“Not yet, Raych, “ said Seldon. “And here is Dr. Venabili with two knives that she can use very expertly and there’s myself, who can, if I get the chance, break your Adam’s apple with one hand so that you’ll never speak above a whisper again. Now then, do you want to take Dr. Venabili or don’t you want to? Your orders allow you to do either.”
And finally the sergeant said in a beaten voice, “I will take the woman.”
“And the boy, Raych.”
“And the boy.”
“Good. Have I your word of honor-your word of honor as a soldier that you will do as you have just said . . . honestly?”
“You have my word of honor as a soldier, “ said the sergeant.
“Good. Raych, give back the whip. -Now. -Don’t make me wait.”
Raych, his face twisted into an unhappy grimace, looked at Dors, who hesitated and then slowly nodded her head. Her face was as unhappy as Raych’s.
Raych held out the neuronic whip to the sergeant and said, “They’re makin’ me, ya big--” His last words were unintelligible.
Seldon said, “Put away your knives, Dors.”
Dors shook her head, but put them away.
“Now, Sergeant?” said Seldon.
The sergeant looked at the neuronic whip, then at Seldon. He said, “You are an honorable man, Dr. Seldon, and my word of honor holds.” With a military snap, he placed his neuronic whip in his holster.
Seldon turned to Davan and said, “Davan, please forget what you have seen here. We three are going voluntarily with Sergeant Thalus. You tell Yugo Amaryl when you see him that I will not forget him and that, once this is over and I am free to act, I will see that he gets into a University. And if there’s anything reasonable I can ever do for your cause, Davan, I will. -Now, Sergeant, let’s go.”
“Have you ever been in an air-jet before, Raych?” asked Hari Seldon.
Raych shook his head speechlessly. He was looking down at Upperside rushing beneath them with a mixture of fright and awe.
It struck Seldon again how much Trantor was a world of Expressways and tunnels. Even long trips were made underground 6y the general population. Air travel, however common it might be on the Outworlds, was a luxury on Trantor and an air-jet like this-
How had Hummin managed it? Seldon wondered.
He looked out the window at the rise and fall of the domes, at the general green in this area of the planet, the occasional patches of what were little less than jungles, the arms of the sea they occasionally passed over, with its leaden waters taking on a sudden all too-brief sparkle when the sun peeped out momentarily from the heavy cloud layer.
An hour or so into the flight, Dors, who was viewing a new historical novel without much in the way of apparent enjoyment, clicked it off and said, “I wish I knew where we were going.”
“If you can’t tell, “ said Seldon, “then I certainly can’t. You’ve been on Trantor longer than I have.”
“Yes, but only on the inside, “ said Dors. “Out here, with only Upperside below me, I’m as lost as an unborn infant would be.”
“Oh well. -Presumably, Hummin knows what he’s doing.”
“I’m sure he does, “ replied Dors rather tartly, “but that may have nothing to do with the present situation. Why do you continue to assume any of this represents his initiative?”
Seldon’s eyebrows lifted. “Now that you ask, I don’t know. I just assumed it. Why shouldn’t this be his?”
“Because whoever arranged it didn’t specify that I be taken along with you. I simply don’t see Hummin forgetting my existence. And because he didn’t come himself, as he did at Streeling and at Mycogen.”
“You can’t always expect him to, Dors. He might well be occupied. The astonishing thing is nor that he didn’t come on this occasion but that he did come on the previous ones.”
“Assuming he didn’t come himself, would he send a conspicuous and lavish flying palace like this?” She gestured around her at the large luxurious jet.
“It might simply have been available. And he might have reasoned that no one would expect something as noticeable as this to be carrying fugitives who were desperately trying to avoid detection. The well-known double-double-cross.”
“Too well-known, in my opinion. And would he send an idiot like Sergeant Thalus in his place?”
“The sergeant is no idiot. He’s simply been trained to complete obedience. With proper instructions, he could be utterly reliable.”
“There you are, Hari. We come back to that. Why didn’t he get proper instructions? It’s inconceivable to me that Chetter Hummin would tell him to carry you out of Dahl and not say a word about me. Inconceivable.”
And to that Seldon had no answer and his spirits sank.
Another hour passed and Dors said, “It looks as if it’s getting colder outside. The green of Upperside is turning brown and I believe the heaters have turned on.”
“What does that signify?”
“Dahl is in the tropic zone so obviously we’re going either north or south--and a considerable distance too. If I had some notion in which direction the nightline was I could tell which.”
Eventually, they passed over a section of shoreline where there was a rim of ice hugging the domes where they were rimmed by the sea.
And then, quite unexpectedly, the air-jet angled downward.
Raych screamed, “We’re goin’ to hit! We’re goin’ to smash up!”
Seldon’s abdominal muscles tightened and he clutched the arms of his seat.
Dors seemed unaffected. She said, “The pilots up front don’t seem alarmed. We’ll be tunneling.”
And, as she said so, the jet’s wings swept backward and under it and, like a bullet, the air-jet encored a tunnel. Blackness swept back over them in an instant and a moment later the lighting system in the tunnel turned on. The walls of the tunnel snaked past the jet on either side.
“I don’t suppose I’ll ever be sure they know the tunnel isn’t already occupied, “ muttered Seldon.
“I’m sure they had reassurance of a clear tunnel some dozens of kilometers earlier, “ said Dors. “At any rate, I presume this is the last stage of the journey and soon we’ll know where we are.”
She paused and then added, “And I further presume we won’t like the knowledge when we have it.”
The air-jet sped out of the tunnel and onto a long runway with a roof so high that it seemed closer to true daylight than anything Seldon had seen since he had left the Imperial Sector.
They came to a halt in a shorter time than Seldon would have expected, but at the price of an uncomfortable pressure forward. Raych, in particular, was crushed against the seat before him and was finding it difficult to breath rill Dors’s hand on his shoulder pulled him back slightly.
Sergeant Thalus, impressive and erect, left the jet and moved to the rear, where he opened the door of the passenger compartment and helped the three out, one by one.
Seldon was last. He half-turned as he passed the sergeant, saying, “It was a pleasant trip, Sergeant.”
A slow smite spread over the sergeant’s large face and lifted his moustached upper lip. He touched the visor of his cap in what was half a salute and said, “Thank you again, Doctor.”
They were then ushered into the backseat of a ground-car of lavish design and the sergeant himself pushed into the front seat and drove the vehicle with a surprisingly light touch.
They passed through wide roadways, flanked by tall, well-designed buildings, all glistening in broad daylight. As elsewhere on Trantor, they heard the distant drone of an Expressway. The walkways were crowded with what were, for the most part, well-dressed people. The surroundings were remarkably-almost excessively clean.
Seldon’s sense of security sank further. Dors’s misgivings concerning their destination now seemed justified after all. He leaned coward her and said, “Do you think we are back in the Imperial Sector?”
She said, “No, the buildings are more rococo in the Imperial Sector and there’s less Imperial parkishness to this sector-if you know what I mean.”
“Then where are we, Dors?
“We’ll have to ask, I’m afraid, Hari.”
It was not a long trip and soon they rolled into a car-bay that flanked an imposing four-story structure. A frieze of imaginary animals ran along the top, decorated with strips of warm pink stone. It was an impressive facade with a rather pleasing design.
Seldon said, “That certainly looks rococo enough.”
Dors shrugged uncertainly.
Raych whistled and said in a failing attempt to sound unimpressed, “Hey, look at that fancy place.”
Sergeant Thalus gestured to Seldom clearly indicating that he was to follow. Seldon hung back and, also relying on the universal language of gesture, held out both arms, clearly including Dors and Raych.
The sergeant hesitated in a slightly hangdog fashion at the impressive pink doorway. His mustache almost seemed to droop.
Then he said gruffly, “All three of you, then. My word of honor holds. -Still, others may not feel obligated by my own obligation, you know.”
Seldon nodded. “I hold you responsible for your own deeds only, Sergeant.”
The sergeant was clearly moved and, for a moment, his face lightened as though he was considering the possibility of shaking Seldon’s hand or expressing heartfelt his approval in some other way. He decided against it, however, and stepped onto the bottom step of the flight that led to the door. The stairs immediately began a stately upward movement.
Seldon and Dors stepped after him at once and kept their balance without much trouble. Raych, who was momentarily staggered in surprise, jumped onto the moving stairs after a short run, shoved both hands into his pockets, and whistled carelessly.
The door opened and two women stepped out, one on either side in symmetrical fashion. They were young and attractive. Their dresses, belted tightly about the waist and reaching nearly to their ankles, fell in crisp pleats and rustled when they walked. Both had brown hair that was coiled in thick plaits on either side of their heads. (Seldon found it attractive, but wondered how long it took them each morning to arrange it just so. He had not been aware of so elaborate a coiffure on the women they had passed in the streets.)
The two women stared at the newcomers with obvious contempt. Seldon was not surprised. After the day’s events, he and Dors looked almost as disreputable as Raych.
Yet the women managed to bow decorously and then made a half-turn and gestured inward in perfect unison and with symmetry carefully maintained. (Did they rehearse these things?) It was clear that the three were to enter.
They stepped through an elaborate room, cluttered with furniture and decorative items whose use Seldon did not readily understand. The floor was light-colored, springy, and glowed with luminescence. Seldon noted with some embarrassment that their footwear left dusty marks upon it.
And then an inner door was flung open and yet another woman emerged. She was distinctly older than the first two (who sank slowly as she came in, crossing their legs symmetrically as they did so in a way that made Seldon marvel that they could keep their balance; it undoubtedly took a deal of practice).
Seldon wondered if he too was expected to display some ritualized form of respect, but since he hadn’t the faintest notion of what this might consist of, he merely bowed his head slightly. Dors remained standing erect and, it seemed to Seldon, did so with disdain. Raych was staring open-mouthed in all directions and looked as though he didn’t even see the woman who had just entered.
She was plump-nor fat, but comfortably padded. She wore her hair precisely as the young ladies did and her dress was in the same style, but much more richly ornamented-too much so to suit Seldon’s aesthetic notions.
She was clearly middle-aged and there was a hint of gray in her hair, but the dimples in her cheeks gave her the appearance of having rather more than a dash of youth. Her light brown eyes were merry and on the whole she looked more motherly than old.
She said, “How are you? All of you.” (She showed no surprise at the presence of Dors and Raych, but included them easily in her greeting.) “I’ve been waiting for you for some time and almost had you on Upperside at Streeling. You are Dr. Hari Seldon, whom I’ve been looking forward to meeting. You, I think, must be Dr. Dors Venabili, for you had been reported to be in his company. This young man I fear I do not know, but I am pleased to see him. But we must not spend our time talking, for I’m sure you would like to rest first.”
“And bathe, Madam, “ said Dors rather forcefully, “Each of us could use a thorough shower.”
