6. The Nature of Earth




      TREVIZE felt almost drugged, and wondered how much time had elapsed.

            Beside him lay Mitza Lizalor, Minister of Transportation. She was on her stomach, head to one side, mouth open, snoring distinctly. Trevize was relieved that she was asleep. Once she woke up, he hoped she would be quite aware that she had been asleep.

            Trevize longed to sleep himself, but he felt it important that he not do so. She must not wake to find him asleep. She must realize that while she had been ground down to unconsciousness, he had endured. She would expect such endurance from a Foundation-reared immoralist and, at this point, it was better she not be disappointed.

            In a way, he had done well. He had guessed, correctly, that Lizalor, given her physical size and strength, her political power, her contempt for the Comporellian men she had encountered, her mingled horror and fascination with tales (what had she heard? Trevize wondered) of the sexual feats of the decadents of Terminus, would want to be dominated. She might even expect to be, without being able to express her desire and expectation.

            He had acted on that belief and, to his good fortune, found he was correct. (Trevize, the ever-right, he mocked himself.) It pleased the woman and it enabled Trevize to steer activities in a direction that would tend to wear her out while leaving himself relatively untouched.

            It had not been easy. She had a marvelous body (forty-six, she had said, but it would not have shamed a twenty-five-year-old athlete) and enormous stamina-a stamina exceeded only by the careless zest with which she had spent it.

            Indeed, if she could be tamed and taught moderation; if practice (but could he himself survive the practice?) brought her to a better sense of her own capacities, and, even more important, his, it might be pleasant to-

            The snoring stopped suddenly and she stirred. He placed his hand on the shoulder nearest him and stroked it lightly-and her eyes opened. Trevize was leaning on his elbow, and did his best to look unworn and full of life.

            “I’m glad you were sleeping, dear,” he said. “You needed your rest.”

            She smiled at him sleepily and, for one queasy moment, Trevize thought she might suggest renewed activity, but she merely heaved herself about till she was resting on her back. She said, in a soft and satisfied voice, “I had you judged correctly from the start. You are a king of sexuality.”

            Trevize tried to look modest. “I must be more moderate.”

            “Nonsense. You were just right. I was afraid that you had been kept active and drained by that young woman, but you assured me you had not. That it true, isn’t it?”

            “Have I acted like someone who was half-sated to begin with?”

            “No, you did not,” and her laughter boomed.

            “Are you still thinking of Psychic Probes?”

            She laughed again. “Are you mad? Would I want to lose you now?”

            “Yet it would be better if you lost me temporarily-”

            “What!” She frowned.

            “If I were to stay here permanently, my-my dear, how long would it be before eyes would begin to watch, and mouths would begin to whisper? It I went off on my mission, however, I would naturally return periodically to, report, and it would then be only natural that we should be closeted together for a while-and my mission is important.”

            She thought about that, scratching idly at her right hip. Then she said, “I suppose you’re right. I hate the thought but-I suppose you’re right.”

            “And you need not think I would not come back,” said Trevize. “I am not so witless as to forget what I would have waiting for me here.”

            She smiled at him, touched his cheek gently, and said, looking into his eyes, “Did you find it pleasant, love?”

            “Much more than pleasant, dear.”

            “Yet you are a Foundationer. A man in the prime of youth from Terminus itself. You must be accustomed to all sorts of women with all soul skills-”

            “I have encountered nothing-nothing-in the least like you,” said Trevize, with a forcefulness that came easily to someone who was but telling the truth, after all.

            Lizalor said complacently, “Well, if you say so. Still, old habits die hard, you know, and I don’t think I could bring myself to trust a man’s word without some sort of surety. You and your friend, Pelorat, might conceivably go on this mission of yours once I hear about it and approve, but I will keep the young woman here. She will be well treated, never fear, but I presume your Dr. Pelorat will want her, and he will see to it that there are frequent returns to Comporellon, even if your enthusiasm for this mission you to stay away too long.”

