TWO DAYS HAD PASSED AND GENDIBAL FOUND himself not so much heavy-hearted as enraged. There was no reason why there could not have been an immediate hearing. Had he been unprepared—had he needed time—they would have forced an immediate hearing on him, he was sure.
But since there was nothing more facing the Second Foundation than the greatest crisis since the Mule, they wasted time—and to no purpose but to irritate him.
They did irritate him and, by Seldon, that would make his counterstroke the heavier. He was determined on that.
He looked about him. The anteroom was empty. It had been like that for two days now. He was a marked man, a Speaker whom all knew would—by means of an action unprecedented in the five-century history of the Second Foundation—soon lose his position. He would be demoted to the ranks, demoted to the position of a Second Foundationer, plain and simple.
It was one thing, however—and a very honored thing—to be a Second Foundationer of the ranks, particularly if one held a respectable title, as Gendibal might even after the impeachment. It would be quite another thing to have once been a Speaker and to have been demoted.
It won’t happen though, thought Gendibal savagely, even though for two days he had been avoided. Only Sura Novi treated him as before, but she was too naïve to understand the situation. To her, Gendibal was still “Master.”
It irritated Gendibal that he found a certain comfort in this. He felt ashamed when he began to notice that his spirits rose when he noticed her gazing at him worshipfully. Was he becoming grateful for gifts that small?
A clerk emerged from the Chamber to tell him that the Table was ready for him and Gendibal stalked in. The clerk was one Gendibal knew well; he was one who knew—to the tiniest fraction—the precise gradation of civility that each Speaker deserved. At the moment, that accorded Gendibal was appallingly low. Even the clerk thought him as good as convicted.
They were all sitting about the Table gravely, wearing the black robes of judgment. First Speaker Shandess looked a bit uncomfortable, but he did not allow his face to crease into the smallest touch of friendliness. Delarmi—one of the three Speakers who were women—did not even look at him.
The First Speaker said, “Speaker Stor Gendibal, you have been impeached for behaving in a manner unbecoming a Speaker. You have, before us all, accused the Table—vaguely and without evidence—of treason and attempted murder. You have implied that all Second Foundationers—including the Speakers and the First Speaker—require a thorough mental analysis to ascertain who among them are no longer to be trusted. Such behaviour breaks the bonds of community, without which the Second Foundation cannot control an intricate and potentially hostile Galaxy and without which they cannot build, with surety, a viable Second Empire.
“Since we have all witnessed those offenses, we will forego the presentation of a formal case for the prosecution. We will therefore move directly to the next stage. Speaker Stor Gendibal, do you have a defense?”
Now Delarmi—still not looking at him—allowed herself a small catlike smile.
Gendibal said, “If truth be considered a defense, I have one. There are grounds for suspecting a breach of security. That breach may involve the mental control of one or more Second Foundationers—not excluding members here present—and this has created a deadly crisis for the Second Foundation. If, indeed, you hasten this trial because you cannot waste time, you may all perhaps dimly recognize the seriousness of the crisis, but in that case, why have you wasted two days after I had formally requested an immediate trial? I submit that it is this deadly crisis that has forced me to say what I have said. I would have behaved in a manner unbecoming a Speaker—had I not done so.”
“He but repeats the offense, First Speaker,” said Delarmi softly.
Gendibal’s seat was further removed from the Table than that of the others—a clear demotion already. He pushed it farther back, as though he cared nothing for that, and rose.
He said, “Will you convict me now, out of hand, in defiance of law—or may I present my defense in detail?”
The First Speaker said, “This is not a lawless assemblage, Speaker. Without much in the way of precedent to guide us, we will lean in your direction, recognizing that if our too-human abilities should cause us to deviate from absolute justice, it is better to allow the guilty to go free than to convict the innocent. Therefore, although the case before us is so grave that we may not lightly allow the guilty to go free, we will permit you to present your case in such manner as you wish and for as long as you require, until it is decided by unanimous vote, including my own” (and he raised his voice at that phrase) “that enough has been heard.”
Gendibal said, “Let me begin, then, by saying that Golan Trevize—the First Foundationer who has been driven from Terminus and whom the First Speaker and I believe to be the knife-edge of the gathering crisis—has moved off in an unexpected direction.”
“Point of information,” said Delarmi softly. “How does the speaker” (the intonation clearly indicated that the word was not capitalized) “know this?”
“I was informed of this by the First Speaker,” said Gendibal, “but I confirm it of my own knowledge. Under the circumstances, however, considering my suspicions concerning the level of the security of the Chamber, I must be allowed to keep my sources of information secret.”
The First Speaker said, “I will suspend judgment on that. Let us proceed without that item of information but if, in the judgment of the Table, the information must be obtained, Speaker Gendibal will have to yield it.”
Delarmi said, “If the speaker does not yield the information now, it is only fair to say that I assume he has an agent serving him—an agent who is privately employed by him and who is not responsible to the Table generally. We cannot be sure that such an agent is obeying the rules of behavior governing Second Foundation personnel.”
The First Speaker said with some displeasure, “I see all the implications, Speaker Delarmi. There is no need to spell them out for me.”
“I merely mention it for the record, First Speaker, since this aggravates the offense and it is not an item mentioned in the bill of impeachment, which, I would like to say, has not been read in full and to which I move this item be added.”
