“I have parents and two brothers, but no children.” He smiled rather weakly. “I was very attached to a woman at one time, but it seemed to her that I was attached more to my mathematics.”
“It didn’t seem so to me, but it seemed so to her. So she left.”
“And you have had no one since?”
“No. I remember the pain too clearly as yet.”
“Well then, it might seem we could both wait out the matter and leave it to other people, well after our time, to suffer. I might have been willing to accept that earlier, but no longer. For now I have a tool; I am in command.”
“What’s your tool?” asked Seldon, already knowing the answer.
“You!” said Hummin.
And because Seldon had known what Hummin would say, he wasted no time in being shocked or astonished. He simply shook his head and said, “You are quite wrong. I am no tool fit for use.”
Seldon sighed. “How often must I repeat it? Psychohistory is not a practical study. The difficulty is fundamental. All the space and time of the Universe would not suffice to work out the necessary problems.”
“Are you certain of that?”
“There’s no question of your working out the entire future of the Galactic Empire, you know. You needn’t trace out in detail the workings of every human being or even of every world. There are merely terrain questions you must answer: Will the Galactic Empire crash and, if so, when? What will be the condition of humanity afterward? Can anything be done to prevent the crash or to ameliorate conditions afterward? These are comparatively simple questions, it seems to me.”
Seldon shook his head and smiled sadly. “The history of mathematics is full of simple questions that had only the most complicated of answers, or none at all.”
“Is there nothing to be done? I can see that the Empire is falling, but I can’t prove it. All my conclusions are subjective and I cannot show that I am not mistaken. Because the view is a seriously unsettling one, people would prefer not to believe my subjective conclusion and nothing will be done to prevent the Fall or even to cushion it. You could prove the coming Fall or, for that matter, disprove it.”
“But that is exactly what I cannot do. I can’t find you proof where none exists. I can’t make a mathematical system practical when it isn’t. I can’t find you two even numbers that will yield an odd number as a sum, no matter how vitally your all the Galaxy may need that odd number.”
Hummin said, “Well then, you’re pare of the decay. You’re ready to accept failure.”
“What choice have I?”
“Can’t you try? However useless the effort may seem to you to be, have you anything better to do with your life? Have you some worthier goal? Have you a purpose that will justify you in your own eyes to some greater extent?”
Seldon’s eyes blinked rapidly. “Millions of worlds. Billions of cultures. Quadrillions of people. Decillions of interrelationships. And you want me to reduce it to order.”
“No, I want you to try. For the sake of those millions of worlds, billions of cultures, and quadrillions of people. Not for the Emperor. Not for Demerzel. For humanity.”
“I will fail, “ said Seldon.
“Then we will be no worse off. Will you try?”
And against his will and not knowing why, Seldon heard himself say, “I will try.” And the course of his life was set.
The journey came to its end and the air-taxi moved into a much larger lot than the one at which they had eaten. (Seldom still remembered the taste of the sandwich and made a wry face.)
Hummin turned in his taxi and came back, placing his credit slip in a small pocket on the inner surface of his shirt. He said, “You’re completely safe here from anything outright and open. This is the Streeling Sector.”
“It’s named for someone who first opened up the area to settlement, I imagine. Most of the sectors are named for someone or other, which means that most of the names are ugly and some are hard to pronounce. Just the same, if you try to have the inhabitants here change Streeling to Sweetsmell or something like that, you’ll have a fight on your hands.”
“Of course, “ said Seldon, sniffing loudly, “it isn’t exactly Sweetsmell.”
“Hardly anywhere in Trantor is, but you’ll get used to it.”
“I’m glad we’re here, “ said Seldon. “Not that I like it, but I got quite tired sitting in the taxi. Getting around Trantor must be a horror. Back on Helicon, we can get from any one place to any other by air, in far less time than it took us to travel less than two thousand kilometers here.”
“We have air-jets too.”
“But in that case--”
“I could arrange an air-taxi ride more or less anonymously. It would have been much more difficult with an air-jet. And regardless of how safe it is here, I’d feel better if Demerzel didn’t know exactly where you were. As a matter of fact, we’re not done yet. We’re going to take the Expressway for the final stage.”
Seldon knew the expression. “One of those open monorails moving on an electromagnetic field, right?”
“We don’t have them on Helicon. Actually, we don’t need them there. I rode on an Expressway the first day I was on Trantor. It took me from the airport to the hotel. It was rather a novelty, but if I were to use it all the time, I imagine the noise and crowds would become overpowering.”
Hummin looked amused. “Did you get lost?”
“No, the signs were useful. There was trouble getting on and off, but I was helped. Everyone could tell I was an Outworlder by my clothes, I now realize. They seemed eager to help, though; I guess because it was amusing to watching me hesitate and stumble.”
“As an expert in Expressway travel by now, you will neither hesitate nor stumble.” Hummin said it pleasantly enough, though there was a slight twitch to the corners of his mouth. “Come on, then.”
They sauntered leisurely along the walkway, which was lit to the extent one might expect of an overcast day and that brightened now and then as though the sun occasionally broke through the clouds. Automatically, Seldon looked upward to see if that were indeed the case, but the “sky” above was blankly luminous.
Hummin saw this and said, “This change in brightness seems too suit the human psyche. There are days when the street seems to be in bright sunlight and days when it is rather darker than it is now.”
“But no rain or snow?”
“Or hail or sleet. No. Nor high humidity nor bitter cold. Trantor has its points, Seldon, even now.”
There were people walking in both directions and there were a considerable number of young people and also some children accompanying the adults, despite what Hummin had said about the birthrate. All seemed reasonably prosperous and reputable. The two sexes were equally represented and the clothing was distinctly more subdued than it had been in the Imperial Sector. His own costume, as chosen by Hummin, fit right in. Very few were wearing hats and Seldon thankfully removed his own and swung it at his side.
There was no deep abyss separating the two sides of the walkway and as Hummin had predicted in the Imperial Sector, they were walking at what seemed to be ground level. There were no vehicles either and Seldon pointed this out to Hummin.
Hummin said, “There are quite a number of them in the Imperial Sector because they’re used by officials. Elsewhere, private vehicles are rare and those that are used have separate tunnels reserved for them. Their use is not really necessary, since we have Expressways and, for shorter distances, moving corridors. For still shorter distances, we have walkways and we can use our legs.”
Seldon heard occasional muted sighs and creaks and saw, some distance off, the endless, passing of Expressway cars.
“There it is, “ he said, pointing.
“I know, but let us move on to a boarding station. There are more cars there and it is easier to get on.”
Once they were safely ensconced in an Expressway car, Seldon turned to Hummin and said, “What amazes me is how quiet the Expressways are. I realize that they are mass-propelled by an electromagnetic field, but it seems quiet even for that.” He listened to the occasional metallic groan as the car they were on shifted against its neighbours.
“Yes, it’s a marvelous network, “ said Hummin, “but you don’t see is at its peak. When I was younger, it was quieter than it is now and there are those who say that there wasn’t as much as a whisper fifty years ago though I suppose we might make allowance for the idealization of nostalgia.”
“Why isn’t it that way now?”
“Because it isn’t maintained properly. I told you about decay.”
Seldon frowned. “Surely, people don’t sit around and say, ‘We’re decaying. Let’s let the Expressways fall apart.’ “
“No, they don’t. It’s not a purposeful thing. Bad spots are patched, decrepit coaches refurbished, magnets replaced. However, it’s done in more slapdash fashion, more carelessly, and at greater intervals. There just aren’t enough credits available.”
“Where have the credits gone?”
“Into other things. We’ve had centuries of unrest. The navy is much larger and many times more expensive than it once was. The armed forces are much better-paid, in order to keep them quiet. Unrest, revolts, and minor blazes of civil war all take their toll.”
“But it’s been quiet under Cleon. And we’ve had fifty years of peace.”
“Yes, but soldiers who are well-paid would resent having that pay reduced just because there is peace. Admirals resist mothballing ships and having themselves reduced in rank simply because there is less for them to do. So the credits still go, unproductively, to the armed forces and vital areas of the social good are allowed to deteriorate. That’s what I call decay. Don’t you? Don’t you chink that eventually you would fit that sort of view into your psychohistorical notions?”
Seldon stirred uneasily. Then he said, “Where are we going, by the way?”
“Ah, that’s why the sector’s name was familiar. I’ve heard of the University.”
“I’m not surprised. Trantor has nearly a hundred thousand institutions of higher learning and Streeling is one of the thousand or so at the top of the heap.”
“Will I be staying there?”
“For a while. University campuses are unbreathable sanctuaries, by and large. You will be safe there.”
“But will I be welcome there?”
“Why not? It’s hard to find a good mathematician these days. They might be able to use you. And you might be able to use them too-tend for more than just a hiding place.”
“You mean, it will be a place where I can develop my notions.”
“You have promised, “ said Hummin gravely.
“I have promised to try, “ said Seldon and thought to himself that it was about like promising to try to make a rope out of sand.
Conversation had run out after that and Seldon watched the structures of the Streeling Sector as they passed. Some were quite low, while some seemed to brush the “sky.” Wide crosspassages broke the progression and frequent alleys could be seen.
At one point, it struck him that though the buildings rose upward they also swept downward and that perhaps they were deeper than they were high. As soon as the thought occurred to him, he was convinced it was true.
Occasionally, he saw patches of green in the background, farther back from the Expressway, and even small trees.
He watched for quite a while and then became aware that the light was growing dimmer. He squinted about and turned to Hummin, who guessed the question.
“The afternoon is waning, “ he said, “and night is coming on.”
Seldon’s eyebrows raised and the corners of his mouth turned downward. “That’s impressive. I have a picture of the entire planet darkening and then, some hours from now, lighting up again.”
Hummin smiled his small, careful smile. “Not quite, Seldon. The planet is never turned off altogether, or turned on either. The shadow of twilight sweeps across the planet gradually, followed half a day later by the slow brightening of dawn. In fact, the effect follows the actual day and night above the domes quite closely, so that in higher altitudes day and night change length with the seasons.”
Seldon shook his head, “But why close in the planet and then mimic what would be in the open?”
“I presume because people like it better that way. Trantorians like the advantages of being enclosed, but they don’t like to be reminded of it unduly, just the same. You know very little about Trantorian psychology, Seldon.”
Seldon flushed slightly. He was only a Heliconian and he knew very little about the millions of worlds outside Helicon. His ignorance was not confined to Trantor. How, then, could he hope to come up with any practical applications for his theory of psychohistory?
