Prelude to Foundation Chapter 17 Wye


WYE-... A sector of the world-city of Trantor... In the latter centuries of the Galactic Empire, Wye was the strongest and stablest portion of the world-city. Its rulers had long aspired to the Imperial throne, justifying that by their descent from early Emperors. Under Mannix IV, Wye was militarized and (Imperial authorities later claimed) was planning a planet-wide coup.

Encyclopedia Galactica


The man who entered was tall and muscular. He had a long blond mustache that curled up at the tips and a fringe of hair that went down the sides of his face and under his chin, leaving the point of his chin and his lower lip smoothly bare and seeming a little moist. His head was so closely cropped and his hair was so light that, for one unpleasant moment, Seldon was reminded of Mycogen. The newcomer wore what was unmistakably a uniform. It was red and white and about his waist was a wide belt decorated with silver studs. His voice, when he spoke, was a rolling bass and its accent was not like any that Seldon had heard before. Most unfamiliar accents sounded uncouth in Seldon's experience, but this one seemed almost musical, perhaps because of the richness of the low tones.

"I am Sergeant Emmer Thalus," he rumbled in a slow succession of syllables. "I have come seeking Dr. Hari Seldon."

Seldon said, "I am he." In an aside to Dors, he muttered, "if Hummin couldn't come himself, he certainly sent a magnificent side of beef to represent him."

The sergeant favored Seldon with a stolid and slightly prolonged look. Then he said, "Yes. You have been described to me. Please come with me, Dr. Seldon."

Seldon said, "Lead the way."

The sergeant stepped backward. Seldon and Dors Venabili stepped forward. The sergeant stopped and raised a large hand, palm toward Dors. "I have been instructed to take Dr. Hari Seldon with me. I have not been instructed to take anyone else."

For a moment, Seldon looked at him uncomprehendingly. Then his look of surprise gave way to anger. "It's quite impossible that you have been told that, Sergeant. Dr. Dors Venabili is my associate and my companion. She must come with me."

"That is not in accordance with my instructions, Doctor."

"I don't care about your instructions in any way, Sergeant Thalus. I do not budge without her."

"What's more," said Dors with clear irritation, "my instructions are to protect Dr. Seldon at all times. I cannot do that unless I am with him. Therefore, where he goes, I go."

The sergeant looked puzzled. "My instructions are strict that I see to it that no harm comes to you, Dr. Seldon. If you will not come voluntarily, I must carry you to my vehicle. I will try to do so gently." He extended his two arms as though to seize Seldon by the waist and carry him off bodily.

Seldon skittered backward and out of reach. As he did so, the side of his right palm came down on the sergeant's right upper arm where the muscles were thinnest, so that he struck the bone.

The sergeant drew a sudden deep breath and seemed to shake himself a bit, but turned, face expressionless, and advanced again. Davan, watching, remained where he was, motionless, but Raych moved behind the sergeant.

Seldon repeated his palm stroke a second time, then a third, but now Sergeant Thalus, anticipating the blow, lowered his shoulder to catch it on hard muscle. Dors had drawn her knives.

"Sergeant," she said forcefully. "Turn in this direction, I want you to understand I may be forced to hurt you severely if you persist in attempting to carry Dr. Seldon off against his will."

The sergeant paused, seemed to take in the slowly waving knives solemnly, then said, "It is not in my instructions to refrain from harming anyone but Dr. Seldon."

His right hand moved with surprising speed toward the neuronic whip in the holster at his hip. Dors moved as quickly forward, knives flashing. Neither completed the movement.

Dashing forward, Raych had pushed at the sergeant's back with his left hand and withdrew the sergeant's weapon from its holster with his right. He moved away quickly, holding the neuronic whip in both hands now and shouting, "Hands up, Sergeant, or you're gonna get it!"

The sergeant whirled and a nervous look crossed his reddening face. It was the only moment that its stolidity had weakened. "Put that down, sonny," he growled. "You don't know how it works."

Raych howled, "I know about the safety. It's off and this thing can fire. And it will if you try to rush me."

The sergeant froze. He clearly knew how dangerous it was to have an excited twelve-year-old handling a powerful weapon.

Nor did Seldon feel much better. He said, "Careful, Raych. Don't shoot. Keep your finger off the contact."

"I ain't gonna let him rush me."

"He won't.-Sergeant, please don't move. Let's get something straight. You were told to take me away from here. Is that right?"

