Foundation and Chaos

Page 3

“Get me an immediate audience with Mors Planch.”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

Kreen bustled out of the room.

Linge Chen took a deep breath. His time at the display was over. He had to return to his office and meet in person with Sector generals and planetary representatives from Trantor’s food allies for the rest of the day.

He would have much preferred focusing all his thoughts on the loss of Lodovik and how to convert Sinter’s foolishness to his own best interests, but not even such a tragedy, or such an opportunity, could interfere with his present duties.

Ah, the glamour of power!


Privy Councilor Farad Sinter had overstepped his bounds so many times in the past three years that the boy Emperor Klayus referred to him as “my pillar of prying ambition,” a typically ill-worded phrase that today, at least, carried no overtone of admiration or affection.

Sinter stood before the Emperor, hands clasped in unconvincing submission. Klayus I, barely seventeen years of age, regarded him with something less than anger and more than irritation. In his all-too-recent childhood, he had been called down too many times in private by his tutors, all selected and controlled by Commissioner Chen; he had become a sometimes sly, underhanded young man, more intelligent than most gave him credit for, though still subject to the occasional extreme outburst. Early on, he had learned one of the major rules of leadership and statecraft in a competitive and hypocritical government: He never let anyone know what he was really thinking.

“Sinter, why are you looking for young men and women in the Dahl Sector?” the Emperor asked.

Sinter had taken pains for this effort to be concealed. Somebody was playing political games, and that somebody would pay.

“Sire, I have heard of this search. I believe they are being sought as part of the genetic reconciliation project.”

“Yes, Sinter, a project you began five years ago. You think I’m too young to remember?”

“No, your Highness.”

“I do have some influence in this Palace, Sinter. My word is not completely ignored!”

“Of course not, your Highness.”

“Spare me the obsequious titles. Why are you hunting down children younger than I am, and disrupting loyal families and neighborhoods?”

“It is essential to understand the limits of human evolution on Trantor, Your Highness.”

Klayus lifted his hand. “My tutors tell me evolution is a long, slow process of genetic accretions, Sinter. What do you expect to learn from a few invasions of privacy and attempted kidnappings?”

“Pardon my even hoping to act as one of your tutors, Your Highness, but--”

“I hate being lectured to,” Klayus said in a low growl that broke halfway through.

“But, if I may continue, with your permission, sire, humans have lived on Trantor for twelve thousand years. We have already seen the development of populations with particular physical and even mental characteristics--the stocky, dark people of Dahl, sire, or the menials of Lavrenti. There is evidence, sire, that certain extraordinary traits have occurred in certain individuals in the last century...Scientific evidence, as well as hearsay, of--”

“Psychic powers, Sinter?” Klayus tittered behind spread fingers and lifted his eyes to the ceiling. A few projected birds flew down and circled them, making as if to peck at Sinter. The Emperor had rigged nearly all of his chambers to reveal his moods with such projections, and Sinter did not like them in the least.

“Of a kind, Your Highness.”

“Extraordinary persuasion. So I’ve heard. Perhaps the tumbling of dice in games of chance, or the ability to render women susceptible to our charms? I’d like that very much, Sinter. My assigned women are growing tired of my attentions.” His expression grew peevish. “I can tell.”

I hardly blame them, Sinter thought. An oversexed partner of few charms and little wit...

“It is a matter of some curiosity and perhaps importance, Highness.”

“Meanwhile, you cause unrest in Sectors that are already unhappy. Sinter, it’s a foolish liberty--or rather, a foolish breach of liberty. I am supposed to guarantee my subjects’ freedom from being strapped to the horrid little hobbyhorses of my ministers and advisors, or even my own. Well, my hobbyhorses are relatively comfortable mounts...but this, but you, Sinter!”

For a moment, Sinter thought the Emperor was actually going to show a spine, some Imperial fortitude, and forbid this activity, and he felt a momentary chill. It was because Sinter was so good at finding attractive women for young Klayus, and replacing them when he or they grew bored, that Klayus put up with so many of his peccadilloes.

But the Emperor’s eyes grew heavy-lidded, and his energy and irritation appeared to dissipate. Sinter hid his relief. Klayus the Young was, after all, relenting once more.

“Please don’t be so obvious, my good man,” Klayus said. “Slow down. What you need to know will come to you in good time, don’t you think? I’m sure you have all of our interests at heart. Now, about this woman Tyreshia...”

Farad Sinter listened to Klayus’s request with apparent interest, but in fact had switched on his recorder and would pay attention in more detail later. He could hardly believe his fortune. The Emperor had not forbidden these actions! He could indeed redirect and slow the less fruitful investigations; and he could also continue.

In fact, it was not humans, exceptional or otherwise, that he was after. Sinter sought evidence for the most extraordinary and long-lived conspiracy in human history...

A conspiracy he had traced back to the time of Cleon I, and probably long before that.