“Yes, certainly, “ said the woman, “and a change in clothing. Especially the young man.” She looked down at Raych without any of the look of contempt and disapproval that the two young women had shown.
She said, “What is your name, young man?”
“Raych, “ said Raych in a rather choked and embarrassed voice. He then added experimentally, “Missus.”
“What an odd coincidence, “ said the woman, her eyes sparkling. “An omen, perhaps. My own name is Rashelle. Isn’t that odd? --but come. We shall take care of you all. Then there will be plenty of time to have dinner and to talk.”
“Wait, Madam, “ said Dors. “May I ask where we are?”
“Wye, dear. And please call me Rashelle, as you come to feel more friendly. I am always at ease with informality.”
Dors stiffened. “Are you surprised that we ask? Isn’t it natural that we should wane to know where we are?”
Rashelle laughed in a pleasant, tinkling manner. “Really, Dr. Venabili, something must be done about the name of this place. I was not asking a question but making a statement. You asked where you were and I did not ask you why. I told you, Wye.’ You are in the Wye Sector.”
“In Wye?” said Seldon forcibly.
“Yes indeed, Dr. Seldon. We’ve wanted you from the day you addressed the Decennial Convention and we are so glad to have you now.”
Actually, it took a full day to rest and unstiffen, to wash and get clean, to obtain new clothes (satiny and rather loose, in the style of Wye), and to sleep a good deal.
It was during the second evening in Wye that there was the dinner that Madam Rashelle had promised.
The table was a large one-too large, considering that there were only four dining: Hari Seldon, Dors Venabili, Raych, and Rashelle. The walls and ceiling were softly illuminated and the colors changed at a rate that caught the eye but not so rapidly as in any way to discommode the mind. The very tablecloth, which was not cloth (Seldon had not made up his mind what it might be), seemed to sparkle.
The servers were many and silent and when the door opened it seemed to Seldon that he caught a glimpse of soldiers, armed and at the ready, outside. The room was a velvet glove, but the iron fist was not far distant.
Rashelle was gracious and friendly and had clearly taken a particular liking to Raych, who, she insisted, was to sit next to her.
Raych-scrubbed, polished, and shining, all but unrecognizable in his new clothes, with his hair clipped, cleaned, and brushed -- scarcely dared to say a word. It was as though he felt his grammar no longer fit his appearance. He was pitifully ill at ease and he watched Dors carefully as she switched from utensil to utensil, trying to match her exactly in every respect.
The food was tasty but spicy-to the point where Seldon could not recognize the exact nature of the dishes.
Rashelle, her plump face made happy by her gentle smile and her fine teeth gleaming white, said, “You may think we have Mycogenian additives in the food, but we do not. It is all homegrown in Wye. There is no sector on the planet more self-sufficient than Wye. We labor hard to keep that so.”
Seldon nodded gravely and said, “Everything you have given us is first-rate, Rashelle. We are much obliged to you.”
And yet within himself he thought the food was not quite up to Mycogenian standards and he felt moreover, as he had earlier muttered to Dors, that he was celebrating his own defeat. Or Hummin’s defeat, at any rare, and that seemed to him to be the same thing.
After all, he had been captured by Wye, the very possibility that had so concerned Hummin at the time of the incident Upperside.
Rashelle said, “Perhaps, in my role as hostess, I may be forgiven if I ask personal questions. Am I correct in assuming that you three do not represent a family; that you, Hari, and you, Dors, are not married and that Raych is not your son?”
“The three of us are not related in any way, “ said Seldon. “Raych was born on Trantor, I on Helicon, Dors on Cinna.”
“And how did you all meet, then?”
Seldon explained briefly and with as little detail as he could manage . “There’s nothing romantic or significant in the meetings, “ he added.
“Yet I am given to understand that you raised difficulties with my personal aide, Sergeant Thalus, when he wanted to take only you out of Dahl.”
Seldon said gravely, “I had grown fond of Dors and Raych and did not wish to be separated from them.”
Rashelle smiled and said, “You are a sentimental man, I see.”
“Yes, I am. Sentimental. And puzzled too.”
“Why yes. And since you were so kind as to ask personal questions of us, may I ask one as well?”
“Of course, my dear Hari. Ask anything you please.”
“When we first arrived, you said that Wye has wanted me from the day I addressed the Decennial Convention. For what reason might that be?”
“Surely, you are not so simple as not to know. We want you for your psychohistory.”
“That much I do understand. But what makes you think that having me means you have psychohistory?”
“Surely, you have not been so careless as to lose it.”
“Worse, Rashelle. I have never had it”
Rashelle’s face dimpled. “But you said you had it in your talk. Not that I understood your talk. I am not a mathematician. I hate numbers. But I have in my employ mathematicians who have explained to me what it is you said.”
“In that case, my dear Rashelle, you must listen more closely. I can well imagine they have cold you that I have proven that psychohistorical predictions are conceivable, but surely they must also have cold you that they are not practical.”
“I can’t believe that, Hari. The very next day, you were called into an audience with that pseudo-Emperor, Cleon.”
“The pseudo-Emperor?” murmured Dors ironically.
“Why yes, “ said Rashelle as though she was answering a serious question. “Pseudo-Emperor. He has no true claim to the throne.”
“Rashelle, “ said Seldon, brushing that aside a bit impatiently, “I told Cleon exactly what I have just told you and he let me go.”
Now Rashelle did nor smile. A small edge crept into her voice. “Yes, he let you go the way the cat in the fable lets a mouse go. He has been pursuing you ever since-in Streeling, in Mycogen, in Dahl. He would pursue you here if he dared. But come now-our serious talk is too serious. Let us enjoy ourselves. Let us have music.”
And at her words, there suddenly sounded a soft but joyous instrumental melody. She leaned toward Raych and said softly, “My boy, if you are not at ease with the fork, use your spoon or your fingers. I won’t mind.”
Raych said, “Yes, mum, “ and swallowed hard, but Dors caught his eye and her lips silently mouthed: “Fork.”
He remained with his fork.
Dors said, “The music is lovely, Madam”-she pointedly rejected the familiar form of address “but it must not he allowed to distract us. There is the thought in my mind that the pursuer in all those places might have been in the employ of the Wye Sector. Surely, you would not be so well acquainted with events if Wye were not the prime mover.”
Rashelle laughed aloud. “Wye has its eyes and ears everywhere, of course, but we were not the pursuers. Had we been, you would have been picked up without fail-as you were in Dahl finally when, indeed, we were the pursuers. When, however, there is a pursuit that fails, a grasping hand that misses, you may be sure that it is Demerzel.”
“Do you think so little of Demerzel?” murmured Dors.
“Yes. Does that surprise you? We have beaten him.”
“You? Or the Wye Sector?”
“The sector, of course, but insofar as Wye is the victor, then I am the victor.”
“How strange, “ said Dors. “There seems to be a prevalent opinion throughout Trantor that the inhabitants of Wye have nothing to do with victory, with defeat, or with anything else. It is felt that there is but one will and one fist in Wye and that is that of the Mayor. Surely, you--or any other Wyan-weigh nothing in comparison.”
Rashelle smiled broadly. She paused to look at Raych benevolently and to pinch his cheek, then said, “If you believe that our Mayor is an autocrat and that there is but one will that sways Wye, then perhaps you are right. But, even so, I can still use the personal pronoun, for my will is of account.”
“Why yours?” said Seldon. “Why not?” said Rashelle as the servers began clearing the table. “I am the Mayor of Wye.”
It was Raych who was the first to react to the statement. Quite forgetting the cloak of civility that sat upon him so uncomfortably, he laughed raucously and said, “Hey, lady, ya can’t be Mayor. Mayors is guys.”
Rashelle looked at him good-naturedly and said in a perfect imitation of his tone of voice, “Hey, kid, some Mayors is guys and some Mayors is dames. Put that under your lid and let it bubble.”
Raych’s eyes protruded and he seemed stunned. Finally he managed to say, “Hey, ya talk regular, lady.”
“Sure thing. Regular as ya want, “ said Rashelle, still smiling.
Seldon cleared his throat and said, “That’s quite an accent you have, Rashelle.”
Rashelle tossed her head slightly. “I haven’t had occasion to use it in many years, but one never forgets. I once had a friend, a good friend, who was a Dahlite-when I was very young.” She sighed. “He didn’t speak that way, of course-he was quite intelligent but he could do so if he wished and he taught me. It was exciting to talk so with him. It created a world that excluded our surroundings. It was wonderful. It was also impossible. My father made that plain. And now along comes this young rascal, Raych, to remind me of those long-ego days. He has the accent, the eyes, the impudent cast of countenance, and in six years or so he will be a delight and terror to the young women. Won’t you, Raych?”
Raych said, “I dunno, lady-uh, mum.”
“I’m sure you will and you will come to look very much like my . . . old friend and it will be much more comfortable for me not to see you then. And now, dinner’s over and it’s time for you to go to your room, Raych. You can watch holovision for a while if you wish. I don’t suppose you read.”
Raych reddened. “I’m gonna read someday. Master Seldon says I’m gonna.”
“Then I’m sure you will.”
A young woman approached Raych, curtsying respectfully in Rashelle’s direction. Seldon had not seen the signal that had summoned her.
Raych said, “Can’t I stay with Master Seldon and Missus Venabili?”
“You’ll see them later, “ said Rashelle gently, “but Master and Missus and I have to Talk right now-so you must go.”
Dors mouthed a firm “Go!” at Raych and with a grimace the boy slid out of his chair and followed the attendant.
Rashelle turned to Seldon and Dors once Raych was gone and said, “The boy will be safe, of course, and treated well. Please have no fears about that. And I will be safe too. As my woman approached just now, so will a dozen armed men--and much more rapidly-when summoned. I want you to understand that.”
Seldon said evenly, “We are in no way thinking of attacking you, Rashelle--or must I now say, ‘Madam Mayor’?”
“Still Rashelle. I am given to understand that you are a wrestler of sorts, Hari, and you, Dors, are very skillful with the knives we have removed from your room. I don’t want you to rely uselessly on your skills, since I want Hari alive, unharmed, and friendly.”
“It is quite well understood, Madam Mayor, “ said Dors, her lack of friendship uncompromised, “that the ruler of Wye, now and for the past forty years, is Mannix, Fourth of that Name, and that he is still alive and in full possession of his faculties. Who, then, are you really?”
“Exactly who I say I am, Dors. Mannix IV is my father. He is, as you say, still alive and in possession of his faculties. In the eyes of the Emperor and of all the Empire, he is Mayor of Wye, but he is weary of the strains of power and is willing, at last, to let them slip into my hands, which are just as willing to receive them. I am his only child and I was brought up all my life to rule. My father is therefore Mayor in law and name, but I am Mayor in fact. It is to me, now, that the armed forces of Wye have sworn allegiance and in Wye that is all that counts.”