            “But, Lizalor, that’s impossible.”

            “Indeed?” Suspicion at once seeped into her eyes. “Why impossible? For what purpose would you need the woman?”

            “Not for sex. I told you that, and I told you truthfully. She is Pelorat’s and I have no interest in her. Besides, I’m sure she’d break in two if she attempted what you so triumphantly carried through.”

            Lizalor almost smiled, but repressed it and said severely, “What is it to you, then, if she remains on Comporellon?”

            “Because she is of essential importance to our mission. That is why we must have her.”

            “Well, then, what is your mission? It is time you told me.”

            Trevize hesitated very briefly. It would have to be the truth. He could think of no lie as effective.

            “Listen to me,” he said. “Comporellon may be an old world, even among the oldest, but it can’t be the oldest. Human life did not originate here. The earliest human beings reached here from some other world, and perhaps human life didn’t originate there either, but came from still another and still older world. Eventually, though, those probings back into time must stop, and we must reach the first world, the world of human origins. I am seeking Earth.”

            The change that suddenly came over Mitza Lizalor staggered him.

            Her eyes had widened, her breathing took on a sudden urgency, and every muscle seemed to stiffen as she lay there in bed. Her arms shot upward rigidly, and the first two fingers of both hands crossed.

            “You named it,” she whispered hoarsely.




            SHE DIDN’T say anything after that; she didn’t look at him. Her arms slowly came down, her legs swung over the side of the bed, and she sat up, back to him. Trevize lay where he was, frozen.

            He could hear, in memory, the words of Munn Li Compor, as they stood there in the empty tourist center at Sayshell. He could hear him saying of his own ancestral planet-the one that Trevize was on now-”They’re superstitious about it. Every time they mention the word, they lift up both hands with first and second fingers crossed to ward off misfortune.”

            How useless to remember after the fact.

            “What should I have said, Mitza?” he muttered.

            She shook her head slightly, stood up, stalked toward and then through a door. It closed behind her and, after a moment, there was the sound of water running.

            He had no recourse but to wait, bare, undignified, wondering whether to join her in the shower, and then quite certain he had better not. And because, in a way, he felt the shower denied him, he at once experienced a growing need for one.

            She emerged at last and silently began to select clothing.

            He said, “Do you mind if I-”

            She said nothing, and he took silence for consent. He tried to stride into the room in a strong and masculine way but he felt uncommonly as he had in those days when his mother, offended by some misbehavior on his part, offered him no punishment but silence, causing him to shrivel in discomfort.

            He looked about inside the smoothly walled cubicle that was bare-completely bare. He looked more minutely.-There was nothing.

            He opened the door again, thrust his head out, and said, “Listen, how are you supposed to start the shower?”

            She put down the deodorant (at least, Trevize guessed that was its function), strode to the shower-room and, still without looking at him, pointed. Trevize followed the finger and noted a spot on the wall that was round and faintly pink, barely colored, as though the designer resented having to spoil the starkness of the white, for no reason more important than to give a hint of function.

            Trevize shrugged lightly, leaned toward the wall, and touched the spot. Presumably that was what one had to do, for in a moment a deluge of fine-sprayed water struck him from every direction. Gasping, he touched the spot again and it stopped.

            He opened the door, knowing he looked several degrees more undignified still as he shivered hard enough to make it difficult to articulate words. He croaked, “How do you get hot water?”

            Now she looked at him and, apparently, his appearance overcame her anger (or fear, or whatever emotion was victimizing her) for she snickered and then, without warning, boomed her laughter at him.

            “What hot water?” she said. “Do you think we’re going to waste the energy to heat water for washing? That’s good mild water you had, water with the chill taken off. What more do you want? You sludge-soft Terminians!-Get back in there and wash!”

            Trevize hesitated, but not for long, since it was clear he had no choice in the matter.

            With remarkable reluctance he touched the pink spot again and this time steeled his body for the icy spray. Mild water? He found suds forming on his body and he rubbed hastily here, there, everywhere, judging it to be the wash cycle and suspecting it would not last long.

