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Foundation’s Edge CHAPTER SIX EARTH

EARTH

Trevize was hot and annoyed. He and Pelorat were sitting in the small dining area, having just completed their midday meal.

Pelorat said, “We’ve only been in space two days and I find myself quite comfortable, although I miss fresh air, nature, and all that.

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Strange! Never seemed to notice all that sort of thing when it was all round me. Still between my wafer and that remarkable computer of yours, I have my entire library with me – or all that matters, at any rate. And I don’t feel the least bit frightened of being out in space now. Astonishing!”

Trevize made a noncommittal sound. His eyes were inwardly focused.

Pelorat said gently, “I don’t mean to intrude, Golan, but I don’t really think you’re listening. Not that I’m a particularly interesting person always been a hit of a bore, you know. Still, you seem preoccupied in another way. – Are we in trouble? Needn’t be afraid to tell me, you know. Not much I could do, I suppose, but I won’t go into panic, dear fellow.”

“In trouble?” Trevize seemed to come to his senses, frowning slightly.

“I mean the ship. It’s a new model, so I suppose there could be something wrong:” Pelorat allowed himself a small, uncertain smile.

Trevize shook his head vigorously. “Stupid of me to leave you in such uncertainty, Janov. There’s nothing wrong at all with the ship. It’s working perfectly. It’s just that I’ve been looking for a hyper-relay.”

“Ah, I see. – Except that I don’t. What is a hyper-relay?”

“Well, let me explain, Janov. I am in communication with Terminus. At least, I can be anytime I wish and Terminus can, in reverse, be in communication with us. They know the ship’s location, having observed its trajectory. Even if they had not, they could locate us by scanning near-space for mass, which would warn them of the presence of a ship or, possibly, a meteoroid. But they could further detect an energy pattern, which would not only distinguish a ship from a meteoroid but would identify a particular ship, for no two ships make use of energy in quite the same way. In some way, our pattern remains characteristic, no matter what appliances or instruments we turn on and off. The ship may be unknown, of course, but if it is a ship whose energy pattern is on record in Terminus – as ours is – it can be identified as soon as detected.”

Pelorat said, “It seems to me, Golan, that the advance of civilization is nothing but an exercise in the limiting of privacy.”

“You may be right. Sooner or later, however, we must move through hyperspace or we will be condemned to remain within a parsec or two of Terminus for the rest of our lives. We will then be unable to engage in interstellar travel to any but the slightest degree. In passing through hyperspace, on the other hand, we undergo a discontinuity in ordinary space. We pass from here to there – and I mean across a gap of hundreds of parsecs sometimes – in an instant of experienced time. We are suddenly enormously far away in a direction that is very difficult to predict and, in a practical sense, we can no longer be detected.”

“I see that. Yes.”

“Unless, of course, they have planted a hyper-relay on board. A hyperrelay sends out a signal through hyperspace – a signal characteristic of this ship – and the authorities on Terminus would know where we are at all times. That answers your question, you see. There would be nowhere in the Galaxy we could hide and no combination of jumps through hyperspace would make it possible for us to evade their instruments:”

“But, Golan,” bald Pelorat softly, “don’t we want Foundation protection?”

“Yes, Janov, but only when we ask for it. You said the advance of civilization meant the continuing restriction of privacy. – Well. I don’t want to be that advanced. I want freedom to move undetected as I wish – unless and until I want protection So I would feel better, a great deal better, if there weren’t a hyper-relay on board.”

“Have you found one, Golan?”

“No, I have not. If I had, I might be able to render it inoperative somehow.”

“Would you know one if you saw it?”

“That’s one of the difficulties. I might not be able to recognize it. I know what a hyper-relay looks like generally and I know ways of testing a suspicious object – but this is a late-model ship, designed for special tasks. A hyper-relay may have been incorporated into its design in such a way as to show no signs of its presence.”

“On the other hand, maybe there is no hyper-relay present and that’s why you haven’t found it.”

“I don’t dare assume that and I don’t like the thought of making a jump until I know.”

