BLISS, entering their chamber, said, “Did Trevize tell you that we are going make the Jump and go through hyperspace any moment now?”
Pelorat, who was bent over his viewing disk, looked up, and said, “Actually, he just looked in and told me ‘within the half-hour.”‘
“I don’t like the thought of it, Pel. I’ve never liked the Jump. I get a funny inside-out feeling.”
Pelorat looked a bit surprised. “I had not thought of you as a space traveler, Bliss dear.”
“I’m not particularly, and I don’t mean that this is so only in my aspect as a component. Gaia itself has no occasion for regular space travel. By my/our/Gaia’s very nature, I/we/Gaia don’t explore, trade, or space junket. Still, there is the necessity of having someone at the entry stations-”
“As when we were fortunate enough to meet you.”
“Yes, Pel.” She smiled at him affectionately. “Or even to visit Sayshell and other stellar regions, for various reasons-usually clandestine. But, clandestine or not, that always means the Jump and, of course, when any part of Gaia Jumps, all of Gaia feels it.”
“That’s too bad,” said Pel.
“It could be worse. The large mass of Gaia is not undergoing the jump, so the effect is greatly diluted. However, I seem to feel it much more than most of Gaia. As I keep trying to tell Trevize, though all of Gaia is Gaia, the individual components are not identical. We have our differences, and my makeup is, for some reason, particularly sensitive to the Jump.”
“Wait!” said Pelorat, suddenly remembering. “Trevize explained that to me once. It’s in ordinary ships that you have the worst of the sensation. In ordinary ships, one leaves the Galactic gravitational field on entering hyperspace, and comes back to it on returning to ordinary space. It’s the leaving and returning that produces the sensation. But the Far Star is a gravitic ship. It is independent of the gravitational field, and does not truly leave it or return to it. For that reason, we won’t feel a thing. I can assure you of that, dear, out of personal experience.”
“But that’s delightful. I wish I had thought to discuss the matter earlier. I would have saved myself considerable apprehension.”
“That’s an advantage in another way,” said Pelorat, feeling an expansion of spirit in his unusual role as explainer of matters astronautic. “The ordinary ship has to recede from large masses such as stars for quite a long distance through ordinary space in order to make the Jump. Part of the reason is that the closer to a star, the more intense the gravitational field, and the more pronounced are the sensations of a Jump. Then, too, the more intense the gravitational field the more complicated the equations that must be solved in order to conduct the Jump safely and end at the point in ordinary space you wish to end at.
“In a gravitic ship, however, there is no Jump-sensation to speak of. In addition, this ship has a computer that is a great deal more advanced than ordinary computers and it can handle complex equations with unusual skill and speed. The result is that instead of having to move away from a star for a couple of weeks just to reach a safe and comfortable distance for a Jump, the Far Star need travel for only two or three days. This is especially so since we are not subject to a gravitational field and, therefore, to inertial effects-I admit I don’t understand that, but that’s what Trevize tells me-and can accelerate much more rapidly than an ordinary ship could.”
Bliss said, “That’s fine, and it’s to Trev’s credit that he can handle this unusual ship.”
Pelorat frowned slightly. “Please, Bliss. Say ‘Trevize.”‘
“I do. I do. In his absence, however, I relax a little.”
“Don’t. You don’t want to encourage the habit even slightly, dear. He’s so sensitive about it.”
“Not about that. He’s sensitive about me. He doesn’t like me.”
“That’s not so,” said Pelorat earnestly. “I talked to him about that.-Now, now, don’t frown. I was extraordinarily tactful, dear child. He assured me he did not dislike you. He is suspicious of Gaia and unhappy over the fact that he has had to make it into the future of humanity. We have to make allowances for that. He’ll get over it as he gradually comes to understand the advantages of Gaia.”
“I hope so, but it’s not just Gaia. Whatever he may tell you, Pel-and remember that he’s very fond of you and doesn’t want to hurt your feelings-he dislikes me personally.”
“No, Bliss. He couldn’t possibly.”
“Not everyone is forced to love me simply because you do, Pel. Let me explain. Trev-all right, Trevize-thinks I’m a robot.”
A look of astonishment suffused Pelorat’s ordinarily stolid features. He said, “Surely he can’t think you’re an artificial human being.”
“Why is that so surprising? Gaia was settled with the help of robots. That’s a known fact.”
“Robots might help, as machines might, but it was people who settled Gaia; people from Earth. That’s what Trevize thinks. I know he does.”