            Then came the rinse cycle. Ah, warm-Well, perhaps not warm, but not quite as cold, and definitely feeling warm to his thoroughly chilled body. Then, even as he was considering touching the contact spot again to stop the water, and was wondering how Lizalor had come out dry when there was absolutely no towel or towel-substitute in the place-the water stopped. It was followed by a blast of air that would have certainly bowled him over if it had not come from various directions equally.

            It was hot; almost too hot. It took far less energy, Trevize knew, to heat air than to heat water. The hot air steamed the water off him and, in a few minutes, he was able to step out as dry as though he had never encountered water in his life.

            Lizalor seemed to have recovered completely. “Do you feel well?”

            “Pretty well,” said Trevize. Actually, he felt astonishingly comfortable. “All I had to do was prepare myself for the temperature. You didn’t tell me-”

            “Sludge-soft,” said Lizalor, with mild contempt.

            He borrowed her deodorant, then began to dress, conscious of the fact that she had fresh underwear and he did not. He said, “What should I have called-that world?”

            She said, “We refer to it as the Oldest.”

            He said, “How was I to know the name I used was forbidden? Did you tell me?”

            “Did you ask?”

            “How was I to know to ask?”

            “You know now.”

            “I’m bound to forget.”

            “You had better not.”

            “What’s the difference?” Trevize felt his temper rising. “It’s just a word, a sound.”

            Lizalor said darkly, “There are words one doesn’t say. Do you say every word you know under all circumstances?”

            “Some words are vulgar, some are inappropriate, some under particular circumstances would be hurtful. Which is-that word I used?”

            Lizalor said, “It’s a sad word, a solemn word. It represents a world that was ancestor to us all and that now doesn’t exist. It’s tragic, and we feel it because it was near to us. We prefer not to speak of it or, if we must, not to use its name.”

            “And the crossing of fingers at me? How does that relieve the hurt and sadness?”

            Lizalor’s face flushed. “That was an automatic reaction, and I don’t thank you for forcing it on me. There are people who believe that the word, even the thought, brings on misfortune-and that is how they ward it off.”

            “Do you, too, believe crossing fingers wards off misfortune?”

            “No.-Well, yes, in a way. It makes me uneasy if I don’t do it.” She didn’t look at him. Then, as though eager to shift the subject, she said quickly, “And how is that black-haired woman of yours of the essence with respect to your mission to reach-that world you mentioned.”

            “Say ‘the Oldest.’ Or would you rather not even say that?”

            “I would rather not discuss it at all, but I asked you a question.”

            “I believe that her people reached their present world as emigrants from the Oldest.”

            “As we did,” said Lizalor proudly.

            “But her people have traditions of some sort which she says are the key to understanding the Oldest, but only if we reach it and can study its records.”

            “She is lying.”

            “Perhaps, but we must check it out.”

            “If you have this woman with her problematical knowledge, and if you want to reach the Oldest with her, why did you come to Comporellon?”

            “To find the location of the Oldest. I had a friend once, who, like myself, was a Foundationer. He, however, was descended from Comporellian ancestors and he assured me that much of the history of the Oldest was well known, on Comporellon.”

            “Did he indeed? And did he tell you any of its history?”

            “Yes,” said Trevize, reaching for the truth again. “He said that the Oldest was a dead world, entirely radioactive. He did not know why, but he thought that it might be the result of nuclear explosions. In a war, perhaps.”

            “No!” said Lizalor explosively.

            “No, there was no war? Or no, the Oldest is not radioactive?”

            “It is radioactive, but there was no war.”

            “Then how did it become radioactive? It could not have been radioactive to begin with since human life began on the Oldest. There would have been n0 life on it ever.”

            Lizalor seemed to hesitate. She stood erect, and was breathing deeply, ‘ almost gasping. She said, “It was a punishment. It was a world that used robots. Do you know what robots are?”


