Forward the Foundation Chapter 19

Forward the Foundation Chapter 19

17

The General had had a bad night and so, out of apprehension, had the colonel. They faced each other now-each at a loss.

The General said, “Tell me again what this woman did.”

Linn seemed to have a heavy weight on his shoulders. “She’s The Tiger Woman. That’s what they call her. She doesn’t seem to be quite human, somehow. She’s some sort of impossibly trained athlete, full of self-confidence, and, General, she’s quite frightening.”

“Did she frighten you? A single woman?”

“Let me tell you exactly what she did and let me tell you a few other things about her. I don’t know how true all the stories about her are, but what happened yesterday evening is true enough.”

He told the story again and the General listened, puffing out his cheeks.

“Bad,” he said. “What do we do?”

“I think our course is plain before us. We want psychohistory-“

“Yes, we do,” said the General. “Seldon told me something about taxation that-But never mind. That is beside the point at the moment. Go on.”

Linn, who, in his troubled state of mind, had allowed a small fragment of impatience to show on his face, continued, “As I say, we want psychohistory without Seldon. He is, in any case, a used-up man. The more I study him, the more I see an elderly scholar who is living on his past deeds. He has had nearly thirty years to make a success of psychohistory and he has failed. Without him, with new men at the helm, psychohistory may advance more rapidly.”

“Yes, I agree. Now what about the woman?”

“Well, there you are. We haven’t taken her into consideration because she has been careful to remain in the background. But I strongly suspect now that it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to remove Seldon quietly and without implicating the government, as long as the woman remains alive.”

“Do you really believe that she will mangle you and me-if she thinks we have harmed her man?” said the General, his mouth twisting in contempt.

“I really think she will and that she will start a rebellion as well. It will he exactly as she promised.”

“You are turning into a coward.”

“General, please. I am trying to be sensible. I’m not backing off. We must take care of this Tiger Woman.” He paused thoughtfully. “As a matter of fact, my sources have told me this and I admit to having paid far too little attention to the matter.”

“And how do you think we can get rid of her?”

Linn said, “I don’t know.” Then, more slowly, “But someone else might.”

18

Seldon had had a bad night also, nor was the new day promising to be much better. There weren’t too many times when Hari felt annoyed with Dors. But this time, he was very annoyed.

He said, “What a foolish thing to do! Wasn’t it enough that we were all staying at the Dome’s Edge Hotel? That alone would have been sufficient to drive a paranoid ruler into thoughts of some sort of conspiracy.”

“How? We were unarmed, Hari. It was a holiday affair, the final touch of your birthday celebration. We posed no threat.”

“Yes, but then you carried out your invasion of the Palace grounds. It was unforgivable. You raced to the Palace to interfere with my session with the General, when I had specifically-and several times-made it plain that I didn’t want you there. I had my own plans, you know.”

Dors said, “Your desires and your orders and your plans all take second place to your safety. I was primarily concerned about that.”

“I was in no danger.”

“That is not something I can carelessly assume. There have been two attempts on your life. What makes you think there won’t be a third?”

“The two attempts were made when I was First Minister. I was probably worth killing then. Who would want to kill an elderly mathematician?”

Dors said, “That’s exactly what I want to find out and that’s what I want to stop. I must begin by doing some questioning right here at the Project.”

“No. You will simply be upsetting my people. Leave them alone.”

“That’s exactly what I can’t do. Hari, my job is to protect you and for twenty-eight years I’ve been working at that. You cannot stop me now.”

Something in the blaze of her eyes made it quite clear that, whatever Seldon’s desires or orders might be, Dors intended to do as she pleased.

Seldon’s safety came first.

19

“May I interrupt you, Yugo?”

“Of course, Dors,” said Yugo Amaryl with a large smile. “You are never an interruption. What can I do for you?”

“I am trying to find out a few things, Yugo, and I wonder if you would humor me in this.”

“If I can.”

“You have something in the Project called the Prime Radiant. I hear it now and then. Hari speaks of it, so I imagine I know what it looks like when it is activated, but I have never actually seen it in operation. I would like to.”

Amaryl looked uncomfortable. “Actually the Prime Radiant is just about the most closely guarded part of the Project and you aren’t on the list of the members who have access.”

“I know that, but we’ve known each other for twenty-eight years-“

“And you’re Hari’s wife. I suppose we can stretch a point. We only have two full Prime Radiants. There’s one in Hari’s office and one here. Right there, in fact.”

