Forward the Foundation Chapter 11

Forward the Foundation Chapter 11

9

We all have our small illusions and Cleon-Emperor of the Galaxy, King of Trantor, and a wide collection of other titles that on rare occasions could be called out in a long sonorous roll-was convinced that he was a person of democratic spirit.

It always angered him when he was warned off a course of action by Demerzel (or, later, by Seldon) on the grounds that such action would be looked on as “tyrannical” or “despotic.”

Cleon was not a tyrant or despot by disposition, he was certain; he only wanted to take firm and decisive action.

He spoke many times with nostalgic approval of the days when Emperors could mingle freely with their subjects, but now, of course, when the history of coups and assassinations-actual or attempted-had become a dreary fact of life, the Emperor had, of necessity, been shut off from the world.

It is doubtful that Cleon, who had never in his life met with people except under the most constricted of conditions, would really have felt at home in offhand encounters with strangers, but he always imagined he would enjoy it. He was excited, therefore, for the rare chance of talking to one of the underlings on the grounds, to smile and to doff the trappings of Imperial rule for a few minutes. It made him feet democratic.

There was this gardener whom Seldon had spoken of, for instance. It would be fitting, even a pleasure, to reward him belatedly for his loyalty and bravery-and to do so himself, rather than leaving it to some functionary.

He therefore arranged to meet the fellow in the spacious rose garden, which was in full bloom. That would be appropriate, Cleon thought, but, of course, they would have to bring the gardener there first. It was unthinkable for the Emperor to be made to wait. It is one thing to be democratic, quite another to be inconvenienced.

The gardener was waiting for him among the roses, his eyes wide, his lips trembling. It occurred to Cleon that it was possible that no one had told the man the exact reason for the meeting. Well, he would reassure him in kindly fashion-except that, now he came to think of it, he could not remember the fellow’s name.

He turned to one of the officials at his side and said, “What is the gardener’s name?”

“Sire, it is Mandell Gruber. He has been a gardener here for thirty years.”

The Emperor nodded and said, “Ah, Gruber. How glad I am to meet a worthy and hardworking gardener.”

“Sire,” mumbled Gruber, his teeth chattering. “I am not a man of many talents, but it is always my best I try to do on behalf of your gracious self.”

“Of course, of course,” said the Emperor, wondering if the gardener suspected him of sarcasm. These men of the lower class lacked the finer feelings that came with refinement and manners, which always made any attempt at democratic display difficult.

Cleon said, “I have heard from my First Minister of the loyalty with which you once came to his aid and of your skill in taking care of the grounds. The First Minister tells me that he and you are quite friendly.”

“Sire, the First Minister is most gracious to me, but I know my place. I never speak to him unless he speaks first.”

“Quite, Gruber. That shows good manners on your part, but the First Minister, like myself, is a man of democratic impulses and I trust his judgment of people.”

Gruber bowed low.

The Emperor said, “As you know, Gruber, Chief Gardener Malcomber is quite old and longs to retire. The responsibilities are becoming greater than even he can bear.”

“Sire, the Chief Gardener is much respected by all the gardeners. May he be spared for many years so that we can all come to him for the benefit of his wisdom and judgment.”

“Well said, Gruber,” said the Emperor carelessly, “but you very well know that that is just mumbo-jumbo. He is not going to be spared, at least not with the strength and wit necessary for the position. He himself requests retirement within the year and I have granted him that. It remains to find a replacement.”

“Oh, Sire, there are fifty men and women in this grand place who could be Chief Gardener.”

“I dare say,” said the Emperor, “but my choice has fallen upon you.” The Emperor smiled graciously. This was the moment he had been waiting for. Gruber would now, he expected, fall to his knees in an ecstasy of gratitude.

He did not and the Emperor frowned.

Gruber said, “Sire, it is an honor that is too great for me-entirely.”

“Nonsense,” said Cleon, offended that his judgment should be called into question. “It is about time that your virtues are recognized. You will no longer have to be exposed to weather of all kinds at all times of the year. You will have the Chief Gardener’s office, a fine place, which I will have redecorated for you, and where you can bring your family. You do have a family, don’t you, Gruber?”

