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The Barrier

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The Caves of Steel: New York

They left Enderby’s office arm in arm.

It took a moment for Baley to realise what he was doing – treating a robot as a friend. More than that. For the most part, he didn’t get touchy with his friends. But he and this robot had been through a lot in the last couple of days, and, in a rush of relief and liking, he kept holding onto Daneel’s arm. He didn’t really want to let go. He was still smiling as they reached his railed-off corner in the common room.

“Do you need to pick anything up before you go, Daneel?”

That didn’t really come out right. Baley had wanted to make conversation, not hurry Daneel on his way. He gave Daneel’s elbow an extra squeeze by way of recompense before finally letting his hand fall.

“No, Elijah. I will make my report to Dr Fastolfe in person when I return to Spacetown.”

Baley glanced at his watch. “I’d come with you to the Newark Barrier if I could. But it really is late. I should get back to Jessie and Ben…”

“I understand. I will be able to find my own way back, of course.”

“Of course. Well, I’ll see you on your way.”

They moved through the quiet Department. It was almost empty, the lights dimmed except for a few spots here and there for the benefit of the night shift, or for men who were working on urgent cases. The detective and the robot moved softly between the pools of light, not talking now, and exited the doors. Outside them, the wide corridors had taken on a subdued hum. There were still plenty of people about, but not the hurrying crowds of daytime New York.

Baley passed the localway that would take him to his apartment. Daneel looked at him as if surprised.

“I’ll see you onto the expressway,” said Baley. “I can’t just abandon you in the middle of New York.”

“I can find my way without trouble.”

“Nevertheless. It would be impolite to a guest.”

“Very well, Elijah.”

It wouldn’t be impolite, not really. Baley knew Daneel had perfect recall of the route - indeed, any Earthman could find his way round another’s City if he had to. But somehow he didn’t want to just walk off and leave Daneel in the corridors.

Five minutes later, he said, “Here you are.” The expressway was speeding high above; there were the acceleration strips leading up to it; it was time to say goodbye. He put out his hand. “A safe journey to you, Daneel. I hope… I hope we’ll meet again one day. If not, it’s been an education – a pleasure – working with you.”

“I hope so too.” Daneel took Baley’s hand with a warm, firm grip, held it for a moment, and let go. “Goodbye, Elijah.” He turned away, and went smoothly up the strips.

The last Baley saw of him was as he rose through the spiral ramp. Just before he connected with the expressway, he looked down, and their eyes met. Baley half-lifted his hand, and Daneel was gone.

Baley turned for home, feeling suddenly rather alone. His hand missed the pressure of Daneel’s. But of course, he was tired and stressed after the last hour in Julius’ office. He was ready for his home, and family, and sleep.

The Naked Sun: Solaria

Gladia had said farewell; Baley, his emotions still rather jumbled and confused, turned his mind to his next parting. Daneel would be staying here in the house on Gruer’s estate for a while, to facilitate Gladia’s departure for Aurora. This meant that Baley would not have his company back to Solaria's spaceport.

He went in search of Daneel, feeling that he shouldn’t just summon him like a regular household robot. He found him in the viewing-room, occupied at a console. In contact with Aurora, perhaps.

Daneel threw a switch on the console and straightened up. “Partner Elijah. I would have come if I had known you wished to see me.”

Baley said, “No, you’re busy. And I wanted to come and find you. I owe you that, at least.”

“You owe me nothing,” replied Daneel, somehow managing to sound puzzled.

“I owe you everything,” said Baley. He hadn’t meant to say that, but it was true. “I owe you my life. I’d’ve drowned if it wasn’t for you.” Those strong arms, catching him up as he toppled towards the water. “I owe you an apology. I risked your life when I sent you to Leebig.”

“My existence,” interposed Daneel.

“Ÿour life. Forgive me, Daneel, please. A lot was riding on it. The future of Earth, perhaps.”