Seldon nodded. “Let it be as you say. But even so, whether it is Mayor Mannix IV or Mayor Rashelle I-it is the First, I suppose there is no purpose in your holding me. I have told you that I don’t have a workable psychohistory and I do not think that either I or anyone else will ever have one. I have cold that to the Emperor. I am of no use either to you or to him.”
Rashelle said, “How naive you are. Do you know the history of the Empire?”
Seldon shook his head. “I have recently come to wish that I knew it much better.”
Dors said dryly, “I know Imperial history quite well, though the pre-Imperial age is my specialty, Madam Mayor. But what does it matter whether we do or do not?”
“If you know your history, you know that the House of Wye is ancient and honorable and is descended from the Dacian dynasty.”
Dors said, “The Dacians ruled five thousand years ago. The number of their descendants in the hundred and fifty generations that have lived and died since then may number half the population of the Galaxy-if all genealogical claims, however outrageous, are accepted.”
“Our genealogical claims, Dr. Venabili”-Rashelle’s tone of voice was, for the first time, cold and unfriendly and her eyes flashed like steel--”are not outrageous. They are fully documented. The House of Wye has maintained itself consistently in positions of power through all those generations and there have been occasions when we have held the Imperial throne and have ruled as Emperors.”
“The history book-films, “ said Dors, “usually refer to the Wye rulers as ‘anti-Emperors, ‘ never recognized by the bulk of the Empire.”
“It depends on who writes the history book-films. In the future, we wilt, for the throne which has been ours will be ours again.”
“To accomplish that, you must bring about civil war.”
“There won’t be much risk of that, “ said Rashelle. She was smiling again. “That is what I must explain to you because I want Dr. Seldon’s help in preventing such a catastrophe. My father, Mannix IV, has been a man of peace all his life. He has been loyal to whomever it might be that ruled in the Imperial Palace and he has kept Wye a prosperous and strong pillar of the Trantorian economy for the good of all the Empire.”
“I don’t know that the Emperor has ever trusted him any the more for all that, “ said Dors.
“I’m sure that is so, “ said Rashelle calmly, “for the Emperors that have occupied the Palace in my father’s time have known themselves to be usurpers of a usurping line. Usurpers cannot afford to trust the true rulers. And yet my father has kept the peace. He has, of course, developed and trained a magnificent security force to maintain the peace, prosperity, and stability of the sector and the Imperial authorities have allowed this because they wanted Wye peaceful, prosperous, stable--and loyal.”
“But is it loyal?” said Dors.
“To the true Emperor, of course, “ said Rashelle, “and we have now reached the stage where our strength is such that we can take over the government quickly-in a lightning stroke, in fact--and before one can say ‘civil war’ there will be a true Emperor--or Empress, if you prefer--and Trantor will be as peaceful as before.”
Dors shook her head. “May I enlighten you? As a historian?”
“I am always willing to listen.” And she inclined her head ever so slightly toward Dors.
“Whatever size your security force may be, however well-trained and well-equipped, they cannot possibly equal in size and strength the Imperial forces backed by twenty-five million worlds.”
“Ah, but you have put your finger on the usurper’s weakness, Dr. Venabili. There are twenty-five million worlds, with the Imperial forces scattered over them. Those forces are thinned out over incalculable space, under uncounted officers, none of them particularly ready for any action outside their own Provinces, many ready for action in their own interest rather than in the Empire’s. Our forces, on the other hand, are all here, all on Trantor. We can act and conclude before the distant generals and admirals can get it through their heads that they are needed.”
“But that response will come--and with irresistible force.”
“Are you certain of that?” said Rashelle. “We will be in the Palace. Trantor will be ours and at peace. Why should the Imperial forces stir when, by minding their own business, each petty military leader can have his own world to rule, his own Province?”
“But is that what you want?” asked Seldon wonderingly. “Are you telling me that you look forward to ruling over an Empire that will break up into splinters?”
Rashelle said, “That is exactly right. I would rule over Trantor, over its outlying space settlements, over the few nearby planetary systems that are part of the Trantorian Province. I would much rather be Emperor of Trantor than Emperor of the Galaxy.”
“You would be satisfied with Trantor only, “ said Dors in tones of the deepest disbelief.
“Why not?” said Rashelle, suddenly ablaze. She leaned forward eagerly, both hands pressed palms-down on the table. “That is what my father has been planning for forty years. He is only clinging to life now to witness its fulfillment. Why do we need millions of worlds, distant worlds that mean nothing to us, that weaken us, that draw our forces far away from us into meaningless cubic parsecs of space, that drown us in administrative chaos, that ruin us with their endless quarrels and problems when they are all distant nothings as far as we are concerned? Our own populous world-our own planetary city-is Galaxy enough for us. We have all we need to support ourselves. As for the rest of the Galaxy, let it splinter. Every petty militarist can have his own splinter. They needn’t fight. There will be enough for all.”
“But they will fight, just the same, “ said Dors. “Each will refuse to be satisfied with his Province. Each will feat that his neighbor is not satisfied with his Province. Each will feel insecure and will dream of Galactic rule as the only guarantee of safety. This is certain, Madam Empress of Nothing. There will be endless wars into which you and Trantor will be inevitably drawn-to the ruin of all.”
Rashelle said with clear contempt, “So it might seem, if one could see no farther than you do, if one relied on the ordinary lessons of history.”
“What is there to see farther?” retorted Dors. “What is one to rely on beyond the lessons of history?”
“What lies beyond?” said Rashelle. “Why, he.’“
And her arm shot outward, her index finger jabbing toward Seldon.
“Me?” said Seldon. “I have already told you that psychohistory--”
Rashelle said, “Do not repeat what you have already said, my good Dr. Seldon. We gain nothing by that. -Do you think, Dr. Venabili, that my father was never aware of the danger of endless civil war? Do you think he did not bend his powerful mind to thinking of some way to prevent that? He has been prepared at any time these last ten years to take over the Empire in a day. It needed only the assurance of security beyond victory.”
“Which you can’t have, “ said Dors.
“Which we had the moment we heard of Dr. Seldon’s paper at the Decennial Convention. I saw at once that that was what we needed. My father was too old to see the significance at once. When I explained it, however, he saw it too and it was then that he formally transferred his power to me. So it is to you, Hari, that I owe my position and to you I will owe my greater position in the future.”
“I keep telling you that it cannot--” began Seldon with deep annoyance.
“It is not important what can or cannot be done. What is important is what people will or will not believe can be done. They will believe you, Hari, when you tell them the psychohistoric prediction is that Trantor can rule itself and that the Provinces can become Kingdoms that will live together in peace.”
“I will make no such prediction, “ said Seldon, “in the absence of true psychohistory. I won’t play the charlatan. If you want something like that, you say it.”
“Now, Hari. They won’t believe me. It’s you they will believe. The great mathematician. Why not oblige them?”
“As it happens, “ said Seldom “the Emperor also thought to use me as a source of self-serving prophecies. I refused to do it for him, so do you think I will agree to do it for you?”
Rashelle was silent for a while and when she spoke again her voice had lost its intense excitement and became almost coaxing.
“Hari, “ she said, “think a little of the difference between Cleon and myself. What Cleon undoubtedly wanted from you was propaganda to preserve his throne. It would be useless to give him that, for the throne can’t be preserved. Don’t you know that the Galactic Empire is in a state of decay, that it cannot endure for much longer? Trantor itself is slowly sliding into ruin because of the ever-increasing weight of administering twenty-five million worlds. What’s ahead of us is breakup and civil war, no matter what you do for Cleon.”
Seldon said, “I have heard something like this said. It may even be true, but what then?”
“Well then, help it break into fragments without any war. Help me take Trantor. Help me establish a firm government over a realm small enough to 6e ruled efficiently. Let me give freedom to the rest of the Galaxy, each portion to go its own way according to its own customs and cultures. The Galaxy will become a working whole again through the free agencies of trade, tourism, and communication and the fate of cracking into disaster under the present rule of force that barely holds it together will be averted. My ambition is moderate indeed; one world, not millions; peace, not war; freedom, not slavery. Think about it and help me.”
Seldon said, “Why should the Galaxy believe me any more than they would believe you? They don’t know me and which of our fleet commanders will be impressed by the mere word ‘psychohistory’?”
“You won’t be believed now, but I don’t ask for action now. The House of Wye, having waited thousands of years, can wait thousands of days more. Cooperate with me and I will make your name famous. I will make the promise of psychohistory glow through all the worlds and at the proper time, when I judge the movement to be the chosen moment, you will pronounce your prediction and we will strike. Then, in a twinkling of history, the Galaxy will exist under a New Order that will render it stable and happy for eons. Come now, Hari, can you refuse me?”
THALUS, EMMER- . . . A sergeant in the armed security forces of the Wye Sector of ancient Trantor . . .
. . . Aside from these totally unremarkable vital statistics, nothing is known of the man except that on one occasion he held the fate of the Galaxy in his fist.
Breakfast the next morning was served in an alcove near the rooms of the captured three and it was luxurious indeed. There certainly was a considerable variety to the food and more than enough of everything.
Seldon sat at the breakfast table with a mound of spicy sausages before him, totally ignoring Dors Venabili’s gloomy predictions concerning stomachs and colic.
Raych said, “The dame . . . the Madam Mayor said when she came to see me last night--”
“She came to see you?” said Seldon.
“Yeah. She said she wanted to make sure I was comfortable. She said when she had a chance she would take me to a zoo.”
“A zoo?” Seldon looked at Dors. “What kind of zoo can they have on Trantor? Cats and dogs?”
“There are some aboriginal animals, “ said Dors, “and I imagine they import some aboriginals from other worlds and there are also the shared animals that all the worlds have-other worlds having more than Trantor, of course. As a matter of fact, Wye has a famous zoo, probably the best on the planet after the Imperial Zoo itself.”
Raych said, “She’s a nice old lady.”
“Not that old, “ said Dors, “but she’s certainly feeding us well.”
“There’s that, “ admitted Seldon.
When breakfast was over, Raych left to go exploring.
Once they had retired to Dors’s room, Seldon said with marked discontent, “I don’t know how long we’ll be left to ourselves. She’s obviously plotted ways of preoccupying our time.”
Dors said, “Actually, we have little to complain of at the moment. We’re much more comfortable here than we were either in Mycogen or Dahl.”
Seldon said, “Dors, you’re not being won over by that woman, are you?”
“Me? By Rashelle? Of course not. How can you possibly think so?”
“Welt, you’re comfortable. You’re well-fed. It would be natural to relax and accept what fortune brings.”
“Yes, very natural. And why not do that?”
