Foundation and Chaos

Page 34

“In one way, at least, my goals are the same as yours. I wish to reduce the misery of the quadrillions who now live in the Empire. Surely, it is as ridiculous for the Empire’s servants to try to direct or control such a wealth of variation, such an immense population, as for you to hope to predict their movements and futures.”

If this was meant to somehow connect them, to endear Chen to Hari, it did not work. Hari gave a polite nod and no more.

“To that end, I have involved myself in a number of petty bickerings, having to do with the Emperor and his more ambitious adherents...and sycophants.”

Hari listened intently. He smoothed back his hair with one hand, never taking his eyes from Chen’s.

“I am involved in a delicate phase of such a conflict now. You would call it a Cusp Time, perhaps.”

“Cusp Times have impacts far beyond the petty moments of personal disputes,” Hari said, and realized he was sounding like the priest of some religion. Well, perhaps he was.

“This is hardly a personal dispute. There are people within the palace who hope to split the power of the Commission, and to insert their own commands into the long chains that stretch from Trantor to the farthermost province around the most distant star.”

“Not surprising,” Hari said. “It’s always been that way. Part of statecraft.”

“Yes, but very dangerous now. I have let him run loose again, one particular individual--”

“Farad Sinter,” Hari said.

Chen nodded. “You may think me a hypocrite, Hari, and you would be right if you did, but I have come asking for advice.”

Hari subdued the triumphant smile that threatened to appear on his lips. Sometimes, arrogance was Hari’s worst enemy--and Linge Chen, whatever his faults, was never simply arrogant.

“I don’t have access to my equipment. Any psychohistoric advice I give must be limited in scope, and probably grossly inaccurate.”

“Perhaps. You have claimed that in five hundred years, Trantor will lie in ruins. An impressive and, of course, unpleasant claim. You have even impressed some Emperors with the tools used to justify the claim. If I grant for the moment that you could be right--”

“Thank you,” Hari said under his breath.

Chen tightened his lips and lowered his eyelids as if he were sleepy. “Just granting for the moment such a possibility, I am curious--am I highlighted in this downfall? Do my actions this year, or in the next, the future, the past, facilitate this horrible decline?”

Hari, despite himself, was actually moved by this question. In all his decades perfecting this science, his beloved psychohistory, no Emperor, no bureaucrat, no Commissioner, no one, had ever asked him this. Not even Daneel!

“Not so far as I have noticed,” Hari said quietly. “I haven’t actually made the specific inquiries, integrated the ranges beneath these particular historic tangents in the equations.”

“So you don’t know, then?”

“No, sire. But I would guess that you are not actually crucially involved in a Cusp lime. Another very different person could play your role, and all would go on as before, ultimately.” Hari leaned forward, his intensity growing. “All that you do is part of a decline whose origins lie before your birth, and whose consequences you can’t possibly alter more than to just nudge them a few billionths of a degree in one direction or another.”

Linge Chen seemed ready to nod off, but his eyes, beneath the heavy lids, were fixed on Hari’s. “All my efforts, for nothing, then?”

“Perhaps. No human effort is without value, positive or negative.”

“You believe my efforts have negative value?”

Hari allowed the smile to emerge, but it was not arrogant. It was genuinely amused. “For me, quite possibly, sire.”

Chen smiled back, and for a moment, they might have been two gentlemen discussing politics in a baronial clubroom somewhere in the best neighborhood of the Imperial Sector, to a backdrop of holographic records of ancient disputes between citizens of the early Empire, long since forgotten. Hari shook himself out of the Chief Commissioner’s scrutiny, and Chen simultaneously stopped smiling. Hari suddenly felt cold

“As for your own future, Hari Seldon, I, too, am in doubt. I do not know how things will play out in the palace. You have special significance in these disputes, though I am not sure yet how and why. But whether you are convicted of treason, or let go, or...some other middle judgment...I do not yet know.”

Chen stood. “I doubt we will meet again before the proceedings. Thank you for your time. And for your opinions.”

“They are not my opinions,” Hari said stonily. “I have never put much store in opinions.”

Chen blinked. “I do not regard you as an enemy, even as an enemy of the Empire. To the true Ruellian, to the devoted adherents of Tua Chen, everything is moment and flux, whirling motes of dust, for me, as well as for you. Good-bye, Hari Seldon.”


Chen left, followed by his servant.

A very poor breakfast was served minutes later, and Hari ate sparingly. By the middle of the day, he was moved to much improved quarters--a larger room, rather than a cell, with a holographic view screen that covered half of one wall, a small desk and chair, and a more comfortable bed.

The guards still refused his request that they fetch his bookfilms and a Prime Radiant and other tools. Hari had not expected them to comply.

Chen did not want him to be happy.