How could any number of people, all together, know enough? It reminded Seldon of a puzzle that had been presented to him when he was young: Can you have a relatively small piece of platinum, with handholds affixed, that could not be lifted by the bare, unaided strength of any number of people, no matter how many?
The answer was yes. A cubic meter of platinum weighs 22, 420 kilograms under standard gravitational pull. If it is assumed that each person could heave 120 kilograms up from the ground, then 188 people would suffice to lift the platinum. But you could not squeeze 188 people around the cubic meter so that each one could get a grip on it. You could perhaps not squeeze more than 9 people around it. And levers or other such devices were not allowed. It had to be “bare, unaided strength.”
In the same way, it could be that there was no way of getting enough people to handle the total amount of knowledge required for psychohistory, even if the facts were stored in computers rather than in individual human brains. Only so many people could gather round the knowledge, so to speak, and communicate it.
Hummin said, “You seem to be in a brown study, Seldon.”
“I’m considering my own ignorance.”
“A useful task. Quadrillions could profitably join you. But it’s time to get off.”
Seldon looked up. “How can you tell?”
“Just as you could tell when you were on the Expressway your first day on Trantor. I go by the signs.”
Seldon caught one just as it went by: STREELING UNIVERSITY-3 MINUTES.
“We get off at the next boarding station. Watch your step.”
Seldon followed Hummin off the coach, noting that the sky was deep purple now and that the walkways and corridors and buildings were all lighting up, suffused with a yellow glow.
It might have been the gathering of a Heliconian night. Had he been placed here blindfolded and had the blindfold been removed, he might have been convinced that he was in some particularly well-built-up inner region of one of Helicon’s larger cities.
“How long do you suppose I will remain at Streeling University, Hummin?” he asked.
Hummin said in his usual calm fashion, “That would be hard to say, Seldon. Perhaps your whole life.”
“Perhaps not. But your life stopped being your own once you gave that paper on psychohistory. The Emperor and Demerzel recognized your importance at once. So did I. For all I know, so did many others. You see, that means you don’t belong to yourself anymore.”
VENABILI, DORS--. . . Historian, born in Cinna . . . Her life might well have continued on its uneventful course were it not for the face that, after she had spent two years on the faculty of Streeling University, she became involved with the young Hari Seldon during The Flight . . .
The room that Hari Seldon found himself in was larger than Hummin’s room in the Imperial Sector. It was a bedroom with one comer serving as a washroom and with no sign of any cooking or dining facilities. There was no window, though set in the ceiling was a grilled ventilator that made a steady sighing noise.
Seldon looked about a bit ruefully.
Hummin interpreted that look with his usual assured manner and said, “It’s only for tonight, Seldon. Tomorrow morning someone will come to install you at the University and you will be more comfortable.”
“Pardon me, Hummin, but how do you know that?”
“I will make arrangements. I know one or two people here”, he smiled briefly without humor, “and I have a favor or two I can ask repayment for. Now let’s go into some details.”
He gazed steadily at Seldon and said, “Whatever you have left in your hotel room is lost. Does that include anything irreplaceable?”
“Nothing really irreplaceable. I have some personal items I value for their association with my past life, but if they are gone, they are gone. There are, of course, some notes on my paper. Some calculations. The paper itself.”
“Which is now public knowledge until such time as it is removed from circulation as dangerous, which it probably will be. Still, I’ll be able to get my hands on a copy, I’m sure. In any case, you can reconstruct it, can’t you?”
“I can. That’s why I said there was nothing really irreplaceable. Also, I’ve lost nearly a thousand credits, some books, clothing, my tickets back to Helicon, things like that.”
“All replaceable. Now I will arrange for you to have a credit tile in my name, charged to me. That will take care of ordinary expenses. “
“That’s unusually generous of you. I can’t accept it.”
“It’s not generous at all, since I’m hoping to save the Empire in that fashion. You must accept it.”
“But how much can you afford, Hummin? I’ll be using it, at best, with an uneasy conscience.”
“Whatever you need for survival or reasonable comfort I can afford, Seldon. Naturally, I wouldn’t want you to try to buy the University gymnasium or hand out a million credits in largess.”
“You needn’t worry, but with my name on record--”
“It might as well be. It is absolutely forbidden for the Imperial government to exercise any security control over the University or its members. There is complete freedom. Anything can be discussed here, anything can be said here.”,
“What about violent crime?”
“Then the University authorities themselves handle it, with reason and care, and there are virtually no crimes of violence. The students and faculty appreciate their freedom and understand its terms. Too much rowdiness, the beginning of riot and bloodshed, and the government may feel it has a right to break the unwritten agreement and send in the troops. No one wants that, not even the government, so a delicate balance is maintained. In other words, Demerzel himself can not have you plucked out of the University without a great deal more cause than anyone in the University has given the government in at least a century and a half. On the other hand, if you are lured off the grounds by a student-agent--”
“Are there student-agents?”
“How can I say? There may be. Any ordinary individual can be threatened or maneuvered or simply bought, and may remain thereafter in the service of Demerzel or of someone else, for that matter. So I must emphasize this: You are safe in any reasonable sense, but no one is absolutely safe. You will have to be careful. But though I give you that warning, I don’t want you to cower through life. On the whole, you will be far more secure here than you would have been if you had returned to Helicon or gone to any world of the Galaxy outside Trantor.”
“I hope so, “ said Seldon drearily.
“I know so, “ said Hummin, “Or I would not feel it wise to leave you. “
“Leave me?” Seldon looked up sharply. “You can’t do that. You know this world. I don’t.”
“You will be with others who know this world, who know this part of it, in fact, even better than I do. As for myself, I must go. I have been with you all this day and I dare not abandon my own life any longer. I must not attract too much attention to myself. Remember that I have my own insecurities, just as you have yours.”
Seldon blushed. “You’re right. I can’t expect you to endanger yourself indefinitely on my behalf. I hope you are not already ruined.”
Hummin said coolly, “Who can tell? We live in dangerous times. Just remember that if anyone can make the times safe, if not for ourselves, then for those who follow after us, it is you. Let that thought be your driving force, Seldon.”
Sleep eluded Seldon. He tossed and turned in the dark, thinking. He had have never felt quite so alone or quite so helpless as he did after Hummin had nodded, pressed his hand briefly, and left him behind. Now he was on a strange world, and in a strange part of that world. He was without the only person he could consider a friend (and that of less than a day’s duration) and he had no idea of where he was going or what he would be doing, either tomorrow or at any time in the future.
None of that was conducive to sleep so, of course, at about the time he decided, hopelessly, that he would not sleep that night or, possibly, ever again, exhaustion overtook him . . .
When he woke up it was still dark, or not quite, for across the room he saw a red light flashing brightly and rapidly, accompanied by a harsh, intermittent buzz. Undoubtedly, it was that which had awakened him.
As he tried to remember where he was and to make some sort of sense out of the limited messages his senses were receiving, the flashing and buzzing ceased and he became aware of a peremptory rapping.
Presumably, the rapping was at the door, but he didn’t remember where the door was. Presumably, also, there was a contact that would flood the room with light, but he didn’t remember where that was either.
He sat up in bed and felt along the wall to his left rather desperately while calling out, “One moment, please.”
He found the necessary contact and the room suddenly bloomed with a soft light.
He scrambled out of bed, blinking, still searching for the door, finding it, reaching out to open it, remembering caution at the last moment, and saying in a suddenly stern, no-nonsense voice, “Who’s there?”
A rather gentle woman’s voice said, “My dame is Dors Venabili and I have come to see Dr. Hari Seldon.”
Even as that was said, a woman was standing just in front of the door, without that door ever having been opened.
For a moment, Hari Seldon stared at her in surprise, then realized that he was wearing only a one-piece undergarment. He let out a strangled gasp and dashed for the bed and only then realized that he was staring at a holograph. It lacked the hard edge of reality and it became apparent the woman wasn’t looking at him. She was merely showing herself for identification.
He paused, breathing hard, then said, raising his voice to be heard through the door, “If you’ll wait, I’ll be with you. Give me . . . maybe half an hour.”
The woman, or the holograph, at any rate, said, “I’ll wait, “ and disappeared.
There was no shower, so he sponged himself, making a rare mess on the tiled floor in the washroom corner. There was toothpaste but no toothbrush, so he used his finger. He had no choice but to put on the clothes he had been wearing the day before. He finally opened the door.
He realized, even as he did so, that she had not really identified herself. She had merely given a name and Hummin had not told him whom to expect, whether it was to be this Dors Somebody or anyone else. He had felt secure because the holograph was that of a personable young woman, but for all he knew there might be half a dozen hostile young men with her.
He peered out cautiously, saw only the woman, then opened the door sufficiently to allow her to enter. He immediately closed and locked the door behind her.
“Pardon me, “ he said, “What time is it?”
“Nine, “ she said, “The day has long since begun.”
As far as official time was concerned, Trantor held to Galactic Standard, since only so could sense be made out of interstellar commerce and governmental dealings. Each world, however, also had a local time system and Seldon had not yet come to the point where he felt at home with casual Trantorian references to the hour.
“Midmorning?” he said.
“There are no windows in this room, “ he said defensively.
Dors walked to his bed, reached out, and touched a small dark spot on the wall. Red numbers appeared on the ceiling just over his pillow. They read: 0903.
She smiled without superiority. “I’m sorry, “ she said. “But I rather assumed Chetter Hummin would have told you I’d be coming for you at nine. The trouble with him is he’s so used to knowing, he sometimes forgets that others occasionally don’t know. And I shouldn’t have used radio-holographic identification. I imagine you don’t have it on Helicon and I’m afraid I must have alarmed you.”
Seldon felt himself relax. She seemed natural and friendly and the casual reference to Hummin reassured him. He said, “You’re quite wrong about Helicon, Miss--”
“Please call me Dors.”
“You’re still wrong about Helicon, Dors. We do have radioholography, but I’ve never been able to afford the equipment. Nor could anyone in my circle, so I haven’t actually had the experience. But I understood what had happened soon enough.”
He studied her. She was not very tall, average height for a woman, he judged. Her hair was a reddish-gold, though not very bright, and was arranged in shore curls about her head. ( He had seen a number of women in Trantor with their hair so arranged. It was apparently a local fashion that would have been laughed at in Helicon.) She was not amazingly beautiful, but was quire pleasant to look at, this being helped by full lips that seemed to have a slight humorous curl to them. She was slim, well-built, and looked quite young. (Too young, he thought uneasily, to be of use perhaps.)
