Forward the Foundation Chapter 22
SELDON, WANDA-… In the waning years of Hari Seldon’s life, he grew most attached to (some say dependent upon) his granddaughter, Wanda. Orphaned in her teens, Wanda Seldon devoted herself to her grandfather’s Psychohistory Project, filling the vacancy left by Yugo Amaryl…
The content of Wanda Seldon’s work remains largely a mystery, for it was conducted in virtually total isolation. The only individuals allowed access to Wanda Seldon’s research were Hari himself and a young man named Stettin Palver (whose descendant Preem would four hundred years later contribute to the rebirth of Trantor, as the planet rose from the ashes of the Great Sack [300 F.E.1).
Although the full extent of Wanda Seldon’s contribution to the Foundation is unknown, it was undoubtedly of the greatest magnitude…
Hari Seldon walked into the Galactic Library (limping a little, as he did more and more often these days) and made for the banks of skitters, the little vehicles that slid their way along the interminable corridors of the building complex.
He was held up, however, by the sight of three men seated at one of the galactography alcoves, with the Galactograph showing the Galaxy in full three-dimensional representation and, of course, its worlds slowly pinwheeling around its core, spinning at right angles to that as well.
From where Seldon stood he could see that the border Province of Anacreon was marked off in glowing red. It skirted the edge of the Galaxy and took up a great volume, but it was sparsely populated with stars. Anacreon was not remarkable for either wealth or culture but was remarkable for its distance from Trantor: ten thousand parsecs away.
Seldon acting on impulse, took a seat at a computer console near the three and set up a random search he was sure would take an indefinite period. Some instinct told him that such an intense interest in Anacreon must be political in nature-its position in the Galaxy made it one of the least secure holdings of the current Imperial regime. His eyes remained on his screen, but Seldon’s ears were open for the discussion near him. One didn’t usually hear political discussions in the Library. They were, in point of fact, not supposed to take place.
Seldon did not know any of the three men. That was not entirely surprising. There were habitues of the Library, quite a few, and Seldon knew most of them by sight-and some even to talk to-but the Library was open to all citizens. No qualifications. Anyone could enter and use its facilities. (For a limited period of time, of course. Only a select few, like Seldon were allowed to “set up shop” in the Library. Seldon had been granted the use of a locked private office and complete access to Library resources.)
One of the men (Seldon thought of him as Hook Nose, for obvious reasons) spoke in a low urgent voice.
“Let it go,” he said. “Let it go. It’s costing us a mint to try to hold on and, even if we do, it will only be while they’re there. They can’t stay there forever and, as soon as they leave, the situation will revert to what it was.”
Seldon knew what they were talking about. The news had come over TrantorVision only three days ago that the Imperial government had decided on a show of force to bring the obstreperous Governor of Anacreon into line. Seldon’s own psychohistorical analysis had shown him that it was a useless procedure, but the government did not generally listen when its emotions were stirred. Seldon smiled slightly and grimly at hearing Hook Nose say what he himself had said-and the young man said it without the benefit of any knowledge of psychohistory.
Hook Nose went on. “If we leave Anacreon alone, what do we lose? It’s still there, right where it always was, right at the edge of the Empire. It can’t pick up and go to Andromeda, can it? So it still has to trade with us and life continues. What’s the difference if they salute the Emperor or not? You’ll never be able to tell the difference.”
The second man, whom Seldon had labeled Baldy, for even more obvious reasons, said, “Except this whole business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If Anacreon goes, the other border provinces will go. The Empire will break up.”
“So what?” whispered Hook Nose fiercely. “The Empire can’t run itself effectively anymore, anyway. It’s too big. Let the border go and take care of itself-if it can. The Inner Worlds will be all the stronger and better off. The border doesn’t have to be ours politically; it will still be ours economically.”
And now the third man (Red Cheeks) said, “I wish you were right, but that’s not the way it’s going to work. If the border provinces establish their independence, the first thing each will do will be to try to increase its power at the expense of its neighbors. There’ll be war and conflict and every one of the governors will dream of becoming Emperor at last. It will be like the old days before the Kingdom of Trantor-a dark age that will last for thousands of years.”
Baldy said, “Surely things won’t be that bad. The Empire may break up, but it will heal itself quickly when people find out that the breakup just means war and impoverishment. They’ll look back on the golden days of the intact Empire and all will be well again. We’re not barbarians, you know. We’ll find a way.”