"That's right," said the sergeant, eyes somewhat protruding and firmly fixed on Raych (whose eyes were as firmly fixed on the sergeant). "But you were not told to take anyone else. Is that right?"

"No, I was not, Doctor," said the sergeant firmly. Not even the threat of a neuronic whip was going to make him weasel. One could see that.

"Very well, but listen to me, Sergeant. Were you told not to take anyone else?"

"I just said-"

"No, no. Listen, Sergeant. There's a difference. Were your instructions simply 'Take Dr. Seldon!'? Was that the entire order, with no mention of anyone else, or were the orders more specific? Were your orders as follows: 'Take Dr. Seldon and don't take anyone else'?"

The sergeant turned that over in his head, then he said, "I was told to take you, Dr. Seldon."

"Then there was no mention of anyone else, one way or the other, was there?"

Pause. "No."

"You were not told to take Dr. Venabili, but you were not told not to take Dr. Venabili either. Is that right?"

Pause. "Yes."

"So you can either take her or not take her, whichever you please?"

Long pause. "I suppose so."

"Now then, here's Raych, the young fellow who's got a neuronic whip pointing at you-your neuronic whip, remember-and he is anxious to use it."

"Yay!" shouted Raych.

"Not yet, Raych," said Seldon. "And here is Dr. Venabili with two knives that she can use very expertly and there's myself, who can, if I get the chance, break your Adam's apple with one hand so that you'll never speak above a whisper again. Now then, do you want to take Dr. Venabili or don't you want to? Your orders allow you to do either."

And finally the sergeant said in a beaten voice, "I will take the woman."

"And the boy, Raych."

"And the boy."

"Good. Have I your word of honor-your word of honor as a soldier-that you will do as you have just said... honestly?"

"You have my word of honor as a soldier," said the sergeant.

"Good. Raych, give back the whip.-Now.-Don't make me wait."

Raych, his face twisted into an unhappy grimace, looked at Dors, who hesitated and then slowly nodded her head. Her face was as unhappy as Raych's. Raych held out the neuronic whip to the sergeant and said, "They're makin' me, ya big-" His last words were unintelligible.

Seldon said, "Put away your knives, Dors."

Dors shook her head, but put them away.

"Now, Sergeant?" said Seldon.

The sergeant looked at the neuronic whip, then at Seldon. He said, "You are an honorable man, Dr. Seldon, and my word of honor holds." With a military snap, he placed his neuronic whip in his holster.

Seldon turned to Davan and said, "Davan, please forget what you have seen here. We three are going voluntarily with Sergeant Thalus. You tell Yugo Amaryl when you see him that I will not forget him and that, once this is over and I am free to act, I will see that he gets into a University. And if there's anything reasonable I can ever do for your cause, Davan, I will.-Now, Sergeant, let's go."


"Have you ever been in an air-jet before, Raych?" asked Hari Seldon.

Raych shook his head speechlessly. He was looking down at Upperside rushing beneath them with a mixture of fright and awe.

It struck Seldon again how much Trantor was a world of Expressways and tunnels. Even long trips were made underground by the general population. Air travel, however common it might be on the Outworlds, was a luxury on Trantor and an air-jet like this- How had Hummin managed it? Seldon wondered.

He looked out the window at the rise and fall of the domes, at the general green in this area of the planet, the occasional patches of what were little less than jungles, the arms of the sea they occasionally passed over, with its leaden waters taking on a sudden all-too-brief sparkle when the sun peeped out momentarily from the heavy cloud layer.

An hour or so into the flight, Dors, who was viewing a new historical novel without much in the way of apparent enjoyment, clicked it off and said, "I wish I knew where we were going."

"If you can't tell," said Seldon, "then I certainly can't. You've been on Trantor longer than I have."

"Yes, but only on the inside," said Dors. "Out here, with only Upperside below me, I'm as lost as an unborn infant would be."

"Oh well.-Presumably, Hummin knows what he's doing."

"I'm sure he does," replied Dors rather tartly, "but that may have nothing to do with the present situation. Why do you continue to assume any of this represents his initiative?"

Seldon's eyebrows lifted. "Now that you ask, I don't know. I just assumed it. Why shouldn't this be his?"

"Because whoever arranged it didn't specify that I be taken along with you. I simply don't see Hummin forgetting my existence. And because he didn't come himself, as he did at Streeling and at Mycogen."

"You can't always expect him to, Dors. He might well be occupied. The astonishing thing is not that he didn't come on this occasion but that he did come on the previous ones."

