TERMINUS... Its location (see map) was an odd one for the role it was called upon to play in Galactic history, and yet as many writers have never tired of pointing out, an inevitable one. Located on the very fringe of the Galactic spiral, an only planet of an isolated sun, poor in resources and negligible in economic value, it was never settled in the five centuries after its discovery, until the landing of the Encyclopedists....
It was inevitable that as a new generation grew, Terminus would become something more than an appendage of the psychohistorians of Trantor. With the Anacreonian revolt and the rise to power of Salvor Hardin, first of the great line of...
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Lewis Pirenne was busily engaged at his desk in the one well-lit comer of the room. Work had to be co-ordinated. Effort had to be organized. Threads had to be woven into a pattern.
Fifty years now; fifty years to establish themselves and set up Encyclopedia Foundation Number One into a smoothly working unit. Fifty years to gather the raw material. Fifty years to prepare.
It had been done. Five more years would see the publication of the first volume of the most monumental work the Galaxy had ever conceived. And then at ten-year intervals regularly like clockwork volume after volume. And with them there would be supplements; special articles on events of current interest, until
Pirenne stirred uneasily, as the muted buzzer upon his desk muttered peevishly. He had almost forgotten the appointment. He shoved the door release and out of an abstracted comer of one eye saw the door open and the broad figure of Salvor Hardin enter. Pirenne did not look up.
Hardin smiled to himself. He was in a hurry, but he knew better than to take offense at Pirenne's cavalier treatment of anything or anyone that disturbed him at his work. He buried himself in the chair on the other side of the desk and waited.
Pirenne's stylus made the faintest scraping sound as it raced across paper. Otherwise, neither motion nor sound. And then Hardin withdrew a two-credit coin from his vest pocket. He flipped it and its stainless-steel surface caught flitters of light as it tumbled through the air. He caught it and-flipped it again, watching the flashing reflections lazily. Stainless steel made good medium of exchange on a planet where all metal had to be imported.
Pirenne looked up and blinked. "Stop that!" he said querulously.
"That infernal coin tossing. Stop it."
"Oh." Hardin pocketed the metal disk. "Tell me when you're ready, will you? I promised to be back at the City Council meeting before the new aqueduct project is put to a vote."
Pirenne sighed and shoved himself away from the desk. "I'm ready. But I hope you aren't going to bother me with city affairs. Take care of that yourself, please. The Encyclopedia takes up all my time."
"Have you heard the news?" questioned Hardin, phlegmatically.
"The news that the Terminus City ultrawave set received two hours ago. The Royal Governor of the Prefect of Anacreon has assumed the title of king."
"Well? What of it?"
"It means," responded Hardin, "that we're cut off from the inner regions of the Empire. We've been expecting it but that doesn't make it any more comfortable. Anacreon stands square across what was our last remaining trade route to Santanni and to Trantor and to Vega itself. Where is our metal to come from? We haven't managed to get a steel or aluminum shipment through in six months and now we won't be able to get any at all, except by grace of the King of Anacreon."
Pirenne tch-tched impatiently. "Get them through him, then."
"But can we? Listen, Pirenne, according to the charter which established this Foundation, the Board of Trustees of the Encyclopedia Committee has been given full administrative powers. I, as Mayor of Terminus City, have just enough power to blow my own nose and perhaps to sneeze if you countersign an order giving me permission. It's up to you and your Board then. I'm asking you in the name of the City, whose prosperity depends upon uninterrupted commerce with the Galaxy, to call an emergency meeting"
"Stop! A campaign speech is out of order. Now, Hardin, the Board of Trustees has not barred the establishment of a municipal government on Terminus. We understand one to be necessary because of the increase in population since the Foundation was established fifty years ago, and because of the increasing number of people involved in non-Encyclopedia affairs. But that does not mean that the first and only aim of the Foundation is no longer to publish the definitive Encyclopedia of all human knowledge. We are a State-supported, scientific institution, Hardin. We cannot must not will not interfere in local politics."
"Local politics! By the Emperor's left toe, Pirenne, this is a matter of life and death. The planet, Terminus, by itself cannot support a mechanized civilization. It lacks metals. You know that. It hasn't a trace of iron, copper, or aluminum in the surface rocks, and precious little of anything else. What do you think will happen to the Encyclopedia if this watchmacallum King of Anacreon clamps down on us?"
"On us? Are you forgetting that we are under the direct control of the Emperor himself? We are not part of the Prefect of Anacreon or of any other prefect. Memorize that! We are part of the Emperor's personal domain, and no one touches us. The Empire can protect its own."
"Then why didn't it prevent the Royal Governor of Anacreon from kicking over the traces? And only Anacreon?
At least twenty of the outermost prefects of the Galaxy, the entire Periphery as a matter of fact, have begun steering things their own way. I tell you I feel damned uncertain of the Empire and its ability to protect us."
"Hokum! Royal Governors, Kings what's the difference? The Empire is always shot through with a certain amount of politics and with different men pulling this way and that. Governors have rebelled, and, for that matter, Emperors have been deposed, or assassinated before this. But what has that to do with the Empire itself? Forget it, Hardin. It's none of our business. We are first of all and last of all-scientists. And our concern is the Encyclopedia.
Oh, yes, I'd almost forgotten. Hardin!"
"Do something about that paper of yours!" Pirenne's voice was angry.
"The Terminus City Journal? It isn't mine; it's privately owned. What's it been doing?"
"For weeks now it has been recommending that the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Foundation be made the occasion for public holidays and quite inappropriate celebrations."
"And why not? The computoclock will open the Vault in three months. I would call this first opening a big occasion, wouldn't you?"
"Not for silly pageantry, Hardin. The Vault and its opening concern the Board of Trustees alone. Anything of importance will be communicated to the people. That is final and please make it plain to the Journal."
"I'm sorry, Pirenne, but the City Charter guarantees a certain minor matter known as freedom of the press."
"It may. But the Board of Trustees does not. I am the Emperor's representative on Terminus, Hardin, and have full powers in this respect."
Hardin's expression became that of a man counting to ten, mentally. He said, grimly: "in connection with your status as Emperor's representative, then, I have a final piece of news to give you."
"About Anacreon?" Pirenne's lips tightened. He felt annoyed.
"Yes. A special envoy will be sent to us from Anacreon. In two weeks."
"An envoy? Here? From Anacreon?" Pirenne chewed that. "What for?"
Hardin stood up, and shoved his chair back up against the desk. "I give you one guess." And he left quite unceremoniously.
Anselm haut Rodric "haut" itself signifying noble blood -Sub-prefect of Pluema and Envoy Extraordinary of his Highness of Anacreon-plus half a dozen other titleswas met by Salvor Hardin at the spaceport with all the imposing ritual of a state occasion.
With a tight smile and a low bow, the sub-prefect had flipped his blaster from its holster and presented it to Hardin butt first. Hardin returned the compliment with, a blaster specifically borrowed for the occasion. Friendship and good will were thus established, and if Hardin noted the barest bulge at Haut Rodric's shoulder, he prudently said nothing.