“Absolutely,” said Hook Nose. “We’ve got to remember that the Empire has faced crisis after crisis in its history and has pulled through time and again.”
But Red Cheeks shook his head as he said, “This is not just another crisis. This is something much worse. The Empire has been deteriorating for generations. Ten years’ worth of the junta destroyed the economy and since the fall of the junta and the rise of this new Emperor, the Empire has been so weak that the governors on the Periphery don’t have to do anything. It’s going to fall of its own weight.”
“And the allegiance to the Emperor-” began Hook Nose.
“What allegiance?” said Red Cheeks. “We went for years without an Emperor after Cleon was assassinated and no one seemed to mind much. And this new Emperor is just a figurehead. There’s nothing he can do. There’s nothing anyone can do. This isn’t a crisis. This is the end. “
The other two stared at Red Cheeks, frowning. Baldy said, “You really believe it! You think that the Imperial government will just sit there and let it all happen?”
“Yes! Like you two, they won’t believe it is happening. That is, until it’s too late.”
“What would you want them to do if they did believe it?” asked Baldy.
Red Cheeks stared into the Galactograph, as if he might find an answer there. “I don’t know. Look, in due course of time I’ll die; things won’t be too bad by then. Afterward, as the situation gets worse, other people can worry about it. I’ll be gone. And so will the good old days. Maybe forever. I’m not the only one who thinks this, by the way. Ever hear of someone named Hari Seldon?”
“Sure,” said Hook Nose at once. “Wasn’t he First Minister under Cleon?”
“Yes,” said Red Cheeks. “He’s some sort of scientist. I heard him give a talk a few months back. It felt good to know I’m not the only one who believes the Empire is falling apart. He said-“
“And he said everything’s going to pot and there’s going to be a permanent dark age?” Baldy interjected.
“Well no,” said Red Cheeks. “He’s one of these real cautious types. Ire says it might happen, but he’s wrong. It will happen.”
Seldon had heard enough. He limped toward the table where the three men sat and touched Red Cheeks on the shoulder.
“Sir,” he said, “may I speak to you for a moment?”
Startled, Red Cheeks looked up and then he said, “Hey, aren’t you Professor Seldon?”
“I always have been,” said Seldon. He handed the man a reference tile bearing his photograph. “I would like to see you here in my Library office at 4 P.M., day after tomorrow. Can you manage that?”
“I have to work.”
“Call in sick if you have to. It’s important.”
“Well, I’m not sure, sir.”
“Do it,” said Seldon. “If you get into any sort of trouble over it, I’ll straighten it out. And meanwhile, gentlemen, do you mind if I study the Galaxy simulation for a moment? It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at one.”
They nodded mutely, apparently abashed at being in the presence of a former First Minister. One by one the men stepped back and allowed Seldon access to the Galactograph controls.
Seldon’s finger reached out to the controls and the red that had marked off the Province of Anacreon vanished. The Galaxy was unmarked, a glowing pinwheel of mist brightening into the spherical glow at the center, behind which was the Galactic black hole.
Individual stars could not be made out, of course, unless the view were magnified, but then only one portion or another of the Galaxy would be shown on the screen and Seldon wanted to see the whole thing -to get a look at the Empire that was vanishing.
He pushed a contact and a series of yellow dots appeared on the Galactic image. They represented the habitable planets-twenty-five million of them. They could be distinguished as individual dots in the thin fog that represented the outskirts of the Galaxy, but they were more and more thickly placed as one moved in toward the center. There was a belt of what seemed solid yellow (but which would separate into individual dots under magnification) around the central glow. The central glow itself remained white and unmarked, of course. No habitable planets could exist in the midst of the turbulent energies of the core.
Despite the great density of yellow, not one star in ten thousand, Seldon knew, had a habitable planet circling it. This was true, despite the planet-molding and terraforming capacities of humanity. Not all the molding in the Galaxy could make most of the worlds into anything a human being could walk on in comfort and without the protection of a spacesuit.