“Yes, Sire. A wife and two daughters. And a son-in-law.”

“Very good. You will be very comfortable and you will enjoy your new life, Gruber. You will be indoors, Gruber, and out of the weather, like a true Trantorian.”

“Sire, consider that I am an Anacreonian by upbringing-“

“I have considered, Gruber. All worlds are alike to the Emperor. It is done. The new job is what you deserved.”

He nodded his head and stalked off. Cleon was satisfied with this latest show of his benevolence. Of course, he could have used a little more gratitude from the fellow, a little more appreciation, but at least the task was done.

And it was much easier to have this done than to settle the matter of the failing infrastructure.

Cleon had, in a moment of testiness, declared that whenever a breakdown could be attributed to human error, the human being in question should forthwith be executed.

“Just a few executions,” he said, “and it will be remarkable how careful everyone will become.”

“I’m afraid, Sire,” Seldon had said, “that this type of despotic behavior would not accomplish what you wish. It would probably force the workers to go on strike-and if you try to force them back to work, there would then be an insurrection-and if you try to replace them with soldiers, you will find they do not know how to control the machinery, so that breakdowns will begin to take place much more frequently.”

It was no wonder that Cleon turned to the matter of appointing a Chief Gardener with relief.

As for Gruber, he gazed after the departing Emperor with the chill of sheer horror. He was going to be taken from the freedom of the open air and condemned to the constriction of four walls. Yet how could one refuse the Emperor?

10

Raych looked in the mirror of his Wye hotel room somberly (it was a pretty run-down hotel room, but Raych was not supposed to have too many credits). He did not like what he saw. His mustache was gone; his sideburns were shortened; his hair was clipped at the sides and back.

He looked-plucked.

Worse than that. As a result of the change in his facial contours, he looked baby-faced.

It was disgusting.

Nor was he making any headway. Seldon had given him the security reports on Kaspal Kaspalov’s death, which he had studied. There wasn’t much there. Just that Kaspalov had been murdered and that the local security officers had come up with nothing of importance in connection with that murder. It seemed quite clear that the security officers attached little or no importance to it, anyway.

That was not surprising. In the last century, the crime rate had risen markedly in most worlds, certainly in the grandly complex world of Trantor, and nowhere were the local security officers up to the job of doing anything useful about it. In fact, the security establishment had declined in numbers and efficiency everywhere and (while this was hard to prove) had become more corrupt. It was inevitable this should be so, with pay refusing to keep pace with the cost of living. One must pay civil officials to keep them honest. Failing that, they would surely make up for their inadequate salaries in other ways.

Seldon had been preaching this doctrine for some years now, but it did no good. There was no way to increase wages without increasing taxes and the populace would not sit still for increased taxes. It seemed they would rather lose ten times the credits in graft.

It was all part (Seldon had said) of the general deterioration of Imperial society over the previous two centuries.

Well, what was Raych to do? He was here at the hotel where Kaspalov had lived during the days immediately before his murder. Somewhere in the hotel there might be someone who had something to do with that-or who knew someone who had.

It seemed to Raych that he must make himself conspicuous. He must show an interest in Kaspalov’s death and then someone would get interested in him and pick him up. It was dangerous, but if he could make himself sound harmless enough, they might not attack him immediately.

Well-

Raych looked at his timeband. There would be people enjoying their predinner aperitifs in the bar. He might as well join them and see what would happen-if anything.

11

In some respects, Wye could be quite puritanical. (This was true of all the sectors, though the rigidity of one sector might be completely different from the rigidity of another.) Here, the drinks were not alcoholic but were synthetically designed to stimulate in other ways. Raych did not like the taste, finding himself utterly unused to it, but it meant that he could sip his drink slowly and look around.

He caught the eye of a young woman several tables away and had difficulty in looking away. She was attractive and it was clear that Wye’s ways were not puritanical in every fashion.

After a few moments, the young woman smiled slightly and rose. She drifted toward Raych’s table, while Raych watched her speculatively. He could scarcely (he thought with marked regret) afford a side adventure just now.

She stopped for a moment when she reached Raych and then let herself slide smoothly into an adjacent chair.

