Janov Pelorat looked out at the dim landscape in the graying dawn with an odd mixture of regret and uncertainty.
“We aren’t staying long enough, Golan.It seems a pleasant and interesting world.I would like to learn more about it.”
Trevize looked up from the computer with a wry smile.
“You don’t think I would like to? We had three proper meals on the planet – totally different and each excellent. I’d like more. And the only women we saw, we saw briefly – and some of them looked quite enticing, for – well, for what I’ve got in mind.”
Pelorat wrinkled his nose slightly. “Oh, my dear chap. Those cowbells they call shoes, and all wrapped around in clashing colors, and whatever do they do to their eyelashes. Did you notice their eyelashes?”
“You might just as well believe I noticed everything, Janov. What you object to is superficial. They can easily be persuaded to wash their faces and, at the proper time, off come the shoes and the colors.”
Pelorat said, “I’ll take your word for that, Janov. However, I was thinking more of investigating the matter of Earth further. ‘What we’ve been told about Earth, thus far, is so unsatisfactory, so contradictory – radiation according to one person, robots according to another.”
“Death in either case.”
“True,” said Pelorat reluctantly, “but it may be that one is true and not the other, or that both are true to some extent, or that neither is true. Surely, Janov, when you hear tales that simply shroud matters in thickening mists of doubt, surely you must feel the itch to explore, to find out.”
“I do,” said Golan. “By every dwarf star in the Galaxy, I do. The problem at hand, however, is Gaia. Once that is straightened out, we can go to Earth, or come back here to Sayshell for a more extended stay. But first, Gaia.”
Pelorat nodded, “The problem at hand! If we accept what Quintesetz told us, death is waiting for us on Gaia. Ought we to be going?”
Trevize said, “I ask myself that. Are you afraid?”
Pelorat hesitated as though he were probing his own feelings. Then he said in a quite simple and matter-of-fact manner. “Yes. Terribly!”
Trevize sat back in his chair and swiveled to face the other. He said, just as quietly and matter-of-factly, “Janov, there’s no reason for you to chance this. Say the word and I’ll let you off on Sayshell with your personal belongings and with half our credits. I’ll pick you up when I return and it will be on to Sirius Sector, if you wish, and Earth, if that’s where it is. If I don’t return, the Foundation people on Sayshell will see to it that you get back to Terminus. No hard feelings if you stay behind, old friend.”
Pelorat’s eyes blinked rapidly and his lips pressed together for a few moments. Then he said, rather huskily, “Old friend? We’ve known each other what? A week or so? Isn’t it strange that I’m going to refuse to leave the ship? I am afraid, but I want to remain with you.”
Trevize moved his hands in a gesture of uncertainty. “But why? I honestly don’t ask it of you.”
“I’m not sure why, but I ask it of myself. It’s… it’s Golan, I have faith in you. It seems to me you always know what you’re doing. I wanted to go to Trantor where probably – as I now see nothing would have happened. You insisted on Gaia and Gaia must somehow be a raw nerve in the Galaxy. Things seem to happen in connection with it. And if that’s not enough, Golan, I watched you force Quintesetz to give you the information about Gaia. That was such a skillful bluff. I was lost in admiration.”
“You have faith in me, then.”
Pelorat said, “Yes, I do.”
Trevize put his hand on the other’s upper arm and seemed, for a moment, to be searching for words. Finally he said, “Janov, will you forgive me in advance if my judgment is wrong, and if you in one way or another meet with – whatever unpleasant may be awaiting us?”
Pelorat said, “Oh, my dear fellow, why do you ask? I make the decision freely for my reasons, not yours. And, please – let us leave quickly. I don’t trust my cowardice not to seize me by the throat and shame me for the rest of my life.”
“As you say, Janov,” said Trevize. “We’ll leave at the earliest moment the computer will permit. This time, we’ll be moving gravitically – straight up – as soon as we can be assured the atmosphere above is clear of other ships. And as the surrounding atmosphere grows less and less dense, we’ll put on more and more speed. Well within the hour, we’ll be in open space.”
“Good,” Pelorat said and pinched the tip off a plastic coffee container. The opened orifice almost at once began steaming. Pelorat put the nipple to his mouth and sipped, allowing just enough air to enter his mouth to cool the coffee to a bearable temperature.
Trevize grinned. “You’ve learned how to use those things beautifully. You’re a space veteran, Janov.”
Pelorat stared at the plastic container for a moment and said, “Now that we have ships that can adjust a gravitational field at will, surely we can use ordinary containers, can’t we?”
“Of course, but you’re not going to get space people to give up their space-centered apparatus. How is a space rat going to put distance between himself and surface worms if he uses an openmouthed cup? See those rings on the walls and ceilings? Those have been traditional in spacecraft for twenty thousand years and more, but they’re absolutely useless in a gravitic ship. Yet they’re there and I’ll bet the entire ship to a cup of coffee that your space rat will pretend he’s being squashed into asphyxiation on takeoff and will then sway back and forth from those rings as though he’s under zero – gray when its gee-one-normal-grav, that is – on both occasions.”