"Assuming he didn't come himself, would he send a conspicuous and lavish flying palace like this?" She gestured around her at the large luxurious jet.

"It might simply have been available. And he might have reasoned that no one would expect something as noticeable as this to be carrying fugitives who were desperately trying to avoid detection. The well-known double-double-cross."

"Too well-known, in my opinion. And would he send an idiot like Sergeant Thalus in his place?"

"The sergeant is no idiot. He's simply been trained to complete obedience. With proper instructions, he could be utterly reliable."

"There you are, Hari. We come back to that. Why didn't he get proper instructions? It's inconceivable to me that Chetter Hummin would tell him to carry you out of Dahl and not say a word about me. Inconceivable."

And to that Seldon had no answer and his spirits sank.

Another hour passed and Dors said, "It looks as if it's getting colder outside. The green of Upperside is turning brown and I believe the heaters have turned on."

"What does that signify?"

"Dahl is in the tropic zone so obviously we're going either north or south-and a considerable distance too. If I had some notion in which direction the nightline was I could tell which."

Eventually, they passed over a section of shoreline where there was a rim of ice hugging the domes where they were rimmed by the sea. And then, quite unexpectedly, the air-jet angled downward.

Raych screamed, "We're goin' to hit! We're goin' to smash up!"

Seldon's abdominal muscles tightened and he clutched the arms of his seat. Dors seemed unaffected.

She said, "The pilots up front don't seem alarmed. We'll be tunneling."

And, as she said so, the jet's wings swept backward and under it and, like a bullet, the air-jet entered a tunnel. Blackness swept back over them in an instant and a moment later the lighting system in the tunnel turned on. The walls of the tunnel snaked past the jet on either side.

"I don't suppose I'll ever be sure they know the tunnel isn't already occupied," muttered Seldon.

"I'm sure they had reassurance of a clear tunnel some dozens of kilometers earlier," said Dors. "At any rate, I presume this is the last stage of the journey and soon we'll know where we are."

She paused and then added, "And I further presume we won't like the knowledge when we have it."


The air-jet sped out of the tunnel and onto a long runway with a roof so high that it seemed closer to true daylight than anything Seldon had seen since he had left the Imperial Sector.

They came to a halt in a shorter time than Seldon would have expected, but at the price of an uncomfortable pressure forward. Raych, in particular, was crushed against the seat before him and was finding it difficult to breathe till Dors's hand on his shoulder pulled him back slightly.

Sergeant Thalus, impressive and erect, left the jet and moved to the rear, where he opened the door of the passenger compartment and helped the three out, one by one.

Seldon was last. He half-turned as he passed the sergeant, saying, "It was a pleasant trip, Sergeant."

A slow smile spread over the sergeant's large face and lifted his mustachioed upper lip. He touched the visor of his cap in what was half a salute and said, "Thank you again, Doctor."

They were then ushered into the backseat of a ground-car of lavish design and the sergeant himself pushed into the front seat and drove the vehicle with a surprisingly light touch.

They passed through wide roadways, flanked by tall, well-designed buildings, all glistening in broad daylight. As elsewhere on Trantor, they heard the distant drone of an Expressway. The walkways were crowded with what were, for the most part, well-dressed people. The surroundings were remarkably-almost excessively-clean.

Seldon's sense of security sank further. Dors's misgivings concerning their destination now seemed justified after all. He leaned toward her and said, "Do you think we are back in the Imperial Sector?"

She said, "No, the buildings are more rococo in the Imperial Sector and there's less Imperial parkishness to this sector-if you know what I mean."

"Then where are we, Dors?

"We'll have to ask, I'm afraid, Hari."

It was not a long trip and soon they rolled into a car-bay that flanked an imposing four-story structure. A frieze of imaginary animals ran along the top, decorated with strips of warm pink stone. It was an impressive facade with a rather pleasing design.

Seldon said, "That certainly looks rococo enough."

Dors shrugged uncertainly.

Raych whistled and said in a failing attempt to sound unimpressed, "Hey, look at that fancy place."

Sergeant Thalus gestured to Seldon clearly indicating that he was to follow. Seldon hung back and, also relying on the universal language of gesture, held out both arms, clearly including Dors and Raych. The sergeant hesitated in a slightly hangdog fashion at the impressive pink doorway. His mustache almost seemed to droop.

Then he said gruffly, "All three of you, then. My word of honor holds.-Still, others may not feel obligated by my own obligation, you know."

Seldon nodded. "I hold you responsible for your own deeds only, Sergeant."

