WHEN STOR GENDIBAL FINALLY MADE OUT COMPOR’S ship on his viewscreen, it seemed like the end of an incredibly long journey. Yet, of course, it was not the end, but merely the beginning. The journey from Trantor to Sayshell had been nothing but prologue.
Novi looked awed. “Is that another ship of space, Master?”
“Spaceship, Novi. It is. It’s the one we have been striving to reach. It is a larger ship than this one—and a better one. It can move through space so quickly that if it fled from us, this ship could not possibly catch it—or even follow it.”
“Faster than a ship of the masters?” Sura Novi seemed appalled by the thought.
Gendibal shrugged. “I may be, as you say, a master, but I am not a master in all things. We scholars do not have ships like these, nor do we have many of the material devices that the owners of those ships have.”
“But how can scholars lack such things, Master?”
“Because we are masters in what is important. The material advances that these others have are trifles.”
Gendibal was amused. “They call themselves the Foundation. Have you ever heard of the Foundation?”
(He caught himself wondering what the Hamish knew or did not know of the Galaxy and why it never occurred to the Speakers to wonder about such things. —Or was it only he who had never wondered about such things—only he who assumed that the Hamish cared for nothing more than grubbing in the soil.)
Novi shook her head thoughtfully. “I have never heard of it, Master. When the schoolmaster taught me letter-lore—how to read, I mean—he told me there were many other worlds and told me the names of some. He said our Hamish world had the proper name of Trantor and that it once ruled all the worlds. He said Trantor was covered with gleaming iron and had an Emperor who was an all-master.”
Her eyes looked up at Gendibal with a shy merriment. “I unbelieve most of it, though. There are many stories the word-spinners tell in the meeting-halls in the time of longer nights. When I was a small girl, I believed them all, but as I grew older, I found that many of them were not true. I believe very few now; perhaps none. Even schoolmasters tell unbelievables.”
“Just the same, Novi, that particular story of the schoolmaster is true—but it was long ago. Trantor was indeed covered by metal and had indeed an Emperor who ruled all the Galaxy. Now, however, it is the people of the Foundation who will someday rule all the worlds. They grow stronger all the time.”
“They will rule all, Master?”
“Not immediately. In five hundred years.”
“And they will master the masters as well?”
“No, no. They will rule the worlds. We will rule them—for their safety and the safety of all the worlds.”
Novi was frowning again. She said, “Master, do these people of the Foundation have many of these remarkable ships?”
“And other things that are very—astonishing?”
“They have powerful weapons of all kinds.”
“Then, Master, can they not take all the worlds now?”
“No, they cannot. It is not yet time.”
“But why can they not? Would the masters stop them?”
“We wouldn’t have to, Novi. Even if we did nothing, they could not take all the worlds.”
“But what would stop them?”
“You see,” began Gendibal, “there is a plan that a wise man once devised—”
He stopped, smiled slightly, and shook his head. “It is hard to explain, Novi. Another time, perhaps. In fact, when you see what will happen before we ever see Trantor again, you may even understand without my explaining.”
“What will happen, Master?”
“I am not sure, Novi. But all will happen well.”
He turned away and prepared to make contact with Compor. And, as he did so, he could not quite keep an inner thought from saying: At least I hope so.
He was instantly angry with himself, for he knew the source of that foolish and weakening drift of thought. It was the picture of the elaborate and enormous Foundation might in the shape of Compor’s ship and it was his chagrin at Novi’s open admiration of it.
Stupid! How could he let himself compare the possession of mere strength and power with the possession of the ability to guide events? It was what generations of Speakers had called “the fallacy of the hand at the throat.”
To think that he was not yet immune to its allures.
MUNN LI COMPOR WAS NOT IN THE LEAST SURE as to how he ought to comport himself. For most of his life, he had had the vision of all-powerful Speakers existing just beyond his circle of experience—Speakers, with whom he was occasionally in contact and who had, in their mysterious grip, the whole of humanity.
Of them all, it had been Stor Gendibal to whom, in recent years, he had turned for direction. It was not even a voice he had encountered most times, but a mere presence in his mind—hyperspeech without a hyper-relay.
In this respect, the Second Foundation had gone far beyond the Foundation. Without material device, but just by the educated and advanced power of the mind alone, they could reach across the parsecs in a manner that could not be tapped, could not be infringed upon. It was an invisible, indetectable network that held all the worlds fast through the mediation of a relatively few dedicated individuals.
Compor had, more than once, experienced a kind of uplifting at the thought of his role. How small the band of which he was one; how enormous an influence they exerted. —And how secret it all was. Even his wife knew nothing of his hidden life.
And it was the Speakers who held the strings—and this one Speaker, this Gendibal, who might (Compor thought) be the next First Speaker, the more-than-Emperor of a more-than-Empire.
Now Gendibal was here, in a ship of Trantor, and Compor fought to stifle his disappointment at not having such a meeting take place on Trantor itself.
