Maps in a mirror, p.45

Maps in a Mirror, page 45


Maps in a Mirror

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  “But these are the ideas you already rejected, Leyel. Language and community and—”

  “No! No, not just language, not just tribes of chimpanzees chattering at each other. Stories, epic tales that define a community, mythic tales that teach us how the world works, we use them to create each other. We became a different species, we became human, because we found a way to extend gestation beyond the womb, a way to give each child ten thousand parents that he’ll never meet face-to-face.”

  Then, at last, Leyel fell silent, trapped by the inadequacy of his words. They couldn’t tell what he had seen in his mind. If they didn’t already understand, they never would.

  “Yes,” said Zay. “I think indexing your paper was a very good idea.”

  Leyel sighed and lay back down on the bed. “I shouldn’t have tried.”

  “On the contrary, you’ve succeeded,” said Zay.

  Deet shook her head. Leyel knew why—Deet was trying to signal Zay that she shouldn’t attempt to soothe Leyel with false praise.

  “Don’t hush me, Deet. I know what I’m saying. I may not know Leyel as well as you do, but I know truth when I hear it. In a way, I think Hari knew it instinctively. That’s why he insisted on all his silly holodisplays, forcing the poor citizens of Terminus to put up with his pontificating every few years. It was his way of continuing to create them, of remaining alive within them. Making them feel like their lives had purpose behind them. Mythic and epic story, both at once. They’ll all carry a bit of Hari Seldon within them just the way that children carry their parents with them to the grave.”

  At first Leyel could only hear the idea that Hari would have approved of his ideas of human origin. Then he began to realize that there was much more to what Zay had said than simple affirmation.

  “You knew Hari Seldon?”

  “A little,” said Zay.

  “Either tell him or don’t,” said Deet. “You can’t take him this far in, and not bring him the rest of the way.”

  “I knew Hari the way you know Deet,” said Zay.

  “No,” said Leyel. “He would have mentioned you.”

  “Would he? He never mentioned his students.”

  “He had thousands of students.”

  “I know, Leyel. I saw them come and fill his lecture halls and listen to the half-baked fragments of psychohistory that he taught them. But then he’d come away, here to the library, into a room where the Pubs never go, where he could speak words that the Pubs would never hear, and there he’d teach his real students. Here is the only place where the science of psychohistory lives on, where Deet’s ideas about the formation of community actually have application, where your own vision of the origin of humanity will shape our calculations for the next thousand years.”

  Leyel was dumbfounded. “In the Imperial Library? Hari had his own college here in the library?”

  “Where else? He had to leave us at the end, when it was time to go public with his predictions of the Empire’s fall. Then the Pubs started watching him in earnest, and in order to keep them from finding us, he couldn’t ever come back here again. It was the most terrible thing that ever happened to us. As if he died, for us, years before his body died. He was part of us, Leyel, the way that you and Deet are part of each other. She knows. She joined us before he left.”

  It stung. To have had such a great secret, and not to have been included. “Why Deet, and not me?”

  “Don’t you know, Leyel? Our little community’s survival was the most important thing. As long as you were Leyel Forska, master of one of the greatest fortunes in history, you couldn’t possibly be part of this—it would have provoked too much comment, too much attention. Deet could come, because Commissioner Chen wouldn’t care that much what she did—he never takes spouses seriously, just one of the ways he proves himself to be a fool.”

  “But Hari always meant for you to be one of us,” said Deet. “His worst fear was that you’d go off half-cocked and force your way into the First Foundation, when all along he wanted you in this one. The Second Foundation.”

  Leyel remembered his last interview with Hari. He tried to remember—did Hari ever lie to him? He told him that Deet couldn’t go to Terminus—but now that took on a completely different meaning. The old fox! He never lied at all, but he never told the truth, either.

  Zay went on. “It was tricky, striking the right balance, encouraging you to provoke Chen just enough that he’d strip away your fortune and then forget you, but not so much that he’d have you imprisoned or killed.”

  “You were making that happen?”

  “No, no, Leyel. It was going to happen anyway, because you’re who you are and Chen is who he is. But there was a range of possibility, somewhere between having you and Deet tortured to death on the one hand, and on the other hand having you and Rom conspire to assassinate Chen and take control of the Empire. Either of those extremes would have made it impossible for you to be part of the Second Foundation. Hari was convinced—and so is Deet, and so am I—that you belong with us. Not dead. Not in politics. Here.”

  It was outrageous, that they should make such choices for him, without telling him. How could Deet have kept it secret all this time? And yet they were so obviously correct. If Hari had told him about this Second Foundation, Leyel would have been eager, proud to join it. Yet Leyel couldn’t have been told, couldn’t have joined them until Chen no longer perceived him as a threat.

  “What makes you think Chen will ever forget me?”

  “Oh, he’s forgotten you, all right. In fact, I’d guess that by tonight he’ll have forgotten everything he ever knew.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “How do you think we’ve dared to speak so openly today, after keeping silence for so long? After all, we aren’t in Indexing now.”

  Leyel felt a thrill of fear run through him. “They can hear us?”

