Foundation and Chaos

Page 8

At the time, he had not seriously considered the psychic powers of individuals such as his granddaughter, or her father, Raych; he had not known about such things, other than in the abstract, and he had not considered too rigorously the powers of Daneel in that regard.

All of them, of course, had peculiar talents for persuasion, and he had in the past few years made sure that psychohistory took into account these particular talents, on the level exercised by Wanda.

In the time of his First Ministry, however, he had been concerned with the more familiar historical and political problem of ruthless ambition, whether or not aided by personal charisma. There had been plenty of examples around the Empire to study, and he had examined these political episodes as best he could from afar...

But that had not been enough. With the blind and unshakable determination Hari could bring to bear when confronted with a psychohistorical problem, and against Dors’ wishes, Hari had appealed to Cleon to bring to Trantor five individuals of just that political breed, the ruthless, charismatic tyrant. They had been removed from their worlds after either rebelling against or subverting Imperial authority, which happened on about one in a thousand worlds, every standard year. Most often they were secretly executed; sometimes they were exiled to lonely rocks to live out lives empty of further victims.

Hari had asked Cleon to allow him to interview the five tyrants, and perform certain reasonably non-intrusive psychological and medical procedures.

Hari could remember the day quite clearly, when Cleon had called him into his ornate private rooms and shaken the paper on which his request was written in Hari’s face.

“You’re asking me to bring these vermin to Trantor? To subvert legal procedures and even forestall executions, just so you can scratch a bump of curiosity?”

“It’s a very important problem, Highness. I cannot predict anything if I do not have a complete understanding of such extraordinary individuals, and when and how they appear in human cultures.”

“Huh! Why not study me, First Minister Seldon?”

Hari had smiled. “You do not fit the profile, Highness.”

“I’m not a raving psychopath, am I? Well, at least you think I might be redeemable. But to bring some of these obscene monsters to my world...What would you do if they escaped, Hari?”

“Rely on your security forces to find them again, Highness.”

The Emperor had sniffed. “You have a confidence in Imperial Security’s abilities that I don’t, I’m afraid. Such monsters as these are like cancers--their talent is for bringing together tumorous organizations and subverting all to their own ends! Truthfully, Hari, what do you hope to accomplish?”

“It’s far more than simply being curious, my Emperor. These people can change the flow of human events just as earthquakes can change the beds of rivers.”

“Not on Trantor, they can’t.”

“Actually, sire, just the other day--”

“I know about that, and we’re having it fixed. But these men and women are aberrations, Hari”‘

“Common enough in human history--”

“And well enough understood that we can profile them and eliminate them from all Imperial positions. Most of the time.”

“Yes, sire, but not always. I need to fill in those gaps.”

“Purely for psychohistory, Hari?”

“I will see if I can improve your profiles, Highness, and perhaps make tyrants even more rare among your worlds.”

Cleon had considered for a few seconds, finger on chin, then had lifted his finger away from his face, twirled it in a small circle, and said, “All right, First Minister. We have our political excuse, if we need it. Five?”

“All I could study in the time allowed, sire.”

“The very worst?”

“You are familiar with the names I’ve requested.”

“I never met with any of them, nor did I personally give them their Imperial imprimaturs, Hari.”

“I know, sire.”

“I won’t be blamed for them in your psychohistorical textbooks, will I?”

“Of course not!”

And so, Hari had had his way. The five tyrants had been brought to Trantor and installed in the highest security prison in the Imperial Sector, the Rikerian.

The first meetings had occurred in--

Hari was deep in this reverie when the apartment announced that his granddaughter was outside the front door and wished to see him. Hari was always glad to see his granddaughter, especially in the limited time they had left together--but now! When he was on the track of something important!

Even so, he had not seen Wanda in weeks. She and her husband, Stettin Palver, had been assembling a core group of mentalics from Trantor’s eight hundred Sectors, and there had been no time for socializing. In weeks, as soon after the trial as possible, the mentalics would leave for Star’s End, to begin the work of the proposed secret Second Foundation.

Hari got up and let his legs gather strength before he put on his robe and told the door to open. Wanda entered, bringing with her a draft of cold air and the smells of the halls outside--cooking yeast (and not delicacies from Mycogen, either!), ozone, something like fresh paint.

“Grandfather, have you heard? The Emperor is hunting us down!”

“Whom, Wanda? Hunting whom?”

“Mentalics! They’ve subverted one of our party and she’s confessed to all sorts of incredible stories, lies, to save her own skin. How could that boy do this? It’s totally illegal to hunt citizens and assassinate them!”

Hari held up his hands and implored her to slow down. “Tell me about it, from the beginning,” he said.

