Or, if Hummin had never interfered, I might have been back in Helicon long ago. Under surveillance, but warm and comfortable. Right now that was all he wanted-to be warm and conformable.
But at the moment he could only wait. He huddled down, knowing that however long the night, he dared not sleep. He slipped off his shoes and rubbed his icy feet. Quickly, he put his shoes back on.
He knew he would have to repeat this, as well as rubbing his hands and ears all night long to keep his circulation flowing. But most important to remember was that he must not let himself fall asleep. That would mean certain death.
And, having carefully thought all this out, his eyes closed and he nodded off to sleep with the sleet coming down.
LEGGEN, JENARR- . . . His contributions to meteorology, however, although considerable, pale before what has ever since been known as the Leggen Controversy. That his actions helped to place Hari Seldon in jeopardy is undisputable, but argument rages--and has always raged--as to whether those actions were the result of unintentional circumstance or part of a deliberate conspiracy. Passions have been raised on both sides and even the most elaborate studies have come to no definite conclusions. Nevertheless, the suspicions that were raised helped poison Leggen’s career and private life in the years that followed . . .
It was not quite the end of daylight when Dors Venabili sought out Jenarr Leggen. He answered her rather anxious greeting with a grunt and a brief nod.
“Well, “ she said a trifle impatiently. “How was he?”
Leggen, who was entering data into his computer, said, “How was who?’’
“My library student Hari. Dr. Hari Seldon. He went up with you. Was he any help to you?”
Leggen removed his hands from the keys of his computer and swivelled about. “That Heliconian fellow? He was of no use at all. Showed no interest whatever. He kept looking at the scenery when there was no scenery to look at. A real oddball. Why did you want to send him up?”
“It wasn’t my idea. He wanted to. I can’t understand it. He was very interested. -Where is he now?”
Leggen shrugged. “How would I know? Somewhere around.”
“Where did he go after he came down with you? Did he say?”
“He didn’t come down with us. I told you he wasn’t interested.”
“Then when did he come down?”
“I don’t know. I wasn’t watching him. I had an enormous amount of work to do. There must have been a windstorm and some sort of downpour about two days ago and neither was expected. Nothing our instruments showed offered a good explanation for it or for the fact that some sunshine we were expecting today didn’t appear. Now I’m trying to make sense of it and you’re bothering me.”
“You mean you didn’t see him go down?”
“Look. He wasn’t on my mind. The idiot wasn’t correctly dressed and I could see that inside of half an hour he wasn’t going to be able to take the cold. I gave him a sweater, but that wasn’t going to help much for his legs and feet. So I left the elevator open for him and I told him how to use it and explained that it would take him down and then return automatically. It was all very simple and I’m sure he did get cold and he did go down and the elevator did come back and then eventually we all went down.”
“But you don’t know exactly when he went down?”
“No, I don’t. I told you. I was busy. He certainly wasn’t up there when we left, though, and by that time twilight was coming on and it looked as though it might sleet. So he had to have gone down.”
“Did anyone else see him go down?”
“I don’t know. Clowzia may have. She was with him for a while. Why don’t you ask her?”
Dors found Clowzia in her quarters, just emerging from a hot shower.
“It was cold up there, “ she said.
Dors said, “Were you with Hari Seldon Upperside?”
Clowzia said, eyebrows lifting, “Yes, for a while. He wanted to wander about and ask questions about the vegetation up there. He’s a sharp fellow, Dors. Everything seemed to interest him, so I told him what I could till Leggen called me back. He was in one of his knock-your-head-off tempers. The weather wasn’t working and he--”
Dors interrupted. “Then you didn’t see Hari go down in the elevator?”
“I didn’t see him at all after Leggen called me over. --but he bas to be down here. He wasn’t up there when we left.”
“But I can’t find him anywhere.”
Clowzia looked perturbed. “Really?--but he’s got to be somewhere down here.”
“No, he doesn’t have to be somewhere down here, “ said Dors, her anxiety growing. “What if he’s still up there?”
“That’s impossible. He wasn’t. Naturally, we looked about for him before we left. Leggen had shown him how to go down. He wasn’t properly dressed and it was rotten weather. Leggen told him if he got cold not to wait for us. He was getting cold. I know! So what else could he do but go down?”
“But no one saw him go down. -Did anything go wrong with him up there?”
“Nothing. Not while I was with him. He was perfectly fine except that he had to be cold, of course.”
Dors, by now quite unsettled, said, “Since no one saw him go down, he might still be up there. Shouldn’t we go up and look?”
Clowzia said nervously, “I told you we looked around before we went down. It was still quite light and he was nowhere in sight.”
“Let’s look anyway.”
“But I can’t take you up there. I’m just an intern and I don’t have the combination for the Upperside dome opening. You’ll have to ask Dr. Leggen.”
Dors Venabili knew that Leggen would not willingly go Upperside now. He would have to be forced.
First, she checked the library and the dining areas again. Then she called Seldon’s room Finally, she went up there and signaled at the door. When Seldon did not respond, she had the floor manager open it. He wasn’t there. She questioned some of those who, over the last few weeks, had come to know him. No one had seen him.
Well, then, she would make Leggen take her Upperside. By now, though, it was night. He would object strenuously and how long could she spend arguing if Hari Seldon was trapped up there on a freezing night with sleet turning to snow?
A thought occurred to her and she rushed to the small University computer, which kept track of the doings of the students, faculty, and service staff.
Her fingers flew over the keys and she soon had what she wanted.
There were three of them in another part of the campus. She signed out for a small glidecart to take her over and found the domicile she was looking for. Surely, one of them would be available--or findable.
Fortune was with her. The first door at which she signaled was answered by a query light. She punched in her identification number, which included her department affiliation. The door opened and a plump middle-aged man stared out at her. He had obviously been washing up before dinner. His dark blond hair was askew and he was not wearing any upper garment.
He said, “Sorry. You catch me at a disadvantage. What can I do for you, Dr. Venabili?”
She said a bit breathlessly, “You’re Rogen Benastra, the Chief Seismologist, aren’t you?”
“This is an emergency. I must see the seismological records for Upperside for the last few hours.”
Benastra stared at her. “Why? Nothing’s happened. I’d know if it had. The seismograph would inform us.”
“I’m not talking about a meteoric impact.”
“Neither am I. We don’t need a seismograph for that. I’m talking about gravel, pinpoint fractures. Nothing today.”
“Not that either. Please. Take me to the seismograph and read it for me. This is life or death.”
“I have a dinner appointment--”
“I said life or death and I mean it.”
Benastra said, “I don’t see--” but he faded out under Dors’s glare. He wiped his face, left quick word on his message relay, end struggled into a shirt.
They half-ran (under Dors’s pitiless urging) to the small squat Seismology Building. Dors, who knew nothing about seismology, said, “Down? We’re going down?”
“Below the inhabited levels. Of course. The seismograph has to be fixed to bedrock and be removed from the constant clamor and vibration of the city levels.”
“But how can you tell what’s happening Upperside from down here?”
“The seismograph is wired to a set of pressure transducers located within the thickness of the dome. The impact of a speck of grit will send the indicator skittering off the screed. We can detect the flattening effect on the dome of a high wind. We can--”
“Yes, yes, “ said Dors impatiently. She was not here for a lecture on the virtues and refinements of the instruments. “Can you detect human footsteps?”
“Human footsteps?” Benastra looked confused. “That’s not likely Upperside.”
“Of course it’s likely. There were a group of meteorologists Upperside this afternoon.”
“Oh. Well, footsteps would scarcely be noticeable.”
“It would be noticeable if you looked hard enough and that’s what I want you to do.”
Benastra might have resented the firm note of command in her voice, but, if so, he said nothing. He touched a contact and the computer screen jumped to life.
At the extreme right center, there was a fat spot of light, from which a thin horizontal line stretched to the left limit of the screen. There was a tiny wriggle to it, a random nonrepetitive Seder of little hiccups and these moved steadily leftward. It was almost hypnotic in its effect on Dors.
Benastra said, ..That’s as quiet as it can possibly be. Anything you see is the result of changing air pressure above, raindrops maybe, the distant whirr of machinery. There’s nothing up there.”
“All right, but what about a few hours ago? Check on the records at fifteen hundred today, for instance. Surely, you have some recordings.”
Benastm gave the computer its necessary instructions and for a second or two there was wild chaos on the screen. Then it settled down and again the horizontal line appeared.
“I’ll sensitize it to maximum, “ muttered Benastra. There were now pronounced hiccups and as they staggered leftward they changed in pattern markedly.
“What’s that?” said Dors. “Tell me.”
“Since you say there were people up there, Venabili, I would guess they were footsteps-the shifting of weight, the impact of shoes. I don’t know that I would have guessed it if I hadn’t known about the people up there. Its what we call a benign vibration, not associated with anything we know to be dangerous.”
“Can you tell how many people are present?”
“Certainly not by eye. You see, we’re getting a resultant of all the impacts.”
“You say ‘not by eye.’ Can the resultant be analyzed into its components by the computer?”
“I doubt it. These are minimal effects and you have to allow for the inevitable noise. The results would be untrustworthy.”
“Well then. Move the time forward till the footstep indications stop. Can you make it fast-forward, so to speak?”
“If I do-the kind of fast-forward you’re speaking of-then it will all just blur into a straight line with a slight haze above and below. What I can do is move it forward in fifteen-minute stages and study it quickly before moving on.”
“Good. Do that!”
Both watched the screen until Benastra said, “There’s nothing there now. See?”
There was again a fine with nothing but tiny uneven hiccups of noise.
“When did the footsteps stop?
“Two hours ago. A trifle more.”
“And when they stopped were there fewer than there were earlier?”
Benastra looked mildly outraged. “I couldn’t tell. I don’t think the finest analysis could make a certain decision.”
Dors pressed her lips together. Then she said, “Are you testing a transducer-is that what you called it-near the meteorological outlet?”
“Yes, that’s where the instruments are and that’s where the meteorologists would have been.” Then, unbelievingly, “Do you want the to try others in the vicinity? One at a time?”
“No. Stay on this one. But keep on going forward at fifteen minute intervals. One person may have been left behind and may have made his way back to the instruments.”
Benastra shook his head and muttered something under his breath.
The screen shifted again and Dors said sharply, “What’s that?” She was pointing.
“I don’t know. Noise.”
“No. Its periodic. Could it be a single person’s footsteps?”
“Sure, but it could be a dozen other things too.”
“It’s coming along at about the time of footsteps, isn’t it?” Then, after a while, she said, “Push it forward a little.”
He did and when the screen settled down she said, “Aren’t those unevennesses getting bigger?”
“Possibly. We can measure them.”
“We don’t have to. You can see they’re getting bigger. The footsteps are approaching the transducer. Go forward again. See when they stop.”
After a while Benastm said, “They stopped twenty or twenty-five minutes ago.” Then cautiously, “Whatever they are.”
“They’re footsteps, “ said Dors with mountain-moving conviction. “There’s a man up there and while you and I have been fooling around here, he’s collapsed and he’s going to freeze and die. Now don’t say, ‘Whatever they are!’ Just call Meteorology and get me Jenarr Leggen. Life or death, I tell you. Say so!”
Benastra, lips quivering, had passed the stage where he could possibly resist anything this strange and passionate woman demanded.
It took no more than three minutes to get Leggen’s hologram on the message platform. He had been pulled away from his dinner table. There was a napkin in his hand and a suspicious greasiness under his lower lip.
His long face was set in a fearful scowl. “‘Life or death? ‘What is this? Who are you?” Then his eye caught Dors, who had moved closer to Benastra so that her image would be seen on Jenarr’s s screen. He said, “You again. This is simple harassment.”
Dors said, “It is not. I have consulted Rogen Benastra, who is Chief Seismologist at the University. After you and your party had left Upperside, the seismograph shows clear footsteps of one person still there. It’s my student Hari Seldon, who went up there in your care and who is now, quite certainly, lying in a collapsed stupor and may not live long.
“You will, therefore, take me up there right now with whatever equipment may be necessary. If you do not do so immediately, I shall proceed to University security-to the President himself, if necessary. One way or another I’ll get up there and if anything has happened to Hari because you delay one minute, I will see to it that you are hauled in for negligence, incompetence-whatever I can make stick--and will have you lose all status and be thrown out of academic life. And if he’s dead, of course, that’s manslaughter by negligence. Or worse, since I’ve now warned you he’s dying.”
Jenarr, furious, turned to Benastra. “Did you detect--”
But Dors cut in. “He told me what he detected and I’ve told you. I do not intend to allow you to bulldoze him into confusion. Are you coming? Now?”
“Has it occurred to you that you may be mistaken?.. said Jenarr, thinlipped. “Do you know what I can do to you if this is a mischievous false alarm? Loss of status works both ways.”
“Murder doesn’t, “ said Dors. “I’m ready to chance a trial for malicious mischief. Are you ready to chance a trial for murder?”
Jenarr reddened, perhaps more at the necessity of giving in than at the threat. “I’ll come, but I’ll have no merry on you, young woman, if your student eventually turns out to have been safe within the dome these past three hours.”
The three went up the elevator in an inimical silence. Leggen had eaten only part of his dinner and had left his wife at the dining area without adequate explanation. Benastra had eaten no dinner at all and had possibly disappointed some woman companion, also without adequate explanation. Dors Venabili had not eaten either and she seemed the most tense and unhappy of the three. She carried a thermal blanket and two photonic founts.
When they reached the entrance to Upperside, Leggen, jaw muscles tightening, entered his identification number and the door opened. A cold wind rushed at them and Benastra grunted. None of the three was adequately dressed, but the two men had no intention of remaining up there long.
Dors said tightly, “It’s snowing.”
Leggen said, “It’s wet snow. The temperature’s just about at the freezing point. It’s not a killing frost.”
“It depends on how long one remains in it, doesn’t it?” said Dors. “And being soaked in melting snow won’t help.”
Leggen grunted. “Well, where is he?” He stared resentfully out into utter blackness, made even worse by the light from the entrance behind him.
Dors said, “Here, Dr. Benastm, hold this blanket for me. And you, Dr. Leggen, close the door behind you without locking it.”
“There’s no automatic lock on it. Do you think we’re foolish?”
“Perhaps not, but you can lock it from the inside and leave anyone outside unable to get into the dome.”
“If someone’s outside, point him out. Show him to me, “ said Leggen.
“He could be anywhere.” Dors lifted her arms with a photonic fount circling each wrist.
“We can’t look everywhere, “ mumbled Benastra miserably.
The founts blazed into light, spraying in every direction. The snowflakes glittered like a vast mob Of fireflies, making it even more difficult to see.
“The footsteps were getting steadily louder, “ said Dors. “He had to be approaching the transducer. Where would it be located?”
“I haven’t any idea, “ snapped Leggen. -That’s outside my field and my responsibility.”
Benastra’s reply was hesitant. “I don’t really know. To tell you the truth, I’ve never been up here before. It was installed before my time. The computer knows, but we never thought to ask it that. -I’m cold and I don’t see what use I am up here.”
“You’ll have to stay up here for a while, “ said Dom firmly. “Follow me. I’m going to circle the entrance in an outward spiral.”
“We can’t see much through the snow, “ said Leggen.
“I know that. If it wasn’t snowing, we’d have seen him by now. I’m sure of it. As it is, it may take a few minutes. We can stand that.” She was by no means as confident as her words made it appear.
She began to walk, swinging her arms, playing the light over as large a field as she could, straining her eyes for a dark blotch against the snow.
And, as it happened, it was Benastra who first said, “What’s that?” and pointed.
Dom overlapped the two founts, making a bright cone of light in the indicated direction. She ran toward it, as did the other two.
They had found him, huddled and wet, about ten meters from the door, five from the nearest meteorological device. Dors felt for his heartbeat, but it was not necessary for, responding to her touch, Seldon stirred and whimpered.
“Give me the blanket, Dr. Benastra, “ said Dors in a voice that was faint with relief. She flapped it open and spread it out in the snow. “Lift him onto it carefully and I’ll wrap him. Then we’ll carry him down.”
In the elevator, vapors were rising from the wrapped Seldon as the blanket warmed to blood temperature.
Dom said, “Once we have him in his room, Dr. Leggen, you get a doctor-a good one--and see that he comes at once. If Dr. Seldon gets through this without harm, I won’t say anything, but only if he does. Remember--”
“You needn’t lecture me, “ said Leggen coldly. “I regret this and I will do what I can, but my only fault was in allowing this man to come Upperside in the first place.”
The blanket stirred and a low, weak voice made itself heard.
Benastra started, for Seldon’s head was cradled in the crook of his elbow. He said, “He’s trying to say something.”
Dors said, “I know. He said, ‘What’s going on?’ “
She couldn’t help but laugh just a little. It seemed such a normal thing to say.
The doctor was delighted.
“I’ve never seen a case of exposure, “ he explained. “One doesn’t get exposed on Trantor.”
“That may be, “ said Dors coldly, “and I’m happy you have the chance to experience this novelty, but does it mean that you do not know how to treat Dr. Seldon?”
The doctor, an elderly man with a bald head and a small gray mustache, bristled. “Of course, I do. Exposure cases on the Outer Worlds are common enough--an everyday affair--and I’ve read a great deal about them.”
Treatment consisted in part of an antiviral serum and the use of a microwave wrapping.
“This ought to take care of it, “ the doctor said. “On the Outer Worlds, they make use of much more elaborate equipment in hospitals, but we don’t have that, of course, on Trantor. This is a treatment for mild cases and I’m sure it will do the job.”
Dons thought later, as Seldon was recovering without particular injury, that it was perhaps because he was an Outworlder that he had survived so well. Dark, cold, even snow were not utterly strange to him. A Trantorian probably would have died in a similar case, not so much from physical trauma as from psychic shock.
She was not sure of this, of course, since she herself was not a Trantorian either.
And, turning her mind away from these thoughts, she pulled up a chair near to Hari’s bed and settled down to wait.
On the second morning Seldon stirred awake and looked up at Dors, who sat at his bedside, viewing a book-film and taking notes.
In a voice that was almost normal, Seldon said, “Still here, Dors?”
She put down the book-film. “I can’t leave you alone, tart I? And I don’t trust anyone else.”
“It seems to me that every time I wake up, I see you. Have you been here all the time?”
“Sleeping or waking, yes.”
“But your classes?”
“I have an assistant who has taken over for a while.”
Dors leaned over and grasped Hari’s hand. Noticing his embarrassment (he was, after all, in bed), she removed it.
“Hari, what happened? I was so frightened.”
Seldon said, “I have a confession to make.”
“What is it, Hari?”
“I thought perhaps you were part of a conspiracy--”
“A conspiracy?” she said vehemently.
“I mean, to maneuver me Upperside where I’d be outside University jurisdiction and therefore subject to being picked up by Imperial forces.”
“But Upperside isn’t outside University jurisdiction. Sector jurisdiction on Trantor is from the planetary center to the sky.”
“Ah, I didn’t know that. But you didn’t come with me because you said you had a busy schedule and, when I was getting paranoid, I thought you were deliberately abandoning me. Please forgive me. Obviously, it was you who got me down from there. Did anyone else care?”
