Forward the Foundation Chapter 7

Forward the Foundation Chapter 7

18

Raych sat in the anteroom of a public building in Dahl into which he had never ventured-never could have ventured-as a ragamuffin youth. He felt, in all truth, a little uneasy about it now, as though he were trespassing.

He tried to look calm, trustworthy, lovable.

Dad had told him that this was a quality he carried around with him, but he had never been conscious of it. If it came about naturally, he would probably spoil it by trying too hard to seem to be what he really was.

He tried relaxing while keeping an eye on the official who was manipulating a computer at the desk. The official was not a Dahlite. He was, in fact, Gambol Deen Namarti, who had been with Joranum at the meeting with Dad that Raych had attended.

Every once in a while, Namarti would look up from his desk and glance at Raych with a hostile glare. This Namarti wasn’t buying Raych’s lovability. Raych could see that.

Raych did not try to meet Namarti’s hostility with a friendly smile. It would have seemed too artificial. He simply waited. He had gotten this far. If Joranum arrived, as he was expected to, Raych would have a chance to speak to him.

Joranum did arrive, sweeping in, smiling his public smile of warmth and confidence. Namarti’s hand came up and Joranum stopped. They spoke together in low voices while Raych watched intently and tried in vain to seem as if he wasn’t. It seemed plain to Raych that Namarti was arguing against the meeting and Raych bridled a bit at that.

Then Joranum looked at Raych, smiled, and pushed Namarti to one side. It occurred to Raych that, while Namarti was the brains of the team, it was Joranum who clearly had the charisma.

Joranum strode toward him and held out a plump, slightly moist hand. “Well well. Professor Seldon’s young man. How are you?”

“Fine, thank you, sir.”

“You had some trouble getting here, I understand.”

“Not too much, sir.”

“And you’ve come with a message from your father, I trust. I hope he is reconsidering his decision and has decided to join me in my great crusade.”

“I don’t think so, sir.”

Joranum frowned slightly. “Are you here without his knowledge?”

“No, sir. He sent me.”

“I see. Are you hungry, lad?”

“Not at the moment, sir.”

“Then would you mind if I eat? I don’t get much time for the ordinary amenities of life,” he said, smiling broadly.

“It’s all right with me, sir.”

Together, they moved to a table and sat down. Joranum unwrapped a sandwich and took a bite. His voice slightly muffled, he said, “And why did he send you, son?”

Raych shrugged. “I think he thought I might find out something about you that he could use against you. He’s heart and soul with First Minister Demerzel.”

“And you’re not?”

“No, sir. I’m a Dahlite.”

“I know you are, Mr. Seldon, but what does that mean?”

“It means I’m oppressed, so I’m on your side and I want to help you. Of course, I wouldn’t want my father to know.”

“There’s no reason he should know. How do you propose to help me?” He glanced quickly at Namarti, who was leaning against his desk, listening, with his arms folded and his expression lowering. “Do you know anything about psychohistory?”

“No, sir. My father don’t talk to me about that-and if he did, I wouldn’t get it. I don’t think he’s getting anywhere with that stuff.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure I’m sure. There’s a guy there, Yugo Amaryl, also a Dahlite, who talks about it sometimes. I’m sure nothing is happening.”

“Ah! And can I see Yugo Amaryl sometime, do you suppose?”

“I don’t think so. He ain’t much for Demerzel, but he’s all for my father. He wouldn’t cross him.”

“But you would?”

Raych looked unhappy and he muttered stubbornly, “I’m a Dahlite.”

Joranum cleared his throat. “Then let me ask you again. How do you propose to help me, young man?”

“I’ve got something to tell you that maybe you won’t believe.”

“Indeed? Try me. If I don’t believe it, I will tell you so.”

“It’s about First Minister Eto Demerzel.”

“Well?”

Raych looked around uneasily. “Can anyone hear me?”

“Just Namarti and myself.”

“All right, then listen. This guy Demerzel ain’t a guy. He’s a robot.”

“What!” exploded Joranum.

Raych felt moved to explain. “A robot is a mechanical man, sir. He ain’t human. He’s a machine.”

Namarti broke out passionately, “Jo-Jo, don’t believe that. It’s ridiculous.”

But Joranum held up an admonitory hand. His eyes were gleaming. “Why do you say that?”

“My father was in Mycogen once. He told me all about it. In Mycogen they talk about robots a lot.”

“Yes, I know. At least, I have heard so.”

“The Mycogenians believe that robots were once very common among their ancestors, but they were wiped out.”

Namarti’s eyes narrowed. “But what makes you think that Demerzel is a robot? From what little I have heard of these fantasies, robots are made out of metal, aren’t they?”

“That’s so,” said Raych earnestly. “But what I heard is that there were a few robots that look just like human beings and they live forever-“

Namarti shook his head violently. “Legends! Ridiculous legends! JoJo, why are we listening-“

But Joranum cut him off quickly. “No, G.D. I want to listen. I’ve heard these legends, too.”

“But it’s nonsense, Jo-Jo.”

