Foundation and Chaos

Page 22

Boon scowled deeply and flung up a hand. “Professor Seldon, your reputation as a prophet is much too widespread for my professional comfort. But how in the name of all that is Cosmic can you know this about the Chief Commissioner?”

Hari’s eyes seemed for a moment almost to start out of his head, and Boon leaned forward in his chair, clearly worried for the old man’s health.

Hari took a deep breath and relaxed. “It is a Cusp Time,” he said. “I could explain it to you, but it would bore you as much as this legal mumbo-jumbo bores me. I put up with you and credit you with knowing your profession, counselor. Please put up with me under the same terms.”

Boon pressed his lips together and squinted dubiously at his client. “My partner’s son, Lors Avakim, is a smart young fellow. He’s worked for some years in Imperial constitutional law, with a sideline in cases adjudicated by the Commission of Public Safety.”

“Avakim...” Hari had hoped for this name to be mentioned. It simplified things considerably. He knew that Boon was a good counselor, but suspected Boon was not as independent as might be wished. Lors Avakim was a prospective member of the Encyclopedia Project, legal division. He had applied last year. He was idealistic, fresh, not yet corrupted. Hari doubted that Boon knew of this connection to the Project. “Can he dance well enough to keep my mathist out of real trouble with these buffoons?”

“I think so,” Boon said.

“Good. Please retain him on the Project’s legal account for scholar and mathist Gaal Dornick, newly arrived on Trantor. I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut our meeting short today, counselor. I have to get ready to meet with Dornick.”

“Where is he staying?”

“At the Luxor Hotel.”

“And when will they arrest him?” Boon asked with a wry smile.

“Tomorrow,” Hari said, and coughed into his fist. “Sorry. It must be the dust from all these dead hands of law.” He gestured at the bookfilms.

“Of course,” Boon said tolerantly.

“Thank you,” Hari said, and gestured toward the office door. Boon gathered up his materials and opened the door, then turned to look back at Hari Seldon.

“The trial is in three weeks, professor. That’s not a lot of time.”

“During a Sel--” He interrupted himself. He had almost said “Seldon Crisis.” “During a Cusp lime, counselor, an amazing number of things can happen in just three weeks.”

“May I speak freely, professor?”

“Certainly,” Hari said, but his tone implied the words had better be few.

“You seem to hold my profession in contempt, yet you claim to be a student of cultural flows and ebbs. Law is the framework, the stable but growing anatomy of any culture.”

“I am a flawed man, counselor. I have many lapses. It is my fervent wish that where I err, other people on my staff will see what I cannot, and correct for my failures. Good day.”


Linge Chen received Sedjar Boon alone in his personal residence within the Commission Pavilion and gave him five minutes to describe the meeting with Hari Seldon.

“I admire the man, sire,” Boon said, “but he does not seem to much care about what’s going to happen. He seemed more concerned about providing counsel for a student or assistant who arrived on Trantor only a short while ago.”

“And who is that?”

“Gaal Dornick, sire.”

“I do not know him. He is new to this Psychohistory Project, is he not?”

“I believe so, sire.”

“There are fifty working within the University and the library on Seldon’s Project, and that makes Dornick the fifty-first?”


“And below these fifty, soon to be fifty-one, there are a hundred thousand, scattered all over Trantor, with a few thousand stationed on the food allies, and a few hundred working the receiver stations around the system. None on the defense stations. All are loyal, all conduct themselves with quiet dedication. Seldon makes himself the lightning rod to divert attention from all of this other activity. Quite an amazing accomplishment for a man as ignorant of law and as contemptuous of the minutiae of management as Seldon seems to be.”

Boon easily caught the implied criticism. “I do not underestimate him, Commissioner. But you have ordered me to provide him with the very finest legal advice, and he does not seem at all interested.”

“Perhaps he knows you report to me.”

“I doubt that, Commissioner.”

“It’s not likely, but he’s a very intelligent man. Have you studied Seldon’s psychohistory papers, counselor?”

“Only insofar as they relate to the charges under which you are likely to try him.” Boon looked up with hopeful respect. “It would make my task so much easier if I knew what those charges might be, Commissioner.”

Chen returned his gaze with amusement. “No,” Chen said. “Most of my Greys, and certainly most of the legals, are of the opinion that Seldon is a harmless and amusing crank, another rogue meritocrat aspiring to be an eccentric. He’s regarded with some affection on Trantor. Knowledge that he is about to stand trial is already too widespread, counselor. It might even be to Seldon’s advantage to publicize the trial, applying no little pressure on us to dismiss the charges or call the trial off completely. He could easily publicize the event as a respected academic, a creative meritocrat of the grand old style being bullied by the effete and cruel gentry.”

“Is that a suggestion, Commissioner? It could make a fine defense.”

