Trantor! For eight thousand years, it was the capital of a large and mighty political entity that spanned an ever-growing union of planetary systems. For twelve thousand years after that, it was the capital of a political entity that spanned the entire Galaxy. It was the center, the heart, the epitome of the Galactic Empire.
It was impossible to think of the Empire without thinking of Trantor.
Trantor did not reach its physical peak until the Empire was far gone in decay. In fact, no one noticed that the Empire had lost its drive, its forward look, because Trantor gleamed in shining metal.
Its growth had peaked at the point where it was a planet-girdling city. Its population was stabilized (by law) at forty-five billion and the only surface greenery was at the Imperial Palace and the Galactic University/Library complex.
Trantor's land surface was metal-coated. Its deserts and its fertile areas were alike engulfed and made into warrens of humanity, administrative jungles, computerized elaborations, vast storehouses of food and replacement parts. its mountain ranges were beaten down; its chasms filled in. The city's endless corridors burrowed under the continental shelves and the oceans were turned into huge underground aquacultural cisterns - the only (and insufficient native source of food and minerals.
The connections with the Outer Worlds, from which Trantor obtained the resources it required, depended upon its thousand spaceports, its ten thousand warships, its hundred thousand merchant ships, its million space freighters.
No city so vast was ever recycled so tightly. No planet in the Galaxy had ever made so much use of solar power or went to such extremes to rid itself of waste heat. Glittering radiators stretched up into the thin upper atmosphere upon the nightside and were withdrawn into the metal city on the dayside. As the planet turned, the radiators rose as night progressively fell around the world and sank as day progressively broke. So Trantor always had an artificial asymmetry that was almost its symbol.
At this peak, Trantor ran the Empire?
It ran it poorly, but nothing could have run the Empire well. The Empire was too large to be run from a single world - even under the most dynamic of Emperors. How could Trantor have helped but run it poorly when, in the ages of decay, the Imperial crown was traded back and forth by sly politicians and foolish incompetents and the bureaucracy had become a subculture of corruptibles?
But even at its worst, there was some self-propelled worth to the machinery. The Galactic Empire could not have been run without Trantor.
The Empire crumbled steadily, but as long as Trantor remained Trantor, a core of the Empire remained and it retained an air of pride, of millennia, of tradition and power and - exaltation.
Only when the unthinkable happened - when Trantor finally fell and was sacked; when its citizens were killed by the millions and left to starve by the billions; when its mighty metal coating was scarred and punctured and fused by the attack of the "barbarian" fleet - only then was the Empire considered to have fallen. The surviving remnants on the once-great world undid further what had been left and, in a generation, Trantor was transformed from the greatest planet the human race had ever seen to an inconceivable tangle of ruins.
That had been nearly two and a half centuries ago. In the rest of the Galaxy, Trantor-as-it-had-been still was not forgotten. It would live forever as the favored site of historical novels, the favored symbol and memory of the past, the favored word for sayings such as "All starships land on Trantor," "Like looking for a person in Trantor," and "No more alike than this and Trantor."
In all the rest of the Galaxy -
But that was not true on Trantor itself! Here the old Trantor was forgotten. The surface metal seas gone, almost everywhere. Trantor was now a sparsely settled world of self-sufficient farmers, a place where trading ships rarely came and were not particularly welcome when they did come. The very word "Trantor," though still in official use, had dropped out of popular speech. By present-day Trantorians, it was called "Hame," which in their dialect was what would be called "Home" in Galactic Standard.
Quindor Shandess thought of all this and much more as he sat quietly in a welcome state of half-drowse, in which he could allow his mind to run along a self-propelled and unorganized stream of thought.
He had been First Speaker of the Second Foundation for eighteen years, and he might well bold on for ten or twelve years more if his mind remained reasonably vigorous and if he could continue to fight the political wars.
He was the analog, the mirror image, of the Mayor of Terminus, who ruled over the First Foundation, but how different they were in every respect. The Mayor of Terminus was known to all the Galaxy and the First Foundation was therefore simply "the Foundation" to all the worlds. The First Speaker of the Second Foundation was known only to his associates.
