Saturday, October 27, 2007

The Worthing Saga

The Day of Pain

In many places in the Peopled Worlds, the pain came suddenly in the midst of the day’s labor. It was as if an ancient and comfortable presence left them, one that they had never noticed until it was gone, and no one knew what to make of it at first, though all knew at once that something had changed deep at the heart of the world. No one saw the brief flare in the star named Argos; it would be years before astronomers would connect the Day of Pain with the End of Worthing. And by then the change was done, the worlds were broken, and the golden age was over.
In Lared’s village, the change came while they slept. That night there were no shepherds in their dreams. Lared’s little sister, Sala, awoke screaming in terror that Grandma was dead, Grandma is dead!
Lared sat up in his truckle bed, trying to dispel his own dreams, for in them he had seen his father carry Grandma to the gave—but that had been long ago, hadn’t it? Father stumbled from the wooden bedstead where he and Mother slept. Not since Sala had been weaned had anyone cried out in the night. Was she hungry?
“Grandma died tonight, like a fly in the fire she died!”
Like a squirrel in the fox’s teeth, thought Lared. Like a lizard in the cat’s mouth, trembling.
“Of course she’s dead,” Father said, “but not tonight.” He took her in his vast blacksmith’s arms and held her. “Why do you weep now, when Grandma has been dead for such a long time?” But Sala wept on, as if the grief were great and new.
Then Lared looked at Grandma’s old bed.“Father,” he whispered. Again, “Father.” For there lay her corpse, still new, still stiffening, though Lared so clearly remembered her burial long ago.
Father laid Sala back in her truckle bed, where she burrowed down against the woven straw side, in order not to watch. Lared watched, though, as his father touched the straw tick beside his old mother’s body. “Not cold yet,” he murmured. Then he cried out in fear and agony, “Mother!” Which woke all the sleepers, even the travelers in the room upstairs; they all came into the sleeping room.
“Do you see it!” cried Father. “Dead a year, at least, and here’s her body not yet cold in her own bed!”
“Dead a year!” cried the old clerk, who had arrived late in the afternoon yesterday, on a donkey. “Nonsense! She served the soup last night. Don’t you remember how she joked with me that if my bed was too cold, your wife would come up and warm it, and if it was too warm, she would sleep with me?”
Lared tried to sort out his memories. “I remember that, but I remember that she said that long, long ago, and yet I remember she said it to you, and I never saw you before last night.”
“I buried you!” Father cried, and then he knelt at Grandma’s bed and wept. “I buried you, and forgot you, and here you are to grieve me!”
Weeping. It was an unaccustomed sound in the village of Flat Harbor, and no one knew what to do about it. Only hungry infants made such cries, and so Mother said, “Elmo, will you eat something? Let me fetch you something to eat.”
“No!” shouted Elmo. “Don’t you see my mother’s dead?” And he caught his wife by the arm and flung her roughly away. She fell over the stool and struck her head against the table.
This was worse than the corpse lying in the bed, stiff as a dried-out bird. For never in Lared’s life had he seen one human being do harm to another. Father too was aghast at his own temper. “Thano, Thanalo, what have I done?” He scarcely knew how to comfort her as she lay weeping softly on the floor. No one had needed comfort in all their lives. To all the others, Father said, “I was so angry. I have never been so angry before, and yet what did she do? I’ve never felt such a rage, and yet she did me no harm!”
Who could answer him? Something was bitterly wrong with the world, they could see that; they had all felt anger in the past, but till now something had always come between the thought and the act, and calmed them. Now, tonight, that calm was gone. They could feel it in themselves, nothing soothing their fear, nothing telling them worldlessly, All is well.
Sala raised her head above the edge of her bed and said, “The angels are gone, Mama. No one watches us anymore.”
Mother got up from the floor and stumbled over her daughter. “Don’t be foolish, child. There are no angels, except in dreams.”
There is a lie in my mind, Lared said to himself. The traveler came last night, and Grandma spoke to him just as he said, and yet my memory is twisted, for I remember the traveler speaking yesterday, but Grandma answering long ago. Something has bent my memories, for I remember grieving at her graveside, and yet her grave has not been dug.
Mother looked up at Father in awe. “My elbow still hurts, where it struck the floor,” she said. “It still hurts very much.”
A hurt that lasted! Who had heard of such a thing! And when she lifted her arm, there was a raw and bleeding scrape on it.
“Have I killed you?” asked Father, wonderingly.
“No,” said Mother. “I don’t think so.”
“Then why does it bleed?”
The old clerk trembled and nodded and his voice quivered as he spoke. “I have read the books of ancient times,” he began, and all eyes turned to him. “I have read the books of ancient times, and in them the old ones spoke of wounds that bleed like slaughtered cattle, and great griefs when the living suddenly are dead, and anger that turns to blows among people. But that was long, long ago, when men were still animals, and God was young and inexperienced.”
“What does this mean, then?” asked Father. He was not a bookish man, and so even more than Lared he thought that men who knew books had answers.
“I don’t know,” said the clerk. “But perhaps it means that God has gone away, or that he no longer cares for us.”
Lared studied the corpse of Grandma, lying on her bed. “Or is he dead?” Lared asked.
“How can God die?” the old clerk asked with withering scorn. “He had all the power in the universe.”
“Then doesn’t he have the power to die if he wants to?”
“Why should I speak with children of things like this?” The clerk got up to go upstairs, and the other travelers took that as a signal to return to bed.
But Father did not go to bed: he knelt by his old mother’s body until daybreak. And Lared also did not sleep, because he was trying to remember what he had felt inside himself yesterday that he did not feel now, for something was strange in the way his own eyes looked out upon the world, and yet he could not remember how it was before. Only Sala and Mother slept, and they slept together in Mother’s and Father’s bed.
Before dawn, Lared got up and walked over to his mother, and saw that a scab had formed on her arm, and the bleeding had stopped. Comforted, he dressed himself and went out to milk the ewe, which was near the end of its milk. Every bit of milk was needed for the cheese press and the butter churn—winter was coming, and this morning, as the cold breeze whipped at Lared’s hair, this morning he looked to winter with dread. Until today he had always looked at the future like a cow looking at the pasture, never imagining drought or snow. Now it was possible for old women to be found dead in their beds. Now it was possible for Father to be angry and knock Mother to the floor. Now it was possible for Mother to bleed like an animal. And so winter was more than just a season of inactivity. It was the end of hope.
The ewe perked up at something, a sound perhaps that Lared was too human to hear. He stopped milking and looked up, and saw in the western sky a great light, which hovered in the air like a star that had lost its bearings and needed help to get back home. Then the light sank down below the level of the trees across the river, and it was gone. Lared did not know at first what it might be. Then he remembered the word starship from school and wondered. Starships did not come to Flat Harbor, or even to this continent, or even, more than once a decade, to this world. There was nothing here to carry away to somewhere else, nothing lacking here that only other worlds could possibly supply. Why, then, would a starship come here now? Don’t be a fool, Lared, he told himself. It was a shooting star, but on this strange morning you made too much of it, because you are afraid.
At dawn, Flat Harbor came awake, and others gradually made the discovery that had come to Lared’s family in the night. They came, as they always did in cold weather, to Elmo’s house, with its great table and indoor kitchen. They were not surprised to find that Elmo had not yet built up the fire in his forge.
“I scalded myself on the gruel this morning,” said Dinno, Mother’s closest friend. She held up the smoothed skin of her fingers for admiration. “Hurts like it was still in the fire. Good God,” she said.
Mother had her own wounds, but she chose not to tell that tale. “When that old clerk went to leave this morning, his donkey kicked him square in the belly, and now he’s upstairs. Too much hurt to travel, he says. Threw up his breakfast.”
There were a score of minor, careless injuries, and by noon most people were walking more carefully, carrying out their tasks more slowly. Not a one of them but had some injury. Omber, one of the diggers of Grandma’s grave, crushed his foot with a pick, and it bled for a long, long time; now, white and weak and barely alive, he lay drawing scant breath in one of Mother’s guest beds. And Father, death on his mind, would not even take the hammer in his hand on the Day of Pain, “For fear I’ll strike fire into my eye, or break my hand. God doesn’t took out for us anymore.”
They laid Grandma into the ground at noon, and all day Lared and Sala were busy helping Mother with the work that Grandma used to do. Her place at table was so empty. Many a sentence began, “Grandma,” And Father always looked away as if searching for something hidden deep in the walls. Try as they might, no one could think of a time before this when grief had been anything but a dim and wistful memory; never had the loss of a loved one come so suddenly, with the gap in their lives so plain, with the soil on the grave so black and rich, fresh as the first-turned fold of earth in the spring plowing.
Late in the afternoon, Omber, died, the last blood of his body seeping into the rough bandage. He lay beside the wide-eyed clerk, who still vomited everything he swallowed and cried out in pain when he tried to sit. Never in their lives had they seen a man die still in his strength and prime, and just from a careless blow of a pick.
They were still digging the new grave for Omber when Bran’s daughter, Clany, fell into the fire and lay screaming for three hours before she died. No one could even speak when they laid her into the third grave of the day. For a village of scant three hundred souls, the death of three on the same day would have been calamitous; the death of a strong man and a young child, that undid them all.
At nightfall there were no new travelers—they always became rarer as the cold weather came. It was the only good thing about the night, however, the fact that there were no new guests to care for. The world had changed, had become a harsh place, all in a single day. As Sala got into her bed, she asked, “Will I die tonight, like Grandma?”
“No,” said Father, but Lared heard in his voice that he wasn’t sure. “No, Sala, my Sarela, you will not die tonight.” But he pulled her truckle bed father from the fire, and put another blanket over her.
Lared did not need to be told, once he had seen. He also moved his truckle bed from his place near the fire. He had heard the sound of Clany’s screams. The whole village had heard them—there was no shutting them out. He had never been terrified of flames before, but he was now. Let the cold come—better that than the pain. Better anything than this new and terrible pain.
Lared fell asleep nursing the bruise on his knee where he had carelessly bashed the woodbox. He awoke three times in the night. Once because Father was weeping softly in his bed; when Elmo saw that Lared was awake, he got up and kissed him and held him and said, “Sleep, Lareled, sleep, all’s well, all’s well.” It was a lie, but Lared slept again.
The second time he awoke because Sala had another nightmare, again about Grandma’s death. It was Mother who comforted her, singing a song whose sadness Lared had never understood before.

Saw my love at river’s side
Across the stream.
The stream was wide.

Heard my love say come to him
Across the stream.
I could not swim.

Got myself a little boat
But the day was cold.
I had no coat.

Got a coat and put it on
But it was night.
Now wait till dawn.

Sun came up and night was over
I saw my love.
I saw his lover.

