An unlocated room on an unlocated world!
And a man whose plan had worked.
The First Speaker looked up at the Student, "Fifty men and women," he said. "Fifty martyrs! They knew it meant death or permanent imprisonment and they could not even be oriented to prevent weakening - since orientation might have been detected. Yet they did not weaken. They brought the plan through, because they loved the greater Plan."
"Might they have been fewer?" asked the Student, doubtfully.
The First Speaker slowly shook his head, "It was the lower limit. Less could not possibly have carried conviction. In fact, pure objectivism would have demanded seventy-five to leave margin for error. Never mind. Have you studied the course of action as worked out by the Speakers' Council fifteen years ago?"
"And compared it with actual developments?"
"Yes, Speaker." Then, after a pause-
"I was quite amazed, Speaker."
"I know. There is always amazement. If you knew how many men labored for how many months - years, in fact - to bring about the polish of perfection, you would be less amazed. Now tell me what happened - in words. I want your translation of the mathematics."
"Yes, Speaker." The young man marshaled his thoughts. "Essentially, it was necessary for the men of the First Foundation to be thoroughly convinced that they had located and destroyed the Second Foundation. In that way, there would be reversion to the intended original. To all intents, Terminus would once again know nothing about us; include us in none of their calculations. We are hidden once more, and safe - at the cost of fifty men."
"And the purpose of the Kalganian war?"
"To show the Foundation that they could beat a physical enemy - to wipe out the damage done to their self-esteem and self-assuredness by the Mule."
"There you are insufficient in your analysis. Remember, the population of Terminus regarded us with distinct ambivalence. They hated and envied our supposed superiority; yet they relied on us implicitly for protection. If we had been 'destroyed' before the Kalganian war, it would have meant panic throughout the Foundation. They would then never have had the courage to stand up against Stettin, when he then attacked; and he would have. Only in the full flush of victory could the 'destruction' have taken place with minimum ill-effects. Even waiting a year, thereafter, might have meant a too-great cooling off spirit for success."
The Student nodded. "I see. Then the course of history will proceed without deviation in the direction indicated by the Plan."
"Unless," pointed out the First Speaker, "further accidents, unforeseen and individual, occur."
"And for that," said the Student, "we still exist. Except- Except- One facet of the present state of affairs worries me, Speaker. The First Foundation is left with the Mind Static device - a powerful weapon against us. That, at least, is not as it was before."
"A good point. But they have no one to use it against. It has become a sterile device; just as without the spur of our own menace against them, encephalographic analysis will become a sterile science. Other varieties of knowledge will once again bring more important and immediate returns. So this first generation of mental scientists among the First Foundation will also be the last - and, in a century, Mind Static will be a nearly forgotten item of the past."
"Well-" The Student was calculating mentally. "I suppose you're right."
But what I want you most to realize, young man, for the sake of your future in the Council is the consideration given to the tiny intermeshings that were forced into our plan of the last decade and a half simply because we dealt with individuals. There was the manner in which Anthor had to create suspicion against himself in such a way that it would mature at the right time, but that was relatively simple.
"There was the manner in which the atmosphere was so manipulated that to no one on Terminus would it occur, prematurely, that Terminus itself might be the center they were seeking. That knowledge had to be supplied to the young girl, Arcadia, who would be heeded by no one but her own father. She had to be sent to Trantor, thereafter, to make certain that there would be no premature contact with her father. Those two were the two poles of a hyperatomic motor; each being inactive without the other. And the switch had to be thrown - contact had to be made - at just the right moment. I saw to that!
"And the final battle had to be handled properly. The Foundation's fleet had to be soaked in self-confidence, while the fleet of Kalgan made ready to run. I saw to that, also!"
Said the Student, "It seems to me, Speaker, that you... I mean, all of us... were counting on Dr. Darell not suspecting that Arcadia was our tool. According to my check on the calculations, there was something like a thirty percent probability that he would so suspect. What would have happened then?"
"We had taken care of that. What have you been taught about Tamper Plateaus? What are they? Certainly not evidence of the introduction of an emotional bias. That can be done without any chance of possible detection by the most refined conceivable encephalographic analysis. A consequence of Leffert's Theorem, you know. It is the removal, the cutting-out, of previous emotional bias, that shows. It must show.