The ground car that received them then preceded, flanked, and followed by the suitable cloud of minor functionaries proceeded in a slow, ceremonious manner to Cyclopedia Square, cheered on its way by a properly enthusiastic crowd.
Sub-prefect Anselm received the cheers with the complaisant indifference of a soldier and a nobleman.
He said to Hardin, "And this city is all your world?"
Hardin raised his voice to be heard above the clamor. "We are a young world, your eminence. In our short history we have had but few members of the higher nobility visiting our poor planet. Hence, our enthusiasm."
It is certain that "higher nobility" did not recognize irony when he heard it.
He said thoughtfully: "Founded fifty years ago. Hm-m-m! You have a great deal of unexploited land here, mayor. You have never considered dividing it into estates?"
"There is no necessity as yet. We're extremely centralized; we have to be, because of the Encyclopedia. Someday, perhaps, when our population has grown"
"A strange world! You have no peasantry?"
Hardin reflected that it didn't require a great deal of acumen to tell that his eminence was indulging in a bit of fairly clumsy pumping. He replied casually, "No nor nobility."
Haut Rodric's eyebrows lifted. "And your leader the man I am to meet?"
"You mean Dr. Pirenne? Yes! He is the Chairman of the Board of Trustees and a personal representative of the Emperor."
"Doctor? No other title? A scholar? And he rates above the civil authority?"
"Why, certainly," replied Hardin, amiably. "We're all scholars more or less. After all, we're not so much a world as a scientific foundation under the direct control of the Emperor."
There was a faint emphasis upon the last phrase that seemed to disconcert the sub-prefect. He remained thoughtfully silent during the rest of the slow way to Cyclopedia Square.
If Hardin found himself bored by the afternoon and evening that followed, he had at least the satisfaction of realizing that Pirenne and Haut Rodric having met with loud and mutual protestations of esteem and regard were detesting each other's company a good deal more.
Haut Rodric had attended with glazed eye to Pirenne's lecture during the "inspection tour" of the Encyclopedia Building. With polite and vacant smile, he had listened to the latter's rapid patter as they passed through the vast storehouses of reference films and the numerous projection rooms.
It was only after he had gone down level by level into and through the composing departments, editing departments, publishing departments, and filming departments that he made the first comprehensive statement.
"This is all very interesting," he said, "but it seems a strange occupation for grown men. What good is it?"
It was a remark, Hardin noted, for which Pirenne found no answer, though the expression of his face was most eloquent.
The dinner that evening was much the mirror image of the events of that afternoon, for Haut Rodric monopolized the conversation by describing in minute technical detail and with incredible zest his own exploits as battalion head during the recent war between Anacreon and the neighboring newly proclaimed Kingdom of Smyrno.
The details of the sub-prefect's account were not completed until dinner was over and one by one the minor officials had drifted away. The last bit of triumphant description of mangled spaceships came when he had accompanied Pirenne and Hardin onto the balcony and relaxed in the warm air of the summer evening.
"And now," he said, with a heavy joviality, "to serious matters."
"By all means," murmured Hardin, lighting a long cigar of Vegan tobacco not many left, he reflected and teetering his chair back on two legs.
The Galaxy was high in the sky and its misty lens shape stretched lazily from horizon to horizon. The few stars here at the very edge of the universe were insignificant twinkles in comparison.
"Of course," said the sub-prefect, "all the formal discussions the paper signing and such dull technicalities, that is will take place before the What is it you call your Council?"
"The Board of Trustees," replied Pirenne, coldly.
"Queer name! Anyway, that's for tomorrow. We might as well clear away some of the underbrush, man to man, right now, though. Hey?"
"And this means" prodded Hardin.
"Just this. There's been a certain change in the situation out here in the Periphery and the status of your planet has become a trifle uncertain. It would be very convenient if we succeeded in coming to an understanding as to how the matter stands. By the way, mayor, have you another one of those cigars?"
Hardin started and produced one reluctantly.
Anselm haut Rodric sniffed at it and emitted a clucking sound of pleasure. "Vegan tobacco! Where did you get it?"
"We received some last shipment. There's hardly any left. Space knows when we'll get more if ever."
Pirenne scowled. He didn't smoke and, for that matter, detested the odor. "Let me understand this, your eminence. Your mission is merely one of clarification?"
Haut Rodric nodded through the smoke of his first lusty puffs.
"In that case, it is soon over. The situation with respect to the Encyclopedia Foundation is what it always has been."
"Ah! And what is it that it always has been?"
"Just this: A State-supported scientific institution and part of the personal domain of his august majesty, the Emperor."
The sub-prefect seemed unimpressed. He blew smoke rings. "That's a nice theory, Dr. Pirenne. I imagine you've got charters with the Imperial Seal upon it but what's the actual situation? How do you stand with respect to Smyrno? You're not fifty parsecs from Smyrno's capital. you know. And what about Konom and Daribow?"
Pirenne said: "We have nothing to do with any prefect. As part of the Emperor's"
"They're not prefects," reminded Haut Rodric; "they're kingdoms now."
"Kingdoms then. We have nothing to do with them. As a scientific institution"
"Science be damned!" swore the other. "What the devil has that got to do with the fact that we're liable to see Terminus taken over by Smyrno at any time?"
"And the Emperor? He would just sit by?"
Haut Rodric calmed down and said: "Well, now, Dr. Pirenne, you respect the Emperor's property and so does Anacreon, but Smyrno might not. Remember, we've just signed a treaty with the Emperor I'll present a copy to that Board of yours tomorrow which places upon us the responsibility of maintaining order within the borders of the old Prefect of Anacreon on behalf of the Emperor. Our duty is clear, then, isn't it?"
"Certainly. But Terminus is not part of the Prefect of Anacreon."
"Nor is it part of the Prefect of Smyrno. It's not part of any prefect."
"Does Smyrno know that?"
"I don't care what it knows."
"We do. We've just finished a war with her and she still holds two stellar systems that are ours. Terminus occupies an extremely strategic spot, between the two nations."
Hardin felt weary. He broke in: "What is your proposition, your eminence?"
The sub-prefect seemed quite ready to stop fencing in favor of more direct statements. He said briskly: "It seems perfectly obvious that, since Terminus cannot defend itself, Anacreon must take over the job for its own sake. You understand we have no desire to interfere with internal administration"
"Uh-huh," grunted Hardin dryly.
"?but we believe that it would be best for all concerned to have Anacreon establish a military base upon the planet."
"And that is all you would want a military base in some of the vast unoccupied territory and let it go at that?"
"Well, of course, there would be the matter of supporting the protecting forces."
Hardin's chair came down on all four, and his elbows went forward on his knees. "Now we're getting to the nub. Let's put it into language. Terminus is to be a protectorate and to pay tribute."
"Not tribute. Taxes. We're protecting you. You pay for it."
Pirenne banged his hand on the chair with sudden violence. "Let me speak, Hardin. Your eminence, I don't care a rusty half-credit coin for Anacreon, Smyrno, or all your local politics and petty wars. I tell you this is a State-supported tax-free institution."
"State-supported? But we are the State, Dr. Pirenne, and we're not supporting."