“Don’t be in such a rush to say ‘nonsense.’ And even if it were, people live and die by nonsense. It’s not what is so much as what people think is. Tell me, young man, putting legends to one side, what makes you think Demerzel is a robot? Let’s suppose that robots exist. What is it, then, about Demerzel that makes you say he is a robot? Did he tell you so?”

“No, sir,” said Raych.

“Did your father tell you so?” asked Joranum.

“No, sir. It’s just my own idea, but I’m sure of it.”

“Why? What makes you so sure?”

“It’s just something about him. He doesn’t change. He doesn’t get older. He doesn’t show emotions. Something about him looks like he’s made of metal.”

Joranum sat back in his chair and looked at Raych for an extended time. It was almost possible to hear his thoughts buzzing.

Finally he said, “Suppose he is a robot, young man. Why should you care? Does it matter to you?”

“Of course it matters to me,” said Raych. “I’m a human being. I don’t want no robot in charge of running the Empire.”

Joranum turned to Namarti with a gesture of eager approval. “Do you hear that, G.D.? ‘I’m a human being. I don’t want no robot in charge of running the Empire.’ Put him on holovision and have him say it. Have him repeat it over and over till it’s drummed into every person on Trantor-“

“Hey,” said Raych, finally catching his breath. “I can’t say that on holovision. I can’t let my father find out-“

“No, of course not,” said Joranum quickly. “We couldn’t allow that. We’ll just use the words. We’ll find some other Dahlite. Someone from each of the sectors, each in his own dialect, but always the same message: ‘I don’t want no robot in charge of running the Empire.'”

Namarti said, “And what happens when Demerzel proves he’s not a robot?”

“Really,” said Joranum. “How will he do that? It would be impossible for him to do so. Psychologically impossible. What? The great Demerzel, the power behind the throne, the man who has twitched the strings attached to Cleon I all these years and those attached to Cleon’s father before him? Will he climb down now and whine to the public that he is, too, a human being? That would be almost as destructive to him as being a robot. G.D., we have the villain in a no-win situation and we owe it all to this fine young man here.”

Raych flushed.

Joranum said, “Raych is your name, isn’t it? Once our party is in a position to do so, we won’t forget. Dahl will be treated well and you will have a good position with us. You’re going to be Dahl’s sector leader someday, Raych, and you’re not going to regret you’ve done this. Are you, now?”

“Not on your life,” said Raych fervently.

“In that case, we’ll see that you get back to your father. You let him know that we intend him no harm, that we value him greatly. You can tell him you found that out in any way you please. And if you find anything else you think we might be able to use-about psychohistory, in particular, you let us know.”

“You bet. But do you mean it when you say you’ll see to it that Dahl gets some breaks?”

“Absolutely. Equality of sectors, my boy. Equality of worlds. We’ll have a new Empire with all the old villainies of privilege and inequality wiped out.”

And Raych nodded his head vigorously. “That’s what I want.”

19

Cleon, Emperor of the Galaxy, was walking hurriedly through the arcade that led from his private quarters in the Small Palace to the offices of the rather tremendous staff that lived in the various annexes of the Imperial Palace, which served as the nerve center of the Empire.

Several of his personal attaches walked after him, with looks of the deepest concern on their faces. The Emperor did not walk to others. He summoned them and they came to him. If he did walk, he never showed signs of haste or emotional trauma. How could he? He was the Emperor and, as such, far more a symbol of all the worlds than a human being.

Yet now he seemed to be a human being. He motioned everyone aside with an impatient wave of his right hand. In his left hand he held a gleaming hologram.

“The First Minister,” he said in an almost strangled voice, not at all like the carefully cultivated tones he had painstakingly assumed along with the throne. “Where is he?”

And all the high functionaries who were in his way fumbled and gasped and found it impossible to manage coherence. He brushed past them angrily, making them all feel, undoubtedly, as though they were living through a waking nightmare.

Finally he burst into Demerzel’s private office, panting slightly, and shouted-literally shouted- “Demerzel!”

Demerzel looked up with a trace of surprise and rose smoothly to his feet, for one did not sit in the presence of the Emperor unless specifically invited to. “Sire?” he said.

And the Emperor slammed the hologram down on Demerzel’s desk and said, “What is this? Will you tell me that?”

Demerzel looked at what the Emperor had given him. It was a beautiful hologram, sharp and alive. One could almost hear the little boy-perhaps ten years old-speaking the words that were included in the caption: “I don’t want no robot in charge of running the Empire.”

Demerzel said quietly, “Sire, I have received this, too.”

“And who else has?”

“I am under the impression, Sire, that it is a flier that is being widely spread over Trantor.”

“Yes, and do you see the person at whom that brat is looking?” He tapped his Imperial forefinger at it. “Isn’t that you?”

“The resemblance is striking, Sire.”

“Am I wrong in supposing that the whole intent of this flier, as you call it, is to accuse you of being a robot?”

“That does seem to be its intention, Sire.”

“And stop me if I’m wrong, but aren’t robots the legendary mechanical human beings one finds in-in thrillers and children’s stories?”