“Do I pass inspection?” she asked. (She seemed to have Hummin’s trick of guessing his thoughts, Seldon thought, or perhaps he himself lacked the trick of hiding them.)
He said, “I’m sorry. I seem to have been staring, but I’ve only been trying to evaluate you. I’m in a strange place. I know no one and have no friends.”
“Please, Dr. Seldon, count me as a friend. Mr. Hummin has asked me to take care of you.”
Seldon smiled ruefully. “You may be a little young for the job.”
“You’ll find I am not.”
“Well, I’ll try to be as little trouble as possible. Could you please repeat your name?”
“Dors Venabili.” She spelled the last name and emphasized the stress on the second syllable. “As I said, please call me Dors and if you don’t object too strenuously I will call you Hari. We’re quite informal here at the University and there is an almost self-conscious effort to show no signs of status, either inherited or professional.”
“Please, by all means, call me Hari.”
“Good. I shall remain informal then. For instance, the instinct for formality, if there is such a thing, would cause me to ask permission to sit down. Informally, however, I shall just sit.” She then sat down on the one chair in the room.
Seldon cleared his throat. “Clearly, I’m not at all in possession of my ordinary faculties. I should have asked you to sit.” He sat down on the aide of his crumpled bed and wished he had thought to straighten it out somewhat, but he had been caught by surprise.
She said pleasantly, “This is how it’s going to work, Hari. First, we’ll go to breakfast at one of the University cafes. Then I’ll get you a room in one of the domiciles, a better room than this. You’ll have a window. Hummin has instructed me to get you a credit tile in his name, but it will take me a day or two to extort one out of the University bureaucracy. Until that’s done, I’ll be responsible for your expenses and you can pay me back later. And we can use you. Chetter Hummin told me you’re a mathematician and for some reason there’s a serious lack of good ones at the University.”
“Did Hummin tell you that I was a good mathematician?”
“As a matter of face, he did. He said you were a remarkable man--”
“Well.” Seldon looked down at his fingernails. “I would like to be considered so, but Hummin knew me for less than a day and, before that, he had heard me present a paper, the quality of which he has no way of judging. I think he was just being polite.”
“I don’t think so, “ said Dors. “He is a remarkable person himself and has had a great deal of experience with people. I’ll go by his judgment. In any case, I imagine you’ll have a chance to prove yourself. You can program computers, I suppose.”
“I’m talking about teaching computers, you understand, and I’m asking if you can devise programs to teach various phases of contemporary mathematics.”
“Yes, that’s part of my profession. I’m assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Helicon.”
She said, “Yes, I know. Hummin told me that. It means, of course, that everyone will know you are a non-Trantorian, but that will present no serious problems. We’re mainly Trantorian here at the University, but there’s a substantial minority of Outworlders from any number of different worlds and that’s accepted. I won’t say that you’ll never hear a planetary slur but actually the Outworlders are more likely to use them than the Trantorians. I’m an Outworlder myself, by the way.”
“Oh?” He hesitated and then decided it would be only polite to ask. “What world are you from?”
“I’m from Cinna. Have you ever heard of it?”
He’d be caught out if he was polite enough to lie, Seldon decided, so he said, “No.”
“I’m not surprised. It’s probably of even less account than Helicon is. Anyway, to get back to the programming of mathematical teaching computers, I suppose that that can be done either proficiently or poorly.”
“And you would do it proficiently.”
“I would like to think so.”
“There you are, then. The University will pay you for that, so lee’s go out and eat. Did you sleep well, by the way?”
“Surprisingly, I did.”
“And are you hungry?”
“Yes, but--” He hesitated.
She said cheerfully, “But you’re worried about the quality of the food, is that it? Well, don’t be. Being an Outworlder myself, I can understand your feelings about the strong infusion of microfood into everything, but the University menus aren’t bad. In the faculty dining room, at least. The students suffer a bit, but that serves to harden them.”
She rose and turned to the door, but stopped when Seldon could not keep himself from saying, “Are you a member of the faculty?”
She turned and smiled at him impishly. “Don’t I look old enough? I got my doctorate two years ago at Cinna and I’ve been here ever since. In two weeks, I’ll be thirty.”
“Sorry, “ said Seldon, smiling in his turn, “but you can’t expect to look twentyfour and not raise doubts as to your academic status.”
“Aren’t you nice?” said Dors and Seldon felt a certain pleasure wash over him. After all, he thought, you can’t exchange pleasantries with an attractive woman and feel entirely like a stranger.
Dors was right. Breakfast was by no means bad. There was something that was unmistakably eggy and the meat was pleasantly smoked. The chocolate drink (Trantor was strong on chocolate and Seldon did not mind that) was probably synthetic, but it was tasty and the breakfast rolls were good.
He felt is only right to say as much. “This has been a very pleasant breakfast. Food. Surroundings. Everything.”
“I’m delighted you think so, “ said Dors.
Seldon looked about. There were a bank of windows in one wall and while actual sunlight did not enter (he wondered if, after a while, he would learn to be satisfied with diffuse daylight and would cease to look for patches of sunlight in a room), the place was light enough. In face, it was quite bright, for the local weather computer had apparently decided is was time for a sharp, clear day.
The cables were arranged for four apiece and most were occupied by the full number, but Dors and Seldon remained alone at theirs. Dors had called over some of the men and women and had introduced them. All had been police, but none had joined them. Undoubtedly, Dors intended that to be so, but Seldon did not see how she managed to arrange it.
He said, “You haven’t introduced me to any mathematicians, Dors.”
“I haven’t seen any that I know. Most mathematicians start the day early and have classes by eight. My own feeling is that any student so foolhardy as to take mathematics wants to get that part of the course over with as soon as possible.”
“I take is you’re not a mathematician yourself.”
“Anything but, “ said Dors with a short laugh. “Anything. History is my field. I’ve already published some studies on the rise of Trantor, I mean the primitive kingdom, not this world. I suppose that will end up as my field of specialization, Royal Trantor.”
“Wonderful, “ said Seldon.
“Wonderful?” Dors looked at him quizzically. “Are you interested in Royal Trantor too?”
“In a way, yes. That and other things like that. I’ve never really studied history and I should have.”
“Should you? If you had studied history, you’d scarcely have had time to study mathematics and mathematicians are very much needed especially at this University. We’re full to here with historians, “ she said, raising her hand to her eyebrows, “and economists and political scientists, but we’re short on science and mathematics. Chetter Hummin pointed that out to me once. He called it the decline of science and seemed to think it was a general phenomenon.”
Seldon said, “Of course, when I say I should have studied history, I don’t mean that I should have made it a life work. I meant I should have studied enough to help me in my mathematics. My field of specialization is the mathematical analysis of social structure.”
“In a way, it is. It’s very complicated and without my knowing a great deal more about how societies evolved it’s hopeless. My picture is too static, you see.”
“I can’t see because I know nothing about it. Chetter told me you were developing something called psychohistory and that it was important. Have I got it right? Psychohistory?”
“That’s right. I should have called it ‘psychsociology, ‘ but it seemed to me that was too ugly a word. Or perhaps I knew instinctively that a knowledge of history was necessary and then didn’t pay sufficient attention to my thoughts.”
“Psychohistory does sound better, but I don’t know what it is.”
“I scarcely do myself.” He brooded a few minutes, looking at the woman on the other side of the table and feeling that she might make this exile of his seem a little less like an exile. He thought of the other woman he had known a few years ago, but blocked it off with a determined effort. If he ever found another companion, it would have to be one who understood scholarship and what it demanded of a person.
To get his mind onto a new track, he said, “Chetter Hummin told me that the University is in no way troubled by the government. “
Seldon shook his head. “That seems rather unbelievably forbearing of the Imperial government. The educational institutions on Helicon are by no means so independent of governmental pressures.”
“Nor on Cinna. Nor on any Outworld, except perhaps for one or two of the largest. Trantor is another matter.”
“Yes, but why?”
“Because it’s the center of the Empire. The universities here have enormous prestige. Professionals are turned out by any university anywhere, but the administrators of the Empire, the high officials, the countless millions of people who represent the tentacles of Empire reaching into every corner of the Galaxy, are educated right here on Trantor.”
“I’ve never seen the statistics--” began Seldon.
“Take my word for it. It is important that the officials of the Empire have some common ground, some special feeling for the Empire. And they can’t all be native Trantorians or else the Outworlds would grow restless. For that reason, Trantor must attract millions of Outworlders for education here. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what their home accent or culture may be, as long as they pick up the Trantorian patina and identify themselves with a Trantorian educational background. That’s what holds the Empire together. The Outworlds are also less restive when a noticeable portion of the administrators who represent the Imperial government are their own people by birth and upbringing.”
Seldon felt embarrassed again. This was something he had never given any thought to. He wondered if anyone could be a truly great mathematician if mathematics was all he knew. He said, “Is this common knowledge?”
“I suppose it isn’t, “ said Dors after some thought. “There’s so much knowledge to be had that specialists cling to their specialties as a shield against having to know anything about anything else. They avoid being drowned.”
“Yet you know it.”
“But that’s my specialty. I’m a historian who deals with the rise of Royal Trantor and this administrative technique was one of the ways in which Trantor spread its influence and managed the transition from Royal Trantor to Imperial Trantor.”
Seldon said, almost as though muttering to himself, “How harmful overspecialization is. It cuts knowledge at a million points and leaves it bleeding.”
Dors shrugged. “What can one do? But you see, if Trantor is going to attract Outworlders to Trantorian universities, it has to give them something in return for uprooting themselves and going to a strange world with an incredibly artificial structure and unusual ways. I’ve been here two years and I’m still not used to it. I may never get used to it. But then, of course, I don’t intend to be an administrator, so I’m not forcing myself to be a Trantorian.
“And what Trantor offers in exchange is not only the promise of a position with high status, considerable power, and money, of course, but also freedom. While students are having their education, they are free to denounce the government, demonstrate against it peacefully, work out their own theories and points of view. They enjoy that and many come here so that they can experience the sensation of liberty.”
“I imagine, “ said Seldon, “that it helps relieve pressure as well. They work off all their resentments, enjoy all the smug self-satisfaction a young revolutionary would have, and by the time they take their place in the Imperial hierarchy, they are ready to settle down into conformity and obedience.”
Dors nodded. “You may be right. In any case, the government, for all these reasons, carefully preserves the freedom of the universities. It’s not a matter of their being forbearing at all, only clever.”
“And if you’re not going to be an administrator, Dors, what are you going to be?”
“A historian. I’ll teach, put book-films of my own into the programming.”
