Forward the Foundation Chapter 6
Cleon was no longer quite the handsome young monarch that his holographs portrayed. Perhaps he still was-in the holographs-but his mirror told a different story. His most recent birthday had been celebrated with the usual pomp and ritual, but it was his fortieth just the same.
The Emperor could find nothing wrong with being forty. His health was perfect. He had gained a little weight but not much. His face would perhaps look older, if it were not for the microadjustments that were made periodically and that gave him a slightly enameled look.
He had been on the throne for eighteen years-already one of the longer reigns of the century-and he felt there was nothing that might necessarily keep him from reigning another forty years and perhaps having the longest reign in Imperial history as a result.
Cleon looked at the mirror again and thought he looked a bit better if he did not actualize the third dimension.
Now take Demerzel-faithful, reliable, necessary, unbearable Demerzel. No change in him. He maintained his appearance and, as far as Cleon knew, there had been no microadjustments, either. Of course, Demerzel was so close-mouthed about everything. And he had never been young. There had been no young look about him when he first served Cleon’s father and Cleon had been the boyish Prince Imperial. And there was no young look about him now. Was it better to have looked old at the start and to avoid change afterward?
It reminded him that he had called Demerzel in for a purpose and not just so that he might stand there while the Emperor ruminated. Demerzel would take too much Imperial rumination as a sign of old age.
“Demerzel,” he said.
“This fellow Joranum. I tire of hearing of him.”
“There is no reason you should hear of him, Sire. He is one of those phenomena that are thrown to the surface of the news for a while and then disappears.”
“But he doesn’t disappear.”
“Sometimes it takes a while, Sire.”
“What do you think of him, Demerzel?”
“He is dangerous but has a certain popularity. It is the popularity that increases the danger.”
“If you find him dangerous and if I find him annoying, why must we wait? Can’t he simply be imprisoned or executed or something?”
“The political situation on Trantor, Sire, is delicate-“
“It is always delicate. When have you told me that it is anything but delicate?”
“We live in delicate times, Sire. It would be useless to move strongly against him if that would but exacerbate the danger.”
“I don’t like it. I may not be widely read-an Emperor doesn’t have the time to be widely read-but I know my Imperial history, at any rate. There have been a number of cases of these populists, as they are called, that have seized power in the last couple of centuries. In every case, they reduced the reigning Emperor to a mere figurehead. I do not wish to be a figurehead, Demerzel.”
“It is unthinkable that you would be, Sire.”
“It won’t be unthinkable if you do nothing.”
“I am attempting to take measures, Sire, but cautious ones.”
“There’s one fellow, at least, who isn’t cautious. A month or so ago, a University professor-a professor-stopped a potential Joranumite riot single-handedly. He stepped right in and put a stop to it.”
“So he did, Sire. How did you come to hear of it?”
“Because he is a certain professor in whom I am interested. How is it that you didn’t speak to me of this?”
Demerzel said, almost obsequiously, “Would it be right for me to trouble you with every insignificant detail that crosses my desk?”
“Insignificant? This man who took action was Hari Seldon.”
“That was, indeed, his name.”
“And the name was a familiar one. Did he not present a paper, some years ago, at the last Decennial Convention that interested us?”
Cleon looked pleased. “As you see, I do have a memory. I need not depend on my staff for everything. I interviewed this Seldon fellow on the matter of his paper, did I not?”
“Your memory is indeed flawless, Sire.”
“What happened to his idea? It was a fortune-telling device. My flawless memory does not bring to mind what he called it.”
“Psychohistory, Sire. It was not precisely a fortune-telling device but a theory as to ways of predicting general trends in future human history.”
“And what happened to it?”
“Nothing, Sire. As I explained at the time, the idea turned out to be wholly impractical. It was a colorful idea but a useless one.”
“Yet he is capable of taking action to stop a potential riot. Would he have dared do this if he didn’t know in advance he would succeed? Isn’t that evidence that this-what?-psychohistory is working?”
“It is merely evidence that Hari Seldon is foolhardy, Sire. Even if the psychohistoric theory were practical, it would not have been able to yield results involving a single person or a single action.”
“You’re not the mathematician, Demerzel. He is. I think it is time I questioned him again. After all, it is not long before the Decennial Convention is upon us once more.”
“It would be a useless-“
“Demerzel, I desire it. See to it.”
Raych was listening with an agonized impatience that he was trying not to show. He was sitting in an improvised cell, deep in the warrens of Billibotton, having been accompanied through alleys he no longer remembered. (He, who in the old days could have threaded those same alleys unerringly and lost any pursuer.)
The man with him, clad in the green of the Joranumite Guard, was either a missionary, a brainwasher, or a kind of theologian-manque. At any rate, he had announced his name to be Sander Nee and he was delivering a long message in a thick Dahlite accent that he had clearly learned by heart.