Pirenne rose angrily. "Your eminence, I am the direct representative of"
"?his august majesty, the Emperor," chorused Anselm haut Rodric sourly, "And I am the direct representative of the King of Anacreon. Anacreon is a lot nearer, Dr. Pirenne. "
"Let's get back to business," urged Hardin. "How would you take these so-called taxes, your eminence? Would you take them in kind: wheat, potatoes, vegetables, cattle?"
The sub-prefect stared. "What the devil? What do we need with those? We've got hefty surpluses. Gold, of course. Chromium or vanadium would be even better, incidentally, if you have it in quantity."
Hardin laughed. "Quantity! We haven't even got iron in quantity. Gold! Here, take a look at our currency." He tossed a coin to the envoy.
Haut Rodric bounced it and stared. "What is it? Steel?"
"I don't understand."
"Terminus is a planet practically without metals. We import it all. Consequently, we have no gold, and nothing to pay unless you want a few thousand bushels of potatoes."
"Well manufactured goods."
"Without metal? What do we make our machines out of?"
There was a pause and Pirenne tried again. "This whole discussion is wide of the point. Terminus is not a planet, but a scientific foundation preparing a great encyclopedia. Space, man, have you no respect for science?"
"Encyclopedias don't win wars." Haut Rodric's brows furrowed. "A completely unproductive world, then and practically unoccupied at that. Well, you might pay with land."
"What do you mean?" asked Pirenne.
"This world is just about empty and the unoccupied land is probably fertile. There are many of the nobility on Anacreon that would like an addition to their estates."
"You can't propose any such"
"There's no necessity of looking so alarmed, Dr. Pirenne. There's plenty for all of us. If it comes to what it comes, and you co-operate, we could probably arrange it so that you lose nothing. Titles can be conferred and estates granted. You understand me, I think."
Pirenne sneered, "Thanks!"
And then Hardin said ingenuously: "Could Anacreon supply us with adequate quantities of plutonium for our nuclear-power plant? We've only a few years' supply left."
There was a gasp from Pirenne and then a dead silence for minutes. When Haut Rodric spoke it was in a voice quite different from what it had been till then:
"You have nuclear power?"
"Certainly. What's unusual in that? I imagine nuclear power is fifty thousand years old now. Why shouldn't we have it? Except that it's a little difficult to get plutonium."
"Yes ... Yes." The envoy paused and added uncomfortably: "Well, gentlemen, we'll pursue the subject tomorrow. You'll excuse me"
Pirenne looked after him and gritted through his teeth: "That insufferable, dull-witted donkey! That"
Hardin broke in: "Not at all. He's merely the product of his environment. He doesn't understand much except that 'I have a gun and you haven't."
Pirenne whirled on him in exasperation. "What in space did you mean by the talk about military bases and tribute? Are you crazy?"
"No. I merely gave him rope and let him talk. You'll notice that he managed to stumble out with Anacreon's real intentions that is, the parceling up of Terminus into landed estates. Of course, I don't intend to let that happen."
"You don't intend. You don't. And who are you? And may I ask what you meant by blowing off your mouth about our nuclear-power plant? Why, it's just the thing that would make us a military target."
"Yes," grinned Hardin. "A military target to stay away from. Isn't it obvious why I brought the subject up? It happened to confirm a very strong suspicion I had had."
"And that was what?"
"That Anacreon no longer has a nuclear-power economy. If they had, our friend would undoubtedly have realized that plutonium, except in ancient tradition is not used in power plants. And therefore it follows that the rest of the Periphery no longer has nuclear power either. Certainly Smyrno hasn't, or Anacreon wouldn't have won most of the battles in their recent war. Interesting, wouldn't you say?"
"Bah!" Pirenne left in fiendish humor, and Hardin smiled gently.
He threw his cigar away and looked up at the outstretched Galaxy. "Back to oil and coal, are they?" he murmured and what the rest of his thoughts were he kept to himself.
When Hardin denied owning the Journal, he was perhaps technically correct, but no more. Hardin had been the leading spirit in the drive to incorporate Terminus into an autonomous municipality-he had been elected its first mayor-so it was not surprising that, though not a single share of Journal stock was in his name, some sixty percent was controlled by him in more devious fashions.
There were ways.
Consequently, when Hardin began suggesting to Pirenne that he be allowed to attend meetings of the Board of Trustees, it was not quite coincidence that the Journal began a similar campaign. And the first mass meeting in the history of the Foundation was held, demanding representation of the City in the "national" government.
And, eventually, Pirenne capitulated with ill grace.
Hardin, as he sat at the foot of the table, speculated idly as to just what it was that made physical scientists such poor administrators. It might be merely that they were too used to inflexible fact and far too unused to pliable people.
In any case, there was Tomaz Sutt and Jord Fara on his left; Lundin Crast and Yate Fulham on his fight; with Pirenne, himself, presiding. He knew them all, of course, but they seemed to have put on an extra-special bit of pomposity for the occasion.
Hardin had dozed through the initial formalities and then perked up when Pirenne sipped at the glass of water before him by way of preparation and said:
"I find it very gratifying to be able to inform the Board that since our last meeting, I have received word that Lord Dorwin, Chancellor of the Empire, will arrive at Terminus in two weeks. It may be taken for granted that our relations with Anacreon will be smoothed out to our complete satisfaction as soon as the Emperor is informed of the situation. "
He smiled and addressed Hardin across the length of the table. "Information to this effect has been given the Journal."
Hardin snickered below his breath. It seemed evident that Pirenne's desire to strut this information before him had been one reason for his admission into the sacrosanctum.
He said evenly: "Leaving vague expressions out of account, what do you expect Lord Dorwin to do?"
Tomaz Sutt replied. He had a bad habit of addressing one in the third person when in his more stately moods.
"It is quite evident," he observed, "that Mayor Hardin is a professional cynic. He can scarcely fail to realize that the Emperor would be most unlikely to allow his personal rights to be infringed."
"Why? What would he do in case they were?"
There was an annoyed stir. Pirenne said, "You are out of order," and, as an afterthought, "and are making what are near-treasonable statements, besides."
"Am I to consider myself answered?"
"Yes! If you have nothing further to say"
"Don't jump to conclusions. I'd like to ask a question. Besides this stroke of diplomacy which may or may not prove to mean anything has anything concrete been done to meet the Anacreonic menace?"
Yate Fulham drew one hand along his ferocious red mustache. "You see a menace there, do you?"
"Scarcely" this with indulgence. "The Emperor"
"Great space!" Hardin felt annoyed. "What is this? Every once in a while someone mentions 'Emperor' or 'Empire' as if it were a magic word. The Emperor is thousands of parsecs away, and I doubt whether he gives a damn about us. And if he does, what can he do? What there was of the imperial navy in these regions is in the hands of the four kingdoms now and Anacreon has its share. Listen, we have to fight with guns, not with words.
"Now, get this. We've had two months' grace so far, mainly because we've given Anacreon the idea that we've got nuclear weapons. Well, we all know that that's a little white lie. We've got nuclear power, but only for commercial uses, and darn little at that. They're going to find that out soon, and if you think they're going to enjoy being jollied along, you're mistaken."
