Foundation and Earth
|Series:||The Foundation Series: Book 5|
|Sub-Genre Tags:||Galactic Empire|
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The fifth novel in Asimov's popular Foundation series opens with second thoughts. Councilman Golan Trevize is wondering if he was right to choose a collective mind as the best possible future for humanity over the anarchy of contentious individuals, nations and planets. To test his conclusion, he decides he must know the past and goes in search of legendary Earth, all references to which have been erased from galactic libraries. The societies encountered along the way become arguing points in a book-long colloquy about man's fate, conducted by Trevize and traveling companion Bliss, who is part of the first world/mind, Gaia.
THE SEARCH BEGINS
"Why did I do it?" asked Golan Trevize.
It wasn't a new question. Since he had arrived at Gaia, he had asked it of himself frequently. He would wake up from a sound sleep in the pleasant coolness of the night and find the question sounding noiselessly in his mind, like a tiny drumbeat: Why did I do it? Why did I do it?
Now, though, for the first time, he managed to ask it of Dom, the ancient of Gaia.
Dom was well aware of Trevize's tension for he could sense the fabric of the Councilman's mind. He did not respond to it. Gaia must in no way ever touch Trevize's mind, and the best way of remaining immune to the temptation was to painstakingly ignore what he sensed.
"Do what, Trev?" he asked. He found it difficult to use more than one syllable in addressing a person, and it didn't matter. Trevize was growing somewhat used to that.
"The decision I made," said Trevize. "Choosing Gaia as the future."
"You were right to do so," said Dom, seated, his aged deep-set eyes looking earnestly up at the man of the Foundation, who was standing.
"You say I am right," said Trevize impatiently.
"I/we/Gaia know you are. That's your worth to us. You have the capacity for making the right decision on incomplete data, and you have made the decision. You chose Gaia! You rejected the anarchy of a Galactic Empire built on the technology of the First Foundation, as well as the anarchy of a Galactic Empire built on the mentalics of the Second Foundation. You decided that neither could be long stable. So you chose Gaia."
"Yes," said Trevize. "Exactly! I chose Gaia, a superorganism; a whole planet with a mind and personality in common, so that one has to say 'I/we/Gaia' as an invented pronoun to express the inexpressible." He paced the floor restlessly. "And it will become eventually Galaxia, a super-superorganism embracing all the swarm of the Milky Way."
He stopped, turned almost savagely on Dom, and said, "I feel I'm right, as you feel it, but you want the coming of Galaxia, and so are satisfied with the decision. There's something in me, however, that doesn't want it, and for that reason I'm not satisfied to accept the rightness so easily. I want to know why I made the decision, I want to weigh and judge the rightness and be satisfied with it. Merely feeling right isn't enough. How can I know I am right? What is the device that makes me right?"
"I/we/Gaia do not know how it is that you come to the right decision. Is it important to know that as long as we have the decision?"
"You speak for the whole planet, do you? For the common consciousness of every dewdrop, of every pebble, of even the liquid central core of the planet?"
"I do, and so can any portion of the planet in which the intensity of the common consciousness is great enough."
"And is all this common consciousness satisfied to use me as a black box? Since the black box works, is it unimportant to know what is inside? --That doesn't suit me. I don't enjoy being a black box. I want to know what's inside. I want to know how and why I chose Gaia and Galaxia as the future, so that I can rest and be at peace."
"But why do you dislike or distrust your decision so?"
Trevize drew a deep breath and said slowly, in a low and forceful voice, "Because I don't want to be part of a superorganism. I don't want to be a dispensable part to be done away with whenever the superorganism judges that doing away would be for the good of the whole."
Dom looked at Trevize thoughtfully. "Do you want to change your decision, then, Trev? You can, you know."
"I long to change the decision, but I can't do that merely because I dislike it. To do something now, I have to know whether the decision is wrong or right. It's not enough merely to feel it's right."
"If you feel you are right, you are right." Always that slow, gentle voice that somehow made Trevize feel wilder by its very contrast with his own inner turmoil.
Then Trevize said, in half a whisper, breaking out of the insoluble oscillation between feeling and knowing, "I must find Earth."
"Because it has something to do with this passionate need of yours to know?"
