Munn Li Compor, councilman of Terminus, looked uncertain as he extended his right hand to Trevize.
Trevize looked at the hand sternly and did not take it.He said, apparently to open air, “I am in no position to create a situation in which I may find myself arrested for disturbing the peace on a foreign planet, but I will do so anyway if this individual comes a step closer.”
Compor stopped abruptly, hesitated, and finally said in a low voice after glancing uncertainly at Pelorat, “Am I to have a chance to talk? To explain? Will you listen?”
Pelorat looked from one to the other with a slight frown on his long face.He said, “What’s all this, Golan? Have we come to this far world and at once met someone you know?”
Trevize’s eyes remained firmly fixed on Compor, but he twisted his body slightly to make it clear that he was talking to Pelorat.
Trevize said, “This – human being – we would judge that much from his shape – was once a friend of mine on Terminus. As is my habit with my friends, I trusted him. I told him my views, which were perhaps not the kind that should have received a general airing. He told them to the authorities in great detail, apparently, and did not take the trouble to tell me he had done so. For that reason, I walked neatly into a trap and now I find myself in exile. And now this – human being – wishes to be recognized as a friend.”
He turned to Compor full on and brushed his fingers through his hair, succeeding only in disarranging the curls further. “See here, you. I do have a question for you. What are you doing here? Of all the worlds in the Galaxy on which you could be, why are you on this one? And why now?”
Compor’s hand, which had remained outstretched throughout Trevize’s speech, now fell to his side and the smile left his face. The air of self-confidence, which was ordinarily so much a part of him, was gone and in its absence he looked younger than his thirty-four years and a bit woebegone. “I’ll explain,” he said, “but only from the start!”
Trevize looked about briefly. “Here? You really want to talk about it here? In a public place? You want me to knock you down here after I’ve listened to enough of your lies?”
Compor lifted both hands now, palms facing each other. “It’s the safest place, believe me.” And then, checking himself and realizing what the other was about to say, added hurriedly, “Or don’t believe me, it doesn’t matter. I’m telling the truth. I’ve been on the planet several hours longer than you and I’ve checked it out. This is some particular day they have here on Sayshell. It’s a day for meditation, for some reason. Almost everyone is at home – or should be. – You see how empty this place is. You don’t suppose it’s like this every day.”
Pelorat nodded and said, “I was wondering why it was so empty, at that.” He leaned toward Trevize’s ear and whispered, “Why not let him talk, Golan? He looks miserable, poor chap, and he may be trying to apologize. It seems unfair not to give him the chance to do so. ‘,
Trevize said, “Dr. Pelorat seems anxious to hear you. I’m willing to oblige him, but you’ll oblige me if you’re brief about it. This may be a good day on which to lose my temper. If everyone is meditating, any disturbance I cause may not produce the guardians of the law. I may not be so lucky tomorrow. Why waste an opportunity?”
Compor said in a strained voice, “Look, if you want to take a poke at me, do so. I won’t even defend myself, see? Go ahead, hit me – but listen!”
“Go ahead and talk, then. I’ll listen for a while.”
“In the first place, Golan…”
“Address me as Trevize, please. I am not on first-name terms with you.”
“In the first place, Trevize, you did too good a job convincing me of your views…”
“You hid that well. I could have sworn you were amused by me.”
“I tried to be amused to hide from myself the fact that you were being extremely disturbing. – Look, let us sit down up against the wall. Even if the place is empty, some few may come in and I don’t think we ought to be needlessly conspicuous.”
Slowly the three men walked most of the length of the large room. Compor was smiling tentatively again, but remained carefully at more than arm’s length from Trevize.
They sat each on a seat that gave as their weight was placed upon it and molded itself into the shape of their hips and buttocks. Pelorat looked surprised and made as though to stand up.
“Relax, Professor,” said Compor. “I’ve been through this already. They’re in advance of us in some ways. It’s a world that believes in small comforts.”
He turned to Trevize, placing one arm over the back of his chair and speaking easily now. “You disturbed me. You made me feel the Second Foundation did exist, and that was deeply upsetting. Consider the consequences if they did. Wasn’t it likely that they might take care of you somehow? Remove you as a menace? And if I behaved as though I believed you, I might be removed as well. Do you see my point?”
“I see a coward.”
“What good would it do to be storybook brave?” said Compor warmly, his blue eyes widening in indignation. “Can you or I stand up to an organization capable of molding our minds and emotions? The only way we could fight effectively would be to hide our knowledge to begin with.”
“So you hid it and were safe? – Yet you didn’t hide it from Mayor Branno, did you? Quite a risk there.”
“Yes! But I thought that was worth it. Just talking between ourselves might do nothing more than get ourselves mentally controlled
– or our memories erased altogether. If I told the Mayor, on the other hand. – She knew my father well, you know. My father and I were immigrants from Smyrno and the Mayor had a grandmother who…”
“Yes yes,” said Trevize impatiently, “and several generations farther back you can trace ancestry to the Sirius Sector. You’ve told all that to everyone you know. Get on with it, Compor!”
