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Monday, October 24, 2011

Foundation’s Fear






RENDEZVOUS

R. Daneel Olivaw did not look like Eto Demerzel. That role he had already cast aside.
This Dors Vanabili expected, though it was unsettling to her. She knew that through millennia he had discarded the skin and shape of countless guises.
Dors studied him in the cramped, dingy room two Sectors away from Streeling University. She had followed a convoluted route to get here and the site was protected by elaborate, overlapping security measures. Robots were outlaws. They had lived for millennia in the deep shadow of taboo. Though Olivaw was her guide and mentor, she saw him seldom.
Yet as a humaniform robot she felt a tremor of mingled fear and reverence at this ancient, partly metallic form before her. He was nearly twenty millennia old. Though he could appear human, he did not truly wish to be human. He was inexpressibly greater than that now.
She had lived happily as a pseudo-person for so long now. Even a reminder of who and what she was came like cold fingers along her spine. “The recent increasing attention paid to Hari...”
“Indeed. You fear you will be detected.”
“The newest security measures are so invasive!”
He nodded. “You are correct to be concerned.”
“I need more help in protecting Hari.”
“Adding another of us to his close associates would double the danger of detection.”
“I know, I know, but...”
Olivaw reached out and touched her hand. She blinked back tears and studied his face. Small matters, such as consistent movement of his Adam’s apple when he swallowed, had long ago been perfected. To ease himself in this meeting, he had omitted these minor computations and movements. He obviously enjoyed even momentary freedom from such taxation.
“I am constantly fearful,” she admitted.
“You should be. He is much threatened. But you are designed to function best with a high level of apprehension.”
“I know my specifications, yes, but--take this latest move of yours, involving him in Imperial politics at the highest level. It imposes severe strain on my task.”
“A necessary move.”
“It may distract him from his work, from psychohistory.”
Olivaw shook his head slowly. “I doubt that. He is a certain special kind of human--driven. He once remarked to me, ‘Genius does what it must and talent does what it can’--thinking that he merely had talent.”
She smiled ruefully. “But he is a genius.”
“And like all such, unique. Humans have that rare, great excursions from the mean. Evolution has selected them for it, though they do not seem to realize that.”
“And we?”
“Evolution cannot act on one who lives forever. In any case, there has not been time. We can and do develop ourselves, however.”
“Humans are also murderous.”
“We are few; they are many. And they have deep animal spirits we cannot fathom, in the end, no matter how we try.”
“I care about Hari, first.”
“And the Empire, a distant second?” He gave her a thin smile. “I care for the Empire only so far as it safeguards humanity.”
“From what?”
“From itself. Just remember, Dors: this is the Cusp Era, as anticipated by ourselves for so long. The most critical period in all of history.”
“I know the term, but what is the substance? Do we have a theory of history?”
For the first time Daneel Olivaw showed expression, a rueful grimace. “We are not capable of a deep theory. For that, we would have to understand humans far better.”
“But we have something...?”
“A different way of viewing humanity, one now badly strained. It caused us to shape this greatest of humanity’s creations, the Empire.”
“I do not know of this--”
“No need for you to. We now require a more profound view. That is why Hari is so imprtant.”
Dors frowned, troubled for reasons she could not quite express. “This earlier, simpler theory of...ours. It tells you that humanity now must have psychohistory?”
“Exactly. We know this, from our own crude theory. But only this.”
“For more, we rely on Hari alone?”
“Alas, yes.”

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