Prelude to Foundation Chapter 18 Overthrow


THALUS, EMMER-... A sergeant in the armed security forces of the Wye Sector of ancient Trantor...

... Aside from these totally unremarkable vital statistics, nothing is known of the man except that on one occasion he held the fate of the Galaxy in his fist.

Encyclopedia Galactica


Breakfast the next morning was served in an alcove near the rooms of the captured three and it was luxurious indeed. There certainly was a considerable variety to the food and more than enough of everything. Seldon sat at the breakfast table with a mound of spicy sausages before him, totally ignoring Dors Venabili's gloomy predictions concerning stomachs and colic.

Raych said, "The dame... the Madam Mayor said when she came to see me last night-"

"She came to see you?" said Seldon.

"Yeah. She said she wanted to make sure I was comfortable. She said when she had a chance she would take me to a zoo."

"A zoo?" Seldon looked at Dors. "What kind of zoo can they have on Trantor? Cats and dogs?"

"There are some aboriginal animals," said Dors, "and I imagine they import some aboriginals from other worlds and there are also the shared animals that all the worlds have-other worlds having more than Trantor, of course. As a matter of fact, Wye has a famous zoo, probably the best on the planet after the Imperial Zoo itself."

Raych said, "She's a nice old lady."

"Not that old," said Dors, "but she's certainly feeding us well."

"There's that," admitted Seldon.

When breakfast was over, Raych left to go exploring. Once they had retired to Dors's room, Seldon said with marked discontent, "I don't know how long we'll be left to ourselves. She's obviously plotted ways of preoccupying our time."

Dors said, "Actually, we have little to complain of at the moment. We're much more comfortable here than we were either in Mycogen or Dahl."

Seldon said, "Dors, you're not being won over by that woman, are you?"

"Me? By Rashelle? Of course not. How can you possibly think so?"

"Well, you're comfortable. You're well-fed. It would be natural to relax and accept what fortune brings."

"Yes, very natural. And why not do that?"

"Look, you were telling me last night about what's going to happen if she wins out. I may not be much of a historian myself, but I am willing to take your word for it and, actually, it makes sense-even to a nonhistorian. The Empire will shatter and its shards will be fighting each other for... for... indefinitely. She must be stopped."

"I agree," said Dors. "She must be. What I fail to see is how we can manage to do that little thing right at this moment." She looked at Seldon narrowly. "Hari, you didn't sleep last night, did you?"

"Did you?" It was apparent he had not.

Dors stared at him, a troubled look clouding her face. "Have you lain awake thinking of Galactic destruction because of what I said?"

"That and some other things. Is it possible to reach Chetter Hummin?"

This last was said in a whisper.

Dors said, "I tried to reach him when we first had to flee arrest in Dahl. He didn't come. I'm sure he received the message, but he didn't come. It may be that, for any of a number of reasons, he just couldn't come to us, but when he can he will."

"Do you suppose something has happened to him?"

"No," said Dors patiently. "I don't think so."

"How can you know?"

"The word would somehow get to me. I'm sure of it. And the word hasn't gotten to me."

Seldon frowned and said, "I'm not as confident as you are about all this. In fact, I'm not confident at all. Even if Hummin came, what can he do in this case? He can't fight all of Wye. If they have, as Rashelle claims, the best-organized army on Trantor, what will he be able to do against it?"

"There's no point in discussing that. Do you suppose you can convince Rashelle-bang it into her head somehow-that you don't have psychohistory?"

"I'm sure she's aware that I don't have it and that I'm not going to get it for many years-if at all. But she'll say I have psychohistory and if she does that skillfully enough, people will believe her and eventually they will act on what she says my predictions and pronouncements are-even if I don't say a word."

"Surely, that will take time. She won't build you up overnight. Or in a week. To do it properly, it might take her a year."

Seldon was pacing the length of the room, turning sharply on his heel and striding back. "That might be so, but I don't know. There would be pressure on her to do things quickly. She doesn't strike me as the kind of woman who has cultivated the habit of patience. And her old father, Mannix IV, would be even more impatient. He must feel the nearness of death and if he's worked for this all his life, he would much prefer to see it done a week before his death rather than a week after. Besides-"

Here he paused and looked around the empty room. "Besides what?"

"Well, we must have our freedom. You see, I've solved the psychohistory problem."