“They were busy men, “ said Dors carefully. “They thought you had come down earlier. I mean, it was a legitimate thought.”
“Clowzia thought so too?”
“The young intern? Yes, she did.”
“Well, it may still have been a conspiracy. Without you, I mean.”
“No, Hari, it is my fault. I had absolutely no right to let you go
Upperside alone. It was my job to protect you. I can’t stop blaming myself for what happened, for you getting lost.”
“Now, wait a minute, “ said Seldon, suddenly irritated. “I didn’t get lost. What do you think I am?”
“I’d like to know what you call it. You were nowhere around when the others left and you didn’t get back to the entrance--or to the neighborhood of the entrance anyway-till well after dark.”
“But that’s not what happened. I didn’t get lost just because I wandered away and couldn’t find my way back. I told you I was suspecting a conspiracy and I had cause to do so. I’m not totally paranoid.”
“Well then, what did happen?”
Seldon told her. He had no trouble remembering it in full detail; he had lived with it in nightmare for most of the preceding day.
Dors listened with a frown. “But that’s impossible. A jet-down? Are you sure?”
“Of course I’m sure. Do you think I was hallucinating?”
“But the Imperial forces could not have been searching for you. They could not have arrested you Upperside without creating the same ferocious rumpus they would have if they had sent in a police force to arrest you on campus.”
“Then how do you explain it?”
“I’m not sure, “ said Dors, “but it’s possible that the consequences of my failure to go Upperside with you might have been worse than they were and that Hummin will be seriously angry with me.”
“Then let’s not tell him, “ said Seldon. “It ended well.”
“We must tell him, “ said Dors grimly. “This may not be the end.”
That evening Jenarr Leggen came to visit. It was after dinner and he looked from Dors to Seldon several times, as though wondering what to say. Neither offered to help him, but both waited patiently.
He had not impressed either of them as being a master of small talk.
Finally he said to Seldon, “I’ve come to see how you are.”
“Perfectly well, “ said Seldon, “except that I’m a little sleepy. Dr. Venabili tells me that the treatment will keep me tired for a few days, presumably so I’m sure of getting needed rest.” He smiled. “Frankly, I don’t mind.”
Leggen breathed in deeply, let it out, hesitated, and then, almost as though he was forcing the words out of himself, said, “I won’t keep you long. I perfectly understand you need to test. I do want to say, though, that I am sorry it all happened. I should not have assumed--so casually that you had gone down by yourself. Since you were a tyro, I should have felt more responsible for you. After all, I had agreed to let you come up. I hope you can find it in your heart to . . . forgive me. That’s really all I wish to say.”
Seldon yawned, purring his hand over his mouth. “Pardon me. -Since it seems to have turned out well, there need be no hard feelings. In some ways, it was not your fault. I should not have wandered away and, besides, what happened was “
Dors interrupted. “Now, Hari, please, no conversation. Just relax. Now, I want to talk to Dr. Leggen just a bit before he goes. In the first place, Dr. Leggen, I quite understand you are concerned about how repercussions from this affair will affect you. I told you there would be no follow-up if Dr. Seldon recovered without ill effects. That seems to be taking place, so you may relax-for now. I would like to ask you about something else and I hope that this time I will have your free cooperation.”
“I will try, Dr. Venabili, “ said Leggen stiffly.
“Did anything unusual happen during your stay Upperside?”
“You know it did. I lost Dr. Seldon, something for which I have just apologized.”
“Obviously I’m not referring to that. Did anything else unusual happen?”
“No, nothing. Nothing at all.”
Dors looked at Seldon and Seldon frowned. It seemed to him that Dors was trying to check on his story and get an independent account. Did she think he was imagining the search vessel? He would have liked to object heatedly, but she had raised a quieting hand at him, as though she was preventing that very eventuality. He subsided, partly because of this and partly because he really wanted to sleep. He hoped that Leggen would not stay long.
“Are you certain?” said Dors. “Were there no intrusions from outside?”
“No, of course not. Oh--”
“Yes, Dr. Leggen?”
“There was a jet-down.”
“Did that strike you as peculiar?”
“No, of course not.”
“This sounds very much as though I’m being cross-examined, Dr. Venabili. I don’t much like it.”
“I can appreciate that, Dr. Leggen, but these questions have something to do with Dr. Seldon’s misadventure. It may be that this whole affair is more complicated than I had thought.”
“In what way?” A new edge entered his voice. “Do you intend to raise new questions, requiring new apologies? In that case, I may find it necessary to withdraw.”
“Not, perhaps, before you explain how it is you do not find a hovering jet-down a bit peculiar.”
“Because, my dear woman, a number of meteorological stations on Trantor possess jet-downs for the direct study of clouds and the upper atmosphere. Our own meteorological station does not.”
“Why not? It would be useful.”
“Of course. But we’re not competing and we’re not keeping secrets. We will report on our findings; they will report on theirs. It makes sense, therefore, to have a scattering of differences and specializations. It would be foolish to duplicate efforts completely. The money and manpower we might spend on jet-downs can be spent on mesonic refractometers, while others will spend on the first and save on the latter. After all, there may be a great deal of competitiveness and ill feeling among the sectors, but science is one thing-- only thing-that holds us together. You know that, I presume, “ he added ironically.
“I do, but isn’t it rather coincidental that someone should be sending a jet-down right to your station on die very day you were going to use the station?”
“No coincidence at all. We announced that we were going to make measurements on that day end, consequently, some other station thought, very properly, that they might make simultaneous nephelometric measurements--clouds, you know. The results, taken together, would make more sense and be more useful than either taken separately.”
Seldon said suddenly in a rather blurred voice, “They were just measuring, then?” He yawned again.
“Yes” said Leggen. “What else could they possibly be doing?”
Dons blinked her eyes, as she sometimes did when she was trying to think rapidly. “That all makes sense. To which station did this particular jet-down belong?
Leggen shook his head. “Dr. Venabili, how can you possibly expect me to tell?”
“I thought that each meteorological jet-down might possibly have its station’s markings on it.”
“Surely, but I wasn’t looking up and studying it, you know. I had my own work to do and I let them do theirs. When they report, I’ll know whose jet-down it was.”
“What if they don’t report?”
“Then I would suppose their instruments failed. That happens sometimes.” His right fist was clenched. “Is that all, then?”
“Wait a moment. Where do you suppose the jet-down might have come from?”
“It might be any station with jet-downs. On a day’s notice--and they got more than that-one of those vessels can reach us handily from anyplace on the planet.”
“But who most likely?”
“Hard to say: Hestelonia, Wye, Ziggoreth, North Damiano. I’d say one of these four was the most likely, but it might be any of forty others at least.”
“Just one more question, then. Just one. Dr. Leggen, when you announced that your group would be Upperside, did you by any chance say that a mathematician, Dr. Hari Seldon, would be with you
A look of apparently deep and honest surprise crossed Leggen’s face, a look that quickly turned contemptuous. “Why should I liar names? Of what interest would that be to anyone?”
“Very well, “ said Dors. “The truth of the matter, then, is that Dr. Seldon saw the jet-down and it disturbed him. I am not certain why and apparently his memory is a bit fuzzy on the matter. He more or less ran away from the jet-down, got himself lost, didn’t think of trying to return--or didn’t dare to-till it was well into twilight, and didn’t quite make it back in the dark. You can’t be blamed for that, so let’s forget the whole incident on both sides.
“Agreed, “ said Leggen. “Good-bye!” He turned on his heel and left.
When he was gone, Dors rose, pulled off Seldon’s slippers gently, straightened him in his bed, and covered him. He was sleeping, of course.
Then she sat down and thought. How much of what Leggen had said was true and what might possibly exist under the cover of his words? She did not know.
MYCOGEN- . . . A sector of ancient Trantor Buried in the past of its own legends Mycogen made little impact on the planet. Self-satisfied and self-separated to a degree . . .
When Seldom woke, he found a new face looking at him solemnly. For a moment he frowned owlishly and then he said, “Hummin?”
Hummin smiled very slightly. “You remember me, then?”
“It was only for a day, nearly two months ago, but I remember. You were not arrested, then, or in any way
“As you see, I am here, quite safe and whole, but---and he glanced at Dors, who stood to one side-’it was not very easy for me to come here.”
Seldon said, “I’m glad to see you. -Do you mind, by the way?” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the bathroom.
Hummin said, “Take your time. Have breakfast.”
Hummin didn’t join him at breakfast. Neither did Dors. Nor did they speak. Hummin scanned a book-film with an attitude of easy absorption. Dors inspected her nails critically and then, taking out a microcomputer, began making notes with a stylus.
Seldon watched them thoughtfully and did not try to start a conversation. The silence now might be in response to some
Trantorian reserve customary at a sickbed. To be sure, he now felt perfectly normal, but perhaps they did not realize that.
It was only when he was done with his last morsel and with the final drop of milk (which he was obviously getting used to, for it no longer tasted odd) that Hummin spoke.
He said, “How are you, Seldon?”
“Perfectly well, Hummin. Sufficiently well, certainly, for me to be up and about.”
“I’m glad to hear it, “ said Hummin dryly. “Dons Venabili was much to blame in allowing this to happen.”
Seldon frowned. “No. I insisted on going Upperside.”
“I’m sure, but she should, at all costs, have gone with you.”
“I told her I didn’t want her to go with me.”
Dors said, “That’s not so, Hari. Don’t defend me with gallant lies.”
Seldon said angrily, “But don’t forget that Dors also came Upperside after me, against strong resistance, and undoubtedly saved my life. That’s not bending the truth at all. Have you added that to your evaluation, Hummin?”
Dors interrupted again, obviously embarrassed. “Please, Hari. Chetter Hummin is perfectly correct in feeling that I should either have kept you from going Upperside or have gone up with you. As for my subsequent actions, he has praised them.”
“Nevertheless, “ said Hummin, “that is past and we can let it go. Let us talk about what happened Upperside, Seldon.”
Seldon looked about and said guardedly, “Is it safe to do so?”
Hummin smiled slightly. “Dons has placed this room in a Distortion Field. I can be pretty sure that no Imperial agent at the University-if there is one-has the expense to penetrate it. You are a suspicious person, Seldon.”
“Not by nature, “ said Seldon. “Listening to you in the park and afterward-You are a persuasive person, Hummin. By the time you were through, I was ready to fear that Eto Demerzel was lurking in every shadow.”
“I sometimes think he might be, “ said Hummin gravely.
“If he was, “ said Seldon, “I wouldn’t know it was he. What does he look like?”
“That scarcely matters. You wouldn’t see him unless he wanted you to and by then it would all be over, I imagine-which is what we must prevent. Lets talk about that jet-down you saw.”
Seldon said, “As I told you, Hummin, you filled me with fears of Demerzel. As soon as I saw the jet-down, I assumed he was after me, that I had foolishly stepped outside the protection of Streeling University by going Upperside, that I had been lured up there for the specific purpose of being picked up without difficulty.”
Dors said, “On the other hand, Leggen--”
Seldon said quickly, “Was he here last night?”
“Yes, don’t you remember?”
“Vaguely. I was dead tired. It’s all a blur in my memory.”
“Well, when he was here last night, Leggen said that the jetdown was merely a meteorological vessel from another station. Perfectly ordinary. Perfectly harmless.”
“What?” Seldon was taken aback. “I don’t believe that.”
Hummin said, “Now the question is: Why don’t you believe that? Was there anything about the jet-down that made you think it was dangerous? Something specific, that is, and not just a pervasive suspicion placed in your head by me.”
Seldon thought back, biting his lower lip. He said, “Its anions. It seemed to push its forepart below the cloud deck, as though it were looking for something, then it would appear in another spot just the same way, then in another spot, and so on. It seemed to be searching Upperside methodically, section by section, and homing in on me.”
Hummin said, “Perhaps you were personifying, Seldon. You may have been treating the jet-down as though it was a strange animal looking for you. It wasn’t, of course. It was simply a jetdown and if it war a meteorological vessel, its actions were perfectly normal . . . and harmless.”
Seldon said, “It didn’t seem that way to me.”
Hummin said, “I’m sure it didn’t, but we don’t actually know anything. Your conviction that you were in danger is simply an assumption. Leggen’s decision that it was a meteorological vessel is also only an assumption.”
Seldon said stubbornly, “I can’t believe that it was an entirely innocent event.”
“Well then, “ said Hummin, “suppose we assume the worst--that the vessel toot looking for you. How would whoever sent that vessel know you would be there to seek?”
Dors interjected, “I asked Dr. Leggen if he had, in his report of the forthcoming meteorological work, included the information that Hari would be with the group. There was no reason he should in the ordinary course of events and he denied that he had, with considerable surprise at the question. I believed him.”
Hummin said thoughtfully, “Don’t believe him too readily. Wouldn’t he deny it, in any case? Now ask yourself why he allowed Seldon to come along in the first place. We know he objected initially, but he did relent, without much fight. And that, to me, seems rather out of character for Leggen.”
Dors frowned and said, “I suppose that does make it a bit more likely that he did arrange the entire affair. Perhaps he permitted Hari’s company only in order to put him in the position of being taken. He might have received orders to that effect. We might further argue that he encouraged his young intern, Clowzia, to engage Hari’s attention and draw him away from the group, isolating him. That would account for Leggen’s odd lack of concern over Hari’s absence when it came time to go below. He would insist that Hari had left earlier, something he would have laid the groundwork for, since he had carefully showed him how to go down by himself. It would also account for his reluctance to go back up in search of him, since he would not want to waste time looking for someone he assumed would not be found.”
Hummin, who had listened carefully, said, “You make an interesting case against him, but lets not accept that too readily either. After all, he did come Upperside with you in the end.”
“Because footsteps had been detected. The Chief Seismologist had home witness to that.”
“Well, did Leggen show shock and surprise when Seldon was found? I mean, beyond that of finding someone who had been brought into extreme peril through Leggen’s own negligence. Did he act as though Seldon wasn’t supposed to be there? Did he behave as though he were asking himself: How is it they didn’t pick him up?”
Dors thought carefully, then said, “He was obviously shocked by the sight of Hari lying there, but I couldn’t possibly tell if there was anything to his feelings beyond the very natural horror of the situation.”
“No, I suppose you couldn’t.”
But now Seldon, who had been looking from one to the other as they spoke and who had been listening intently, said, “I don’t think it was Leggen.”
Hummin transferred his attention to Seldon. “Why do you say that?”
“For one thing, as you noted, he was clearly unwilling to have me come along. It took a whole day of argument and I think he agreed only because he had the impression that I was a clever mathematician who could help him out with meteorological theory. I was anxious to go up there and, if he had been under orders to see to it that I was taken Upperside, there would have been no need to be so reluctant about it.”
“Is it reasonable to suppose he wanted you only for your mathematics? Did he discuss the mathematics with you? Did he make an attempt to explain his theory to you?”
“No, “ said Seldon, “he didn’t. He did say something about going into it later on, though. The trouble was, he was totally involved with his instruments. I gathered he had expected sunshine that hadn’t showed up and he was counting on his instruments having been at fault, but they were apparently working perfectly, which frustrated him. I think this was an unexpected development that both soured his temper and turned his attention away from me. As for Clowzia, the young woman who preoccupied me for a few minutes, I do not get the feeling, as I look back on it, that she deliberately led me away from the scene. The initiative was mine. I was curious about the vegetation on Upperside and it was I who drew her away, rather than vice versa. Far from Leggen encouraging her action, he called her back while I was still in sight and I moved farther away and out of sight entirely on my own.”
“And yet, “ said Hummin, who seemed intent on objecting to every suggestion that was made, “if that ship was looking for you, those on board must have known you’d be there. How would they know-if not from Leggett?”
“The man I suspect, “ said Seldon, “is a young psychologist named Listing Ranch”
“Randa?” said Dors. “I can’t believe that. I know him. He simply would not be working for the Emperor. He’s anti-Imperialist to the core.”
“He might pretend to be, “ said Seldon. “In fact, he would have to be openly, violently, and extremely anti-Imperialist if he was trying to mask the fact that he is an Imperial agent.”
“But that’s exactly what he’s not like, “ said Dors. “He is not violent and extreme in anything. He’s quiet and good-natured and his views are always expressed mildly, almost timidly. I’m convinced they’re genuine.”
“And yet, Dors, “ said Seldon earnestly, “it was he who first told me of the meteorological project, it was he who urged me to go Upperside, and it was he who persuaded Leggen to allow me to join him, rather exaggerating my mathematical prowess in the process. One must wonder why he was so anxious to get me up there, why he should labor so hard.”
“For your good, perhaps. He was interested in you, Hari, and must have thought that meteorology might have been useful in psychohistory. Isn’t that possible?”
Hummin said quietly, “Lets consider another point. There was a considerable lapse of time between the moment when Randa told you about the meteorology project and the moment you actually went Upperside. If Randa is innocent of anything underhanded, he would have no particular reason to keep quiet about it. If he is a friendly and gregarious person--”
“He is, “ said Dors.
“-then he might very likely tell a number of friends about it. In that case, we couldn’t really tell who the informer might be. In fact, just to make another point, suppose Randa is anti-Imperialist. That would not necessarily mean he is not an agent. We would have to ask: Whom is he an agent for? On whose behalf does he work?”
Seldon was astonished. “Who else is there to work for but the Empire? Who else but Demerzel?”
Hummin raised his hand. “You are far from understanding the whole complexity of Trantorian politics, Seldon.” He turned toward Dors. “Tell me again: Which were the four sectors that Dr. Leggen named as likely sources for a meteorological vessel?”
“Hestelonia, Wye, Ziggoreth, and North Damiano.”
“And you did not ask the question in any leading way? You didn’t ask if a particular sector might be the source?”
“No, definitely not. I simply asked if he could speculate as to the source of the jet-down.”
“And you”-Hummin turned to Seldon “may perhaps have seen some marking, some insigne, on the jet-down?”
Seldon wanted to retort heatedly that the vessel could hardly be seen through the clouds, that it emerged only briefly, that he himself was not looking for markings, but only for escape--but he held back. Surely, Hummin knew all that.
Instead, he said simply, “I’m afraid not.”
Dors said, “If the jet-down was on a kidnapping mission, might not the insigne have been masked?”
“That is the rational assumption, “ said Hummin, “and it may well have been, but in this Galaxy rationality does not always triumph. However, since Seldon seems to have taken no note of any details concerning the vessel, we can only speculate. What I’m thinking is: Wye.”
“Why?” echoed Seldon. “I presume they wanted to take me because whoever was on the ship wanted me for my knowledge of psychohistory.”
“No no.” Hummin lifted his right forefinger as if lecturing a young student. “W-y-e. It is the name of a sector on Trantor. A very special sector. It has been ruled by a line of Mayors for some three thousand years. It has been a continuous line, a single dynasty. There was a time, some five hundred years ago, when two Emperors and an Empress of the House of Wye sat on the Imperial throne. It was a comparatively short period and none of the Wye rulers were particularly distinguished or successful, but the Mayors of Wye have never forgotten this Imperial past.