Pelorat looked enlightened. “That’s why we’ve just been drifting through space. I’ve been wondering why we haven’t jumped. I’ve heard about jumps, you know. Been a little nervous about it, actually – been wandering when you’d order me to strap myself in or take a pill or something like that.”

Trevize managed a smile. “No need for apprehension. These aren’t ancient times. On a ship like this, you just leave it all to the computer. You give it your instructions and it does the rest. You won’t know that anything has happened at all, except that the view of space will suddenly change. If you’ve ever seen a slide show, you’ll know what happens when one slide is suddenly projected in place of another. Well, that’s what the jump will seem like.”

“Dear me. One won’t feel anything? Odd! I find that somewhat disappointing.”

“I’ve never felt anything and the ships I’ve been in haven’t been as advanced as this baby of ours. – But it’s not because of the hyperrelay that we haven’t jumped. We have to get a bit further away from Terminus – and from the sun, too. The farther we are from any massive abject, the easier to control the jump, to make re-emergence into space at exactly desired co-ordinates. In an emergency, you might risk a jump when you’re only two hundred kilometers off she surface of a planet and just trust to luck that you’ll end up safely. Since there is much mete safe than unsafe volume in the Galaxy, you can reasonably count on safety. Still, there’s always the possibility that random factors will cause you to re-emerge within a few million kilometers of a large star or in the Galactic core – and you will find yourself fried before you can blink. The further away you are from mass, the smaller those factors and the less likely it is that anything untoward will happen.”

“In that case, I commend your caution. We’re not in a tearing hurry,”

“Exactly. – Especially since I would dearly love to find the hyperrelay before I make a move. – Or find a way of convincing myself there is no hyper-relay.”

Trevize seemed to drift off again into his private concentration and Pelorat said, raising his voice a little to surmount the preoccupation barrier, “How much longer do we have?”

“What?”

“I mean, when would you make the jump if you had no concerns over the hyper-relay, my dear chap?”

“At our present speed and trajectory, I should say on our fourth day out. I’ll work out the proper time on the computer.”

“Well, then, you still have two days for your search. May I make a suggestion?”

“Go ahead.”

“I have always found in my own work – quite different from yours, of course, but possibly we may generalize – that zeroing in tightly on a particular problem is self-defeating. Why not relax and talk about something else, and your unconscious mind – not laboring under the weight of concentrated thought – may solve the problem for you.”

Trevize looked momentarily annoyed and then laughed. “Well, why not? – Tell me, Professor, what got you interested in Earth? What brought up this odd notion of a particular planet from which we all started?”

“Ah!” Pelorat nodded his head reminiscently. “That’s going back a while. Over thirty years. I planned to be a biologist when I was going to college. I was particularly interested in the variation of species on different worlds. The variation, as you know – well, maybe you don’t know, so you won’t mind if I tell you – is very small. All forms of life throughout the Galaxy – at least all that we have yet encountered – share a water-based protein/nucleic acid chemistry.”

Trevize said, “I went to military college, which emphasized nucleonics and gravities, but I’m not exactly a narrow specialist. I know a bit about the chemical basis of life. We were taught that water, proteins, and nucleic acids are the only possible basis for life.”

“That, I think, is an unwarranted conclusion. It is safer to say that no other form of life has yet been found – or, at any rate, been recognized – and let it go at that. What is more surprising is that indigenous species – that is, species found on only a single planet and no other – are few in number. Most of the species that exist, including Homo sapiens in particular, are distributed through all or most of the inhabited worlds of the Galaxy and are closely related biochemically, physiologically, and morphologically. The indigenous species, on the other hand, are widely separated in characteristics from both the widespread forms and from each other.”

“Well, what of that?”

“The conclusion is that one world in the Galaxy – one world – is different from the rest. Tens of millions of worlds in the Galaxy – no one knows exactly how many – have developed life. It was simple life, sparse life, feeble life – not very variegated, not easily maintained, and not easily spread. One world, one world alone, developed life in millions of species – easily millions – some of it very specialized, highly developed, very prone to multiplication and to spreading, and including us. We were intelligent enough to form a civilization, to develop hyperspatial flight, and to colonize the Galaxy – and, in spreading through the Galaxy, we took many other forms of lifeforms related to each other and to ourselves – along with us.”

