Authors: Greg Bear
Tags: #Fantasy, #Science Fiction
He lay back on the cot and stared at the ceiling. Was it
night, above the metal skin of Trantor? Night beneath the domes, with the darkling sunset
and midnight ceils of the municipalities announcing an end to the day's labors?
For him, for Hari, what labors?
He dreamed he was a pan again, in the garden park, with Dors playing an opposite female,
their minds welded to the minds of the simians. The threat to his life, and Dors' defense.
Power and play and danger and victory in such close combinations. Heady.
Now, this punishment.
Claustrophilia. That was what Yugo had called the love of the metal-skinned worlds'
inhabitants for their confinement. Yet there had always been worlds buried in rock, always
been worlds clad at least in part in metal shields against the wet and violent skies. Sky.
The curse. Sky. The freedom.
“Our Father in Heaven forgives you as He forgives all the transgressions of the saints. ”
This lovely female voice floated through his vague thoughts. He knew it instantly. There
was something at once rich and ancient about it, a voice from a time before most human
Joan! What a strange dream this is. You're gone, decades gone. You helped me when I was
First Minister-but I gave you your freedom to travel with the wraiths, the meme-minds, to
the stars. You are an almost forgotten bit of history for me now. How seldom I think of
“How often I think of you. Saint Hari, who has sacrificed his life for-”
I'm no saint! I've suppressed the dreams of billions.
"How well I know. Our debate many decades ago collapsed much as the bright candles of a
thousand dissenting and restless Renaissance worlds have been snuffed... For the sake of
divine order, the grand scheme. We helped you in your first position of power, in exchange
for our freedom, and
the freedom of all the meme-minds. But Voltaire and I quarreled again-it was inevitable. I
was beginning to see a larger picture, encompassing your work as part of the divine plan.
Voltaire flew away in disgust, across the Galaxy, leaving me here, to contemplate all I
had learned. Now comes your time of Trial, and I fear you risk a darker despair than the
time at Gethsemane for our Lord. "
At this, Hari had to laugh and half cry at once. Voltaire despised me at the last.
Snuffing out freedom, suppressing the Renaissance Worlds. And you didn't think that way
about me when last we talked. He seemed to be half awake, and wholly enmeshed in this...
vision! / made love to a machine for years. By your conception, your philosophy-
“I have acquired more wisdom, more understanding. You were given an angel, a
partner-protector. She was sent by the emissaries of God, and ordained for her task by the
supreme emissary. ”
Hari was too frightened now, an almost panic darkness in his mind, to ask who that might
be, in this imaginary Joan's conception. But-Who? Who is that?
“The Eternal, who opposes the forces of chaos. Daneel, who was Demerzel. ”
Now he knew this was out of his own mind, worse than a dream. Once you acquiesced in the
killing of the machines-the robots.
“I have seen deeper truths. ”
Hari felt the tight strictures of Daneel's controls. Please go, leave me be! he said, and
rolled over on the cot.
As he rolled, his eyes swung open and he saw an old, broken-down tiktok standing near him
in his cell. He shoved up from the cot.
The cell's door was still closed and locked.
The tiktok was marked with prison colors, yellow and black. It must have been a
maintenance machine before the tik-toks rebelled, threatened the Empire, and were
could not imagine how it would have gotten into the cell, unless it had been sent on
The tiktok backed away with a sandy whine, and a face appeared in front of the machine,
about a meter and a half above the floor, a projection, followed by a body, small and
slender and strong, as if brushed in, wrapping around the tiktok like a shadow in a bright
Hari's neck hair rose with sharp prickles, and his breath seemed to stick in his chest.
For a moment, as if caught in a nightmare, he could not speak. Then he sucked in a breath
and jerked away from the machine.
“Help!” he screamed, his voice cracking. Panic darkness seemed to fill him. His chest
might have been collapsing. All the fear, all the tension, the anticipation-
“Do not cry out, Hari!” The voice was vaguely female, mechanical in the old tiktok way.
“I mean no harm, no concern. ”
“Joan!” He breathed this name aloud, but much more softly.