“There is nothing in Gaia’s memory about Earth as I told you and Trevize. However, in our oldest memories there are still some robots, even after three thousand years, working at the task of completing the modification of Gaia into a habitable world. We were at that time also forming Gaia as a planetary consciousness-that took a long time, Pel dear, and that’s another reason why our early memories are dim, and perhaps it wasn’t a matter of Earth wiping them out, as Trevize thinks-”
“Yes, Bliss,” said Pelorat anxiously, “but what of the robots?”
“Well, as Gaia formed, the robots left. We did not want a Gaia that included robots, for we were, and are, convinced that a robotic component is, in the long run, harmful to a human society, whether Isolate in nature or Planetary. I don’t know how we came to that conclusion but it is possible that it is based on events dating back to a particularly early time in Galactic history, so that Gaia’s memory does not extend back to it.”
“If the robots left-”
“Yes, but what if some remained behind? What if I am one of them-fifteen thousand years old perhaps. Trevize suspects that.”
Pelorat shook his head slowly. “But you’re not.”
“Are you sure you believe that?”
“Of course I do. You’re not a robot.”
“How do you know?”
“Bliss, I know. There’s nothing artificial about you. If I don’t know that, no one does.”
“Isn’t it possible I may be so cleverly artificial that in every respect, from largest to smallest, I am indistinguishable from the natural. If I were, how could you tell the difference between me and a true human being?”
Pelorat said, “I don’t think it’s possible for you to be so cleverly artificial.”
“What if it were possible, despite what you think?”
“I just don’t believe it.”
“Then let’s just consider it is a hypothetical case. If I were an indistinguishable robot, how would you feel about it?”
“To be specific. How would you feel about making love to a robot?”
Pelorat snapped the thumb and mid-finger of his right hand, suddenly. “You know, there are legends of women falling in love with artificial men, and vice-versa. I always thought there was an allegorical significance to that and never imagined the tales could represent literal truth.-Of course, Golan and I never even heard the word ‘robot’ till we landed on Sayshell, but, now that I think of it, those artificial men and women must have been robots. Apparently, such robots did exist in early historic times. That means the legends should be reconsidered-”
He fell into silent thought, and, after Bliss had waited a moment, she suddenly clapped her hands sharply. Pelorat jumped.
“Pel dear,” said Bliss. “You’re using your mythography to escape the question. The question is: How would you feel about making love to a robot?”
He stared at her uneasily. “A truly undistinguishable one? One that you couldn’t tell from a human being?”
“It seems to me, then, that a robot that can in no way be distinguished from a human being is a human being. If you were such a robot, you would be nothing but a human being to me.”
“That’s what I wanted to hear you say, Pel.”
Pelorat waited, then said, “Well, then, now that you’ve heard me say it, dear, aren’t you going to tell me that you are a natural human being and that I don’t have to wrestle with hypothetical situations?”
“No. I will do no such thing. You’ve defined a natural human being as an object that has all the properties of a natural human being. If you are satisfied that I have all those properties, then that ends the discussion. We’ve got the operational definition and need no other. After all, how do I know that you’re not just a robot who happens to be indistinguishable from a human being?”
“Because I tell you that I am not.”
“Ah, but if you were a robot that was indistinguishable from a human being, you might be designed to tell me you were a natural human being, and you might even be programmed to believe it yourself. The operational definition is all we have, and all we can have.”
She put her arms about Pelorat’s neck and kissed him. The kiss grew more passionate, and prolonged itself until Pelorat managed to say, in somewhat muffled fashion, “But we promised Trevize not to embarrass him by converting this ship into a honeymooners’ haven.”
Bliss said coaxingly, “Let’s be carried away and not leave ourselves any time to think of promises.”
Pelorat, troubled, said, “But I can’t do that, dear. I know it must irritate you, Bliss, but I am constantly thinking and I am constitutionally averse to letting myself be carried away by emotion. It’s a lifelong habit, and probably very annoying to others. I’ve never lived with a woman who didn’t seem to object to it sooner or later. My first wife-but I suppose it would be inappropriate to discuss that-”
“Rather inappropriate, yes, but not fatally so. You’re not my first lover either.”
“Oh!” said Pelorat, rather at a loss, and then, aware of Bliss’s small smile, he said, “I mean, of course not. I wouldn’t expect myself to have been-Anyway, my first wife didn’t like it.”
“But I do. I find your endless plunging into thought attractive.”
