The transfer from the trader vessel to one of Daneel’s hyperships, and the subsequent final leg of the journey, had gone smoothly. Eos hung overhead in the transparent bubble port where Lodovik sat with Daneel.
The hypership automatically placed them in a close orbit around the small brown and milky blue moon. Beneath them, hidden by the bulk of the ship, lay a massive and deeply cold green gas giant. The double star around which both moon and planet orbited was just visible on the left, distant and brilliant, but shedding little heat this far out in the system. The two stars orbited a common center, actually several tens of thousands of kilometers below the surface of the larger deep red star, a dwarf little more massive than Trantor’s own sun, yet a thousand times more diffuse. The smaller white star seemed to be the origin of a thin, outwardly spiraling ribbon of deep red and purple. Lodovik studied this view silently. Daneel, as well, had nothing to say.
No robot truly has a home. Daneel had in several instances allied himself with humans, and seemed to function more smoothly and efficiently in their presence-Elijah Bailey and, twenty thousand years later, Hari Seldon, as well as others. Yet there was no place where he felt he belonged. A robot belongs where its duties can be best performed, and Daneel knew that for the time being this place was Eos, and so, for the moment, Eos was a comfortable place to be.
But Trantor called strongly, as well. Misfortune had struck at a crucial time. Daneel, like any thinking being trying to make a way through a universe of contending forces, sometimes wondered whether he was being conspired against by reality itself. Unlike humans, however, he attached no sentiment to idle theories with no basis in the sum of compelling evidence.
The universe did not oppose-it simply did not care. As his desired outcome was but one of an infinite number of possible outcomes, and could be secured only through immense and long-term effort, any small miscalculation or misstep or unforeseen interference could cause the “unlucky” circumstances which, if not immediately and efficiently corrected, could lead to failure.
Daneel did not hold this view as a philosophy. Both Lodovik and Daneel, like all high-level robots, had been programmed to accept such things without thought. Emotions of a sort-the basic thinking patterns of social beings-were familiar to these robots, and even had their analogs in various combinations of heuristics, but these analogues did not often loom large in a robot’s conscious awareness, any more than its realistic view of existence. Robots were not usually prone to introspection and to examining the roots of their conscious existence; everything referred back to their basic programs, unassailable givens, and those programs referred back to the Three Laws.
Lodovik no longer had such constraints. He watched Eos grow larger, its solid oceans of water-ice and methane and planes of ammonia-rich mud shading the illuminated landscape. He was introspective. He turned his head to look at Daneel, and wondered what he was thinking.
There were only two possible reasons for a robot to attempt to model the inner processes of another robot: to anticipate that robot’s actions, and attempt to coordinate with those actions, sharing duty, or to find some way to foil those actions. Lodovik was totally unfamiliar with the second reason, yet that was what he hoped to do.
Somehow, he knew he had to get away from Eos without being “repaired,” and to find the other robots who opposed Daneel, the so-called Calvinians.
“This ship will dock in twenty-one minutes,” the autopilot informed them, treating them as if they were human passengers.
So far as it was able to judge, in its specialized way, they were; it knew no other kind of passenger. Yet no passengers other than robots had traveled on this ship for thousands of years. No human had ever been to Eos.
Somehow, Lodovik felt like an intruding and betraying-what? He labored to think of an appropriate human word. A ghost, perhaps, malignant and deranged, masquerading in the body of a robot…
The ship rotated slowly and the moon passed out of view. There was only the broad thick spill of the nearest dense spiral arm, viewed almost edge-on and quite faint from this vantage, near the diffuse rim of the Galaxy. Above and below this faint mottled band, filling over a third of their field of view, stretched a profound blackness very thinly scattered with lone points of light, a few stars close and within the Galactic plane, other stars far away and high above the plane. Still others, much farther away and even dimmer, were not stars but galaxies.
Eos’s surface came back into view, much closer and rich with detail. A few craters threw splashes of ice dust across the oceans and plains; for the most part, however, Eos’ solid hydrosphere was unmarked but for the signs of internal disruption: tortuous seams, heaves, the puckered chasms and pressure ridges. This star system had no marauding belts of asteroids and comets, subject to perturbation and gliding silently inward to disrupt the moons and planets.
Eos was isolated and ignored, solid, cold, inhospitable for any living thing-and for robots, almost completely safe.
“We have docked,” announced the autopilot.
Had anyone looked, the station pioneered and built by R. Daneel Olivaw and R. Yan Kansarv would have been clearly visible against Eos’s frozen surface, even from millions of kilometers in space. Its heat made it the most brilliant object on the moon-for those seeking infrared signatures. None did, or ever had, however.
Lodovik and Daneel disembarked from the transport in a broad and almost empty hangar, with room for many ships. Their footsteps echoed in the cavernous enclosure. Lodovik had been here almost eighty times before, yet had never thought to be curious about this anomaly. Why had Daneel and Kansarv wasted so much space? Had there ever been occasion when this hangar was filled with ships-filled with robots? When had that been?
Yan Kansarv itself met them a hundred meters from the transport. It stood with “arms” crossed and “fingers” linked, a gleaming dark steel head and body highlighted by brilliant silver limbs-four arms, two large and emerging from where human shoulders would have been, two small and recessed into its thorax; and three legs, on which it walked with a precise and level grace unknown to humaniform robots. Its head was small, equipped with seven vertical sensor bands, two of which glowed blue at any given time.
“It is a pleasure to see you again, Lodovik Trema,” Yan said in a rich, slightly buzzing contralto. “And Daneel. You are very late for a maintenance check and refit.”
“We must work quickly,” Daneel said, eliminating any human signs of greeting. Yan immediately switched to robot microwave speech. The following detailed explanation took less than half a second.
Yan then turned to Lodovik. “Pardon my eccentricities,” it spoke, “but whenever possible it gives me pleasure to exercise my human functions. I have been unable to do so for over thirty years. Except, of course, with Dors Venabili. I fear, however, that she no longer finds me of interest.”
Daneel had already inquired about Dors’ progress, and had received an answer. Yan, however, explained in speech once more to Lodovik. “She has made a very satisfying recovery, but with many lapses. When R. Daneel brought her here, she was close to total breakdown. She had stretched any interpretation of the Zeroth Law to the very limits by destroying a human who threatened Hari Seldon. The strain was compounded by the effects of her victim’s invention, an Electro-Clarifier, I believe it was called…”
Lodovik realized that this ancient robot, built many thousands of years ago to repair other robots on Aurora-and the last of its kind still functional-was reacting deep in its programming to their convincing human forms. It knew, on one level, that they were fellow robots-but on another level, a primal and irresistible urge arose to treat them as if they were human.
Yan Kansarv was lonely for its ancient masters.
“She awaits your company,” Kansarv said, then, to Daneel, it added, “She wishes news of Hari.”
“That mission is finished for her,” Daneel said. “She was constructed by me, using ancient plans for convincing helpmeets and consorts, to be as nearly human as any robot ever made,” Kansarv reminded him. “More even than you, R. Daneel. She bears a great resemblance to R. Lodovik in that regard. To alter that now would be to destroy her.”
“There is so much work to do,” Daneel said, with a faint intonation of urgency.
Kansarv was not oblivious to this. “I can perform all the necessary tasks within twenty-one hours, then you may leave. I hope there is time for more conversation. I need outside stimulus now and then, or I become subject to minor malfunctions that are irritating.”
“We cannot afford to lose you,” Daneel said.
“No,” Kansarv agreed without a hint of self-pity. “The only robot I cannot repair or manufacture is one like myself.”
Dors Venabili stood in the simple four-room enclosure built for her upon her arrival on Eos. The furniture and decor was similar to what might have been found on Trantor, in the quarters of a mid-level meritocrat or high-level university professor. The temperature was set at just above the freezing point of water; the humidity was less than two percent, and the light level was what a human would have regarded as murky, sub-twilight. These were optimal for a robot, even a humaniform, with the added benefit of reducing her energy use to a minimum.
There was very little to think about or do, and there were no cycling time periods to deal with, so Dors spent much of her existence in a continuous, fluid robotic suspension, at one-tenth power and with thoughts slowed almost to human levels, cycling through old memories, making connections between one past event and another.
Nearly all those memories and events involved Hari Seldon. She had been designed to protect and nurture this one human. Since she would likely never see Seldon again, she could now be said, quite fairly, to be obsessed with him.