“Well, maybe a little, but there’s always social inertia to everything – even technological advance. Those useless wall rings are there and the cups they supply us have nipples.”
Pelorat nodded thoughtfully and continued to sip at his coffee. Finally he said, “And when do we take off?”
Trevize laughed heartily and said, “Got you. I began talking about wall rings and you never noticed that we were taking off right at that time. We’re a mile high right now.”
“You don’t mean it.”
Pelorat did and then said, “But I never felt a thing.”
“You’re not supposed to.”
“Aren’t we breaking the regulations? Surely we ought to have followed a radio beacon in an upward spiral, as we did in a downward spiral on landing?”
“No reason to, Janov. No one will stop us. No one at all.”
“Coming down, you said…”
“That was different. They weren’t anxious to see us arrive, but they’re ecstatic to see us go.”
“Why do you say that, Golan? The only person who talked to us about Gaia was Quintesetz and he begged us not to go.”
“Don’t you believe it, Janov. That was for form. He made sure we’d go to Gaia. – Janov, you admired the way I bluffed the information out of Quintesetz. I’m sorry, but I don’t deserve the admiration. If I had done nothing at all, he would have offered the information. If I had tried to plug my ears, he would have shouted it at me.”
“Why do you say that, Golan? That’s crazy.”
“Paranoid? Yes, I know.” Trevize turned to the computer and extended his sense intently. He said, “We’re not being stopped. No ships in interfering distance, no warning messages of any kind.”
Again he swiveled in the direction of Pelorat. He said, “Tell me, Janov, how did you find out about Gaia? You knew about Gaia while we were still on Terminus. You knew it was in the Sayshell Sector. You knew the name was, somehow, a form of Earth. Where did you hear all this?”
Pelorat seemed to stiffen. He said, “If I were back in my office on Terminus, I might consult my files. I have not brought everything with me – certainly not the dates on which I first encountered this piece of data or that.”
“Well, think about it,” said Trevize grimly. “Consider that the Sayshellians themselves are close-mouthed about the matter. They are so reluctant to talk about Gaia as it really is that they actually encourage a superstition that has the common people of the sector believing that no such planet exists in ordinary space. In fact, I can tell you something else. Watch this!”
Trevize swung to the computer, his fingers sweeping across the direction hand-rests with the ease and grace of long practice. When he placed his hands on the manuals, he welcomed their warm touch and enclosure. He felt, as always, a bit of his will oozing outward.
He said, “This is the computer’s Galactic map, as it existed within its memory banks before we landed on Sayshell. I am going to show you that portion of the map that represents the night sky of Sayshell as we saw it this past night.”
The room darkened and a representation of a night sky sprang out onto the screen.
Pelorat said in a low voice, “As beautiful as we saw it on Sayshell.”
“More beautiful,” said Trevize, impatiently. “There is no atmospheric interference of any kind, no clouds, no absorption at the horizon. But wait, let me make an adjustment”
The view shifted steadily, giving the two the uncomfortable impression that it was they who were moving. Pelorat instinctively took hold of the arms of his chair to steady himself.
“There!” said Trevize. “Do you recognize that?”
“Of course. Those are the Five Sisters – the pentagon of stars that Quintesetz pointed out. It is unmistakable.”
“Yes indeed. But where is Gaia?”
Pelorat blinked. There was no dim star at the center.
“It’s not there,” he said.
“That’s right. It’s not there. And that’s because its location is not included in the data banks of the computer. Since it passes the bounds of likelihood that those data banks were deliberately made incomplete in this respect for our benefit, I conclude that to the Foundation Gaiactographers who designed those data banks – and who had tremendous quantities of information at their disposal – Gaia was unknown.”
“Do you suppose if we had gone to Trantor…” began Pelorat.
“I suspect we would have found no data on Gaia there, either. Its existence is kept a secret by the Sayshellians – and even more so, I suspect, by the Gaians themselves. You yourself said a few days ago it was not entirely uncommon that some worlds deliberately stayed out of sight to avoid taxation or outside interference.”
“Usually,” said Pelorat, “when mapmakers and statisticians come across such a world, they are found to exist in thinly populated sections of the Galaxy. It’s isolation that makes it possible for them to hide. Gaia is not isolated.”
“That’s right. That’s another of the things that makes it unusual. So let’s leave this map on the screen so that you and I might continue to ponder the ignorance of our Gaiactographers – and let me ask you again. – In view of this ignorance on the part of the most knowledgeable of people, how did you come to hear of Gaia?”