And yet it was the Second Foundation, under himself and his predecessors, who held the real power. The First Foundation was supreme in the realm of physical power, of technology, of war weapons. The Second Foundation was supreme in the realm of mental power, of the mind, of the ability to control. In any conflict between the two, what would it matter how many ships and weapons the First Foundation disposed of, if the Second Foundation could control the minds of those who controlled the ships and weapons?
But how long could he revel in this realization of secret power?
He was the twenty-fifth First Speaker and his incumbency was already a shade longer than average. Ought he, perhaps, not be too keen on holding on and keeping out the younger aspirants? There was Speaker Gendibal, the keenest and newest at the Table. Tonight they would spend time together and Shandess looked forward to it. Ought he look forward also to Gendibal's possible accession some day?
The answer to the question was that Shandess had no real thought of leaving his post. He enjoyed it too much.
He sat there, in his old age, still perfectly capable of performing his duties. His hair was gray, but it had always been light in color and he wore it cut an inch long so that the color scarcely mattered. His eyes were a faded blue and his clothing conformed to the drab styling of the Trantorian farmers.
The First Speaker could, if he wished, pass among the Hamish people as one of them, but his hidden power nevertheless existed. He could choose to focus his eyes and mind at any time and they would then act according to his will and recall nothing about it afterward.
It rarely happened. Almost never. The Golden Rule of the Second Foundation was, "Do nothing unless you must, and when you must act - hesitate."
The First Speaker sighed softly. Living in the old University, with the brooding grandeur of the ruins of the Imperial Palace not too far distant, made one wonder on occasion how Golden the Rule might be.
In the days of the Great Sack, the Golden Rule had been strained to the breaking point. There was no way of saving Trantor without sacrificing the Seldon Plan for establishing a Second Empire. It would have been humane to spare the forty-five billion, but they could not have been spared without retention of the core of the First Empire and that would have only delayed the reckoning. If would have led to a greater destruction some centuries later and perhaps no Second Empire ever
The early First Speakers had worked over the clearly foreseen Sack for decades but had found no solution - no way of assuring both the salvation of Trantor and the eventual establishment of the Second Empire. The lesser evil had to be chosen and Trantor had died!
The Second Foundatianers of the time had managed - by the narrowest of margins - to save the University/Library complex and there had been guilt forever after because of that, too. Though no one had ever demonstrated that saving the complex had led to the of the Mule, there was always the intuition that there was a connection.
How nearly that had wrecked everything!
Yet following the decades of the Sack acrd the Mule came the Golden Age of the Second Foundation.
Prior to that, for over two and a half centuries after Seldon's death, the Second Foundation had burrowed like moles into the Library, intent only on staying out of the way of the Imperials. They served as librarians in a decaying society that cared less and less for the ever-more-misnamed Galactic Library, which fell into the desuetude that best suited the purpose of the Second Foundationers.
It was an ignoble life. They merely conserved the Plan, while out at the end of the Galaxy, the First Foundation fought for its life against always greater enemies with neither help from the Second Foundation nor any real knowledge of it.
It was the Great Sack that liberated the Second Foundation - another reason (young Gendibal - who had courage - had recently said that it was the chief reason) why the Sack was allowed to proceed.
After the Great Sack, the Empire was gone and, in all the later times, the Trantorian survivors never trespassed on Second Foundation territory uninvited. The Second Foundationers saw to it that the University/Library complex which had survived the Sack also survived the Great Renewal. The ruins of the Palace were preserved, too. The metal was gone over almost all the rest of the world. The great and endless corridors were covered up, filled in, twisted, destroyed, ignored; all under rock and soil - all except here, where metal still surrounded the ancient open places.
It might be viewed as a grand memorial of greatness, the sepulcher of Empire, but to the Trantorians - the Hamish people - these were haunted places, filled with ghosts, not to be stirred. Only the Second Foundationers ever set foot in the ancient corridors or touched the titanium gleam.
And even so, all had nearly come to nothing because of the Mule.
The Mule had actually been on Trantor. What if he had found out the nature of the world he had been standing on? His physical weapons were far greater than those at the disposal of the Second Foundation, his mental weapons almost as great. The Second Foundation would have been hampered always by the necessity of doing nothing but what they must, and by the knowledge that almost any hope of tinning the immediate fight might portend a greater eventual loss.
