Forward the Foundation Chapter 5

Forward the Foundation Chapter 5

12

For days thereafter Hari Seldon neglected his departmental duties to use his computer in its news-gathering mode.

There were not many computers capable of handling the daily news from twenty-five million worlds. There were a number of them at Imperial headquarters, where they were absolutely necessary. Some of the larger Outer World capitals had them as well, though most were satisfied with hyperconnection to the Central Newspost on Trantor.

A computer at an important Mathematics Department could, if it were sufficiently advanced, be modified as an independent news source and Seldon had been careful to do that with his computer. It was, after all, necessary for his work on psychohistory, though the computer’s capabilities were carefully ascribed to other, exceedingly plausible reasons.

Ideally the computer would report anything that was out of the ordinary on any world of the Empire. A coded and unobtrusive warning light would make itself evident and Seldon could track it down easily. Such a light rarely showed, for the definition of “out of the ordinary” was tight and intense and dealt with large-scale and rare upheavals.

What one did in its absence was to ring in various worlds at random-not all twenty-five million, of course, but some dozens. It was a depressing and even debilitating task, for there were no worlds that didn’t have their daily relatively minor catastrophes. A volcanic eruption here, a flood there, an economic collapse of one sort or another yonder, and, of course, riots. There had not been a day in the last thousand years that there had not been riots over something or other on each of a hundred or more different worlds.

Naturally such things had to be discounted. One could scarcely worry about riots any more than one could about volcanic eruptions when both were constants on inhabited worlds. Rather, if a day should come in which not one riot was reported anywhere, that might be a sign of something so unusual as to warrant the gravest concern.

Concern was what Seldon could not make himself feel. The Outer Worlds, with all their disorders and misfortunes, were like a great ocean on a peaceful day, with a gentle swell and minor heavings-but no more. He found no evidence of any overall situation that clearly showed a decline in the last eight years or even in the last eighty. Yet Demerzel (in Demerzel’s absence, Seldon could no longer think of him as Daneel) said the decline was continuing and he had his finger on the Empire’s pulse from day to day in ways that Seldon could not duplicate-until such time as he would have the guiding power of psychohistory at his disposal.

It could be that the decline was so small that it was unnoticeable till some crucial point was reached-like a domicile that slowly wears out and deteriorates, showing no signs of that deterioration until one night when the roof collapses.

When would the roof collapse? That was the problem and Seldon had no answer.

And on occasion, Seldon would check on Trantor itself. There, the news was always considerably more substantial. For one thing, Trantor was the most highly populated of all the worlds, with its forty billion people. For another, its eight hundred sectors formed a mini-Empire all its own. For a third, there were the tedious rounds of governmental functions and the doings of the Imperial family to follow.

What struck Seldon’s eyes, however, was in the Dahl Sector. The elections for the Dahl Sector Council had placed five Joranumites into office. This was the first time, according to the commentary, that Joranumites had achieved sector office.

It was not surprising. Dahl was a Joranumite stronghold if any sector was, but Seldon found it a disturbing indication of the progress being made by the demagogue. He ordered a microchip of the item and took it home with him that evening.

Raych looked up from his computer as Seldon entered and apparently felt the need to explain himself. “I’m helping Mom on some reference material she needs,” he said.

“What about your own work?”

“Done, Dad. All done.”

“Good. Look at this.” He showed Raych the chip in his hand before slipping it into the microprojector.

Raych glanced at the news item hanging in the air before his eyes and said, “Yes, I know.”

“You do?”

“Sure. I usually keep track of Dahl. You know, home sector and all.”

“And what do you think about it?”

“I’m not surprised. Are you? The rest of Trantor treats Dahl like dirt. Why shouldn’t they go for Joranum’s views?”

“Do you go for them also?”

“Well-” Raych twisted his face thoughtfully. “I got to admit some things he says appeal to me. He says he wants equality for all people. What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing at all-if he means it. If he’s sincere. If he isn’t just using it as a ploy to get votes.”