  “If they were listening. At the moment, though, the Pubs are very busy helping Rom Divart solidify his control of the Commission of Public Safety. And if Chen hasn’t been taken to the radiation chamber, he soon will be.”

  Leyel couldn’t help himself. The news was too glorious—he sprang up from his bed, almost danced at the news. “Rom’s doing it! After all these years—overthrowing the old spider!”

  “It’s more important than mere justice or revenge,” said Zay. “We’re absolutely certain that a significant number of governors and prefects and military commanders will refuse to recognize the overlordship of the Commission of Public Safety. It will take Rom Divart the rest of his life just to put down the most dangerous of the rebels. In order to concentrate his forces on the great rebels and pretenders close to Trantor, he’ll grant an unprecedented degree of independence to many, many worlds on the periphery. To all intents and purposes, those outer worlds will no longer be part of the Empire. Imperial authority will not touch them, and their taxes will no longer flow inward to Trantor. The Empire is no longer Galactic. The death of Commissioner Chen—today—will mark the beginning of the fall of the Galactic Empire, though no one but us will notice what it means for decades, even centuries to come.”

  “So soon after Hari’s death. Already his predictions are coming true.”

  “Oh, it isn’t just coincidence,” said Zay. “One of our agents was able to influence Chen just enough to ensure that he sent Rom Divart in person to strip you of your fortune. That was what pushed Rom over the edge and made him carry out this coup. Chen would have fallen—or died—sometime in the next year and a half no matter what we did. But I’ll admit we took a certain pleasure in using Hari’s death as a trigger to bring him down a little early, and under circumstances that allowed us to bring you into the library.”

  “We also used it as a test,” said Deet. “We’re trying to find ways of influencing individuals without their knowing it. It’s still very crude and haphazard, but in this case we were able to influence Chen with great success. We had to do it—your life was at stake, and so was the chance of your joining

  “I feel like a puppet,” said Leyel.

  “Chen was the puppet,” said Zay. “You were the prize.”

  “That’s all nonsense,” said Deet. “Hari loved you, I love you. You’re a great man. The Second Foundation had to have you. And everything you’ve said and stood for all your life made it clear that you were hungry to be part of our work. Aren’t you?”

  “Yes,” said Leyel. Then he laughed. “The index!”

  “What’s so funny?” asked Zay, looking a little miffed. “We worked very hard on it.”

  “And it was wonderful, transforming, hypnotic. To take all these people and put them together as if they were a single mind, far wiser in its intuition than anyone could ever be alone. The most intensely unified, the most powerful human community that’s ever existed. If it’s our capacity for storytelling that makes us human, then perhaps our capacity for indexing will make us something better than human.”

  Deet patted Zay’s hand. “Pay no attention to him, Zay. This is clearly the mad enthusiasm of a proselyte.”

  Zay raised an eyebrow. “I’m still waiting for him to explain why the index made him laugh.”

  Leyel obliged her. “Because all the time, I kept thinking—how could librarians have done this? Mere librarians! And now I discover that these librarians are all of Hari Seldon’s prize students. My questions were indexed by psychohistorians!”

  “Not exclusively. Most of us are librarians. Or machinists, or custodians, or whatever—the psychologists and psychohistorians are rather a thin current in the stream of the library. At first they were seen as outsiders. Researchers. Users of the library, not members of it. That’s what Deet’s work has been for these last few years—trying to bind us all together into one community. She came here as a researcher too, remember? Yet now she has made everyone’s allegiance to the library more important than any other loyalty. It’s working beautifully too, Leyel, you’ll see. Deet is a marvel.”

  “We’re all creating it together,” said Deet. “It helps that the couple of hundred people I’m trying to bring in are so knowledgeable and understanding of the human mind. They understand exactly what I’m doing and then try to help me make it work. And it isn’t fully successful yet. As years go by, we have to see the psychology group teaching and accepting the children of librarians and machinists and medical officers, in full equality with their own, so that the psychologists don’t become a ruling caste. And then intermarriage between the groups. Maybe in a hundred years we’ll have a truly cohesive community. This is a democratic city-state we’re building, not an academic department or a social club.”

  Leyel was off on his own tangent. It was almost unbearable for him to realize that there were hundreds of people who knew Hari’s work, while Leyel didn’t. “You have to teach me!” Leyel said. “Everything that Hari taught you, all the things that have been kept from me—”

  “Oh, eventually, Leyel,” said Zay. “At present, though, we’re much more interested in what you have to teach us. Already, I’m sure, a transcription of the things you said when you first woke up is being spread through the library.”

  “It was recorded?” asked Leyel.

  “We didn’t know if you were going to go catatonic on us at any moment, Leyel. You have no idea how you’ve been worrying us. Of course we recorded it—they might have been your last words.”

  “They won’t be. I don’t feel tired at all.”

  “Then you’re not as bright as we thought. Your body is dangerously weak. You’ve been abusing yourself terribly. You’re not a young man, and we insist that you stay away from your lector for a couple of days.”

  “What, are you now my doctor?”

  “Leyel,” Deet said, touching him on his shoulder the way she always did when he needed calming. “You have been examined by doctors. And you’ve got to realize—Zay is First Speaker.”

