed something hiddenon Earth at a time when it had not yet grown so severely radioactive asto preclude visitors. People on Earth may then have feared that someonemight land and find this whatever-it-is. It was then thatEarth tried to remove information concerning itself. What we have nowis a vestigial remnant of that insecure time.""No, I don't think so," said Trevize. "The removal of informationfrom the Imperial Library at Trantor seems to have taken place veryrecently." He turned suddenly to Bliss, "Am I right?"Bliss said evenly, "I/we/Gaia gathered that much from the troubledmind of the Second Foundationer Gendibal, when he, you, and I had themeeting with the Mayor of Terminus."Trevize said, "So whatever must have had to be hidden because thereexisted the chance of finding it must still be in hiding now ,and there must be danger of finding it now despite the factthat Earth is radioactive.""How is that possible?" asked Pelorat anxiously.
"Consider," said Trevize. "What if what was on Earth is no longeron Earth, but was removed when the radioactive danger grew greater? Yetthough the secret is no longer on Earth, it may be that if we can findEarth, we would be able to reason out the place where the secret hasbeen taken. If that were so, Earth's whereabouts would still have tobe hidden."Fallom's voice piped up again. "Because if we can't find Earth,Bliss says you'll take me back to Jemby."Trevize turned toward Fallom and glared and Bliss said, in alow voice, "I told you we might , Fallom. We'll talk aboutit later. Right now, go to your room and read, or play the flute, oranything else you want to do. Go go."Fallom, frowning sulkily, left the table.
Pelorat said, "But how can you say that, Golan? Here we are. We'velocated Earth. Can we now deduce where whatever it is might be if itisn't on Earth?"It took a moment for Trevize to get over the moment of ill humorFallom had induced. Then, he said, "Why not? Imagine the radioactivity ofEarth's crust growing steadily worse. The population would be decreasingsteadily through death and emigration, and the secret, whatever it is,would be in increasing danger. Who would remain to protect it? Eventually,it would have to be shifted to another world, or the use of whateverit was would be lost to Earth. I suspect there would be reluctanceto move it and it is likely that it would be done more or less at thelast minute. Now, then, Janov, remember the old man on New Earth whofilled your ears with his version of Earth's history?""Monolee?""Yes. He. Did he not say in reference to the establishment of New Earththat what was left of Earth's population was brought to the planet?"Pelorat said, "Do you mean, old chap, that what we're searching foris now on New Earth? Brought there by the last of Earth's populationto leave?"Trevize said, "Might that not be so? New Earth is scarcely betterknown to the Galaxy in general than Earth is, and the inhabitants aresuspiciously eager to keep all Outworlders away.""We were there," put in Bliss. "We didn't find anything.""We weren't looking for anything but the whereabouts of Earth."Pelorat said, in a puzzled way, "But we're looking for somethingwith a high technology; something that can remove information fromunder the nose of the Second Foundation itself, and even from under thenose excuse me, Bliss of Gaia. Those people on New Earth maybe able to control their patch of weather and may have some techniquesof biotechnology at their disposal, but I think you'll admit that theirlevel of technology is, on the whole, quite low."Bliss nodded. "I agree with Pel."Trevize said, "We're judging from very little. We never did see themen of the fishing fleet. We never saw any part of the island but thesmall patch we landed on. What might we have found if we had exploredmore thoroughly? After all, we didn't recognize the fluorescent lightstill we saw them in action, and if it appeared that the technology waslow, appeared , I say ""Yes?" said Bliss, clearly unconvinced.
"That could be part of the veil intended to obscure the truth.""Impossible," said Bliss.
"Impossible? It was you who told me, back on Gaia, that at Trantor,the larger civilization was deliberately held at a level of low technologyin order to hide the small kernel of Second Foundationers. Why mightnot the same strategy be used on New Earth?""Do you suggest, then, that we return to New Earth and face infectionagain this time to have it activated? Sexual intercourse isundoubtedly a particularly pleasant mode of infection, but it may notbe the only one."Trevize shrugged. "I am not eager to return to New Earth, but we mayhave to."" May ?""May! After all, there is another possibility.""What is that?""New Earth circles the star the people call Alpha. But Alpha is part ofa binary system. Might there not be a habitable planet circling Alpha'scompanion as well?""Too dim, I should think," said Bliss, shaking her head. "The companionis only a quarter as bright as Alpha is.""Dim, but not too dim. If there is a planet fairly close to the star,it might do."Pelorat said, "Does the computer say anything about any planets forthe companion?"Trevize smiled grimly. "I checked that. There are five planets ofmoderate size. No gas giants.""And are any of the five planets habitable?""The computer gives no information at all about the planets, otherthan their number, and the fact that they aren't large.""Oh," said Pelorat deflated.
Trevize said, "That's nothing to be disappointed about. None of theSpacer worlds are to be found in the computer at all. The informationon Alpha itself is minimal. These things are hidden deliberately and ifalmost nothing is known about Alpha's companion, that might almost beregarded as a good sign.""Then," said Bliss, in a business-like manner, "what you are planningto do is this visit the companion and, if that draws a blank,return to Alpha itself.""Yes. And this time when we reach the island of New Earth, we willbe prepared. We will examine the entire island meticulously beforelanding and, Bliss, I expect you to use your mental abilities toshield "And at that moment, the Far Star lurched slightly, as thoughit had undergone a ship-sized hiccup, and Trevize cried out, halfwaybetween anger and perplexity, "Who's at the controls?"And even as he asked, he knew very well who was.
95Fallom, at the computer console, was completelyabsorbed. Her small, long-fingered hands were stretched wide in order tofit the faintly gleaming handmarks on the desk. Fallom's hands seemedto sink into the material of the desk, even though it was clearly feltto be hard and slippery.
