Foundation and Chaos

Page 10

“You have an assistant, a member of your privy council, who believes in robots.” This is what Daneel wanted me to know. For a moment, Hari felt a chill. What if Daneel no longer existed, or had left Trantor, and he was imagining all this? The strain of the last few months, his constant gnawing grief...


“Robots currently existing on Trantor. He is hunting them down and shooting them. With kinetic weapons.”

Wanda’s information had nested so well with Daneel’s: the link, the gnawing suspicion, had come together. But Hari wanted, desperately needed, to think over his interviews with the tyrants. Something was still missing!

“Really?” The Emperor’s eyes gleamed. “He’s found real robots?”

“No, sire. Humans. Your subjects. Citizens of Trantor, even one offworlder, from Helicon, oddly enough, my home world.”

“How interesting! I did not know he was hunting for robots. Shall I bring him here and question him, in front of you, Raven?”

“That is of no matter to me, Your Highness.”

“I assume you refer to Farad Sinter.”

“Yes, sire.”

“Shooting and killing subjects! I did not know that. Well, I doubt that, Raven, but if it’s true, I shall stop that part...But as for hunting down robots, surely that gives him something harmless to do.”

“Linge Chen will let out enough wire for Sinter to entangle himself thoroughly, then he will turn on the power...And there will be many sparks, my Emperor, as Sinter fries. You might get burned.”

“Ah, I see--Chen will remind everybody of the forgotten Joranum, and of the disgrace of my allowing such a person to run around killing citizens.” Klayus buried his chin in one hand and frowned. “An Emperor, killing citizens...or ignoring their unjust deaths. Very volatile. Highly inflammable. I see it clearly enough, and it’s not an unlikely outcome. Yes.” The Emperor’s expression darkened and his eyes narrowed. “I had plans for tonight, Raven. You’ve spoiled them, I’m afraid. I doubt this is something I can dispose of in a meeting of a few minutes or less.”

“No, Your Highness.”

“And Sinter is in Mycogen today, not returning until after dinner. So you will stay with me, and perhaps give me some advice, then, after, Hari--may I call you Hari?”

“I would be honored, Your Highness.”

“After, we will celebrate, and I will reward you for your services.”

Hari showed nothing on his face, but this of all things was the last he wanted to do. The Emperor’s amusements were known to a few, and Linge Chen kept that number small by careful bribing and not-so-subtle pressure. Hari did not want to be one of the number Chen had to pressure, especially now...

He had to survive long enough for the trial, and beyond. to see the Foundations established...One by edict, the other in secret.

But he could not just allow Sinter’s odd madness to imperil Wanda and Stet tin’s future, and the future of all those who might yet go to Star’s End. Who had to go! The equations demanded it!


Lodovik, after five days alone, had lapsed into the robot equivalent of a coma. With nothing to do, no way to return to a position of usefulness, and no one to serve, he had no choice but to enter a time of stillness, or face serious damage to his circuits. In this robotic coma, his thoughts moved very slowly, and he conserved the few remaining mental explorations left to him; in this way he avoided shutting down completely. Complete shutdown could only be reversed by a human or a maintenance robot.

In the slowness of his thoughts, Lodovik tried to assess how he had changed. That he had changed was certain; he could sense the change in key patterns, in diagnostics. Part of the basic character of his positronic brain had been altered by the flux of radiation in the supernova shock front. And there was something else as well.

The hypership drifted light-days away from Sarossa, far from any communications that would pass through status geometry, unable to receive hyperwave radio; and yet Lodovik was certain that someone, something, had examined him, tinkered with his programs and processes.

From Daneel he had heard of the meme-entities, beings who encoded their thoughts not in matter, but in the fields and plasmas of the Galaxy itself, those intelligences who had occupied the data processors and networks of Trantor, who had taken revenge upon some of Daneel’s robots before Lodovik’s arrival on the Capital World of the Empire. They had fled Trantor over thirty years ago. Lodovik knew little more about them; Daneel had seemed reluctant to spell out details.

Perhaps one or more of the meme-entities had come to inspect the supernova, or to energize themselves in its violent brilliance. Perhaps they had come across the lost hypership and found only him, and had touched him.

Altered him.

Lodovik could no longer be certain he was functioning properly.

He slowed his thoughts even further, preparing for a long, cold century until extinction.

Tritch and her first mate, Trin, regarded Mors Planch’s activities with some concern. He had buried himself with several mobile diagnostic machines deep in the hyperdrive, far enough from the active coils of solid helium and the anti-queried, posi-tunneled meter-cubed crystals of sodium chloride, common table salt, to avoid injury, but still--

Tritch had never allowed any work on a hyperdrive while her ship was actually in transit. What Planch was doing fascinated and frightened her.

