Maps in a mirror, p.38

Maps in a Mirror, page 38


Maps in a Mirror

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  Such were the dark thoughts that filled Leyel’s mind as he made his way through the maze of the city of Trantor. Leyel did not seal himself inside a private car when he went about in the planet-wide city. He refused the trappings of wealth; he insisted on experiencing the life of Trantor as an ordinary man. Thus his bodyguards were under strict instructions to remain discreet, interfering with no pedestrians except those carrying weapons, as revealed by a subtle and instantaneous scan.

  It was much more expensive to travel through the city this way, of course—every time he stepped out the door of his simple apartment, nearly a hundred high-paid bribeproof employees went into action. A weaponproof car would have been much cheaper. But Leyel was determined not to be imprisoned by his wealth.

  So he walked through the corridors of the city, riding cabs and tubes, standing in lines like anyone else. He felt the great city throbbing with life around him. Yet such was his dark and melancholy mood today that the very life of the city filled him with a sense of betrayal and loss. Even you, great Trantor, the Imperial City, even you will be betrayed by the people who made you. Your empire will desert you, and you will become a pathetic remnant of yourself, plated with the metal of a thousand worlds and asteroids as a reminder that once the whole galaxy promised to serve you forever, and now you are abandoned. Hari Seldon had seen it. Hari Seldon understood the changeability of humankind. He knew that the great empire would fall, and so—unlike the government, which depended on things remaining the same forever—Hari Seldon could actually take steps to ameliorate the Empire’s fall, to prepare on Terminus a womb for the rebirth of human greatness. Hari was creating the future. It was unthinkable that he could mean to cut Leyel Forska out of it.

  The Foundation, now that it had legal existence and Imperial funding, had quickly grown into a busy complex of offices in the four-thousand-year-old Putassuran Building. Because the Putassuran was originally built to house the Admiralty shortly after the great victory whose name it bore, it had an air of triumph, of monumental optimism about it—rows of soaring arches, a vaulted atrium with floating bubbles of light rising and dancing in channeled columns of air. In recent centuries the building had served as a site for informal public concerts and lectures, with the offices used to house the Museum Authority. It had come empty only a year before Hari Seldon was granted the right to form his Foundation, but it seemed as though it had been built for this very purpose. Everyone was hurrying this way and that, always seeming to be on urgent business, and yet also happy to be part of a noble cause. There had been no noble causes in the Empire for a long, long time.

  Leyel quickly threaded his way through the maze that protected the Foundation’s director from casual interruption. Other men and women, no doubt, had tried to see Hari Seldon and failed, put off by this functionary or that. Hari Seldon is a very busy man. Perhaps if you make an appointment for later. Seeing him today is out of the question. He’s in meetings all afternoon and evening. Do call before coming next time.

  But none of this happened to Leyel Forska. All he had to do was say, “Tell Mr. Seldon that Mr. Forska wishes to continue a conversation.” However much awe they might have of Hari Seldon, however they might intend to obey his orders not to be disturbed, they all knew that Leyel Forska was the universal exception. Even Linge Chen would be called out of a meeting of the Commission of Public Safety to speak with Forska, especially if Leyel went to the trouble of coming in person.

  The ease with which he gained entry to see Hari, the excitement and optimism of the people, of the building itself, had encouraged Leyel so much that he was not at all prepared for Hari’s first words.

  “Leyel, I’m surprised to see you. I thought you would understand that my message was final.”

  It was the worst thing that Hari could possibly have said. Had Deet been right after all? Leyel studied Hari’s face for a moment, trying to see some sign of change. Was all that had passed between them through the years forgotten now? Had Hari’s friendship never been real? No. Looking at Hari’s face, a bit more lined and wrinkled now, Leyel saw still the same earnestness, the same plain honesty that had always been there. So instead of expressing the rage and disappointment that he felt, Leyel answered carefully, leaving the way open for Hari to change his mind. “I understood that your message was deceptive, and therefore could not be final.”

  Hari looked a little angry. “Deceptive?”