“I can’t believe that, but I do have another thought. Robot or human, that doesn’t matter. We agree on that. However, I am an Isolate and you know it. I am not part of Gaia, and when we are intimate, you’re sharing emotions outside Gaia even when you let me participate in Gaia for a short period, and it may not be the same intensity of emotion then that you would experience if it were Gaia loving Gaia.”
Bliss said, “Loving you, Pel, has its own delight. I look no farther than that.”
“But it’s not just a matter of you loving me. You aren’t merely you. What if Gaia considers it a perversion?”
“If it did, I would know, for I am Gaia. And since I have delight in you, Gaia does. When we make love, all of Gaia shares the sensation to some degree or other. When I say I love you, that means Gaia loves you, although it is only the part that I am that is assigned the immediate role.-You seem confused.”
“Being an Isolate, Bliss, I don’t quite grasp it.”
“One can always form an analogy with the body of an Isolate. When you whistle a tune, your entire body, you as an organism, wishes to whistle the tune, but the immediate task of doing so is assigned to your lips, tongue, and lungs. Your right big toe does nothing.”
“It might tap to the tune.”
“But that is not necessary to the act of whistling. The tapping of the big toe is not the action itself but is a response to the action, and, to be sure, all parts of Gaia might well respond in some small way or other to my emotion, as I respond to theirs.”
Pelorat said, “I suppose there’s no use feeling embarrassed about this.”
“None at all.”
“But it does give me a queer sense of responsibility. When I try to make you happy, I find that I must be trying to make every last organism on Gaia happy.”
“Every last atom-but you do. You add to the sense of communal joy that I let you share briefly. I suppose your contribution is too small to be easily measurable, but it is there, and knowing it is there should increase your joy.”
Pelorat said, “I wish I could be sure that Golan is sufficiently busy with his maneuvering through hyperspace to remain in the pilot-room for quite a while.”
“You wish to honeymoon, do you?”
“Than get a sheet of paper, write ‘Honeymoon Haven’ on it, affix It to the outside of the door, and if he wants to enter, that’s his problem.”
Pelorat did so, and it was during the pleasurable proceedings that followed that the Far Star made the Jump. Neither Pelorat nor Bliss detected the action, nor would they have, had they been paying attention.
IT HAD BEEN ONLY a matter of a few months since Pelorat had met Trevize and had left Terminus for the first time. Until then, for the more than half century (Galactic Standard) of his life, he had been utterly planet-bound.
In his own mind, he had in those months become an old space dog. He had seen three planets from space: Terminus itself, Sayshell, and Gaia. And on the viewscreen, he now saw a fourth, albeit through a computer-controlled telescopic device. The fourth was Comporellon.
And again, for the fourth time, he was vaguely disappointed. Somehow, he continued to feel that looking down upon a habitable world from space meant seeing an outline of its continents against a surrounding sea; or, if it were a dry world, the outline of its lakes against a surrounding body of land.
It was never so.
If a world was habitable, it had an atmosphere as well as a hydrosphere. And if it had both air and water, it had clouds; and if it had clouds, it had an obscured view. Once again, then, Pelorat found himself looking down on white swirls with an occasional glimpse of pale blue or rusty brown.
He wondered gloomily if anyone could identify a world if a view of it from, say, three hundred thousand kilometers, were cast upon a screen. How does one tell one cloud swirl from another?
Bliss looked at Pelorat with some concern. “What is it, Pel? You seem to be unhappy.”
“I find that all planets look alike from space.”
Trevize said, “What of that, Janov? So does every shoreline on Terminus, when it is on the horizon, unless you know what you’re looking for, a particular mountain peak, or a particular offshore islet of characteristic shape.”
“I dare say,” said Pelorat, with clear dissatisfaction, “but what do you look for in a mass of shifting clouds? And even if you try, before you can decide, you’re likely to be moving into the dark side.
“Look a little more carefully, Janov. If you follow the shape of the clouds, you see that they tend to fall into a pattern that circles the planet and that moves about a center. That center is more or less at one of the poles.”
“Which one?” asked Bliss with interest.
“Since, relative to ourselves, the planet is rotating in clockwise fashion, we are looking down, by definition, upon the south pole. Since the center seems to be about fifteen degrees from the terminator-the planet’s line of shadow-and the planetary axis is tilted twenty-one degrees to the perpendicular of its plane of revolution, we’re either in mid-spring or mid-summer depending on whether the pole is moving away from the terminator or toward it. The computer can calculate its orbit and tell me in short order if I were to ask it. The capital is on the northern side of the equator so it is either in mid-fall or mid-winter.”
Pelorat frowned. “You can tell all that?” He looked at the cloud layer as though he thought it would, or should, speak to him now, but, of course, it didn’t.