“If you stop to think of it,” said Trevize rather indifferently, “I suppose that stands to reason. I mean, here we are in a human Galaxy. If we assume that it all started on some one world, then that one world would have to be different. But why not? The chances of life developing in that riotous fashion must be very slim indeed – perhaps one in a hundred million – so the chances are that it happened in one life-bearing world out of a hundred million. It had to be one.”

“But what is it that made that particular one world so different from the others?” said Pelorat excitedly. “What were the conditions that made it unique?”

“Merely chance, perhaps. After all, human beings and the lifeforms they brought with them now exist on tens of millions of planets, all of which can support life, so all those worlds must be good enough.”

“No! Once the human species had evolved, once it had developed a technology, once it had toughened itself in the hard struggle for survival, it could then adapt to life on any world that is in the least hospitable – on Terminus, for instance. But can you imagine intelligent life having developed on Terminus? When Terminus was first occupied by human beings in the days of the EncycIopedists, the highest form of plant life it produced was a mosslike growth on rocks; the highest forms of animal life were small coral-like growths in the ocean and insectlike flying organisms on land. We just about wiped them out and stocked sea and land with fish and rabbits and goats and grass and grain and trees and so on. We have nothing left of the indigenous life, except for what exists in zoos and aquaria.”

“Hmm,” said Trevize.

Pelorat stared at him for a full minute, then sighed and said, “You don’t really care, do you? Remarkable! I find no one who does, somehow. My fault, I think. I cannot make it interesting, even though it interests me so much.”

Trevize said, “It’s interesting. It is. But – but – so what?”

“It doesn’t strike you that it might be interesting scientifically to study a world that gave rise to the only really flourishing indigenous ecological balance the Galaxy has ever seen?”

“Maybe, if you’re a biologist. – I’m not, you see. You must forgive me.”

“Of course, dear fellow. It’s just that I never found any biologists who were interested, either. I told you I was a biology major. I took it up with my professor and he wasn’t interested. He told me to turn to some practical problem. That so disgusted me I took up history instead – which had been rather a hobby of mine from my teenage years, in any case – and tackled the ‘Origin Question’ from that angle.”

Trevize said, “But at least it has given you a lifework, so you must be pleased that your professor was so unenlightened.”

“Yes, I suppose one might look at it that way. And the lifework is an interesting one, of which I have never tired. – But I do wish it interested you. I hate this feeling of forever talking to myself.”

Trevize leaned his bead back and laughed heartily.

Pelorat’s quiet face took or: a trace of hurt. “Why are you laughing at me?”

“Not you, Janov,” said Trevize. “I was laughing at my own stupidity, Where you’re concered, I am completely grateful. You were perfectly right, you know,”

“To take up the importance of human origins?”

“No, no. – Well, yes, that too. – But I meant you were right to tell me to stop consciously thinking of my problem and to turn my mind elsewhere. It worked. When you were talking about the manner in which life evolved, it finally occurred to me that I knew how to find that hyperrelay – if it existed.”

“Oh, that!”

“Yes, that! That’s my monomania at the moment. I’ve been looking for that hyper-relay as though I were on my old scow of a training ship, studying every part of the ship by eye, looking for something that stood out from the rest. I had forgotten that this ship is a developed product of thousands of years of technological evolution. Don’t you see?”

“No, Golan.”

“We have a computer aboard. How could I have forgotten?”

He waved his hand and passed into his own room, urging Pelorat along with him.

“I need only try to communicate,” he said, placing his hands onto the computer contact.

It was a matter of trying to reach Terminus, which was now some thousands of kilometers behind.

Reach! Speak! It was as though nerve endings sprouted and extended, reaching outward with bewildering speed – the speed of light, of course – to make contact.

Trevize felt himself touching – well, not quite touching, but sensing – well, not quite sensing, but – it didn’t matter, for there wasn’t a word for it.

He was aware of Terminus within reach and, although the distance between himself and it was lengthening by some twenty kilometers per second, contact persisted as though planet and ship were motionless and separated by a few meters.

