Maps in a mirror, p.37

Maps in a Mirror, page 37

 

Maps in a Mirror
 



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  “Well, I hope you have a wonderful morning, growling and grumbling about the stupidity of everyone in origin studies—except your esteemed self.”

  “Why are you teasing me about my vanity today? I’ve always been vain.”

  “I consider it one of your most endearing traits.”

  “At least I make an effort to live up to my own opinion of myself.”

  “That’s nothing. You even live up to my opinion of you.” She kissed the bald spot on the top of his head as she breezed by, heading for the bathroom.

  Leyel turned his attention to the new essay at the front of the lector display. It was a name he didn’t recognize. Fully prepared to find pretentious writing and puerile thought, he was surprised to find himself becoming quite absorbed. This woman had been following a trail of primate studies—a field so long neglected that there simply were no papers within the range of millennial depth. Already he knew she was his kind of scholar. She even mentioned the fact that she was using archives opened by the Forska Research Foundation. Leyel was not above being pleased at this tacit expression of gratitude.

  It seemed that the woman—a Dr. Thoren Magolissian—had been following Leyel’s lead, searching for the principles of human origin rather than wasting time on the irrelevant search for one particular planet. She had uncovered a trove of primate research from three millennia ago, which was based on chimpanzee and gorilla studies dating back to seven thousand years ago. The earliest of these had referred to original research so old it may have been conducted before the founding of the Empire—but those most ancient reports had not yet been located. They probably didn’t exist any more. Texts abandoned for more than five thousand years were very hard to restore; texts older than eight thousand years were simply unreadable. It was tragic, how many texts had been “stored” by librarians who never checked them, never refreshed or recopied them. Presiding over vast archives that had lost every scrap of readable information. All neatly catalogued, of course, so you knew exactly what it was that humanity had lost forever.

  Never mind.

  Magolissian’s article. What startled Leyel was her conclusion that primitive language capability seemed to be inherent in the primate mind. Even in primates incapable of speech, other symbols could easily be learned—at least for simple nouns and verbs—and the nonhuman primates could come up with sentences and ideas that had never been spoken to them. This meant that mere production of language, per se, was prehuman, or at least not the determining factor of humanness.

  It was a dazzling thought. It meant that the difference between humans and nonhumans—the real origin of humans in recognizably human form—was postlinguistic. Of course this came as a direct contradiction of one of Leyel’s own assertions in an early paper—he had said that “since language is what separates human from beast, historical linguistics may provide the key to human origins”—but this was the sort of contradiction he welcomed. He wished he could shout at the other fellow, make him look at Magolissian’s article. See? This is how to do it! Challenge my assumption, not my conclusion, and do it with new evidence instead of trying to twist the old stuff. Cast a light in the darkness, don’t just churn up the same old sediment at the bottom of the river.

  Before he could get into the main body of the article, however, the house computer informed him that someone was at the door of the apartment. It was a message that crawled along the bottom of the lector display. Leyel pressed the key that brought the message to the front, in letters large enough to read. For the thousandth time he wished that sometime in the decamillennia of human history, somebody had invented a computer capable of speech.

  “Who is it?” Leyel typed.

  A moment’s wait, while the house computer interrogated the visitor.

  The answer appeared on the lector: “Secure courier with a message for Leyel Forska.”

  The very fact that the courier had got past house security meant that it was genuine—and important. Leyel typed again. “From?”

  Another pause. “Hari Seldon of the Encyclopedia Galactica Foundation.”

  Leyel was out of his chair in a moment. He got to the door even before the house computer could open it, and without a word took the message in his hands. Fumbling a bit, he pressed the top and bottom of the black glass lozenge to prove by fingerprint that it was he, by body temperature and pulse that he was alive to receive it. Then, when the courier and her bodyguards were gone, he dropped the message into the chamber of his lector and watched the page appear in the air before him.

  At the top was a three-dimensional version of the logo of Hari’s Encyclopedia Foundation. Soon to be my insignia as well, thought Leyel. Hari Seldon and I, the two greatest scholars of our time, joined together in a project whose scope surpasses anything ever attempted by any man or group of men. The gathering together of all the knowledge of the Empire in a systematic, easily accessible way, to preserve it through the coming time of anarchy so that a new civilization can quickly rise out of the ashes of the old. Hari had the vision to foresee the need. And I, Leyel Forska, have the understanding of all the old archives that will make the Encyclopedia Galactica possible.

  Leyel started reading with a confidence born of experience; had he ever really desired anything and been denied?

  My dear friend:

  I was surprised and honored to see an application from you and insisted on writing your answer personally. It is gratifying beyond measure that you believe in the Foundation enough to apply to take part. I can truthfully tell you that we have received no application from any other scholar of your distinction and accomplishment.

  Of course, thought Leyel. There is no other scholar of my stature, except Hari himself, and perhaps Deet, once her current work is published. At least we have no equals by the standards that Hari and I have always recognized as valid. Hari created the science of psychohistory. I transformed and revitalized the field of originism.

  And yet the tone of Hari’s letter was wrong. It sounded like—flattery. That was it. Hari was softening the coming blow. Leyel knew before reading it what the next paragraph would say.

