Forward the Foundation Chapter 25
Las Zenow said with a certain trace of awe in his voice, “I didn’t know you were so friendly with the Emperor, Professor Seldon.”
“Why not? He’s a very democratic fellow for an Emperor and he was interested in my experiences as a First Minister in Cleon’s time.”
“It made a deep impression on us all. We haven’t had an Emperor in our halls for many years. Generally, when the Emperor needs something from the Library-“
“I can imagine. He calls for it and it is brought to him as a matter of courtesy.”
“There was once a suggestion,” said Zenow chattily, “that the Emperor be outfitted with a complete set of computerized equipment in his palace, hooked directly into the Library system, so that he would not need to wait for service. This was in the old days when credits were plentiful, but, you know, it was voted down.”
“Oh yes, almost the entire Board agreed that it would make the Emperor too much a part of the Library and that this would threaten our independence from the government.”
“And does this Board, which will not bend to honor an Emperor, consent to let me remain at the Library?”
“At the present moment, yes. There is a feeling-and I’ve done my best to encourage it-that if we are not polite to a personal friend of the Emperor, the chance of a rise in appropriations will be gone altogether, so-“
“So credits-or even the dim prospect of credits-talk.”
“I’m afraid so.”
“And can I bring in my colleagues?”
Zenow looked embarrassed. “I’m afraid not. The Emperor was seen walking only with you-not with your colleagues. I’m sorry, Professor.”
Seldon shrugged and a mood of deep melancholy swept over him. He had no colleague to bring in, anyhow. For some time he had hoped to locate others like Wanda and he had failed. He, too, would need funding to mount an adequate search. And he, too, had nothing.
Trantor, the capital world-city of the Galactic Empire, had changed considerably since the day Hari first stepped off the hypership from his native Helicon thirty-eight years ago. Was it the pearly haze of an old man’s memory that made the Trantor of old shine so brightly in his mind’s eye, Hari wondered. Or perhaps it had been the exuberance of youth-how could a young man from a provincial Outer World such as Helicon not be impressed by the gleaming towers, sparkling domes, the colorful, rushing masses of people that had seemed to swirl through Trantor, day and night.
Now, Hari thought sadly, the walkways are nearly deserted, even in the full light of day. Roving gangs of thugs controlled various areas of the city, competing among themselves for territory. The security establishment had dwindled; those who were left had their hands full processing complaints at the central office. Of course, security officers were dispatched as emergency calls came through, but they made it to the scene only after a crime was committed-they no longer made even a pretense of protecting the citizens of Trantor. A person went out at his own risk-and a great risk it was. And yet Hari Seldon still took that risk, in the form of a daily walk, as if defying the forces that were destroying his beloved Empire to destroy him as well.
And so Hari Seldon walked along, limping-and thoughtful.
Nothing worked. Nothing. He had been unable to isolate the genetic pattern that set Wanda apart-and without that, he was unable to locate others like her.
Wanda’s ability to read minds had sharpened considerably in the six years since she had identified the flaw in Yugo Amaryl’s Prime Radiant. Wanda was special in more ways than one. It was as if, once she realized that her mental ability set her apart from other people, she was determined to understand it, to harness its energy, to direct it. As she had progressed through her teen years, she had matured, throwing off the girlish giggles that had so endeared her to Hari, at the same time becoming even dearer to him in her determination to help him in his work with the powers of her “gift.” For Hari Seldon had told Wanda about his plan for a Second Foundation and she had committed herself to realizing that goal with him.
Today, though, Seldon was in a dark mood. He was coming to the conclusion that Wanda’s mentalic ability would get him nowhere. He had no credits to continue his work-no credits to locate others like Wanda, no credits to pay his workers on the Psychohistory Project at Streeling, no credits to set up his all-important Encyclopedia Project at the Galactic Library.
He continued to walk toward the Galactic Library. He would have been better off taking a gravicab, but he wanted to walk-limp or not. He needed time to think.
He heard a cry-“There he is!”-but paid no attention.
It came again. “There he is! Psychohistory!”
The word forced him to look up. Psychohistory.
A group of young men was closing in around him.
Automatically Seldon placed his back against the wall and raised his cane. “What is it you want?”
They laughed. “Credits, old man. Do you have any credits?”