He said nothing. He clamped shut. He was merely testing the principle of communication; he was not actively communicating.

Out beyond, eight parsecs away, was Anacreon, the nearest large planet in their backyard, by Galactic standards. To send a message by the same light-speed system that had just worked for Terminus – and to receive an answer as well – would take fifty-two years.

Reach for Anacreon! Think Anacreon! Think it as clearly as you can. You know its position relative to Terminus and the Galactic core; you’ve studied its planetography and history; you’ve solved military problems where it was necessary to recapture Anacreon (in the impossible case – these days – that it was taken by an enemy).

Space! You’ve been on Anacreon.

Picture it! Picture it! You will sense being on it via hyper-relay.

Nothing! His nerve endings quivered and came to rest nowhere.

Trevize pulled loose. “There’s no hyper-relay on board the Far Star, Janov. I’m positive. – And if I hadn’t followed your suggestion, I wonder how long it would have taken me to reach this point.”

Pelorat, without moving a facial muscle, positively glowed. “I’m so pleased to have been of help. Does this mean we jump?”

“No, we still wait two more days, to be safe. We have to get away from mass, remember? – Ordinarily, considering that I have a new and untried ship with which I am thoroughly unacquainted, it would probably take me two days to calculate the exact procedure – the proper hyperthrust for the first jump, in particular. I have a feeling, though, the computer will do it all.”

“Dear me! That leaves us facing a rather boring stretch of time, it seems to me.”

“Boring?” Trevize smiled broadly. “Anything but! You and I, Janov, are going to talk about Earth.”

Pelorat said, “Indeed? You are trying to please an old man? That is kind of you. Really it is.”

“Nonsense! I’m trying to please myself. Janov, you have made a convert. As a result of what you have told me, I realize that Earth is the most important and the most devouringly interesting object in the Universe.”

It must surely have struck Trevize at the moment that Pelorat had presented his view of Earth. It was only because his mind was reverberating with the problem of the hyper-relay that he hadn’t responded at once. And the instant the problem had gone, he had responded.

Perhaps the one statement of Hari Seldon’s that was most often repeated was his remark concerning the Second Foundation being “at the other end of the Galaxy” from Terminus. Seldon had even named the spot. It was to be “at Star’s End.”

This had been included in Gaal Dornick’s account of the day of the trial before the Imperial court. “The other end of the Galaxy” – those were the words Seldon had used to Dornick and ever since that day their significance had been debated.

What was it that connected one end of the Galaxy with “the other end”? Was it a straight line, a spiral, a circle, or what?

And now, luminously, it was suddenly clear to Trevize that it was no line and no curve that should – or could – be drawn on the map of the Galaxy. It was more subtle than that.

It was perfectly clear that the one end of the Galaxy was Terminus. It was at the edge of the Galaxy, yes – our Foundation’s edge – which gave the word “end” a literal meaning. It was, however, also the newest world of the Galaxy at the time Seldon was speaking, a world that was about to be founded, that had not as yet been in existence for a single moment.

What would be the other end of the Galaxy, in that light? The other Foundation’s edge? Why, the oldest world of the Galaxy? And according to the argument Pelorat had presented – without knowing what he was presenting – that could only be Earth. The Second Foundation might well be on Earth.

Yet Seldon had said the other end of the Galaxy was “at Star’s End.” Who could say he was not speaking metaphorically? Trace the history of humanity backward as Pelorat did and the line would stretch back from each planetary system, each star that shone down on an inhabited planet, to some other planetary system, some other star from which the first migrants had come, then back to a star before that – until finally, all the lines stretched back to the planet on which humanity had originated. It was the star that shone upon Earth that was “Star’s End:”

Trevize smiled and said almost lovingly, “Tell me more about Earth, Janov.”

Pelorat shook his head. “I have told you all there is, really. We will find out more on Trantor.”

Trevize said, “No, we won’t, Janov. We’ll find out nothing there. Why? Because we’re not going to Trantor. I control this ship and I assure you we’re not.”

Pelorat’s mouth fell open. He struggled for breath for a moment and then said, woebegone, “Oh, my dear fellow!”