Had it not been for Banta Darell and her swift moment of action. And that, too, had been without the help of the Second Foundation?
And then - the Golden age, when somehow the First Speakers of the time found ways of becoming active, stopping the Mule in his career of conquest, controlling his mind at last; and then stopping the First Foundation itself when it grew wary and overcurious concerning the nature and identity of the Second Foundation. There was Preem Palver, nineteenth First Speaker and greatest of them all, who had managed to put an end to all danger - not without terrible sacrifice - and who had rescued the Seldon Plan.
Now, for a hundred and twenty years, the Second Foundation was again as it once had been, hiding in a haunted portion of Trantor. They were hiding no longer from the Imperials, but from the First Foundation still - a First Foundation almost as large as the Galactic Empire had been and even greater in technological expertise.
The First Speaker's eyes closed in the pleasant warmth and he passed into that never-never state of relaxing hallucinatory experiences that were not quite dreams and not quite conscious thought.
Enough of gloom. All would be well. Trantor was still capital of the Galaxy, for the Second Foundation was here and it was mightier and more in control than ever the Emperor had been.
The First Foundation would be contained and guided and would move correctly. However formidable their ships and weapons, they could do nothing as long as key leaders could be, at need, mentally controlled.
And the Second Empire would come, but it would not be like the first. It would be a Federated Empire, with its parts possessing considerable self-rule, so that there would be none of the apparent strength and actual weakness of a unitary, centralized government. The new Empire would be looser, more pliant, more flexible, more capable of withstanding strain, and it would be guided always - always - by the hidden men and women of the Second Foundation. Trantor would then be still the capital, more powerful with its forty thousand psychohistorians than ever it had been with its forty-five billion -
The First Speaker snapped awake. The sun was lower in the sky. Had he been mumbling? Had he said anything aloud?
If the Second Foundation had to know much and say little, the ruling Speakers had to know mere and say less, and the First Speaker lead to know mist and say least.
He smiled wryly. It was always so tempting to become a Trantorian patriot - to see the whole purpose of the Second Empire as that of bringing about Trantorian hegemony. Seldon had warned of it; he had foreseen even that, five centuries before it could come to pass.
The First Speaker had not slept too long, however. It was not yet time for Gendibal's audience.
Shandess was looking forward to that private meeting. Gendibal was young enough to look at the Plan with new eyes, and keen enough to see what others might not. And it was not beyond possibility that Shandess would learn from what the youngster had to say.
No one would ever be certain how much Preem Palver - the great Palver himself - had profited from that day when the young Kol Benjoam, not yet thirty, came to talk to him about possible ways of handling the First Foundation. Benjoam, who was later recognized as the greatest theorist since Seldon, never spoke of that audience in later years, but eventually he became the twenty-first First Speaker. There were some who credited Benjoam, rather than Palver, for the great accomplishments of Palver's administration.
Shandess amused himself with the thought of what Gendibal might say. It was traditional that keen youngsters, confronting the First Speaker alone for the first time, would place their entire thesis in the first sentence. And surely they would not ask for that precious first audience for something trivial - something that might ruin their entire subsequent career by convincing the First Speaker they were lightweights.
Four hours later, Gendibal faced him. The young man showed no sign of nervousness. He waited calmly for Shandess to speak first.
Shandess said, "You have asked for a private audience, Speaker, on a matter of importance. Could you please summarize the matter for me?"
And Gendibal, speaking quietly, almost as though he were describing what he had just eaten at dinner, said, "First Speaker, the Seldon Plan is meaningless!"
Stor Gendibal did not require the evidence of others to give him a sense of worth. He could not recall a time when he did not know himself to be unusual. He had been recruited for the Second Foundation when he was only a ten-year-old boy by an agent who had recognized the potentialities of his mind.
He had then done remarkably well at his studies and had taken to psychohistory as a spaceship responds to a gravitational field. Psychohistory had pulled at him and he had curved toward it, reading Seldon's text on the fundamentals when others his age were merely trying to handle differential equations.
When he was fifteen, he entered Trantor's Galactic University (as the University of Trantor had been officially renamed), after an interview during which, when asked what his ambitions were, he had answered firmly, "To be First Speaker before I am forty."
