Maps in a mirror, p.39

Maps in a Mirror, page 39

 

Maps in a Mirror
 



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  “When you already count on him, then he’s ready. When his commitment and loyalty are firm, when the goals of the Second Foundation are already in his heart, when he acts them out in his life, then he’s ready.”

  There was a finality in Hari’s tone. The conversation was nearly over.

  “By the way, Hari, you were right. No one has even questioned the omission of any important psychohistorical data from the Foundation library on Terminus.”

  “Of course not. Academics never look outside their own discipline. That’s another reason why I’m glad Leyel isn’t going. He would notice that the only psychologist we’re sending is Bor Alurin. Then I’d have to explain more to him than I want. Give my love to Deet, Chanda. Tell her that her test case is going very well. She’ll end up with a husband and a community of scientists of the mind.”

  “Artists. Wizards. Demigods.”

  “Stubborn misguided women who don’t know science when they’re doing it. All in the Imperial Library. Till next time, Chanda.”

  If Deet had asked him about his interview with Hari, if she had commiserated with him about Hari’s refusal, his resentment of her might have been uncontainable, he might have lashed out at her and said something that could never be forgiven. Instead, she was perfectly herself, so excited about her work and so beautiful, even with her face showing all the sag and wrinkling of her sixty years, that all Leyel could do was fall in love with her again, as he had so many times in their years together.

  “It’s working beyond anything I hoped for, Leyel. I’m beginning to hear stories that I created months and years ago, coming back as epic legends. You remember the time I retrieved and extrapolated the accounts of the uprising at Misercordia only three days before the Admiralty needed them?”

  “Your finest hour. Admiral Divart still talks about how they used the old battle plots as a strategic guideline and put down the Tellekers’ strike in a single three-day operation without loss of a ship.”

  “You have a mind like a trap, even if you are old.”

  “Sadly, all I can remember is the past.”

  “Dunce, that’s all anyone can remember.”

  He prompted her to go on with her account of today’s triumph. “It’s an epic legend now?”

  “It came back to me without my name on it, and bigger than life. As a reference. Rinjy was talking with some young librarians from one of the inner provinces who were on the standard interlibrary tour, and one of them said something about how you could stay in the Imperial Library on Trantor all your life and never see the real world at all.”

  Leyel hooted. “Just the thing to say to Rinjy!”

  “Exactly. Got her dander up, of course, but the important thing is, she immediately told them the story of how a librarian, all on her own, saw the similarity between the Misercordia uprising and the Tellekers’ strike. She knew no one at the Admiralty would listen to her unless she brought them all the information at once. So she delved back into the ancient records and found them in deplorable shape—the original data had been stored in glass, but that was forty-two centuries ago, and no one had refreshed the data. None of the secondary sources actually showed the battle plots or ship courses—Misercordia had mostly been written about by biographers, not military historians—”

  “Of course. It was Pol Yuensau’s first battle, but he was just a pilot, not a commander—”

  “I know you remember, my intrusive pet. The point is what Rinjy said about this mythical librarian.”

  “You.”

  “I was standing right there. I don’t think Rinjy knew it was me, or she would have said something—she wasn’t even in the same division with me then, you know. What matters is that Rinjy heard a version of the story and by the time she told it, it was transformed into a magic hero tale. The prophetic librarian of Trantor.”

  “What does that prove? You are a magic hero.”

  “The way she told it, I did it all on my own initiative—”

  “You did. You were assigned to do document extrapolation, and you just happened to start with Misercordia.”

  “But in Rinjy’s version, I had already seen its usefulness with the Tellekers’ strike. She said the librarian sent it to the Admiralty and only then did they realize it was the key to bloodless victory.”

  “Librarian saves the Empire.”

  “Exactly.”

  “But you did.”

  “But I didn’t mean to. And Admiralty requested the information—the only really extraordinary thing was that I had already finished two weeks of document restoration—”

  “Which you did brilliantly.”