“They have not been actively disloyal to the ruling houses that have succeeded them, but neither have they been known to volunteer much on behalf of those houses. During the occasional periods of civil war, they maintained a kind of neutrality, making moves that seemed best calculated to prolong the civil war and make it seem necessary to turn to Wye as a compromise solution. That never worked out, but they never stopped trying either.
“The present Mayor of Wye is particularly capable. He is old now, but his ambition hasn’t cooled. If anything happens to Cleon -even a natural death-the Mayor will have a chance at the succession over Cleon’s own too-young son. The Galactic public will always be a little more partial toward a claimant with an Imperial past.
“Therefore, if the Mayor of Wye has heard of you, you might serve as a useful scientific prophet on behalf of his house. There would be a traditional motive for Wye to try to arrange some convenient end for Cleon, use you to predict the inevitable succession of Wye and the coming of peace and prosperity for a thousand years after. Of course, once the Mayor of Wye is on the throne and has no further use for you, you might well follow Cleon to the grave.”
Seldon broke the grim silence that followed by saying, “But we don’t know that it is this Mayor of Wye who is after me.”
“No, we don’t. Or that anyone at all is after you, at the moment. The jet-down might, after all, have been an ordinary meteorological testing vessel as Leggen has suggested. Still, as the news concerning psychohistory and its potential spreads--and it surely must -.:.ore and more of the powerful and semipowerful on Trantor or, for that matter, elsewhere will want to make use of your services.”
“What, then, “ said Dors, “shall we do?”
“That is the question, indeed.” Hummin ruminated for a while, then said, “Perhaps it was a mistake to come here. For a professor, it is all too likely that the hiding place chosen would be a University. Streeling is one of many, but it is among the largest and most free, so it wouldn’t be long before tendrils from here and there would begin feeling their soft, blind way toward this place. I think that as soon as possible-today, perhaps-Seldon should be moved to another and better hiding place. But-
“But?” said Seldon.
“But I don’t know where.”
Seldon said, “Call up a gazetteer on the computer screen and choose a place at random.”
“Certainly not, “ said Hummin. “If we do that, we are as likely to find a place that is less secure than average, as one that is more secure. No, this must be reasoned out. -Somehow.”
The three remained huddled in Seldon’s quarters till past lunch. During that time, Hari and Dors spoke occasionally and quietly on indifferent subjects, but Hummin maintained an almost complete silence. He sat uptight, ate little, and his grave countenance (which, Seldon thought, made him look older than his years) remained quiet and withdrawn.
Seldon imagined him to be reviewing the immense geography of Trantor in his mind, searching for a comer that would be ideal. Surely, it couldn’t be easy.
Seldon’s own Helicon was somewhat larger by a percent or two than Trantor was and had a smaller ocean. The Heliconian land surface was perhaps 10 percent larger than the Trantorian. But Helicon was sparsely populated, its surface only sprinkled with scattered cities; Trantor was all city. Where Helicon was divided into twenty administrative sectors; Trantor had over eight hundred and every one of those hundreds was itself a complex of subdivisions.
Finally Seldon said in some despair, “Perhaps it might be best, Hummin, to chose which candidate for my supposed abilities is most nearly benign, hand me over to that one, and count on him to defend me against the rest.”
Hummin looked up and said in utmost seriousness, “That is not necessary. I know the candidate who is most nearly benign and he already has you.”
Seldon smiled. “Do you place yourself on the same level with the Mayor of Wye and the Emperor of all the Galaxy?”
“In point of view of position, no. But as far as the desire to control you is concerned, I rival them. They, however, and anyone else I can think of want you in order to strengthen their own wealth and power, while I have no ambitions at all, except for the good of the Galaxy.”
“I suspect, “ said Seldon dryly, “that each of your competitors-if asked-would insist that he too was thinking only of the good of the Galaxy.”
“I am sure they would, “ said Hummin, “but so far, the only one of my competitors, as you call them, whom you have met is the Emperor and he was interested in having you advance fictionalized predictions that might stabilize his dynasty. I do not ask you for anything like that. I ask only that you perfect your psychohistorical technique so that mathematically valid predictions, even if only statistical in nature, can be made.”
“True. So far, at least, “ said Seldon with a half-smile.
“Therefore, I might as well ask: How are you coming along with that task? Any progress?”
Seldon was uncertain whether to laugh or cage. After a pause, he did neither, but managed to speak calmly. “Progress? In less than two months? Hummin, this is something that might easily take me my whole life and the lives of the next dozen who follow me. --and even then end in failure.”
“I’m not talking about anything as final as a solution or even as hopeful as the beginning of a solution. You’ve said flatly a number of times that a useful psychohistory is possible but impractical. All I am asking is whether there now seems any hope that it can be made practical.’
Dors said, “Please excuse me. I am not a mathematician, so I hope this is not a foolish question. How can you know something is both possible and impractical? I’ve heard you say that, in theory, you might personally meet and greet all the people in the Empire, but that it is not a practical feat because you couldn’t live long enough to do it. But how can you tell that psychohistory is something of this sort?”
Seldon looked at Dors with some incredulity. “Do you want that explained.”
“Yes, “ she said, nodding her head vigorously so that her curled hair vibrated.
“As a matter of fact, “ said Hummin, “so would L”
“Without mathematics?” said Seldon with just a trace of a smile.
“Please, “ said Hummin.
“Well--” He retired into himself to choose a method of presentation. Then he said,--If you want to understand some aspect of the Universe, it helps if you simplify it as much as possible and include only those properties and characteristics that are essential to understanding. If you want to determine how an object drops, you don’t concern yourself with whether it is new or old, is red or green, or has an odor or not. You eliminate those things and thus do trot needlessly complicate matters. The simplification you can call a model or a simulation and you can present it either as an actual representation on a computer screen or as a mathematical relationship. If you consider the primitive theory of nonrelativistic gravitation “
Don said at once, “You promised there would be no mathematics. Don’t try to slip it in by calling it ‘primitive.’ “
“No no. I mean ‘primitive’ only in that it has been known as long as our records go back, that its discovery is shrouded in the mists of antiquity as is that of fire or the wheel. In any case, the equations for such gravitational theory contain within themselves a description of the motions of a planetary system, of a double star, of tides, and of many other things. Making use of such equations, we can even set up a pictorial simulation and have a planet circling a star or two stars circling each other on a two-dimensional screen or set up more complicated systems in a three-dimensional holograph. Such simplified simulations make it far easier to grasp a phenomenon than it would be if we had to study the phenomenon itself. In fact, without the gravitational equations, our knowledge of planetary motions and of celestial mechanics generally would be sparse indeed.
“Now, as you wish to know more and more about any phenomenon or as a phenomenon becomes more complex, you need more and more elaborate equations, more and more detailed programming, and you end with a computerized simulation that is harder and harder to grasp.”
“Can’t you form a simulation of the simulation?” asked Hummin. “You would go down another degree.”
“In that case, you would have to eliminate some characteristic of the phenomenon which you want to include and your simulation becomes useless. The LPS-that is, ‘the least possible simulation’ gains in complexity faster than the object being simulated does and eventually the simulation catches up with the phenomenon. Thus, it was established thousands of years ago that the Universe as a whole, in its full complexity, cannot be represented by any simulation smaller than itself.
“In other words, you can’t get any picture of the Universe as a whole except by studying the entire Universe. It has been shown also that if one attempts to substitute simulations of a small pan of the Universe, then another small part, then another small part, and so on, intending to put them all together to form a total picture of the Universe, one would find that there are an infinite number of such part simulations. It would therefore take an infinite time to understand the Universe in full and that is just another way of saying that it is impossible to gain all the knowledge there is.”
“I understand you so far, “ said Dors, sounding a little surprised.
“Well then, we know that some comparatively simple things are easy to simulate and as things grow more and more complex they become harder to simulate until finally they become impossible to simulate. But at what level of complexity does simulation cease to be possible? Well, what I have shown, making use of a mathematical technique first invented in this past century and barely usable even if one employs a large and very fast computer, our Galactic society falls short of that mark. It can be represented by a simulation simpler than itself. And I went on to show that this would result in the ability to predict future events in a statistical fashion-that is, by stating the probability for alternate sets of events, rather than flatly predicting that one set will take place.”
“In that case, “ said Hummin, “since you can profitably simulate Galactic society, it’s only a matter of doing so. Why is it impractical?”
“All I have proved is that it will not take an infinite time to understand Galactic society, but if it takes a billion years it will still be impractical. That will be essentially the same as infinite time to us.”
“Is that how long it would take? A billion years?”
“I haven’t been able to work out how long it would take, but I strongly suspect that it will take at least a billion years, which is why I suggested that number.”
“But you don’t really know.”
“I’ve been trying to work it out.”
“The University library does not help?” Hummin cast a look at Dors as he asked the question.
Seldon shook his head slowly. “Not at all.”
“Dors can’t help?”
Dors sighed. “I know nothing about the subject, Chetter. I can only suggest ways of looking. If Hari looks and doesn’t find, I am helpless.”
Hummin rose to his feet. “In that case, there is no great use in staying here at the University and I must chink of somewhere else to place you.”
Seldon reached out and touched his sleeve. “Still, I have an idea.”
Hummin stared at him with a faint narrowing of eyes that might have belied surprise--or suspicion. “When did you get the idea? Just now?”
“No. It’s been buzzing in my head for a few days before I went Upperside. That little experience eclipsed it for a while, but asking about the library reminded me of it.”
Hummin seated himself again. “Tell me your idea-if it’s not something that’s totally marinated in mathematics.”
“No mathematics at all. It’s just that reading history in the library reminded me that Galactic society was less complicated in the past. Twelve thousand years ago, when the Empire was on the way to being established, the Galaxy contained only about ten million inhabited worlds. Twenty thousand years ago, the pre-Imperial kingdoms included only about ten thousand worlds altogether. Still deeper in the past, who knows how society shrinks down? Perhaps even to a single world as in the legends you yourself once mentioned, Hummin.”
Hummin said, “And you think you might be able to work out psychohistory if you dealt with a much simpler Galactic society?”
“Yes, it seems to me that I might be able to do so.”
“Then too, “ said Dors with sudden enthusiasm, “suppose you work out psychohistory for a smaller society of the past and suppose you can make predictions from a study of the pre-Imperial situation as to what might happen a thousand years after the formation of the Empire-you could then check the actual situation at that time and see how near the mark you were.”
Hummin said coldly, “Considering that you would know in advance the situation of the year 1, 000 of the Galactic Era, it would scarcely be a fair test. You would be unconsciously swayed by your prior knowledge and you would be bound to choose values for your equation in such a way as to give you what you would know to be the solution.”
“I don’t think so, “ said Dors. “We don’t know the situation in 1, 000 G.E. very well and we would have to dig. After all, that was eleven millennia ago.”
Seldon’s face turned into a picture of dismay. “What do you mean we don’t know the situation in 1, 000 G.E. very well? There were computers then, weren’t there, Dors?”
“And memory storage units and recordings of ear and eye? We should have all the records of 1, 000 G.E. as we have of the present year of 12, 020 G.E.”
“In theory, yes, but in actual practice- Well, you know, Hari, it’s what you keep saying. It’s possible to have full records of 1, 000 G.E., but it’s not practical to expect to have it.”
“Yes, but what I keep saying, Dors, refers to mathematical demonstrations. I don’t see the applications to historical records.”
Dors said defensively, “Records don’t last forever, Hari. Memory banks can be destroyed or defaced as a result of conflict or can simply deteriorate with time. Any memory bit, any record that is not referred to for a long time, eventually drowns in accumulated noise. They say that fully one third of the records in the Imperial Library are simply gibberish, but, of course, custom will not allow those records to be removed. Other libraries are less tradition bound. In the Streeling University library, we discard worthless items every ten years.
“Naturally, records frequently referred to and frequently duplicated on various worlds and in various libraries-governmental and private remain clear enough for thousands of years, so that many of the essential points of Galactic history remain known even if they took place in pre-Imperial times. However, the farther back you go, the less there is preserved.”
“I can’t believe that, “ said Seldon. “I should think that new copies would be made of any record in danger of withering. How could you let knowledge disappear?”
“Undesired knowledge is useless knowledge, “ said Dors. “Can you imagine all the time, effort, and energy expended in a continual refurbishing of unused data? And that wastage would grow steadily more extreme with time.”
“Surely, you would have to allow for the fact that someone at some time might need the data being so carelessly disposed of.”
“A particular item might be wanted once in a thousand years. To save it all just in case of such a need isn’t cost-effective. Even in science. You spoke of the primitive equations of gravitation and say it is primitive because its discovery is lost in the mists of antiquity. Why should that be? Didn’t you mathematicians and scientists save all data, all information, back and back to the misty primeval time when those equations were discovered?”
Seldon groaned and made no attempt to answer. He said, “Well, Hummin, so much for my idea. As we look back into the past and as society grows smaller, a useful psychohistory becomes more likely. But knowledge dwindles even more rapidly than size, so psychohistory becomes less likely--and the less outweighs the more. “
“To be sure, there is the Mycogen Sector, “ said Dors, musing.
Hummin looked up quickly. “So there is and that would be the perfect place to put Seldon. I should have thought of it myself.”
“Mycogen Sector, “ repeated Hari, looking from one to the other. “What and where is Mycogen Sector?”
“Hari, please, I’ll tell you later. Right now, I have preparations to make. You’ll leave tonight.”
Dors had urged Seldon to sleep a bit. They would be leaving halfway between lights out and lights on, under cover of “night, “ while the rest of the University slept. She insisted he could still use a little rest.
“And have you sleep on the floor again?” Seldon asked.
She shrugged. “The bed will only hold one and if we both try to crowd into it, neither of us will get much sleep.”
He looked at her hungrily for a moment and said, “Then I’ll sleep on the floor this time.”
“No, you won’t. I wasn’t the one who lay in a coma in the sleet.”
As it happened, neither slept. Though they darkened the room and though the perpetual hum of Trantor was only a drowsy sound in the relatively quiet confines of the University, Seldon found that he had to talk.
He said, “I’ve been so much trouble to you, Dors, here at the University. I’ve even been keeping you from your work. Still, I’m sorry I’ll have to leave you.”
Dors said, “You won’t leave me. I’m coming with you. Hummin is arranging a leave of absence for me.”
Seldon said, dismayed, “I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You’re not. Hummin s asking it. I must guard you. After all, I faded in connection with Upperside and should make up for it.”
“I told you. Please don’t feel guilty about that. -Still, I must admit I would feel more comfortable with you at my side. If I could only be sure I wasn’t interfering with your life . . .”
Dors said softly, “You’re not, Hari. Please go to sleep.”
Seldon lay silent for a while, then whispered, “Are you sure Hummin can really arrange everything, Dors?”
Dors said, “He’s a remarkable man. He’s got influence here at the University and everywhere else, I think. If he says he can arrange for an indefinite leave for me, I’m sure he can. He is a moat persuasive man.”
I know, “ said Seldon. “Sometimes I wonder what he really wants of me.”
“fit he says, “ said Dors. “He’s a man of strong and idealistic ideas and dreams.”
“You sound as though you know him well, Dors.”
“Oh yes, I know him well.”
Dors made an odd noise. “I’m not sure what you’re implying, Hari, but, assuming the most insolent interpretation-No, I don’t know him intimately. What business would that be of yours any-way?”
“I’m sorry.. said Seldon. “I just didn’t want, inadvertently, to be invading someone else’s--”
“Property? That’s even more insulting. I think you had better go to sleep.”
“I’m sorry again, Dors, but I can’t sleep. Let me at least change the subject. You haven’t explained what the Mycogen Sector is. Why will it be good for me to go there? What’s it like?”
“It’s a small sector with a population of only about two million if I remember correctly. The thing is that the Mycogenians cling rightly to a set of traditions about early history and are supposed to have very ancient records not available to anyone else. It’s just possible they would be of more use to you in your attempted examination of pre-Imperial times than orthodox historians might be. All our talk about early history brought the sector to mind.”
“Have you ever seen their records?”
“No. I don’t know anyone who has.”
“Can you be sure that the records really exist, then?”
“Actually, I can’t say. The assumption among non-Mycogenians is that they’re a bunch of madcaps, but that may be quite unfair. They certainly ray they have records, so perhaps they do. In any case, we would be out of sight there. The Mycogenians keep strictly to themselves. --and now please do go to sleep.”
And somehow Seldon finally did.
Hari Seldon and Dors Venabili left the University grounds at 0300. Seldon realized that Dors had to be the leader. She knew Trantor better than he did-two years better. She was obviously a close friend of Hummin (how close? the question kept nagging at him) and she understood his instructions.
Both she and Seldon were swathed in light swirling docks with tight-fitting hoods. The style had been a short-lived clothing fad at the University (and among young intellectuals, generally) some years back and though right now it might provoke laughter, it had the saving grace of covering them well and of making them unrecognizable-at least at a cursory glance.
Hummin had said, “There’s a possibility that the event Upperside was completely innocent and that there are no agents after you, Seldon, but lets he prepared for the worst.”
Seldon had asked anxiously, “Won’t you come with us?”
“I would like to, “ said Hummin, “but I must limit my absence from work if I am not to become a target myself. You understand?”
Seldon sighed. He understood.
They entered an Expressway car and found a seat as far as possible from the few who had already boarded. (Seldom wondered why anyone should be on the Expressways at three in the morning---and then thought that it was lucky some were or he and Dors would be entirely too conspicuous.)
Seldon fell to watching the endless panorama that passed in review as the equally endless line of coaches moved along the endless monorail on an endless electromagnetic field.
The Expressway passed row upon row of dwelling units, few of them very tall, but some, for all he knew, very deep. Still, if tens of millions of square kilometers formed an urbanized total, even forty billion people would not require very tall structures or very closely packed ones. They did pass open areas, in most of which crops seemed to be growing--but some of which were clearly parklike. And there were numerous structures whose nature he couldn’t guess. Factories? Office buildings? Who knew? One large featureless cylinder struck him as though it might be a water tank. After all, Trantor had to have a fresh water supply. Did they sluice rain from Upperside, filter and treat it, then store it? It seemed inevitable that they should.
Seldon did not have very long to study the view, however.
Dors muttered, “This is about where we should be getting off.” She stood up and her strong fingers gripped his arm.
They were off the Expressway now, standing on solid flooring while Dors studied the directional signs.
The signs were unobtrusive and there were many of them. Seldon’s heart sank. Most of them were in pictographs and initials, which were undoubtedly understandable to native Trantorians, but which were alien to him .
“This way, “ said Dors.
“Which way? How do you know?”
“See that? Two wings and an arrow.”
“Two wings? Oh.” He had thought of it as an upside-down “w, “ wide and shallow, but he could see where it might be the stylized wings of a bird.
“Why don’t they use words?” he said sullenly.
“Because words vary from world to world. What an ‘air-jet’ is here could be a ‘soar’ on Cinna or a ‘swoop’ on other worlds. The two wings and an arrow are a Galactic symbol for an sir vessel and the symbol is understood everywhere. -Don’t you use them on Helicon?”
