Foundation and Chaos

Page 36

Kallusin held his hands out and touched the sides of the metallic head, with its vaguely humanoid, expressionless features.

“It is Plussix’s wish that you experience this head’s memories, to understand why we oppose Daneel.”

“Thank you,” Lodovik said, and Kallusin made the arrangements.


Wanda stared in astonishment at the tall, dignified older man who stood before her, as if he were a ghost. He had entered without warning, and without triggering the alarm. Stettin walked out of the rear bedroom of the tiny tenement apartment. He clutched a small, dirty towel in one hand. He was about to complain of the hardships they were facing deep in the Water Engine District of Peshdan Sector when he, too, saw the tall man.

“Who’s this?” he asked Wanda.

“He says he knows Grandfather,” Wanda said. The man nodded greetings to Stet tin.

“Who are you?” Stettin asked as he resumed toweling his hair.

“Once I was known as Demerzel,” the man said. “I have been a recluse since those distant days when I was First Minister.”

“I’ll say,” Stettin said. “Why come here? And how did you know--”

Wanda stepped lightly on her husband’s bare instep.

“Ow.” Stettin decided it would be best for his wife to do the talking.

“There’s something different about you,” she said.

“I am not young anymore,” Demerzel said.

“No--something about your bearing.”

Between Stettin and Wanda, this was a code word meaning Wanda thought Stettin should examine the visitor with his own skills. Stettin had already done so and detected nothing unusual. Now he concentrated, probed a little deeper, and found--a very effective and almost undetectable shield.

“Our talents are a little peculiar, don’t you think?” Demerzel said, nodding acknowledgment of Stet tin’s probe. “I’ve lived with them for a long time.”

“You’re mentalic,” Wanda said.

Demerzel nodded. “It is very useful when one is involved in politics.”

“Who told you we were here?” Wanda asked.

“I know you quite well. I’ve been very interested in your grandfather’s work, of course, and its influence on my own...legacy.” Demerzel lifted his hands, as if seeking forgiveness for some weakness. Again, the accompanying smile seemed not entirely natural to Wanda, but she could not bring herself to dislike this man. That, she knew, was far from actually trusting him.

“I have connections in other parts of the palace,” he said. “I’ve come to tell you that your grandfather may be in trouble.”

“If you know what’s happened to him--” Wanda began.

“Yes, he has been arrested, and some of his colleagues with him. But they are safe for the time being. It is not a threat from the Commission I’m concerned about. There may be an attempt to subvert Hari’s work. After his trial, you should attempt to stay with him, keep him away from all whom you do not personally know--”

Wanda took a deep breath. Where her grandfather was concerned, anything could happen--but Demerzel had been a First Minister over forty years ago! And he did not look much older than forty or fifty now...”This is a very peculiar request. Nobody has ever been able to convince my grandfather--” Wanda stopped, and her eyes widened at the implications. “You think someone other than Linge Chen wants him dead?”

“Linge Chen does not want Hari dead. Quite the contrary. I happen to know he rather likes your grandfather. That will not stop him from convicting and imprisoning or even executing him if it gives him political advantage, but my judgment is, Hari will live and be released.”

“Grandfather seems convinced of that.”

“Yes, well, perhaps less so now that he is in prison.”

“You have been to see him?”

“No,” Demerzel said. “That is not practical.”

“Who would hurt my grandfather?”

“I doubt he will be harmed, physically. You know of a class of mentalics stronger by far than we are?”

Wanda swallowed hard, trying to find some reason not to speak to this man. He was not applying persuasion to her. He was not asking for confidences or for details about the others, about Star’s End and the Second Foundation. “I know of one, perhaps two,” she said.

“You know of Vara Liso, who now works with a man named Farad Sinter. They make a powerful team, and they have given you much trouble. But they are not looking for your kind now. They have shifted their search. Linge Chen is working to discredit Sinter by allowing him just enough rope, as the old saying goes, to hang himself. But Sinter has other enemies, and will not be allowed to go very far before he is brought up short. I suspect they will both be executed soon and will present no threat to your grandfather, or to you.”

Wanda read in this statement the possibility that Liso might prove a threat to Demerzel. “To you?” she asked.

“Not likely. I must go now. But I ask you to form a cordon around Hari when he is released. Hari’s work is fascinating and very important. It must not be stopped!”

Demerzel bowed in the old formal way, from the hips, and turned to leave.

“We’d like to keep in touch with you,” Wanda called after him. “You seem to know a lot of useful things, keep your hand in--”

Demerzel shook his head, sadly. “You are delightful children, and your work is very important,” he said. “But I am far too much a liability to be a close friend. You are better off on your own.”

He opened the door that had been triple-locked, stepped through, nodded with gentle dignity, and closed it behind him.