“True enough, Dad, but most Dahlites probably figure: What’s there to lose? We don’t have equality now, though the laws say we do.”

“It’s a hard thing to legislate.”

“That’s not something to cool you off when you’re sweating to death.”

Seldon was thinking rapidly. He had been thinking since he had come across this item. He said, “Raych, you haven’t been in Dahl since your mother and I took you out of the sector, have you?”

“Sure I was, when I went with you to Dahl five years ago on your visit there.”

“Yes yes”-Seldon waved a hand in dismissal-“but that doesn’t count. We stayed at an intersector hotel, which was not Dahlite in the least, and, as I recall, Dors never once let you out on the streets alone. After all, you were only fifteen. How would you like to visit Dahl now, alone, in charge of yourself-now that you’re fully twenty?”

Raych chuckled. “Mom would never allow that.”

“I don’t say that I enjoy the prospect of facing her with it, but I don’t intend to ask her permission. The question is: Would you be willing to do this for me?”

“Out of curiosity? Sure. I’d like to see what’s happened to the old place.”

“Can you spare the time from your studies?”

“Sure. I’ll never miss a week or so. Besides, you can tape the lectures and I’ll catch up when I get back. I can get permission. After all, my old man’s on the faculty-unless you’ve been fired, Dad.”

“Not yet. But I’m not thinking of this as a fun vacation.”

“I’d be surprised if you did. I don’t think you know what a fun vacation is, Dad. I’m surprised you know the phrase.”

“Don’t be impertinent. When you go there, I want you to meet with Laskin Joranum.”

Raych looked startled. “How do I do that? I don’t know where he’s gonna be.”

“He’s going to be in Dahl. He’s been asked to speak to the Dahl Sector Council with its new Joranumite members. We’ll find out the exact day and you can go a few days earlier.”

“And how do I get to see him, Dad? I don’t figure he keeps open house.”

“I don’t, either, but I’ll leave that up to you. You would have known how to do it when you were twelve. I hope your keen edge hasn’t blunted too badly in the intervening years.”

Raych smiled. “I hope not. But suppose I do see him. What then?”

“Well, find out what you can. What’s he’s really planning. What he’s really thinking.”

“Do you really think he’s gonna tell me?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. You have the trick of inspiring confidence, you miserable youngster. Let’s talk about it.”

And so they did. Several times.

Seldon’s thoughts were painful. He was not sure where all this was leading to, but he dared not consult Yugo Amaryl or Demerzel or (most of all) Dors. They might stop him. They might prove to him that his idea was a poor one and he didn’t want that proof. What he planned seemed the only gateway to salvation and he didn’t want it blocked.

But did the gateway exist at all? Raych was the only one, it seemed to Seldon, who could possibly manage to worm himself into Joranum’s confidence, but was Raych the proper tool for the purpose? He was a Dahlite and sympathetic to Joranum. How far could Seldon trust him?

Horrible? Raych was his son-and Seldon had never had occasion to mistrust Raych before.

13

If Seldon doubted the efficacy of his notion, if he feared that it might explode matters prematurely or move them desperately in the wrong direction, if he was filled with an agonizing doubt as to whether Raych could be entirely trusted to fulfill his part suitably, he nevertheless had no doubt-no doubt whatever-as to what Dors’s reaction would be when presented with the fait accompli.

And he was not disappointed-if that was quite the word to express his emotion.

Yet, in a manner, he was disappointed, for Dors did not raise her voice in horror as he had somehow thought she would, as he had prepared himself to withstand.

But how was he to know? She was not as other women were and he had never seen her truly angry. Perhaps it was not in her to be truly angry-or what he would consider to be truly angry.

She was merely cold-eyed and spoke with low-voiced bitter disapproval. “You sent him to Dahl? Alone?” Very softly. Questioningly.

For a moment Seldon quailed at the quiet voice. Then he said firmly, “I had to. It was necessary.”

“Let me understand. You sent him to that den of thieves, that haunt of assassins, that conglomeration of all that is criminal?”