“Not much. Helicon is a fairly homogeneous world, culturally speaking, and we tend to cling to our private ways firmly because we’re overshadowed by our neighbours.”
“See?” said Dors. “There’s where your psychohistory might come in. You could show that even with different dialects the use of set symbols, Galaxy-wide, is a unifying force.”
“That won’t help.” He was following her through empty dim alley ways and part of his mind wondered what the crime rate might be on Trantor and whether this was a high-crime area “You can have a billion rules, each covering a single phenomenon, and you can derive no generalizations from that. That’s what one means when one says that a system might be interpreted only by a model as complex as itself. -Dors, are we heading for an air-jet?”
She stopped and turned to look at him with an amused frown. “If we’re following the symbols for air-jets, do you suppose we’re trying to reach a golf course? -Are you afraid of air-jets in the way so many Trantorians are?”
“No no. We 9y freely on Helicon and I make use of air-jets frequently. It’s just that when Hummin took me to the University, he avoided commercial air travel because he thought we would leave too clear a trail.”
“That’s because they knew where you were to begin with, Hari, and were after you already. Right now, it may be that they don’t know where you are and we’re using an obscure port and a private airjet.”
“And who’ll be doing the flying?”
“A friend of Hummin’s, I presume.”
“Can he be trusted, do you suppose?”
“If he’s a friend of Hummin’s, he surely can.”
“You certainly think highly of Hummin, “ said Seldon with a twinge of discontent.
“With reason, “ said Dors with no attempt at coyness. “He’s the best.
Seldon’s discontent did not dwindle.
“There’s the air-jet, “ she said.
It was a small one with oddly shaped wings. Standing beside it was a small man, dressed in the usual glaring Trantorian colors.
Dors said, “We’re psycho.”
The pilot said, “And I’m history.”
They followed him into the air-jet and Seldon said, “Whose idea were the passwords?”‘
“Hummin’s, “ said Dors.
Seldon snorted. “Somehow I didn’t think Hummin would have a sense of humor. He’s so solemn.”
SUNMASTER FOURTEEN- . . . A leader of the Mycogen Sector of ancient Trantor . . . As is true of all the leaders of this ingrown sector, little is known of him. That he plays any role at all in history is due entirely to his interrelationship with Hari Seldon in the course of The Flight . . .
There were just two seats behind the compact pilot compartment and when Seldon sat down on padding that gave slowly beneath him meshed fabric came forward to encircle his legs, waist, and chest and a hood came down over his forehead and ears. He felt imprisoned and when he turned to his left with difficulty----and only slightly-he could see that Dors was similarly enclosed.
The pilot took his own seat and checked the controls. Then he said, “I’m Endor Levanian, at your service. You’re enmeshed because there will be a considerable acceleration at liftoff. Once we’re in the open and flying, you’ll be released. You needn’t tell me your names. It’s none of my business.”
He turned in his seat and smiled at them out of a gnomelike face that wrinkled as his lips spread outward. “Any psychological difficulties, youngsters?”
Dors said lightly, “I’m an Outworlder and I’m used to flying.”
“That is also true for myself, “ said Seldon with a bit of hauteur.
“Excellent, youngsters. Of course, this isn’t your ordinary air-jet and you may not have done any night flying, but I’ll count on you to bear up.’
He was enmeshed too, but Seldon could see that his arms were entirely free.
A dull hum sounded inside the jet, growing in intensity and rising in pitch. Without actually becoming unpleasant, it threatened to do so and Seldon made a gesture as though to shake his head and get the sound out of his ears, but the attempt to do so merely seemed to stiffen the hold of the head-mesh.
The jet then sprang (it was the only verb Seldon could find to describe the event) into the sir and he found himself pushed hard against the back and bottom of his seat.
Through the windshield in front of the pilot, Seldon saw, with a twinge of horror, the flat rise of a wall--and then a round opening appear in that wall. It was similar to the hole into which the sir-taxi had plunged the day he and Hummin had left the Imperial Sector, but though this one was large enough for the body of the jet, it certainly did not leave room for the wings.
Seldon’s head turned as far to the right as he could manage and did so just in time to see the wing on his side wither and collapse.
The jet plunged into the opening and was seized by the electromagnetic field and hurtled along a lighted runnel. The acceleration was constant and there were occasional clicking noises that Seldon imagined might be the passing of individual magnets.
And then, in less than ten minutes, the jet was spewed out into the atmosphere, headlong into the sudden pervasive darkness of night.
The jet decelerated as it passed beyond the electromagnetic field and Seldon felt himself flung against the mesh and plastered there for a few breathless moments.
Then the pressure ceased and the mesh disappeared altogether.
“How are you, youngsters?” came the cheerful voice of the pilot.
“I’m not sure, “ said Seldon. He turned to Dors. “Are you all right?”
“Certainly, “ she answered. “I think Mr. Levanian was putting us through his paces to see if we were really Outworlders. Is that so, Mr. Levanian?”
“Some people like excitement, “ said Levanian. “Do you?”
“Within limits, “ said Dors.
Then Seldon added approvingly, “As any reasonable person would admit.”
Seldon went on. “It might have seemed less humorous to you, sir, if you had ripped the wings off the jet.”
“Impossible, sir. I told you this is not your ordinary air-jet. The wings are thoroughly computerized. They change their length, width, curvature, and overall shape to match the speed of the jet, the speed and direction of the wind, the temperature, and half a dozen other variables. The wings wouldn’t tear off unless the jet itself was subjected to stresses that would splinter it.”
There was a spatter against Seldon’s window. He said, “It’s raining.’
“It often is, “ said the pilot.
Seldon peered out the window. On Helicon or on any other world, there would have been lights visible-the illuminated works of man. Only on Trantor would it be dark.
-Well, not entirely. At one point he saw the flash of a beacon light. Perhaps the higher reaches of Upperside had warning lights.
As usual, Dors took note of Seldon’s uneasiness. Parting his hand, she said, “I’m sure the pilot knows what he’s doing, Hari.”
“I’ll try to be sure of it, too, Dors, but I wish he’d share some of that knowledge with us, “ Seldon said in a voice loud enough to be overheard.
“I don’t mind sharing, “ said the pilot. “To begin with, we’re heading up and we’ll be above the cloud deck in a few minutes. Then there won’t be any rain and we’ll even see the stars.”
He had timed the remark beautifully, for a few stars began to glitter through the feathery cloud remnants and then all the rest sprang into brightness as the pilot flicked off the lights inside the cabin. Only the dim illumination of his own instrument panel remained to compete and outside the window the sky sparkled brightly.
Dors said, “That’s the first time in over two years that I’ve seen the stars. Aren’t they marvelous? They’re so bright---and there are so many of them.”
The pilot said, “Trantor is nearer the center of the Galaxy than most of the Outworlds.”
Since Helicon was in a sparse comer of the Galaxy and its star field was dim and unimpressive, Seldon found himself speechless.
Dors said, “How quiet this flight has become.”
“So it is, “ said Seldon. “What powers the jet, Mr. Levanian?”
“A microfusion motor and a thin stream of hot gas.”
“I didn’t know we had working microfusion air-jets. They talk about it, but--”
“There are a few small ones like this. So far they exist only on Trantor and are used entirely by high government officials.”
Seldon said, “The fees for such travel must come high.”
“Very high, sir.”
“How much is Mr. Hummin being charged, then?”
“There’s no charge for this flight. Mr. Hummin is a good friend of the company who owns these jets.”
Seldon grunted. Then he asked, “Why aren’t there more of these microfusion air-jets?”
“Too expensive for one thing, sir. Those that exist fulfill all the demand.”
“You could create more demand with larger jets.”
“Maybe so, but the company has never managed to make microfusion engines strong enough for large air-jets.”
Seldon thought of Hummin’s complaint that technological innovation had declined to a low level. “Decadent, “ he murmured.
“What., said Dors.
“Nothing, “ said Seldon. “ I was just thinking of something Hummin once said to me.”
He looked out at the stars and said, “Are we moving westward, Mr. Caveman?’’
“Yes, we are. How did you know?”
“Because I thought that we would see the dawn by now if we were heading east to meet it.”
But dawn, pursuing the planet, finally caught up with them and sunlight--real--sunlight brightened the cabin walls. It didn’t last long, however, for the jet curved downward and into the clouds. Blue and gold vanished and were replaced by dingy gray and both Seldon and Dors emitted disappointed cries at being deprived of even a few more moments of true sunlight.
When they sank beneath the clouds, Upperside was immediately below them and its surface-at least at this spot-was a rolling mixture of wooded grottos and intervening grassland. It was the sort of thing Clowzia had told Seldon existed on Upperside.
Again there was little time for observation, however. An opening appeared below them, rimmed by lettering that spelled MYCOGEN
They plunged in.
They landed at a jetport that seemed deserted to Seldon’s wondering eyes. The pilot, having completed his task, shook hands with both Hari and Dors and took his jet up into the sir with a rush, plunging it into an opening that appeared for his benefit.
There seemed, then, nothing to do but wait. There were benches that could seat perhaps a hundred people, but Seldon and Dors Venabib were the only two people around. The port was rectangular, surrounded by walls in which there must be many tunnels that could open to receive or deliver jets, but there were no jets present after their own had departed and none arrived while they waited.
There were no people arriving or any indications of habitation; the very life hum of Trantor was muted.
Seldon felt this aloneness to be oppressive. He turned to Dors and said, “What is it that we must do here? Have you any idea?”
Dors shook her head. “Hummin told me we would be met by Sunmaster Fourteen. I don’t know anything beyond that.”
“Sunmaster Fourteen? What would that be?”
“A human being, I presume. From the name I can’t be certain whether it would be a man or a woman.”
“An odd name.”
“Oddity is in the mind of the receiver. I am sometimes taken to be a man by those who have never met me.”
“What fools they must be, “ said Seldon, smiling.
“Not at all. Judging from my name, they are justified. I’m told it is a popular masculine name on various worlds.”
“I’ve never encountered it before.”
“That’s because you aren’t much of a Galactic traveler. The name ‘Hari’’ is common enough everywhere, although I once knew a woman named ‘Hare, ‘ pronounced like your name but spelled with an ‘e.’ In Mycogen, as I recall, particular names are confined to families---and numbered.”
“But Sunmaster seems so unrestrained a name.”
“What’s a little braggadocio? Back on Cinna, ‘Dons’ is from an Old local expression meaning ‘spring gift.’“
“Because you were born in the spring?”
“No. I first saw the light of day at the height of Cinna’s summer, but the name struck my people as pleasant regardless of its traditional--and largely forgotten-meaning.”
“In that case, perhaps Sunmaster---”
And a deep, severe voice said, “That is my name, tribesman.”
Seldon, startled, looked to his left. An open ground-car had somehow drawn close. It was boxy and archaic, looking almost like a delivery wagon. In it, at the controls, was a tall old man who looked vigorous despite his age. With stately majesty, he got out of the ground-car.
He wore a long white gown with voluminous sleeves, pinched in at the wrists. Beneath the gown were soft sandals from which the big toe protruded, while his head, beautifully shaped, was completely hairless. He regarded the two calmly with his deep blue eyes.
He said, “I greet you, tribesman.”
Seldon said with automatic politeness, “Greetings, sir.” Then, honestly puzzled, he asked, “How did you get in?”
“Through the entrance, which closed behind me. You paid little heed.”
“I suppose we didn’t. But then we didn’t know what to expect. Nor do we now.”
“Tribesman Chetter Hummin informed the Brethren that there would be members from two of the tribes arriving. He asked that you be cared for.”
“Then you know Hummin.”
“We do. He has been of service to us. And because he, a worthy tribesman, has been of service to us, so must we be now to him. There are few who come to Mycogen and few who leave. I am to make you secure, give you houseroom, see that you are undisturbed. You will be safe here.”
Dors bent her head. “We are grateful, Sunmaster Fourteen.”
Sunmaster turned to look at her with an sir of dispassionate contempt. “I am not unaware of the customs of the tribes, “ he said. “I know that among them a woman may well speak before being spoken to. I am therefore not offended. I would ask her to have a care among others of the Brethren who may be of lesser knowledge in the matter.”
“Oh really?” said Dors, who was clearly offended, even if Sunmaster was not.
“In truth, “ agreed Sunmaster. “Nor is it needful to use my numerical identifier when I alone of my cohort am with you. ‘Sunmaster’ will be sufficient. -Now I will ask you to come with me so that we may leave this place which is of too tribal a nature to comfort me.”
“Comfort is for all of us, “ said Seldon, perhaps a little more loudly than was necessary, “and we will not budge from this place unless we are assured that we will not be forcibly bent to your liking against our own natures. It is our custom that a woman may speak whenever she has something to say. If you have agreed to keep us secure, that security must be psychological as well as physical.”
Sunmaster gazed at Seldon levelly and said, “You are bold, young tribesman. Your name?”
“I am Hari Seldon of Helicon. My companion is Dors Venabili of Cinna.”
Sunmaster bowed slightly as Seldon pronounced his own name, did not move at the mention of Dors’s name. He said, “I have sworn to Tribesman Hummin that we will keep you safe, so I will do what I can to protect your woman companion in this. If she wishes to exercise her impudence, I will do my best to see that she is held guiltless. -Yet in one respect you must conform.”
And he pointed, with infinite scorn, first to Seldon’s head and then to Dors’s.
“What do you mean?” said Seldon.
“Your cephalic hair.”
“What about it?”
“It must not be seen.”
“Do you mean we’re to shave our heads like you? Certainly not.”
“My head is not shaven, Tribesman Seldon. I was depilated when I entered puberty, as are all the Brethren and their women.”
“If we’re talking about depilation, then more than ever the answer is no-never.”
“Tribesman, we ask neither shaving nor depilation. We ask only that your hair be covered when you are among us.”
“I have brought skincaps that will mold themselves to your skulls, together with strips that will hide the superoptical patches the eyebrows. You will wear them while with us. And of course, Tribesman Seldon, you will shave daily--or oftener if that becomes necessary.”
“But why must we do this?”
“Because to us, hair on the head is repulsive and obscene.”
“Surely, you and all your people know that it is customary for others, in all the worlds of the Galaxy, to retain their cephalic hair.”
“We know. And those among us, like myself, who must deal with tribesmen now and then, must witness this hair. We manage, but it is unfair to ask the Brethren generally to suffer the sight.”
Seldon said, “Very well, then, Sunmaster--but tell me. Since you are born with cephalic hair, as all of us are and as you all retain it visibly till puberty, why is it so necessary to remove it? Is it just a matter of custom or is there some rationale behind it?”
And the old Mycogenian said proudly, “By depilation, we demonstrate to the youngster that he or she has become an adult and through depilation adults will always remember who they are and never forget that all others are but tribesmen.”
He waited for no response (and, in truth, Seldon could think of none) but brought out from some hidden compartment in his robe a handful of thin bits of plastic of varying color, stared keenly at the two faces before him, holding first one strip, then another, against each face.
“The colors must thatch reasonably, “ he said. “No one will be fooled into thinking you are not wearing a skincap, but it must not be repulsively obvious.”
Finally, Sunmaster gave a particular strip to Seldon and showed him how it could be pulled out into a cap.
“Please put it on, Tribesman Seldom” he said. “You will find the process clumsy at first, but you will grow accustomed to it.”
Seldon put it on, but the first two times it slipped off when he tried to pull it backward over his hair.
“Begin just above your eyebrows, “ said Sunmaster. His fingers seemed to twitch, as though eager to help.
Seldon said, suppressing a smile, “Would you do it for me?”
And Sunmaster drew back, saying, almost in agitation, “I couldn’t. I would be touching your hair.”
Seldon managed to hook it on and followed Sunmaster s advice, in pulling it here and there until all his hair was covered. The eyebrow patches fitted on easily. Dors, who had watched carefully, put hers on without trouble.
“How does it come off?” asked Seldon.
“You have but to find an end and it will peel off without trouble. You will find it easier both to put on and take off if you cut your hair shorter.”
“I’d rather struggle a bit, “ said Seldon. Then, turning to Dors, he said in a low voice, “You’re still pretty, Dors, but it does tend to remove some of the character from your face.”
“The character is there underneath just the same, “ she answered. “And I dare say you’ll grow accustomed to the hairless me.”
In a still lower whisper, Seldon said, “I don’t want to stay here long enough to get accustomed to this.”
Sunmaster, who ignored, with visible haughtiness, the mumblings among mere tribesmen, said, “If you will enter my ground-car, I will now take you into Mycogen.”
“Frankly, “ whispered Dors, “I can scarcely believe I’m on Trantor.”
“I take it, then, you’ve never seen anything like this before?” said Seldon.
“I’ve only been on Trantor for two years and I’ve spent much of my time at the University, so I’m not exactly a world traveler. Still, I’ve been here and there and I’ve heard of this and that, but I’ve never seen or heard of anything like this. The sameness. “
Sunmaster drove along methodically and without undue haste. There were other wagonlike vehicles in the roadway, all with hairless men at the controls, their bald pates gleaming in the light.
On either side there were three-story structures, unornamented, all lines meeting at right angles, everything gray in color.
“Dreary, “ mouthed Dors. “So dreary.”
“Egalitarian, “ whispered Seldon. “I suspect no Brother can lay claim to precedence of any obvious kind over any other.”
There were many pedestrians on the walkways as they passed. There were no signs of any moving corridors and no sound of any nearby Expressway.
Don said, “I’m guessing the grays are women.”
“Its hard to tell, “ said Seldon. “The gowns hide everything and one hairless head is like another.”
“The grays are always in pairs or with a white. The whines tart walk alone and Sunmaster is a white.”
“You may be right.” Seldon raised his voice. “Sunmaster, I am curious”
“If you are, then ask what you wish, although I am by no means required to answer.”
“We seem to be passing through a residential area. There are no signs of business establishments, industrial areas--”
“We are a farming community entirely. Where are you from that you do not know this?”
“You know I am an Outworlder, “ Seldon said stiffly. “I have been on Trantor for only two months.”
“But if you are a farming community, Sunmaster, how is it that we have passed no farms either?”
“On lower levels, “ said Sunmaster briefly.
“Is Mycogen on this level entirely residential, then?”
“And on a few others. We are what you see. Every Brother and his family lives in equivalent quarters; every cohort in its own equivalent community; all have the same ground-can and all Brothers drive their own. There are no servants and none are at ease through the labor of others. None may glory over another.”
Seldon lifted his shielded eyebrows at Dors and said, “But some of the people wear white, while some wear gray.”
“That is because some of the people are Brothers and some are Sisters.”
“You are a tribesman and a guest. You and your”-he paused and then said--”companion will not be bound by all aspects of Mycogenian life. Nevertheless, you will wear a white gown and your companion will wear a gray one and you will live in special guest quarters like our own.”
“Equality for all seems a pleasant ideal, but what happens as your numbers increase? Is the pie, then, cut into smaller pieces?”
“There is no increase in numbers. That would necessitate an increase in area, which the surrounding tribesmen would not allow, or a change for the worse in our way of life.”
“But if-.. began Seldon.