He had not bothered to aim for the First Speaker's chair without qualification. To gain it, one way or another, seemed to him to be a certainty. It was to do it in youth that seemed to him to be the goal. Even Preem Palver bad been forty-two on his accession.
The interviewer's expression had flickered when Gendibal had said that, but the young man already had the feel of psycholanguage and could interpret that flicker. He knew, as certainly as though the interviewer had announced it, that a small notation would go on his records to the effect that he would be difficult to handle.
Well, of course!
Gendibal intended to be difficult to handle.
He was thirty now. He would be thirty-one in a matter of two months and he was already a member of the Council of Speakers. He had nine years, at most, to become First Speaker and he knew he would make it. This audience with the present First Speaker was crucial to his plans and, laboring to present precisely the proper impression, he had. spared no effort to polish his command of psycholanguage.
When two Speakers of the Second Foundation communicate with each other, the language is like no other in the Galaxy. It is as much a language of fleeting gestures as of words, as much a matter of detected mental - change patterns as anything else.
An outsider would hear little or nothing, but in a short time, much in the way of thought would be exchanged and the communication would be unreportable in its literal form to anyone but still another Speaker.
The language of Speakers had its advantage in speed and in infinite delicacy, but it had the disadvantage of making it almost impossible to mask true opinion.
Gendibal knew his own opinion of the First Speaker. He felt the First Speaker to be a man past his mental prime. The First Speaker - in Gendibal's assessment - expected no crisis, was not trained to meet one, and lacked the sharpness to deal with one if it appeared. With all Shandess's goodwill and amiability, he was the stuff of which disaster was made.
All of this Gendibal had to hide not merely from words, gestures, and facial expressions, but even from his thoughts. He knew no way of doing so efficiently enough to keep the First Speaker from catching a whiff of it.
Nor could Gendibal avoid knowing something of the First Speaker's feeling toward him. Through bonhomie and goodwill - quite apparent and reasonably sincere - Gendibal could feel the distant edge of condescension and amusement, and tightened his own mental grip to avoid revealing any resentment in return - or as little as possible.
The First Speaker smiled and leaned back in his chair. He did not actually lift his feet to the desk top, but he got across just the right mixture of self-assured ease and informal friendship - just enough of each to leave Gendibal uncertain as to the effect of his statement.
Since Gendibal had not been invited to sit down, the actions and attitudes available to him that might be designed to minimize the uncertainty were limited. It was impossible that the First Speaker did not understand this.
Shandess said, "The Seldon Plan is meaningless? What a remarkable statement! Have you looked at the Prime Radiant lately, Speaker Gendibal?"
"I study it frequently, First Speaker. It is my duty to do so and my pleasure as well."
"Do you, by any chance, study only those portions of it that fall under your purview, now and then? Do you observe it in microfashion - an equation system here, an adjustment rivulet there? Highly important, of course, but I have always thought it an excellent occasional exercise to observe the whole course. Studying the Prime Radiant, acre by acre, has its uses - but observing it as a continent is inspirational. To tell you the truth, Speaker, I have not done it for a long time myself. Would you join me?"
Gendibal dared not pause too long. It had to be done, and it must be done easily and pleasantly or it might as well not be done. "It would be an honor and a pleasure, First Speaker."
The First Speaker depressed a lever on the side of his desk. T here was one such in the office of every Speaker and the one in Gendibal's office was in no way inferior to that of the First Speaker. The Second Foundation was an equalitarian society in all its surface manifestations - the unimportant ones. In fact, the only official prerogative of the First Speaker was that which was explicit in his title he always spoke first.
The room grew dark with the depression of the lever but, almost at once, the darkness lifted into a pearly dimness. Both long walls turned faintly creamy, then brighter and whiter, and finally there appeared neatly printed equations - so small that they could not be easily read.
"If you have no objections," said the First Speaker, making it quite clear that there would be none allowed, "we will reduce the magnification in order to see as much at one time as we can."
The neat printing shrank down into fine hairlines, faint black meanderings over the pearly background.
The First Speaker touched the keys of the small console built into the arm of his chair. "We'll bring it back to the start - to the lifetime of Hari Seldon - and we'll adjust it to a small forward movement. We'll shutter it so that we can only see a decade of development at a time. It gives one a wonderful feeling of the flow of history, with no distractions by the details. I wonder if you have ever done this."