“Well, I had her ear. If I could convince the Mayor that there was danger, using your arguments, the Federation might take some action. We’re not as helpless as we were in the days of the Mule and – at the worst – this dangerous knowledge would be spread more widely and we ourselves would not be in as much specific danger.”
Trevize said sardonically, “Endanger the Foundation, but keep ourselves safe. That’s good patriotic stuff.”
“That would be at the worst. I was counting on the best.” His forehead had become a little damp. He seemed to be straining against Trevize’s immovable contempt.
“And you didn’t tell me of this clever plan of yours, did you?”
“No, I didn’t and I’m sorry about that, Trevize. The Mayor ordered me not to. She said she wanted to know everything you knew but that you were the sort of person who would freeze if you knew that your remarks were being passed on.”
“How right she was!”
“I didn’t know – I couldn’t guess – I had no way of conceiving that she was planning to arrest you and throw you off the planet.”
“She was waiting for the right political moment, when my status as Councilman would not protect me. You didn’t foresee that?”
“How could I? You yourself did not.”
“Had I known that she knew my views, I would have.” Compor said with a sudden trace of insolence, “That’s easy enough to say – in hindsight.”
“And what is it you want of me here? Now that you have a bit of hindsight, too.”
“To make up for all this. To make up for the harm I unwittingly – unwittingly – did you.”
“Goodness,” said Trevize dryly. “How kind of you! But you haven’t answered my original question. How did you come to be here? How do you happen to be on the very planet I am on?”
Compor said, “There’s no complicated answer necessary for that. I followed you!”
“Through hyperspace? With my ship making Jumps in series?” Compor shook his head. “No mystery. I have the same kind of a ship you do, with the same kind of computer. You know I’ve always had this trick of being able to guess in which direction through hyperspace a ship would go. It’s not usually a very good guess and I’m wrong two times out of three, but with the computer I’m much better. And you hesitated quite a bit at the start and gave me a chance to evaluate the direction and speed in which you were going before entering hyperspace. I fed the data – together with my own intuitive extrapolations – into the computer and it did the rest.”
“And you actually got to the city ahead of me?”
“Yes. You didn’t use gravitics and I did. I guessed you would come to the capital city, so I went straight down, while you…” Compor made a short spiral motion with his finger as though it were a ship riding a directional beam.
“You took a chance on a run-in with Sayshellian officialdom.”
“Well…” Compor’s face broke into a smile that lent it an undeniable charm and Trevize felt himself almost warming to him. Compor said, “I’m not a coward at all times and in all things.”
Trevize steeled himself. “How did you happen to get a ship like mine?”
“In precisely the same way you got a ship like yours. The old lady – Mayor Branno – assigned it to me.”
“I’m being entirely frank with you. My assignment was to follow you. The Mayor wanted to know where you were going and what you would be doing.”
“And you’ve been reporting faithfully to her, I suppose. – Or have you been faithless to the Mayor also?”
“I reported to her. I had no choice, actually. She placed a hyperrelay on board ship, which I wasn’t supposed to find, but which I did find.”
“Unfortunately it’s hooked up so that I can’t remove it without immobilizing the vessel. At least, there’s no way I can remove it. Consequently she knows where I am – and she knows where you are.”
“Suppose you hadn’t been able to follow me. Then she wouldn’t have known where I was. Had you thought of that?”
“Of course I did. I thought of just reporting I had lost you – but she wouldn’t have believed me, would she? And I wouldn’t have been able to get back to Terminus for who knows how long. And I’m not like you, Trevize. I’m not a carefree person without attachments. I have a wife on Terminus – a pregnant wife – and I want to get back to her. You can afford to think only of yourself. I can’t. – Besides, I’ve come to warn you. By Seldon, I’m trying to do that and you won’t listen. You keep talking about other things.”
“I’m not impressed by your sudden concern for me. What can you warn me against? It seems to me that you are the only thing I need be warned about. You betray me, and now you follow me in order to betray me again. No one else is doing me any harm.”
Compor said earnestly, “Forget the dramatics, man. Trevize, you’re a lightning rod! You’ve been sent out to draw Second Foundation response – if there is such a thing as the Second Foundation. I have an intuitive sense for things other than hyperspatial pursuit and I’m sure that’s what she’s planning. If you try to find the Second Foundation, they’ll become aware of it and they’ll act against you. If they do, they are very likely to tip their hand. And when they do, Mayor Branno will go for them.”
“A pity your famous intuition wasn’t working when Branno was planning my arrest.”
Compor flushed and muttered, “You know it doesn’t always work.”
“And now it tells you she’s planning to attack the Second Foundation. She wouldn’t dare.”
“I think she would. But that’s not the point. The point is that right now she is throwing you out as bait.”
“So by all the black holes in space, don’t search for the Second Foundation. She won’t care if you’re killed in the search, but I care. I feel responsible for this and I care.”
“I’m touched,” said Trevize coldly, “but as it happens I have another task on hand at the moment.”
“Pelorat and I are on the track of Earth, the planet that some think was the original home of the human race. Aren’t we, Janov?”
Pelorat nodded his head. “Yes, it’s a purely scientific matter and a long-standing interest of mine.”
Compor looked blank for a moment. Then, “Looking for Earth? But why?”
