Saturday, February 11, 2006

1. Plotting a Course

"Where do we go from here?" Golan Trevize wondered aloud.

He, Janov Pelorat and Bliss were back aboard the Far Star, and currently gathered in the pilot-room. Their search for Earth, the legendary human homeworld, had brought them to an underground base on the radioactive Earth's oversized moon. They had been treated hospitably by the base's leader; an ancient robot named Daneel Olivaw. Daneel had chosen to burden himself (so Trevize thought of it) with the Solarian child Fallom Bander. Now that their quest was over, they had to decide on their next move.

"I shall be sorry to go," said Pelorat. "I found our host's conversation quite stimulating, and his records of the origins of humanity are unique and comprehensive. I could happily remain here the rest of my life. As long," he added with a smile at Bliss, "as you were by my side, my dear."

Bliss returned Pelorat's smile, and discreetly held his hand. Discreetly, for she knew that Trevize was willing to suffer only so much of their displays of affection. "I know you could, Pel. But I have been away from Gaia/us for too long as it is. As much as I enjoyed staying here, and as much as I will miss Fallom, I long to return there."

Trevize was not overly eager to return to Gaia himself, but Bliss's desire to return there was (for the moment) in accord with his own desire to leave Daneel's haven. He was sure that Bliss had noticed his joy at being back on board the Far Star and preparing for departure. No doubt she knew the cause as well, for he had made no secret of his unease where Fallom was concerned.

Trevize said, "As it happens, our options are severely limited. We learned on Comporellon that Mayor Branno has spread a description of us to every world in the Foundation. If we go to any Foundation world, we will lose possession of the Far Star. I've grown rather fond of the ship, and I would just as soon not have it taken from me. On the other hand, if we go to any world outside the Foundation, we are just as likely to lose the ship, and less likely to retain our freedom. That being the case, I can only think of three possible destinations."

"One being Gaia, of course," said Bliss.

"One being Gaia," Trevize confirmed. "As far as I know, it's the only world in the Galaxy that does not covet this ship, either on its own behalf or on behalf of Mayor Branno. The second choice is Terminus. It's been six months since I left, and any animus Mayor Branno bore me will have faded, especially if I return with the ship. I still have my position in the Council, and since I was instrumental in Branno's triumph at Sayshell, my political future is assured. The third choice is Comporellon."

"And the waiting arms of Mitza Lizalor," said Bliss with amusement.

Trevize scowled briefly. He had never appreciated Bliss's constant disparagement of his romantic interludes. He said, "I did promise her that I would return with the ship once my mission was complete."

Bliss said with mock astonishment, "And you mean to live up to that promise? I was under the impression that men said all sorts of things they didn't mean to get their way with women."

Pelorat was frowning uncertainly. (He was always uncertain when he frowned, Trevize noticed. He did it so rarely; he tended to be out of practice.) "Now Bliss, that's hardly fair. I've known Golan for some time, and known of him for longer than that, and I've always found him to be an honest man. Too honest, perhaps, given his choice of a career in politics. I have no doubt that he meant what he said to Minister Lizalor, and that he still does."

"My apologies, Trevize," said Bliss. "I'm afraid I have a tendency toward irreverence where men are concerned."

"So I've noticed," said Trevize. "I've also noticed that it seems to be directed exclusively toward me and never toward Janov." He sighed and added, "Very well, apology accepted. I'd be happier, though, if I thought you'd be less irreverent in the future."

"As soon as you return me to Gaia, you won't have to suffer my irreverence any further."

"That's the best reason I've heard yet for returning there," said Trevize. "Gaia it is, then." So saying, he placed his hands on the ship's computer console. The engines powered up, and the ship began moving towards the airlock leading back to the moon's surface.

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