The sergeant was clearly moved and, for a moment, his face lightened as though he was considering the possibility of shaking Seldon's hand or expressing heartfelt his approval in some other way. He decided against it, however, and stepped onto the bottom step of the flight that led to the door. The stairs immediately began a stately upward movement.

Seldon and Dors stepped after him at once and kept their balance without much trouble. Raych, who was momentarily staggered in surprise, jumped onto the moving stairs after a short run, shoved both hands into his pockets, and whistled carelessly.

The door opened and two women stepped out, one on either side in symmetrical fashion. They were young and attractive. Their dresses, belted tightly about the waist and reaching nearly to their ankles, fell in crisp pleats and rustled when they walked. Both had brown hair that was coiled in thick plaits on either side of their heads. (Seldon found it attractive, but wondered how long it took them each morning to arrange it just so. He had not been aware of so elaborate a coiffure on the women they had passed in the streets.) The two women stared at the newcomers with obvious contempt. Seldon was not surprised. After the day's events, he and Dors looked almost as disreputable as Raych.

Yet the women managed to bow decorously and then made a half-turn and gestured inward in perfect unison and with symmetry carefully maintained. (Did they rehearse these things?) It was clear that the three were to enter. They stepped through an elaborate room, cluttered with furniture and decorative items whose use Seldon did not readily understand. The floor was light-colored, springy, and glowed with luminescence. Seldon noted with some embarrassment that their footwear left dusty marks upon it.

And then an inner door was flung open and yet another woman emerged. She was distinctly older than the first two (who sank slowly as she came in, crossing their legs symmetrically as they did so in a way that made Seldon marvel that they could keep their balance; it undoubtedly took a deal of practice). Seldon wondered if he too was expected to display some ritualized form of respect, but since he hadn't the faintest notion of what this might consist of, he merely bowed his head slightly. Dors remained standing erect and, it seemed to Seldon, did so with disdain. Raych was staring open-mouthed in all directions and looked as though he didn't even see the woman who had just entered. She was plump-not fat, but comfortably padded. She wore her hair precisely as the young ladies did and her dress was in the same style, but much more richly ornamented-too much so to suit Seldon's aesthetic notions. She was clearly middle-aged and there was a hint of gray in her hair, but the dimples in her cheeks gave her the appearance of having rather more than a dash of youth. Her light brown eyes were merry and on the whole she looked more motherly than old.

She said, "How are you? All of you." (She showed no surprise at the presence of Dors and Raych, but included them easily in her greeting.) "I've been waiting for you for some time and almost had you on Upperside at Streeling. You are Dr. Hari Seldon, whom I've been looking forward to meeting. You, I think, must be Dr. Dors Venabili, for you had been reported to be in his company. This young man I fear I do not know, but I am pleased to see him. But we must not spend our time talking, for I'm sure you would like to rest first."

"And bathe, Madam," said Dors rather forcefully, "Each of us could use a thorough shower."

"Yes, certainly," said the woman, "and a change in clothing. Especially the young man." She looked down at Raych without any of the look of contempt and disapproval that the two young women had shown. She said, "What is your name, young man?"

"Raych," said Raych in a rather choked and embarrassed voice. He then added experimentally, "Missus."

"What an odd coincidence," said the woman, her eyes sparkling. "An omen, perhaps. My own name is Rashelle. Isn't that odd?-But come. We shall take care of you all. Then there will be plenty of time to have dinner and to talk."

"Wait, Madam," said Dors. "May I ask where we are?"

"Wye, dear. And please call me Rashelle, as you come to feel more friendly. I am always at ease with informality."

Dors stiffened. "Are you surprised that we ask? Isn't it natural that we should want to know where we are?"

Rashelle laughed in a pleasant, tinkling manner. "Really, Dr. Venabili, something must be done about the name of this place. I was not asking a question but making a statement. You asked where you were and I did not ask you why. I told you, 'Wye.' You are in the Wye Sector."

"In Wye?" said Seldon forcibly.

"Yes indeed, Dr. Seldon. We've wanted you from the day you addressed the Decennial Convention and we are so glad to have you now."


Actually, it took a full day to rest and unstiffen, to wash and get clean, to obtain new clothes (satiny and rather loose, in the style of Wye), and to sleep a good deal.

It was during the second evening in Wye that there was the dinner that Madam Rashelle had promised.

