THE Far Star came to rest at the bottom of a small rise, a hill in the generally fiat countryside. Almost without thought, Trevize had taken it for granted that it would be best for the ship not to be visible for miles in every direction.
He said, “The temperature outside is 24 C., the wind is about eleven kilometers per hour from the west, and it is partly cloudy. The computer does not know enough about the general air circulation to be able to predict the weather. However, since the humidity is some forty percent, it seems scarcely about to rain. On the whole, we seem to have chosen a comfortable latitude or season of the year, and after Comporellon that’s a pleasure.”
“I suppose,” said Pelorat, “that as the planet continues to unterraform, the weather will become more extreme.”
“I’m sure of that,” said Bliss.
“Be as sure as you like,” said Trevize. “We have thousands of years of leeway. Right now, it’s still a pleasant planet and will continue to be so for our lifetimes and far beyond.”
He was clasping a broad belt about his waist as he spoke, and Bliss said sharply, “What’s that, Trevize?”
“Just my old navy training,” said Trevize. “I’m not going into an unknown world unarmed.”
“Are you seriously intending to carry weapons?”
“Absolutely. Here on my right”-he slapped a holster that contained a massive weapon with a broad muzzle-”is my blaster, and here on my left”-a smaller weapon with a thin muzzle that contained no opening-”is my neuronic whip.”
“Two varieties of murder,” said Bliss, with distaste.
“Only one. The blaster kills. The neuronic whip doesn’t. It just stimulates the pain nerves, and it hurts so that you can wish you were dead, I’m told. Fortunately, I’ve never been at the wrong end of one.”
“Why are you taking them?”
“I told you. It’s an enemy world.”
“Trevize, it’s an empty world.”
“Is it? There’s no technological society, it would seem, but what if there are post-technological primitives. They may not possess anything worse than clubs or rocks, but those can kill, too.”
Bliss looked exasperated, but lowered her voice in an effort to be reasonable. “I detect no human neuronic activity, Trevize. That eliminates primitives of any type, post-technological or otherwise.”
“Then I won’t have to use my weapons,” said Trevize. “Still, what harm would there be in carrying them? They’ll just make me a little heavier, and since the gravitational pull at the surface is about ninety-one percent that of Terminus, I can afford the weight.-Listen, the ship may be unarmed as a ship, but it has a reasonable supply of hand-weapons. I suggest that you two also-”
“No,” said Bliss at once. “I will not make even a gesture in the direction of killing-or of inflicting pain, either.”
“It’s not a question of killing, but of avoiding being killed, if you see what I mean.”
“I can protect myself in my own way.”
Pelorat hesitated. “We didn’t have arms on Comporellon.”
“Come, Janov, Comporellon was a known quantity, a world associated with the Foundation. Besides we were at once taken into custody. If we had had weapons, they would have been taken away. Do you want a blaster?”
Pelorat shook his head. “I’ve never been in the Navy, old chap. I wouldn’t know how to use one of those things and, in an emergency, I would never think of it in time. I’d just run and-and get killed.”
“You won’t get killed, Pel,” said Bliss energetically. “Gaia has you in my/our/its protection, and that posturing naval hero as well.”
Trevize said, “Good. I have no objection to being protected, but I am not posturing. I am simply making assurance doubly sure, and if I never have to make a move toward these things, I’ll be completely pleased, I promise you. Still I must have them.”
He patted both weapons affectionately and said, “Now let’s step out on this world which may not have felt the weight of human beings upon its surface for thousands of years.”
“I HAVE a feeling,” said Pelorat, “that it must be rather late in the day, but the sun is high enough to make it near noon, perhaps.”
“I suspect,” said Trevize, looking about the quiet panorama, “that your feeling originates out of the sun’s orange tint, which gives it a sunset feel. If we’re still here at actual sunset and the cloud formations are proper, we ought to experience a deeper red than we’re used to. I don’t know whether you’ll find it beautiful or depressing.-For that matter it was probably even more extreme on Comporellon, but there we were indoors virtually all the time.”
He turned slowly, considering the surroundings in all directions. In addition to the almost subliminal oddness of the light, there was the distinctive smell of the world-or this section of it. It seemed a little musty, but far from actively unpleasant.
The trees nearby were of middling height, and looked old, with gnarled bark and trunks a little off the vertical, though because of a prevailing wind or something off-color about the soil he couldn’t tell. Was it the trees that lent a somehow menacing ambience to the world or was it something else-less material?