“To study it,” said Pelorat. “As the one world on which human beings developed – presumably from lower forms of life, instead of, as on all others, merely arriving ready-made – it should be a fascinating study in uniqueness.”
“And,” said Trevize, “as a world where, just possibly, I may learn more of the Second Foundation. – Just possibly.”
Compor said, “But there isn’t any Earth. Didn’t you know that?”
“No Earth?” Pelorat looked utterly blank, as he always did when he was preparing to be stubborn. “Are you saying there was no planet on which the human species originated?”
“Oh no. Of course, there was an Earth. There’s no question of that! But there isn’t any Earth now. No inhabited Earth. It’s gone!”
Pelorat said, unmoved, “There are tales…”
“Hold on, Janov,” said Trevize. “Tell me, Compor, how do you know this?”
“What do you mean, how? It’s my heritage. I trace my ancestry from the Sirius Sector, if I may repeat that fact without boring you. We know all about Earth out there. It exists in that sector, which means it’s not part of the Foundation Federation, so apparently no one on Terminus bothers with it. But that’s where Earth is, just the same.”
“That is one suggestion, yes,” said Pelorat. “There was considerable enthusiasm for that ‘Sirius Alternative,’ as they called it, in the days of the Empire.”
Compor said vehemently. “It’s not an alternative. It’s a fact.”
Pelorat said, “What would you say if I told you I know of many different places in the Galaxy that are called Earth – or were called Earth – by the people who lived in its stellar neighborhood?”
“But this is the real thing,” said Compor. “The Sirius Sector is the longest-inhabited portion of the Galaxy. Everyone knows that.”
“The Sirians claim it, certainly,” said Pelorat, unmoved.
Compor looked frustrated. “I tell you…”
But Trevize said, “Tell us what happened to Earth. You say it’s not inhabited any longer. Why not?”
“Radioactivity. The whole planetary surface is radioactive because of nuclear reactions that went out of control, or nuclear explosions – I’m not sure – and now no life is possible there.”
The three stared at each other for a while and then Compor felt it necessary to repeat. He said, “I tell you, there’s no Earth. There’s no use looking for it.”
Janov Pelorat’s face was, for once, not expressionless. It was not that there was passion in it – or any of the more unstable emotions. It was that his eyes had narrowed – and that a kind of fierce intensity had filled every plane of his face.
He said, and his voice lacked any trace of its usual tentative quality, “How did you say you know all this?”
“I told you,” said Compor. “It’s my heritage.”
“Don’t be silly, young man. You are a Councilman. That means you must be born on one of the Federation worlds – Smyrno, I think you said earlier.”
“Well then, what heritage are you talking about? Are you telling me that you possess Sirian genes that fill you with inborn knowledge of the Sirian myths concerning Earth.”
Compor looked taken aback. “No, of course not.”
“Then what are you talking about?”
Compor paused and seemed to gather his thoughts. He said quietly, “My family has old books of Sirian history. An external heritage, not an internal one. It’s not something we talk about outside, especially if one is intent on political advancement. Trevize seems to think I am, but, believe me, I mention it only to good friends.”
There was a trace of bitterness in his voice. “Theoretically all Foundation citizens are alike, but those from the old worlds of the Federation are more alike than those from the newer ones – and those that trace from worlds outside the Federation are least alike of all. But, never mind that. Aside from the books, I once visited the old worlds. Trevize – hey, there…”
Trevize had wandered off toward one end of the room, looking out a triangular window. It served to let in a view of the sky and to diminish the view of the city – more light and more privacy. Trevize stretched upward to look down.
He returned through the empty room. “Interesting window design,” he said. “You called me, Councilman?”
“Yes. Remember the postcollegiate tour I took?”
“After graduation? I remember very well. We were pals. Pals forever. Foundation of trust. Two against the world. You went off on your tour. I joined the Navy, full of patriotism. Somehow I didn’t think I wanted to tour with you – some instinct told me not to. I wish the instinct had stayed with me.”
Compor did not rise to the bait. He said, “I visited Comporellon. Family tradition said that my ancestors had come from there – at least on my father’s side. We were of the ruling family in ancient times before the Empire absorbed us, and my name is derived from the world – or so the family tradition has it. We had an old, poetic name for the star Comporellon circled – Epsilon Eridani.”
“What does that mean?” asked Pelorat.
Compor shook his head. “I don’t know that it has any meaning. Just tradition. They live with a great deal of tradition. It’s an old world. They have long, detailed records of Earth’s history, but no one talks about it much. They’re superstitious about it. Every time they mention the word, they lift up both hands with first and second fingers crossed to ward off misfortune.”
“Did you tell this to anyone when you came back?”
“Of course not. Who would be interested? And I wasn’t going to force the tale on anyone. No, thank you! I had a political career to develop and the last thing I want is to stress my foreign origin.”
“What about the satellite? Describe Earth’s satellite,” said Pelorat sharply.
Compor looked astonished. “I don’t know anything about that.”
“Does it have one?”
“I don’t recall reading or hearing about it. But I’m sure if you’ll consult the Comporellonian records, you can find out.”
“But you know nothing?”
“Not about the satellite. Not that I recall.”