“Not only that,” said Trevize, “but if you’ll look at the polar regions, you’ll see that there are no breaks in the cloud layer as there are away from the poles. Actually, there are breaks, but through the breaks you see ice, so it’s a matter of white on white.”
“Ah,” said Pelorat. “I suppose you expect that at the poles.”
“Of habitable planets, certainly. Lifeless planets might be airless or waterless, or might have certain stigmata showing that the clouds are not water a clouds, or that the ice is not water ice. This planet lacks those stigmata, so we know we are looking at water clouds and water ice.
“The next thing we notice is the size of the area of unbroken white on the day side of the terminator, and to the experienced eye it is at once seen larger than average. Furthermore, you can detect a certain orange glint, a quite faint one, to the reflected light, and that means Comporellon’s sun if rather cooler than Terminus’s sun. Although Comporellon is closer to its sun than Terminus is to hers, it is not sufficiently closer to make up for its star’s lower temperature. Therefore, Comporellon is a cold world as habitable worlds go.”
“You read it like a film, old chap,” said Pelorat admiringly.
“Don’t be too impressed,” said Trevize, smiling affectionately. “The computer has given me the applicable statistics of the world, including its slightly low average temperature. It is easy to deduce something you already know. In fact, Comporellon is at the edge of an ice age and would be having one, if the configuration of its continents were more suitable to such a condition.”
Bliss bit at her lower lip. “I don’t like a cold world.”
“We’ve got warm clothing,” said Trevize.
“That doesn’t matter. Human beings aren’t adapted to cold weather, really. We don’t have thick coats of hair or feathers, or a subcutaneous layer of blubber. For a world to have cold weather seems to indicate a certain indifference to the welfare of its own parts.”
Trevize said, “Is Gaia a uniformly mild world?”
“Most of it, yes. There are some cold areas for cold-adapted plants and animals, and some hot areas for heat-adapted plants and animals, but most parts are uniformly mild, never getting uncomfortably hot or uncomfortably cold, for those between, including human beings, of course.”
“Human beings, of course. All parts of Gaia are alive and equal in that respect, but some, like human beings, are obviously more equal than other,”
“Don’t be foolishly sarcastic,” said Bliss, with a trace of waspishness. “The level and intensity of consciousness and awareness are important. A human being is a more useful portion of Gaia than a rock of the same weight would be, and the properties and functions of Gaia as a whole are necessarily weighted in the direction of the human being, not as much so as on your Isolate worlds, however. What’s more, there are times when it is weighted in other directions, when that is needed for Gaia as a whole. It might even, at long intervals, be weighted in the direction of the rocky interior. That, too, demands attention or, in the lack of that attention all parts of Gaia might suffer. We wouldn’t want an unnecessary volcanic eruption, would we?”
“No,” said Trevize. “Not an unnecessary one.”
“You’re not impressed, are you?”
“Look,” said Trevize. “We have worlds that are colder than average and worlds that are warmer; worlds that are tropical forests to a large extent, and worlds that are vast savannahs. No two worlds are alike, and every one of them is home to those who are used to it. I am used to the relative mildness of Terminus, we’ve tamed it to an almost Gaian moderation, actually, but I like to get away, at least temporarily, to something different. What we have, Bliss, that Gaia doesn’t have, is variation. If Gaia expands into Galaxia, will every world in the Galaxy be forced into mildness? The sameness would be unbearable.”
Bliss said, “If that is so, and if variety seems desirable, variety will be maintained.”
“As a gift from the central committee, so to speak?” said Trevize dryly. “And as little of it as they can bear to part with? I’d rather leave it to nature.”
“But you haven’t left it to nature. Every habitable world in the Galaxy has been modified. Every single one was found in a state of nature that was uncomfortable for humanity, and every single one was modified until it was as mild as could be managed. If this world here is cold, I am certain that is because its inhabitants couldn’t warm it any further without unacceptable expense. And even so, the portions they actually inhabit we can be sure are artificially warmed into mildness. So don’t be so loftily virtuous about leaving it to nature.”
Trevize said, “You speak for Gaia, I suppose.”
“I always speak for Gaia. I am Gaia.”
“Then if Gaia is so certain of its own superiority, why did you require my decision? Why have you not gone ahead without me?”
Bliss paused, as though to collect her thoughts. She said, “Because it is not wise to trust one’s self overmuch. We naturally see our virtues with clearer eyes than we see our defects. We are anxious to do what is right; not necessarily what seems right to us, but what is right, objectively, if such a thing as objective right exists. You seem to be the nearest approach to objective right that we can find, so we are guided by you.”