“Hello,” she said. “You don’t look like a regular here.”

Raych smiled. “I’m not. Do you know all the regulars?”

“Just about,” she said, unembarrassed. “My name is Manella. What’s yours?”

Raych was more regretful than ever. She was quite tall, taller than he himself was without his heels-something he always found attractive-had a milky complexion, and long, softly wavy hair that had distinct glints of dark red in it. Her clothing was not too garish and she might, if she had tried a little harder, have passed as a respectable woman of the not-too-hardworking class.

Raych said, “My name doesn’t matter. I don’t have many credits.”

“Oh. Too bad.” Manella made a face. “Can’t you get a few?”

“I’d like to. I need a job. Do you know of any?”

“What kind of job?”

Raych shrugged. “I don’t have any experience in anything fancy, but I ain’t proud.”

Manella looked at him thoughtfully. “I’ll tell you what, Mr. Nameless. Sometimes it doesn’t take any credits at all.”

Raych froze at once. He had been successful enough with women, but with his mustache-his mustache. What could she see in his baby face?

He said, “Tell you what. I had a friend living here a couple of weeks ago and I can’t find him. Since you know all the regulars, maybe you know him. His name is Kaspalov.” He raised his voice slightly. “Kaspal Kaspalov.”

Manella stared at him blankly and shook her head. “I don’t know anybody by that name.”

“Too bad. He was a Joranumite and so am I.” Again, a blank look. “Do you know what a Joranumite is?”

She shook her head. “N-no. I’ve heard the word, but I don’t know what it means. Is it some kind of job?”

Raych felt disappointed.

He said, “It would take too long to explain.”

It sounded like a dismissal and, after a moment of uncertainty, Manella rose and drifted away. She did not smile and Raych was a little surprised that she had remained as long as she did.

(Well, Seldon had always insisted that Raych had the capacity to inspire affection-but surely not in a businesswoman of this sort. For them, payment was the thing.)

His eyes followed Manella automatically as she stopped at another table, where a man was seated by himself. He was of early middle age, with butter-yellow hair, slicked back. He was very smooth-shaven, but it seemed to Raych that he could have used a beard, his chin being too prominent and a bit asymmetric.

Apparently Manella had no better luck with this beardless one. A few words were exchanged and she moved on. Too bad, but surely it was impossible for her to fail often. She was unquestionably desirable.

Raych found himself thinking, quite involuntarily, of what the upshot would be if he, after all, could-And then Raych realized that he had been joined by someone else. It was a man this time. It was, in fact, the man to whom Manella had just spoken. He was astonished that his own preoccupation had allowed him to be thus approached and, in effect, caught by surprise. He couldn’t very well afford this sort of thing.

The man looked at him with a glint of curiosity in his eyes. “You were just talking to a friend of mine.”

Raych could not help smiling broadly. “She’s a friendly person.”

“Yes, she is. And a good friend of mine. I couldn’t help overhearing what you said to her.”

“Wasn’t nothing wrong, I think.”

“Not at all, but you called yourself a Joranumite.”

Raych’s heart jumped. His remark to Manella had hit dead-center after all. It had meant nothing to her, but it seemed to mean something to her “friend.”

Did that mean he was on the road now? Or merely in trouble?

12

Raych did his best to size up his new companion, without allowing his own face to lose its smooth naivete. The man had sharp greenish eyes and his right hand clenched almost threateningly into a fist as it rested on the table.

Raych looked owlishly at the other and waited.

Again, the man said, “I understand you call yourself a Joranumite.”

Raych did his best to look uneasy. It was not difficult. He said, “Why do you ask, mister?”

“Because I don’t think you’re old enough.”

“I’m old enough. I used to watch Jo-Jo Joranum’s speeches on holovision.”

“Can you quote them?”

Raych shrugged. “No, but I got the idea.”

“You’re a brave young man to talk openly about being a Joranumite. Some people don’t like that.”

“I’m told there are lots of Joranumites in Wye.”

“That may be. Is that why you came here?”

“I’m looking for a job. Maybe another Joranumite would help me.”

“There are Joranumites in Dahl, too. Where are you from?”