“Huh! How did Earth come to be radioactive?”
Compor shook his head and said nothing.
Pelorat said, “Think! You must have heard something.”
“It was seven years ago, Professor. I didn’t know then you’d be questioning me about it now. There was some sort of legend – they considered it history…”
“What was the legend?”
“Earth was radioactive-ostracized and mistreated by the Empire, its population dwindling – and it was going to destroy the Empire somehow.”
“One dying world was going to destroy the whole Empire?” interposed Trevize.
Compor said defensively, “I said it was a legend. I don’t know the details. Bel Arvardan was involved in the tale, I know.”
“Who was he?” asked Trevize.
“A historical character. I looked him up. He was an honest-to-Galaxy archaeologist back in the early days of the Empire and he maintained that Earth was in the Sirius Sector.”
“I’ve heard the name,” said Pelorat.
“He’s a folk hero in Comporellon. Look, if you want to know these things – go to Comporellon. It’s no use hanging around here.”
Pelorat said, “Just how did they say Earth planned to destroy the Empire?”
“Don’t know.” A certain sullenness was entering Compor’s voice.
“Did the radiation have anything to do with it?”
“Don’t know. There were tales of some mind-expander developed on Earth – a Synapsifier or something.”
“Did it create superminds?” said Pelorat in deepest tones of incredulity.
“I don’t think so. What I chiefly remember is that it didn’t work. People became bright and died young.”
Trevize said, “It was probably a morality myth. If you ask for too much, you lose even that which you have.”
Pelorat turned on Trevize in annoyance. “What do you know of morality myths?”
Trevize raised his eyebrows. “Your field may not be my field, Janov, but that doesn’t mean I’m totally ignorant.”
“What else do you remember about what you call the Synapsifier, Councilman Compor?” asked Pelorat.
“Nothing, and I won’t submit to any further cross-examination. Look, I followed you on orders from the Mayor. I was not ordered to make personal contact with you. I have done so only to warn you that you were followed and to tell you that you had been sent out to serve the Mayor’s purposes, whatever those might be. There was nothing else I should have discussed with you, but you surprised me by suddenly bringing up the matter of Earth. Well, let me repeat:
Whatever there has existed there in the past – Bel Arvardan, the Synapsifier, whatever – that has nothing to do with what exists now. I’ll tell you again: Earth is a dead world. I strongly advise you to go to Comporellon, where you’ll find out everything you want to know. Just get away from here.”
“And, of course, you will dutifully tell the Mayor that we’re going to Comporellon – and you’ll follow us to make sure. Or maybe the Mayor knows already. I imagine she has carefully instructed and rehearsed you in every word you have spoken to us here because, for her own purposes, it’s in Comporellon that she wants us. Right?”
Compor’s face paled. He rose to his feet and almost stuttered in his effort to control his voice. “I’ve tried to explain. I’ve tried to be helpful. I shouldn’t have tried. You can drop yourself into a black hole, Trevize.”
He turned on his heel and walked away briskly without looking back.
Pelorat seemed a bit stunned. “That was rather tactless of you, Golan, old fellow. I could have gotten more out of him.”
“No, you couldn’t,” said Trevize gravely. “You could not have gotten one thing out of him that he was not ready to let you have. Janov, you don’t know what he is – Until today, I didn’t know what he is.”
Pelorat hesitated to disturb Trevize. Trevize sat motionless in his chair, deep in thought.
Finally Pelorat said, “Are we just sitting here all night, Golan?”
Trevize started. “No, you’re quite right. We’ll be better off with people around us. Come!”
Pelorat rose. He said, “There won’t be people around us. Compor said this was some sort of meditation day.”
“Is that what he said? Was there traffic when we came along the road in our ground-car?”
“Quite a bit, I thought. And then, when we entered the city, was it empty?”
“Not particularly. – Still, you’ve got to admit that this place has been empty.”
“Yes, it has. I noticed that particularly. – But come, Janov, I’m hungry. There’s got to be someplace to eat and we can afford to find something good. At any rate, we can find a place in which we can try some interesting Sayshellian novelty or, if we lose our nerve, good standard Galactic fare. – Come, once we’re safely surrounded, I’ll tell you what I think really happened here.”
Trevize leaned back with a pleasant feeling of renewal. The restaurant was not expensive by Terminus standards, but it was certainly novel. It was heated, in part, by an open fire over which food was prepared. Meat tended to be served in bite-sized portions – in a variety of pungent sauces – which were picked up by fingers that were protected from grease and heat by smooth, green leaves that were cold, damp, and had a vaguely minty taste.
It was one leaf to each meat-bit and the whole was taken into the mouth. The waiter had carefully explained how it had to be done. Apparently accustomed to off-planet guests, he had smiled paternally as Trevize and Pelorat gingerly scooped at the steaming bits of meat, and was clearly delighted at the foreigners’ relief at finding that the leaves kept the fingers cool and cooled the meat, too, as one chewed.
Trevize said, “Delicious!” and eventually ordered a second helping. So did Pelorat.
They sat over a spongy, vaguely sweet dessert and a cup of coffee that had a caramelized flavor at which they shook dubious heads. They added syrup, at which the waiter shook his head.