“Maybe, but why do you want them from me? You said, ‘Psychohistory!’ Do you know who I am?”
“Sure, you’re Raven Seldon” said the young man in the lead. He seemed both comfortable and pleased.
“You’re a creep,” shouted another.
“What are you going to do if I don’t give you any credits?”
“We’ll beat you up,” said the leader, “and we’ll take them.”
“And if I give you my credits?”
“We’ll beat you up anyway!” They all laughed.
Hari Seldon raised his cane higher. “Stay away. All of you.”
By now he had managed to count them. There were eight.
He felt himself choking slightly. Once he and Dors and Raych had been attacked by ten and they had had no trouble. He had been only thirty-two at the time and Dors-was Dors.
Now it was different. He waved his cane.
The leader of the hoodlums said, “Hey, the old man is going to attack us. What are we going to do?”
Seldon looked around swiftly. There were no security officers around. Another indication of the deterioration of society. An occasional person or two passed by, but there was no use calling for help. Their footsteps increased in speed and made a wide detour. No one was going to run any risks of getting involved in an imbroglio.
Seldon said, “The first one of you who approaches gets a cracked head.”
“Yeah?” And the leader stepped forward rapidly and seized the cane. There was a short sharp struggle and the cane was wrested from Seldon’s grip. The leader tossed it to one side.
“Now what, old man?”
Seldon shrunk back. He could only wait for the blows. They crowded around him, each eager to land a blow or two. Seldon lifted his arms to try to ward them off. He could still Twist-after a fashion. If he were facing only one or two, he might be able to Twist his body, avoid their blows, strike back. But not against eight-surely not against eight.
He tried, at any rate, moving quickly to one side to avoid the blows and his right leg, with its sciatica, doubled under him. He fell and knew himself to be utterly helpless.
Then he heard a stentorian voice shouting, “What’s going on here? Get back, you thugs! Back or I’ll kill you all!”
The leader said, “Well, another old man.”
“Not that old,” said the newcomer. With the back of one hand, he struck the leader’s face, turning it an ugly red.
Seldon said in surprise, “Raych, it’s you.”
Raych’s hand swept back. “Stay out of this, Dad. Just get up and move away.”
The leader, rubbing his cheek, said, “We’ll get you for that.”
“No, you won’t,” said Raych, drawing out a knife of Dahlite manufacture, long and gleaming. A second knife was withdrawn and he now held one in each hand.
Seldon said weakly, “Still carrying knives, Raych?”
“Always,” said Raych. “Nothing will ever make me stop.”
“I’ll stop you,” said the leader, drawing out a blaster.
Faster than the eye could follow, one of Raych’s knives went sailing through the air and struck the leader’s throat. He made a loud gasp, then a gurgling sound, and fell, while the other seven stared.
Raych approached and said, “I want my knife back.” He drew it out of the hoodlum’s throat and wiped it on the man’s shirtfront. In doing so, he stepped on the man’s hand, bent down, and picked up his blaster.
Raych dropped the blaster into one of his capacious pockets. He said, “I don’t like to use a blaster, you bunch of good-for-nothings, because sometimes I miss. I never miss with a knife, however. Never! That man is dead. There are seven of you standing. Do you intend to stay standing or will you leave?”
“Get him!” shouted one of the hoodlums and the seven made a concerted rush.
Raych took a backward step. One knife flashed and then the other and two of the hoodlums stopped with, in each case, a knife buried in his abdomen.
“Give me back my knives,” said Raych, pulling each out with a cutting motion and wiping them.
“These two are still alive, but not for long. That leaves five of you on your feet. Are you going to attack again or are you going to leave?”
They turned and Raych called out, “Pick up your dead and dying. I don’t want them.”
Hastily they flung the three bodies over their shoulders, then they turned tail and ran.
Raych bent to pick up Seldon’s cane. “Can you walk, Dad?”
“Not very well,” said Seldon. “I twisted my leg.”
“Well then, get into my car. What were you doing walking, anyway?”
“Why not? Nothing’s ever happened to me.”
“So you waited till something did. Get into my car and I’ll give you a lift back to Streeling.”
He programmed the ground-car quietly, then said, “What a shame we didn’t have Dors with us. Mom would have attacked them with her bare lands and left all eight dead in five minutes.”