Bliss said, “What do you intend to do, Trevize? Surely we didn’t come all this distance to enjoy the view?”
Trevize said, “Actually, perhaps that ought to be my part of it just now. I would suggest that Janov explore this place. There are ruins off in that direction and he’s the one who can judge the value of any records he might find. I imagine he can understand writings or films in archaic Galactic and I know quite well I wouldn’t. And I suppose, Bliss, you want to go with him in order to protect him. As for me, I will stay here as a guard on the outer rim.”
“A guard against what? Primitives with rocks and clubs?”
“Perhaps.” And then the smile that had hovered about his lips faded and he said, “Oddly enough, Bliss, I’m a little uneasy about this place. I can’t say why.”
Pelorat said, “Come, Bliss. I’ve been a home-body collector of old tales all my life, so I’ve never actually put my hands on ancient documents. Just imagine if we could find-”
Trevize watched them walk away, Pelorat’s voice fading as he walked eagerly toward the ruins; Bliss swinging along at his side.
Trevize listened absently and then turned back to continue his study of the surroundings. What could there be to rouse apprehension?
He had never actually set foot upon a world without a human population, but he had viewed many from space. Usually, they were small worlds, not large enough to hold either water or air, but they had been useful as marking a meeting site during naval maneuvers (there had been no war in his lifetime, or for a century before his birth but maneuvers went on), or as an exercise in simulated emergency repairs. Ships he had been on had been in orbit about such worlds, or had even rested on them, but he had never had occasion to step off the ships at those times.
Was it that he was now actually standing on an empty world? Would he have felt the same if he had been standing on one of the many small, airless worlds he had encountered in his student days-and even since?
He shook his head. It wouldn’t have bothered him. He was sure of that. He would have been in a space suit, as he had been innumerable times when he was free of his ship in space. It was a familiar situation and contact with a mere lump of rock would have produced no alteration in the familiarity. Surely!
Of course-He was not wearing a space suit now.
He was standing on a habitable world, as comfortable to the feel as Terminus would be-far more comfortable than Comporellon had been. He experienced the wind against his cheek, the warmth of the sun on his back, the rustle of vegetation in his ears. Everything was familiar, except that there were no human beings on it-at least, not any longer.
Was that it? Was it that that made the world seem so eerie? Was it that it was not merely an uninhabited world, but a deserted one?
He had never been on a deserted world before; never heard of a deserted world before; never thought a world could be deserted. All the worlds he had known of till now, once they had been populated by human beings, remained so populated forever.
He looked up toward the sky. Nothing else had deserted it. An occasional bird flew across his line of vision, seeming more natural, somehow, than the slate-blue sky between the orange-tinted fair-weather clouds. (Trevize was certain that, given a few days on the planet, he would become accustomed to the off-color so that sky and clouds would grow to seem normal to him.)
He heard birdsongs from the trees, and the softer noise of insects. Bliss had mentioned butterflies earlier and here they were-in surprising numbers and in several colorful varieties.
There were also occasional rustlings in the clumps of grass that surrounded the trees, but he could not quite make out what was causing them.
Nor did the obvious presence of life in his vicinity rouse fear in him. As Bliss had said, terraformed worlds had, from the very first, lacked dangerous animals. The fairy tales of childhood, and the heroic fantasies of his teenage years were invariably set on a legendary world that must have been derived from the vague myths of Earth. The hyperdrama holoscreen had been filled with monsters-lions, unicorns, dragons, whales, brontosaurs, bears. There were dozens of them with names he could not remember; some of them surely mythical, and perhaps all of them. There were smaller animals that bit and stung, even plants that were fearful to the touch-but only in fiction. He had once heard that primitive honeybees were able to sting, but certainly no red bees were in any way harmful.
Slowly, he walked to the right, skirting the border of the hill. The grass was tall and rank, but sparse, growing in clumps. He made his way among the trees, also growing in clumps.
Then he yawned. Certainly, nothing exciting was happening, and he wondered if he might not retreat to the ship and take a nap. No, unthinkable. Clearly, he had to stand on guard.
Perhaps he ought to do sentry duty-marching, one, two, one two, swinging about with a snap and performing complicated maneuverings with a parade electro-rod. (It was a weapon no warrior had used in three centuries, but it was still absolutely essential at drill, for no reason anyone could ever advance.)
He grinned at the thought of it, then wondered if he ought to join Pelorat and Bliss in the ruins. Why? What good would he do?