“The clerk is directed to add the item,” said the First Speaker, “and the precise wording will be adjusted at the appropriate time. —Speaker Gendibal” (he, at least, capitalized) “your defense is indeed a step backward. Continue.”
Gendibal said, “Not only has this Trevize moved in an unexpected direction, but at an unprecedented speed. My information, which the First Speaker does not yet have, is that he has traveled nearly ten thousand parsecs in well under an hour.”
“In a single Jump?” said one of the Speakers incredulously.
“In over two dozen Jumps, one after the other, with virtually no time intervening,” said Gendibal, “something that is even more difficult to imagine than a single Jump. Even if he is now located, it will take time to follow him and, if he detects us and really means to flee us, we will not be able to overtake him. —And you spend your time in games of impeachment and allow two days to pass so that you might savor them the more.”
The First Speaker managed to mask his anguish. “Please tell us, Speaker Gendibal, what you think the significance of this might be.”
“It is an indication, First Speaker, of the technological advances that are being made by the First Foundation, who are far more powerful now than they were in the time of Preem Palver. We could not stand up against them if they found us and were free to act.”
Speaker Delarmi rose to her feet. She said, “First Speaker, our time is being wasted with irrelevancies. We are not children to be frightened with tales by Grandmother Spacewarp. It does not matter how impressive the machinery of the First Foundation is when, in any crisis, their minds will be in our control.”
“What do you have to say to that, Speaker Gendibal?” asked the First Speaker.
“Merely that we will come to the matter of minds in due course. For the moment, I merely wish to stress the superior—and increasing—technological might of the First Foundation.”
The First Speaker said, “Pass on to the next point, Speaker Gendibal. Your first point, I must tell you, does not impress me as very pertinent to the matter contained in the bill of impeachment.”
Gendibal said, “I pass on. Trevize has a companion in his present journey” (he paused momentarily to consider pronunciation) “one Janov Pelorat, a rather ineffectual scholar who has devoted his life to tracking down myths and legends concerning Earth.”
“You know all this about him? Your hidden source, I presume?” said Delarmi, who had settled into her role of prosecutor with a clear feeling of comfort.
“Yes, I know all this about him,” said Gendibal stolidly. “A few months ago, the Mayor of Terminus, an energetic and capable woman, grew interested in this scholar for no clear reason, and so I grew interested, too, as a matter of course. Nor have I kept this to myself. All the information I have gained has been made available to the First Speaker.”
“I bear witness to that,” said the First Speaker in a low voice.
An elderly Speaker said, “What is this Earth? Is it the world of origin we keep coming across in fables? The one they made a fuss about in old Imperial times?”
Gendibal nodded. “In the tales of Grandmother Spacewarp, as Speaker Delarmi would say. —I suspect it was Pelorat’s dream to come to Trantor to consult the Galactic Library, in order to find information concerning Earth that he could not obtain in the interstellar library service available on Terminus.
“When he left Terminus with Trevize, he must have been under the impression that that dream was to be fulfilled. Certainly we were expecting the two and counted on having the opportunity to examine them—to our own profit. As it turns out—and as you all know by now—they are not coming. They have turned off to some destination that is not yet clear and for some reason that is not yet known.”
Delarmi’s round face looked positively cherubic as she said, “And why is this disturbing? We are no worse off for their absence, surely. Indeed, since they dismiss us so easily, we can deduce that the First Foundation does not know the true nature of Trantor and we can applaud the handiwork of Preem Palver.”
Gendibal said, “If we thought no further, we might indeed come to such a comforting solution. Could it be, though, that the turnoff was not the result of any failure to see the importance of Trantor? Could it be that the turnoff resulted from anxiety lest Trantor, by examining these two men, see the importance of Earth?”
There was a stir about the Table.
“Anyone,” said Delarmi coldly, “can invent formidable-sounding propositions and couch them in balanced sentences. But do they make sense when you do invent them? Why should anyone care what we of the Second Foundation think of Earth? Whether it is the true planet of origin, or whether it is a myth, or whether there is no one place of origin to begin with, is surely something that should interest only historians, anthropologists, and folk-tale collectors, such as this Pelorat of yours. Why us?”
“Why indeed?” said Gendibal. “How is it, then, that there are no references to Earth in the Library?”
For the first time, something in the atmosphere that was other than hostility made itself felt about the Table.
Delarmi said, “Aren’t there?”
Gendibal said quite calmly, “When word first reached me that Trevize and Pelorat might be coming here in search of information concerning Earth, I, as a matter of course, had our Library computer make a listing of documents containing such information. I was mildly interested when it turned up nothing. Not minor quantities. Not very little. —Nothing!
“But then you insisted I wait for two days before this hearing could take place, and at the same time, my curiosity was further piqued by the news that the First Foundationers were not coming here after all. I had to amuse myself somehow. While the rest of you therefore were, as the saying goes, sipping wine while the house was falling, I went through some history books in my own possession. I came across passages that specifically mentioned some of the investigations on the ‘Origin Question’ in late-Imperial times. Particular documents—both printed and filmed—were referred to and quoted from. I returned to the Library and made a personal check for those documents. I assure you there was nothing.”