"Never exactly this way, First Speaker."
"You should. It's a marvelous feeling. Observe the sparseness of the black tracery at the start. There was not much chance for alternatives in the first few decades. The branch points, however, increase exponentially with time. Were it not for the fact that, as soon as a particular branch is taken, there is an extinction of a vast array of others in its future, all would soon become unmanageable. Of course, in dealing with the future, we must be careful what extinctions we rely upon."
"I know, First Speaker." There was a touch of dryness in Gendibal's response that he could not quire remove.
The First Speaker did not respond to it. "Notice the winding lines of symbols in red. There is a pattern to them. To all appearances, they should exist randomly, as even Speaker earns his place by adding refinements to Seldon's original Plan. It would seem there is no way, after all, of predicting where a refinement can be added easily or where a particular Speaker will find his interests or his ability tending, and yet I have long suspected that the admixture of Seldon Black and Speaker Red follows a strict law that is strongly dependent on time and on very little else."
Gendibal watched as the years passed and as the black and red hairlines made an almost hypnotic interlacing pattern. The pattern meant nothing in itself, of course. What counted were the symbols of which it was composed.
Here and there a bright-blue rivulet made its appearance, bellying out; branching, and becoming prominent, then falling in upon itself and fading into the black or red.
The First Speaker said, "Deviation Blue," and the feeling of distaste, originating in each, filled the space between them. "We catch it over and over, and we'll be coming to the Century of Deviations eventually."
They did. One could tell precisely when the shattering phonemenon of the Mule momentarily filled the Galaxy, as the Prime Radiant suddenly grew thick with branching rivulets of blue - more starting than could be closed down - until the room itself seemed to turn blue as the lines thickened and marked the wall with brighter and brighter pollution. (It was the only word.)
It reached its peak and then faded, thinned, and came together for a long century before it trickled to its end at last. When it was gone, and when the Plan had returned to black and red, it was clear that Preem Palver's hand had been there.
"That's the present," said the First Speaker comfortably.
Then a narrowing into a veritable knot of close-knit black with little red in it.
"That's the establishment of the Second Empire," said the First Speaker.
He shut off the Prime Radiant and the room was bathed in ordinary light.
Gendibal said, "That was an emotional experience."
"Yes," smiled the First Speaker, "and you are careful not to identify the emotion, as far as you can manage to fail to identify it. It doesn't matter. Let me make the points I wish to make.
"You will notice, first, the all-but-complete absence of Deviation Blue after the time of Preem Palver - over the last twelve decades, in other words. You will notice that there are no reasonable probabilities of Deviations above the fifth-class over the next five centuries. You will notice, too, that we have begun extending the refinements of psychohistory beyond the establishment of the Second Empire. As you undoubtedly know, Hari Seldon - although a transcendent genius - is not, and could not, be all-knowing. We have improved on him. We know more about psychohistory than he could possibly have known.
"Seldon ended his calculations with the Second Empire and we have continued beyond it. Indeed, if I may say so without offense, the new Hyper-Plan that goes past the establishment of the Second Empire is very largely my doing and has earned me my present post.
"I tell you all this so that you can spare me unnecessary talk. With all this, how do you manage to conclude that the Seldon Plan is meaningless? It is without flaw. The mere fact that it survived the Century of Deviations - with all due respect to Palver's genius - is the best evidence we have that it is without flaw. Where is its weakness, young man, that you should brand the Plan as meaningless?"
Gendibal stood stiffly upright. "You are right, First Speaker. The Seldon Plan has no flaw."
"You withdraw your remark, then?"
"No, First Speaker. Its lack of flaw is its flaw. Its flawlessness is fatal!"
The First Speaker regarded Gendibal with equanimity. He had learned to control his expressions and it amused him to watch Gendibal's ineptness in this respect. At every exchange, the young man did his best to hide his feelings, but each time, he exposed them completely.
Shandess studied him dispassionately. He was a thin young man, not much above the middle height, with thin lips and bony, restless hands. He had dark, humorless eyes that tended to smolder.
He would be, the First Speaker knew, a hard person to talk out of his convictions.
"You speak in paradoxes, Speaker," he said.