  “I know which men and women you’ve been taking into your Foundation. They are not second-raters.”

  “Compared to you they are,” said Hari. “They’re academics, which means they’re clerks. Sorters and interpreters of information.”

  “So am I. So are all scholars today. Even your inestimable theories arose from sorting through a trillion bytes of data and interpreting it.”

  Hari shook his head. “I didn’t just sort through data. I had an idea in my head. So did you. Few others do. You and I are expanding human knowledge. Most of the rest are only digging it up in one place and piling it in another. That’s what the Encyclopedia Galactica is. A new pile.”

  “Nevertheless, Hari, you know and I know that this is not the real reason you turned me down. And don’t tell me that it’s because Leyel Forska’s presence on Terminus would call undue attention to the project. You already have so much attention from the government that you can hardly breathe.”

  “You are unpleasantly persistent, Leyel. I don’t like even having this conversation.”

  “That’s too bad, Hari. I want to be part of your project. I would contribute to it more than any other person who might join it. I’m the one who plunged back into the oldest and most valuable archives and exposed the shameful amount of data loss that had arisen from neglect. I’m the one who launched the computerized extrapolation of shattered documents that your Encyclopedia—”

  “Absolutely depends on. Our work would be impossible without your accomplishments.”

  “And yet you turned me down, and with a crudely flattering note.”

  “I didn’t mean to give offense, Leyel.”

  “You also didn’t mean to tell the truth. But you will tell me, Hari, or I’ll simply go to Terminus anyway.”

  “The Commission of Public Safety has given my Foundation absolute control over who may or may not come to Terminus.”

  “Hari. You know perfectly well that all I have to do is hint to some lower-level functionary that I want to go to Terminus. Chen will hear of it within minutes, and within an hour he’ll grant me an exception to your charter. If I did that, and if you fought it, you’d lose your charter. You know that. If you want me not to go to Terminus, it isn’t enough to forbid me. You must persuade me that I ought not to be there.”

  Hari closed his eyes and sighed. “I don’t think you’re willing to be persuaded, Leyel. Go if you must.”

  For a moment Leyel wondered if Hari was giving in. But no, that was impossible, not so easily. “Oh, yes, Hari, but then I’d find myself cut off from everybody else on Terminus except my own serving people. Fobbed off with useless assignments. Cut out of the real meetings.”

  “That goes without saying,” said Hari. “You are not part of the Foundation, you will not be, you cannot be. And if you try to use your wealth and influence to force your way in, you will succeed only in annoying the Foundation, not in joining it. Do you understand me?”

  Only too well, thought Leyel in shame. Leyel knew perfectly well the limitations of power, and it was beneath him to have tried to bluster his way into getting something that could only be given freely. “Forgive me, Hari. I wouldn’t have tried to force you. You know I don’t do that sort of thing.”

  “I know you’ve never done it since we’ve been friends, Leyel. I was afraid that I was learning something new about you.” Hari sighed. He turned away for a long moment, then turned back with a different look on his face, a different kind of energy in his voice. Leyel knew that look, that vigor. It meant Hari was taking him more deeply into his confidence. “Leyel, you h
ave to understand, I’m not just creating an encyclopedia on Terminus.”

  Immediately Leyel grew worried. It had taken a great deal of Leyel’s influence to persuade the government not to have Hari Seldon summarily exiled when he first started disseminating copies of his treatises about the impending fall of the Empire. They were sure Seldon was plotting treason, and had even put him on trial, where Seldon finally persuaded them that all he wanted to do was create the Encyclopedia Galactica, the repository of all the wisdom of the Empire. Even now, if Seldon confessed some ulterior motive, the government would move against him. It was to be assumed that the Pubs—Public Safety Office—were recording this entire conversation. Even Leyel’s influence couldn’t stop them if they had a confession from Hari’s own mouth.