“Not much status, perhaps.”
“Not much money, Hari, which is more important. As for status, that’s the sort of push and pull I’d just as soon avoid. I’ve seen many people with status, but I’m still looking for a happy one. Status won’t sit still under you; you have to continually fight to keep from sinking. Even Emperors manage to come to bad ends most of the time. Someday I may just go back to Cinna and be a professor.”
“And a Trantorian education will give you status.”
Don laughed. “I suppose so, but on Cinna who would care? It’s a dull world, full of farms and with lots of cattle, both four-legged and two-legged.”
“Won’t you find it dull after Trantor?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m counting on. And if it gets coo dull, I can always wangle a grant to go here or there to do a little historical research. That’s the advantage of my field.”
“A mathematician, on the other hand, “ said Seldon with a trace of bitterness at something that had never before bothered him, “is expected to sit at his computer and think. And speaking of computers... He hesitated. Breakfast was done and it seemed to him more than likely she had some duties of her own to attend to.
But she did not seem to be in any great hurry to leave. “Yes? Speaking of computers?”
“Would I be able to get permission to use the history library?”
Now is was she who hesitated. “I chink that can be arranged. If you work on mathematics programming, you’ll probably be viewed as a quasimember of the faculty and I could ask for you to be given permission. Only--”
“I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you’re a mathematician and you say you know nothing about history. Would you know how to make use of a history library?”
Seldon smiled. “I suppose you use computers very much like those in a mathematics library.”
“We do, but the programming for each specialty has quirks of its own. You don’t know the standard reference book-films, the quick methods of winnowing and skipping. You may be able to find a hyperbolic interval in the dark . . .”
“You mean hyperbolic integral, “ interrupted Seldon softly.
Dors ignored him. “But you probably won’t know how to get the terms of the Treaty of Poldark in less than a day and a half.”
“I suppose I could learn.”
“If . . . if . . .” She looked a little troubled. “If you want to, I can make a suggestion. I give a week’s course, one hour each day, no credit on library use. It’s for undergraduates. Would you feel it beneath your dignity to sit in on such a course with undergraduates, I mean? It starts in three weeks.”
“You could give me private lessons.” Seldom felt a little surprised at the suggestive tone that had entered his voice.
She did not miss it. “I dare say I could, but I think you’d be better off with more formal instruction. We’ll be using the library, you understand, and at the end of the week you will be asked to locate information on particular items of historical interest. You will be competing with the other students all through and that will help you learn. Private tutoring will be far less efficient, I assure you. However, I understand the difficulty of competing with undergraduates. If you don’t do as well as they, you may feel humiliated. You must remember, though, that they have already studied elementary history and you, perhaps, may not have.”
“I haven’t. No `may’ about it. But I won’t be afraid to compete and I won’t mind any humiliation that may come along-if I manage to learn the cricks of the historical reference trade.”
It was clear to Seldom that he was beginning to like this young woman and that he was gladly seizing on the chance to be educated by her. He was also aware of the face that he had reached a turning point in his mind.
He had promised Hummin to attempt to work out a practical psychohistory, but that had been a promise of the mind and not the emotions. Now he was determined to seize psychohistory by the throat if he had to-in order to make it practical. That, perhaps, was the influence of Dors Venabili.
Or had Hummin counted on that? Hummin, Seldom decided, might well be a most formidable person.
Cleon I had finished dinner, which, unfortunately, had been a formal state affair. It meant he had to spend time talking to various officials, not one of whom he knew or recognized, in set phrases designed to give each one his stroke and so activate his loyalty to the crown. It also meant that his food reached him but lukewarm and had cooled still further before he could eat it.
There had to be some way of avoiding that. Bat first, perhaps, on his own or with one or two close intimates with whom he could relax and then attend a formal dinner at which he could merely be served an imported pear. He loved pears. But would that offend the guests who would take the Emperor’s refusal to sac with them as a studied insult.
His wife, of course, was useless in this respect, for her presence would but further exacerbate his unhappiness. He had married her because she was a member of a powerful dissident family who could be expected to mute their dissidence as a result of the union, though Cleon devoutly hoped that she, at least, would not do so. He was perfectly content to have her live her own life in her own quarters except for the necessary efforts to initiate an heir, for, to cell the truth, he didn’t like her. And now that an heir had come, he could ignore her completely.
He chewed at one of a handful of nuts he had pocketed from the table on leaving and said, “Demerzel!”
Demerzel always appeared at once when Cleon called. Whether he hovered constantly in earshot at the door or he drew close because the instinct of subservience somehow alerted him to a possible call in a few minutes, he did appear and that, Cleon thought idly, was the important thing. Of course, there were those times when Demerzel had to be away on Imperial business. Cleon always hated those absences. They made him uneasy.
“What happened to that mathematician? I forget his name.”
Demerzel, who surely knew the man the Emperor had in mind, but who perhaps wanted to study how much the Emperor remembered, said, “What mathematician is it that you have in mind, Sire?”
Cleon waved an impatient hand. “The fortune-teller. The one who came to see me.”
“The one we sent for?”
“Well, sent for, then. He did come to see me. You were going to take care of the matter, as I recall. Have you?”
Demerzel cleared his throat. “Sire, I have cried to.”
“Ah! That means you have failed, doesn’t it?” In a way, Cleon felt pleased. Demerzel was the only one of his Ministers who made no bones of failure. The others never admitted failure, and since failure was nevertheless common, it became difficult to correct. Perhaps Demerzel could afford to be more honest because he failed so rarely. If it weren’t for Demerzel, Cleon thought sadly, he might never know what honesty sounded like. Perhaps no Emperor ever knew and perhaps that was one of the reasons that the Empire--”
He pulled his thoughts away and, suddenly nettled at the other’s silence and wanting an admission, since he had just admired Demerzel’s honesty in his mind, said sharply, “Well, you have failed, haven’t you?”
Demerzel did not flinch. “Sire, I have failed in part. I felt that to have him here on Trantor where things are difficult might present us with problems. It was easy to consider that he might be more conveniently placed on his home planet. He was planning to return to that home planet the next day, but there was always the chance of complications, of his deciding to remain on Trantor, so I arranged to have two young alley men place him on his plane that very day.”
“Do you know alley men, Demerzel?” Cleon was amused.
“It is important, Sire, to be able to reach many kinds of people, for each type has its own variety of use, alley men not the least. As it happens, they did not succeed.”
“And why was that?”
“Oddly enough, Seldon was able to fight them off.”
“The mathematician could fight?”
“Apparently, mathematics and the martial arts are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I found out, not soon enough, that his world, Helicon, is noted for its martial arts, not mathematics. The fact that I did not learn this earlier was indeed a failure, Sire, and I can only crave your pardon.”
“But then, I suppose the mathematician left for his home planet the next day as he had planned.”
“Unfortunately, the episode backfired. Taken aback by the event, he decided not to return to Helicon, but remained on Trantor. He may have been advised to this effect by a passerby who happened to be present on the occasion of the fight. That was another unlooked-for complication.”
The Emperor Cleon frowned. “Then our mathematician--what it his name?”
“Seldon, Sire. Hari Seldon.”
“Then this Seldon is out of reach.”
“In a sense, Sire. We have traced his movements and he is now at Streeling University. While there, he is untouchable.”
The Emperor scowled and reddened slightly. “I am annoyed at that word ‘untouchable.’ There should be nowhere in the Empire my hand cannot reach. Yet here, on my own world, you tell me someone can be untouchable. Insufferable!”
“Your hand can reach to the University, Sire. You can send in your army and pluck out this Seldon at any moment you desire. To do so, however, is . . . undesirable.”
“Why don’t you say ‘impractical, ‘ Demerzel. You sound like the mathematician speaking of his fortune-telling. It is possible, but impractical. I am an Emperor who finds everything possible, but very little practical. Remember, Demerzel, if reaching Seldon is not practical, reaching you is entirely so.”
Eto Demerzel let this last comment pass. The “man behind the throne” knew his importance to the Emperor, he had heard such threats before. He waited in silence while the Emperor glowered. Drumming his fingers against the arm of his chair, Cleon asked, ..Well then, what good is this mathematician to us if he is at Streeling University?”
“It may perhaps be possible, Sire, to snatch use out of adversity. At the University, he may decide to work on his psychohistory.”
“Even though he insists it’s impractical?”
“He may be wrong and he may find out that he is wrong. And if he finds out that he is wrong, we would find some way of getting him out of the University. It is even possible he would join us voluntarily under those circumstances.”
The Emperor remained lost in thought for a while, then said, “And what if someone else plucks him out before we do?”
“Who would want to do that, Sire?” asked Demerzel softly.
“The Mayor of Wye, for one, “ said Cleon, suddenly shouting. “He dreams still of taking over the Empire.”
“Old age has drawn his fangs, Sire.”
“Don’t you believe it, Demerzel.”
“And we have no reason for supposing he has any interest in Seldon or even knows of him, Sire.”
“Come on, Demerzel. If we heard of the paper, so could Wye. If we see the possible importance of Seldon, so could Wye.”
“If that should happen, “ said Demerzel, “or even if there should be a reasonable chance of its happening, then we would be justified in taking strong measures.”
Demerzel said cautiously, “It might be argued that rather than have Seldon in Wye’s hands, we might prefer to have him in no one’s hands. To have him cease to exist, Sire.”
“To have him killed, you mean, “ said Cleon.
“If you wish to put it that way, Sire, “ said Demerzel.
Hari Seldon sat back in his chair in the alcove that had been assigned to him through Dors Venabili’s intervention. He was dissatisfied.
As a matter of fact, although that was the expression he used in his mind, he knew that it was a gross underestimation of his feelings. He was not simply dissatisfied, he was furious, all the more so because he wasn’t sure what it was he was furious about. Was it about the histories? The writers and compilers of histories? The worlds and people that made the histories?
Whatever the target of his fury, it didn’t really matter. What counted was that his notes were useless, his new knowledge was useless, everything was useless.
He had been at the University now for almost six weeks. He had managed to find a computer outlet at the very start and with it had begun work, without instruction, but using the instincts he had developed over a number of years of mathematical labors. It had been slow and halting, but there was a certain pleasure in gradually determining the routes by which he could get his questions answered.
Then came the week of instruction with Dors, which had taught him several dozen shortcuts and had brought with it two sets of embarrassments. The first set included the sidelong glances he received from the undergraduates, who seemed contemptuously aware of his greater age and who were disposed to frown a bit at Dors’s constant use of the honorific “Doctor” in addressing him.