“So objectively right,” said Trevize sadly, “that I don’t even understand my own decision and I seek its justification.”
“You’ll find it,” said Bliss.
“I hope so,” said Trevize.
“Actually, old chap,” said Pelorat, “it seems to me that this recent exchange was won rather handily by Bliss. Why don’t you recognize the fact that her arguments justify your decision that Gaia is the wave of the future for humanity?”
“Because,” said Trevize harshly, “I did not know those arguments at the time I made my decision. I knew none of these details about Gaia. Something else influenced me, at least unconsciously, something that doesn’t depend upon Gaian detail, but must be more fundamental. It is that which I most find out.”
Pelorat held up a placating hand. “Don’t be angry, Golan.”
“I’m not angry. I’m just under rather unbearable tension. I don’t want to be the focus of the Galaxy.”
Bliss said, “I don’t blame you for that, Trevize, and I’m truly sorry that your own makeup has somehow forced you into the post.-When will we be landing on Comporellon?”
“In three days,” said Trevize, “and only after we stop at one of the entry stations in orbit about it.”
Pelorat said, “There shouldn’t be any problem with that, should there?”
Trevize shrugged. “It depends on the number of ships approaching the world, the number of entry stations that exist, and, most of all, on the particular rules for permitting and refusing admittance. Such rules change from time to time.”
Pelorat said indignantly, “What do you mean refusing admittance? can they refuse admittance to citizens of the Foundation? Isn’t Comporellan part of the Foundation dominion?”
“Well, yes-and no. There’s a delicate matter of legalism about the point and I’m not sure how Comporellon interprets it. I suppose there’s a chance we’ll be refused admission, but I don’t think it’s a large chance.”
“And if we are refused, what do we do?”
“I’m not sure,” said Trevize. “Let’s wait and see what happens before we wear ourselves out making contingency plans.”
THEY WERE close enough to Comporellon now for it to appear as a substantial globe without telescopic enlargement. When such enlargement was added, however, the entry stations themselves could be seen. They were farther out than most of the orbiting structures about the planet and they were well lit.
Approaching as the Far Star was from the direction of the planet’s southern pole, half its globe was sunlit constantly. The entry stations on its night side were naturally more clearly seen as sparks of light. They were evenly spaced in an arc about the planet. Six of them were visible (plus six on the day side undoubtedly) and all were circling the planet at even and identical speeds.
Pelorat, a little awed at the sight, said, “There are other lights closer to the planet. What are they?”
Trevize said, “I don’t know the planet in detail so I can’t tell you. Some might be orbiting factories or laboratories or observatories, or even populated townships. Some planets prefer to keep all orbiting objects outwardly dark, except for the entry stations. Terminus does, for instance. Comporellon conducts itself on a more liberal principle, obviously.”
“Which entry station do we go to, Golan?”
“It depends on them. I’ve sent in my request to land on Comporellon and we’ll eventually get our directions as to which entry station to go to, and when. Much depends on how many incoming ships are trying to make entry at present. If there are a dozen ships lined up at each station, we will have no choice but to be patient.”
Bliss said, “I’ve only been at hyperspatial distances from Gaia twice before, and those were both when I was at or near Sayshell. I’ve never been at anything like this distance.”
Trevize looked at her sharply. “Does it matter? You’re still Gaia, aren’t you?”
For a moment, Bliss looked irritated, but then dissolved into what was almost an embarrassed titter. “I must admit you’ve caught me this time, Trevize. There is a double meaning in the word ‘Gaia.’ It can be used to refer to the physical planet as a solid globular object in space. It can also be used to refer to the living object that includes that globe. Properly speaking, we should use two different words for these two different concepts, but Gaians always know from the context what is being referred to. I admit that an Isolate might be puzzled at times.”
“Well, then,” said Trevize, “admitting that you are many thousands of parsecs from Gaia as globe, are you still part of Gaia as organism?”
“Referring to the organism, I am still Gaia.”
“Not in essence. I’m sure I’ve already told you there is some added complexity in remaining Gaia across hyperspace, but I remain Gaia.”
Trevize said, “Does it occur to you that Gaia may be viewed as a Galactic kraken-the tentacled monster of the legends-with its tentacles reaching everywhere. You have but to put a few Gaians on each of the populated worlds and you will virtually have Galaxia right there. In fact, you have probably done exactly that. Where are your Gaians located? I presume that one or more are on Terminus and one or more are on Trantor. How much farther does this go?”