  Nevertheless, Leyel, I must reply in the negative. The Foundation on Terminus is designed to collect and preserve knowledge. Your life’s work has been devoted to expanding it. You are the opposite of the sort of researcher we need. Far better for you to remain on Trantor and continue your inestimably valuable studies, while lesser men and women exile themselves on Terminus.

  Your servant,

  Hari

  Did Hari imagine Leyel to be so vain he would read these flattering words and preen himself contentedly? Did he think Leyel would believe that this was the real reason his application was being denied? Could Hari Seldon misknow a man so badly?

  Impossible. Hari Seldon, of all people in the Empire, knew how to know other people. True, his great work in psychohistory dealt with large masses of people, with populations and probabilities. But Hari’s fascination with populations had grown out of his interest in and understanding of individuals. Besides, he and Hari had been friends since Hari first arrived on Trantor. Hadn’t a grant from Leyel’s own research fund financed most of Hari’s original research? Hadn’t they held long conversations in the early days, tossing ideas back and forth, each helping the other hone his thoughts? They may not have seen each other much in the last—what, five years? Six?—but they were adults, not children. They didn’t need constant visits in order to remain friends. And this was not the letter a true friend would send to Leyel Forska. Even if, doubtful as it might seem, Hari Seldon really meant to turn him down, he would not suppose for a moment that Leyel would be content with a letter like this.

  Surely Hari would have known that it would be like a taunt to Leyel Forska. “Lesser men and women,” indeed! The Foundation on Terminus was so valuable to Hari Seldon that he had been willing to risk death on charges of treason in order to launch the project. It was unlikely in the extreme that he would populate Terminus with second-raters. No, this was the for
m letter sent to placate prominent scholars who were judged unfit for the Foundation. Hari would have known Leyel would immediately recognize it as such.

  There was only one possible conclusion. “Hari could not have written this letter,” Leyel said.

  “Of course he could,” Deet told him, blunt as always. She had come out of the bathroom in her dressing gown and read the letter over his shoulder.

  “If you think so then I truly am hurt,” said Leyel. He got up, poured a cup of peshat, and began to sip it. He studiously avoided looking at Deet.

  “Don’t pout, Leyel. Think of the problems Hari is facing. He has so little time, so much to do. A hundred thousand people to transport to Terminus, most of the resources of the Imperial Library to duplicate—”

  “He already had those people—”

  “All in six months since his trial ended. No wonder we haven’t seen him, socially or professionally, in—years. A decade!”

  “You’re saying that he no longer knows me? Unthinkable.”

  “I’m saying that he knows you very well. He knew you would recognize his message as a form letter. He also knew that you would understand at once what this meant.”

  “Well, then, my dear, he overestimated me. I do not understand what it means, unless it means he did not send it himself.”

  “Then you’re getting old, and I’m ashamed of you. I shall deny we are married and pretend you are my idiot uncle whom I allow to live with me out of charity. I’ll tell the children they were illegitimate. They’ll be very sad to learn they won’t inherit a bit of the Forska estate.”

  He threw a crumb of toast at her. “You are a cruel and disloyal wench, and I regret raising you out of poverty and obscurity. I only did it for pity, you know.”

  This was an old tease of theirs. She had commanded a decent fortune in her own right, though of course Leyel’s dwarfed it. And, technically, he was her uncle, since her stepmother was Leyel’s older half sister Zenna. It was all very complicated. Zenna had been born to Leyel’s mother when she was married to someone else—before she married Leyel’s father. So while Zenna was well dowered, she had no part in the Forska fortune. Leyel’s father, amused at the situation, once remarked, “Poor Zenna. Lucky you. My semen flows with gold.” Such are the ironies that come with great fortune. Poor people don’t have to make such terrible distinctions between their children.

  Deet’s father, however, assumed that a Forska was a Forska, and so, several years after Deet had married Leyel, he decided that it wasn’t enough for his daughter to be married to uncountable wealth, he ought to do the same favor for himself. He said, of course, that he loved Zenna to distraction, and cared nothing for fortune, but only Zenna believed him. Therefore she married him. Thus Leyel’s half sister became Deet’s stepmother, which made Leyel his wife’s stepuncle—and his own stepuncle-in-law. A dynastic tangle that greatly amused Leyel and Deet.

  Leyel of course compensated for Zenna’s lack of inheritance with a lifetime stipend that amounted to ten times her husband’s income each year. It had the happy effect of keeping Deet’s old father in love with Zenna.

  Today, though, Leyel was only half teasing Deet. There were times when he needed her to confirm him, to uphold him. As often as not she contradicted him instead. Sometimes this led him to rethink his position and emerge with a better understanding—thesis, antithesis, synthesis, the dialectic of marriage, the result of being espoused to one’s intellectual equal. But sometimes her challenge was painful, unsatisfying, infuriating.

  Oblivious to his underlying anger, she went on. “Hari assumed that you would take his form letter for what it is—a definite, final no. He isn’t hedging, he’s not engaging in some bureaucratic deviousness, he isn’t playing politics with you. He isn’t stringing you along in hopes of getting more financial support from you—if that were it you know he’d simply ask.”