            “They had robots and for that they were punished. Every world that has had robots has been punished and no longer exists.”

            “Who punished them, Lizalor?”

            “He Who Punishes. The forces of history. I don’t know.” She looked away from him, uncomfortable, then said, in a lower voice, “Ask others.”

            “I would like to, but whom do I ask? Are there those on Comporellon who have studied primeval history?”

            “There are. They are not popular with us-with the average Comporellian-but the Foundation, your Foundation, insists on intellectual freedom, 11 they call it.”

            “Not a bad insistence, in my opinion,” said Trevize.

            “All is bad that is imposed from without,” said Lizalor.

            Trevize shrugged. There was no purpose in arguing the matter. He Bald, x My friend, Dr. Pelorat, is himself a primeval historian of a sort. He would, I’m sure, like to meet his Comporellian colleagues. Can you arrange that, Lizalor?”

            She nodded. “There is a historian named Vasil Deniador, who is based at the University here in the city. He does not teach class, but he may be able to tell you what you want to know.”

            “Why doesn’t he teach class?”

            “It’s not that he is forbidden; it’s just that students do not elect his course.”

            “I presume,” said Trevize, trying not to say it sardonically, “that the students are encouraged not to elect it.”

            “Why should they want to? He is a Skeptic. We have them, you know. There are always individuals who pit their minds against the general modes of thought and who are arrogant enough to feel that they alone are right and that the many are wrong.”

            “Might it not be that that could actually be so in some cases?”

            “Never!” snapped Lizalor, with a firmness of belief that made it quite clear that no further discussion in that direction would be of any use. “And for all his Skepticism, he will be forced to tell you exactly what any Comporellian would tell you.”

            “And that is?”

            “That if you search for the Oldest, you will not find it.”




            IN THE PRIVATE quarters assigned them, Pelorat listened to Trevize thoughtfully, his long solemn face expressionless, then said, “Vasil Deniador? I do not recall having heard of him, but it may be that back on the ship I will find papers by him in my library.”

            “Are you sure you haven’t heard of him? Think!” said Trevize.

            “I don’t recall, at the moment, having heard of him,” said Pelorat cautiously, “but after all, my dear chap, there must be hundreds of estimable scholars I haven’t heard of; or have, but can’t remember.”

            “Still, he can’t be first-class, or you would have heard of him.”

            “The study of Earth-”

            “Practice saying ‘the Oldest,’ Janov. It would complicate matters otherwise.”

            “The study of the Oldest,” said Pelorat, “is not a well-rewarded niche in the corridors of learning, so that first-class scholars, even in the field of primeval history, would not tend to find their way there. Or, if we put it the other way around, those who are already there do not make enough of a name for themselves in an uninterested world to be considered first-class, even if they were.-I am not first-class in anyone’s estimation, I am sure.”

            Bliss said tenderly, “In mine, Pel.”

            “Yes, certainly in yours, my dear,” said Pelorat, smiling slightly, “but you are not judging me in my capacity as scholar.”

            It was almost night now, going by the clock, and Trevize felt himself grow slightly impatient, as he always did when Bliss and Pelorat traded endearments.

            He said, “I’ll try to arrange our seeing this Deniador tomorrow, but if he knows as little about the matter as the Minister does, we’re not going to be much better off than we are now.”

            Pelorat said, “He may be able to lead us to someone more useful.”

            “I doubt it. This world’s attitude toward Earth-but I had better practice speaking of it elliptically, too. This world’s attitude toward the Oldest is a foolish and superstitious one.” He turned away. “But it’s been a rough day and we ought to think of an evening meal-if we can face their uninspired cookery-and then begin thinking of getting some sleep. Have you two learned how to use the shower?”

            “My dear fellow,” said Pelorat, “we have been very kindly treated. We’ve received all sorts of instructions, most of which we didn’t need.”

            Bliss said, “Listen, Trevize. What about the ship?”

            “What about it?”

            “Is the Comporellian government confiscating it?”

