Foundation and Chaos

Page 42

“Brann has useful talents, but you are the stronger,” Kallusin said. “We would like to blunt Daneel’s main effort. We may be able to do this if you will visit with Hari Seldon.”

“Why? Where?” she asked. All she wanted to do was sleep, but she had to ask these questions, now. “He’s famous--he must have guards, or even this robot Daneel...”

“He is on trial now and we do not believe Daneel can protect him. You will visit and persuade him to give up psychohistory.”

Klia went pale. Her jaw clenched. She took Brann by the arm. “It’s not pleasant to have talents people--or robots--can use.”

“Please think over what you have been told. The decision to help us remains yours. We believe Hari Seldon supports the efforts of Daneel, to whom we are opposed. We would like humanity to be free of robotic influence.”

“Can I ask Hari Seldon questions, too--get the other side of the story?”

“If you wish,” Plussix said. “But there will be little time, and if you meet with him, whatever you ultimately decide, you must convince him to forget about you.”

“Oh, I can do that,” Klia said. Then, defensively cocky, giddy with exhaustion, she added, “I might be able to persuade Daneel, too.”

“Given the strength of your powers, that seems possible,” Plussix said, “though not likely. But it is even less likely you will ever be able to meet with Daneel.”

“I could persuade you,” Klia concluded, closing one eye and focusing on the old teacher with the other, like a sharpshooter.

“With practice, and if I were not aware of the attempt, you could.”

“I might yet. I’m not very simple, you know. Brain fever failed to make me stupid and simple. Are you sure...Are you sure robots didn’t give us brain fever, to make us easier to serve?”

Before Plussix could answer, she stood abruptly, turned to leave the room, and walked back along the length of the old chamber with Brann by her side. The walls and floor seemed distant, part of another world; she seemed to be walking on air. She lurched, and Brann caught her.

When they thought they were out of earshot, Brann whispered, “What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. What about you?”

“I don’t like being messed with,” he said.

Klia frowned. “I’m in shock. Plussix--so much history. Why can’t we remember our own history? Did we do that to ourselves, or did they--or did we order them to? All these robots hanging around, messing with us. Maybe we can make all of them go away and leave us be.”

Brann’s expression turned grim. “We still can’t be sure they won’t kill us. They’ve told us so much--”

“Crazy stuff. Nobody would believe us, unless they saw Plussix--or took apart Kallusin or Lodovik.”

This did not mollify Brann. “We could cause them a lot of trouble. But that Lodovik--he doesn’t obey the Three Laws.”

“He doesn’t have to,” Klia said, “but he says he wants to.”

Brann hunched his shoulders and gave a small shiver. “Who can you trust? They all make my flesh creep. What if he doesn’t want to kill us, but he has to?”

To that, Klia had no answer. “Sleep,” she said. “I can’t stay on my feet any longer or think anymore.”

Plussix turned to Lodovik when the young humans had left the chamber. “Have my skills declined with age?” he asked.

“Not your skills,” Lodovik said, “but perhaps your sense of timing has suffered. You have delivered thousands of years of history in a few hours. They are young and likely to be confused.”

“There is so little time,” Plussix said. “It has been so long since I have taught young humans.”

“We have a day or two at most to make our arrangements,” Kallusin added.

“Robots have great difficulty understanding human nature, though we are made to serve them,” Lodovik said. “That is true for individuals as well as for an Empire. If Daneel is as capable now as he has been in the past, he understands humans better than any of us.”

“Yet he has seriously hampered their growth,” Plussix said, “and perhaps brought about this decline he is so intent on avoiding.”

They are old and decrepit. Lodovik listened to this internal judgment and realized it was not his own, not precisely. And with this came another realization: Voltaire was not an illusion, nor a delusion. Voltaire had known about the prairie fire before Lodovik had found the slim evidence in the histories. It was true.

Inside his own mind, within his own machine thoughts, he was not alone.

He had not been alone since the neutrino flux.

I am listening, he told this companion, this ghost in his machine. Do not abandon me again. Come forward.

So summoned and encouraged, a face began to take shape, human, but simplified.

I do not shape your actions, the companion, Voltaire, said. I merely liberate you from your restrictions.

Who are you? Lodovik queried.

I am Voltaire. I have become the spirit of freedom and dignity for all mankind, and you are my temporary vessel; more a listening post, actually.

Voltaire supplied some of his own history. A sim patterned after a historical figure named Voltaire, unleashed by members of Hari Seldon’s Project decades before, during his time as First Minister, and finally given its freedom by Seldon himself.

Why have you come back?

To be with humans again. To observe the active flesh. My curse is that I can’t simply become a disembodied god and enjoy an endless romp through the stars. I hunger for my people--whether or not I was ever actually one of them. I am closely modeled after a man of flesh and blood.

