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Foundation and Empire Isaac Asimov WINNER OF THE HUGO AWARD FOR BEST ALL-TIME SERIESThe Foundation series is Isaac Asimov’s iconic masterpiece. Unfolding against the backdrop of a crumbling Galactic Empire, the story of Hari Seldon’s two Foundations is a lasting testament to an extraordinary imagination, one whose unprecedented scale shaped science fiction as we know it today.The First Foundation survived two centuries of barbarism as the once-mighty Galactic Empire descended into chaos. Now it mist prepare for war against the remnants of the Empire as the Imperial fleet advances on their planet, Terminus.Hari Seldon predicted this war; he even prepared his Foundation for it. But he couldn’t foresee the birth of the mutant Mule. In possession of a power which reduces fearsome opposition to devoted slaves, the Mule poses a terrible threat to Seldon’s Foundation. Copyright (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) HarperVoyager An imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) First published in Great Britain by Panther (Granada Publishing) 1962 Copyright © Isaac Asimov 1952 Foundation and Empire is based upon published material originally copyrighted by Smith & Street Publications Inc. Cover design and illustration by Mike Topping © HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 2016 Isaac Asimov asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work. A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library. This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. 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Source ISBN: 9780008117504 Ebook Edition © March 2018 ISBN: 9780007381142 Version: 2018-04-18 Dedication (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) To Mary and Henry for patience and endurance Contents Cover (#uec0e38c6-bf8c-5a02-b86d-ad5972c8c9ad) Title Page (#uec4aea55-f48c-589c-8f3f-d8cc9ad98b62) Copyright Dedication Prologue Part I: The General Chapter 1: Search for Magicians Chapter 2: The Magicians Chapter 3: The Dead Hand Chapter 4: The Emperor Chapter 5: The War Begins Chapter 6: The Favourite Chapter 7: Bribery Chapter 8: To Trantor Chapter 9: On Trantor Chapter 10: The War Ends Part II: The Mule (#litres_trial_promo) Chapter 11: Bride and Groom Chapter 12: Captain and Mayor Chapter 13: Lieutenant and Clown Chapter 14: The Mutant Chapter 15: The Psychologist Chapter 16: Conference Chapter 17: The Visi-Sonor Chapter 18: Fall of the Foundation Chapter 19: Start of the Search Chapter 20: Conspirator Chapter 21: Interlude in Space Chapter 22: Death on Neotrantor Chapter 23: The Ruins of Trantor Chapter 24: Convert Chapter 25: Death of A Psychologist Chapter 26: End of the Search Footnote About the Author By the Same Author About the Publisher Prologue (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) The Galactic Empire was falling. It was a colossal Empire, stretching across millions of worlds from arm-end to arm-end of the mighty double-spiral that was the Milky Way. Its fall was colossal, too – and a long one, for it had a long way to go. It had been falling for centuries before one man became really aware of that fall. That man was Hari Seldon, the man who represented the one spark of creative effort left among the gathering decay. He developed and brought to its highest pitch the science of psycho-history. Psycho-history dealt not with man, but with man-masses. It was the science of mobs; mobs in their billions. It could forecast reactions to stimuli with something of the accuracy that a lesser science could bring to the forecast of are bound of a billiard ball. The reaction of one man could be forecast by no known mathematics; the reaction of a billion is something else again. Hari Seldon plotted the social and economic trends of the time, sighted along the curves and foresaw the continuing and accelerating fall of civilization and the gap of thirty thousand years that must elapse before a struggling new Empire could emerge from the ruins. It was too late to stop that fall, but not too late to close the gap of barbarism. Seldon established two Foundations at ‘opposite ends of the Galaxy’ and their location was so designed that in one short millennium events would knit and mesh so as to force out of them a stronger, more permanent, more quickly appearing Second Empire. Foundation (Gnome Press, 1951) has told the story of one of those Foundations during the first two centuries of life. It began as a settlement of physical scientists on Terminus, a planet at the extreme end of one of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Separated from the turmoil of the Empire, they worked as compilers of a universal compendium of knowledge, the Encyclopedia Galactica, unaware of the deeper role planned for them by the already-dead Seldon. As the Empire rotted, the outer regions fell into the hands of independent ‘kings’. The Foundation was threatened by them. However, by playing one petty ruler against another, under the leadership of their first mayor, Salvor Hardin, they maintained a precarious independence. As sole possessors of atomic power among worlds which were losing their sciences and falling back on coal and oil, they even established an ascendancy. The Foundation became the ‘religious’ centre of the neighbouring kingdoms. Slowly, the Foundation, developed a trading economy as the Encyclopedia receded into the background. Their Traders, dealing in atomic gadgets which not even the Empire in its heyday could have duplicated for compactness, penetrated hundreds of light-years through the Periphery. Under Hober Mallow, the first of the Foundation’s Merchant Princes, they developed the techniques of economic warfare to the point of defeating the Republic of Korell, even though that world was receiving support from one of the outer provinces of what was left of the Empire. At the end of two hundred years, the Foundation was the most powerful state in the Galaxy, except for the remains of the Empire, which, concentrated in the central third of the Milky Way, still controlled three quarters of the population and wealth of the Universe. It seemed inevitable that the next danger the Foundation would have to face was the final lash of the dying Empire. The way must be cleared for the battle of Foundation and Empire. Part I (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) 1 (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) Search for Magicians (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) BEL RIOSE … In his relatively short career, Riose earned the title of ‘The Last of the Imperials’ and earned it well. A study of his campaigns reveals him to be the equal of Peurifoy in strategic ability and his superior perhaps in his ability to handle men. That he was born in the days of the decline of Empire made it all but impossible for him to equal Peurifoy’s record as a conqueror. Yet he had his chance when, the first of the Empire’s generals to do so, he faced the Foundation squarely … ENCYLOPEDIA GALACTICA Bel Riose travelled without escort, which is not what court etiquette prescribes for the head of a fleet stationed in a yet-sullen stellar system on the Marches of the Galactic Empire. But Bel Riose was young and energetic – energetic enough to be sent as near the end of the universe as possible by an unemotional and calculating court – and curious besides. Strange and improbable tales fancifully-repeated by hundreds and murkily-known to thousands intrigued the last faculty; the possibility of a military venture engaged the other two. The combination was overpowering. He was out of the dowdy ground-car he had appropriated and at the door of the fading mansion that was his destination. He waited. The photonic eye that spanned the doorway was alive, but when the door opened it was by hand. Bel Riose smiled at the old man. ‘I am Riose—’ ‘I recognize you.’ The old man remained stiffly and unsurprised in his place. ‘Your business?’ Riose withdrew a step in a gesture of submission. ‘One of peace. If you are Ducem Barr, I ask the favour of conversation.’ Ducem Barr stepped aside and in the interior of the house the walls glowed into life. The general entered into daylight. He touched the wall of the study, then stared at his fingertips. ‘You have this on Siwenna?’ Barr smiled thinly. ‘Not elsewhere, I believe. I keep this in repair myself as well as I can. I must apologize for your wait at the door. The automatic device registers the presence of a visitor but will no longer open the door.’ ‘Your repairs fall short?’ The general’s voice was faintly mocking. ‘Parts are no longer available. If you will sit, sir. You drink tea?’ ‘On Siwenna? My good sir, it is socially impossible not to drink it here.’ The old patrician retreated noiselessly with a slow bow that was part of the ceremonious legacy left by a ci-devant aristocracy of the last century’s better days. Riose looked after his host’s departing figure, and his studied urbanity grew a bit uncertain at the edges. His education had been purely military; his experience likewise. He had, as the cliché has it, faced death many times; but always death of a very familiar and tangible nature. Consequently, there is no inconsistency in the fact that the idolized lion of the Twentieth Fleet felt chilled in the suddenly musty atmosphere of an ancient room, The general recognized the small black ivroid boxes that lined the shelves to be books. Their titles were unfamiliar. He guessed that the large structure at one end of the room was the receiver that transmuted the books into sight-and-sound on demand. He had never seen one in operation; but he had heard of them. Once he had been told that long before, during the golden ages when the Empire had been co-extensive with the entire Galaxy, nine houses out of every ten had such receivers – and such rows of books. But there were borders to watch now; books were for old men. And half the stories told about the old days were mythical anyway. More than half. The tea arrived, and Riose seated himself. Ducem Barr lifted his cup. ‘To your honour.’ ‘Thank you. To yours.’ Ducem Barr said deliberately, ‘You are said to be young. Thirty-five?’ ‘Near enough. Thirty-four.’ ‘In that case,’ said Barr, with soft emphasis, ‘I could not begin better than by informing you regretfully that I am not in the possession of love charms, potions, or philtres. Nor am I in the least capable of influencing the favours of any young lady as may appeal to you.’ ‘I have no need of artificial aids in that respect, sir.’ The complacency undeniably present in the general’s voice was stirred with amusement. ‘Do you receive many requests for such commodities?’ ‘Enough. Unfortunately, an uninformed public tends to confuse scholarship with magicianry, and love life seems to be that factor which requires the largest quantity of magical tinkering.’ ‘And so would seem most natural. But I differ. I connect scholarship with nothing but the means of answering difficult questions.’ The Siwennian considered sombrely, ‘You may be as wrong as they!’ ‘That may turn out or not.’ The young general set down his cup in its flaring sheath and it refilled. He dropped the offered flavour-capsule into it with a small splash. ‘Tell me then, patrician, who are the magicians? The real ones.’ Barr seemed startled at a title long-unused. He said, ‘There are no magicians.’ ‘But people speak of them. Siwenna crawls with the tales of them. There are cults being built about them. There is some strange connection between it and those groups among your countrymen who dream and drivel of ancient days and what they call liberty and autonomy. Eventually the matter might become a danger to the State.’ The old man shook his head. ‘Why ask me? Do you smell rebellion, with myself at the head?’ Riose shrugged, ‘Never. Never. Oh, it is not a thought completely ridiculous. Your father was an exile in his day; you yourself a patriot and a chauvinist in yours. It is indelicate in me as a guest to mention it, but my business here requires it. And yet a conspiracy now? I doubt it. Siwenna has had the spirit beat out of it these three generations.’ The old man replied with difficulty, ‘I shall be as indelicate a host as you a guest. I shall remind you that once a viceroy thought as you did of the spiritless Siwennians. By the orders of that viceroy my father became a fugitive pauper, my brothers martyrs, and my sister a suicide. Yet that viceroy died a death sufficiently horrible at the hands of these same slavish Siwennians.’ ‘Ah, yes, and there you touch nearly on something I could wish to say. For three years the mysterious death of that viceroy has been no mystery to me. There was a young soldier of his personal guard whose actions were of interest. You were that soldier, but there is no need of details, I think.’ Barr was quiet. ‘None. What do you propose?’ ‘That you answer my questions.’ ‘Not under threats. I am old, but not yet so old that life means particularly overmuch.’ ‘My good sir, these are hard times,’ said Riose, with meaning, ‘and you have children and friends. You have a country for which you have mouthed phrases of love and folly in the past. Come, if I should decide to use force, my aim would not be so poor as to strike you.’ Barr said coldly, ‘What do you want?’ Riose held the empty cup as he spoke. ‘Patrician, listen to me. These are days when the most successful soldiers are those whose function is to lead the dress parades that wind through the imperial palace grounds on feast days and to escort the sparkling pleasure ships that carry His Imperial Splendour to the summer planets. I … I am a failure. I am a failure at thirty-four, and I shall stay a failure. Because, you see, I like to fight. ‘That’s why they sent me here. I’m too troublesome at court. I don’t fit in with the etiquette. I offend the dandies and the lord admirals, but I’m too good a leader of ships and men to be disposed of shortly by being marooned in space. So Siwenna is the substitute. It’s a frontier world; a rebellious and a barren province. It is far away, far enough away to satisfy all. ‘And so I moulder. There are no rebellions to stamp down, and the border viceroys do not revolt lately; at least, not since His Imperial Majesty’s late father of glorious memory made an example of Mountel of Paramay.’ ‘A strong Emperor,’ muttered Barr. ‘Yes, and we need more of them. He is my master; remember that. These are his interests I guard.’ Barr shrugged unconcernedly. ‘How does all this relate to the subject?’ ‘I’ll show you in two words. The magicians I’ve mentioned come from beyond – out there beyond the frontier guards, where the stars are scattered thinly—’ ‘“Where the stars are scattered thinly,”’ quoted Barr, ‘“And the cold of space seeps in”.’ ‘Is that poetry?’ Riose frowned. Verse seemed frivolous at the moment. ‘In any case, they’re from the Periphery – from the only quarter where I am free to fight for the glory of the Emperor.’ ‘And thus serve His Imperial Majesty’s interests and satisfy your own love of a good fight.’ ‘Exactly. But I must know what I fight; and there you can help.’ ‘How do you know?’ Riose nibbled casually at a cakelet. ‘Because for three years I have traced every rumour, every myth, every breath concerning the magicians – and of all the library of information I have gathered, only two isolated facts are unanimously agreed upon, and are hence certainly true. The first is that the magicians come from the edge of the Galaxy opposite Siwenna; the second is that your father once met a magician, alive and actual, and spoke with him.’ The aged Siwennian stared unblinkingly, and Riose continued, ‘You had better tell me what you know—’ Barr said thoughtfully, ‘It would be interesting to tell you certain things. It would be a psychohistoric experiment of my own.’ ‘What kind of experiment?’ ‘Psycho-historic.’ The old man had an unpleasant edge to his smile. Then, crisply, ‘You’d better have more tea. I’m going to make a bit of a speech.’ He leaned far back into the soft cushions of his chair. The wall-lights had softened to a pink-ivory glow, which mellowed even the soldier’s hard profile. Ducem Barr began, ‘My own knowledge is the result of two accidents; the accidents of being born the son of my father, and of being born the native of my country. It begins over forty years ago, shortly after the great Massacre, when my father was a fugitive in the forests of the South, while I was a gunner in the viceroy’s personal fleet. This same viceroy, by the way, who had ordered the Massacre, and who died such a cruel death thereafter.’ Barr smiled grimly, and continued, ‘My father was a Patrician of the Empire and a Senator of Siwenna. His name was Onum Barr.’ Riose interrupted impatiently, ‘I know the circumstances of his exile very well. You needn’t elaborate upon it.’ The Siwennian ignored him and proceeded without deflection. ‘During his exile a wanderer came upon him; a merchant from the edge of the Galaxy; a young man who spoke a strange accent, knew nothing of recent Imperial history, and who was protected by an individual force-shield.’ ‘An individual force-shield?’ Riose glared. ‘You speak extravagance. What generator could be powerful enough to condense a shield to the size of a single man? By the Great Galaxy, did he carry five thousand myria-tons of atomic power-source about with him on a little wheeled gocart?’ Barr said quietly, ‘This is the magician of whom you hear whispers, stories and myths. The name “magician” is not lightly earned. He carried no generator large enough to be seen, but not the heaviest weapon you can carry in your hand would have as much as creased the shield he bore.’ ‘Is this all the story there is? Are the magicians born of maunderings of an old man broken by suffering and exile?’ ‘The story of the magicians antedated even my father, sir. And the proof is more concrete. After leaving my father, this merchant that men call a magician visited a Tech-man at the city to which my father had guided him, and there he left a shield-generator of the type he wore. The generator was retrieved by my father after his return from exile upon the execution of the bloody viceroy. It took a long time to find— ‘The generator hangs on the wall behind you, sir. It does not work. It never worked but for the first two days; but if you’ll look at it, you will see that no one in the Empire ever designed it.’ Bel Riose reached for the belt of linked metal that clung to the curved wall. It came away with a little sucking noise as the tiny adhesion-field broke at the touch of his hand. The ellipsoid at the apex of the belt held his attention. It was the size of a walnut. ‘This—’ he said. ‘Was the generator,’ nodded Barr. ‘But it was the generator. The secret of its workings are beyond discovery now. Sub-electronic investigations have shown it to be fused into a single lump of metal and not all the most careful study of the diffraction patterns have sufficed to distinguish the discrete parts that had existed before fusion.’ ‘Then your “proof” still lingers on the frothy border of words backed by no concrete evidence.’ Barr shrugged. ‘You have demanded my knowledge of me and threatened its extortion by force. If you choose to meet it with scepticism, what is that to me? Do you want me to stop?’ ‘Go on!’ said the general, harshly. ‘I continued my father’s researches after he died, and then the second accident I mentioned came to help me, for Siwenna was well known to Hari Seldon.’ ‘And who is Hari Seldon?’ ‘Hari Seldon was a scientist of the reign of the Emperor, Daluben IV. He was a psycho-historian; the last and greatest of them all. He once visited Siwenna, when Siwenna was a great commercial centre, rich in the arts and sciences.’ ‘Hmph,’ muttered Riose, sourly, ‘where is the stagnant planet that does not claim to have been a land of overflowing wealth in older days?’ ‘The days I speak of are the days of two centuries ago, when the Emperor yet ruled to the uttermost star; when Siwenna was a world of the interior and not a semi-barbarian border province. In those days, Hari Seldon foresaw the decline of Imperial power and the eventual barbarization of the entire Galaxy.’ Riose laughed suddenly. ‘He foresaw that? Then he foresaw wrong, my good scientist. I suppose you call yourself that. Why, the Empire is more powerful now than it has been in a millennium. Your old eyes are blinded by the cold bleakness of the border. Come to the inner worlds some day; come to the warmth and the wealth of the centre.’ The old man shook his head sombrely. ‘Circulation ceases first at the outer edges. It will take a while yet for the decay to reach the heart. That is, the apparent, obvious-to-all decay, as distinct from the inner decay that is an old story of some fifteen centuries.’ ‘And so this Hari Seldon foresaw a Galaxy of uniform barbarism,’ said Riose, good-humouredly. ‘And what then, eh?’ ‘So he established two foundations at the extreme opposing ends of the Galaxy – Foundations of the best, and the youngest, and the strongest, there to breed, grow, and develop. The worlds on which they were placed were chosen carefully; as were the times and the surroundings. All was arranged in such a way that the future as foreseen by the unalterable mathematics of psycho-history would involve their early isolation from the main body of Imperial civilization and their gradual growth into the germs of the Second Galactic Empire – cutting an inevitable barbarian interregnum from thirty thousand years to scarcely a single thousand.’ ‘And where did you find out all this? You seem to know it in detail.’ ‘I don’t and never did,’ said the patrician with composure. ‘It is the painful result of the piecing together of certain evidence discovered by my father and a little more found by myself. The basis is flimsy and the superstructure has been romanticized into existence to fill the huge gaps. But I am convinced that it is essentially true.’ ‘You are easily convinced.’ ‘Am I? It has taken forty years of research.’ ‘Hmph. Forty years! I could settle the question in forty days. In fact, I believe I ought to. It would be – different.’ ‘And how would you do that?’ ‘In the obvious way. I could become an explorer. I could find this Foundation you speak of and observe with my eyes. You say there are two?’ ‘The records speak of two. Supporting evidence has been found only for one, which is understandable, for the other is at the extreme end of the long axis of the Galaxy.’ ‘Well, we’ll visit the near one.’ The general was on his feet, adjusting his belt. ‘You know where to go?’ asked Barr. ‘In a way. In the records of the last viceroy but one, he whom you murdered so effectively, there are suspicious tales of outer barbarians. In fact, one of his daughters was given in marriage to a barbarian prince. I’ll find my way.’ He held out a hand. ‘I thank you for your hospitality.’ Ducem Barr touched the hand with his fingers and bowed formally. ‘Your visit was a great honour.’ ‘As for the information you gave me,’ continued Bel Riose, ‘I’ll know how to thank you for that when I return.’ Ducem Barr followed his guest submissively to the outer door and said quietly to the disappearing ground-car, ‘And if you return.’ 2 (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) The Magicians (#u2660011c-7b10-591e-a004-5ce5892cceee) FOUNDATION … With forty years of expansion behind them, the Foundation faced the menace of Riose. The epic days of Hardin and Mallow had gone and with them a certain hard daring and resolution … ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA There were four men in the room, and the room was set apart where none could approach. The four men looked at each other quickly, then lengthily at the table that separated them. There were four bottles on the table and as many full glasses, but no one had touched them. And then the man nearest the door stretched out an arm and drummed a slow, padding rhythm on the table. He said, ‘Are you going to sit and wonder forever? Does it matter who speaks first?’ ‘Speak you first, then,’ said the big man directly opposite. ‘You’re the one who should be the most worried.’ Sennett Forell chuckled with noiseless nonhumour. ‘Because you think I’m the richest. Well— Or is it that you expect me to continue as I have started. I don’t suppose you forget that it was my own Trade Fleet that captured this scout ship of theirs.’ ‘You had the largest fleet,’ said a third, ‘and the best pilots; which is another way of saying you are the richest. It was a fearful risk; and would have been greater for one of us.’ Sennett Forell chuckled again. ‘There is a certain facility in risk-taking that I inherit from my father. After all, the essential point in running a risk is that the returns justify it. As to which, witness the fact that the enemy ship was isolated and captured without loss to ourselves or warning to the others.’ That Forell was a distant collateral relative of the late great Hober Mallow was recognized openly throughout the Foundation. That he was Mallow’s illegitimate son was accepted quietly to just as wide an extent. The fourth man blinked his little eyes stealthily. Words crept out from between thin lips. ‘It is nothing to sleep over in fat triumph, this grasping of little ships. Most likely, it will but anger that young man further.’ ‘You think he needs motives?’ questioned Forell, scornfully. ‘I do, and this might, or will, save him the vexation of having to manufacture one.’ The fourth man spoke slowly, ‘Hober Mallow worked otherwise. And Salvor Hardin. They let others take the uncertain paths of force, while they manoeuvred surely and quietly.’ Forell shrugged. ‘This ship has proved its value. Motives are cheap and we have sold this one at a profit.’ There was the satisfaction of the born Trader in that. He continued, ‘The young man is of the old Empire.’ ‘We knew that,’ said the second man, the big one, with rumbling discontent. ‘We suspected that,’ corrected Forell, softly. ‘If a man comes with ships and wealth, with overtures of friendliness, and with offers of trade, it is only sensible to refrain from antagonizing him, until we are certain that the profitable mask is not a face after all. But now—’ There was a faint whining edge to the third man’s voice as he spoke. ‘We might have been even more careful. We might have found out first. We might have found out before allowing him to leave. It would have been the truest wisdom.’ ‘That has been discussed and disposed of,’ said Forell. He waved the subject aside with a flatly final gesture. ‘The government is soft,’ complained the third man. ‘The mayor is an idiot.’ The fourth man looked at the other three in turn and removed the stub of a cigar from his mouth. He dropped it casually into the slot at his right where it disappeared with a silent flash of disruption. He said sarcastically, ‘I trust the gentleman who last spoke is speaking through habit only. We can afford to remember here that we are the government.’ There was a murmur of agreement. The fourth man’s little eyes were on the table. ‘Then let us leave government policy alone. This young man … this stranger might have been a possible customer. There have been cases. All three of you tried to butter him into an advance contract. We have an agreement – a gentleman’s agreement – against it, but you tried.’ ‘So did you,’ growled the second man. ‘I know it,’ said the fourth, calmly. ‘Then let’s forget what we should have done earlier,’ interrupted Forell impatiently, ‘and continue with what we should do now. In any case, what if we had imprisoned him, or killed him, what then? We are not certain of his intentions even yet, and at the worst, we could not destroy an Empire by snipping short one man’s life. There might be navies upon navies waiting just the other side of his nonreturn.’ ‘Exactly,’ approved the fourth man. ‘Now what did you get out of your captured ship? I’m too old for all this talking.’ ‘It can be told in a few enough words,’ said Forell, grimly. ‘He’s an Imperial general or whatever rank corresponds to that over there. He’s a young man who has proved his military brilliance – so I am told – and who is the idol of his men. Quite a romantic career. The stories they tell of him are no doubt half lies, but even so it makes him out to be a type of wonder man.’ ‘Who are the “they”?’ demanded the second man. ‘The crew of the captured ship. Look, I have all their statements recorded on micro-film, which I have in a secure place. Later on, if you wish, you can see them. You can talk to the men yourselves, if you think it necessary. I’ve told you the essentials.’ ‘How did you get it out of them? How do you know they’re telling the truth?’ Forell frowned. ‘I wasn’t gentle, good sir. I knocked them about, drugged them crazy, and used the Probe unmercifully. They talked. You can believe them.’ ‘In the old days,’ said the third man, with sudden irrelevance, ‘they would have used pure psychology. Painless, you know, but very sure. No chance of deceit.’ ‘Well, there is a good deal they had in the old days,’ said Forell, dryly. ‘These are the new days.’ ‘But,’ said the fourth man, ‘what did he want here, this general, this romantic wonder-man?’ There was a dogged, weary persistence about him. Forell glanced at him sharply. ‘You think he confides the details of state policy to his crew? They didn’t know. There was nothing to get out of them in that respect, and I tried, Galaxy knows.’ ‘Which leaves us—’ ‘To draw our own conclusions, obviously.’ Forell’s fingers were tapping quietly again. ‘The young man is a military leader of the Empire, yet he played the pretence of being a minor princeling of some scattered stars in an odd corner of the Periphery. That alone would assure us that his real motives are such as it would not benefit him to have us know. Combine the nature of his profession with the fact that the Empire has already subsidized one attack upon us in my father’s time, and the possibilities become ominous. The first attack failed. I doubt that the Empire owes us love for that.’ ‘There is nothing in your findings,’ questioned the fourth man guardedly, ‘which makes for certainty? You are withholding nothing?’ Forell answered levelly, ‘I can’t withhold anything. From here on there can be no question of business rivalry. Unity is forced upon us.’ ‘Patriotism?’ There was a sneer in the third man’s thin voice. ‘Patriotism be damned,’ said Forell quietly. ‘Do you think I give two puffs of atomic emanation for the future Second Empire? Do you think I’d risk a single Trade mission to smooth its path? But – do you suppose Imperial conquest will help my business or yours? If the Empire wins, there will be a sufficient number of yearning carrion crows to crave the rewards of battle.’ ‘And we’re the rewards,’ added the fourth man, dryly. The second man broke his silence suddenly, and shifted his bulk angrily, so that the chair creaked under him. ‘But why talk of that. The Empire can’t win, can it? This is Seldon’s assurance that we will form the Second Empire in the end. This is only another crisis. There have been three before this.’ ‘Only another crisis, yes!’ Forell brooded. ‘But in the case of the first two, we had Salvor Hardin to guide us; in the third, there was Hober Mallow. Whom have we now?’ He looked at the others sombrely and continued, ‘Seldon’s rules of psycho-history on which it is so comforting to rely probably have as one of the contributing variables, a certain normal initiative on the part of the people of the Foundation themselves. Seldon’s laws help those who help themselves.’ ‘The times make the man,’ said the third man. ‘There’s another proverb for you.’ ‘You can’t count on that, not with absolute assurance,’ grunted Forell. ‘Now the way it seems to me is this. If this is the fourth crisis, then Seldon has foreseen it. If he has, then it can be beaten, and there should be a way of doing it. ‘Now the Empire is stronger than we; it always has been. But this is the first time we are in danger of its direct attack, so that strength becomes terribly menacing. Then if it can be beaten, it must be once again as in all past crises by a method other than pure force. We must find the weak side of its enemy and attack it there.’ ‘And what is that weak side?’ asked the fourth man. ‘Do you intend advancing a theory?’ ‘No. That is the point I’m leading up to. Our great leaders of the past always saw the weak points of their enemies and aimed at that. But now—’ There was a helplessness in his voice, and for a moment none volunteered a comment. Then the fourth man said, ‘We need spies.’ Forell turned to him eagerly. ‘Right! I don’t know when the Empire will attack. There may be time.’ ‘Hober Mallow himself entered the Imperial dominions,’ suggested the second man. But Forell shook his head. ‘Nothing so direct. None of us are precisely youthful; and all of us are rusty with red-tape and administrative detail. We need young men that are in the field now—’ ‘The independent traders?’ asked the fourth man. And Forell nodded his head and whispered, ‘If there is yet time—’ 3 (#ulink_474e9b74-19b7-5465-a1bb-70c110963af9) The Dead Hand (#ulink_474e9b74-19b7-5465-a1bb-70c110963af9) Bel Riose interrupted his annoyed stridings to look up hopefully when his aide entered. ‘Any word of the Starlet?’ ‘None. The scouting party has quartered space, but the instruments have detected nothing. Commander Yume has reported that the Fleet is ready for an immediate attack in retaliation.’ The general shook his head. ‘No, not for a patrol ship. Not yet. Tell him to double – Wait! I’ll write out the message. Have it coded and transmitted by tight beam.’ He wrote as he talked and thrust the paper at the waiting officer. ‘Has the Siwennian arrived yet?’ ‘Not yet.’ ‘Well, see to it that he is brought in here as soon as he does arrive.’ The aide saluted crisply and left. Riose resumed his caged stride. When the door opened a second time, it was Ducem Barr that stood on the threshold. Slowly, in the footsteps of the ushering aide, he stepped into the garish room whose ceiling was an ornamented stereoscopic model of the Galaxy, and in the centre of which Bel Riose stood in field uniform. ‘Patrician, good day!’ The general pushed forward a chair with his foot and gestured the aide away with a ‘That door is to stay closed till I open it.’ He stood before the Siwennian, legs apart, hand grasping wrist behind his back, balancing himself slowly, thoughtfully, on the balls of his feet. Then, harshly, ‘Patrician, are you a loyal subject of the Emperor?’ Barr, who had maintained an indifferent silence till then, wrinkled a noncommittal brow. ‘I have no cause to love Imperial rule.’ ‘Which is a long way from saying that you would be a traitor.’ ‘True. But the mere act of not being a traitor is also a long way from agreeing to be an active helper.’ ‘Ordinarily also true. But to refuse your help at this point,’ said Riose, deliberately, ‘will be considered treason and treated as such.’ Barr’s eyebrows drew together. ‘Save your verbal cudgels for your subordinates. A simple statement of your needs and wants will suffice me here.’ Riose sat down and crossed his legs. ‘Barr, we had an earlier discussion half a year ago.’ ‘About your magicians?’ ‘Yes. You remember what I said I would do.’ Barr nodded. His arms rested limply in his lap. ‘You were going to visit them in their haunts, and you’ve been away these four months. Did you find them?’ ‘Find them? That I did,’ cried Riose. His lips were stiff as he spoke. It seemed to require effort to refrain from grinding molars. ‘Patrician, they are not magicians; they are devils. It is as far from belief as the outer nebulae from here. Conceive it! It is a world the size of a handkerchief, of a fingernail; with resources so petty, power so minute, a population so microscopic as would never suffice the most backward worlds of the dusty prefects of the Dark Stars. Yet with that, a people so proud and ambitious as to dream quietly and methodically of Galactic rule. ‘Why, they are so sure of themselves that they do not even hurry. They move slowly, phlegmatically; they speak of necessary centuries. They swallow worlds at leisure; creep through systems with dawdling complacence. ‘And they succeed. There is no one to stop them. They have built up a filthy trading community that curls its tentacles about the systems further than their toy ships dare reach. For parsecs, their Traders – which is what their agents call themselves – penetrate.’ Ducem Barr interrupted the angry flow. ‘How much of this information is definite; and how much is simply fury?’ The soldier caught his breath and grew calmer. ‘My fury does not blind me. I tell you I was in worlds nearer to Siwenna than to the Foundation, where the Empire was a myth of the distance, and where Traders were living truths. We ourselves were mistaken for Traders.’ ‘The Foundation itself told you they aimed at Galactic dominion?’ ‘Told me!’ Riose was violent again. ‘It was not a matter of telling me. The officials said nothing. They spoke business exclusively. But I spoke to ordinary men. I absorbed the ideas of the common folk; their “manifest destiny”, their calm acceptance of a great future. It is a thing that can’t be hidden; a universal optimism they don’t even try to hide.’ The Siwennian openly displayed a certain quiet satisfaction. ‘You will notice that so far it would seem to bear out quite accurately my reconstruction of events from the paltry data on the subject that I have gathered.’ ‘It is no doubt,’ replied Riose with vexed sarcasm, ‘a tribute to your analytical powers. It is also a hearty and bumptious commentary on the growing danger to the domains of His Imperial Majesty.’ Barr shrugged his unconcern, and Riose leaned forward suddenly, to seize the old man’s shoulders and stare with curious gentleness into his eyes. He said, ‘Now, patrician, none of that. I have no desire to be barbaric. For my part, the legacy of Siwennian hostility to the Imperium is an odious burden, and one which I would do everything in my power to wipe out. But my province is the military and interference in civil affairs is impossible. It would bring about my recall and ruin my usefulness at once. You see that? I know you see that. Between yourself and myself then, let the atrocity of forty years ago be repaid by your vengeance upon its author and so forgotten. I need your help. I frankly admit it.’ There was a world of urgency in the young man’s voice, but Ducem Barr’s head shook gently and deliberately in a negative gesture. Riose said pleadingly, ‘You don’t understand, patrician, and I doubt my ability to make you. I can’t argue on your ground. You’re the scholar, not I. But this I can tell you. Whatever you think of the Empire, you will admit its great services. Its armed forces have committed isolated crimes, but in the main they have been a force for peace and civilization. It was the Imperial navy that created the Pax Imperium that ruled over all the Galaxy for two thousand years. Contrast the two millennia of peace under the Sun-and-Spaceship of the Empire with the two millennia of interstellar anarchy that preceded it. Consider the wars and devastations of those old days and tell me if, with all its faults, the Empire is not worth preserving. ‘Consider,’ he drove on forcefully, ‘to what the outer fringe of the Galaxy is reduced in these days of their break-away and independence, and ask yourself if for the sake of a petty revenge you would reduce Siwenna from its position as a province under the protection of a mighty Navy to a barbarian world in a barbarian Galaxy, all immersed in its fragmentary independence and its common degradation and misery.’ ‘Is it so bad – so soon?’ murmured the Siwennian. ‘No,’ admitted Riose. ‘We would be safe ourselves no doubt, were our lifetimes quadrupled. But it is for the Empire I fight; that, and a military tradition which is something for myself alone, and which I can not transfer to you. It is a military tradition built on the Imperial institution which I serve.’ ‘You are getting mystical, and I always find it difficult to penetrate another person’s mysticism.’ ‘No matter. You understand the danger of this Foundation.’ ‘It was I who pointed out what you call the danger before ever you headed outward from Siwenna.’ ‘Then you realize that it must be stopped in embryo or perhaps not at all. You have known of this Foundation before anyone had heard of it. You know more about it than anyone else in the Empire. You probably know how it might best be attacked; and you can probably forewarn me of its countermeasures. Come, let us be friends.’ Ducem Barr rose. He said flatly, ‘Such help as I could give you means nothing. So I will make you free of it in the face of your strenuous demand.’ ‘I will be the judge of its meaning.’ ‘No, I am serious. Not all the might of the Empire could avail to crush this pygmy world.’ ‘Why not?’ Bel Riose’s eyes glistened fiercely. ‘No, stay where you are. I’ll tell you when you may leave. Why not? If you think I underestimate this enemy I have discovered, you are wrong. Patrician,’ he spoke reluctantly, ‘I lost a ship on my return. I have no proof that it fell into the hands of the Foundation; but it has not been located since and were it merely an accident, its dead hulk should certainly have been found along the route we took. It is not an important loss – less than the tenth part of a fleabite, but it may mean that the Foundation has already opened hostilities. Such eagerness and such disregard for consequences might mean secret forces of which I know nothing. Can you help me then by answering a specific question? What is their military power?’ ‘I haven’t any notion.’ ‘Then explain yourself on your own terms. Why do you say the Empire can not defeat this small enemy?’ The Siwennian seated himself once more and looked away from Riose’s fixed glare. He spoke heavily, ‘Because I have faith in the principles of psycho-history. It is a strange science. It reached mathematical maturity with one man, Hari Seldon, and died with him, for no man since has been capable of manipulating its intricacies. But in that short period, it proved itself the most powerful instrument ever invented for the study of humanity. Without pretending to predict the actions of individual humans, it formulated definite laws capable of mathematical analysis and extrapolation to govern and predict the mass action of human groups.’ ‘So—’ ‘It was that psycho-history which Seldon and the group he worked with applied in full force to the establishment of the Foundation. The place, time, and conditions all conspire mathematically and so, inevitably, to the development of Universal Empire.’ Riose’s voice trembled with indignation. ‘You mean that this art of his predicts that I would attack the Foundation and lose such and such a battle for such and such a reason? You are trying to say that I am a silly robot following a predetermined course into destruction.’ ‘No,’ replied the old patrician, sharply. ‘I have already said that the science had nothing to do with individual actions. It is the vaster background that has been foreseen.’ ‘Then we stand clasped tightly in the forcing hand of the Goddess of Historical Necessity.’ ‘Of Psycho-Historical Necessity,’ prompted Barr, softly. ‘And if I exercise my prerogative of freewill? If I choose to attack next year, or not to attack at all? How pliable is the Goddess? How resourceful?’ Barr shrugged. ‘Attack now or never; with a single ship, or all the force in the Empire; by military force or economic pressure; by candid declaration of war or by treacherous ambush. Do whatever you wish in your fullest exercise of free will. You will still lose.’ ‘Because of Hari Seldon’s dead hand?’ ‘Because of the dead hand of the mathematics of human behaviour that can neither be stopped, swerved, nor delayed.’ The two faced each other in deadlock, until the general stepped back. He said simply, ‘I’ll take that challenge. It’s a dead hand against a living will.’ 4 (#ulink_0c3c0a4d-be4e-50fb-b03d-69bcc6aee69e) The Emperor (#ulink_0c3c0a4d-be4e-50fb-b03d-69bcc6aee69e) CLEON II commonly called ‘The Great’. The last strong Emperor of the First Empire, he is important for the political and artistic renaissance that took place during his long reign. He is best known to romance, however, for his connection with Bel Riose, and to the common man, he is simply ‘Riose’s Emperor’. It is important not to allow events of the last year of his reign to overshadow forty years of … ENCYCLOPEDIA GALACTICA Cleon II was Lord of the Universe. Cleon II also suffered from a painful and undiagnosed ailment. By the queer twists of human affairs, the two statements are not mutually exclusive, nor even particularly incongruous. There have been a wearisomely large number of precedents in history. But Cleon II cared nothing for such precedents. To meditate upon a long list of similar cases would not ameliorate personal suffering an electron’s worth. It soothed him as little to think that where his great-grandfather had been the pirate ruler of a dust-speck planet, he himself slept in the pleasure palace of Ammenetik the Great, as heir of a line of Galactic rulers stretching backward into a tenuous past. It was at present no source of comfort to him that the efforts of his father had cleansed the realm of its leprous patches of rebellion and restored it to the peace and unity it had enjoyed under Stanel VI; that, as a consequence, in the twenty-five years of his reign, not one cloud of revolt had misted his burnished glory. The Emperor of the Galaxy and the Lord of All whimpered as he lolled his head backward into the invigorating plane of force about his pillows. It yielded in a softness that did not touch, and at the pleasant tingle, Cleon relaxed a bit. He sat up with difficulty and stared morosely at the distant walls of the grand chamber. It was a bad room to be alone in. It was too big. All the rooms were too big. But better to be alone during these crippling bouts than to endure the prinking of the courtiers, their lavish sympathy, their soft, condescending dullness. Better to be alone than to watch those insipid masks behind which spun the tortuous speculations on the chances of death and the fortunes of the succession. His thoughts hurried him. There were his three sons; three straight-backed youths full of promise and virtue. Where did they disappear on these bad days? Waiting, no doubt. Each watching the other; and all watching him. He stirred uneasily. And now Brodrig craved audience. The low-born, faithful Brodrig; faithful because he was hated with a unanimous and cordial hatred that was the only point of agreement between the dozen cliques that divided his court. Brodrig – the faithful favourite, who had to be faithful, since unless he owned the fastest speed-ship in the Galaxy and took to it the day of the Emperor’s death, it would be the atom-chamber the day after. Cleon II touched the smooth knob on the arm of his great divan, and the huge door at the end of the room dissolved to transparency. Brodrig advanced along the crimson carpet, and knelt to kiss the Emperor’s limp hand. ‘Your health, sire?’ asked the Privy Secretary in a low tone of becoming anxiety. ‘I live,’ snapped the Emperor with exasperation, ‘if you can call it life where every scoundrel who can read a book of medicine uses me as a blank and receptive field for his feeble experiments. If there is a conceivable remedy, chemical, physical, or atomic, which has not yet been tried, why then, some learned babbler from the far corners of the realm will arrive tomorrow to try it. And still another newly-discovered book, or forgery more-like, will be used as authority. ‘By my father’s memory,’ he rumbled savagely, ‘it seems there is not a biped extant who can study a disease before his eyes with those same eyes. There is not one who can count a pulse-beat without a book of the ancients before him. I’m sick and they call it “unknown”. The fools! If in the course of millennia, human bodies learn new methods of falling askew, it remains uncovered by the studies of the ancients and uncurable forevermore. The ancients should be alive now, or I then.’ The Emperor ran down to a low-breathed curse while Brodrig waited dutifully. Cleon II said peevishly, ‘How many are waiting outside?’ He jerked his head in the direction of the door. Brodrig said patiently, ‘The Great Hall holds the usual number.’ ‘Well, let them wait. State matters occupy me. Have the Captain of the Guard announce it. Or wait, forget the state matters. Just have it announced I hold no audience, and let the Captain of the Guard look doleful. The jackals among them may betray themselves.’ The Emperor sneered nastily. ‘There is a rumour, sire,’ said Brodrig, smoothly, ‘that it is your heart that troubles you.’ The Emperor’s smile was little removed from the previous sneer. ‘It will hurt others more than myself if any act prematurely on that rumour. But what is it you want. Let’s have this over.’ Brodrig rose from his kneeling posture at a gesture of permission and said, ‘It concerns General Bel Riose, the Military Governor of Siwenna.’ ‘Riose?’ Cleon II frowned heavily. ‘I don’t place him. Wait, is he the one who sent that quixotic message some months back? Yes, I remember. He panted for permission to enter a career of conquest for the glory of the Empire and Emperor.’ ‘Exactly, sire.’ The Emperor laughed shortly. ‘Did you think I had such generals left me, Brodrig? He seems to be a curious atavism. What was the answer? I believe you took care of it.’ ‘I did, sire. He was instructed to forward additional information and to take no steps involving naval action without further orders from the Imperium.’ ‘Hmp. Safe enough. Who is this Riose? Was he ever at court?’ Brodrig nodded and his mouth twisted ever so little. ‘He began his career as a cadet in the Guards ten years back. He had part in that affair of the Lemul Cluster.’ ‘The Lemul Cluster? You know, my memory isn’t quite— Was that the time a young soldier saved two ships of the line from a head-on collision by … uh … something or other?’ He waved a hand impatiently. ‘I don’t remember the details. It was something heroic.’ ‘Riose was that soldier. He received a promotion for it,’ Brodrig said dryly, ‘and an appointment to field duty as captain of a ship.’ ‘And now Military Governor of a border system and still young. Capable man, Brodrig!’ ‘Unsafe, sire. He lives in the past. He is a dreamer of ancient times, or, rather, of the myths of what ancient times used to be. Such men are harmless in themselves, but their queer lack of realism makes them fools for others.’ He added, ‘His men, I understand, are completely under his control. He is one of your popular generals.’ ‘Is he?’ the Emperor mused. ‘Well, come, Brodrig, I would not wish to be served entirely by incompetents. They certainly set no enviable standard for faithfulness themselves.’ ‘An incompetent traitor is no danger. It is rather the capable men who must be watched.’ ‘You among them, Brodrig?’ Cleon II laughed and then grimaced with pain. ‘Well, then, you may forget the lecture for the while. What new development is there in the matter of this young conqueror? I hope you haven’t come merely to reminisce.’ ‘Another message, sire, has been received from General Riose.’ ‘Oh? And to what effect?’ ‘He has spied out the land of these barbarians and advocates an expedition in force. His arguments are long and fairly tedious. It is not worth annoying Your Imperial Majesty with it at present, during your indisposition. Particularly since it will be discussed at length during the session of the Council of Lords.’ He glanced sidewise at the Emperor. Cleon II frowned. ‘The Lords? Is it a question for them, Brodrig? It will mean further demands for a broader interpretation of the Charter. It always comes to that.’ ‘It can’t be avoided, sire. It might have been better if your august father could have beaten down the last rebellion without granting the Charter. But since it is here, we must endure it for the while.’ ‘You’re right, I suppose. Then the Lords it must be. But why all this solemnity, man? It is, after all, a minor point. Success on a remote border with limited troops is scarcely a state affair.’ Brodrig smiled narrowly. He said coolly, ‘It is an affair of a romantic idiot; but even a romantic idiot can be a deadly weapon when an unromantic rebel uses him as a tool. Sire, the man was popular here and is popular there. He is young. If he annexes a vagrant barbarian planet or two, he will become a conqueror. Now a young conqueror who has proven his ability to rouse the enthusiasm of pilots, miners, tradesmen and suchlike rabble is dangerous at any time. Even if he lacked the desire to do to you as your august father did to the usurper, Ricker, then one of our loyal Lords of the Domain may decide to use him as his weapon.’ Cleon II moved an arm hastily and stiffened with pain. Slowly he relaxed, but his smile was weak, and his voice a whisper. ‘You are a valuable subject, Brodrig. You always suspect far more than is necessary, and I have but to take half your suggested precautions to be utterly safe. We’ll put it up to the Lords. We shall see what they say and take measures accordingly. The young man, I suppose, has made no hostile moves yet.’ ‘He reports none. But already he asks for reinforcements.’ ‘Reinforcements!’ The Emperor’s eyes narrowed with wonder. ‘What force has he?’ ‘Ten ships of the line, sire, with a full complement of auxiliary vessels. Two of the ships are equipped with motors salvaged from the old Grand Fleet, and one has a battery of power artillery from the same source. The other ships are new ones of the last fifty years, but are serviceable, nevertheless.’ ‘Ten ships would seem adequate for any reasonable undertaking. Why, with less than ten ships my father won his first victories against the usurper. Who are these barbarians he’s fighting?’ The Privy Secretary raised a pair of supercilious eyebrows. ‘He refers to them as “the Foundation”.’ ‘The Foundation? What is it?’ ‘There is no record of it, sire. I have searched the archives carefully. The area of the Galaxy indicated falls within the ancient province of Anacreon, which two centuries since gave itself up to brigandage, barbarism, and anarchy. There is no planet known as Foundation in the province, however. There was a vague reference to a group of scientists sent to that province just before its separation from our protection. They were to prepare an Encyclopedia.’ He smiled thinly. ‘I believe they called it the Encyclopedia Foundation.’ ‘Well,’ the Emperor considered it sombrely, ‘that seems a tenuous connection to advance.’ ‘I’m not advancing it, sire. No word was ever received from that expedition after the growth of anarchy in that region. If their descendants still live and retain their name, then they have reverted to barbarism most certainly.’ ‘And so he wants reinforcements.’ The Emperor bent a fierce glance at his secretary. ‘This is most peculiar; to propose to fight savages with ten ships and to ask for more before a blow is struck. And yet I begin to remember this Riose; he was a handsome boy of loyal family. Brodrig, there are complications in this that I don’t penetrate. There may be more importance in it than would seem.’ His fingers played idly with the gleaming sheet that covered his stiffened legs. He said, ‘I need a man out there; one with eyes, brains and loyalty. Brodrig—’ The secretary bent a submissive head, ‘And the ships, sire?’ ‘Not yet!’ The Emperor moaned softly as he shifted his position in gentle stages. He pointed a feeble finger, ‘Not till we know more. Convene the Council of Lords for this day week. It will be a good opportunity for the new appropriation as well. I’ll put that through or lives will end.’ He leaned his aching head into the soothing tingle of the force-field pillow. ‘Go now, Brodrig, and send in the doctor. He’s the worst bumbler of the lot.’ 5 (#ulink_2b8e8a8d-65e0-59f7-a3dd-096ea9d3de84) The War Begins (#ulink_2b8e8a8d-65e0-59f7-a3dd-096ea9d3de84) From the radiating point of Siwenna, the forces of the Empire reached out cautiously into the black unknown of the Periphery. Giant ships passed the vast distances that separated the vagrant stars at the Galaxy’s rim, and felt their way around the outermost edge of Foundation influence. Worlds isolated in their new barbarism of two centuries felt the sensation once again of Imperial overlords upon their soil. Allegiance was sworn in the face of the massive artillery covering capital cities. Garrisons were left; garrisons of men in Imperial uniform with the Spaceship-and-Sun insignia upon their shoulders. The old men took notice and remembered once again the forgotten tales of their grandfathers’ fathers of the times when the universe was big, and rich, and peaceful and that same Spaceship-and-Sun ruled all. Then the great ships passed on to weave their line of forward bases further around the Foundation. And as each world was knotted into its proper place in the fabric, the report went back to Bel Riose at the General Headquarters he had established on the rocky barrenness of a wandering sunless planet. Now Riose relaxed and smiled grimly at Ducem Barr. ‘Well, what do you think, patrician?’ ‘I? Of what value are my thoughts? I am not a military man.’ He took in with one wearily distasteful glance the crowded disorder of the rock-bound room which had been carved out of the wall of a cavern of artificial air, light, and heat which marked the single bubble of life in the vastness of a bleak world. ‘For the help I could give you,’ he muttered, ‘or would want to give you, you might return me to Siwenna.’ ‘Not yet. Not yet.’ The general turned his chair to the corner which held the huge, brilliantly-transparent sphere that mapped the old Imperial prefect of Anacreon and its neighbouring sectors. ‘Later, when this is over, you will go back to your books and to more. I’ll see to it that the estates of your family are restored to you and to your children for the rest of time.’ ‘Thank you,’ said Barr, with faint irony, ‘but I lack your faith in the happy outcome of all this.’ Riose laughed harshly, ‘Don’t start your prophetic croakings again. This map speaks louder than all your woeful theories.’ He caressed its curved invisible outline gently. ‘Can you read a map in radial projection? You can? Well, here, see for yourself. The stars in gold represent the Imperial territories. The red stars are those in subjection to the Foundation and the pink are those which are probably within the economic sphere of influence. Now watch—’ Riose’s hand covered a rounded knob, and slowly an area of hard, white pinpoints changed into a deepening blue. Like an inverted cup they folded about the red and the pink. ‘Those blue stars have been taken over by my forces,’ said Riose with quiet satisfaction, ‘and they still advance. No opposition has appeared anywhere. The barbarians are quiet. And particularly, no opposition has come from Foundation forces. They sleep peacefully and well.’ ‘You spread your force thinly, don’t you?’ asked Barr. ‘As a matter of fact,’ said Riose, ‘despite appearances, I don’t. The key points which I garrison and fortify are relatively few, but they are carefully chosen. The result is that the force expended is small, but the strategic result great. There are many advantages, more than would ever appear to anyone who hasn’t made a careful study of spatial tactics, but it is apparent to anyone, for instance, that I can base an attack from any point in an inclosing sphere, and that when I am finished it will be impossible for the Foundation to attack at flank or rear. I shall have no flank or rear with respect to them. ‘This strategy of the Previous Inclosure has been tried before, notably in the campaigns of Loris VI, some two thousand years ago, but always imperfectly; always with the knowledge and attempted interference of the enemy. This is different.’ ‘The ideal textbook case?’ Barr’s voice was languid and indifferent. Riose was impatient, ‘You still think my forces will fail?’ ‘They must.’ ‘You understand that there is no case in military history where an inclosure has been completed that the attacking forces have not eventually won, except where an outside Navy exists in sufficient force to break the Inclosure.’ ‘If you say so.’ ‘And you still adhere to your faith.’ ‘Yes.’ Riose shrugged. ‘Then do so.’ Barr allowed the angry silence to continue for a moment, then asked quietly, ‘Have you received an answer from the Emperor?’ Riose removed a cigarette from a wall container behind his head, placed a filter tip between his lips and puffed it aflame carefully. He said, ‘You mean my request for reinforcements? It came, but that’s all. Just the answer.’ ‘No ships.’ ‘None. I half-expected that. Frankly, patrician, I should never have allowed myself to be stampeded by your theories into requesting them in the first place. It puts me in a false light.’ ‘Does it?’ ‘Definitely. Ships are at a premium. The civil wars of the last two centuries have smashed up more than half of the Grand Fleet and what’s left is in pretty shaky condition. You know it isn’t as if the ships we build these days are worth anything. I don’t think there’s a man in the Galaxy today who can build a first-rate hyperatomic motor.’ ‘I knew that,’ said the Siwennian. His eyes were thoughtful and introspective. ‘I didn’t know that you knew it. So his Imperial Majesty can spare no ships. Psycho-history could have predicted that; in fact, it probably did. I should say that Hari Seldon’s dead hand wins the opening round.’ Riose answered sharply, ‘I have enough ships as it is. Your Seldon wins nothing. Should the situation turn more serious, then more ships will be available. As yet, the Emperor does not know all the story.’ ‘Indeed? What haven’t you told him?’ ‘Obviously – your theories.’ Riose looked sardonic. ‘The story is, with all respect to you, inherently improbable. If developments warrant; if events supply me with proof, then, but only then, would I make out the case of mortal danger. ‘And in addition,’ Riose drove on, casually, ‘the story, unbolstered by fact, has a flavour of lèse-majesté that could scarcely be pleasant to His Imperial Majesty.’ The old patrician smiled. ‘You mean that telling him his august throne is in danger of subversion by a parcel of ragged barbarians from the ends of the universe is not a warning to be believed or appreciated. Then you expect nothing from him.’ ‘Unless you count a special envoy as something.’ ‘And why a special envoy?’ ‘It’s an old custom. A direct representative of the crown is present on every military campaign which is under government auspices.’ ‘Really? Why?’ ‘It’s a method of preserving the symbol of personal Imperial leadership in all campaigns. It’s gained a secondary function of insuring the fidelity of generals. It doesn’t always succeed in that respect.’ ‘You’ll find that inconvenient, general. Extraneous authority, I mean.’ ‘I don’t doubt that,’ Riose reddened faintly, ‘but it can’t be helped—’ The receiver at the general’s hand glowed warmly, and with an unobtrusive jar, the cylindrical communication popped into its slot. Riose unrolled it, ‘Good! This is it!’ Ducem Barr raised a mildly questioning eyebrow. Riose said, ‘You know we’ve captured one of these Trader people. Alive – and with his ship intact.’ ‘I’ve heard talk of it.’ ‘Well, they’ve just brought him in, and we’ll have him here in a minute. You keep your seat, patrician. I want you here when I’m questioning him. It’s why I asked you here today in the first place. You may understand him where I might miss important points.’ The door signal sounded and a touch of the general’s toe swung the door wide. The man who stood on the threshold was tall and bearded, wore a short coat of a soft, leathery plastic, with an attached hood shoved back on his neck. His hands were free, and if he noticed the men about him were armed, he did not trouble to indicate it. He stepped in casually, and looked about with calculating eyes. He favoured the general with a rudimentary wave of the hand and a half nod. ‘Your name?’ demanded Riose, crisply. ‘Lathan Devers.’ The trader hooked his thumbs into his wide and gaudy belt. ‘Are you the boss here?’ ‘You are a trader of the Foundation?’ ‘That’s right. Listen, if you’re the boss, you’d better tell your hired men here to lay off my cargo.’ The general raised his head and regarded the prisoner coldly. ‘Answer questions. Do not volunteer orders.’ ‘All right. I’m agreeable. But one of your boys blasted a two-foot hole in his chest already, by sticking his fingers where he wasn’t supposed to.’ Riose shifted his gaze to the lieutenant in charge. ‘Is this man telling the truth? Your report, Vrank, had it that no lives were lost.’ ‘None were, sir,’ the lieutenant spoke stiffly, apprehensively, ‘at the time. There was later some disposition to search the ship, there having arisen a rumour that a woman was a board. Instead, sir, many instruments of unknown nature were located, instruments which the prisoner claims to be his stock in trade. One of them flashed on handling, and the soldier holding it died.’ The general turned back to the trader. ‘Does your ship carry atomic explosives?’ ‘Galaxy, no. What for? That fool grabbed an atomic puncher, wrong end forward and set at maximum dispersion. You’re not supposed to do that. Might as well point a neut-gun at your head. I’d have stopped him, if five men weren’t sitting on my chest.’ Riose gestured at the waiting guard, ‘You go. The captured ship is to be sealed against all intrusion. Sit down, Devers.’ The trader did so, in the spot indicated, and withstood stolidly the hard scrutiny of the Imperial general and the curious glance of the Siwennian patrician. Riose said, ‘You’re a sensible man, Devers.’ ‘Thank you. Are you impressed by my face, or do you want something? Tell you what, though. I’m a good business man.’ ‘It’s about the same thing. You surrendered your ship when you might have decided to waste our ammunition and have yourself blown to electron-dust. It could result in good treatment for you, if you continue that sort of outlook on life.’ ‘Good treatment is what I mostly crave, boss.’ ‘Good, and co-operation is what I mostly crave.’ Riose smiled, and said in a low aside to Ducem Barr, ‘I hope the word “crave” means what I think it does. Did you ever hear such a barbarous jargon?’ Devers said blandly, ‘Right. I check you. But what kind of co-operation are you talking about, boss? To tell you straight, I don’t know where I stand.’ He looked about him, ‘Where’s this place, for instance, and what’s the idea?’ ‘Ah, I’ve neglected the other half of the introductions. I apologize.’ Riose was in good humour. ‘That gentleman is Ducem Barr, Patrician of the Empire. I am Bel Riose, Peer of the Empire, and General of the Third Class in the armed forces of His Imperial Majesty.’ The trader’s jaw slackened. Then, ‘The Empire? I mean the old Empire they taught us about at school? Huh! Funny! I always had the sort of notion that it didn’t exist any more.’ ‘Look about you. It does,’ said Riose grimly. ‘Might have known it though,’ and Lathan Devers pointed his beard at the ceiling. ‘That was a mightily polished-looking set of craft that took my tub. No kingdom of the Periphery could have turned them out.’ His brow furrowed. ‘So what’s the game, boss? Or do I call you general?’ ‘The game is war.’ ‘Empire versus Foundation, that it?’ ‘Right.’ ‘Why?’ ‘I think you know why.’ The trader stared sharply and shook his head. Riose let the other deliberate, then said softly, ‘I’m sure you know why.’ Lathan Devers muttered, ‘Warm here,’ and stood up to remove his hooded jacket. Then he sat down again and stretched his legs out before him. ‘You know,’ he said, comfortably, ‘I figure you’re thinking I ought to jump up with a whoop and lay about me. I can catch you before you could move if I choose my time, and this old fellow who sits there and doesn’t say anything couldn’t do much to stop me.’ ‘But you won’t,’ said Riose, confidently. ‘I won’t,’ agreed Devers, amiably. ‘First off, killing you wouldn’t stop the war, I suppose. There are more generals where you came from,’ ‘Very accurately calculated.’ ‘Besides which, I’d probably be slammed down about two seconds after I got you, and killed fast, or maybe slow, depending. But I’d be killed, and I never like to count on that when I’m making plans. It doesn’t pay off.’ ‘I said you were a sensible man.’ ‘But there’s one thing I would like, boss. I’d like you to tell me what you mean when you say I know why you’re jumping us. I don’t; and guessing games bother me no end.’ ‘Yes? Ever hear of Hari Seldon?’ ‘No. I said I don’t like guessing games.’ Riose flicked a side glance at Ducem Barr who smiled with a narrow gentleness and resumed his inwardly-dreaming expression. Riose said with a grimace, ‘Don’t you play games, Devers. There is a tradition, or a fable, or sober history – I don’t care what – upon your Foundation, that eventually you will found the Second Empire. I know quite a detailed version of Hari Seldon’s psycho-historical claptrap, and your eventual plans of aggression against the Empire.’ ‘That so?’ Devers nodded thoughtfully. ‘And who told you all that?’ ‘Does that matter?’ said Riose with dangerous smoothness. ‘You’re here to question nothing. I want what you know about the Seldon Fable.’ ‘But if it’s a Fable—’ ‘Don’t play with words, Devers.’ ‘I’m not. In fact, I’ll give it to you straight. You know all I know about it. It’s silly stuff, half-baked. Every world has its yarns; you can’t keep it away from them. Yes, I’ve heard that sort of talk; Seldon, Second Empire, and so on. They put kids to sleep at night with the stuff. The young squirts curl up in the spare rooms with their pocket projectors and suck up Seldon thrillers. But it’s strictly non-adult. Non-intelligent adult, anyway.’ The trader shook his head. The Imperial general’s eyes were dark. ‘Is that really so? You waste your lies, man. I’ve been on the planet, Terminus. I know your Foundation. I’ve looked it in the face.’ ‘And you ask me? Me, when I haven’t kept foot on it for two months at a piece in ten years. You are wasting your time. But go ahead with your war, if it’s fables you’re after.’ And Barr spoke for the first time, mildly, ‘You are so confident then that the Foundation will win?’ The trader turned. He flushed faintly and an old scar on one temple showed whitely, ‘Hm-m-m, the silent partner. How’d you squeeze that out of what I said, doc?’ Riose nodded very slightly at Barr, and the Siwennian continued in a low voice, ‘Because the notion would bother you if you thought your world might lose this war, and suffer the bitter reapings of defeat, I know. My world once did, and still does.’ Lathan Devers fumbled his beard, looked from one of his opponents to the other, then laughed shortly. ‘Does he always talk like that, boss. Listen,’ he grew serious. ‘What’s defeat? I’ve seen wars and I’ve seen defeats. What if the winner does take over? Who’s bothered? Me? Guys like me?’ He shook his head in derision. ‘Get this,’ the trader spoke forcefully and earnestly, ‘there are five or six fat slobs who usually run an average planet. They get the rabbit punch, but I’m not losing peace of mind over them. See. The people? The ordinary run of guys? Sure, some get killed, and the rest pay extra taxes for a while. But it settles itself out; it runs itself down. And then it’s the old situation again with a different five or six.’ Ducem Barr’s nostrils flared, and the tendons of his old right hand jerked; but he said nothing. Lathan Devers’ eyes were on him. They missed nothing. He said, ‘Look. I spend my life in space for my five-and-dime gadgets and my beer-and-pretzel kickback from the Combines. There’s fat fellows back there,’ his thumb jerked over his shoulder and back, ‘that sit home and collect my year’s income every minute – out of skimmings from me and more like me. Suppose you run the Foundation. You’ll still need us. You’ll need us more than ever the Combines do – because you’d not know your way around, and we could bring in the hard cash. We’d make a better deal with the Empire. Yes, we would; and I’m a man of business. If it adds up to a plus mark, I’m for it.’ And he stared at the two with sardonic belligerence. The silence remained unbroken for minutes, and then a cylinder rattled into its slot. The general flipped it open, glanced at the neat printing and in-circuited the visuals with a sweep. ‘Prepare plan indicating position of each ship in action. Await orders on full-armed defensive.’ He reached for his cape. As he fastened it about his shoulders, he whispered in a stiff-lipped monotone to Barr, ‘I’m leaving this man to you. I’ll expect results. This is war and I can be cruel to failures. Remember!’ He left, with a salute to both. Lathan Devers looked after him, ‘Well, something’s hit him where it hurts. What goes on?’ ‘A battle, obviously,’ said Barr, gruffly. ‘The forces of the Foundation are coming out for their first battle. You’d better come along.’ There were armed soldiers in the room. Their bearing was respectful and their faces were hard. Devers followed the proud old Siwennian patriarch out of the room. The room to which they were led was smaller, barer. It contained two beds, a visi-screen, and shower and sanitary facilities. The soldiers marched out, and the thick door boomed hollowly shut. ‘Hmp?’ Devers stared disapprovingly about. ‘This looks permanent.’ ‘It is,’ said Barr, shortly. The old Siwennian turned his back. The trader said irritably, ‘What’s your game, doc?’ ‘I have no game. You’re in my charge, that’s all.’ The trader rose and advanced. His bulk towered over the unmoving patrician. ‘Yes? But you’re in this cell with me and when you were marched here the guns were pointed just as hard at you as at me. Listen, you were all boiled up about my notions on the subject of war and peace.’ He waited fruitlessly, ‘All right, let me ask you something. You said your country was licked once. By whom? Comet people from the outer nebulae?’ Barr looked up. ‘By the Empire.’ ‘That so? Then what are you doing here?’ Barr maintained an eloquent silence. The trader thrust out a lower lip and nodded his head slowly. He slipped off the flat-linked bracelet that hugged his right wrist and held it out. ‘What do you think of that?’ He wore the mate to it on his left. The Siwennian took the ornament. He responded slowly to the trader’s gesture and put it on. The odd tingling at the wrist passed away quickly. Devers’ voice changed at once. ‘Right, doc, you’ve got the action now. Just speak casually. If this room is wired, they won’t get a thing. That’s a Field Distorter you’ve got there; genuine Mallow design. Sells for twenty-five credits on any world from here to the outer rim. You get it free. Hold your lips still when you talk and take it easy. You’ve got to get the trick of it.’ Ducem Barr was suddenly weary. The trader’s boring eyes were luminous and urging. He felt unequal to their demands. Barr said, ‘What do you want?’ The words slurred from between unmoving lips. ‘I’ve told you. You make mouth noises like what we call a patriot. Yet your own world has been mashed up by the Empire, and here you are playing ball with the Empire’s fair-haired general. Doesn’t make sense, does it?’ Barr said, ‘I have done my part. A conquering Imperial viceroy is dead because of me.’ ‘That so? Recently?’ ‘Forty years ago.’ ‘Forty … years … ago!’ The words seemed to have meaning to the trader. He frowned, ‘That’s a long time to live on memories. Does that young squirt in the general’s uniform know about it?’ Barr nodded. Devers’ eyes were dark with thought. ‘You want the Empire to win?’ And the old Siwennian patrician broke out in sudden deep anger. ‘May the Empire and all its works perish in universal catastrophe. All Siwenna prays that daily. I had brothers once, a sister, a father. But I have children now, grandchildren. The general knows where to find them.’ Devers waited. Barr continued in a whisper, ‘But that would not stop me if the results in view warranted the risk. They would know how to die.’ The trader said gently, ‘You killed a viceroy once, huh? You know, I recognize a few things. We once had a mayor, Hober Mallow his name was. He visited Siwenna; that’s your world, isn’t it? He met a man named Barr.’ Ducem Barr stared hard, suspiciously. ‘What do you know of this?’ ‘What every trader on the Foundation knows. You might be a smart old fellow put in here to get on my right side. Sure, they’d point guns at you, and you’d hate the Empire and be all-out for its smashing. Then I’d fall all over you and pour out my heart to you, and wouldn’t the general be pleased. There’s not much chance of that, doc. ‘But just the same I’d like to see you prove that you’re the son of Onum Barr of Siwenna – the sixth and youngest who escaped the massacre.’ Ducem Barr’s hand shook as he opened the flat metal box in a wall recess. The metal object he withdrew clanked softly as he thrust it into the trader’s hands. ‘Look at that,’ he said. Devers stared. He held the swollen central link of the chain close to his eyes and swore softly. ‘That’s Mallow’s monogram, or I’m a space-struck rookie, and the design is fifty years old if it’s a day.’ He looked up and smiled. ‘Shake, doc. A man-sized atomic shield is all the proof I need,’ and he held out his large hand. 6 (#ulink_a2632d1f-9204-52f6-ad58-1c3b7cb8fd2e) The Favourite (#ulink_a2632d1f-9204-52f6-ad58-1c3b7cb8fd2e) The tiny ships had appeared out of the vacant depths and darted into the midst of the Armada. Without a shot or a burst of energy, they weaved through the ship-swollen area, then blasted on and out, while the Imperial wagons turned after them like lumbering beasts. There were two noiseless flares that pinpointed space as two of the tiny gnats shrivelled in atomic disintegration, and the rest were gone. The great ships searched, then returned to their original task, and world by world, the great web of the Inclosure continued. Brodrig’s uniform was stately; carefully tailored and as carefully worn. His walk through the gardens of the obscure planet Wanda, now temporary Imperial headquarters, was leisurely; his expression was sombre. Bel Riose walked with him, his field uniform open at the collar, and doleful in its monotonous grey-black. Riose indicated the smooth black bench under the fragrant tree-fern whose large spatulate leaves lifted flatly against the white sun. ‘See that, sir. It is a relic of the Imperium. The ornamented benches, built for lovers, linger on, fresh and useful, while the factories and the palaces collapse into unremembered ruin.’ He seated himself, while Cleon II’s Privy Secretary stood erect before him and clipped the leaves above neatly with precise swings of his ivory staff. Riose crossed his legs and offered a cigarette to the other. He fingered one himself as he spoke, ‘It is what one would expect from the enlightened wisdom of His Imperial Majesty to send so competent an observer as yourself. It relieves any anxiety I might have felt that the press of more important and more immediate business might perhaps force into the shadows a small campaign on the Periphery.’ ‘The eyes of the Emperor are everywhere,’ said Brodrig, mechanically. ‘We do not underestimate the importance of the campaign; yet still it would seem that too great an emphasis is being placed upon its difficulty. Surely their little ships are no such barrier that we must move through the intricate preliminary manoeuvre of an Inclosure.’ Riose flushed, but he maintained his equilibrium. ‘I cannot risk the lives of my men, who are few enough, or the destruction of my ships which are irreplaceable, by a too-rash attack. The establishment of an Inclosure will quarter my casualties in the ultimate attack, howsoever difficult it be. The military reasons for that I took the liberty to explain yesterday.’ ‘Well, well, I am not a military man. In this case, you assure me that what seems patently and obviously right is, in reality, wrong. We will allow that. Yet your caution shoots far beyond that. In your second communication, you requested reinforcements. And these, against an enemy poor, small, and barbarous, with whom you have had no one skirmish at the time. To desire more forces under the circumstances would savour almost of incapacity or worse, had not your earlier career given sufficient proof of your boldness and imagination.’ ‘I thank you,’ said the general, coldly, ‘but I would remind you that there is a difference between boldness and blindness. There is a place for a decisive gamble when you know your enemy and can calculate the risks at least roughly; but to move at all against an unknown enemy is boldness in itself. You might as well ask why the same man sprints safely across an obstacle course in the day, and falls over the furniture in his room at night.’ Brodrig swept away the other’s words with a neat flirt of the fingers. ‘Dramatic, but not satisfactory. You have been to this barbarian world yourself. You have in addition this enemy prisoner you coddle, this trader. Between yourself and the prisoner you are not in a night fog.’ ‘No? I pray you to remember that a world which had developed in isolation for two centuries can not be interpreted to the point of intelligent attack by a month’s visit. I am a soldier, not a cleft-chinned, barrel-chested hero of a subetheric trimensional thriller. Nor can a single prisoner, and one who is an obscure member of an economic group which has no close connection with the enemy world introduce me to all the inner secrets of enemy strategy.’ ‘You have questioned him?’ ‘I have.’ ‘Well?’ ‘It has been useful, but not vitally so. His ship is tiny, of no account. He sells little toys which are amusing if nothing else. I have a few of the cleverest which I intend sending to the Emperor as curiosities. Naturally, there is a good deal about the ship and its workings which I do not understand, but then I am not a tech-man.’ ‘But you have among you those who are,’ pointed out Brodrig. ‘I, too, am aware of that,’ replied the general in faintly caustic tones. ‘But the fools have far to go before they could meet my needs. I have already sent for clever men who can understand the workings of the odd atomic field-circuits the ship contains. I have received no answer.’ ‘Men of that type can not be spared, general. Surely, there must be one man of your vast province who understands atomics.’ ‘Were there such a one, I would have him heal the limping, invalid motors that power two of my small fleet of ships. Two ships of my meagre ten that can not fight a major battle for lack of sufficient power supply. One fifth of my force condemned to the carrion activity of consolidating positions behind the lines.’ The secretary’s fingers fluttered impatiently. ‘Your position is not unique in that respect, general. The Emperor has similar troubles.’ The general threw away his shredded, never-lit cigarette, lit another, and shrugged. ‘Well, it is beside the immediate point, this lack of first-class tech-men. Except that I might have made more progress with my prisoner were my Psychic Probe in proper order.’ The secretary’s eyebrows lifted. ‘You have a Probe?’ ‘An old one. A superannuated one which fails me the one time I needed it. I set it up during the prisoner’s sleep, and received nothing. So much for the Probe. I have tried it on my own men and the reaction is quite proper, but again there is not one among my staff of tech-men who can tell me why it fails upon the prisoner. Ducem Barr, who is a theoretician of parts, though no mechanic, says the psychic structure of the prisoner may be unaffected by the Probe since from childhood he has been subjected to alien environments and neural stimuli. I don’t know. But he may yet be useful. I save him in that hope.’ Brodrig leaned on his staff. ‘I shall see if a specialist is available in the capital. In the meanwhile, what of this other man you just mentioned, this Siwennian? You keep too many enemies in your good graces.’ ‘He knows the enemy. He, too, I keep for future reference and the help he may afford me.’ ‘But he is a Siwennian and the son of a proscribed rebel.’ ‘He is old and powerless, and his family acts as hostage.’ ‘I see. Yet I think that I should speak to this trader myself.’ ‘Certainly.’ ‘Alone,’ the secretary added coldly, making his point. ‘Certainly,’ repeated Riose, blandly. ‘As a loyal subject of the Emperor, I accept his personal representative as my superior. However, since the trader is at the permanent base, you will have to leave the front areas at an interesting moment.’ ‘Yes? Interesting in what way?’ ‘Interesting in that the Inclosure is complete today. Interesting in that within the week, the Twentieth Fleet of the Border advances inward towards the core of resistance.’ Riose smiled and turned away. In a vague way, Brodrig felt punctured. 7 (#ulink_281d7119-d1f6-599e-98b4-80d6d751ff25) Bribery (#ulink_281d7119-d1f6-599e-98b4-80d6d751ff25) Sergeant Mori Luk made an ideal soldier of the ranks. He came from the huge agricultural planets of the Pleiades where only army life could break the bond to the soil and the unavailing life of drudgery; and he was typical of that background. Unimaginative enough to face danger without fear, he was strong and agile enough to face it successfully. He accepted orders instantly, drove the men under him unbendingly and adored his general unswervingly. And yet with that, he was of a sunny nature. If he killed a man in the line of duty without a scrap of hesitation, it was also without a scrap of animosity. That Sergeant Luk should signal at the door before entering was further a sign of tact, for he would have been perfectly within his rights to enter without signalling. The two within looked up from their evening meal and one reached out with his foot to cut off the cracked voice which rattled out of the battered pocket-transmitter with bright liveliness. ‘More books?’ asked Lathan Devers. The sergeant held out the tightly-wound cylinder of film and scratched his neck. ‘It belongs to Engineer Orre, but he’ll have to have it back. He’s going to send it to his kids, you know, like what you might call a souvenir, you know.’ Ducem Barr turned the cylinder in his hands with interest. ‘And where did the engineer get it? He hasn’t a transmitter also, has he?’ The sergeant shook his head emphatically. He pointed to the knocked-about remnant at the foot of the bed. ‘That’s the only one in the place. This fellow, Orre, now, he got that book from one of these pig-pen worlds out here we captured. They had it in a big building by itself and he had to kill a few of the natives that tried to stop him from taking it.’ He looked at it appraisingly. ‘It makes a good souvenir – for kids.’ He paused, then said stealthily, ‘There’s big news floating about, by the way. It’s only scuttlebutt, but even so, it’s too good to keep. The general did it again.’ And he nodded slowly, gravely. ‘That so?’ said Devers. ‘And what did he do?’ ‘Finished the Inclosure, that’s all.’ The sergeant chuckled with a fatherly pride. ‘Isn’t he the corker, though? Didn’t he work it fine? One of the fellows who’s strong on fancy talk, says it went as smooth and even as the music of the spheres, whatever they are.’ ‘The big offensive starts now?’ asked Barr, mildly. ‘Hope so,’ was the boisterous response. ‘I want to get back on my ship now that my arm is in one piece again. I’m tired of sitting on my scupper out here.’ ‘So am I,’ muttered Devers, suddenly and savagely. There was a bit of underlip caught in his teeth, and he worried it. The sergeant looked at him doubtfully, and said, ‘I’d better go now. The captain’s round is due and I’d just as soon he didn’t catch me in here.’ He paused at the door. ‘By the way, sir,’ he said with sudden awkward shyness to the trader, ‘I heard from my wife. She says that little freezer you gave me to send her works fine. It doesn’t cost her anything, and she just about keeps a month’s supply of food froze up complete. I appreciate it.’ ‘It’s all right. Forget it.’ The great door moved noiselessly shut behind the grinning sergeant. Ducem Barr got out of his chair. ‘Well, he gives us a fair return for the freezer. Let’s take a look at this new book. Ahh, the title is gone.’ He unrolled a yard or so of the film and looked through at the light. Then he murmured, ‘Well, skewer me through the scupper, as the sergeant says. This is “The Garden of Summa”, Devers.’ ‘That so?’ said the trader, without interest. He shoved aside what was left of his dinner. ‘Sit down, Barr. Listening to this old-time literature isn’t doing me any good. You heard what the sergeant said?’ ‘Yes, I did. What of it?’ ‘The offensive will start. And we sit here!’ ‘Where do you want to sit?’ ‘You know what I mean. There’s no use just waiting.’ ‘Isn’t there?’ Barr was carefully removing the old film from the transmitter and installing the new. ‘You told me a good deal of Foundation history in the last month, and it seems that the great leaders of past crises did precious little more than sit – and wait.’ ‘Ah, Barr, but they knew where they were going.’ ‘Did they? I suppose they said they did when it was over, and for all I know maybe they did. But there’s no proof that things would not have worked out as well or better if they had not known where they were going. The deeper economic and sociological forces aren’t directed by individual men.’ Devers sneered. ‘No way of telling that things wouldn’t have worked out worse, either. You’re arguing tail-end backwards.’ His eyes were brooding. ‘You know, suppose I blasted him?’ ‘Whom? Riose?’ ‘Yes.’ Barr sighed. His aging eyes were troubled with a reflection of the long past. ‘Assassination isn’t the way out, Devers. I once tried it, under provocation, when I was twenty – but it solved nothing. I removed a villain from Siwenna, but not the Imperial yoke; and it was the Imperial yoke and not the villain that mattered.’ ‘But Riose is not just a villain, doc. He’s the whole blamed army. It would fall apart without him. They hang on him like babies. The sergeant out there slobbers every time he mentions him.’ ‘Even so. There are other armies and other leaders. You must go deeper. There is this Brodrig, for instance – no one more than he has the ear of the Emperor. He could demand hundreds of ships where Riose must struggle with ten. I know him by reputation.’ ‘That so? What about him?’ The trader’s eyes lost in frustration what they gained in sharp interest. ‘You want a pocket outline? He’s a low-born rascal who has by unfailing flattery tickled the whims of the Emperor. He’s well-hated by the court aristocracy, vermin themselves, because he can lay claim to neither family nor humility. He is the Emperor’s adviser in all things, and the Emperor’s tool in the worst things. He is faithless by choice but loyal by necessity. There is not a man in the Empire as subtle in villainy or as crude in his pleasures. And they say there is no way to the Emperor’s favour but through him; and no way to his, but through infamy.’ ‘Wow!’ Devers pulled thoughtfully at his neatly trimmed beard. ‘And he’s the old boy the Emperor sent out here to keep an eye on Riose. Do you know I have an idea?’ ‘I do now.’ ‘Suppose this Brodrig takes a dislike to our young Army’s Delight?’ ‘He probably has already. He’s not noted for a capacity for liking.’ ‘Suppose it gets really bad. The Emperor might hear about it, and Riose might be in trouble.’ ‘Uh-huh. Quite likely. But how do you propose to get that to happen?’ ‘I don’t know. I suppose he could be bribed?’ The patrician laughed gently. ‘Yes, in a way, but not in the manner you bribed the sergeant – not with a pocket freezer. And even if you reach his scale, it wouldn’t be worth it. There’s probably no one so easily bribed, but he lacks even the fundamental honesty of honorable corruption. He doesn’t stay bribed; not for any sum. Think of something else.’ Devers swung a leg over his knee and his toe nodded quickly and restlessly. ‘It’s the first hint, though—’ He stopped; the door signal was flashing once again, and the sergeant was on the threshold once more. He was excited, and his broad face was red and unsmiling. ‘Sir,’ he began, in an agitated attempt at deference, ‘I am very thankful for the freezer, and you have always spoken to me very fine, although I am only the son of a farmer and you are great lords.’ His Pleiade accent had grown thick, almost too much so for easy comprehension; and with excitement, his lumpish peasant derivation wiped out completely the soldierly bearing so long and so painfully cultivated. Barr said softly, ‘What is it, sergeant?’ ‘Lord Brodrig is coming to see you. Tomorrow! I know, because the captain told me to have my men ready for dress review tomorrow for … for him. I thought … I might warn you.’ Barr said, ‘Thank you, sergeant, we appreciate that. But it’s all right, man; no need for—.’ But the look on Sergeant Luk’s face was now unmistakably one of fear. He spoke in a rough whisper, ‘You don’t hear the stories the men tell about him. He has sold himself to the space fiend. No, don’t laugh. There are most terrible tales told about him. They say he has men with blast-guns who follow him everywhere, and when he wants pleasure, he just tells them to blast down anyone they meet. And they do – and he laughs. They say even the Emperor is in terror of him, and that he forces the Emperor to raise taxes and won’t let him listen to the complaints of the people. ‘And he hates the general, that’s what they say. They say he would like to kill the general, because the general is so great and wise. But he can’t because our general is a match for anyone and he knows Lord Brodrig is a bad ’un.’ The sergeant blinked; smiled in a sudden incongruous shyness at his own outburst; and backed toward the door. He nodded his head, jerkily. ‘You mind my words. Watch him.’ He ducked out. And Devers looked up, hard-eyed. ‘This breaks things our way, doesn’t it, doc?’ ‘It depends,’ said Barr, dryly, ‘on Brodrig, doesn’t it?’ But Devers was thinking, not listening. He was thinking hard. Lord Brodrig ducked his head as he stepped into the cramped living quarters of the trading ship, and his two armed guards followed quickly, with bared guns and the professionally hard scowls of the hired bravos. The Privy Secretary had little of the look of the lost soul about him just then. If the space fiend had bought him, he had left no visible mark of possession. Rather might Brodrig have been considered a breath of court-fashion come to enliven the hard, bare ugliness of an army base. The stiff, tight lines of his sheened and immaculate costume gave him the illusion of height, from the very top of which his cold, emotionless eyes stared down the declivity of a long nose at the trader. The mother-of-pearl ruches at his wrists fluttered filmily as he brought his ivory stick to the ground before him and leaned upon it daintily. ‘No,’ he said, with a little gesture, ‘you remain here. Forget your toys; I am not interested in them.’ He drew forth a chair, dusted it carefully with the iridescent square of fabric attached to the top of his white stick, and seated himself. Devers glanced towards the mate to the chair, but Brodrig said lazily, ‘You will stand in the presence of a Peer of the Realm.’ He smiled. Devers shrugged. ‘If you’re not interested in my stock in trade, what am I here for?’ The Privy Secretary waited coldly, and Devers added a slow, ‘Sir.’ ‘For privacy,’ said the secretary. ‘Now is it likely that I would come two hundred parsecs through space to inspect trinkets? It’s you I want to see.’ He extracted a small pink tablet from an engraved box and placed it delicately between his teeth. He sucked it slowly and appreciatively. ‘For instance,’ he said, ‘who are you? Are you really a citizen of this barbarian world that is creating all this fury of military frenzy?’ Devers nodded gravely. ‘And you were really captured by him after the beginning of this squabble he calls a war. I am referring to our young general.’ Devers nodded again. ‘So! Very well, my worthy Outlander. I see your fluency of speech is at a minimum. I shall smooth the way for you. It seems that our general here is fighting an apparently meaningless war with frightful transports of energy – and this over a forsaken fleabite of a world at the end of nowhere, which to a logical man would not seem worth a single blast of a single gun. Yet the general is not illogical. On the contrary, I would say he was extremely intelligent. Do you follow me?’ ‘Can’t say I do, sir.’ The secretary inspected his fingernails and said, ‘Listen further, then. The general would not waste his men and ships on a sterile feat of glory. I know he talks of glory and of Imperial honour, but it is quite obvious that the affectation of being one of the insufferable old demigods of the Heroic Age won’t wash. There is something more than glory here – and he does take queer, unnecessary care of you. Now if you were my prisoner and told me as little of use as you have our general, I would slit open your abdomen and strangle you with your own intestines.’ Devers remained wooden. His eyes moved slightly, first to one of the secretary’s bully-boys, and then to the other. They were ready; eagerly ready. The secretary smiled. ‘Well, now, you’re a silent devil. According to the general, even a Psychic Probe made no impression, and that was a mistake on his part, by the way, for it convinced me that our young military whizz-bang was lying.’ He seemed in high humour. ‘My honest tradesman,’ he said, ‘I have a Psychic Probe of my own, one that ought to suit you peculiarly well. You see this—’ And between thumb and forefinger, held negligently, were intricately designed, pink-and-yellow rectangles which were most definitely obvious in identity. Devers said so. ‘It looks like cash,’ he said. ‘Cash it is – and the best cash of the Empire, for it is backed by my estates, which are more extensive than the Emperor’s own. A hundred thousand credits. All here! Between two fingers! Yours!’ ‘For what, sir? I am a good trader, but all trades go in both directions.’ ‘For what? For the truth! What is the general after? Why is he fighting this war?’ Lathan Devers sighed, and smoothed his beard thoughtfully. ‘What he’s after?’ His eyes were following the motions of the secretary’s hands as he counted the money slowly, bill by bill. ‘In a word, the Empire.’ ‘Hmp. How ordinary! It always comes to that in the end. But how? What is the road that leads from the Galaxy’s edge to the peak of Empire so broadly and invitingly?’ ‘The Foundation,’ said Devers, bitterly, ‘has secrets. They have books, old books – so old that the language they are in is only known to a few of the top men. But the secrets are shrouded in ritual and religion, and none may use them. I tried and now I am here – and there is a death sentence waiting for me, there.’ ‘I see. And these old secrets? Come, for one hundred thousand I deserve the intimate details.’ ‘The transmutation of elements,’ said Devers, shortly. The secretary’s eyes narrowed and lost some of their detachment. ‘I have been told that practical transmutation is impossible by the laws of atomics.’ Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/ayzek-azimov/foundation-and-empire/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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