Suppose he saw something that Pelorat had happened to overlook?-Well, time enough to make the attempt after Pelorat returned. If there was anything that might be found easily, by all means let Pelorat make the discovery.
Might the two be in trouble? Foolish! What possible kind of trouble?
And if there were trouble, they would call out.
He stopped to listen. He heard nothing.
And then the irresistible thought of sentry duty recurred to him and h1 found himself marching, feet moving up and down with a stamp, an imaginary electro-rod coming off one shoulder, whirling, and being held out straight before him, exactly vertical-whirling again, end over end, and back over the other shoulder. Then, with a smart about-face, he was looking toward the ship (rather far-off now) once more.
And when he did that, he froze in reality, and not in sentry make-believe.
He was not alone.
Until then, he had not seen any living creature other than plant growl insects, and an occasional bird. He had neither seen nor heard anything approach-but now an animal stood between him and the ship.
Sheer surprise at the unexpected event deprived him, for a moment, of the ability to interpret what he saw. It was not till after a perceptible interval that he knew what he was looking at.
It was only a dog.
Trevize was not a dog person. He had never owned a dog and he felt no surge of friendliness toward one when he encountered it. He felt no such surge this time, either. He thought, rather impatiently, that there was no world on which these creatures had not accompanied men. They existed in countless varieties and Trevize had long had the weary impression that each world had at least one variety characteristic of itself. Nevertheless, all varieties were constant in this: whether they were kept for entertainment, show, or some form of useful work-they were bred to love and trust human beings.
It was a love and trust Trevize had never appreciated. He had once lived with a woman who had had a dog. That dog, whom Trevize tolerated for the sake of the woman, conceived a deep-seated adoration for him, followed him about, leaned against him when relaxing (all fifty pounds of him), covered him with saliva and hair at unexpected moments, and squatted outside the door and moaned whenever he and the woman were trying to engage in sex.
From that experience, Trevize had emerged with the firm conviction that for some reason known only to the canine mind and its odor-analyzing ability, he was a fixed object of doggish devotion.
Therefore, once the initial surprise was over, he surveyed the dog without concern. It was a large dog, lean and rangy, and with long legs. It was staring at him with no obvious sign of adoration. Its mouth was open in what might have been taken as a welcoming grin, but the teeth displayed were somehow large and dangerous, and Trevize decided that he would be more comfortable without the dog in his line of view.
It occurred to him, then, that the dog had never seen a human being, and that countless canine generations preceding had never seen one. The dog might have been as astonished and uncertain at the sudden appearance of a human being as Trevize had been at that of the dog. Trevize, at least, had quickly recognized the dog for what it was, but the dog did not have that advantage. It was still puzzled, and perhaps alarmed.
Clearly, it would not be safe to leave an animal that large, and with such teeth, in an alarmed state. Trevize realized that it would be necessary to establish a friendship at once.
Very slowly, he approached the dog (no sudden motions, of course). He held out his hand, ready to allow it to be sniffed, and made soft, soothing sounds, most of which consisted of “Nice doggy”-something he found intensely embarrassing.
The dog, eyes fixed on Trevize, backed away a step or two, as though in distrust, and then its upper lip wrinkled into a snarl and from its mouth there issued a rasping growl. Although Trevize had never seen a dog behave so, there was no way of interpreting the action as representing anything but menace.
Trevize therefore stopped advancing and froze. His eyes caught motion to one side, and his head turned slowly. There were two other dogs advancing from that direction. They looked just as deadly as the first.
Deadly? That adjective occurred to him only now, and its dreadful appropriateness was unmistakable.
His heart was suddenly pounding. The way to the ship was blocked. He could not run aimlessly, for those long canine legs would reach him in yards. If he stood his ground and used his blaster, then while he killed one, the other two would be upon him. Off in the distance, he could see other dogs approaching. Was there some way in which they communicated? Did they hunt in packs?
Slowly, he shifted ground leftward, in a direction in which there were no dogs-as yet. Slowly. Slowly.
The dogs shifted ground with him. He felt certain that all that saved him from instant attack was the fact that the dogs had never seen or smelled anything like himself before. They had no established behavior pattern they could follow in his case.
If he ran, of course, that would represent something familiar to the dogs. They would know what to do if something the size of Trevize showed fear and ran. They would run, too. Faster.