Trevize said, “Come an, Janov. Don’t look like that. We’re going to find Earth.”

“But it’s only on Trantor that – “

“No, it’s not. Trantor is just someplace you can study brittle films and dusty documents and turn brittle and dusty yourself.”

“For decades, I’ve dreamed…”

“You’ve dreamed of finding Earth.”

“But it’s only…”

Trevize stood up, leaned over, caught the slack of Pelorat’s tunic, and said, “Don’t repeat that, Professor. Don’t repeat it. When you first told me we were going to look for Earth, before ever we got onto this ship, you said we were sure to find it because, and I quote your own words, ‘I have an excellent possibility in mind’ Now I don’t ever want to hear you say ‘Trantor’ again. I just want you to tell me about this excellent possibility.”

“But it must be confirmed. So far, it’s only a thought, a hope, a vague possibility.”

“Good! Tell me about it!”

“You don’t understand. You simply don’t understand. It is not a field in which anyone but myself has done research. There is nothing historical, nothing firm, nothing real. People talk about Earth as though it’s a fact, and also as though it’s a myth. There are a million contradictory tales…”

“Well then, what has your research consisted of?”

“I’ve been forced to collect every tale, every bit of supposed history, every legend, every misty myth. Even fiction. Anything that includes the name of Earth or the idea of a planet of origin. For over thirty years, I’ve been collecting everything I could find from every planet of the Galaxy. Now if I could only get something more reliable than all of these from the Galactic Library at… – But you don’t want me to say the word.”

“That’s right. Don’t say it. Tell me instead that one of these items has caught your attention, and tell me your reasons for thinking why it, of them all, should be legitimate.”

Pelorat shook his head. “There, Golan, if you will excuse my saying so, you talk like a soldier or a politician. That is not the way history works.”

Trevize took a deep breath and kept his temper. “Tell me how it works, Janov. We’ve got two days. Educate me.”

“You can’t rely on any one myth or even on any one group. I’ve had to gather them all, analyze them, organize them, set up symbols to represent different aspects of their content – tales of impossible weather, astronomic details of planetary systems at variance with what actually exists, place of origin of culture heroes specifically stated not to be native, quite literally hundreds of other items. No use going through the entire list. Even two days wouldn’t be enough. I spent over thirty years, I tell you.

“I then worked up a computer program that searched through all these myths for common components and sought a transformation that would eliminate the true impossibilities. Gradually I worked up a model of what Earth must have been like. After all, if human beings all originated on a single planet, that single planet must represent the one fact that all origin myths, all culture – hero tales, have in common. – Well, do you want me to go into mathematical detail?”

Trevize said, “Not at the moment, thank you, but how do you know you won’t be misled by your mathematics? We know for a fact that Terminus was founded only five centuries ago and that the first human beings arrived as a colony from Trantor but had been assembled from dozens – if not hundreds – of other worlds. Yet someone who did not know this could assume that Hari Seldon and Salvor Hardin, neither of whom were born on Terminus, came from Earth and that Trantor was really a name that stood for Earth. Certainly, if the Trantor as described in Seldon’s time were searched for – a world with all its land surface coated with metal – it would not be found and it might be considered an impossible myth.”

Pelorat looked pleased. “I withdraw my earlier remark about soldiers and politicians, my dear fellow. You have a remarkable intuitive sense. Of course, I had to set up controls. I invented a hundred falsities based on distortions of actual history and imitating myths of the type I had collected. I then attempted to incorporate my inventions into the model. One of my inventions was even based on Terminus’s early history. The computer rejected them all. Every one. To be sure, that might have meant I simply lacked the fictional talents to make up something reasonable, but I did my best”

“I’m sure you did, Janov. And what did your model tell you about Earth?”

“A number of things of varying degrees of likelihood. A kind of profile. For instance, about 90 percent of the inhabited planets in the Galaxy have rotation periods of between twenty-two and twenty-six Galactic Standard Hours. Well – ” “

Trevize cut in. “I hope you didn’t pay any attention to that, Janov. There’s no mystery there. For a planet to be habitable, you don’t want it to rotate so quickly that air circulation patterns produce impossibly stormy conditions or so slowly that temperature variation patterns are extreme. It’s a property that’s self-selective. Human beings prefer to live on planets with suitable characteristics, and then when all habitable planets resemble each other in these characteristics, some say, ‘What an amazing coincidence,’ when it’s not amazing at all and not even a coincidence.”

