Foundation and Chaos

Page 61

Hari’s face had become almost luminous.

“You...”He held his hand out to Klia. “Take this hand. Let me feel you.”

She reluctantly reached out.

“I need a little nudge, my young friend,” Hari said. “Show me what you are.”

Almost without thinking, Klia reached into his mind, saw a brightness there obscured by dark nebulosities, and with a gentle breath of persuasion, another sign of her returning strength, she blew the clouds away.

Hari gasped and closed his eyes. His head dropped to one shoulder. He was suddenly more than merely tired. He felt a great sense of release, and for the first time in decades, a knot in his mind, in his body as well, seemed to untie itself. The brightness in his thoughts was not a way around his errors and the flaws in the equations--it was a deeper understanding of his own irrelevance, in the long term.

A thousand years from now, he would be a particle in the smooth flow once again, not his own kind of point-tyranny.

Dors got up from her chair, taking hold of his arm to help him stay on his feet.

His work would be forgotten. The Plan would serve its purpose and be swept away, merely one more hypothesis, guiding and shaping, but ultimately no more than another illusion among all the illusions of men--and robots.

What he had learned in his time fighting Lamurk for the role of First Minister--that the human race was its own kind of mind, its own self-organizing system, with its own reserved knowledge and tendencies--

Meant that it could also direct its own evolution. Philosophies and theories and truths were morphological appurtenances. Discarded when no longer needed...when the morphology changed.

The robots had served their purpose. Now they would be rejected, shed, by humanity’s body social. Psychohistory would be shed as well, when its purpose had been served. And Hari Seldon.

No man, no woman, no machine, no idea, could reign supreme forever.

Hari opened his eyes. They were as large as a child’s now. He looked around the room, for a moment unable to distinguish people from furniture. Then his vision narrowed and focused.

“Thank you,” Hari said. “Daneel was right.” He steadied himself against Dors and, with his other hand, braced himself on the back of the chair. It took him some time to order his thoughts. He stared straight at Klia Asgar, and at Brann beyond her.

“My own ego stood before the solution. Your children will balance. Your genes and talents will spread. There will be resolution of conflict...and the Plan will continue. But not my Plan. The future will see how wrong I can be.

“Your descendants, your many-times great-grandchildren, will correct me.”

Klia had seen deeper into Hari than just the problem he faced. With a little shudder, she stepped forward, and with Dors, they lowered Hari into the chair. “I was never told the truth about you,” she said softly, reaching to touch his cheek. The skin was fine and dry and powdery-smooth, faintly resilient, with a ridge of hard bone beneath. Hari smelled clean and human, discipline overlying strength, if such things could be transferred by scent--and why not? How could one see that someone had these traits, and not smell them, as well? Old, and frail, and still quite beautiful and strong. “You really are a great man!” she whispered.

“No, my dear,” Hari said. “I am nothing, really. And it is quite wonderful to be nothing, I assure you.”


“Better late than never,” Gaal Dornick told the technician as they watched Professor Seldon settle into his chair in the recording booth.

“He seems tired,” the technician said, and checked his gauges to make sure he had the proper settings for the voice of an old man.

Hari consulted his papers, looking at the first point of major divergence within the equations. He hummed softly to himself, then looked up, waiting for the signal to begin. He was brightly illuminated; the studio beyond was dark, though he could see small lights twinkling in the recording booth.

Three spherical lenses descended from above and hovered at a level with his chest. He adjusted the blanket on his legs. Four days ago, he had told his colleagues, and in particular Gaal Dornick, that he had had a small stroke, and lost an entire day’s recollections. They had bustled about him and insisted that he not strain himself. So he wore this blanket. He could hardly cough without being surrounded by concerned faces.

It was a small enough lie. And he had mentioned to Gaal that with the stroke had come a calm and peace he had never known before...and a determination to finish his work before Death came finally.

He suspected word would get back to Daneel. Somehow, his old friend and mentor would hear, and approve.

Hari had felt the subtle workings of Daneel’s persuasion, at the conclusion of the meeting with Dors and Klia Asgar and Brann. For a moment, he had felt the memories fading, even as the group headed for the door, and Dors had looked back upon him with an almost bitter and passionate regret. And he had felt something else, bright and intense and impulsive, blocking Daneel’s effort without the robot knowing.

It must have come from defiant Klia, stronger than Daneel, naturally resisting the manipulations of a robot, however well-meaning. And Hari was grateful. To remember clearly that meeting, and to know what would happen in a year or two...To remember Daneel’s promise, delivered in private in Hari’s bedroom, while the others waited outside, old friends having a final chat, that Dors would be with him when her work was done, when his life was nearing its close.

She could not be with him now. He was too much in the public eye. The return of the Tiger Woman, or someone very like her, was not feasible.