            “No. I don’t think they will.”

            “Ah. Very pleasant. Why aren’t they?”

            “Because I persuaded the Minister to change her mind.”

            Pelorat said, “Astonishing. She didn’t seem a particularly persuadable individual to me.”

            Bliss said, “I don’t know. It was clear from the texture of her mind that 1b1 was attracted to Trevize.”

            Trevize looked at Bliss with sudden exasperation. “Did you do that, Bliss?”,

            “What do you mean, Trevize?”

            “I mean tamper with her-”

            “I didn’t tamper. However, when I noted that she was attracted to you,  I couldn’t resist just snapping an inhibition or two. It was a very small thing to do. Those inhibitions might have snapped anyway, and it seemed to be important to make certain that she was filled with good will toward you.”

            “Good will? It was more than that! She softened, yes, but post-coitally.” Pelorat said, “Surely you don’t mean, old man-”

            “Why not?” said Trevize testily. “She may be past her first youth, but she knew the art well. She was no beginner, I assure you. Nor will I play the gentleman and lie on her behalf. It was her idea-thanks to Bliss’s fiddling with her inhibitions-and I was not in a position to refuse, even if that thought had occurred to me, which it didn’t.-Come, Janov, don’t stand there looking puritanical. It’s been months since I’ve had an opportunity. You’ve-” And he waved his hand vaguely in Bliss’s direction.

            “Believe me, Golan,” said Pelorat, embarrassed, “if you are interpreting my expression as puritanical, you mistake me. I have no objection.”

            Bliss said, “But she is puritanical. I meant to make her warm toward you; I did not count on a sexual paroxysm.”

            Trevize said, “But that is exactly what you brought on, my little interfering Bliss. It may be necessary for the Minister to play the puritan in public, but if so, that seems merely to stoke the fires.”

            “And so, provided you scratch the itch, she will betray the Foundation-”

            “She would have done that in any case,” said Trevize. “She wanted the ship-” He broke off, and said in a whisper, “Are we being overheard?”

            Bliss said, “No!”

            “Are you sure?”

            “It is certain. It is impossible to impinge upon the mind of Gaia in any unauthorized fashion without Gaia being aware of it.”

            “In that case, Comporellon wants the ship for itself-a valuable addition to its fleet.”

            “Surely, the Foundation would not allow that.”

            “Comporellon does not intend to have the Foundation know.”

            Bliss sighed. “There are your Isolates. The Minister intends to betray the Foundation on behalf of Comporellon and, in return for sex, will promptly betray Comporellon, too.-And as for Trevize, he will gladly sell his body’s services as a way of inducing the betrayal. What anarchy there is in this Galaxy of yours. What chaos.”

            Trevize said coldly, “You are wrong, young woman-”

            “In what I have just said, I am not a young woman, I am Gaia. I am all of Gaia.”

            “Then you are wrong, Gaia I did not sell my body’s services. I gave them gladly. I enjoyed it and did no one harm. As for the consequences, they turned out well from my standpoint and I accept that. And if Comporellon wants the ship for its own purposes, who is to say who is right in this matter? It is a Foundation ship, but it was given to me to search for Earth. It is mine then until I complete the search and I feel that the Foundation has no right to go back on its agreement. As for Comporellon, it does not enjoy Foundation domination, so it dreams of independence. In its own eyes, it is correct to do so and to deceive the Foundation, for that is not an act of treason to them but an act of patriotism. Who knows?”

            “Exactly. Who knows? In a Galaxy of anarchy, how is it possible to sort out reasonable actions from unreasonable ones? How decide between right and wrong, good and evil, justice and crime, useful and useless? And how do you explain the Minister’s betrayal of her own government, when she lets you keep the ship? Does she long for personal independence from an oppressive world? Is she a traitor or a personal one-woman self-patriot?”

