Authors: Isaac Asimov
Title: Foundation 4 - Foundation’s Edge
Author: Asimov, Isaac
THE FIRST GALACTIC EMPIRE WAS FALLING. IT HAD BEEN DECAYING and breaking down for centuries and only one man fully realized that fact.
He was Hari Seldom the last great scientist of the First Empire, and it was he who perfected psychohistory-the science of human behavior reduced to mathematical equations.
The individual human being is unpredictable, but the reactions of human mobs, Seldon found, could be treated statistically. The larger the mob, the greater the accuracy that could be achieved. And the size of the human masses that Seldon worked with was no less than the population of all the inhabited millions of worlds of the Galaxy.
Seldon’s equations told him that, left to itself, the Empire would fall and that. thirty thousand years of human misery and agony would elapse before a Second Empire would arise from the ruins. And yet, if one could adjust some of the conditions that existed, that Interregnum could be decreased to a single millennium-just one thousand years.
It was to insure this that Seldon set up two colonies of scientists that he called “Foundations.” With deliberate intention, he set them up “at opposite ends of the Galaxy.” The First Foundation, which centered on physical science, was set up in the fuel daylight of publicity. The existence of the other, the Second Foundation, a world of psychohistorical and “mentalic” scientists, was drowned in silence.
In The Foundation Trilogy, the story of the first four centuries of the Interregnum is told. The First Foundation (commonly known as simply “The Foundation,” since the existence of another was unknown to almost all) began as a small community lost in the emptiness of the Outer Periphery of the Galaxy. Periodically it faced a crisis in which the variables of human intercourse -and of the social and economic currents of the time-constricted about it. Its freedom to move lay along only one certain line and when it moved in that direction a new horizon of development opened before it. All had been planned by Hari Seldon, long dead now.
The First Foundation with its superior science, took over the barbarized planets that surrounded it. It faced the anarchic warlords who broke away frog, a dying, empire and beat them. It faced the remnant of the Empire itself under its last strong Emperor and its last strong general-and beat it.
It seemed as though the “Seldon Plan” was going through smoothly and that nothing would prevent the Second Empire from being established or, time-and with a minimum of intermediate devastation.
But psychohistory is a statistical science. Always there is a small chance that something will go wrong, and something did-something which Hari Seldon could not have foreseen. One man, called the Mule, appeared atom nowhere He had mental powers in a Galaxy that lacked them. He could mold men’s emotions and shape their minds so that his bitterest opponents were made into his devoted servants. Aries could not, would not, fight him. The First Foundation fell and Seldon’s P1an seemed to lie in ruins.
There was left t1;` mysteriou4 Second Foundation, which had been caught unprepared by the sudden appearance of the Mule, but which was now slowly working out a counterattack. Its great defense was the fact of its unknown location. The Mule sought it in order to make his conquest of the Galaxy complete. The faithful of what was left of the First Foundation sought it to obtain help.
Neither found it. The Mule was stopped first by the action of a woman, Bayta Darell and that bought enough time for the Second Foundation to organize the proper action and, with that, to stop the Mule permenently. Slowly they prepared to reinstate the Seldon Plan.
But, in a way, the cover of the Second Foundation was gone. The First Foundation knew of the second’s existence, and the First did not want a future in which they, were overseen by the mentalists. The First Foundation was the superior in physical force, while the Second Foundation was hampered not only by that fact, but by being faced by a double task: it had not only to stop the First Foundation but had also to regain its anonymity.
This the Second Foundation, under its greatest “First Speaker,” Preem salver, manages to do. The First Foundation was allowed to seem to win, to seems to defeat the Second Foundation, and it moved on to greater and greater strength in the Galaxy, totally ignorant that the Second Foundation still existed.
It is now four hundred and ninety-eight years after the First Foundation had come into existence. It is at the peak of its strength, but one man does not accept appearances-
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT, OF COURSE,” SAID GOLAN TREVIZE STANDING ON the wide steps of Seldon Hall and looking out over the city as it sparkled in the sunlight.
Terminus was a mild planet, with a high water/land ratio. The introduction of weather control had made it all the more comfortable and considerably less interesting, Trevize often thought.
“I don’t believe any of it,” he repeated and smiled. His white, even teeth gleamed out of his youthful face.
His companion and fellow Councilman, Munn Li Compor who had adopted a middle name in defiance of Terminus tradition, shook his head uneasily. “What don’t you believe? That we saved the city?”
“Oh, I believe that. We did, didn’t we? And Seldon said that we would, and he said we would be right to do so, and that he knew all about it five hundred years ago.”
Compor’s voice dropped and he said in a half-whisper, “Look, I don’t mind your talking like this to me, because I take it as just talk, but if you shout it out in crowds others will hear and, frankly, I don’t want to be standing near you when the lightning strikes. I’m not sure how precise the aim will be.”
Trevize’s smile did not waver. He said, “Is there harm in saying that the city is saved? And that we did it without a war?”
“There was no one to fight,” said Compor. He had hair of a buttery yellow, eyes of a sky blue, and he always resisted the impulse to alter those unfashionable hues.
“Have you never heard of civil war, Compor?” said Trevize. He was tall, his hair was black, with a gentle wave to it, and he had a habit of walking with his thumbs hitched into the soft-fibered sash he always wore.
“A civil war over the location of the capital?”
“The question was enough to bring on a Seldon Crisis. It destroyed Hannis’s political career. It put you and me into the Council last election and the issue hung-” He heisted one hand slowly, back and forth, like a balance coming to rest on the level.