“Look, you were telling me last night about what’s going to happen if she wins out. I may not be much of a historian myself, but I am willing to take your word for it and, actually, it makes sense even to a nonhistorian. The Empire will shatter and its shards will be fighting each other for . . . for . . . indefinitely. She must be stopped.”
“I agree, “ said Dors. “She must be. What I fail to see is how we can manage to do that little thing right at this moment.” She looked at Seldon narrowly. “Hari, you didn’t sleep fast night, did you?”
“Did you?” It was apparent he had not.
Dors stared at him, a troubled look clouding her face. “Have you lain awake thinking of Galactic destruction because of what I said?”
“That and some other things. Is it possible to reach Chetter Hummin?” This last was said in a whisper.
Dors said, “I tried to reach him when we first had to flee arrest in Dahl. He didn’t come. I’m sure he received the message, but he didn’t come. It may be that, for any of a number of reasons, he just couldn’t come to us, but when he can he will.”
“Do you suppose something has happened to him?”
“No, “ said Dors patiently. “I don’t think so.”
“How can you know?”
“The word would somehow get to me. I’m sure of it. And the word hasn’t gotten to me.”
Seldon frowned and said, “I’m not as confident as you are about all this. In fact, I’m not confident at all. Even if Hummin came, what can he do in this case? He can’t fight all of Wye. If they have, as Rashelle claims, the best-organized army on Trantor, what will he be able to do against it?”
“There’s no point in discussing that. Do you suppose you can convince Rashelle-bang it into her head somehow-that you don’t have psychohistory?”
“I’m sure she’s aware that I don’t have it and that I’m not going to get it for many years-if at all. But she’ll say I have psychohistory and if she does that skillfully enough, people will believe her and eventually they will act on what she says my predictions and pronouncements are--even if I don’t say a word.”
“Surely, that will take rime. She won’t build you up overnight. Or in a week. To do it properly, it might take her a year.”
Seldon was pacing the length of the room, turning sharply on his heel and striding back. “That might be so, but I don’t know. There would be pressure on her to do things quickly. She doesn’t strike me as the kind of woman who has cultivated the habit of patience. And her old father, Mannix IV, would be even more impatient. He must feel the nearness of death and if he’s worked for this all his life, he would much prefer to see it done a week before his death rather than a week after. Besides--” Here he paused and looked around the empty room.
“Well, we must have our freedom. You see, I’ve solved the psychohistory problem.”
Dors’s eyes widened. “You have it! You’ve worked it out.”
“Not worked it out in the full sense. That might take decades . . . centuries, for all I know. But I now know it’s practical, not just theoretical. I know it can be done so I must have the time, the peace, the facilities to work at it. The Empire must be held together till I--or possibly my successors-will learn how best to keep it so or how to minimize the disaster if it does split up despite us. It was the thought of having a beginning to my task and of not being able to work at it, that kept me up last night.”
It was their fifth day in Wye and in the morning Dors was helping Raych into a formal costume that neither was quite familiar with.
Raych looked at himself dubiously in the holo-mirror and saw a reflected image that faced him with precision, imitating all his motions but without any inversion of left and right. Raych had never used a holo-mirror before and had been unable to keep from trying to feel it, then laughing, almost with embarrassment, when his hand passed through it while the image’s hand poked ineffectually at his real body.
He said at last, “I look funny.”
He studied his tunic, which was made of a very pliant material, with a thin filigreed belt, then passed his hands up a stiff collar that rose like a cup past his ears on either side.
“My head looks like a ball inside a bowl.”
Dors said, “But this is the sort of thing rich children wear in Wye. Everyone who sees you will admire you and envy you.”
“With my hair all stuck down?”
“Certainly. You’ll wear this round little hat.”
“It’ll make my head more like a ball.”
“Then don’t let anyone kick it. Now, remember what I told you. Keep your wits about you and don’t act like a kid.”
“But I am a kid, “ he said, looking up at her with a wide-eyed innocent expression.
“I’m surprised to hear you say that, “ said Dors. “I’m sure you think of yourself as a twelve-year-old adult.”
Raych grinned. “Okay. I’ll be a good spy.”
“That’s not what I’m telling you to be. Don’t take chances. Don’t sneak behind doors to listen. If you get caught at it, you’re no good to anyone-especially not to yourself.”
“Aw, c’mon, Missus, what do ya think I am? A kid or somethin’?”
“You just said you were, didn’t you, Raych? You just listen to everything that’s said without seeming to. And remember what you hear. And tell us. That’s simple enough.”
“Simple enough for you to say, Missus Venabili, “ said Raych with a grin, “and simple enough for me to do.”
“And be careful.”
Raych winked. “You bet.”
A flunky (as coolly impolite as only an arrogant flunky can be) came to take Raych to where Rashelle was awaiting him.
Seldon looked after them and said thoughtfully, “He probably won’t see the zoo, he’ll be listening so carefully. I’m not sure it’s right to thrust a boy into danger like that.”
“Danger? I doubt it. Raych was brought up in the slums of Billibotton, remember. I suspect he has more alley smarts than you and I put together. Besides, Rashelle is fond of him and will interpret everything he does in his favor. -Poor woman.”
“Are you actually sorry for her, Dors?”
“Do you mean that she’s not worth sympathy because she’s a Mayor’s daughter and considers herself a Mayor in her own right and because she’s intent on destroying the Empire? Perhaps you’re right, but even so there are some aspects of her for which one might show some sympathy. For instance, she’s had an unhappy love affair. That’s pretty evident. Undoubtedly, her heart was broken-for a time, at least.”
Seldon said, “Have you ever had an unhappy love affair, Dors?”
Der considered for a moment or two, then said, “Not really. I’m too involved with my work to get a broken heart.”
“I thought as much.”
“Then why did you ask?”
“I might have been wrong.”
“How about you?”
Seldon seemed uneasy. “As a matter of fact, yes. I have spared the time for a broken heart. Badly cracked, anyway.”
“I thought as much.”
“Then why did you ask?”
“Not because I thought I might be wrong, I promise you. I just wanted to see if you would lie. You didn’t and I’m glad.”
There was a pause and then Seldon said, “Five days have passed and nothing has happened.”
“Except that we are being treated well, Hari.”
“If animals could think, they’d think they were being treated well when they were only being fattened for the slaughter.”
“I admit she’s fattening the Empire for the slaughter.”
“I presume when she’s ready.”
“She boasted she could complete the coup in a day and the impression I got was that she could do that on any day.”
“Even if she could, she would want to make sure that she could cripple the Imperial reaction and that might take time.”
“How much time? She plans to cripple the reaction by using me, but she is making no effort to do so. There is no sign that she’s trying to build up my importance. Wherever I go in Wye I’m unrecognized. There are no Wyan crowds gathering to cheer me. There’s nothing on the news holocasts.”
Dors smiled. “One would almost suppose that your feelings are hurt at not being made famous. You’re naive, Hari. Or not a historian, which is the same thing. I think you had better be more pleased that the study of psychohistory will be bound to make a historian of you than that it may save the Empire. If all human beings understood history, they might cease making the same stupid mistakes over and over.”
“In what way am I native?” asked Seldom lifting his head and staring down his nose at her.
“Don’t be offended, Hari. I think it’s one of your attractive features, actually.”
“I know. It arouses your maternal instincts and you have been asked to take care of me. But in what way am I naive?”
“In thinking that Rashelle would cry to propagandize the population of the Empire, generally, into accepting you as seer. She would accomplish nothing in that way. Quadrillions of people are hard to move quickly. There is social and psychological inertia, as well as physical inertia. And, by coming out into the open, she would simply alert Demerzel.”
“Then what is she doing?”
“My guess is that the information about you-suitably exaggerated and glorified-is going out to a crucial few. It is going to those Viceroys of sectors, those admirals of fleets, those people of influence she feels look kindly. upon her--or grimly upon the Emperor. A hundred or so of those who might rally to her side will manage to confuse the Loyalists just long enough to allow Rashelle the First to set up her New Order firmly enough to beat off whatever resistance might develop. At least, I imagine that is how she reasons.”
“And yet we haven’t heard from Hummin.”
“I’m sure he must be doing something just the same. This is too important to ignore.”
“Has it occurred to you that he might be dead?”
“That’s a possibility, but I don’t think so. If he was, the news would reach me.”
Seldon raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
Raych came back in the late afternoon, happy and excited, with descriptions of monkeys and of Bakarian demoires and he dominated the conversation during dinner.
It was not until after dinner when they were in their own quarters that Dors said, “Now, tell me what happened with Madam Mayor, Raych. Tell me anything she did or said that you think we ought to know.”
“One thing, “ said Raych, his face lighting up. “That’s why she didn’t show at dinner, I bet.”
“What was it?”
“The zoo was closed except for us, you know. There were lots of us, Rashelle and me and all sorts of guys in uniforms and dames in fancy clothes and like that. Then this guy in a uniform-a different guy, who wasn’t there to begin with-came in toward the end and he said something in a low voice and Rashelle corned to all the people and made with her hand like they shouldn’t move and they didn’t. And she went a little ways away with this new guy, so she could talk to him and no one could hear her. Except I kept paying no attention and kept looking at the different cages and sort of moved near to Rashelle so I could hear her.
“She said, ‘How dare they?’ like she was real mad. And the guy in the uniform, he looked nervous-I just got quick looks because I was trying to make out like I was watching the animals-so mostly I just heard the words. He said somebody-I don’t remember the name, but he was a general or somethin`. He said this general said the officers had sworn religious to Rashelle’s old man--”
“Sworn allegiance, “ said Dors.
“Somethin’ like that and they was nervous about havin’ to do what a dame says. He said they wanted the old man or else, if he was kind of sick, he should pick some guy to be Mayor, not a dame.”
“Not a dame? Are you sure?”
“That’s what he said. He like whispered it. He was so nervous and Rashelle was so mad she could hardly speak. She said, ‘I’ll have his head. They wilt all swear allegiance to me tomorrow and whoever refuses will lave cause to regret it before an hour has passed.’ That’s exactly what she said. She broke up the whole party and we all came back and she didn’t say one word to me al! the rime. Just sat there, looking kinda mean and angry.”
Dors said, “Good. Don’t you mention this to anyone, Raych.”
“Course not. Is it what you wanted?”
“Very much what I wanted. You did well, Raych. Now, go to your room and forget the whole thing. Don’t even think about it.”
Once he was gone, Dors turned to Seldon and said, “This is very interesting. Daughters have succeeded fathers--or mothers, for that matter--and held Mayoralties or other high offices on any number of occasions. There have even been reigning Empresses, as you undoubtedly know, and I can’t recall that there was ever in Imperial history any serious question of serving under one. It makes one wonder why such a thing should now, arise in Wye.”
Seldon said, Why not? We’ve only recently been in Mycogen, where women are held in a total lack of esteem and couldn’t possibly hold positions of power, however minor.”