“I have been gathering data on Earth myths, Earth legends, and Earth histories for over thirty years, my good Golan. Without my complete records, how could I possibly…”
“We can begin somewhere, Janov. Did you learn about it in, say, the first fifteen years of your research or in the last fifteen?”
“Oh! Well, if we’re going to be that broad, it was later on.”
“You can do better than that. Suppose I suggest that you learned of Gaia only in the last couple of years.”
Trevize peered in Pelorat’s direction, felt the absence of any ability to read an unseen expression in the dimness, and raised the light level of the room a bit. The glory of the representation of the night sky on the screen dimmed in proportion. Pelorat’s expression was stony and revealed nothing.
“Well?” said Trevize.
“I’m thinking,” said Pelorat mildly. “You may be right. I wouldn’t swear to it. When I wrote Jimbor of Ledbet University, I didn’t mention Gaia, though in that case it would have been appropriate to do so, and that was in – let’s see – in – and that was three years ago. I think you’re right, Golan.”
“And how did you come upon it?” asked Trevize. “In a communication? A book? A scientific paper? Some ancient song? How? – Come on!”
Pelorat sat back and crossed his arms. He fell into deep thought and didn’t move. Trevize said nothing and waited.
Finally Pelorat said, “In a private communication. – But it’s no use asking me from whom, my dear chap. I don’t remember.”
Trevize moved his hands over his sash. They felt clammy as he continued his efforts to elicit information without too clearly forcing words into the other’s mouth. He said, “From a historian? From an expert in mythology? From a Gaiactographer?”
“No use. I cannot match a name to the communication.”
“Because, perhaps, there was none.”
“Oh no. That scarcely seems possible.”
“Why? Would you have rejected an anonymous communication?”
“I suppose not.”
“Did you ever receive any?”
“Once in a long while. In recent years, I had become well known in certain academic circles as a collector of particular types of myths and legends and some of my correspondents were occasionally kind enough to forward material they had picked up from nonacademic sources. Sometimes these might not be attributed to anyone in particular.”
Trevize said, “Yes, but did you ever receive anonymous information directly, and not by way of some academic correspondent?”
“That sometimes happened – but very rarely.”
“And can you be certain that this was not so in the case of Gaia?”
“Such anonymous communications took place so rarely that I should think I would remember if it had happened in this case. Still, I can’t say certainly that the information was not of anonymous origin. Mind, though, that’s not to say that I did receive the information from an anonymous source.”
“I realize that. But it remains a possibility, doesn’t it?”
Pelorat said, very reluctantly, “I suppose it does. But what’s all this about?”
“I’m not finished,” said Trevize peremptorily. “Where did you get the information from – anonymous or not? What world?”
Pelorat shrugged. “Come now, I haven’t the slightest idea.”
“Could it possibly have been from Sayshell?”
“I told you. I don’t know.”
“I’m suggesting you did get it from Sayshell.”
“You can suggest all you wish, but that does not necessarily make it so.”
“No? When Quintesetz pointed out the dim Star at the center of the Five Sisters, you knew at once it was Gaia. You said so later on to Quintesetz, identifying it before he did. Do you remember?”
“Yes, of course.”
“How was that possible? How did you recognize at once that the dim star was Gaia?”
“Because in the material I had on Gaia, it was rarely referred to by that name. Euphemisms were common, many different ones. One of the euphemisms, several times repeated, was ‘the little Brother of the Five Sisters. ‘ Another was ‘the Pentagon’s Center’ and sometimes it was called ‘o Pentagon. ‘ When Quintesetz pointed out the Five Sisters and the central star, the allusions came irresistibly to mind.”
“You never mentioned those allusions to me earlier.”
“I didn’t know what they meant and I didn’t think it would have been important to discuss the matter with you, who were a…” Pelorat hesitated.
“You realize, I hope, that the pentagon of the Five Sisters is an entirely relative form.”
“What do you mean?”
Trevize laughed affectionately. “You surface worm. Do you think the sky has an objective shape of its own? That the stars are nailed in place? The pentagon has the shape it has from the surface of the worlds of the planetary system to which Sayshell Planet belongs – and from there only. From a planet circling any other star, the appearance of the Five Sisters is different. They are seen from a different angle, for one thing. For another, the five stars of the pentagon are at different distances from Sayshell and, seen from other angles, there could be no visible relationship among them at all. One or two stars might be in one half of the sky, the others in the other half. See here…”
Trevize darkened the room again and leaned over the computer. “There are eighty-six populated planetary systems making up the Sayshell Union. Let us keep Gaia – or the spot where Gaia ought to be – in place” (as he said that, a small red circle appeared in the center of the pentagon of the Five Sisters) “and shift to the skies as seen from any of the other eighty-six worlds taken at random.”