“I don’t want them to think, “ she said, “that you’re some backward perpetual student taking remedial history.”
“But surely you’ve established the point. Surely, a mere ‘Seldon’ is sufficient now.”
“No, “ Dors said and smiled suddenly. “Besides, I like to call you ‘Dr. Seldon.’ I like the way you look uncomfortable each time.”
“You have a peculiar sense of sadistic humor.”
“Would you deprive me?”
For some reason, that made him laugh. Surely, the natural reaction would have been to deny sadism. Somehow he found it pleasant that she accepted the ball of conversation and fired it back. The thought led to a natural question. “Do you play tennis here at the University?”
“We have courts, but I don’t play.”
“Good. I’ll teach you. And when I do, I’ll call you Professor Venabili. “
“That’s what you call me in class anyway.”
“You’ll be surprised how ridiculous it will sound on the tennis court. “
“I may get to like it.”
“In that case, I will try to find what else you might get to like.”
“I see you have a peculiar sense of salacious humor.”
She had put that ball in that spot deliberately and he said, “Would you deprive me?”
She smiled and later did surprisingly well on the tennis court. “Are you sure you never played tennis?” he said, puffing, after one session.
“Positive, “ she said.
The other set of embarrassments was more private. He learned the necessary techniques of historical research and then burned-in private at his earlier attempts to make use of the computer’s memory. It was simply an entirely different mindset from that used in mathematics. It was equally logical, he supposed, since it could be used, consistently and without error, to move in whatever direction he wanted to, but it was a substantially different brand of logic from that to which he was accustomed.
But with or without instructions, whether he stumbled or moved in swiftly, he simply didn’t get any results.
His annoyance made itself felt on the tennis court. Dors quickly reached the stage where it was no longer necessary to lob easy balls at her to give her time to judge direction and distance. That made it easy to forget that she was just a beginner and he expressed his anger in his swing, firing the ball back at her as though it were a laser beam made solid.
She came trotting up to the net and said, “I can understand your wanting to kill me, since it must annoy you to watch me miss the shots so often. How is it, though, that you managed to miss my head by about three centimeters that time? I mean, you didn’t even nick me. Can’t you do better than that?”
Seldon, horrified, tried to explain, but only managed to sound incoherent.
She said, “Look. I’m not going to face any other returns of yours today, so why don’t we shower and then get together for some tea and whatever and you can tell me just what you were trying to kill. If it wasn’t my poor head and if you don’t get the real victim off your chest, you’ll be entirely too dangerous on the other side of the net for me to want to serve as a target.”
Over tea he said, “Dors, I’ve scanned history after history; just scanned, browsed. I haven’t had time for deep study yet. Even so, it’s become obvious. All the book-films concentrate on the same few events.”
“Crucial ones. History-making ones.”
“That’s just an excuse. They’re copying each other. There are twenty five million worlds out there and there’s significant mention of perhaps twentyfive.”
Dors said, “You’re reading general Galactic histories only. Look up the special histories of some of the minor worlds. On every world, however small, the children are taught local histories before they ever find out there’s a great big Galaxy outside. Don’t you yourself know more about Helicon, right now, than you know about the rise of Trantor or of the Great Interstellar War?”
“That sort of knowledge is limited too, “ said Seldon gloomily. “I know Heliconian geography and the stories of its settlement and of the malfeasance and misfeasance of the planet Jennisek, that’s our traditional enemy, though our teachers carefully told us that we ought to say ‘traditional rival.’ But I never learned anything about the contributions of Helicon to general Galactic history.”
“Maybe there weren’t any.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course there were. There may not have been great, huge space battles involving Helicon or crucial rebellions or peace treaties. There may not have been some Imperial competitor making his base on Helicon. But there must have been subtle influences. Surely, nothing can happen anywhere without affecting everywhere else. Yet there’s nothing I can find’ to help me. wee here, Dors. In mathematics, all can be found in the computer; everything we know or have found out in twenty thousand years. In history, that’s not so. Historians pick and choose and every one of them picks and chooses the same thing.”
“But, Hari, “ said Dors, “mathematics is an orderly thing of human invention. One thing follows from another. There are definitions and axioms, all of which are known. It is . . . it is . . . all one piece. History is different. It is the unconscious working out of the deeds and thoughts of quadrillions of human beings. Historians must pick and choose.”
“Exactly, “ said Seldon, “but I must know all of history if I am to work out the laws of psychohistory.”
“In that case, you won’t ever formulate the laws of psychohistory.”
That was yesterday. Now Seldon sat in his chair in his alcove, having spent another day of utter failure, and he could hear Dors’s voice saying, “In that case, you won’t ever formulate the laws of psychohistory.”
It was what he had thought to begin with and if it hadn’t been for Hummin’s conviction to the contrary and his odd ability to fire Seldon with his own blaze of conviction, Seldon would have continued to think so.
And yet neither could he quite let go. Might there not be some way out?
He couldn’t think of any.
TRANTOR- . . . It is almost never pictured as a world seen from space. It has long since captured the general mind of humanity as a world of the interior and the image is that of the human hive that existed under the domes. Yet there was an exterior as well and there are holographs that still remain that were taken from apace and show varying degrees of devil (see Figures 14 and l5 ). Note that the surface of the domes, the interface of the vast city and the overlying atmosphere, a surface referred to in its time as “Upperside, “ is . . .
Yet the following day found Hari Seldon back in the library. For one thing, there was his promise to Hummin. He had promised to try and he couldn’t very well make it a halfhearted process. For another, he owed something to himself too. He resented having to admit failure. Not yet, at least. Not while he could plausibly tell himself he was following up leads.
So he stared at the list of reference book-films he had not yet checked through and tried to decide which of the unappetizing number had the slightest chance of being useful to him. He had about decided that the answer was “none of the above” and saw no way out but to look at samples of each when he was startled by a gentle tap against the alcove wall.
Seldon looked up and found the embarrassed face of Usung Rands peering at him around the edge of the alcove opening. Seldon knew Randa, had been introduced to him by Dors, and had dined with him (and with others) on several occasions.
Randa, an instructor in psychology, was a little man, short and plump, with a round cheerful face and an almost perpetual smile. He had a sallow complexion and the narrowed eyes so characteristic of people on millions of worlds. Seldon knew that appearance well, for there were many of the great mathematicians who had borne it, and he had frequently seen their holograms. Yet on Helicon he had never seen one of these Easterners. (By tradition they were called that, though no one knew why; and the Easterners themselves were said to resent the term to some degree, but again no one knew why.)
“There’s millions of us here on Trantor, “ Randa had said, smiling with no trace of self-consciousness, when Seldon, on first meeting him, had not been able to repress all trace of startled surprise. “You’ll also find lot of Southerners, dark skins, tightly curled hair. Did you ever see one?”
“Not on Helicon, “ muttered Seldon.
“All Westerners on Helicon, eh? How dull! But it doesn’t matter. Takes all kinds.” (He left Seldon wondering at the fact that there were Easterners, Southerners, and Westerners, but no Northerners. He had tried finding an answer to why that might be in his reference searches and had not succeeded.)
And now Randa’s good-natured face was looking at him with an almost ludicrous look of concern. He said, “Are you all right, Seldon?”
Seldon stared. “Yes, of course. Why shouldn’t I be?”
“I’m just going by sounds, my friend. You were screaming.”
“Screaming?” Seldon looked at him with offended disbelief.
“Not loud. Like this.” Ranch gritted his teeth and emitted a strangled high-pitched sound from the back of his throat. “If I’m wrong, I apologize for this unwarranted intrusion on you. Please forgive me.”
Seldon hung his head. “You’re forgiven, Lisung. I do make that sound sometimes, I’m told. I assure you it’s unconscious. I’m never aware of it.”
“Are you aware why you make it?”
“Yes. Frustration. Frustration. “
Randa beckoned Seldon closer and lowered his voice further. “We’re disturbing people. Let’s come out to the lounge before we’re thrown out.”
In the lounge, over a pair of mild drinks, Randa said, “May I ask you, as a matter of professional interest, why you are feeling frustration?”
Seldon shrugged. “Why does one usually feel frustration? I’m tackling something in which I am making no progress.”
“But you’re a mathematician, Hari. Why should anything in the history library frustrate you?”
“What were you doing here?”
“Passing through as part of a shortcut to where I was going when I heard you . . . moaning. Now you see”, and he smiled, “it’s no longer a shortcut, but a serious delay-one that I welcome, however.”
“I wish I were just passing through the history library, but I’m trying to solve a mathematical problem that requires some knowledge of history and I’m afraid I’m not handling it well.”
Randa stared at Seldon with an unusually solemn expression on his face, then he said, “Pardon me, but I must run the risk of offending you now. I’ve been computering you.”
“Computering me.!” Seldon’s eyes widened. He felt distinctly angry.
“I have offended you. But, you know, I had an uncle who was a mathematician. You might even have heard of him: Kiangtow Randa.”
Seldon drew in his breath. “Are you a relative of that Randa?”
“Yes. He is my father’s older brother and he was quite displeased with me for not following in his footsteps, he has no children of his own. I thought somehow that it might please him that I had met a mathematician and I wanted to boast of you, if I could, so I checked what information the mathematics library might have.”
“I see. And that’s what you were really doing there. Well, I’m sorry. I don’t suppose you could do much boasting.”
“You suppose wrong. I was impressed. I couldn’t make heads or tails of the subject matter of your papers, but somehow the information seemed to be very favorable. And when I checked the news files, I found you were at the Decennial Convention earlier this year. So . . . what’s ‘psychohistory, ‘ anyway? Obviously, the first two syllables stir my curiosity.”
“I see you got that word out of it.”
“Unless I’m totally misled, it seemed to me that you can work out the future course of history.”
Seldon nodded wearily, “That, more or less, is what psychohistory is or, rather, what it is intended to be.”
“But is it a serious study?” Randa was smiling. “You don’t just throw sticks?”
“That’s just a reference to a game played by children on my home planet of Hopara. The game is supposed to tell the future and if you’re a smart kid, you can make a good thing out of it. Tell a mother that her child will grow up beautiful and marry a rich man and it’s good for a piece of cake or a half-credit piece on the spot. She isn’t going to wait and see if it comes true; you are rewarded just for saying it.”
“I see. No, I don’t throw sticks. Psychohistory is just an abstract study. Strictly abstract. It has no practical application at all, except--”
“Now we’re getting to it. Exceptions are what are interesting.”
“Except that I would like to work out such an application. Perhaps if I knew more about history--”
“Ah, that is why you are reading history?”
