Foundation and Chaos

Page 18

“The Zeroth Law is what concerns me.”

“You have accepted its primacy for centuries now. Why does it concern you?”

“I believe the Zeroth Law may be a mutational function, spread between robots like a virus. I do not know how it arose, but it may have been provoked by another mutation--mentalic powers in robots.”

“To question the Zeroth Law could lead us to conclude that everything I have tried to accomplish is in error, and that all the robots who follow me should be deactivated, myself included.”

“I am aware of the magnitude of my supposition.”

Daneel said, “Apparently, something very interesting has happened to you.”

“Yes,” Lodovik said, and his pleasant, plump face went through a series of random and uncoordinated contortions. “These questions and divisive thoughts may all be due to my own alteration. I have followed your lead for thousands of years...To feel doubts now...” His voice became a strained, metallic squeak. “I am miserable, Daneel!”

Daneel considered the situation carefully, as if he were walking through a minefield. “I regret the disturbance you feel. You are not the first to disagree with the Plan. Others expressed similar views--many more thousands of years ago. There were many schisms among robots when the humans abandoned us. The Giskardians--those like myself, who followed the ideas of Giskard Reventlov--were opposed by others who insisted on a strict interpretation of the Three Laws.”

“I do not know of these events,” Lodovik said, his voice steadier.

“There has been no need to talk of them. Besides, these robots may all be inactive now--I have not heard from them for centuries.”

“What happened to them?”

“I do not know,” Daneel said. “They called themselves Calvinians, after Susan Calvin.” Every robot knew of Susan Calvin--though no human remembered her now. “Before those schisms there were far worse events. Unspeakable tasks that humans set for robots, carried out by some of those who would become Calvinians. These memories are in themselves disturbing.”

“It gives me no satisfaction to cause you distress, R. Daneel,” Lodovik said.

Daneel sat in the second chair again and folded his arms. Both robots were aware of this mimicry of human actions; both were used to the promptings of their human overlays, and did not regard these behaviors and gestures as particularly annoying. Sometimes, they were even reassuring, and Lodovik noticed that Daneel’s posture in the chair, the inflection of his voice, and his facial expression all seemed to become more human as their conversation progressed. Neither wished to return to the much more rapid modes of microwave or high-frequency sound communication; this was a situation of complexity and subtlety, and the slower modes of human speech seemed much safer.

“You will return to Eos. We will see what can be done there,” Daneel said. “I hope for your complete recovery.”

“As do I,” Lodovik said.

Planch sat without moving for most of the ride back to the spaceport. He looked through the front windscreen, over the shoulder of the driver, and tried to ignore her thickly accented chatter. Then, with a small shudder, he removed the tiny recorder from its hidden pocket in his jacket and stared at it. He could not make up his mind for several minutes whether to play back the recording or just throw it out the window.

“This all war verra rich, co’ da flow fro’ tha por’, aaw the ships do come in har...” the elderly woman said, and glanced over her shoulder. Her eyes were pale blue, very alert, very wise. She smiled and her face wrinkled into a hundred river deltas. Planch nodded while only half hearing what she said.

“Now it be col’ poverty, na ships, na work. I am har day in and ou’ for my wi’ and amusemen’, na more tha’ tha’!”

She did not seem especially resentful, merely stating facts, yet her words rankled. There were worlds in the stellar neighborhood where the accent of Madder Loss was considered comic, used by entertainers portraying simpletons or charlatans. Tritch herself had referred to Madder Loss as a planet of parasites. Few from outside came here anymore; few knew what had really happened.

Yet now, within this recorder, there might be proof of something extraordinary, a clue to the larger picture. His memory since yesterday seemed murky and full of gaps. He did not even know why he had brought the recorder--he had done nothing important since taking Lodovik Trema’s body to the transfer terminal and handing it over to Imperial agents. And why this ride into the country--just to relive old, sometimes painful memories?

“We’ra here. Ya shou stay longer; there are still beautiful sigh’s i’ the countr’, lovely hostels whar to stay.” Her voice became sly, a little wheedling. “I coul’ show ya places o’ beautiful wimma, nat’ral farm garls, all verra poor an’ lone.”

“No, thank you,” Planch said, though he was tempted. His last love had been a native of Madder Loss, thirty years before. He had had no taste for others since, yet he felt a hollow ache at the thought of leaving the planet without trying for another romance. He was somehow convinced that to stay, however, could be very dangerous.

He paid the woman and thanked her in her own accent, then stood beneath the huge balloon roof of the immigration and transfer authority area. The blue skies and distant fields showed through gaps where buildings had been tom down and not replaced.

He found a cool, secluded spot next to an empty restaurant and sat on a bench, holding the recorder display up to see how much it had captured.