Lared did not know what else Mother might have sung. He was lost in the dream that wakened him the third and last time that night.
He sat beside the Endwater in spring flood, with the rafts coming down, the lumbermen poling them a safe distance from each other. Then, suddenly, there was a fire in the sky, and it fell down toward the river. Lared knew that he must stop the fire, must shout for it to stop, but though he opened his mouth he could not speak, and so the fire came on. It fell into the river, and all the rafts were burned at once, and the men on the rafts screamed with Clany’s voice, and burned, and fell into the river, and drowned, and all because Lared did not know what to say to stop the fire.
Lared woke trembling, filled with guilt at his failure to save anyone, wondering why it was his fault. He heard a moaning sound upstairs. His parents were asleep. Lared did not wake them, but climbed the stairs himself. The old clerk lay on the bed. There was blood on his face, blood on the sheet.
“I’m dying,” he whispered, when he saw Lared by the moonlight through the window.
Lared nodded.
“Can you read, boy?”
Again he nodded. This village was not so backward that the children had no school in the winter, and Lared read as well as any adult in the village, even when he was ten years old. Now he was fourteen, and beginning to get a man’s strength on him, and still he loved to read, and studied whatever letters he could find.
“Then take the Book of the Finding of the Stars. It is yours. It is all yours.”
“Why me?” whispered Lared. Perhaps the old clerks had seen him eyeing his books last night. Perhaps he had heard him recite the Eyes of Endwater to Sala and her friends after supper. But the clerk was silent, though he was not yet dead. Whatever his reason, he meant Lared to have his book. A book that is my own. And a book about finding stars, on the day after the Day of Pain, the day after he had seen a star fall into the forest across Endwater. “Thank you, sir,” he said, and he reached to touch the old clerk’s hand.
Lared heard a noise behind him. It was Mother, and her eyes were wide.
”Why would he give his books to you?” she asked.
The clerk moved his lips, but made no sound.
“You’re nothing but a boy,” said Mother. “You’re lazy, and you argue.”
I know that I deserve nothing, said Lared silently.
“He must have family—we’ll send his books to them, if he dies.”
The clerk tortured himself by shaking his head violently. “No,” he whispered. “Give the books to the boy!”
“Don’t die in my house,” said Mother, in anguish. “Not another dead in my house!”
“I’m sorry for the inconvenience,” said the old clerk. Then he died.
“Why did you come up here!” Mother whispered fiercely to Lared. “Now see what you’ve done.”
“I only came because he was crying out in his—”
“Coming to get his books, and him on the edge of death.”
Lared wanted to argue, to defend himself, but even his own dream had blamed him, hadn’t it? Her eyes looked like a ewe’s eyes, when the pain of birth was on her, and he dared not stay or quarrel. “I have to milk the ewes,” he said, and ran down the stairs and out the door.
The night had turned bitterly cold, and the frost was thick on the grass. The ewes were ready for the milking, but Lared was not. His fingers quickly became too cold, despite the warmth of the animals.
No, it was not the cold that made his hands tremble clumsily. It was the books that waited for him in the old clerk’s room. It was the three new graves heaped up in the moonlight, where soon a fourth would rise.
It was, above all, the man and woman who walked across the river, angling their steps to combat the current. The river was ten feet deep from bank to bank, but they walked as if the water were hard-packed dirt, whose only oddity was that it slid away underfoot as they walked. Lared thought of hiding, so they would not see him; but instead, without deciding, he stood from his stool by the ewe, set the milk bucket up high where it could not be kicked over, and walked out across the cemetery to meet them.
They were on the riverbank before he reached them, looking at the new graves. There was sorrow in their eyes. The man was white-haired, but his body was strong, and his face was kind and sure. The woman was much younger, younger than Mother, yet her face looked harsh and angry, even in repose. There was no sign that either of them had been in the water—even their footprints on the riverbank were dry. And when they turned and looked at him, he could see even in the moonlight that their eyes were blue. He had never seen eyes so blue that even without sunlight their color was brightly visible.
“Who are you?” he asked
The man answered in a language that Lared didn’t understand, The woman shook her head, said nothing: yet Lared felt a sudden desire to tell them his name.
“Lared,” he said.
“Lared,” she answered. His name sounded strangely twisted on her tongue. He felt a sudden urgency not to tell anyone that he had seen them walk on Endwater.
“I’ll never tell,” he said.
The woman nodded. Then he knew, though he still did not know how he knew that he should take them home.
But he was afraid of these strangers. “You won’t hurt my family will you?”
Tears came to the man’s eyes, and the hard-faced woman did not look him in the face. The thought came into Lared’s mind: “We have already hurt you more than we can bear.”
And now he understood—or thought he understood—his dream, and the falling star on the Day of Pain, and the Day itself. “Have you come to take away the pain again?”
The man shook his head.
The hope and been brief, but the disappointment was no less deep because of that. “If you can’t do that,” he said “then what good are you to us?” Still, he was an innkeeper’s son, and so he led them carefully through the cemetery, past the sheepsheds, and into the house, where Mother already had the water boiling for the morning gruel.

Copyright © 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1989, 1990 by Orson Scoot Card

Excerpted from

The Worthing Saga

by Orson Scott Card
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Saturday, October 20, 2007