She had seen Trevize hold his hands so on a number of occasions,and she hadn't seen him do more than that, though it was quite plain toher that in so doing he controlled the ship.
On occasion, Fallom had seen Trevize close his eyes, and she closedhers now. After a moment or two, it was almost as though she hearda faint, far-off voice far off, but sounding in her own head,through (she dimly realized) her transducer-lobes. They were even moreimportant than her hands. She strained to make out the words.
Instructions, it said, almost pleadingly. What are yourinstructions? Fallom didn't say anything. She had never witnessed Trevize sayinganything to the computer but she knew what it was that she wantedwith all her heart. She wanted to go back to Solaria, to the comfortingendlessness of the mansion, to Jemby          by She wanted to go there and, as she thought of the world she loved,she imagined it visible on the viewscreen as she had seen other worldsshe didn't want. She opened her eyes and stared at the viewscreen willingsome other world there than this hateful Earth, then staring at what shesaw, imagining it to be Solaria. She hated the empty Galaxy to whichshe had been introduced against her will. Tears came to her eyes, andthe ship trembled.
She could feel that tremble, and she swayed a little in response.
And then she heard loud steps in the corridor outside and, when sheopened her eyes, Trevize's face, distorted, filled her vision, blockingout the viewscreen, which held all she wanted. He was shouting something,but she paid no attention. It was he who had taken her from Solaria bykilling Bander, and it was he who was preventing her from returning bythinking only of Earth, and she was not going to listen to him.
She was going to take the ship to Solaria, and, with the intensityof her resolve, it trembled again.
96Bliss clutched wildly at Trevize'sarm. "Don't! Don't!"She clung strongly, holding him back, while Pelorat stood, confusedand frozen, in the background.
Trevize was shouting, "Take your hands off the computer! Bliss,don't get in my way. I don't want to hurt you."Bliss said, in a tone that seemed almost exhausted, "Don't offerviolence to the child. I'd have to hurt you  againstall instructions."Trevize's eyes darted wildly from Fallom to Bliss. He said, "Thenyou get her off, Bliss. Now!"Bliss pushed him away with surprising strength (drawing it, Trevizethought afterward, from Gaia, perhaps).
"Fallom," she said, "lift your hands.""No," shrieked Fallom. "I want the ship to go to Solaria. I want itto go there. There." She nodded toward the viewscreen with her head,unwilling to let even one hand release its pressure on the desk forthe purpose.
But Bliss reached for the child's shoulders and, as her hands touchedFallom, the youngster began to tremble.
Bliss's voice grew soft. "Now, Fallom, tell the computer to be asit was and come with me. Come with me." Her hands stroked the child,who collapsed in an agony of weeping.
Fallom's hands left the desk, and Bliss, catching her under thearmpits, lifted her into a standing position. She turned her, held herfirmly against her breast, and allowed the child to smother her wrenchingsobs there.
Bliss said to Trevize, who was now standing dumbly in the doorway,"Step out of the way, Trevize, and don't touch either of us as wepass."Trevize stepped quickly to one side.
Bliss paused a moment, saying in a low voice to Trevize, "I had to getinto her mind for a moment. If I've caused any damage, I won't forgiveyou easily."It was Trevize's impulse to tell her he didn't care a cubic millimeterof vacuum for Fallom's mind; that it was the computer for which hefeared. Against the concentrated glare of Gaia, however (surely it wasn'tonly Bliss whose sole expression could inspire the moment of cold terrorhe felt), he kept silent.
He remained silent for a perceptible period, and motionless as well,after Bliss and Fallom had disappeared into their room. He remained so,in fact, until Pelorat said softly, "Golan, are you all right? She didn'thurt you, did she?"Trevize shook his head vigorously, as though to shake off the touchof paralysis that had afflicted him. "I'm all right. The real questionis whether that's all right." He sat down at the computerconsole, his hands resting on the two handmarks which Fallom's handshad so recently covered.
"Well?" said Pelorat anxiously.
Trevize shrugged. "It seems to respond normally. I might conceivablyfind something wrong later on, but there's nothing that seems offnow." Then, more angrily, "The computer should not combine effectivelywith any hands other than mine, but in that hermaphrodite's case, itwasn't the hands alone. It was the transducer-lobes, I'm sure ""But what made the ship shake? It shouldn't do that, should it?""No. It's a gravitic ship and we shouldn't have these inertialeffects. But that she-monster " He paused, looking angry again.
"Yes?""I suspect she faced the computer with two self-contradictory demands,and each with such force that the computer had no choice but to attemptto do both things at once. In the attempt to do the impossible, thecomputer must have released the inertia-free condition of the shipmomentarily. At least that's what I think happened."And then, somehow, his face smoothed out. "And that might be agood thing, too, for it occurs to me now that all my talk about AlphaCentauri and its companion was flapdoodle. I know now where Earth musthave transferred its secret."97Pelorat stared, then ignored the final remark andwent back to an earlier puzzle. "In what way did Fallom ask for twoself-contradictory things?""Well, she said she wanted the ship to go to Solaria.""Yes. Of course, she would.""But what did she mean by Solaria? She can't recognize Solaria fromspace. She's never really seen it from space. She was asleep when weleft that world in a hurry. And despite her readings in your library,together with whatever Bliss has told her, I imagine she can't reallygrasp the truth of a Galaxy of hundreds of billions of stars and millionsof populated planets. Brought up, as she was, underground and alone,it is all she can do to grasp the bare concept that there are differentworlds but how many? Two? Three? Four? To her any world she seesis likely to be Solaria, and given the strength of her wishful thinking,is Solaria. And since I presume Bliss has tried to quiet her by hintingthat if we don't find Earth, we'll take her b............
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