Foundation and Chaos

Page 49

“Just put the message in your files. That’s an order from your client.”

“God--you mean, a supernatural being, a supreme creator?”

“Yes,” Hari said. “Just tell her this--‘Hari Seldon does not represent divine authority.’ Tell her she’s got the wrong man. Tell her to leave me alone. I’m done with her. I fulfilled my promise long ago.”

The guards looked at one another in pity, obviously thinking this trial had gone on far too long.

“Consider it done,” Boon said.


Daneel stood on the parapet of an apartment that had once been a secret hideaway for Demerzel, and beside him stood the tiktok that had come with the apartment. The apartment had been sealed decades before and left unoccupied, its lease paid for a century. This morning, when Daneel had returned to it, to utilize its secret data links to the courts and the palace, he had found the tiktok activated. He knew immediately who was responsible.

“You have become a major irritation,” Daneel told the former sim. Though this meme-mind seemed now to be on his side, it--she--was far too changeable and humanlike to be trusted completely.

The tiktok hummed quietly. “It is so very hard to manifest in this world,” Joan said. “Are you here to await news of Hari Seldon?”

“Yes,” Daneel said.

“Why not go to the palace, in disguise, and enter the courts?”

“I will learn more here,” Daneel said.

“Are you irritated that I regard you as an angel of the Lord?”

“I have been called many things,” Daneel said. “None of them disturbs me.”

“I would consider it a privilege to ride with you into battle. These...riots...They speak to me of many political currents. They trouble me.”

They could hear the noise of people in the streets far below, marching, waving banners, calling for the resignation of all responsible for the recent police searches.

“Will they blame Hari Seldon or his people, his family?”

“No,” Daneel said.

“How can you be so sure?”

Daneel looked at the tiktok, and for a moment, the image of a young woman with intense features and short hair, dressed in ancient buffed and inscribed iron armor, flickered around the old machine.

“I have been working for thousands of years, making alliances, arranging accounts, thinking far in advance of things which might be advantageous at some time. By now, there are so many arrangements made, that I have my choice of where to exert pressure, and when to initiate certain automatic procedures. But that is not all.”

“You behave like a general,” Joan said. “A general in the army of God.”

Daneel said, “Once, humans were my God.”

“By assignment of the Lord...!” Joan seemed shocked and a little confused. She had grown greatly since her reconstruction and her dialogues, virtual affair, and estrangement from Voltaire, but old faith dies very hard indeed.

“No. By programming, by innate nature of my construction.”

“Men must receive God by listening to their inmost souls,” Joan said. “The dictates and rules of God are in the tiniest atom of nature, and in the programs of scripture.”

“You are not human,” Daneel said, “yet you have a humanlike authority. I warn you, however, do not distract me. Now is a very delicate time.”

“The fiery danger of an angel, the compulsion of a general on the field,” Joan said. “Voltaire will lose. I almost feel sorry for him.”

“How strange that you have chosen me, when once you opposed my efforts,” Daneel said. “You represent faith, something I will never know. Voltaire represents the power of cold intellect. I am that, or nothing.”

“You are far from cold,” Joan said. “You have your faith, as well.”

“My faith is in humanity,” Daneel said. “I recognize laws made by humanity.”

The voice from the tiktok fell silent for a moment, then, softly, the mechanical tone conveying little of what must have been the entity’s passion, Joan said, “The forces acting through you are clear to me. What you know or do not know means little. I knew very little in my time, but felt those forces. They acted through me. I trusted them.”

Daneel ignored the tiktok and waited for the courts to make their report. One thing in his plan had gone awry, but he had more than half expected this to happen.

Dors Venabili was not at her assigned post.

Daneel had long ago learned the art of letting certain parts of a plan, even key parts, act outside of his immediate control, so long as he knew very well what their direction would be. He had seen that potential in Dors from the moment she emerged from her refurbishment on Eos.

And he had seen a similar potential in Lodovik, as well.

The risk was great--but the potential gains were enormously greater. He had almost gotten used to this kind of gambling, but waiting still induced an unpleasant sensation in his mechanical form that he would have isolated and eliminated, could he have done so.

The tiktok’s passenger had fallen into a reverent silence.

Daneel touched the machine on its small metal sensor head. “How do you exist on Trantor now?” he asked.

“I permeate the computational and connection systems, the interstices in the Mesh, as before,” the entity said.

“How thoroughly?” Daneel asked.

“As thoroughly as before, perhaps more so.”

Daneel considered the risks of relying on Joan, and also the potential of Voltaire. “Does Voltaire permeate the system as well?”

“I would think so,” Joan said. “We are trying to avoid each other, but his traces are a constant irritation.”

