Foundation and Chaos

Page 56

“Wanda Seldon Palver?” he inquired.

She nodded.

“I represent your grandfather.”

“I know. You’re one of Chen’s legal staff, aren’t you?”

Boon looked irritated, but did not deny the accusation.

“Chen would leave nothing to chance,” Wanda said, biting off the words. “Where is my grandfather? He had better not be--”

“Physically, he’s fine,” Boon said, “but the courts need someone in his family to accept his release and take charge of him.”

“What do you mean, ‘physically’? And why ‘take charge’?”

“I really do represent your grandfather’s interests--however peculiar the arrangement,” Boon said. His brows knit. “Something happened, however, outside of my control, and I just wanted to warn you. He’s uninjured, but there was an incident.”

“What happened?”

Boon surveyed the other waiting passengers, shivering and staring enviously at the transport’s warm interior. “It’s not exactly public knowledge--”

Wanda gave Boon a withering glare and pushed past him into the transport. Stettin followed close behind. “No more talk. Take us to him now,” Wanda said.


Hari had not seen such luxurious accommodations since his days as First Minister, and they meant nothing at all to him. These were the auxiliary quarters of Linge Chen himself, in the Chief Commissioner’s own tower bloc, and Hari could have had any treat he wished, asked for and received any service available on Trantor (and Trantor still, whatever its problems, offered many and varied services to the wealthy and powerful); but what he wished for most of all was to be left alone.

He did not want to see the physicians who attended him, and he did not want to see his granddaughter, who was on her way to the palace with Boon.

Hari felt more than doubt and confusion. The blast of Vara Liso’s hatred had failed to kill him. It had even failed to substantially damage or alter his mind or personality.

Hari did have a complete loss of memory about what had happened in the Hall of Dispensation. He could recall nothing but the face of Vara Liso and, strangely enough, that of Lodovik Trema, who was, of course, missing and presumed dead in deep space. But Vara Liso had been real.

Trema, he thought. Some connection with Daneel. Daneel’s conditioning, working on me? But even that hardly mattered.

What had so profoundly altered his state of mind, his sense of mission and purpose, was the single clue, the single bit of contradictory evidence, that Liso had inadvertently provided him.

Never in all of their equations had they taken into account such a powerful mentalic anomaly. Yes, he had calculated the effects of persuaders and other mentalics of the class of Wanda, Stettin, and those chosen for the Second Foundation

But not for such a monstrosity, such an unexpected mutation, as Vara Liso. That small, gnarled woman with her intense eyes

Hari shuddered. The physician attending to him--all but ignored--tried to reattach a sensor to Hari’s arm, but Hari shrugged it off and turned a despairing face toward him.

“It’s over,” he said. “Leave me alone. I would rather die anyway.”

“Clearly, sir, you are suffering from stress--”

“I’m suffering from failure,” Hari said. “You can’t bend logic or mathematics, whatever drugs or treatments you give me.”

The door at the far end of the study opened, and Boon entered, followed by Wanda and Stet tin. Wanda pushed past Boon and ran to Hari. She dropped to her knees by the side of his chair, clutched his hand, and stared up at him as if she had feared she might find him in scattered pieces.

Hari looked down in silence upon his dear granddaughter, and his eyes moistened. “I am free,” he said softly.

“Yes,” Wanda said. “We’re here to take you home with us. We signed the papers.” Stettin stood beside Hari’s chair, smiling down on him paternally. Hari had always found Stettin’s stolid, gentle nature a little irritating, though he seemed the perfect foil for Wanda’s willfulness. Next to the outlandish mad passion of Vara candles in the glare of a sun, both of them!

“Not what I mean,” Hari said. “At last I’m free of my illusions.”

Wanda reached up to stroke his cheek. The touch was needed, welcome even, but it did not soothe. What I need is soothing, not sooth--entirely too much sooth has been afforded me.

“I don’t know what you mean, Grandfather.”

“Just one of her--one of her kind--throws all our calculations into the bucket. The Project is a useless failure. If one of her can arise, there can be others--wild talents, and I don’t know where they come from! Unpredictable mutations, aberrations, in response to what?”

“Do you mean Vara Liso?” Wanda asked.

“She’s dead,” Stettin observed.

Hari curled his lip. “To my knowledge, until now, certainly not more than a century before now, there has never been anything like her, on all the millions of human worlds, among all the quintillions of human beings. Now--there will be more.”

“She was just a stronger mentalic. How could that make a difference? What does it matter?” Wanda asked.

“I’m free to be just a human being in the last years of my life.”

“Grandfather, tell me! How does she make such a difference?”

“Because someone like her, raised properly, trained properly, could be a force that unites,” Hari said. “But not a saving force...A source of organization from a single point, a truly despotic kind of top-down order. Tyrants! I spoke to enough of them. Merely fires in a forest, perhaps necessary to the health of the forest. But they would have been more...They all would have succeeded--if they had had what that woman had. A destroying, unnatural force. Destructive of all we have planned.”

