Foundation and Chaos

Page 17

“I’m to take you to the private dwelling of a doctor living in the country,” Planch told Lodovik as they waited for transportation from the passenger terminal. Here, in a vast hall designed to hold tens of thousands, they stood alone. The lighted tiles of the ceil formed haphazard puzzle patterns, their condition far worse than any such yet seen on Trantor. The hall was cast in murky twilight, and there were times when Mors thought he might choke, the air was so stagnant.

They had encountered a single elderly Imperial official in the dusty passport docket, and he had waved them through with a sniff and something that might once have been a sneer. His world did not care, why should he?

The hall was littered with broken-down tiktoks, like victims of some mechanical plague. The plague had been lack of replacement parts; Madder Loss had embraced the mechanical laborers and retained them long after Trantor and most other Imperial worlds shrugged them off. They were no longer even being collected for scrap.

Lodovik looked at Planch sympathetically. “This is not pleasant for you,” he observed.

“No,” Planch said with a sigh. “Look what the Empire has done--a waste.”

“What do you mean?”

“Trantor did this because it feared it would lose its eminence. Squeezed the life out of an entire world.”

Lodovik looked away. “Do you blame Linge Chen? Is that why you have double-crossed him?”

Planch paled. “I never said anything about Linge Chen.”

“No,” Lodovik said. Planch looked at the man with sudden misgivings. If Chen ever learned, there was no place in the Galaxy where he would be safe.

A rickety, lozenge-shaped ground taxi approached on large white wheels. The driver was an elderly woman dressed in faded red livery. Her dialect was almost too thick to understand, but Planch managed to communicate with her. She seemed relieved to have paying passenger--in Imperial credits!--and even happier to be getting out of the urban center.

“I know that you have done work for Chen in the past,” Lodovik said as they lurched along a potholed expressway. Here, the expressways layout in the open, rather than being routed below domes or underground, as they were on Trantor. The morning sunshine dazzled Planch, and the air was tinted pink, giving everything a warm, nostalgic glow. “I was privy to some of the arrangements.”

“Of course,” Planch said.

“Now you work for a man named Posit,” Lodovik said.

Planch started in shock and looked particularly miserable. “I should shoot you right now and leave Madder Loss,” he murmured.

“Well, you know the proper codes,” Lodovik said. “That much is obvious. You became angry at Chen when he carried on the policies that strangled Madder Loss...and other Renaissance Worlds. Yet the squeezing, as you describe it, of the Renaissance Worlds was not Linge Chen’s policy initially. It began under the First Ministry of Hari Seldon, who implemented the policy to increase stability in the Empire.”

Planch grunted that he was well aware of the Seldon connection. “I don’t approve of a lot of Imperial actions, and Chen knew that when I worked for him. But I don’t work for him now.”

“You have no need to worry,” Lodovik said. “Chen will never know.”

Planch squirmed in his cracked seat.

“Twenty minutes,” the driver called back in a cheery voice.

The house was the most unusual Planch had ever seen--a single small building standing alone in a field covered with short green plants, forming a kind of living carpet beneath the warm sunshine. The outskirts of the city were ten kilometers away, and the nearest structure similar to this one was almost five kilometers distant. The land between consisted of low, rolling hills covered with planar bushy growths, purple or deep bluish green. The countryside seemed elegantly vivacious, quite gaudy in comparison with the crumbling, unkempt city.

The taxi let them out in a broad paved circle at the front of the dwelling. A single tall male figure stood beneath a cloth awning that flapped lazily in the warm, gentle breeze. He stepped forward and bowed toward Mors Planch.

“You’ve done your work well,” the man said.

Planch returned the bow, then awkwardly spread one arm toward Lodovik, and said blandly, “He wasn’t much trouble.” He stepped back as if they might do something unexpected, start fighting or perhaps just burst into flames.

“You’re free to go,” the man said.

“I need release papers. You seem to be the contact I met on Trantor, but...”

The man gestured and a worn but fully functional tiktok came out of the house carrying a small satchel. “This will complete our agreement, for now. The bag also contains any papers you might need to go wherever you wish to go, safely, in the territories still controlled by the Empire.”

“I want to get away from the empire, forever,” Planch said.

“You will find some documents that will help you do that, as well,” the man said.

Planch, despite his unease, seemed reluctant to return to the waiting taxi.

“What else can I offer you?” the man asked

“An explanation. Who are you, what do you represent?”

“Nothing,” the man said. “I regret to say you’ll soon forget everything you saw here, and your role in rescuing my friend as well.”


“Yes,” said the man. “We’ve known each other for thousands of years.”

“You’re not joking. Who are you?” Planch asked, despite a tingling surge of awe blended with real fear.

“Please go,” the man said, and tipped his head slightly. Planch tipped his own head in synchrony, turned without another word, and walked back to the vehicle. The door opened with a shuddering groan to receive him.