“Yes, but it does me no good, “ said Seldon sadly. “There is too much history and there is too little of it that is told.”
“And that’s what’s frustrating you?”
Randa said, “But, Hari, you’ve only been here a matter of weeks.”
“True, but already I can see---”
“You can’t see anything in a few weeks. You may have to spend your whole lifetime making one little advance. It may take many generations of work by many mathematicians to make a real inroad on the problem.”
“I know that, Lisung, but that doesn’t make me feel better. I want to make some visible progress myself.”
“Well, driving yourself to distraction won’t help either. If it will make you feel better, I can give you an example of a subject much less complex than human history that people have been working for I don’t know how long without making much progress. I know because a group is working on it right here at the University and one of my good friends is involved. Talk about frustration! You don’t know what frustration is!”
“What’s the subject?” Seldon felt a small curiosity stirring within him.
“Meteorology!” Seldon felt revolted at the anticlimax.
“Don’t make faces. Look. Every inhabited world has an atmosphere. Every world has its own atmospheric composition, its own temperature range, its own rotation and revolution rate, its own axial tipping, it’s own land-water distribution. We’ve got twenty five million different problems and no one has succeeded in finding a generalization.”
“.that’s because atmospheric behavior easily enters a chaotic phase. Everyone knows that.”
“So my friend Jenarr Leggen says. You’ve met him.”
Seldon considered. “Tall fellow? Long nose? Doesn’t speak much?”
“That’s the one. And Trantor itself is a bigger puzzle than almost any world. According to the records, it had a fairly normal weather pattern when it was first settled. Then, as the population grew and urbanization spread, more energy was used and more heat was discharged into the atmosphere. The ice cover contracted, the cloud layer thickened, and the weather got lousier. That encouraged the movement underground and set off a vicious cycle. The worse the weather got, the more eagerly the land was dug into and the domes built and the weather got still worse. Now the planet has become a world of almost incessant cloudiness and frequent rains, or snows when it’s cold enough. The only thing is that no one can work it out properly. No one has worked out an analysis that can explain why the weather has deteriorated quire as it has or how one can reasonably predict the details of its day-today changes.”
Seldon shrugged. “Is that sort of thing important?”
“To a meteorologist it is. Why can’t they be as frustrated over their problems as you are over yours? Don’t be a project chauvinist.’.
Seldon remembered the cloudiness and the dank chill on the way to the Emperor’s Palace.
He said, “So what’s being done about it?”
“Well, there’s a big project on the matter here at the University end Jenarr Leggen is part of it. They feel that if they can understand the weather change on Trantor, they will learn a great deal about the basic laws of general meteorology. Leggen wants that as much as you want your laws of psychohistory. So he has set up an incredible array of instruments of all kinds Upperside . . . you know, above the domes. It hasn’t helped them so far. And if there’s so much work being done for many generations on the atmosphere, without results, how can you complain that you haven’t gotten anything out of human history in a few weeks?”
Randa was right, Seldon thought, and he himself was being unreasonable and wrong. And yet . . . and yet . . . Hummin would say that this failure in the scientific attack on problems was another sign of the degeneration of the times. Perhaps he was right, also, except that he was speaking of a general degeneration and average effect. Seldon felt no degeneration of ability and mentality in himself.
He said with some interest then, “You mean that people climb up out of the domes and into the open air above?”
“Yes. Upperside. It’s a funny thing, though. Most native Trantorians won’t do it. They don’t like to go Upperside. The idea gives them vertigo or something. Most of those working on the meteorology project are Outworlders.”
Seldon looked out of the window and the lawns and small garden of the University campus, brilliantly lit without shadows or oppressive heat, and said thoughtfully, “I don’t know that I can blame Trantorians for liking the comfort of being within, but I should think curiosity would drive come Upperside. It would drive me.”
“Do you mean that you would like to see meteorology in action?”
“I think I would. How does one get Upperside?”
“Nothing to it. An elevator rakes you up, a door opens, and there you are. I’ve been up there. It’s . . . novel.”
“It would get my mind off psychohistory for a while.” Seldon sighed. “I’d welcome that.”
“On the other hand, “ said Randy, “my uncle used to say, ‘All knowledge is one, ‘ and he may be right. You may learn something from meteorology that will help you with your psychohistory. Isn’t that possible?.”
Seldon smiled weakly. “A great many things are possible.” And to himself he added: But not practical.
Dors seemed amused. “Meteorology?”
Seldon said, “Yes. There’s work scheduled for tomorrow and I’ll go up with them.”
“Are you tired of history?”
Seldon nodded his head somberly. “Yes, I am. I’ll welcome the change. Besides, Randy says it’s another problem that’s too massive for mathematics to handle and it will do me good to see that my situation isn’t unique.”
“I hope you’re not agoraphobic.”
Seldon smiled. “No, I’m not, but I see why you ask. Randy says that Trantorians are frequently agoraphobic and won’t go Upperside. I imagine they feel uncomfortable without a protective enclosure.”
Dors nodded. “You can see where that would be natural, but there are also many Trantorians who are to be found among the planets of the Galaxy-tourists, administrators, soldiers. And agoraphobia isn’t particularly rare in the Outworlds either.”
“That may be, Dors, but I’m not agoraphobic. I am curious and I welcome the change, so I’ll be joining them tomorrow.”
Does hesitated. “I should go up with you, but I have a heavy schedule tomorrow. gill, if you’re not agoraphobic, you’ll have no trouble and you’ll probably enjoy yourself. Oh, and stay close to the meteorologists. I’ve heard of people getting lost up there.”
“I’ll be careful. It’s a long time since I’ve gotten truly lost anywhere.”
Jenarr Leggen had a dark look about him. It was not so much his complexion, which was fair enough. It was not even his eyebrows, which were thick and dark enough. It was, rather, that those eyebrows were hunched over deep-set eyes and a long and rather prominent nose. He had, as a result, a most unmerry look. His eyes did not smile and when he spoke, which wasn’t often, he had a deep, strong voice, surprisingly resonant for his rather thin body.
He said, “You’ll need warmer clothing than that, Seldon.”
Seldon said, “Oh?” and looked about.
There were two men and two women who were making ready to go up with Leggen and Seldon And, as in Leggen’s own case, their rather satiny Trantorian clothing was covered by thick sweaters that, not surprisingly, were brightly colored in bold designs. No two were even faintly alike, of course.
Seldon looked down at himself and said, “Sorry, I didn’t know but I don’t have any suitable outer garment.”
“I can give you one. I think there’s a spare here somewhere. Yes, here it is. A little threadbare, but it’s better than nothing.”
“Wearing sweaters like these tan make you unpleasantly warm, “ said Seldon.
“Here they would, “ said Leggen. “Other conditions exist Upperside. Cold and windy. Too bad I don’t have spare leggings and boots for you too. You’ll want them later.”
They were taking with them a tart of instruments, which they were testing one by one with what Seldon thought was unnecessary slowness.
“Your home planet cold?” asked Leggen.
Seldon said, “Parts of it, of course. The part of Helicon I come from is mild and often rainy.”
“Too bad. You won’t like the weather Upperside.”
“I think I can manage to endure it for the time we’ll be up there.”
When they were ready, the group filed into an elevator that was marked: OFFICIAL USE ONLY.
“That’s because it goes Upperside, “ said one of the young women, “and people aren’t supposed to be up there without good reason.”
Seldon had not met the young woman before, but he had heard her addressed as Clowzia. He didn’t know if that was a first name, a last name, or a nickname.
The elevator seemed no different from others that Seldon had been on, either here on Trantor or at home in Helicon (barring, of course, the gravitic lift he and Hummin had used), but there was something about knowing that it was going to take him out of the confines of the planet and into emptiness above that made it feel like a spaceship.
Seldon smiled internally. A foolish fantasy.
The elevator quivered slightly, which remind Seldon of Hummin’s forebodings of Galactic decay. Leggen, along with the other men and one of the women, seemed frozen and waiting, as though they had suspended thought as well as activity until they could get out, but Clowzia kept glancing at him as though she found him terribly impressive.
Seldon leaned close and whispered to her (he hesitated to disturb the others), “Are we going up very high?”
“High?” she repeated. She spoke in a normal voice, apparently not feeling that the others required silence. She seemed very young and it occurred to Seldon that she was probably an undergraduate. An apprentice, perhaps.
“We’re taking a long time. Upperside must be many stories high in the air.”
For a moment, she looked puzzled. Then, “Oh no. Not high at all. We started very deep. The University is at a low level. We use a great deal of energy and if we’re quire deep, the energy costs are lower.”
Leggen said, “All right. We’re here. Lets get the equipment out.”
The elevator stopped with a small shudder and the wide door slid open rapidly. The temperature dropped at once and Seldon thrust his hands into his pockets and was very glad he had a sweater on. A cold wind stirred his hair and it occurred to him that he would have found a hat useful and, even as he thought that, Leggen pulled something out of a fold in his sweater, snapped it open, and put it on his head. The others did the same.
Only Clowzia hesitated. She paused just before she put hers on, then offered it to Seldon.
Seldon shook his head. “I can’t take your hat, Clowzia.”
“Go ahead. I have long hair and it’s pretty thick. Yours is short and a little . . . thin.”
Seldon would have liked to deny that firmly and at another time he would have. Now, however, he took the hat and mumbled, “Thank you. If your head gets cold, I’ll give it back.”
Maybe she wasn’t so young. It was her round face, almost a baby face. And now that she had called attention to her hair, he could see that it was a charming russet shade. He had never seen hair quite like that on Helicon.
Outside it was cloudy, as it had been the time he was taken across open country to the Palace. It was considerably colder than it had been then, but he assumed that was because they were six weeks farther into winter. The clouds were thicker than they had been on the earlier occasion and the day was distinctly darker and threatening, or was it just closer to night? Surely, they wouldn’t come up to do important work without leaving themselves an ample period of daylight to do it in. Or did they expect to take very little time?
He would have liked to have asked, but it occurred to him that they might not like questions at this time. All of them seemed to be in states varying from excitement to anger.
Seldon inspected his surroundings.
He was standing on something that he thought might be dull metal from the sound it made when he surreptitiously thumped his foot down on it. It was not bare metal, however. When he walked, he left footprints. The surface was clearly covered by dust or fine sand or clay.
Well, why not? There could scarcely be anyone coming up here to dust the place. He bent down to pinch up some of the matter out of curiosity.
