Foundation and Chaos

Page 51

Lodovik did not know how to respond, so he said nothing. Voltaire, however, made his opinions known in no uncertain terms. I could feel her, as well. I have no legs, yet I wanted to dance. What sort of force is this? What a monstrosity!

Klia would not let go of her self-disgust, and this only compounded her confusion. “But you’re not a child. You are so dignified and serious. It was bad--like making my father--” Her voice hitched. “Making my father wet his pants.” She began to sob.

Lodovik tilted his head to one side. “I am not harmed. If you are concerned about my dignity--”

“You don’t understand!” Klia shouted. The door opened, and she whirled as if to face new enemies. The darkened corridor beyond was empty, silent. A thin layer of gray dust on the floor was unmarred by footprints. She leaped from the elevator and centuries puffed around her feet. “I don’t want to be this way anymore! I just want to be simple!”

Her voice echoed against the impassive and ancient walls.


Boon stood beside Hari, and Lors Avakim stood beside Gaal Dornick. The five judges had already been seated as they entered, Linge Chen, as always, highest and in the middle. Hari felt slightly dizzy, standing more than five minutes as the clerk droned on with the charges. He squinted at the judicial chambers, then tilted slightly toward Gaal, until he was leaning on him. Gaal supported him without comment until he regained his balance and stood upright again.

“Sorry,” he murmured.

Linge Chen spoke without even looking at Hari. “The continuation of this trial would serve no further purpose. General Security no longer has any reason to cross-examine Professor Seldon.”

Hari did not dare feel even a breath of hope coming from the lips of this man.

“All public proceedings are now at an end.” Chen and the judges stood. Sedjar Boon held Hari’s other arm as the Commissioners departed from the bench. The baronial peers stood as well, murmuring among themselves. The advocate approached the crib and spoke to Gaal and Hari.

“The Chief Commissioner will have a word with you in private,” he said. He nodded at Boon and Lors Avakim, professional courtesy, or perhaps acknowledging those in the same employ. “Your clients must be alone for these finalities. They will stay here. All others will leave.”

Hari did not know how to feel or what to think. His resources were near a bitter end. Boon touched his arm, gave him a confident smile, and left with Avakim.

Once the room was cleared, the outer doors were sealed with long brass bars. and the Commissioners returned. Linge Chen watched Hari very closely now.

“Sire, I would prefer we have our advocates with us,” Hari said, his voice cracking. He hated these weaknesses, these infirmities.

The Commissioner to the left of Chen replied, “This is no longer a trial, Dr. Seldon. Your personal fate is no longer at issue. We are here to discuss the safety of the State.”

“I will speak,” Chen said. The other Commissioners seemed to melt back into their chairs, into silence, confirming the power of this lean, hard man with the calm features and manner of an ancient aristocrat. Hari though, Why, he seems older than I do--an antique!

“Dr. Seldon,” Chen began, “you disturb the peace of the Emperor’s realm. None of the quadrillions living now among all the stars of the Galaxy will be living a century from now. Why, then, should we concern ourselves with events of five centuries distance?”

“I shall not be alive half a decade hence,” Hari said, “and yet it is of overpowering concern to me. Call it idealism. Call it an identification of myself with that mystical generalization to which we refer by the term, ‘man.’ “

“I do not wish to take the trouble to understand mysticism. Can you tell me why I may not rid myself of yourself and of an uncomfortable and unnecessary five-century future which I will never see by having you executed tonight?”

Hari called upon all his contempt for this man, contempt for death itself, to match the Chief Commissioner’s outrageous calm. “A week ago,” Hari said, “you might have done so and perhaps retained a one in ten probability of yourself remaining alive at year’s end. Today, the one in ten probability is scarcely one in ten thousand.”

The other Commissioners let out a collective sigh at this blasphemy, like virgins before a suddenly naked spouse. Chen seemed to become a little sleepier, and also a little leaner, a little harder.

“How so?” he asked, his voice dangerously mild.

“The fall of Trantor,” Hari said, “cannot be stopped by any conceivable effort. It can be hastened easily, however. The tale of my interrupted trial will spread through the Galaxy. Frustration of my plans to lighten the disaster will convince people that the future holds no promise to them. Already they recall the lives of their grandfathers with envy. They will see that political revolutions and trade stagnations will increase. The feeling will pervade the Galaxy that only what a man can grasp for himself at that moment will be of any account. Ambitious men will not wait, and unscrupulous men will not hang back. By their every action they will hasten the decay of the worlds. Have me killed, and Trantor will fall not within five centuries but within fifty years and you, yourself, within a single year.”

Chen smiled as if in faint amusement. “These are words to frighten children, and yet your death is not the only answer which will satisfy us. Tell me, will your only activity be that of preparing this encyclopedia you speak of?” Chen seemed to extend a shield of magnanimity over Hari, with a sweep of his hand, and a tap of two fingers beside the bronze bell and gavel.

