Forward the Foundation Chapter 24
Like any intellectual, Hari Seldon had made use of the Galactic Library freely. For the most part, it had been done long-distance through computer, but occasionally he had visited it, more to get away from the pressures of the Psychohistory Project than for any other purpose. And, for the past couple of years, since he had first formulated his plan to find others like Wanda, he had kept a private office there, so he could have ready access to any of the Library’s vast collection of data. He had even rented a small apartment in an adjacent sector under the dome so that he would be able to walk to the Library when his ever-increasing research there prevented him from returning to the Streeling Sector.
Now, however, his plan had taken on new dimensions and he wanted to meet Las Zenow. It was the first time he had ever met him face-to-face.
It was not easy to arrange a personal interview with the Chief Librarian of the Galactic Library. His own perception of the nature and value of his office was high and it was frequently said that when the Emperor wished to consult the Chief Librarian, even he had to visit the Library himself and wait his turn.
Seldon however, had no trouble. Zenow knew him well, though he had never seen Hari Seldon in person. “An honor, First Minister,” he said in greeting.
Seldon smiled. “I trust you know that I have not held that post in sixteen years.”
“The honor of the title is still yours. Besides, sir, you were also instrumental in ridding us of the brutal rule of the junta. The junta, on a number of occasions, violated the sacred rule of the neutrality of the Library.”
(Ah, thought Seldon that accounts for the readiness with which he saw me.)
“Merely rumor,” he said aloud.
“And now, tell me,” said Zenow, who could not resist a quick look at the time band on his wrist, “what can I do for you?”
“Chief Librarian,” began Seldon “I have not come to ask anything easy of you. What I want is more space at the Library. I want permission to bring in a number of my associates. I want permission to undertake a long and elaborate program of the greatest importance.”
Las Zenow’s face drew into an expression of distress. “You ask a great deal. Can you explain the importance of all this?”
“Yes. The Empire is in the process of disintegration.”
There was a long pause. Then Zenow said, “I have heard of your research into psychohistory. I have been told that your new science bears the promise of predicting the future. Is it psychohistorical predictions of which you are speaking?”
“No. I have not yet reached the point in psychohistory where I can speak of the future with certainty. But you don’t need psychohistory to know that the Empire is disintegrating. You can see the evidence yourself.”
Zenow sighed. “My work here consumes me utterly, Professor Seldon. I am a child when it comes to political and social matters.”
“You may, if you wish, consult the information contained in the Library. Why look around this very office-it is chock-full of every conceivable sort of information from throughout the entire Galactic Empire.”
“I’m the last to keep up with it all, I’m afraid,” Zenow said, smiling sadly. “You know the old proverb: The shoemaker’s child has no shoes. It seems to me, though, that the Empire is restored. We have an Emperor again.”
“In name only, Chief Librarian. In most of the outlying provinces, the Emperor’s name is mentioned ritualistically now and then, but he plays no role in what they do. The Outer Worlds control their own programs and, more important, they control the local armed forces, which are outside the grip of the Emperor’s authority. If the Emperor were to try to exert his authority anywhere outside the Inner Worlds, he would fail. I doubt that it will take more than twenty years, at the outside, before some of the Outer Worlds declare their independence.”
Zenow sighed again. “If you are right, we live in worse times than the Empire has ever seen. But what has this to do with your desire for more office space and additional staff here in the Library?”
“If the Empire falls apart, the Galactic Library may not escape the general carnage.”
“Oh, but it must,” said Zenow earnestly. “There have been bad times before and it has always been understood that the Galactic Library on Trantor, as the repository of all human knowledge, must remain inviolate. And so it will be in the future.”
“It may not be. You said yourself that the junta violated its neutrality.”
“It might be more serious next time and we can’t allow this repository of all human knowledge to be damaged.”
“How will your increased presence here prevent that?”
“It won’t. But the project I am interested in will. I want to create a great Encyclopedia, containing within it all the knowledge humanity will need to rebuild itself in case the worst happens-an Encyclopedia Galactica, if you will. We don’t need everything the Library has. Much of it is trivial. The provincial libraries scattered over the Galaxy may themselves be destroyed and, if not, all but the most local data is obtained by computerized connection with the Galactic Library in any case. What I intend, then, is something that is entirely independent and that contains, in as concise a form as possible, the essential information humanity needs.”
“And if it, too, is destroyed?”
“I hope it will not be. It is my intention to find a world far away on the outskirts of the Galaxy, one where I can transfer my Encyclopedists and where they can work in peace. Until such a place is found, however, I want the nucleus of the group to work here and to use the Library facilities to decide what will be needed for the project.”