"It sounds like a paradox, First Speaker, because there is so much about Seldon's Plan that we take for granted and accept in so unquestioning a manner."
"And what is it you question, then?"
"The Plan's very basis. We all know that the Plan will not work if its nature - or even its existence - is known to too many of those whose behavior it is designed to predict."
"I believe Hari Seldon understood that. I even believe he made it one of his two fundamental axioms of psychohistory."
"He did not anticipate the Mule, First Speaker, and therefore he could not anticipate the extent to which the Second Foundation would become an obsession with the people of the First Foundation, once they had been shown its importance by the Mule."
"Hari Seldon..." and for one moment, the First Speaker shuddered and fell silent.
Hari Seldon's physical appearance was known to all the members of the Second Foundation. Reproductions of him in two and in three dimensions, photographic and holographic, in bas-relief and in the round, sitting and standing, were ubiquitous. They all represented him in the last few years of his life. All were of an old and benign man, face wrinkled with the wisdom of the aged, symbolizing the quintessence of well-ripened genius.
But the First Speaker now recalled seeing a photograph reputed to be Seldon as a young man. The photograph was neglected, since the thought of a young Seldon was almost a contradiction in terms. Yet Shandess had seen it, and the thought had suddenly come to him that Stor Gendibal looked remarkably like the young Seldon.
Ridiculous? It was the sort of superstition that afflicted everyone, now and then, however rational they might be. He was deceived by a fugitive similarity. If he had the photograph before him, he would see at once that the similarity was an illusion. Yet why should that silly thought have occurred to him now?
He recovered. It had been a momentary quaver - a transient derailment of thought - too brief to be noticed by anyone but a Speaker. Gendibal might interpret it as he pleased.
"Hari Seldon," he said very firmly the second time, "knew well that there were an infinite number of possibilities he could not foresee, and it was for that reason that he set up the Second Foundation. We did not foresee the Mule either, but tie recognized him once he was upon us and we stopped him. We did not foresee the subsequent obsession of the First Foundation with ourselves, but we saw it when it came and we stopped it. What is it about this that you can possibly find fault with?"
"For one thing," said Gendibal, "the obsession of the First Foundation with us is not yet over."
There was a distinct ebb in the deference with which Gendibal had been speaking. He had noted the quaver in the First Speaker's voice (Shandess decided) and had interpreted it as uncertainty. That had to be countered.
The First Speaker said briskly, "Let me anticipate. There would be people on the First Foundation, who - comparing the hectic difficulties of the first nearly four centuries of existence with the placidity of the last twelve decades - will come to the conclusion that this cannot be unless the Second Foundation is taking good care of the Plan - and, of course, they will be right in so concluding. They will decide that the Second Foundation may not have been destroyed after all - and, of course, they will be right in so deciding. In fact, we've received reports that there is a young man on the First Foundation's capital world of Terminus, an official of their government, who is quite convinced of all this. - I forget his name..."
"Golan Trevize," said Gendibal softly. "It was I who first noted the matter in the reports, and it was I who directed the matter to your office."
"Oh?" said the First Speaker with exaggerated politeness. "And how did your attention come to be focused on him?"
"One of our agents on Terminus sent in a tedious report on the newly elected members of their Council - a perfectly routine matter usually sent to and ignored by all Speakers. This one caught my eye because of the nature of the description of one new Councilman, Golan Trevize. From the description, he seemed unusually self-assured and combative."
"You recognized a kindred spirit, did you?"
"Not at all," said Gendibal, stiffly. "He seemed a reckless person who enjoyed doing ridiculous things, a description which does not apply to me. In any case, I directed an in-depth study. It did not take long for me to decide that he would have made good material for us if he had been recruited at an early age."
"Perhaps," said the First Speaker, "but you know that we do not recruit on Terminus."
"I know that well. In any case, even without our training, he has an unusual intuition. It is, of course, thoroughly undisciplined. I was, therefore. Not particularly surprised that he ??ad grasped the fact that the Second Foundation still exists. I felt it important enough, however, to direct a memo on the matter to your office."
"And I take it from your manner that there is a new development?"
"Having grasped the fact that we still exist, thanks to his highly developed intuitive abilities, he then used it in a characteristically undisciplined fashion and has, as a result, been exiled from Terminus."