Dors looked at the squat black cube on the central desk. It looked utterly undistinguished. “Is that it?”

“That’s it. It stores the equations that describe the future.”

“How do you get at those equations?”

Amaryl moved a contact and at once the room darkened and then came to life in a variegated glow. All around Dors were symbols, arrows, mathematical signs of one sort or another. They seemed to be moving, spiraling, but when she focused her eyes on any particular portion, it seemed to be standing still.

She said, “Is that the future, then?”

“It may be,” said Amaryl, turning off the instrument. “I had it at full expansion so you could see the symbols. Without expansion, nothing is visible but patterns of light and dark.”

“And by studying those equations, you are able to judge what the future holds in store for us?”

“In theory.” The room was now back to its mundane appearance. “But there are two difficulties.”

“Oh? What are they?”

“To begin with, no human mind has created those equations directly. We have merely spent decades programming more powerful computers and they have devised and stored the equations, but, of course, we don’t know if they are valid and have meaning. It depends entirely on how valid and meaningful the programming is in the first place.”

“They could be all wrong, then?”

“They could be.” Amaryl rubbed his eyes and Dors could not help thinking how old and tired he seemed to have grown in the last couple of years. He was younger than Hari by nearly a dozen years, but he seemed much older.

“Of course,” Amaryl went on in a rather weary voice, “we hope that they aren’t all wrong, but that’s where the second difficulty comes in. Although Hari and I have been testing and modifying them for decades, we can never be sure what the equations mean. The computer has constructed them, so it is to be presumed they must mean something-but what? There are portions that we think we have worked out. In fact, right now, I’m working on what we call Section A-23, a particularly knotty system of relationships. We have not yet been able to match it with anything in the real Universe. Still, each year sees us further advanced and I look forward confidently to the establishment of psychohistory as a legitimate and useful technique for dealing with the future.”

“How many people have access to these Prime Radiants?”

“Every mathematician in the Project has access but not at will. There have to be applications and time allotted and the Prime Radiant has to be adjusted to the portion of the equations a mathematician wishes to refer to. It gets a little complicated when everyone wants to use the Prime Radiant at the same time. Right now, things are slow, possibly because we’re still in the aftermath of Hari’s birthday celebration.”

“Is there any plan for constructing additional Prime Radiants?”

Amaryl thrust out his lips. “Yes and no. It would be very helpful if we had a third, but someone would have to be in charge of it. It can’t just be a community possession. I have suggested to Hari that Tamwile Elar-you know him, I think- “

“Yes, I do.”

“That Elar have a third Prime Radiant. His achaotic equations and the Electro-Clarifier he thought up make him clearly the third man in the Project after Hari and myself. Hari hesitates, however.”

“Why? Do you know?”

“If Elar gets one, he is openly recognized as the third man, over the Head of other mathematicians who are older and who have more senior status in the Project. There might be some political difficulties, so to speak. I think that we can’t waste time in worrying about internal politics, but Hari-Well, you know Hari.”

“Yes, I know Hari. Suppose I tell you that Linn has seen the Prime Radiant.”

“Linn?”

“Colonel Hender Linn of the junta. Tennar’s lackey.”

“I doubt that very much, Dors.”

“He has spoken of spiraling equations and I have just seen them produced by the Prime Radiant. I can’t help but think he’s been here and seen it working.”

Amaryl shook his head, “I can’t imagine anyone bringing a member of the junta into Hari’s office-or mine.”

“Tell me, who in the Project do you think is capable of working with the junta in this fashion?”

“No one,” said Amaryl flatly and with clearly unlimited faith. “That would be unthinkable. Perhaps Linn never saw the Prime Radiant but was merely told about it.”

“Who would tell him about it?”

Amaryl thought a moment and said, “No one.”

“Well now, you talked about internal politics a while ago in connection with the possibility of Elar having a third Prime Radiant. I suppose in a Project such as this one with hundreds of people, there are little feuds going on all the time-frictions-quarrels.”

“Oh yes. Poor Hari talks to me about it every once in a while. He has to deal with them in one way or another and I can well imagine what a headache it must be for him.”

“Are these feuds so bad that they interfere with the working of the Project?”

“Not seriously.”

