“Are you afraid of how it will all turn out, my dear?” Voltaire asked.

“I am afraid of not being there when it is resolved. These strong-minded children...If they learned of us, they would hate us, perhaps strive to destroy us for good! “

“They have other concerns, and will never know about us, “ Voltaire said. “They have a great deception to play. I have been investigating while you yet knitted your selves together. “

“And what did you learn?”

Voltaire suddenly realized there was wisdom in keeping his counsel, else perhaps Joan would go to Daneel and tell all! He would never be able to trust her completely--how could he love her so?

“I have learned that Linge Chen is completely in the dark,” he said. “And I suppose he does not actually care.”

“Hari felt such contempt for Linge Chen,” Joan said.

“There could not be two more opposite humans.”

Joan stretched until she filled their still-limited thought-space, voluptuously enjoying her fresh reintegration.” It is holy to be One,” she said.

“With me?”

For a time, Joan did not reply. Then, with something like a sigh, she accepted his closeness. The two wove an old world around them, like a cocoon, to while away the long centuries until there would be answers.

From a maintenance tower overlooking Streeling and the oceans of Sleep, Dream, and Peace, still open and glowing with an exuberance of decaying algae, Daneel watched the ship captained by Mors Planch rise above the domed surface of Trantor until it vanished in the thick layer of clouds.

Soon, he would go to Eos as well, though not by way of Kalgan. But he wanted to return for Hari, at the end. Daneel, if such was possible, had always felt a special regard for Hari.

Daneel’s face formed an expression of puzzlement and sadness, without his directly willing the change. The expression came unbidden, and with a start, he realized it. Perhaps what he had said to Lodovik now applied to him. If, after twenty thousand years, he was to become human...

He smoothed those features, that expression, returning his face to calm alertness.

I will never be quite done with humans, he told himself. But I must stand back--for the time being--and resist my drive to render assistance--this much Lodovik has taught me. They have exceeded my capacity--so many hundreds of billions! Keeping the Chaos Worlds in check has only kept humanity safe until now. I must study and learn. It is clear that humanity will soon undergo another transformation...The strong mentalics point to a kind of birth.

Perhaps I can help ease that birth. Then I will be done at last. Daneel could not ignore the contradictions; nor could he escape them. Dors had her mission, the job that defined her, and he had always had his mission.

Only one thing was certain.

Never again would he play the roles he had once played. Demerzel and all those who had gone before were dead.

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