  “Does that mean she’s commander?”

  “This isn’t the Empire,” said Zay, “and I’m not Chen. All that it means to be First Speaker is that I speak first when we meet together. And then, at the end, I bring together all that has been said and express the consensus of the group.”

  “That’s right,” said Deet. “Everybody thinks you ought to rest.”

  “Everybody knows about me?” asked Leyel.

  “Of course,” said Zay. “With Hari dead you’re the most original thinker we have. Our work needs you. Naturally we care about you. Besides, Deet loves you so much, and we love Deet so much, we feel like we’re all a little bit in love with you ourselves.”

  She laughed, and so did Leyel, and so did Deet. Leyel noticed, though, that when he asked whether they all knew of him, she had answered that they cared about him and loved him. Only when Zay said this did he realize that she had answered the question he really meant to ask.

  “And while you’re recuperating,” Zay continued, “Indexing will have a go at your new theory—”

  “Not a theory, just a proposal, just a thought—”

  “—and a few psychohistorians will see whether it can be quantified, perhaps by some variation on the formulas we’ve been using with Deet’s laws of community development. Maybe we can turn origin studies into a real science yet.”

  “Maybe,” Leyel said.

  “Feel all right about this?” asked Zay.

  “I’m not sure. Mostly. I’m very excited, but I’m also a little angry at how I’ve been left out, but mostly I’m—I’m so relieved.”

  “Good. You’re in a hopeless muddle. You’ll do your best work if we can keep you off balance forever.” With that, Zay led him back to the bed, helped him lie down, and then left the room.

  Alone with Deet, Leyel had nothing to say. He just held her hand and looked up into her face, his heart too full to say anything with words. All the news about Hari’s byzantine plans and a Second Foundation full of psychohistorians and Rom Divart taking over the government—that receded into the background. What mattered was this: Deet’s hand in his, her eyes looking into his, and her heart, her self, her soul so closely bound to his that he couldn’t tell and didn’t care where he left off and she began.

  How could he ever have imagined that she was leaving him? They had created each other through all these years of marriage. Deet was the most splendid accomplishment of his life, and he was the most valued creation of hers. We are each other’s parent, each other’s child. We might accomplish great works that will live on in this other community, the library, the Second Foundation. But the greatest work of all is the one that will die with us, the one that no one else will ever know of, because they remain perpetually outside. We can’t even explain it to them. They don’t have the language to understand us. We can only speak it to each other.



  My early fiction won me a reputation for cruelty. The most memorable line was from a review in Locus: “Reading Card is like playing pattycake with Baby Huey.” This sort of comment, however well-phrased, worried me more than a little. Clearly my fiction was giving the impression of being bloodier than most writers’ stories, and yet that was never my intent. I’m an innately nonviolent person. I have almost never struck another person in anger; my custom in school when the subject of fighting came up was to talk my way out when I couldn’t simply run. I never tortured animals. I don’t enjoy pain. So why was I writing fiction that made grown men gag?

  This story, “A Thousand Deaths,” was one of a pair (the other is “Kingsmeat”) that did most to earn me that reputation. It is the one story I’ve written that was so sickening that my wife couldn’t finish reading it—she never has, as far as I know. And yet I couldn’t see at the time—and still can’t—how it could be written any other way.

  The story is about noncompliance. It was triggered in part by a line in Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, which dwells in my memory in this form: “I do none harm, I think none harm, and if this be not enough to keep a man alive, then in faith I
long not to live.” There are times when a government, to stay in power, requires that certain people be broken, publicly. Their noncompliance with the will of the government is a constant refreshment to the enemies of the state. One thinks of Nelson Mandela, who, to be set free, has only to sign a statement renouncing violence as a means of obtaining the rights of his people. One thinks of the wonderful line from the movie Gandhi (which had not been made when I wrote this story, though the line expresses the theme of this story almost perfectly): “They can even kill me. What will they have then? My dead body. Not my obedience.” It is the power of passive resistance, even in the face of a government that has the power to inflict the ultimate penalty, that eventually breaks the power of that government.

  With “A Thousand Deaths” I simply did what satiric science fiction always does—I set up a society that exaggerates the point in question. In this case, it was the power of the state to inflict punishment in order to control the behavior of others, and my what-if was, “What if a government could, not just threaten to kill you, but actually kill you over and over until it finally got the confession it needed?” The mechanism was easy enough—I had already developed the drug somec and had stolen the idea of brain-taping from many other writers years before, for my Worthing Chronicle series. What mattered to me, though, was to focus on the point where coercion ultimately breaks down, and that is on the rock of truth. The government kills the story’s hero, trying to break him to the point where he will confess his wrong, and confess the rightness of the government. The trouble is that the government will only measure his confession against a standard too high for him to meet. It isn’t enough that his confession be passionate. It must also be believed. And that is the one thing that the hero cannot deliver—a believable confession. He can’t believe it himself; neither can anyone else. That is what coercion cannot do. It can win compliance from fearful people. But it cannot win belief. The heart is an unstormable citadel.

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