“If the people of Dahl want to enjoy equality, they must show themselves worthy of it. Good rule, quiet behavior, seemly pleasures are all requirements. Aggressiveness and the bearing of knives are the accusations others make against us to justify their intolerance. We must be clean in word and-“
Raych broke in. “I agree with you, Guardsman Nee, every word. But I must see Mr. Joranum.”
Slowly the guardsman shook his head. “You can’t ‘less you got some appointment, some permission.”
“Look, I’m the son of an important professor at Streeling University, a mathematics professor.”
“Don’t know no professor. I thought you said you was from Dahl.”
“Of course I am. Can’t you tell the way I talk?”
“And you got an old man who’s a professor at a big University? That don’t sound likely.”
“Well, he’s my foster father.”
The guardsman absorbed that and shook his head. “You know anyone in Dahl?”
“There’s Mother Rittah. She’ll know me.” (She had been very old when she had known him. She might be senile by now-or dead.)
“Never heard of her.”
(Who else? He had never known anyone likely to penetrate the dim consciousness of this man facing him. His best friend had been another youngster named Smoodgie-or at least that was the only name he knew him by. Even in his desperation, Raych could not see himself saying: “Do you know someone my age named Smoodgie?”)
Finally he said, “There’s Yugo Amaryl.”
A dim spark seemed to light Nee’s eyes. “Who?”
“Yugo Amaryl,” said Raych eagerly. “He works for my foster father at the University.”
“He a Dahlite, too? Everyone at the University Dahlites?”
“Just he and I. He was a heatsinker.”
“What’s he doing at the University?”
“My father took him out of the heatsinks eight years ago.”
“Well-I’ll send someone.”
Raych had to wait. Even if he escaped, where would he go in the intricate alleyways of Billibotton without being picked up instantly?
Twenty minutes passed before Nee returned with the corporal who had arrested Raych in the first place. Raych felt a little hope; the corporal, at least, might conceivably have some brains.
The corporal said, “Who is this Dahlite you know?”
“Yugo Amaryl, Corporal, a heatsinker who my father found here in Dahl eight years ago and took to Streeling University with him.”
“Why did he do that?”
“My father thought Yugo could do more important things than heatsink, Corporal.”
The corporal held up his hand. “What heatsink did he work in?”
Raych thought for a moment. “I was only a kid then, but it was at C-2, I think.”
“Close enough. C-3.”
“Then you know about him, Corporal?”
“Not personally, but the story is famous in the heatsinks and I’ve worked there, too. And maybe that’s how you’ve heard of it. Have you any evidence that you really know Yugo Amaryl?”
“Look. Let me tell you what I’d like to do. I’m going to write down my name on a piece of paper and my father’s name. Then I’m going to write down one word. Get in touch-any way you want-with some official in Mr. Joranum’s group-Mr. Joranum will be here in Dahl tomorrow-and just read him my name, my father’s name, and the one word. If nothing happens, then I’ll stay here till I rot, I suppose, but I don’t think that will happen. In fact, I’m sure that they will get me out of here in three seconds and that you’ll get a promotion for passing along the information. If you refuse to do this, when they find out I am here-and they will-you will be in the deepest possible trouble. After all, if you know that Yugo Amaryl went off with a big-shot mathematician, just tell yourself that same big-shot mathematician is my father. His name is Hari Seldon.”
The corporal’s face showed clearly that the name was not unknown to him.
He said, “What’s the one word you’re going to write down?”
The corporal frowned. “What’s that?”
“That doesn’t matter. Just pass it along and see what happens.”
The corporal handed him a small sheet of paper, torn out of a notebook. “All right. Write it down and we’ll see what happens.”
Raych realized that he was trembling. He wanted very much to know what would happen. It depended entirely on who it was that the corporal would talk to and what magic the word would carry with it.
Hari Seldon watched the raindrops form on the wraparound windows of the Imperial ground-car and a sense of nostalgia stabbed at him unbearably.
It was only the second time in his eight years on Trantor that he had been ordered to visit the Emperor in the only open land on the planet-and both times the weather had been bad. The first time, shortly after he had arrived on Trantor, the bad weather had merely irritated him. He had found no novelty in it. His home world of Helicon had its share of storms, after all, particularly in the area where he had been brought up.
But now he had lived for eight years in make-believe weather, in which storms consisted of computerized cloudiness at random intervals, with regular light rains during the sleeping hours. Raging winds were replaced by zephyrs and there were no extremes of heat and cold-merely little changes that made you unzip the front of your shirt once in a while or throw on a light jacket. And he had heard complaints about even so mild a deviation.
But now Hari was seeing real rain coming down drearily from a cold sky-and he had not seen such a thing in years-and he loved it; that was the thing. It reminded him of Helicon, of his youth, of relatively carefree days, and he wondered if he might persuade the driver to take the long way to the Palace.
Impossible! The Emperor wanted to see him and it was a long enough trip by ground-car, even if one went in a straight line with no interfering traffic. The Emperor, of course, would not wait.
