Foundation and Chaos

Page 26

At first, he did not know to whom to turn. Or indeed where to go, what to do, even what to think. The conversation recorded on his tape was too disturbing, too much like the ravings of a Mycogenian secret text.

Eternals! In the Empire! Running it from behind the scenes like puppet masters--for thousands of years!

Mors had never met a long-lived human; they no longer existed, he was certain. It had been several thousand years since the collapse of the last gerontocracy. Planets populated by people living more than 120 standard years had all collapsed in political and economic chaos...

His first impulse--and second, and third--was to go into hiding, to get as far away from this danger as he could. Perhaps even to flee to one of the outlying Galactic Sectors edging away from Imperial control. There were so many possibilities for escape...

But none of them suited him. Throughout his long and devious life, he had always regarded Trantor as a kind of locus, a point from which he could come and go, as the winds of money and his own whims propelled him. But never to see Trantor again

Worth it! Live out your life in peace--and simply live!

Soon enough, however, as the hours and days passed, he let this thought fade and considered others, more immediate. Of what use was his evidence? Perhaps they were simply pulling his leg.

But Lodovik Trema had survived the neutrino flux! No ordinary human, perhaps no human at all--no organic creature--could have survived...

Then again, tapes of this kind could easily be faked. His own character, if deeply investigated, would be regarded by no authority as unimpeachable. The tape--and his efforts to spread a message of conspiracy--could mark him as a lunatic.

He doubted very much that Linge Chen or Klayus would pay much attention to it. He tried to think of others in positions of influence, others whose intuition matched their real-world savvy and political skill.

No one came to mind. He knew something about most of the top thirty ministers and their councilors in the palace, and a great deal about the Commission of Public Safety, that deep reservoir of career Greys and old-family elites. No one! Not one--

The tape was a curse. He wished he had never made it. Yet he could not bring himself to destroy it--in the right hands, it might be extremely valuable. And in the wrong hands--

It could bring about his execution.

He packed his kit in the small inn room he had occupied for the past three days. He had been waiting for the arrival of a commodities freighter, one of the ten or so ships that arrived on Madder Loss every week, down from the thousands of past decades. He had booked passage the day before and received confirmation.

Planch took a small ground-cab to the spaceport, along the main highway, open to the sky, past the brilliantly sunlit fields and small, shabby, but relatively tidy communities.

He stood in the dusty, trash-littered passenger lobby, his own clothes dusty and unkempt, waiting for the freighter to finish off-loading its cargo. Sunlight fell in dust-marked pillars through the skylights of the long hall leading back to the customs center. He cleaned off a chair with a few swipes of his hand and was about to sit behind a pillar, out of direct view from most angles, when he saw an adolescent boy pedaling a small quadricycle down the hall.

Swinging back and forth from empty gate to empty gate, the boy called out Planch’s name in short, sharp barks. Planch was alone at this end of the terminal.

The boy wheeled toward him. There was no avoiding it; he identified himself to the messenger and accepted a metal-and-plastic hyperwave transfer card. It was coded to his personal touch, common enough in the confines of the Empire...

But no one was supposed to know Planch was on Madder Loss.

Mors tipped the boy a credit, then hefted the message and considered his options. He looked up again.

The boy on the quadricycle rounded a comer at the beginning of the next terminal wing and vanished. Two men in blue uniforms--Imperial Navy officers--stood in the broad entrance to the wing. Mors frowned. He could not see them clearly at this distance, but their bearing was both assured and mildly arrogant. He had no difficulty imagining the sun-and-spaceship logos on their jackets, the powerful blasters at their hips.

He ran his finger over the playback slot on the card and the message scrolled down in the air before his eyes.


Imperial Councilor and Confidant Farad Sinter requests your presence for a special inquiry. You are instructed to return to Trantor by the quickest conveyance; an Imperial Navy fast frigate has been dispatched to Madder Loss for your use.

With sincere interest and sympathy:


Mors had heard of Councilor Sinter, reputed to be the Emperor’s chief procurer of willing females, not highly regarded in any of the palace offices except, perhaps, his own, but he knew of no reason why the councilor would want to speak with him.

Mors stifled a brief panic. If this was somehow connected with Lodovik

It must be! But why wouldn’t Linge Chen send the ship, then? He knew of no connection between Sinter and Chen.

Mors had a sudden foreboding. He was caught between an ancient, almost incomprehensible conspiracy, and the still tightly-meshed and broadly cast net of the Empire. His life as a free man--any life at all!--might very well be at an end.

All because of an attachment to this peculiar and vulnerable world!

Escape was highly unlikely.

Best to go calmly. These days, style was all that was left to a desperate man.

Drawing up his shoulders, Mors walked away from the gate, toward the two men in blue uniforms at the end of the long corridor.