The table was a large one-too large, considering that there were only four dining: Hari Seldon, Dors Venabili, Raych, and Rashelle. The walls and ceiling were softly illuminated and the colors changed at a rate that caught the eye but not so rapidly as in any way to discommode the mind. The very tablecloth, which was not cloth (Seldon had not made up his mind what it might be), seemed to sparkle.

The servers were many and silent and when the door opened it seemed to Seldon that he caught a glimpse of soldiers, armed and at the ready, outside. The room was a velvet glove, but the iron fist was not far distant. Rashelle was gracious and friendly and had clearly taken a particular liking to Raych, who, she insisted, was to sit next to her. Raych-scrubbed, polished, and shining, all but unrecognizable in his new clothes, with his hair clipped, cleaned, and brushed-scarcely dared to say a word. It was as though he felt his grammar no longer fit his appearance. He was pitifully ill at ease and he watched Dors carefully as she switched from utensil to utensil, trying to match her exactly in every respect. The food was tasty but spicy-to the point where Seldon could not recognize the exact nature of the dishes.

Rashelle, her plump face made happy by her gentle smile and her fine teeth gleaming white, said, "You may think we have Mycogenian additives in the food, but we do not. It is all homegrown in Wye. There is no sector on the planet more self-sufficient than Wye. We labor hard to keep that so."

Seldon nodded gravely and said, "Everything you have given us is first-rate, Rashelle. We are much obliged to you."

And yet within himself he thought the food was not quite up to Mycogenian standards and he felt moreover, as he had earlier muttered to Dors, that he was celebrating his own defeat. Or Hummin's defeat, at any rate, and that seemed to him to be the same thing.

After all, he had been captured by Wye, the very possibility that had so concerned Hummin at the time of the incident Upperside. Rashelle said, "Perhaps, in my role as hostess, I may be forgiven if I ask personal questions. Am I correct in assuming that you three do not represent a family; that you, Hari, and you, Dors, are not married and that Raych is not your son?"

"The three of us are not related in any way," said Seldon. "Raych was born on Trantor, I on Helicon, Dors on Cinna."

"And how did you all meet, then?"

Seldon explained briefly and with as little detail as he could manage. "There's nothing romantic or significant in the meetings," he added.

"Yet I am given to understand that you raised difficulties with my personal aide, Sergeant Thalus, when he wanted to take only you out of Dahl."

Seldon said gravely, "I had grown fond of Dors and Raych and did not wish to be separated from them."

Rashelle smiled and said, "You are a sentimental man, I see."

"Yes, I am. Sentimental. And puzzled too."


"Why yes. And since you were so kind as to ask personal questions of us, may I ask one as well?"

"Of course, my dear Hari. Ask anything you please."

"When we first arrived, you said that Wye has wanted me from the day I addressed the Decennial Convention. For what reason might that be?"

"Surely, you are not so simple as not to know. We want you for your psychohistory."

"That much I do understand. But what makes you think that having me means you have psychohistory?"

"Surely, you have not been so careless as to lose it."

"Worse, Rashelle. I have never had it."

Rashelle's face dimpled. "But you said you had it in your talk. Not that I understood your talk. I am not a mathematician. I hate numbers. But I have in my employ mathematicians who have explained to me what it is you said."

"In that case, my dear Rashelle, you must listen more closely. I can well imagine they have told you that I have proven that psychohistorical predictions are conceivable, but surely they must also have told you that they are not practical."

"I can't believe that, Hari. The very next day, you were called into an audience with that pseudo-Emperor, Cleon."

"The pseudo-Emperor?" murmured Dors ironically.

"Why yes," said Rashelle as though she was answering a serious question. "Pseudo-Emperor. He has no true claim to the throne."

"Rashelle," said Seldon, brushing that aside a bit impatiently, "I told Cleon exactly what I have just told you and he let me go."

Now Rashelle did nor smile. A small edge crept into her voice. "Yes, he let you go the way the cat in the fable lets a mouse go. He has been pursuing you ever since-in Streeling, in Mycogen, in Dahl. He would pursue you here if he dared. But come now-our serious talk is too serious. Let us enjoy ourselves. Let us have music."

And at her words, there suddenly sounded a soft but joyous instrumental melody. She leaned toward Raych and said softly, "My boy, if you are not at ease with the fork, use your spoon or your fingers. I won't mind."

Raych said, "Yes, mum," and swallowed hard, but Dors caught his eye and her lips silently mouthed: "Fork."

He remained with his fork.