Dors's eyes widened. "You have it! You've worked it out."

"Not worked it out in the full sense. That might take decades... centuries, for all I know. But I now know it's practical, not just theoretical. I know it can be done so I must have the time, the peace, the facilities to work at it. The Empire must be held together till I-or possibly my successors-will learn how best to keep it so or how to minimize the disaster if it does split up despite us. It was the thought of having a beginning to my task and of not being able to work at it, that kept me up last night."


It was their fifth day in Wye and in the morning Dors was helping Raych into a formal costume that neither was quite familiar with. Raych looked at himself dubiously in the holomirror and saw a reflected image that faced him with precision, imitating all his motions but without any inversion of left and right. Raych had never used a holomirror before and had been unable to keep from trying to feel it, then laughing, almost with embarrassment, when his hand passed through it while the image's hand poked ineffectually at his real body.

He said at last, "I look funny."

He studied his tunic, which was made of a very pliant material, with a thin filigreed belt, then passed his hands up a stiff collar that rose like a cup past his ears on either side.

"My head looks like a ball inside a bowl."

Dors said, "But this is the sort of thing rich children wear in Wye. Everyone who sees you will admire you and envy you."

"With my hair all stuck down?"

"Certainly. You'll wear this round little hat."

"It'll make my head more like a ball."

"Then don't let anyone kick it. Now, remember what I told you. Keep your wits about you and don't act like a kid."

"But I am a kid," he said, looking up at her with a wide-eyed innocent expression.

"I'm surprised to hear you say that," said Dors. "I'm sure you think of yourself as a twelve-year-old adult."

Raych grinned. "Okay. I'll be a good spy."

"That's not what I'm telling you to be. Don't take chances. Don't sneak behind doors to listen. If you get caught at it, you're no good to anyone-especially not to yourself."

"Aw, c'mon, Missus, what do ya think I am? A kid or somethin'?"

"You just said you were, didn't you, Raych? You just listen to everything that's said without seeming to. And remember what you hear. And tell us. That's simple enough."

"Simple enough for you to say, Missus Venabili," said Raych with a grin, "and simple enough for me to do."

"And be careful."

Raych winked. "You bet."

A flunky (as coolly impolite as only an arrogant flunky can be) came to take Raych to where Rashelle was awaiting him.

Seldon looked after them and said thoughtfully, "He probably won't see the zoo, he'll be listening so carefully. I'm not sure it's right to thrust a boy into danger like that."

"Danger? I doubt it. Raych was brought up in the slums of Billibotton, remember. I suspect he has more alley smarts than you and I put together. Besides, Rashelle is fond of him and will interpret everything he does in his favor. Poor woman."

"Are you actually sorry for her, Dors?"

"Do you mean that she's not worth sympathy because she's a Mayor's daughter and considers herself a Mayor in her own right-and because she's intent on destroying the Empire? Perhaps you're right, but even so there are some aspects of her for which one might show some sympathy. For instance, she's had an unhappy love affair. That's pretty evident. Undoubtedly, her heart was broken-for a time, at least."

Seldon said, "Have you ever had an unhappy love affair, Dors?"

Dors considered for a moment or two, then said, "Not really. I'm too involved with my work to get a broken heart."

"I thought as much."

"Then why did you ask?"

"I might have been wrong."

"How about you?"

Seldon seemed uneasy. "As a matter of fact, yes. I have spared the time for a broken heart. Badly cracked, anyway."

"I thought as much."

"Then why did you ask?"

"Not because I thought I might be wrong, I promise you. I just wanted to see if you would lie. You didn't and I'm glad."

There was a pause and then Seldon said, "Five days have passed and nothing has happened."

"Except that we are being treated well, Hari."

"If animals could think, they'd think they were being treated well when they were only being fattened for the slaughter."

"I admit she's fattening the Empire for the slaughter."

"But when?"

"I presume when she's ready."

"She boasted she could complete the coup in a day and the impression I got was that she could do that on any day."

"Even if she could, she would want to make sure that she could cripple the Imperial reaction and that might take time."

"How much time? She plans to cripple the reaction by using me, but she is making no effort to do so. There is no sign that she's trying to build up my importance. Wherever I go in Wye I'm unrecognized. There are no Wyan crowds gathering to cheer me. There's nothing on the news holocasts."

