Foundation and Chaos

Page 31

There was nothing more he could do until the trial, which he was sure would be soon. The rest, Hari thought, is psychohistory.


Lodovik stood in the middle of his assigned apartment, naked, the skin pulled back on the right side of his torso, and reached into his mechanical interior. The biological layers had sealed their edges instantly upon being torn open and did not leak any of their lubricating or nutrient fluids, but a false beading of blood lined the “wounds.” Had he willed it, Lodovik could have projected a convincing spray of this blood; but he was alone and would soon be whole again. None would be the wiser.

He understood the ways and pressures of expedience, pragmatism, realpolitik. He could not fathom why Daneel had trusted him, released him without a trial period of close observation. The first possibility was that Daneel had ordered Yan Kansarv to plant a tiny transmitter within Lodovik’s body while making repairs. He could detect none. His body did not seem to be radiating any energy beyond what might issue from a human-infrared, a few other traces, none of them encoded to carry information. And his body cavities seemed free of such devices.

He sealed himself up and considered the second possibility: that Daneel would keep him under observation whenever he left the apartment, either personally or with the aid of other robots--or even recruited humans. Daneel’s organization was large and varied. Anything could be expected.

There was a third possibility, less likely than the other two: that Daneel still trusted him...

And a fourth, almost too nebulous to be usefully expressed. I am fitting into some larger plan; Daneel knows my distortion remains and has found a way to use it.

Lodovik would never underestimate the wiles and intelligence of a thinking machine that had survived twenty thousand years. But an hour passed, then two hours, and he realized he had entered a precarious state of decision lock. No course of action seemed to lead to success.

He jerked free of the lock and powered up all his conserved systems. The flood of energy and strength--the sensation of his skin repairing itself, leaving no discernible scars--was refreshing. He had at least one major advantage over humans. He did not care in the least whether he lived or died, only that he could serve humans in the way that shone forth so clearly now.

Daneel had mentioned the opposing robots--the Calvinians. He had heard about them on a few occasions, centuries ago, from other robots--the robotic equivalent of nasty rumors. If they still existed (Daneel had not made it clear whether they did or not) then they might have established some small presence on Trantor. This would only be done if they felt they had some chance of defeating Daneel.

Lodovik dressed quickly and adjusted his appearance once more to the limit of what he could accomplish just through volition. He now seemed much younger, a little thinner, and his hair changed color to a shining yellow.

He now resembled neither the old Lodovik nor the new Rissik Numant. Nevertheless, his basic body plan and physiognomy were the same; and, of course, his brain was the same. He would not fool Daneel for long, should they meet.

Lodovik knew he would have to leave this apartment and begin his search immediately. He doubted he would have more than a day before Daneel would suspect something was amiss.

He would have to educate himself and do all he could within that very short period of time.

Fortunately, Lodovik knew where to begin--in the private library willed to the Emperor Agis XIV by one of the richest proprietors of the Fleshplay, the eccentric scholar Huy Markin. The Emperor had passed it on to the Imperial University of Pan-Galactic Culture without bothering to examine or even transfer the material--a specialized and almost useless collection, so it was said. The Imperial University had given it over to the charge of the Imperial Library, then both had ignored it as well.

As honorary Provost of the Imperial University, a rank conferred by Linge Chen some years ago, Lodovik had been given the code keys to all of the University’s grounds and facilities--including the library of Huy Markin.

There, he would find thousands of years of legends and myths, gathered from around the Galaxy; the distilled dreams, visions, and nightmares of tens of millions of human worlds.

He could think of no better place to begin.


An undercurrent of tension flowed along the tiers of slideways of the Agora of Vendors, as if the people smelled some impossible storm coming.

Klia looked up as they walked beside a large courtyard rising through the agora. Her eyes followed a curving support at one side of the courtyard, past hundreds of levels, all the way to the distant ceil, perhaps three or four kilometers above, where the support seemed to blend into perfect golden-clouded sky. Then she looked down through dozens of more tiers, all crowded, the hum of hundreds of thousands of voices echoing up and down them until it became a low, constant roar. Had she ever heard a real ocean, she might have compared the sound to the roll of the waves and tides; but all she could compare it to was the endless bellow of the two rivers, One and Two, somehow channeled and subdued, but no less powerful.

Her nose wrinkled, and she followed Brann closely. The transport, tricked out with decorative wheel covers and a gaily colored tarp folded over its last remaining crate, rolled silently behind them.

They could never catch more than glimpses of the uppermost tiers through the courtyard air passages. The worlds of the baronial families were invisible from this far down in the hierarchy. One or two levels at the bottom of the agora were reserved for the citizens.

Along the lower and middle tiers, the multitudinous social ranks of Trantor’s essential Greys moved in their characteristic subdued clothes, men and women dressed very much alike, only the numerous children allowed touches of bright color.