            “To be truthful,” said Trevize, “I don’t know that she was willing to let me have my ship simply because she was grateful to me for the pleasure I gave: her. I believe she made that decision only when I told her I was searching for the Oldest. It is a world of ill-omen to her and we and the ship that carries u1, by searching for it, have become ill-omened, too. It is my feeling that she feet/ she incurred the ill-omen for herself and her world by attempting to take the ship, which she may, by now, be viewing with horror. Perhaps she feels that by allowing us and our ship to leave and go about our business, she is averting   the misfortune from Comporellon and is, in that way, performing a patriotic act.”

            “If that were so, which I doubt, Trevize, superstition is the spring of the action. Do you admire that?”

            “I neither admire nor condemn. Superstition always directs action in the absence of knowledge. The Foundation believes in the Seldon Plan, though no one in our realm can understand it, interpret its details, or use it to predict. We follow blindly out of ignorance and faith, and isn’t that superstition?”

            “Yes, it might be.”

            “And Gaia, too. You believe I have given the correct decision in judging that Gaia should absorb the Galaxy into one large organism, but you do not know why I should be right, or how safe it would be for you to follow that . decision. You are willing to go along only out of ignorance and faith, and are even annoyed with me for trying to find evidence that will remove the ignorance and make mere faith unnecessary. Isn’t that superstition?”

            “I think he has you there, Bliss,” said Pelorat.

            Bliss said, “Not so. He will either find nothing at all in this search, or he will find something that confirms his decision.”

            Trevize said, “And to back up that belief, you have only ignorance and faith. In other words, superstition!”




            VASIL DENIADOR was a small man, little of feature, with a way of looking up by raising his eyes without raising his head. This, combined with the brief smiles that periodically lit his face, gave him the appearance of laughing silently at the world.

            His office was long and narrow, filled with tapes that seemed to be in wild disorder, not because there was any definite evidence for that, but because they were not evenly placed in their recesses so that they gave the shelves a snaggle-toothed appearance. The three seats he indicated for his visitors were not matched and showed signs of having been recently, and imperfectly, dusted.

            He said, “Janov Pelorat, Golan Trevize, and Bliss.-I do not have your second name, madam.”

            “Bliss,” she said, “is all I am usually called,” and sat down.

            “It is enough after all,” said Deniador, twinkling at her. “You are attractive enough to be forgiven if you had no name at all.”

            All were sitting now. Deniador said, “I have heard of you, Dr. Pelorat, though we have never corresponded. You are a Foundationer, are you not? From Terminus?”

            “Yes, Dr. Deniador.”

            “And you, Councilman Trevize. I seem to have heard that recently you were expelled from the Council and exiled. I don’t think I have ever understood why.”

            “Not expelled, sir. I am still a member of the Council although I don’t know when I will take up my duties again. Nor exiled, quite. I was assigned a mission, concerning which we wish to consult you.”

            “Happy to try to help,” said Deniador. “And the blissful lady? Is she from Terminus, too.”

            Trevize interposed quickly. “She is from elsewhere, Doctor.”

            “Ah, a strange world, this Elsewhere. A most unusual collection of human beings are native to it.-But since two of you are from the Foundation’s capital at Terminus, and the third is an attractive young woman, and Mitza Lizalor is not known for her affection for either category, how is it that she recommends you to my care so warmly?”

            “I think,” said Trevize, “to get rid of us. The sooner you help us, you see, the sooner we will leave Comporellon.”

            Deniador eyed Trevize with interest (again the twinkling smile) and said, “Of course, a vigorous young man such as yourself might attract her whatever his origin. She plays the role of cold vestal well, but not perfectly.”

            “I know nothing about that,” said Trevize stiffly.

            “And you had better not. In public, at least. But I am a Skeptic and I am professionally unattuned to believing in surfaces. So come, Councilman, what is your mission? Let me find out if I can help you.”

            Trevize said, “In this, Dr. Pelorat is our spokesman.”

            “I have no objection to that,” said Deniador. “Dr. Pelorat?”