Daneel was somehow looking distressed. Perhaps he was learning to show emotions; perhaps it was Baley who was learning to read him better. Either way, Baley was discomforted at seeing his unease, and hurried on, “And I owe you an apology for tricking you into showing you’re a robot. I had to do it, Daneel, but I feel bad about it. I felt bad at the time.”

“I could see you felt bad about it, but I understand now why you felt it was necessary.”

“Necessary perhaps, but you were only following your programming by trying to stay with me. I’m sorry about it all, Daneel.”

That wasn’t entirely true. He wasn’t altogether sorry about exposing Daneel as a robot. Not entirely. Once, back on Earth, in a Personal, he had sneaked a look at Daneel, unselfconsciously and gloriously nude. Just a glimpse. The sight had returned to him now and then. And two days ago in this very house, Daneel, shirt hanging undone, chest open, stymied, undeniably robotic, had nonetheless looked utterly and completely fuckable.

Baley gulped. Where had that thought come from? Sure, he’d wanted to hug Daneel when he had appeared in the spaceship. That was confusing enough. But this sudden rush of desire… Wasn’t that what he should be thinking about Gladia...? – no, about Jessie?

“Are you well, Partner Elijah?”

Jehoshaphat. He hoped Daneel’s cerebroanalysis function wasn’t working. He said gruffly, “Yes, I’m well, Daneel. And if you are too – I’m happy.”

“I am quite well.”

Before the conversation could fall into banality, Baley stepped forward and put out his hand. “Goodbye, then – until next time,” he said. “I hope there’s a next time.”

“As do I.”

They shook hands. Baley even brought up his free hand to hold Daneel’s between his own, hoping to cover his surge of confused lust with a display of awkward, manly affection. Then he turned away, and collecting Gruer’s household robot, and with one last glance back at Daneel, left for the spaceport.

Mirror Image: New York

“I must leave now, friend Elijah. It was good to see you. May we meet again soon.”

Baley gripped the robot’s hand, warmly. “If you don’t mind, R. Daneel," he said, “not too soon.”

A moment after saying that, Baley regretted the words. Suddenly presented with yet another mystery on the solution of which the fate of Earth might depend, he had done his utmost, and had succeeded against all odds. The effort had left him rather light-headed.

“I will take my leave, then, Elijah.” Not friend Elijah, as he had been throughout this unexpected meeting. Daneel stood and turned to go.

“No, no, Daneel. I didn’t mean that. I was only joking – I just had a hard time coming up with an answer to the mystery!” Baley went so far as to lay a hand on Daneel’s arm. “Look. It’s a quiet day. I’ve got some time owing. I’ll go with you to the barrier. We can talk on the way. I’d like to do that.”

Daneel relaxed infinitesimally. “I would like that too.”

Baley smiled, and moved his hand up to Daneel’s shoulder, and gripped it for a moment. “Come on, then.” He notified his colleagues that he would be out of his office for a couple of hours, and they left the department.

Once on the Expressway, Baley sat back, Daneel at his side, and let the City whirl past him. Truth to tell, he was glad of the company. Things had not been going as well with Jessie as he had let Daneel believe. Their lives seemed to be diverging rapidly – and then there was that damned hyperwave show - and Ben was starting his own life now. Baley was, in fact, a little lonely. And here was Daneel, his friend, the object of occasional warm reminiscence on his part, and very much real and present.

They chatted as they sped towards Spacetown. Gladia was going through the process of settling on Aurora; Dr Fastolfe, like Jessie, was becoming involved in politics. “We should get them to form a party together!” said Baley flippantly.

“I believe their objectives might be opposed,” said Daneel seriously. That was true enough. Jessie wanted to make things better here on Earth; Dr Fastolfe, it seemed, was more for expansion.

“They might enjoy the argument.”

“Earthpeople and Spacers might enjoy well closer interaction, if such a thing were possible.”

Closer interaction with Daneel was something that Baley would enjoy very much. He shifted a little in his seat, glancing up at Daneel’s clear-cut profile, his blue eyes – the color change had been a surprise! - and bronze hair, and looked down again. This brought Daneel’s thighs into view. Not muscular, of course, but shapely and strong.

