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«The Robots of Dawn», Isaac Asimov

PART 1.

BALEY

1

Elijah Baley found himself in the shade of the tree and muttered to himself, “I knew it. I’m sweating.”

He paused, straightened up, wiped the perspiration from his brow with the back of his hand, then looked dourly at the moisture that covered it.

“I hate sweating,” he said to no one throwing it out as a cosmic law. And once again he felt annoyance with the Universe for making something both essential and unpleasant.

One never perspired (unless one wished to, of course) in the City, where temperature and humidity were absolutely controlled and where it was never absolutely necessary for the body to perform in ways that made heat production greater than heat removal.

Now that was civilized.

He looked out into the field, where a straggle of men and women were, more or less, in his charge. They were mostly youngsters in their late teens, but included some middle-aged people like himself. They were hoeing inexpertly and doing a variety of other things that robots were designed to do—and could do much more efficiently had they not been ordered to stand aside and wait while the human beings stubbornly practiced.

There were clouds in the sky and the sun, at the moment, was going behind one of them. He looked up uncertainly. On the one hand, it meant the direct heat of the sun (and, the sweating) would be cut down. On the other hand, was there a chance of rain?

That was the trouble with the Outside. One teetered forever between unpleasant alternatives.

It always amazed Baley that a relatively small cloud could cover the sun completely, darkening Earth from horizon to horizon yet leaving most of the sky blue.

He stood beneath the leafy canopy of the tree (a kind of primitive wall and ceiling, with the solidity of the bark comforting to the touch) and looked again at the group, studying it. Once a week they were out there, whatever the weather.

They were gaining recruits, too. They were definitely more in number than the stout-hearted few who had started out. The City government, if not an actual partner in the endeavor, was benign enough to raise no obstacles.

To the horizon on Baley’s right-eastward, as one could tell by the position of the late-afternoon sun—he could see the blunt, many-fingered domes of the City, enclosing all that made life worthwhile. He saw, as well, a small moving speck that was too far off to be made out clearly.

From its manner of motion and from indications too subtle to describe, Baley was quite sure it was a robot, but that did not surprise him. The Earth’s surface, outside the Cities, was the domain of robots, not of human beings—except, for those few, like himself, who were dreaming of the stars.

Automatically, his eyes turned back toward the hoeing star dreamers and went from one to the other. He could identify and name each one. All working, all learning how, to endure the Outside, and—

He frowned and muttered in a low voice, “Where’s Bentley?”

And another voice, sounding behind with a somewhat breathless exuberance, said, “Here I am, Dad.”

Baley whirled. “Don’t do that, Ben.”

“Do what?”

“Sneak up on me like that. It’s hard enough trying to keep my equilibrium in the Outside without my having to worry about surprises, too.”

“I wasn’t trying to surprise you. It’s tough to make much noise walking on the grass. One can’t help that.—But don’t you think you ought to go in, Dad? You’ve been out two hours now and I think you’ve had enough.”

“Why? Because I’m forty-five and you’re a punk kid of nineteen? You think you have to take care of your decrepit father, do you?”

Ben said, “Yes, I guess that’s it. And a bit of good detective work on your part, too. You cut right through to the nub.”

Ben smiled broadly. His face was round, his eyes sparkling. There was a lot of Jessie in him, Baley thought, a lot of—his mother. There was little trace of the length and solemnity of Baley’s own face.

And yet Ben had his father’s way of thinking. He could at times furrow into a grave solemnity that made it quite clear that he was of perfectly legitimate origin.

“I’m doing very well,” said Baley.

“You are, Dad. You’re the best of us, considering—”

“Considering what?”


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