  “Using programs you had helped design, thank you very much, O Wise One, as you indirectly praise yourself. It was sheer coincidence that I could give them exactly what they wanted within five minutes of their asking. But now it’s a hero story within the community of librarians. In the Imperial Library itself, and now spreading outward to all the other libraries.”

  “This is so anecdotal, Deet. I don’t see how you can publish this.”

  “Oh, I don’t intend to. Except perhaps in the introduction. What matters to me is that it proves my theory.”

  “It has no statistical validity.”

  “It proves it to me. I know that my theories of community formation are true. That the vigor of a community depends on the allegiance of its members, and the allegiance can be created and enhanced by the dissemination of epic stories.”

  “She speaks the language of academia. I should be writing this down, so you don’t have to think up all those words again.”

  “Stories that make the community seem more important, more central to human life. Because Rinjy could tell this story, it made her more proud to be a librarian, which increased her allegiance to the community and gave the community more power within her.”

  “You are possessing their souls.”

  “And they’ve got mine. Together our souls are possessing each other.”

  There was the rub. Deet’s role in the library had begun as applied research—joining the library staff in order to confirm her theory of community formation. But that task was impossible to accomplish without in fact becoming a committed part of the library community. It was Deet’s dedication to serious science that had brought them together. Now that very dedication was stealing her away. It would hurt her more to leave the library than it would to lose Leyel.

  Not true. Not true at all, he told himself sternly. Self-pity leads to self-deception. Exactly the opposite is true—it would hurt her more to lose Leyel than to leave her community of librarians. That’s why she consented to go to Terminus in the first place. But could he blame her for being glad that she didn’t have to choose? Glad that she could have both?

  Yet even as he beat down the worst of the thoughts arising from his disappointment, he couldn’t keep some of the nastiness from coming out in his conversation. “How will you know when your experiment is over?”

  She frowned. “it’ll never be over, Leyel. They’re all really librarians—I don’t pick them up by the tails like mice and put them back in their cages when the experiment’s done. At some point I’ll simply stop, that’s all, and write my book.”

  “Will you?”

  “Write the book? I’ve written books before, I think I can do it again.”

  “I meant, will you stop?”

  “When, now? Is this some test of my love for you, Leyel? Are you jealous of my friendships with Rinjy and Animet and Fin and Urik?”

  No! Don’t accuse me of such childish, selfish feelings!

  But before he could snap back his denial, he knew that his denial would be false.

  “Sometimes I am, yes, Deet. Sometimes I think you’re happier with them.”

  And because he had spoken honestly, what could have become a bitter quarrel remained a conversation. “But I am, Leyel,” she answered, just as frankly. “It’s because when I’m with them, I’m creating something new, I’m creating something with them. It’s
exciting, invigorating, I’m discovering new things every day, in every word they say, every smile, every tear someone sheds, every sign that being one of us is the most important thing in their lives.”

  “I can’t compete with that.”

  “No, you can’t, Leyel. But you complete it. Because it would all mean nothing, it would be more frustrating than exhilarating if I couldn’t come back to you every day and tell you what happened. You always understand what it means, you’re always excited for me, you validate my experience.”

  “I’m your audience. Like a parent.”

  “Yes, old man. Like a husband. Like a child. Like the person I love most in all the world. You are my root. I make a brave show out there, all branches and bright leaves in the sunlight, but I come here to suck the water of life from your soil.”

  “Leyel Forska, the font of capillarity. You are the tree, and I am the dirt.”

  “Which happens to be full of fertilizer.” She kissed him. A kiss reminiscent of younger days. An invitation, which he gladly accepted.

  A softened section of floor served them as an impromptu bed. At the end, he lay beside her, his arm across her waist, his head on her shoulder, his lips brushing the skin of her breast. He remembered when her breasts were small and firm, perched on her chest like small monuments to her potential. Now when she lay on her back they were a ruin, eroded by age so they flowed off her chest to either side, resting wearily on her arms.