The screen showed the Imperial palace gardens, one of the few places on Trantor open to the sky. The sight of the gardens made him uneasy. He could well imagine young Klayus walking there, as condensed and distilled a drop of social decay as Hari could imagine.

He managed to convince the screen to exchange the view of the gardens for a simple pattern of muted, flowing colors.

This was to be his worst time in decades--a period of boredom and inaction, two things he had always loathed. Hari looked forward to the trial, even to failure and death--anything but this horrid and useless interlude, this waiting.


The small human boy, a wiry and alert denizen of the Agora, had left a message for Daneel. As Daneel played back the message in his safe apartment, he was reminded once again of the long-forgotten human, Sherlock, and his own sources of information.

Daneel’s network of informers did not rely solely on robots. Robots were becoming a major handicap wherever Vara Liso operated.

He listened to the boy’s breathless report.

“This one, he was tough to follow,” the boy said, his face bobbing before the recorder. “He wasn’t where you said he’d be. He went to the Agora, then he’s allover the place, then he gets chased by the police...They almost get him. Then he just vanishes. I lose him, they lose him, too, I think. Haven’t seen him since. That’s it. Need me for some more, let me know.”

Daneel stood in silence by the window, looking out on the dark ceil and shadowy towers of Streeling. The internal reports from the Imperial Specials confirmed that they had not captured Lodovik, and that Vara Liso had been very upset. Beyond this, however, Daneel had no information.

What he most needed to know; however, was that Lodovik had disobeyed his specific instructions, and that he was still at large.

With his long millennia of experience, Daneel did not need complete evidence to draw conclusions. This was a Cusp Time. No complex activity seeking to direct humanity could ever proceed without opposition. Lodovik’s changed nature seemed from the very beginning to be a manifestation of this opposition, or at least one facet of it.

Daneel had to work in advance of that force, before it defined itself even more clearly. He had not deactivated Lodovik for a number of reasons, some of them not clear to him even now--complex reasons, inductive, based on thousands of years of training and thought, and contradictory.

It was becoming very likely that Lodovik would be part of any opposing force. In a sense, Daneel had anticipated this possibility, had perversely worked to make it happen. Familiar elements could make the opposing force more predictable. Lodovik was a familiar, if troubling, element.

Daneel did not enjoy having so little information to work from. But there were actions he could take even now, warnings he could issue.

Hari stood at the center of all the possible lines and alternate routes of human history. Daneel had worked to make this happen; now, it was the greatest handicap the Plan faced.

Any opposition force at this time had to target Hari Seldon.


Lodovik’s time of blankness ended. His vision became active and his eyes opened. He straightened and looked around him. The first face he saw was that of the robot in dusty green. The humaniform sent a brief microwave greeting and Lodovik responded. He was fully alert now.

They occupied a large, utilitarian room with a full-length wall screen at one end, a few pieces of furniture, and only two chairs. The wall-screen showed charts and diagrams that meant nothing to Lodovik.

He turned and saw a third figure, most obviously not a man. Lodovik knew a fair amount about robot varieties, and this robot’s vintage was ancient indeed. Its body was smoothly metallic, with few visible seams, and a soft, satiny surface. In truth, it had the patina of well-tended antique silver once a very expensive option.

“Hello,” the silver robot said.

“Hello. Where am I?”

“You are safe,” said the robot who had rescued him from the Agora. “My name is Kallusin. This is Plussix. He is our organizer.”

“Am I on Trantor still?”

“Yes,” Kallusin said.

“Are you all robots here?”

“No,” said Plussix. “Are you fully functional now?”


“Then it is important that you understand why you have been brought here. We are not allied with Daneel. Perhaps you have heard of us. We are Calvinians.”

Lodovik acknowledged this revelation with only the merest internal cascade of hurried thinking.

“We arrived on Trantor only thirty-eight years ago. Daneel may be aware of our existence, but we think not.”

“How many of you are there?” Lodovik asked.

“Not many. Just enough,” Plussix said. “You have been observed for some years. We have no one in the palace itself, or in the Commissioners’ chambers, but we have noted your comings and goings and, of course, kept track of your official activities. You have been a loyal member of the Giskardians--until now.”

“I was once a Giskardian myself,” Kallusin said. “Plussix converted me. My mentalic skills are limited, however--I am much less powerful than Daneel. But I am sensitive to the mentalities of robots. In the agora, I became aware of your presence, and surmised that you were Lodovik Trema and had not been destroyed. This intrigued me, so I followed you, and soon sensed a puzzling difference within you. Daneel did not know, just by being near you, that you are different?”

Lodovik considered his answer carefully. That his inner states should be read by this machine made him very uneasy. “I told him,” he said. “Thorough diagnoses did not reveal any difference.”

“Yan Kansarv did not find a flaw, you mean,” Plussix said.

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