If I had known what Mayflower held for me, I might have stayed in New Hampshire. Even if I had been dragged screaming from our clapboard house, I could have hidden myself before we ever got on the space shuttle. Carol Jeanne would have searched, of course, and for a long time. But she would never have found me, and, as much as she would have mourned my loss, eventually she would have left without me. There was a new world waiting for her—to observe it, understand it, and transform it. The playground of her dreams. What was love compared to that?
I had already lost her; I should have known. Who can compete with a new planet for a gaiologist’s heart? But at the time I was too naive to understand anything that mattered. In those days my devotion to Carol Jeanne was so strong that even if I had known what would happen on the Ark, the terrible things I would do, the frightening course my life would take, I still would have gone with her, gladly. It didn’t occur to me that I could live for a single day without her. What would a little murder have mattered to me then? I was besotted.
From the moment Carol Jeanne received her invitation, there was no doubt that she would accept it. I also welcomed the move to the village of Mayflower on the interstellar Ark. A great adventure; she was so happy I couldn’t help but be delighted myself. And there was a personal benefit: the artificial atmosphere of the Ark would be warmer and brighter than New England’s.
Because I was Carol Jeanne’s witness, she and I were so close that the two of us were almost one individual. On themorning we left she awoke me first, before she got her own husband out of bed.
“Lovelock,” she whispered, leaning over my pillow. “Are you awake? It’s time.”
I was instantly alert, but I lay in bed with my eyes closed, knowing she would put her hand on my forehead to awaken me. Her touch was so gentle.
“Lovelock! I know you’re awake. I can feel you trembling.”
I couldn’t help that; my body always gives me away.
I raised my hand and squeezed her finger, the way I always greeted her in the mornings. When I opened my eyes, she was smiling.
“That’s better, you wretched little slug. We’ll be leaving soon. Make yourself some breakfast; I’ll get everyone else out of bed.”
I lay in bed for a moment or two, as Carol Jeanne went to awaken Red. It was a thankless task, because Red was a heavy sleeper, lethargic and snappish in the mornings, thinking only of himself. Usually Carol Jeanne let him awaken himself after we had gone to work. In his own sweet time, he’d rouse himself and then make breakfast for Lydia and Emmy. At the end of each day, when we saw him after work, he had transformed himself into the perfect husband and father. I always suspected that Red’s real personality was the early morning one, when his guard was down and he was nasty and irritable. But even if the nice evening self was a fake, I still gave him points for trying.
I heard Carol Jeanne awaken him in the next room, but not as tenderly as she had awakened me moments before. She knew the difference between us. Red grunted a reply and stumbled toward the bathroom. Sounded like a morning I should stay away from him for at least an hour. I went to the kitchen and tore open three bananas for breakfast.
When I returned to the sleeping area, both the girls were awake. Emmy, like all human babies, was completely useless and incompetent, even now that she was old enough to walk. She was wet, but instead of taking her soggy diaper off, she just stood there crying, doing nothing to help, nothing even to cooperate as Carol Jeanne struggled to get her into fresh clothes. Humans are born so stupid; but that’s the script their DNA has prepared for them, so I didn’t blame Emmy. In fact, as a cool, dispassionate observer, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the difficulty was caused by Carol Jeanne’s incompetence at dressing her own child. As much as I loved Carol Jeanne, I had to admit that Red was a better mother than she was. Red could have soothed Emmy in a moment, and in the meantime he could flip clothes onto a child as fast as he dealt cards; Carol Jeanne, on the other hand, made everything twice as hard as it needed to be, and every sound that Emmy made only exasperated her more.
I may be a witness, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not allowed to help. I distracted Emmy from the task at hand, entertaining her with meaningless chatter and funny faces. Almost at once the little girl forgot her discomfort. “You are my hero, Lovelock,” said Carol Jeanne. If only she had really believed her own words.
The older daughter, Lydia, wasn’t as easy to pacify. “Lovelock’s watching me get dressed,” she complained when I turned my attention to her. “He keeps staring at me. Tell him not to look at me.”
“Tell him yourself, Lydia. He isn’t staring. He’s only being friendly.”
I didn’t understand this human obsession with privacy and modesty. What—did Lydia, in her little prepubescent brain, suppose that I had some interspecies hankering for her neotenous, immature body? I knew where I wasn’t wanted. Turning my back on Lydia, I reached for Emmy. She held out her arms for me. I clambered into her clumsy embrace and held my breath as she hugged me with dangerous enthusiasm. The real benefit of this was that it always made Lydia crazy with jealousy when I let Emmy hug me.
“I want a hug, too,” she wailed.
“Please don’t get them competing with each other, Lovelock,” Carol Jeanne said. “Not today.”
I scrambled out of Emmy’s hug and climbed over Carol Jeanne to get to Lydia, who was reaching for me with a look of coy triumph on her face. Poor child—she thought she was the one manipulating me. Once enfolded in her false little embrace, I permitted myself an audible sigh. Carol Jeanne was usually oblivious to how much I endured for her sake, but I still tried to help her notice. Already I had heard Red grumble, Emmy cry, and Lydia whine—and Red’s parents weren’t even awake yet. Not for the first time, I wished that Carol Jeanne and I were going to the Ark without the rest of her family. If I could have thought of a way to do it, I would have.
As Carol Jeanne clumsily took care of the girls—setting them at the table, where they splashingly ate their cold cereal—I settled myself in a corner to do my job: recording how Carol Jeanne spent her last morning on Earth. I thought it was appropriate to see that she dressed herself only after her children were dressed and ready to go, ate only after her children had eaten. The leading scientist of her time, and still she placed her children before the weighty concerns of her work. Thus did the greatest of all gaiologists humbly act out her natural role within the species. She had said it herself, once: Gaiologists must always recognize that they are part of the living organism, never an outside observer, and never, not for a moment, impartial or unbiased about anything. To help her make her point, I never recorded Red doing these family chores, even though he was the one who usually did them. Why should I have? He had his own witness, didn’t he?
Even though the children hardly understood what the Ark would mean, they had caught on that something exciting was happening, which made them jumpy and quick to whine—not my favorite trait in human children—but the adults were no less jumpy in their own way. They were grieving in silent, unconscious ways—grieving for the place, for the house in New Hampshire, for all the possessions they were leaving behind. Fortunately I lack the genes for that sense of bonding with inanimate objects. I’m as territorial as the next primate, but when I change territories I don’t get sentimental about the one I abandoned. I can pick up tools and use them, I can make almost any place into a nest, but I never think of it as being part of myself. Therefore I am freer than they are.
Certainly I didn’t have to stand around looking at things the way Red did, as if he were trying to preserve their images in his pathetically limited memory. What did he think his witness was for? And when Red’s father, old Stef, came out of his bedroom, still zipping his fly (was this an old man’s way of reminding us of his manliness?), he was already babbling on about memories of the house. Fortunately, he didn’t expect me to answer him and therefore I didn’t have to listen.
The most obnoxious mourner was, of course, Mamie, the she-human who gave birth to Red. At least Stef’s chatter showed that he had mastered the rudiments of speech. Mamie went around touching everything, caressing it, as if she thought that by stroking the pewter tea set on the dining room buffet she could wake it up and entice it to tag along with us. Touching, grooming—that’s a primate behavior that I indulge in. But I’d never groom a metal pitcher.
What annoyed me most about Mamie’s touching things—besides the fact that everything she did annoyed me—was that the things she was touching so possessively weren’t hers. Somehow she had managed to extend her sense of territoriality to include things that belonged to Carol Jeanne, or to Red and Carol Jeanne together. It betrayed the way she really felt about this house: In her own mind, she was no guest, but rather the secret owner of it all.
Including the people. She thought she owned them, too. I had once tried to explain this to Carol Jeanne, but she refused to listen. I think she knew that I was right, but she simply didn’t want to be disloyal to Red by listening to somebody saying bad things about Red’s dear mother. Thus, out of love, do humans force themselves to love even the barnacles and parasites that attach themselves to their beloved. We lower primates have a more sensible approach: We pick the parasites off and eat them. Our loved ones are relieved of the annoying little bloodsuckers, and we get a little boost in our dietary animal protein.
“I wish I could have taken this,” sighed Mamie. She was caressing the sofa in the living room. Only six months ago she had complained about how uncomfortable it was—the opening move in the game of getting Red to buy another one just to please her. Another test of her little boy’s love. Now, of course, the sofa was precious. “The thousand-pound limit seems so meager,” she said. “Poundage should be allotted by a person’s age. Young people just haven’t put down so many roots.”
Tentacles, I think she meant.
I waited for someone to point out that Mamie was already taking much more than her thousand pounds. She had appropriated most of Stef’s and Lydia’s and Emmy’s poundage—and a little bit of my pathetic fifty-pound allotment, too. She was taking all the weight allotted to Red’s witness, Pink the pig. I imagined that most people who went off-Earth didn’t leave with as many possessions as Mamie was taking. Actually, most people on Earth didn’t have as many possessions as she was taking.
But no one corrected Mamie; no one put her in her place. Red apparently thought his mother was perfect, Stef had been hammered into submissiveness many decades ago—probably within the first month of their marriage—and Carol Jeanne just didn’t like confrontation. So everyone treated Mamie respectfully as she drifted from room to room, leaving oily fingerprints and sickly-sweet perfume on everything. Carol Jeanne wouldn’t have appreciated it if I compared Mamie to a dog marking its territory, so I kept that observation to myself. Besides, the comparison wasn’t really fair. Among dogs it’s not the bitches that do the marking.
With all her mourning over things she hadn’t owned anyway, Mamie wasn’t leaving behind anything that couldn’t be replaced. Carol Jeanne, on the other hand, was leaving her sister Irene, who was an irreplaceable resource. Even I could understand her feelings of desolation; in those days, I would have preferred a death sentence to separation from Carol Jeanne.
Of course no one but me even guessed at her feelings. What did Red know about siblings? He had never had one. As for Stef, well, I had a secret suspicion that he regarded all relatives as something to be endured when they were present, not missed when they were gone. Mamie was taking with her all the people that she owned, or at least controlled. Only Carol Jeanne had a real reason for deep grief and regret—and only Carol Jeanne had enough self-control not to display her feelings the way the others did.
At last breakfast was over. The small carry-on bags were packed, mostly with spare clothes and toys for Emmy and Lydia, or the banana chips Carol Jeanne always carried to feed me when fresh fruit or monkey chow wasn’t available. The real luggage had already been shipped ahead to be weighed and examined. So when the time came, the departure was surprisingly quick. A last look at the house, and then everyone clambered into the boxy-but-comfortable Nintendo Hoverboy, the driver revved the engine, and we bounced into the air and were gone. I thought of the months of winter remaining in New England and was glad to get away, but of course Carol Jeanne and Red held hands and both of them got misty-eyed. Seeing that, Mamie began to sniffle and quickly pulled Red’s attention away from his wife. I imagined poking my finger into Mamie’s eye; then she’d have something to cry about. I glanced at Stef and saw a faint smile on his lips. I wondered if he had the same fantasy. His was probably more elaborate. He had lived with her longer.
The trip to Boston was nothing special, scooting over the same roads that Carol Jeanne and I used to get to the university. The road surface was clear of snow—the constant hover traffic blew the snow off as fast as it ever fell. Instead, the snow was piled so high on either side that only the tops of the trees were visible. It was like driving through a tunnel.
Inside the craft, the scenery was much more interesting. Lydia kept asking if we were almost there. Emmy, ever the one to find a physical metaphor for her feelings, soon got carsick and vomited on the floor, raising an interesting smell and soiling Mamie’s shoes. I wondered if Emmy’s aim had been deliberate. If so, she might grow up to be worth keeping. Mamie pouted for the rest of the trip.
* * *
When we got to the airport, I considered it my duty to find Irene. So I stood on Carol Jeanne’s shoulder and scanned for Irene’s powder-blue habit; she was never hard to find. When I spotted her, sitting in a patch of warm sunlight near the windows, I hooted softly a couple of times and pointed.
“There she is,” said Carol Jeanne. “Lovelock found her.” As if any one of the others understood how much it meant to her to see Irene this last time.
With me sitting on her shoulder, of course, Carol Jeanne was as easy to spot from a distance as Irene was in her habit. We hadn’t gone two steps toward her when Irene stood and raised her arm in salute. At that, Carol Jeanne lost all restraint and ran toward her. I knew enough to climb down from her shoulder and cling to her back, out of the way. Out of sight. Carol Jeanne and Irene would be more free with each other if I was invisible. But I could see and hear them, for this was one of those moments I was there to preserve.
A big, showy embrace—and then the two of them were suddenly shy. Neither knew how to say farewell. Neither was willing to be the first to cry.
“Come with me,” Carol Jeanne said. “We can find you a place.” I knew that she did not expect Irene to change her mind. It was her oblique way of begging Irene to forgive her for leaving.
Irene only shook her head.
“I know your covenant is for a lifetime,” said Carol Jeanne, “but don’t you think you can serve God out there, too? Don’t you think people will need you there?” And then, her voice breaking a little, she added the words that were hardest to say. “Don’t you think I’ll need you?”
Irene smiled wanly. “I’m going to live the years that God gives me, in the place where he put me.”
I could see that Carol Jeanne took that hard, as if it were a criticism of the colonization voyage itself. I knew Irene well enough to understand that she didn’t mean it that way, but that was how Carol Jeanne heard it because of her own sense of guilt about leaving her sister. “If God created a universe where relativity works,” said Carol Jeanne, “you can hardly blame us for traveling to the places God put within our reach.”
Irene shook her head. “I know you’re doing what you were born to do, Jeannie. Just because I can’t bring myself to leave doesn’t mean that when I’m old, I won’t be glad to think of you out there somewhere, still young and happy and looking forward to your life’s work. Maybe God meant you to stretch time and travel to the stars and live for centuries after I’m dead. Maybe I just don’t want to put off my climb up Jacob’s ladder.” She made a try at laughing, but it was a feeble chuckle that fooled no one. And because Irene had actually mentioned death, Carol Jeanne finally lost her composure—not completely, but enough that tears started to flow.
Irene raised her arm and put her left hand on Carol Jeanne’s shoulder. The flowing sleeve of her habit looked like an angel’s wing. This was the last time the two sisters would touch each other, or see each other, or hear one another speak.
“After all, Jesus himself chose not to cheat death,” Irene added.
Irene had meant this innocently—hadn’t she tied her life to Jesus?—but again, Carol Jeanne interpreted her words as criticism. “We aren’t cheating death, Irene.” Her voice sounded hesitant and unconvincing. “My life will be no longer than yours. It will only seem longer to me because you could have gone with me and you didn’t.”
Irene looked away for a long moment. When she faced Carol Jeanne, there were tears on her face, too.
“Don’t you think I want to stay with you?” she asked. “You’re the only people I love—you and Lydia and Emmy. Even Lovelock—in a way, he’s family, too.”
That was nice.
“But my work is here. And as crazy as it sounds, I feel as if God is here. Even though I know that he’ll be with you too, I wouldn’t know how to find him out there. I can’t leave God, not even for you.”
Carol Jeanne answered quietly. “It was unfair of me to ask.”
“But I’m glad you did,” said Irene. “It will comfort me when I’m lonely for you, knowing how much you wanted me with you.”
They embraced, so suddenly that I couldn’t get my tail out of the way. In a way, then, Irene’s arm included me in the hug. I looked at her face—only inches away from mine, now—to see if she noticed me. She did: She opened her eyes, and despite her tears managed to wink at me and smile a little.
I put my hands on her cheeks and gave her a wide-mouthed kiss on the lips. She kissed me back, squeezing her own lips together as though she were kissing a small child. Then she lifted her arm enough that I could pull my tail out of the embrace.
Carol Jeanne must have taken that release of pressure as a sign that the embrace was over; she started to pull away. But I could not let that happen, not so soon. I scrambled to their shoulders and held them together, my hands firm on their shoulders. They laughed at me as they renewed the embrace, but I knew how soon their trembling turned from laughter to silent weeping.
I held them together there until I could see Mamie bustling over, no doubt to “cheer them up.” I knew Carol Jeanne would not want to be caught so emotionally exposed, so I chattered softly. She took the cue—probably without even realizing I had given it—and pulled back, drying her eyes on her sleeve. Irene, of course, had a hand-kerchief. She was prepared for emotion; Carol Jeanne was always taken by surprise.
Then I turned around on Carol Jeanne’s shoulder and glared at Mamie. She looked at my bared teeth and for a moment seemed to catch on to the idea that her intrusion might not be welcome. At least she paused in her headlong rush.
Oblivious to Mamie, Carol Jeanne spoke again to Irene. “I guess I can’t expect you to write.”
“I can, the whole time you’re in solar orbit. And I’ll pray for you, too, all my life. Of course, a few weeks into your real journey, I’ll be dead of old age. Then you’ll be on your own.”
“On the contrary. Then you’ll watch over me. Then I’ll know you’re taking care of me, protecting me.”
“It’s the saints who get to do that,” Irene said. “But wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could? I’d watch over you, and Lydia, and Emmy, and even Lovelock, until you joined me in heaven.”
I chattered at that—the particular sound that I knew they interpreted as laughter.
“God knows you,” Irene said to me. “Don’t you doubt it.”
I had my own ideas about what God, if he existed, must think of me. If he had wanted creatures like me to exist, he would have arranged for it himself. There was no one like me when Adam was naming the beasts. If there was anyone like me in the mythical Garden, it was a certain talkative snake.
“Light a candle for me,” Carol Jeanne said.
“I’ll light enough candles for you to keep the church warm in winter.”
Mamie, of course, was suffering greatly, being in the presence of a connection between human beings that she didn’t control. “Oh, you two mustn’t be so sad,” she said. “You can talk to each other for months by phone, until the voyage actually starts.”
They gave no sign that they heard her.
“Good-bye,” said Irene. “God bless you.”
“I love you.” Carol Jeanne barely whispered the words, but I knew that Irene felt them, even if she didn’t hear them.
By now, Stef and Red had brought the girls along, and Mamie seized the opportunity. “Your pretty little nieces want to say bye-bye to Auntie Irene,” she said. “You mustn’t make them sad, now, with all these silly tears.”
Only then did Carol Jeanne and Irene pay attention to the rest of the family. Irene hugged Lydia and Emmy as Mamie thrust each of them toward her; despite Mamie’s orchestration of the scene, Irene’s love for the girls was real, and they had always adored this strange creature who had no children to love but them. Irene’s embrace of Red was more clumsy, but only because he felt so awkward hugging a nun; she genuinely liked Red, and he liked her, too. Then she shook hands with Mamie and Stef.
“You’re such a dear thing,” said Mamie. “We’ll all miss your little visits so much.”
Stef said nothing, but nodded to Irene as he shook her hand, as if to say that he understood her grief and approved of the strength of her commitment, even if he didn’t share her faith.
Irene turned again to Carol Jeanne. But, having said their goodbyes, neither said another word to the other. They only embraced once more and silently broke apart. Irene raised her fingers in farewell as the rest of us moved away from her and headed for the tram that would take us out to the spacehopper on its extra-long runway.
Carol Jeanne stoically refused to look back, but that’s what I was for. I sat on her shoulder, my hand in her hair, and watched Irene every moment until she was out of sight. I knew that in a few weeks or months, Carol Jeanne would ask for the memory. I would have long since stored the scene on the Ark’s master computer, exactly as I saw it; she would play it out on the holographic display of her terminal, zooming in for a close-up of her sister’s face. Then she would see what I had seen: Irene smiling, waving, then bringing her hand to cover her eyes as she wept.