Could that be a ship of Trantor? Any of the early Traders who had carried the Foundation’s wares through a hostile Galaxy would have had a better ship than that. No wonder it had taken the Speaker so long to cover the distance from Trantor to Sayshell.
It was not even equipped with a unidock mechanism that would have welded the two ships into one when the cross-transfer of personnel was desired. Even the contemptible Sayshellian fleet was equipped with it. Instead, the Speaker had to match velocities and then cast a tether across the gap and swing along it, as in Imperial days.
That was it, thought Compor gloomily, unable to repress the feeling. The ship was no more than an old-fashioned Imperial vessel—and a small one at that.
Two figures were moving across the tether—one of them so clumsily that it was clear it had never attempted to maneuver through space before.
Finally they were on board and removed their space suits. Speaker Stor Gendibal was of moderate height and of unimpressive appearance; he was not large and powerful, nor did he exude an air of learning. His dark, deep-set eyes were the only indication of his wisdom. But now the Speaker looked about with a clear indication of being in awe himself.
The other was a woman as tall as Gendibal, plain in appearance. Her mouth was open in astonishment as she looked about.
MOVING ACROSS THE TETHER HAD NOT BEEN AN entirely unpleasant experience for Gendibal. He was not a spaceman—no Second Foundationer was—but neither was he a complete surface worm, for no Second Foundationer was allowed to be that. The possible need for space flight was, after all, always looming above them, though every Second Foundationer hoped the need would arise only infrequently. (Preem Palver—the extent of whose space travels was legendary—had once said, ruefully, that the measure of the success of a Speaker was the fewness of the times he was compelled to move through space in order to assure the success of the Plan.)
Gendibal had had to use a tether three times before. This was his fourth use and even if he had felt tension over the matter, it would have disappeared in his concern for Sura Novi. He needed no mentalics to see that stepping into nothingness had totally upset her.
“I be afeared, Master,” she said when he explained what would have to be done. “It be naughtness into which I will make footstep.” If nothing else, her sudden descent into thick Hamish dialect showed the extent of her disturbance.
Gendibal said gently, “I cannot leave you on board this ship, Novi, for I will be going into the other and I must have you with me. There is no danger, for your space suit will protect you from all harm and there is no place for you to fall to. Even if you lose your grip on the tether, you will remain nearly where you are and I will be within arm’s reach so that I can gather you in. Come, Novi, show me that you are brave enough—as well as bright enough—to become a scholar.”
She made no further objection and Gendibal, unwilling to do anything that might disturb the smoothness of her mind-set, nevertheless managed to inject a soothing touch upon the surface of her mind.
“You can still speak to me,” he said, after they were each enclosed in a space suit. “I can hear you if you think hard. Think the words hard and clearly, one by one. You can hear me now, can’t you?”
“Yes, Master,” she said.
He could see her lips move through the transparent face-plate and he said, “Say it without moving your lips, Novi. There is no radio in the kind of suits that scholars have. It is all done with the mind.”
Her lips did not move and her look grew more anxious: Can you hear me, Master?
Perfectly well, thought Gendibal—and his lips did not move either: Do you hear me?
I do, Master.
Then come with me and do as I do.
They moved across. Gendibal knew the theory of it, even if he could handle the practice only moderately well. The trick was to keep one’s legs extended and together and to swing them from the hips alone. That kept the center of gravity moving in a straight line as the arms swung forward in steady alternation. He had explained this to Sura Novi and, without turning to look at her, he studied the stance of her body from the set of the motor areas of her brain.
For a first-timer, she did very well, almost as well as Gendibal was managing to do. She repressed her own tensions and she followed directions. Gendibal found himself, once again, very pleased with her.
She was, however, clearly glad to be on board ship again—and so was Gendibal. He looked about as he removed his space suit and was rather dumbfounded at the luxury and style of the equipment. He recognized almost nothing and his heart sank at the thought that he might have very little time to learn how to handle it all. He might have to transfer expertise directly from the man already on board, something that was never quite as satisfactory as true learning.
Then he concentrated on Compor. Compor was tall and lean, a few years older than himself, rather handsome in a slightly weak way, with tightly waved hair of a startling buttery yellow.
And it was clear to Gendibal that this person was disappointed in, and even contemptuous of, the Speaker he was now meeting for the first time. What was more, he was entirely unsuccessful in hiding the fact.
Gendibal did not mind such things, on the whole. Compor was not a Trantorian—nor a full Second Foundationer—and he clearly had his illusions. Even the most superficial scan of his mind showed that. Among these was the illusion that true power was necessarily related to the appearance of power. He might, of course, keep his illusions as long as they did not interfere with what Gendibal needed, but at the present moment, this particular illusion did so interfere.