Seldon felt tears stinging his eyelids. “I know, Raych, I know. Do you think I don’t miss her every day?”
“I’m sorry,” said Raych in a low voice.
Seldon asked, “How did you know I was in trouble?”
“Wanda told me. She said there were evil people lying in wait for you, she told me where they were and I took right off.”
“Didn’t you doubt that she knew what she was talking about?”
“Not at all. We know enough about her now to know that she has some sort of contact with your mind and with the things around you.”
“Did she tell you how many people were attacking me?”
“No. She just said, ‘Quite a few.'”
“So you came out all by yourself, did you, Raych?”
“I had no time to put together a posse, Dad. Besides, one of me was enough.”
“Yes, it was. Thank you, Raych.”
They were back at Streeling now and Seldon’s leg was stretched out on a hassock.
Raych looked at him somberly. “Dad,” he began, “you’re not to go walking around Trantor on your own from now on.”
Seldon frowned. “Why, because of one incident?”
“It was enough of an incident. You can’t take care of yourself any longer. You’re seventy years old and your right leg will not support you in an emergency. And you have enemies-“
“Yes, indeed. And you know it. Those sewer rats were not after simply anyone. They were not looking for just any unwary person to rip off. They identified you by calling out, ‘Psychohistory!’ And they called you a creep. Why do you suppose that was?”
“I don’t know why.”
“That’s because you live in a world all your own, Dad, and you don’t know what’s going on on Trantor. Don’t you suppose the Trantorians know that their world is going downhill at a rapid rate? Don’t you suppose they know that your psychohistory has been predicting this for years? Doesn’t it occur to you that they may blame the messenger for the message? If things go bad-and they are going bad-there are many who think that you are responsible for it.”
“I can’t believe that.”
“Why do you suppose there’s a faction at the Galactic Library that wants you out of there? They don’t want to be in the way when you are mobbed. So-you’ve got to take care of yourself. You can’t go out alone. I’ll have to be with you or you will have to have bodyguards. That’s the way it’s going to be, Dad.”
Seldon looked dreadfully unhappy.
Raych softened and said, “But not for long, Dad. I’ve got a new job.’
Seldon looked up. “A new job. What kind?”
“Teaching. At a University.”
Seldon’s lips trembled. “Santanni! That’s nine thousand parsecs away from Trantor. It’s a provincial world on the other side of the Galaxy.”
“Exactly. That’s why I want to go there. I’ve been on Trantor all my life, Dad, and I’m tired of it. There’s no world in all the Empire that’s deteriorating the way Trantor is. It’s become a haunt of crime with no one to protect us. The economy is limping, the technology is failing. Santanni, on the other hand, is a decent world, still humming along, and I want to be there to build a new life, along with Manella and Wanda and Bellis. We’re all going there in two months.”
“All of you!”
“And you, Dad. And you. We wouldn’t leave you behind on Trantor. You’re coming with us to Santanni.”
Seldon shook his head. “Impossible, Raych. You know that.”
“You know why. The Project. My psychohistory. Are you asking me to abandon my life’s work?”
“Why not? It’s abandoned you.”
“No, I’m not. Where are you going with it? You have no credits. You can’t get any. There’s no one left on Trantor who’s willing to support you.”
“For nearly forty year-“
“Yes, I admit that. But after all that time, you’ve failed Dad. There’s no crime in failing. You’ve tried so hard and you’ve gone so far, but you’ve run into a deteriorating economy, a falling Empire. It’s the very thing you’ve been predicting for so long that’s stopping you at last. So-“
“No. I will not stop. Somehow or other, I will keep going.”
“I tell you what, Dad. If you’re really going to be so stubborn, then take psychohistory with you. Start it again on Santanni. There may be enough credits-and enthusiasm-to support it there.”
“And the men and women who have been working for me so faithfully?”
“Oh bull, Dad. They’ve been leaving you because you can’t pay them. You hang around here for the rest of your life and you’ll be alone. Oh, come on, Dad. Do you think I like to talk to you this way? It’s because no one has wanted to-because no one has had the heart to-that you’re in your present predicament. Let’s be honest with each other now. When you walk the streets of Trantor and you’re attacked for no reason other than that you’re Hari Seldon, don’t you think it’s time for a little bit of truth?”