“The beginning is a woman named Liso, Vara Liso. She was one of the people we’d picked out for the Second Foundation. I thought she was unstable to start with--Stettin agreed with me, but she was very skillful, very persuasive and sensitive. We thought we could use her to speed up our hunt for other mentalics, if we didn’t trust her to go with us...on the flight.”

“Yes, I met her at the last meeting,” Hari said. “A small woman, nervous-looking.”

“Like a little mouse, I thought,” Wanda confirmed. “She went to the Palace last month, without our knowing--”

“Whom did she talk to?”

“Farad Sinter!” Wanda fairly spat out the name.

“And what did she tell him?”

“We don’t know, but whatever it was, Sinter has secret police hunting for certain mentalics, and if he finds them, they die...Of a bullet in the head!”

“Ours? The ones chosen for the Project?”

“No, amazingly enough. There’s no one-to-one correlation. But he has killed candidates we haven’t yet approached.”

“Without even taking them in for questioning?”

“No such amenities. Murder, pure and simple. Grandfather, we’re never going to fill our quotas at this rate! Our type of person is not common!”

“I’ve never met Sinter personally,” Hari mused, “though some of his people interviewed me last year. Wanted to know about Mycogenian legends, as I recall.”

“They’re tearing up Dahl now, looking for a young woman! We don’t even know her name yet, but some of our people in Dahl have felt her...almost found her...An extraordinarily powerful talent. We’re sure she must be the one they’re looking for. I hope she can survive long enough for us to find her first.”

Hari gestured for Wanda to sit at his small table and offered her a cup of tea. “Sinter seems to have no interest in me or in the Project, and I’m certain none of them know about our interest in mentalics. I wonder what he’s up to?”

“It’s madness!” Wanda said. “The Emperor won’t rein him in, and Linge Chen does nothing!”

“Madness is its own end, and its own reward,” Hari said softly. He had followed the popular discontent with Sinter’s handling of the Sarossan problem. “Chen may know what he’s doing--and in the meantime, we have to survive and keep the Project on track.”

Even the seriousness of Wanda’s news did not stop Hari from being irritated by the intrusion. If anything, it made the intrusion worse. He wanted very badly simply to be left alone to think about the tyrants and his interviews. Something important lurked in those memories, though he could not pin it down...However, he asked Wanda to stay for dinner with him, to calm her and see if she knew anything more.

And in the course of their dinner, Hari suddenly put the memories and equations together, and had the link he sought. The link was his vague sensation that he had encountered Daneel. When? Where? Then came the suggestion, and he had little doubt the meeting had occurred, and that Daneel had told him something ridiculous and potentially damaging...About Farad Sinter.

“I’m going to request an audience,” Hari said to Wanda, as they brought out dessert together. She set the cups of cold pudding on the table and added a coco-ice for herself, a taste she had acquired from her father, Raych.

“With who?” she asked. “Sinter?”

“Not him, not yet,” Hari said. “With the Emperor.”

“He’s a monster, a terrible infant! Grandfather, I won’t allow it.”

Hari laughed sharply. “Dear Wanda, I’ve been wandering into the jaws of lions since long before you were born.” He looked at her seriously for a moment, then asked, quietly, “Why, do you sense something going wrong?”

Wanda looked away, then turned back to him. “You know why we’ve continued looking for mentalics, Grandfather.”

“Yes. You and Stettin have discovered that your abilities wax and wane, for unknown reasons. You’re looking for a more stable core group whose opposed strengths and weaknesses will cancel each other out and produce a steady influence.”

“I can’t hear anybody very clearly the past few weeks, Grandfather. I don’t know what could happen to you. I see nothing...a blank.”


Vara Liso had not slept through the night in years, for fear of what she might hear while asleep or on the edge of sleep. It was at these times that she could feel her net spread out over her neighborhood like a cloud, and when it came back, reeling itself in as it were, stuck to it were the emotional colors and desires and worries of her fellow humans for kilometers around, like fish she could not help but consume.

When young, this unwanted talent for night-fishing had come only once or twice a month, and she had never been sure whether she was simply mad or really could learn what she seemed to learn, from parents and brother, from neighbors, from lovers, the few she had attracted, for there was something spooky about her manner and appearance even then.

Now, the net swept wide every single night, and she could no longer absorb what it brought back, nor could she discard the bits and pieces of other people’s lives. She felt like a strip of insect-gathering paper left to hang in a garbage dump.

It was when she had been approached by other mentalics--that was what they called themselves, though she had never given her talent a name--that she realized what she could do might be valuable to some. And it was when she spent one night in training at Streeling University, with other mentalics, that she caught a bit of dream that shook her to her core.

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