“Then rework your equations, Grandfather. Put her in. Surely she can’t be that large a factor--”

“Not just her! Others! Mutations, an infinite number of them.” Hari shook his head vehemently. “There isn’t time to factor in all the possibilities. We have only three months to prepare--not nearly enough time. It’s all over. Useless.”

Wanda stood, her face grim, lower lip trembling.

“It’s the trauma talking,” the physician said in a low voice to Wanda.

“My mind is clear!” Hari stormed. “I want to go home and live the rest of my years in peace. This delusion is at an end. I am sane, for the first time--sane, and free!”


“I would never have believed such a meeting would be possible,” Linge Chen said. “Had I believed it possible, I would have never believed it to be useful. Yet now we are here.”

R. Daneel Olivaw and the Chief Commissioner walked in the shadow of a huge unfinished hall in the eastern corner of the palace, filled with scaffolding and construction machinery. It was a day of rest for the workers; the hall was deserted. Though Chen spoke in low tones, to Daneel’s sensitive ears, his echoes came from all around them, befitting the words of the most pervasive and powerful human influence in the Galaxy.

They had met here because Chen knew that the hall had not yet had its contingent of spying devices installed. Clearly, the Commissioner did not want their meeting ever to be revealed.

Daneel waited for the Commissioner to continue. Daneel was the captive; it was Chen’s show.

“You would have sacrificed your life--let us say; your existence--for the sake of Hari Seldon. Why?” Chen asked.

“Professor Seldon is the key to reducing the thousands of years of chaos and misery that will follow the Empire’s collapse,” Daneel said.

Chen lifted an eyebrow and one corner of his mouth, nothing more. The Commissioner’s face was as impassive as any robot’s, yet he was entirely human--the extraordinary product of thousands of years of upbringing and inbreeding, suffused with subtle genetic tailoring and the ancient perquisites of wealth and power. “I have not made these extraordinary arrangements to trade puppet’s banter. I have felt your intervention, your strings of influence, time and again for decades, and never been quite sure...

“Now that I am sure, and stand with you, I wonder: Why am I still alive, Danee, Daneel, whatever your real name is--let me call you Demerzel for now--and still in power?”

Chen stopped walking, so Daneel stopped as well. There was no sense prevaricating. The Commissioner had arranged for complete and thorough physicals of all those captured in the Hall of Dispensation, or rounded up in the warehouse. Daneel’s secret had for the first time been revealed. “Because you have seen fit to accommodate yourself to the Project and not block it, during your time as de facto ruler of the Empire,” Daneel said.

Chen looked down at the dusty floor, gorgeous lapis-and-gold tile work still streaked with glue and grout, techniques as old as humanity and used now only by the wealthiest, or in the Palace. “I have often suspected as much. I have watched the comings and goings of these powers, behind the scenes. They have haunted my dreams, as they seem to have haunted the dreams and the biology of all humanity.”

“Resulting in the mentalics,” Daneel said. This interested Daneel; Chen was an acute observer, and to have Daneel’s own suspicions about mentalics confirmed...

“Yes,” Chen said. “They are here to help rid us of you. Do you understand? Robots stick in our craw.”

Daneel did not disagree.

“Vara Liso--given the right political position--something she certainly lacked here and now, this time--could have helped eliminate all of you. If, say, she had been in the employ of Cleon...fighting for his rule. Did Cleon know about you?”

Daneel nodded. “Cleon suspected, but he felt as you must feel, that the robots were part of his support, not his opposition.”

“Yet you let me bring him down and force him into exile,” Chen said. “Surely that is not loyalty?”

“I have no loyalty to the individual,” Daneel said.

“If I did not share your attitude, perhaps I would be chilled to the bone,” Chen said.

“I represent no threat to you,” Daneel said. “Even should I not have supported your efforts to create a Trantor on which Hari Seldon would flourish and be challenged to his greatest productions...You would have won. But your career, without Hari Seldon, will be much shorter.”

“Yes, he’s told me as much, during his trial. I was most upset to find myself believing him, though I told him otherwise.” Chen glanced wryly at Daneel. “Doubtless you know I have enough blood in me to retain certain vanities.”

Daneel nodded.

“You understand me, as a political presence, a force in history, don’t you? Well, I know something of you and yours, Demerzel. I respect what you have accomplished, though I am dismayed at the length of time it has taken you to accomplish it.”

Demerzel tilted his head, acknowledging this criticism’s accuracy. “There was much to overcome.”

“Robots against robots, am I right?”

“Yes. A very painful schism.”

“I have nothing to say about such things, for I am ignorant of the details,” Chen said.

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