Seldon closed another contact. The yellow dots disappeared, but one tiny region glowed blue: Trantor and the various worlds directly dependent on it. As close as it could be to the central core and yet remaining insulated from its deadliness, it was commonly viewed as being located at the “center of the Galaxy,” which it wasn’t-not truly. As usual, one had to be impressed by the smallness of the world of Trantor, a tiny place in the vast realm of the Galaxy, but within it was squeezed the largest concentration of wealth, culture, and governmental authority that humanity had ever seen.
And even that was doomed to destruction.
It was almost as though the men could read his mind or perhaps they interpreted the sad expression on his face.
Baldy asked softly, “Is the Empire really going to be destroyed?”
Seldon replied, softer still, “It might. It might. Anything might happen.”
He rose, smiled at the men, and left, but in his thoughts he screamed: It will! It will!
Seldon sighed as he climbed into one of the skitters that were ranked side by side in the large alcove. There had been a time, just a few years ago, when he had gloried in walking briskly along the interminable corridors of the Library, telling himself that even though he was past sixty he could manage it.
But now, at seventy, his legs gave way all too quickly and he had to take a skitter. Younger men took them all the time because skitters saved them trouble, but Seldon did it because he had to-and that made all the difference.
After Seldon punched in the destination, he closed a contact and the skitter lifted a fraction of an inch above the floor. Off it went at a rather casual pace, very smoothly, very silently, and Seldon leaned back and watched the corridor walls, the other skitters, the occasional walkers.
He passed a number of Librarians and, even after all these years, he still smiled when he saw them. They were the oldest Guild in the Empire, the one with the most revered traditions, and they clung to ways that were more appropriate centuries before-maybe millennia before.
Their garments were silky and off-white and were loose enough to be almost gownlike, coming together at the neck and billowing out from there.
Trantor, like all the worlds, oscillated, where the males were concerned, between facial hair and smoothness. The people of Trantor itself-or at least most of its sectors-were smooth-shaven and had been smooth-shaven for as far back as he knew-excepting such anomalies as the mustaches worn by Dahlites, such as his own foster son, Raych.
The Librarians, however, clung to the beards of long ago. Every Librarian had a rather short neatly cultivated beard running from ear to ear but leaving bare the upper lip. That alone was enough to mark them for what they were and to make the smooth-shaven Seldon feel a little uncomfortable when surrounded by a crowd of them.
Actually the most characteristic thing of all was the cap each wore (perhaps even when asleep, Seldon thought). Square, it was made of a velvety material, in four parts that came together with a button at the top. The caps came in an endless variety of colors and apparently each color had significance. If you were familiar with Librarian lore, you could tell a particular Librarian’s length of service, area of expertise, grades of accomplishment, and so on. They helped fix a pecking order. Every Librarian could, by a glance at another’s hat, tell whether to be respectful (and to what degree) or overbearing (and to what degree).
The Galactic Library was the largest single structure on Trantor (possibly in the Galaxy), much larger than even the Imperial Palace, and it had once gleamed and glittered, as though boasting of its size and magnificence. However, like the Empire itself, it had faded and withered. It was like an old dowager still wearing the jewels of her youth but upon a body that was wrinkled and wattled.
The skitter stopped in front of the ornate doorway of the Chief Librarian’s office and Seldon climbed out.
Las Zenow smiled as he greeted Seldon. “Welcome, my friend,” he said in his high-pitched voice. (Seldon wondered if he had ever sung tenor in his younger days but had never dared to ask. The Chief Librarian was a compound of dignity always and the question might have seemed offensive.)
“Greetings,” said Seldon. Zenow had a gray beard, rather more than halfway to white, and he wore a pure white hat. Seldon understood that without any explanation. It was a case of reverse ostentation. The total absence of color represented the highest peak of position.
Zenow rubbed his hands with what seemed to be an inner glee. “I’ve called you in, Hari, because I’ve got good news for you. We’ve found it!
“By ‘it,’ Las, you mean-“
“A suitable world. You wanted one far out. I think we’ve located the ideal one.” His smile broadened. “You just leave it to the Library. Hari. We can find anything.”
“I have no doubt, Las. Tell me about this world.”
“Well, let me show you its location first.” A section of the wall slid aside, the lights in the room dimmed, and the Galaxy appeared in three-dimensional form, turning slowly. Again, red lines marked off the Province of Anacreon, so that Seldon could almost swear that the episode with the three men had been a rehearsal for this.