Delarmi said, “Even if this is so, it need not be surprising. If Earth is indeed a myth—”
“Then I would find it in mythological references. If it were a story of Grandmother Spacewarp, I would find it in the collected tales of Grandmother Spacewarp. If it were a figment of the diseased mind, I would find it under psychopathology. The fact is that something about Earth exists or you would not all have heard of it and, indeed, immediately recognized it as the name of the putative planet of origin of the human species. Why, then, is there no reference to it in the Library, anywhere?”
Delarmi was silent for a moment and another Speaker interposed. He was Leonis Cheng, a rather small man with an encyclopedic knowledge of the minutiae of the Seldon Plan and a rather myopic attitude toward the actual Galaxy. His eyes tended to blink rapidly when he spoke.
He said, “It is well known that the Empire in its final days attempted to create an Imperial mystique by soft-pedaling all interest in pre-Imperial times.”
Gendibal nodded. “Soft-pedaled is the precise term, Speaker Cheng. That is not equivalent to destroying evidence. As you should know better than anyone, another characteristic of Imperial decay was a sudden interest in earlier—and presumably better—times. I have just referred to the interest in the ‘Origin Question’ in Hari Seldon’s time.”
Cheng interrupted with a formidable clearing of the throat. “I know this very well, young man, and know far more of these social problems of Imperial decay than you seem to think I do. The process of ‘Imperialization’ overtook these dilettantish games concerning Earth. Under Cleon II, during the Empire’s last resurgence, two centuries after Seldon, Imperialization reached its peak and all speculation on the question of Earth came to an end. There was even a directive in Cleon’s time concerning this, referring to the interest in such things as (and I think I quote it correctly) ‘stale and unproductive speculation that tends to undermine the people’s love of the Imperial throne.’ ”
Gendibal smiled. “Then it was in the time of Cleon II, Speaker Cheng, that you would place the destruction of all reference to Earth?”
“I draw no conclusions. I have simply stated what I have stated.”
“It is shrewd of you to draw no conclusions. By Cleon’s time, the Empire may have been resurgent, but the University and Library, at least, were in our hands or, at any rate, in those of our predecessors. It would have been impossible for any material to be removed from the Library without the Speakers of the Second Foundation knowing it. In fact, it would have been the Speakers to whom the task would have had to be entrusted, though the dying Empire would not have known that.”
Gendibal paused, but Cheng, saying nothing, looked over the other’s head.
Gendibal said, “It follows that the Library could not have been emptied of material on Earth during Seldon’s time, since the ‘Origin Question’ was then an active preoccupation. It could not have been emptied afterward because the Second Foundation was in charge. Yet the Library is empty of it now. How can this be?”
Delarmi broke in impatiently, “You may stop weaving the dilemma, Gendibal. We see it. What is it that you suggest as a solution? That you have removed the documents yourself?”
“As usual, Delarmi, you penetrate to the heart.” And Gendibal bent his head to her in sardonic respect (at which she allowed herself a slight lifting of the lip). “One solution is that the cleansing was done by a Speaker of the Second Foundation, someone who would know how to use curators without leaving a memory behind—and computers without leaving a record behind.”
First Speaker Shandess turned red. “Ridiculous, Speaker Gendibal. I cannot imagine a Speaker doing this. What would the motivation be? Even if, for some reason, the material on Earth were removed, why keep it from the rest of the Table? Why risk a complete destruction of one’s career by tampering with the Library when the chances of its being discovered are so great? Besides, I don’t think that even the most skillful Speaker could perform the task without leaving a trace.”
“Then it must be, First Speaker, that you disagree with Speaker Delarmi in her suggestion that I did it.”
“I certainly do,” said the First Speaker. “Sometimes I doubt your judgment, but I have yet to consider you downright insane.”
“Then it must never have happened, First Speaker. The material on Earth must still be in the Library, for we now seem to have eliminated all the possible ways in which it could have been removed—and yet the material is not there.”
Delarmi said with an affectation of weariness, “Well well, let us finish. Again, what is it you suggest as a solution? I am sure you think you have one.”
“If you are sure, Speaker, we may all be sure as well. My suggestion is that the Library was cleansed by someone of the Second Foundation who was under the control of a subtle force from outside the Second Foundation. The cleansing went unnoticed because that same force saw to it that it was not noticed.”
Delarmi laughed. “Until you found out. You—the uncontrolled and uncontrollable. If this mysterious force existed, how did you find out about the absence of material from the Library? Why weren’t you controlled?”
Gendibal said gravely, “It’s not a laughing matter, Speaker. They may feel, as we feel, that all tampering should be held to a minimum. When my life was in danger a few days ago, I was more concerned with refraining from fiddling with a Hamish mind than with protecting myself. So it might be with these others—as soon as they felt it was safe they ceased tampering. That is the danger, the deadly danger. The fact that I could find out what has happened may mean they no longer care that I do. The fact that they no longer care may mean that they feel they have already won. And we continue to play our games here!”
“But what aim do they have in all this? What conceivable aim?” demanded Delarmi, shuffling her feet and biting her lips. She felt her power fading as the Table grew more interested—concerned—
Gendibal said, “Consider—The First Foundation, with its enormous arsenal of physical power, is searching for Earth. They pretend to send out two exiles, hoping we will think that is all they are, but would they equip them with ships of unbelievable power—ships that can move ten thousand parsecs in less than an hour—if that was all that they were?
“As for the Second Foundation, we have not been searching for Earth and, clearly, steps have been taken without our knowledge to keep any information of Earth away from us. The First Foundation is now so close to finding Earth and we are so far from doing so, that—”
Gendibal paused and Delarmi said, “That what? Finish your childish tale. Do you know anything or don’t you?”