Copyright © 1994 by Orson Scott Card and Kathryn H. Kidd

Excerpted from


by Orson Scott Card, Kathryn H. Kidd
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Forward the Foundation

"I tell you again, Hari," said Yugo Amaryl, "that your friend Demerzel is in deep trouble." He emphasized the word "friend" very lightly and with an unmistakable air of distaste.

Hari Seldon detected the sour note and ignored it. He looked up from his tricomputer and said, "I tell you again, Yugo, that that's nonsense." And then--with a trace of annoyance, just a trace--he added, "Why are you taking up my time by insisting?"

"Because I think it's important." Amaryl sat down defiantly. It was a gesture that indicated he was not going to be moved easily. Here he was and here he would stay.

Eight years before, he had been a heatsinker in the Dahl Sector--as low on the social scale as it was possible to be. He had been lifted out of that position by Seldon, made into a mathematician and an intellectual--more than that, into a psychohistorian.

Never for one minute did he forget what he had been and who he was now and to whom he owed the change. That meant that if he had to speak harshly to Hari Seldon--for Seldon's own good--no consideration of respect and love for the older man and no regard for his own career would stop him. He owed such harshness--and much more--to Seldon.

"Look, Hari," he said, chopping at the air with his left hand, "for some reason that is beyond my understanding, you think highly of this Demerzel, but I don't. No one whose opinion I respect--except you--thinks well of him. I don't care what happens to him personally, Hari, but as long as I think you do, I have no choice but to bring this to your attention."

Seldon smiled, as much atthe other's earnestness as at what he considered to be the uselessness of his concern. He was fond of Yugo Amaryl--more than fond. Yugo was one of the four people he had encountered during that short period of his life when he was in flight across the face of the planet Trantor--Eto Demerzel, Dors Venabili, Yugo Amaryl, and Raych--four, the likes of which he had not found since.

In a particular and, in each case, different way, these four were indispensable to him--Yugo Amaryl, because of his quick understanding of the principles of psychohistory and of his imaginative probings into new areas. It was comforting to know that if anything happened to Seldon himself before the mathematics of the field could be completely worked out--and how slowly it proceeded, and how mountainous the obstacles--there would at least remain one good mind that would continue the research.

He said, "I'm sorry, Yugo. I don't mean to be impatient with you or to reject out of hand whatever it is you are so anxious to make me understand. It's just this job of mine; it's this business of being a department head--"

Amaryl found it his turn to smile and he repressed a slight chuckle. "I'm sorry, Hari, and I shouldn't laugh, but you have no natural aptitude for the position."

"As well I know, but I'll have to learn. I have to seem to be doing something harmless and there is nothing--nothing--more harmless than being the head of the Mathematics Department at Streeling University. I can fill my day with unimportant tasks, so that no one need know or ask about the course of our psychohistorical research, but the trouble is, I do fill my day with unimportant tasks and I have insufficient time to--" His eyes glanced around his office at the material stored in computers to which only he and Amaryl had the key and which, even if anyone else stumbled upon them, had been carefully phrased in an invented symbology that no one else would understand.

Amaryl said, "Once you work your way further into your duties, you'll begin to delegate and then you'll have more time."

"I hope so," said Seldon dubiously. "But tell me, what is it about Eto Demerzel that is so important?"

"Simply that Eto Demerzel, our great Emperor's First Minister, is busily creating an insurrection."

Seldon frowned. "Why would he want to do that?"

"I didn't say he wants to. He's simply doing it--whether he knows it or not--and with considerable help from some of his political enemies. That's all right with me, you understand. I think that, under ideal conditions, it would be a good thing to have him out of the Palace, off Trantor . . . beyond the Empire, for that matter. But you think highly of him, as I've said, and so I'm warning you, because I suspect that you are not following the recent political course of events as closely as you should."

"There are more important things to do," said Seldon mildly.

"Like psychohistory. I agree. But how are we going to develop psychohistory with any hope of success if we remain ignorant of politics? I mean, present-day politics. Now--now--is the time when the present is turning into the future. We can't just study the past. We know what happened in the past. It's against the present and the near future that we can check our results."

"It seems to me," said Seldon, "that I have heard this argument before."

"And you'll hear it again. It doesn't seem to do me any good to explain this to you."

Seldon sighed, sat back in his chair, and regarded Amaryl with a smile. The younger man could be abrasive, but he took psychohistory seriously--and that repaid all.

Amaryl still had the mark of his early years as a heatsinker. He had the broad shoulders and the muscular build of one who had been used to hard physical labor. He had not allowed his body to turn flabby and that was a good thing, for it inspired Seldon to resist the impulse to spend all of his time at the desk as well. He did not have Amaryl's sheer physical strength, but he still had his own talents as a Twister--for all that he had just turned forty and could not keep it up forever. But for now, he would continue. Thanks to his daily workouts, his waist was still trim, his legs and arms firm.

He said, "This concern for Demerzel cannot be purely a matter of his being a friend of mine. You must have some other motive."

"There's no puzzle to that. As long as you're a friend of Demerzel, your position here at the University is secure and you can continue to work on psychohistorical research."

"There you are. So I do have a reason to be friends with him. It isn't beyond your understanding at all."

"You have an interest in cultivating him. That, I understand. But as for friendship--that, I don't understand. However--if Demerzel lost power, quite apart from the effect it might have on your position, then Cleon himself would be running the Empire and the rate of its decline would increase. Anarchy might then be upon us before we have worked out all the implications of psychohistory and made it possible for the science to save all humanity."

"I see. --But, you know, I honestly don't think that we're going to work out psychohistory in time to prevent the Fall of the Empire."

"Even if we could not prevent the Fall, we could cushion the effects, couldn't we?"


"There you are, then. The longer we have to work in peace, the greater the chance we will have to prevent the Fall or, at least, ameliorate the effects. Since that is the case, working backward, it may be necessary to save Demerzel, whether we--or, at least, I--like it or not."

"Yet you just said that you would like to see him out of the Palace and away from Trantor and beyond the Empire."

"Yes, under ideal conditions, I said. But we are not living under ideal conditions and we need our First Minister, even if he is an instrument of repression and despotism."

"I see. But why do you think the Empire is so close to dissolution that the loss of a First Minister will bring it about?"


"Are you using it for predictions? We haven't even gotten the framework in place. What predictions can you make?"

"There's intuition, Hari."

"There's always been intuition. We want something more, don't we? We want a mathematical treatment that will give us probabilities of specific future developments under this condition or that. If intuition suffices to guide us, we don't need psychohistory at all."

"It's not necessarily a matter of one or the other, Hari. I'm talking about both: the combination, which may be better than either--at least until psychohistory is perfected."

"If ever," said Seldon. "But tell me, where does this danger to Demerzel arise? What is it that is likely to harm him or overthrow him? Are we talking about Demerzel's overthrow?"

"Yes," said Amaryl and a grim look settled on his face.

"Then tell me. Have pity on my ignorance."

Amaryl flushed. "You're being condescending, Hari. Surely you've heard of Jo-Jo Joranum."

"Certainly. He's a demagogue-- Wait, where's he from? Nishaya, right? A very unimportant world. Goat herding, I think. High-quality cheeses."

"That's it. Not just a demagogue, however. He commands a strong following and it's getting stronger. He aims, he says, for social justice and greater political involvement by the people."

"Yes," said Seldon. "I've heard that much. His slogan is: 'Government belongs to the people.' "

"Not quite, Hari. He says: 'Government is the people.' "

Seldon nodded. "Well, you know, I rather sympathize with the thought."

"So do I. I'm all for it--if Joranum meant it. But he doesn't, except as a stepping-stone. It's a path, not a goal. He wants to get rid of Demerzel. After that it will be easy to manipulate Cleon. Then Joranum will take the throne himself and he will be the people. You've told me yourself that there have been a number of episodes of this sort in Imperial history--and these days the Empire is weaker and less stable than it used to be. A blow which, in earlier centuries, merely staggered it might now shatter it. The Empire will welter in civil war and never recover and we won't have psychohistory in place to teach us what must be done."