Lodovik watched his rescuer depart. Then, using no human words whatsoever, but a high-frequency pulse-modulated sound signal and bursts of microwave, both exchanged greetings, and Lodovik was partially debriefed.

After, R. Daneel Olivaw said, in spoken words, “Let’s do this on human time and in human ways, for the moment.”

“Certainly,” Lodovik said. “I am curious as to where I might be assigned next.”

Daneel opened the door to the dwelling, and Lodovik entered before him. “You state that there is something different about you. Yet I examine your transmitted status profile and see nothing amiss.”

“Yes,” Lodovik said. “I have been examining my mental structure and programming since the accident, trying to pinpoint what that difference could be.”

“Have you reached any conclusions?”

“I have. I am no longer compelled to obey the Three Laws.”

Daneel received this declaration with no humanly observable reaction. The main room of the house contained two chairs, and in the walls, there were niches for three tiktoks, but to Lodovik, they looked like the niches once reserved for robots on Aurora, tens of thousands of years ago.

“If that is true, there will be grave difficulties, for I observe you are still functioning. You have not deactivated yourself.”

“That would have been impossible under the circumstances, for I did not understand this new condition until after I had been rescued by Mors Planch. I caused harm, unwittingly, to a human being on the ship Planch had hired to find the Spear of Glory .I did not feel even a hint of the reaction I should have felt. I conclude that the neutrino flux has altered my positronic brain in an unanticipated fashion. Certain key elements in my logic circuits may have been transmuted.”

“I see. Have you decided on what action you should take now?”

“I must either deactivate, and impose on you to destroy my remains, or I must be sent to Eos, if my continued existence will serve any purpose.”

Daneel sat on one of the chairs, and Lodovik took the other. It no longer seemed at all appropriate to occupy the niches, which in any case were too narrow for their human-scale frames.

“Why did you travel all this way, rather than send an emissary?” Lodovik asked.

“I have all possible emissaries in key positions at the moment,” Daneel said. “None could be spared; nor can I afford to lose you. I was already scheduled to be on Madder Loss as a jumping-off point for Eos. Normally I would have delayed my trip, since this is a very delicate time, and the accident has caused grave difficulties. It has even triggered a political struggle in the Imperial Palace that might directly involve Hari Seldon.”

Though Lodovik had not worked directly on the Plan, he was well-informed about the psychohistorian.

They sat in silence for several seconds, then Daneel spoke again. “We will go to Eos. I can arrange a small ship for you. There is a mission you can perform for me once you return”

“I am sorry. Daneel,” Lodovik interrupted. “I must emphasize that I am not functioning properly. I should not be assigned any new missions until I have been repaired or reprogrammed, whichever is necessary.”

“That can only be done on Eos,” Daneel said.

“Yes, but there is a possibility I will no longer follow your instructions,” Lodovik said.

“Please explain.”

“Humans would call it a crisis of conscience. I have had many long and idle hours to sort through and reexamine all my brain’s memory contents, and all of my working algorithms, from this new perspective. I must confess that I am a very confused robot at this moment, and my behavior is not predictable. I may even be a danger.”

Daneel stood and stepped over to Lodovik’s chair, then bent from the waist and placed his hand on Lodovik’s shoulder. “What does your investigation and examination tell you?”

“That the Plan is wrong,” Lodovik said. “I believe...I am coming to believe...My state of thinking is such that...” He pushed up from the chair, past Daneel, and went to a broad window looking out on fields of planar bushes. “This is a beautiful world. Mors Planch thinks it is beautiful, and as I spent time with him, I developed a deep respect for his judgment. He resents the changes imposed upon Madder Loss. He regards them as a kind of punishment for aspiring to greatness in the Empire. His resentment led him to betray Linge Chen.”

“I have known about his distaste for the Empire and for Chen,” Daneel said.

Lodovik continued, “Yet it was not the Empire or Linge Chen that decreed Madder Loss be subdued, not directly.” He turned to Daneel, and his face bore traces of human emotion--sadness, regret, grief, even in the presence of a robot, where it was certainly not necessary. “It was you who decided the Renaissance Worlds must be controlled, and induced changes in the politics of Trantor to carry out their strangulation.”

Daneel listened with his own human expression--a troubled sort of fascination. Mimicking human behaviors for so long had created reflex pathways in both robots that sometimes seemed easier to display than to suppress.

“I foresaw greater instability,” Daneel began. “Centuries of human conflict around systems aspiring to replace the Empire and become centers of power. Not all such worlds could win; the struggle would cause untold suffering and destruction, on a scale never witnessed in human history. The empire will fall; we know that much. But all my efforts have been dedicated to mitigating the effects of that fall, to reduce human suffering to a minimum. The Zeroth Law--”

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