Trevize kept sidling toward a tree. He had the wildest desire to move upward where the dogs could not follow. They moved with him, snarling softly, coming closer. All three had their eyes fixed unwinkingly upon him. Two more were joining them and, farther off, Trevize could see still other dogs approaching. At some point, when he was close enough, he would have to make the dash. He could not wait too long, or run too soon. Either might be fatal.
He probably set a personal record for acceleration and even so it was a near thing. He felt the snap of jaws close on the heel of one foot, and for just moment he was held fast before the teeth slid off the tough ceramoid.
He was not skilled at climbing trees. He had not climbed one since he was ten and, as he recalled, that had been a clumsy effort. In this case, though, the trunk was not quite vertical, and the bark was gnarled and offered handholds. What was more, he was driven by necessity, and it is remarkable what one can do if the need is great enough.
Trevize found himself sitting in a crotch, perhaps ten meters above ground. For the moment he was totally unaware that he had scraped hand and that it was oozing blood. At the base of the tree, five dogs now on their haunches, staring upward, tongues lolling, all looking patiently expectant.
TREVIZE was not in a position to think about the situation in logical detail. Rather, he experienced flashes of thought in odd and distorted sequence which, if he had eventually sorted them out, would have come to this-
Bliss had earlier maintained that in terraforming a planet, human Map would establish an unbalanced economy, which they would be able to keep from falling apart only by unending effort. For instance, no Settlers had brought with them any of the large predators. Small ones could not be helped. Insects, parasites-even small hawks, shrews, and so on.
Those dramatic animals of legend and vague literary accounts-tigers, grizzly bears, orcs, crocodiles? Who would carry them from world to world even if there were sense to it? And where would there be sense to it?
It meant that human beings were the only large predators, and it was up to them to cull those plants and animals that, left to themselves, would smother in their own overplenty.
And if human beings somehow vanished, then other predators must take their place. But what predators? The most sizable predators tolerated by human beings were dogs and cats, tamed and living on human bounty.
What if no human beings remained to feed them? They must then find their own food for their survival and, in all truth, for the survival of those they preyed on, whose numbers had to be kept in check lest overpopulation do a hundred times the damage that predations would do.
So dogs would multiply, in their variations, with the large ones attacking the large, untended herbivores; the smaller ones preying on birds and rodents. Cats would prey by night as dogs did by day; the former singly, the latter in packs.
And perhaps evolution would eventually produce more varieties, to fill additional environmental niches. Would some dogs eventually develop seagoing characteristics to enable them to live on fish; and would some cats develop gliding abilities to hunt the clumsier birds in the air as well as on the ground?
In flashes, all this came to Trevize while he struggled with more systematic thought to tell him what he might do.
The number of dogs kept growing. He counted twenty-three now surrounding the tree and there were others approaching. How large was the pack? What did it matter? It was large enough already.
He withdrew his blaster from its holster, but the solid feel of the butt in his hand did not give him the sense of security he would have liked. When had he last inserted an energy unit into it and how many charges could he fire? Surely not twenty-three.
What about Pelorat and Bliss? If they emerged, would the dogs turn on them? Were they safe even if they did not emerge? If the dogs sensed the presence of two human beings inside the ruins, what could stop them from attacking them there? Surely there would be no doors or barriers to hold them off.
Could Bliss stop them, and even drive them away? Could she concentrate her powers through hyperspace to the desired pitch of intensity? For how long could she maintain them?
Should he call for help then? Would they come running if he yelled, and would the dogs flee under Bliss’s glare? (Would it take a glare or was it simply a mental action undetectable to onlookers without the ability?) Or, if they appeared, would they then be torn apart under the eyes of Trevize, who would be forced to watch, helplessly, from the relative safety of his post in the tree?
No, he would have to use his blaster. If he could kill one dog and frighten them off for just a while, he could scramble down the tree, yell for Pelorat and Bliss, kill a second dog if they showed signs of returning, and all three could then hustle into the ship.
He adjusted the intensity of the microwave beam to the three-quartet mark. That should be ample to kill a dog with a loud report. The report would serve to frighten the dogs away, and he would be conserving energy.
He aimed carefully at a dog in the middle of the pack, one who seemed (in Trevize’s own imagination, at least) to exude a greater malignancy than the rest-perhaps only because he sat more quietly and, therefore, seemed more cold-bloodedly intent on his prey. The dog was staring directly at the weapon now, as though it scorned the worst Trevize could do.