The sky shifted and Pelorat blinked. The small red circle remained at the center of the screen, but the Five Sisters had disappeared. There were bright stars in the neighborhood but no tight pentagon. Again the sky shifted, and again, and again. It went on shifting. The red circle remained in place always, but at no time did a small pentagon of equally bright stars appear. Sometimes what might be a distorted pentagon of stars – unequally bright – appeared, but nothing like the beautiful asterism Quintesetz had pointed out.
“Had enough?” said Trevize. “I assure you, the Five Sisters can never be seen exactly as we have seen it from any populated world but the worlds of the Sayshell planetary system.”
Pelorat said, “The Sayshellian view might have been exported to other planets. There were many proverbs in Imperial times – some of which linger into our own, in fact – that are Trantor-centered.”
“With Sayshell as secretive about Gaia as we know it to be? And why should worlds outside the Sayshell Union be interested? Why would they care about a ‘little Brother of the Five Sisters’ if there were nothing in the skies at which to point?”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“Then don’t you see that your original information must have come from Sayshell itself? Not just from somewhere in the Union, but precisely from the planetary system to which the capital world of the Union belongs.”
Pelorat shook his head. “You make it sound as though it must, but it’s not something I remember. I simply don’t.”
“Nevertheless, you do see the force of my argument, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Next. – When do you suppose the legend could have originated?”
“Anytime. I should suppose it developed far back in the Imperial Era. It has the feel of an ancient…”
“You are wrong, Janov. The Five Sisters are moderately close to Sayshell Planet, which is why they’re so bright. Four of them have high proper motions in consequence and no two are part of a family, so that they move in different directions. Watch what happens as I shift the map backward in time slowly.”
Again the red circle that marked the site of Gaia remained in place, but the pentagon slowly fell apart, as four of the stars drifted in different directions and the fifth shifted slightly.
“Look at that, Janov,” said Trevize. “Would you say that was a regular pentagon?”
“Clearly lopsided,” said Pelorat.
“And is Gaia at the center?”
“No, it’s well to the side.”
“Very well. That is how the asterism looked one hundred and fifty years ago. One and a half centuries, that’s all. – The material you received concerning ‘the Pentagon’s Center’ and so on made no real sense till this century anywhere, not even in Sayshell. The material you received had to originate in Sayshell and sometime in this century, perhaps in the last decade. And you got it, even though Sayshell is so close-mouthed about Gaia.”
Trevize put the lights on, turned the star map off, and sat there staring sternly at Pelorat.
Pelorat said, “I’m confused. What’s this about?”
“You tell me. Consider! Somehow I got the idea into my head that the Second Foundation still existed. I was giving a talk during my election campaign. I started a bit of emotional byplay designed to squeeze votes out of the undecided with a dramatic ‘If the Second Foundation still existed – ” and later that day I thought to myself: What if it did still exist? I began reading history books and within a week, I was convinced. There was no real evidence, but I have always felt that I had the knack of snatching the right conclusion out of a welter of speculation. This time, though…”
Trevize brooded a bit, then went on. “And look at what has happened since. Of all people, I chose Compor as my confidant and he betrayed me. Whereupon Mayor Branno had me arrested and sent into exile. Why into exile, rather than just having me imprisoned, or trying to threaten me into silence? And why in a very late-model ship which gives me extraordinary powers of Jumping through the Galaxy? And why, of all things, does she insist I take you and suggest that I help you search for Earth?
“And why was I so certain that we should not go to Trantor? I was convinced you had a better target for our investigations and at once you come up with the mystery world of Gaia, concerning which, as it now turns out, you gained information under very puzzling circumstances.
“We go to Sayshell – the first natural stop – and at once we encounter Compor, who gives us a circumstantial story about Earth and its death. He then assures us its location is in the Sirius Sector and urges us to go there.”
Pelorat said, “There you are. You seem to be implying that all circumstances are forcing us toward Gaia, but, as you say, Compor tried to persuade us to go elsewhere.”
“And in response, I was determined to continue on our original line of investigation out of my sheer distrust for the man. Don’t you suppose that that was what he might have been counting on? He may have deliberately told us to go elsewhere just to keep us from doing so.”
“That’s mere romance,” muttered Pelorat.
“Is it? Let’s go on. We get in touch with Quintesetz simply because he was handy…”
“Not at all,” said Pelorat. “I recognized his name.”
“It seemed familiar to you. You had never read anything he had written – that you could recall. Why was it familiar to you? – In any case, it turned out he had read a paper of yours and was overwhelmed by it – and how likely was that? You yourself admit your work is not widely known.
“What’s more, the young lady leading us to him quite gratuitously mentions Gaia and goes on to tell us it is in hyperspace, as though to be sure we keep it in mind. When we ask Quintesetz about it, he behaves as though he doesn’t want to talk about it, but he doesn’t throw us out – even though I am rather rude to him. He takes us to his home instead and, on the way there, goes to the trouble of pointing out the Five Sisters. He even makes sure we note the dim star at the center. Why? Is not all this an extraordinary concatenation of coincidence?”