"Yes, I see your point, but surely it's not going to be that easy to get rid of Demerzel."

"You don't know how strong Joranum is growing."

"It doesn't matter how strong he's growing." A shadow of thought seemed to pass over Seldon's brow. "I wonder that his parents came to name him Jo-Jo. There's something juvenile about that name."

"His parents had nothing to do with it. His real name is Laskin, a very common name on Nishaya. He chose Jo-Jo himself, presumably from the first syllable of his last name."

"The more fool he, wouldn't you say?"

"No, I wouldn't. His followers shout it--'Jo . . . Jo . . . Jo . . . Jo'--over and over. It's hypnotic."

"Well," said Seldon, making a move to return to his tricomputer and adjust the multidimensional simulation it had created, "we'll see what happens."

"Can you be that casual about it? I'm telling you the danger is imminent."

"No, it isn't," said Seldon, eyes steely, his voice suddenly hardening. "You don't have all the facts."

"What facts don't I have?"

"We'll discuss that another time, Yugo. For now, continue with your work and let me worry about Demerzel and the state of the Empire."

Amaryl's lips tightened, but the habit of obedience to Seldon was strong. "Yes, Hari."

But not overwhelmingly strong. He turned at the door and said, "You're making a mistake, Hari."

Seldon smiled slightly. "I don't think so, but I have heard your warning and I will not forget. Still, all will be well."

And as Amaryl left, Seldon's smile faded. --Would, indeed, all be well?


But Seldon, while he did not forget Amaryl's warning, did not think of it with any great degree of concentration. His fortieth birthday came and went--with the usual psychological blow.

Forty! He was not young any longer. Life no longer stretched before him as a vast uncharted field, its horizon lost in the distance. He had been on Trantor for eight years and the time had passed quickly. Another eight years and he would be nearly fifty. Old age would be looming.

And he had not even made a decent beginning in psychohistory! Yugo Amaryl spoke brightly of laws and worked out his equations by making daring assumptions based on intuition. But how could one possibly test those assumptions? Psychohistory was not yet an experimental science. The complete study of psychohistory would require experiments that would involve worlds of people, centuries of time--and a total lack of ethical responsibility.

It posed an impossible problem and he resented having to spend any time whatever on departmental tasks, so he walked home at the end of the day in a morose mood.

Ordinarily he could always count on a walk through the campus to rouse his spirits. Streeling University was high-domed and the campus gave the feeling of being out in the open without the necessity of enduring the kind of weather he had experienced on his one (and only) visit to the Imperial Palace. There were trees, lawns, walks, almost as though he were on the campus of his old college on his home world of Helicon.

The illusion of cloudiness had been arranged for the day with the sunlight (no sun, of course, just sunlight) appearing and disappearing at odd intervals. And it was a little cool, just a little.

It seemed to Seldon that the cool days came a little more frequently than they used to. Was Trantor saving energy? Was it increasing inefficiency? Or (and he scowled inwardly as he thought it) was he getting old and was his blood getting thin? He placed his hands in his jacket pockets and hunched up his shoulders.

Usually he did not bother guiding himself consciously. His body knew the way perfectly from his offices to his computer room and from there to his apartment and back. Generally he negotiated the path with his thoughts elsewhere, but today a sound penetrated his consciousness. A sound without meaning.

"Jo . . . Jo . . . Jo . . . Jo . . ."

It was rather soft and distant, but it brought back a memory. Yes, Amaryl's warning. The demagogue. Was he here on campus?

His legs swerved without Seldon's making a conscious decision and brought him over the low rise to the University Field, which was used for calisthenics, sports, and student oratory.

In the middle of the Field was a moderate-sized crowd of students who were chanting enthusiastically. On a platform was someone he didn't recognize, someone with a loud voice and a swaying rhythm.

Excerpted from

Forward the Foundation

by Isaac Asimov
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Prelude to Foundation

CLEON I-- . . . The last Galactic Emperor of the Entun dynasty. He was born in the year 11,988 of the Galactic Era, the same year in which Hari Seldon was born. (It is thought that Seldon's birthdate, which some consider doubtful, may have been adjusted to match that of Cleon, whom Seldon, soon after his arrival on Trantor, is supposed to have encountered.)

Having succeeded to the Imperial throne in 12,010 at the age of twenty-two, Cleon I's reign represented a curious interval of quiet in those troubled times. This is undoubtedly due to the skills of his Chief of Staff, Eto Demerzel, who so carefully obscured himself from public record that little is known about him.

Cleon himself . . .



Suppressing a small yawn, Cleon said, "Demerzel, have you by any chance ever heard of a man named Hari Seldon?"

Cleon had been Emperor for just over ten years and there were times at state occasions when, dressed in the necessary robes and regalia, he could manage to look stately. He did so, for instance, in the holograph of himself that stood in the niche in the wall behind him. It was placed so that it clearly dominated the other niches holding the holographs of several of his ancestors.

The holograph was not a totally honest one, for though Cleon's hair was light brown in hologram and reality alike, it was a bit thicker in the holograph. There was a certain asymmetry to his real face, for the left side of his upper lip raised itself a bit higher than the right side, and this was somehow not evident in the holograph. And if he had stood up and placed himself beside the holograph, he would have beenseen to be 2 centimeters under the 1.83-meter height that the image portrayed--and perhaps a bit stouter.

Of course, the holograph was the official coronation portrait and he had been younger then. He still looked young and rather handsome, too, and when he was not in the pitiless grip of official ceremony, there was a kind of vague good nature about his face.

Demerzel said, with the tone of respect that he carefully cultivated, "Hari Seldon? It is an unfamiliar name to me, Sire. Ought I to know of him?"

"The Minister of Science mentioned him to me last night. I thought you might."

Demerzel frowned slightly, but only very slightly, for one does not frown in the Imperial presence. "The Minister of Science, Sire, should have spoken of this man to me as Chief of Staff. If you are to be bombarded from every side--"

Cleon raised his hand and Demerzel stopped at once. "Please, Demerzel, one can't stand on formality at all times. When I passed the Minister at last night's reception and exchanged a few words with him, he bubbled over. I could not refuse to listen and I was glad I had, for it was interesting."

"In what way interesting, Sire?"

"Well, these are not the old days when science and mathematics were all the rage. That sort of thing seems to have died down somehow, perhaps because all the discoveries have been made, don't you think? Apparently, however, interesting things can still happen. At least I was told it was interesting."

"By the Minister of Science, Sire?"

"Yes. He said that this Hari Seldon had attended a convention of mathematicians held here in Trantor--they do this every ten years, for some reason--and he said that he had proved that one could foretell the future mathematically."

Demerzel permitted himself a small smile. "Either the Minister of Science, a man of little acumen, is mistaken or the mathematician is. Surely, the matter of foretelling the future is a children's dream of magic."

"Is it, Demerzel? People believe in such things."

"People believe in many things, Sire."

"But they believe in such things. Therefore, it doesn't matter whether the forecast of the future is true or not. If a mathematician should predict a long and happy reign for me, a time of peace and prosperity for the Empire-- Eh, would that not be well?"

"It would be pleasant to hear, certainly, but what would it accomplish, Sire?"

"But surely if people believe this, they would act on that belief. Many a prophecy, by the mere force of its being believed, is transmuted to fact. These are 'self-fulfilling prophecies.' Indeed, now that I think of it, it was you who once explained this to me."

Demerzel said, "I believe I did, Sire." His eyes were watching the Emperor carefully, as though to see how far he might go on his own. "Still, if that be so, one could have any person make the prophecy."

"Not all persons would be equally believed, Demerzel. A mathematician, however, who could back his prophecy with mathematical formulas and terminology, might be understood by no one and yet believed by everyone."

Demerzel said, "As usual, Sire, you make good sense. We live in troubled times and it would be worthwhile to calm them in a way that would require neither money nor military effort--which, in recent history, have done little good and much harm."

"Exactly, Demerzel," said the Emperor with excitement. "Reel in this Hari Seldon. You tell me you have your strings stretching to every part of this turbulent world, even where my forces dare not go. Pull on one of those strings, then, and bring in this mathematician. Let me see him."

"I will do so, Sire," said Demerzel, who had already located Seldon and who made a mental note to commend the Minister of Science for a job well done.


Hari Seldon did not make an impressive appearance at this time. Like the Emperor Cleon I, he was thirty-two years old, but he was only 1.73 meters tall. His face was smooth and cheerful, his hair dark brown, almost black, and his clothing had the unmistakable touch of provinciality about it.

To anyone in later times who knew of Hari Seldon only as a legendary demigod, it would seem almost sacrilegious for him not to have white hair, not to have an old lined face, a quiet smile radiating wisdom, not to be seated in a wheelchair. Even then, in advanced old age, his eyes had been cheerful, however. There was that.

And his eyes were particularly cheerful now, for his paper had been given at the Decennial Convention. It had even aroused some interest in a distant sort of way and old Osterfith had nodded his head at him and had said, "Ingenious, young man. Most ingenious." Which, coming from Osterfith, was satisfactory. Most satisfactory.

But now there was a new--and quite unexpected--development and Seldon wasn't sure whether it should increase his cheer and intensify his satisfaction or not.

He stared at the tall young man in uniform--the Spaceship-and-Sun neatly placed on the left side of his tunic.

"Lieutenant Alban Wellis," said the officer of the Emperor's Guard before putting away his identification. "Will you come with me now, sir?"

Wellis was armed, of course. There were two other Guardsmen waiting outside his door. Seldon knew he had no choice, for all the other's careful politeness, but there was no reason he could not seek information. He said, "To see the Emperor?"

"To be brought to the Palace, sir. That's the extent of my instructions."

"But why?"

"I was not told why, sir. And I have my strict instructions that you must come with me--one way or another."

"But this seems as though I am being arrested. I have done nothing to warrant that."

"Say, rather, that it seems you are being given an escort of honor--if you delay me no further."

Seldon delayed no further. He pressed his lips together, as though to block off further questions, nodded his head, and stepped forward. Even if he was going to meet the Emperor and to receive Imperial commendation, he found no joy in it. He was for the Empire--that is, for the worlds of humanity in peace and union--but he was not for the Emperor.

The lieutenant walked ahead, the other two behind. Seldon smiled at those he passed and managed to look unconcerned. Outside the hotel they climbed into an official ground-car. (Seldon ran his hand over the upholstery; he had never been in anything so ornate.)

They were in one of the wealthiest sections of Trantor. The dome was high enough here to give a sensation of being in the open and one could swear--even one such as Hari Seldon, who had been born and brought up on an open world--that they were in sunlight. You could see no sun and no shadows, but the air was light and fragrant.

And then it passed and the dome curved down and the walls narrowed in and soon they were moving along an enclosed tunnel, marked periodically with the Spaceship-and-Sun and so clearly reserved (Seldon thought) for official vehicles.