And then a brilliant blue dot appeared at the far end of the province. “There it is,” said Zenow. “It’s an ideal world. Sizable, well-watered, good oxygen atmosphere, vegetation, of course. A great deal of sea life. It’s there just for the taking. No planet-molding or terraforming required-or, at least, none that cannot be done while it is actually occupied.”
Seldon said, “Is it an unoccupied world, Las?”
“Absolutely unoccupied. No one on it.”
“But why-if it’s so suitable? I presume that, if you have all the details about it, it must have been explored. Why wasn’t it colonized?”
“It was explored, but only by unmanned probes. And there was no colonization-presumably because it was so far from everything. The planet revolves around a star that is farther from the central black hole than that of any inhabited planet-farther by far. Too far, I suppose, for prospective colonists, but I think not too far for you. You said, ‘The farther, the better.’ “
“Yes,” said Seldon, nodding. “I still say so. Does it have a name or is there just a letter-number combination?”
“Believe it or not, it has a name. Those who sent out the probes named it Terminus, an archaic word meaning ‘the end of the line.’ Which it would seem to be.”
Seldon said, “Is the world part of the territory of the Province of Anacreon?”
“Not really,” said Zenow. “If you’ll study the red line and the red shading, you will see that the blue dot of Terminus lies slightly outside it-fifty light-years outside it, in fact. Terminus belongs to nobody; it’s not even part of the Empire, as a matter of fact.”
“You’re right, then, Las. It does seem like the ideal world I’ve been looking for.”
“Of course,” said Zenow thoughtfully, “once you occupy Terminus, I imagine the Governor of Anacreon will claim it as being under his jurisdiction.”
“That’s possible,” said Seldon, “but we’ll have to deal with that when 1 he matter comes up.”
Zenow rubbed his hands again. “What a glorious conception. Setting up a huge project on a brand-new world, far away and entirely isolated, so that year by year and decade by decade a huge Encyclopedia of all human knowledge can be put together. An epitome of what is present in this Library. If I were only younger, I would love to join the expedition.”
Seldon said sadly, “You’re almost twenty years younger than I am.” (Almost everyone is far younger than I am, he thought, even more sadly.)
Zenow said, “Ah yes, I heard that you just passed your seventieth birthday. I hope you enjoyed it and celebrated appropriately.”
Seldon stirred. “I don’t celebrate my birthdays.”
“Oh, but you did. I remember the famous story of your sixtieth birthday.”
Seldon felt the pain, as deeply as though the dearest loss in all the world had taken place the day before. “Please don’t talk about it,” he said.
Abashed, Zenow said, “I’m sorry. We’ll talk about something else. If, indeed, Terminus is the world you want, I imagine that your work on the preliminaries to the Encyclopedia Project will be redoubled. As you know, the Library will be glad to help you in all respects.”
“I’m aware of it, Las, and I am endlessly grateful. We will, indeed, keep working.”
He rose, not yet able to smile after the sharp pang induced by the reference to his birthday celebration of ten years back. He said, “So I must go to continue my labors.”
And as he left, he felt, as always, a pang of conscience over the deceit he was practicing. Las Zenow did not have the slightest idea of Seldon’s true intentions.
Hari Seldon surveyed the comfortable suite that had been his personal office at the Galactic Library these past few years. It, like the rest of the Library, had a vague air of decay about it, a kind of weariness-something that had been too long in one place. And yet Seldon knew it might remain here, in the same place, for centuries more-with judicious rebuildings-for millennia even.
How did he come to be here?
Over and over again, he felt the past in his mind, ran his mental tendrils along the line of development of his life. It was part of growing older, no doubt. There was so much more in the past, so much less in the future, that the mind turned away from the looming shadow ahead to contemplate the safety of what had gone before.
In his case, though, there was that change. For over thirty years psychohistory had developed in what might almost be considered a straight line-progress creepingly slow but moving straight ahead. Then six years ago there had been a right-angled turn-totally unexpected.
And Seldon know exactly how it had happened, how a concatenation of events came together to make it possible.
It was Wanda, of course, Seldon’s granddaughter. Hari closed his eyes and settled into his chair to review the events of six years before.
Twelve-year-old Wanda was bereft. Her mother, Manella, had had another child, another little girl, Bellis, and for a time the new baby was a total preoccupation.