It was a different Cleon from the one Seldon had seen eight years before. He had put on about ten pounds and there was a sulkiness about his face. Yet the skin around his eyes and cheeks looked pinched and Hari recognized the results of one too many microadjustments. In a way, Seldon felt sorry for Cleon-for all his might and Imperial sway, the Emperor was powerless against the passage of time.
Once again Cleon met Hari Seldon alone-in the same lavishly furnished room of their first encounter. As was the custom, Seldon waited to be addressed.
After briefly assessing Seldon’s appearance, the Emperor said in an ordinary voice, “Glad to see you, Professor. Let us dispense with formalities, as we did on the former occasion on which I met you.”
“Yes, Sire,” said Seldon stiffly. It was not always safe to be informal, merely because the Emperor ordered you to be so in an effusive moment.
Cleon gestured imperceptibly and at once the room came alive with automation as the table set itself and dishes began to appear. Seldon, confused, could not follow the details.
The Emperor said casually, “You will dine with me, Seldon?”
It had the formal intonation of a question but the force, somehow, of an order.
“I would be honored, Sire,” said Seldon. He looked around cautiously. He knew very well that one did not (or, at any rate, should not) ask questions of the Emperor, but he saw no way out of it. He said, rather quietly, trying to make it not sound like a question, “The First Minister will not dine with us?”
“He will not,” said Cleon. “He has other tasks at this moment and I wish, in any case, to speak to you privately.”
They ate quietly for a while, Cleon gazing at him fixedly and Seldon smiling tentatively. Cleon had no reputation for cruelty or even for irresponsibility, but he could, in theory, have Seldon arrested on some vague charge and, if the Emperor wished to exert his influence, the case might never come to trial. It was always best to avoid notice and at the moment Seldon couldn’t manage it.
Surely it had been worse eight years ago, when he had been brought to the Palace under armed guard. This fact did not make Seldon feel relieved, however.
Then Cleon spoke. “Seldon” he said. “The First Minister is of great use to me, yet I feel that, at times, people may think I do not have a mind of my own. Do you think that?”
“Never, Sire,” said Seldon calmly. No use protesting too much.
“I don’t believe you. However, I do have a mind of my own and I recall that when you first came to Trantor you had this psychohistory thing you were playing with.”
“I’m sure you also remember, Sire,” said Seldon softly, “that I explained at the time it was a mathematical theory without practical application.”
“So you said. Do you still say so?”
“Have you been working on it since?”
“On occasion I toy with it, but it comes to nothing. Chaos unfortunately interferes and predictability is not-“
The Emperor interrupted. “There is a specific problem I wish you to tackle. Do help yourself to the dessert, Seldon. It is very good.”
“What is the problem, Sire?”
“This man Joranum. Demerzel tells me-oh, so politely-that I cannot arrest this man and I cannot use armed force to crush his followers. He says it will simply make the situation worse.”
“If the First Minister says so, I presume it is so.”
“But I do not want this man Joranum… At any rate, I will not be his puppet. Demerzel does nothing.”
“I am sure that he is doing what he can, Sire.”
“If he is working to alleviate the problem, he certainly is not keeping me informed.”
“That may be, Sire, out of a natural desire to keep you above the fray. The First Minister may feel that if Joranum should-if he should-“
“Take over,” said Cleon with a tone of infinite distaste.
“Yes, Sire. It would not be wise to have it appear that you were personally opposed to him. You must remain untouched for the sake of the stability of the Empire.”
“I would much rather assure the stability of the Empire without Joranum. What do you suggest, Seldon?”
“You, Seldon,” said Cleon impatiently. “Let me say that I don’t believe you when you say that psychohistory is just a game. Demerzel stays friendly with you. Do you think I am such an idiot as not to know that? He expects something from you. He expects psychohistory from you and since I am no fool, I expect it, too. Seldon, are you for Joranum? The truth!”
“No, Sire, I am not for him. I consider him an utter danger to the Empire.”
“Very well, I believe you. You stopped a potential Joranumite riot at your University grounds single-handedly, I understand.”
“It was pure impulse on my part, Sire.”
“Tell that to fools, not to me. You had worked it out by psychohistory.”
“Don’t protest. What are you doing about Joranum? You must be doing something if you are on the side of the Empire.”
“Sire,” said Seldon cautiously, uncertain as to how much the Emperor knew. “I have sent my son to meet with Joranum in the Dahl Sector.”
“My son is a Dahlite-and shrewd. He may discover something of use to us.”
“Only may, Sire.”
“You’ll keep me informed?”
“And, Seldon, do not tell me that psychohistory is just a game, that it does not exist. I do not want to hear that. I expect you to do something about Joranum. What it might be, I can’t say, but you must do something. I will not have it otherwise. You may go.”
Seldon returned to Streeling University in a far darker mood than when he had left. Cleon had sounded as though he would not accept failure.
It all depended on Raych now.