"And, of course, Anthor made certain that Darell knew all about Tamper Plateaus.
"However- When can an individual be placed under Control without showing it? Where there is no previous emotional bias to remove. In other words, when the individual is a new-born infant with a blank slate of a mind. Arcadia Darell was such an infant here on Trantor fifteen years ago, when the first line was drawn into the structure of the plan. She will never know that she has been Controlled, and will be all the better for it, since her Control involved the development of a precocious and intelligent personality."
The First Speaker laughed shortly, "In a sense, it is the irony of it all that is most amazing. For four hundred years, so many men have been blinded by Seldon's words 'the other end of the Galaxy.' They have brought their own peculiar, physical-science thought to the problem, measuring off the other end with protractors and rulers, ending up eventually either at a point in the periphery one hundred eighty degrees around the rim of the Galaxy, or back at the original point.
"Yet our very greatest danger lay in the fact that there was a possible solution based on physical modes of thought. The Galaxy, you know, is not simply a flat ovoid of any sort; nor is the periphery a closed curve. Actually, it is a double spiral, with at least eighty percent of the inhabited planets on the Main Arm. Terminus is the extreme outer end of the spiral arm, and we are at the other - since, what is the opposite end of a spiral? Why, the center.
"But that is trifling. It is an accidental and irrelevant solution. The solution could have been reached immediately, if the questioners had but remembered that Hari Seldon was a social scientist not a physical scientist and adjusted their thought processes accordingly. What could 'opposite ends' mean to a social scientist? Opposite ends on the map? Of course not. That's the mechanical interpretation only.
"The First Foundation was at the periphery, where the original Empire was weakest, where its civilizing influence was least, where its wealth and culture were most nearly absent. And where is the social opposite end of the Galaxy? Why, at the place where the original Empire was strongest, where its civilizing influence was most, where its wealth and culture were most strongly present.
"Here! At the center! At Trantor, capital of the Empire of Seldon's time.
"And it is so inevitable. Hari Seldon left the Second Foundation behind him to maintain, improve, and extend his work That has been known, or guessed at, for fifty years. But where could that best be done? At Trantor, where Seldon's group had worked, and where the data of decades had been accumulated. And it was the purpose of the Second Foundation to protect the Plan against enemies. That, too, was known! And where was the source of greatest danger to Terminus and the Plan?
"Here! Here at Trantor, where the Empire dying though it was, could, for three centuries, still destroy the Foundation, if it could only have decided to do so.
"Then when Trantor fell and was sacked and utterly destroyed, a short century ago, we were naturally able to protect our headquarters, and, on all the planet, the Imperial Library and the grounds about it remained untouched. This was well-known to the Galaxy, but even that apparently overwhelming hint passed them by.
"It was here at Trantor that Ebling Mis discovered us; and here that we saw to it that he did not survive the discovery. To do so, it was necessary to arrange to have a normal Foundation girl defeat the tremendous mutant powers of the Mule. Surely, such a phenomenon might have attracted suspicion to the planet on which it happened- It was here that we first studied the Mule and planned his ultimate defeat. It was here that Arcadia was born and the train of events begun that led to the great return to the Seldon Plan.
"And all those flaws in our secrecy; those gaping holes; remained unnoticed because Seldon had spoken of 'the other end' in his way, and they had interpreted it in their way."
The First Speaker had long since stopped speaking to the Student. It was an exposition to himself, really, as he stood before the window, looking up at the incredible blaze of the firmament, at the huge Galaxy that was now safe forever.
"Hari Seldon called Trantor, 'Star's End,'" he whispered, "and why not that bit of poetic imagery. All the universe was once guided from this rock; all the apron strings of the stars led here. 'All roads lead to Trantor,' says the old proverb, 'and that is where all stars end.' "
Ten months earlier, the First Speaker had viewed those same crowding stars - nowhere as crowded as at the center of that huge cluster of matter Man calls the Galaxy - with misgivings; but now there was a somber satisfaction on the round and ruddy face of Preem Palver - First Speaker.
 All quotations from the Encyclopedia Galactica here reproduced are taken from the 116th Edition published in 1020 F.E. by the Encyclopedia Galactica Publishing Co., Terminus, with permission of the publishers.