Dors said, "The music is lovely, Madam"-she pointedly rejected the familiar form of address "but it must not he allowed to distract us. There is the thought in my mind that the pursuer in all those places might have been in the employ of the Wye Sector. Surely, you would not be so well acquainted with events if Wye were not the prime mover."

Rashelle laughed aloud. "Wye has its eyes and ears everywhere, of course, but we were not the pursuers. Had we been, you would have been picked up without fail-as you were in Dahl finally when, indeed, we were the pursuers. When, however, there is a pursuit that fails, a grasping hand that misses, you may be sure that it is Demerzel."

"Do you think so little of Demerzel?" murmured Dors.

"Yes. Does that surprise you? We have beaten him."

"You? Or the Wye Sector?"

"The sector, of course, but insofar as Wye is the victor, then I am the victor."

"How strange," said Dors. "There seems to be a prevalent opinion throughout Trantor that the inhabitants of Wye have nothing to do with victory, with defeat, or with anything else. It is felt that there is but one will and one fist in Wye and that is that of the Mayor. Surely, you-or any other Wyan-weigh nothing in comparison."

Rashelle smiled broadly. She paused to look at Raych benevolently and to pinch his cheek, then said, "If you believe that our Mayor is an autocrat and that there is but one will that sways Wye, then perhaps you are right. But, even so, I can still use the personal pronoun, for my will is of account."

"Why yours?" said Seldon.

"Why not?" said Rashelle as the servers began clearing the table. "I am the Mayor of Wye."


It was Raych who was the first to react to the statement.

Quite forgetting the cloak of civility that sat upon him so uncomfortably, he laughed raucously and said, "Hey, lady, ya can't be Mayor. Mayors is guys."

Rashelle looked at him good-naturedly and said in a perfect imitation of his tone of voice, "Hey, kid, some Mayors is guys and some Mayors is dames. Put that under your lid and let it bubble."

Raych's eyes protruded and he seemed stunned. Finally he managed to say, "Hey, ya talk regular, lady."

"Sure thing. Regular as ya want," said Rashelle, still smiling.

Seldon cleared his throat and said, "That's quite an accent you have, Rashelle."

Rashelle tossed her head slightly. "I haven't had occasion to use it in many years, but one never forgets. I once had a friend, a good friend, who was a Dahlite-when I was very young." She sighed. "He didn't speak that way, of course-he was quite intelligent-but he could do so if he wished and he taught me. It was exciting to talk so with him. It created a world that excluded our surroundings. It was wonderful. It was also impossible. My father made that plain. And now along comes this young rascal, Raych, to remind me of those long-ago days. He has the accent, the eyes, the impudent cast of countenance, and in six years or so he will be a delight and terror to the young women. Won't you, Raych?"

Raych said, "I dunno, lady-uh, mum."

"I'm sure you will and you will come to look very much like my... old friend and it will be much more comfortable for me not to see you then. And now, dinner's over and it's time for you to go to your room, Raych. You can watch holovision for a while if you wish. I don't suppose you read."

Raych reddened. "I'm gonna read someday. Master Seldon says I'm gonna."

"Then I'm sure you will."

A young woman approached Raych, curtsying respectfully in Rashelle's direction.

Seldon had not seen the signal that had summoned her.

Raych said, "Can't I stay with Master Seldon and Missus Venabili?"

"You'll see them later," said Rashelle gently, "but Master and Missus and I have to talk right now-so you must go."

Dors mouthed a firm "Go!" at Raych and with a grimace the boy slid out of his chair and followed the attendant.

Rashelle turned to Seldon and Dors once Raych was gone and said, "The boy will be safe, of course, and treated well. Please have no fears about that. And I will be safe too. As my woman approached just now, so will a dozen armed men-and much more rapidly-when summoned. I want you to understand that."

Seldon said evenly, "We are in no way thinking of attacking you, Rashelle-or must I now say, 'Madam Mayor'?"

"Still Rashelle. I am given to understand that you are a wrestler of sorts, Hari, and you, Dors, are very skillful with the knives we have removed from your room. I don't want you to rely uselessly on your skills, since I want Hari alive, unharmed, and friendly."

"It is quite well understood, Madam Mayor," said Dors, her lack of friendship uncompromised, "that the ruler of Wye, now and for the past forty years, is Mannix, Fourth of that Name, and that he is still alive and in full possession of his faculties. Who, then, are you really?"