“Yes, of course, but that’s an exception. There are other places where women dominate. For the most part, though, government and power have been more or less equisexual. If more men tend to hold high positions, it is usually because women tend to be more bound-biologically-to children.”
“But what is the situation in Wye?”
“Equisexual, as far as I know. Rashelle didn’t hesitate to assume Mayoral power and I imagine old Mannix didn’t hesitate to grant it to her. And she was surprised and furious at encountering male dissent. She can’t have expected it.”
Seldon said, “You’re clearly pleased at this. Why?”
“Simply because it’s so unnatural that it must be contrived and I imagine Hummin is doing the contriving.”
Seldon said thoughtfully, “You think so?”
“I do, “ said Dors.
“You know, “ said Seldon, “so do I.”
It was their tenth day in Wye and in the morning Hari Seldon’s door signal sounded and Raych’s high-pitched voice outside was crying out, “Mister! Mister Seldom It’s war!”
Seldon took a moment to swap from sleep to wakefulness and scrambled out of bed. He was shivering slightly (the Wyans liked their domiciles on the chilly side, he had discovered quite early in his stay there) when he threw the door open.
Raych bounced in, excited and wide-eyed. “Mister Seldon, they have Mannix, the old Mayor’. They have--”
“Who have, Raych?”
“The Imperials, Their jets came in last night all over. The news holocasts are telling all about it. It’s on in Missus’s room. She said to let ya sleep, but I figured ya would wanner know.”
“And you were quite right.” Seldom pausing only tong enough to throw on a bathrobe, burst into Dors’s room. She was fully dressed and was watching the bolo-sec in the alcove.
Behind the clear, small image of a desk sat a man, with the Spaceship-and-Sun sharply defined on the left-front of his tunic. On either side, two soldiers, also wearing the Spaceship-and-Sun, stood armed. The officer at the desk was saying, “-is under the peaceful control of his Imperial Majesty. Mayor Mannix is safe and well and is in full possession of his Mayoral powers under the guidance of friendly Imperial troops. He will be before you soon to urge calm on all Wyans and to ask any Wyan soldiers still in arms to lay them down.”
There were other news holocasts by various newsmen with unemotional voices, all wearing Imperial armbands. The news was all the same: surrender by this or that unit of the Wyan security forces after firing a few shots for the record--and sometimes after no resistance at all. This town center and that town center were occupied--and there were repeated views of Wyan crowds somberly watching Imperial forces marching down the streets.
Dors said, “It was perfectly executed, Hari. Surprise was complete. There was no chance of resistance and none of consequence was offered.”
Then Mayor Mannix IV appeared, as had been promised. He was standing upright and, perhaps for the sake of appearances, there were no Imperials in sight, though Seldon was reasonably certain that an adequate number were present just out of camera range.
Mannix was old, but his strength, though worn, was still apparent. His eyes did not meet the holo-camera and his words were spoken as though forced upon him-but, as had been promised, they counseled Wyans to remain calm, to offer no resistance, to keep Wye from harm, and to cooperate with the Emperor who, it was hoped, would survive long on the throne.
“No mention of Rashelle, “ said Seldon. “It’s as though his daughter doesn’t exist.”
“No one has mentioned her, “ said Dors, “and this place, which is, after all, her residence--or one of them-hasn’t been attacked. Even if she manages to slip away and take refuge in some neighboring sector, I doubt she will be safe anywhere on Trantor for long.”
“Perhaps not, “ came a voice; “but I’ll be safe here for a little while.”
Rashelle entered. She was properly dressed, properly calm. She was even smiling, but it was no smile of joy; it was, rather, a cold baring of teeth.
The three stared at her in surprise for a moment and Seldon wondered if she had any of her servants with her or if they had promptly deserted her at the first sign of adversity. 406
Dors said a little coldly, “I see, Madam Mayor, that your hopes for a coup can not be maintained. Apparently, you have been forestalled.”
“I have not been forestalled. I have been betrayed. My officers have been tampered with and-against all history and rationality -- they have refused to fight for a woman but only for their old master. And, traitors that they are, they then let their old master be seized so that he cannot lead them in resistance.”
She looked about for a chair and sat down. “And now the Empire must continue to decay and die when I was prepared to offer it new life.”
“I think, “ said Dors, “the Empire has avoided an indefinite period of useless fighting and destruction. Console yourself with that, Madam Mayor.”
It was as though Rashelle did not hear her. “So many years of preparation destroyed in a night.” She sat there beaten, defeated, and seemed to have aged twenty years.
Dors said, “It could scarcely have been done in a night. The suborning of your officers-if that took place-must have taken time.”
“At that, Demerzel is a master and quite obviously I underestimated him. How he did it, I don’t know-threats, bribes, smooth and specious argument. He is a master at the art of stealth and betrayal-I should have known.”
She went on after a pause. “If this was outright force on his part, I would have had no trouble destroying anything he sent against us. Who would think that Wye would be betrayed, that an oath of allegiance would be so lightly thrown aside?”
Seldon said with automatic rationality, “But I imagine the oath was made not to you, but to your father.”
“Nonsense, “ said Rashelle vigorously. “When my father gave me the Mayoral office, as he was legally entitled to do, he automatically passed on to me any oaths of allegiance made to him. There is ample precedence for this. It is customary to have the oath repeated to the new ruler, but that is a ceremony only and not a legal requirement. My officers know that, though they choose to forget. They use my womanhood as an excuse because they quake in fear of Imperial vengeance that would never have come had they been staunch or tremble with greed for promised rewards they will surely never get-if I know Demerzel.”
She turned sharply toward Seldon. “He wants you, you know. Demerzel struck at us for you.”
Seldon started. “Why me?”
“Don’t be a fool. For the same reason I wanted you . . . to use you as a cool, of course.” She sighed. “At least I am not utterly betrayed. There are still loyal soldiers to be found. -Sergeant!”
Sergeant Emmer Thalus entered with a soft cautious step that seemed incongruous, considering his size. His uniform was spruce, his long blond mustache fiercely curled.
“Madam Mayor, “ he said, drawing himself to attention with a snap.
He was still, in appearance, the side of beef that Hari had named him-a man still following orders blindly, totally oblivious to the new and changed state of affairs.
Rashelle smiled sadly at Raych. “And how are you, little Raych? I had meant to make something of you. It seems now I won’t be able to.”
“Hello, Missus . . . Madam, “ said Raych awkwardly.
“And to have made something of you too, Dr. Seldom” said Rashelle, “and there also I must crave pardon. I cannot.”
“For me, Madam, you need have no regrets.”
“But I do. I cannot very well let Demerzel have you. That would be one victory too many for him and at least I can stop that.”
“I would not work for him, Madam, I assure you, any more than I would have worked for you.”
“It is not a matter of work. It is a matter of being used. Farewell, Dr. Seldon. -Sergeant, blast him.”
The sergeant drew his blaster at once and Dors, with a loud cry, lunged forward--but Seldon reached out for her and caught her by the elbow. He hung on desperately.
“Stay hack, Dors, “ he shouted, “or he’ll kill you. He won’t kill me. You too, Raych. Stand back. Don’t move.”
Seldon faced the sergeant. “You hesitate, Sergeant, because you know you cannot shoot I might have killed you ten days ago, but I did not. And you gave me your word of honor at that time that you would protect me.”
“What are you waiting for?” snapped Rashelle. “I said shoot him down, Sergeant.”
Seldom said nothing more. He stood there while the sergeant, eyes bulging, held his blaster steady and pointed at Seldon’s head.
“You have your order!” shrieked Rashelle.
“I have your word, “ said Seldon quietly.
And Sergeant Thalus said in a choked tone, “Dishonored either way.” His hand fell and his blaster clanged to the floor.
Rashelle cried out, “Then you too betray me’.”
Before Seldon could move or Dors free herself from his grip, Rashelle seized the blaster, turned it on the sergeant, and closed contact.
Seldon had never seen anyone blasted before. Somehow, from the name of the weapon perhaps, he had expected a loud noise, an explosion of flesh and blood. This Wyan blaster, at least, did nothing of the sort. What mangling it did to the organs inside the sergeant’s chest Seldon could not tell but, without a change in expression, without a wince of pain, the sergeant crumbled and fell, dead beyond any doubt or any hope.
And Rashelle turned the blaster on Seldon with a firmness that put to rest any hope for his own life beyond the next second.
It was Raych, however, who jumped into action the moment the sergeant fell. Racing between Seldon and Rashelle, he waved his hands wildly.
“Missus, Missus, “ he called. “Don’t shoot.”
For a moment, Rashelle looked confused. “Out of the way, Raych. I don’t want to hurt you.”
That moment of hesitation was all Dors needed. Breaking loose violently, she plunged toward Rashelle with a long low dive. Rashelle went down with a cry and the blaster hit the ground a second time.
Raych retrieved it.
Seldon, with a deep and shuddering breath, said, “Raych, give that to me.”
But Raych backed away. “Ya ain’t gonna kill her, are ya, Mister Seldon? She was nice to me.”
“I won’t kill anyone, Raych, “ said Seldon. “She killed the sergeant and would have killed me, but she didn’t shoot rather than hurt you and we’ll let her live for that.”
It was Seldon, who now sat down, the blaster held loosely in his hand, white Dors removed the neuronic whip from the dead sergeant’s other holster.
A new voice rang out. “I’ll take care of her now, Seldon.”
Seldon looked up and in sudden joy said, “Hummin! Finally!”
“I’m sorry it took so long, Seldon. I had a lot to do. How are you, Dr. Venabili? I take it this is Mannix’s daughter, Rashelle. But who is the boy?”
“Raych is a young Dahlite friend of ours, “ said Seldon.
Soldiers were entering and, at a small gesture from Hummin, they lifted Rashelle respectfully.
Dors, able to suspend her intent surveillance of the other woman, brushed at her clothes with her hands and smoothed her blouse. Seldon suddenly realized that he was still in his bathrobe.
Rashelle, shaking herself loose from the soldiers with contempt, pointed to Hummin and said to Seldon, “Who is this?”
Seldon said, “It is Chetter Hummin, a friend of mine and my protector on this planet.”
“Your protector.” Rashelle laughed madly. “You fool! You idiot! That man is Demerzel and if you look at your Venabili woman, you will see from her face that she is perfectly aware of that. You have been trapped all along, far worse than ever you were with me!”
Hummin and Seldon sat at lunch that day, quite alone, a pall of quiet between them for the most part. It was toward the end of the meal that Seldon stirred and said in a lively voice, “Well, sir, how do I address you? I think of you as ‘Chetter Hummin’ still, but even if I accept you in your other persona, I surely cannot address you as ‘Eto Demerzel.’ In that capacity, you have a title and I don’t know the proper usage. Instruct me.”