Zenow grimaced. “I see your point, Professor Seldon, but I’m not sure that it can be done.”
“Why not, Chief Librarian?”
“Because being Chief Librarian does not make me an absolute monarch. I have a rather large Board-a kind of legislature-and please don’t think that I can just push your Encyclopedia Project through.”
“Don’t be. I am not a popular Chief Librarian. The Board has been fighting, for some years now, for limited access to the Library. I have resisted. It galls them that I have afforded you your small office space.”
“Exactly. The idea is that if anyone needs information, he or she must communicate with a Librarian and the Librarian will get the information for the person. The Board does not wish people to enter the Library freely and deal with the computers themselves. They say that the expense required to keep the computers and other Library equipment in shape is becoming prohibitive.”
“But that’s impossible. There’s a millennial tradition of an open Galactic Library.”
“So there is, but in recent years, appropriations to the Library have been cut several times and we simply don’t have the funds we used to have. It is becoming very difficult to keep our equipment up to the mark.”
Seldon rubbed his chin. “But if your appropriations are going down, I imagine you have to cut salaries and fire people-or, at least, not hire new ones.”
“You are exactly right.”
“In which case, how will you manage to place new labors on a shrinking work force by asking your people to obtain all the information that the public will request?”
“The idea is that we won’t find all the information that the public will request but only those pieces of information that we consider important.”
“So that not only will you abandon the open Library but also the complete Library?”
“I’m afraid so.”
“I can’t believe that any Librarian would want this.”
“You don’t know Gennaro Mummery, Professor Seldon.” At Seldon’s blank look, Zenow continued. ” ‘Who is he?’ you wonder. The leader of that portion of the Board that wishes to close off the Library. More and more of the Board are on his side. If I let you and your colleagues into the Library as an independent force, a number of Board members who may not be on Mummery’s side but who are dead set against any control of any part of the Library except by Librarians may decide to vote with him. And in that case, I will be forced to resign as Chief Librarian.”
“See here,” said Seldon with sudden energy. “All this business of possibly closing down the Library, of making it less accessible, of refusing all information-all this business of declining appropriations-all this is itself a sign of Imperial disintegration. Don’t you agree?”
“If you put it that way, you may be right.”
“Then let me talk to the Board. Let me explain what the future may hold and what I wish to do. Perhaps I can persuade them, as I hope I’ve persuaded you.”
Zenow thought for a moment. “I’m willing to let you try, but you must know in advance that your plan may not work.”
“I’ve got to take that chance. Please do whatever has to be done and let me know when and where I can meet the Board.”
Seldon left Zenow in a mood of unease. Everything he had told the Chief Librarian was true-and trivial. The real reason he needed the use of the Library remained hidden.
Partly this was because he didn’t yet see that use clearly himself.
Hari Seldon sat at Yugo Amaryl’s bedside-patiently, sadly. Yugo was utterly spent. He was beyond medical help, even if he would have consented to avail himself of such help, which he refused.
He was only fifty-five. Seldon was himself sixty-six and yet he was in fine shape, except for the twinge of sciatica-or whatever it was-that occasionally lamed him.
Amaryl’s eyes opened. “You’re still here, Hari?”
Seldon nodded. “I won’t leave you.”
“Till I die?”
“Yes.” Then, in an outburst of grief, he said, “Why have you done this, Yugo? If you had lived sensibly, you could have had twenty to thirty more years of life.”
Amaryl smiled faintly. “Live sensibly? You mean, take time off? Go to resorts? Amuse myself with trifles?”
“And I would either have longed to return to my work or I would have learned to like wasting my time and, in the additional twenty to thirty years you speak of, I would have accomplished no more. Look at you.”
“What about me?”
“For ten years you were First Minister under Cleon. How much science did you do then?”
“I spent about a quarter of my time on psychohistory,” said Seldon gently.
“You exaggerate. If it hadn’t been for me, plugging away, psychohistorical advance would have screeched to a halt.”
Seldon nodded. “You are right, Yugo. For that I am grateful.”
“And before and since, when you spend at least half your time on administrative duties, who does-did-the real work? Eh?”
“Absolutely.” His eyes closed again.
Seldon said, “Yet you always wanted to take over those administrative duties if you survived me.”
“No! I wanted to head the Project to keep it moving in the direction it had to move in, but I would have delegated all administration.”
Amaryl’s breathing was growing stertorous, but then he stirred and his eyes opened, staring directly at Hari. He said, “What will happen to psychohistory when I’m gone? Have you thought of that?”