Pelorat said, “If you list it like that…”
“List it any way you please,” said Trevize. “I don’t believe in extraordinary concatenations of coincidence.”
“What does all this mean, then? That we are being maneuvered to Gaia?”
Trevize said, “Surely there can be no question about that. Who is capable of adjusting minds, of giving gentle nudges to this one or that, of managing to divert progress in this direction or that?”
“You’re going to tell me it’s the Second Foundation.”
“Well, what have we been told about Gaia? It is untouchable. Fleets that move against it are destroyed. People who reach it do not return. Even the Mule didn’t dare move against it – and the Mule, in fact, was probably born there. Surely it seems that Gaia is the Second Foundation – and finding that, after all, is my ultimate goal.
Pelorat shook his head. “But according to some historians, the Second Foundation stopped the Mule. How could he have been one of them?”
“A renegade, I suppose.”
“But why should we be so relentlessly maneuvered toward the Second Foundation by the Second Foundation?”
Trevize’s eyes were unfocused, his brow furrowed. He said, “Let’s reason it out. It has always seemed important to the Second Foundation that as little information as possible about it should be available to the Galaxy. Ideally it wants its very existence to remain unknown. We know that much about them. For a hundred twenty years, the Second Foundation was thought to be extinct and that must have suited them right down to the Galactic core. Yet when I began to suspect that they did exist, they did nothing. Compor knew. They might have used him to shut me up one way or another – had me killed, even. Yet they did nothing.”
Pelorat said, “They had you arrested, if you want to blame that on the Second Foundation. According to what you told me, that resulted in the people of Terminus not knowing about your views. The people of the Second Foundation accomplished that much without violence and they may be devotees of Salvor Hardin’s remark that ‘Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
“But keeping it from the people of Terminus accomplishes nothing. Mayor Branno knows my view and – at the very least – must wonder if I am correct. So now, you see, it is too late for them to harm us. If they had gotten rid of me to begin with, they would be in the clear. If they had left me alone altogether, they might have still remained in the clear, for they might have maneuvered Terminus into believing I was an eccentric, perhaps a madman. The prospective ruin of my political career might even have forced me into silence as soon as I saw what the announcement of my beliefs would mean.
“And now it is too late for them to do anything. Mayor Branno was suspicious enough of the situation to send Compor after me and – having no faith in him either, being wiser than I was – she placed a hyper – relay on Compor’s ship. In consequence, she knows we are on Sayshell. And last night, while you were sleeping, I had our computer place a message directly into the computer of the Foundation ambassador here on Sayshell, explaining that we were on our way to Gaia. I took the trouble of giving its co-ordinates, too. If the Second Foundation does anything to us now, I am certain that Branno will have the matter investigated – and the concentrated attention of the Foundation must surely be what they don’t want.”
“Would they care about attracting the Foundation’s attention, if they are so powerful?”
“Yes,” said Trevize forcefully. “They lie hidden because, in some ways, they must be weak and because the Foundation is technologically advanced perhaps beyond even what Seldon himself might have foreseen. The very quiet, even stealthy, way in which they’ve been maneuvering us to their world would seem to show their eager desire to do nothing that will attract attention. And if so, then they have already lost, at least in part – for they’ve attracted attention and I doubt they can do anything to reverse the situation.”
Pelorat said, “But why do they go through all this? Why do they ruin themselves – if your analysis is correct – by angling for us across the Galaxy? What is it they want of us?”
Trevize stared at Pelorat and flushed. “Janov,” he said, “I have a feeling about this. I have this gift of coming to a correct conclusion on the basis of almost nothing. There’s a kind of sureness about me that tells me when I’m right – and I’m sure now. There’s something I have that they want – and want enough to risk their very existence for. I don’t know what it can be, but I’ve got to find out, because if I’ve got it and if it’s that powerful, then I want to be able to use it for what I feel is right.” He shrugged slightly. “Do you still want to come along with me, old friend, now that you see how much a madman I am?”
Pelorat said, “I told you I had faith in you. I still do.”
And Trevize laughed with enormous relief. “Marvelous! Because another feeling I have is that you are, for some reason, also essential to this whole thing. In that case, Janov, we move on to Gaia, full speed. Forward!”
Mayor Harla Branno looked distinctly older than her sixty-two years. She did not always look older, but she did now. She had been sufficiently wrapped up in thought to forget to avoid the mirror and had seen her image on her way into the map room. So she was aware of the haggardness of her appearance.
She sighed. It drained the life out of one. Five years a Mayor and for twelve years before that the real power behind two figureheads. All of it had been quiet, all of it successful, all of it – draining. How would it have been, she wondered, if there had been strain – failure – disaster.