He paused on the steps, ignoring the other members of the government and the media, as well as the fashionable society types who had finagled an invitation to witness Seldon’s return (or the return of his image, at any rate).
All were walking down the stairs, talking, laughing, glorying in the correctness of everything, and basking in Seldon’s approval.
Trevize stood still and let the crowd swirl past him. Compor, having walked two steps ahead, paused-an invisible cord stretching between them. He said, “Aren’t you coming?”
“There’s no hurry. They won’t start the Council meeting until Mayor Branno has reviewed the situation in her usual flat-footed, one-syllable-at-a-time way. I’m in no hurry to endure another ponderous speech. -Look at the city!”
“I see it. I saw it yesterday, too.”
“Yes, but did you see it five hundred years ago when it was founded?”
“Four hundred ninety-eight,” Compor corrected him automatically. “Two years from now, they’ll have the hemimillennial celebration and Mayor Branno will still be in the office at the time, barring events of, we hope, minor probability.”
“We hope,” said Trevize dryly. “But what was it like five hundred years ago when it was founded? One city! One small city, occupied by a group of men preparing an Encyclopedia that was never finished!”
“Of course it was finished.”
“Are you referring to the Encyclopedia Galactica we have now? What we have isn’t what they were working on. What we have is in a computer and it’s revised daily. Have you ever looked at the uncompleted original?”
“You mean in the Hardin Museum?”
“The Salvor Hardin Museum of Origins. Let’s have the full name, please, since you’re so careful about exact dates. Have you looked at it?”
“No. Should I?”
“No, it isn’t worth it. But anyway-there they were-a group of Encyclopedists, forming the nucleus of a town-one small town in a world virtually without metals, circling a sun isolated from the rest of the Galaxy, at the edge, the very edge. And now, five hundred years later, we’re a suburban world. The whole place is one big park, with all the metal we want. We’re at the center of everything now?”
“Not really,” said Compor. “We’re still circling a sun isolated from the rest of the Galaxy. Still at the very edge of the Galaxy.”
“Ah no, you’re saying that without thinking. That was the whole point of this little Seldon Crisis. We are more than the single world of Terminus. We are the Foundation, which sends out its tentacles Galaxy-wide and rules that Galaxy from its position at the very edge. We can do it because we’re not isolated, except in position, and that doesn’t count.”
“All right. I’ll accept that.” Compor was clearly uninterested and took another step downward. The invisible cord between them stretched farther.
Trevize reached out a hand as though to haul his companion up the steps again. “Don’t you see the significance, Compor? There’s this enormous change, but we don’t accept it. In our hearts we want the small Foundation, the small one-world operation we had in the old days-the days of iron heroes and noble saints that are gone forever.”
“I mean it. Look at Seldon Hall. To begin with, in the first crises in Salvor Hardin’s day, it was just the Time Vault, a small auditorium in which the holographic image of Seldon appeared. That was a11. Now it’s a colossal mausoleum, but is there a force-field ramp in the place? A slideway? A gravitic lift? -No, just these steps, and we walk down them and we walk up them as Hardin would have had to do. At odd and unpredictable times, we cling in fright to the past.”
He flung his arm outward passionately. “Is there any structural component visible that is metal? Not one. It wouldn’t do to have any, since in Salvor Hardin’s day there was no native metal to speak of and hardly any imported metal. We even installed old plastic, pink with age, when we built this huge pile, so that visitors from other worlds can stop and say, `Galaxy! What lovely old plastics’ I tell you, Compor, it’s a sham.”
“Is that what you don’t believe, then? Seldon Hall?”
“And all its contents,” said Trevize in a fierce whisper. “I don’t really believe there’s any sense in hiding here at the edge of the Universe, just because our ancestors did. I believe we ought to be out there, in the middle of everything.”
“But Seldon says you’re wrong. The Seldon Plan is working out as it should.”
“I know. I know. And every child on Terminus is brought up to believe that Hari Seldon formulated a Plan, that he foresaw everything five centuries ago, that he set up the Foundation in such a way that he could spot certain crises, and that his image would appear holographically at those crises, and tell us the minimum we had to know to go on to the next crisis, and thus lead us through a thousand years of history until we could safely build a Second and Greater Galactic Empire on the ruins of the old decrepit structure that was falling apart five centuries ago and had disintegrated completely by two centuries ago.”
“Why are you telling me all this, Golan?”
“Because I’m telling you it’s a sham. It’s all a sham. -Or if it was real to begin with, it’s a sham now! We are not our own masters. It is not we who are following the Plan.”
Compor looked at the other searchingly. “You’ve said things like this before, Golan, but I’ve always thought you were just saying ridiculous things to stir me up. By the Galaxy, I actually think you’re serious.”
“Of course I’m serious!”
“You can’t be. Either this is some complicated piece of fun at my expense or you’re out of your mind.”
“Neither. Neither,” said Trevize, quiet now, hitching his thumbs into his sash as though he no longer needed the gestures of hands to punctuate passion. “I speculated on it before, I admit, but that was just intuition. That farce in there this morning, however, has made it suddenly all. quite plain to me and I intend, in turn, to make it quite plain to the Council.”
Compor said, “You are crazy!”
“All right. Come with me and listen.”
The two walked down the stairs. They were the only ones left-the last to complete the descent. And as Trevize moved slightly to he fore, Compor’s lips moved silently, casting a voiceless word in the direction of the other’s back: “Fool!”
Mayor Harla Branno called the session of the Executive Council to order. Her eyes had looked with no visible sign of interest at the gathering; yet no one there doubted that she had noted all who were present and all who had not yet arrived.