"My dear sir"
"Hold on: I'm not finished." Hardin was warming up. He liked this. "It's all very well to drag chancellors into this, but it would be much nicer to drag a few great big siege guns fitted for beautiful nuclear bombs into it. We've lost two months, gentlemen, and we may not have another two months to lose. What do you propose to do?"
Said Lundin Crast, his long nose wrinkling angrily: "If you're proposing the militarization of the Foundation, I won't hear a word of it. It would mark our open entrance into the field of politics. We, Mr. Mayor, are a scientific foundation and nothing else."
Added Sutt: "He does not realize, moreover, that building armaments would mean withdrawing men valuable men from the Encyclopedia. That cannot be done, come what may."
"Very true," agreed Pirenne. "The Encyclopedia first always."
Hardin groaned in spirit. The Board seemed to suffer violently from Encyclopedia on the brain,
He said icily: "Has it ever occurred to this Board that it is barely possible that Terminus may have interests other than the Encyclopedia?"
Pirenne replied: "I do not conceive, Hardin, that the Foundation can have any interest other than the Encyclopedia."
"I didn't say the Foundation; I said Terminus. I'm afraid you don't understand the situation. There's a good million of us here on Terminus, and not more than a hundred and fifty thousand are working directly on the Encyclopedia. To the rest of us, this is home. We were born here. We're living here. Compared with our farms and our homes and our factories, the Encyclopedia means little to us. We want them protected"
He was shouted down.
"The Encyclopedia first," ground out Crast. "We have a mission to fulfill."
"Mission, hell," shouted Hardin. "That might have been true fifty years ago. But this is a new generation."
"That has nothing to do with it," replied Pirenne. "We are scientists."
And Hardin leaped through the opening. "Are you, though? That's a nice hallucination, isn't it? Your bunch here is a perfect example of what's been wrong with the entire Galaxy for thousands of years. What kind of science is it to be stuck out here for centuries classifying the work of scientists of the last millennium? Have you ever thought of working onward, extending their knowledge and improving upon it? No! You're quite happy to stagnate. The whole Galaxy is, and has been for space knows how long. That's why the Periphery is revolting; that's why communications are breaking down; that's why petty wars are becoming eternal; that's why whole systems are losing nuclear power and going back to barbarous techniques of chemical power.
"If you ask me," he cried, "the Galactic Empire is dying!"
He paused and dropped into his chair to catch his breath, paying no attention to the two or three that were attempting simultaneously to answer him.
Crast got the floor. "I don't know what you're trying to gain by your hysterical statements, Mr. Mayor. Certainly, you are adding nothing constructive to the discussion. I move, Mr. Chairman, that the speaker's remarks be placed out of order and the discussion be resumed from the point where it was interrupted."
Jord Fara bestirred himself for the first time. Up to this point Fara had taken no part in the argument even at its hottest. But now his ponderous voice, every bit as ponderous as his three-hundred-pound body, burst its bass way out.
"Haven't we forgotten something, gentlemen?"
"What?" asked Pirenne, peevishly.
"That in a month we celebrate our fiftieth anniversary." Fara had a trick of uttering the most obvious platitudes with great profundity.
"What of it?"
"And on that anniversary," continued Fara, placidly, "Hari Seldon's Vault will open. Have you ever considered what might be in the Vault?"
"I don't know. Routine matters. A stock Speech of congratulations, perhaps. I don't think any significance need be placed on the Vault though the Journal" and he glared at Hardin, who grinned back "did try to make an issue of it. I put a stop to that."
"Ah," said Fara, "but perhaps you are wrong. Doesn't it strike you" he paused and put a finger to his round little nose "that the Vault is opening at a very convenient time?"
"Very inconvenient time, you mean," muttered Fulham. "We've got some other things to worry about."
"Other things more important than a message from Hari Seldon? I think not." Fara was growing more pontifical than ever, and Hardin eyed him thoughtfully. What was he getting at?
"In fact," said Fara, happily, "you all seem to forget that Seldon was the greatest psychologist of our time and that he was the founder of our Foundation. It seems reasonable to assume that he used his science to determine the probable course of the history of the immediate future. If he did, as seems likely, I repeat, he would certainly have managed to find a way to warn us of danger and, perhaps, to point out a solution. The Encyclopedia was very dear to his heart, you know."
An aura of puzzled doubt prevailed. Pirenne hemmed. "Well, now, I don't know. Psychology is a great science, but-there are no psychologists among us at the moment, I believe. It seems to me we're on uncertain ground."
Fara turned to Hardin. "Didn't you study psychology under Alurin?"
Hardin answered, half in reverie: "Yes, I never completed my studies, though. I got tired of theory. I wanted to be a psychological engineer, but we lacked the facilities, so I did the next best thing I went into politics. It's practically the same thing."
"Well, what do you think of the Vault?"
And Hardin replied cautiously, "I don't know."
He did not say a word for the remainder of the meeting even though it got back to the subject of the Chancellor of the Empire.
In fact, he didn't even listen. He'd been put on a new track and things were falling into place-just a little. Little angles were fitting together one or two.
And psychology was the key. He was sure of that.
He was trying desperately to remember the psychological theory he had once learned and from it he got one thing right at the start.
A great psychologist such as Seldon could unravel human emotions and human reactions sufficiently to be able to predict broadly the historical sweep of the future.
And what would that mean?
Lord Dorwin took snuff. He also had long hair, curled intricately and, quite obviously, artificially, to which were added a pair of fluffy, blond sideburns, which he fondled affectionately. Then, too, he spoke in overprecise statements and left out all the r's.
At the moment, Hardin had no time to think of more of the reasons for the instant detestation in which he had held the noble chancellor. Oh, yes, the elegant gestures of one hand with which he accompanied his remarks and the studied condescension with which he accompanied even a simple affirmative.
But, at any rate, the problem now was to locate him. He had disappeared with Pirenne half an hour before passed clean out of sight, blast him.
Hardin was quite sure that his own absence during the preliminary discussions would quite suit Pirenne.
But Pirenne had been seen in this wing And on this floor. It was simply a matter of trying every door. Halfway down, he said, "Ah!" and stepped into the darkened room. The profile of Lord Dorwin's intricate hair-do was unmistakable against the lighted screen.
Lord Dorwin looked up and said: "Ah, Hahdin. You ah looking foah us, no doubt?" He held out his snuffbox overadorned and poor workmanship at that, noted Hardinand was politely refused whereat he helped himself to a pinch and smiled graciously.
Pirenne scowled and Hardin met that with an expression of blank indifference.
The only sound to break the short silence that followed was the clicking of the lid of Lord Dorwin's snuffbox. And then he put it away and said:
"A gweat achievement, this Encyclopedia of yoahs, Hahdin. A feat, indeed, to rank with the most majestic accomplishments of all time."
"Most of us think so, milord. It's an accomplishment not quite accomplished as yet, however."
"Fwom the little I have seen of the efficiency of yoah Foundation, I have no feahs on that scoah." And he nodded to Pirenne, who responded with a delighted bow.
