Foundation and Chaos

Page 48

“Quiet!” the other boy said. “They don’t care. They’re after all of us. Sinter’s called out the Dragons!”

“Shuttup,” the lead officer said.

Dors kept in her seat until they had passed. The young woman looked at her entreatingly, but there was nothing she could do.

She would not disobey Daneel, even to save a human life. But what if that life were Hari’s?

A great many awful things were happening, this she knew--and the Calvinians would make their move to strike at Daneel, at the grand scheme--at Hari! They might not kill him, but there was much they could do short of killing.

Hari was old. He was fragile. He was not the vital man she had once been called upon to protect. But he was still Hari.

Then the old programming erupted with extraordinary force. Daneel should have known. From her very inception, she had been designed to protect one human being. Anything else was a weak overprint on a deep and ineradicable structure.

She rose from her seat, her brain flooded with one concern, one name, and she was capable of anything--as she had once been capable of harming and even killing humans.

Dors left the car just before the doors were sealed, and the train began its long journey to Mycogen, completely empty.


Klayus jumped from his large seat in the Hall of Beasts as Sinter came into the room. The monsters from around the Galaxy loomed over them. The Emperor always came here when he felt uneasy, insecure. The beasts made him feel monstrously powerful himself, as indeed he should be, with the title of Emperor of the Galaxy.

Sinter hustled over to Klayus, arms folded into the long sleeves of his Commissioner’s robes.

“What’s going on?” Klayus demanded, his voice shrill.

Sinter bowed and looked up from under lifted brows. “I’ve begun a selective search for more evidence, as we agreed,” he said. “Sire, I’ve been in meeting with the planners for the expansion of our authority over the Commission of Public Safety--”

“You called out the Dragons, damn you! This is not a state emergency!”

“I have done no such thing, Your Highness.”

“Sinter, they’re allover Dahl and the Imperial Sector and Streeling, thousands of them! They’ve put on their guidance helmets, and General Prothon is directing them personally!”

“I know nothing about this!”

Klayus spluttered, “Why don’t you know...something? Anything! They’ve already arrested four thousand children in Dahl alone, and they’re bringing them to the Rikerian Prison for processing!”

“They would only--I mean, Prothon can only do this, has authorization to do this, if there is a general insurrection”

“I’ve talked with him, you fool!”

Farad’s brow creased and he stared at the Emperor with an expression of mixed dread and curiosity. “What did he say?”

“The Commission of General Security has issued a proclamation of imminent danger to the throne! The proclamation has your imprimatur, your sigil, as Chief Commissioner!”

“It’s a forgery!” Sinter cried out. “I have a select group of Specials searching for robots. Vara Liso, sire. Nothing more! We are concentrating in Streeling. We have a very suspicious group cornered in an old warehouse near the retail districts--”

Klayus almost shrieked with frustration. “I’ve ordered the general to pull back his troops immediately. He said he will comply--I still have that power, Sinter! But--”

“Of course you do, Your Highness! We must immediately find out who is responsible”

“Nobody cares by now! Dahl is seething--there’s been a lot of economic pressure, social pressure, and they’ve always been volatile. My social watchmen tell me they’ve never seen so much unrest--four thousand children, Sinter! This is extraordinary!”

“Not my doing, my Emperor!”

“It has your marks all over it. Paranoid delusions--”

“Sire, we have the robot! We’re having her memory checked now!”

“I’ve seen the report--Chen sent it to me fifteen minutes ago. She--it’s been in Mycogen for years, hidden in a private house, kept by a family loyal to the old rituals, the old’s thousands of years old, and its memory is almost a blank! The family claims she is the last functioning robot in the Galaxy! It has absolutely no memory of Hari Seldon!”

Sinter fell silent, but his lips worked, and his brow seemed almost to double up on itself. “There’s a plan...a plan at work here...” he gasped.

“Prothon insists he has your order, the imprimatur and sigil of the new Commission--he has offered his resignation as a Protector of the Empire, his suicide and the besmirching of the honorable name of his family, if anyone can prove otherwise!”

“Your Highness--Klayus, please, listen to me--”

But Klayus was beside himself. “I don’t know what will happen if--”

“Listen, my Emperor--”

“Sinter!” the Emperor shrieked, and grabbed his shoulders and shook him fiercely. “Prothon escorted Agis into exile! He has not conducted any official campaign since!”

Suddenly, Sinter’s face went blank, and he closed his mouth. The wrinkles vanished from his brow.

“Chen,” he said, almost too softly to be heard.

“Linge Chen is sequestered for Seldon’s trial! Public Safety has come to a standstill. It’s Seldon he’s after, not robots, not--”

“Chen controls Prothon,” Sinter said.

