Foundation and Chaos

Page 44

Hari leaped in. He faced the Commissioners. Boon lifted a finger, opened his lips, but Hari knew what he was doing. “The Empire will vanish and all its good with it. Its accumulated knowledge will decay and the order it has imposed will vanish. Interstellar wars will be endless; interstellar trade will decay; population will decline; worlds will lose touch with the main body of the Galaxy. --And so matters will remain.”

The professorial tone, brusque and matter-of-fact, seemed to stun the advocate, who was after all in his late youth, with many years ahead of him. He seemed to have lost track of his argument.

The peers were silent as frightened bats in the depths of a cave.

The advocate’s voice seemed hollow and small. “Surely, Professor Seldon, not...Forever?”

Hari had been preparing for this moment for decades. How many times had he rehearsed just such a scene in bed, before sleep? How many times had he wondered if he was falling into a martyr complex, anticipating such a scene?

A specific memory came to mind, distracting him for a moment: talking with Dors about what he would say when the Empire finally noticed him, finally became desperate enough and uneasy enough to accuse him of treason.

His throat tightened, and he took a small breath, concealing his distress, relaxing. Only a couple of seconds passed.

“Psychohistory, which can predict the fall, can make statements concerning the succeeding Dark Ages. The Empire, gentlemen, as has just been said, has stood twelve thousand years. The dark ages to come will endure not twelve, but thirty thousand years. A Second Empire will rise, but between it and our civilization will be one thousand generations of suffering humanity. We must fight that.”

The peers were transfixed.

The advocate, at a signal from the Commissioner to Chen’s right, pulled himself together and said briskly, if not with great strength, “You contradict yourself. You said earlier that you could not prevent the destruction of Trantor; hence, presumably, the fall;--the so-called fall of the Empire.”

“I do not say now that we can prevent the fall.” The advocate’s eyes almost pleaded with him to say something reassuring, not for Hari’s sake, but for the sake of his own children, his family.

Hari knew it was time to offer a touch of hope--and confirm the importance of his own services. “But it is not yet too late to shorten the interregnum which will follow. It is possible, gentlemen, to reduce the duration of anarchy to a single millennium, if my group is allowed to act now. We are at a delicate moment in history. The huge, onrushing mass of events must be deflected just a little--just a little--it cannot be much, but it may be enough to remove twenty-nine thousand years of misery from human history.”

The advocate found such timescales unsatisfying. “How do you propose to do this?”

“By saving the knowledge of the race. The sum of human knowing is beyond anyone man, any thousand men. With the destruction of our social fabric, science will be broken into a million pieces. Individuals will know much of exceedingly tiny facets of what there is to know. They will be helpless and useless by themselves. The bits of lore, meaningless, will not be passed on. They will be lost through the generations. But, if we now prepare a giant summary of all knowledge, it will never be lost. Coming generations will build on it, and will not have to rediscover it for themselves. One millennium will do the work of thirty thousand.”

“All this--”

“All my Project,” Hari said firmly, “my thirty thousand men with their wives and children, are devoting themselves to the preparation of an Encyclopedia Galactica. They will not complete it in their lifetimes. I will not even live to see it fairly begun. But by the time Trantor falls, it will be complete and copies will exist in every major library in the Galaxy.”

The advocate stared at Hari as if he were either a saint or a monster. Chen let the gavel fall again, off center. Some of the peers jerked at the sharp clang.

The advocate knew the truth of what Hari was saying; they all knew the Empire was failing, some knew it was already dead. Hari felt a hollow, prickling sadness to be once again, always and always and again, the bearer of bad tidings. How nice it would be not to think of death and decay, to be elsewhere, on Helicon perhaps, learning anew how to live without fear beneath the sky--the sky! To actually see those things I use as metaphor--a tree, wind, a storm. I truly am a raven. I know why they hate and fear me!

“I am through with you, professor,” the advocate said.

Hari nodded, and left the docket to return to the crib. He sat slowly, stiffly, beside Gaal Dornick.

With a grim smile, he asked Gaal, “How did you like the show?”

Gaal’s young face was shiny and highly colored. He said, “You stole it.”

Hari shook his head. “I fear they’ll hate me for telling them all this yet again.”

Gaal swallowed. He had courage, but he was still human. “What will happen now?”

“They’ll adjourn the trial and try to come to a private agreement with me.”

“How do you know?”

Hari rocked his head back and forth slowly, massaged his neck with one hand. “I’ll be honest. I don’t know. It depends on the Chief Commissioner. I have studied him for years. I have tried to analyze his workings, but you know how risky it is to introduce the vagaries of an individual in the psychohistoric equations. Yet I have hopes.”

Daneel. How well have I done?