What Gendibal did was the mentalic equivalent of a snap of the fingers. Compor staggered slightly under the impress of a sharp but fleeting pain. There was an impress of enforced concentration that puckered the skin of his thought and left the man with the awareness of a casual but awesome power that could be utilized if the Speaker chose.
Compor was left with a vast respect for Gendibal.
Gendibal said pleasantly, “I am merely attracting your attention, Compor, my friend. Please let me know the present whereabouts of your friend, Golan Trevize, and his friend, Janov Pelorat.”
Compor said hesitantly, “Shall I speak in the presence of the woman, Speaker?”
“The woman, Compor, is an extension of myself. There is no reason, therefore, why you should not speak openly.”
“As you say, Speaker. Trevize and Pelorat are now approaching a planet known as Gaia.”
“So you said in your last communication the other day. Surely they have already landed on Gaia and perhaps left again. They did not stay long on Sayshell Planet.”
“They had not yet landed during the time I followed them, Speaker. They are approaching the planet with great caution, pausing substantial periods between micro-Jumps. It is clear to me they have no information about the planet they are approaching and therefore hesitate.”
“Do you have information, Compor?”
“I have none, Speaker,” said Compor, “or at least my ship’s computer has none.”
“This computer?” Gendibal’s eyes fell upon the control panel and he asked in sudden hope, “Can it aid usefully in running the ship?”
“It can run the ship completely, Speaker. One need merely think into it.”
Gendibal felt suddenly uneasy. “The Foundation has gone that far?”
“Yes, but clumsily. The computer does not work well. I must repeat my thoughts several times and even then I get but minimal information.”
“I am sure of it, Speaker,” said Compor respectfully.
“But never mind that for the moment. Why does it have no information on Gaia?”
“I do not know, Speaker. It claims to have—as far as a computer may be said to be able to claim—records on every human-inhabited planet in the Galaxy.”
“It cannot have more information than has been fed into it and if those who did the feeding thought they had records of all such planets when, in actual fact, they did not, then the computer would labor under the same misapprehension. Correct?”
“Did you inquire at Sayshell?”
“Speaker,” said Compor uneasily, “there are people who speak of Gaia on Sayshell, but what they say is valueless. Clearly superstition. The tale they tell is that Gaia is a powerful world that held off even the Mule.”
“Is that what they say, indeed?” said Gendibal, suppressing excitement. “Were you so sure that this was superstition that you asked for no details?”
“No, Speaker. I asked a great deal, but what I have just told you is all that anyone can say. They can speak on the subject at great length, but when they have done so, all that it boils down to is what I have just said.”
“Apparently,” said Gendibal, “that is what Trevize had heard, too, and he goes to Gaia for some reason connected with that—to tap this great power, perhaps. And he does so cautiously, for perhaps he also fears this great power.”
“That is certainly possible, Speaker.”
“And yet you did not follow?”
“I did follow, Speaker, long enough to make sure he was indeed making for Gaia. I then returned here to the outskirts of the Gaian system.”
“Three reasons, Speaker. First, you were about to arrive and I wanted to meet you at least partway and bring you aboard at the earliest moment, as you had directed. Since my ship has a hyper-relay on board, I could not move too far away from Trevize and Pelorat without rousing suspicion on Terminus, but I judged I could risk moving this far. Second, when it was clear that Trevize was approaching Gaia Planet very slowly, I judged there would be time enough for me to move toward you and hasten our meeting without being overtaken by events, especially since you would be more competent than I to follow him to the planet itself and to handle any emergency that might arise.”
“Quite true. And the third reason?”
“Since our last communication, Speaker, something has happened that I did not expect and do not understand. I felt that—for that reason, too—I had better hasten our meeting as soon as I dared.”
“And this event that you did not expect and do not understand?”
“Ships of the Foundation fleet are approaching the Sayshellian frontier. My computer has picked up this information from Sayshellian news broadcasts. At least five advanced ships are in the flotilla and these have enough power to overwhelm Sayshell.”
Gendibal did not answer at once, for it would not do to show that he had not expected such a move—or that he didn’t understand it. So, after a moment, he said negligently, “Do you suppose that this has something to do with Trevize’s movement toward Gaia?”
“It certainly came immediately afterward—and if B follows A, then there is at least a possibility that A caused B,” said Compor.
“Well, then, it seems we all converge upon Gaia—Trevize, and I, and the First Foundation. —Come, you acted well, Compor,” said Gendibal, “and here is what we will now do. First, you will show me how this computer works and, through that, how the ship may be handled. I am sure that will not take long.
“After that, you will get into my ship, since by then I will have impressed on your mind how to handle it. You will have no trouble maneuvering it, although I must tell you (as you have no doubt guessed from its appearance) that you will find it primitive indeed. Once you are in control of the ship, you will keep it here and wait for me.”
“How long, Speaker?”