It occurred to Trevize that he had never himself fired a blaster at a human being, or seen anyone else do it. There had been firing at water-filled dummies of leather and plastic during training; with the water almost instantaneously heated to the boiling point, and shredding the covering as it exploded.
But who, in the absence of war, would fire at a human being? And what human being would withstand a blaster and force its use? Only here, on world made pathological by the disappearance of human beings-
With that odd ability of the brain to note something utterly beside the point, Trevize was aware of the fact that a cloud had hidden the sun-and then he fired.
There was an odd shimmer of the atmosphere on a straight line from the muzzle of the blaster to the dog; a vague sparkle that might have gone unnoticed if the sun were still shining unhindered.
The dog must have felt the initial surge of heat, and made the smallest motion as though it were about to leap. And then it exploded, as a portion its blood and cellular contents vaporized.
The explosion made a disappointingly small noise, for the dog’s integument was simply not as tough as that of the dummies they had practiced on. Flesh, skin, blood, and bone were scattered, however, and Trevize felt his stomach heave.
The dogs started back, some having been bombarded with uncomfortably warm fragments. That was only a momentary hesitation, however. They crowded against each other suddenly, in order to eat what had been provided. Trevize felt his sickness increase. He was not frightening them; he was feeding them. At that rate, they would never leave. In fact, the smell of fresh blood and warm meat would attract still more dogs, and perhaps other smaller predators as well.
A voice called out, “Trevize. What-”
Trevize looked outward. Bliss and Pelorat had emerged from the ruins. Bliss had stopped short, her arms thrown out to keep Pelorat back. She stared at the dogs. The situation was obvious and clear. She had to ask nothing.
Trevize shouted, “I tried to drive them off without involving you and Janov. Can you hold them off?”
“Barely,” said Bliss, not shouting, so that Trevize had trouble hearing her even though the dogs’ snarling had quieted as though a soothing soundabsorbent blanket had been thrown over them.
Bliss said, “There are too many of them, and I am not familiar with their pattern of neuronic activity. We have no such savage things on Gaia.”
“Or on Terminus. Or on any civilized world,” shouted Trevize. “I’ll shoot as many of them as I can and you try to handle the rest. A smaller number will give you less trouble.”
“No, Trevize. Shooting them will just attract others.-Stay behind me, Pel. There’s no way you can protect me.-Trevize, your other weapon.”
“The neuronic whip?”
“Yes. That produces pain. Low power. Low power!”
“Are you afraid of hurting them?” called out Trevize in anger. “Is this a time to consider the sacredness of life?”
“I’m considering Pel’s. Also mine. Do as I say. Low power, and shoot at one of the dogs. I can’t hold them much longer.”
The dogs had drifted away from the tree and had surrounded Bliss and Pelorat, who stood with their backs to a crumbling wall. The dogs nearest the two made hesitant attempts to come closer still, whining a bit as though trying to puzzle out what it was that held them off when they could sense nothing that would do it. Some tried uselessly to scramble up the wall and attack from behind.
Trevize’s hand was trembling as he adjusted the neuronic whip to low power. The neuronic whip used much less energy than the blaster did, and a single power-cartridge could produce hundreds of whip-like strokes but, come to think of it, he didn’t remember when he had last charged this weapon, either.
It was not so important to aim the whip. Since conserving energy was not as critical, he could use it in a sweep across the mass of dogs. That was the traditional method of controlling crowds that showed signs of turning dangerous.
However, he followed Bliss’s suggestion. He aimed at one dog and fired. The dog fell over, its legs twitching. It emitted loud, high-pitched squeals.
The other dogs backed away from the stricken beast, ears flattening backward against their heads. Then, squealing in their turn, they turned and left, at first slowly, then more rapidly, and finally, at a full race. The dog who had been hit, scrambled painfully to its legs, and limped away whimpering, much the last of them.
The noise vanished in the distance, and Bliss said, “We had better get into the ship. They will come back. Or others will.”
Trevize thought that never before had he manipulated the ship’s entry mechanism so rapidly. And it was possible he might never do so again.
NIGHT HAD fallen before Trevize felt something approaching to normal. The’ small patch of syntho-skin on the scrape on his hand had soothed the physical pain, but there was a scrape on his psyche for which soothing was not so easy.
It was not the mere exposure to danger. He could react to that as well as any ordinarily brave person might. It was the totally unlooked-for direction from which the danger had come. It was the feeling of the ridiculous. How would it look if people were to find out he had been treed by snarling dogs? It would scarcely be worse if he had been put to flight by the whirring of angry canaries.