            Pelorat said, “To put it at the simplest, dear Doctor, I have all my mature life attempted to penetrate to the basic core of knowledge concerning the world on which the human species originated, and I was sent out along with my good friend, Golan Trevize-although, to be sure, I did not know him at the time-to find, if we could, the-uh-Oldest, I believe you call it.”

            “The Oldest?” said Deniador. “I take it you mean Earth.”

            Pelorat’s jaw dropped. Then he said, with a slight stutter, “I was under the impression-that is, I was given to understand-that one did not-”

            He looked at Trevize, rather helplessly.

            Trevize said, “Minister Lizalor told me that that word was not used on Comporellon.”

            “You mean she did this?” Deniador’s mouth turned downward, his nose screwed up, and he thrust his arms vigorously forward, crossing the first two fingers on each hand.

            “Yes,” said Trevize. “That’s what I mean.”

            Deniador relaxed and laughed. “Nonsense, gentlemen. We do it as a matter of habit, and in the backwoods they may be serious about it but, on the whole, it doesn’t matter. I don’t know any Comporellian who wouldn’t say ‘Earth’ when annoyed or startled. It’s the most common vulgarism we have.”

            “Vulgarism?” said Pelorat faintly.

            “Or expletive, if you prefer.”

            “Nevertheless,” said Trevize, “the Minister seemed quite upset when I used the word.”

            “Oh well, she’s a mountain woman.”

            “What does that mean, sir?”

            “What it says. Mitza Lizalor is from the Central Mountain Range. The children out there are brought up in what is called the good old-fashioned way, which means that no matter how well educated they become you can never knock those crossed fingers out of them.”

            “Then the word ‘Earth’ doesn’t bother you at all, does it, Doctor?” said Bliss.

            “Not at all, dear lady. I am a Skeptic.”

            Trevize said, “I know what the word ‘skeptic’ means in Galactic, but how. do you use the word?”

            “Exactly as you do, Councilman. I accept only what I am forced to accept by reasonably reliable evidence, and keep that acceptance tentative pending the arrival of further evidence. That doesn’t make us popular.”

            “Why not?” said Trevize.

            “We wouldn’t be popular anywhere. Where is the world whose people don’t prefer a comfortable, warm, and well-worn belief, however illogical, to the chilly winds of uncertainty?-Consider how you believe in the Seldon Plan without evidence.”

            “Yes,” said Trevize, studying his finger ends. “I put that forward yesterday as an example, too.”

            Pelorat said, “May I return to the subject, old fellow? What is known about Earth that a Skeptic would accept?”

            Deniador said, “Very little. We can assume that there is a single planet on which the human species developed, because it is unlikely in the extreme that the same species, so nearly identical as to be interfertile, would develop on a number of worlds, or even on just two, independently. We can choose to cal) this world of origin Earth. The belief is general, here, that Earth exists in this corner of the Galaxy, for the worlds here are unusually old and it is likely that the first worlds to be settled were close to Earth rather than far from it.”

            “And has the Earth any unique characteristics aside from being the planet of origin?” asked Pelorat eagerly.

            “Do you have something in mind?” said Deniador, with his quick smile.

            “I’m thinking of its satellite, which some call the moon. That would be unusual, wouldn’t it?”

            “That’s a leading question, Dr. Pelorat. You may be putting thoughts into my mind.”

            “I do not say what it is that would make the moon unusual.”

            “Its size, of course. Am I right?-Yes, I see I am. All the legends of Earth speak of its vast array of living species and of its vast satellite-one that is some three thousand to three thousand five hundred kilometers in diameter. The vast array of life is easy to accept since it would naturally have come about through biological evolution, if what we know of the process is accurate. A giant satellite is more difficult to accept. No other inhabited world in the Galaxy has such a satellite. Large satellites are invariably associated with the uninhabited and uninhabitable gas-giants. As a Skeptic, then, I prefer not to accept the existence of the moon.”

            Pelorat said, “If Earth is unique in its possession of millions of species, might it not also be unique in its possession of a giant satellite? One uniqueness might imply the other.”