“Until I come for you. I do not expect to be gone long enough for you to be in danger of running out of supplies, but if I am unduly delayed, you may find your way to some inhabited planet of the Sayshell Union and wait there. Wherever you are, I will find you.”
“As you say, Speaker.”
“And do not be alarmed. I can handle this mysterious Gaia and, if need be, the five ships of the Foundation as well.”
LITTORAL THOOBING HAD BEEN THE FOUNDATION’S Ambassador to Sayshell for seven years. He rather liked the position.
Tall and rather stout, he wore a thick brown mustache at a time when the predominant fashion, both in the Foundation and in Sayshell, was smooth-shaven. He had a strongly lined countenance, though he was only fifty-four—and was much given to a schooled indifference. His attitude toward his work was not easily seen.
Still, he rather liked the position. It kept him away from the hurly-burly of politics on Terminus—something he appreciated—and it gave him the chance to live the life of a Sayshellian sybarite and to support his wife and daughter in the style to which they had become addicted. He didn’t want his life disturbed.
On the other hand, he rather disliked Liono Kodell, perhaps because Kodell also sported a mustache, though one which was smaller, shorter, and grayish-white. In the old days, they had been the only two people in prominent public life who had worn one and there had been rather a competition between them over the matter. Now (thought Thoobing) there was none; Kodell’s was contemptible.
Kodell had been Director of Security when Thoobing was still on Terminus, dreaming of opposing Harla Branno in the race for Mayor, until he had been bought off with the ambassadorship. Branno had done it for her own sake, of course, but he had ended up owing her goodwill for that.
But not to Kodell, somehow. Perhaps it was because of Kodell’s determined cheerfulness—the manner in which he was always such a friendly person—even after he had decided on just exactly the manner in which your throat was to be cut.
Now he sat there in hyperspatial image, cheerful as ever, brimming over with bonhomie. His actual body was, of course, back on Terminus, which spared Thoobing the necessity of offering him any physical sign of hospitality.
“Kodell,” he said. “I want those ships withdrawn.”
Kodell smiled sunnily. “Why, so do I, but the old lady has made up her mind.”
“You’ve been known to persuade her out of this or that.”
“On occasion. Perhaps. When she wanted to be persuaded. This time she doesn’t want to be. —Thoobing, do your job. Keep Sayshell calm.”
“I’m not thinking about Sayshell, Kodell. I’m thinking about the Foundation.”
“So are we all.”
“Kodell, don’t fence. I want you to listen to me.”
“Gladly, but these are hectic times on Terminus and I will not listen to you forever.”
“I will be as brief as I can be—when discussing the possibility of the Foundation’s destruction. If this hyperspatial line is not being tapped, I will speak openly.”
“It is not being tapped.”
“The young man’s uncle,” Kodell said.
“Ah, then you know the Trevize who sent the message to me. According to the information I have since gathered, he was a Councilman who, after the recent successful resolution of a Seldon Crisis, was arrested and sent into exile.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“What is it that you don’t believe?”
“That he was sent into exile.”
“When in history has any citizen of the Foundation been sent into exile?” demanded Thoobing. “He is arrested or not arrested. If he is arrested, he is tried or not tried. If he is tried, he is convicted or not convicted. If he is convicted, he is fined, demoted, disgraced, imprisoned, or executed. No one is sent into exile.”
“There is always a first time.”
“Nonsense. In an advanced naval vessel? What fool can fail to see that he is on a special mission for your old woman? Whom can she possibly expect to deceive?”
“What would the mission be?”
“Supposedly to find the planet Gaia.”
Some of the cheerfulness left Kodell’s face. An unaccustomed hardness entered his eyes. He said, “I know that you feel no overwhelming impulse to believe my statements, Mr. Ambassador, but I make a special plea that you believe me in this one case. Neither the Mayor nor I had ever heard of Gaia at the time that Trevize was sent into exile. We have heard of Gaia, for the first time, just the other day. If you believe that, this conversation may continue.”
“I will suspend my tendency toward skepticism long enough to accept that, Director, though it is difficult to do so.”
“It is quite true, Mr. Ambassador, and if I have suddenly adopted a formal note to my statements it is because when this is done, you will find that you have questions to answer and that you will not find the occasion joyful. You speak as though Gaia is a world familiar to you. How is it that you know something we did not know? Is it not your duty to see to it that we know everything that you know about the political unit to which you are assigned?”
Thoobing said softly, “Gaia is not part of the Sayshell Union. It, in fact, probably does not exist. Am I to transmit to Terminus all the fairy tales that the superstitious lower orders of Sayshell tell of Gaia? Some of them say that Gaia is located in hyperspace. According to others, it is a world that supernaturally protects Sayshell. According to still others, it sent forth the Mule to prey on the Galaxy. If you are planning to tell the Sayshellian government that Trevize has been sent out to find Gaia and that five advanced ships of the Foundation Navy have been sent out to back him in this search, they will never believe you. The people may believe fairy tales about Gaia, but the government does not—and they will not be convinced that the Foundation does. They will feel that you intend to force Sayshell into the Foundation Federation.”