But there was something else at work here as well. Hari knew that the time of the robots had come to an end, must come to an end; and he knew that it was very likely Daneel would never completely let go of his task. The same eternal concern and devotion that Daneel felt for Hari, to so gift him with the return of his great love, would eventually move him to interfere again...

So Daneel must be kept in ignorance of some things, a difficult proposition at best.

Together, Wanda, Stet tin, Klia, and Brann would see to it, however. Together, they were strong enough and subtle enough.

“Could you speak, please, Professor Seldon?” the technician asked from his position in the engineering booth. Gaal Dornick stood beside him, barely visible from where Hari sat.

“I am Hari Seldon, old and full of years.”

The technician flipped off the voice switch to the studio and looked up at Gaal with some concern. “I hope he’s a little more cheerful when we begin in earnest.”

“You’re going to Terminus, aren’t you?” Gaal asked the man.

“Of course. My family’s packed and ready to go. Do you think I’d be here if--”

“Have you ever met Hari Seldon before now?”

“Never had the privilege,” the man sniffed. “I’ve heard tales, of course.”

“He knows quite well what he’s doing, and what kind of figure to play. Never underestimate him,” Gaal said, and though that was inadequate warning or description, he stopped there, and pointed to the Console.

“Right,” the technician said, and focused on his equipment. “I’ll draw the curtain now and bring in the scramblers. Nobody will know what he’s saying besides himself.”

Hari tapped his finger lightly on the chair arm. The lights on the spheres changed to amber, then to red. He pushed himself up from the chair and stared into the darkness beyond, imagining faces, people, men and women, anxious to learn their fates. Well, most of the time, for a few occasions at least, he would be able to help. The devil of it was, he did not know specifically when these little speeches would begin to be useless!

He would record only one message that day, the rest over the next year and a half, as each necessary nudge became clear within the adjusted equations.

With his most professorial air, quite confident and deliberate, Hari began to speak. He recorded a simple message to those of the Second Foundation, the psychologists and mathists, the mentalics who would train them and alter their germ lines: nothing very profound, merely a kind of pep talk. “To my true grandchildren,” he said, “I give my profoundest thanks and wish you luck. You will never need to hear of an impending Seldon Crisis from me...You will never need anything so dramatic, for you know...”

He had spoken to Wanda the day before, telling her the final part of the puzzle of the Second Foundation. At first, she had been disappointed, vastly; she had so wanted to get away from Trantor, to start fresh on a new world, however barren. But she had held up remarkably well.

And he had told her that Daneel must never learn of the true whereabouts of the Second Foundation, of the mentalics who could resist all the efforts of the Giskardian robots, should they ever return to take up the reins of secret power.

A few minutes and he was finished.

He pulled aside the blankets and draped them on the edge of the chair, then stood to leave. The three lenses rose into the darkness above.

Waiting for Gaal to join him, Hari wondered if Death would be a robot. How problematical for a robot it would be to bring both comfort and an end to a human master! He saw a large, smooth, black-skinned robot, infinitely cautious and caring, serving him and driving him to the last.

The thought made him smile. Would that the universe could ever be so caring and so gentle.


Dors embraced Klia and Brann, then turned to Lodovik.

“I wish I could send a duplicate of myself with you,” she told him, “and experience what you will experience,” she said.

Beyond their fenced platform, the small trading ship of Mors Planch, glittering with recent maintenance, rested in its cradle.

“You would be most useful to us,” Lodovik said.

Klia looked around the long aisle of ships in the spaceport terminal, and asked, “He isn’t coming to see us off?”

“Hari?” Dors asked, unsure whom she meant.

“Daneel,” Klia said.

“I don’t know where he is, now,” Dors said. “He’s long had the habit of coming and going without telling anyone what he’s up to. His work is done.”

“I find that hard to believe,” Klia said, and her face reddened. She did not wish to sound like a hypocrite. “I mean...”

Brann nudged her gently with his forearm.

Mors Planch stepped forward. Lodovik still made him uneasy. Well, they would be traveling a great distance together once more. And why should he worry especially about Lodovik, when their ship would carry some fifty humaniform robots, temporarily asleep, and the severed heads of many more? A wealth of fearful riches! And his ticket to freedom, as well. “I was told to confirm our route with you, in case there were last-minute changes.”

He took out a pocket informer and displayed the route to Dors. Four Jumps, over 10,000 light-years, to Kalgan, a world of pleasure and entertainment for the Galaxy’s elite, where they (so the informer said) would drop off Klia and Brann. Then, thirty-seven individual Jumps, 60,000 light-years to Eos, where Lodovik would disembark with the robots and the head of Giskard.

Dors studied the travel chart briefly. “Still correct,” she said.

Lodovik asked, “Will you be going to Terminus?”

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