But the old machine was failing, its last power draining. Hari sat up on the side of the
bed and watched the lights on its body slowly dim.
“Take courage, Hari Seldon. He and I stand in opposition now, once more, as we always did.
We have quarrelllleed. ” The words slurred, slowed. “We haaawe seppparrrrateddd. ”
The tiktok stopped dead.
The hatch burst open with a loud sigh and three guards entered. One immediately fired a
bolt weapon that blew the old tiktok down to the floor. The others booted and kicked the
small unit into a corner and shielded Hari from anything more it might do. Two more guards
entered and dragged Hari out of the cell by his shoulders. Feebly, Hari kicked his heels
against the smooth floor to help the men along.
“Are you sure you don't want me dead?” he asked querulously.
“Sky, no!” the guard on his right cried out brusquely. “It would mean our lives if you're
hurt. You're in the most secure cell on Trantor-”
“So we thought, ” the other guard said grimly, and they lifted Hari to his feet and tried
to brush him down. They had dragged him ten or fifteen meters down the straight corridor.
Hari stared at this immense, welcome distance, this refreshing extension, and caught his
“Maybe you should treat an old cuss like me more gently, ” he suggested, and started to
laugh raucously, a cackle, a hoot, a suck of breath, then more laughter. The laughter
stopped abruptly and he shouted, “Keep the ghosts out of my monk's quarters, damn you!”
The guards stared at him, then at each other.
It was hours before they took him back into his cell. The intrusion was never explained.
Joan and Voltaire, the resurrected “sims” or simulated intelligences, modeled after lost
historical figures, had given him so much trouble and so much information-decades past,
when he had been at the height of his mature youth, First Minister of the Empire, and Dors
had constantly been at his side.
Hari had forgotten about them, but now Joan, at least, was back, riding a mechanical
contrivance into his prison cell, subverting all the security systems. She had decided
against leaving with the meme-minds, to explore the Galaxy...
And what about Voltaire? What more trouble could either or both of them cause, with their
ancient brilliance and their ability to infiltrate and reprogram the machines and
communications and computational systems of Trantor?
They were certainly beyond his control. And if Joan favored Hari, whom would Voltaire
favor? They had certainly
represented opposite points of view through most of their career...
But at least someone from the past was still around, professed concern for him! He did not
have Dors, or Raych, or Yugo... or Daneel...
Perversely, the more he thought about the visitation, the less disturbed he became. Hours
passed, and he slipped into a deep and restful slumber, as if he had been touched by
something profoundly convinced and at peace.
Lodovik held the head of R. Giskard Reventlov and stood motionless for several minutes,
lost in deep processing of what he had absorbed-lost in contemplation. He set the head
down gently on the plinth.
Kallusin kept a respectful silence.
Lodovik turned toward the humaniform Calvinian. “They were very difficult times,” he said.
“Humans seemed intent on destroying each other. The Solarians and Aurorans-the
Spacers-were very difficult cultures.”
“All humans present grave difficulties,” Kallusin said. “Serving them is never easy.”
“No,” Lodovik agreed. “But to take on the responsibility of destroying an entire world-the
home world of humanity, as Giskard did ... To push human history onto a proximate
beneficial course . . . That is extraordinary.”
“Few robots not perverted by human prejudices and inappropriate programming would have
done such a thing.”
“You believe Giskard was operating improperly?”
“Is it not obvious?” Kallusin asked.
“But a robot that is malfunctioning so severely in its basic instructions must shut down,
become totally inactive.”
“You have not shut down,” Kallusin noted dryly.
“I have had such constraints removed-Giskard had not. Besides, I haven't committed such
“Indeed. And so Giskard ceased functioning. ”
“But not before setting in motion all these events, these trends!”
Kallusin nodded. “Clearly, we have more latitude than our designers ever planned for. ”
“The humans thought they were rid of us. But they could not sweep all the worlds where
robots still existed-and where Giskard's virus grew. Nor, apparently, did all humans agree
to dispose of their robots. ”
“There were other factors, other events, ” Kallusin said. “Plussix remembers little but
that robots knew sin. ”
Lodovik turned to Kallusin, breaking his contemplation of the silvery head, and felt again
the out-of-place and untraceable resonance. “By seeking to constrain human freedom, ” he
“No, ” Kallusin said. “That was what led to the schism between Giskardians and Calvinians.