“And what if we do plan that?”
“It would be fatal. Come, Kodell, in the five-century history of the Foundation, when have we fought a war of conquest? We have fought wars to prevent our own conquest—and failed once—but no war has ended with an extension of our territory. Accessions to the Federation have been through peaceful agreements. We have been joined by those who saw benefits in joining.”
“Isn’t it possible that Sayshell may see benefits in joining?”
“They will never do so while our ships remain on their borders. Withdraw them.”
“It can’t be done.”
“Kodell, Sayshell is a marvelous advertisement for the benevolence of the Foundation Federation. It is nearly enclosed by our territory, it is in an utterly vulnerable position, and yet until now it has been safe, has gone its own way, has even been able to maintain an anti-Foundation foreign policy freely. How better can we show the Galaxy that we force no one, that we come in friendship to all? —If we take over Sayshell, we take that which, in essence, we already have. After all, we dominate it economically—if quietly. But if we take it over by military force, we advertise to all the Galaxy that we have become expansionist.”
“And if I tell you that we are really interested only in Gaia?”
“Then I will believe it no more than the Sayshell Union will. This man, Trevize, sends me a message that he is on his way to Gaia and asks me to transmit it to Terminus. Against my better judgment, I do so because I must and, almost before the hyperspatial line is cool, the Foundation Navy is in motion. How will you get to Gaia, without penetrating Sayshellian space?”
“My dear Thoobing, surely you are not listening to yourself. Did you not tell me just a few minutes ago that Gaia, if it exists at all, is not part of the Sayshell Union? And I presume you know that hyperspace is free to all and is part of no world’s territory. How then can Sayshell complain if we move from Foundation territory (where our ships stand right now), through hyperspace, into Gaian territory, and never in the process occupy a single cubic centimeter of Sayshellian territory?”
“Sayshell will not interpret events like that, Kodell. Gaia, if it exists at all, is totally enclosed by the Sayshell Union, even if it is not a political part of it, and there are precedents that make such enclaves virtual parts of the enclosing territory, as far as enemy warships are concerned.”
“Ours are not enemy warships. We are at peace with Sayshell.”
“I tell you that Sayshell may declare war. They won’t expect to win such a war through military superiority, but the fact is, war will set off a wave of anti-Foundation activity throughout the Galaxy. The new expansionist policies of the Foundation will encourage the growth of alliances against us. Some of the members of the Federation will begin to rethink their ties to us. We may well lose the war through internal disarray and we will then certainly reverse the process of growth that has served the Foundation so well for five hundred years.”
“Come, come, Thoobing,” said Kodell indifferently, “You speak as though five hundred years is nothing, as though we are still the Foundation of Salvor Hardin’s time, fighting the pocket-kingdom of Anacreon. We are far stronger now than the Galactic Empire ever was at its very height. A squadron of our ships could defeat the entire Galactic Navy, occupy any Galactic sector, and never know it had been in a fight.”
“We are not fighting the Galactic Empire. We fight planets and sectors of our own time.”
“Who have not advanced as we have. We could gather in all the Galaxy now.”
“According to the Seldon Plan, we can’t do that for another five hundred years.”
“The Seldon Plan underestimates the speed of technological advance. We can do it now! —Understand me, I don’t say we will do it now or even should do it now. I merely say we can do it now.”
“Kodell, you have lived all your life on Terminus. You don’t know the Galaxy. Our Navy and our technology can beat down the Armed Forces of other worlds, but we cannot yet govern the entire rebellious, hate-ridden Galaxy—and that is what it will be if we take it by force. Withdraw the ships!”
“It can’t be done, Thoobing. Consider—What if Gaia is not a myth?”
Thoobing paused, scanning the other’s face as though anxious to read his mind. “A world in hyperspace not a myth?”
“A world in hyperspace is superstition, but even superstitions may be built around kernels of truth. This man, Trevize, who was exiled, speaks of it as though it were a real world in real space. What if he is right?”
“Nonsense. I don’t believe it.”
“No? Believe it for just a moment. A real world that has lent Sayshell safety against the Mule and against the Foundation!”
“But you refute yourself. How is Gaia keeping the Sayshellians safe from the Foundation? Are we not sending ships against it?”
“Not against it, but against Gaia, which is so mysteriously unknown—which is so careful to avoid notice that while it is in real space it somehow convinces its neighbor worlds that it is in hyperspace—and which even manages to remain outside the computerized data of the best and most unabridged of Galactic maps.”
“It must be a most unusual world, then, for it must be able to manipulate minds.”
“And did you not say a moment ago that one Sayshellian tale is that Gaia sent forth the Mule to prey upon the Galaxy? And could not the Mule manipulate minds?”
“And Gaia is a world of Mules, then?”
