Foundation and Chaos

Page 54

On the last door, when he knew he was within two doors of joining Hari in the beautiful, high-ceilinged Hall of Dispensation, Joan distracted a human guard by sending him revised watch instructions.

Daneel smelled electricity in the next segment of hallway. A neural whip had been discharged here in the last few minutes


Hari faced Vara Liso across the Hall of Dispensation. She stood for a moment with hands held out, fingers wriggling, as if she fought to keep her balance. Her head swayed from side to side. The woman who had entered before her--who had reminded him so much of Dors--lay in a heap, rolled up against the door, still, as if dead.

Hari did not feel afraid; things had happened too quickly for that emotion to take hold. Everything seemed out of place, most of all himself; he did not belong there, and they did not belong there.

The hall had been peaceful--now it smelled of electricity, of urine leaking from the pants of the three men supine on the floor around him.

“I’m saving you...” Vara Liso said from across the hall. She took a step toward him, lowering her arms. “For last.”

“Who are you?” Hari asked. He was concerned about the woman on the floor. He wanted above all else to make sure she was all right; tremors spread in his mind, memories, triggered responses, confusing and rich and evoking a sense both of intense promise and of horror, for he was sure that this woman was Dors. She’s come back. She wanted to protect me. The way she a springing tiger!

And now she’s down like a squashed insect.

This small, thin aberration. A monster!

Hari then knew who the woman was. Wanda had mentioned her weeks ago, the woman who had not agreed to join the mentalics, who had allied instead with Farad Sinter.

“You’re Vara Liso,” he said, and started to move toward her.

“Good,” the woman said, her voice trembling. “I want you to know who I am. You’re the one to blame.”

“Blame for what?” Hari asked.

“You work with the robots.” Her expression twisted until it seemed her face might become a knot. “You’re their lackey, and they think they’ve won!”


Lodovik invoked the last of the codes he knew, and the door to the transfer corridor from the Courts Building still refused to open. He worked the code around again on the finger pad beside the doorframe, and the tiny simplified face in the display proclaimed once again that the code was incomplete. It would be so like the palace security detail to add a few numbers, but not change the beginning numbers.

I am working, Voltaire told him. There must be many security measures being triggered now--multiple intrusions, perhaps!

The girl and the large young man behind him shifted from foot to foot.

“It won’t be good to stay here,” Brann said. “Something feels very bad.”

Voltaire’s features appeared in the display, simplified to cartoon detail. The mechanical voice now said, “Additional numbers are required under the revised security procedures.” The new face winked at Lodovik. “Test procedure fifteen A for verification,” the voice added. “You may enter code for personal use only during this test period. Upon completion of test period, a formal entry code or new password must be established and fixed.”

Lodovik glanced over his shoulder at Klia as he entered seven new numbers. She stared at the display with furrowed brow.

“Who is that?” she asked.

“The sim,” Lodovik said.

The door opened. Lodovik beckoned for them to pass through first.

“Is Hari Seldon near?” Klia asked.

He is very near, Voltaire said. And he is in imminent danger.


“I wanted so much,” Vara Liso said. “Do you understand?”

Hari looked at her straight on. He stood perhaps four meters from her, seven meters from where the other woman lay against the half open door. He glanced at the other woman, and Liso raised the neural whip.

“You don’t need that,” Hari said critically, as if lecturing a student. Vara Liso hesitated. “You’re mentalic. You stopped her...” He raised his arm toward the collapsed woman. Toward Dors.

Vara Liso lowered her head but kept her eyes on Hari. She looked like a pouting child, but in her eyes was the purest hatred he had ever seen.

“Everything I’ve ever believed in,” she said, “is dead. They’re going to kill me, just as they killed the men and women and children I found. My own people.”

“Farad Sinter made you do that...” Hari said. “Didn’t he?”

“The Emperor,” Vara Liso said. She seemed ready to burst into tears, but she kept the whip high, and her finger lingered on the button. Hari could make out the setting: near lethality.

“Yes, but Sinter was your--”

“He loved me,” Vara moaned, then she dropped the whip. But a wave of grief came out of her that hit him square. The hall was filled with Vara Liso’s emotions, and they were the ugliest and bleakest Hari had ever known. They struck at his own centers of ambition and need, and he could feel the bones of his innermost self cracking.

The woman on the floor stirred, and Vara Liso lifted her head and half turned toward her.

Hari made his move, using the only chance he thought he would ever get. He had had years of training in self-defense on Helicon, but his body had long since refused to answer his instructions promptly. He had almost reached Liso when she cocked her head back and screamed again--silently, and within her mind.

At Hari.

Simultaneously, Brann and Lodovik pushed against the door, nudging Dors, who could not yet conjure up the will to move.