“Who can prove that? Does it matter? Does any of that matter? My throne is very fragile, Sinter. Everyone thinks I’m a fool. You told me we could make it strong--that I could make my reputation as the savior of Trantor, protect the Empire from a vast conspiracy--”

Sinter let the Emperor screech, and endured the spittle flying into his face. He was thinking furiously how to withdraw and regroup, how to dissociate himself from what was obviously a catastrophe in the making.

“Why didn’t I receive the report before you, sire?” he asked, and Klayus shut up long enough to glare at him.

“What does that matter?”

“I should have received the report first, to interpret it. That was my instruction.”

“I countermanded your instruction! I felt I should know as soon as possible.”

Sinter considered coldly what he had just been told, then squinted at Klayus. “Have you told anybody, sire?”

“Yes! I told Prothon’s adjutant that his orders were ridiculous, that we’d, that we’d just conducted our own investigation--I was grabbing at details, to get you off the hook, Sinter--I said that you would never have ordered such a large-scale police and security action--not when our evidence was as yet not definite” Klayus sucked in his breath.

Farad Sinter shook his head sadly. “Then Chen knows we don’t have anything--yet.” He pulled Klayus’s hands from his shoulders. “I must go. We are so close--I had hoped to corner an entire cell of robots--”

He ran from the Hall of Beasts, leaving the young Emperor standing with hands outstretched and eyes wild.

“Prothon! Sinter, Prothon!” Klayus screamed.

There is virtually no information regarding Hari Seldon’s so-called recantation, his “dark days.” They may be pure legend, but we have circumstantial evidence from a number of sources--including Wanda Seldon Palver’s autobiographical notes--to suspect that Seldon did indeed encounter a crisis of confidence, even a crisis of self.

This crisis may have begun immediately after the trial, in the chambers of Chief Commissioner Linge Chen, though of course we shall never know...

--Encyclopedia Galactica, 117th Edition, 1054 F.E. 64.

The last two days had been so unutterably boring, and he had been away for so long from his instruments and team of mathists, that Hari Seldon welcomed the brief blanknesses provided by short naps. The naps never lasted long enough, and far worse were the waking hours with their own painful blankness: frozen frustration, gelid anxiety, frightful speculations slumping into tense nightmare with the slowness of glass over ages.

Hari came out of his doze with an unusual shortness of breath, and a question seeming to echo in his ears:

“Does God truly tell you what is the fate of men?”

He listened for the question to be asked again. He knew who asked it; the tone was unmistakable.

“Joan?” he asked. His mouth was dry. He looked around the cell for some agency by which the entity might communicate with him, something mechanical, electronic, by which she might

Nothing. The room had been scoured after the visit from the old tiktok. The voice was in his own imagination.

The chime on his cell door sounded, and the door slid open swiftly. Hari rose from his chair, smoothed his robe with two wrinkled, bony hands, and stared at the man before him. For a moment he did not recognize him. Then, he saw it was Sedjar Boon.

“I’m hearing things again,” Hari said with a wry twist in his lips.

Boon examined Hari with concern. “They want you in the court. Gaal Dornick will be there as well. They may be willing to strike a deal.”

“What about the Commission of General Security?”

“Something’s happening. They’re busy.”

“What is it?” Hari asked, eager for news.

“Riots,” Boon said. “In parts of the Imperial Sector, throughout Dahl. Apparently Sinter let his Specials go too far.”

Hari looked around the room. “After we’re done, will they bring me back here?”

“I don’t think so,” Boon said. “You’ll go to the Hall of Dispensation to get your papers of release. There’s going to be a waiver of meritocratic rights to sign, too. A formality.”

“Did you know this all along?” Hari asked Boon, old eyes boring into the lawyer’s with no-nonsense intensity.

“No,” Boon said nervously. “I swear it.”

“If I had lost, would you be here now, or would you be standing in line, waiting for more work from Linge Chen?”

Boon did not answer, merely held his hand toward the door. “Let’s go.”

In the hall, Hari said, “Linge Chen is one of the most carefully studied men in my records. He seems the embodiment of aristocratic atrophy. Yet he always wins and gets his way--until now.”

“Let’s not be too hasty,” Boon said. “A good rule for lawyers is never to count your victories before the ink is dry.”

Hari turned to Boon and held out his hand. “Have you been contacted by someone named Joan?”

Boon seemed surprised. “Why, yes,” he said. “There’s some sort of virus in our legal-office records. The computers keep bringing up briefs from a case that doesn’t exist. Something about a woman burned at the stake. That hasn’t happened on Trantor in twelve thousand years--as far as I know.”

Hari paused in the hall. The guards grew impatient. “Put a message in your records, for this virus,” he said. “Tell her--it--that I have never talked with God and do not know what He intends for humanity.”

Boon smiled. “A joke, right?”

Copyright © novelfull All Rights Reserved.