Home > Foundation's Edge (Foundation #4)(21)

Foundation's Edge (Foundation #4)(21)
Author: Isaac Asimov

"They have such things in the case of ferries between planets and space stations within a stellar system, but I never heard of automated hyperspace travel. At least, not so far. - Not so far."

He looked about again and there was a trickle of apprehension within him. Had that harridan Mayor managed to maneuver that far ahead of him? Had the Foundation automated interstellar travel, too, and was he going to be deposited on Trantor quite against his will, and with no more to say about it than any of the rest of the furniture aboard ship?

He said with a cheerful animation he didn't feel, "Professor, you sit down. The Mayor said this ship was completely computerized. If your room has the FX Reader, mine ought to have a computer in it. Make yourself comfortable and let me look around a bit on my own.

Pelorat looked instantly anxious. "Trevize, my dear chap. You're not getting off the ship, are you?"

"Not my plan at all, Professor. And if I tried, you can count on my being stopped. It is not the Mayor's intention to allow me off. All I'm planning to do is to learn what operates the Far Star." He smiled, "I won't desert you, Professor."

He was still smiling as he entered, what he felt to be his own bedroom, but his face grew sober as he closed the door softly behind him. Surely there must be some means of communicating with a planet in the neighborhood of the ship. It was impossible to imagine a ship deliberately sealed off from its surroundings and, therefore, somewhere - perhaps in a wall recess - there would have to be a Reacher. He could use it to call the Mayor's office to ask about controls.

Carefully he inspected the walls, the headboard of the bed, and the neat, smooth furniture. If nothing turned up here, he would go through the rest of the ship.

He was about to turn away when his eye caught a glint of light on the smooth, light brown surface of the desk. A round circle of light, with neat lettering that read: COMPUTER INSTRUCTIONS.

Ah!

Nevertheless his heart beat rapidly. There were computers and computers, and there were programs that took a long time to master. Trevize had never made the mistake of underestimating his own intelligence, but, on the other hand, he was not a Grand Master. There were those who had a knack for using a computer, and those who had not - and Trevize knew very well into which class he fell.

In his hitch in the Foundation Navy, he had reached the rank of lieutenant and had, on occasion, been officer of the day and had had occasion to use the ship's computer. He had never been in sole charge of it, however, and he had never been expected to know anything more than the routine maneuvers being officer of the day required.

He remembered, with a sinking feeling, the volumes taken up by a fully described program in printout, and he could recall the behavior of Technical Sergeant Krasnet at the console of the ship's computer. He played it as though it were the most complex musical instrument in the Galaxy, and did it all with an air of nonchalance, as though he were bored at its simplicity - yet even he had had to consult the volumes at times, swearing at himself in embarrassment.

Hesitantly Trevize placed a finger on the circle of light and at once the light spread out to cover the desk top. On it were the outline of two hands: a right and a left. With a sudden, smooth movement, the desk top tilted to an angle of forty-five degrees.

Trevize took the seat before the desk. No words were necessary. It was clear what he was expected to do.

He placed his hands on the outlines on the desk, which were positioned for him to do so without strain. The desk top seemed soft, nearly velvety, where he touched it - and his hands sank in.

He stared at his hands with astonishment, for they had not sunk in at all. They were on the surface, his eyes told him. Yet to his sense of touch it was as though the desk surface had given way, and as though something were holding his hands softly and warmly.

Was that all?

Now what?

He looked about and then closed his eyes in response to a suggestion.

He had heard nothing. He had heard nothing!

But inside his brain, as though it were a vagrant thought of his own, there was the sentence, "Please close your eyes. Relax. We will make connection."

Through the hands?

Somehow Trevize had always assumed that if one were going to communicate by thought with a computer, it would be through a hood placed over the head and with electrodes against the eyes and skull.

The hands?

But why not the hands? Trevize found himself floating away, almost drowsy, but with no loss of mental acuity. Why not the hands?

The eyes were no more than sense organs. The brain was no more than a central switchboard, encased in bone and removed from the working surface of the body. It was the hands that were the working surface, the hands that felt and manipulated the Universe.

Human beings thought with their hands. It was their hands that were the answer of curiosity, that felt and pinched and turned and lifted and hefted. There were animals that had brains of respectable size, but they had no hands and that made all the difference.

And as he and the computer held hands, their thinking merged and it no longer mattered whether his eyes were open or closed. Opening them did not improve his vision nor did closing them dim it.

Either way, he saw the room with complete clarity - not just in the direction in which he was looking, but all around and above and below.

He saw every room in the spaceship and he saw outside as well. The sun had risen and its brightness was dimmed in the morning mist, but he could look at it directly without being dazzled, for the computer automatically filtered the light waves.

He felt the gentle wind and its temperature, and the sounds of the world about him. He detected the planet's magnetic field and the tiny electrical charges on the wall of the ship.

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