Those who broke away from Daneel's faction carried out instructions given centuries before
by humans on Aurora. What those instructions were-”
The word or name attached to the resonance suddenly became clear. Not Voldarr, but
Voltaire. A human personality, with humanlike memories. This is what the meme-minds hated.
I have swum through space with them, across light-years, through the last remnants
ofwormholes abandoned by humanity... This is why they took revenge on your kind on Trantor!
Images, comparisons rose unbidden. “A vast burning, winnowing, an extirpation, ” Lodovik
said, shuddering at the human emotion of anger, not his own. Shuddering also at the return
of his malfunction, never leaving him alone long enough to enjoy stability. “Serving
humanity but not justice. A prairie fire. ”
Kallusin regarded him with curiosity. “You know of these events? Plussix has never
revealed them to me. ”
Lodovik shook his head. “I am puzzled by what I just said. I do not know where the words
come from. ”
“Perhaps exposure to these histories, these memories-”
“Perhaps. They disturb and inform. We should return to Plussix. I am far more curious now
what his plans are, and how we shall proceed. ”
They left the chamber where Giskard's head was stored and climbed the spiral stairs to the
upper warehouse level.
Mors Planch was summoned from his well-appointed cell, not far from the private office of
Farad Sinter. The guard who came to fetch him was of pure citizen stock, strong and
unquestioning and taciturn.
“How is Farad Sinter today?” Planch asked.
“And you? You feel well?” Planch lifted an inquiring and sympathetic eyebrow.
“I am feeling a little uneasy myself. You see, this Sinter is every bit as terrible a
human being as-”
A warning frown.
“Yes, but unlike you, I want to incur his wrath. He will kill me sooner or later, or what
he has done will lead to my death- I don't doubt that at all. He smells of death and
corruption. He represents the worst the Empire can summon these days-”
The guard shook his head in remonstration and stepped around to open the door to the new
Chief Commissioner of the Commission of General Security. Mors Planch closed his eyes,
sucked in a deep breath, and entered.
“Welcome,” Sinter said. He stood in his new robes,
even more grand (and much gaudier) than those of Linge Chen. His tailor, a small
Lavrentian with a worried face, probably new to the palace, stood back and folded his
hands as this new master enjoyed the unfinished work, and delayed its completion. “Mors
Planch, I'm sure you will be delighted to know we have captured a robot. Vara Liso
actually found it, and it did not escape. ”
The small, intense, and thoroughly discomfiting woman had almost managed to hide behind
Sinter, but now she bowed and acknowledged this praise. She did not look happy, however.
Sky, she's ugly, Planch thought, and at the same time felt pity for her. Then she looked
directly at him, narrowed one eye, and the pity froze in his veins.
“There may be robots everywhere, as I suspected, theorized, and as you discovered, Mors. ”
Sinter submitted to the tailor once more, lowering his arms and holding still. “Tell our
witness about your find, Vara. ”
“It was an old robot, ” Liso said breathlessly. “A humani-form, in terrible condition,
haunting the dark places of the municipalities, a pitiful thing-”
“But a robot, ” Sinter said, “the first found in any kind of working order in thousands of
years. Imagine! Surviving like a rodent all these centuries. ”
“Its mind is weak, ” Liso commented softly. “Its energy reserves are very low. It will not
last much longer. ”
“We shall take it before the Emperor this evening, then, tomorrow, I shall demand that my
interview with Hari Sel-don be moved forward. My sources tell me Chen is ready to give in
and strike a deal with Seldon-the coward! The trai-torl This evidence, along with your
tape, should convince the worst skeptic. Linge Chen had hoped to destroy me. Soon I shall
have more power than all the Commission of Public Safety's stuffy barons combined-and just
in time to save us all from servitude to these machines. ”