For hours, he kept listening for a new attack on the part of the dogs, for the sound of howls, for the scratch of claws against the outer hull.
Pelorat, by comparison, seemed quite cool. “There was no question in my mind, old chap, that Bliss would handle it, but I must say you fired the weapon well.”
Trevize shrugged. He was in no mood to discuss the matter.
Pelorat was holding his library-the one compact disc on which his lifetime of research into myths and legends were stored-and with it he retreated into his bedroom where he kept his small reader.
He seemed quite pleased with himself. Trevize noticed that but didn’t follow it up. Time for that later when his mind wasn’t quite as taken up with dogs.
Bliss said, rather tentatively, when the two were alone, “I presume you were taken by surprise.”
“Quite,” said Trevize gloomily. “Who would think that at the sight of a dog-a dog-I should run for my life.”
“Twenty thousand years without men and it would not be quite a dog. Those beasts must now be the dominant large predators.”
Trevize nodded. “I figured that out while I was sitting on the tree branch being a dominated prey. You were certainly right about an unbalanced ecology.”
“Unbalanced, certainly, from the human standpoint-but considering how efficiently the dogs seem to be going about their business, I wonder if Pel may be right in his suggestion that the ecology could balance itself, with various environmental niches being filled by evolving variations of the relatively few species that were once brought to the world.”
“Oddly enough,” said Trevize, “the same thought occurred to me.”
“Provided, of course, the unbalance is not so great that the process of righting itself takes too long. The planet might become completely nonviable before that.”
Bliss looked at him thoughtfully, “How is it that you thought of arming yourself?”
Trevize said, “It did me little good. It was your ability-”
“Not entirely. I needed your weapon. At short notice, with only hyperspatial contact with the rest of Gaia, with so many individual minds of so unfamiliar a nature, I could have done nothing without your neuronic whip.”
“My blaster was useless. I tried that.”
“With a blaster, Trevize, a dog merely disappears. The rest may be surprised, but not frightened.”
“Worse than that,” said Trevize. “They ate the remnants. I was bribing them to stay.”
“Yes, I see that might be the effect. The neuronic whip is different. It inflicts pain, and a dog in pain emits cries of a kind that are well understood by other dogs who, by conditioned reflex, if nothing else, begin to feel frightened themselves. With the dogs already disposed toward fright, I merely nudged their minds, and off they went.”
“Yes, but you realized the whip was the more deadly of the two in this case. I did not.”
“I am accustomed to dealing with minds. You are not. That’s why I insisted on low power and aiming at one dog. I did not want so much pain that it killed a dog and left him silent. I did not want the pain so dispersed as to cause mere whimpering. I wanted strong pain concentrated at one point.”
“And you got it, Bliss,” said Trevize. “It worked perfectly. I owe you considerable gratitude.”
“You begrudge that,” said Bliss thoughtfully, “because it seems to you that you played a ridiculous role. And yet, I repeat, I could have done nothing without your weapons. What puzzles me is how you can explain your arming yourself in the face of my assurance that there were no human beings on this world, something I am still certain is a fact. Did you foresee the dogs?”
“No,” said Trevize. “I certainly didn’t. Not consciously, at least. And I don’t habitually go armed, either. It never even occurred to me to put on weapons at Comporellon.-But I can’t allow myself to trip into the trap of feeling it was magic, either. It couldn’t have been. I suspect that once we began talking about unbalanced ecologies earlier, I somehow had an unconscious glimpse of animals grown dangerous in the absence of human beings. That is clear enough in hindsight, but I might have had a whiff of it in foresight. Nothing more than that.”
Bliss said, “Don’t dismiss it that casually. I participated in the same conversation concerning unbalanced ecologies and I didn’t have that same foresight. It is that special trick of foresight in you that Gaia values. I can see, too, that it must be irritating to you to have a hidden foresight the nature of which you cannot detect; to act with decision, but without clear reason.”
“The usual expression on Terminus is ‘to act on a hunch.”‘
“On Gaia we say, ‘to know without thought.’ You don’t like knowing without thought, do you?”
“It bothers me, yes. I don’t like being driven by hunches. I assume hunch has reason behind it, but not knowing the reason makes me feel I’m not in control of my own mind-a kind of mild madness.”
“And when you decided in favor of Gaia and Galaxia, you were acting on a hunch, and now you seek the reason.”
“I have said so at least a dozen times.”