Sunmaster cut him off. “It is enough, Tribesman Seldon. As I warned you, I am not compelled to answer. Our task, which we have promised our friend Tribesman Hummin, is to keep you secure as long as you do not violate our way of life. That we will do, but there it ends. Curiosity is permitted, but it wears out our patience quickly if persisted in.”
Something about his tone allowed no more to be said and Seldon chafed. Hummin, for all his help, had clearly mis-stressed the matter.
It was not security that Seldon sought. At least, not security alone. He needed information too and without that he could not and would not stay here.
Seldon looked with some distress at their quarters. It had a small but individual kitchen and a small but individual bathroom. There were two narrow beds, two clothes closets, a table, and two chairs. In short there was everything that was necessary for two people who were willing to live under cramped conditions.
“We had an individual kitchen and bathroom at Cinna, “ said Dors with an air of resignation.
“Not I, “ said Seldon. “Helicon may be a small world, but I lived in a modem city. Community kitchens and bathrooms. -What a waste this is. You might expect it in a hotel, where one is compelled to make a temporary stay, but if the whole sector is like this, imagine the enormous number and duplications of kitchens and bathrooms.”
“Part of the egalitarianism, I suppose, “ said Dors. “No fighting for favored stalls or for faster service. The same for everyone.”
“No privacy either. Not that I mind terribly, Dors, but you might and I don’t want to give the appearance of taking advantage. We ought to make it clear to them that we must have separate rooms--adjoining but separate.”
Dors said, “I’m sure it won’t work. Space is at a premium and I think they are amazed by their own generosity in giving us this much. We’ll just make do, Hari. We’re each old enough to manage. I’m not a blushing maiden and you’ll never convince me that you’re a callow youth.”
“You wouldn’t be here, were it not for me.”
“What of it? It’s an adventure.”
“All right, then. Which bed will you take? Why don’t you take the one nearer the bathroom?” He sat down on the other. “There’s something else that bothers me. As long as we’re here, we’re tribespeople, you and I, as is even Hummin. We’re of the other tribes, not their own cohorts, and most things are none of our business. --but most things are my business. That’s what I’ve come here for. I want to know some of the things they know.”
“Or think they know, “ said Dors with a historian’s skepticism. “I understand they have legends that are supposed to date back to primordial times, but I can’t believe they can be taken seriously.”
“We can’t know that until we find out what those legends are. Are there no outside records of them?”
“Not that I know of. These people are terribly ingrown. They’re almost psychotic in their inward clinging. That Hummin can break down their barriers somewhat and even get them to take us in is remarkable-really remarkable.”
Seldon brooded. “There has to be an opening somewhere. Sunmaster was surprised--angry, in fact-that I didn’t know Mycogen was an agricultural community. That seems to be something they don’t want kept a secret.”
“The point is, it isn’t a secret. ‘Mycogen’ is supposed to be from archaic words meaning ‘yeast producer.’ At least, that’s what I’ve been told. I’m not a paleolinguist. In any case, they culture all varieties of microfood-yeast, of course, along with algae, bacteria, multicellular fungi, and so on.”
“Thai s not uncommon, “ said Seldon. “Most worlds have this microculture. We have some even on Helicon.”
“Not like Mycogen. It’s their specialty. They use methods as archaic as the name of their section-secret fertilizing formulas, secret environmental influences. Who knows what? All is secret.”
“With a vengeance. What it amounts to is that they produce protein and subtle flavoring, so that their microfood isn’t like any other in the world. They keep the volume comparatively low and the price is skyhigh. I’ve never tasted any and I’m sure you haven’t, but it sells in great quantities to the Imperial bureaucracy and to the upper classes on other worlds. Mycogen depends on such sales for its economic health, so they want everyone to know that they are the source of this valuable food. That, at least, is no secret.’.
“Mycogen must be rich, then.”
“They’re not poor, but I suspect that it’s not wealth they’re after. It’s protection. The Imperial government protects them because, without them, there wouldn’t be these microfoods that add the subtlest flavors, the tangiest spices, to every dish. That means that
Mycogen can maintain its odd way of life and be haughty toward its neighbours, who probably find them insupportable.”
Dors looked about. “They live an austere life. There’s no holovision, I notice, and no book-films.”
“I noticed one in the closet up on the shelf.” Seldon reached for it, stared at the label, and then said in clear disgust, “A cookbook.”
Dors held out her hand for it and manipulated the keys. It took a while, for the arrangement was not quite orthodox, but she finally managed to light the screen and inspect the pages. She said, “There are a few recipes, but for the most part this seems to consist of philosophical essays on gastronomy.”
She shut it off and turned it round and about. “It seems to be a single unit. I don’t see how one would eject the microcard and insert another. A one-book scanner. Now that’s a waste.”
“Maybe they think this one book-film is all anyone needs.” He reached toward the end table that was between the two beds and picked up another object. “This could be a speaker, except that there’s no screen.”
“Perhaps they consider the voice sufficient.”
“How does it work, I wonder?” Seldon lifted it and looked at it from different sides. “Did you ever see anything like this?”
“In a museum once-if this is the same thing. Mycogen seems to keep itself deliberately archaic. I suppose they consider that another way of separating themselves from the so-called tribesmen that surround them in overwhelming numbers. Their archaism and odd customs make them indigestible, so to speak. There’s a kind of perverse logic to all that.”
Seldon, still playing with the device, said, “Whoops! It went on. Or something went on. But I don’t hear anything.”
Dors frowned and picked up a small felt-lined cylinder that remained behind on the end table. She put it to her ear. “There’s a voice coming out of this, “ she said. “Here, try it.” She handed it to him.
Seldon did so and said, “Ouch! It clips on.” He listened and said, “Yes, it hurt my ear. You can hear me, I take it. -Yes, this is our room. No, I don’t know its number. Dors, have you any idea of the number?”
Dors said, “There’s a number on the speaker. Maybe that will do.”
“Maybe, “ said Seldon doubtfully. Then he said into the speaker, “The number on this device is 6LT-3648A. Will that do? -Well, where do I find out how to use this device properly and how to use the kitchen, for that matter? -What do you mean, ‘It all works the usual way?’ That doesn’t do me any good. wee here, I’m a . . . a tribesman, an honored guest. I don’t know the usual way. -Yes, I’m sorry about my accent and I’m glad you can recognize a tribesman when you hear one. -My name is Hari Seldon.”
There was a pause and Seldon looked up at Dors with a longsuffering expression on his face. “He has to look me up. And I suppose he’ll tell me he can’t find me. -Oh, you have me? Good! In that case, can you give me the information? -Yes. -Yes. -Yes. --and how can I call someone outside Mycogen? -Oh, then what about contacting Sunmaster Fourteen, for instance? -Well, his assistant then, his aide, whatever? -Uh-huh. -Thank you.”
He put the speaker down, unhooked the hearing device from his ear with a little difficulty, turned the whole thing off, and said, “They’ll arrange to have someone show us anything we need to know, but he can’t promise when that might be. You can’t call outside Mycogen-not on this thing anyway--so we couldn’t get Hummin if we needed him. And if I want Sunmaster Fourteen, I’ve got to go through a tremendous rigmarole. This may be an egalitarian society, but there seem to be exceptions that I bet no one will openly admit.”
He looked at his watch. “In any case, Dors, I’m not going to view a cookbook and still less am I going to view learned essays. My watch is still telling University time, so I don’t know if it’s officially bedtime and at the moment I don’t care. We’ve been awake most of the night and I would like to sleep.”
“That’s all right with me. I’m tired too.”
“Thanks. And whenever a new day starts after we’ve caught up on our sleep, I’m going to ask for a tour of their microfood plantations.”
Dors looked startled. “Are you interested?”
“Not really, but if that’s the one thing they’re proud of, they should be willing to talk about it and once I get them into a talking mood then, by exerting all my charm, I may get them to talk about their legends too. Personally, I think that’s a clever strategy.”
“I hope so, “ said Dors dubiously, “but I think that the Mycogenians will not be so easily trapped.”
“We’ll see, “ said Seldon grimly. “I mean to get those legends.”
The next morning found Hari using the calling device again. He was angry because, for one thing, he was hungry.
His attempt to reach Sunmaster Fourteen was deflected by someone who insisted that Sunmaster could not be disturbed.
“Why not?” Seldon had asked waspishly.
“Obviously, there is no need to answer that question, “ came back a cold voice.
“We were not brought here to be prisoners, “ said Seldon with equal coldness. “Nor to starve.”
“I’m sure you have a kitchen and ample supplies of food.”
“Yes, we do, “ said Seldon. “And I do not know how to use the kitchen devices, nor do I know how to prepare the food. Do you eat it raw, fry it, boil it, roast it?”
“I can’t believe you are ignorant in such matters.”
Dors, who had been pacing up and down during this colloquy, reached for the device and Seldon fended her off, whispering, “He’ll break the connection if a woman tries to speak to him.”
Then, into the device, he said more firmly than ever, “What you believe or don’t believe doesn’t matter to me in the least. You send someone here-someone who can do something about our situation--or when I reach Sunmaster Fourteen, as I will eventually, you will pay for this.”
Nevertheless, it was two hours before someone arrived (by which time Seldon was in a state of savagery and Dors had grown rather desperate in her attempt to soothe him).
The newcomer was a young man whose bald pate was slightly freckled and who probably would have been a redhead otherwise.
He was bearing several pots and he seethed about to explain them when he suddenly looked uneasy and turned his back on Seldon in alarm. “Tribesman, “ he said, obviously agitated. “Your skincap is not well adjusted.”
Seldon, whose impatience had reached the breaking point, said, “That doesn’t bother me.”
Dors, however, said, “Let me adjust it, Hari. It’s just a bit too high here on the left side.”
Seldon then growled, “You can turn now, young man. What is your name?”
“I am Graycloud Five, “ said the Mycogenian uncertainly as he turned and looked cautiously at Seldon. “I am a novitiate. I have brought a meal for you.” He hesitated. “From my own kitchen, where my woman prepared it, tribesman.”
He put the pots down on the table and Seldon raised one lid and sniffed the contents suspiciously. He looked up at Dors in surprise. “You know, it doesn’t smell bad.”
Dors nodded. “You’re right. I can smell it too.”
Graycloud said, “It’s not as hot as it ought to be. It cooled off in transport. You must have crockery and cutlery in your kitchen.”
Dors got what was needed, and after they had eaten, largely and a bit greedily, Seldon felt civilized once more.
Dors, who realized that the young man would feel unhappy at being alone with a woman and even unhappier if she spoke to him, found that, by default, it fell to her to carry the pots and dishes into the kitchen and wash them-once she deciphered the controls of the washing device.
Meanwhile, Seldon asked the local time and said, somewhat abashed, “You mean it’s the middle of the night?”
“Indeed, tribesman, “ said Graycloud. “That’s why it took a while to satisfy your need.”
Seldon understood suddenly why Sunmaster could not be disturbed and thought of Graycloud’s woman having to be awakened to prepare him a meal and felt his conscience gnaw at him. “I’m sorry, “ he said. “We are only tribespeople and we didn’t know how to use the kitchen or how to prepare the food. In the morning, could you have someone arrive to instruct us properly?”
“The best I can do, tribesmen, “ said Graycloud placatingly, “is to have two Sisters sent in. I ask your pardon for inconveniencing you with feminine presence, but it is they who know these things.”
Dors, who had emerged from the kitchen, said (before remembering her place in the masculine Mycogenian society), “That’s fine, Graycloud. We’d love to meet the Sisters.”
Graycloud looked at her uneasily and fleetingly, but said nothing.
Seldon, convinced that the young Mycogenian would, on principle, refuse to have heard what a woman said to him, repeated the remark. “That’s fine, Graycloud. We’d love to meet the Sisters.”
His expression cleared at once. “I will have them here as soon as it is day.”
When Graycloud had left, Seldon said with some satisfaction, “The Sisters are likely to be exactly what we need.”
“Indeed? And in what way, Hari?” asked Dors.
“Well, surely if we treat them as though they are human beings, they will be grateful enough to speak of their legends.”
“If they know them, “ said Dors skeptically. “Somehow I have no faith that the Mycogenians bother to educate their women very well.”
The Sisters arrived some six hours later after Seldon and Dors had slept some more, hoping to readjust their biological clocks.
The Sisters entered the apartment shyly, almost on tiptoe. Their gowns (which, it turned out, were termed “kirtles” in the Mycogenian dialect) were soft velvety gray, each uniquely decorated by a subtle pattern of fine, darker gray webbing. The kirtles were not entirely unattractive, but they were certainly most efficient at covering up any human feature.
And, of course, their heads were bald and their faces were devoid of any ornamentation. They darted speculative glances at the touch of blue at the comers of Dors’s eyes and at the slight red stain at the comers of her lips.
For a few moments, Seldon wondered how one could be certain that the Sisters were truly Sisters.
The answer came at once with the Sisters’ politely formal greetings. Both twittered and chirped. Seldon, remembering the grave tones of Sunmaster and the nervous baritone of Graycloud, suspected that women, in default of obvious sexual identification, were forced to cultivate distinctive voices and social mannerisms.
-I’m Raindrop Forty-Three, “ twittered one, “and this is my younger sister.”
“Raindrop Forty-Five, “ chirped the other. “We’re very strong on ‘Raindrops’ in our cohort.” She giggled.
“I am pleased to meet you both, “ said Dors gravely, “but now I must know how to address you. I can’t just say ‘Raindrop, ‘ can I?”
“No, “ said Raindrop Forty-Three. “You must use the full name if we are both here.”
Seldon said, “How about just Forty-Three and Forty-Five, ladies?”
They both stole a quick glance at him, but said not a word.
Dors said softly, “I’ll deal with them, Hari.”
Seldon stepped back. Presumably, they were single young women and, very likely, they were not supposed to speak to men. The older one seemed the graver of the two and was perhaps the more puritanical. It was hard to tell from a few words and a quick glance, but he had the feeling and was willing to go by that.
Dors said, “The thing is, Sisters, that we tribespeople don’t know how to use the kitchen.”
“You mean you can’t cook?” Raindrop Forty-Three looked shocked and censorious. Raindrop Forty-Five smothered a laugh. (Seldon decided that his initial estimate of the two was correct.)
Dors said, “I once had a kitchen of my own, but it wasn’t like this one and I don’t know what the foods are or how to prepare them.”
“It’s really quite simple, “ said Raindrop Forty-Five. “We can show you.”
“We’ll make you a good nourishing lunch, “ said Raindrop Forty Three. “We’ll make it for . . . both of you.” She hesitated before adding the final words. It clearly took an effort to acknowledge the existence of a man.
“If you don’t mind, “ said Dors, “I would Eke to be in the kitchen with you and I would appreciate it if you’d explain everything exactly. After all, Sisters, I can’t expect you to come here three times a day to cook for us.”
“We will show you everything, “ said Raindrop Forty-Three, nodding her head stiffly. “It may be difficult for a tribeswoman to learn, however. You wouldn’t have the . . . feeling for it.”
“I shall try, “ said Dors with a pleasant smile.
They disappeared into the kitchen. Seldon stared after them and tried to work out the strategy he intended to use.
MYCOGEN- . . . The microfarms of Mycogen are legendary, though they survive today only in such oftused similes as “rich as the microfarms of Mycogen” or “tasty as Mycogenian yeast.” Such encomiums tend to intensify with time, to be sure, but Hari Seldon visited those microfarms in the course of The Flight and there are references in his memoirs that would tend to support the popular opinion . . .
“That was good.” said Seldon explosively. “It was considerably better than the food Graycloud brought--”
Dors said reasonably, “You have to remember that Graycloud’s woman had to prepare it on short notice in the middle of the night.” She paused and said, “I wish they would say `wife.’ They make ‘woman’ sound like such an appanage, like ‘my house’ or my robe.’ It is absolutely demeaning.”
“I know. It’s infuriating. But they might well make ‘wife’ sound like an appanage as well. It’s the way they live and the Sisters don’t seem to mind. You and I aren’t going to change it by lecturing. Anyway, did you see how the Sisters did it?”
“Yes, I did and they made everything seem very simple. I doubted I could remember everything they did, but they insisted I wouldn’t have to. I could get away with mere heating. I gathered the bread had some sort of microderivative added to it in the baking that both raised the dough and lent it that crunchy consistency and warm flavor. Just a hint of pepper, didn’t you think?”
“I couldn’t tell, but whatever it was, I didn’t get enough. And the soup. Did you recognize any of the vegetables?”
“And what was the sliced meat? Could you tell?”
“I don’t think it was sliced meat, actually. We did have a lamb dish back on Cinna that it reminded me of.”
“It was certainly not lamb.”
“I said that I doubted it was meat at all. -I don’t think anyone outside Mycogen eats like this either. Not even the Emperor, I’m sure. Whatever the Mycogenians sell is, I’m willing to bet, near the bottom of the line. They save the best for themselves. We had better not stay here too long, Hari. If we get used to eating like this, we’ll never be able to acclimatize ourselves to the miserable stuff they have outside.” She laughed.
Seldon laughed too. He took another sip at the fruit juice, which tasted far more tantalizing than any fruit juice he had ever sipped before, and said, “listen, when Hummin took me to the University, we stopped at a roadside diner and had some food that was heavily yeasted. It tasted like-No, never mind what it tasted like, but I wouldn’t have thought it conceivable, then, that microfood could caste like this. I wish the Sisters were still here. It would have been polite to thank them.”
“I think they were quite aware of how we would feel. I remarked on the wonderful smell while everything was warming and they said, quire complacently, that it would taste even better.”
“The older one said that, I imagine.”
“Yes. The younger one giggled. --and they’ll be back. They’re going to bring me a kirtle, so that I can go out to see the shops with them. And they made it clear I would have to wash my face if I was to be seen in public. They will show me where to buy some good quality kirtles of my own and where I can buy ready-made meals of all kinds. All I’ll have to do is heat them up. They explained that decent Sisters wouldn’t do that, but would start from scratch. In fact, some of the meal they prepared for us was simply heated and they apologized for that. They managed to imply, though, that tribespeople couldn’t be expected to appreciate true artistry in cooking, so that simply heating prepared food would do for us. -They seem to take it for granted, by the way, that I will be doing all the shopping and cooking.”
“As we say at home, ‘When in Trantor, do as the Trantorians do.’ “
“Yes, I was sure that would be your attitude in this case.”
“I’m only human, “ said Seldon.
“The usual excuse, “ said Dors with a small smile.
Seldon leaned back with a satisfactory well-filled feeling and said, “You’ve been on Trantor for two years, Dors, so you might understand a few things that I don’t. Is it your opinion that this odd social system the Mycogenians have is part of a supernaturalistic view they have?”
“Yes. Would you have heard that this was so?”
“What do you mean by ‘supernaturalistic’?”
“The obvious. A belief in entities that are independent of natural law, that are not bound by the conservation of energy, for instance, or by the existence of a constant of action.”
“I see. You’re asking if Mycogen is a religious community.”
It was Seldon’s turn. “Religious?”