“Are you sure it might not be?”
“Why not a world of a reborn Second Foundation, in that case?”
“Why not indeed? Should it not be investigated?”
Thoobing grew sober. He had been smiling scornfully during the last exchanges, but now he lowered his head and stared up from under his eyebrows. “If you are serious, is such an investigation not dangerous?”
“You answer my questions with other questions because you have no reasonable answers. Of what use will ships be against Mules or Second Foundationers? Is it not likely, in fact, that if they exist they are luring you into destruction? See here, you tell me that the Foundation can establish its Empire now, even though the Seldon Plan has reached only its midway point, and I have warned you that you would be racing too far ahead and that the intricacies of the Plan would slow you down by force. Perhaps, if Gaia exists and is what you say it is, all this is a device to bring about that slowdown. Do voluntarily now what you may soon be constrained to do. Do peacefully and without bloodshed now what you may be forced to do by woeful disaster. Withdraw the ships.”
“It can’t be done. In fact, Thoobing, Mayor Branno herself plans to join the ships, and scoutships have already flitted through hyperspace to what is supposedly Gaian territory.”
Thoobing’s eyes bulged. “There will surely be war, I tell you.”
“You are our ambassador. Prevent that. Give the Sayshellians whatever assurances they need. Deny any ill will on our part. Tell them, if you have to, that it will pay them to sit quietly and wait for Gaia to destroy us. Say anything you want to, but keep them quiet.”
He paused, searching Thoobing’s stunned expression, and said, “Really, that’s all. As far as I know, no Foundation ship will land on any world of the Sayshell Union or penetrate any point in real space that is part of that Union. However, any Sayshellian ship that attempts to challenge us outside Union territory—and therefore inside Foundation territory—will promptly be reduced to dust. Make that perfectly clear, too, and keep the Sayshellians quiet. You will be held to strict account if you fail. You have had an easy job so far, Thoobing, but hard times are upon you and the next few weeks decide all. Fail us and no place in the Galaxy will be safe for you.”
There was neither merriment nor friendliness in Kodell’s face as contact was broken and as his image disappeared.
Thoobing stared open-mouthed at the place where he had been.
“State of mind?” said Pelorat blankly.
“Yes. Here we are, trapped—with our ship under outside control and being drawn inexorably to a world we know nothing about. Do you feel panic?”
Pelorat’s long face registered a certain melancholia. “No,” he said. “I don’t feel joyful. I do feel a little apprehensive, but I’m not panicky.”
“Neither am I. Isn’t that odd? Why aren’t we more upset than we are?”
“This is something we expected, Golan. Something like this.”
Trevize turned to the screen. It remained firmly focused on the space station. It was larger now, which meant they were closer.
It seemed to him that it was not an impressive space station in design. There was nothing to it that bespoke superscience. In fact, it seemed a bit primitive. —Yet it had the ship in its grip.
He said, “I’m being very analytical, Janov. Cool! —I like to think that I am not a coward and that I can behave well under pressure, and I tend to flatter myself. Everyone does. I should be jumping up and down right now and sweating a little. We may have expected something, but that doesn’t change the fact that we are helpless and that we may be killed.”
Pelorat said, “I don’t think so, Golan. If the Gaians could take over the ship at a distance, couldn’t they kill us at a distance? If we’re still alive—”
“But we’re not altogether untouched. We’re too calm, I tell you. I think they’ve tranquilized us.”
“To keep us in good shape mentally, I think. It’s possible they wish to question us. After all, they may kill us.”
“If they are rational enough to want to question us, they may be rational enough not to kill us for no good reason.”
Trevize leaned back in his chair (it bent back at least—they hadn’t deprived the chair of its functioning) and placed his feet on the desk where ordinarily his hands made contact with the computer. He said, “They may be quite ingenious enough to work up what they consider a good reason. —Still, if they’ve touched our minds, it hasn’t been by much. If it were the Mule, for instance, he would have made us eager to go—exalted, exultant, every fiber of ourselves crying out for arrival there.” He pointed to the space station. “Do you feel that way, Janov?”
“You see that I’m still in a state where I can indulge in cool, analytical reasoning. Very odd! Or can I tell? Am I in a panic, incoherent, mad—and merely under the illusion that I am indulging in cool, analytical reasoning?”
Pelorat shrugged. “You seem sane to me. Perhaps I am as insane as you and am under the same illusion, but that sort of argument gets us nowhere. All humanity could share a common insanity and be immersed in a common illusion while living in a common chaos. That can’t be disproved, but we have no choice but to follow our senses.” And then, abruptly, he said, “In fact, I’ve been doing some reasoning myself.”
“Well, we talk about Gaia as a world of Mules, possibly, or as the Second Foundation reborn. Has it occurred to you that a third alternative exists, one that is more reasonable than either of the first two.”
“What third alternative?”