“Dors! You anger me when you speak like that. I would expect only a bigot to use those stereotypes.”

“You deny that Dahl is as I have described?”

“Of course. There are criminals and slums in Dahl. I know that very well. We both know that. But not all of Dahl is like that. And there are criminals and slums in every sector, even in the Imperial Sector and in Streeling.”

“There are degrees, are there not? One is not ten. If all the worlds are crime-ridden, if all the sectors are crime-ridden, Dahl is among the worst, is it not? You have the computer. Check the statistics.”

“I don’t have to. Dahl is the poorest sector on Trantor and there is a positive correlation between poverty, misery, and crime. I grant you that.”

“You grant me that! And you sent him alone? You might have gone with him, or asked me to go with him, or sent half a dozen of his schoolmates with him. They would have welcomed a respite from their work, I’m sure.”

“What I need him for requires that he be alone.”

“And what do you need him for?”

But Seldon was stubbornly silent about that.

Dors said, “Has it come to this? You don’t trust me?”

“It’s a gamble. I alone dare take the risk. I can’t involve you or anyone else.”

“But it’s not you taking the risk. It’s poor Raych.”

“He’s not taking any risk,” said Seldon impatiently. “He’s twenty years old, young and vigorous and as sturdy as a tree-and I don’t mean the saplings we have here under glass on Trantor. I’m talking about a good solid tree in the Heliconian forests. And he’s a twister, which the Dahlites aren’t.”

“You and your twisting,” said Dors, her coldness not thawing one whit. “You think that’s the answer to everything. The Dahlites carry knives. Every one of them. Blasters, too, I’m sure.”

“I don’t know about blasters. The laws are pretty strict when it comes to blasters. As for knives, I’m positive Raych carries one. He even carries a knife on campus here, where it’s strictly against the law. Do you think he won’t have one in Dahl?”

Dors remained silent.

Seldon was also silent for a few minutes, then decided it might be time to placate her. He said, “Look, I’ll tell you this much. I’m hoping he’ll see Joranum, who will be visiting Dahl.”

“Oh? And what do you expect Raych to do? Fill him with bitter regrets over his wicked politics and send him back to Mycogen?”

“Come. Really. If you’re going to take this sardonic attitude, there’s no use discussing it.” He looked away from her, out the window at the blue-gray sky under the dome. “What I expect him to do”-and his voice faltered for a moment “is save the Empire.”

“To be sure. That would be much easier.”

Seldon’s voice firmed. “It’s what I expect. You have no solution. Demerzel himself has no solution. He as much as said that the solution rests with me. That’s what I’m striving for and that’s what I need Raych for in Dahl. After all, you know that ability of his to inspire affection. It worked with us and I’m convinced it will work with Joranum. If I am right, all may be well.”

Dors’s eyes widened a trifle. “Are you now going to tell me that you are being guided by psychohistory?”

“No. I’m not going to lie to you. I have not reached the point where I can be guided in any way by psychohistory, but Yugo is constantly talking about intuition-and I have mine.”

“Intuition! What’s that? Define it!”

“Easily. Intuition is the art, peculiar to the human mind, of working out the correct answer from data that is, in itself, incomplete or even, perhaps, misleading.”

“And you’ve done it.”

And Seldon said with firm conviction, “Yes, I have.”

But to himself, he thought what he dared not share with Dors. What if Raych’s charm were gone? Or, worse, what if the consciousness of being a Dahlite became too strong for him?

14

Billibotton was Billibotton-dirty, sprawling, dark, sinuous Billibotton-exuding decay and yet full of a vitality that Raych was convinced was to be found nowhere else on Trantor. Perhaps it was to be found nowhere else in the Empire, though Raych knew nothing, firsthand, of any world but Trantor.

He had last seen Billibotton when he was not much more than twelve, but even the people seemed to be the same; still a mixture of the hangdog and the irreverent; filled with a synthetic pride and a grumbling resentment; the men marked by their dark rich mustaches and the women by their sacklike dresses that now looked tremendously slatternly to Raych’s older and more worldly wise eyes.