The First Speaker lifted his eyebrows. "You stop suddenly. You want me to interpret the significance. Without using my computer, let me mentally apply a rough approximation of Seldon's equations and guess that a shrewd Mayor, capable of suspecting that the Second Foundation exists, prefers not to have an undisciplined individual shout it to the Galaxy and thus alert said Second Foundation to the danger. I take it Branno the Bronze decided that Terminus is safer with Trevize off the planet."
"She might have imprisoned Trevize or had him quietly assassinated."
"The equations are not reliable when applied to individuals, as you well know. They deal only with humanity in mass. Individual behavior is therefore unpredictable and it is possible to assume that the Mayor is a humane individual who feels imprisonment, let alone assassination, is unmerciful."
Gendibal said nothing for a while. It was an eloquent nothing, and he maintained it just long enough for the First Speaker to grow uncertain of himself but not so long as to induce a defensive anger.
He timed it to the second and then he said, "That is not my interpretation. I believe that Trevize, at this moment, represents the cutting edge of the greatest threat to the Second Foundation in its history - a greater danger even than the Mule!"
Gendibal was satisfied. The force of the statement had worked well. The First Speaker had not expected it and was caught off-balance. From this moment, the whip hard was Gendibal's. If he had any doubt of that at all, it vanished with Shandess's next remark.
"Does this have anything to do with your contention that Seldon's Plan is meaningless?"
Gendibal gambled on complete certainty, driving in with a didacticism that would not allow the First Speaker to recover. He said, "First Speaker, it is an article of faith that it was Preem Palver who restored the Plan to its course after the wild aberrance of the Century of Deviations. Study the Prime Radiant and you will see that the Deviations did not disappear till two decades after Palver's death and that not one Deviation has appeared since. The credit might rest with the First Speakers since Palver, but that is improb -
"Improbable? Granted none of us have been Palvers, but - why
"Will you allow me to demonstrate, First Speaker? Using the mathematics of psychohistory, I can clearly show that the chances of total disappearance of Deviation are too microscopically small to have taken place through anything the Second Foundation can do. You need not allow me if you lack the time or the desire for the demonstration, which will take half an hour of close attention. I can, as an alternative, call for a full meeting of the Speaker's Table and demonstrate it there. But that would mean a loss of time for me and unnecessary controversy."
"Yes, and a possible loss of face for me. - Demonstrate the matter to me now. But a word of warning." The First Speaker was making a heroic effort to recover. "If what you show me is worthless, I will not forget that."
"If it proves worthless," said Gendibal with an effortless pride that overrode the other, "you will have my resignation on the spot."
It took, actually, considerably more than half an hour, for the First Speaker questioned the mathematics with near-savage intensity.
Gendibal made up some of the time by his smooth use of his MicroRadiant. The device - which could locate any portion of the vast Plan holographically and with required n either wall nor desk sized console - had come into use only a decade ago and the First Speaker had never learned the knack of handling it. Gendibal was aware of that. The First Speaker knew that he was.
Gendibal hooked it over his rigth thumb and manipulated it with his four fingers, using his hand deliberately as though it were a musical instrument. (Indeed, he had written a small paper on the analogies.)
The equations Gendibal produced (and found with sure ease) moved back and forth snakily to accompany his commentary. He could obtain definitions, if necessary; set up axioms; and produce graphics, both two-dimensional and three-dimensional (to say nothing of projections of multidimensional relationships).
Gendibal's commentary was clear and incisive and the First Speaker abandoned the game. He was won over and said, "I do not recall having seen an analysis of this nature. Whose work is it?"
"First Speaker, it is my own. I have published the basic mathematics involved."
"Very clever, Speaker Gendibal. Something like this will put you in line for the First Speakership, should I die - or retire."
"I have given that matter no thought, First Speaker - but since there's no chance of your believing that, I withdraw the comment. I have given it thought and I hope I will be First Speaker, since whoever succeeds to the post must follow a procedure that only I see clearly."
"Yes," said the First Speaker, "inappropriate modesty can be very dangerous. What procedure? Perhaps the present First Speaker may follow it, too. If I am too old to have made the creative leap you have, I am not so old that I cannot follow your direction."