“And I have refused to accept your statement as literal truth. For that I am sorry. I will oppose you in this no longer. I hope, though, that I may continue to point out items in Gaia’s favor.”
“Always,” said Trevize, “if you, in turn, recognize that them.”
“Does it occur to you, then, that this Unknown World is reverting to a kind of savagery, and perhaps to eventual desolation and uninhabitability, because of the removal of a single species that is capable of acting as a guiding intelligence? If the world were Gaia, or better yet, a part of Galaxia, this could not happen. The guiding intelligence would still exist in the form of the Galaxy as a whole, and ecology, whenever unbalanced, and for whatever reason, would move toward balance again.”
“Does that mean that dogs would no longer eat?”
“Of course they would eat, just as human beings do. They would however, with purpose, in order to balance the ecology under deliberate direction, and not as a result of random circumstance.”
Trevize said, “The loss of individual freedom might not matter to dogs, but it must matter to human beings.-And what if all human beings were removed from existence, everywhere, and not merely on one world or on Several? What if Galaxia were left without human beings at all? Would there still be a guiding intelligence? Would all other life forms and inanimate matter be able to put together a common intelligence adequate for the purpose?”
Bliss hesitated. “Such a situation,” she said, “has never been experienced. Nor does there seem any likelihood that it will ever be experienced in the future.”
Trevize said, “But doesn’t it seem obvious to you, that the human mind is qualitatively different from everything else, and that if it were absent, the sum total of all other consciousness could not replace it. Would it not be true, then, that human beings are a special case and must be treated as such? They should not be fused even with one another, let alone with nonhuman objects.”
“Yet you decided in favor of Galaxia.”
“For an overriding reason I cannot make out.”
“Perhaps that overriding reason was a glimpse of the effect of unbalanced ecologies? Might it not have been your reasoning that every world in the Galaxy is on a knife-edge, with instability on either side, and that only Galaxia could prevent such disasters as are taking place on this world-to say nothing of the continuing interhuman disasters of war and administrative failure.”
“No. Unbalanced ecologies were not in my mind at the time of my decision.”
“How can you be sure?”
“I may not know what it is I’m foreseeing, but if something is suggested afterward, I would recognize it if that were indeed what I foresaw.-As it seems to me I may have foreseen dangerous animals on this world.”
“Well,” said Bliss soberly, “we might have been dead as a result of those dangerous animals if it had not been for a combination of our powers, your foresight and my mentalism. Come, then, let us be friends.”
Trevize nodded. “If you wish.”
There was a chill in his voice that caused Bliss’s eyebrows to rise, but at this point Pelorat burst in, nodding his head as though prepared to shake it off its foundations.
“I think,” he said, “we have it.”
TREVIZE did not, in general, believe in easy victories, and yet it was only human to fall into belief against one’s better judgment. He felt the muscles in his chest and throat tighten, but managed to say, “The location of Earth? Have you discovered that, Janov?”
Pelorat stared at Trevize for a moment, and deflated. “Well, no,” he said, visibly abashed. “Not quite that.-Actually, Golan, not that at all. I had forgotten about that. It was something else that I discovered in the ruins. I suppose it’s not really important.”
Trevize managed a long breath and said, “Never mind, Janov. Every finding is important. What was it you came in to say?”
“Well,” said Pelorat, “it’s just that almost nothing survived, you understand. Twenty thousand years of storm and wind don’t leave much. What’s more, plant life is gradually destructive and animal life-But never mind all that. The point is that ‘almost nothing’ is not the same as ‘nothing.’
“The ruins must have included a public building, for there was some fallen stone, or concrete, with incised lettering upon it. There was hardly anything visible, you understand, old chap, but I took photographs with one of those cameras we have on board ship, the kind with built-in computer enhancement-I never got round to asking permission to take one, Golan, but it was important, and I-”
Trevize waved his hand in impatient dismissal. “Go on!”
“I could make out some of the lettering, which was very archaic. Even with computer enhancement and with my own fair skill at reading Archaic, it was impossible to make out much except for one short phrase. The letters there were larger and a bit clearer than the rest. They may have been incised more deeply because they identified the world itself. The phrase reads, ‘Planet Aurora,’ so I imagine this world we rest upon is named Aurora, or was named Aurora.”
“It had to be named something,” said Trevize.
“Yes, but names are very rarely chosen at random. I made a careful search of my library just now and there are two old legends, from two widely spaced worlds, as it happens, so that one can reasonably suppose them to be of independent origin, if one remembers that.-But never mind that. In both legends, Aurora is used as a name for the dawn. We can suppose that Aurora may have actually meant dawn in some pre-Galactic language.