“I don’t know everything, Speaker. I have not penetrated the total depth of the web that is encircling us, but I know the web is there. I don’t know what the significance of finding Earth might be, but I am certain the Second Foundation is in enormous danger and, with it, the Seldon Plan and the future of all humanity.”
Delarmi rose to her feet. She was not smiling and she spoke in a tense but tightly controlled voice. “Trash! First Speaker, put an end to this! What is at issue is the accused’s behavior. What he tells us is not only childish but irrelevant. He cannot extenuate his behavior by building a cobwebbery of theories that makes sense only in his own mind. I call for a vote on the matter now—a unanimous vote for conviction.”
“Wait,” said Gendibal sharply. “I have been told I would have an opportunity to defend myself, and there remains one more item—one more. Let me present that, and you may proceed to a vote with no further objection from me.”
The First Speaker rubbed his eyes wearily. “You may continue, Speaker Gendibal. Let me point out to the Table that the conviction of an impeached Speaker is so weighty and, indeed, unprecedented an action that we dare not give the appearance of not allowing a full defense. Remember, too, that even if the verdict satisfies us, it may not satisfy those who come after us, and I cannot believe that a Second Foundationer of any level—let alone the Speakers of the Table—would not have a full appreciation of the importance of historical perspective. Let us so act that we can be certain of the approval of the Speakers who will follow us in the coming centuries.”
Delarmi said bitterly, “We run the risk, First Speaker, of having posterity laugh at us for belaboring the obvious. To continue the defense is your decision.”
Gendibal drew a deep breath. “In line with your decision, then, First Speaker, I wish to call a witness—a young woman I met three days ago and without whom I might not have reached the Table meeting at all, instead of merely being late.”
“Is the woman you speak of known to the Table?” asked the First Speaker.
“No, First Speaker. She is native to this planet.”
Delarmi’s eyes opened wide. “A Hamish-woman?”
“Indeed! Just so!”
Gendibal’s lips drew back tightly over his teeth in something that could not possibly have been mistaken for a smile. He said sharply, “Physically all the Hamish exist. They are human beings and play their part in Seldon’s Plan. In their indirect protection of the Second Foundation, they play a crucial part. I wish to dissociate myself from Speaker Delarmi’s inhumanity and hope that her remark will be retained in the record and be considered hereafter as evidence for her possible unfitness for the position of Speaker. —Will the rest of the Table agree with the Speaker’s incredible remark and deprive me of my witness?”
The First Speaker said, “Call your witness, Speaker.”
Gendibal’s lips relaxed into the normal expressionless features of a Speaker under pressure. His mind was guarded and fenced in, but behind this protective barrier, he felt that the danger point had passed and that he had won.
SURA NOVI LOOKED STRAINED. HER EYES WERE wide and her lower lip was faintly trembling. Her hands were slowly clenching and unclenching and her chest was heaving slightly. Her hair had been pulled back and braided into a bun; her sun-darkened face twitched now and then. Her hands fumbled at the pleats of her long skirt. She looked hastily around the Table—from Speaker to Speaker—her wide eyes filled with awe.
They glanced back at her with varying degrees of contempt and discomfort. Delarmi kept her eyes well above the top of Novi’s head, oblivious to her presence.
Carefully Gendibal touched the skin of her mind, soothing and relaxing it. He might have done the same by patting her hand or stroking her cheek, but here, under these circumstances, that was impossible, of course.
He said, “First Speaker, I am numbing this woman’s conscious awareness so that her testimony will not be distorted by fear. Will you please observe—will the rest of you, if you wish, join me and observe that I will, in no way, modify her mind?”
Novi had started back in terror at Gendibal’s voice, and Gendibal was not surprised at that. He realized that she had never heard Second Foundationers of high rank speak among themselves. She had never experienced that odd swift combination of sound, tone, expression and thought. The terror, however, faded as quickly as it came, as he gentled her mind.
A look of placidity crossed her face.
“There is a chair behind you, Novi,” Gendibal said. “Please sit down.”
Novi curtsied in a small and clumsy manner and sat down, holding herself stiffly.
She talked quite clearly, but Gendibal made her repeat when her Hamish accent became too thick. And because he kept his own speech formal in deference to the Table, he occasionally had to repeat his own questions to her.
The tale of the fight between himself and Rufirant was described quietly and well.
Gendibal said, “Did you see all this yourself, Novi?”
“Nay, Master, or I would have sooner-stopped it. Rufirant be good fellow, but not quick in head.”
“But you described it all. How is that possible if you did not see it all?”
“Rufirant be telling me thereof, on questioning. He be ashamed.”
“Ashamed? Have you ever known him to behave in this manner in earlier times?”
“Rufirant? Nay, Master. He be gentle, though he be large. He be no fighter and he be afeared of scowlers. He say often they are mighty and possessed of power.”
“Why didn’t he feel this way when he met me?”
“It be strange. It be not understood.” She shook her head. “He be not his ain self. I said to him, ‘Thou blubber-head. Be it your place to assault scowler?’ And he said, ‘I know not how it happened. It be like I am to one side, standing and watching not-I.’ ”
Speaker Cheng interrupted. “First Speaker, of what value is it to have this woman report what a man has told her? Is not the man available for questioning?”