Dors smiled. "One would almost suppose that your feelings are hurt at not being made famous. You're naive, Hari. Or not a historian, which is the same thing. I think you had better be more pleased that the study of psychohistory will be bound to make a historian of you than that it may save the Empire. If all human beings understood history, they might cease making the same stupid mistakes over and over."

"In what way am I naive?" asked Seldon lifting his head and staring down his nose at her.

"Don't be offended, Hari. I think it's one of your attractive features, actually."

"I know. It arouses your maternal instincts and you have been asked to take care of me. But in what way am I naive?"

"In thinking that Rashelle would try to propagandize the population of the Empire, generally, into accepting you as seer. She would accomplish nothing in that way. Quadrillions of people are hard to move quickly. There is social and psychological inertia, as well as physical inertia. And, by coming out into the open, she would simply alert Demerzel."

"Then what is she doing?"

"My guess is that the information about you-suitably exaggerated and glorified-is going out to a crucial few. It is going to those Viceroys of sectors, those admirals of fleets, those people of influence she feels look kindly upon her-or grimly upon the Emperor. A hundred or so of those who might rally to her side will manage to confuse the Loyalists just long enough to allow Rashelle the First to set up her New Order firmly enough to beat off whatever resistance might develop. At least, I imagine that is how she reasons."

"And yet we haven't heard from Hummin."

"I'm sure he must be doing something just the same. This is too important to ignore."

"Has it occurred to you that he might be dead?"

"That's a possibility, but I don't think so. If he was, the news would reach me."


"Even here."

Seldon raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.

Raych came back in the late afternoon, happy and excited, with descriptions of monkeys and of Bakarian demoires and he dominated the conversation during dinner.

It was not until after dinner when they were in their own quarters that Dors said, "Now, tell me what happened with Madam Mayor, Raych. Tell me anything she did or said that you think we ought to know."

"One thing," said Raych, his face lighting up. "That's why she didn't show at dinner, I bet."

"What was it?"

"The zoo was closed except for us, you know. There were lots of us-Rashelle and me and all sorts of guys in uniforms and dames in fancy clothes and like that. Then this guy in a uniform-a different guy, who wasn't there to begin with-came in toward the end and he said something in a low voice and Rashelle turned to all the people and made with her hand like they shouldn't move and they didn't. And she went a little ways away with this new guy, so she could talk to him and no one could hear her. Except I kept paying no attention and kept looking at the different cages and sort of moved near to Rashelle so I could hear her. "She said, 'How dare they?' like she was real mad. And the guy in the uniform, he looked nervous-I just got quick looks because I was trying to make out like I was watching the animals-so mostly I just heard the words. He said somebody-I don't remember the name, but he was a general or somethin'. He said this general said the officers had sworn religious to Rashelle's old man-"

"Sworn allegiance," said Dors.

"Somethin' like that and they was nervous about havin' to do what a dame says. He said they wanted the old man or else, if he was kind of sick, he should pick some guy to be Mayor, not a dame."

"Not a dame? Are you sure?"

"That's what he said. He like whispered it. He was so nervous and Rashelle was so mad she could hardly speak. She said, 'I'll have his head. They will all swear allegiance to me tomorrow and whoever refuses will lave cause to regret it before an hour has passed.' That's exactly what she said. She broke up the whole party and we all came back and she didn't say one word to me all the time. Just sat there, looking kinda mean and angry."

Dors said, "Good. Don't you mention this to anyone, Raych."

"Course not. Is it what you wanted?"

"Very much what I wanted. You did well, Raych. Now, go to your room and forget the whole thing. Don't even think about it."

Once he was gone, Dors turned to Seldon and said, "This is very interesting. Daughters have succeeded fathers-or mothers, for that matter-and held Mayoralties or other high offices on any number of occasions. There have even been reigning Empresses, as you undoubtedly know, and I can't recall that there was ever in Imperial history any serious question of serving under one. It makes one wonder why such a thing should now, arise in Wye."

Seldon said, "Why not? We've only recently been in Mycogen, where women are held in a total lack of esteem and couldn't possibly hold positions of power, however minor."

"Yes, of course, but that's an exception. There are other places where women dominate. For the most part, though, government and power have been more or less equisexual. If more men tend to hold high positions, it is usually because women tend to be more bound-biologically-to children."

--- Read books free online at ---

"But what is the situation in Wye?"