Klia stumbled over Dors’ leg, fell into the Hall of Dispensation, saw Lodovik moving with inhuman speed toward her enemy, saw him raise his arm, hand open, to take the woman’s hand in his and spin her around

To kill her if need be, exercising that human freedom--

But he stopped before his fingers touched her, frozen by a glance.

Vara Liso knelt, rubbing her wrists and hands, and faced Klia Asgar.


Daneel ran past the empty guard station in the security vestibule. His relatively weak perceptions of human mental states was now a fortunate shield; the backwash of another explosion, like the final death cough of a huge volcano, left him reeling, skidding on hands and knees, tumbling into the Hall of Dispensation from the eastern entrance. He had an impression of Joan, and all her copies in the machines around him, coming apart like a rotten flag in a high wind, trying to stay together; but then that image was highly inconsequential, for his own patterns, his own mind, threatened to do the same thing.


If the cry of a child could have been made of knives, it could not have cut Klia any more deeply than the mentalic shock wave surrounding Vara Liso.

Disappointment, grief, anger, an intense sense of misplaced justice, images of people long dead--parents, young friends, who had disappointed this small woman with the knotted face and crab-curled fists--batted against Klia, fragments of ruin in a flood of pain.

The walls and pillars and panes of the Hall of Dispensation felt nothing. Vara Liso’s output was tuned to a purely human channel, to the roots of mind in matter. Because she had not focused her talents completely on him, Lodovik felt merely a buzzing and a pressure not dissimilar to the neutrino flux he had encountered between the stars.

He did, however, sense what Daneel saw very clearly--the disintegration of the entity who had spoken in him and through him. Voltaire stood in simple nakedness before this flux, this human tempest, and broke apart like a child’s puzzle.

For a moment, Klia’s sympathetic response nearly allowed her to die, to both drown and be burned by the outpouring. She felt the echoes of her own life, her own experiences, mesh with those of Vara Liso.

There were differences, however, and they were her salvation. She saw the strength of her own will, opposed to the vacillation and indecision of Vara Liso. She saw the not-always-apparent strength of her father and, earlier, before memory began clearly, her mother, faced with a willful child, giving her enough leeway to be what she must be, however much it might discomfit or even hurt them.

She was on the point of fighting back when the most dangerous similarity of all caught her unprepared.

Vara Liso cried out for freedom.

Her voice rose in a shriek to the highest reaches of the hall and echoed back: “Let us be what we must be! No robots, no killing metal hands, no conspiracies and shackles!”

Klia felt something smoking, crisping, in her thoughts, It was her sense of self. She would willingly sacrifice all before this urgent scream of pain--had felt it herself, though never so clearly and powerfully expressed. She recognized insanity buried within it, the insanity of a powerful and even self. destructive immune response--

as did Daneel, trying to recover and get to his feet, a few dozen meters away.

--A rejection of twenty thousand years of benevolence and guidance, of patient and secret servitude.

The cry of a child never allowed to mature, to feel its own pain and draw its own conclusions on life and death.

Klia closed her eyes and crawled along the floor, trying to find Brann. She could neither see nor sense him. She dared not open her eyes, or she would be blinded, she was sure. Vara Lisa could not broadcast with such intensity for so long, and indeed the undirected flood was narrowing, finding a channel. It was concentrating, and even though it suddenly diminished by half, what Vara Lisa was throwing directly at Klia doubled in strength.

Hari stood somehow on quivering legs and saw but did not quite comprehend these human forms, the small thin woman walking forward step by staggered step, features distorted as if seen through a broken lens, two others crawling along the floor, one a burly Dahlite male and the other a slender and not unattractive young woman, also dark.

He did not see the tall humanlike figure on the east side of the hall.

His mind filled with the waters of his own despair.

He had been in error. It had all been for nothing, worse than nothing.

Hari Seldon suddenly wanted to die, to be done with the pain and the realization of his failure.

But there was that woman who had tried to tackle Vara Liso, who he was sure was Dors Venabili.

Vara Liso was killing Klia Asgar and Brann. This much was clear to Lodovik. The buzz had diminished, but as he stepped toward the knotted and distorted woman, it increased again.

Lodovik paid little attention to Daneel, or to Hari Seldon, or to Dors; both seemed out of the immediate focus of Liso’s lethal projections. The knotted woman was clearly going to scramble all the essential patterns of Klia and Brann, then turn on the others.

Voltaire was no longer in place to advise.

Lodovik stepped toward the woman, now twisted and gnarled like an ancient willow.

Klia lifted her head, opened her eyes, prepared to be blinded, and saw down a short brilliant funnel of hatred to the eyes, all that were left of Vara Liso--a pair of desperate and hate-filled eyes.

Brann will die, too.

Never had she used her abilities to harm. Even making Lodovik dance had injured her sense of propriety and justice; she had never really believed she could do anything to Hari Seldon. She would think of her father, whom she had once made wet his pants...and the effort would collapse.

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