Bliss looked distinctly uncomfortable. “I have said I won’t lie to you, Trevize, but that doesn’t mean I feel compelled to give you the whole truth. There are some things you have no need to know, and the position and identity of individual bits of Gaia are among them.”
“Do I need to know the reason for the existence of those tentacles, Bliss, even if I don’t know where they are?”
“It is the opinion of Gaia that you do not.”
“I presume, though, that I may guess. You believe you serve as the guardians of the Galaxy.”
“We are anxious to have a stable and secure Galaxy; a peaceful and prosperous one. The Seldon Plan, as originally worked out by Hari Seldon at least, is designed to develop a Second Galactic Empire, one that is more stable and more workable than the First was. The Plan, which has been continually modified and improved by the Second Foundation, has appeared to be working well so far.”
“But Gaia doesn’t want a Second Galactic Empire in the classic sense, does it? You want Galaxia-a living Galaxy.”
“Since you permit it, we hope, in time, to have Galaxia. If you had not permitted it, we would have striven for Seldon’s Second Empire and made it as secure as we could.”
“But what is wrong with-”
His ear caught the soft, burring signal. Trevize said, “The computer is signaling me. I suppose it is receiving directions concerning the entry station. I’ll be back.”
He stepped into the pilot-room and placed his hands on those marked out on the desk top and found that there were directions for the specific entry station he was to approach-its coordinates with reference to the line from Comporellon’s center to its north pole the prescribed route of approach.
Trevize signaled his acceptance, and then sat back for a moment.
The Seldon Plan! He had not thought of it for quite a time. The First Galactic Empire had crumbled and for five hundred years the Foundation had grown, first in competition with that Empire, and then upon its ruins-all in accordance with the Plan.
There had been the interruption of the Mule, which, for a time, had threatened to shiver the Plan into fragments, but the Foundation had pulled through-probably with the help of the ever-hidden Second Foundation-possibly with the help of the even better-hidden Gaia.
Now the Plan was threatened by something more serious than the Mule had ever been. It was to be diverted from a renewal of Empire to something utterly different from anything in history-Galaxia. And he himself had agreed to that.
But why? Was there a flaw in the Plan? A basic flaw?
For one flashing moment, it seemed to Trevize that this flaw did indeed exist and that he knew what it was, that he had known what it was when he made his decision-but the knowledge . . . if that were what it was . . . vanished as fast as it came, and it left him with nothing.
Perhaps it was all only an illusion; both when he had made his decision, and now. After all, he knew nothing about the Plan beyond the basic assumptions that validated psychohistory. Apart from that, he knew no detail, and certainly not a single scrap of its mathematics.
He closed his eyes and thought-
There was nothing.
Might it be the added power he received from the computer? He placed his hands on the desk top and felt the warmth of the computer’s hands embracing them. He closed his eyes and once more he thought-
There was still nothing.
THE COMPORELLIAN who boarded the ship wore a holographic identity card. It displayed his chubby, lightly bearded face with remarkable fidelity, and underneath it was his name, A. Kendray.
He was rather short, and his body was as softly rounded as his face was. He had a fresh and easygoing look and manner, and he stared about the ship with clear amazement.
He said, “How did you get down this fast? We weren’t expecting you for two hours.”
“It’s a new-model ship,” said Trevize, with noncommittal politeness.
Kendray was not quite the young innocent he looked, however. He stepped into the pilot-room and said at once, “Gravitic?”
Trevize saw no point in denying anything that was apparently that obvious. He said tonelessly, “Yes.”
“Very interesting. You hear of them, but you never see them somehow. Motors in the hull?”
Kendray looked at the computer. “Computer circuits, likewise?”
“That’s so. Anyway, I’m told so. I’ve never looked.”
“Oh well. What I need is the ship’s documentation; engine number, place of manufacture, identification code, the whole patty-cake. It’s all in the computer, I’m sure, and it can probably turn out the formal card I need in half a second.”
It took very little more than that. Kendray looked about again. “You three all the people on board?”
Trevize said, “That’s right.”
“Any live animals? Plants? State of health?”
“No. No. And good,” said Trevize crisply.
“Um!” said Kendray, making notes. “Could you put your hand in here? Just routine.-Right hand, please.”
Trevize looked at the device without favor. It was being used more and more commonly, and was growing quickly more elaborate. You could almost tell the backwardness of a world at a glance by the backwardness of its microdetector. There were now few worlds, however backward, that didn’t have one at all. The start had come with the final breakup of the Empire, as each fragment of the whole grew increasingly anxious to protect itself from the diseases and alien microorganisms of all the others.