Tritch and Trin watched from the engine gallery, a small weighted balcony that looked down the fifteen-meter length of the drive core. The end of the core was darkness; Planch had suspended a light over the place he worked, surrounding him in a pale golden glow.

“You should tell us what you’re doing,” Tritch said nervously.

“Right now?” Planch asked, irritated.

“Yes, right now. It would ease my mind.”

“What do you know about hyperphysics?”

“Only that you pull up the deep roots of all atoms within a ship, twist them widdershins, and plant them in a direction we don’t normally go.”

Planch laughed. “Very impressionistic, dear Tritch. I like it. But it doesn’t butter any parsnips.”

“What are parsnips?” Trin asked Tritch. She shook her head.

“Every traveling hypership leaves a permanent track in an obscure realm called Mire Space, named after Konner Mire. He was my teacher, forty years ago. It’s not studied much anymore, because most hyperships get where they’re going, and the Empire’s actuaries believe it’s more trouble than it’s worth to track lost ships, since they’re so few.”

“One in a hundred million voyages,” Trin said, as if to reassure herself.

Planch poked up from between two long pipes and pushed a mobile diagnostic machine away from the engine, allowing it to float free. “Every engine has an extension into Mire Space while a ship is in transit, which helps the ship avoid becoming random particles. Old techniques which I won’t go into allow me to hook up a monitor to the engine and look at recent trails. With some luck, we can pick up a trail with a frayed end, like a sawed-off rope--and that will be our lost ship. Or rather, the track of its last Jump.”

“Frayed end?” Tritch asked

“An abrupt exit from hyperdrive status leaves a lot of ragged discontinuities, like a frayed end. A planned exit solves all those discontinuities, smoothes them over.”

“If it’s so simple, why doesn’t everybody do this?” Tritch asked.

“Because it’s a lost art, I said, remember?”

She huffed in disbelief.

“You asked,” Planch said, his voice muffled and hollow in the engine bay. “There’s a one-in-five chance of screwing it up and throwing us out of hyperspace, scattered over about a third of a light-year.”

“You didn’t mention that,” Tritch said tightly.

“Now you know why.”

Trin swore under her breath and glared accusingly at her captain.

He worked for several more minutes, then poked up again. Trin had left the balcony, but Tritch still stood there.

“Still good for a couple of bottles of Trillian ?” he asked her.

“If you don’t get us killed,” she answered grimly.

He floated away from the cylinders and pushed the diagnostic machines toward the hatchway. “Good! Because I think I’ve found her.”


Hari’s legs hurt from standing so long. Klayus had finally stopped describing his beast statues and gone off, and Hari had found a divan and sat gingerly, blowing out his breath.

Here was his chance to see just how far things had gone to ruin, and how much further the Empire had to decay. He didn’t relish the opportunity, but he had long since learned that the best way to get along in life was to find multiple uses for unpleasant experiences. He longed to get back to his Prime Radiant and lose himself in the equations. People! So many tiny and yet possibly disastrous disruptions, like being chewed by hungry insects...

Hari turned toward the still-open hatchway and tried to see the crawling insects, but the projectors had turned off at Klayus’s exit. When he turned back, a small Lavrentian servant, a young male, stood beside him.

“The Emperor says I shall make you comfortable before your business engagement,” the servant said, smiling pleasantly, his round, smooth face like a small lamp in the gloom of the statue room. “Are you hungry? There’s to be an elaborate dinner later this evening, but you should probably eat something now, something light and delicious...Shall I prepare something for you?”

“Yes, please,” Hari said. He had eaten Palace food often enough not to turn down a chance to have more, and to eat in semiprivacy was a luxury he had not hoped for. “My muscles ache, too. Could I have a masseur sent in?”

“Certainly!” The Lavrentian smiled broadly. “My name is Koas. I am assigned to you for your stay. You’ve been here before, haven’t you?”

“Yes, the last time in the reign of Agis XIV,” Hari said.

“I was here then!” Koas said. “Perhaps I or my parents served you.”

“Perhaps,” Hari said. “I remember being very well treated, and I’m afraid parts of this evening are not going to be pleasant. I’m sure you’ll relax me and prepare me for the work to be done?”

“Our pleasure,” Koas said, and bowed fluidly. “What shall I prepare for you, or do you require a menu? We will, of course, use only the finest offworld and Mycogenian ingredients.”

“Farad Sinter is a connoisseur of Mycogenian delicacies, is he not?” Hari asked.

“Oh, no, sir,” Koas said, lips turned down. “He is fond of much simpler fare.” Koas did not seem to approve of this.

Then he’s in Mycogen to force a little information out of them, Hari thought. Their myths about robots. The man may very well be obsessed!

Koas did not specialize in bodyworks, so two female servants entered with a suspension couch. Hari lay on the couch and gave in to their skilled ministrations with a grateful sigh, and for a few minutes, at least, was almost glad he had come to the Palace and requested his audience with Klayus.

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