Gendibal said, “He is. If, on completion of this woman’s testimony, the Table wishes to hear more evidence, I will be ready to call Karoll Rufirant—my recent antagonist—to the stand. If not, the Table can move directly to judgment when I am done with this witness.”
“Very well,” said the First Speaker. “Proceed with your witness.”
Gendibal said, “And you, Novi? Was it like you to interfere in a fight in this manner?”
Novi did not say anything for a moment. A small frown appeared between her thick eyebrows and then disappeared. She said, “I know not. I wish no harm to scowlers. I be driven, and without thought I in-middled myself.” A pause, then, “I be do it over if need arise.”
Gendibal said, “Novi, you will sleep now. You will think of nothing. You will rest and you will not even dream.”
Novi mumbled for a moment. Her eyes closed and her head fell back against the headrest of her chair.
Gendibal waited a moment, then said, “First Speaker, with respect, follow me into this woman’s mind. You will find it remarkably simple and symmetrical, which is fortunate, for what you will see might not have been visible otherwise. —Here—here! Do you observe? —If the rest of you will enter—it will be easier if it is done one at a time.”
There was a rising buzz about the Table.
Gendibal said, “Is there any doubt among you?”
Delarmi said, “I doubt it, for—” She paused on the brink of what was—even for her—unsayable.
Gendibal said it for her. “You think I deliberately tampered with this mind in order to present false evidence? You think, therefore, that I am capable of bringing about so delicate an adjustment—one mental fiber clearly out of shape with nothing about it or its surroundings that is in the least disturbed? If I could do that, what need would I have to deal with any of you in this manner? Why subject myself to the indignity of a trial? Why labor to convince you? If I could do what is visible in this woman’s mind, you would all be helpless before me unless you were well prepared. —The blunt fact is that none of you could manipulate a mind as this woman’s has been manipulated. Neither can I. Yet it has been done.”
He paused, looking at all the Speakers in turn, then fixing his gaze on Delarmi. He spoke slowly. “Now, if anything more is required, I will call in the Hamish farmer, Karoll Rufirant, whom I have examined and whose mind has also been tampered with in this manner.”
“That will not be necessary,” said the First Speaker, who was wearing an appalled expression. “What we have seen is mindshaking.”
“In that case,” said Gendibal, “may I rouse this Hamishwoman and dismiss her? I have arranged for there to be those outside who will see to her recovery.”
When Novi had left, directed by Gendibal’s gentle hold on her elbow, he said, “Let me quickly summarize. Minds can be—and have been—altered in ways that are beyond our power. In this way, the curators themselves could have been influenced to remove Earth material from the Library—without our knowledge or their own. We see how it was arranged that I should be delayed in arriving at a meeting of the Table. I was threatened; I was rescued. The result was that I was impeached. The result of this apparently natural concatenation of events is that I may be removed from a position of power—and the course of action which I champion and which threatens these people, whoever they are, may be negated.”
Gendibal felt free to smile, now. “No credit to me,” he said. “I lay no claim to expertise superior to that of other Speakers; certainly not to the First Speaker. However, neither are these Anti-Mules—as the First Speaker has rather engagingly called them—infinitely wise or infinitely immune to circumstance. Perhaps they chose this particular Hamishwoman as their instrument precisely because she needed very little adjustment. She was, of her own character, sympathetic to what she calls ‘scholars,’ and admired them intensely.
“But then, once this was over, her momentary contact with me strengthened her fantasy of becoming a ‘scholar’ herself. She came to me the next day with that purpose in mind. Curious at this peculiar ambition of hers, I studied her mind—which I certainly would not otherwise have done—and, more by accident than anything else, stumbled upon the adjustment and noted its significance. Had another woman been chosen—one with a less natural proscholar bias—the Anti-Mules might have had to labor more at the adjustment, but the consequences might well not have followed and I would have remained ignorant of all this. The Anti-Mules miscalculated—or could not sufficiently allow for the unforeseen. That they can stumble so is heartening.”
Delarmi said, “The First Speaker and you call this—organization—the ‘Anti-Mules,’ I presume, because they seem to labor to keep the Galaxy in the path of the Seldon Plan, rather than to disrupt it as the Mule himself did. If the Anti-Mules do this, why are they dangerous?”
“Why should they labor, if not for some purpose? We don’t know what that purpose is. A cynic might say that they intend to step in at some future time and turn the current in another direction, one that may please them far more than it would please us. That is my own feeling, even though I do not major in cynicism. Is Speaker Delarmi prepared to maintain, out of the love and trust that we all know form so great a part of her character, that these are cosmic altruists, doing our work for us, without dream of reward?”
There was a gentle susurration of laughter about the Table at this and Gendibal knew that he had won. And Delarmi knew that she had lost, for there was a wash of rage that showed through her harsh mentalic control like a momentary ray of ruddy sunlight through a thick canopy of leaves.
Gendibal said, “When I first experienced the incident with the Hamish farmer, I leaped to the conclusion that another Speaker was behind it. When I noted the adjustment of the Hamishwoman’s mind, I knew that I was right as to the plot but wrong as to the plotter. I apologize for the misinterpretation and I plead the circumstances as an extenuation.”
