Saturday, February 11, 2006

7. More Pillow Talk

Trevize had assumed that they were going to the Ministry of Transportation building, and as the vehicle threaded the streets of Comporellon City, he knew he had guessed correctly. It was less than half an hour before they pulled up outside. During the ride, Trevize and Lizalor had engaged in pointless small talk, from which fact Trevize assumed they were (or at least could be) under surveillance. He followed Lizalor out of the vehicle and down the steps leading to the main entrance of the Ministry building. They passed through the vast lobby he remembered, then threaded their way through corridors until finally reaching an elevator. As soon as the doors closed upon them, Trevize found himself buried under an avalanche of amorous Minister.

They remained locked in embrace until the elevator reached Lizalor's apartment. When the doors opened, Lizalor dragged Trevize into her living room and began to undress him. They continued into the apartment, shedding clothing as they went. Whether through chance or design, they both ran out by the time they reached Lizalor's bedroom.

Much later, she looked up at him and smiled. "I feared you would never come back. I thought you would go on searching forever, or that you would find," here she paused for a time, then finished, "your goal, and be cursed to oblivion. Did you give up your search?"

"Yes," Trevize answered simply. He gave up searching because he found what he was looking for, but he didn't intend to tell her that. For one thing, she would undoubtedly decide that he had indeed been cursed for finding Earth, and that by coming back to Comporellon he had spread the curse to the planet in general and her in particular. For another, during their stay at Daneel's base on Earth's moon, the ancient robot had created mental blocks in Janov and himself to prevent their revealing his existence. Trevize doubted that he could tell Lizalor what he had found even if he wanted to.

"And now that you are here to stay," she continued, "you can direct our efforts to replicate the Foundation's gravitic drive. Needless to say," she chuckled, "you will report directly to me."

Trevize was taken aback. He had expected to be involved in Lizalor's project to reverse-engineer a gravitic drive from the Far Star, but he hadn't anticipated being asked to head up the effort.

Perhaps sensing his hesitation, she asked, "Unless you don't think you can handle the responsibility."

"I simply wasn't expecting the offer," Trevize assured her. "I've directed engineering projects before. In fact, before I went into politics, I was Director of Research at the Darell Shipyards on Terminus."

It seemed to him that Lizalor looked at him with a new respect. "I had no idea you were so accomplished." Then a look of embarrassment crossed her face, as she realized how her comment might be interpreted. "I didn't mean to imply..."

"That I was just a good-looking non-entity who managed to weasel his way onto the Council of Terminus?"

Trevize was able to watch as a blush spread all the way up Mitza Lizalor's unclothed body. He asked gently, "Is that the way it's done on Comporellon?"

"In theory, no. In practice, it is all too common."

"That's not the way it's done on Terminus. We have the example of the Indburs before us to let us know what happens when we let our government become an empty sideshow while real power is exercised behind the scenes. Nobody can hope to win a popular following on Terminus without demonstrating their competence at some creative endeavor. In my case, I served as an officer in the Foundation Navy, then went on to win a graduate degree in hyperatomics at the University of Terminus. I worked at two engineering firms before joining Darell Shipyards' Hyperdrive Division, and spent three years there before being appointed Director of Research. When the Relocation Crisis came to a head last year, I decided that it was my duty to the Foundation to oppose the Centralists. The Councilman for my district was a Centralist, so I ran against him and won. I was part of the delegation Mayor Branno sent to the Normannic Sector to persuade the Siwennans to side with us in the House of Worlds. It was their votes that turned the tide against the Centralists in the House of Worlds, and it was the defeat of Gorib Hannis's allies in the House of Worlds that enabled Mayor Branno to hold the line against Hannis's Relocation Bill in the Council of Terminus."

"And now," said Mitza Lizalor, "you have chosen to side with us against the Foundation."

"I have chosen," Trevize gently corrected her, "to side with you, Mitza, because there is no other woman in the Galaxy who can compare with you."

Then Mitza laid her head on Trevize's shoulder and began to weep.

No comments: