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 crimes!”
“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 suggested.
“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 of wormholes 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.