It was a graceful surrender and Gendibal's heart warned, rather unexpectedly, toward the older man, even as he realized that this was precisely the First Speaker's intention.
"Thank you, First Speaker, for I will need your help badly. I cannot expect to sway the Table without your enlightened leadership." (Grace for grace.) "I assume, then, that you have already seen from what I have demonstrated that it is impossible for the Century of Deviations to have been corrected under our policies or for all Deviations to have ceased since then."
"This is clear to me," said the First Speaker. "If your mathematics is correct, then in order for the Plan to have recovered as it did and to work as perfectly as it seems to be working, it would be necessary for us to be able to predict the reactions of small groups of people - even of individuals - with some degree of assurance."
"Quite so. Since the mathematics of psychohistory does not allow this, the Deviations should not have vanished and, even more so, should not have remained absent. You see, then, what I meant when I said earlier that the flaw in the Seldon Plan was its flawlessness."
The First Speaker said, "Either the Seldon Plan does possess Deviations, then, or there is something wrong in your mathematics. Since I must admit that the Seldon Plan has not shown Deviations in a century and more, it follows that there is something wrong with your mathematics - except that I detected no fallacies or missteps."
"You do wrong," said Gendibal, "to exclude a third alternative. It is quite possible for the Seldon Plan to possess no Deviations and yet for there to be nothing wrong in my mathematics when it predicts that to be impossible."
"I fail to see the third alternative."
"Suppose the Seldon Plan is being controlled by means of a psychohistorical method so advanced that the reactions of small groups of people - even perhaps of individual persons - can be predicted, a method that we of the Second Foundation do not possess. Then, and only then, my mathematics would predict that the Seldon Plan should indeed experience no Deviations?"
For a while (by Second Foundation standards) the First Speaker made no response. He said, "There is no such advanced psychohistorical method that is known to me or, I am certain from your manner, to you. If you and I know of none, the chance that any other Speaker, or any group of Speakers, has developed such a micropsychohistory - if I may call it that - and has kept it secret from the rest of the Table is infinitesimally small. Don't you agree?"
"Then either your analysis is wrong or else micropsychohistory is in the hands of some group outside the Second Foundation."
"Exactly, First Speaker, the latter alternative must be correct."
"Can you demonstrate the truth of such a statement?"
"I cannot, in any formal way; but consider. - Has there not already been a person who could affect the Seldon Plan by dealing with individual people?"
"I presume you are referring to the Mule."
"The Mule could only disrupt. The problem here is that the Seldon Plan is working too well, considerably closer to perfection than your mathematics would allow. You would need an Anti-Mule - someone who is as capable of overriding the Plan as the Mule was, but who acts for the opposite motive - overriding not to disrupt but to perfect."
"Exactly, First Speaker. I wish I had thought of that expression. What was the Mule? A mutant. But where did he come from? How did he come to be? no one really knows. Might there not be more?"
"Apparently not. The one thing that is best known about the Mule is that he was sterile. Hence his name. Or do you think that is a myth?"
"I am not referring to descendants of the Mule. Might it not be that the Mule was an aberrant member of what is - or has now become - a sizable group of people with Mulish powers who - for some reason of their own - are not disrupting the Seldon Plan but supporting it?"
"Why in the Galaxy should they support it?"
"Why do we support it? We plan a Second Empire in which we - or, rather, our intellectual descendants - will be the decision makers. If, some other group is supporting the Plan even more efficiently than we are, they cannot be planning to leave the decision - making to us. They will make the decisions - but to what end? Ought we not try to find out what kind of a Second Empire they are sweeping us into?"
"And how do you propose to find out?"
"Well, why has the Mayor of Terminus exiled Golan Trevize? By doing so, she allows a possibly dangerous person to move freely about the Galaxy. That she does it out of motives of humanity, I cannot believe. Historically the rulers of the First Foundation have always acted realistically, which means, usually, without regard for 'morality.' One of their heroes - Salvor Hardin - counseled against morality, in fact. No, I think the Mayor acted under compulsion from agents of the Anti-Mules, to use your phrase. I think Trevize has been recruited by them and I think he is the spearhead of danger to us. Deadly danger."
And the First Speaker said, "By Seldon, you may be right. But how will we ever convince the Table of this?"
"First Speaker, you underestimate your eminence."