Pelorat’s eyes seemed concentrating inward. He did not look at Trevize and his voice was low and thoughtful. “We have a world—Gaia—that has done its best, over an indefinite period of time, to maintain a strict isolation. It has in no way attempted to establish contact with any other world—not even the nearby worlds of the Sayshell Union. It has an advanced science, in some ways, if the stories of their destruction of fleets is true and certainly their ability to control us right now bespeaks it—and yet they have made no attempt to expand their power. They ask only to be left alone.”
Trevize narrowed his eyes. “So?”
“It’s all very inhuman. The more than twenty thousand years of human history in space has been an uninterrupted tale of expansion and attempted expansion. Just about every known world that can be inhabited is inhabited. Nearly every world has been quarreled over in the process and nearly every world has jostled each of its neighbors at one time or another. If Gaia is so inhuman as to be so different in this respect, it may be because it really is—inhuman.”
Trevize shook his head. “Impossible.”
“Why impossible?” said Pelorat warmly. “I’ve told you what a puzzle it is that the human race is the only evolved intelligence in the Galaxy. What if it isn’t? Might there not be one more—on one planet—that lacked the human expansionist drive? In fact,” Pelorat grew more excited, “what if there are a million intelligences in the Galaxy, but only one that is expansionist—ourselves? The others would all remain at home, unobtrusive, hidden—”
“Ridiculous!” said Trevize. “We’d come across them. We’d land on their worlds. They would come in all types and stages of technology and most of them would be unable to stop us. But we’ve never come across any of them. Space! We’ve never even come across the ruins or relics of a non-human civilization, have we? You’re the historian, so you tell me. Have we?”
Pelorat shook his head. “We haven’t. —But Golan, there could be one! This one!”
“I don’t believe it. You say the name is Gaia, which is some ancient dialectical version of the name ‘Earth.’ How can that be nonhuman?”
“The name ‘Gaia’ is given the planet by human beings—and who knows why? The resemblance to an ancient world might be coincidental. —Come to think of it, the very fact that we’ve been lured to Gaia—as you explained in great detail some time ago—and are now being drawn in against our will is an argument in favor of the nonhumanity of the Gaians.”
“Why? What has that to do with nonhumanity?”
“They’re curious about us—about humans.”
Trevize said, “Janov, you’re mad. They’ve been living in a Galaxy surrounded by humans for thousands of years. Why should they be curious right now? Why not long before? And if right now, why us? If they want to study human beings and human culture, why not the Sayshell worlds? Why would they reach all the way to Terminus for us?”
“They may be interested in the Foundation.”
“Nonsense,” said Trevize violently. “Janov, you want a nonhuman intelligence and you will have one. Right now, I think that if you thought you were going to encounter nonhumans, you wouldn’t worry about having been captured, about being helpless, about being killed even—if they but gave you a little time to sate your curiosity.”
Pelorat began to stutter an indignant negative, then stopped, drew a deep breath, and said, “Well, you may be right, Golan, but I’ll hold to my belief for a while just the same. I don’t think we’ll have to wait very long to see who’s right. —Look!”
He pointed to the screen. Trevize—who had, in his excitement, ceased watching—now looked back. “What is it?” he said.
“Isn’t that a ship taking off from the station?”
“It’s something,” admitted Trevize reluctantly. “I can’t make out the details yet and I can’t magnify the view any further. It’s a maximum magnification.” After awhile he said, “It seems to be approaching us and I suppose it’s a ship. Shall we make a bet?”
“What sort of bet?”
Trevize said sardonically, “If we ever get back to Terminus, let’s have a big dinner for ourselves and any guests we each care to invite, up to, say, four—and it will be on me if that ship approaching us carries nonhumans and on you if it carries humans.”
“I’m willing,” said Pelorat.
“Done, then,” and Trevize peered at the screen, trying to make out details and wondering if any details could reasonably be expected to give away, beyond question, the nonhumanity (or humanity) of the beings on board.
BRANNO’S IRON-GRAY HAIR LAY IMMACULATELY IN place and she might have been in the Mayoral Palace, considering her equanimity. She showed no sign that she was deep in space for only the second time in her life. (And the first time—when she accompanied her parents on a holiday tour to Kalgan—could scarcely count. She had been only three at the time.)
She said to Kodell with a certain weary heaviness, “It is Thoobing’s job, after all, to express his opinion and to warn me. Very well, he has warned me. I don’t hold it against him.”
Kodell, who had boarded the Mayor’s ship in order to speak to her without the psychological difficulty of imaging, said, “He’s been at his post too long. He’s beginning to think like a Sayshellian.”
“That’s the occupational hazard of an ambassadorship, Liono. Let us wait till this is over and we’ll give him a long sabbatical and then send him on to another assignment elsewhere. He’s a capable man. —After all, he did have the wit to forward Trevize’s message without delay.”