The other said gravely, “Call me `Hummin’-if you don’t mind. Or ‘Chetter.’ Yes, I am Eto Demerzel, but with respect to you I am Hummin. As a matter of fact, the two are not distinct. I told you that the Empire is decaying and failing. I believe that to be true in both my capacities. I told you that I wanted psychohistory as a way of preventing that decay and failure or of bringing about a renewal and reinvigoration if the decay and failure must run its course. I believe that in both my capacities too.”
“But you had me in your grip-I presume you were in the vicinity when I Gad my meeting with His Imperial Majesty.”
“With Cleon. Yes, of course.”
“And you might have spoken to me, then, exactly as you later did as Hummin.”
“And accomplished what? As Demerzel, I have enormous tasks. I have to handle Cleon, a well-meaning but not very capable ruler, and prevent him, insofar as I can, from making mistakes. I have to do my bit in governing Trantor and the Empire coo. And, as you see, I had to spend a great deal of time in preventing Wye from doing harm.”
“Yes, I know, “ murmured Seldon.
“It wasn’t easy and I nearly lost out. I have spent years sparring carefully with Mannix, learning to understand his chinking and planning a countermove to his every move. I did not think, at any time, that while he was still alive he would pass on his powers to his daughter. I had not studied her and I was not prepared for her utter lack of caution. Unlike her father, she has been brought up to take power for granted and had no clear idea of its limitations. So she got you and forced me to act before I was quite ready.”
“You almost lost me as a result. I faced the muzzle of a blaster twice.’.
“I know, “ said Hummin, nodding. “And we might have lost you Upperside coo-another accident I could not foresee.”
“But you haven’t really answered my question. Why did you send me chasing all over the face of Trantor to escape from Demerzel when you yourself were Demerzel?”
“You told Cleon that psychohistory was a purely theoretical concept, a kind of mathematical game that made no practical sense. That might indeed have been so, but if I approached you officially, I was sure you would merely have maintained your belief. Yet I was attracted to the notion of psychohistory. I wondered whether it might not be, after all, just a game. You must understand that I didn’t want merely to use you, I wanted a real and practical psychohistory.
“So I sent you, as you put it, chasing all over the face of Trantor with the dreaded Demerzel close on your heels at all times. That, I felt, would concentrate your mind powerfully. It would make psychohistory something exciting and much more than a mathematical game. You would try to work it our for the sincere idealist Hummin, where you would not for the Imperial flunky Demerzel. Also, you would get a glimpse of various sides of Trantor and that too would be helpful-certainly more helpful than living in an ivory tower on a far-off planet, surrounded entirely by fellow mathematicians. Was I right? Have you made progress?”
Seldon said, “In psychohistory? Yes, I did, Hummin. I thought you knew.”
“How should I know?”
“I told Dors.”
“But you hadn’t told me. Nevertheless, you tell me so now. That is good news.”
“Not entirely, “ said Seldon. “I have made only the barest beginning. But it is a beginning.”
“Is it the kind of beginning that can be explained to a nonmathematician?”
“I think so. You see, Hummin, from the start I have seen psychohistory as a science that depends on the interaction of twentyfive million worlds, each with an average population of four thousand million. It’s too much. There’s no way of handling something that complex. If d was to succeed at all, if there was to be any way of finding a useful psychohistory, I would first have to find a simpler system.
“So I thought I would go back in time and deal with a single world, a world that was the only one occupied by humanity in the dim age before the colonization of the Galaxy. In Mycogen they spoke of an original world of Aurora and in Dahl I heard word of an original world of Earth. I thought they might be the same world under different names, but they were sufficiently different in one key point, at least, to make that impossible. And it didn’t matter. So little was known of either one, and that little so obscured by myth and legend, that there was no hope of making use of psychohistory in connection with them.”
He paused to sip at his cold juice, keeping his eyes firmly on Hummin’s face.
Hummin said, “Well? What then?”
“Meanwhile, Dors had told me something I call the hand-on-thigh story. It was of no innate significance, merely a humorous and entirely trivial tale. As a result, though, Dors mentioned the different sex mores on various worlds and in various sectors of Trantor. It occurred to me that she treated the different Trantorian sectors as though they were separate worlds. I thought, idly, that instead of twenty-five million different worlds, I had twenty-five million plus eight hundred to deal with. It seemed a trivial difference, so I forgot it and thought no more about it.
“But as I traveled from the Imperial Sector to Streeling to Mycogen to Dahl to Wye, I observed for myself how different each was. The thought of Trantor-not as a world but as a complex of worlds-grew stronger, but still I didn’t see the crucial point.
“It was only when I listened to Rashelle--you see, it was good that I was finally captured by Wye and it was good that Rashelle’s rashness drove her into the grandiose schemes that she imparted to me-When I listened to Rashelle, as I said, she told me that all she wanted was Trantor and some immediately adjacent worlds. It was an Empire in itself, she said, and dismissed the outer worlds as ‘distant nothings.’
“It was then that, in a moment, I saw what I must have been harboring in my hidden thoughts for a considerable time. On the one hand, Trantor possessed an extraordinarily complex social system, being a populous world made up of eight hundred smaller worlds. It was in itself a system complex enough to make psychohistory meaningful and yet it was simple enough, compared to the Empire as a whole, to make psychohistory perhaps practical.
“And the Outer Worlds, the twenty-five million of them? They were ‘distant nothings.’ Of course, they affected Trantor and were affected by Trantor, but these were second-order effects. If I could make psychohistory work as a first approximation for Trantor alone, then the minor effects of the Outer Worlds could be added as later modifications. Do you see what I mean? I was searching for a single world on which to establish a practical science of psychohistory and I was searching for it in the far past, when all the time the single world I wanted was under my feet now, “
Hummin said with obvious relief and pleasure, “Wonderful!”
“But it’s all left to do, Hummin. I must study Trantor in sufficient detail. I must devise the necessary mathematics to deal with it. If I am lucky and live out a full lifetime, I may have the answers before I die. If not, my successors will have to follow me. Conceivably, the Empire may have fallen and splintered before psychohistory becomes a useful technique.”
“I will do everything I can to help you.”
“I know it, “ said Seldon.
“You trust me, then, despite the fact I am Demerzel?”
“Entirely. Absolutely. But I do so because you are not Demerzel.”
“But I am, “ insisted Hummin.
“But you are not. Your persona as Demerzel is as far removed from the truth as is your persona as Hummin.”
“What do you mean?” Hummin’s eyes grew wide and he backed away slightly from Seldon.
“I mean that you probably chose the name ‘Hummin’ out of a wry sense of what was fitting. ‘Hummin’ is a mispronunciation of ‘human, ‘ isn’t it?”
Hummin made no response. He continued to stare at Seldon.
And finally Seldon said, “Because you’re not human, are you, ‘Hummin/Demerzel’? You’re a robot.”
SELDON, HARI- . . . It is customary to think of Hari Seldon only in connection with psychohistory, to see him only as mathematics and social change personified. There is no doubt that he himself encouraged this for at no time in his formal writings did he give any hint as to how he came to solve the various problems of psychohistory. His leaps of thought might have all been plucked from air, for all he tells us. Nor does he tell us of the blind alleys into which he crept or the wrong turnings he may have made .
. . . As for his private life, it is a blank. Concerning his parents and siblings, we know a handful of factors, no more. His only son, Raych Seldon, is known to have been adopted, but how that came about is not known. Concerning his wife, we only know that she existed. Clearly, Seldon wanted to be a cipher except where psychohistory was concerned. It is as though he felt--or wanted it to be felt-that he did not live, he merely psychohistorified.
Hummin sat calmly, not a muscle twitching, still looking at Hari Seldon and Seldon, for his part, waited. It was Hummin, he thought, who should speak next.
Hummin did, but said merely, “A robot? Me? -By robot, I presume you mean an artificial being such as the object you saw in the Sacratorium in Mycogen.”
“Not quite like that, “ said Seldon.
“Not metal? Not burnished? Not a lifeless simulacrum?” Hummin said it without any evidence of amusement.
“No. To be of artificial life is not necessarily to be made of metal. I speak of a robot indistinguishable from a human being in appearance.’.
“If indistinguishable, Hari, then how do you distinguish?”
“Not by appearance. “
“Hummin, in the course of my flight from yourself as Demerzel, I heard of two ancient worlds, as I told you-Aurora and Earth. Each seemed to be spoken of as a first world or an only world. In both cases, robots were spoken of, but with a difference.”
Seldon was staring thoughtfully at the man across the table, wondering if, in any way, he would give some sign that he was less than a man--or more. He said, “Where Aurora was in question, one robot was spoken of as a renegade, a traitor, someone who deserted the cause. Where Earth was in question, one robot was spoken of as a hero, one who represented salvation. Was it too much to suppose that it was the same robot?”
“Was it?” murmured Hummin.
“This is what I thought, Hummin. I thought that Earth and Aurora were two separate worlds, co-existing in time. I don’t know which one preceded the other. From the arrogance and the conscious sense of superiority of the Mycogenians, I might suppose that Aurora was the original world and that they despised the Earthmen who derived from them--or who degenerated from them.
“On the other hand, Mother Rittah, who spoke to me of Earth, was convinced that Earth was the original home of humanity and, certainly, the tiny and isolated position of the Mycogenians in a whole galaxy of quadrillions of people who lack the strange Mycogenian ethos might mean that Earth was indeed the original home and that Aurora was the aberrant offshoot. I cannot tell, but I pass on to you my thinking, so that you will understand my final conclusions.”
Hummin nodded. “I see what you are doing. Please continue.”
“The worlds were enemies. Mother Rittah certainly made it sound so. When I compare the Mycogenians, who seem to embody Aurora, and the Dahlites, who seem to embody Earth, I imagine that Aurora, whether first or second, was nevertheless the one that was more advanced, the one that could produce more elaborate robots, even ones indistinguishable from human beings in appearance. Such a robot was designed and devised in Aurora, then. But he was a renegade, so he deserted Aurora. To the Earthpeople he was a hero, so he must have joined Earth. Why he did this, what his motives were, I can’t say.”
Hummin said, “Surely, you mean why it did this, what its motives were.”
“Perhaps, but with you sitting across from me, “ said Seldon, “I find it difficult to use the inanimate pronoun. Mother Rittah was convinced that the heroic robot-her heroic robot-still existed, that he would return when he was needed. It seemed to me that there was nothing impossible in the thought of an immortal robot or at least one who was immortal as long as the replacement of worn-out parts was not neglected.”
“Even the brain?” asked Hummin.
“Even the brain. I don’t really know anything about robots, but I imagine a new brain could be re-recorded from the old. --and Mother Rittah hinted of strange mental powers. -I thought: It must be so. I may, in some ways, be a romantic, but I am not so much a romantic as to think that one robot, by switching from one side to the other, can alter the course of history. A robot could not make Earth’s victory sure, nor Aurora’s defeat certain-unless there was something strange, something peculiar about the robot.”