"Equisexual, as far as I know. Rashelle didn't hesitate to assume Mayoral power and I imagine old Mannix didn't hesitate to grant it to her. And she was surprised and furious at encountering male dissent. She can't have expected it."

Seldon said, "You're clearly pleased at this. Why?"

"Simply because it's so unnatural that it must be contrived and I imagine Hummin is doing the contriving."

Seldon said thoughtfully, "You think so?"

"I do," said Dors.

"You know," said Seldon, "so do I."


It was their tenth day in Wye and in the morning Hari Seldon's door signal sounded and Raych's high-pitched voice outside was crying out, "Mister! Mister Seldon! It's war!"

Seldon took a moment to swap from sleep to wakefulness and scrambled out of bed. He was shivering slightly (the Wyans liked their domiciles on the chilly side, he had discovered quite early in his stay there) when he threw the door open.

Raych bounced in, excited and wide-eyed. "Mister Seldon, they have Mannix, the old Mayor'. They have-"

"Who have, Raych?"

"The Imperials, Their jets came in last night all over. The news holocasts are telling all about it. It's on in Missus's room. She said to let ya sleep, but I figured ya would wanner know."

"And you were quite right." Seldon pausing only tong enough to throw on a bathrobe, burst into Dors's room. She was fully dressed and was watching the holo-set in the alcove.

Behind the clear, small image of a desk sat a man, with the Spaceship-and-Sun sharply defined on the left-front of his tunic. On either side, two soldiers, also wearing the Spaceship-and-Sun, stood armed. The officer at the desk was saying, "-is under the peaceful control of his Imperial Majesty. Mayor Mannix is safe and well and is in full possession of his Mayoral powers under the guidance of friendly Imperial troops. He will be before you soon to urge calm on all Wyans and to ask any Wyan soldiers still in arms to lay them down."

There were other news holocasts by various newsmen with unemotional voices, all wearing Imperial armbands. The news was all the same: surrender by this or that unit of the Wyan security forces after firing a few shots for the record-and sometimes after no resistance at all. This town center and that town center were occupied-and there were repeated views of Wyan crowds somberly watching Imperial forces marching down the streets.

Dors said, "It was perfectly executed, Hari. Surprise was complete. There was no chance of resistance and none of consequence was offered."

Then Mayor Mannix IV appeared, as had been promised. He was standing upright and, perhaps for the sake of appearances, there were no Imperials in sight, though Seldon was reasonably certain that an adequate number were present just out of camera range.

Mannix was old, but his strength, though worn, was still apparent. His eyes did not meet the holo-camera and his words were spoken as though forced upon him-but, as had been promised, they counseled Wyans to remain calm, to offer no resistance, to keep Wye from harm, and to cooperate with the Emperor who, it was hoped, would survive long on the throne.

"No mention of Rashelle," said Seldon. "It's as though his daughter doesn't exist."

"No one has mentioned her," said Dors, "and this place, which is, after all, her residence-or one of them-hasn't been attacked. Even if she manages to slip away and take refuge in some neighboring sector, I doubt she will be safe anywhere on Trantor for long."

"Perhaps not," came a voice; "but I'll be safe here for a little while." Rashelle entered. She was properly dressed, properly calm. She was even smiling, but it was no smile of joy; it was, rather, a cold baring of teeth.

The three stared at her in surprise for a moment and Seldon wondered if she had any of her servants with her or if they had promptly deserted her at the first sign of adversity.

Dors said a little coldly, "I see, Madam Mayor, that your hopes for a coup can not be maintained. Apparently, you have been forestalled."

"I have not been forestalled. I have been betrayed. My officers have been tampered with and-against all history and rationality-they have refused to fight for a woman but only for their old master. And, traitors that they are, they then let their old master be seized so that he cannot lead them in resistance."

She looked about for a chair and sat down. "And now the Empire must continue to decay and die when I was prepared to offer it new life."

"I think," said Dors, "the Empire has avoided an indefinite period of useless fighting and destruction. Console yourself with that, Madam Mayor."

It was as though Rashelle did not hear her. "So many years of preparation destroyed in a night."

She sat there beaten, defeated, and seemed to have aged twenty years.

Dors said, "It could scarcely have been done in a night. The suborning of your officers-if that took place-must have taken time."