Baley gazed out over the City instead, and cleared his throat. “Hmm. It would certainly be a challenge to both parties. But we work together well, you and I.”

“We do indeed, friend Elijah.” Daneel glanced at him and smiled. Baley smiled back, and relaxed a little. They both settled into their seats, without needing to talk any more, and when the signs for Spacetown came up, rose and left the expressway together.

At the barrier – manned only by a uniformed Earth policeman now – Baley stopped and faced Daneel. “Can’t go any further with you this time, Daneel,” he muttered. “Have a safe journey. Give my greetings to Dr Fastolfe and Gladia. And – remember me yourself, yes? As I will you.”

“Yes, I will remember you, friend Elijah,” said Daneel solemnly. They shook hands warmly, Baley trying to put a lot of things into the gesture which he couldn’t articulate, and then Daneel was on his way through the barrier. Baley leaned one shoulder against the steel wall of the corridor, and watched him go. They exchanged a last glance, as they always did, and Baley nodded at him, then levered himself upright and went back to the City.

The Robots of Dawn: Spacetown

The Auroran ship landed, after a voyage of a few days and several Jumps, at Spacetown. It was all becoming rather familiar to Baley by now. He looked at Daneel, and said heavily, “Well, I guess this is it. Goodbye, Daneel.” He couldn’t say anything more.

“I will come with you to the barrier,” said Daneel. One or other of them usually said this at the end of one of their meetings. They always ended up with the barrier between them.

“Are you sure? You’ll have to go through the – purifiying - procedure - before you can board again.”

“I would have to be cleaned anyway. I have spent several days with you, after all.”

Baley smiled a little at the thought of those few days. “Yes. Very well, then. Let’s go.”

They left the ship. Baley was walking rather gingerly. He was sore, pleasantly so, in various parts of his anatomy, from the number of times he and Daneel had coupled in the last few days. Once Daneel had displayed concern at Baley’s flinching reaction to a touch; Baley’s gasp of “Don’t stop!” had been convincing enough that the robot had carried on with what he was doing. Afterwards, they had curled together, Daneel’s head on Baley’s shoulder, Baley’s arms wrapped comfortingly around him.

“I know what my body can take, Daneel,” mumbled Baley apologetically. “I’ll tell you if it gets too much. At the moment, it’s – not enough.”

Never enough; never long enough, or often enough; never close enough. They’d had little enough time on the journey back to Earth. Startled by his own declaration of love for Daneel to Dr Vasilia, and also confused by his rather strange night at Gladia’s establishment (in which he had cravenly avoided her approach by pretending to be completely unconscious), Baley had come to his senses before they left Aurora and clumsily offered himself to Daneel. The instant response of “Yes, Elijah. I want that very much too,” had convinced him that it was not just the programming that was speaking.

They were walking down the corridor to the barrier now. This being Spacetown, it had large, bright windows – he’d barely been able to process that fact on his first visit to Spacetown. Now, after days on Aurora, he hardly noticed the view they gave onto the bright Outside. All his thoughts were on the imminent parting.

The last bend in the corridor was before them. There might be people beyond that bend. He stopped. Daneel stopped too.

“Goodbye. Again,” muttered Baley.

“Goodbye, Elijah.” A full-body hug, his arms around Daneel’s neck, Daneel’s arms round his back. Their lips touched, but they kissed only lightly. Baley pressed his cheek against Daneel’s, the pseudoskin smooth against his own light stubble. They clung together for long moments, lapped in golden sunlight, then parted - except that their hands were still clasped.

“Remember me.”

“Don’t forget.”

It hardly mattered who said what; each was speaking for them both.

Then they loosed their hands and went on to the barrier. Baley looked back after he had gone through, as he always did, and their eyes met. Then they both turned away, and went back to their own worlds.