"Exactly who I say I am, Dors. Mannix IV is my father. He is, as you say, still alive and in possession of his faculties. In the eyes of the Emperor and of all the Empire, he is Mayor of Wye, but he is weary of the strains of power and is willing, at last, to let them slip into my hands, which are just as willing to receive them. I am his only child and I was brought up all my life to rule. My father is therefore Mayor in law and name, but I am Mayor in fact. It is to me, now, that the armed forces of Wye have sworn allegiance and in Wye that is all that counts."

Seldon nodded. "Let it be as you say. But even so, whether it is Mayor Mannix IV or Mayor Rashelle I-it is the First, I suppose-there is no purpose in your holding me. I have told you that I don't have a workable psychohistory and I do not think that either I or anyone else will ever have one. I have told that to the Emperor. I am of no use either to you or to him."

Rashelle said, "How naive you are. Do you know the history of the Empire?"

Seldon shook his head. "I have recently come to wish that I knew it much better."

Dors said dryly, "I know Imperial history quite well, though the pre-Imperial age is my specialty, Madam Mayor. But what does it matter whether we do or do not?"

"If you know your history, you know that the House of Wye is ancient and honorable and is descended from the Dacian dynasty."

Dors said, "The Dacians ruled five thousand years ago. The number of their descendants in the hundred and fifty generations that have lived and died since then may number half the population of the Galaxy-if all genealogical claims, however outrageous, are accepted."

"Our genealogical claims, Dr. Venabili"-Rashelle's tone of voice was, for the first time, cold and unfriendly and her eyes flashed like steel-"are not outrageous. They are fully documented. The House of Wye has maintained itself consistently in positions of power through all those generations and there have been occasions when we have held the Imperial throne and have ruled as Emperors."

"The history book-films," said Dors, "usually refer to the Wye rulers as 'anti-Emperors,' never recognized by the bulk of the Empire."

"It depends on who writes the history book-films. In the future, we will, for the throne which has been ours will be ours again."

"To accomplish that, you must bring about civil war."

"There won't be much risk of that," said Rashelle. She was smiling again. "That is what I must explain to you because I want Dr. Seldon's help in preventing such a catastrophe. My father, Mannix IV, has been a man of peace all his life. He has been loyal to whomever it might be that ruled in the Imperial Palace and he has kept Wye a prosperous and strong pillar of the Trantorian economy for the good of all the Empire."

"I don't know that the Emperor has ever trusted him any the more for all that," said Dors.

"I'm sure that is so," said Rashelle calmly, "for the Emperors that have occupied the Palace in my father's time have known themselves to be usurpers of a usurping line. Usurpers cannot afford to trust the true rulers. And yet my father has kept the peace. He has, of course, developed and trained a magnificent security force to maintain the peace, prosperity, and stability of the sector and the Imperial authorities have allowed this because they wanted Wye peaceful, prosperous, stable-and loyal."

"But is it loyal?" said Dors.

"To the true Emperor, of course," said Rashelle, "and we have now reached the stage where our strength is such that we can take over the government quickly-in a lightning stroke, in fact-and before one can say 'civil war' there will be a true Emperor-or Empress, if you prefer-and Trantor will be as peaceful as before."

Dors shook her head. "May I enlighten you? As a historian?"

"I am always willing to listen." And she inclined her head ever so slightly toward Dors.

"Whatever size your security force may be, however well-trained and well-equipped, they cannot possibly equal in size and strength the Imperial forces backed by twenty-five million worlds."

"Ah, but you have put your finger on the usurper's weakness, Dr. Venabili. There are twenty-five million worlds, with the Imperial forces scattered over them. Those forces are thinned out over incalculable space, under uncounted officers, none of them particularly ready for any action outside their own Provinces, many ready for action in their own interest rather than in the Empire's. Our forces, on the other hand, are all here, all on Trantor. We can act and conclude before the distant generals and admirals can get it through their heads that they are needed."

"But that response will come-and with irresistible force."

"Are you certain of that?" said Rashelle. "We will be in the Palace. Trantor will be ours and at peace. Why should the Imperial forces stir when, by minding their own business, each petty military leader can have his own world to rule, his own Province?"

"But is that what you want?" asked Seldon wonderingly. "Are you telling me that you look forward to ruling over an Empire that will break up into splinters?"

Rashelle said, "That is exactly right. I would rule over Trantor, over its outlying space settlements, over the few nearby planetary systems that are part of the Trantorian Province. I would much rather be Emperor of Trantor than Emperor of the Galaxy."

"You would be satisfied with Trantor only," said Dors in tones of the deepest disbelief.

