Forward the Foundation Chapter 21

Forward the Foundation Chapter 21

25

Hari Seldon knocked gently with an old-fashioned code and Yugo Amaryl looked up. “Hari, how nice of you to drop around.”

“I should do it more often. In the old days we were together all the time. Now there are hundreds of people to worry about-here, there, and everywhere-and they get between us. Have you heard the news?”

“What news?”

“The junta is going to set up a poll tax-a nice substantial one. It will be announced on TrantorVision tomorrow. It will be just Trantor for now and the Outer Worlds will have to wait. That’s a little disappointing. I had hoped it would be Empire-wide all at once, but apparently I didn’t give the General enough credit for caution.”

Amaryl said, “Trantor will be enough. The Outer Worlds will know that their turn will follow in not too long a time.”

“Now we’ll have to see what happens.”

“What will happen is that the shouting will start the instant the announcement is out and the riots will begin, even before the new tax goes into effect.”

“Are you sure of it?”

Amaryl put his Prime Radiant into action at once and expanded the appropriate section. “See for yourself, Hari. I don’t see how that can be misinterpreted and that’s the prediction under the particular circumstances that now exist. If it doesn’t happen, it means that everything we’ve worked out in psychohistory is wrong and I refuse to believe that.”

“I’ll try to have courage,” said Seldon, smiling. Then “How do you feel lately, Yugo?”

“Well enough. Reasonably well. And how are you, by the way? I’ve heard rumors that you’re thinking of resigning. Even Dors said something about that.”

“Pay no attention to Dors. These days she’s saying all sorts of things. She has a bug in her head about some sort of danger permeating the Project.”

“What kind of danger?”

“It’s better not to ask. She’s just gone off on one of her tangents and, as always, that makes her uncontrollable.”

Amaryl said, “See the advantage I have in being single?” Then, in a lower voice, “If you do resign, Hari, what are your plans for the future?”

Seldon said, “You’ll take over. What other plans can I possibly have?”

And Amaryl smiled.

26

In the small conference room in the main building, Tamwile Elar listened to Dors Venabili with a gathering look of confusion and anger on his face. Finally he burst out, “Impossible!”

He rubbed his chin, then went on cautiously, “I don’t mean to offend you, Dr. Venabili, but your suggestions are ridic-cannot be right. There’s no way in which anyone can think that there are, in this Psychohistory Project, any feelings so deadly as to justify your suspicions. I would certainly know if there were and I assure you there are not. Don’t think it.”

“I do think it,” said Dors stubbornly, “and I can find evidence for it.”

Elar said, “I don’t know how to say this without offense, Dr. Venabili, but if a person is ingenious enough and intent enough on proving something, he or she can find all the evidence he or she wants-or, at least, something he or she believes is evidence.”

“Do you think I’m paranoid?”

“I think that in your concern for the Maestro-something in which I’m with you all the way-you’re, shall we say, overheated.”

Dors paused and considered Elar’s statement. “At least you’re right that a person with sufficient ingenuity can find evidence anywhere. I can build a case against you, for instance.”

Elar’s eyes widened as he stared at her in total astonishment. “Against me? I would like to hear what case you can possibly have against me.”

“Very well. You shall. The birthday party was your idea, wasn’t it?”

Elar said, “I thought of it, yes, but I’m sure others did, too. With the Maestro moaning about his advancing years, it seemed a natural way of cheering him up.”

“I’m sure others may have thought of it, but it was you who actually pressed the issue and got my daughter-in-law fired up about it. She took over the details and you persuaded her that it was possible to put together a really large celebration. Isn’t that so?”

“I don’t know if I had any influence on her, but even if I did, what’s wrong with that?”

“In itself, nothing, but in setting up so large and widespread and prolonged a celebration, were we not advertising to the rather unstable and suspicious men of the junta that Hari was too popular and might be a danger to them?”

“No one could possibly believe such a thing was in my mind.”

Dors said, “I am merely pointing out the possibility. In planning the birthday celebration, you insisted that the central offices be cleared out-“

“Temporarily. For obvious reasons.”

“-and insisted that they remain totally unoccupied for a while. No work was done-except by Yugo Amaryl-during that time.”

“I didn’t think it would hurt if the Maestro had some rest in advance of the party. Surely you can’t complain about that.”

“But it meant that you could consult with other people in the empty offices and do so in total privacy. The offices are, of course, well shielded.”

“I did consult there-with your daughter-in-law, with caterers, suppliers, and other tradesmen. It was absolutely necessary, wouldn’t you say?”

“And if one of those you consulted with was a member of the junta?”

Elar looked as though Dors had hit him. “I resent that, Dr. Venabili. What do you take me for?”

Dors did not answer directly. She said, “You went on to talk to Dr. Seldon about his forthcoming meeting with the General and urged him-rather pressingly-to let you take his place and run the risks that might follow. The result was, of course, that Dr. Seldon insisted rather vehemently on seeing the General himself, which one can argue was precisely what you wanted him to do.”

Elar emitted a short nervous laugh. “With all due respect, this does sound like paranoia, Doctor.”