Quite a love feast, thought Hardin. "I wasn't complaining about the lack of efficiency, milord, as much as of the definite excess of efficiency on the part of the Anacreonians though in another and more destructive direction."
"Ah, yes, Anacweon." A negligent wave of the hand. "I have just come from theah. Most bahbawous planet. It is thowoughly inconceivable that human beings could live heah in the Pewiphewy. The lack of the most elementawy wequiahments of a cultuahed gentleman; the absence of the most fundamental necessities foah comfoht and convenience the uttah desuetude into which they"
Hardin interrupted dryly: "The Anacreonians, unfortunately, have all the elementary requirements for warfare and all the fundamental necessities for destruction."
"Quite, quite." Lord Dorwin seemed annoyed, perhaps at being stopped midway in his sentence. "But we ahn't to discuss business now, y'know. Weally, I'm othahwise concuhned. Doctah Piwenne, ahn't you going to show me the second volume? Do, please."
The lights clicked out and for the next half-hour Hardin might as well have been on Anacreon for all the attention they paid him. The book upon the screen made little sense to him, nor did he trouble to make the attempt to follow, but Lord Dorwin became quite humanly excited at times. Hardin noticed that during these moments of excitement the chancellor pronounced his r's.
When the lights went on again, Lord Dorwin said: "Mahvelous. Twuly mahvelous. You ah not, by chance, intewested in ahchaeology, ah you, Hahdin?"
"Eh?" Hardin shook himself out of an abstracted reverie. "No, milord, can't say I am. I'm a psychologist by original intention and a politician by final decision."
"Ah! No doubt intewesting studies. 1, myself, y'know" he helped himself to a giant pinch of snuff "dabble in ahchaeology."
"His lordship," interrupted Pirenne, "is most thoroughly acquainted with the field."
"Well, p'haps I am, p'haps I am," said his lordship complacently. "I have done an awful amount of wuhk in the science. Extwemely well-read, in fact. I've gone thwough all of Jawdun, Obijasi, Kwomwill ... oh, all of them, y'know."
"I've heard of them, of course," said Hardin, "but I've never read them."
"You should some day, my deah fellow. It would amply repay you. Why, I cutainly considah it well wuhth the twip heah to the Pewiphewy to see this copy of Lameth. Would you believe it, my Libwawy totally lacks a copy. By the way, Doctah Piwenne, you have not fohgotten yoah pwomise to twansdevelop a copy foah me befoah I leave?"
"Only too pleased."
"Lameth, you must know," continued the chancellor, pontifically, "pwesents a new and most intwesting addition to my pwevious knowledge of the 'Owigin Question."'
"Which question?" asked Hardin.
"The 'Owigin Question.' The place of the owigin of the human species, y'know. Suahly you must know that it is thought that owiginally the human wace occupied only one planetawy system."
"Well, yes, I know that."
"Of cohse, no one knows exactly which system it is lost in the mists of antiquity. Theah ah theawies, howevah. Siwius, some say. Othahs insist on Alpha Centauwi, oah on Sol, oah on 61 Cygni all in the Siwius sectah, you see."
"And what does Lameth say?"
"Well, he goes off along a new twail completely. He twies to show that ahchaeological wemains on the thuhd planet of the Ahctuwian System show that humanity existed theah befoah theah wah any indications of space-twavel."
"And that means it was humanity's birth planet?"
"P'haps. I must wead it closely and weigh the evidence befoah I can say foah cuhtain. One must see just how weliable his obsuhvations ah."
Hardin remained silent for a short while. Then he said, "When did Lameth write his book?"
"Oh I should say about eight hundwed yeahs ago. Of cohse, he has based it lahgely on the pwevious wuhk of Gleen."
"Then why rely on him? Why not go to Arcturus and study the remains for yourself?"
Lord Dorwin raised his eyebrows and took a pinch of snuff hurriedly. "Why, whatevah foah, my deah fellow?"
"To get the information firsthand, of course."
"But wheah's the necessity? It seems an uncommonly woundabout and hopelessly wigmawolish method of getting anywheahs. Look heah, now, I've got the wuhks of all the old mastahs the gweat ahchaeologists of the past. I wigh them against each othah balance the disagweements analyze the conflicting statements decide which is pwobably cowwect and come to a conclusion. That is the scientific method. At least" patronizingly "as I see it. How insuffewably cwude it would be to go to Ahctuwus, oah to Sol, foah instance, and blundah about, when the old mastahs have covahed the gwound so much moah effectually than we could possibly hope to do."
Hardin murmured politely, "I see."
"Come, milord," said Pirenne, "think we had better be returning."
"Ah, yes. P'haps we had."
As they left the room, Hardin said suddenly, "Milord, may I ask a question?"
Lord Dorwin smiled blandly and emphasized his answer with a gracious flutter of the hand. "Cuhtainly, my deah fellow. Only too happy to be of suhvice. If I can help you in any way fwom my pooah stoah of knowledge-"
"It isn't exactly about archaeology, milord."
"No. It's this: Last year we received news here in Terminus about the meltdown of a power plant on Planet V of Gamma Andromeda. We got the barest outline of the accident no details at all. I wonder if you could tell me exactly what happened."
Pirenne's mouth twisted. "I wonder you annoy his lordship with questions on totally irrelevant subjects."
"Not at all, Doctah Piwenne," interceded the chancellor. "It is quite all wight. Theah isn't much to say concuhning it in any case. The powah plant did undergo meltdown and it was quite a catastwophe, y'know. I believe wadiatsen damage. Weally, the govuhnment is sewiously considewing placing seveah westwictions upon the indiscwiminate use of nucleah powah though that is not a thing for genewal publication, y'know."
"I understand," said Hardin. "But what was wrong with the plant?"
"Well, weally," replied Lord Dorwin indifferently, "who knows? It had bwoken down some yeahs pweviously and it is thought that the weplacements and wepaiah wuhk wuh most infewiah. It is so difficult these days to find men who weally undahstand the moah technical details of ouah powah systems." And he took a sorrowful pinch of snuff.
"You realize," said Hardin, "that the independent kingdoms of the Periphery had lost nuclear power altogether?"
"Have they? I'm not at all suhpwised. Bahbawous planets Oh, but my deah fellow, don't call them independent. They ahn't, y'know. The tweaties we've made with them ah pwoof positive of that. They acknowledge the soveweignty of the Empewah. They'd have to, of cohse, oah we wouldn't tweat with them."
"That may be so, but they have considerable freedom of action."
"Yes, I suppose so. Considewable. But that scahcely mattahs. The Empiah is fah bettah off, with the Pewiphewy thwown upon its own wesoahces as it is, moah oah less. They ahn't any good to us, y'know. Most bahbawous planets. Scahcely civilized."
"They were civilized in the past. Anacreon was one of the richest of the outlying provinces. I understand it compared favorably with Vega itself."
"Oh, but, Hahdin, that was centuwies ago. You can scahcely dwaw conclusion fwom that. Things wah diffewent in the old gweat days. We ahn't the men we used to be, y'know. But, Hahdin, come, you ah a most puhsistent chap.