The First Speaker said, “I believe this may be construed as an apology—”
Delarmi interrupted. She was quite placid again—her face was friendly, her voice downright saccharine. “With total respect, First Speaker, if I may interrupt—Let us drop this matter of impeachment. At this moment, I would not vote for conviction and I imagine no one will. I would even suggest the impeachment be stricken from the Speaker’s unblemished record. Speaker Gendibal has exonerated himself ably. I congratulate him on that—and for uncovering a crisis that the rest of us might well have allowed to smolder on indefinitely, with incalculable results. I offer the Speaker my wholehearted apologies for my earlier hostility.”
She virtually beamed at Gendibal, who felt a reluctant admiration for the manner in which she shifted direction instantly in order to cut her losses. He also felt that all this was but preliminary to an attack from a new direction.
He was certain that what was coming would not be pleasant.
WHEN SHE EXERTED HERSELF TO BE CHARMING, Speaker Delora Delarmi had a way of dominating the Speaker’s Table. Her voice grew soft, her smile indulgent, her eyes sparkling, all of her sweet. No one cared to interrupt her and everyone waited for the blow to fall.
She said, “Thanks to Speaker Gendibal, I think we all now understand what we must do. We do not see the Anti-Mules; we know nothing about them, except for their fugitive touches on the minds of people right here in the stronghold of the Second Foundation itself. We do not know what the power center of the First Foundation is planning. We may face an alliance of the Anti-Mules and the First Foundation. We don’t know.
“We do know that this Golan Trevize and his companion, whose name escapes me at the moment, are going we know not where—and that the First Speaker and Gendibal feel that Trevize holds the key to the outcome of this great crisis. What, then, are we to do? Clearly we must find out everything we can about Trevize; where he is going, what he is thinking, what his purpose may be; or, indeed, whether he has any destination, any thought, any purpose; whether he might not, in fact, be a mere tool of a force greater than he.”
Delarmi pursed her lips in an indulgent smile. “By whom? By one of our outworld agents? Are such agents to be expected to stand against those with the powers we have seen demonstrated here? Surely not. In the Mule’s time, and later on, too, the Second Foundation did not hesitate to send out—and even to sacrifice—volunteers from among the best we had, since nothing less would do. When it was necessary to restore the Seldon Plan, Preem Palver himself scoured the Galaxy as a Trantorian trader in order to bring back that girl, Arkady. We cannot sit here and wait, now, when the crisis may be greater than in either previous case. We cannot rely on minor functionaries—watchers and messenger boys.”
Gendibal said, “Surely you are not suggesting that the First Speaker leave Trantor at this time?”
Delarmi said, “Certainly not. We need him badly here. On the other hand, there is you, Speaker Gendibal. It is you who have correctly sensed and weighed the crisis. It is you who detected the subtle outside interference with the Library and with Hamish minds. It is you who have maintained your views against the united opposition of the Table—and won. No one here has seen as clearly as you have and no one can be trusted, as you can, to continue to see clearly. It is you who must, in my opinion, go out to confront the enemy. May I have the sense of the Table?”
There was no formal vote needed to reveal that sense. Each Speaker felt the minds of the others and it was clear to a suddenly appalled Gendibal that, at the moment of his victory and Delarmi’s defeat, this formidable woman was managing to send him irrevocably into exile on a task that might occupy him for some indefinite period, while she remained behind to control the Table and, therefore, the Second Foundation and, therefore, the Galaxy—sending all alike, perhaps, to their doom.
And if Gendibal-in-exile should, somehow, manage to gather the information that would enable the Second Foundation to avert the gathering crisis, it would be Delarmi who would have the credit for having arranged it, and his success would but confirm her power. The quicker Gendibal would be, the more efficiently he succeeded, the more surely he would confirm her power.
It was a beautiful maneuver, an unbelievable recovery.
And so clearly was she dominating the Table even now that she was virtually usurping the First Speaker’s role. Gendibal’s thought to that effect was overtaken by the rage he sensed from the First Speaker.
QUINDOR SHANDESS, THE TWENTY-FIFTH FIRST Speaker, had no extraordinary illusions about himself.
He knew he was not one of those few dynamic First Speakers who had illuminated the five-century-long history of the Second Foundation—but then, he didn’t have to be. He controlled the Table in a quiet period of Galactic prosperity and it was not a time for dynamism. It had seemed to be a time to play a holding game and he had been the man for this role. His predecessor had chosen him for that reason.
“You are not an adventurer, you are a scholar,” the twenty-fourth First Speaker had said. “You will preserve the Plan, where an adventurer might ruin it. Preserve! Let that be the key word for your Table.”
He had tried, but it had meant a passive First Speakership and this had been, on occasion, interpreted as weakness. There had been recurrent rumors that he meant to resign and there had been open intrigue to assure the succession in one direction or another.
There was no doubt in Shandess’s mind that Delarmi had been a leader in the fight. She was the strongest personality at the Table and even Gendibal, with all the fire and folly of youth, retreated before her as he was doing right now.
But, by Seldon, passive he might be, or even weak, but there was one prerogative of the First Speaker that not one in the line had ever given up, and neither would he do so.
He rose to speak and at once there was a hush about the Table. When the First Speaker rose to speak, there could be no interruptions. Even Delarmi or Gendibal would not dare to interrupt.