“It will.”

“And need that be done on Trantor?”

“Trantor, my lord, possesses the Imperial Library, as well as the scholarly resources of--”

“Yes. Of course. And yet if you were located elsewhere, let us say upon a planet where the hurry and distractions of a metropolis will not interfere with scholastic musings; where your men may devote themselves entirely and single-mindedly to their work;--might not that have advantages?”

“Minor ones, perhaps.”

“Such a world has been chosen, then. You may work, doctor, at your leisure, with your hundred thousand about you. The Galaxy will know that you are working and fighting the Fall. They will even be told that you will prevent the Fall. If the Galaxy that cares about such things, believes you to be correct, they will be happier.” He smiled, “Since I do not believe in so many things, it is not difficult for me to disbelieve in the Fall as well, so that I am entirely convinced I will be telling the truth to the people. And meanwhile, doctor, you will not trouble Trantor and there will be no disturbance of the Emperor’s peace.

“The alternative is death for yourself and for as many of your followers as will seem necessary. Your earlier threats I disregard. The opportunity for choosing between death and exile is given you over a time period stretching from this moment to one five minutes hence.”

“Which is the world chosen, my lord?” Hari asked, concealing the tension of his anticipation.

Chen called Hari forward to the docket with a waggle of his thin finger, and pointed to an informer tablet, on which an image of the world and its location were displayed. “It is called, I believe, Terminus,” said Chen.

Hari glanced at it, breathless, and looked up at Chen. They were closer than they had ever been before, barely an arm’s length between them. Hari could see the fine lines of strain on the calm features, like wrinkles on a world of ice. “It is uninhabited, but quite habitable, and can be molded to suit the necessities of scholars. It is somewhat secluded--”

Hari tried to show some dismay. “It is at the edge of the Galaxy, sir.”

Chen dismissed this as unworthy with a roll of his eyes. He regarded Hari wearily, as if asking, We do not need these theatrics, do we, really? “As I have said, somewhat secluded. It will suit your needs for concentration. Come, you have two minutes left.”

Hari could hardly conceal his elation. He felt, for the merest instant, a burst of gratitude to this gentry monster. “We will need time to arrange such a trip,” he said, voice softened. “There are twenty thousand families involved.”

Gaal Dornick, still in the crib, cleared his throat.

Chen lowered his gaze to the informer, tapped the display off. “You will be given time.”

Hari could not help himself. The last minute was passing quickly, and yet he could not stop from giving his triumph the last few seconds to grow all the larger, all the more shocking to those without his knowledge. Finally, as the minute crept into the last five seconds, he murmured, voice rough and subdued in defeat, “I accept exile.”

Gaal Dornick gasped and sat down abruptly.

The proctor entered once more and observed the acceptance, noted that all was proper, and recorded the results and declarations, then deferred to the Chief Commissioner.

Chen held up his hand and officially pronounced, “This matter is at an end. The Commission is no longer concerned. Now all go.”

Hari stepped back from the bench to join Gaal.

“Not you,” Chen said softly.

The deal, if deal it was, has astonished all Foundation scholars. It has the air of a miracle. There must have been prior arrangements, unknown deals behind the deal, yet our texts and depositions and even the trial records give us no clue. It is thought that this period of Hari Seldon’s life will forever remain dark.

How could the trial have gone so well? How could Seldon have focused the tools of psychohistory so precisely, even during ag, the first “Seldon crisis”? The forces arrayed against Hari Seldon were formidable; Gaal Dornick records that Linge Chen felt genuinely threatened by him. Dornick may have been influenced by Seldon’s view of Chen, perhaps not entirely accurate: what we know of Chen from Imperial sources suggests that the Chief Commissioner was a coldly calculating and highly efficient political mind, frightened by no man. Seldon, of course, thought otherwise.

Students of this period...

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


The Commission court bailiff followed Hari and Linge Chen into the consultation chamber behind the judge’s bench. Hari sat in a narrow chair before the Chief Commissioner’s small desk and watched Chen warily. Chen did not sit, but waited for his Laventian servant to help him out of his ceremonial robes. In a simple gray cassock, Chen reached up to the ceiling with hands clenched, cracked his knuckles, and turned to Seldon.

“You have enemies,” Chen said. “That is no surprise. What is surprising is that your enemies have been my enemies, much of the time. Does that interest you?”

Hari pursed his lips but said nothing.

Chen looked away as if supremely bored. “This exile will not, of course, extend to you,” he continued. “You will not leave Trantor. I will forbid it if you try.”

“I am too old and do not wish to leave, my lord,” Hari said. “There is still work to do here.”

“So much dedication,” Chen mused softly, rubbing one elbow with the palm of his opposite hand. “Should you survive, and finish your work, I will be interested to learn of the results.”

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