Saturday, February 11, 2006

6. Renunciation

Golan Trevize found himself alone for the first time in six months. It was, he had come to recognize, a never-ending cycle. One went from sharing one's life with other people, to being alone, to sharing again. It had first happened when he was twenty-two, after leaving the Navy. He had gone from being a member of a unit to being a man alone. Then he had met Zillia, and for three years he had been part of a couple. Then came the breakup, and he was alone again. Since then there had been other women, Ensa and Cordia and Danna, periods of union separated by periods of solitude. His last solo period had ended with his confrontation with Mayor Branno and his exile from Terminus with Janov. Now Janov had been left behind on Gaia, and Trevize was alone for the first time in the Far Star.

But not for long, he knew. He would only remain alone for as long as it took the ship to reach Comporellon. Then he would be reunited with Mitza Lizalor, and the familiar pattern of a life shared with someone else would begin again.

Once again, Trevize looked upon Comporellon, with its larger-than-normal polar ice caps and its redder-than-normal sunlight. As before, he signaled to the world's immigration authority requesting permission to land, and as before he was directed to one of the twelve orbiting entry stations. The name of the station, Padrel, tugged at his memory, and he looked up the Far Star's log to check on a suspicion. The ship's log confirmed that they had docked at Padrel Station during their previous visit. Trevize was unsurprised to find A. Kendray (he had never learned the man's first name) waiting to meet him.

This time, Kendray was accompanied by another man, who seemed to exist solely to provide contrast with Kendray himself. Where Kendray was short, heavy and dark, his companion was tall, thin and fair.

Kendray was, if possible, even more avuncular than at their first meeting. He said, "Ah, my dear Golan Trevize, what a pleasure it is to meet you again. Since our last meeting, fortune has smiled upon me, and I now have the honor of being Station Administrator here at Padrel Station. My colleague here is Assistant Administrator Binlo Gatis."

"Can I assume," said Trevize, "that your change in situation was a consequence of our earlier meeting?"

"You can indeed. Minister Lizalor herself congratulated me on my clear thinking in regard to the matter of your worldless companion. The initiative I demonstrated in not allowing the strict letter of the law to interfere with your mission to our world was recognized and appropriately rewarded. And speaking of your companions, where are Doctor Pelorat and Miss Bliss?"

Trevize explained, "Doctor Pelorat and Miss Bliss chose not to accompany me to Comporellon this trip."

Kendray's smile grew even brighter. "I must say, I'm not sorry to hear it. Even though nothing unfortunate came of it, the presence of Miss Bliss on your ship was an uncomfortable one for all of us."

"Yes, I remember."

"At any rate," Kendray continued, "you'll be happy to hear that Minister Lizalor has directed us to waive the usual formalities, and allow you to proceed directly down to the Capital."

Trevize found himself wondering whether Mitza Lizalor was more enthusiastic about having him back, or at having the Far Star back. He decided he would be better off not knowing.

It took less than an hour for the ship to travel from Padrel Station down to Comporellon City. Once again, he set down at a spaceport located on the city's western outskirts. Emerging from his ship, he found a Comporellian vehicle waiting for him. Trevize noted absently that the vehicle was completely black, with the insignia of the Comporellian Ministry of Transportation visible on the back door. His attention, though, immediately focused on the figure standing next to the vehicle. It was a tall woman in black with short hair of a startling red color and wide eyes of an equally startling green. She gave him a brief, formal nod that let him know that they were in a public setting and should maintain themselves with fitting decorum.

"Minister Lizalor", Trevize said formally, with an appropriately respectful nod.

"Mr. Trevize," Lizalor replied. "Allow me to welcome you back to Comporellon. If you would care to accompany me, I can escort you to the Ministry of Transportation."

"I'd be honored," said Trevize.

Little had changed on Comporellon in the two months since he had last been here. It was still just as cold, and snow still covered much of the planet's capital city. However, Trevize's attention was distracted by a detail of his short conversation with Lizalor.

"Minister," he said, "I'm willing to let the matter pass, in light of our friendship, but I'm curious. Why didn't you use my title when you greeted me at the spaceport?"

Lizalor's eyes widened in surprise. "You mean you don't know? Haven't you been following events on Terminus?"

Trevize began to experience a sinking feeling. He could halfway guess what Lizalor was about to tell him. "No, I've been rather out of touch with Galactic politics lately. What has happened on Terminus?"

"The elections for the Council of Terminus were held last month. In your absence, another man was elected to fill your seat. You are no longer a member of the Council."

Trevize uttered the vilest oath he could think of. "Branno!"

Lizalor nodded. "I assume she was unhappy about your not returning the ship to the Foundation."

"Of course," Trevize fumed. "So she found somebody in my district to run against me. I can only imagine what sort of campaign she cooked up against me. Nothing obvious, of course, not from Branno the Bronze. Just a few unsubstantiated rumors, wondering why I was off touring the Galaxy instead of staying in Terminus City doing the work I was elected to do!"

He turned to look Lizalor directly in the eyes. "Minister, if I ever needed anything to show me that my future lies here on Comporellon and not back on Terminus, this was it. I hereby renounce my Foundation citizenship and request citizenship in the Commonwealth of Comporellon!"

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