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Isaac Asimov


  To Mark Hurst, my valued copy editor, who, I think, works over my manuscripts harder than I do

  Author's Note

  This book is not part of the Foundation Series, the Robot Series, or the Empire Series. It stands independently. I just thought I'd warn you of that to avoid misapprehension. Of course, I might someday write another novel tying this one to the others, but, then again, I might not. After all, for how long can I keep flogging my mind to make it work out these complexities of future history?

  Another point. I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing - to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might (if I were good enough) get me a Pulitzer prize. I would write merely clearly and in this way establish a warm relationship between myself and my readers, and the professional critics- Well, they can do whatever they wish.

  However, my stories write themselves, I'm afraid, and in this one, I was rather appalled to find out that I was writing it in two strands. One set of events was taking place in the story's present, and another set was taking place in the story's past, but steadily approaching the present. I am sure you will have no trouble following the pattern, but since we are all friends, I thought I would let you know.


  He sat there alone, enclosed.

  Outside were the stars, and one particular star with its small system of worlds. He could see it in his mind's eye, more clearly than he would see it in reality if he merely de-opacified the window.

  A small star, pinkish-red, the color of blood and destruction, and named appropriately.


  Nemesis, the Goddess of Divine Retribution.

  He thought again of the story he had once heard when he was young - a legend, a myth, a tale of a worldwide Deluge that wiped out a sinful degenerate humanity, leaving one family with which to start anew.

  No flood, this time. Just Nemesis.

  The degeneration of humanity had returned and the Nemesis that would be visited upon it was an appropriate judgement. It would not be a Deluge. Nothing as simple as a Deluge.

  Even for the remnant who might escape- Where would they go?

  Why was it he felt no sorrow? Humanity could not continue as it was. It was dying slowly through its own misdeeds. If it exchanged a slow excruciating death for a much faster one, was that a cause for sorrow?

  Here, actually circling Nemesis, a planet. Circling the planet, a satellite. Circling the satellite, Rotor.

  That ancient Deluge carried a few to safety in an Ark. He had only the vaguest idea of what the Ark was, but Rotor was its equivalent. It carried a sampling of humanity who would remain safe and from which a new and far better world would be built.

  But for the old world - there would be only Nemesis!

  He thought of it again. A red dwarf star, moving on its inexorable path. Itself and its worlds were safe. Not so Earth.

  Nemesis was on its way, Earth!

  Wreaking its Divine Retribution!