How could women with dresses like that attract men? But it was a foolish question. Even when he was twelve, he had had a pretty clear idea of how easily and quickly they could be removed.

So he stood there, lost in thought and memory, passing along a street of store windows and trying to convince himself that he remembered this particular place or that and wondering if, among them all, there were people he did remember who were now eight years older. Those, perhaps, who had been his boyhood friends-and he thought uneasily of the fact that, while he remembered some of the nicknames they had pinned on each other, he could not remember any real names.

In fact, the gaps in his memory were enormous. It was not that eight years was such a long time, but it was two fifths of the lifetime of a twenty-year-old and his life since leaving Billibotton had been so different that all before it had faded like a misty dream.

But the smells were there. He stopped outside a bakery, low and dingy, and smelled the coconut icing that reeked through the air-that he had never quite smelled elsewhere. Even when he had stopped to buy tarts with coconut icing, even when they were advertised as “Dahl-style,” they had been faint imitations-no more.

He felt strongly tempted. Well, why not? He had the credits and Dors was not there to wrinkle her nose and wonder aloud how clean-or, more likely, not clean-the place might be. Who worried about clean in the old days?

The shop was dim and it took a while for Raych’s eyes to acclimate. There were a few low tables in the place, with a couple of rather insubstantial chairs at each, undoubtedly where people might have a light repast, the equivalent of moka and tarts. A young man sat at one of the tables, an empty cup before him, wearing a once-white T-shirt that probably would have looked even dirtier in a better light.

The baker or, in any case, a server stepped out from a room in the rear and said in a rather surly fashion, “What’ll ya have?”

“A coke-icer,” said Raych in just as surly a fashion (he would not be a Billibottoner if he displayed courtesy), using the slang term he remembered well from the old days.

The term was still current, for the server handed him the correct item, using his bare fingers. The boy, Raych, would have taken that for granted, but now the man, Raych, felt taken slightly aback.

“You want a bag?”

“No,” said Raych, “I’ll eat it here.” He paid the server and took the coke-icer from the other’s hand and bit into its richness, his eyes half closing as he did so. It had been a rare treat in his boyhood-sometimes when he had scrounged the necessary credit to buy one with, sometimes when he had received a bite from a temporarily wealthy friend, most often when he had lifted one when nobody was watching. Now he could buy as many as he wished.

“Hey,” said a voice.

Raych opened his eyes. It was the man at the table, scowling at him.

Raych said gently, “Are you speaking to me, bub?”

“Yeah. What’chuh Join’?”

“Eatin’ a coke-icer. What’s it to ya?” Automatically he had assumed the Billibotton way of talking. It was no strain at all.

“What’chuh doin’ in Billibotton?”

“Born here. Raised here. In a bed. Not in a street, like you.” The insult came easily, as though he had never left home.

“That so? You dress pretty good for a Billibottoner. Pretty fancy-dancy. Got a perfume stink about ya.” And he held up a little finger to imply effeminacy.

“I won’t talk about your stink. I went up in the world.”

“Up in the world? La-dee-da. ” Two other men stepped into the bakery. Raych frowned slightly, for he wasn’t sure whether they had been summoned or not. The man at the table said to the newcomers, “This guy’s gone up in the world. Says he’s a Billibottoner.”

One of the two newcomers shambled a mock salute and grinned with no appearance of amiability. His teeth were discolored. “Ain’t that nice? It’s always good to see a Billibottoner go up in the world. Gives ’em a chance to help their poor unfor’chnit sector people. Like, credits. You can always spare a credit or two for the poor, hey?”

“How many you got, mister?” said the other, the grin disappearing.

“Hey,” said the man behind the counter. “All you guys get out of my store. I don’t want no trouble in here.”

“There’ll be no trouble,” said Raych. “I’m leaving.”

He made to go, but the seated man put a leg in his way. “Don’t go, pal. We’d miss yer company.”

(The man behind the counter, clearly fearing the worst, disappeared into the rear.)