The return to Trantor was both trauma and test for the robot who had been Dors Venabili. Soon she would have a new identity, and she would take a new role in the very long-range plans of R. Daneel Olivaw. But for now, this day of landing and disembarking was so similar to that time, decades before, when she had first arrived on Trantor...before she met the man she had been programmed to guard and nurture...

Before Hari.

Trantor had not changed much in the time since Dors’ death, but the few changes she was in a position to notice were not positive. Trantor looked seedier, less imposing and more decrepit. The ceil of the domes had become very noticeably more patchy, the slideways less efficient and more prone to breakdown. The smells were the same, however, and the people seemed much the same.

Even the circumstances were the same. The last time she had traveled to Trantor, it had been with Daneel. They had each gone their separate ways upon arrival, but now they stuck together, and Dors dreaded the plan she was sure Daneel was concocting. She was human enough in design to be able to feel humanlike emotions--dread among them, and love--but Daneel wanted to test her resolve, as a robot, and her strength. If she failed, she was of no use to him.

Daneel said little, but took her to the safe apartment near Streeling, where they picked up their change of clothes and new Trantorian identity papers. With a slight adjustment to her already altered physical appearance and external marks, including fingerprints and external tissue genetics, she would become Jenat Korsan, a teacher from the food ally Paskann. Lodovik would assume the identity of a merchant broker from the metals-rich province of Dau. As Rissik Numant of Dau of the Thousand Golden Suns, he would spend several years on Trantor, conducting a personal pilgrimage.

The safe apartment was small and located in the poor municipality of Fann, less than ten kilometers from Streeling. Dors knew the place a little--had passed through here several times before forming her liaison with Hari. What had then been shabby genteel was now truly just shabby, and unhappy; police seldom came here unless it was strictly necessary.

They stayed in the apartment for two days, just long enough for Daneel’s manipulations to spread throughout Trantor’s identity networks.

Then, they went forth...

Not, she hoped, to some catastrophic relapse, some unbearable return to her old mode. The great difficulty was that with Hari Seldon, she had felt truly useful for the first time in her existence, truly important, and to her human side, that importance had been translated into happiness. She was now all too aware that she was not human.

And not happy.


The first interview with Gaal Dornick had proceeded satisfactorily. Hari felt he had impressed the young man, and Dornick had taken the news of the current situation well enough. Good--the man had courage, and there was about him a hint of that outer-world youth and bravado that Hari remembered himself once having.

As a mathist, Dornick was talented, but there were many far more talented already connected with the Project. Dornick’s main use would be as a sharp observer, who would weather the present storm and help pave the way for Hari’s own peculiar method of helping the Project’s people weather future storms. And perhaps as another friend. I do like the man.

Hari could not stand the thought of just letting his two Foundations--one secret, one, he hoped--believed! Knew!--to be sanctioned by the Empire itself--proceed on their own, after his death. If he had learned anything from Demerzel/Daneel, it had been the necessity of leaving some trail of tidbits, some prodding and provocative part of himself to spur things on after his death. Daneel did this by popping up in person every few decades, a technique Hari would only be able to imitate in extension, as it were.

Dornick would be key to making Hari Seldon a legend, and to allowing him to appear at regular intervals, even after death, to shepherd things along.

Hari returned to his apartment in Streeling and once more availed himself of the services of a small security tracer Stettin had procured for him on one of his journeys off Trantor. The tracer, set down in the middle of the main room, spun a web of red lines across the walls and low ceiling, then pronounced, in the sweet voice of a girl, “This room is free of known Imperial listening devices.”

There had not been any new listening devices designed for some time. Linge Chen, for his own unknown reasons, was still allowing Hari a private personal space. Everywhere else, including his office in the Imperial Library, he was watched and listened to very carefully.

Hari could feel the forces building. Poor Dornick! He would hardly have time to get used to Trantor.

Hari smiled grimly, then pushed a button in the wall. A small entertainment center emerged. He instructed it to access to University music libraries--one of his privileges at Streeling--and playa selection of court music from the time of Jemmu IX. “Mostly Gand and Hayer, please,” he said. These two composers, the former male, the latter female, had competed with each other for court commissions for fifty years. After their death, it had been discovered they were secretly lovers. Music scholars had decided through exhaustive analysis that no one could tell which of their combined works had been written by Gand, and which by Hayer--or even if just one had written them all. They were elegant and soothing pieces, filled with a polite recognition of the Empire’s eternal order; music from an age when the Empire had worked, and worked well, vigorous and youthful even after thousands of years.

Daneel’s Golden Age, Hari thought as he settled into his oldest and favorite chair. The kind of age Linge Chen still believes in. rather foolishly. The Chief Commissioner has always seemed such a pompous fool to me--of aristocratic family, trained in ancient bureaucratic disciplines, aloof and disconnected...What if I’m wrong? What if my theories are inadequate to predict these short-term results? But they can’t be--the long-term results depend on what happens in these next few weeks!

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.