I've told you I simply won't discuss business today. Doctah Piwenne did pwepayah me foah you. He told me you would twy to badgah me, but I'm fah too old a hand foah that. Leave it foah next day. And that was that.
This was the second meeting of the Board that Hardin had attended, if one were to exclude the informal talks the Board members had had with the now-departed Lord Dorwin. Yet the mayor had a perfectly definite idea that at least one other, and possibly two or three, had been held, to which he had somehow never received an invitation.
Nor, it seemed to him, would he have received notification of this one had it not been for the ultimatum.
At least, it amounted to an ultimatum, though a superficial reading of the visigraphed document would lead one to suppose that it was a friendly interchange of greetings between two potentates.
Hardin fingered it gingerly. It started off floridly with a salutation from "His Puissant Majesty, the King of Anacreon, to his friend and brother, Dr. Lewis Pirenne, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, of the Encyclopedia Foundation Number One," and it ended even more lavishly with a gigantic, multicolored seal of the most involved symbolism.
But it was an ultimatum just the same.
Hardin said: "It turned out that we didn't have much time after all only three months. But little as it was, we threw it away unused. This thing here gives us a week. What do we do now?"
Pirenne frowned worriedly. "There must be a loophole. It is absolutely unbelievable that they would push matters to extremities in the face of what Lord Dorwin has assured us regarding the attitude of the Emperor and the Empire."
Hardin perked up. "I see. You have informed the King of Anacreon of this alleged attitude?"
"I did after having placed the proposal to the Board for a vote and having received unanimous consent."
"And when did this vote take place?"
Pirenne climbed onto his dignity. "I do not believe I am answerable to you in any way, Mayor Hardin."
"All right. I'm not that vitally interested. It's just my opinion that it was your diplomatic transmission of Lord Dorwin's valuable contribution to the situation" he lifted the comer of his mouth in a sour half-smile "that was the direct cause of this friendly little note. They might have delayed longer otherwise though I don't think the additional time would have helped Terminus any, considering the attitude of the Board."
Said Yate Fulham: "And just how do you arrive at that remarkable conclusion, Mr. Mayor?"
"In a rather simple way. It merely required the use of that much-neglected commodity common sense. You see, there is a branch of human knowledge known as symbolic logic, which can be used to prune away all sorts of clogging deadwood that clutters up human language."
"What about it?" said Fulham.
"I applied it. Among other things, I applied it to this document here. I didn't really need to for myself because I knew what it was all about, but I think I can explain it more easily to five physical scientists by symbols rather than by words."
Hardin removed a few sheets of paper from the pad under his arm and spread them out. "I didn't do this myself, by the way," he said. "Muller Holk of the Division of Logic has his name signed to the analyses, as you can see."
Pirenne leaned over the table to get a better view and Hardin continued: "The message from Anacreon was a simple problem, naturally, for the men who wrote it were men of action rather than men of words. It boils down easily and straightforwardly to the unqualified statement, when in symbols is what you see, and which in words, roughly translated, is, 'You give us what we want in a week, or we take it by force.'"
There was silence as the five members of the Board ran down the line of symbols, and then Pirenne sat down and coughed uneasily.
Hardin said, "No loophole, is there, Dr. Pirenne?"
"Doesn't seem to be."
"All right." Hardin replaced the sheets. "Before you now you see a copy of the treaty between the Empire and Anacreon a treaty, incidentally, which is signed on the Emperor's behalf by the same Lord Dorwin who was here last week and with it a symbolic analysis."
The treaty ran through five pages of fine print and the analysis was scrawled out in just under half a page.
"As you see, gentlemen, something like ninety percent of the treaty boiled right out of the analysis as being meaningless, and what we end up with can be described in the following interesting manner:
"Obligations of Anacreon to the Empire: None!
"Powers of the Empire over Anacreon: None!"
Again the five followed the reasoning anxiously, checking carefully back to the treaty, and when they were finished, Pirenne said in a worried fashion, "That seems to be correct."
"You admit, then, that the treaty is nothing but a declaration of total independence on the part of Anacreon and a recognition of that status by the Empire?"
"It seems so."
"And do you suppose that Anacreon doesn't realize that, and is not anxious to emphasize the position of independence so that it would naturally tend to resent any appearance of threats from the Empire? Particularly when it is evident that the Empire is powerless to fulfill any such threats, or it would never have allowed independence."
"But then," interposed Sutt, "how would Mayor Hardin account for Lord Dorwin's assurances of Empire support? They seemed " He shrugged. "Well, they seemed satisfactory."
Hardin threw himself back in the chair. "You know, that's the most interesting part of the whole business. I'll admit I had thought his Lordship a most consummate donkey when I first met him but it turned out that he was actually an accomplished diplomat and a most clever man. I took the liberty of recording all his statements."
There was a flurry, and Pirenne opened his mouth in horror.
"What of it?" demanded Hardin. "I realize it was a gross breach of hospitality and a thing no so-called gentleman would do. Also, that if his lordship had caught on, things might have been unpleasant; but he didn't, and I have the record, and that's that. I took that record, had it copied out and sent that to Holk for analysis, also."
Lundin Crast said, "And where is the analysis?"
"That," replied Hardin, "is the interesting thing. The analysis was the most difficult of the three by all odds. When Holk, after two days of steady work, succeeded in eliminating meaningless statements, vague gibberish, useless qualifications in short, all the goo and dribble he found he had nothing left. Everything canceled out."
"Lord Dorwin, gentlemen, in five days of discussion didn't say one damned thing, and said it so you never noticed. There are the assurances you had from your precious Empire."
Hardin might have placed an actively working stench bomb on the table and created no more confusion than existed after his last statement. He waited, with weary patience, for it to die down.
"So," he concluded, "when you sent threats and that's what they were concerning Empire action to Anacreon, you merely irritated a monarch who knew better. Naturally, his ego would demand immediate action, and the ultimatum is the result-which brings me to my original statement. We have one week left and what do we do now?"
"It seems," said Sutt, "that we have no choice but to allow Anacreon to establish military bases on Terminus."
"I agree with you there," replied Hardin, "but what do we do toward kicking them off again at the first opportunity?"
Yate Fulham's mustache twitched. "That sounds as if you have made up your mind that violence must be used against them."
"Violence," came the retort, "is the last refuge of the incompetent. But I certainly don't intend to lay down the welcome mat and brush off the best furniture for their use."
"I still don't like the way you put that," insisted Fulham. "It is a dangerous attitude; the more dangerous because we have noticed lately that a sizable section of the populace seems to respond to all your suggestions just so. I might as well tell you, Mayor Hardin, that the board is not quite blind to your recent activities."
He paused and there was general agreement. Hardin shrugged.
Fulham went on: "If you were to inflame the City into an act of violence, you would achieve elaborate suicide and we don't intend to allow that. Our policy has but one cardinal principle, and that is the Encyclopedia. Whatever we decide to do or not to do will be so decided because it will be the measure required to keep that Encyclopedia safe."
"Then," said Hardin, "you come to the conclusion that we must continue our intensive campaign of doing nothing."