Pelorat said, “Well, what happened back there at the tourist center?”
“You mean with Compor?”
“Was there anything else there we might discuss?”
Trevize looked about. They were in a deep alcove and had a certain limited privacy, but the restaurant was crowded and the natural hum of noise was a perfect cover.
He said in a low voice, “Isn’t it strange that he followed us to Sayshell?”
“He said he had this intuitive ability.”
“Yes, he was all-collegiate champion at hypertracking. I never questioned that till today. I quite see that you might be able to judge where someone was going to Jump by how he prepared for it if you had a certain developed skill at it, certain reflexes – but I don’t see how a tracker can judge a Jump series. You prepare only for the first one; the computer does all the others. The tracker can judge that first one, but by what magic can he guess what’s in the computer’s vitals?”
“But he did it, Golan.”
“He certainly did,” said Trevize, “and the only possible way I can imagine him doing so is by knowing in advance where we were going to go. By knowing, not judging.”
Pelorat considered that. “Quite impossible, my boy. How could he know? We didn’t decide on our destination till after we were on board the Far Star.”
“I know that. – And what about this day of meditation?”
“Compor didn’t lie to us. The waiter said it was a day of meditation when we came in here and asked him.”
“Yes, he did, but he said the restaurant wasn’t closed. In fact, what he said was: ‘Sayshell City isn’t the backwoods. It doesn’t close down. ‘ People meditate, in other words, but not in the big town, where everyone is sophisticated and there’s no place for small-town piety. So there’s traffic and it’s busy – perhaps not quite as busy as on ordinary days – but busy.”
“But, Golan, no one came into the tourist center while we were there. I was aware of that. Not one person entered.”
“I noticed that, too. I even went to the window at one point and looked out and saw clearly that the streets around the center had a good scattering of people on foot and in vehicles – and yet not one person entered. The day of meditation made a good cover. We would not have questioned the fortunate privacy we had if I simply hadn’t made up my mind not to trust that son of two strangers.”
Pelorat said, “What is the significance of all this, then?”
“I think it’s simple, Janov. We have here someone who knows where we’re going as soon as we do, even though he and we are in separate spaceships, and we also have here someone who can keep a public building empty when it is surrounded by people in order that we might talk in convenient privacy.”
“Would you have me believe he can perform miracles?”
“Certainly. If it so happens that Compor is an agent of the Second Foundation and can control minds; if he can read yours and mine in a distant spaceship; if he can influence his way through a customs station at once; if he can land gravitically, with no border patrol outraged at his defiance of the radio beams; and if he can influence minds in such a way as to keep people from entering a building he doesn’t want entered.
“By all the stars,” Trevize went on with a marked air of grievance, “I can even follow this back to graduation. I didn’t go on the tour with him. I remember not wanting to. Wasn’t that a matter of his influence? He had to be alone. Where was he really going?”
Pelorat pushed away the dishes before him, as though he wanted to clear a space about himself in order to have room to think. It seemed to be a gesture that signaled the busboy – robot, a self-moving table that stopped near them and waited while they placed their dishes and cutlery upon it.
When they were alone, Pelorat said, “But that’s mad. Nothing has happened that could not have happened naturally. Once you get it into your head that somebody is controlling events, you can interpret everything in that light and find no reasonable certainty anywhere. Come on, old fellow, it’s all circumstantial and a matter of interpretation. Don’t yield to paranoia.”
“I’m not going to yield to complacency, either.”
“Well, let us look at this logically. Suppose he was an agent of the Second Foundation. Why would he run the risk of rousing our suspicions by keeping the tourist center empty? What did he say that was so important that a few people at a distance – who would have been wrapped in their own concerns anyway – would have made a difference?”
“There’s an easy answer to that, Janov. He would have to keep our minds under close observation and he wanted no interference from other minds. No static. No chance of confusion.”
“Again, just your interpretation. What was so important about his conversation with us? It would make sense to suppose, as he himself insisted, that he met us only in order to explain what he had done, to apologize for it, and to warn us of the trouble that might await us. Why would we have to look further than that?”
The small card-receptacle at the farther rim of the table glittered unobtrusively and the figures representing the cost of the meal flashed briefly. Trevize groped beneath his sash for his credit card which, with its Foundation imprint, was good anywhere in the Galaxy – or anywhere a Foundation citizen was likely to go. He inserted it in the appropriate slot. It took a moment to complete the transaction and Trevize (with native caution) checked on the remaining balance before returning it to its pocket.
He looked about casually to make sure there was no undesirable interest in him on the faces of any of the few who still sat in the restaurant and then said, “Why look further than that? Why look further? That was not all he talked about. He talked about Earth. He told us it was dead and urged us very strongly to go to Comporellon. Shall we go?”
“It’s something I’ve been considering, Golan,” admitted Pelorat.
“Just leave here?”
“We can come back after we check Out the Sirius Sector.”
“It doesn’t occur to you that his whole purpose in seeing us was to deflect us from Sayshell and get us out of here? Get us anywhere but here?”