Chen had first aroused Hari’s enmity by the manner of his deposing (and exiling? assassinating?) the Emperor Agis XIV. Hari had often wished he could have done something about that...

And throughout the trial, Linge Chen had sat behind his judicial bench with an expression of aristocratic boredom, doing nothing, saying little, letting his advocate--a man of little apparent wit himself--do all the questioning. Despite the visit in his first cell, Hari’s opinion of Chen was back to square one--complete disdain.

The advocate had led Hari’s testimony the previous day into the thorny question of the Psychohistory Project itself, and Hari’s predictions. Hari had told them what they needed to know, and not a whit more--and still, he believed he had carried the day.

On the fourth day, when prompted by the advocate to specify the actual signs of the Empire’s decay and collapse, Hari used the Commission of Public Safety as an example.

“The best traditions of Imperial governance are now overwhelmed by wheezing formulaic engines of political ingenuity and law driven to extremes. Laws are convoluted, and they are overwhelmed by case histories with an extraordinary power of precedence and a devastating lack of relevance. The deadweight of the past oppresses us as surely as if all the corpses of our ancestors were gathered in our living rooms, refusing to be buried. But we do not even recognize their faces, or know their names, for though the past crushes us, we are ignorant of it. We have lost so much history we can never recover our way to our origins. We do not know who we are, or why we are placed here...”

“You believe we are ignoramuses, professor?”

Hari gave the Chief Commissioner’s advocate a weary smile then, and turned to the baronial judges. “Not one of you can tell me what happened five hundred years ago, much less a thousand. A list of Emperors, to be sure--but what they did, how they lived, matters not in the least to you...And yet, when a case comes up, you send your servants into the stacks of traditional legal and political history to dig up cases like old bones into which you would breathe a magic yet grotesque life.”

Linge Chen’s gaze narrowed a bit at that, nothing more.

What is he up to? Hari wondered. Half the time he seems intent on letting me hang myself with treasonous arrogance--or so it must seem to the audience. And the other half--he lets me drive home points that must resonate with all of them, that must convince them I’m right...

Now the advocate advanced upon Gaal Dornick, who sat in the docket caught between boredom and fear for his life--a numbing situation, as Hari well knew.

“Our proceedings here will soon be at an end. But something has happened in this antiquated political apparatus of ours”--the advocate cast a wry glance at Hari--”which causes this Commission some concern. A new branch of administration has been formed, the Commission for the General Security, and it has made its first task the investigation of the possibility that this Empire has been infiltrated for thousands of years by malevolent forces. A brief has been placed before this Commission, accompanied by a writ demanding immediate action from the Emperor Klayus himself. Our Commission, and our honorable Chief Commissioner, is always concerned with those problems which concern the Emperor. So tell me, Gaal Dornick--what do you know about robots? Not tiktoks, but fully mental, thinking machines.”

Hari looked up slowly, saw Gaal’s confusion. Oh, Sky, he thought. This means we’re going to be grilled by Farad Sinter...Hari turned to Boon and whispered, “Did you know this would come up now?”

Boon replied, “No. Sinter has filed another writ claiming the right to question you during this trial, for his own purposes of gathering evidence. I don’t believe Chen can deny the writ, unless he wants to deny the authority of General Security. It’s not in his best interests to do that...yet.”

Hari leaned back. Gaal was already in the middle of his answer, precise and unequivocal, as was his habit.

“They’re an ancient myth, and, of course, I suppose they might have existed at one time, in the dim past. I know of childhood stories”

“We are not concerned with childhood stories,” the advocate said. “In the interests of investigating this issue before it gets a thorough public airing, we need to know if you have ever had personal knowledge of the existence of a robot or robots.”

Gaal smiled, a little embarrassed by the ridiculous subject. “No,” he said.

“Are you absolutely certain?”

“Yes. I have never had personal knowledge.”

“Do robots serve in Professor Seldon’s Project?”

“I know of none, personally,” Gaal said.

“Thank you,” the advocate said. “Now, I would like to once again, and for the last time, call Professor Hari Seldon.”

Hari took the stand once more, and watched Gaal retire back to the Crib of the Accused. They exchanged brief glances; Gaal was completely puzzled by this line of questioning, and well he might be. What in hell did robots have to do with Hari or the Project?

“Professor, these proceedings have proved wearisome and unpredictive--I mean, unproductive!--to us all.” The advocate shook his head at this slip of the tongue and grimaced, all for show, Hari was convinced.

“I agree,” Hari said quietly.

“Now a new element has been introduced, and we must ask these final questions in the interests of performing our duties with loyal efficiency and attention to detail.”

“Of course,” Hari said.

“Are any robots currently employed in your Project?”

“No,” Hari said.

“Have any robots ever served in this Project?”

“No,” Hari said.

“Have you ever been acquainted with any robots?”

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