“Are there any people who are more quarrelsome than others or any duo draw more resentment than others? In short, are there people you can get rid of and perhaps remove 90 percent of the friction at the cost of 5 or 6 percent of the personnel?”

Amaryl raised his eyebrows. “It sounds like a good idea, but I don’t know whom to get rid of. I don’t really participate in all the minutiae of internal politics. There’s no way of stopping it, so for my part, I merely avoid it.”

“That’s strange,” said Dors. “Aren’t you in this way denying any credibility to psychohistory?”

“In what way?”

“How can you pretend to reach a point where you can predict and guide the future, when you cannot analyze and correct something as homegrown as personal frictions in the very Project that promises so much?”

Amaryl chuckled softly. It was unusual, for he was not a man who was given to humor and laughter. “I’m sorry, Dors, but you picked on the one problem that we have solved, after a manner of speaking. Hari himself identified the equations that represented the difficulties of personal friction years ago and I myself then added the final touch last year.

“I found that there were ways in which the equations could be changed so as to indicate a reduction in friction. In every such case, however, a reduction in friction here meant an increase in friction there. Never at any time was there a total decrease or, for that matter, a total increase in the friction within a closed group-that is, one in which no old members leave and no new members come in. What I proved, with the help of Elar’s achaotic equations, was that this was true despite any conceivable action anyone could take. Hari calls it ‘the law of conservation of personal problems.’

“It gave rise to the notion that social dynamics has its conservation laws as physics does and that, in fact, it is these laws that offer us the best possible tools for solving the truly troublesome aspects of psychohistory.”

Dors said, “Rather impressive, but what if you end up finding that nothing at all can be changed, that everything that is bad is conserved, and that to save the Empire from destruction is merely to increase destruction of another kind?”

“Actually some have suggested that, but I don’t believe it.”

“Very well. Back to reality. Is there anything in the frictional problems within the Project that threaten Hari? I mean, with physical harm.”

“Harm Hari? Of course not. How can you suggest such a thing?”

“Might there not be some who resent Hari, for being too arrogant, too pushy, too self-absorbed, too eager to grab all the credit? Or, if none of these things apply, might they not resent him simply because he has run the Project for so long a time?”

“I never heard anyone say such a thing about Hari.”

Dors seemed dissatisfied. “I doubt that anyone would say such things in your hearing, of course. But thank you, Yugo, for being so helpful and for giving me so much of your time.”

Amaryl stared after her as she left. He felt vaguely troubled, but then returned to his work and let other matters drift away.

20

One way Hari Seldon had (out of not too many ways) for pulling away from his work for a time was to visit Raych’s apartment, just outside the university grounds. To do this invariably filled him with love for his foster son. There were ample grounds. Raych had been good, capable, and loyal-but besides that was the strange quality Raych had of inspiring trust and love in others.

Hari had observed it when Raych was a twelve-year-old street boy, who somehow pulled at his own and at Dors’s heartstrings. He remembered how Raych had affected Rashelle, the onetime Mayor of Wye. Hari remembered how Joranum had trusted Raych, which led to his own destruction. Raych had even managed to win the heart of the beautiful Manella. Hari did not completely understand this particular quality that Raych embodied, but he enjoyed whatever contact he had with his foster son.

He entered the apartment with his usual “All well here?”

Raych put aside the holographic material he was working with and rose to greet him, “All well, Dad.”

“I don’t hear Wanda.”

“For good reason. She’s out shopping with her mother.”

Seldon seated himself and looked good-humoredly at the chaos of reference material. “How’s the book coming?”

“It’s doing fine. It’s me who might not survive.” He sighed. “But for once, we’ll get the straight poop on Dahl. Nobody’s ever written a book devoted to that section, wouldja believe?”

Seldon had always noted that, whenever Raych talked of his home sector, his Dahlite accent always strengthened.

Raych said, “And how are you, Dad? Glad the festivities are over?”

“Enormously. I hated just about every minute of it.”

“Not so anyone could notice.”

“Listen, I had to wear a mask of sorts. I didn’t want to spoil the celebration for everyone else.”

“You must have hated it when Mom chased after you onto the Palace grounds. Everyone I know has been talking about that.”

“I certainly did hate it. Your mother, Raych, is the most wonderful person in the world, but she is very difficult to handle. She might have spoiled my plans.”

“What plans are those, Dad?”