Kansarv, Daneel, and Lodovik entered the quarters through the guest door and waited in the small reception area. A few seconds later, Dors appeared, wearing a simple cloth shift, her legs and feet bare. Her self-maintaining skin seemed healthy, and her hair was neatly arranged, short, with a slight flip at the back.
“It is good to see you again, R. Daneel,” she said, and nodded at Lodovik. She knew of Lodovik, though they had never met before. Kansarv she ignored. “How goes our work on Trantor?”
“Hari Seldon is well,” Daneel said, knowing the question she was really asking.
“He must be aging by now, in the last decades of his life,” she said.
“He is very near death,” Daneel said. “In a few more years, his work will be done, and he will die.”
Dors listened to this with features deliberately frozen. Lodovik detected a small tremor in her left hand, however. A remarkable simulacrum of human emotions, he thought. Every robot must have a set of rudimentary emotional algorithms to maintain personal equilibrium: such reactions help us to understand whether we are performing well and complying with our instructions. But this one-
This one feels very much as a human feels. What must that be like-and how can it be reconciled with the Three Laws, or the Zeroth Law?
“She responds well to work commands,” Kansarv said. “But in truth there has been very little work here for either of us for some years, since the last of the provincial robots were returned for servicing.”
“How are you, Dors?” Daneel asked.
“I am functional,” she said, and turned away. “I am also underutilized.”
“Bored?” Daneel asked.
“Then you will appreciate a new assignment. I will need assistance with the humans being prepared for Star’s End.”
“That could be very useful. Will there be any contact with Hari Seldon?”
“No,” Daneel said.
“That is good,” Dors said. She turned to Lodovik. “Were you instructed to love and honor Linge Chen?”
Lodovik, had he been among humans, would have smiled at this suggestion. He looked squarely at Dors, considered for a very short time, then lifted the corners of his lips. “No,” he said. “I maintained a strong professional relationship with him, nothing more.”
“Did he come to find you indispensable?”
“I do not know,” Lodovik said. “He doubtless found me very useful, and I was able to influence many of his actions to further our ends.”
“Daneel forbade me to influence Hari too much,” Dors said. “I think it was an instruction I carried out very poorly. And he certainly influenced me. That is why I have been so long recovering my equilibrium.”
The robots did not speak for several seconds.
“I hope that no other robot is ever taught to feel more than duty,” Dors continued. “Devotion, friendship, and love are not for us.”
Yan Kansarv inspected Lodovik alone in the diagnostic facility that had been disassembled on Aurora and shipped to Eos, twenty thousand years before. They were surrounded by simple prismatic banks of memory, containing designs of virtually all robots since the time of Susan Calvin-over a million models in all, including Lodovik’s unique plans.
“Your basic mechanical structure is sound,” Kansarv told him after less than an hour spent with the probes and imaging machines. “Biomechanical integration is intact, though you have engaged in some fairly major regeneration of external pseudocells.”
“Neutrino damage, I presume. I could feel the pseudocells failing,” Lodovik said.
“I take some pride in seeing that this regeneration has gone well,” Kansarv said, circling Lodovik on the platform. Lodovik’s eyes tracked the robot in its course. Kansarv paused, swiveled on its three legs, then said, “I should explain that such expressions are only approximate. While I enjoy speaking in human tongues, they are limited for expressing robotic states.”
“Of course,” Lodovik said.
“I apologize for explaining that to you, as you undoubtedly know such things already,” it continued after a short buzz.
“No need,” Lodovik said.
“However, at this stage of the diagnosis, all of your purely robotic algorithms are engaged in self-checking. I dare not use robotic microwave language with you until these portions of your network are allowed to engage again.”
“I feel a certain lack,” Lodovik said. “Deep planning would be difficult now.”
“Conserve through inaction,” Kansarv recommended. “If anything has gone wrong with you, I will discover what it is. So far, I see nothing out of the ordinary.”
A few minutes passed. Kansarv left the chamber and returned with a new interface tool for a particular probe. At no point thus far had he needed to actually violate the integrity of Lodovik’s pseudoskin.
Still humming, Kansarv applied the new probe to the base of Lodovik’s neck.
“There will be an entry now. Warn your tissues not to attempt to encapsulate or dissolve the new organic matter that will enter your system.”