“Not at all,” Chen said sourly. He leaned forward. “Do not expect me to do your work for you, counselor. Has he discussed this strategy with you?”

“No, sire.”

“He wants to stand trial. He is using this trial in some way, perhaps because it is necessary to him. Curious.”

Boon studied the Chief Commissioner for several seconds, then said, “Permission to speak freely, Commissioner?”

“Certainly,” Chen said.

“While it may be true that Seldon’s words and predictions could be construed to be treasonous, it would be far more reasonable for the Commissioners simply to ignore him. His organization is substantial, to be sure--the largest gathering of intellectuals outside the University. But it is devoted to peaceful ends~ encyclopedia, so it is said. Scholarship, purely scholarship! I do not understand your motives for bringing the professor to trial. Are you using Hari Seldon?”

Chen smiled. “It is my misfortune to be considered omniscient. I am not omniscient, nor am I politically omnivorous, eating and transforming all those events which occur around me to my own advantage.” Chen was obviously unwilling to give any more of an answer than this.

“Of course not, Commissioner. May I ask one more question--for purely selfish and professional reasons, to avoid excess effort when there is so much to do, and so little time?”

“Perhaps,” Chen said, with a curl of his lip that indicated he was not going to be very magnanimous.

“Will you have Gaal Dornick arrested, sire?”

Chen considered briefly, then said, “Yes.”

“Tomorrow, sire?”

“Yes, of course.”

Boon expressed his gratitude, and to his immense relief, Chen dismissed him.

After the counselor departed, Chen called up his personal records and spent several minutes chasing down the first mention of trying Seldon for treason, made either by him or within his presence. Chen could have sworn he had been the first to make the suggestion, but the records proved him wrong.

Lodovik Trema had been the first to plant the notion, in a very subtle conversation that had taken place a little less than two years before. Now, the trial was going to prove both extremely troublesome, and extremely opportune--far more opportune than troublesome! A small tool with which to sweep the Palace clean...How could Lodovik have known, so long ago, that it would work out this way?

Chen closed the files and sat in silence for ten seconds. What would Lodovik have done at this stage to take maximum political advantage?

The Chief Commissioner drew himself up in his chair and shook loose from a feeling of despondency. To have come to rely so thoroughly on one man! Surely that was a sign of weakness.

“I will not think of him again,” Chen vowed.


Klia woke to a gentle tapping sound on her door and quickly dressed. When she opened the door, she was disappointed, then glad, to discover that it was not Brann who had been sent to summon her, but another young man, not a Dahlite and not nearly so handsome.

He was small and shifty-looking, a Misaroan, with a long nose and skin severely marked by brain fever. He was also without speech, and made his errand known by sign language from the Borrower’s Guild--a language that Klia knew fairly well.

My name is Rock, he told her, clutching his fist and striking it with his other hand to emphasize his name. Come to talk with the Blank One, he told her, and smiled when he saw she understood at least part of what he signed.

Blank one? Klia made the double-slash sign of puzzlement across her eyes as she followed the small man.

With his fingers, he spelled a name out, and she understood. She was to meet with Plussix, but of course she would not see him. No one ever saw him.

Plussix did not speak while hidden behind a wall, as she had half expected. Klia stood in a small, smooth-walled cubicle with a glassy cylinder close to one wall and a single hard chair close to the opposite wall. In the two other walls there were doors, and one of these shut quietly as Rock departed with a small grunt and a nod.

The cylinder filled with a pale glow, and a figure took shape within: a well-dressed man of middle years, with wavy brown hair cut close to his scalp and a blandly pleasant, somewhat enigmatic expression. His skin was ruddy and his lips very thin, almost ascetic.

Klia had seen telemimics in filmbooks and other entertainments. Wherever Plussix actually was, this figure would follow his motions slavishly. She could not, of course, use any of her skills on such an image.

She did not like deceptions, and this was no exception. She sat on the hard chair and folded her arms.

“You know who I am,” the figure said, and sat on a ghostly chair within the cylinder. “Your name is Klia Asgar, of Dahl. Am I correctly informed?”

She nodded.

“You come to us on the advice of Kallusin. It’s getting very tough for your kind to survive on Trantor now, without help.”

“I suppose,” she said, drawing her own lips tight.

“You should find it comfortable here. There are many fascinating things within these warehouses. You could easily spend a lifetime here just studying the history of all we import.”

“I don’t like history,” Klia said.

Plussix smiled. “There is rather more of it than any of us can personally use.”

“Look, I did come here of my own free will--”

“Is there such a thing, in your opinion?”

“Of course,” Klia said.

“Of course,” Plussix echoed. “Please forgive me for interrupting.”

“I was going to say, I find all this a little creepy. The warehouses, the way you hide yourself--a little creepy. I think maybe I’d like to go it on my own.”

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