Kodell smiled briefly. “Yes, he told me he did it against his better judgment. ‘I do so because I must’ he said. You see, Madam Mayor, he had to, even against his better judgment, because as soon as Trevize entered the space of the Sayshell Union, I informed Ambassador Thoobing to forward, at once, any and all information concerning him.”
“Elementary considerations, actually. Trevize was using a late-model Foundation naval vessel and the Sayshellians would be bound to notice that. He’s an undiplomatic young jackass and they would be bound to notice that. Therefore, he might get into trouble—and if there’s one thing a Foundationer knows, it is that if he gets into trouble anywhere in the Galaxy, he can cry out for the nearest Foundation representative. Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing Trevize in trouble—it might help him grow up and that would do him a great deal of good—but you’ve sent him out as your lightning rod and I wanted you to be able to estimate the nature of any lightning that might strike, so I made sure that the nearest Foundation representative would keep watch over him, that’s all.”
“I see! Well, I understand now why Thoobing reacted so strenuously. I had sent him a similar warning. Since he heard from us both independently, one can scarcely blame him for thinking that the approach of a few Foundation vessels might mean a great deal more than it actually does. —How is it, Liono, you did not consult me on the matter before sending the warning?”
Kodell said coolly, “If I involved you in everything I do, you would have no time to be Mayor. How is it that you did not inform me of your intention?”
Branno said sourly, “If I informed you of all my intentions, Liono, you would know far too much. —But it is a small matter, and so is Thoobing’s alarm, and, for that matter, so is any fit that the Sayshellians throw. I am more interested in Trevize.”
“Our scouts have located Compor. He is following Trevize and both are moving very cautiously toward Gaia.”
“I have the full reports of those scouts, Liono. Apparently both Trevize and Compor are taking Gaia seriously.”
“Everyone sneers at the superstitions concerning Gaia, Madam Mayor, but everyone thinks, ‘Yet what if—’ Even Ambassador Thoobing manages to be a little uneasy about it. It could be a very shrewd policy on the part of the Sayshellians. A kind of protective coloration. If one spreads stories of a mysterious and invincible world, people will shy away not only from the world, but from any other worlds close by—such as the Sayshell Union.”
“You think that is why the Mule turned away from Sayshell?”
“Surely you don’t think the Foundation has held its hand from Sayshell because of Gaia, when there is no record that we have ever heard of the world?”
“I admit there’s no mention of Gaia in our archives, but neither is there any other reasonable explanation for our moderation with respect to the Sayshell Union.”
“Let us hope, then, that the Sayshellian government, despite Thoobing’s opinion to the contrary, has convinced itself—even just a little bit—of Gaia’s might and of its deadly nature.”
“Because then the Sayshell Union will raise no objections to our moving toward Gaia. The more they resent that movement, the more they will persuade themselves that it should be permitted so that Gaia will swallow us. The lesson, they will imagine, will be a salutary one and will not be lost on future invaders.”
“Yet what if they should be right in such a belief, Mayor? What if Gaia is deadly?”
Branno smiled. “You raise the ‘Yet what if—’ yourself, do you, Liono?”
“I must raise all possibilities, Mayor. It is my job.”
“If Gaia is deadly, Trevize will be taken by them. That is his job as my lightning rod. And so may Compor, I hope.”
“You hope. Why?”
“But what if it is we who are overconfident?”
“We are not,” said Branno flatly.
“These Gaians—whatever they are—may be something we have no concept of and cannot properly estimate the danger of. I merely suggest that, Mayor, because even that possibility should be weighed.”
“Indeed? Why does such a notion fall into your head, Liono?”
“Because I think you feel that, at the worst, Gaia is the Second Foundation. I suspect you think they are the Second Foundation. However, Sayshell has an interesting history, even under the Empire. Sayshell alone had a measure of self-rule. Sayshell alone was spared some of the worst taxations under the so-called ‘Bad Emperors.’ In short, Sayshell seems to have had the protection of Gaia, even in Imperial times.”
“But the Second Foundation was brought into existence by Hari Seldon at the same time our Foundation was. The Second Foundation did not exist in Imperial times—and Gaia did. Gaia, therefore, is not the Second Foundation. It is something else—and, just possibly, something worse.”
“I don’t propose to be terrified by the unknown, Liono. There are only two possible sources of danger—physical weapons and mental weapons—and we are fully prepared for both. —You get back to your ship and keep the units on the Sayshellian outskirts. This ship will move toward Gaia alone, but will stay in contact with you at all times and will expect you to come to us in one Jump, if necessary. —Go, Liono, and get that perturbed look off your face.”
“One last question? Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”
“I do,” she said grimly. “I, too, have studied the history of Sayshell and have seen that Gaia cannot be the Second Foundation, but, as I told you, I have the full report of the scouts and from that—”
“Well, I know where the Second Foundation is located and we will take care of both, Liono. We will take care of Gaia first and then Trantor.”