Foundation and Chaos

Page 53

Vara Liso entered the anteroom of Sinter’s new office and saw the new furnishings, the banks of special Imperial-grade informers that would have hooked him directly to the orbiting receivers and processors. This would have been his command center. Sinter. She smiled crookedly. Heating without melting, dry at the center, a pile of sand, no man, no success, no fault, she had thrown the wands in the ancient game of Bioka, always resorted to when she was at her wit’s end, and the wands said no fault, correction in order, all is not right at the Sinter.

Beyond the immense bronze doors she could hear shouting and even wailing. She leaned her shoulder against the door. Nothing. Then she turned her full attention to the major, bade him come forward and give his code to the door. He got off his knees, face contorted and dripping sweat. He punched in the code and applied his palm.

The door swung open, and the major fell back. Vara Liso entered the office.

Farad stood there in full ceremonial outfit, conferring with two advisors and an advocate; no matter, his Commission was at an end. He saw her and frowned. “I need to get things in order--Vara, please leave.”

Vara spotted a tray full of delicate sweets on the expansive desk, beside the most powerful informer/processor she had ever beheld, perhaps able to distill information from ten thousand systems. It was not functioning now. Access to the Empire denied. Power gone. She lifted a handful of the sweets and chewed on them.

Sinter stared at her. “Please,” he said softly. He sensed her distress but could not know its cause. “They’re melting down our robot. Seldon is being released. I’m trying to reach the Emperor now. This is very important.”

“Nobody will see us,” she said, her finger stirring the candies in the tray.

“It isn’t that bad,” Sinter insisted, his face pale. “How did you get in?” The major--her major--had been released by Prothon to inform Sinter of the situation. He had then been posted in the anteroom to keep her out. So much was obvious without even tasting their thoughts.

She had never been able to read thoughts directly; at best she could taste emotions, pick up flashes of vision, sound, but never detail. Humans were not alike, deep inside. Minds developed differently.

Vara knew that all humans were aliens to each other, but her own alienation was of a different order.

“Miss Liso, you need to leave now,” the advocate said, and walked toward her. “I’ll contact you later about representation in the Imperial courts--”

He stumbled and his face turned up and he started to stutter and drool. Farad looked on him with dawning alarm. “Vara, are you doing that?” he demanded.

She let the advocate go. “You lied,” she said to Sinter.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ll get Seldon myself,” she said. “You stay here, and we’ll leave together.”

“No!” Sinter cried. “Stop this stupidity! We have to--”

For a moment, Vara Liso went blank. The room turned black and swam, then seemed to flash into existence again. Sinter clutched his desk and stared at her with very round eyes. He looked down at his chest, at his knees twitching, legs folding beneath him. Then he looked up at her again. His advisors had already fallen to their knees, arms straight by their sides, fists clenched. They keeled over in opposite directions, and one hit his head on the edge of the desk.

Farad’s heart slowed. Vara did not know if she was doing this thing or not. She did not believe she was so strong, had never done such a thing before, but no matter.

She turned away from the man she would have married, in all her best dreams and hopes, and said, “Now I am undeniably a monster.” The word sounded delicious, free, very final.

She left the office and walked with a lovely lightness through the anteroom past the major, still gasping, then paused--but only for an instant--and grimaced.

Farad was dying. She could feel the emptiness and silence in his chest. She touched her cheek.

Now he was dead.

She picked up the major’s neural whip and continued on.


There were endless documents to sign, releases to be obtained from offices and levels within the Commission of Public Safety and dozens of judicial bureaus to notify; it would take Hari longer to leave the courts than it had ever taken him to enter. Gaal Dornick was in a separate area, and Boon had departed three hours ago to take care of various entanglements.

Hari sat alone within the cavernous Hall of Dispensation, looking up at the ancient vault and skylights overhead, with their many-colored windows of pieced glass. He had been told to sit there until the jailer returned with the warden and issued his final documents.

Hari was not sure how he felt. A little disbelieving, that was certain; he had passed through the belly of the Imperial courts as yet undigested. The moment toward which, knowingly or in ignorance, he had worked all his life, had passed.

Now there were the first few records to be made--he would notify Wanda and Stettin of their final and, he suspected, surprising assignment, that the psychologists and mentalics of the Second Foundation would be staying on Trantor--and he would make the preparations to transfer his powers to Gaal and the others who would leave for Terminus.

The long twilight of the Empire would darkle. He would not live much longer to see it, nor did he want to. Seeing the glow of the overhead domes through the vault windows, perhaps fifty meters above him, made him think of what a real skyglow through real stained glass would look like, on Helicon.