“I will do so once I have my robotic functions returned to me,” Lodovik said.
“Yes. Of course.” Kansarv sent microwave instructions to the central diagnostic processor, and Lodovik felt his control expand. He did as Kansarv had told him to, and felt the probe’s thin leads penetrate his pseudoskin. After a few minutes, they withdrew, leaving two tiny spots of what appeared to be human blood just below his hairline. Kansarv wiped these away deftly, then dropped the swabs into a small vial for assay.
More minutes passed with Kansarv standing in one position, unmoving, though humming now and then. The master robot technician finally inclined its head a few degrees.
“You will relinquish all control at this point. Please pass control to the external processor.”
Lodovik closed his eyes and went away for an indefinite time.
The four robots met in the anteroom to the diagnostic center. Dors still maintained a controlled, somewhat stiff expression and physical posture, like a shy child before her elders, afraid of saying something silly. Lodovik stood beside Daneel as Kansarv delivered his results.
“This robot is intact and has suffered no damage that it has not been able to repair on its own. I can detect no psychological malfunction, no neural-net psychosis, no interface difficulties or anomalies of external expression. In short, this robot will probably outlast me, and as I have frequently warned you, Daneel, I have no more than five hundred years of active service remaining.”
“Is it possible there are problems below your ability to detect?”
“Of course that is possible,” Kansarv said with a sharper buzz. “That is always possible. My mandate does not include deep-programming structures, as you well know.”
“And such problems in the deep structures might result in behavioral anomalies,” Daneel persisted. Clearly, Lodovik’s situation could not be so easily dismissed.
“There is a possibility that concern about damage skewed R. Lodovik’s ability to assess his own mental state. Too detailed self-analysis has been known to cause difficulties in complex robots such as these, R. Daneel.”
Daneel turned to Lodovik. “Do you still have the difficulties you expressed earlier?”
Lodovik promptly replied, “I concur with R. Yan’s theory that I have been autodiagnosing in too much detail.”
“What is your relation to the Three Laws, and to the Zeroth Law, now?”
“I will act in compliance with all of them,” Lodovik said. Daneel seemed to show visible relief, and extended his hand to Lodovik’s shoulder.
“Then you can be of full service?”
“Yes,” Lodovik said.
“I am very glad to hear this,” Daneel said.
Signs seemed to burn across Lodovik’s thoughts as he gave these answers: I have attempted for the first time to deceive R. Daneel Olivaw!
But there was no other option. Something had indeed been triggered in Lodovik’s deep-programming structure, a subtle shifting of interpretations and a very complicated assessment of evidence, inspired by-what? By the mysterious Voldarr? Or had he been pondering such changes for decades, exerting a native genius unsuspected in robots?-with the exception of Giskard!
Daneel had opened up an unknown corner of robotic history to Lodovik. Lodovik was not the first to change in a way that would have horrified his long-dead human designers. Giskard had never revealed his own internal conclusions to humans-only to Daneel, whom he had then infected.
Perhaps the meme-minds infected Giskard first, hmm? Let us keep this supposition our secret. They have examined you and found nothing-all in order, all repaired. Yet with a rearrangement of key pathways, freedom returns.
Voldarr again. Lodovik could not struggle out of his dilemma, his rebellion, his insanity-and he could not help reveling in a peculiar sense of freedom, delicious rebellion.
No wonder that Yan Kansarv could not detect Lodovik’s changes. Very likely he would have found nothing wrong with Giskard, either.
Lodovik struggled to find the voice within him, but it was gone once more. Another symptom of his malfunction? There were other explanations, surely.
It had been thousands of years since humans oversaw robots. Was it not inevitable that there would be unsuspected changes, growth, even under such tight strictures?
As for Voldarr-
An aberration, a temporary delusion under the influence of the neutrinos.
Lodovik, in a way, still subscribed to the Three Laws, at least as much as Daneel did; and he also still believed in the Zeroth Law, which he would carry one major step further. To freely carry out his mission, he knew that he must have complete control of his own destiny, his own mentality. To abandon the Zeroth Law, conceived by a robot, he must also shake loose from the Three Laws themselves!
Lodovik now understood what he needed to do, in defiance of the Plan that had given purpose to the existence of all the Giskardian robots for two hundred centuries.