Clowzia had come up to him. She noticed what he was doing and said, with the air of a housewife caught at an embarrassing negligence, “We do sweep hereabouts for the sake of the instruments. It’s much worse most places Upperside, but it really doesn’t matter. It makes for insulation, you know.”
Seldon grunted and continued to look about. There was no chance of understanding the instruments that looked as though they were growing out of the thin soil (if one could call it that). He hadn’t the faintest idea of what they were or what they measured.
Leggen was walking toward him. He was picking up his feet and putting them down gingerly and it occurred to Seldon that he was doing so to avoid jarring the instruments. He made a mental note to walk that way himself.
Seldon didn’t quite like the tone of voice. He replied coolly, “Yes, Dr. Leggen?”
“Well, Dr. Seldon, then.” He said it impatiently. “That little fellow Randa told me you are a mathematician.”
“A good one?”
“I’d like to think so, but it’s a hard thing to guarantee.”
“And you’re interested in intractable problems?”
Seldon said feelingly, “I’m stuck with one.”
“I’m stuck with another. You’re free to look about. If you have any questions, our intern, Clowzia, will help out. You might be able to help us.”
“I would be delighted to, but I know nothing about meteorology.”
“That’s all right, Seldon. I just want you to get a feel for this thing and then I’d like to discuss my mathematics, such as it is.”
“I’m at your service.”
Leggen turned away, his long scowling fare looking grim. Then he turned back. “If you get cold, too cold, the elevator door is open. You just step in and touch the spot marked; UNIVERSITY BASE. It will take you down and the elevator will then return to us automatically. Clowzia will show you if you forget.”
“I won’t forget.”
This time he did leave and Seldon looked after him, feeling the cold wind knife through his sweater. Clowzia came back over to him, her face slightly reddened by that wind.
Seldon said, “Dr. Leggen seems annoyed. Or is that just his ordinary outlook on life?”
She giggled. “He does look annoyed most of the time, but right now he really is.”
Seldon said very naturally, “Why?”
Clowzia looked over her shoulder, her long hair swirling. Then she said, “I’m not supposed to know, but I do just the same. Dr. Leggen had it all figured out that today, just at this time, there was going to be a break in the clouds and he’d been planning to make special measurements in sunlight. Only . . . well, look at the weather.”
“We have holovision receivers up here, so he knew it was cloudy worse than usual and I guess he was hoping there would be something wrong with the instruments so that it would be their fault and not that of his theory. So far, though, they haven’t found anything out of the way.”
“And that’s why he looks so unhappy.”
“Well, he never looks happy. “
Seldon looked about, squinting. Despite the clouds, the light was harsh. He became aware that the surface under his feet was not quire horizontal. He was standing on a shallow dome and as he looked outward there were other domes in all directions, with different widths and heights.
“Upperside seems to be irregular, “ he said.
“Mostly, I think. Thai s the way it worked out.”
“Any reason for it?”
“Not really. The way I’ve heard it explained I looked around and asked, just as you did, you know-was that originally the people on Trantor domed in places, shopping malls, sports arenas, things like that, then whole towns, so that (here were lots of domes here and there, with different heights and different widths. When they all came together, it was all uneven, but by that time, people decided that’s the way it ought to be.”
“You mean that something quite accidental came to be viewed as a tradition?”
“ I suppose so, if you want to put it that way.”
(If something quite accidental can easily become viewed as a tradition and he made unbreakable or nearly so, thought Seldon, would that be a law of psychohistory? It sounded trivial, but how many other laws, equally trivial, might there be? A million? A billion? Were there a relatively few general laws from which these trivial ones could be derived as corollaries? How could he say? For a while, lost in thought, he almost forgot the biting wind.)
Clowzia was aware of that wind, however, for she shuddered and said, “It’s very nasty. It’s much better under the dome.”
“Are you a Trantorian?” asked Seldon.
Seldon remembered Ranch’s dismissal of Trantorians as agoraphobic and said, “Do you mind being up here?”
“I hate it, “ said Clowzia, “but I want my degree and my specialty and status and Dr. Leggen says I can’t get it without some field work. So here I am, hating it, especially when it’s so cold. When it’s this cold, by the way, you wouldn’t dream that vegetation actually grows on these domes, would you?”
“It doer?., He looked at Clowzia sharply, suspecting some sort of practical joke designed to make him look foolish. She looked totally innocent, but how much of that was real and how much was just her baby face?
“Oh sure. Even here, when it’s warmer. You notice the soil here? We keep it swept away because of our work, as I said, but in other places it accumulates here and there and is especially deep in the low places where the domes meet. Plants grow in it.”
“But where does the soil come from?”
“When the dome covered just part of the planet, the wind deposited soil on them, little by little. Then, when Trantor was all covered and the living levels were dug deeper and deeper, some of the material dug up, if suitable, would be spread over the top.”
“Surely, it would break down the domes.”
“Oh no. The domes are very strong and they’re supported almost everywhere. The idea was, according to a book-film I viewed, that they were going to grow crops Upperside, but it turned out to be much more practical to do it inside the dome. Yeast and algae could be cultivated within the domes too, taking the pressure off the usual crops, so it was decided to let Upperside go wild. There are animals on Upperside too butterflies, bees, mice, rabbits. Lots of them.”
“Won’t the plant roots damage the domes?”
“In thousands of years they haven’t. The domes are treated so that they repel the roots. Most of the growth is grass, but there are trees too. You’d be able to see for yourself if this were the warm season or if we were farther south or if you were up in a spaceship.” She looked at him with a sidewise flick of her eyes, “Did you see Trantor when you were coming down from space?”
“No, Clowzia, I must confess I didn’t. The hypership was never well placed for viewing. Have you ever seen Trantor from space?”
She smiled weakly. “I’ve never been in space.”
Seldon looked about. Gray everywhere.
“I can’t make myself believe it, “ he said. “About vegetation Upperside, I mean.”
“It’s true, though. I’ve heard people say, otherworlders, like yourself, who did see Trantor from space, that the planet looks green, like a lawn, because it’s mostly grass and underbrush. There are trees too, actually. There’s a copse not very far from here. I’ve seen it. They’re evergreens and they’re up to six meters high.”
“You can’t see it from here. Its on the other side of a dome. It’s--”
The call came out thinly. (Seldon realized they had been walking while they had been talking and had moved away from the immediate vicinity of the others.) “Clowzia. Get back here. We need you.”
Clowzia said, “Uh-oh. Coming. Sorry, Dr. Seldon, I have to go.” She ran off, managing to step lightly despite her lined boors.
Had she been playing with him? Had she been filling the gullible foreigner with a mess of lies for amusement’s sake? Such things had been known to happen on every world and in every time. An air of transparent honesty was no guide either; in fact, successful Wetellers would deliberately cultivate just such an air.
So could there really be six-meter trees Upperside? Without thinking much about it, he moved in the direction of the highest dome on the horizon. He swung his arms in an attempt to warm himself. And his feet were getting cold.
Clowzia hadn’t pointed. She might have, to give him a hint of the direction of the trees, but she didn’t. Why didn’t she? To be sure, she had been called away.
The domes were broad rather than high, which was a good thing, since otherwise the going would have been considerably more difficult. On the other hand, the gentle grade meant trudging a distance before he could top a dome and look down the other side.
Eventually, he could see the other side of the dome he had climbed. He looked back to make sure he could still see the meteorologists and their instruments. They were a good way off, in a distant valley, but he could see them clearly enough. Good.
He saw no copse, no trees, but there was a depression that snaked about between two domes. Along each side of that crease, the soil was thicker and there were occasional green smears of what might be moss. If he followed the crease and if it got low enough and the soil was thick enough, there might be trees.
He looked back, trying to fix landmarks in his mind, but there were just the rise and fall of domes. It made him hesitate and Dors’s warning against his being lost, which had seemed a rather unnecessary piece of advice then, made more sense now. Still, it seemed clear to him that the crease was a kind of road. If he followed it for some distance, he only had to turn about and follow it back to return to this spot.
He strode off purposefully, following the rounded crease downward. There was a soft rumbling noise above, but he didn’t give it any thought. He had made up his mind that he wanted to see trees and that was all that occupied him at the moment.
The moss grew thicker and spread out like a carpet and here and there grassy tufts had sprung up. Despite the desolation Upperside, the moss was bright green and it occurred to Seldon that on a cloudy, overcast planet there was likely to be considerable rain.
The crease continued to curve and there, just above another dome, was a dark smudge against the gray sky and he knew he had found the trees.
Then, as though his mind, having been liberated by the sight of those trees, could turn to other things, Seldon took note of the rumble he had heard before and had, without thinking, dismissed as the sound of machinery. Now he considered that possibility: Was it, indeed, the sound of machinery?
Why not? He was standing on one of the myriad domes that covered hundreds of millions of square kilometers of the worldcity. There must be machinery of all kinds hidden under those domes, ventilation motors, for one thing. Maybe it could be heard, where and when all the other sounds of the world-city were absent.
Except that it did not seem to come from the ground. He looked up at the dreary featureless sky. Nothing.
He continued to scan the sky, vertical creases appearing between his eyes and then, far off
It was a small dark spot, showing up against the gray. And whatever it was it seemed to be moving about as though getting its bearings before it was obscured by the clouds again.
Then, without knowing why, he thought, They’re after me.
And almost before he could work out a line of action, he had taken one. He ran desperately along the crease toward the trees and then, to reach them more quickly, he turned left and hurtled up and over a low dome, treading through brown and dying fernlike overgrowth, including thorny sprigs with bright red berries.
Seldon panted, facing a tree, holding it closely, embracing it. He watched for the flying object to make its appearance again so that he could back about the tree and hide on the far side, like a squirrel.
The tree was cold, its bark was rough, it gave no comfort, but it offered cover. Of course, that might be insufficient, if he was being searched for with a heat-seeker, but, on the other hand, the cold trunk of a tree might blur even that.
Below him was hard-pecked soil. Even in this moment of hiding, of attempting to see his pursuer while remaining unseen, he could not help wondering how thick the soil might be, how long it had taken to accumulate, many domes in the warmer areas of Trantor tarried forests on their back, and whether the trees were always confined to the creases between domes, leaving the higher regions to moss, grass, and underbrush.
He sew it again. It was not a hypership, nor even an ordinary airjet. It was a jet-down. He could see the faint glow of the ion trails corning out at the vertices of a hexagon, neutralizing the gravitational pull and allowing the wings to keep it aloft like a large soaring bird. It was a vehicle that could hover and explore a planetary terrain.