Stettin let out a whoosh of breath. His hair was spiky from his crude sponge bath. “Sometimes I wonder if I should have ever married you,” he said. “Your family knows the strangest people!”

Wanda stared at the door with a perplexed expression. “I couldn’t read anything about him. Could you?”

“No,” Stettin admitted.

“He’s a very practiced blank.” She shivered. “There is something very, very odd going on behind all this. Have you ever had the feeling Grandfather isn’t telling us all he knows?”

“Always,” Stettin said. “But in my case, it may be because he’s afraid he’ll bore me.”

Wanda put on her determined look. “Don’t make yourself comfortable.”

“Why not?” Stettin asked, then raised his hands defensively. “Not again--”

“We’re moving. Everyone is moving again.”

“Sky!” Stettin swore, and flung the towel into a comer. “He said he thought Hari’s going to win!”

“What does he know?” Wanda said grimly.

The narrative, the testimony, all the events of the Trial come down to us through suspect sources. The best source, of course, is Gaal Dornick; but as has been mentioned many times already, Dornick had been subject to editing and pruning over the centuries. He seems to have been a faithful observer, but current scholarship suggests that even the length of the Trial, the continuity of trial days, may be suspect...

--Encyclopedia Galactica, 117th edition, 1054 F.E. 48.

Hari slept fitfully at irregular intervals. His room was always kept fully lighted, and, of course, he was allowed no artificial sleep aids or eyeshades. He had decided this was Chen’s way of softening him up before his testimony in the trial.

He would not see Sedjar Boon for at least another day, and he doubted Boon would be able to get Chen to turn out the lights at civilized intervals. Hari coped as best he could. Actually, since an old man slept fitfully and irregularly anyway, the hardship was more to his sense of justice and dignity than to his mental health.

Still, there were odd moments for him when he seemed to slide between waking and dreaming. He would jerk to full consciousness, staring at a blank pastel pink wall, having seen something significant, even wonderful, but not remembering what it was. Memory? Dream? Revelation? All could hold equal weight in this damned unchanging cell. How much worse would it have been in the previous cell?

Hari took to pacing, the famed exercise of the imprisoned man. He had precisely six meters to pace in one direction, three another. A veritable luxury compared to the other cell...But not enough to give him any feeling of accomplishment. After a few hours, he stopped that as well.

He had been in this cell less than four days, and already he was regretting his past love of small, enclosed spaces. He had been born beneath the wide skies of Helicon, and had at first found these covered environs a little daunting, even depressing, but his long decades on Trantor had gradually inured him. Then he had come to prefer them...

Until now.

He could not understand why he had ever adopted the use of the Trantorian expletive of “Sky!”

Again, an hour passed without his notice. He got up from the small desk and rubbed his hands together; they tingled slightly. What if he became ill and died before going to trial? All the preparations, all Hari’s machinations, all the tugged and woven threads of political influence--for nothing!

He began to sweat. Perhaps his mind was going. Chen would not shy from using drugs to debilitate him, would he? The Chief Commissioner used his dedication to Imperial justice as a convenient mask, surely; but Hari still could not bring himself to believe that Chen was exceptionally intelligent. Blunt measures might suit Chen perfectly, and he had enough power to conceal the evidence, destroy it.

Destroy Hari Seldon, without his even knowing. “I hate power. I hate the powerful.” Yet Hari had himself once held power, even quietly reveled in it, certainly not shied away from wielding it. Hari had ordered the suppression of the Chaos Worlds--those brief and tragic flowerings of excess creativity and dissent.


He had imprisoned them in political and financial straitjackets. He regretted that necessity most of all the things he had done in the name of psychohistory...And this legacy had been left untouched for the heavy hand of Linge Chen and Klayus to swing like a bludgeon.

He lay back on the cot and stared at the ceiling. Was it night, above the metal skin of Trantor? Night beneath the domes, with the darkling sunset and midnight ceils of the municipalities announcing an end to the day’s labors?

For him, for Hari, what labors?

He dreamed he was a pan again, in the garden park, with Dors playing an opposite female, their minds welded to the minds of the simians. The threat to his life, and Dors’ defense. Power and play and danger and victory in such close combinations. Heady.

Now, this punishment.

Claustrophilia. That was what Yugo had called the love of the metal-skinned worlds’ inhabitants for their confinement. Yet there had always been worlds buried in rock, always been worlds clad at least in part in metal shields against the wet and violent skies. Sky. The curse. Sky. The freedom.

“Our Father in Heaven forgives you as He forgives all the transgressions of the saints.”

This lovely female voice floated through his vague thoughts. He knew it instantly. There was something at once rich and ancient about it, a voice from a time before most human memory.

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