Seldon settled back. It was always pleasant to speak to someone in whom he had total trust and who knew nothing about psychohistory. More than once he had bounced thoughts off Raych and had worked them out into more sensible forms than would have been the case if those same thoughts had been mulled over in his mind. He said, “Are we shielded?”

“Always.”

“Good. What I did was to set General Tennar thinking along curious lines.”

“What lines?”

“Well, I discussed taxation a bit and pointed out that, in the effort to make taxation rest evenly on the population, it grew more and more complex, unwieldy, and costly. The obvious implication was that the tax system must be simplified.”

“That seems to make sense.”

“Up to a point, but it is possible that, as a result of our little discussion, Tennar may oversimplify. You see, taxation loses effectiveness at both extremes. Overcomplicate it and people cannot understand it and pay for an overgrown and expensive tax organization. Oversimplify it and people consider it unfair and grow bitterly resentful. The simplest tax is a poll tax, in which every individual pays the same amount, but the unfairness of treating rich and poor alike in this way is too evident to overlook.”

“And you didn’t explain this to the General?”

“Somehow, I didn’t get a chance.”

“Do you think the General will try a poll tax?”

“I think he will plan one. If he does, the news is bound to leak out and that alone would suffice to set off riots and possibly upset the government.”

“And you’ve done this on purpose, Dad?”

“Of course.”

Raych shook his head. “I don’t quite understand you, Dad. In your personal life, you’re as sweet and gentle as any person in the Empire. Yet you can deliberately set up a situation in which there will be riots, suppression, deaths. There’ll be a lot of damage done, Dad. Have you thought of that?”

Seldon leaned back in his chair and said sadly, “I think of nothing else, Raych. When I first began my work on psychohistory, it seemed a purely academic piece of research to me. It was something that could not he worked out at all, in all likelihood, and, if it was, it would not be something that could be practically applied. But the decades pass and we know more and more and then comes the terrible urge to apply it.”

“So that people can die?”

“No, so that fewer people can die. If our psychohistorical analyses are correct now, then the junta cannot survive for more than a few years and there are various alternative ways in which it can collapse. They will all he fairly bloody and desperate. This method-the taxation gimmick- should do it more smoothly and gently than any other if-I repeat-our analyses are correct.”

“If they’re not correct, what then?”

“In that case, we don’t know what might happen. Still, psychohistory must reach the point where it can be used and we’ve been searching for years for something in which we have worked out the consequences with a certain assuredness and can find those consequences tolerable as compared with alternatives. In a way, this taxation gimmick is the first great psychohistoric experiment.”

“I must admit, it sounds like a simple one.”

“It isn’t. You have no idea how complex psychohistory is. Nothing is simple. The poll tax has been tried now and then throughout history. It is never popular and it invariably gives rise to resistance of one form or another, but it almost never results in the violent overthrow of a government. After all, the powers of governmental oppression may be too strong or there may be methods whereby the people can bring to bear their opposition in a peaceful manner and achieve redress. If a poll tax were invariably or even just sometimes fatal, then no government would ever try it. It is only because it isn’t fatal that it is tried repeatedly. The situation on Trantor is, however, not exactly normal. There are certain instabilities that seem clear in psychohistorical analysis, which make it seem that resentment will be particularly strong and repression particularly weak.”

Raych sounded dubious. “I hope it works, Dad, but don’t you think that the General will say that he was working under psychohistorical advice and bring you down with him?”

“I suppose he recorded our little session together, but if he publicizes that, it will show clearly that I urged him to wait till I could analyze the situation properly and prepare a report-and he refused to wait.”

“And what does Mom think of all this?”

Seldon said, “I haven’t discussed it with her. She’s off on another tangent altogether.”

“Really?”

“Yes. She’s trying to sniff out some deep conspiracy in the Project-aimed at me! I imagine she thinks there are many people in the Project who would like to get rid of me.” Seldon sighed. “I’m one of them, I think. I would like to get rid of me as director of the Project and leave the gathering responsibilities of psychohistory to others.”

Raych said, “What’s bugging Mom is Wanda’s dream. You know how Mom feels about protecting you. I’ll bet even a dream about your dying would be enough to make her think of a murder conspiracy against you.”

“I certainly hope there isn’t one.”

And at the idea of it both men laughed.

21

The small Electro-Clarification Laboratory was, for some reason, maintained at a temperature somewhat lower than normal and Dors Venabili wondered idly why that might be. She sat quietly, waiting for the one occupant of the lab to finish whatever it was she was doing.