  “I already know what he isn’t doing.”

  “What he is doing is turning you down with finality. An answer from which there is no appeal. He gave you credit for having the wit to understand that.”

  “How convenient for you if I believe that.”

  Now, at last, she realized he was angry. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

  “You can stay here on Trantor and continue your work with all your bureaucratic friends.”

  Her face went cold and hard. “I told you. I am quite happy to go to Terminus with you.”

  “Am I supposed to believe that, even now? Your research in community formation within the Imperial bureaucracy cannot possibly continue on Terminus.”

  “I’ve already done the most important research. What I’m doing with the Imperial Library staff is a test.”

  “Not even a scientific one, since there’s no control group.”

  She looked annoyed. “I’m the one who told you that.”

  It was true. Leyel had never even heard of control groups until she taught him the whole concept of experimentation. She had found it in some very old child-development studies from the 3100s G.E. “Yes, I was just agreeing with you,” he said lamely.

  “The point is, I can write my book as well on Terminus as anywhere else. And yes, Leyel, you are supposed to believe that I’m happy to go with you, because I said it, and therefore it’s so.”

  “I believe that you believe it. I also believe that in your heart you are very glad that I was turned down, and you don’t want me to pursue this matter any further so there’ll be no chance of your having to go to the godforsaken end of the universe.”

  Those had been her words, months ago, when he first proposed applying to join the Seldon Foundation. “We’d have to go to the godforsaken end of the universe!” She remembered now as well as he did. “You’ll hold that against me forever, won’t you! I think I deserve to be forgiven my first reaction. I did consent to go, didn’t I?”

  “Consent, yes. But you never wanted to.”

  “Well, Leyel, that’s true enough. I never wanted to. Is that your idea of what our marriage means? That I’m to subsume myself in you so deeply that even your desires become my own? I thought it was enough that from time to time we consent to sacrifice for each other. I never expected you to want to leave the Forska estates and come to Trantor when I needed to do my research here. I only asked you to do it—whether you wanted to or not—because I wanted it. I recognized and respected your sacrifice. I am very angry to discover that my sacrifice is despised.”

  “Your sacrifice remains unmade. We are still on Trantor.”

  “Then by all means, go to Hari Seldon, plead with him, humiliate yourself, and then realize that what I told you is true. He doesn’t want you to join his Foundation and he will not allow you to go to Terminus.”

  “Are you so certain of that?”

  “No, I’m not certain. It merely seems likely.”

  “I will go to Terminus, if he’ll have me. I hope I don’t have to go alone.”

  He regretted the words as soon as he said them. She froze as if she had been slapped, a look of horror on her face. Then she turned and ran from the room. A few moments later, he heard the chime announcing that the door of their apartment had opened. She was gone.

  No doubt to talk things over with one of her friends. Women have no sense of discretion. They cannot keep domestic squabbles to themselves. She will tell them all the awful things I said, and they’ll cluck and tell her it’s what she must expect from a husband, husbands demand that their wives make all the sacrifices, you poor thing, poor poor Deet. Well, Leyel didn’t begrudge her this barnyard of sympathetic hens. It was part of human nature, he knew, for women to form a perpetual conspiracy against the men in their lives. That was why women have always been so certain that men also formed a conspiracy against them.

  How ironic, he thought. Men have no such solace. Men do not bind themselves so easily into communities. A man is always aware of the possibility of betrayal, of conflicting loyalties. Therefore when a man does commit himself truly, it is a rare and sac
red bond, not to be cheapened by discussing it with others. Even a marriage, even a good marriage like theirs—his commitment might be absolute, but he could never trust hers so completely.

  Leyel had buried himself within the marriage, helping and serving and loving Deet with all his heart. She was wrong, completely wrong about his coming to Trantor. He hadn’t come as a sacrifice, against his will, solely because she wanted to come. On the contrary: because she wanted so much to come, he also wanted to come, changing even his desires to coincide with hers. She commanded his very heart, because it was impossible for him not to desire anything that would bring her happiness.

  But she, no, she could not do that for him. If she went to Terminus, it would be as a noble sacrifice. She would never let him forget that she hadn’t wanted to. To him, their marriage was his very soul. To Deet, their marriage was just a friendship with sex. Her soul belonged as much to these other women as to him. By dividing her loyalties, she fragmented them; none were strong enough to sway her deepest desires. Thus he discovered what he supposed all faithful men eventually discover—that no human relationship is ever anything but tentative. There is no such thing as an unbreakable bond between people. Like the particles in the nucleus of the atom. They are bound by the strongest forces in the universe, and yet they can be shattered, they can break.

  Nothing can last. Nothing is, finally, what it once seemed to be. Deet and he had had a perfect marriage until there came a stress that exposed its imperfection. Anyone who thinks he has a perfect marriage, a perfect friendship, a perfect trust of any kind, he only believes this because the stress that will break it has not yet come. He might die with the illusion of happiness, but all he has proven is that sometimes death comes before betrayal. If you live long enough, betrayal will inevitably come.

 

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