Raych smiled. He said, “One time when I was in Billibotton, guys, I was with my old man and old lady and there were ten guys who stopped us. Ten. I counted them. We had to take care of them.”

“Yeah?” said the one who had been speaking. “Yer old man took care of ten?”

“My old man? Nah. He wouldn’t waste his time. My old lady did. And I can do it better than she can. And there are only three of you. So, if you don’t mind, out of the way.”

“Sure. Just leave all your credits. Some of your clothes, too.”

The man at the table rose to his feet. There was a knife in his hand.

“There you are,” said Raych. “Now you’re going to waste my time.” He had finished his coke-icer and he half-turned. Then, as quickly as thought, he anchored himself to the table, while his right leg shot out and the point of his toe landed unerringly in the groin of the man with the knife.

Down he went with a loud cry. Up went the table, driving the second man toward the wall and keeping him there, while Raych’s right arm flashed out, with the edge of the palm striking hard against the larynx of the third, who coughed and went down.

It had taken two seconds and Raych now stood there with a knife in each hand and said, “Now which one of you wants to move?”

They glared at him but remained frozen in place and Raych said, “In that case, I will now leave.”

But the server, who had retreated to the back room, must have summoned help, for three more men had now entered the store, while the server screeched, “Troublemakers! Nothing but troublemakers!”

The newcomers were dressed alike in what was obviously a uniform-but one that Raych had never seen. Trousers were tucked into boots, loose green T-shirts were belted, and odd semispherical hats that looked vaguely comic were perched on top of their heads. On the front of the left shoulder of each T-shirt were the letters Jo.**

They had the Dahlite look about them but not quite the Dahlite mustache. The mustaches were black and thick, but they were carefully trimmed at lip level and were kept from luxuriating too widely. Raych allowed himself an internal sneer. They lacked the vigor of his own wild mustache, but he had to admit they looked neat and clean.

The leader of these three men said, “I’m Corporal Quinber. What’s been going on here?”

The defeated Billibottoners were scrambling to their feet, clearly the worse for wear. One was still doubled over, one was rubbing his throat, and the third acted as though one of his shoulders had been wrenched.

The corporal stared at them with a philosophic eye, while his two men blocked the door. He turned to Raych-the one man who seemed untouched. “Are you a Billibottoner, boy?”

“Born and bred, but I’ve lived elsewhere for eight years.” He let the Billibotton accent recede, but it was still there, at least to the extent that it existed in the corporal’s speech as well. There were other parts of Dahl aside from Billibotton and some parts with considerable aspirations to gentility.

Raych said, “Are you security officers? I don’t seem to recall the uniform you’re-“

“We’re not security officers. You won’t find security officers in Billibotton much. We’re the Joranum Guard and we keep the peace here. We know these three and they’ve been warned. We’ll take care of them. You’re our problem, buster. Name. Reference number.”

Raych told them.

“And what happened here?”

Raych told them.

“And your business here?”

Raych said, “Look here. Do you have the right to question me? If you’re not security officers-“

“Listen,” said the corporal in a hard voice, “don’t you question rights. We’re all there is in Billibotton and we have the right because we take the right. You say you beat up these three men and I believe you. But you won’t beat us up. We’re not allowed to carry blasters-” And with that, the corporal slowly pulled out a blaster.

“Now tell me your business here.”

Raych sighed. If he had gone directly to a sector hall, as he should have done-if he had not stopped to drown himself in nostalgia for Billibotton and coke-icers-

He said, “I have come on important business to see Mr. Joranum, and since you seem to be part of his organi-“

“To see the leader?”

“Yes, Corporal.”

“With two knives on you?”

“For self-defense. I wasn’t going to have them on me when I saw Mr. Joranum.”

“So you say. We’re taking you into custody, mister. We’ll get to the bottom of this. It may take time, but we will.”

“But you don’t have the right. You’re not the legally const-“

“Well, find someone to complain to. Till then, you’re ours.”

And the knives were confiscated and Raych was taken into custody.