Pirenne said bitterly: "You have yourself demonstrated that the Empire cannot help us; though how and why it can be so, I don't understand. If compromise is necessary"
Hardin had the nightmarelike sensation of running at top speed and getting nowhere. "There is no compromise! Don't you realize that this bosh about military bases is a particularly inferior grade of drivel? Haut Rodric told us what Anacreon was after outright annexation and imposition of its own feudal system of landed estates and peasant-aristocracy economy upon us. What is left of our bluff of nuclear power may force them to move slowly, but they will move nonetheless."
He had risen indignantly, and the rest rose with him except for Jord Fara.
And then Jord Fara spoke. "Everyone will please sit down. We've gone quite far enough, I think. Come, there's no use looking so furious, Mayor Hardin; none of us have been committing treason."
"You'll have to convince me of that!"
Fara smiled gently. "You know you don't mean that. Let me speak!"
His little shrewd eyes were half closed, and the perspiration gleamed on the smooth expanse of his chin. "There seems no point in concealing that the Board has come to the decision that the real solution to the Anacreonian problem lies in what is to be revealed to us when the Vault opens six days from now."
"Is that your contribution to the matter?"
"We are to do nothing, is that fight, except to wait in quiet serenity and utter faith for the deus ex machina to pop out of the Vault?"
"Stripped of your emotional phraseology, that's the idea."
"Such unsubtle escapism! Really, Dr. Fara, such folly smacks of genius. A lesser mind would be incapable of it."
Fara smiled indulgently. "Your taste in epigrams is amusing, Hardin, but out of place. As a matter of fact, I think you remember my line of argument concerning the Vault about three weeks ago."
"Yes, I remember it. I don't deny that it was anything but a stupid idea from the standpoint of deductive logic alone. You said stop me when I make a mistake that Hari Seldon was the greatest psychologist in the System; that, hence, he could foresee the right and uncomfortable spot we're in now; that, hence, he established the Vault as a method of telling us the way out."
"You've got the essence of the idea."
"Would it surprise you to hear that I've given considerable thought to the matter these last weeks?"
"Very flattering. With what result?"
"With the result that pure deduction is found wanting. Again what is needed is a little sprinkling of common sense."
"For instance, if he foresaw the Anacreonian mess, why not have placed us on some other planet nearer the Galactic centers? It's well known that Seldon maneuvered the Commissioners on Trantor into ordering the Foundation established on Terminus. But why should he have done so? Why put us out here at all if he could see in advance the break in communication lines, our isolation from the Galaxy, the threat of our neighbors and our helplessness because of the lack of metals on Terminus? That above all! Or if he foresaw all this, why not have warned the original settlers in advance that they might have had time to prepare, rather than wait, as he is doing, until one foot is over the cliff, before doing so?
"And don't forget this. Even though he could foresee the problem then, we can see it equally well now. Therefore, if he could foresee the solution then, we should be able to see it now. After all, Seldon was not a magician. There are no trick methods of escaping from a dilemma that he can see and we can't."
"But, Hardin," reminded Fara, "we can't!"
"But you haven't tried. You haven't tried once. First, you refused to admit that there was a menace at all! Then you reposed an absolutely blind faith in the Emperor! Now you've shifted it to Hari Seldon. Throughout you have invariably relied on authority or on the past never on yourselves."
His fists balled spasmodically. "It amounts to a diseased attitude a conditioned reflex that shunts aside the independence of your minds whenever it is a question of opposing authority. There seems no doubt ever in your minds that the Emperor is more powerful than you are, or Hari Seldon wiser. And that's wrong, don't you see?"
For some reason, no one cared to answer him.
Hardin continued: "It isn't just you. It's the whole Galaxy. Pirenne heard Lord Dorwin's idea of scientific research. Lord Dorwin thought the way to be a good archaeologist was to read all the books on the subject written by men who were dead for centuries. He thought that the way to solve archaeological puzzles was to weigh the opposing authorities. And Pirenne listened and made no objections. Don't you see that there's something wrong with that?"
Again the note of near-pleading in his voice. Again no answer.
He went on: "And you men and half of Terminus as well are just as bad. We sit here, considering the Encyclopedia the all-in-all. We consider the greatest end of science. is the classification of past data. It is important, but is there no further work to be done? We're receding and forgetting, don't you see? Here in the Periphery they've lost nuclear power. In Gamma Andromeda, a power plant has undergone meltdown because of poor repairs, and the Chancellor of the Empire complains that nuclear technicians are scarce. And the solution? To train new ones? Never! Instead they're to restrict nuclear power."
And for the third time: "Don't you see? It's Galaxywide. It's a worship of the past. It's a deterioration a stagnation!"
He stared from one to the other and they gazed fixedly at him.
Fara was the first to recover. "Well, mystical philosophy isn't going to help us here. Let us be concrete. Do you deny that Hari Seldon could easily have worked out historical trends of the future by simple psychological technique?"
"No, of course not," cried Hardin. "But we can't rely on him for a solution. At best, he might indicate the problem, but if ever there is to be a solution, we must work it out ourselves. He can't do it for us."
Fulham spoke suddenly. "What do you mean 'indicate the problem'? We know the problem."
Hardin whirled on him. "You think you do? You think Anacreon is all Hari Seldon is likely to be worried about. I disagree! I tell you, gentlemen, that as yet none of you has the faintest conception of what is really going on."
"And you do?" questioned Pirenne, hostilely.
"I think so!" Hardin jumped up and pushed his chair away. His eyes were cold and hard. "If there's one thing that's definite, it is that there's something smelly about the whole situation; something that is bigger than anything we've talked about yet. Just ask yourself this question: Why was it that among the original population of the Foundation not one first-class psychologist was included, except Bor Alurin? And he carefully refrained from training his pupils in more than the fundamentals."
A short silence and Fara said: "All right. Why?"
"Perhaps because a psychologist might have caught on to what this was all about and too soon to suit Hari Seldon. As it is, we've been stumbling about, getting misty glimpses of the truth and no more. And that is what Hari Seldon wanted."
He laughed harshly. "Good day, gentlemen!"
He stalked out of the room.
Mayor Hardin chewed at the end of his cigar. It had gone out but he was past noticing that. He hadn't slept the night before and he had a good idea that he wouldn't sleep this coming night. His eyes showed it.
He said wearily, "And that covers it?"
"I think so." Yohan Lee put a hand to his chin. "How does it sound?"
"Not too bad. It's got to be done, you understand, with impudence. That is, there is to be no hesitation; no time to allow them to grasp the situation. Once we are in a position to give orders, why, give them as though you were born to do so, and they'll obey out of habit. That's the essence of a coup."
"If the Board remains irresolute for even "
"The Board? Count them out. After tomorrow, their importance as a factor in Terminus affairs won't matter a rusty half-credit."
Lee nodded slowly. "Yet it is strange that they've done nothing to stop us so far. You say they weren't entirely in the dark."