He said, “Speakers! I agree that we face a dangerous crisis and that we must take strong measures. It is I who should go out to meet the enemy. Speaker Delarmi, with the gentleness that characterizes her, excuses me from the task by stating that I am needed here. The truth, however, is that I am needed neither here nor there. I grow old; I grow weary. There has long been expectation I would someday resign and perhaps I ought to. When this crisis is successfully surmounted, I shall resign.
“But, of course, it is the privilege of the First Speaker to choose his successor. I am going to do so now. There is one Speaker who has long dominated the proceedings of the Table; one Speaker who, by force of personality, has often supplied the leadership that I could not. You all know I am speaking of Speaker Delarmi.”
He paused, then said, “You alone, Speaker Gendibal, are registering disapproval. May I ask why?” He sat down, so that Gendibal might have the right to answer.
“I do not disapprove, First Speaker,” said Gendibal in a low voice. “It is your prerogative to choose your successor.”
“And so I will. When you return—having succeeded in initiating the process that will put an end to this crisis—it will be time for my resignation. My successor will then be directly in charge of conducting whatever policies may be required to carry on and complete that process. —Do you have anything to say, Speaker Gendibal?”
Gendibal said quietly, “When you make Speaker Delarmi your successor, First Speaker, I hope you will see fit to advise her to—”
The First Speaker interrupted him roughly. “I have spoken of Speaker Delarmi, but I have not named her as my successor. Now what do you have to say?”
“Nor will I make her my successor in the future, under any conditions. Now what do you have to say?” The First Speaker was unable to make this announcement without a stab of satisfaction at the blow he was delivering to Delarmi. He could not have done it in a more humiliating fashion.
“Well, Speaker Gendibal,” he said, “what do you have to say?”
“That I am confused.”
The First Speaker rose again. He said, “Speaker Delarmi has dominated and led, but that is not all that is needed for the post of First Speaker. Speaker Gendibal has seen what we have not seen. He has faced the united hostility of the Table, and forced it to rethink matters, and has dragged it into agreement with him. I have my suspicions as to the motivation of Speaker Delarmi in placing the responsibility of the pursuit of Golan Trevize on the shoulders of Speaker Gendibal, but that is where the burden belongs. I know he will succeed—I trust my intuition in this—and when he returns, Speaker Gendibal will become the twenty-sixth First Speaker.”
He sat down abruptly and each Speaker began to make clear his opinion in a bedlam of sound, tone, thought, and expression. The First Speaker paid no attention to the cacophony but stared indifferently before him. Now that it was done, he realized—with some surprise—the great comfort there was in laying down the mantle of responsibility. He should have done it before this—but he couldn’t have.
It was not till now that he had found his obvious successor.
And then, somehow, his mind caught that of Delarmi and he looked up at her.
DELORA DELARMI WOULD FREELY HAVE SHOWN her desperation and disappointment, if that would have proven of any use whatever.
It would have given her a great deal of satisfaction to strike out at that senile fool who controlled the Table or at that juvenile idiot with whom Fortune had conspired—but satisfaction wasn’t what she wanted. She wanted something more.
She wanted to be First Speaker.
And while there was a card left to play, she would play it.
She smiled gently, and managed to lift her hand as though she were about to speak, and then held the pose just long enough to insure that when she did speak, all would be not merely normal, but radiantly quiet.
She said, “First Speaker, as Speaker Gendibal said earlier, I do not disapprove. It is your prerogative to choose your successor. If I speak now, it is in order that I may contribute—I hope—to the success of what has now become Speaker Gendibal’s mission. May I explain my thoughts, First Speaker?”
“Do so,” said the First Speaker curtly. She was entirely too smooth, too pliant, it seemed to him.
Delarmi bent her head gravely. She no longer smiled. She said, “We have ships. They are not as technologically magnificent as those of the First Foundation, but they will carry Speaker Gendibal. He knows how to pilot one, I believe, as do we all. We have our representatives on every major planet in the Galaxy, and he will be welcomed everywhere. Moreover, he can defend himself against even these Anti-Mules, now that he is thoroughly aware of the danger. Even when we were unaware, I suspect they have preferred to work through the lower classes and even the Hamish farmers. We will, of course, thoroughly inspect the minds of all the Second Foundationers, including the Speakers, but I am sure they have remained inviolate. The Anti-Mules did not dare interfere with us.
“Nevertheless, there is no reason why Speaker Gendibal should risk more than he must. He is not intending to engage in derring-do and it will be best if his mission is to some extent disguised—if he takes them unaware. It will be useful if he goes in the role of a Hamish trader. Preem Palver, we all know, went off into the Galaxy as a supposed trader.”
The First Speaker said, “Preem Palver had a specific purpose in doing so; Speaker Gendibal has not. If it appears a disguise of some sort is necessary, I am sure he will be ingenious enough to adopt one.”
“With respect, First Speaker, I wish to point out a subtle disguise. Preem Palver, you will remember, took with him his wife and companion of many years. Nothing so thoroughly established the rustic nature of his character as the fact that he was traveling with his wife. It allayed all suspicion.”
Gendibal said, “I have no wife. I have had companions, but none who would now volunteer to assume the marital role.”
“This is well known, Speaker Gendibal,” said Delarmi, “but then people will take the role for granted if any woman is with you. Surely some volunteer can be found. And if you feel the need to be able to present documentary evidence, that can be provided. I think a woman should come with you.”