  “You are a magnificent woman,” he whispered, his lips tickling her skin.

  Their slack and flabby bodies were now capable of greater passion than when they were taut and strong. Before, they were all potential. That’s what we love in youthful bodies, the teasing potential. Now hers is a body of accomplishment. Three fine children were the blossoms, then the fruit of this tree, gone off and taken root somewhere else. The tension of youth could now give way to a relaxation of the flesh. There were no more promises in their lovemaking. Only fulfillment.

  She murmured softly in his ear, “That was a ritual, by the way. Community maintenance.”

  “So I’m just another experiment?”

  “A fairly successful one. I’m testing to see if this little community can last until one of us drops.”

  “What if you drop first? Who’ll write the paper then?”

  “You will. But you’ll sign my name to it. I want the Imperial medal for it. Posthumously. Glue it to my memorial stone.”

  “I’ll wear it myself. If you’re selfish enough to leave all the real work to me, you don’t deserve anything better than a cheap replica.”

  She slapped his back. “You are a nasty selfish old man, then. The real thing or nothing.”

  He felt the sting of her slap as if he deserved it. A nasty selfish old man. If she only knew how right she was. There had been a moment in Hari’s office when he’d almost said the words that would deny all that there was between them. The words that would cut her out of his life. Go to Terminus without her! I would be more myself if they took my heart, my liver, my brain.

  How could I have thought I wanted to go to Terminus, anyway? To be surrounded by academics of the sort I most despise, struggling with them to get the encyclopedia properly designed. They’d each fight for their petty little province, never catching the vision of the whole, never understanding that the encyclopedia would be valueless if it were compartmentalized. It would be a life in hell, and in the end he’d lose, because the academic mind was incapable of growth or change.

  It was here on Trantor that he could still accomplish something. Perhaps even solve the question of human origin, at least to his own satisfaction—and perhaps he could do it soon enough that he could get his discovery included in the Encyclopedia Galactica before the Empire began to break down at the edges, cutting Terminus off from the rest of the Galaxy.

  It was like a shock of static electricity passing through his brain; he even saw an afterglow of light around the edges of his vision, as if a spark had jumped some synaptic gap.

  “What a sham,” he said.

  “Who, you? Me?”

  “Hari Seldon. All this talk about his Foundation to create the Encyclopedia Galactica.”

  “Careful, Leyel.” It was almost impossible that the Pubs could have found a way to listen to what went on in Leyel Forska’s own apartments. Almost.

  “He told me twenty years ago. It was one of his first psychohistorical projections. The Empire will crumble at the edges first. He projected it would happen within the next generation. The figures were crude then. He must have it down to the year now. Maybe even the month. Of course he put his Foundation on Terminus. A place so remote that when the edges of the Empire fray, it will be among the first threads lost. Cut off from Trantor. Forgotten at once!”

  “What good would that do, Leyel? They’d never hear of any new discoveries then.”

  “What you said about us. A tree. Our children like the fruit of that tree.”

  “I never said that.”

  “I thought it, then. He is dropping his Foundation out on Terminus like the fruit of Empire. To grow into a new Empire by and by.”

  “You frighten me, Leyel. If the Pubs ever heard you say that—”

  “That crafty old fox. That sly, deceptive—he never actually lied to me, but of course he couldn’t send me there. If the Forska fortune was tied up with Terminus, the Empire would never lose track of the place. The edges might fray elsewhere, but never there. Putting me on Terminus would be the undoing of the real project.” It was such a relief. Of course Hari couldn’t tell him, not with the Pubs listening, but it had nothing to do with him or Deet. It wouldn’t have to be a barrier between them after all. It was just one of the penalties of being the keeper of the Forska fortune.

  “Do you really think so?” asked Deet.

  “I was a fool not to see it before. But Hari was a fool too if he thought I wouldn’t guess it.”