“Yes, I have. And I want to speak to you about it. It may please you. Yugo, I believe that psychohistory is being revolutionized.”
Amaryl frowned slightly. “In what way? I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Listen. It was your idea. Years ago, you told me that two Foundations should be established. Separate-isolated and safe-and arranged so that they would serve as nuclei for an eventual Second Galactic Empire. Do you remember? That was your idea.”
“The psychohistoric equation -“
“I know. They suggested it. I’m busy working on it now, Yugo. I’ve managed to wangle an office in the Galactic Library-“
“The Galactic Library.” Amaryl’s frown deepened. “I don’t like them. A bunch of self-satisfied idiots.”
“The Chief Librarian, Las Zenow, is not so bad, Yugo.”
“Did you ever meet a Librarian named Mummery, Gennaro Mummery?”
“No, but I’ve heard of him.”
“A miserable human being. We had an argument once when he claimed I had misplaced something or other. I had done no such thing and I grew very annoyed, Hari. All of a sudden I was back in Dahl. One thing about the Dahlite culture, Hari, it is a cesspool of invective. I used some of it on him and I told him he was interfering with psychohistory and he would go down in history as a villain. I didn’t just say ‘villain,’ either.” Amaryl chuckled faintly. “I left him speechless.”
Suddenly Seldon could see where Mummery’s animosity toward outsiders and, most probably, psychohistory must come from-at least, in part-but he said nothing.
“The point is, Yugo, you wanted two Foundations, so that if one failed, the other would continue. But we’ve gone beyond that.”
“In what way?”
“Do you remember that Wanda was able to read your mind two years ago and see that something was wrong with a portion of the equations in the Prime Radiant?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Well, we will find others like Wanda. We will have one Foundation that will consist largely of physical scientists, who will preserve the knowledge of humanity and serve as the nucleus for the Second Empire. And there will be a Second Foundation of psychohistorians only-mentalists, mind-touching psychohistorians-who will be able to work on psychohistory in a multiminded way, advancing it far more quickly than individual thinkers ever could. They will serve as a group who will introduce fine adjustments as time goes on, you see. Ever in the background, watching. They will be the Empire’s guardians.”
“Wonderful!” said Amaryl weakly. “Wonderful! You see how I’ve chosen the right time to die? There’s nothing left for me to do.”
“Don’t say that, Yugo.”
“Don’t make such a fuss over it, Hari. I’m too tired to do anything. Thank you-thank you-for telling me”-his voice was weakening-“about the revolution. It makes me-happy-happy-hap-“
And those were Yugo Amaryl’s last words.
Seldon bent over the bed. Tears stung his eyes and rolled down his cheeks.
Another old friend gone. Demerzel, Cleon, Dors, now Yugo… leaving him emptier and lonelier as he grew old.
And the revolution that had allowed Amaryl to die happy might never come to pass. Could he manage to make use of the Galactic Library? Could he find more people like Wanda? Most of all, how long would it take?
Seldon was sixty-six. If only he could have started this revolution at thirty-two when he first came to Trantor…
Now it might be too late.
Gennaro Mummery was making him wait. It was a studied discourtesy, even insolence, but Hari Seldon remained calm.
After all, Seldon needed Mummery badly and for him to become angry with the Librarian would only hurt himself. Mummery would, in fact, be delighted with an angry Seldon.
So Seldon kept his temper and waited and eventually Mummery did walk in. Seldon had seen him before-but only at a distance. This was the first time they would be together alone.
Mummery was short and plump, with a round face and a dark little beard. He wore a smile on his face, but Seldon suspected that smile of being a meaningless fixture. It revealed yellowish teeth and Mummery’s inevitable hat was of a similar shade of yellow with a brown line snaking around it.
Seldon felt a touch of nausea. It seemed to him that he would dislike Mummery, even if he had no reason to do so.
Mummery said, without any preliminaries, “Well, Professor, what can I do for you?” He looked at the time-strip on the wall but made no apology for being late.
Seldon said, “I would like to ask you, sir, to put an end to your opposition to my remaining here at the Library.”
Mummery spread his hands. “You’ve been here for two years. What opposition are you speaking of?”
“So far, that portion of the Board represented by you and those who believe as you do have been unable to outvote the Chief Librarian, but there will be another meeting next month and Las Zenow tells me he is uncertain of the result.”
Mummery shrugged. “So am I uncertain. Your lease-if we can call it that-may well be renewed.”
“But I need more than that, Librarian Mummery. I wish to bring in some colleagues. The project in which I am engaged-the establishment of what is needed in the way of the eventual preparation of a very special Encyclopedia-is not one I can do alone.”