Dors eyed the woman carefully. Slim, with a long face. Not exactly attractive, with her thin lips and receding jawline, but a look of intelligence shone in her dark brown eyes. The glowing nameplate on her desk said: CINDA MONAY.

She turned to Dors at last and said, “My apologies, Dr. Venabili, but there are some procedures that can’t be interrupted even for the wife of the director.”

“I would have been disappointed in you if you had neglected the procedure on my behalf. I have been told some excellent things about you.”

“That’s always nice to hear. Who’s been praising me?”

“Quite a few,” said Dors. “I gather that you are one of the most prominent nonmathematicians in the Project.”

Monay winced. “There’s a certain tendency to divide the rest of us from the aristocracy of mathematics. My own feeling is that, if I’m prominent, then I’m a prominent member of the Project. It makes no difference that I’m a nonmathematician.”

“That certainly sounds reasonable to me. How long have you been with the Project?”

“Two and a half years. Before that I was a graduate student in radiational physics at Streeling and, while I was doing that, I served a couple of years with the Project as an intern.”

“You’ve done well at the Project, I understand.”

“I’ve been promoted twice, Dr. Venabili.”

“Have you encountered any difficulties here, Dr. Monay? Whatever you say will be held confidential.”

“The work is difficult, of course, but if you mean, have I run into any social difficulties, the answer is no. At least not any more than one would expect in any large and complex project, I imagine.”

“And by that you mean?”

“Occasional spats and quarrels. We’re all human.”

“But nothing serious?”

Monay shook her head. “Nothing serious.”

“My understanding, Dr. Monay,” said Dors, “is that you have been responsible for the development of a device important to the use of the Prime Radiant. It makes it possible to cram much more information into the Prime Radiant.”

Monay broke into a radiant smile. “Do you know about that? Yes, the Electro-Clarifier. After that was developed, Professor Seldon established this small laboratory and put me in charge of other work in that direction.”

“I’m amazed that such an important advance did not bring you up into the higher echelons of the Project.”

“Oh well,” said Monay, looking a trifle embarrassed. “I don’t want to take all the credit. Actually my work was only that of a technician-a very skilled and creative technician, I like to think-but there you are.”

“And who worked with you?”

“Didn’t you know? It was Tamwile Elar. He worked out the theory that made the device possible and I designed and built the actual instrument.”

“Does that mean he took the credit, Dr. Monay?”

“No no. You mustn’t think that. Dr. Elar is not that kind of man. He gave me full credit for my share of the work. In fact, it was his idea to call the device by our names-both our names-but he couldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, that’s Professor Seldon’s rule, you know. All devices and equations are to be given functional names and not personal ones-to avoid resentment. So the device is just the Electro-Clarifier. When we’re working together, however, he gives the device our names and, I tell you, Dr. Venabili, it sounds grand. Perhaps someday, all of the Project personnel will use the personal name. I hope so.”

“I hope so, too,” said Dors politely. “You make Elar sound like a very decent individual.”

“He is. He is,” said Monay earnestly. “He is a delight to work for. Right now, I’m working on a new version of the device, which is more powerful and which I don’t quite understand. I mean, what it’s to be used for. However, he’s directing me there.”

“And are you making progress?”

“Indeed. In fact, I’ve given Dr. Elar a prototype, which he plans to test. If it works out, we can proceed further.”

“It sounds good,” agreed Dors. “What do you think would happen if Professor Seldon were to resign as director of the Project? If he were to retire?”

Monay looked surprised. “Is the professor planning to retire?”

“Not that I know of. I’m presenting you with a hypothetical case. Suppose he retires. Who do you think would be a natural successor? I think from what you have said that you would favor Professor Elar as the new director.”

“Yes, I would,” responded Monay after a trifling hesitation. “He’s far and away the most brilliant of the new people and I think he could run the Project in the best possible way. Still, he’s rather young. There are a considerable number of old fossils-well, you know what I mean-who would resent being passed over by a young squirt.”

“Is there any old fossil you’re thinking of in particular? Remember, this is confidential.”

“Quite a few of them, but there’s Dr. Amaryl. He’s the heir apparent.”

“Yes, I see what you mean.” Dors rose. “Well, thank you so much for your help. I’ll let you return to your work now.”

She left, thinking about the Electro-Clarifier. And about Amaryl.