Dors pressed on. “And then, after the party, it was you, wasn’t it, who was the first to suggest that a group of us go to the Dome’s Edge Hotel?”

“Yes and I remember you saying it was a good idea.”

“Might it not have been suggested in order to make the junta uneasy, as yet another example of Hari’s popularity? And might it not have been arranged to tempt me into invading the Palace grounds?”

“Could I have stopped you?” said Elar, his incredulity giving way to anger. “You had made up your own mind about that.”

Dors paid no attention. “And, of course, you hoped that by entering the Palace grounds I might make sufficient trouble to turn the junta even further against Hari.”

“But why, Dr. Venabili? Why would I be doing this?”

“One might say it was to get rid of Dr. Seldon and to succeed him as director of the Project.”

“How can you possibly think this of me? I can’t believe you are serious. You’re just doing what you said you would at the start of this exercise just showing me what can be done by an ingenious mind intent on finding so-called evidence.”

“Let’s turn to something else. I said that you were in a position to use the empty rooms for private conversations and that you may have been there with a member of the junta.”

“That is not even worth a denial.”

“But you were overheard. A little girl wandered into the room, curled up in a chair out of sight, and overheard your conversation.”

Elar frowned. “What did she hear?”

“She reported that two men were talking about death. She was only a child and could not repeat anything in detail, but two words did impress her and they were ‘lemonade death.’ “

“Now you seem to be changing from fantasy to-if you’ll excuse me -madness. What can ‘lemonade death’ mean and what would it have to do with me?”

“My first thought was to take it literally. The girl in question is very fond of lemonade and there was a good deal of it at the party, but no one had poisoned it.”

“Thanks for granting sanity that much.”

“Then I realized the girl had heard something else, which her imperfect command of the language and her love of the beverage had perverted into ‘lemonade.'”

“And have you invented a distortion?” Elar snorted.

“It did seem to me for a while that what she might have heard was laymen-aided death.'”

“What does that mean?”

“An assassination carried through by laymen-by nonmathematicians.”

Dors stopped and frowned. Her hand clutched her chest.

Elar said with sudden concern, “Is something wrong, Dr. Venabili?”

“No,” said Dors, seeming to shake herself.

For a few moments she said nothing further and Elar cleared his throat. There was no sign of amusement on his face any longer, as he said, “Your comments, Dr. Venabili, are growing steadily more ridiculous and-well, I don’t care if I do offend you, but I have grown tired of them. Shall we put an end to this?”

“We are almost at an end, Dr. Elar. Layman-aided may indeed be ridiculous, as you say. I had decided that in my own mind, too. You are, in part, responsible for the development of the Electro-Clarifier, aren’t you?”

Elar seemed to stand straighter as he said with a touch of pride, “Entirely responsible.”

“Surely not entirely. I understand it was designed by Cinda Monay.”

“A designer. She followed my instructions.”

“A layman. The Electro-Clarifier is a layman-aided device.”

With suppressed violence Elar said, “I don’t think I want to hear that phrase again. Once more, shall we put an end to this?”

Dors forged on, as if she hadn’t heard his request. “Though you give her no credit now, you gave Cinda credit to her face-to keep her working eagerly, I suppose. She said you gave her credit and she was very grateful because of it. She said you even called the device by her name and yours, though that’s not the official name.”

“Of course not. It’s the Electro-Clarifier.”

“And she said she was designing improvements, intensifiers, and so on-and that you had the prototype of an advanced version of the new device for testing.”

“What has all this to do with anything?”

“Since Dr. Seldon and Dr. Amaryl have been working with the Electro-Clarifier, both have in some ways deteriorated. Yugo, who works with it more, has also suffered more.”

“The Electro-Clarifier can, in no way, do that kind of damage.”

Dors put her hand to her forehead and momentarily winced. She said, “And now you have a more intense Electro-Clarifier that might do more damage, that might kill quickly, rather than slowly.”

“Absolute nonsense.”

“Now consider the name of the device, a name which, according to the woman who designed it, you are the only one to use. I presume you called it the Elar-Monay Clarifier.”

“I don’t ever recall using that phrase,” said Elar uneasily.

“Surely you did. And the new intensified Elar-Monay Clarifies could he used to kill with no blame to be attached to anyone just a sad accident through a new and untried device. It would be the ‘Elar-Monay death’ and a little girl heard it as `lemonade death.’ “

Dors’s hand groped at her side.

Elar said softly, “You are not well, Dr. Venabili.”

“I am perfectly well. Am I not correct?”

“Look, it doesn’t matter what you can twist into lemonade. Who knows what the little girl may have heard? It all boils down to the deadliness of the Electro-Clarifier. Bring me into court or before a scientific investigating board and let experts-as many as you like-check the effect of the Electro-Clarifier, even the new intensified one, on human beings. They will find it has no measurable effect.”

“I don’t believe that,” muttered Venabili. Her hands were now at her forehead and her eyes were closed. She swayed slightly.

Elar said, “It is clear that you are not well, Dr. Venabili. Perhaps that means it is my turn to talk. May I?”

Dors’s eyes opened and she simply stared.