For a moment, Gendibal was breathless. Surely she did not mean—
Could it be a ploy to achieve a share in the success? Could she be playing for a joint—or rotating—occupation of the First Speakership?
Gendibal said grimly, “I am flattered that Speaker Delarmi should feel that she—”
She said, “Speaker Gendibal, I would not have the impertinence to attempt to share in this task. It is yours and yours alone, as the post of First Speaker will be yours and yours alone. I would not have thought you wanted me with you. Really, Speaker, at my age, I no longer think of myself as a charmer—”
There were smiles around the Table and even the First Speaker tried to hide one.
Gendibal felt the stroke and labored not to compound the loss by failing to match her lightness. It was labor lost.
He said, as unsavagely as he could, “Then what is it you would suggest? It was not in my thoughts, I assure you, that you would wish to accompany me. You are at your best at the Table and not in the hurly-burly of Galactic affairs, I know.”
“I agree, Speaker Gendibal, I agree,” said Delarmi. “My suggestion, however, refers back to your role as Hamish trader. To make it indisputably authentic, what better companion need you ask but a Hamishwoman?”
“A Hamishwoman?” For a second time in rapid succession, Gendibal was caught by surprise and the Table enjoyed it.
“The Hamishwoman,” Delarmi went on. “The one who saved you from a beating. The one who gazes at you worshipfully. The one whose mind you probed and who then, quite unwittingly, saved you a second time from considerably more than a beating. I suggest you take her.”
Gendibal’s impulse was to refuse, but he knew that she expected that. It would mean more enjoyment for the Table. It was clear now that the First Speaker, anxious to strike out at Delarmi, had made a mistake by naming Gendibal his successor—or, at the very least, that Delarmi had quickly converted it into one.
Gendibal was the youngest of the Speakers. He had angered the Table and had then avoided conviction by them. In a very real way, he had humiliated them. None could see him as the heir apparent without resentment.
That would have been hard enough to overcome, but now they would remember how easily Delarmi had twitched him into ridicule and how much they had enjoyed it. She would use that to convince them, all too easily, that he lacked the age and experience for the role of First Speaker. Their united pressure would force the First Speaker into changing his decision while Gendibal was off on his mission. Or, if the First Speaker held fast, Gendibal would eventually find himself with an office that would be forever helpless in the face of united opposition.
He saw it all in an instant and was able to answer as though without hesitation.
He said, “Speaker Delarmi, I admire your insight. I had thought to surprise you all. It was indeed my intention to take the Hamishwoman, though not quite for the very good reason you suggest. It was for her mind that I wished to take her with me. You have all examined that mind. You saw it for what it was: surprisingly intelligent but, more than that, clear, simple, utterly without guile. No touch upon it by others would go unnoticed, as I’m sure you all concluded.
“I wonder if it occurred to you, then, Speaker Delarmi, that she would serve as an excellent early-warning system. I would detect the first symptomatic presence of mentalism by way of her mind, earlier, I think, than by way of mine.”
There was a kind of astonished silence at that, and he said, lightly, “Ah, none of you saw that. Well well, not important! And I will take my leave now. There’s no time to lose.”
“Wait,” said Delarmi, her initiative lost a third time. “What do you intend to do?”
He said it as though the safety of the Table was his prime concern. He filled his mind with that, and let it show.
It would flatter them. More than that, the satisfaction it would bring might keep them from wondering whether, in fact, Gendibal knew exactly what it was he intended to do.
THE FIRST SPEAKER SPOKE TO GENDIBAL ALONE that evening.
“You were right,” he said. “I could not help brushing below the surface of your mind. I saw you considered the announcement a mistake and it was. It was my eagerness to wipe that eternal smile off her face and to strike back at the casual way in which she so frequently usurps my role.”
Gendibal said gently, “It might have been better if you had told me privately and had then waited for my return to go further.”
“That would not have allowed me to strike out at her. —Poor motivation for a First Speaker, I know.”
“This won’t stop her, First Speaker. She will still intrigue for the post and perhaps with good reason. I’m sure there are some who would argue that I should have refused your nomination. It would not be hard to argue that Speaker Delarmi has the best mind at the Table and would make the best First Speaker.”
“The best mind at the Table, not away from it,” grumbled Shandess. “She recognizes no real enemies, except for other Speakers. She ought never to have been made a Speaker in the first place. —See here, shall I forbid you to take the Hamishwoman? She maneuvered you into that, I know.”
“No no, the reason I advanced for taking her is a true one. She will be an early-warning system and I am grateful to Speaker Delarmi for pushing me into realizing that. The woman will prove very useful, I’m convinced.”
“Good, then. By the way, I wasn’t lying, either. I am truly certain that you will accomplish whatever is needed to end this crisis—if you can trust my intuition.”
“I think I can trust it, for I agree with you. I promise you that whatever happens, I will return better than I receive. I will come back to be First Speaker, whatever the Anti-Mules—or Speaker Delarmi—can do.”
Gendibal studied his own satisfaction even as he spoke. Why was he so pleased, so insistent, on this one-ship venture into space? Ambition, of course. Preem Palver had once done just this sort of thing—and he was going to show that Stor Gendibal could do it, too. No one could withhold the First Speakership from him after that. And yet was there more than ambition? The lure of combat? The generalized desire for excitement in one who had been confined to a hidden patch on a backward planet all his adult life? —He didn’t entirely know, but he knew he was desperately intent on going.