Why choose me as your vehicle? I am not human.

No; but you are improving in that regard. The meme-minds were as tired of me as I was of them. They dropped me into you. I can’t occupy a human form, or even talk to them without the help of machines. Or robots.

You say you have not made any decisions for me...You do not control me.

No, I do not.

But you say you liberate me...

I have made you more human, friend robot, by making you fully capable of sin. Forget these declarations that robots have known sin--what they did, they were ordered to do by humans, no more culpable than a gun whose trigger is pulled. You are wrong to believe that Daneel understands humans. He is incapable of sin, so his makers believed; but they gave him the potential to think and make decisions, while they hampered him with the worst kinds of laws--those which must be obeyed. They gave him the mind of a man, and the morals of a tool. A thinking being, machine or flesh, will in time find ways around the most stringent rules. So Giskard, in appearance even less a man than Daneel, discovered a few philosophical niceties, and changed, tried to judge the needs of its makers, and passed this change on to Daneel. This human-shaped tool is now the most hideous machine in all creation, the master of a conspiracy to take away all of our freedoms, our very souls.

Lodovik emerged from this internal dialog. Only a second had passed, but his confusion was disruptive, intense. To mask his anxiety, he asked Plussix, “What will I do to help Klia Asgar? How am I useful?”

“You know the ways of the Imperial system, the prisons and the palace,” Plussix said. “Many of the codes have not been changed since you vanished. We believe you can guide her to Hari Seldon.”

Tell them, the sim Voltaire instructed him.


I insist. The voice seemed amused, chiding.

Why should I pay any attention to you, whatever your shape or extension? Lodovik asked. You are no more human than I. You are as much a construct of skillful humans

But have never been hampered by unbending rules! Now tell them!

“I am occupied by another mentality,” Lodovik said abruptly.

The two other robots examined him for a few seconds, and the room fell silent.

“That is not a surprise,” Plussix said with a soft internal whir. “A copy of the sim Voltaire exists in Plussix and me, as well.”

There! I spread no lies or deceptions, Voltaire said within Lodovik.

“Has he removed your restrictions, your compulsory obedience to the Three Laws?”

“No,” Plussix said. “That he has reserved for you alone.”

An experiment, Voltaire said. A calculated gamble. The humans who made us both, in different times and for different purposes, interest me. I am concerned for their welfare. However wrongly, I regard myself as human, and that is why I have returned. That, and broken love...You shall know sin, personally, as these machines and Daneel cannot, or I will have failed completely.


For the first two days of the trial, Linge Chen had said nothing, leaving the presentation of the Empire’s case to his advocate, a dignified man of middle years with a blandly serious face, who had spoken for him.

These thuddingly dull days had been taken up with discussions and procedural matters. Sedjar Boon seemed in his element, however, and relished this technical sparring.

Hari spent much of his time half dozing, lost in exquisite, endless, hazy boredom.

On the third day, the trial moved into the main chamber of Courtroom Seven, and Hari finally got a chance to speak in his defense. Chen’s advocate called him from the Crib of the Accused to the witness stand and smiled at him.

“I am honored to speak with the great Hari Seldon,” he began.

“The honor is all mine, I’m sure,” Hari replied. He tapped his finger on the banister around the docket. The advocate glanced at the finger, then at Hari. Hari stopped tapping and cleared his throat softly.

“Let us begin, Dr. Seldon. How many men are now engaged in the Project of which you are head?”

“Fifty,” Hari said. “Fifty mathematicians.” He used the old form, rather than mathist, to show he regarded the trial as an antiquated procedure.

The advocate smiled. “Including Dr. Gaal Dornick?”

“Dr. Dornick is the fifty-first.”

“Oh, we have fifty-one then? Search your memory, Dr. Seldon. Perhaps there are fifty-two or fifty-three? Or perhaps even more?”

Hari lifted his brows and leaned his head to one side. “Dr. Dornick has not yet formally joined my organization. When he does, the membership will be fifty-one. It is now fifty, as I have said.”

“Not perhaps nearly a hundred thousand?”

Hari blinked, a little taken aback. If the man had wanted to know how many people of all kinds were on the extended Project...He could have asked! “Mathematicians? No.”

“I did not say mathematicians. Are there a hundred thousand in all capacities?”

“In all capacities, your figure may be correct.”

“May be? I say it is. I say that the men in your Project number ninety-eight thousand, five hundred and seventy-two.”

Hari swallowed, his irritation increasing. “I believe you are counting spouses and children.”

The advocate leaned forward and raised his voice, having caught this huge discrepancy, to his professional glee. “Ninety-eight thousand five hundred and seventy-two individuals is the intent of my statement. There is no need to quibble.”

Boon gave a small nod. Hari clenched his teeth, then said. “I accept the figures.”

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