"Why not?" said Rashelle, suddenly ablaze. She leaned forward eagerly, both hands pressed palms-down on the table. "That is what my father has been planning for forty years. He is only clinging to life now to witness its fulfillment. Why do we need millions of worlds, distant worlds that mean nothing to us, that weaken us, that draw our forces far away from us into meaningless cubic parsecs of space, that drown us in administrative chaos, that ruin us with their endless quarrels and problems when they are all distant nothings as far as we are concerned? Our own populous world-our own planetary city-is Galaxy enough for us. We have all we need to support ourselves. As for the rest of the Galaxy, let it splinter. Every petty militarist can have his own splinter. They needn't fight. There will be enough for all."

"But they will fight, just the same," said Dors. "Each will refuse to be satisfied with his Province. Each will feel that his neighbor is not satisfied with his Province. Each will feel insecure and will dream of Galactic rule as the only guarantee of safety. This is certain, Madam Empress of Nothing. There will be endless wars into which you and Trantor will be inevitably drawn-to the ruin of all."

Rashelle said with clear contempt, "So it might seem, if one could see no farther than you do, if one relied on the ordinary lessons of history."

"What is there to see farther?" retorted Dors. "What is one to rely on beyond the lessons of history?"

"What lies beyond?" said Rashelle. "Why, he."

And her arm shot outward, her index finger jabbing toward Seldon.

"Me?" said Seldon. "I have already told you that psychohistory-"

Rashelle said, "Do not repeat what you have already said, my good Dr. Seldon. We gain nothing by that.-Do you think, Dr. Venabili, that my father was never aware of the danger of endless civil war? Do you think he did not bend his powerful mind to thinking of some way to prevent that? He has been prepared at any time these last ten years to take over the Empire in a day. It needed only the assurance of security beyond victory."

"Which you can't have," said Dors.

"Which we had the moment we heard of Dr. Seldon's paper at the Decennial Convention. I saw at once that that was what we needed. My father was too old to see the significance at once. When I explained it, however, he saw it too and it was then that he formally transferred his power to me. So it is to you, Hari, that I owe my position and to you I will owe my greater position in the future."

"I keep telling you that it cannot-" began Seldon with deep annoyance.

"It is not important what can or cannot be done. What is important is what people will or will not believe can be done. They will believe you, Hari, when you tell them the psychohistoric prediction is that Trantor can rule itself and that the Provinces can become Kingdoms that will live together in peace."

"I will make no such prediction," said Seldon, "in the absence of true psychohistory. I won't play the charlatan. If you want something like that, you say it."

"Now, Hari. They won't believe me. It's you they will believe. The great mathematician. Why not oblige them?"

"As it happens," said Seldon "the Emperor also thought to use me as a source of self-serving prophecies. I refused to do it for him, so do you think I will agree to do it for you?"

Rashelle was silent for a while and when she spoke again her voice had lost its intense excitement and became almost coaxing.

"Hari," she said, "think a little of the difference between Cleon and myself. What Cleon undoubtedly wanted from you was propaganda to preserve his throne. It would be useless to give him that, for the throne can't be preserved. Don't you know that the Galactic Empire is in a state of decay, that it cannot endure for much longer? Trantor itself is slowly sliding into ruin because of the ever-increasing weight of administering twenty-five million worlds. What's ahead of us is breakup and civil war, no matter what you do for Cleon."

Seldon said, "I have heard something like this said. It may even be true, but what then?"

"Well then, help it break into fragments without any war. Help me take Trantor. Help me establish a firm government over a realm small enough to be ruled efficiently. Let me give freedom to the rest of the Galaxy, each portion to go its own way according to its own customs and cultures. The Galaxy will become a working whole again through the free agencies of trade, tourism, and communication and the fate of cracking into disaster under the present rule of force that barely holds it together will be averted. My ambition is moderate indeed; one world, not millions; peace, not war; freedom, not slavery. Think about it and help me."

Seldon said, "Why should the Galaxy believe me any more than they would believe you? They don't know me and which of our fleet commanders will be impressed by the mere word 'psychohistory'?"

"You won't be believed now, but I don't ask for action now. The House of Wye, having waited thousands of years, can wait thousands of days more. Cooperate with me and I will make your name famous. I will make the promise of psychohistory glow through all the worlds and at the proper time, when I judge the movement to be the chosen moment, you will pronounce your prediction and we will strike. Then, in a twinkling of history, the Galaxy will exist under a New Order that will render it stable and happy for eons. Come now, Hari, can you refuse me?"

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