“Yes. It’s an archaic term, but we historians use it-our study is riddled with archaic terms. ‘Religious’ is not precisely equivalent to ‘supernaturalistic, ‘ though it contains richly supernaturalistic elements. I can’t answer your specific question, however, because I’ve never made any special investigation of Mycogen. Still, from what little I’ve seen of the place and from my knowledge of religions in history, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mycogenian society was religious in character.”
“In that case, would it surprise you if Mycogenian legends were also religious in character?”
“No, it wouldn’t.”
“And therefore not based on historical matter?”
“That wouldn’t necessarily follow. The core of the legends might still be authentically historic, allowing for distortion and supernaturalistic intermixture.”
“Ah, “ said Seldon and seemed to retire into his thoughts.
Finally Dors broke the silence that followed and said, “It’s not so uncommon, you know. There is a considerable religious element on many worlds. It’s grown stronger in the last few centuries as the Empire has grown more turbulent. On my world of Cinna, at least a quarter of the population is tritheistic.”
Seldon was again painfully and regretfully conscious of his ignorance of history. He said, “Were there times in past history when religion was more prominent than it is today?”
“Certainly. In addition, there are new varieties springing up constantly. The Mycogenian religion, whatever it might be, could be relatively new and may be restricted to Mycogen itself. I couldn’t really tell without considerable study.”
“But now we get to the point of it, Dors. Is it your opinion that women are more apt to be religious than men are?”
Dors Venabili raised her eyebrows. “I’m not sure if we can assume anything as simple as that.” She thought a bit. “I suspect that those elements of a population that have a smaller stake in the material natural world are more apt to find solace in what you call supernaturalism-the poor, the disinherited, the downtrodden. Insofar as supernaturalism overlaps religion, they may also be more religious. There are obviously many exceptions in both directions. Many of the downtrodden may lack religion; many of the rich, powerful, and satisfied may possess it.”
“But in Mycogen, “ said Seldon, “where the women seem to be treated as subhuman-would I be right in assuming they would be more religious than the men, more involved in the legends that the society has been preserving?
“I wouldn’t risk my life on it, Hari, but I’d be willing to risk a week’s income on it.”
“Good, “ said Seldon thoughtfully.
Dors smiled at him. “There’s a bit of your psychohistory, Hari. Rule number 47, 854: The downtrodden are more religious than the satisfied.”
Seldon shook his head. “Don’t joke about psychohistory, Dors. You know I’m not looking for tiny rules but for vast generalizations and for means of manipulation. I don’t want comparative religiosity as the result of a hundred specific rules. I want something from which I can, after manipulation through some system of mathematicized logic, say, ‘Aha, this group of people will tend to be more religious than that group, provided that the following criteria are met, and that, therefore, when humanity meets with these stimuli, it will react with these responses.”
“How horrible, “ said Dors. “You are picturing human beings as simple mechanical devices. Press this button and you will get that twitch.”
“No, because there will be many buttons pushing simultaneously to varying degrees and eliciting so many responses of different sorts that overall the predictions of the furore will be statistical in nature, so that the individual human being will remain a free agent.”
“How can you know this?”
“I can’t, “ said Seldon. “At least, I don’t know it. I feel it to be so. It is what I consider to be the way things ought to be. If I can find the axioms, the fundamental Laws of Humanics, so to speak, and the necessary mathematical treatment, then I will have my psychohistory. I have proved that, in theory, this is possible--”
“But impractical, right?”
“I keep saying so.”
A small smile curved Dors’s lips, “Is that what you are doing, Hari, looking for some sort of solution to this problem?”
“I don’t know. I swear to you I don’t know. But Chetter Hummin is so anxious to find a solution and, for some reason, I am anxious to please him. He is so persuasive a man.”
“Yes, I know.”
Seldon let that comment pass, although a small frown flitted across his face.
Seldon continued. “Hummin insists the Empire is decaying, that it will collapse, that psychohistory is the only hope for saving it--or cushioning it or ameliorating it--and that without it humanity will be destroyed or, at the very least, go through prolonged misery. He seems to place the responsibility for preventing that on me. Now, the Empire will certainly last my time, but if I’m to live at ease, I must lift that responsibility from my shoulders. I must convince myself--and even convince Hummin-that psychohistory is not a practical way our that, despite theory, it cannot be developed. So I must follow up as many leads as I can and show that each one must fail.”
“Leads? Like going back in history to a time when human society was smaller than it is now?”
“Much smaller. And far less complex.”
“And showing that a solution is still impractical?”
“But who is going to describe the early world for you? If the Mycogenians have some coherent picture of the primordial Galaxy, Sunmaster certainly won’t reveal it to a tribesman. No Mycogenian will. This is an ingrown society-how many times have we already said it?--and its members are suspicious of tribesmen to the point of paranoia. They’ll tell us nothing.”
“I will have to think of a way to persuade some Mycogenians to talk. Those Sisters, for instance.”
“They won’t even bear you, male that you are, any more than Sunmaster hears me. And even if they do talk to you, what would they know but a few catch phrases?”
“I must start somewhere.”
Dors said, “Well, let me think. Hummin says I must protect you and I interpret that as meaning I must help you when I can. What do I know about religion? That’s nowhere near my specialty, you know. I have always dealt with economic forces, rather than philosophic forces, but you can’t split history into neat little nonoverlapping divisions. For instance, religions tend to accumulate wealth when successful and that eventually tends to distort the economic development of a society. There, incidentally, is one of the numerous rules of human history that you’ll have to derive from your basic Laws of Humanics or whatever you called them. But . . .
And here, Dors’s voice faded away as she lapsed into thought. Seldon watched her cautiously and Dors’s eyes glazed as though she was looking deep within herself.
Finally she said, “This is not an invariable rule, but it seems to me that on many occasions, a religion has a book--or books-of significance; books that give their ritual, their view of history, their sacred poetry, and who knows what else. Usually, those books are open to all and are a means of proselytization. Sometimes they are secret.”
“Do you think Mycogen has books of that sort?”
“To be truthful, “ said Dors thoughtfully, “I have never heard of any. I might have if they existed openly-which means they either don’t exist or are kept secret. In either case, it seems to me you are not going to see them.”
“At least it’s a starting point, “ said Seldon grimly.
The Sisters returned about two hours after Hari and Dors had finished lunch. They were smiling, both of them, and Raindrop FortyThree, the graver one, held up a gray kirtle for Dors’s inspection.
“It is very attractive, “ said Dors, smiling widely and nodding her head with a certain sincerity. “I like the clever embroidery here.”
“It is nothing, “ twittered Raindrop Forty-Five. “It is one of my old things and it won’t fit very well, for you are taller than I am. But it will do for a while and we will take you out to the very best kirtlery to get a few that will fit you and your tastes perfectly. You will see.”
Raindrop Forty-Three, smiling a little nervously but saying nothing and keeping her eyes fixed on the ground, handed a white kirtle to Dors. It was folded neatly. Dors did not attempt to unfold it, but passed it on to Seldon. “From the color I should say it’s yours, Hari.”
“Presumably, “ said Seldon, “but give it back. She did not give it to me.”
“Oh, Hari, “ mouthed Dors, shaking her head slightly.
“No, “ said Seldon firmly. “She did not give it to me. Give it back to her and I’ll wait for her to give it to me.”
Dors hesitated, then made a halfhearted attempt to pass the kirtle back to Raindrop Forty-Three.
The Sister put her hands behind her back and moved away, all life seeming to drain from her face. Raindrop Forty-Five stole a glance at Seldon, a very quick one, then took a quick step toward Raindrop FortyThree and put her arms about her.
Dors said, “Come, Hari, I’m sure that Sisters are not permitted to talk to men who are not related to them. What’s the use of making her miserable? She can’t help it.”
“I don’t believe it, “ said Seldon harshly. “If there is such a rule, is applies only to Brothers. I doubt very much that she’s ever met a tribesman before.”
Dors said to Raindrop Forty-Three in a soft voice, “Have you ever met a tribesman before, Sister, or a tribeswoman?”
A long hesitation and then a slow negative shake of the head.
Seldon threw out his arms. “Well, there you are. If there is a rule of silence, it applies only to the Brothers. Would they have sent these young women-these Sisters-to deal with us if there was any rule against speaking to tribesmen?”
“It might be, Hari, that they were meant to speak only to me and I to you.”
“Nonsense. I don’t believe it and I won’t believe it. I am not merely a tribesman, I am an honored guest in Mycogen, asked to be treated as such by Chetter Hummin and escorted here by Sunmaster Fourteen himself. I will not be treated as though I do not exist. I will be in communication with Sunmaster Fourteen and I will complain bitterly.”
Raindrop Forty-Five began to sob and Raindrop Forty-Three, retaining her comparative impassivity, nevertheless flushed faintly.
Dors made as though to appeal to Seldon once again, but he stopped her with a brief and angry outward thrust of his right arm and then stared Toweringly at Raindrop Forty-Three.
And finally she spoke and did not twitter. Rather, her voice trembled hoarsely, as though she had to force it to sound in the direction of a male being and was doing so against all her instincts and desires.
“You must not complain of us, tribesman. That would be unjust. You force me to break the custom of our people. What do you want of me?”
Seldon smiled disarmingly at once and held out his hand. “The garment you brought me. The kirtle.”
Silently, she stretched out her arm and deposited the kirtle in his hand.
He bowed slightly and said in a soft warm voice, “Thank you, Sister.” He then cast a very brief look in Dors’s direction, as though to say: You see? But Dors looked away angrily.
The kirtle was featureless, Seldon saw as he unfolded it (embroidery and decorativeness were for women, apparently), but it came with a tasselled belt that probably had some particular way of being worn. No doubt he could work it out.
He said, “I’ll step into the bathroom and put this thing on. It won’t take but a minute, I suppose.”
He stepped into the small chamber and found the door would not dose behind him because Dors was forcing her way in as well. Only when the two of them were in the bathroom together did the door close.
“What were you doing?” Dors hissed angrily. “You were an absolute brute, Hari. Why did you treat the poor woman that way?
Seldon said impatiently, “I had to make her talk to me. I’m counting on her for information. You know that. I’m sorry I had to be cruel, but how else could I have broken down her inhibitions?” And he motioned her out.
When he emerged, he found Dors in her kirtle too.
Dors, despite the bald head the skincap gave her and the inherent dowdiness of the kirtle, managed to look quite attractive. The stitching on the robe somehow suggested a figure without revealing it in the least. Her belt was wider than his own and was a slightly different shade of gray from her kirtle. What’s more, it was held in front by two glittering blue stone snaps. (Women did manage to beautify themselves even under the greatest difficulty, Seldon thought.)
Looking over at Hari, Dors said, “You look quite the Mycogenian now. The two of us are fit to be taken to the stores by the Sisters.”
“Yes, “ said Seldon, “but afterward I want Raindrop Forty-Three to take me on a tour of the microfarms.”
Raindrop Forty-Three’s eyes widened and she took a rapid step backward.
“I’d like to see them, “ said Seldon calmly.
Raindrop Forty-Three looked quickly at Dors. “Tribeswoman--”
Seldon said, “Perhaps you know nothing of the farms, Sister.”
That seemed to touch a nerve. She lifted her chin haughtily as she still carefully addressed Dors. “I have worked on the microfarms. All Brothers and Sisters do at some point in their lives.”
“Well then, take me on the tour, “ said Seldon, “and lets not go through the argument again. I am not a Brother to whom you are forbidden to speak and with whom you may have no dealings. I am a tribesman and an honored guest. I wear this skincap and this kirde so as not to attract undue attention, but I am a scholar and while I am here I must learn. I cannot sit in this room and stare at the wall. I want to see the one thing you have that the rest of the Galaxy does not have . . . your microfarms. I should think you’d be proud to show them.”
“We are proud, “ said Raindrop Forty-Three, finally facing Seldon as she spoke, “and I will show you and don’t think you will learn any of our secrets if that is what you are after. I will show you the microfarms tomorrow morning. It will take time to arrange a tour.”
Seldon said, “I will wait till tomorrow morning. But do you promise? Do I have your word of honor?”
Raindrop Forty-Three said with clear contempt, “I am a Sister and I will do as I say. I will keep my word, even to a tribesman.”
Her voice grew icy at the last words, while her eyes widened and seemed to glitter. Seldon wondered what was passing through her mind and felt uneasy.
Seldon passed a restless night. To begin with, Dors had announced that she must accompany him on the tour of the microfarm and he had objected strenuously.
“The whole purpose, “ he said, “is to make her talk freely, to present her with an unusual environment-alone with a male, even if a tribesman. Having broken custom so far, it will be easier to break it further. If you’re along, she will talk to you and I will only get the leavings.”
“And if something happens to you in my absence, as it did Upperside?”
“Nothing will happen. Please! If you want to help me, stay away. If not, I will have nothing further to do with you. I mean it, Dors. This is important to me. Much as I’ve grown fond of you, you cannot come ahead of this.”
She agreed with enormous reluctance and said only, “Promise me you’ll at least be nice to her, then.”
And Seldon said, “Is it me you must protect or her? I assure you that I didn’t treat her harshly for pleasure and I won’t do so in the future.”
The memory of this argument with Dors-their first helped keep him awake a large part of the night; that, together with the nagging thought that the two Sisters might not arrive in the morning, despite Raindrop Forty-Three’s promise.
They did arrive, however, not long after Seldon had completed a spare breakfast (he was determined not to grow fat through overindulgence) and had put on a kirtle that fitted him precisely. He had carefully organized the belt so that it hung perfectly.
Raindrop Forty-Three, still with a touch of ice in her eye, said, “if you are ready, Tribesman Seldon, my sister will remain with Tribeswoman Venabili.” Her voice was neither twittery nor hoarse. It was as though she had steadied herself through the night, practicing, in her mind, how to speak to one who was a male but not a Brother.
Seldon wondered if she had lost sleep and said, “I am quite ready.”
Together, half an hour later, Raindrop Forty-Three and Hari Seldon were descending level upon level. Though it was daytime by the clock, the light was dusky and dimmer than it had been elsewhere on Trantor.
There was no obvious reason for this. Surely, the artificial daylight that slowly progressed around the Trantorian sphere could include the Mycogen Sector. The Mycogenians must want it that way, Seldon thought, clinging to some primitive habit. Slowly Seldon’s eyes adjusted to the dim surroundings.
Seldon tried to meet the eyes of passersby, whether Brothers or Sisters, calmly. He assumed he and Raindrop Forty-Three would be taken as a Brother and his woman and that they would be given no notice as long as he did nothing to attract attention.
Unfortunately, it seemed as if Raindrop Forty-Three wanted to be noticed. She talked to him in few words and in low tones out of a clenched mouth. It was clear that the company of an unauthorized male, even though only she knew this fact, raved her self-confidence. Seldon was quite sure that if he asked her to relax, he would merely make her that much more uneasy. (Seldon wondered what she would do if she met someone who knew her. He felt more relaxed once they reached the lower levels, where human beings were fewer.)
The descent was not by elevators either, but by moving staired ramps that existed in pairs, one going up and one going down. Raindrop FortyThree referred to them as “escalators.” Seldon wasn’t sure he had caught the word correctly, never having heard it before.
As they sank to lower and lower levels, Seldon’s apprehension grew. Most worlds possessed microfarms and most worlds produced their own varieties of microproducts. Seldon, back on Helicon, had occasionally shopped for seasonings in the microfarms and was always aware of an unpleasant stomach-turning stench.
The people who worked at the microfarms didn’t seem to mind. Even when casual visitors wrinkled their noses, they seemed to acclimate themselves to it. Seldon, however, was always peculiarly susceptible to the smell. He suffered and he expected to suffer now. He tried soothing himself with the thought that he was nobly sacrificing his comfort to his need for information, but that didn’t keep his stomach from turning itself into knots in apprehension.
After he had lost track of the number of levels they had descended, with the air still seeming reasonably fresh, he asked, “When do we get to the microfarm levels?”
“We’re there now.”
Seldon breathed deeply. “It doesn’t smell as though we are.”
“Smell? What do you mean?” Raindrop Forty-Three was Offended enough to speak quite loudly.
“There was always a putrid odor associated with microfarms, in my experience. You know, from the fertilizer that bacteria, yeast, fungi, and saprophytes generally need.”
“In your experience?” Her voice lowered again. “Where was that?”
“On my home world.”
The Sister twisted her face into wild repugnance. “And your people wallow in gabelle?”
Seldon had never heard the word before, but from the look and the intonation, he knew what it meant.
He said, “It doesn’t smell like that, you understand, once it is ready for consumption.”
“Ours doesn’t smell like that at any time. Our biotechnicians have worked out perfect strains. The algae grow in the purest light and the most carefully balanced electrolyte solutions. The saprophytes are fed on beautifully combined organics. The formulas and recipes are something no tribespeople will ever know. -Come on, here we are. Sniff all you want. You’ll find nothing offensive. That is one reason why our food is in demand throughout the Galaxy and why the Emperor, we are told, eats nothing else, though it is far too good for a tribesman if you ask me, even if he calls himself Emperor.”
She said it with an anger that seemed directly aimed at Seldon. Then, as though afraid he might miss that, she added, “Or even if be calls himself an honored guest.”
They stepped out into a narrow corridor, on each side of which were large thick glass tanks in which roiled cloudy green water full of swirling, growing algae, moving about through the force of the gas bubbles that streamed up through it. They would be rich in carbon dioxide, he decided.
Rich, rosy light shone down into the tanks, light that was much brighter than that in the corridors. He commented thoughtfully on that.
“Of course, “ she said. “These algae work best at the red end of the spectrum.”
“I presume, “ said Seldon, “that everything is automated.”
She shrugged, but did not respond.
“I don’t see quantities of Brothers and Sisters in evidence, “ Seldon said, persisting.
“Nevertheless, there is work to be done and they do it, even if you don’t see them at work. The details are not for you. Don’t waste your time by asking about it.”
“Wait. Don’t be angry with me. I don’t expect to be told state secrets. Come on, dear.” (The word slipped out.)
He took her arm as she seemed on the point of hurrying away. She remained in place, but he felt her shudder slightly and he released her in embarrassment.
He said, “It’s just that is seems automated.”
“Make what you wish of the seeming. Nevertheless, there is room here for human brains and human judgment. Every Brother and Sister has occasion to work here at some time. Some make a profession of it.”
She was speaking more freely now but, to his continuing embarrassment, he noticed her left hand move stealthily toward her right arm and gently rub the spot where he had touched her, as though he had stung her.
“It goes on for kilometers and kilometers, “ she said, “but if we turn here there’ll he a portion of the fungal section you can see.”
They moved along. Seldon noted how clean everything was. The glass sparkled. The tiled floor seemed moist, though when he seized a moment to bend and touch it, it wasn’t. Nor was it slippery -unless his sandals (with his big toe protruding in approved Mycogenian fashion) had nonslip soles.
Raindrop Forty-Three was right in one respect. Here and there a Brother or a Sister worked silently, studying gauges, adjusting controls, sometimes engaged in something as unskilled as polishing equipment-always absorbed in whatever they were doing.
Seldon was careful not to ask what they were doing, since he did not want to cause the Sister humiliation in having to answer that she did not know or anger in her having to remind him there were things he must not know.