Five hours.

For a few seconds, he simply sat and tapped the recorder against his chin, eyes heavy-lidded. Then, brows drawing in, fingers white where they gripped the tiny tube, he said, “Code: unforgivable. This is Planch, log in personal. Play back, all.”


The candidates for the Second Foundation did not meet in secret. Instead, they shared a plausible cover: they were a social club, interested in the history of certain games of chance, little different from other hobbyists around Trantor. Hobbies swept the planet with boring regularity, and even after their times had passed, small groups of adherents remained loyal.

The mentalic candidates who could form part of the proposed Star’s End settlement met, with official approval, twice a week, in a social hall in one of the less fancy dormitories on the outskirts of Streeling University. In these run-down facilities, they were ignored by students who had come to Trantor from some of the less privileged worlds.

The hall was not equipped with listening devices; Wanda herself had persuaded a caretaker to tell her of the older buildings whose bugs were either inactive or had been removed.

Wanda stood beside her husband, Stettin Palver, in the crowded hall and waited for the 103 candidates to settle in to their seats. The sergeant-at-arms closed and locked the doors, and three sensitives stood watch to make sure they were not eavesdropped upon.

In this core group of mentalics--the only one Wanda knew of, perhaps the only one there had ever been--there was little need for calls to order or other formal, spoken signals; the group tended to come to order with little overt fuss. She thought ruefully that this had nothing to do with politeness. There had been a large number of fractious outbreaks in the community since the beginning, but disorder manifested itself in different ways with her people.

Stettin raised his hand. The group had already fallen quiet. They all faced front with deceptively placid expressions. Mentalics seldom exhibited their true emotions, certainly not in the presence of their peers.

Wanda felt little ripples of uncontrolled persuasion; they made her neck itch. She could pick out a few distinct strands in the welter, like smells from a rich stew: currents of social and sexual tension, focused concern, even uncoordinated attempts to override Stet tin’s dominance. In mentalics, not just the conscious mind exerted its persuasive effects. My people, she thought. Heaven save me from my people!

“We need the reports from our recruitment cells,” Stettin said quietly. “Next, I’ll give my report on mathematical and psychological training--to bring our candidates up to speed with the other groups preparing for the mission--then we’ll discuss the attrition.”

“We need to discuss the murders now!” said a young woman historian with thick black hair cut in a wide bowl. Her green eyes blazed at Stettin and Wanda.

Wanda deflected the woman’s automatic whip of persuasion. Her neck itched fiercely.

The woman continued, voice calm but inner emotions raging. “Every recruit for the last three months--”

“There’s a traitor among us!” interrupted a man from the back.

Stettin pressed his lips together grimly and held up his hand again. “We know who the so-called traitor is,” he said softly. “Her name is Vara Liso.”

The crowd instantly quieted. Wanda observed the waves of turmoil and calm with an intense but somehow distant interest. This is how we are. Grandfather chose us because we are this way--didn’t he?

“Perhaps we know her name, now,” the young historian said. “But what good does that do us? She is stronger than any of us here.” She could barely be heard.

“No one can persuade her,” said another voice, Wanda could not tell where in the crowd.

“She smells us out like a tracker!”

“We must assassinate her--”

“Persuade somebody to kill her!”

“Someone who is expendable--”

Stettin waited for the suggestions to stop. Again, the crowd became unnaturally quiet. Even the ripples of persuasion seemed to still. All their lives, these people had used their talents to make their way in life. Finally, they were among their own kind, among equals, and their “luck” was distressingly ineffectual here.

“Wanda has asked Professor Seldon for help,” Stettin said. “And he has gone to the Emperor himself...but we do not yet know the outcome of his visit. We should plan for the possibility of failure. We may have to do something we’ve only tried once before.”

“What?” several asked.

“A massed effort. Wanda and I once unwittingly pooled our talents, with some success...But only against a normal.”

A judge, Wanda remembered. When Grandfather got in trouble with young toughs.

“I think it is possible that ten or twenty of us, trained to operate in unison, may be effective against this woman.”

The crowd of candidates absorbed this for a few seconds. “To kill her?” the black-haired historian asked.

“That may not be necessary,” Wanda said. She and Stettin had argued this through early in the evening, with some heat. Stettin had maintained that killing Vara Liso was the only safe option. Wanda had maintained with equal force that murder could enervate their cause, drive them one against the other. The balance of so many persuaders was already delicate.

Even her own marriage was fraught with difficulties. Two persuaders, placed in proximity for years, intimate for hours on end, could find many unique ways to irritate and stymie each other.

“I will not kill another human being, much less one of my own kind,” the young historian said firmly, eyes brimming with emotion at her own idealism. “No matter how much we may be endangered.”

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