Her father, Raych, having finished his book on his home sector of Dahl, found it to be a minor success and himself a minor celebrity. He was called upon to talk on the subject, something he accepted with alacrity, for he was fiercely absorbed in the subject and, as he said to Hari with a grin, “When I talk about Dahl, I don’t have to hide my Dahlite accent. In fact, the public expects it of me.”
The net result, though, was that he was away from home a considerable amount of time and when he wasn’t, it was the baby he wanted to see.
As for Dors-Dors was gone-and to Hari Seldon that wound was ever-fresh, ever-painful. And he had reacted to it in an unfortunate manner. It had been Wanda’s dream that had set in motion the current of events that had ended with the loss of Dors.
Wanda had had nothing to do with it-Seldon knew that very well. And yet he found himself shrinking from her, so that he also failed her in the crisis brought about by the birth of the new baby.
And Wanda wandered disconsolately to the one person who always seemed glad to see her, the one person she could always count on. That WAS Yugo Amaryl, second only to Hari Seldon in the development of psychohistory and first in his absolute round-the-clock devotion to it. Hari had had Dors and Raych, but psychohistory was Yugo’s life; he had no wife and children. Yet whenever Wanda came into his presence, something within him recognized her as a child and he dimly felt-for just that moment-a sense of loss that seemed to be assuaged only by showing the child affection. To be sure, he tended to treat her as a rather undersized adult, but Wanda seemed to like that.
It was six years ago that she had wandered into Yugo’s office. Yugo looked up at her with his owlish reconstituted eyes and, as usual, took a moment or two to recognize her.
Then he said, “Why, it’s my dear friend Wanda. But why do you look so sad? Surely an attractive young woman like you should never feel sad.”
And Wanda, her lower lip trembling, said, “Nobody loves me.”
“Oh come, that’s not true.”
“They just love that new baby. They don’t care about me anymore.”
“I love you, Wanda.”
“Well, you’re the only one then, Uncle Yugo.” And even though she could no longer crawl onto his lap as she had when she was younger, she cradled her head on his shoulder and wept.
Amaryl, totally unaware of what he should do, could only hug the girl and say, “Don’t cry. Don’t cry.” And out of sheer sympathy and because he had so little in his own life to weep about, he found that tears were trickling down his own cheeks as well.
And then he said with sudden energy, “Wanda, would you like to see something pretty?”
“What?” sniffled Wanda.
Amaryl knew only one thing in life and the Universe that was pretty. He said, “Did you ever see the Prime Radiant?”
“No. What is it?”
“It’s what your grandfather and I use to do our work. See? It’s right here.”
He pointed to the black cube on his desk and Wanda looked at it woefully. “That’s not pretty,” she said.
“Not now,” agreed Amaryl. “But watch when I turn it on.”
He did so. The room darkened and filled with dots of light and flashes of different colors. “See? Now we can magnify it so all the dots become mathematical symbols.”
And so they did. There seemed a rush of material toward them and there, in the air, were signs of all sorts, letters, numbers, arrows, and shapes that Wanda had never seen before.
“Isn’t it pretty?” asked Amaryl.
“Yes, it is,” said Wanda, staring carefully at the equations that (she didn’t know) represented possible futures. “I don’t like that part, though. I think it’s wrong.” She pointed at a colorful equation to her left.
“Wrong? Why do you say it’s wrong” said Amaryl, frowning.
“Because it’s not… pretty. I’d do it a different way.”
Amaryl cleared his throat. “Well, I’ll try to fix it up.” And he moved closer to the equation in question, staring at it in his owlish fashion.
Wanda said, “Thank you very much, Uncle Yugo, for showing me your pretty lights. Maybe someday I’ll understand what they mean.”
“That’s all right,” said Amaryl. “I hope you feel better.”
“A little, thanks,” and, after flashing the briefest of smiles, she left the room.
Amaryl stood there, feeling a trifle hurt. He didn’t like having the Prime Radiant’s product criticized-not even by a twelve-year-old girl who knew no better.
And as he stood there, he had no idea whatsoever that the psychohistorical revolution had begun.
That afternoon Amaryl went to Hari Seldon’s office at Streeling University. That in itself was unusual, for Amaryl virtually never left his own office, even to speak with a colleague just down the hall.