  “No, Leyel, don’t be nervous. My meaning is plain enough. For the Encyclopedia Galactica to succeed, I have to create a thriving city of scholars on Terminus. A colony full of men and women with fragile egos and unstemmable ambition, all of them trained in vicious political infighting at the most dangerous and terrible schools of bureaucratic combat in the Empire—the universities.”

  “Are you actually telling me you won’t let me join your Foundation because I never attended one of those pathetic universities? My self-education is worth ten times their lockstep force-fed pseudolearning.”

  “Don’t make your antiuniversity speech to me, Leyel. I’m saying that one of my most important concerns in staffing the Foundation is compatibility. I won’t bring anyone to Terminus unless I believe he—or she—would be happy there.”

  The emphasis Hari put on the word she suddenly made everything clearer. “This isn’t about me at all, is it?” Leyel said. “It’s about Deet.”

  Hari said nothing.

  “You know she doesn’t want to go. You know she prefers to remain on Trantor. And that’s why you aren’t taking me! Is that it?”

  Reluctantly, Hari conceded the point. “It does have something to do with Deet, yes.”

  “Don’t you know how much the Foundation means to me?” demanded Leyel. “Don’t you know how much I’d give up to be part of your work?”

  Hari sat there in silence for a moment. Then he murmured, “Even Deet?”

  Leyel almost blurted out an answer. Yes, of course, even Deet, anything for this great work.

  But Hari’s measured gaze stopped him. One thing Leyel had known since they first met at a conference back in their youth was that Hari would not stand for another man’s self-deception. They had sat next to each other at a presentation by a demographer who had a considerable reputation at the time. Leyel watched as Hari destroyed the poor man’s thesis with a few well-aimed questions. The demographer was furious. Obviously he had not seen the flaws in his own argument—but now that they had been shown to him, he refused to admit that they were flaws at all.

  Afterward, Hari had said to Leyel, “I’ve done him a favor.”

  “How, by giving him someone to hate?” said Leyel.

  “No. Before, he believed his own unwarranted conclusions. He had deceived himself. Now he doesn’t believe them.”

  “But he still propounds them.”

  “So—now he’s more of a liar and less of a fool. I have improved his private integrity. His public morality I leave up to him.”

  Leyel remembered this and knew that if he told Hari he could give up Deet for any reason, even to join the Foundation, it would be worse than a lie. It would be foolishness.

  “It’s a terrible thing you’ve done,” said Leyel. “You know that Deet is part of myself. I can’t give her up to join your Foundation. But now for the rest of our lives together I’ll know that I could have gone, if not for her. You’ve given me wormwood and gall to drink, Hari.”

  Hari nodded slowly. “I hoped that when you read my note you’d realize I didn’t want to tell you more. I hoped you wouldn’t come to me and ask. I can’t lie to you, Leyel. I wouldn’t if I could. But I did withhold information, as much as possible. To spare us both problems.”

  “It didn’t work.”

  “It isn’t Deet’s fault, Leyel. It’s who she is. She belongs on Trantor, not on Terminus. And you belong with her. It’s a fact, not a decision. We’ll never discuss this again.”

  “No,” said Leyel.

  They sat there for a long minute, gazing steadily at each other. Leyel wondered if he and Hari would ever speak again. No. Never again. I don’t ever want to see you again, Hari Seldon. You’ve made me regret the one unregrettable decision of my life—Deet. You’ve made me wish, somewhere in my heart, that I’d never married her. Which is like making me wish I’d never been born.

  Leyel got up from his chair and left the room without a word. When he got outside, he turned to the reception room in general, where several people were waiting to see Seldon. “Which of you are mine?” he asked.

  Two women and one man stood up immediately.

  “Fetch me a secure car and a driver.”

  Without a glance at each other, one of them left on the errand. The others fell in step beside Leyel. Subtlety and discretion were over for the moment. Leyel had no wish to mingle with the people of Trantor now. He only wanted to go home.

  Hari Seldon left his office by the back way and soon found his way to Chandrakar Matt’s cubicle in the Department of Library Relations. Chanda looked up and waved, then effortlessly slid her chair back until it was in the exact position required. Hari picked up a chair from the neighboring cubicle and, again without showing any particular care, set it exactly where it had to be.

