Foundation and Chaos

Page 43

The advocate referred to his notes on a legal slate before proceeding. “Let us drop that for the moment, then, and take up another matter which we have already discussed at some length. Would you repeat, Dr. Seldon, your thoughts concerning the future of Trantor?”

“I have said, and I say again, that Trantor will lie in ruins within the next five centuries.”

“You do not consider your statement a disloyal one?”

“No, sir. Scientific truth is beyond loyalty and disloyalty.”

“You are sure that your statement represents scientific truth?”

“I am.”

“On what basis?”

“On the basis of the mathematics of psychohistory.”

“Can you prove that this mathematics is valid?”

“Only to another mathematician.”

The advocate smiled endearingly. “Your claim then, is that your truth is of so esoteric a nature that it is beyond the understanding of a plain man. It seems to me that truth should be clearer than that, less mysterious, more open to the mind.”

“It presents no difficulties to some minds. The physics of energy transfer, which we know as thermodynamics, has been clear and true through all the history of man since the mythical ages, yet there may be people present who would find it impossible to design a power engine. People of high intelligence. too. I doubt if the learned Commissioners--”

The Commissioner to the immediate right of Chen called the advocate to the bench. His whisper pierced the chamber, though Hari could not hear what was said.

When the advocate returned, he seemed a little chastened.

“We are not here to listen to speeches, Dr. Seldon. Let us assume that you have made your point. Let’s focus this inquiry a little more, Professor Seldon.”


“Let me suggest to you that your predictions of disaster might be intended to destroy public confidence in the Imperial Government for purposes of your own.”

“That is not so.”

“Let me suggest that you intend to claim that a period of time preceding the so-called ruin of Trantor will be filled with unrest of various types.”

“That is correct.”

“And that by the mere prediction thereof, you hope to bring it about, and to have then an army of a hundred thousand available.”

Hari stifled his impulse to smile, even to chuckle. “In the first place, that is not so. And if it were, investigation will show you that barely ten thousand are men of military age, and none of these has training in arms.”

Boon stood and was recognized by the presiding Commissioner, sitting on the left of Chen.

“Honored Commissioners, there are no accusations of armed sedition or attempting to overthrow by main force.”

The presiding Commissioner nodded with bored disinterest, and said, “Not in question.”

The advocate tried another tack. “Are you acting as an agent for another?”

“It is well-known I am not in the pay of any man, Mr. Advocate.” Hari smiled pleasantly. “I am not a rich man.”

A little melodramatically, the advocate tried to drive his point home. Who is he trying to impress--the gallery? Hari stared out at the baronial gentry audience of fifty or so, all with looks of varying levels of boredom. They’re just here to witness. The Commissioners? They’ve already made up their minds.

“You are entirely disinterested? You are serving science?”

“I am.”

“Then let us see how. Can the future be changed, Dr. Seldon?”

“Obviously.” He waved his hand over the audience. “This courtroom may explode in the next few hours, or it may not.” Boon made a mildly disapproving face. “If it did, the future would undoubtedly be changed in some minor respects.” Hari smiled at the advocate, then at Linge Chen, who was not watching him. Boon’s frown deepened.

“You quibble, Dr. Seldon. Can the overall history of the human race be changed?”



“No. With great difficulty.”


“The psychohistoric trend of a planet-full of people contains a huge inertia. To be changed it must be met with something possessing a similar inertia. Either as many people must be concerned, or, if the number of people be relatively small, enormous time for change must be allowed.” Hari put on his professorial tone, treating the advocate--and anyone else who was paying attention--as students. “Do you understand?”

The advocate looked up briefly. “I think I do. Trantor need not be ruined, if a great many people decide to act so that it will not.”

Hari nodded professorial approval. “That is right.”

“As many as a hundred thousand people?”

“No, sir,” Hari replied mildly. “That is far too few.”

“You are sure?”

“Consider that Trantor has a population of over forty billions. Consider further that the trend leading to ruin does not belong to Trantor alone but to the Empire as a whole, and the Empire contains nearly a quintillion human beings.”

The advocate appeared thoughtful. “I see. Then perhaps a hundred thousand people can change the trend, if they and their descendants labor for five hundred years.” He gave a curious undershot look at Hari.

“I’m afraid not. Five hundred years is too short a time.”

The advocate seemed to find this a revelation. “Ah! In that case, Dr. Seldon, we are left with this deduction to be made from your statements. You have gathered one hundred thousand people within the confines of your Project. These are insufficient to change the history of Trantor within five hundred years. In other words, they cannot prevent the destruction of Trantor no matter what they do.”

Hari found the line of questioning unproductive, and said in an undertone, “You are unfortunately correct. I wish--”

But the advocate bore in. “And on the other hand, your hundred thousand are intended for no illegal purpose.”