Stillness. Completion is near, yet I feel no real sense of satisfaction; where is my personal reward? What if I have saved humanity from thousands of years of chaos; what have I accomplished for myself! Unworthy thoughts for a prophet or a hero. I have a granddaughter, not really my own flesh; the continuity is broken biologically, if not philosophically. I have a few new friends around me, but the old are either gone, dead, or inaccessible.

He thought of standing on the upperside maintenance tower, just a few weeks ago, and of the gloom that had enveloped him then. I cannot leave Trantor; Chen will not let me. I am still dangerous and best kept bottled. But where would I most like to go now, where would I most like to be, in my last days?

Helicon. In the sun, outside, away from these enclosing ceiled cities, away from the metal skin of Trantor. To see a night sky that was not simulated and to be unafraid of the expanse, the thousands of stars, a small glimpse of the Empire for which he had labored and which he had tried to understand.

To stand in the open, in the rain and the weather and the cold, and not be afraid; to be with old friends and family

The obsessive thoughts that filled so many of his nights. He sighed and sat up, listening to the sounds of boots marching down the northern hallway.

Three guards and the warden entered and approached Hari.

“There’s been a disturbance in the new Commission building, near the palace and not too far from here,” the warden said. “We’ve been told to lock down until the disturbance has been explained.”

“What sort of disturbance?” Hari asked.

“I don’t know,” the warden said. “Nothing to worry about. We’re fine here. We’ve been given instructions to protect you at any cost--”

Hari heard a sound from the eastern entrance of the hall. He turned and saw a woman standing there and gave a gasp--in the light, at this distance, her stance, her bearing--the dream--


Dors Venabili had kept her own list of codes and passages in the palace buildings, and remarkably, most of them still worked. No doubt the codes that let people out of the buildings were changed more frequently than those that let them in. When Hari had been arrested and charged with assault, decades before, she had made plans to break into the Courts Building and release him, and the work she had done then served her well now.

It also possible that Joan had helped her...But how she had come here ultimately did not matter. She would have battered down walls to do so.

She was the first to enter the Hall of Dispensation. She saw Hari and three men, standing near the center, lit by the dif. fuse glow of the skylight. She halted for a moment. The men were not threatening Hari. Quite the contrary; she judged they were there to protect him.

Hari turned and looked in her direction. His mouth opened and she heard his intake of breath echo in the hall. The three men turned, and the eldest, a large, stocky fellow wearing the uniform of an Imperial warden, called out to her:

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

From the northern entrance came a sizzle and a flash of light. Dors knew that sound very well: a neural whip, fired from several dozen meters. The three men around Hari jerked and danced for a moment, then fell to the floor, moaning.

Hari stood untouched.

Dors ran as fast as she could toward the small, intense-looking woman standing near the northern entrance. This woman still held the neural whip, and seemed to have eyes only for Hari. In less than four seconds, Dors moved to within less than two meters of her.

Vara Liso cried out with the effort of her persuasion. The hall seemed to fill with voices, ugly demanding voices. Hari clutched his hands over his ears and winced, and the men on the floor twitched even more violently, but the main force of the mentalic bolt went toward Dors.

Dors had never felt such a blast, had never known humans were capable of such discharges. She had felt Daneel’s subtle persuasive abilities during her training period on Eos, nothing more.

It seemed perfectly natural, in mid-stride, on her way to incapacitating and if necessary killing this woman who threatened Hari, simply to pull up her legs and attempt to fly. Her body of metal and synthetic flesh curled into a ball and she glanced off the woman’s upper shoulder, knocking her to one side.

Dors caromed from the opposite wall and fell to the floor in a tangle. She could not move; she did not want to move, not at that moment, perhaps not ever again.


Daneel left the taxi at the Greys’ Entrance on the east side of the Imperial Courts Building, then stood by the small double metal doors. He wore the uniform of a lifetime bureaucrat, native to Trantor and not a student or pilgrim; he had reserved this identity decades ago, among many others, and if queried by any security guards, there would be files in the personnel computers to explain him and his duties, his right to be here.

The doors were ornately inscribed with the general rules of public service. The first rule was Do no harm to your Emperor or his subjects.

Even in the taxi, Daneel had felt the mentalic explosions, from the general vicinity of the palace, but did not know what they signified, if anything. It was easy to imagine his plans unraveling, now that they were almost complete. He had juggled for so long, keeping literally tens of millions of balls in the air at once...

He shifted the small bureaucratic valise under his arm and entered a specific and reserved code for entry by a gray administrative officer.

It was refused. The codes had all been changed; there was an emergency within the Courts Building, perhaps within the palace itself.

Here. My Other is within the building. Joan, split into many Joans, many meme-minds, worked from both sides.

The left-hand door opened, and he entered the building.

It took him longer than he expected to make his way through the secure facilities, even with Joan’s help.

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