"At that, Demerzel is a master and quite obviously I underestimated him. How he did it, I don't know-threats, bribes, smooth and specious argument. He is a master at the art of stealth and betrayal-I should have known." She went on after a pause. "If this was outright force on his part, I would have had no trouble destroying anything he sent against us. Who would think that Wye would be betrayed, that an oath of allegiance would be so lightly thrown aside?"

Seldon said with automatic rationality, "But I imagine the oath was made not to you, but to your father."

"Nonsense," said Rashelle vigorously. "When my father gave me the Mayoral office, as he was legally entitled to do, he automatically passed on to me any oaths of allegiance made to him. There is ample precedence for this. It is customary to have the oath repeated to the new ruler, but that is a ceremony only and not a legal requirement. My officers know that, though they choose to forget. They use my womanhood as an excuse because they quake in fear of Imperial vengeance that would never have come had they been staunch or tremble with greed for promised rewards they will surely never get-if I know Demerzel." She turned sharply toward Seldon. "He wants you, you know. Demerzel struck at us for you."

Seldon started. "Why me?"

"Don't be a fool. For the same reason I wanted you... to use you as a tool, of course." She sighed. "At least I am not utterly betrayed. There are still loyal soldiers to be found.-Sergeant!"

Sergeant Emmer Thalus entered with a soft cautious step that seemed incongruous, considering his size. His uniform was spruce, his long blond mustache fiercely curled.

"Madam Mayor," he said, drawing himself to attention with a snap. He was still, in appearance, the side of beef that Hari had named him-a man still following orders blindly, totally oblivious to the new and changed state of affairs.

Rashelle smiled sadly at Raych. "And how are you, little Raych? I had meant to make something of you. It seems now I won't be able to."

"Hello, Missus... Madam," said Raych awkwardly.

"And to have made something of you too, Dr. Seldon," said Rashelle, "and there also I must crave pardon. I cannot."

"For me, Madam, you need have no regrets."

"But I do. I cannot very well let Demerzel have you. That would be one victory too many for him and at least I can stop that."

"I would not work for him, Madam, I assure you, any more than I would have worked for you."

"It is not a matter of work. It is a matter of being used. Farewell, Dr. Seldon. Sergeant, blast him."

The sergeant drew his blaster at once and Dors, with a loud cry, lunged forward-but Seldon reached out for her and caught her by the elbow. He hung on desperately.

"Stay back, Dors," he shouted, "or he'll kill you. He won't kill me. You too, Raych. Stand back. Don't move."

Seldon faced the sergeant. "You hesitate, Sergeant, because you know you cannot shoot. I might have killed you ten days ago, but I did not. And you gave me your word of honor at that time that you would protect me."

"What are you waiting for?" snapped Rashelle. "I said shoot him down, Sergeant."

Seldon said nothing more. He stood there while the sergeant, eyes bulging, held his blaster steady and pointed at Seldon's head.

"You have your order!" shrieked Rashelle.

"I have your word," said Seldon quietly.

And Sergeant Thalus said in a choked tone, "Dishonored either way." His hand fell and his blaster clanged to the floor.

Rashelle cried out, "Then you too betray me."

Before Seldon could move or Dors free herself from his grip, Rashelle seized the blaster, turned it on the sergeant, and closed contact. Seldon had never seen anyone blasted before. Somehow, from the name of the weapon perhaps, he had expected a loud noise, an explosion of flesh and blood. This Wyan blaster, at least, did nothing of the sort. What mangling it did to the organs inside the sergeant's chest Seldon could not tell but, without a change in expression, without a wince of pain, the sergeant crumbled and fell, dead beyond any doubt or any hope.

And Rashelle turned the blaster on Seldon with a firmness that put to rest any hope for his own life beyond the next second.

It was Raych, however, who jumped into action the moment the sergeant fell. Racing between Seldon and Rashelle, he waved his hands wildly.

"Missus, Missus," he called. "Don't shoot."

For a moment, Rashelle looked confused. "Out of the way, Raych. I don't want to hurt you."

That moment of hesitation was all Dors needed. Breaking loose violently, she plunged toward Rashelle with a long low dive. Rashelle went down with a cry and the blaster hit the ground a second time.

Raych retrieved it.

Seldon, with a deep and shuddering breath, said, "Raych, give that to me." But Raych backed away.