“As a matter of fact,” said Pelorat calmly, “that’s a well-known phenomenon in social science. In physics, too, I believe – but I’m not a physicist and I’m not certain about that. In any case, it is called the ‘anthropic principle’: The observer influences the events he observes by the mere act of observing them or by being there to observe them. But the question is: Where is the planet that served as a model? Which planet rotates in precisely one Galactic Standard Day of twenty-four Galactic Standard Hours?”

Trevize looked thoughtful and thrust out his lower lip. “You think that might be Earth? Surely Galactic Standard could have been based on the local characteristics of any world, might it not?”

“Not likely. It’s not the human way. Trantor was the capital world of the Galaxy for twelve thousand years – the most populous world for twenty thousand years – yet it did not impose its rotation period of 1.08 Galactic Standard Days on all the Galaxy. And Terminus’s rotation period is 0.91 GSD and we don’t enforce ours on the planets dominated by us. Every planet makes use of its own private calculations in its own Local Planetary Day system, and for matters of interplanetary importance converts – with the help of computers – back and forth between LPD and GSD. The Galactic Standard Day must come from Earth]”

“Why is it a must?”

“For one thing, Earth was once the only inhabited world, so naturally its day and year would be standard and would very likely remain standard out of social inertia as other worlds were populated. Then, too, the model I produced was that of an Earth that rotated on its axis in just twenty-four Galactic Standard Hours and that revolved about its sun in just one Galactic Standard Year.”

“Might that not be coincidence?”

Pelorat laughed. “Now it is you who are talking coincidence. Would you care to lay a wager on such a thing happening by coincidence?”

“Well well,” muttered Trevize.

“In fact, there’s more to it. There’s an archaic measure of time that’s called the month…”

“I’ve heard of it.”

“It, apparently, about fits the period of revolution of Earth’s satellite about Earth. However – “

“Yes?”

“Well, one rather astonishing factor of the model is that the satellite I just mentioned is huge – over one quarter the diameter of the Earth itself.”

“Never heard of such a thing, Janov. There isn’t a populated planet in the Galaxy with a satellite like that.”

“But that’s good,” said Pelorat with animation. “If Earth is a unique world in its production of variegated species and the evolution of intelligence, then we want some physical uniqueness.”

“But what could a large satellite have to do with variegated species, intelligence, and all that?”

“Well now, there you hit a difficulty. I don’t really know. But it’s worth examination, don’t you think?”

Trevize rose to his feet and folded his arms across his chest. “But what’s the problem, then? Look up the statistics on inhabited planets and find one that has a period of rotation and of revolution that are exactly one Galactic Standard Day and one Galactic Standard Year in length, respectively. And if it also has a gigantic satellite, you’d have what you want. I presume, from your statement that you ‘have an excellent possibility in mind,’ that you’ve done just this, and that you have your world.”

Pelorat looked disconcerted. “Well, now, that’s not exactly what happened. I did look through the statistics, or at least I had it done by the astronomy department and – well, to put it bluntly, there’s no such world.”

Trevize sat down again abruptly. “But that means your whole argument falls to the ground.”

“Not quite, it seems to me.”

“What do you mean, not quite? You produce a model with all sorts of detailed descriptions and you can’t find anything that fits. Your model is useless, then. You must start from the beginning.”

“No. It just means that the statistics on populated planets are incomplete. After all, there are tens of millions of them and some are very obscure worlds. For instance, there is no good data on the population of nearly half. And concerning six hundred and forty thousand populated worlds there is almost no information other than their names and sometimes the location. Some galactographers have estimated that there may be up to ten thousand inhabited planets that aren’t listed at all. The worlds prefer it that way, presumably. During the Imperial Era, it might have helped them avoid taxation.”