“Never mind the truth. I have no intention of leaving Trantor.”
Raych shook his head. “I was sure you’d be stubborn, Dad. You’ve got two months to change your mind. Think about it, will you?”
It had been a long time since Hari Seldon had smiled. He had conducted the Project in the same fashion that he always did: pushing always forward in the development of psychohistory, making plans for the Foundation, studying the Prime Radiant.
But he did not smile. All he did was to force himself through his work without any feeling of impending success. Rather, there was a feeling of impending failure about everything.
And now, as he sat in his office at Streeling University, Wanda entered. He looked up at her and his heart lifted. Wanda had always been special. Seldon couldn’t put his finger on just when he and the others had started accepting her pronouncements with more than the usual enthusiasm; it just seemed always to have been that way. As a little girl, she had saved his life with her uncanny knowledge of “lemonade death” and all through her childhood she had somehow just known things.
Although Dr. Endelecki had asserted that Wanda’s genome was perfectly normal in every way, Seldon was still positive that his granddaughter possessed mental abilities far beyond those of average humans. And he was just as sure that there were others like her in the Galaxy-on Trantor, even. If only he could find them, these mentalics, what a great contribution they could make to the Foundation. The potential for such greatness all centered in his beautiful granddaughter. Seldon gazed at her, framed in his office doorway, and he felt as if his heart would break. In a few days, she would be gone.
How could he bear it? She was such a beautiful girl-eighteen. Long blond hair, face a little broad but with a tendency to smile. She was even smiling now and Seldon thought, Why not? She’s heading for Santanni and for a new life.
He said, “Well, Wanda, just a few more days.”
“No. I don’t think so, Grandpa.”
He stared at her. “What?”
Wanda approached him and put her arms around him. “I’m not going to Santanni.”
“Have your father and mother changed their minds?”
“No, they’re going.”
“And you’re not? Why? Where are you going?”
“I’m going to stay here, Grandpa. With you.” She hugged him. “Poor Grandpa!”
“But I don’t understand. Why? Are they allowing this?”
“You mean Mom and Dad. Not really. We’ve been arguing over this for weeks, but I’ve won out. Why not, Grandpa? They’ll go to Santanni and they’ll have each other-and they’ll have little Bellis, too. But if I go with them and leave you here, you’ll have no one. I don’t think I could stand that.”
“But how did you get them to agree?”
“Well, you know-I pushed.”
“What does that mean?”
“It’s my mind. I can see what you have in yours and in theirs and, as time goes on, I can see more clearly. And I can push them to do what I want.”
“How do you do that?”
“I don’t know. But after a while, they get tired of being pushed and they’re willing to let me have my way. So I’m going to stay with you.”
Seldon looked up at her with helpless love. “This is wonderful, Wanda. But Bellis-“
“Don’t worry about Bellis. She doesn’t have a mind like mine.”
“Are you certain?” Seldon chewed at his lower lip.
“Quite certain. Besides, Mom and Dad have to have someone, too.”
Seldon wanted to rejoice, but he couldn’t do so openly. There were Raych and Manella. What of them?
He said, “Wanda, what about your parents? Can you be so cold-blooded about them?”
“I’m not cold-blooded. They understand. They realize I must be with you.”
“How did you manage that?”
“I pushed,” said Wanda simply, “and eventually they came to see it my way.
“You can do that?”
“It wasn’t easy.”
“And you did it because-” Seldon paused.
Wanda said, “Because I love you. Of course. And because-“
“I must learn psychohistory. I know quite a bit of it already.”
“From your mind. From the minds of others at the Project, especially from Uncle Yugo before he died. But it’s in rags and tatters, so far. I want the real thing. Grandpa, I want a Prime Radiant of my own.” Her face lit up and her words came quickly, with passion. “I want to study psychohistory in great detail. Grandpa, you’re quite old and quite tired. I’m young and eager. I want to learn all I can, so I can carry on when-“
Seldon said, “Well, that would be wonderful-if you could do it-but there is no funding anymore. I’ll teach you all I can, but-we can’t do anything.”
“We’ll see, Grandpa. We’ll see.”