There was no question that he recognized Raych’s accent. That could not be disguised.

He said, “I was born in Millimaru, but I lived mostly in Dahl when I was growing up.”

“Doing what?”

“Nothing much. Going to school some.”

“And why are you a Joranumite?”

Raych let himself heat up a bit. He couldn’t have lived in downtrodden, discriminated-against Dahl without having obvious reasons for being a Joranumite. He said, “Because I think there should be more representative government in the Empire, more participation by the people, and more equality among the sectors and the worlds. Doesn’t anyone with brains and a heart think that?”

“And you want to see the Emperorship abolished?”

Raych paused. One could get away with a great deal in the way of subversive statements, but anything overtly anti-Emperor was stepping outside the bounds. He said, “I ain’t saying that. I believe in the Emperor, but ruling a whole Empire is too much for one man.”

“It isn’t one man. There’s a whole Imperial bureaucracy. What do you think of Hari Seldon, the First Minister?”

“Don’t think nothing about him. Don’t know about him.”

“All you know is that people should be more represented in the affairs of government. Is that right?”

Raych allowed himself to look confused. “That’s what Jo-Jo Joranum used to say. I don’t know what you call it. I heard someone once call it ‘democracy,’ but I don’t know what that means.”

“Democracy is something that some worlds have tried. Some still do. I don’t know that those worlds are run better than other worlds. So you’re a democrat?”

“Is that what you call it?” Raych let his head sink, as if in deep thought. “I feel more at home as a Joranumite.”

“Of course, as a Dahlite-“

“I just lived there awhile.”

“-you’re all for people’s equalities and such things. The Dahlites, being an oppressed group, would naturally think in that fashion.”

“I hear that Wye is pretty strong in Joranumite thinking. They’re not oppressed.”

“Different reason. The old Wye Mayors always wanted to be Emperors. Did you know that?”

Raych shook his head.

“Eighteen years ago,” said the man, “Mayor Rashelle nearly carried through a coup in that direction. So the Wyans are rebels, not so much Joranumite as anti-Cleon.”

Raych said, “I don’t know nothing about that. I ain’t against the Emperor.”

“But you are for popular representation, aren’t you? Do you think that some sort of elected assembly could run the Galactic Empire without bogging down in politics and partisan bickering? Without paralysis?”

Raych said, “Huh? I don’t understand.”

“Do you think a great many people could come to some decision quickly in times of emergency? Or would they just sit around and argue?”

“I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem right that just a few people should have all the say over all the worlds.”

“Are you willing to fight for your beliefs? Or do you just like to talk about them?”

“No one asked me to do any fighting,” said Raych.

“Suppose someone did. How important do you think your beliefs about democracy-or Joranumite philosophy-are?”

“I’d fight for them-if I thought it would do any good.”

“There’s a brave lad. So you came to Wye to fight for your beliefs.”

“No,” said Raych uncomfortably, “I can’t say I did. I came to look for a job, sir. It ain’t easy to find no jobs these days-and I ain’t got no credits. A guy’s gotta live.”

“I agree. What’s your name?”

The question shot out without warning, but Raych was ready for it. “Planchet, sir.”

“First or last name?”

“Only name, as far as I know.”

“You have no credits and, I gather, very little education.”

“Afraid so.”

“And no experience at any specialized job?”

“I ain’t worked much, but I’m willing.”

“All right. I’ll tell you what, Planchet.” He took a small white triangle out of his pocket and pressed it in such a way as to produce a printed message on it. Then he rubbed his thumb across it, freezing it. “I’ll tell you where to go. You take this with you and it may get you a job.”

Raych took the card and glanced at it. The signals seemed to fluoresce, but Raych could not read them. He looked at the other man warily. “What if they think I stole it?”

“It can’t be stolen. It has my sign on it and now it has your name.”

“What if they ask me who you are?”

“They won’t. You say you want a job. There’s your chance. I don’t guarantee it, but there’s your chance.” He gave him another card. “This is where to go.” Raych could read this one.

“Thank you,” he mumbled.

The man made little dismissing gestures with his hand.

Raych rose and left-and wondered what he was getting into.