A door opened and the ground-car sped through. When the door closed behind them, they were in the open--the true, the real open. There were 250 square kilometers of the only stretch of open land on Trantor and on it stood the Imperial Palace. Seldon would have liked a chance to wander through that open land--not because of the Palace, but because it also contained the Galactic University and, most intriguing of all, the Galactic Library.

And yet, in passing from the enclosed world of Trantor into the open patch of wood and parkland, he had passed into a world in which clouds dimmed the sky and a chill wind ruffled his shirt. He pressed the contact that closed the ground-car's window.

It was a dismal day outside.


Seldon was not at all sure he would meet the Emperor. At best, he would meet some official in the fourth or fifth echelon who would claim to speak for the Emperor.

How many people ever did see the Emperor? In person, rather than on holovision? How many people saw the real, tangible Emperor, an Emperor who never left the Imperial grounds that he, Seldon, was now rolling over.

The number was vanishingly small. Twenty-five million inhabited worlds, each with its cargo of a billion human beings or more--and among all those quadrillions of human beings, how many had, or would ever, lay eyes on the living Emperor. A thousand?

And did anyone care? The Emperor was no more than a symbol of Empire, like the Spaceship-and-Sun but far less pervasive, far less real. It was his soldiers and his officials, crawling everywhere, that now represented an Empire that had become a dead weight upon its people--not the Emperor.

So it was that when Seldon was ushered into a moderately sized, lavishly furnished room and found a young-looking man sitting on the edge of a table in a windowed alcove, one foot on the ground and one swinging over the edge, he found himself wondering that any official should be looking at him in so blandly good-natured a way. He had already experienced the fact, over and over, that government officials--and particularly those in the Imperial service--looked grave at all times, as though bearing the weight of the entire Galaxy on their shoulders. And it seemed the lower in importance they were, the graver and more threatening their expression.

This, then, might be an official so high in the scale, with the sun of power so bright upon him, that he felt no need of countering it with clouds of frowning.

Seldon wasn't sure how impressed he ought to be, but he felt that it would be best to remain silent and let the other speak first.

The official said, "You are Hari Seldon, I believe. The mathematician."

Seldon responded with a minimal "Yes, sir," and waited again.

The young man waved an arm. "It should be 'Sire,' but I hate ceremony. It's all I get and I weary of it. We are alone, so I will pamper myself and eschew ceremony. Sit down, professor."

Halfway through the speech, Seldon realized that he was speaking to the Emperor Cleon, First of that Name, and he felt the wind go out of him. There was a faint resemblance (now that he looked) to the official holograph that appeared constantly in the news, but in that holograph, Cleon was always dressed imposingly, seemed taller, nobler, frozen-faced.

And here he was, the original of the holograph, and somehow he appeared to be quite ordinary.

Seldon did not budge.

The Emperor frowned slightly and, with the habit of command present even in the attempt to abolish it, at least temporarily, said peremptorily, "I said, 'Sit down,' man. That chair. Quickly."

Seldon sat down, quite speechless. He could not even bring himself to say, "Yes, Sire."

Cleon smiled. "That's better. Now we can talk like two fellow human beings, which, after all, is what we are once ceremony is removed. Eh, my man?"

Seldon said cautiously, "If Your Imperial Majesty is content to say so, then it is so."

"Oh, come, why are you so cautious? I want to talk to you on equal terms. It is my pleasure to do so. Humor me."

"Yes, Sire."

"A simple 'Yes,' man. Is there no way I can reach you?"

Cleon stared at Seldon and Seldon thought it was a lively and interested stare.

Finally the Emperor said, "You don't look like a mathematician."

At last, Seldon found himself able to smile. "I don't know what a mathematician is supposed to look like, Your Imp--"

Cleon raised a cautioning hand and Seldon choked off the honorific.

Cleon said, "White-haired, I suppose. Bearded, perhaps. Old, certainly."

"Yet even mathematicians must be young to begin with."

"But they are then without reputation. By the time they obtrude themselves on the notice of the Galaxy, they are as I have described."

"I am without reputation, I'm afraid."

"Yet you spoke at this convention they held here."

"A great many of us did. Some were younger than myself. Few of us were granted any attention whatever."

"Your talk apparently attracted the attention of some of my officials. I am given to understand that you believe it possible to predict the future."

Seldon suddenly felt weary. It seemed as though this misinterpretation of his theory was constantly going to occur. Perhaps he should not have presented his paper.

He said, "Not quite, actually. What I have done is much more limited than that. In many systems, the situation is such that under some conditions chaotic events take place. That means that, given a particular starting point, it is impossible to predict outcomes. This is true even in some quite simple systems, but the more complex a system, the more likely it is to become chaotic. It has always been assumed that anything as complicated as human society would quickly become chaotic and, therefore, unpredictable. What I have done, however, is to show that, in studying human society, it is possible to choose a starting point and to make appropriate assumptions that will suppress the chaos. That will make it possible to predict the future, not in full detail, of course, but in broad sweeps; not with certainty, but with calculable probabilities."

Excerpted from

Prelude to Foundation

by Isaac Asimov
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Foundation and Earth (Foundation Series #5)