Not so bad for her personally, she suddenly decided. Action would have been invigorating. It was the horrible knowledge that nothing but drift was possible that had worn her out.
It was the Seldon Plan that was successful and it was the Second Foundation that made sure it would continue to be. She, as the strong hand at the helm of the Foundation (actually the First Foundation, but no one on Terminus ever thought of adding the adjective) merely rode the crest.
History would say little or nothing about her. She merely sat at the controls of a spaceship, while the spaceship was maneuvered from without.
Even Indbur III, who had presided over the Foundation’s catastrophic fall to the Mule, had done something. He had, at least, collapsed.
For Mayor Branno there would be nothing!
Unless this Golan Trevize, this thoughtless Councilman, this lightning rod, made it possible. – She looked at the map thoughtfully. It was not the kind of structure produced by a modern computer. It was, rather, a three-dimensional cluster of lights that pictured the Galaxy holographically in midair. Though it could not be made to move, to turn, to expand, or to contract, one could move about it and see it from any angle.
A large section of the Galaxy, perhaps a third of the whole (excluding the core, which was a “no-life’s land”) turned red when she touched a contact. That was the Foundation Federation, the more than seven million inhabited worlds ruled by the Council and by herself – the seven million inhabited worlds who voted for and were represented in the House of Worlds, which debated matters of minor importance, and then voted on them, and never, by any chance, dealt with anything of major importance.
Another contact and a faint pink jutted outward from the edges of the Federation, here and there. Spheres of influence! This was not Foundation territory, but the regions, though nominally independent, would never dream of resistance to any Foundation move.
There was no question in her mind that no power in the Galaxy could oppose the Foundation (not even the Second Foundation, if one but knew where it was), that the Foundation could, at will, reach out its fleet of modern ships and simply set up the Second Empire.
But only five centuries had passed since the beginning of the Plan. The Plan called for ten centuries before the Second Empire could be set up and the Second Foundation would make sure the Plan would hold. The Mayor shook her sad, gray head. If the Foundation acted now, it would somehow fail. Though its ships were irresistible, action now would fail.
Unless Trevize, the lightning rod, drew the lightning of the Second Foundation – and the lightning could be traced back to its source.
She looked about. Where was Kodell? This was no time for him to be late.
It was as though her thought had called him, for he came striding in, smiling cheerfully, looking more grandfatherly than ever with his gray-white mustache and tanned complexion. Grandfatherly, but not old. To be sure, he was eight years younger than she was.
How was it he showed no marks of strain? Did not fifteen years as Director of Security leave its scar?
Kodell nodded slowly in the formal greeting that was necessary in initiating a discussion with the Mayor. It was a tradition that had existed since the bad days of the Indburs. Almost everything had changed, but etiquette least of all.
He said, “Sorry I’m late, Mayor, but your arrest of Councilman Trevize is finally beginning to make its way through the anesthetized skin of the Council.”
“Oh?” said the Mayor phlegmatically. “Are we in for a palace revolution?”
“Not the least chance. We’re in control. But there’ll be noise.”
“Let them make noise. It will make them feel better, and I – I shall stay out of the way. I can count, I suppose, on general public opinion?”
“I think you can. Especially away from Terminus. No one outside Terminus cares what happens to a stray Councilman.”
“Ah? More news?”
“Liono,” said the Mayor, “I want to know about Sayshell.”
“I’m not a two-legged history book,” said Liono Kodell, smiling.
“I don’t want history. I want the truth. Why is Sayshell independent? – Look at it.” She pointed to the red of the Foundation on the holographic map and there, well into the inner spirals, was an in-pocketing of white.
Branno said, “We’ve got it almost encapsulated – almost sucked in – yet it’s white. Our map doesn’t even show it as a loyal-ally-inpink.”
Kodell shrugged. “It’s not officially a loyal ally, but it never bothers us. It is neutral.”
“All right. See this, then.” Another touch at the controls. The red sprang out distinctly further. It covered nearly half the Galaxy. “That,” said Mayor Branno, “was the Mule’s realm at the time of his death. If you’ll peer in among the red, you’ll find the Sayshell Union, completely surrounded this time, but still white. it is the only enclave left free by the Mule.”
“It was neutral then, too.”
“The Mule had no great respect for neutrality.”
“He seems to have had, in this case.”
“Seems to have had. What has Sayshell got?”
Kodell said, “Nothing! Believe me, Mayor, she is ours any time we want her.”
“Is she? Yet somehow she isn’t ours.”
“There’s no need to want her.”
Branno sat back in her chair and, with a sweep of her arm over the controls, turned the Galaxy dark. “I think we now want her.”
“Liono, I sent that foolish Councilman into space as a lightning rod. I felt that the Second Foundation would see him as a greater danger than he was and see the Foundation itself as the lesser danger. The lightning would strike him and reveal its origin to us.”