A myth, a legend, a real entity, coming and going like a wraith in Trantor’s history. The Mycogenians had called him Danee. He was one of the mysterious Eternals, and Sinter was determined to find out more, however he might risk his reputation.

Talk of the Eternals was regarded with as little respect--less, actually--as talk of ghosts. Many on Trantor, an ancient world filled to overflowing with extinct lives, believed in ghosts. Only a select few paid attention to stories of the Eternals.

The Emperor talked on about the woman he was interested in, and Sinter appeared to listen attentively, but his thoughts were far away...Years away.

Sinter imagined himself being credited with saving the Empire. He savored energizing visions of sitting on an Imperial throne, or even better, of replacing Linge Chen on the Commission of Public Safety.

“Farad!” The Emperor’s voice was sharp.

Sinter’s recorder instantly fed him the last five seconds of conversation.

“Yes, your Highness. Tyreshia is indeed a beautiful woman, reputedly very high-spirited, and ambitious.”

“Ambitious women like me, don’t they, Farad?” The boy’s tone softened. Klayus’s mother had been ambitious, and successful, until she had fallen into Linge Chen’s bad graces. She had tried to work her wiles on the Chief Commissioner in the presence of one of his wives. Chen was extremely loyal to his wives.

Strange that a weak boy like Klayus would enjoy strong women; invariably they grew bored with him. After a time, not even the most ambitious could hide their boredom. Once they learned who was really in power, ultimately...

Neither Sinter nor Linge Chen cared much for sex. Power was so much more rewarding.


The greatest engineering feat in the history of Trantor had failed ten years before, and the echoes of that failure still plagued the important and crowded and troublesome Dahl Sector. Four million Dahlite engineers and heatsink workers, supplemented by an additional ten million laborers and even a smuggled force of the banned tiktoks, had worked for twenty years to drive the deepest heatsink yet attempted--over two hundred kilometers--into the crust of Trantor. The difference fu temperature at the proposed depth and the surface would have generated sufficient energy to power one-fifth of Trantor’s needs for the next fifty years...

But while ambitions were high, ability was not. The engineers had shown themselves to be less than inspired, the project management had been plagued by corruption and scandal at all levels, the Dahlite workers had revolted and for two years the project had been delayed. Finally, when completed, it had simply...failed.

The collapse of the shaft and it’s associated sodium and water towers had killed a hundred thousand Dahlites, seven thousand of them civilians living immediately above the shaft, beneath the oldest of Dahl’s domes. The closest subsidiary sinks had also been threatened, and only by heroic intervention had further disaster been avoided--personal courage stepping in where leadership and design skill had collapsed miserably.

Ever since, Dahl had been under a political cloud, a scapegoat Sector on a world that was still capable of placing some trust in its leaders. In truth, Linge Chen had investigated and prosecuted all the corrupt officials and incompetent designers and conniving contractors. He had seen to it that tens of thousands were tried and sent to the Rikerian Prison, or put to hard labor in the worst depths of the heatsinks themselves.

But the economic effects had not been mitigated. Dahl could no longer meet its quota of Imperially mandated power; other Sectors tried to take up the slack, and what favor Dahl had ever had in the Palace declined to a wretched minimum. Near starvation had followed.

It was in this world that Klia Asgar had been born and raised, in the miserable shanty quarters once reserved for workers. Her father had lost his job a year before her birth, and spent the years of her childhood alternately dreaming of a return to prosperity...and drinking himself silly with yeasty, foul-smelling Dahlite liquor. Her mother had died when Klia was four; she had raised herself from that time on, and did remarkably well, considering that so many cards had been stacked against her from before her birth.

Klia was of moderate height for a Dahlite female, slender and wiry, with thin strong fingers on long hands. Her hair was short and black, and she possessed the family trait of finely furred cheeks that gave her a somewhat softer aspect than her hard, chiseled features would have otherwise conveyed.

She was quick to learn, quick in motion, and, surprisingly, she was also quick to smile and quick to express sentiment. In her private moments she dreamed of vague and indefinite improvements that might be possible in another world. another life, but they were just dreams. All too often, she dreamed of a strong alliance with some resourceful and handsome, bushy-mustached male, no more than five years her senior...

No such male entered her life. She was no great beauty, and the esteem and affection of others was the one area where she refused to exercise her surprising abilities to charm and persuade. If the male entered without prodding, well and good; but she would not apply any major push to get him. She believed she naturally deserved better.

In another age, another time, long forgotten, Klia Asgar would have been called a romantic, an idealist. In Dahl, in the year G.E. 12067, she was simply regarded as a stubborn but naive girl of sixteen. Her father told her so whenever he was sober enough to express himself at all.

Klia was thankful for small favors. Her father was neither brutal nor demanding. When sober, he took care of his own few needs, leaving her free to do whatever she wanted: work in the black market, smuggle from the outside luxuries to the less savory (and Imperially oppressed) elements of the unemployed...Whatever she could do to survive. They rarely even saw each other, and they had not lived in the same apartment for two years. Not since that argument and the thing she had done in anger.

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