  “Maybe he expects you to guess everything.”

  “Oh, nobody could ever come up with everything Hari’s doing. He has more twists and turns in his brain than a hyperpath through core space. No matter how you labor to pick your way through, you’ll always find Hari at the end of it, nodding happily and congratulating you on coming this far. He’s ahead of us all. He’s already planned everything, and the rest of us are doomed to follow in his footsteps.”

  “Is it doom?”

  “Once I thought Hari Seldon was God. Now I know he’s much less powerful than that. He’s merely Fate.”

  “No, Leyel. Don’t say that.”

  “Not even Fate. Just our guide through it. He sees the future, and points the way.”

  “Rubbish.” She slid out from under him, got up, pulled her robe from its hook on the wall. “My old bones get cold when I lie about naked.”

  Leyel’s legs were trembling, but not with cold. “The future is his, and the present is yours, but the past belongs to me. I don’t know how far into the future his probability curves have taken him, but I can match him, step for step, century for century into the past.”

  “Don’t tell me you’re going to solve the question of origin. You’re the one who proved it wasn’t worth solving.”

  “I proved that it wasn’t important or even possible to find the planet of origin. But I also said that we could still discover the natural laws that accounted for the origin of man. Whatever forces created us as human beings must still be present in the universe.”

  “I did read what you wrote, you know. You said it would be the labor of the next millennium to find the answer.”

  “Just now. Lying here, just now, I saw it, just out of reach. Something about your work and Hari’s work, and the tree.”

  “The tree was about me needing you, Leyel. It wasn’t about the origin of humanity.”

  “It’s gone. Whatever I saw for a moment there, it’s gone. But I can find it again. It’s there in your work, and Hari’s Foundation, and the fall of the Empire, and the damned pear tree.”

 
I never said it was a pear tree.”

  “I used to play in the pear orchard on the grounds of the estate in Holdwater. To me the word ‘tree’ always means a pear tree. One of the deep-worn ruts in my brain.”

  “I’m relieved. I was afraid you were reminded of pears by the shape of these ancient breasts when I bend over.”

  “Open your robe again. Let me see if I think of pears.”

  Leyel paid for Hari Seldon’s funeral. It was not lavish. Leyel had meant it to be. The moment he heard of Hari’s death—not a surprise, since Hari’s first brutal stroke had left him half-paralyzed in a wheelchair—he set his staff to work on a memorial service appropriate to honor the greatest scientific mind of the millennium. But word arrived, in the form of a visit from Commissioner Rom Divart, that any sort of public services would be . . .

  “Shall we say, inappropriate?”

  “The man was the greatest genius I’ve ever heard of! He virtually invented a branch of science that clarified things that—he made a science out of the sort of thing that soothsayers and—and—economists used to do!”

  Rom laughed at Leyel’s little joke, of course, because he and Leyel had been friends forever. Rom was the only friend of Leyel’s childhood who had never sucked up to him or resented him or stayed cool toward him because of the Forska fortune. This was, of course, because the Divart holdings were, if anything, slightly greater. They had played together unencumbered by strangeness or jealousy or awe.

  They even shared a tutor for two terrible, glorious years, from the time Rom’s father was murdered until the execution of Rom’s grandfather, which caused so much outrage among the nobility that the mad Emperor was stripped of power and the Imperium put under the control of the Commission of Public Safety. Then, as the youthful head of one of the great families, Rom had embarked on his long and fruitful career in politics.

  Rom said later that for those two years it was Leyel who taught him that there was still some good in the world; that Leyel’s friendship was the only reason Rom hadn’t killed himself. Leyel always thought this was pure theatrics. Rom was a born actor. That’s why he so excelled at making stunning entrances and playing unforgettable scenes on the grandest stage of all—the politics of the Imperium. Someday he would no doubt exit as dramatically as his father and grandfather had.

 
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