"Why did I do it?" asked Golan Trevize.
It wasn't a new question. Since he had arrived at Gaia, he had asked it of himself frequently. He would wake up from a sound sleep in the pleasant coolness of the night and find the question sounding noiselessly in his mind, like a tiny drumbeat: Why did I do it? Why did I do it?
Now, though, for the first time, he managed to ask it of Dom, the ancient of Gaia.
Dom was well aware of Trevize's tension for he could sense the fabric of the Councilman's mind. He did not respond to it. Gaia must in no way ever touch Trevize's mind, and the best way of remaining immune to the temptation was to painstakingly ignore what he sensed.
"Do what, Trev?" he asked. He found it difficult to use more than one syllable in addressing a person, and it didn't matter. Trevize was growing somewhat used to that.
"The decision I made," said Trevize. "Choosing Gaia as the future."
"You were right to do so," said Dom, seated, his aged deep-set eyes looking earnestly up at the man of the Foundation, who was standing.
"You say I am right," said Trevize impatiently.
"I/we/Gaia know you are. That's your worth to us. You have the capacity for making the right decision on incomplete data, and you have made the decision. You chose Gaia! You rejected the anarchy of a Galactic Empire built on the technology of the First Foundation, as well as the anarchy of a Galactic Empire built on the mentalics of the Second Foundation. You decided that neither could be long stable. So you chose Gaia."
"Yes," said Trevize. "Exactly! Ichose Gaia, a superorganism; a whole planet with a mind and personality in common, so that one has to say 'I/we/Gaia' as an invented pronoun to express the inexpressible." He paced the floor restlessly. "And it will become eventually Galaxia, a super-superorganism embracing all the swarm of the Milky Way."
He stopped, turned almost savagely on Dom, and said, "I feel I'm right, as you feel it, but you want the coming of Galaxia, and so are satisfied with the decision. There's something in me, however, that doesn't want it, and for that reason I'm not satisfied to accept the rightness so easily. I want to know why I made the decision, I want to weigh and judge the rightness and be satisfied with it. Merely feeling right isn't enough. How can I know I am right? What is the device that makes me right?"
"I/we/Gaia do not know how it is that you come to the right decision. Is it important to know that as long as we have the decision?"
"You speak for the whole planet, do you? For the common consciousness of every dewdrop, of every pebble, of even the liquid central core of the planet?"
"I do, and so can any portion of the planet in which the intensity of the common consciousness is great enough."
"And is all this common consciousness satisfied to use me as a black box? Since the black box works, is it unimportant to know what is inside? --That doesn't suit me. I don't enjoy being a black box. I want to know what's inside. I want to know how and why I chose Gaia and Galaxia as the future, so that I can rest and be at peace."
"But why do you dislike or distrust your decision so?"
Trevize drew a deep breath and said slowly, in a low and forceful voice, "Because I don't want to be part of a superorganism. I don't want to be a dispensable part to be done away with whenever the superorganism judges that doing away would be for the good of the whole."
Dom looked at Trevize thoughtfully. "Do you want to change your decision, then, Trev? You can, you know."
"I long to change the decision, but I can't do that merely because I dislike it. To do something now, I have to know whether the decision is wrong or right. It's not enough merely to feel it's right."
"If you feel you are right, you are right." Always that slow, gentle voice that somehow made Trevize feel wilder by its very contrast with his own inner turmoil.
Then Trevize said, in half a whisper, breaking out of the insoluble oscillation between feeling and knowing, "I must find Earth."
"Because it has something to do with this passionate need of yours to know?"
"Because it is another problem that troubles me unbearably and because I feel there is a connection between the two. Am I not a black box? I feel there is a connection. Isn't that enough to make you accept it as a fact?"
"Perhaps," said Dom, with equanimity.
"Granted it is now thousands of years--twenty thousand perhaps--since the people of the Galaxy have concerned themselves with Earth, how is it possible that we have all forgotten our planet of origin?"
"Twenty thousand years is a longer time than you realize. There are many aspects of the early Empire we know little of; many legends that are almost surely fictitious but that we keep repeating, and even believing, because of lack of anything to substitute. And Earth is older than the Empire."
"But surely there are some records. My good friend, Pelorat, collects myths and legends of early Earth; anything he can scrape up from any source. It is his profession and, more important, his hobby. Those myths and legends are all there are. There are no actual records, no documents."
"Documents twenty thousand years old? Things decay, perish, are destroyed through inefficiency or war."
"But there should be records of the records; copies, copies of the copies, and copies of the copies of the copies; useful material much younger than twenty millennia. They have been removed. The Galactic Library at Trantor must have had documents concerning Earth. Those documents are referred to in known historical records, but the documents no longer exist in the Galactic Library. The references to them may exist, but any quotations from them do not exist."
"Remember that Trantor was sacked a few centuries ago."
"The Library was left untouched. It was protected by the personnel of the Second Foundation. And it was those personnel who recently discovered that material related to Earth no longer exists. The material was deliberately removed in recent times. Why?" Trevize ceased his pacing and looked intently at Dom. "If I find Earth, I will find out what it is hiding--"
"Hiding or being hidden. Once I find that out, I have the feeling I will know why I have chosen Gaia and Galaxia over our individuality. Then, I presume, I will know, not feel, that I am correct, and if I am correct"--he lifted his shoulders hopelessly--"then so be it."
"If you feel that is so," said Dom, "and if you feel you must hunt for Earth, then, of course, we will help you do as much as we can. That help, however, is limited. For instance, I/we/Gaia do not know where Earth may be located among the immense wilderness of worlds that make up the Galaxy."
"Even so," said Trevize, "I must search. --Even if the endless powdering of stars in the Galaxy makes the quest seem hopeless, and even if I must do it alone."
Trevize was surrounded by the tameness of Gaia. The temperature, as always, was comfortable, and the air moved pleasantly, refreshing but not chilling. Clouds drifted across the sky, interrupting the sunlight now and then, and, no doubt, if the water vapor level per meter of open land surface dropped sufficiently in this place or that, there would be enough rain to restore it.
The trees grew in regular spacings, like an orchard, and did so, no doubt, all over the world. The land and sea were stocked with plant and animal life in proper numbers and in the proper variety to provide an appropriate ecological balance, and all of them, no doubt, increased and decreased in numbers in a slow sway about the recognized optimum. --As did the number of human beings, too.
Of all the objects within the purview of Trevize's vision, the only wild card in the deck was his ship, the Far Star.
The ship had been cleaned and refurbished efficiently and well by a number of the human components of Gaia. It had been restocked with food and drink, its furnishings had been renewed or replaced, its mechanical workings rechecked. Trevize himself had checked the ship's computer carefully.
Nor did the ship need refueling, for it was one of the few gravitic ships of the Foundation, running on the energy of the general gravitational field of the Galaxy, and that was enough to supply all the possible fleets of humanity for all the eons of their likely existence without measurable decrease of intensity.
Three months ago, Trevize had been a Councilman of Terminus. He had, in other words, been a member of the Legislature of the Foundation and, ex officio, a great one of the Galaxy. Was it only three months ago? It seemed it was half his thirty-two-year-old lifetime since that had been his post and his only concern had been whether the great Seldon Plan had been valid or not; whether the smooth rise of the Foundation from planetary village to Galactic greatness had been properly charted in advance, or not.
Yet in some ways, there was no change. He was still a Councilman. His status and his privileges remained unchanged, except that he didn't expect he would ever return to Terminus to claim that status and those privileges. He would no more fit into the huge chaos of the Foundation than into the small orderliness of Gaia. He was at home nowhere, an orphan everywhere.
His jaw tightened and he pushed his fingers angrily through his black hair. Before he wasted time bemoaning his fate, he must find Earth. If he survived the search, there would then be time enough to sit down and weep. He might have even better reason then.
With determined stolidity, then, he thought back--
Three months before, he and Janov Pelorat, that able, naive scholar, had left Terminus. Pelorat had been driven by his antiquarian enthusiasms to discover the site of long-lost Earth, and Trevize had gone along, using Pelorat's goal as a cover for what he thought his own real aim was. They did not find Earth, but they did find Gaia, and Trevize had then found himself forced to make his fateful decision.
Now it was he, Trevize, who had turned half-circle--about-face--and was searching for Earth.
As for Pelorat, he, too, had found something he didn't expect. He had found the black-haired, dark-eyed Bliss, the young woman who was Gaia, even as Dom was--and as the nearest grain of sand or blade of grass was. Pelorat, with the peculiar ardor of late middle age, had fallen in love with a woman less than half his years, and the young woman, oddly enough, seemed content with that.
It was odd--but Pelorat was surely happy and Trevize thought resignedly that each person must find happiness in his or her own manner. That was the point of individuality--the individuality that Trevize, by his choice, was abolishing (given time) over all the Galaxy.
The pain returned. That decision he had made, and had had to make, continued to excoriate him at every moment and was--
The voice intruded on Trevize's thoughts and he looked up in the direction of the sun, blinking his eyes.
"Ah, Janov," he said heartily--the more heartily because he did not want Pelorat guessing at the sourness of his thoughts. He even managed a jovial, "You've managed to tear yourself away from Bliss, I see."
Pelorat shook his head. The gentle breeze stirred his silky white hair, and his long solemn face retained its length and solemnity in full. "Actually, old chap, it was she that suggested I see you--about--about what I want to discuss. Not that I wouldn't have wanted to see you on my own, of course, but she seems to think more quickly than I do."
Trevize smiled. "It's all right, Janov. You're here to say good-bye, I take it."
"Well, no, not exactly. In fact, more nearly the reverse. Golan, when we left Terminus, you and I, I was intent on finding Earth. I've spent virtually my entire adult life at that task."
"And I will carry on, Janov. The task is mine now."
"Yes, but it's mine, also; mine, still."
"But--" Trevize lifted an arm in a vague all-inclusive gesture of the world about them.
Pelorat said, in a sudden urgent gasp, "I want to go with you."
Trevize felt astonished. "You can't mean that, Janov. You have Gaia now."
"I'll come back to Gaia someday, but I cannot let you go alone."
"Certainly you can. I can take care of myself."
"No offense, Golan, but you don't know enough. It is I who know the myths and legends. I can direct you."
"And you'll leave Bliss? Come, now."
A faint pink colored Pelorat's cheeks. "I don't exactly want to do that, old chap, but she said--"
Trevize frowned. "Is it that she's trying to get rid of you, Janov? She promised me--"
"No, you don't understand. Please listen to me, Golan. You do have this uncomfortable explosive way of jumping to conclusions before you hear one out. It's your specialty, I know, and I seem to have a certain difficulty in expressing myself concisely, but--"
"Well," said Trevize gently, "suppose you tell me exactly what it is that Bliss has on her mind in just any way you please, and I promise to be very patient."
"Thank you, and as long as you're going to be patient, I think I can come out with it right away. You see, Bliss wants to come, too."
"Bliss wants to come?" said Trevize. "No, I'm exploding again. I won't explode. Tell me, Janov, why would Bliss want to come along? I'm asking it quietly."
"She didn't say. She said she wants to talk to you."
"Then why isn't she here, eh?"
Pelorat said, "I think--I say I think--that she is rather of the opinion that you are not fond of her, Golan, and she rather hesitates to approach you. I have done my best, old man, to assure her that you have nothing against her. I cannot believe anyone would think anything but highly of her. Still, she wanted me to broach the subject with you, so to speak. May I tell her that you'll be willing to see her, Golan?"
"Of course, I'll see her right now."
"And you'll be reasonable? You see, old man, she's rather intense about it. She said the matter was vital and she must go with you."

Excerpted from

Foundation and Earth (Foundation Series #5)

by Isaac Asimov
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Monday, October 8, 2007

Foundation's Edge (Foundation Series #4)


The First Galactic Empire was falling. It had been decaying and breaking down for centuries and only one man fully realized that fact.

He was Han Seldon, the last great scientist of the First Empire, and it was he who perfected psychohistory-the science of human behavior reduced to mathematical equations.

The individual human being is unpredictable, but the reactions of human mobs, Seldon found, could be treated statistically. The larger the mob, the greater the accuracy that could be achieved. And the size of the human masses that Seldon worked with was no less than the population of all the inhabited millions of worlds of the Galaxy.

Seldon's equations told him that, left to itself, the Empire would fall and that thirty thousand years of human misery and agony would elapse before a Second Empire would arise from the ruins. And yet, if one could adjust some of the conditions that existed, that Interregnum could be decreased to a single millennium-just one thousand years.

It was to insure this that Seldon set up two colonies of scientists that he called "Foundations." With deliberate intention, he set them up "at opposite ends of the Galaxy." The First Foundation, which centered on physical science, was set up in the full daylight of publicity. The existence of the other, the Second Foundation, a world of psychohistorical and "mentalic" scientists, was drowned in silence.

In The Foundation Trilogy, the story of the first four centuries of the Interregnum is told. The First Foundation (commonly known as simply "The Foundation," since the existence of another was unknown toalmost all) began as a small community lost in the emptiness of the Outer Periphery of the Galaxy. Periodically it faced a crisis in which the variables of human intercourse-and of the social and economic currents of the time-constricted about it. Its freedom to move lay along only one certain line and when it moved in that direction, a new horizon of development opened before it. All had been planned by Han Seldon, long dead now.

The First Foundation, with its superior science, took over the barbarized planets that surrounded it. It faced the anarchic warlords who broke away from the dying Empire and beat them. It faced the remnant of the Empire itself under its last strong Emperor and its last strong general-and beat it.

It seemed as though the "Seldon Plan" was going through smoothly and that nothing would prevent the Second Empire from being established on timeand with a minimum of intermediate devastation..

But psychohistory is a statistical science. Always there is a small chance that something will go wrong, and something did-something which Han Seldon could not have foreseen. One man, called the Mule, appeared from nowhere. He had mental powers in a Galaxy that lacked them. He could mold men's emotions and shape their minds so that his bitterest opponents were made into his devoted servants. Armies could not, would not, fight him. The First Foundation fell and Seldon's Plan seemed to lie in ruins.

There was left the mysterious Second Foundation, which had been caught unprepared by the sudden appearance of the Mule, but which was now slowly working out a counterattack. Its great defense was the fact of its unknown location. The Mule sought it in order to make his conquest of the Galaxy complete. The faithful of what was left of the First Foundation sought it to obtain help.

Neither found it. The Mule was stopped first by the action of a woman, Bayta Darell, and that bought enough time for the Second Foundation to organize the proper action and, with that, to stop the Mule permanently. Slowly they prepared to reinstate the Seldon Plan.

But, in a way, the cover of the Second Foundation was gone. The First Foundation knew of the Second's existence, and the First did not want a future in which they were overseen by the mentalists. The First Foundation was the superior in physical force, while the Second Foundation was hampered not only by that fact, but by being faced by a double task: it had not only to stop the First Foundation but had also to regain its anonymity.

This the Second Foundation, under its greatest "First Speaker," Preem Palver, managed to do. The First Foundation was allowed to seem to win, to seem to defeat the Second Foundation, and it moved on to greater and greater strength in the Galaxy, totally ignorant that the Second Foundation still existed.