            Deniador smiled. “I don’t see how the presence of millions of species on Earth could create a giant satellite out of nothing.”

            “But the other way around-Perhaps a giant satellite could help create the millions of species.”

            “I don’t see how that could be either.”

            Trevize said, “What about the story of Earth’s radioactivity?”

            “That is universally told; universally believed.”

            “But,” said Trevize, “Earth could not have been so radioactive as to preclude life in the billions of years when it supported life. How did it become radioactive? A nuclear war?”

            “That is the most common opinion, Councilman Trevize.”

            “From the manner in which you say that, I gather you don’t believe it.”

            “There is no evidence that such a war took place. Common belief, even universal belief, is not, in itself, evidence.”

            “What else might have happened?”

            “There is no evidence that anything happened. The radioactivity might be as purely invented a legend as the large satellite.”

            Pelorat said, “What is the generally accepted story of Earth’s history? I have, during my professional career, collected a large number of origin-legends, many of them involving a world called Earth, or some name very much like that. I have none from Comporellon, nothing beyond the vague mention of a Benbally who might have come from nowhere for all that Comporellian legends say.”

            “That’s not surprising. We don’t usually export our legends and I’m astonished you have found references even to Benbally. Superstition, again.”

            “But you are not superstitious and you would not hesitate to talk about it, would you?”

            “That’s correct,” said the small historian, casting his eyes upward at Pelorat. “It would certainly add greatly, perhaps even dangerously, to my unpopularity if I did, but you three are leaving Comporellon soon and I take it you will never quote me as a source.”

            “You have our word of honor,” said Pelorat quickly.

            “Then here is a summary of what is supposed to have happened, shorn of any supernaturalism or moralizing. Earth existed as the sole world of human beings for an immeasurable period and then, about’ twenty to twenty-five thousand years ago, the human species developed interstellar travel by way of the hyperspatial Jump and colonized a group of planets.

            “The Settlers on these planets made use of robots, which had first been devised on Earth before the days of hyperspatial travel and-do you know what robots are, by the way?”

            “Yes,” said Trevize. “We have been asked that more than once. We know what robots are.”

            “The Settlers, with a thoroughly roboticized society, developed a high technology and unusual longevity and despised their ancestral world. According to more dramatic versions of their story, they dominated and oppressed the ancestral world.

            “Eventually, then, Earth sent out a new group of Settlers, among whom robots were forbidden. Of the new worlds, Comporellon was among the first. Our own patriots insist it was the first, but there is no evidence of that that a Skeptic can accept. The first group of Settlers died out, and-”

            Trevize said, “Why did the first set die out, Dr. Deniador?”

            “Why? Usually they are imagined by our romantics as having been punished for their crimes by He Who Punishes, though no one bothers to say why He waited so long. But one doesn’t have to resort to fairy tales. It is easy to argue that a society that depends totally on robots becomes soft and decadent, dwindling and dying out of sheer boredom or, more subtly, by losing the will to live.

            “The second wave of Settlers, without robots, lived on and took over the entire Galaxy, but Earth grew radioactive and slowly dropped out of sight. The reason usually given for this is that there were robots on Earth, too, since the first wave had encouraged that.”

            Bliss, who had listened to the account with some visible impatience, said, “Well, Dr. Deniador, radioactivity or not, and however many waves of settlers there might have been, the crucial question is a simple one. Exactly where is Earth? What are its co-ordinates?”

            Deniador said, “The answer to that question is: I don’t know.-But come, it is time for lunch. I can have one brought in, and we can discuss Earth over it for as long as you want.”

            “You don’t know?” said Trevize, the sound of his voice rising in pitch and intensity.

            “Actually, as far as I know, no one knows.”

            “But that is impossible.”

            “Councilman,” said Deniador, with a soft sigh, “if you wish to call the truth impossible, that is your privilege, but it will get you nowhere.”


Foundation and Earth
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