“I don’t know. See here, they expected us to go to Trantor. That was what you wanted to do and maybe that’s what they counted on us doing. I messed things up by insisting we go to Sayshell, which is the last thing they wanted, and so now they have to get us out of here.”
Pelorat looked distinctly unhappy. “But Golan, you are just making statements. Why don’t they want us on Sayshell?”
“I don’t know, Janov. But it’s enough for me that they want us out. I’m staying here. I’m not going to leave.”
“But… but – Look, Golan, if the Second Foundation wanted us to leave, wouldn’t they just influence our minds to make us want to leave? Why bother reasoning with us?”
“Now that you bring up the point, haven’t they done that in your case, Professor?” and Trevize’s eyes narrowed in sudden suspicion. “Don’t you want to leave?”
Pelorat looked at Trevize in surprise. “I just think there’s some sense to it.”
“Of course you would, if you’ve been influenced.”
“But I haven’t been…”
“Of course you would swear you hadn’t been if you had been.”
Pelorat said, “If you box me in this way, there is no way of disproving your bare assertion. What are you going to do?”
“I will remain in Sayshell. And you’ll stay here, too. You can’t navigate the ship without me, so if Compor has influenced you, he has influenced the wrong one.”
“Very well, Golan. We’ll stay in Sayshell until we have independent reasons to leave. The worst thing we can do, after all – worse than either staying or going – is to fall out with each other. Come, old chap, if I had been influenced, would I be able to change my mind and go along with you cheerfully, as I plan to do now?”
Trevize thought for a moment and then, as though with an inner shake, smiled and held out his hand. “Agreed, Janov. Now let’s get back to the ship and make another start tomorrow. – If we can think of one.”
Munn Li Compor did not remember when he had been recruited. For one thing, he had been a child at the time; for another, the agents of the Second Foundation were meticulous in removing their traces as far as that was possible.
Compor was an “Observer” and, to a Second Foundationer, he was instantly recognizable as such.
It meant that Compor was acquainted with mentalics and could converse with Second Foundationers in their own fashion to a degree, but he was in the lowest rank of the hierarchy. He could catch glimpses of minds, but he could not adjust them. The education he had received had never gone that far. He was an Observer, not a Doer.
It made him second-class at best, but he did not mind – much. He knew his importance in the scheme of things.
During the early centuries of the Second Foundation, it had underestimated the task before it. It had imagined that its handful of members could monitor the entire Galaxy and that Seldon’s Plan, to be maintained, would require only the most occasional, the lightest touch, here and there.
The Mule had stripped them of these delusions. Coming from nowhere, he had caught the Second Foundation (and, of course, the First – though that didn’t matter) utterly by surprise and had left them helpless. It took five years before a counterattack could be organized, and then only at the cost of a number of lives.
With Palver a full recovery was made, again at a distressing cost, and he finally took the appropriate measures. The operations of the Second Foundation, he decided, must be enormously expanded without at the same time increasing the chances of detection unduly, so he instituted the corps of Observers.
Compor did not know how many Observers were in the Galaxy or even how many there were on Terminus. It was not his business to know. Ideally there should be no detectable connection between any two Observers, so that the loss of one would not entail the loss of any other. All connections were with the upper echelons on Trantor.
It was Compor’s ambition to go to Trantor someday. Though he thought it extremely unlikely, he knew that occasionally an Observer might be brought to Trantor and promoted, but that was rare. The qualities that made for a good Observer were not those that pointed toward the Table.
There was Gendibal, for instance, who was four years younger than Compor. He must have been recruited as a boy, just as Compor was, but he had been taken directly to Trantor and was now a Speaker. Compor had no illusions as to why that should be. He had been much in contact with Gendibal of late and he had experienced the power of that young man’s mind. He could not have stood up against it for a second.
Compor was not often conscious of a lowly status. There was almost never occasion to consider it. After all (as in the case of other Observers, he imagined) it was only lowly by the standards of Trantor. On their own non-Trantorian worlds, in their own nonmentalic societies, it was easy for Observers to obtain high status.
Compor, for instance, had never had trouble getting into good schools or finding good company. He had been able to use his mentalics in a simple way to enhance his natural intuitive ability (that natural ability had been why he had been recruited in the first place, he was sure) and, in this way, to prove himself a star at hyperspatial pursuit. He became a hero at college and this set his foot on the first rung of a political career. Once this present crisis was over, there was no telling how much farther he might advance.
If the crisis resolved itself successfully, as surely it would, would it not be recalled that it was Compor who had first noted Trevize – not as a human being (anyone could have done that) but as a mind?
He had encountered Trevize in college and had seen him, at first, only as a jovial and quick-witted companion. One morning, however, he had stirred sluggishly out of slumber and, in the stream of consciousness that accompanied the never-never land of half-sleep, he felt what a pity it was that Trevize had never been recruited.
Trevize couldn’t have been recruited, of course, since he was Terminus – born and not, like Compor, a native of another world. And even with that aside, it was too late. Only the quite young are plastic enough to receive an education into mentalics; the painful introduction of that art – it was more than a science – into adult brains, set rustily in their mold, was a thing of the first two generations after Seldon only.
But then, if Trevize had been ineligible for recruiting in the first place and had outlived the possibility in the second, what had roused Compor’s concern over the matter?