“As it happens, some word for dawn or daybreak is often used as a name for space stations or other structures that are the first built of their kind. If this world is called Dawn in whatever language, it may be the first of its kind, too.”
Trevize said, “Are you getting ready to suggest that this planet is Earth and that Aurora is an alternate name for it because it represents the dawn of life and of man?”
Pelorat said, “I couldn’t go that far, Golan.”
Trevize said, with a trace of bitterness, “There is, after all, no radioactive surface, no giant satellite, no gas giant with huge rings.”
“Exactly. But Deniador, back on Comporellon, seemed to think this was one of the worlds that was once inhabited by the first wave of Settlers-the Spacers. If it were, then its name, Aurora, might indicate it to have been the first of those Spacer worlds. We might, at this very moment, be resting on the oldest human world in the Galaxy except for Earth itself. Isn’t that exciting?”
“Interesting, at any rate, Janov, but isn’t that a great deal to infer merely from the name, Aurora?”
“There’s more,” said Pelorat excitedly. “As far as I could check in my records there is no world in the Galaxy today with the name of ‘Aurora,’ and I’m sure your computer will verify that. As I said, there are all sorts of world and other objects named ‘Dawn’ in various ways, but no one uses the actual word ‘Aurora.”‘
“Why should they? If it’s a pre-Galactic word, it wouldn’t be likely to be popular.”
“But names do remain, even when they’re meaningless. If this were the first settled world, it would be famous; it might even, for a while, have been the dominant world of the Galaxy. Surely, there would be other worlds calling themselves ‘New Aurora,’ or ‘Aurora Minor,’ or something like that. And then others-”
Trevize broke in. “Perhaps it wasn’t the first settled world. Perhaps it was never of any importance.”
“There’s a better reason in my opinion, my dear chap.”
“What would that be, Janov?”
“If the first wave of settlements was overtaken by a second wave to which all the worlds of the Galaxy now belong-as Deniador said-then there is very likely to have been a period of hostility between the two waves. The second wave-making up the worlds that now exist-would not use the names given to any of the worlds of the first wave. In that way, we can infer from the fact that the name ‘Aurora’ has never been repeated that there were two waves of Settlers, and that this is a world of the first wave.”
Trevize smiled. “I’m getting a glimpse of how you mythologists work, Janov. You build a beautiful superstructure, but it may be standing on air. The legends tell us that the Settlers of the first wave were accompanied by numerous robots, and that these were supposed to be their undoing. Now if we could find a robot on this world, I’d be willing to accept all this first-wave supposition, but we can’t expect after twenty thou-”
Pelorat, whose mouth had been working, managed to find his voice. “But, Golan, haven’t I told you?-No, of course, I haven’t. I’m so excited I can’t put things in the right order. There was a robot.”
TREVIZE rubbed his forehead, almost as though he were in pain. He said, “A robot? There was a robot?”
“Yes,” said Pelorat, nodding his head emphatically.
“How do you know?”
“Why, it was a robot. How could I fail to know one if I see one?”
“Have you ever seen a robot before?”
“No, but it was a metal object that looked like a human being. Head, arms, legs, torso. Of course, when I say metal, it was mostly rust, and when I walked toward it, I suppose the vibration of my tread damaged it further, so that when I reached to touch it-”
“Why should you touch it?”
“Well, I suppose I couldn’t quite believe my eyes. It was an automatic response. As soon as I touched it, it crumbled. But-”
“Before it quite did, its eyes seemed to glow very faintly and it made a sound as though it were trying to say something.”
“You mean it was still functioning?”
“Just barely, Golan. Then it collapsed.”
Trevize turned to Bliss. “Do you corroborate all this, Bliss?”
“It was a robot, and we saw it,” said Bliss.
“And was it still functioning?”
Bliss said tonelessly, “As it crumbled, I caught a faint sense of neuronic activity.”
“How can there have been neuronic activity? A robot doesn’t have an organic brain built of cells.”
“It has the computerized equivalent, I imagine,” said Bliss, “and I would detect that.”
“Did you detect a robotic rather than a human mentality?”
Bliss pursed her lips and said, “It was too feeble to decide anything about it except that it was there.”
Trevize looked at Bliss, then at Pelorat, and said, in a tone of exasperation, “This changes everything.”