"Fara stumbles at the edges of the problem. Sometimes he makes me nervous. And Pirenne's been suspicious of me since I was elected. But, you see, they never had the capacity of really understanding what was up. Their whole training has been authoritarian. They are sure that the Emperor, just because he is the Emperor, is all-powerful. And they are sure that the Board of Trustees, simply because it is the Board of Trustees acting in the name of the Emperor, cannot be in a position where it does not give the orders. That incapacity to recognize the possibility of revolt is our best ally."
He heaved out of his chair and went to the water cooler. "They're not bad fellows, Lee, when they stick to their Encyclopedia and we'll see that that's where they stick in the future. They're hopelessly incompetent when it comes to ruling Terminus. Go away now and start things rolling. I want to be alone."
He sat down on the comer of his desk and stared at the cup of water.
Space! If only he were as confident as he pretended! The Anacreonians were landing in two days and what had he to go on but a set of notions and half-guesses as to what Had Seldon had been driving at these past fifty years? He wasn't even a real, honest-to-goodness psychologist just a fumbler with a little training trying to outguess the greatest mind of the age.
If Fara were fight; if Anacreon were all the problem Hari Seldon had foreseen; if the Encyclopedia were all he was interested in preserving then what price coup d'etat?
He shrugged and drank his water.
The Vault was furnished with considerably more than six chairs, as though a larger company had been expected. Hardin noted that thoughtfully and seated himself wearily in a comer just as far from the other five as possible.
The Board members did not seem to object to that arrangement. They spoke among themselves in whispers, which fell off into sibilant monosyllables, and then into nothing at all. Of them all, only Jord Fara seemed even reasonably calm. He had produced a watch and was staring at it somberly.
Hardin glanced at his own watch and then at the glass cubicle absolutely empty that dominated half the room. It was the only unusual feature of the room, for aside from that there was no indication that somewhere a computer was splitting off instants of time toward that precise moment when a muon stream would flow, a connection be made and
The lights went dim!
They didn't go out, but merely yellowed and sank with a suddenness that made Hardin jump. He had lifted his eyes to the ceiling lights in startled fashion, and when he brought them down the glass cubicle was no longer empty.
A figure occupied it a figure in a wheel chair!
It said nothing for a few moments, but it closed the book upon its lap and fingered it idly. And then it smiled, and the face seemed all alive.
It said, "I am Hari Seldon." The voice was old and soft.
Hardin almost rose to acknowledge the introduction and stopped himself in the act.
The voice continued conversationally: "As you see, I am confined to this chair and cannot rise to greet you. Your grandparents left for Terminus a few months back in my time and since then I have suffered a rather inconvenient paralysis. I can't see you, you know, so I can't greet you properly. I don't even know how many of you there are, so all this must be conducted informally. If any of you are standing, please sit down; and if you care to smoke, I wouldn't mind." There was a light chuckle. "Why should I? I'm not really here."
Hardin fumbled for a cigar almost automatically, but thought better of it.
Hari Seldon put away his book as if laying it upon a desk at his side and when his fingers let go, it disappeared.
He said: "It is fifty years now since this Foundation was established fifty years in which the members of the Foundation have been ignorant of what it was they were working toward. It was necessary that they be ignorant, but now the necessity is gone.
"The Encyclopedia Foundation, to begin with, is a fraud, and always has been!"
There was a sound of a scramble behind Hardin and one or two muffled exclamations, but he did not turn around.
Hari Seldon was, of course, undisturbed. He went on: "It is a fraud in the sense that neither I nor my colleagues care at all whether a single volume of the Encyclopedia is ever published. It has served its purpose, since by it we extracted an imperial charter from the Emperor, by it we attracted the hundred thousand humans necessary for our scheme, and by it we managed to keep them preoccupied while events shaped themselves, until it was too late for any of them to draw back.
"In the fifty years that you have worked on this fraudulent project there is no use in softening phrases your retreat has been cut off, and you have now no choice but to proceed on the infinitely more important project that was, and is, our real plan.
"To that end we have placed you on such a planet and at such a time that in fifty years you were maneuvered to the point where you no longer have freedom of action. From now on, and into the centuries, the path you must take is inevitable. You will be faced with a series of crises, as you are now faced with the first, and in each case your freedom of action will become similarly circumscribed so that you will be forced along one, and only one, path.
"It is that path which our psychology has worked out and for a reason.
"For centuries Galactic civilization has stagnated and declined, though only a few ever realized that. But now, at last, the Periphery is breaking away and the political unity of the Empire is shattered. Somewhere in the fifty years just past is where the historians of the future will place an arbitrary line and say: 'This marks the Fall of the Galactic Empire.'
"And they will be right, though scarcely any will recognize that Fall for additional centuries.
"And after the Fall will come inevitable barbarism, a period which, our psychohistory tells us, should, under ordinary circumstances, last for thirty thousand years. We cannot stop the Fall. We do not wish to; for Imperial culture has lost whatever virility and worth it once had. But we can shorten the period of Barbarism that must follow down to a single thousand of years.
"The ins and outs of that shortening, we cannot tell you; just as we could not tell you the truth about the Foundation fifty years ago. Were you to discover those ins and outs, our plan might fail; as it would have, had you penetrated the fraud of the Encyclopedia earlier; for then, by knowledge, your freedom of action would be expanded and the number of additional variables introduced would become greater than our psychology could handle.
"But you won't, for there are no psychologists on Terminus, and never were, but for Alurin and he was one of us.
"But this I can tell you: Terminus and its companion Foundation at the other end of the Galaxy are the seeds of the Renascence and the future founders of the Second Galactic Empire. And it is the present crisis that is starting Terminus off to that climax.
"This, by the way, is a rather straightforward crisis, much simpler than many of those that are ahead. To reduce it to its fundamentals, it is this: You are a planet suddenly cut off from the still-civilized centers of the Galaxy, and threatened by your stronger neighbors. You are a small world of scientists surrounded by vast and rapidly expanding reaches of barbarism. You are an island of nuclear power in a growing ocean of more primitive energy; but are helpless despite that, because of your lack of metals.
"You see, then, that you are faced by hard necessity, and that action is forced on you. The nature of that action that is, the solution to your dilemma is, of course, obvious!"
The image of Hari Seldon reached into open air and the book once more appeared in his hand. He opened it and said:
"But whatever devious course your future history may take, impress it always upon your descendants that the path has been marked out, and that at its end is new and greater Empire!"
And as his eyes bent to his book, he flicked into nothingness, and the lights brightened once more.
Hardin looked up to see Pirenne facing him, eyes tragic and lips trembling.
The chairman's voice was firm but toneless. "You were right, it seems. If you will see us tonight at six, the Board will consult with you as to the next move."
They shook his hand, each one, and left, and Hardin smiled to himself. They were fundamentally sound at that; for they were scientists enough to admit that they were wrong but for them, it was too late.
He looked at his watch. By this time, it was all over. Lee's men were in control and the Board was giving orders no longer.
The Anacreonians were landing their first spaceships tomorrow, but that was all right, too. In six months, they would be giving orders no longer.
In fact, as Hari Seldon had said, and as Salvor Hardin had guessed since the day that Anselm haut Rodric had first revealed to him Anacreon's lack of nuclear power the solution to this first crisis was obvious.
Obvious as all hell!
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