"Ya ain't gonna kill her, are ya, Mister Seldon? She was nice to me."

"I won't kill anyone, Raych," said Seldon. "She killed the sergeant and would have killed me, but she didn't shoot rather than hurt you and we'll let her live for that."

It was Seldon, who now sat down, the blaster held loosely in his hand, while Dors removed the neuronic whip from the dead sergeant's other holster.

A new voice rang out. "I'll take care of her now, Seldon."

Seldon looked up and in sudden joy said, "Hummin! Finally!"

"I'm sorry it took so long, Seldon. I had a lot to do. How are you, Dr. Venabili? I take it this is Mannix's daughter, Rashelle. But who is the boy?"

"Raych is a young Dahlite friend of ours," said Seldon.

Soldiers were entering and, at a small gesture from Hummin, they lifted Rashelle respectfully.

Dors, able to suspend her intent surveillance of the other woman, brushed at her clothes with her hands and smoothed her blouse. Seldon suddenly realized that he was still in his bathrobe.

Rashelle, shaking herself loose from the soldiers with contempt, pointed to Hummin and said to Seldon, "Who is this?"

Seldon said, "It is Chetter Hummin, a friend of mine and my protector on this planet."

"Your protector." Rashelle laughed madly. "You fool! You idiot! That man is Demerzel and if you look at your Venabili woman, you will see from her face that she is perfectly aware of that. You have been trapped all along, far worse than ever you were with me!"


Hummin and Seldon sat at lunch that day, quite alone, a pall of quiet between them for the most part. It was toward the end of the meal that Seldon stirred and said in a lively voice, "Well, sir, how do I address you? I think of you as 'Chester Hummin' still, but even if I accept you in your other persona, I surely cannot address you as 'Eto Demerzel.' In that capacity, you have a title and I don't know the proper usage. Instruct me."

The other said gravely, "Call me 'Hummin'-if you don't mind. Or 'Chetter.' Yes, I am Eto Demerzel, but with respect to you I am Hummin. As a matter of fact, the two are not distinct. I told you that the Empire is decaying and failing. I believe that to be true in both my capacities. I told you that I wanted psychohistory as a way of preventing that decay and failure or of bringing about a renewal and reinvigoration if the decay and failure must run its course. I believe that in both my capacities too."

"But you had me in your grip-I presume you were in the vicinity when I had my meeting with His Imperial Majesty."

"With Cleon. Yes, of course."

"And you might have spoken to me, then, exactly as you later did as Hummin."

"And accomplished what? As Demerzel, I have enormous tasks. I have to handle Cleon, a well-meaning but not very capable ruler, and prevent him, insofar as I can, from making mistakes. I have to do my bit in governing Trantor and the Empire too. And, as you see, I had to spend a great deal of time in preventing Wye from doing harm."

"Yes, I know," murmured Seldon.

"It wasn't easy and I nearly lost out. I have spent years sparring carefully with Mannix, learning to understand his thinking and planning a countermove to his every move. I did not think, at any time, that while he was still alive he would pass on his powers to his daughter. I had not studied her and I was not prepared for her utter lack of caution. Unlike her father, she has been brought up to take power for granted and had no clear idea of its limitations. So she got you and forced me to act before I was quite ready."

"You almost lost me as a result. I faced the muzzle of a blaster twice."

"I know," said Hummin, nodding. "And we might have lost you Upperside too-another accident I could not foresee."

"But you haven't really answered my question. Why did you send me chasing all over the face of Trantor to escape from Demerzel when you yourself were Demerzel?"

"You told Cleon that psychohistory was a purely theoretical concept, a kind of mathematical game that made no practical sense. That might indeed have been so, but if I approached you officially, I was sure you would merely have maintained your belief. Yet I was attracted to the notion of psychohistory. I wondered whether it might not be, after all, just a game. You must understand that I didn't want merely to use you, I wanted a real and practical psychohistory.

"So I sent you, as you put it, chasing all over the face of Trantor with the dreaded Demerzel close on your heels at all times. That, I felt, would concentrate your mind powerfully. It would make psychohistory something exciting and much more than a mathematical game. You would try to work it out for the sincere idealist Hummin, where you would not for the Imperial flunky Demerzel. Also, you would get a glimpse of various sides of Trantor and that too would be helpful-certainly more helpful than living in an ivory tower on a far-off planet, surrounded entirely by fellow mathematicians. Was I right? Have you made progress?"