“I’ll take your silence for consent, Doctor. Of what use would it be for me to try to to get rid of Dr. Seldon and Dr. Amaryl in order to take my place as director? You would prevent any attempt I made at assassination, as you now think you are doing. In the unlikely case that I succeeded in such a project and was rid of the two great men, you would tear me to pieces afterward. You’re a very unusual woman-strong and fast beyond belief-and while you are alive, the Maestro is safe.”

“Yes,” said Dors, glowering.

“I told this to the men of the junta. Why should they not consult me on matters involving the Project? They are very interested in psychohistory, as well they ought to be. It was difficult for them to believe what I told them about you-until you made your foray into the Palace grounds. That convinced them, you can be sure, and they agreed with my plan.”

“Aha. Now we come to it,” Dors said weakly.

“I told you the Electro-Clarifier cannot harm human beings. It cannot. Amaryl and your precious Hari are just getting old, though you refuse to accept it. So what? They are fine-perfectly human. The electromagnetic field has no effect of any importance on organic materials. Of course, it may have adverse effects on sensitive electromagnetic machinery and, if we could imagine a human being built of metal and electronics, it might have an effect on it. Legends tell us of such artificial human beings. The Mycogenians have based their religion on them and they call such beings “robots.” If there were such a thing as a robot, one would imagine it would be stronger and faster by far than an ordinary human being, that it would have properties, in fact, resembling those you have, Dr. Venabili. And such a robot could, indeed, be stopped, hurt, even destroyed by an intense Electro-Clarifier, such as the one that I have here, one that has been operating at low energy since we began our conversation. That is why you are feeling ill, Dr. Venabili-and for the first time in your existence, I’m sure.”

Dors said nothing, merely stared at the man. Slowly she sank into a chair.

Elar smiled and went on, “Of course, with you taken care of, there will be no problem with the Maestro and with Amaryl. The Maestro, in fact, without you, may fade out at once and resign in grief, while Amaryl is merely a child in his mind. In all likelihood, neither will have to be killed. How does it feel, Dr. Venabili, to be unmasked after all these years? I must admit, you were very good at concealing your true nature. It’s almost surprising that no one else discovered the truth before now. But then, I am a brilliant mathematician-an observer, a thinker, a deducer. Even I would not have figured it out were it not for your fanatical devotion to the Maestro and the occasional bursts of superhuman power you seemed to summon at will-when he was threatened.

“Say good-bye, Dr. Venabili. All I have to do now is to turn the device to full power and you will be history.”

Dors seemed to collect herself and rose slowly from her seat, mumbling, “I may be better shielded than you think.” Then, with a grunt, she threw herself at Elar.

Elar, his eyes widening, shrieked and reeled back.

Then Dors was on him, her hand flashing. Its side struck Elar’s neck, smashing the vertebrae and shattering the nerve cord. He fell dead on the floor.

Dors straightened with an effort and staggered toward the door. She had to find Hari. He had to know what had happened.

27

Hari Seldon rose from his seat in horror. He had never seen Dors look so, her face twisted, her body canted, staggering as though she were drunk.

“Dors! What happened! What’s wrong!”

He ran to her and grasped her around the waist, even as her body gave way and collapsed in his arms. He lifted her (she weighed more than am ordinary woman her size would have, but Seldon was unaware of that at ** the moment) and placed her on the couch.

“What happened?” he said.

She told him, gasping, her voice breaking now and then, while he cradled her head and tried to force himself to believe what was happening.

“Elar is dead,” she said. “I finally killed a human being. First time. Makes it worse.”

“How badly are you damaged, Dors?”

“Badly. Elar turned on his device-full-when I rushed him.”

“You can be readjusted.”

“How? There’s no one-on Trantor-who knows how. I need Daneel.”

Daneel. Demerzel. Somehow, deep inside, Hari had always known. His friend-a robot-had provided him with a protector-a robot-to ensure that psychohistory and the seeds of the Foundations were given a chance to take root. The only problem was, Hari had fallen in love with his protector-a robot. It all made sense now. All the nagging doubts and the questions could be answered. And somehow, it didn’t matter one bit. All that mattered was Dors.

“We can’t let this happen.”

“It must.” Dors’s eyes fluttered open and looked at Seldon. “Must. Tried to save you, but missed-vital point-who will protect you now?”

Seldon couldn’t see her clearly. There was something wrong with his eyes. “Don’t worry about me, Dors. It’s you-It’s you-“

“No. You, Hari. Tell Manella-Manella-I forgive her now. She did better than I. Explain to Wanda. You and Raych-take care of each other.”

“No no no,” said Seldon, rocking back and forth. “You can’t do this. Hang on, Dors. Please. Please, my love.”

Dors’s head shook feebly and she smiled even more feebly. “Goodbye, Hari, my love. Remember always-all you did for me.”

“I did nothing for you.”

“You loved me and your love made me-human.”

Her eyes remained open, but Dors had ceased functioning.

Yugo Amaryl came storming into Seldon’s office. “Hari, the riots are beginning, sooner and harder even than exp-“

And then he stared at Seldon and Dors and whispered, “What happened?”

Seldon looked up at him in agony. “Riots! What do I care about riots now? What do I care about anything now?”