"Because it is another problem that troubles me unbearably and because I feel there is a connection between the two. Am I not a black box? I feel there is a connection. Isn't that enough to make you accept it as a fact?"
"Perhaps," said Dom, with equanimity.
"Granted it is now thousands of years--twenty thousand perhaps--since the people of the Galaxy have concerned themselves with Earth, how is it possible that we have all forgotten our planet of origin?"
"Twenty thousand years is a longer time than you realize. There are many aspects of the early Empire we know little of; many legends that are almost surely fictitious but that we keep repeating, and even believing, because of lack of anything to substitute. And Earth is older than the Empire."
"But surely there are some records. My good friend, Pelorat, collects myths and legends of early Earth; anything he can scrape up from any source. It is his profession and, more important, his hobby. Those myths and legends are all there are. There are no actual records, no documents."
"Documents twenty thousand years old? Things decay, perish, are destroyed through inefficiency or war."
"But there should be records of the records; copies, copies of the copies, and copies of the copies of the copies; useful material much younger than twenty millennia. They have been removed. The Galactic Library at Trantor must have had documents concerning Earth. Those documents are referred to in known historical records, but the documents no longer exist in the Galactic Library. The references to them may exist, but any quotations from them do not exist."
"Remember that Trantor was sacked a few centuries ago."
"The Library was left untouched. It was protected by the personnel of the Second Foundation. And it was those personnel who recently discovered that material related to Earth no longer exists. The material was deliberately removed in recent times. Why?" Trevize ceased his pacing and looked intently at Dom. "If I find Earth, I will find out what it is hiding--"
"Hiding or being hidden. Once I find that out, I have the feeling I will know why I have chosen Gaia and Galaxia over our individuality. Then, I presume, I will know, not feel, that I am correct, and if I am correct"--he lifted his shoulders hopelessly--"then so be it."
"If you feel that is so," said Dom, "and if you feel you must hunt for Earth, then, of course, we will help you do as much as we can. That help, however, is limited. For instance, I/we/Gaia do not know where Earth may be located among the immense wilderness of worlds that make up the Galaxy."
"Even so," said Trevize, "I must search. --Even if the endless powdering of stars in the Galaxy makes the quest seem hopeless, and even if I must do it alone."
Trevize was surrounded by the tameness of Gaia. The temperature, as always, was comfortable, and the air moved pleasantly, refreshing but not chilling. Clouds drifted across the sky, interrupting the sunlight now and then, and, no doubt, if the water vapor level per meter of open land surface dropped sufficiently in this place or that, there would be enough rain to restore it.
The trees grew in regular spacings, like an orchard, and did so, no doubt, all over the world. The land and sea were stocked with plant and animal life in proper numbers and in the proper variety to provide an appropriate ecological balance, and all of them, no doubt, increased and decreased in numbers in a slow sway about the recognized optimum. --As did the number of human beings, too.
Of all the objects within the purview of Trevize's vision, the only wild card in the deck was his ship, the Far Star.
The ship had been cleaned and refurbished efficiently and well by a number of the human components of Gaia. It had been restocked with food and drink, its furnishings had been renewed or replaced, its mechanical workings rechecked. Trevize himself had checked the ship's computer carefully.
Nor did the ship need refueling, for it was one of the few gravitic ships of the Foundation, running on the energy of the general gravitational field of the Galaxy, and that was enough to supply all the possible fleets of humanity for all the eons of their likely existence without measurable decrease of intensity.
Three months ago, Trevize had been a Councilman of Terminus. He had, in other words, been a member of the Legislature of the Foundation and, ex officio, a great one of the Galaxy. Was it only three months ago? It seemed it was half his thirty-two-year-old lifetime since that had been his post and his only concern had been whether the great Seldon Plan had been valid or not; whether the smooth rise of the Foundation from planetary village to Galactic greatness had been properly charted in advance, or not.
Yet in some ways, there was no change. He was still a Councilman. His status and his privileges remained unchanged, except that he didn't expect he would ever return to Terminus to claim that status and those privileges. He would no more fit into the huge chaos of the Foundation than into the small orderliness of Gaia. He was at home nowhere, an orphan everywhere.