Hummin said, “Does it occur to you, Hari, that you are dealing with legends, legends that may have been distorted over the centuries and the millennia, even to the extent of building a veil of the supernatural over quire ordinary events? Can you make yourself believe in a robot that not only seems human, but that also lives forever and has mental powers? Are you not beginning to believe in the superhuman?”
“I know very well what legends are and I am not one to be taken in by them and made to believe in fairy tales. Still, when they are supported by certain odd events that I have seen--and even experienced myself--”
“Hummin, I met you and trusted you from the start. Yes, you helped me against those two hoodlums when you didn’t need to and that predisposed me in your favor, since I didn’t realize at the time that they were your hirelings, doing what you had instructed them to do. --but never mind that.”
“No, “ said Hummin, a hint of amusement-finally-in his voice.
“I trusted you. I was easily convinced not to go home to Helicon and to make myself a wanderer over the face of Trantor. I believed everything you told me without question. I placed myself entirely in your hands. Looking back on it now, I see myself as not myself. I am not a person to be so easily led, yet I was. More than that, I did not even think it strange that I was behaving so far out of character.”
“You know yourself best, Hari, “
“It wasn’t only me. How is it that Dors Venabili, a beautiful woman with a career of her own, should abandon that career in order to join me in my flight? How is it that she should risk her life to save mine, seeming to take on, as a kind of holy duty, the cask of protecting me and becoming single-minded in the process? Was it simply because you asked her to?”
“I did ask her to, Hari.”
“Yet she does not strike me as the kind of person to make such a radical changeover in her life merely because someone asks her to. Nor could I believe it was because she had fallen madly in love with me at first sight and could not help herself. I somehow wish she had, but she seems quite the mistress of her emotional self, more-I am now speaking to you frankly-than I myself am with respect to her.”
“She is a wonderful woman, “ said Hummin. “I don’t blame you.”
Seldon went on. “How is it, moreover, that Sunmaster Fourteen, a monster of arrogance and one who leads a people who are themselves stiff-necked in their own conceit, should be willing to take in tribespeople like Dors and myself and to treat us as well as the Mycogenians could and did? When we broke every rule, committed every sacrilege, how is it that you could still talk him into letting us go?
“How could you talk the Tisalvers, with their petty prejudices, into taking us in? How can you be at home everywhere in the world, be friends with everyone, influence each person, regardless of their individual peculiarities? For that matter, how do you manage to manipulate Cleon too? And if he is viewed as malleable and easily molded, then how were you able to handle his father, who by all accounts was a rough and arbitrary tyrant? How could you do all this?
“Most of all, how is it that Mannix IV of Wye could spend decades building an army without peer, one trained to be proficient in every detail, and yet have it fall apart when his daughter tries to make use of it? How could you persuade them to play the Renegade, all of them, as you have done?”
Hummin said, “Might this mean no more than that I am a tactful person used to dealing with people of different types, that I am in a position to have done favors for crucial people and am in a position to do additional favors in the future? Nothing I have done, it might seem, requires the supernatural.”
“Nothing you have done? Not even the neutralization of the Wyan army?”
“They did not wish to serve a woman.”
“They must have known for years that any time Mannix laid down his powers or any time he died, Rashelle would be their Mayor, yet they showed no signs of discontent-until you felt it necessary that they show it. Dors described you at one time as a very persuasive man. And so you are. More persuasive than any man could be. But you are not more persuasive than an immortal robot with strange mental powers might be. -Well, Hummin?”
Hummin said, “What is it you expect of me, Hari? Do you expect me to admit I’m a robot? That I only look like a human being? That I am immortal? That I am a mental marvel?!”
Seldon leaned toward Hummin as he sat there on the opposite side of the table. “Yes, Hummin, I do. I expect you to tell me the truth and I strongly suspect that what you have just outlined is the truth. You, Hummin, are the robot that Mother Rittah referred to as DaNee, friend of Ba-Lee. You must admit it. You have no choice.”
It was as though they were sitting in a tiny Universe of their own. There, in the middle of Wye, with the Wyan army being disarmed by Imperial force, they sat quietly. There, in the midst of events that all of Trantor and perhaps all the Galaxy-was watching, there was this small bubble of utter isolation within which Seldon and Hummin were playing their game of attack and defense-Seldon trying hard to force a new reality, Hummin making no move to accept that new reality.
Seldon had no fear of interruption. He was certain that the bubble within which they sat had a boundary that could not be penetrated, that Hummin’s-no, the robot’s-powers would keep all at a distance rill the game was over.
Hummin finally said, “You are an ingenious fellow, Hari, but I fail to see why I must admit that I am a robot and why I have no choice but to do so. Everything you say may be true as facts-your own behavior, Dors’s behavior, Sunmaster’s, Tisalver’s, the Wyan generals’-all, all may have happened as you said, but that doesn’t force your interpretation of the meaning of the events to be true. Surely, everything that happened can have a natural explanation. You trusted me because you accepted what I said; Dors felt your safety to be important because she felt psychohistory to be crucial, herself being a historian; Sunmaster and Tisalver were beholden to me for favors you know nothing of, the Wyan generals resented being ruled by a woman, no more. Why must we flee to the supernatural?”
Seldon said, “See here, Hummin, do you really believe the Empire to be falling and do you really consider it important that it not be allowed to do so with no move made to save it or, at the least, cushion its fall?”
“I really do.” Somehow Seldon knew this statement was sincere. “And you really want me to work out the details of psychohistory and you feel that you yourself cannot do it?”
“I lack the capability.”
“And you feel that only I can handle psychohistory-even if I sometimes doubt it myself?”
“And you must therefore feel that if you can possibly help me in any way, you must.”
“Personal feelings-selfish considerations-could play no part?”
A faint and brief smile passed over Hummin’s grave face and for a moment Seldon sensed a vast and arid desert of weariness behind Hummin’s quiet manner. “I have built a long career on paying no heed to personal feelings or to selfish considerations.”
“Then I ask your help. I can work out psychohistory on the basis of Trantor alone, but I will run into difficulties. Those difficulties I may overcome, but how much easier it would be to do so if I knew certain key facts. For instance, was Earth or Aurora the first world of humanity or was it some other world altogether? What was the relationship between Earth and Aurora? Did either or both colonize the Galaxy? If one, why didn’t the other? If both, how was the issue decided? Are there worlds descended from both or from only one? How did robots come to be abandoned? How did Trantor become the Imperial world, rather than another planet? What happened to Aurora and Earth in the meantime? There are a thousand questions I might ask right now and a hundred thousand that might arise as I go along. Would you allow me to remain ignorant, Hummin, and fail in my task when you could inform me and help me succeed?”
Hummin said, “If I were the robot, would I have room in my brain for all of twenty thousand years of history for millions of different worlds?”
“I don’t know the capacity of robotic brains. I don’t know the capacity of yours. But if you lack the capacity, then you must have that information which you cannot hold safely recorded in a place and in a way that would make it possible for you to call upon it. And if you have it and I need information, how can you deny and withhold it from me? And if you cannot withhold it from me, how can you deny that you are a robot-that robot the Renegade?”
Seldon sat back and took a deep breath. “So I ask you again: Are you that robot? If you want psychohistory, then you must admit it. If you still deny you are a robot and if you convince me you are not, then my chances at psychohistory become much, much smaller. It is up to you, then. Are you a robot? Are you Da-Nee?”
And Hummin said, as imperturbable as ever. “Your arguments are irrefutable. I am R. Daneel Olivaw. The `R’ stands for ‘robot.’ “
R. Daneel Olivaw still spoke quietly, but it seemed to Seldon that there was a subtle change in his voice, as though he spoke more easily now that he was no longer playing a part.
“In twenty thousand years, “ said Daneel, “no one has guessed I was a robot when it was not my intention to have him or her know. In part, that was because human beings abandoned robots so long ago that very few remember that they even existed at one time. And in part, it is because I do have the ability to detect and affect human emotion. The detection offers no trouble, but to affect emotion is difficult for me for reasons having to do with my robotic nature-although I can do it when I wish. I have the ability but must deal with my will not to use it. I try never to interfere except when I have no choice but to do so. And when I do interfere, it is rarely that I do more than strengthen, as little as I can, what is already there. If I can achieve my purposes without doing even so much, I avoid it.
“It was not necessary to tamper with Sunmaster Fourteen in order to have him accept you-I call it ‘tampering, ‘ you notice, because it is not a pleasant thing to do. I did not have to tamper with him because he did owe me for favors rendered and he is an honorable man, despite the peculiarities you found in him. I did interfere the second time, when you had committed sacrilege in his eyes, but it took very little. He was not anxious to hand you over to the Imperial authorities, whom he does not like. I merely strengthened the dislike a trifle and he handed you over to my care, accepting the arguments I offered, which otherwise he might have considered specious.
“Nor did I tamper with you noticeably. You distrusted the Imperials too. Most human beings do these days, which is an important factor in the decay and deterioration of the Empire. What’s more, you were proud of psychohistory as a concept, proud of having thought of it. You would not have minded having it prove to be a practical discipline. That would have further fed your pride.”
Seldon frowned and said, “Pardon me, Master Robot, but I am not aware that I am quite such a monster of pride.”
Daneel said mildly, “You are not a monster of pride at all. You are perfectly aware that is neither admirable nor useful to be driven by pride, so you try to subdue that drive, but you might as well disapprove of having yourself powered by your heartbeat. You cannot help either fact. Though you hide your pride from yourself for the sake of your own peace of mind, you cannot hide it from me. It is there, however carefully you mask it over. And I had but to strengthen it a touch and you were at once willing to take measures to hide from Demerzel, measures that a moment before you would have resisted. And you were eager to work at psychohistory with an intensity that a moment before you would have scorned.
“I saw no necessity to touch anything else and so you have reasoned out your robothood. Had I foreseen the possibility of that, I might have stopped it, but my foresight and my abilities are not infinite. Nor am I sorry now that I failed, for your arguments are good ones and it is important that you know who I am and that I use what I am to help you.
“Emotions, my dear Seldom are a powerful engine of human action, far more powerful than human beings themselves realize, and you cannot know how much can be dome with the merest touch and how reluctant I am to do it.”
Seldon was breathing heavily, trying to see himself as a man driven by pride and not liking it. “Why reluctant?”
“Because it would be so easy to overdo. I had to stop Rashelle from converting the Empire into a feudal anarchy. I might have bent minds quickly and the result might well have been a bloody uprising. Men are men--and the Wyan generals are almost all men. It does not actually take much to rouse resentment and latent fear of women in any man. It may be a biological matter that I, as a robot, cannot fully understand.