On their next meeting, Compor had penetrated Trevize’s mind deeply and discovered what it was that must have initially disturbed him. Trevize’s mind had characteristics that did not fit the rules he had been taught. Over and over, it eluded him. As he followed its workings, he found gaps – No, they couldn’t be actual gaps – actual leaps of nonexistence. They were places where Trevize’s manner of mind dove too deeply to be followed.
Compor had no way of determining what this meant, but he watched Trevize’s behavior in the light of what he had discovered and he began to suspect that Trevize had an uncanny ability to reach right conclusions from what would seem to be insufficient data.
Did this have something to do with the gaps? Surely this was a matter for mentalism beyond his own powers – for the Table itself, perhaps. He had the uneasy feeling that Trevize’s powers of decision were unknown, in their full, to the man himself, and that he might be able to… To do what? Compor’s knowledge did not suffice. He could almost see the meaning of what Trevize possessed – but not quite. There was only the intuitive conclusion – or perhaps just a guess – that Trevize might be, potentially, a person of the utmost importance.
He had to take the chance that this might be so and to risk seeming to be less than qualified for his post. After all, if he were correct. He was not sure, looking back on it, how he had managed to find the courage to continue his efforts. He could not penetrate the administrative barriers that ringed the Table. He had all but reconciled himself to a broken reputation. He had worked himself down (despairingly) to the most junior member of the Table and, finally, Stor Gendibal had responded to his call.
Gendibal had listened patiently and from that time on there had been a special relationship between them. It was on Gendibal’s behalf that Compor had maintained his relationship with Trevize and on Gendibal’s direction that he had carefully set up the situation that had resulted in Trevize’s exile. And it was through Gendibal that Compor might yet (he was beginning to hope) achieve his dream of promotion to Trantor.
All preparations, however, had been designed to send Trevize to Trantor. Trevize’s refusal to do this had taken Compor entirely by surprise and (Compor thought) had been unforeseen by Gendibal as well.
At any rate, Gendibal was hurrying to the spot, and to Compor, that deepened the sense of crisis.
Compor sent out his hypersignal.
Gendibal was roused from his sleep by the touch on his mind. It was effective and not in the least disturbing. Since it affected the arousal center directly, he simply awoke.
He sat up in bed, the sheet falling from his well-shaped and smoothly muscular torso. He had recognized the touch; the differences were as distinctive to mentalists as were voices to those who communicated primarily by sound.
Gendibal sent out the standard signal, asking if a small delay were possible, and the “no emergency” call returned.
Without undue haste, then, Gendibal attended to the morning routine. He was still in the ship’s shower – with the used water draining into the recycling mechanisms – when he made contact again.
“Have you spoken with Trevize and the other one.”
“Pelorat. Janov Pelorat. Yes, Speaker.”
“Good. Give me another five minutes and I’ll arrange visuals.” He passed Sura Novi on his way to the controls. She looked at him questioningly and made as though to speak, but he placed a finger on his lips and she subsided at once. Gendibal still felt a bit uncomfortable at the intensity of adoration/respect in her mind, but it was coming to be a comfortingly normal part of his environment somehow.
He had hooked a small tendril of his mind to hers and there would now be no way to affect his mind without affecting hers. The simplicity of her mind (and there was an enormous aesthetic plea –
sure to be found in contemplating its unadorned symmetry, Gendibal couldn’t help thinking) made it impossible for any extraneous mind field to exist in their neighborhood without detection. He felt a surge of gratitude for the courteous impulse that had moved him that moment they had stood together outside the University, and that had led her to come to him precisely when she could be most useful.
He said, “Compor?”
“Relax, please. I must study your mind. No offense is intended.”
“As you wish, Speaker. May I ask the purpose?”
“To make certain you are untouched.”
Compor said, “I know you have political adversaries at the Table, Speaker, but surely none of them…”
“Do not speculate, Compor. Relax. – Yes, you are untouched. Now, if you will co-operate with me, we will establish visual contact.”
What followed was, in the ordinary sense of the word, an illusion, since no one but someone who was aided by the mentalic power of a well-trained Second Foundationer would have been able to detect anything at all, either by the senses or by any physical detecting device.
It was the building up of a face and its appearance from the contours of a mind, and even the best mentalist could succeed in producing only a shadowy and somewhat uncertain figure. Compor’s face was there in mid-space, as though it were seen through a thin but shifting curtain of gauze, and Gendibal knew that his own face appeared in an identical manner in front of Compor.
By physical hyperwave, communication could have been established through images so clear that speakers who were a thousand parsecs apart might judge themselves to be face-to-face. Gendibal’s ship was equipped for the purpose.
There were, however, advantages to the mentalist-vision. The chief was that it could not be tapped by any device known to the First Foundation. Nor, for that matter, could one Second Foundationer tap the mentalist-vision of another. The play of mind might be followed, but not the delicate change of facial expression that gave the communication its finer points.
As for the Anti-Mules – Well, the purity of Novi’s mind was sufficient to assure him that none were about.
He said, “Tell me precisely, Compor, the talk you had with Trevize and with this Pelorat. Precisely, to the level of mind.”