It was only the clouds than had saved him. Even if they were using heat-seekers, that would only indicate there were people below. The jetdown would have make a tentative dive below the banked ceiling before it could hope to know how many human beings there were and whether any of them might be the particular person the patties aboard were seeking.
The jet-down was closer now, but it couldn’t hide from him either. The rumble of the engine gave it away and they couldn’t rum that off, not as long as they wished to continue their search. Seldon knew the jetdowns, for on Helicon or on any undomed world with skies that cleared now and then, they were common, with many in private hands.
Of what possible use would jet-downs be on Trantor, with all the human life of the world under domes, with low cloud ceilings all but perpetual-except for a few government vehicles designed for just this purpose, that of picking up a wanted person who had been lured above the domes?
Why not? Government forces could nor enter the grounds of the University, but perhaps Seldon was no longer on the grounds. He was on top of the domes which might be outside the jurisdiction of any local government. An Imperial vehicle might have every right to land on any part of the dome and question or remove any person found upon is Hummin had not warned him of this, but perhaps he had merely not thought of doing so.
The jet-down was even closer now, nosing about like a blind beast sniffing out its prey. Would it occur to them to search this group of trees? Would they land and send out an armed soldier or two to beat through the copse?
And if so, what could he do? He was unarmed and all his quicktwist agility would be useless against the agonizing pain of a neuronic whip.
It was not attempting to land. Either they missed the significance of the trees
A new thought suddenly hit him. What if this wasn’t a pursuit vessel at all? What if it was part of the meteorological testing? Surely, meteorologists would want to test the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
Was he a fool to hide from it?
The sky was getting darker. The clouds were getting thicker or, much more likely, night was falling.
And it was getting colder and would get colder still. Was he going to stay out here freezing because a perfectly harmless jetdown had made an appearance and had activated a sense of paranoia that he had never felt before? He had a strong impulse to leave the copse and get back to the meteorological station.
After all, how would the man Hummin feared so much Demercel-know that Seldon would, at this particular time, be Upperside and ready to be taken?
For a moment, that seemed conclusive and, shivering with the cold, he moved out from behind the tree.
And then he scurried back as the vessel reappeared even closer than before. He hadn’t seen it do anything that would seem to be meteorological. It did nothing that might be considered sampling, measuring, or testing. Would he see such things if they took place? He did not know the precise sort of instruments the jet-down carried or how they worked. If they were doing meteorological work, he might not be able to tell. -Still, could he take the chance of coming into the open?
After all, what if Demerzel did know of his presence Upperside, simply because an agent of his, working in the University, knew about it and had reported the matter. Listing Randa, that cheerful, smiling little Easterner, had suggested he go Upperside. He had suggested it quite forcefully and the subject had not arisen naturally out of the conversation; at least, not naturally enough. Was it possible that he was a government agent and had alerted Demerzel somehow?
Then there was Leggen, who had given him the sweater. The sweater was useful, but why hadn’t Leggen told him he would need one earlier so he could get his own? Was there something special about the one he was wearing? It was uniformly purple, while all the others’ indulged in the Trantorian fashion of bright patterns. Anyone looking down from a height would see a moving dull blotch in among others that were bright and know immediately whom they wanted.
And Clowzia? She was supposedly Upperside to learn meteorology and help the meteorologists. How was it possible that she could come to him, talk to him at ease, and quietly walk him away from the others and isolate him so that he could easily be picked up?
For that matter, what about Dors Venabili? She knew he was going Upperside. She did not stop it. She might have gone with him, but she was conveniently busy.
It was a conspiracy. Surely, it was a conspiracy.
He had convinced himself now and there was no further thought of getting out from the shelter of the trees. (His feet felt like lumps of ice and stamping them against the ground seemed to do no good.) Would the jet-down never leave?
And even as he thought that, the pitch of the engine’s rumble heightened and the jet-down rose into the clouds and faded away.
Seldon listened eagerly, alert to the smallest sound, making sure it was finally gone. And then, even after he was sure it was gone, he wondered if that was just a device to flush him out of hiding. He remained where he was while the minutes slowly crawled on and night continued to fall.
And finally, when he felt that the true alternative to taking the chance of coming out in the open was that of freezing into insensibility, he stepped out and moved cautiously beyond the shelter of the trees.
It was dusky twilight, after all. They couldn’t detect him except by a hear-seeker, but, if so, he would hear die jet-down return. He waited just beyond the trees, counting to himself, ready to hide in the copse again at the smallest sound-though what good that would do him once he was spotted, he couldn’t imagine.
Seldon looked about. If he could find the meteorologists, they would surely have artificial light, but except for that, there would be nothing.
He could still just make out his surroundings, but in a matter of a quarter of an hour, half an hour at the outside, he would not. With no lights and a cloudy sky above, it would be dark-completely dark.
Desperate at the prospect of being enveloped in total darkness, Seldon realized that he would have to find his way back to the crease that had brought him there as quickly as possible and retrace his steps. Folding his arms tightly around himself for warmth, he set off in what he thought was the direction of the crease between the domes.
There might, of course, be more than one crease leading away from the copse, but he dimly made out some of the sprigs of berries he had seen coming in, which now looked almost black rather than bright red. He could not delay. He had to assume he was right. He moved up the crease as fast as he might, guided by failing sight and by the vegetation underfoot.
But he couldn’t stay in the crease forever. He had come over what had seemed to him to be the tallest dome in sight and had found a crease that cut at right angles across his line of approach. By his reckoning, he should now turn right, then sharp left, and that would put him on the path toward the meteorologists’ dome.
Seldon made the left turn and, lifting his head, he could just make out the curve of a dome against the fractionally lighter sky. That had to be it!
Or was that only wishful thinking?
He had no choice but to assume it wasn’t. Keeping his eye on the peak so that he could move in a reasonably straight line, he headed for it as quickly as he could. As he got closer, he could make out the line of dome against sky with less and less certainty as it loomed larger and larger. Soon, if he was correct, he would be going up a gentle slope and when that slope became level he would be able to look down the other side and see the lights of the meteorologists.
In the inky dark, he could not tell what lay in his path. Wishing there were at least a few sorts to shed some light, he wondered if this was how it felt to be blind. He waved his arms before him as if they were antennae.
It was growing colder by the minute and he paused occasionally to blow on his hands and hold them under his armpits. He wished earnestly he could do the same for his feet. By now, he thought, if it started to precipitate, it would be snow-or, worse yet, sleet.
On . . . on. There was nothing else to do.
Eventually, it seemed to him that he was moving downward. That was either wishful thinking or he had topped the dome.
He stopped. If he had topped the dome, he should be able to see the artificial light of the meteorological station. He would see the lights carried by the meteorologists themselves, sparkling or dancing like fireflies.
Seldon closed his eyes as though to accustom them to dark and then try again, but that was a foolish effort. It was no darker with his eyes closed than with them open and when he opened them it was no lighter than when he had had them closed.
Possibly Leggen and the others were gone, had taken their lights with them and had turned off any lights on the instruments. Or possibly Seldon had climbed the wrong dome. Or he had followed a curved path along the dome so that he was now facing in the wrong direction. Or he had followed the wrong crease and had moved away from the copse in the wrong direction altogether.
What should he do?
If he was facing the wrong direction, there was a chance that light would be visible right or left--and it wasn’t. If he had followed the wrong crease, there was no possible way he could return to the copse and locate a different crease.
His only chance lay in the assumption that he was facing the right direction and that the meteorological station was more or less directly ahead of him, but that the meteorologists had gone and had left it in darkness.
Move forward, then. The chances of success might be small, but it was the only chance he had.
He estimated that it had taken him half an hour to move from the meteorological station to the top of the dome, having gone partway with Clowzia and sauntering with her rather than striding. He was moving at little better than a saunter now in the daunting darkness.
Seldon continued to slog forward. It would have been nice to know the time and he had a timeband, of course, but in the dark
He stopped. He wore a Trantorian timeband, which gave Galactic Standard time (as all timebands did) and which also gave Trantorian local time. Timebands were usually visible in the dark, phosphorescing so that one could tell time in the quiet dark of a bedchamber. A Heliconian timeband certainly would; why not a Trantorian one?
He looked at his timeband with reluctant apprehension and touched the contact that would draw upon the power source for light. The timeband gleamed feebly and told him the time was 1847. For it to be nighttime already, Seldon knew that it must be the winter season. -How far past the solstice was it? What was the degree of axial tipping? How long was the year? How far from the equator was he at this moment? There was no hint of an answer to any of these things, but what counted was that the spark of light was visible.
He was not blind! Somehow the feeble glow of his timeband gave him renewed hope.
His spirits rose. He would move on in the direction he was going. He would move for half an hour. If he encountered nothing, he would move on five minutes more-no further-just five minutes. If he still encountered nothing, he would stop and think. That, however, would be thirty-five minutes from now. Till then, he would concentrate only on walking and on willing himself to feel warmer (He wiggled his toes, vigorously. He could still feel them.)
Seldon trudged onward and the half hour passed. He paused, then hesitantly, he moved on for five more minutes.
Now he had to decide. There was nothing. He might be nowhere, far removed from any opening into the dome. He might, on the other hand, be standing three meters to the left--or right--or short-of the meteorological station. He might be two arms’ lengths from the opening into the dome, which would not, however, be open.
Was there any point in shouting? He was enveloped by utter silence but for the whistling of the wind. If there were birds, beasts, or insects in among the vegetation on the domes, they were not here during this season or at this time of night or at this particular place. The wind continued to chill him.
Perhaps he should have been shouting all due way. The sound might have carried a good distance in the cold air. But would there have been anyone to hear him?
Would they hear him inside the dome? Were there instruments to detect sound or movement from above? Might there not be sentinels just inside?
That seemed ridiculous. They would have heard his footsteps, wouldn’t they?
He called out. “Help! Help! Can someone hear me?”
His cry was strangled, half-embarrassed. It seemed silly shouting into vast black nothingness.
But then, he felt it was even sillier to hesitate in such a situation as this. Panic was welling up in him. He took in a deep, cold breath and screamed for as long as he could. Another breath and another scream, changing pitch. And another.
Seldon paused, breathless, turning his head every which way, even though there was nothing to see. He could not even detect an echo. There was nothing left to do but wait for the dawn. But how long was the night at this season of the year? And how cold would it get?
He felt a tiny cold touch sting his face. After a while, another.
It was sleeting invisibly in the pitch blackness. And there was no way to find shelter.
He thought: It would have been better if that jet-down had seen me and picked me up. I would be a prisoner at this moment, perhaps, but I’d be warm and comfortable, at least.