“I had but to strengthen the feeling to produce a breakdown in her plans. If I had done it the merest millimeter too much, I would have lost what I wanted-a bloodless takeover. I wanted nothing more than to have them not resist when my soldiers arrived.”
Daneel paused, as though trying to pick his words, then said, “I do not wish to go into the mathematics of my positronic brain. It is more than I can understand, though perhaps not more than you can if you give it enough thought. However, I am governed by the Three Laws of Robotics that are traditionally put into words--or once were, long ago. They are these:
“‘One. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
“ `Two. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
“ ‘Three. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.’
“But I had a . . . a friend twenty thousand years ago. Another robot. Not like myself. He could not be mistaken for a human being, but it was he who had the mental powers and it was through him that I gained mine.
“It seemed to him that there should be a still more general rule than any of the Three Laws. He called it the Zeroth Law, since zero comes before one. It is:
“‘Zero. A robot may not injure humanity or, through inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.’
“Then the First Law must read:
“ `One. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm, except where that would conflict with the Zeroth Law.’
“And the other laws must be similarly modified. Do you understand?”
Daneel paused earnestly and Seldon said, “I understand.”
Daneel went on. “The trouble is, Hari, that a human being is easy to identify. I can point to one. It is easy to see what will harm a human being and what won’t-relatively easy, at least. But what is humanity? To what can we point when we speak of humanity? And how can we define harm to humanity? When will a course of action do more good than harm to humanity as a whole and how can one tell? The robot who first advanced the Zeroth law died-became permanently inactive-because he was forced into an action that he felt would save humanity, yet which he could not be cure would save humanity. And as he became inactivated, he left the care of the Galaxy to me.
“Since then, I have cried. I have interfered as little as possible, relying on human beings themselves to judge what was for the good. They could gamble; I could not. They could miss their goals; I did not dare. They could do harm unwittingly; I would grow inactive if I did. The Zeroth Law makes no allowance for unwitting harm.
“But at times I am forced to take action. That I am still functioning shows that my actions have been moderate and discreet. However, as the Empire began to fail and to decline, I have had to interfere more frequently and for decades now I have had to play the role of Demerzel, trying to run the government in such a way as to stave off ruin--and yet I will function, you see.
“When you made your speech to the Decennial Convention, I realized at once that in psychohistory there was a tool that might make it possible to identify what was good and bad for humanity. With it, the decisions we would make would be less blind. I would even trust to human beings to make those decisions and again reserve myself only for the greatest emergencies. So I arranged quickly to have Cleon learn of your speech and call you in. Then, when I heard your denial of the worth of psychohistory, I was forced to think of some way to make you try anyway. Do you understand, Hari?”
More than a little daunted, Seldon said, “I understand, Hummin.”
“To you, I must remain Hummin on those rare occasions when I will be able to see you. I will give you what information I have if it is something you need and in my persona as Demerzel I will protect you as much as I can. As Daneel, you must never speak of me.”
“I wouldn’t want to, “ said Seldon hurriedly. “Since I need your help, it would ruin matters to have your plans impeded.”
“Yes, I know you wouldn’t want to.” Daneel smiled wearily. “After all, you are vain enough to want full credit for psychohistory. You would not want anyone to know-ever-that you needed the help of a robot.”
Seldon flushed. “I am not--”
“But you are, even if you carefully hide it from yourself. And it is important, for I am strengthening that emotion within you minimally so that you will never be able to speak of me to others. It will not even occur to you that you might do so.”
Seldon said, “I suspect Dors knows--”
“She knows of me. And she too cannot speak of me to others. Now that you both know of my nature, you can speak of me to each other freely, but not to anyone else.”
Daneel rose. -Hari, I have my work to do now. Before long, you and Dors will be taken back to the Imperial Sector--”
“The boy Raych must come with me. I cannot abandon him. And there is a young Dahlite named Yugo Amaryl--”
“I understand. Raych will be taken too and you can do with any friend as you will. You will all be taken care of appropriately. And you will work on psychohistory. You will have a staff. You will have the necessary computers and reference material. I will interfere as little as possible and if there is resistance to your views that does not actually reach the point of endangering the mission, then you will have to deal with it yourself.”
“Wait, Hummin, “ said Seldon urgently. “What if, despite all your help and all my endeavors, it turns out that psychohistory cannot be made into a practical device after all? What if I fail?”
Daneel rose. “In that case, I have a second plan in hand. One I have been working on a long time on a separate world in a separate way. It too is very difficult and to some ways even more radical than psychohistory. It may fail too, but there is a greater chance of success if two roads are open than if either one alone was.
“Take my advice, Hari! If the time comes when you are able to set up some device that may act to prevent the worst from happening see if you can think of two devices, so that if one fails, the other will carry on. The Empire must be steadied or rebuilt on a new foundation. Let there be two such, rather than one, if that is possible.”
He rose, “Now I must return to my ordinary work and you must turn to yours. You will be taken care of.”
With one final nod, he rose and left.
Seldon looked after him and said softly, “First I must speak to Dors.”
Dors said, “The palace is cleared. Rashelle will not be physically harmed. And you’ll return to the Imperial Sector, Hari.”
“And you, Dors?” said Seldon in a low tight voice.
“I presume I will go back to the University, “ she said. “My work is being neglected, my classes abandoned.”
“No, Dors, you have a greater cask.”
“What is that?”
“Psychohistory. I cannot tackle the project without you.”
“Of course you can. I am a total illiterate in mathematics.”
“And I in history--and we need both.”
Dors laughed. “I suspect that, as a mathematician, you are one of a kind. I, as a historian, am merely adequate, certainly not outstanding. You will find any number of historians who will suit the needs of psychohistory better than I do.”
“In that case, Dors, let me explain that psychohistory needs more than a mathematician and a historian. It also needs the will to tackle what will probably be a lifetime problem. Without you, Dors, I will not have that will.”
“Of course you’ll have it.”
“Dors, if you’re not with me, I don’t intend to have it.”
Dors looked at Seldon thoughtfully. “This is a fruitless discussion, Hari. Undoubtedly, Hummin will make the decision. If he sends me hack to the University
“How can you be sure?”
“Because I’ll put it to him plainly. If he sends you back to the University, I’ll go back to Helicon and the Empire can go ahead and destroy itself.”
“You can’t mean it.”
“But I certainly do.”
“Don’t you realize that Hummin can arrange to have your feelings change so that you will work on psychohistory--even without me?”
Seldon shook his head. “Hummin will not make such an arbitrary decision. I’ve spoken to him. He dares not do much to the human mind because he is bound by what he calls the Laws of Robotics. To change my mind to the point where I will not want you with me, Dors, would mean a change of the kind he can not risk. On the other hand, if he leaves me alone and if you join me in the project, he will have what he wants-a true chance at psychohistory. Why should he not settle for that?”
Dors shook her head. “He may not agree for reasons of his own.’.
“Why should he disagree? You were asked to protect me, Dors. Has Hummin cancelled that request?”
“Then he wants you to continue your protection. And I want your protection.”
“Against what? You now have Hummin’s protection, both as Demerzel and as Daneel, and surely that is all you need.”
“If I had the protection of every person and every force in the Galaxy, it would still be yours I would want.”
“Then you don’t want me for psychohistory. You want me for protection.”
Seldon scowled. “No! Why are you twisting my words? Why are you forcing me to say what you must know? It is neither psychohistory nor protection I want you for. Those are excuses and I’ll use any other I need. I want you-just you. And if you want the real reason, it is because you are you.”
“You don’t even know me.”
“That doesn’t matter. I don’t care. --and yet I do know you in a way. Better than you think.”
“Do you indeed?”
“Of course. You follow orders and you risk your life for without hesitation and with no apparent care for the consequences You learned how to play tennis so quickly. You learned how to use knives even more quickly and you handled yourself perfectly in the fight with Marron. Inhumanly -if I may say so. Your muscles are amazingly strong and your reaction time is amazingly fast. You can somehow tell when a room is being eavesdropped and you can be in touch with Hummin in some way that does not involve instrumentation.”
Dors said, “And what do you think of all that?”
“It has occurred to me that Hummin, in his persona as R. Daneel Olivaw, has an impossible task. How can one robot try to guide the Empire? He must have helpers.”
“That is obvious. Millions, I should imagine. I am a helper. You are a helper. Little Raych is a helper.”
“You are a different kind of helper.”
“In what way? Hari, say it. If you hear yourself say it, you will realize how crazy it is.”
Seldon looked long at her and then said in a low voice, “I will not say it because . . . I don’t care. “
“You really don’t? You wish to take me as I am?”
“I will take you as I must. You are Dors and, whatever else you are, in all the world I want nothing else.”
Dors said softly, “Hari, I want what is good for you because of what I am, but I feel that if I wasn’t what I am, I would still want what is good for you. And I don’t think I am good for you.”
“Good for me or bad, I don’t care.” Here Hari looked down as he paced a few steps, weighing what he would say next. “Dors, have you ever been kissed?”
“Of course, Hari. It’s a social part of life and I live socially.”
“No no! I mean, have you ever really kissed a man? You know, passionately?”
“Well yes, Hari, I have.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
Dors hesitated. She said, “When I’ve kissed in that way, I enjoyed it more than I would have enjoyed disappointing a young man I liked, someone whose friendship meant something to me.” At this point, Dors blushed and she turned her face away. “Please, Hari, this is difficult for me to explain.”
But Hari, more determined now than ever, pressed further. “So you kissed for the wrong reasons, then, to avoid hurt feelings.”
“Perhaps everyone does, in a sense.”
Seldon mulled this over, then said suddenly, “Did you ever ask to be kissed?”
Dors paused, as though looking back on her life. “No.”
“Or wish to be kissed again, once you had?”
“Have you ever slept with a man?” he asked softly, desperately.
“Of course. I told you. These things are a part of life.”
Hari gripped her shoulders as if he was going to shake her. “But have you ever felt the desire, a need for that kind of closeness with just one special person? Dors, have you ever felt love.”
Dors looked up slowly, almost sadly, and locked eyes with Seldon. “I’m sorry, Hari, but no.”
Seldon released her, letting his arms fall dejectedly to his sides.
Then Dors placed her hand gently on his arm and said, “So you see, Hari. I’m not really what you want.”
Seldon’s head drooped and he stared at the floor. He weighed the matter and tried to think rationally. Then he gave up. He wanted what he wanted and he wanted it beyond thought and beyond rationality.
He looked up. “Dors, dear, even so, I don’t care.”
Seldon put his arms around her and brought his head close to hers slowly, as though waiting for her to pull away, all the while drawing her nearer.
Dors made no move and he kissed her-slowly, lingeringly, and then passionately--and her arms suddenly tightened around him.
When he stopped at last, she looked at him with eyes that mirrored her smile and she said:
“Kiss me again, Hari, -Please.”
-- End --