“What is that?” asked Bliss, in a low and interested voice, craning her head to see it first on one side, then the other.
Pelorat said, “A microdetector, I believe they call it.”
Trevize added, “It’s nothing mysterious. It’s a device that automatically checks a portion of your body, inside and out, for any microorganism capable of transmitting disease.”
“This will classify the microorganisms, too,” said Kendray, with rather more than a hint of pride. “It’s been worked out right here on Comporellon.-And if you don’t mind, I still want your right hand.”
Trevize inserted his right hand, and watched as a series of small red markings danced along a set of horizontal lines. Kendray touched a contact and a facsimile in color appeared at once. “If you’ll sign that, sir,” he said.
Trevize did so. “How badly off am I?” he asked. “I’m not in any great danger, am I?”
Kendray said, “I’m not a physician, so I can’t say in detail, but it shows none of the marks that would require you to be turned away or to be put in quarantine. That’s all I’m interested in.”
“What a lucky break for me,” said Trevize dryly, shaking his hand to rid himself of the slight tingle he felt.
“You, sir,” said Kendray.
Pelorat inserted his hand with a certain hesitancy, then signed the facsimile.
“And you, ma’am?”
A few moments later, Kendray was staring at the result, saying, “I never saw anything like this before.” He looked up at Bliss with an expression of awe. “You’re negative. Altogether.”‘
Bliss smiled engagingly. “How nice.”
“Yes, ma’am. I envy you.” He looked back at the first facsimile, and said, “Your identification, Mr. Trevize.”
Trevize presented it. Kendray, glancing at it, again looked up in surprise. “Councilman of the Terminus Legislature?”
“High official of the Foundation?”
Trevize said coolly, “Exactly right. So let’s get through with this quickly, shall we?”
“You’re captain of the ship?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Purpose of visit?”
“Foundation security, and that’s all the answer I’m going to give you. Do you understand that?”
“Yes, sir. How long do you intend to stay?”
“I don’t know. Perhaps a week.”
“Very well, sir. And this other gentleman?”
“He is Dr. Janov Pelorat,” said Trevize. “You have his signature there and I vouch for him. He is a scholar of Terminus and he is my assistant in this business of my visit.”
“I understand, sir, but I must see his identification. Rules are rules, I’m afraid. I hope you understand, sir.”
Pelorat presented his papers.
Kendray nodded. “And you, miss?”
Trevize said quietly, “No need to bother the lady. I vouch for her, too.”
“Yes, sir. But I need the identification.”
Bliss said, “I’m afraid I don’t have any papers, sir.”
Kendray frowned. “I beg your pardon.”
Trevize said, “The young lady didn’t bring any with her. An oversight. It’s perfectly all right. I’ll take full responsibility.”
Kendray said, “I wish I could let you do that, but I’m not allowed. The responsibility is mine. Under the circumstances, it’s not terribly important. There should be no difficulty getting duplicates. The young woman, I presume, is from Terminus.”
“No, she’s not.”
“From somewhere in Foundation territory, then?”
“As a matter of fact, she isn’t.”
Kendray looked at Bliss keenly, then at Trevize. “That’s a complication, Councilman. It may take additional time to obtain a duplicate from some non-Foundation world. Since you’re not a Foundation citizen, Miss Bliss, I must have the name of your world of birth and of the world of which you’re a citizen. You will then have to wait for duplicate papers to arrive.”
Trevize said, “See here, Mr. Kendray. I see no reason why there need be any delay whatever. I am a high official of the Foundation government and I am here on a mission of great importance. I must not be delayed by a matter of trivial paperwork.”
“The choice isn’t mine, Councilman. If it were up to me, I’d let you down to Comporellon right now, but I have a thick book of rules that guides my every action. I’ve got to go by the book or I get it thrown at me.-Of course, I presume there must be some Comporellian government figure who’s waiting for you. If you’ll tell me who it is, I will contact him, and if he orders me to let you through, then that’s it.”
Trevize hesitated a moment. “That would not be politic, Mr. Kendray. May I speak with your immediate superior?”
“You certainly may, but you can’t just see him off-hand-”
“I’m sure he will come at once when he understands he’s speaking to a Foundation official-”
“Actually,” said Kendray, “just between us, that would make matters worse. We’re not part of the Foundation metropolitan territory, you know. We come under the heading of an Associated Power, and we take it seriously. The people are anxious not to appear to be Foundation puppets-I’m using the popular expression only, you understand-and they bend backward to demonstrate independence. My superior would expect to get extra points if he resists doing a special favor for a Foundation official.”