His jaw tightened and he pushed his fingers angrily through his black hair. Before he wasted time bemoaning his fate, he must find Earth. If he survived the search, there would then be time enough to sit down and weep. He might have even better reason then.
With determined stolidity, then, he thought back--
Three months before, he and Janov Pelorat, that able, naive scholar, had left Terminus. Pelorat had been driven by his antiquarian enthusiasms to discover the site of long-lost Earth, and Trevize had gone along, using Pelorat's goal as a cover for what he thought his own real aim was. They did not find Earth, but they did find Gaia, and Trevize had then found himself forced to make his fateful decision.
Now it was he, Trevize, who had turned half-circle--about-face--and was searching for Earth.
As for Pelorat, he, too, had found something he didn't expect. He had found the black-haired, dark-eyed Bliss, the young woman who was Gaia, even as Dom was--and as the nearest grain of sand or blade of grass was. Pelorat, with the peculiar ardor of late middle age, had fallen in love with a woman less than half his years, and the young woman, oddly enough, seemed content with that.
It was odd--but Pelorat was surely happy and Trevize thought resignedly that each person must find happiness in his or her own manner. That was the point of individuality--the individuality that Trevize, by his choice, was abolishing (given time) over all the Galaxy.
The pain returned. That decision he had made, and had had to make, continued to excoriate him at every moment and was--
The voice intruded on Trevize's thoughts and he looked up in the direction of the sun, blinking his eyes.
"Ah, Janov," he said heartily--the more heartily because he did not want Pelorat guessing at the sourness of his thoughts. He even managed a jovial, "You've managed to tear yourself away from Bliss, I see."
Pelorat shook his head. The gentle breeze stirred his silky white hair, and his long solemn face retained its length and solemnity in full. "Actually, old chap, it was she that suggested I see you--about--about what I want to discuss. Not that I wouldn't have wanted to see you on my own, of course, but she seems to think more quickly than I do."
Trevize smiled. "It's all right, Janov. You're here to say good-bye, I take it."
"Well, no, not exactly. In fact, more nearly the reverse. Golan, when we left Terminus, you and I, I was intent on finding Earth. I've spent virtually my entire adult life at that task."
"And I will carry on, Janov. The task is mine now."
"Yes, but it's mine, also; mine, still."
"But--" Trevize lifted an arm in a vague all-inclusive gesture of the world about them.
Pelorat said, in a sudden urgent gasp, "I want to go with you."
Trevize felt astonished. "You can't mean that, Janov. You have Gaia now."
"I'll come back to Gaia someday, but I cannot let you go alone."
"Certainly you can. I can take care of myself."
"No offense, Golan, but you don't know enough. It is I who know the myths and legends. I can direct you."
"And you'll leave Bliss? Come, now."
A faint pink colored Pelorat's cheeks. "I don't exactly want to do that, old chap, but she said--"
Trevize frowned. "Is it that she's trying to get rid of you, Janov? She promised me--"
"No, you don't understand. Please listen to me, Golan. You do have this uncomfortable explosive way of jumping to conclusions before you hear one out. It's your specialty, I know, and I seem to have a certain difficulty in expressing myself concisely, but--"
"Well," said Trevize gently, "suppose you tell me exactly what it is that Bliss has on her mind in just any way you please, and I promise to be very patient."
"Thank you, and as long as you're going to be patient, I think I can come out with it right away. You see, Bliss wants to come, too."
"Bliss wants to come?" said Trevize. "No, I'm exploding again. I won't explode. Tell me, Janov, why would Bliss want to come along? I'm asking it quietly."
"She didn't say. She said she wants to talk to you."
"Then why isn't she here, eh?"
Pelorat said, "I think--I say I think--that she is rather of the opinion that you are not fond of her, Golan, and she rather hesitates to approach you. I have done my best, old man, to assure her that you have nothing against her. I cannot believe anyone would think anything but highly of her. Still, she wanted me to broach the subject with you, so to speak. May I tell her that you'll be willing to see her, Golan?"
"Of course, I'll see her right now."
"And you'll be reasonable? You see, old man, she's rather intense about it. She said the matter was vital and she must go with you."
Copyright © 1986 by Isaac Asimov
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