The Greys strolling the agora, off watch for the hour or perhaps on yearly two-day vacations, parted for Brann, Klia, and the floating transport, casting looks of dull curiosity at the crates, perhaps wondering if they carried something they could afford to buy, anything, to relieve the boredom...

Klia understood the Greys’ functions well enough--tenders of Trantor’s vast hierarchies of submission and response, allocators of resources and funding, administrators of data inflow, civic and planetary works. Her people had seldom dealt with Greys directly, for they had been overseen by the Municipal Progress Bureau of Dahl, whose ranks were filled with Dahlites handpicked each generation by the Greys of the Regional Works and Energy Council. Naturally, she felt contempt for all such, and had no doubt they would have felt contempt for her, had they even known of her existence.

But now she saw the Greys themselves watched and made uneasy. Police officers strolled this level in groups of three or four, not the officers of the district, but Imperial specials, the same that had stalked Klia and forced her to seek out Kallusin, the man in dusty green. Families of Greys engaged in browsing the stalls of the vendors drew their children in close and observed the Specials with suspicious eyes, eyes characterized by a flat kind of bureaucratic intelligence. They knew law and social structure, it was in their blood, and they knew something was amiss here, forces out of balance. They withdrew from the arcades and lanes as fast as they could, and this level was quickly emptying of customers.

Brann grimly walked on.

“We should get out of here. They’re probably hunting us,” Klia said in a whisper, hanging on his shoulder briefly to bring her mouth closer to his ear.

He shook his head. “Don’t think so,” he said. “We have to deliver this order.”

“What if they catch us?” Klia asked, her face wrinkled with worry.

“Stay calm. They won’t,” Brann said. “I know a dozen secret passages out of here, a dozen shopkeepers right here”--he swung his hand loosely from the hip at the stalls and shops to their left and right--”who won’t mind our passing through.”

Klia drew up her shoulders, not at all reassured. She had been thinking of ways to shake free of Plussix’s control, but not into the arms of the police. And, in point of fact, in the last hour or so, as they had made their deliveries of Anacreon folkdolls and other baubles, she had given less and less thought to escaping at all...

Brann provided such a masculine contrast to the ethereal, dry, and passionless Greys that he shone like a beacon in Klia’s eyes. She had been thinking, in that instinctive and youthful region below rational assessment, of being strongly tied to this large, powerful male, with his sympathetic black eyes and immense, agile hands. She had thought of the implied benefits of these ties--of privacy and intimacy--and she had wondered what she could do, in private, to impress him.

She felt sure he was thinking many of the same thoughts, and, for once, she believed him when he said he was trying none of his mentalic abilities on her.

The untidy collision of apprehension and passionate speculation gave her a headache. “Let’s hurry,” she said.

Brann shook his head stubbornly. “They’re not after us,” he said.

“How can you be so damned sure?” she whispered harshly.

“Listen--” He pointed into the crowds north of them, thickening and roiling where police were congregating. Klia listened with both her ears and her mind--and felt the unwanted, familiar trace of the woman who had hunted her before. She felt the woman’s awareness feather the edges of her mind, and she reached out to grip Brann’s arm.

“It’s her!” she whispered. The crowds were moving this way. He drew close and nodded, put his arm around her as if to protect her. Without hesitation, Klia accepted his protection. Suddenly, from the middle of the surging Greys less than a dozen meters away, a small motor cart pushed through, floating a few centimeters above the causeway. On the cart sat a young, blond, clean-faced Imperial security officer, two armed guards, and a small, intense woman with dark frizzy red hair.

Klia felt the woman scanning the Greys to either side, saw her wizened, unattractive face turning back and forth as the cart floated slowly and deliberately through. There was no way out--no exit. Blank walls of closed shops flanked them.

They were within three meters, with only four or five Greys in between, when Vara Liso suddenly swiveled on her seat and stared directly at Klia. Their eyes locked. Klia felt the touch in her mind very strongly, rebuffed it, almost literally pushed the intruder out of her mind--and made Vara Liso jerk on the cart as if stung.

Liso continued to glare at her, then her face was wreathed with a sudden, beatific smile. She nodded briefly at Klia, as if acknowledging an equal, and looked away. The touch dropped to a mere feather again, passed without focusing, went elsewhere.

Brann pulled her gently to one side of the aisle. “She was the one who hunted you--wasn’t she?” he asked.

Klia nodded. “But--she ignored me!” Klia said, looking up at Brann in astonishment. “She found me--she could have had me--”

“Us,” Brann interjected.

“And she ignored us!”

Brann frowned deeply and shook his head. “Kallusin and Plussix will want to know about this,” he said. “Who is she after now?”

“Are we going back?” Klia asked.

“We have two more deliveries,” Brann said, and grinned down at her with an expression not of stolidity or stubbornness, but of a massive kind of impishness. “Trantor has survived twelve thousand years. This news can wait a couple of hours.”

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.