“Do you have access to security codes, encrypted channels?”

“With some effort, they are available to me.”

“And to Voltaire?”

“He is not stupid, whatever his other flaws,” Joan replied.

Daneel considered for a few seconds, his brain working at its greatest speed and capacity, then said, “You can place an extension of your patterns into me. I suggest--”And he passed on, using machine-language, a certain address within his higher reasoning centers.

An instant later, Joan was within him. She filled out and acquired detail as the minutes passed.

“I am privileged to be your ally,” she said.

“I would not want my opponents to have an advantage,” Daneel said, and turned away from the parapet, preparing to leave the apartment.


Vara Liso rode her cart through the almost empty plaza, surrounded by a phalanx of twenty General Security Specials, already wearing their new uniforms. Major Namm walked beside her, as always.

She wore a slightly dazed expression, like a puppet that has been jerked too often, in too many directions. Something in the emptiness, the deserted streets and shuttered portals, was glaringly wrong. The Specials sensed it, and she did not need her own heightened instincts to feel tense; but those instincts were buzzing madly about other, prior events.

In the morning, at her meeting with Farad Sinter, she had seen in this man she both feared and idolized not confidence and strength but raw arrogance, something she could compare only to the attitude of a child about to step over the bounds and be punished. In contemporary Imperial politics, however, punishment was no mere spanking; a fall from such control and power was tantamount to death, or, if there was mercy, imprisonment in Rikerian or exile to the horrible Outer Worlds.

Major Namm wore a steady frown. They were approaching the plaza outside the main gate of the Distribution and Storage District, just a few kilometers from the Agora of Vendors, where they had almost caught Lodovik Trema. She felt uneasy at that failure; perhaps, with such evidence in hand, their situation would be less tense now. Still, her sense this day was that they were onto something much more important even than Trema, perhaps the center of robot activity on Trantor.

Vara had not told Sinter her misgivings about the female-form robot. What little she could gather from the robot’s memory did not seem to match his expectations, but he had been in no mood to have his moment of triumph punctured. He assented to this search today more to get her out of his hair, and because she insisted that even more evidence would be judicious, given the level of opposition from Linge Chen.

Farad Sinter did not think much of his mentalic bloodhound, not as a human being, not as a woman.

Vara sniffed and rubbed her nose. She knew she was unattractive, and she knew that Sinter regarded her merely as an ally in his political rise, but was it too much to hope that, someday, there would be another kind of alliance?

How could she adjust to a partner who did not have her abilities? It was too much to hope that she would discover another like herself, who would appreciate her...She had faced too many disappointments to expect such a coincidence of desires.

Namm suddenly drew up his arm and listened to his station communicator. His eyes narrowed. “Affirmed,” he grunted. He glanced down at Vara and his lips curled in what might have been contempt

She experienced a moment of simple fear--out of favor! They’ll execute me right here! Then she analyzed the major’s expression: professional disdain at the incomprehensible orders of his superiors.

“We’ve been told to withdraw,” he said. “Something about an additional force, too many Specials in the field--”

A grumbling noise rolled from the storage district. Vara looked up and saw crowds of both Greys and citizens, uncharacteristically mixed, pouring through the broad gates. She thought at first there were a few dozen, a small mob, but the Specials immediately pulled up into a square and raised their personal shields. Her own shield went up with a small crackle.

There were thousands of them, men and women, citizens and even university meritocrats in the mix--not just gray and black clothes, but bright colors on adults. For a moment Vara Liso did not believe her eyes. This was not Dahl or Rencha, renowned for political unrest

This was the Imperial Sector! And the mob was made of different classes--unheard of! There were even Imperial Greys in the mix.

The lieutenant called for backup and further instructions. The mob--faces clearly visible across the plaza in the almost continuous sunset glow of the ceil--were sullenly angry. Some were carrying signs, others, projectors which flashed messages against the plaza walls. Flows of brilliant red words announced RECALL GENERAL SECURITY and WHERE IS SINTER?

Others were much more rude, much angrier. Flares of sparks shot up from the left flank of the mob, making the plaza shine out in brilliant detail. One flare rose a hundred meters, and when it exploded, with a hideous echoing bang, the Specials hunkered and unholstered their neural whips. But these weapons were no good for control of large crowds--and they certainly did not want to resort to blasters.

They were not prepared.

The major knew this, but backing away from a challenging crowd clearly rankled him. Perhaps he had never had to back down before, never had to face such a thing.

“We should go,” Vara told the major. She did not like this mob using Sinter’s name. He was high-profile now--there had been many stories about the establishment of the new Commission in the Trantor media--but why were they singling him out? “Please,” Vara said. “This cart is not very fast.”

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