“Surely your colleagues can work wherever they please. Trantor is a large world.”
“We must work in the Library. I am an old man, sir, and I am in a hurry.”
“Who can stay the advance of time? I don’t think the Board will allow you to bring in colleagues. The thin edge of the wedge, Professor?”
(Yes, indeed, thought Seldon, but he said nothing.)
Mummery said, “I have not been able to keep you out, Professor. Not so far. But I think I can continue to keep out your colleagues.”
Seldon realized that he was getting nowhere. He opened the touch of frankness a notch. He said, “Librarian Mummery, surely your animosity toward me is not personal. Surely you understand the importance of the work I am doing.”
“You mean, your psychohistory. Come, you have been working on it for over thirty years. What has come of it?”
“That’s the point. Something may come of it now.”
“Then let something come of it at Streeling University. Why must it be at the Galactic Library?”
“Librarian Mummery. Listen to me. What you want is to close the Library to the public. You wish to smash a long tradition. Have you the heart to do that?”
“It’s not heart we need. It’s funding. Surely the Chief Librarian has wept on your shoulder in telling you our woes. Appropriations are down, salaries are cut, needed maintenance is absent. What are we to do? We’ve got to cut services and we certainly can’t afford to support you and your colleagues with offices and equipment.”
“Has this situation been put to the Emperor?”
“Come, Professor, you’re dreaming. Isn’t it true that your psychohistory tells you that the Empire is deteriorating? I’ve heard you referred to as Raven Seldon, something that, I believe, refers to a fabled bird of ill omen.”
“It’s true that we are entering bad times.”
“And do you believe the Library is immune to those bad times? Professor, the Library is my life and I want it to continue, but it won’t continue unless we can find ways of making our dwindling appropriations do. And you come here expecting an open Library, with yourself as beneficiary. It won’t do, Professor. It just won’t do.”
Seldon said desperately, “What if I find the credits for you?”
“What if I talk to the Emperor? I was once First Minister. He’ll see me and he’ll listen to me.”
“And you’ll get funding from him?” Mummery laughed.
“If I do, if I increase your appropriations, may I bring in my colleagues?”
“Bring in the credits first,” said Mummery, “and we’ll see. But I don’t think you will succeed.”
He seemed very sure of himself and Seldon wondered how often and how uselessly the Galactic Library had already appealed to the Emperor.
And whether his own appeal would get anywhere at all.
The Emperor Agis XIV had no real right to the name. He had adopted it upon succeeding to the throne with the deliberate purpose of connecting himself with the Agises who had ruled two thousand years ago, most of them quite ably-particularly Agis VI, who had ruled for forty-two years and who had kept order in a prosperous Empire with a firm but nontyrannical hand.
Agis XIV did not look like any of the old Agises-if the holographic records had any value. But, then again, truth be told, Agis XIV did not look much like the official holograph that was distributed to the public.
As a matter of fact, Hari Seldon thought, with a twinge of nostalgia, that Emperor Cleon, for all his flaws and weaknesses, had certainly looked Imperial.
Agis XIV did not. Seldon had never seen him at close quarters and the few holographs he had seen were outrageously inaccurate. The Imperial holographer knew his job and did it well, thought Seldon wryly.
Agis XIV was short, with an unattractive face and slightly bulging eyes that did not seem alight with intelligence. His only qualification for the throne was that he was a collateral relative of Cleon.
To do him credit, however, he did not try to play the role of the mighty Emperor. It was understood that he rather liked to be called the “Citizen Emperor” and that only Imperial protocol and the outraged outcry of the Imperial Guard prevented him from exiting the dome and wandering the walkways of Trantor. Apparently, the story went, he wished to shake hands with the citizens and hear their complaints in person.
(Score one for him, thought Seldon, even if it could never come to pass.)
With a murmur and a bow, Seldon said, “I thank you, Sire, for consenting to see me.”
Agis XIV had a clear and rather attractive voice, quite out of keeping with his appearance. He said, “An ex-First Minister must surely have his privileges, although I must give myself credit for amazing courage in agreeing to see you.”
There was humor in his words and Seldon found himself suddenly realizing that a man might not look intelligent and yet might be intelligent just the same.
“Why, of course. Don’t they call you Raven Seldon?”
“I heard the expression, Sire, the other day for the first time.”
“Apparently the reference is to your psychohistory, which seems to predict the Fall of the Empire.”
“It points out the possibility only, Sire-“
“So that you are coupled with a mythic bird of ill omen. Except that I think you yourself are the bird of ill omen.”