It is now four hundred and ninety-eight years after the First Foundation had come into existence. It is at the peak of its strength, but one man does not accept appearances--

Excerpted from

Foundation's Edge (Foundation Series #4)

by Isaac Asimov
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Second Foundation (Foundation Series #3)

THE MULE It was after the fall of the First Foundation that the constructive aspects of the Mule's regime took shape. After the definite break-up of the first Galactic Empire, it was he who first presented history with a unified volume of space truly imperial in scope. The earlier commercial empire of the fallen Foundation had been diverse and loosely knit, despite the impalpable backing of the predictions of psychohistory. It was not to be compared with the tightly controlled "Union of Worlds" under the Mule, particularly during the era of the so-called Search. . . .
There is much more that the Encyclopedia has to say on the subject of the Mule and his Empire but almost all of it is not germane to the issue at immediate hand, and most of it is considerably too dry for our purposes in any case. Mainly, the article concerns itself at this point with the economic conditions that led to the rise of the "First Citizen of the Union"--the Mule's official title--and with the economic consequences thereof.
If, at any time, the writer of the article is mildly astonished at the colossal haste with which the Mule rose from nothing to vast dominion in five years, he conceals it. If he is further surprised at the sudden cessation of expansion in favor of a five-year consolidation of territory, he hides the fact.
We therefore abandon the Encyclopedia and continue on our own path for our own purposes and take up the history of the Great Interregnum--between the First and Second Galactic Empires--at the end of that five years of consolidation.
Politically, theUnion is quiet. Economically, it is prosperous. Few would care to exchange the peace of the Mule's steady grip for the chaos that had preceded. On the worlds that five years previously had known the Foundation, there might be a nostalgic regret, but no more. The Foundation's leaders were dead, where useless; and Converted, where useful.
And of the Converted, the most useful was Han Pritcher, now lieutenant general.
In the days of the Foundation, Han Pritcher had been a captain and a member of the underground Democratic Opposition. When the Foundation fell to the Mule without a fight, Pritcher fought the Mule. Until, that is, he was Converted.
The Conversion was not the ordinary one brought on by the power of superior reason. Han Pritcher knew that well enough. He had been changed because the Mule was a mutant with mental powers quite capable of adjusting the conditions of ordinary humans to suit himself. But that satisfied him completely. That was as it should be. The very contentment with the Conversion was a prime symptom of it, but Han Pritcher was no longer even curious about the matter.
And now that he was returning from his fifth major expedition into the boundlessness of the Galaxy outside the Union, it was with something approaching artless joy that the veteran spaceman and Intelligence agent considered his approaching audience with the "First Citizen." His hard face, gouged out of a dark, grainless wood that did not seem to be capable of smiling without cracking, didn't show it--but the outward indications were unnecessary. The Mule could see the emotions within, down to the smallest, much as an ordinary man could see the twitch of an eyebrow.
Pritcher left his air car at the old vice-regal hangars and entered the palace grounds on foot as was required. He walked one mile along the arrowed highway--which was empty and silent. Pritcher knew that over the square miles of palace grounds, there was not one guard, not one soldier, not one armed man.
The Mule had need of no protection.
The Mule was his own best, all-powerful protector.
Pritcher's footsteps beat softly in his own ears, as the palace reared its gleaming, incredibly light and incredibly strong metallic walls before him in the daring, overblown, near-hectic arches that characterized the architecture of the Late Empire. It brooded strongly over the empty grounds, over the crowded city on the horizon.
Within the palace was that one man--by himself--on whose inhuman mental attributes depended the new aristocracy, and the whole structure of the Union.
The huge, smooth door swung massively open at the general's approach, and he entered. He stepped onto the wide, sweeping ramp that moved upward under him. He rose swiftly in the noiseless elevator. He stood before the small plain door of the Mule's own room in the highest glitter of the palace spires.
It opened--
Bail Channis was young, and Bail Channis was Unconverted. That is, in plainer language, his emotional makeup had been unadjusted by the Mule. It remained exactly as it had been formed by the original shape of its heredity and the subsequent modifications of his environment. And that satisfied him, too.
At not quite thirty, he was in marvelously good odor in the capital. He was handsome and quick-witted--therefore successful in society. He was intelligent and self-possessed--therefore successful with the Mule. And he was thoroughly pleased at both successes.
And now, for the first time, the Mule had summoned him to personal audience.
His legs carried him down the long, glittering highway that led tautly to the sponge-aluminum spires that had been once the residence of the viceroy of Kalgan, who ruled under the old emperors; and that had been later the residence of the independent princes of Kalgan, who ruled in their own name; and that was now the residence of the First Citizen of the Union, who ruled over an empire of his own.
Channis hummed softly to himself. He did not doubt what this was all about. The Second Foundation, naturally! That all-embracing bogey, the mere consideration of which had thrown the Mule back from his policy of limitless expansion into static caution. The official term was "consolidation."
Now there were rumors--you couldn't stop rumors. The Mule was to begin the offensive once more. The Mule had discovered the whereabouts of the Second Foundation, and would attack. The Mule had come to an agreement with the Second Foundation and divided the Galaxy. The Mule had decided the Second Foundation did not exist and would take over all the Galaxy.
No use listing all the varieties one heard in the anterooms. It was not even the first time such rumors had circulated. But now they seemed to have more body in them, and all the free, expansive souls who thrived on war, military adventure, and political chaos and withered in times of stability and stagnant peace were joyful.
Bail Channis was one of these. He did not fear the mysterious Second Foundation. For that matter, he did not fear the Mule, and boasted of it. Some, perhaps, who disapproved of one at once so young and so well-off, waited darkly for the reckoning with the gay ladies' man who employed his wit openly at the expense of the Mule's physical appearance and sequestered life. None dared join him and few dared laugh, but when nothing happened to him, his reputation rose accordingly.
Channis was improvising words to the tune he was humming. Nonsense words with the recurrent refrain: "Second Foundation threatens the Nation and all of Creation."
He was at the palace.
The huge, smooth door swung massively open at his approach, and he entered. He stepped onto the wide, sweeping ramp that moved upward under him. He rose swiftly in the noiseless elevator. He stood before the small plain door of the Mule's own room in the highest glitter of the palace spires.
It opened--
The man who had no name other than the Mule, and no title other than First Citizen looked out through the one-way transparency of the wall to the light and lofty city on the horizon.
In the darkening twilight, the stars were emerging, and not one but owed allegiance to him.
He smiled with fleeting bitterness at the thought. The allegiance they owed was to a personality few had ever seen.
He was not a man to look at, the Mule--not a man to look at without derision. Not more than one hundred and twenty pounds was stretched out into his five-foot-eight length. His limbs were bony stalks that jutted out of his scrawniness in graceless angularity. And his thin face was nearly drowned out by the prominence of a fleshy beak that thrust three inches outward.
Only his eyes played false with the general farce that was the Mule. In their softness--a strange softness for the Galaxy's greatest conqueror--sadness was never entirely subdued.
In the city was to be found all the gaiety of a luxurious capital on a luxurious world. He might have established his capital on the Foundation, the strongest of his now-conquered enemies, but it was far out on the very rim of the Galaxy. Kalgan, more centrally located, with a long tradition as aristocracy's playground, suited him better--strategically.
But in its traditional gaiety, enhanced by unheard-of prosperity, he found no peace.
They feared him and obeyed him and, perhaps, even respected him--from a goodly distance. But who could look at him without contempt? Only those he had Converted. And of what value was their artificial loyalty? It lacked flavor. He might have adopted titles, and enforced ritual and invented elaborations, but even that would have changed nothing. Better--or at least, no worse--to be simply the First Citizen--and to hide himself.
There was a sudden surge of rebellion within him--strong and brutal. Not a portion of the Galaxy must be denied him. For five years he had remained silent and buried here on Kalgan because of the eternal, misty, space-ridden menace of the unseen, unheard, unknown Second Foundation. He was thirty-two. Not old--but he felt old. His body, whatever its mutant mental powers, was physically weak.
Every star! Every star he could see--and every star he couldn't see. It must all be his!
Revenge on all. On a humanity of which he wasn't a part. On a Galaxy in which he didn't fit.
The cool, overhead warning light flickered. He could follow the progress of the man who had entered the palace, and simultaneously, as though his mutant sense had been enhanced and sensitized in the lonely twilight, he felt the wash of emotional content touch the fibers of his brain.
He recognized the identity without an effort. It was Pritcher.
Captain Pritcher of the one-time Foundation. The Captain Pritcher who had been ignored and passed over by the bureaucrats of that decaying government. The Captain Pritcher whose job as petty spy he had wiped out and whom he had lifted from its slime. The Captain Pritcher whom he had made first colonel and then general; whose scope of activity he had made Galaxywide.
The now-General Pritcher who was, iron rebel though he began, completely loyal. And yet with all that, not loyal because of benefits gained, not loyal out of gratitude, not loyal as a fair return--but loyal only through the artifice of Conversion.
The Mule was conscious of that strong unalterable surface layer of loyalty and love that colored every swirl and eddy of the emotionality of Han Pritcher--the layer he had himself implanted five years before. Far underneath there were the original traces of stubborn individuality, impatience of rule, idealism--but even he, himself, could scarcely detect them any longer.
The door behind him opened, and he turned. The transparency of the wall faded to opacity, and the purple evening light gave way to the whitely blazing glow of nuclear power.
Han Pritcher took the seat indicated. There was neither bowing, nor kneeling, nor the use of honorifics in private audiences with the Mule. The Mule was merely "First Citizen." He was addressed as "sir." You sat in his presence, and you could turn your back on him if it so happened that you did.
To Han Pritcher this was all evidence of the sure and confident power of the man. He was warmly satisfied with it.
The Mule said: "Your final report reached me yesterday. I can't deny that I find it somewhat depressing, Pritcher."
The general's eyebrows closed upon each other: "Yes, I imagine so--but I don't see to what other conclusions I could have come. There just isn't any Second Foundation, sir."
And the Mule considered and then slowly shook his head, as he had done many a time before: "There's the evidence of Ebling Mis. There is always the evidence of Ebling Mis."
It was not a new story. Pritcher said without qualification: "Mis may have been the greatest psychologist of the Foundation, but he was a baby compared to Hari Seldon. At the time he was investigating Seldon's works, he was under the artificial stimulation of your own brain control. You may have pushed him too far. He might have been wrong. Sir, he must have been wrong."
The Mule sighed, his lugubrious face thrust forward on its thin stalk of a neck. "If only he had lived another minute. He was on the point of telling me where the Second Foundation was. He knew, I'm telling you. I need not have retreated. I need not have waited and waited. So much time lost. Five years gone for nothing."
Pritcher could not have been censorious over the weak longing of his ruler; his controlled mental makeup forbade that. He was disturbed instead; vaguely uneasy. He said: "But what alternative explanation can there possibly be, sir? Five times I've gone out. You yourself have plotted the routes. And I've left no asteroid unturned. It was three hundred years ago--that Hari Seldon of the old Empire supposedly established two Foundations to act as nuclei of a new Empire to replace the dying old one. One hundred years after Seldon, the First Foundation--the one we know so well--was known through all the Periphery. One hundred fifty years after Seldon--at the time of the last battle with the old Empire--it was known throughout the Galaxy. And now it's three hundred years--and where should this mysterious Second be? In no eddy of the Galactic stream has it been heard of."
"Ebling Mis said it kept itself secret. Only secrecy can turn its weakness to strength."
"Secrecy as deep as this is past possibility without nonexistence as well."
The Mule looked up, large eyes sharp and wary. "No. It does exist." A bony finger pointed sharply. "There is going to be a slight change in tactics."
Pritcher frowned. "You plan to leave yourself? I would scarcely advise it."
"No, of course not. You will have to go out once again--one last time. But with another in joint command."
There was a silence, and Pritcher's voice was hard, "Who, sir?"
"There's a young man here in Kalgan. Bail Channis."
"I've never heard of him, sir."
"No, I imagine not. But he's got an agile mind, he's ambitious--and he's not Converted."
Pritcher's long jaw trembled for a bare instant, "I fail to see the advantage in that."

Excerpted from

Second Foundation (Foundation Series #3)

by Isaac Asimov
Buy this book at Barnes & Noble