The advocate stepped back, fastened a benevolent gaze on Hari, then said, slowly and with smug satisfaction, “In that case, Dr. Seldon--now attend, sir, most carefully, for we want a considered answer.” He suddenly thrust out a well-manicured finger and shrilled: “What is the purpose of your hundred thousand?”

The advocate’s voice had grown strident. He had sprung his trap, backed Seldon into a comer, hounded him so astutely there would be no possibility of giving a convincing response.

The baronial audience of peers seemed to find this drama very convincing. They hummed like bees, and the Commissioners moved as one to witness Hari’s discomfiture--all but Linge Chen. Chen licked his lips once, delicately, and narrowed his eyes. Hari saw the Chief Commissioner glance at him briefly, but otherwise, Chen gave no reaction. He appeared stiffly bored.

Hari found some sympathy for Chen. At least he had the intelligence to realize the advocate was sniffing over infertile ground. He waited for the audience to quiet. Hari knew how to deliver lines in a drama, as well.

“To minimize the effects of that destruction.” He spoke clearly and softly, and, as he had intended, the Commissioners and their class peers fell silent to catch his words.

“I did not hear you, Professor Seldon.” The advocate leaned in, cupped hand to ear. Hari repeated his words in a very loud voice, emphasizing “destruction.” Boon winced one more time.

The advocate pulled back and looked at the Commissioners and the peers, as if hoping they would confirm his own suspicions. “And exactly what do you mean by that?”

“The explanation is simple.”

“I’m willing to bet it is not,” the advocate said, and the peers chuckled and rustled among themselves.

Hari ignored the provocation, but kept silent until the advocate finally said, “Do go on.”

“Thank you. The coming destruction of Trantor is not an event in itself, isolated in the scheme of human development. It will be the climax to an intricate drama which was begun centuries ago and which is accelerating in pace continuously. I refer, gentlemen, to the developing decline and fall of the Galactic Empire.”

The peers shouted derision out loud, all in support of the Commissioners. They all had contracts and even marriage relations with the Chens. This was the blood the advocate had hoped to heat; and Hari’s the blood he hoped to spill, from Hari’s own lips.

The advocate, aghast, shouted over the tumult. “You are openly declaring that--”

“Treason!” the peers shouted over and over, a many-voiced, staccato bellow.

They’re not bored now. Hari thought.

Linge Chen waited for a few moments with gavel lifted. Then. slowly, in two downward jerks. he let drop and produced a mellifluous gong. The audience grew silent, but reserved the right to shuffle and rustle.

The advocate drew out his words in professional astonishment. “Do you realize. Dr. Seldon, that you are speaking of an Empire that has stood for twelve thousand years, through all the vicissitudes of the generations, and which has behind it the good wishes and love of a quadrillion human beings?”

Hari replied slowly, as if educating children. “I am aware both of the present status and the past history of the Empire. Without disrespect, I must claim a far better knowledge of it than any in this room.”

Several of the peers took exception to Hari’s words. This time, Chen gaveled them to quick silence, and even the shuffling ceased.

“And you predict its ruin?”

“It is a prediction which is made by mathematics. I pass no moral judgments. Personally. I regret the prospect. Even if the Empire were admitted to be a bad thing (an admission I do not make), the state of anarchy which would follow its fall would be worse.” Hari examined the peers, sought out individual faces, as he would have in a classroom. They met his eyes resentfully. He kept his tone level and reasonable. without drama. “It is that state of anarchy which my Project is pledged to fight. The fall of Empire. Gentlemen, is a massive thing, however, and not easily fought. It is dictated by a rising bureaucracy, a receding initiative, a freezing of caste, a damming of curiosity--a hundred other factors. It has been going on, as I have said, for centuries, and it is too majestic and massive a movement to stop.”

The peers listened closely. Hari thought he saw a glint of recognition in more than a few of the faces in that small crowd.

The advocate swooped again, hands out, incredulous. “Is it not obvious to anyone that the Empire is as strong as it ever was?”

The peers kept silent, and the Commissioners looked away. Hari had struck a nerve. Still, Chen did not seem to care.

“The appearance of strength is all about you,” Hari said. “It would seem to last forever. However, Mr. Advocate, the rotten tree trunk, until the very moment when the storm blast breaks it in two, has all the appearance of might it ever had. The storm blast whistles through the branches of the Empire even now. Listen with the ears of psychohistory, and you will hear the creaking.”

The advocate now became aware that the peers and the Commissioners were no longer impressed by his theatrics. Hari was having an effect on them. Every day they saw more tiles go out in the domed ceil, more decay in the transport systems--and the end of affordable luxuries imported from the restive food allies. Every day came news of systems tacitly opting out of the Imperial economy, to form their own self-sufficient and vastly more efficient units. He tried to recover his ground with a rebuke. “We are not here, Dr. Seldon, to lis--”

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