“I hope not, Sire.”
“Come, come. The record is clear. Eto Demerzel, Cleon’s old First Minister, was impressed with your work and look what happened-he was forced out of his position and into exile. The Emperor Cleon himself was impressed with your work and look what happened-he was assassinated. The military junta was impressed with your work and look what happened-they were swept away. Even the Joranumites, it is said, were impressed with your work and, behold, they were destroyed. And now, O Raven Seldon, you come to see me. What may I expect?”
“Why, nothing evil, Sire.”
“I imagine not, because unlike all these others I have mentioned, I am not impressed with your work. Now tell me why you are here.”
He listened carefully and without interruption while Seldon explained the importance of setting up a Project designed to prepare an encyclopedia that would preserve human learning if the worst happened.
“Yes yes,” said Agis XIV finally, “so you are, indeed, convinced the Empire will fall.”
“It is a strong possibility, Sire, and it would not be prudent to refuse to take that possibility into account. In a way, I wish to prevent it if I can-or ameliorate the effects if I can’t.”
“Raven Seldon if you continue to poke your nose into matters, I am convinced that the Empire will fall and that nothing can help it.”
“Not so, Sire. I ask only permission to work.”
“Oh, you have that, but I fail to see what it is you wish of me. Why have you told me all this about an encyclopedia?”
“Because I wish to work in the Galactic Library, Sire, or, more accurately, I wish others to work there with me.”
“I assure you that I won’t stand in your way.”
“That is not enough, Sire. I want you to help.”
“In what way, ex-First Minister?”
“With funding. The Library must have appropriations or it will close its doors to the public and evict me.”
“Credits!'” A note of astonishment came into the Emperor’s voice. “You came to me for credits?”
Agis XIV stood up in some agitation. Seldon stood up at once also, but Agis waved him down.
“Sit down. Don’t treat me as an Emperor. I’m not an Emperor. I didn’t want this job, but they made me take it. I was the nearest thing to the Imperial family and they jabbered at me that the Empire needed an Emperor. So they have me and a lot of good I am to them.
“Credits! You expect me to have credits! You talk about the Empire disintegrating. How do you suppose it disintegrates? Are you thinking of rebellion? Of civil war? Of disorders here and there?
“No. Think of credits. Do you realize that I cannot collect any taxes at all from half the provinces in the Empire? They’re still part of the Empire-‘Hail the Imperium!’-‘All honor to the Emperor’-but they don’t pay anything and I don’t have the necessary force to collect it. And if I can’t get the credits out of them, they are not really part of the Empire, are they?
“Credits! The Empire runs a chronic deficit of appalling proportions. There’s nothing I can pay for. Do you think there is enough funding to maintain the Imperial Palace grounds? Just barely. I must cut corners. I must let the Palace decay. I must let the number of retainers die down by attrition.
“Professor Seldon. If you want credits, I have nothing. Where will I find appropriations for the Library? They should be grateful I manage to squeeze out something for them each year at all.” As he finished, the Emperor held out his hands, palms up, as if to signify the emptiness of the Imperial coffers.
Hari Seldon was stunned. He said, “Nevertheless, Sire, even if you lack the credits, you still have the Imperial prestige. Can you not order the Library to allow me to keep my office and let my colleagues in to help me with our vital work?”
And now Agis XIV sat down again as though, once the subject was not credits, he was no longer in a state of agitation.
He said, “You realize that, by long tradition, the Galactic Library is independent of the Imperium, as far as its self-government is concerned. It sets up its rules and has done so since Agis VI, my namesake”-he smiled-“attempted to control the news functions of the Library. He failed and, if the great Agis VI failed, do you think I can succeed?”
“I’m not asking you to use force, Sire. Merely expressing a polite wish. Surely, when no vital function of the Library is involved, they will be pleased to honor the Emperor and oblige his wishes.”
“Professor Seldon, how little you know of the Library. I have but to express a wish, however gently and tentatively, to make it certain that they will proceed, in dudgeon, to do the opposite. They are very sensitive to the slightest sign of Imperial control.”
Seldon said, “Then what do I do?”
“Why, I’ll tell you what. A thought occurs to me. I am a member of the public and I can visit the Galactic Library if I wish. It is located on the Palace grounds, so I won’t be violating protocol if I visit it. Well, you come with me and we shall be ostentatiously friendly. I will not ask them for anything, but if they note us walking arm-in-arm, then perhaps some of the precious Board of theirs may feel more kindly toward you than otherwise. But that’s all I can do.”
And the deeply disappointed Seldon wondered if that could possibly be enough.