“The Mycogenians have it as an article of faith, Sire, that robots-“

“I’m not interested in the Mycogenians and their articles of faith. Why are they accusing you of being a robot?”

“Merely a metaphorical point, I’m sure, Sire. They wish to portray me as a man of no heart, whose views are the conscienceless calculations of a machine.”

“That’s too subtle, Demerzel. I’m no fool.” He tapped the hologram again. “They’re trying to make people believe you are really a robot.”

“We can scarcely prevent it, Sire, if people choose to believe that.”

“We cannot afford it. It detracts from the dignity of your office. Worse than that, it detracts from the dignity of the Emperor, The implication is that I-I would choose as my First Minister a mechanical man. That is impossible to endure. See here, Demerzel, aren’t there laws that forbid the denigration of public officers of the Empire?”

“Yes, there are-and quite severe ones, Sire, dating back to the great Law Codes of Aburamis.”

“And to denigrate the Emperor himself is a capital offense, is it not?”

“Death is the punishment, Sire. Yes.”

“Well, this not only denigrates you, it denigrates me-and whoever did it should be executed forthwith. It was this Joranum, of course, who is behind it.”

“Undoubtedly. Sire, but proving it might be rather difficult.”

“Nonsense! I have proof enough! I want an execution.”

“The trouble is, Sire, that the laws of denigration are virtually never enforced. Not in this century, certainly.”

“And that is why society is becoming so unstable and the Empire is being shaken to its roots. The laws are still in the books, so enforce them.”

Demerzel said, “Consider, Sire, if that would be wise. It would make you appear to be a tyrant and a despot. Your rule has been a most successful one through kindness and mildness-“

“Yes and see where that got me. Let’s have them fear me for a change, rather than love me-in this fashion.”

“I strongly recommend that you not do so, Sire. It may be the spark that will start a rebellion.”

“What would you do, then? Go before the people and say, ‘Look at me. I am no robot.”‘

“No, Sire, for as you say that would destroy my dignity and, worse yet, yours.”

“Then?”

“I am not certain, Sire. I have not yet thought it through.”

“Not yet thought it through? Get in touch with Seldon.”

“Sire?”

“What is so difficult to understand about my order? Get in touch with Seldon!”

“You wish me to summon him to the Palace, Sire?”

“No, there’s no time for that. I presume you can set up a sealed communication line between us that cannot be tapped.”

“Certainly, Sire.”

“Then do so. Now!”

20

Seldon lacked Demerzel’s self-possession, being, as he was, only flesh and blood. The summons to his office and the sudden faint glow and tingle of the scrambler field was indication enough that something unusual was taking place. He had spoken by sealed lines before but never to the full extent of Imperial security.

He expected some government official to clear the way for Demerzel himself. Considering the slowly mounting tumult of the robot flier, he could expect nothing less.

But he did not expect anything more, either, and when the image of the Emperor himself, with the faint glitter of the scramble field outlining him, stepped into his office (so to speak), Seldon fell back in his seat, mouth wide open, and could make only ineffectual attempts to rise.

Cleon motioned him impatiently to keep his seat. “You must know what’s going on, Seldon.”

“Do you mean about the robot flier, Sire?”

“That’s exactly what I mean. What’s to be done?”

Seldon, despite the permission to remain seated, finally rose. “There’s more, Sire. Joranum is organizing rallies all over Trantor on the robot issue. At least, that’s what I hear on the newscasts.”

“It hasn’t reached me yet. Of course not. Why should the Emperor know what is going on?”

“It is not for the Emperor to be concerned, Sire. I’m sure that the First Minister-“

“The First Minister will do nothing, not even keep me informed. I turn to you and your psychohistory. Tell me what to do. “

“Sire?”

“I’m not going to play your game, Seldon. You’ve been working on psychohistory for eight years. The First Minister tells me I must not take legal action against Joranum. What, then, do I do?”

Seldon stuttered. “S-sire! Nothing!”

“You have nothing to tell me?”

“No, Sire. That is not what I mean. I mean you must do nothing. Nothing! The First Minister is quite right if he tells you that you must not take legal action. It will make things worse.”

“Very well. What will make things better?”

“For you to do nothing. For the First Minister to do nothing. For the government to allow Joranum to do just as he pleases.”

“How will that help?”

And Seldon said, trying to suppress the note of desperation in his voice, “That will soon be seen.”

The Emperor seemed to deflate suddenly, as though all the anger and indignation had been drawn out of him. He said, “Ah! I understand! You have the situation well in hand!”

“Sire! I have not said that-“

“You need not say. I have heard enough. You have the situation well in hand, but I want results. I still have the Imperial Guard and the armed forces. They will be loyal and, if it comes to actual disorders, I will not hesitate. But I will give you your chance first.”

His image flashed out and Seldon sat there, simply staring at the empty space where the image had been.

Ever since the first unhappy moment when he had mentioned psychohistory at the Decennial Convention eight years before, he had had to face the fact that he didn’t have what he had incautiously talked about.

All he had was the wild ghost of some thoughts-and what Yugo Amaryl called intuition.