Robots and Empire: New York

Towards the end of Dr Fastolfe’s diplomatic visit to Earth, he and Baley had a meal together in a private suite, with only Giskard for company.

“I am trying to persuade both Earthpeople and Spacers to expand and advance. That is a third alternative and, I think, the best.”

Dr Fastolfe’s third alternative took Baley by surprise. He had simply not thought of that as a possibility; but the two peoples, long separated, had different strengths which could result in an impressive synergy. The Spacers had an ability to focus on a single problem for long periods of time. Earthpeople were accustomed to privation, to going short. And even if only a few million made it off their home planet, their enthusiasm for family life would soon populate a Galaxy that most Spacers were content to leave empty.

“That seems like an excellent plan to me. Do you think it would be possible?”

“Not only possible, but necessary, if Spacers are not to be left entirely behind in the rush! Our young people are less set in their ways, less comfortable and careful than those who are decades into their lives and careers. I can envisage a training school, if you like, where both our people can meet and learn before setting off into the Galaxy. Either on a small world, which we could begin to terraform as a part of the training process, or a deep-space facility. I have been discussing it with your high officials today.”

Baley glanced suddenly at Giskard, then back at Fastolfe.

“Would robots be part of that venture?” A small, wild hope had sprung up in his heart.

“Of course. You have perhaps guessed what I’m proposing. Daneel would be the obvious Spacer liaison, or leader, if you wish. And you would be the Earth equivalent.”

Baley’s breath went out of him in a rush. He drew in another, shakily. “Thank-you, Dr Fastolfe. On behalf of all of Earth. And for myself, and Daneel. I can’t thank you enough.”

They had made no secret of their – liaison, he supposed he could call it – from Dr Fastolfe. Daneel was, after all, his creation, and technically his property, though Fastolfe himself did not think of him as such. But Fastolfe had access to Daneel’s memory banks, and could not be kept in the dark about such an important part of Daneel’s existence. They had not even tried to do so. Baley trusted that Fastolfe, an Auroran gentleman, would not view certain of Daneel's memories.

“I’m becoming sentimental in my middle age, I find,” mused Fastolfe. “I can think of no good reason why you two should be kept apart. You would both excel in the roles which I have proposed. Moreover, I’m still grateful to you for saving my reputation back on Aurora. If I can smooth the way for you and Daneel, I will do so.”

“I will not fail you,” said Baley fervently. “We will not fail you.”

“Neither of you has ever failed me yet.” Fastolfe smiled impishly. “Now. I feel this is something you and Daneel should discuss in person. He is leaving orbit about now, and will be landing at Spacetown in forty minutes or so. I’m returning there for the night – I find my old home is more conducive to sleep than a room in New York could ever be. Old habits die hard! So we may as well go along there now, all together.”

“Yes.” Baley stood up with alacrity, managing to send one more glance Giskard’s way in the process. This was received with a small, impassive nod – but Baley knew that it had been received correctly. He smiled, and followed Fastolfe out of the room. He was tired, and mentally worn out from the long day’s diplomacy – and as eager to reach Daneel as any young lover in a Medieval romance.

The barrier was still there. Baley had had an idea that it would have been demolished somehow, and the corridor between New York and Spacetown left open and welcoming. Not so. But there on the other side of the barrier, in the dim lighting of Earth’s night-phase, stood Daneel; tall, serious-looking, handsome as ever.

Fastolfe went through the barrier first, and stood aside to let Baley follow, with Giskard bringing up the rear. Baley barely noticed that. He was opening his arms as he emerged from the barrier, and was engulfed in Daneel’s embrace a moment later. They did not even speak, but stood close and warm, and rocked each other just slightly. Baley was smiling into Daneel’s neck. “Finally,” he said softly. “Finally.”

“I believe we have our leaders for the colony school,” observed Fastolfe to Giskard, idly; but he was smiling too.

“I believe we do, Dr Fastolfe.”

Beyond the four of them, the windows in the corridor to Spacetown were bright with stars.