“And in the centuries that followed,” said Trevize cynically. “It might have helped them serve as home bases for pirates, and that might have, on occasion, proved more enriching than ordinary trade.”

“I ‘wouldn’t know about that,” said Pelorat doubtfully.

Trevize said, “Just the same, it seems to me that Earth would have to be on the list of inhabited planets, whatever its own desires. It would be the oldest of them all, by definition, and it could not have been overlooked in the early centuries of Galactic civilization. And once on the list, it would stay on. Surely we could count on social inertia there.”

Pelorat hesitated and looked anguished. “Actually, there – there is a planet named Earth on the list of inhabited planets.”

Trevize stared. “I’m under the impression that you told me a while ago that Earth was not on the list?”

“As Earth, it is not. There is, however, a planet named Gaia.”

“What has that got to do with it? Gahyah?”

“It’s spelled G-A-I-A. It means ‘Earth.'”

“Why should it mean Earth, Janov, any more than anything else? The name is meaningless to me.”

Pelorat’s ordinarily expressionless face came close to a grimace. “I’m not sure you’ll believe this. – If I go by my analysis of the myths, there were several different, mutually unintelligible, languages on Earth.”

“What?”

“Yes. After all, we have a thousand different ways of speaking across the Galaxy…”

“Across the Galaxy, there are certainly dialectical variations, but these are not mutually unintelligible. And even if understanding some of them is a matter of difficulty, we all share Galactic Standard.”

“Certainly, but there is constant interstellar travel. What if some world was in isolation for a prolonged period?”

“But you’re talking of Earth. A single planet. Where’s the isolation?”

“Earth is the planet of origin, don’t forget, where humanity must at one time have been primitive beyond imagining. Without interstellar travel, without computers, without technology at all, struggling up from nonhuman ancestors.”

“This is so ridiculous.”

Pelorat hung his head in embarrassment at that. “There is perhaps no use discussing this, old chap. I never have managed to make it convincing to anyone. My own fault, I’m sure.”

Trevize was at once contrite. “Janov, I apologize. I spoke without thinking. These are views, after all, to which I am not accustomed. You have been developing your theories for over thirty years, while I’ve been introduced to them all at once. You must make allowances. – Look, I’ll imagine that we have primitive people on Earth who speak two completely different, mutually unintelligible, languages. “‘

“Half a dozen, perhaps,” said Pelorat diffidently. “Earth may have been divided into several large land masses and it may be that there were, at first, no communications among them. The inhabitants of each land mass might have developed an individual language.”

Trevize said with careful gravity, “And on each of these land masses, once they grew cognizant of one another, they might have argued an ‘origin Question’ and wondered on which one human beings had first arisen from other animals.”

“They might very well, Golan. It would be a very natural attitude for them to have.”

“And in one of those languages, Gaia means Earth. And the word ‘Earth’ itself is derived from another one of those languages.”

“Yes, yes: ‘

“And while Galactic Standard is the language that descended from the particular language in which ‘Earth’ means ‘Earth,’ the people of Earth for some reason call their planet ‘Gala’ from another of their languages.”

“Exactly! You are indeed quick, Golan.”

“But it seems to me that there’s no need to make a mystery of this. If Gaia is really Earth, despite the difference in names, then Gala, by your previous argument, ought to have a period of rotation of just one Galactic Day, a period of revolution of just one Galactic Year, and a giant satellite that revolves about it in just one month.”

“Yes, it would have to be so.”

“Well then, does it or doesn’t it fulfill these requirements?”

“Actually I can’t say. The information isn’t given in the tables.”

“Indeed? Well, then, Janov, shall we go to Gaia and time its periods and stare at its satellite?”

“I would like to, Golan,” Pelorat hesitated. “The trouble is that the location isn’t given exactly, either.”

“You mean, all you have is the name and nothing more, and that is your excellent possibility?”

“But that is just why I want to visit the Galactic Library!”

“Well, wait. You say the table doesn’t give the location exactly. Does it give any information at all?”

“It lists it in the Sayshell Sector – and adds a question mark.”

“Well, then – Janov, don’t be downcast. We will go to the Sayshell Sector and somehow we will find Gaia!”