Trevize’s expression darkened. “And you, too?”
Kendray shook his head. “I’m below politics, sir. No one gives me extra points for anything. I’m just lucky if they pay my salary. And though I don’t get extra points, I can get demerits, and quite easily, too. I wish that were not so.”
“Considering my position, you know, I can take care of you.”
“No, sir. I’m sorry if that sounds impertinent, but I don’t think you can.-And, sir, it’s embarrassing to say this, but please don’t offer me anything valuable. They make examples of officials who accept such things and they’re pretty good at digging them out, these days.”
“I wasn’t thinking of bribing you. I’m only thinking of what the Mayor of Terminus can do to you if you interfere with my mission.”
“Councilman, I’ll be perfectly safe as long as I can hide behind the rulebook. If the members of the Comporellian Presidium get some sort of Foundation discipline, that is their concern, and not mine.-But if it will help, sir, I can let you and Dr. Pelorat through on your ship. If you’ll leave Miss Bliss behind at the entry station, we’ll hold her for a time and send her down to the surface as soon as her duplicate papers come through. If her papers should not be obtainable, for any reason, we will send her back to her world on commercial transportation. I’m afraid, though, that someone will have to pay her fare, in that ease.”
Trevize caught Pelorat’s expression at that, and said, “Mr. Kendray, may I speak to you privately in the pilot-room?”
“Very well, but I can’t remain on board very much longer, or I’ll be questioned.”
“This won’t take long,” said Trevize.
In the pilot-room, Trevize made a show of closing the door tightly, then said, in a low voice, “I’ve been many places, Mr. Kendray, but I’ve never been anyplace where there has been such harsh emphasis on the minutiae of the rules of immigration, particularly for Foundation people and Foundation officials “
“But the young woman is not from the Foundation.”
Kendray said, “These things go in rhythms. We’ve had some scandals and, right now, things are tough. If you’ll come back next year, you might not have any trouble at all, but right now, I can do nothing.”
“Try, Mr. Kendray,” said Trevize, his voice growing mellow. “I’m going to throw myself on your mercy and appeal to you, man to man. Pelorat and I have been on this mission for quite a while. He and I. Just he and I. We’re good friends, but there’s something lonely about it, if you get me. Some time ago, Pelorat found this little lady. I don’t have to tell you what happened, but we decided to bring her along. It keeps us healthy to make use of her now and then.
“Now the thing is Pelorat’s got a relationship back on Terminus. I’m clear, you understand, but Pelorat is an older man and he’s got to the age when they get a little-desperate. They need their youth back, or something. He can’t give her up. At the same time, if she’s even mentioned, officially, there’s going to be misery galore on Terminus for old Pelorat when he gets back.
“There’s no harm being done, you understand. Miss Bliss, as she calls herself-a good name considering her profession-is not exactly a bright kid; that’s not what we want her for. Do you have to mention her at all? Can’t you just list me and Pelorat on the ship? Only we were originally listed when we left Terminus. There need be no official notice of the woman. After all, she’s absolutely free of disease. You noted that yourself.”
Kendray made a face. “I don’t really want to inconvenience you. I understand the situation and, believe me, I sympathize. Listen, if you think holding down a shift on this station for months at a time is any fun, think again. And it isn’t co-educational, either; not on Comporellon.” He shook his head. “And I have a wife, too, so I understand.-But, look, even if I let you through, as soon as they find out that the-uh-lady is without papers, she’s in prison, you and Mr. Pelorat are in the kind of trouble that will get back to Terminus. And I myself will surely be out of a job.”
“Mr. Kendray,” said Trevize, “trust me in this. Once I’m on Comporellon, I’ll be safe. I can talk about my mission to some of the right people and, when that’s done, there’ll be no further trouble. I’ll take full responsibility for what has happened here, if it ever comes up-which I doubt. What’s more, I will recommend your promotion, and you will get it, because I’ll see to it that Terminus leans all over anyone who hesitates.-And we can give Pelorat a break.”
Kendray hesitated, then said, “All right. I’ll let you through-but take a word of warning. I start from this minute figuring out a way to save my butt if the matter comes up. I don’t intend to do one thing to save yours. What’s more I know how these things work on Comporellon and you don’t, and Comporellon isn’t an easy world for people who step out of line.”
“Thank you, Mr. Kendray,” said Trevize. “There’ll be no trouble. I assure you of that.”