They passed through a lightly swinging door and Seldon suddenly noticed the faintest touch of the odor he remembered. He looked at Raindrop Forty-Three, but she seemed unconscious of it and soon he too became used to it.
The character of the light changed suddenly. The rosiness was gone and the brightness too. All seemed to be in a twilight except where equipment was spotlighted and wherever there was a spot light there seemed to be a Brother or a Sister. Some wore lighted headbands that gleamed with a pearly glow and, in the middle distance, Seldon could see, here and there, small sparks of light moving erratically.
As they walked, he case a quick eye on her profile. It was all he could really judge by. At all other times, he could not cease being conscious of her bulging bald head, her bare eyes, her colorless face. They drowned her individuality and seemed to make her invisible. Here in profile, however, he could see something. Nose, chin, full lips, regularity, beauty. The dim light somehow smoothed out and softened the great upper desert.
He thought with surprise: She could be very beautiful if she grew her hair and arranged it nicely.
And then he thought that she couldn’t grow her hair. She would be bald her whole life.
Why? Why did they have to do that to her? Sunmaster said it was so that a Mycogenian would know himself (or herself) for a Mycogenian all his (or her) life. Why was that so important that the curse of hairlessness had to be accepted as a badge or mark of identity?
And then, because he was used to arguing both sides in his mind, he thought: Custom is second nature. Be accustomed to a bald head, sufficiently accustomed, and hair on it would seem monstrous, would evoke nausea. He himself had shaved his face every morning, removing all the facial hair, uncomfortable at the merest stubble, and yet he did not think of his face as bald or as being in any way unnatural. Of course, he could grow his facial hair at any time he wished--but he didn’t wish to do so.
He knew that there were worlds on which the men did not shave; in some, they did not even clip or shape the facial hair but let it grow wild. What would they say if they could see his own bald face, his own hairless chin, cheek, and lips?
And meanwhile, he walked with Raindrop Forty-Three-endlessly, it seemed--and every once in a while she guided him by the elbow and it seemed to him that she had grown accustomed to that, for she did not withdraw her hand hastily. Sometimes it remained for nearly a minute.
She said, “Here! Come here!”
“What is that?” asked Seldon.
They were standing before a small tray filled with little spheres, each about two centimeters in diameter. A Brother who was tending the area and who had just placed the tray where it was looked up in mild inquiry.
Raindrop Forty-Three said to Seldon in a low voice, “Ask for a few.”
Seldon realized she could not speak to a Brother until spoken to and said uncertainly, “May we have a few, B-brother?”
“Have a handful, Brother, “ said the other heartily.
Seldon plucked out one of the spheres and was on the point of handing it to Raindrop Forty-Three when he noticed that she had accepted the invitation as applying to herself and reached in for two handfuls.
The sphere felt glossy, smooth. Seldon said to Raindrop FortyThree as they moved away from the vat and from the Brother who was in attendance, “Are these supposed to be eaten?” He lifted the sphere cautiously to his nose.
“They don’t smell, “ she said sharply.
“What are they?
“Dainties. Raw dainties. For the outside market they’re flavored in different ways, but here in Mycogen we eat them unflavored -- the only way.”
She put one in her mouth and said, “I never have enough.”
Seldon put his sphere into his mouth and felt it dissolve and disappear rapidly. His mouth, for a moment, ran liquid and then it slid, almost of its own accord, down his throat.
He stood for a moment, amazed. It was slightly sweet and, for that matter, had an even fainter bitter aftertaste, but the train sensation eluded him.
“May I have another?” he said.
“Have half a dozen, “ said Raindrop Forty-Three, holding out her hand. “They never have quite the same taste twice and have practically no calories. Just taste.”
She was right. He tried to have the dainty linger in his mouth; he tried licking it carefully; tried biting off apiece. However, the most careful lick destroyed it. When a bit was crunched off apiece, the rest of it disappeared at once. And each taste was undefinable and not quite like the one before.
“The only trouble is, “ said the Sister happily, “that every once in a while you have a very unusual one and you never forget it, but you never have it again either. I had one when I was nine--” Her expression suddenly lost its excitement and she said, “It’s a good thing. It teaches you the evanescence of things of the world.”
It was a signal, Seldon thought. They had wandered about aimlessly long enough. She had grown used to him and was talking to him. And now the conversation had to come to its point. Now!
Seldon said, “I come from a world which lies out in the open, Sister, as all worlds do but Trantor. Rain comes or doesn’t come, the rivers trickle or are in flood, temperature is high or low. That means harvests are good or bad. Here, however, the environment is truly controlled. Harvests have no choice but to be good. How fortunate Mycogen is.”
He waited. There were different possible answers and his course of action would depend on which answer came.
She was speaking quite freely now and seemed to have no inhibitions concerning his masculinity, so this long tour had served its purpose. Raindrop Forty-Three said, “The environment is not that easy to control. There are, occasionally, viral infections and there are sometimes unexpected and undesirable mutations. There are times when whole vast batches wither or are worthless.”
“You astonish me. And what happens then?”
“There is usually no recourse but to destroy the spoiled batches, even those that are merely suspected of spoilage. Trays and tanks must be totally sterilized, sometimes disposed of altogether.”
“It amounts to surgery, then, “ said Seldon. “You cut out the diseased tissue.”
“And what do you do to prevent such things from happening?”
“What can we do? We test constantly for any mutations that may spring up, any new viruses that may appear, any accidental contamination or alteration of the environment. It rarely happens that we detect anything wrong, but if we do, we take drastic action. The result is that bad years are very few and even bad years affect only fractional bits here and there. The worst year we’ve ever had fell short of the average by only 12 percent-though that was enough to produce hardship. The trouble is that even the most careful forethought and the most cleverly designed computer programs can’t always predict what is essentially unpredictable.”
(Seldon felt an involuntary shudder go through him. It was as though she was speaking of psychohistory--but she was only speaking of the microfarm produce of a tiny fraction of humanity, while he himself was considering all the mighty Galactic Empire in every one of all its activities.)
Unavoidably disheartened, he said, “Surely, it’s not all unpredictable. There are forces that guide and that care for us all.”
The Sister stiffened. She turned around toward him, seeming to study him with her penetrating eyes.
But all she said was “What?”
Seldon felt uneasy. “It seems to me that in speaking of viruses and mutations, we’re talking about the natural, about phenomena that are subject to natural law. That leaves out of account the supernatural, doesn’t it? It leaves out that which is not subject to natural law and can, therefore, control natural law.”
She continued to stare at him, as though he had suddenly begun speaking some distant, unknown dialect of Galactic Standard. Again she said, in half a whisper this time, “Wharf”
He continued, stumbling over unfamiliar words that half-embarrassed him. “You must appeal to some great essence, some great spirit, some . . . I don’t know what to call it.”
Raindrop Forty-Three said in a voice that rose into higher registers but remained low, “I thought so. I thought that was what you meant, but I couldn’t believe it. You’re accusing us of having religion. Why didn’t you say so? Why didn’t you use the word?”
She waited for an answer and Seldon, a little confused at the onslaught, said, “Because that’s not a word I use. I call it ‘supernaturalism.’ “
“Call it what you will. It’s religion and we don’t have it. Religion is for the tribesmen, for the swarming sc--”
The Sister paused to swallow as though she had come near to choking and Seldon was certain the word she had choked over was ..
She was in control again. Speaking slowly and somewhat below her normal soprano, she said, “We are not a religious people. Our kingdom is of this Galaxy and always has been. If you have a religion
Seldon felt trapped. Somehow he had not counted on this. He raised a hand defensively. “Not really. I’m a mathematician and my kingdom is also of this Galaxy. It’s just that I thought, from the rigidity of your customs, that your kingdom--”
“Don’t think it, tribesman. If our customs are rigid, it is because we are mere millions surrounded by billions. Somehow we must mark ourselves off so that we precious few are not lost among your swarms and hordes. We must be marked off by our hairlessness, our clothing, our behavior, our way of life. We must know who we are and we must be sure that you tribesmen know who we are. We labor in our farms so that we can make ourselves valuable in your eyes and thus make certain that you leave us alone. That’s all we ask of you . . . to leave us alone.”
“I have no intention of harming you or any of your people. I seek only knowledge, here as everywhere.”
“So you insult us by asking about our religion, as though we have ever called on a mysterious, insubstantial spirit to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.”
“There are many people, many worlds who believe in supernaturalism in one form or another . . . religion, if you like the word better. We may disagree with them in one way or another, but we are as likely to be wrong in our disbelief as they in their belief. In any case, there is no disgrace in such belief and my questions were not intended as insults.”
But she was not reconciled. “Religion!” she said angrily. “We have no need of it.”
Seldon’s spirits, having sunk steadily in the course of this exchange, reached bottom. This whole thing, this expedition with Raindrop Forty-Three, had come to nothing.
But she went on to say, “We have something far better. We have history. “
And Seldon’s s feelings rebounded at once and he smiled.
HAND-ON-THIGH STORY-. . . An occasion cited by Hari Seldon as the first turning point in his search for a method to develop psychohistory. Unfortunately, his published writings give no indication as to what that “story” was and speculations concerning it (there have been many) are futile. It remains one of the many intriguing mysteries concerning Seldon’s career.
Raindrop Forty-Three stared at Seldon, wild-eyed and breathing heavily.
“I can’t stay here, “ she said.
Seldon looked about. “No one is bothering us. Even the Brother from whom we got the dainties said nothing about us. He seemed to take us as a perfectly normal pair.”
“That’s because there is nothing unusual about us-when the light is dim, when you keep your voice low so the tribesman accent is less noticeable, and when I seem calm. But now--” Her voice was growing hoarse.
“What of now?”
“I am nervous and tense. I am . . . in a perspiration.”
“Who is to notice? Relax. Calm down.”
“I can’t relax here. I can’t calm down while I may be noticed.”
“Where are we to go, then?”
“There are little sheds for resting. I have worked here. I know about them.”
She was walking rapidly now and Seldon followed. Up a small ramp, which he would not have noticed in the twilight without her, there was a line of doors, well spread apart.
“The one at the end, “ she muttered. “If it’s free.”
It was unoccupied. A small glowing rectangle said NOT IN USE and the door was ajar.
Raindrop Forty-Three looked about rapidly, motioned Seldon in, then stepped inside herself. She closed the door and, as she did so, a small ceiling light brightened the interior.
Seldon said, “Is there any way the sign on the door can indicate this shed is in use?”
“That happened automatically when the door closed and the light went on, “ said the Sister.
Seldon could feel air softly circulating with a small sighing sound, but where on Trantor was that ever-present sound and feel not apparent?
The room was not large, but it had a cot with a firm, efficient mattress, and what were obviously clean sheets. There was a chair and table, a small refrigerator, and something that looked like an enclosed hot plate, probably a tiny food-heater.
Raindrop Forty-Three sat down on the chair, sitting stiffly upright, visibly attempting to force herself into relaxation.
Seldon, uncertain as to what he ought to do, remained standing till she gestured-a bit impatiently-for him to sit on the cot. He did so.
Raindrop Forty-Three said softly, as though talking to herself, “If it is ever known that I have been here with a man-even if only a tribesman-I shall indeed be an outcast.”
Seldon rose quickly. “Then let’s not stay here.”
“Sit down. I can’t go out when I’m in this mood. You’ve been asking about religion. What are you after?”
It seemed to Seldon that she had changed completely. Gone was the passivity, the subservience. There was none of the shyness, the backwardness in the presence of a male. She was glaring at him through narrowed eyes.
“I told you. Knowledge. I’m a scholar. It is my profession and my desire to know, I want to understand people in particular, so I want to learn history. For many worlds, the ancient historical records-the truly ancient historical records-have decayed into myths and legends, often becoming part of a set of religious beliefs or of supernaturalism. But if Mycogen does not have a religion, then--”
“I said we have history. “
Seldon said, “Twice you’ve said you have history. How old?”
“It goes back twenty thousand years.”
“Truly? Let us speak frankly. Is it real history or is it something that has degenerated into legend?”
“It is real history, of course.”
Seldon was on the point of asking how she could tell, but thought better of it. Was there really a chance that history might reach back twenty thousand years and be authentic? He was not a historian himself, so he would have to check with Dors.
But it seemed so likely to him that on every world the earliest histories were medleys of self-serving heroisms and minidramas that were meant as morality plays and were not to be taken literally. It was surely true of Helicon, yet you would find scarcely a Heliconian who would not swear by all the tales told and insist it was all true history. They would support, as such, even that perfectly ridiculous tale of the first exploration of Helicon and the encounters with large and dangerous flying reptiles-even though nothing like flying reptiles had been found to be native to any world explored and settled by human beings.
He said instead, “How does this history begin?”
There was a faraway look in the Sister’s eyes, a look that did not focus on Seldon or on anything in the room. She said, “It begins with a world-our world. One world.”
“One world?” (Seldon remembered that Hummin had spoken of legends of a single, original world of humanity.)
“One world. There were others later, but ours was the first. One world, with space, with open air, with room for everyone, with fertile fields, with friendly homes, with warm people. For thousands of years we lived there and then we had to leave and skulk in one place or another until some of us found a corner of Trantor where we learned to grow food that brought us a little freedom. And here in Mycogen, we now have our own ways---and our own dreams.”
“And your histories give the full details concerning the original world? The one world?”
“Oh yes, it is all in a book and we all have it. Every one of us. We carry it at all times so that there is never a moment when any one of us cannot open it and read it and remember who we are and who we were and resolve that someday we will have our world back.”
“Do you know where this world is and who lives on it now?”
Raindrop Forty-Three hesitated, then shook her head fiercely. “We do not, but someday we will find it.”
“And you have this book in your possession now?”
“May I see that book?”
Now a slow smile crossed the face of the Sister. She said, “So that’s what you want. I knew you wanted something when you asked to be guided through the microfarms by me alone.” She seemed a little embarrassed. “I didn’t think it was the Book. “
“It is all I want, “ said Seldon earnestly. “I really did not have my mind on anything else. If you brought me here because you thought--”
She did not allow him to finish. “But here we are. Do you or don’t you want the Book?”
“Are you offering to let me see it?”
“On one condition.”
Seldon paused, weighing the possibility of serious trouble if he had overcome the Sister’s inhibitions to a greater extent than he had ever intended. “What condition?” he said.
Raindrop Forty-Three’s tongue emerged lightly and licked quickly at her lips. Then she said with a distinct tremor in her voice, “That you remove your skincap.”
Hari Seldon stared blankly at Raindrop Forty-Three. There was a perceptible moment in which he did not know what she was talking about. He had forgotten he was wearing a skincap.
Then he put his hand to his head and, for the first time, consciously felt the skincap he was wearing. It was smooth, but he felt the tiny resilience of the hair beneath. Not much. His hair, after all, was fine and without much body.
He said, still feeling it, “Why?”
She said, “Because I want you to. Because that’s the condition if you want to see the Book.”
He said, “Well, if you really want me to.” His hand probed for the edge, so that he could peel it off.
But she said, “No, let me do it. I’ll do it.” She was looking at him hungrily.
Seldon dropped his hands to his lap. “Go ahead, then.”
The Sister rose quickly and sat down next to him on the cot. Slowly, carefully, she detached the skincap from his head just in front of his ear. Again she licked her lips and she was panting as she loosened the skincap about his forehead and turned it up. Then it came away and was gone and Seldon’s hair, released, seemed to stir a bit in glad freedom.
He said, troubled, “Keeping my hair under the skincap has probably made my scalp sweat. If so, my hair will be rather damp.”
He raised his hand, as though to check the matter, but she caught it and held it back. “I want to do that, “ she said. “Its part of the condition.”
Her fingers, slowly and hesitantly, touched his hair and then withdrew. She touched it again and, very gently, stroked it.
“It’s dry, “ she said. “It feels . . . good.”
“Have you ever felt cephalic hair before?”
“Only on children sometimes. This . . . is different.” She was stroking again.
“In what way?” Seldon, even amid his embarrassment, found it possible to be curious.
“I can’t say. Its just . . . different.”
After a while he said, “Have you had enough?”
“No. Don’t rush me. Can you make it lie anyway you want it to?”
“Not really. It has a natural way of falling, but I need a comb for that and I don’t have one with me.”
“An object with prongs . . . uh, like a fork . . . but the prongs are more numerous and somewhat softer.”
“Can you use your fingers?” She was running hers through his hair.
He said, “After a fashion. It doesn’t work very well.”
“Its bristly behind.”
“The hair is shorter there.”
Raindrop Forty-Three seemed to recall something. “The eyebrows, “ she said. “Isn’t that what they’re called?” She stripped off the shields, then ran her fingers through the gentle arc of hair, against the grain.
“That’s nice, “ she said, then laughed in a high-pitched way that was almost like her younger sister’s giggle. “They’re cute.”
Seldon said a little impatiently, “Is there anything else that’s part of the condition?”
In the rather dim light, Raindrop Forty-Three looked as though she might be considering an affirmative, but said nothing. Instead, she suddenly withdrew her hands and lifted them to her nose. Seldon wondered what she might be smelling.
“How odd, “ she said. “May I . . . may I do it again another time?”
Seldon said uneasily, “If you will let me have the Book long enough to study it, then perhaps.”
Raindrop Forty-Three reached into her kirtle through a slit that Seldon had not noticed before and, from some hidden inner pocket, removed a book bound in some tough, flexible material. He took it, trying to control his excitement.
While Seldon readjusted his skincap to cover his hair, Raindrop Forty-Three raised her hands to her nose again and then, gently and quickly, licked one finger.
“Felt your hair?” said Dors Venabili. She looked at Seldon’s hair as though she was of a mind to feel it herself.
Seldon moved away slightly. “Please don’t. The woman made it seem like a perversion.”
“I suppose it was-from her standpoint. Did you derive no pleasure from it yourself?”
“Pleasure? It gave me gooseflesh. When she finally stopped, I was able to breathe again. I kept thinking: What other conditions will she make?”
Dors laughed. “Were you afraid that she would force sex upon you? Or hopeful?”
“I assure you I didn’t dare think. I just wanted the Book.”
They were in their room now and Dors turned on her field distorter to make sure they would not be overheard.
The Mycogenian night was about to begin. Seldon had removed his skincap and kirtle and had bathed, paying particular attention to his hair, which he had foamed and rinsed twice. He was now sitting on his cot, wearing a light nightgown that had been hanging in the closet.
Dors said, eyes dancing, “Did she know you have hair on your chest?”
“I was hoping earnestly she wouldn’t think of that.”
“Poor Hari. It was all perfectly natural, you know. I would probably have had similar trouble if I was alone with a Brother. Worse, I’m sure, since he would believe-Mycogenian society being what it is-that as a woman I would be bound to obey his orders without delay or demur.”
“No, Dors. You may think it was perfectly natural, but you didn’t experience it. The poor woman was in a high state of sexual excitement. She engaged all her senses . . . smelled her fingers, licked them. If she could have heard hair grow, she would have listened avidly.”
“But that’s what I mean by ‘natural.’ Anything you make forbidden gains sexual attractiveness. Would you be particularly interested in women’s breasts if you lived in a society in which they were displayed at all times?”