“Hari,” said Amaryl, frowning and looking puzzled. “Something very odd has happened. Very peculiar.”
Seldon looked at Amaryl with deepest sorrow. He was only fifty-three, but he looked much older, bent, worn down to almost transparency. When forced, he had undergone doctors’ examinations and the doctors had all recommended that he leave his work for a period of time (some said permanently) and rest. Only this, the doctors said, might improve his health. Otherwise-Seldon shook his head. “Take him away from his work and he’ll die all the sooner-and unhappier. We have no choice.”
And then Seldon realized that, lost in such thoughts, he was not hearing Amaryl speak.
He said, “I’m sorry, Yugo. I’m a little distracted. Begin again.”
Amaryl said, “I’m telling you that something very odd has happened. Very peculiar.”
“What is it, Yugo?”
“It was Wanda. She came in to see me-very sad, very upset.”
“Apparently it’s the new baby.”
“Oh yes,” Hari said with more than a trace of guilt in his voice.
“So she said and cried on my shoulder-I actually cried a bit, too, Hari. And then I thought I’d cheer her up by showing her the Prime Radiant.” Here Amaryl hesitated, as if choosing his next words carefully.
“Go on, Yugo. What happened?”
“Well, she stared at all the lights and I magnified a portion, actually Section 428254. You’re acquainted with that?”
Seldon smiled. “No, Yugo, I haven’t memorized the equations quite as well as you have.”
“Well, you should,” said Amaryl severely. “How can you do a good job if-But never mind that. What I’m trying to say is that Wanda pointed to a part of it and said it was no good. It wasn’t pretty. “
“Why not? We all have our personal likes and dislikes.”
“Yes, of course, but I brooded about it and I spent some time going over it and, Hari, there was something wrong with it. The programming was inexact and that area, the precise area to which Wanda pointed, was no good. And, really, it wasn’t pretty.”
Seldon sat up rather stiffly, frowning. “Let me get this straight, Yugo. She pointed to something at random, said it was no good, and she was right?”
“Yes. She pointed, but it wasn’t at random; she was very deliberate.”
“But that’s impossible.”
“But it happened. I was there.”
“I’m not saying it didn’t happen. I’m saying it was just a wild coincidence.”
“Is it? Do you think, with all your knowledge of psychohistory, you could take one glance at a new set of equations and tell me that one portion is no good?”
Seldon said, “Well then, Yugo, how did you come to expand that particular portion of the equations? What made you choose that piece for magnification?”
Amaryl shrugged. “That was coincidence-if you like. I just fiddled with the controls.”
“That couldn’t be coincidence,” muttered Seldon. For a few moments he was lost in thought, then he asked the question that pushed forward the psychohistorical revolution that Wanda had begun.
He said, “Yugo, did you have any suspicions about those equations beforehand? Did you have any reason to believe there was something wrong with them?”
Amaryl fiddled with the sash of his unisuit and seemed embarrassed. “Yes, I think I did. You see-“
“You think you did?”
“I know I did. I seemed to recall when I was setting it up-it’s a new section, you know-my fingers seemed to glitch on the programmer. It looked all right then, but I guess I kept worrying about it inside. I remember thinking it looked wrong, but I had other things to do and I just let it go. But then when Wanda happened to point to precisely the area I had been concerned about, I decided to check up on her-otherwise I would just have let it go as a childish statement.”
“And you turned on that very fragment of the equations to show Wanda. As though it were haunting your unconscious mind.”
Amaryl shrugged. “Who knows?”
“And just before that, you were very close together, hugging, both crying.”
Amaryl shrugged again, looking even more embarrassed.
Seldon said, “I think I know what happened, Yugo. Wanda read your mind.”
Amaryl jumped, as though he had been bitten. “That’s impossible!”
Slowly Seldon said, “I once knew someone who had unusual mental powers of that sort”-and he thought sadly of Eto Demerzel or, as Seldon had secretly known him, Daneel-“only he was somewhat more than human. But his ability to read minds, to sense other people’s thoughts, to persuade people to act in a certain way-that was a mental ability. I think, somehow, that perhaps Wanda has that ability as well.”
“I can’t believe it,” said Amaryl stubbornly.
“I can,” said Seldon “but I don’t know what to do about it.” Dimly lie felt the rumblings of a revolution in psychohistorical research-but only dimly.