“My intention was that he go to the decayed ruins of Trantor to fumble through what – if anything – was left of its Library and search for the Earth. That’s the world, you remember, that these wearisome mystics tell us was the site of origin of humanity, as though that matters, even in the unlikely case it is true. The Second
Foundation couldn’t possibly have believed that was really what he was after and they would have moved to find out what he was really looking for.”
“But he didn’t go to Trantor.”
“No. Quite unexpectedly, he has gone to Sayshell. Why?”
“I don’t know. But please forgive an old bloodhound whose duty it is to suspect everything and tell me how you know he and this Pelorat have gone to Sayshell. I know that Compor reports it, but how far can we trust Compor?”
“The hyper-relay tells us that Compor’s ship has indeed landed on Sayshell Planet.”
“Undoubtedly, but how do you know that Trevize and Pelorat have? Compor may have gone to Sayshell for his own reasons and may not know – or care – where the others are.”
“The fact is, that our ambassador on Sayshell has informed us of the arrival of the ship on which we placed Trevize and Pelorat. I am not ready to believe the ship arrived at Sayshell without them. What is more, Compor reports having talked to them and, if he cannot be trusted, we have other reports placing them at Sayshell University, where they consulted with a historian of no particular note.”
“None of this,” said Kodell mildly, “has reached me.”
Branno sniffed. “Do not feel stepped on. I am dealing with this personally and the information has now reached you – with not much in the way of delay, either. The latest news – just received – is from the ambassador. Our lightning rod is moving on. He stayed on Sayshell Planet two days, then left. He is heading for another planetary system, he says, some ten parsecs away. He gave the name and the Galactic co-ordinates of his destination to the ambassador, who passed them on to us.”
“Is there anything corroborative from Compor?”
“Compor’s message that Trevize and Pelorat have left Sayshell came even before the ambassador’s message. Compor has not yet determined where Trevize is going. Presumably he will follow.”
Kodell said, “We are missing the why’s of the situation.” He popped a pastille into his mouth and sucked at it meditatively. “Why did Trevize go to Sayshell? Why did he leave?”
“The question that intrigues me most is: Where? Where is Trevize going?”
“You did say, Mayor, did you not, that he gave the name and coordinates of his destination to the ambassador. Are you implying that he lied to the ambassador? Or that the ambassador is lying to us?”
“Even assuming everyone told the truth all round and that no one made any errors, there is a name that interests me. Trevize told the ambassador he was going to Gaia. That’s G-A-I-A. Trevize was careful to spell it.”
Kodell said, “Gaia? I never heard of it.”
“Indeed? That’s not strange.” Branno pointed to the spot in the air where the map had been. “Upon the map in this room, I can set up, at a moment’s notice, every star – supposedly – around which there circles an inhabited world and many prominent stars with uninhabited systems. Over thirty million stars can be marked out – if I handle the controls properly – in single units, in pairs, in clusters. I can mark them out in any of five different colors, one at a time, or all together. What I cannot do is locate Gaia on the map. As far as the map is concerned, Gaia does not exist.”
Kodell said, “For every star the map shows, there are ten thousand it doesn’t show.”
“Granted, but the stars it doesn’t show lack inhabited planets and why would Trevize want to go to an uninhabited planet?”
“Have you tried the Central Computer? It has all three hundred billion Galactic stars listed.”
“I’ve been told it has, but does it? We know very well, you and I, that there are thousands of inhabited planets that have escaped listing on any of our maps – not only on the one in this room, but even on the Central Computer. Gaia is apparently one of them.”
Kodell’s voice remained calm, even coaxing. “Mayor, there may well be nothing at all to be concerned about. Trevize may be off on a wild goose chase or he may be lying to us and there is no star called Gaia – and no star at all at the co-ordinates he gave us. He is trying to throw us off his scent, now that he has met Compor and perhaps guesses he is being traced.”
“How will this throw us off the scent? Compor will still follow. No, Liono, I have another possibility in mind, one with far greater potentiality for trouble. Listen to me…”
She paused and said, “This room is shielded, Liono. Understand that. We cannot be overheard by anyone, so please feel free to speak. And I will speak freely, as well.
“This Gaia is located, if we accept the information, ten parsecs from Sayshell Planet and is therefore part of the Sayshell Union. The Sayshell Union is a well-explored portion of the Galaxy. All its star systems – inhabited or not inhabited – are recorded and the inhabited ones are known in detail. Gaia is the one exception. Inhabited or not, none have heard of it; it is present in no map. Add to this that the Sayshell Union maintains a peculiar state of independence with respect to the Foundation Federation, and did so even with respect to the Mule’s former realm. It has been independent since the fall of the Galactic Empire.”
“What of all this?” asked Kodell cautiously.