“I think I might.”
“Wouldn’t you be more interested if they were always hidden, as in most societies they are? -Listen, let me tell you something that happened to me. I was at a lake resort back home on Cinna . . . I presume you have resorts on Helicon, beaches, that sort of thing?”
“Of course, “ said Seldon, slightly annoyed. “What do you think Helicon is, a world of rocks and mountains, with only well water to drink?”
“No offense, Hari. I just want to make sure you’ll get the point of the story. On our beaches at Cinna, we’re pretty lighthearted about what we wear . . . or don’t wear.”
“Not actually, though I suppose if someone removed all of his or her clothing it wouldn’t be much remarked on. The custom is to wear a decent minimum, but I must admit that what we consider decent leaves very little to the imagination.”
Seldon said, “We have somewhat higher standards of decency on Helicon.”
“Yes, I could tell that by your careful treatment of me, but to each its own. In any case, I was sitting at the small beach by the lake and a young man approached to whom I had spoken earlier in the day. He was a decent fellow I found nothing particularly wrong with. He sat on the arm of my chair and placed his right hand on my left thigh, which was bare, of course, in order to steady himself.
“After we had spoken for a minute and a half or so, he said, impishly. ‘Here I am. You know me hardly at all and yet it seems perfectly natural to me that I place my hand on your thigh. What’s more, it seems perfectly natural to you, since you don’t seem to mind that it remains there.’
“It was only then that I actually noticed that his hand was on my thigh. Bare skin in public somehow loses some of its sexual quality. As I said, its the hiding from view that is crucial.
“And the young man felt this too, for he went on to say, ‘Yet if I were to meet you under more formal conditions and you were wearing a gown, you wouldn’t dream of letting me lift your gown and place my hand on your thigh on the precise spot it now occupies.’
“I laughed and we continued to talk of this and that. Of course, the young man, now that my attention had been called to the position of his hand, felt it no longer appropriate to keep it there and removed it.
“That night I dressed for dinner with more than usual care and appeared in clothing that was considerably more formal than was required or than other women in the dining room were wearing. I found the young man in question. He was sitting at one of the tables. I approached, greeted him, and said, ‘Here I am in a gown, but under it my left thigh is bare. I give you permission. Just lift the gown and place your hand on my left thigh where you had it earlier.’
“He tried. I’ll give him credit for that, but everyone was staring. I wouldn’t have stopped him and I’m sure no one else would have stopped him either, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. It was no more public then than it had been earlier and the same people were present in both cases. It was clear that I had taken the initiative and that I had no objections, but he could not bring himself to violate the proprieties. The conditions, which had been hand-on-thigh in the afternoon, were not hand-on-thigh in the evening and that meant more than anything logic could say.”
Seldon said, “I would have put my hand on your thigh.”
“Are you sure?”
“Even though your standards of decency on the beach are higher than ours are?”
Dors sat down on her own cot, then lay down with her hands behind her head. “So that you’re not particularly disturbed that I’m wearing a nightgown with very little underneath it.”
“I’m not particularly shocked. As for being disturbed, that depends on the definition of the word. I’m certainly aware of how you’re dressed.”
“Well, if we’re going to be cooped up here for a period of time, we’ll have to learn to ignore such things.”
“Or take advantage of them, “ said Seldon, grinning. “And I like your hair. After seeing you bald all day, I like your hair.”
“Well, don’t touch it. I haven’t washed it yet.” She half-closed her eyes. “It’s interesting. You’ve detached the informal and formal level of respectability. What you’re saying is that Helicon is more respectable at the informal level than Cinna is and less respectable at the formal level. Is that right?”
“Actually, I’m just talking about the young man who placed his hand on your thigh and myself. How representative we are as Cinnians and Heliconians, respectively, I can’t say. I can easily imagine some perfectly proper individuals on both worlds---and some madcaps too.”
“We’re talking about social pressures. I’m not exactly a Galactic traveler, but I’ve had to involve myself in a great deal of social history. On the planet of Derowd, there was a time when premarital sex was absolutely free. Multiple sex was allowed for the unmarried and public sex was frowned upon only when traffic was blocked: And yet, after marriage, monogamy was absolute and unbroken. The theory was that by working off all one’s fantasies first, one could settle down to the serious business of life.”
“Did it work?”
“About three hundred years ago that stopped, but some of my colleagues say it stopped through external pressure from other worlds who were losing too much tourist business to Derowd. There is such a thing as overall Galactic social pressure too.”
“Or perhaps economic pressure, in this case.”
“Perhaps. And being at the University, by the way, I get a chance to study social pressures, even without being a Galactic traveler. I meet people from scores of places inside and outside of Trantor and one of the pet amusements in the social science departments is the comparison of social pressures.
“Here in Mycogen, for instance, I have the impression that sex is strictly controlled and is permitted under only the most stringent rules, all the more tightly enforced because it is never discussed. In the Streeling Sector, sex is never discussed either, but it isn’t condemned. In the Jennat Sector, where I spent a week once doing research, sex is discussed endlessly, but only for the purpose of condemning it. I don’t suppose there are any two sectors in Trantor --or any two worlds outside Trantor -- in which attitudes toward sex are completely duplicated.”
Seldon said, “You know what you make it sound like? It would appear.,
Dors said, “I’ll tell you how it appears. All this talk of sex makes one thing clear to me. I’m simply not going to let you out of my sight anymore.”
“Twice I let you go, the first time through my own misjudgment and the second because you bullied me into it. Both times it was clearly a mistake. You know what happened to you the first time.”
Seldon said indignantly, “Yes, but nothing happened to me the second time.”
“You nearly got into a lot of trouble. Suppose you had been caught indulging in sexual escapades with a Sister?”
“It wasn’t a sexual--”
“You yourself said she was in a high state of sexual excitement.”
“It was wrong. Please get it through your head, Hari. From now on, you go nowhere without me.”
“Look, “ said Seldon freezingly, “my object was to find out about Mycogenian history and as a result of the so-called sexual escapade with a Sister, I have a book-the Book.”
“The Book! True, there’s the Book. Let’s see it.”
Seldon produced it and Dors thoughtfully hefted it.
She said, “It might not do us any good, Hari. This doesn’t look as though it will fit any projector I’ve ever encountered. That means you’ll have to get a Mycogenian projector and they’ll want to know why you want it. They’ll then find out you have this Book and they’ll take it away from you.”
Seldon smiled. “If your assumptions were correct, Dors, your conclusions would be inescapable, but it happens that this is not the kind of book you think it is. It’s not meant to be projected. The material is printed on various pages and the pages are turned. Raindrop FortyThree explained that much to me.”
“A print-book!” It was hard to tell whether Dors was shocked or amused. “That’s from the Stone Age.”
“It’s certainly pre-Empire, “ said Seldon, “but not entirely so. Have you ever seen a print-book?”
“Considering that I’m a historian? Of course, Hari.”
“Ah, but like this one?”
He handed over the Book and Dors, smiling, opened it-then turned to another page-then flipped the pages. “Its blank, “ she said.
“It appears to be blank. The Mycogenians are stubbornly primitivistic, but not entirely so. They will keep to the essence of the primitive, but have no objection to using modern technology to modify it for convenience’s sake. Who knows?”
“Maybe so, Hari, but I don’t understand what you’re saying.”
“The pages aren’t blank, they’re covered with microprint. Here, give it back. If I press this little nubbin on the inner edge of the cover- Look!”
The page to which the book lay open was suddenly covered with lines of print that rolled slowly upward.
Seldon said, “You can adjust the rate of upward movement to match your reading speed by slightly twisting the nubbin one way or the other. When the lines of print reach their upward limit when you reach the bottom line, that is-they snap downward and turn off. You turn to the next page and continue.”
“Where does the energy come from that does all this?”
“It has an enclosed microfusion battery that lasts the life of the book.”
“Then when it runs down--”
“You discard the book, which you may be required to do even before it runs down, given wear and tear, and get another copy. You never replace the battery.”
Dors took the Book a second time and looked at it from all sides. She said, “I must admit I never heard of a book like this.”
“Nor I. The Galaxy, generally, has moved into visual technology so rapidly, it skipped over this possibility.”
“This is visual.”
“Yes, but not with the orthodox effects. This type of book has its advantages. It holds far more than an ordinary visual book does.”
Dors said, “Where’s the turn-on? -Ah, let me see if I can work it.” She had opened to a page at random and set the lines of print marching upward. Then she said, “I’m afraid this won’t do you any good, Hari. It’s pre-Galactic. I don’t mean the book. I mean the print . . . the language.”
“Can you read it, Dors? As a historian--”
“As a historian, I’m used to dealing with archaic language--but within limits. This is far too ancient for me. I ran make out a few words here and there, but not enough to be useful.”
“Good, “ said Seldon. “If it’s really ancient, it will be useful.”
“Not if you can’t read it.”
“I can read it, “ said Seldon. “It’s bilingual. You don’t suppose that Raindrop Forty-Three can read the ancient script, do you?”
“If she’s educated properly, why not?”
“Because I suspect that women in Mycogen are not educated past household duties. Some of the more learned men can read this, but everyone else would need a translation to Galactic.” He pushed another nubbin. “And this supplies it.”
The lines of print changed to Galactic Standard.
“Delightful, “ said Dors in admiration.
“We could learn from these Mycogenians, but we don’t.”
“We haven’t known about it.”
“I can’t believe that. I know about it now. And you know about it. There must be outsiders coming into Mycogen now and then, for commercial or political reasons, or there wouldn’t be skincaps so ready for use. So every once in a while someone must have caught a glimpse of this sort of print-book and seen how it works, but it’s probably dismissed as something curious but not worth further study, simply because it’s Mycogenian.”
“But is it worth study?”
“Of course. Everything is. Or should be. Hummin would probably point to this lack of concern about these books as a sign of degeneration in the Empire.”
He lifted the Book and said with a gush of excitement, “But I am curious and I will read this and it may push me in the direction of psychohistory.”
“I hope so, “ said Dors, “but if you take my advice, you’ll sleep first and approach it fresh in the morning. You won’t learn much if you nod over it.”
Seldon hesitated, then said, “How maternal you are!”
“I’m watching over you.”
“But I have a mother alive on Helicon. I would rather you were my friend.”
“As for that, I have been your friend since first I met you.”
She smiled at him and Seldon hesitated as though he were not certain as to the appropriate rejoinder. Finally he said, “Then I’ll take your advice--as a friend--and sleep before reading.”
He made as though to put the Book on a small table between the two cots, hesitated, turned, and put it under his pillow.
Dors Venabili laughed softly. “I think you’re afraid I will wake during the night and read parts of the Book before you have a chance to. Is that it?”
“Well, “ said Seldon, trying not to look ashamed, “that may be it. Even friendship only goes so far and this is my book and it’s my psychohistory.”
“I agree, “ said Dors, “and I promise you that we won’t quarrel over that. By the way, you were about to say something earlier when I interrupted you. Remember?”
Seldon thought briefly. “No.”
In the dark, he thought only of the Book. He gave no thought to the hand-on-thigh story. In fact, he had already quite forgotten it, consciously at least.
Venabili woke up and could tell by her timeband that the night period was only half over. Not hearing Hari’s snore, she could tell that his cot was empty. If he had not left the apartment, then he was in the bathroom.
She tapped lightly on the door and said softly, “Hari?”
He said, “Come in, “ in an abstracted way and she did.
The toilet lid was down and Seldon, seated upon it, held the Book open on his lap. He said, quite unnecessarily, “I’m reading.”
“Yes, I see that. But why?”
“I couldn’t sleep. I’m sorry.”
“But why read in here?”
“If I had turned on the room light, I would have woken you up.”
“Are you sure the Book can’t be illuminated?”
“Pretty sure. When Raindrop Forty-Three described its workings, she never mentioned illumination. Besides, I suppose that would use up so much energy that the battery wouldn’t last the life of the Book.” He sounded dissatisfied.
Dors said, “You can step out, then. I want to use this place, as long as I’m here.”
When she emerged, she found him sitting cross-legged on his cot, still reading, with the room well lighted.
She said, “You don’t look happy. Does the Book disappoint you?”
He looked up at her, blinking. “Yes, it does. I’ve sampled it here and there. Its all I’ve had time to do. The thing is a virtual encyclopedia and the index is almost entirely a listing of people and places that are of little use for my purposes. It has nothing to do with the Galactic Empire or the pre-Imperial Kingdoms either. It deals almost entirely with a single world and, as nearly as I can make out from what I have read, it is an endless dissertation on internal politics.”
“Perhaps you underestimate its age. It may deal with a period when there was indeed only one world . . . one inhabited world.”
“Yes, I know, “ said Seldon a little impatiently. “That’s actually what I want-provided I can be sure its history, not legend. I wonder. I don’t want to believe it just because I want to believe it.”
Dors said, “Well, this matter of a single-world origin is much in the air these days. Human beings are a single species spread all over the Galaxy, so they must have originated somewhere. At least that’s the popular view at present. You can’t have independent origins producing the same species on different worlds.”
“But I’ve never seen the inevitability of that argument, “ said Seldon. “If human beings arose on a number of worlds as a number of different species, why couldn’t they have interbred into some single intermediate species?”
“Because species can’t interbreed. That’s what makes them species.”
Seldon thought about it a moment, then dismissed it with a shrug. “Well, I’ll leave it to the biologists.”
“They’re precisely the ones who are keenest on the Earth hypothesis.”
“Earth? Is that what they call the supposed world of origin?”
“That’s a popular name for it, though there’s no way of telling what it was called, assuming there was one. And no one has any clue to what its location might be.”
“Earth!” said Seldon, curling his lips. “It sounds like a belch to me. In any case, if the book deals with the original world, I didn’t come across it. How do you spell the word?”
She told him and he checked the Book quickly. “There you are. The name is not listed in the index, either by that spelling or any reasonable alternative.”
“And they do mention other worlds in passing. Names aren’t given and there seems no interest in those other worlds except insofar as they directly impinge on the local world they speak of . . . at least as far as I can see from what I’ve read. In one place, they talked about ‘The Fifty.’ I don’t know what they meant. Fifty leaders? Fifty cities? It seemed to me to be fifty worlds.”
“Did they give a name to their own world, this world that seems to preoccupy them entirely?” asked Dors. “If they don’t call it Earth, what do they call it?”
“As you’d expect, they call it ‘the world’ or ‘the planet.’ Sometimes they call it ‘the Oldest’ or ‘The World of the Dawn, ‘ which has a poetic significance, I presume, that isn’t clear to me. I suppose one ought to read the Book entirely through and some matters will then grow to make more sense.” He looked down at the Book in his hand with some distaste. “It would take a very long time, though, and I’m not sure that I’d end up any the wiser.”
Dors sighed. “I’m sorry, Hari. You sound so disappointed.”
“That’s because I am disappointed. It’s my fault, though. I should not have allowed myself to expect too much. -At one point, come to think of it, they referred to their world as ‘Aurora.’ “
“Aurora?” said Dors, lifting her eyebrows.
“It sounds like a proper name. It doesn’t make any sense otherwise, as far as I can see. Does it mean anything to you, Dors?”
“Aurora.” Dors thought about it with a slight frown on her fare. “I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a planet with that name in the course of the history of the Galactic Empire or during the period of its growth, for that matter, but I won’t pretend to know the name of every one of the twenty five million worlds. We could look it up in the University library-if we ever get back to Streeling. There’s no use trying to find a library here in Mycogen. Somehow I have a feeling that all their knowledge is in the Book. If anything isn’t there, they aren’t interested.”
Seldon yawned and said, “I think you’re right. In any case, there’s no use reading any more and I doubt that I can keep my eyes open any longer. Is it all right if I put out the light?”
“I would welcome it, Hari. And let’s sleep a little later in the morning.”
Then, in the dark, Seldon said softly, “Of course, some of what they say is ridiculous. For instance, they refer to a life expectancy on their world of between three and four centuries.”
“Yes, they count their ages by decades rather than by years. It gives you a queer feeling, because so much of what they say is perfectly matter-of-fact that when they come out with something that odd, you almost find yourself trapped into believing it.”
“If you feel yourself beginning to believe that, then you should realize that many legends of primitive origins assume extended life spans for early leaders. If they’re pictured as unbelievably heroic, you see, it seems natural that they have life spans to suit.”
“Is that so?” said Seldon, yawning again.
“It is. And the cure for advanced gullibility is to go to sleep and consider matters again the next day.”
And Seldon, pausing only long enough to think that an extended life span might well be a simple necessity for anyone trying to understand a Galaxy of people, slept.
The next morning, feeling relaxed and refreshed and eager to begin his study of the Book again, Hari asked Dors, “How old would you say the Raindrop sisters are?”
“I don’t know. Twenty . . . twenty-two?”
“Well, suppose they do live three or four centuries
“Hari. That’s ridiculous.”
“I’m saying suppose. In mathematics, we say ‘suppose’ all the time and see if we can end up with something patently untrue or selfcontradictory. An extended life span would almost surely mean an extended period of development. They might seem in their early twenties and actually be in their sixties.”
“You can try asking them how old they are.”
“We can assume they’d lie.”
“Look up their birth certificates.”
Seldon smiled wryly. “I’ll bet you anything you like-a roll in the hay, if you’re willing-that they’ll claim they don’t keep records or that, if they do, they will insist those records are closed to tribespeople.”
“No bet, “ said Dors. “And if that’s true, then it’s useless trying to suppose anything about their age.”
“Oh no. Think of it this way. If the Mycogenians are living extended life spans that are four or five times that of ordinary human beings, they can’t very well give birth to very many children without expanding their population tremendously. You remember that Sunmaster said something about not having the population expand and bit off his remarks angrily at that time.”
Dors said, “What are you getting at?”
“When I was with Raindrop Forty-Three, I saw no children.”
“On the microfarms?”
“Did you expect children there? I was with Raindrop Forty-Five in the shops and on the residential levels and I assure you I saw a number of children of all ages, including infants. Quite a few of them.”
“Ah.” Seldon looked chagrined. “Then that would mean they can’t be enjoying extended life spans.”
Dors said, “By your line of argument, I should say definitely not. Did you really think they did?”
“No, not really. But then you can’t close your mind either and make assumptions without testing them one way or another.”
“You can waste a lot of time that way too, if you stop to chew away at things that are ridiculous on the face of it.”
“Some things that seem ridiculous on the face of it aren’t. That’s all. Which reminds me. You’re the historian. In your work, have you ever come across objects or phenomena called ‘robots’?”
“Ah! Now you’re switching to another legend and a very popular one. There are any number of worlds that imagine the existence of machines in human form in prehistoric times. These are called ‘robots.’
“The tales of robots probably originate from one master legend, for the general theme is the same. Robots were devised, then grew in numbers and abilities to the status of the almost superhuman. They threatened humanity and were destroyed. In every case, the destruction took place before the actual reliable historic records available to us today existed. The usual feeling is that the story is a symbolic picture of the risks and dangers of exploring the Galaxy, when human beings expanded outward from the world or worlds that were their original homes. There must always have been the fear of encountering other--and superior-intelligences.”