  Immediately the computer installed inside Chanda’s lector recognized the configuration. It recorded Hari’s costume of the day from three angles and superimposed the information on a long-stored holoimage of Chanda and Hari conversing pleasantly. Then, once Hari was seated, it began displaying the hologram. The hologram exactly matched the positions of the real Hari and Chanda, so that infrared sensors would show no discrepancy between image and fact. The only thing different was the faces—the movement of lips, blinking of eyes, the expressions. Instead of matching the words Hari and Chanda were actually saying, they matched the words being pushed into the air outside the cubicle—a harmless, randomly chosen series of remarks that took into account recent events so that no one would suspect that it was a canned conversation.

  It was one of Hari’s few opportunities for candid conversation that the Pubs would not overhear, and he and Chanda protected it carefully. They never spoke long enough or often enough that the Pubs would wonder at their devotion to such empty conversations. Much of their communication was subliminal—a sentence would stand for a paragraph, a word for a sentence, a gesture for a word. But when the conversation was done, Chanda knew where to go from there, what to do next; and Hari was reassured that his most important work was going on behind the smokescreen of the Foundation.

  “For a moment I thought he might actually leave her.”

  “Don’t underestimate the lure of the Encyclopedia.”

  “I fear I’ve wrought too well, Chanda. Do you think someday the Encyclopedia Galactica might actually exist?”

  “It’s a good idea. Good people are inspired by it. It wouldn’t serve its purpose if they weren’t. What should I tell Deet?”

  “Nothing, Chanda. The fact that Leyel is staying, that’s enough for her.”

  “If he changes his mind, will you actually let him go to Terminus?”

  “If he changes his mind, then he must go, because if he would leave Deet, he’s not the man for us.”

  “Why not just tell him? Invite him?”

  “He must become part of the Second Foundation without realizing it. He must do it by natural inclination, not by a summons from me, and above all not by his own ambition.”

  “Your standards are so high, Hari, it’s no wonder so few measure up. Most people in the Second Foundation don’t even know that’s what it is. They think they’re librarians. Bureaucrats. They think Deet is an anthropologist who works among them in order to stud
y them.”

  “Not so. They once thought that, but now they think of Deet as one of them. As one of the best of them. She’s defining what it means to be a librarian. She’s making them proud of the name.”

  “Aren’t you ever troubled, Hari, by the fact that in the practice of your art—”

  ”My science.”

  “Your meddlesome magical craft, you old wizard, you don’t fool me with all your talk of science. I’ve seen the scripts of the holographs you’re preparing for the vault on Terminus.”

  “That’s all a pose.”

  “I can just imagine you saying those words. Looking perfectly satisfied with yourself. ‘If you care to smoke, I wouldn’t mind . . . Pause for chuckle . . . Why should I? I’m not really here.’ Pure showmanship.”

  Hari waved off the idea. The computer quickly found a bit of dialogue to fit his gesture, so the false scene would not seem false. “No, I’m not troubled by the fact that in the practice of my science I change the lives of human beings. Knowledge has always changed people’s lives. The only difference is that I know I’m changing them—and the changes I introduce are planned, they’re under control. Did the man who invented the first artificial light—what was it, animal fat with a wick? A light-emitting diode?—did he realize what it would do to humankind, to be given power over night?”

  As always, Chanda deflated him the moment he started congratulating himself. “In the first place, it was almost certainly a woman, and in the second place, she knew exactly what she was doing. It allowed her to find her way through the house at night. Now she could put her nursing baby in another bed, in another room, so she could get some sleep at night without fear of rolling over and smothering the child.”

  Hari smiled. “If artificial light was invented by a woman, it was certainly a prostitute, to extend her hours of work.”

  Chanda grinned. He did not laugh—it was too hard for the computer to come up with jokes to explain laughter. “We’ll watch Leyel carefully, Hari. How will we know when he’s ready, so we can begin to count on him for protection and leadership?”

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