Seldon said, "In psychohistory? Yes, I did, Hummin. I thought you knew."

"How should I know?"

"I told Dors."

"But you hadn't told me. Nevertheless, you tell me so now. That is good news."

"Not entirely," said Seldon. "I have made only the barest beginning. But it is a beginning."

"Is it the kind of beginning that can be explained to a nonmathematician?"

"I think so. You see, Hummin, from the start I have seen psychohistory as a science that depends on the interaction of twenty-five million worlds, each with an average population of four thousand million. It's too much. There's no way of handling something that complex. If I was to succeed at all, if there was to be any way of finding a useful psychohistory, I would first have to find a simpler system.

"So I thought I would go back in time and deal with a single world, a world that was the only one occupied by humanity in the dim age before the colonization of the Galaxy. In Mycogen they spoke of an original world of Aurora and in Dahl I heard word of an original world of Earth. I thought they might be the same world under different names, but they were sufficiently different in one key point, at least, to make that impossible. And it didn't matter. So little was known of either one, and that little so obscured by myth and legend, that there was no hope of making use of psychohistory in connection with them."

He paused to sip at his cold juice, keeping his eyes firmly on Hummin's face.

Hummin said, "Well? What then?"

"Meanwhile, Dors had told me something I call the hand-on-thigh story. It was of no innate significance, merely a humorous and entirely trivial tale. As a result, though, Dors mentioned the different sex mores on various worlds and in various sectors of Trantor. It occurred to me that she treated the different Trantorian sectors as though they were separate worlds. I thought, idly, that instead of twenty-five million different worlds, I had twenty-five million plus eight hundred to deal with. It seemed a trivial difference, so I forgot it and thought no more about it.

"But as I traveled from the Imperial Sector to Streeling to Mycogen to Dahl to Wye, I observed for myself how different each was. The thought of Trantor-not as a world but as a complex of worlds-grew stronger, but still I didn't see the crucial point.

"It was only when I listened to Rashelle-you see, it was good that I was finally captured by Wye and it was good that Rashelle's rashness drove her into the grandiose schemes that she imparted to me-When I listened to Rashelle, as I said, she told me that all she wanted was Trantor and some immediately adjacent worlds. It was an Empire in itself, she said, and dismissed the outer worlds as 'distant nothings.'

"It was then that, in a moment, I saw what I must have been harboring in my hidden thoughts for a considerable time. On the one hand, Trantor possessed an extraordinarily complex social system, being a populous world made up of eight hundred smaller worlds. It was in itself a system complex enough to make psychohistory meaningful and yet it was simple enough, compared to the Empire as a whole, to make psychohistory perhaps practical.

"And the Outer Worlds, the twenty-five million of them? They were 'distant nothings.' Of course, they affected Trantor and were affected by Trantor, but these were second-order effects. If I could make psychohistory work as a first approximation for Trantor alone, then the minor effects of the Outer Worlds could be added as later modifications. Do you see what I mean? I was searching for a single world on which to establish a practical science of psychohistory and I was searching for it in the far past, when all the time the single world I wanted was under my feet now."

Hummin said with obvious relief and pleasure, "Wonderful!"

"But it's all left to do, Hummin. I must study Trantor in sufficient detail. I must devise the necessary mathematics to deal with it. If I am lucky and live out a full lifetime, I may have the answers before I die. If not, my successors will have to follow me. Conceivably, the Empire may have fallen and splintered before psychohistory becomes a useful technique."

"I will do everything I can to help you."

"I know it," said Seldon.

"You trust me, then, despite the fact I am Demerzel?"

"Entirely. Absolutely. But I do so because you are not Demerzel."

"But I am," insisted Hummin.

"But you are not. Your persona as Demerzel is as far removed from the truth as is your persona as Hummin."

"What do you mean?" Hummin's eyes grew wide and he backed away slightly from Seldon.

"I mean that you probably chose the name 'Hummin' out of a wry sense of what was fitting. 'Hummin' is a mispronunciation of 'human,' isn't it?" Hummin made no response. He continued to stare at Seldon.

And finally Seldon said, "Because you're not human, are you, 'Hummin/Demerzel'? You're a robot."

Prev Next
Romance | Vampires | Fantasy | Billionaire | Werewolves | Zombies