“Surely the two points I have made must be connected. Sayshell incorporates a planetary system that is totally unknown and Sayshell is untouchable. The two cannot be independent. Whatever Gaia is, it protects itself. It sees to it that there is no knowledge of its existence outside its immediate surroundings and it protects those surroundings so that outsiders cannot take over.”
“You are telling me, Mayor, that Gaia is the seat of the Second Foundation?”
“I am telling you that Gaia deserves inspection.”
“May I mention an odd point that might be difficult to explain by this theory?”
“If Gaia is the Second Foundation and if, for centuries, it has protected itself physically against intruders, protecting all of the Sayshell Union as a broad, deep shield for itself, and if it has even prevented knowledge of itself leaking into the Galaxy – then why has all that protection suddenly vanished? Trevize and Pelorat leave Terminus and, even though you had advised them to go to Trantor, they go immediately and without hesitation to Sayshell and now to Gaia. What is more, you can think of Gaia and speculate on it. Why are you not somehow prevented from doing So?”
Mayor Branno did not answer for a long time. Her head was bent and her gray hair gleamed dully in the light. Then she said, “Because I think Councilman Trevize has somehow upset things. He has done something – or is doing something – that is in some way endangering the Seldon Plan.”
“That surely is impossible, Mayor.”
“I suppose everything and everyone has its flaws. Even Hari Seldon was not perfect, surely. Somewhere the Plan has a flaw and
Trevize has stumbled upon it, perhaps without even knowing that he has. We must know what is happening and we must be on the spot.”
Finally Kodell looked grave. “Don’t make decisions on your own, Mayor. We don’t want to move without adequate consideration.”
“Don’t take me for an idiot, Liono. I’m not going to make war. I’m not going to land an expeditionary force on Gaia. I just want to be on the spot – or near it, if you prefer, Liono, find out for me – I hate talking to a war office that is as ridiculously hidebound as one is sure to be after one hundred and twenty years of peace, but you don’t seem to mind – just how many warships are stationed close to Sayshell. Can we make their movements seem routine and not like a mobilization?”
“In these piping times of peace, there are not many ships in the vicinity, I am sure. But I will find out.”
“Even two or three will be sufficient, especially if one is of the Supernova class.”
“What do you want to do with them?”
“I want them to nudge as close to Sayshell as they can – without creating an incident – and I want them sufficiently close to each other to offer mutual support.”
“What’s all this intended for?”
“Flexibility. I want to be able to strike if I have to.”
“Against the Second Foundation? If Gaia can keep itself isolated and untouchable against the Mule, it can surely withstand a few ships now.”
Branno said, with the gleam of battle in her eyes, “My friend, I told you that nothing and no one is perfect, not even Hari Seldon. In setting up his Plan, he could not help being a person of his times. He was a mathematician of the days of the dying Empire, when technology was moribund. It followed that he could not have made sufficient allowance in his Plan for technological advance. Gravities, for instance, is a whole new direction of advance he could not possibly have guessed at. And there are other advances, too.
“Gaia might also have advanced.”
“In isolation? Come. There are ten quadrillion human beings within the Foundation Federation, from among whom contributors to technological advance can step forward. A single isolated world can do nothing in comparison. Our ships will advance and I will be with them.”
“Pardon me, Mayor. What was that?”
“I will be going myself to the ships that will gather at the borders of Sayshell. I wish to see the situation for myself.”
Kodell’s mouth fell open for a moment. He swallowed and made a distinct noise as he did so. “Mayor, that is – not wise.” If ever a man clearly intended a stronger remark, Kodell did.
“Wise or not,” said Branno violently, “I will do it. I am tired of Terminus and of its endless political battles, its infighting, its alliances and counteralliances, its betrayals and renewals. I’ve had seventeen years at the center of it and I want to do something else – anything else. Out there,” she waved her hand in a direction taken at random, “the whole history of the Galaxy may be changing and I want to take part in the process.”
“You know nothing about such things, Mayor.”
“Who does, Liono?” She rose stiffly to her feet. “As soon as you bring me the information I need on the ships and as soon as I can make arrangements for carrying on with the foolish business at home, I will go. – And, Liono, don’t try to maneuver me out of this decision in any way or I’ll wipe out our long friendship in a stroke and break you. I can still do that.”
Kodell nodded. “I know you can, Mayor, but before you decide, may I ask you to reconsider the power of Seldon’s Plan? What you intend may be suicide.”
“I have no fears on that score, Liono. It was wrong with respect to the Mule, whom it could not anticipate – and a failure to anticipate at one time implies the possibility of failure at another.”
Kodell sighed. “Well then, if you are really determined, I will support you to the best of my ability and with complete loyalty.”
“Good. I warn you once again that you had better mean that remark with all your heart. And with that in mind, Liono, let us move on to Gaia. Forward!”