“Of course, Speaker,” said Compor.
It didn’t take long. The combination of sound, expression, and mentalism compressed matters considerably, despite the fact that there was far more to tell at the level of mind than if there had been a mere parroting of speech.
Gendibal watched intently. There was little redundancy, if any, in mentalist-vision. In true vision, or even in physical hypervision across the parsecs, one saw enormously more in the way of information bits than was absolutely necessary for comprehension and one could miss a great deal without losing anything significant.
Through the gauze of mentalist-vision, however, one bought absolute security at the price of losing the luxury of being able to miss bits. Every bit was significant.
There were always horror tales that passed from instructor to student on Trantor, tales that were designed to impress on the young the importance of concentration. The most often repeated was certainly the least reliable. It told of the first report on the progress of the Mule before he had taken over Kalgan – of the minor official who received the report and who had no more than the impression of a horselike animal because he did not see or understand the small flick that signified “personal name.” The official therefore decided that the whole thing was too unimportant to pass on to Trantor. By the time the next message came, it was too late to take immediate action and five more bitter years had to pass.
The event had almost certainly never happened, but that didn’t matter. It was a dramatic story and it served to motivate every student into the habit of intent concentration. Gendibal remembered his own student days when he made an error in reception that seemed, in his own mind, to be both insignificant and understandable. His teacher – old Kendast, a tyrant to the roots of his cerebellum – had simply sneered and said, “A horselike animal, Cub Gendibal?” and that had been enough to make him collapse in shame.
Gendibal said, “Your estimate, please, of Trevize’s reaction. You know him better than I do, better than anyone does.”
Compor said, “It was clear enough. The mentalic indications were unmistakable. He thinks my words and actions represent my extreme anxiety to have him go to Trantor or to the Sirius Sector or to any place but where, in fact, he is actually going. It meant, in my opinion, that he would remain firmly where he was. The fact that I attached great importance to his shifting his position, in short, forced him to give it the same importance, and since he feels his own interests to be diametrically opposed to mine, he will deliberately act against what he interprets to be my wish.”
“You are certain of that?”
Gendibal considered this and decided that Compor was correct. He said, “I am satisfied. You have done well. Your tale of Earth’s radioactive destruction was cleverly chosen to help produce the proper reaction without the need for direct manipulation of the mind. Commendable!”
Compor seemed to struggle with himself a short moment. “Speaker,” he said, “I cannot accept your praise. I did not invent the tale. It is true. There really is a planet called Earth in the Sirius Sector and it really is considered to be the original home of humanity. It was radioactive, either to begin with or eventually, and this grew worse till the planet died. There was indeed a mind-enhancing invention that came to nothing. All this is considered history on the home planet of my ancestors.”
“So? Interesting!” said Gendibal with no obvious conviction. “And better yet. To know when a truth will do is admirable, since no nontruth can be presented with the same sincerity. Palver once said, “The closer to the truth, the better the lie, and the truth itself, when it can be used, is the best lie.”
Compor said, “There is one thing more to say. In following instructions to keep Trevize in the Sayshell Sector until you arrived – and to do so at all costs – I had to go so far in my efforts that it is clear that he suspects me of being under the influence of the Second Foundation.”
Gendibal nodded. “That, I think, is unavoidable under the circumstances. His monomania on the subject would be sufficient to have him see Second Foundation even where it was not. We must simply take that into account.”
“Speaker, if it is absolutely necessary that Trevize stay where he is until you can reach him, it would simplify matters if I came to meet you, took you aboard my ship, and brought you back. It would take less than a day…”
“No, Observer,” said Gendibal sharply. “You will not do this. The people on Terminus know where you are. You have a hyper-relay on your ship which you cannot remove, have you not?”
“And if Terminus knows you have landed on Sayshell, their ambassador on Sayshell knows of it – and the ambassador knows also that Trevize has landed. Your hyper-relay will tell Terminus that you have left for a specific point hundreds of parsecs away and returned; and the ambassador will inform them that Trevize has, however, remained in the sector. From this, how much will the people at Terminus guess? The Mayor of Terminus is, by all accounts, a shrewd woman and the last thing we want to do is to alarm her by presenting her with an obscure puzzle. We don’t want her to lead a section of her fleet here. The chances of that are, in any case, uncomfortably high.”
Compor said, “With respect, Speaker. – What reason do we have to fear a fleet if we can control a commander?”
“However little reason there might be, there is still less reason to fear if the fleet is not here. You stay where you are, Observer. ‘When I reach you, I will join you on your ship and then…”
“And then, Speaker?”
“Why, and then I will take over.”
Gendibal sat in place after he dismantled the mentalist-vision – and stayed there for long minutes – considering.
During this long trip to Sayshell, unavoidably long in this ship of his which could in no way match the technological advancement of the products of the First Foundation, he had gone over every single report on Trevize. The reports had stretched over nearly a decade.
Seen as a whole and in the light of recent events, there was no longer any doubt Trevize would have been a marvelous recruit for the Second Foundation, if the policy of never touching the Terminus – born had not been in place since Palver’s time.
There was no telling how many recruits of highest quality had been lost to the Second Foundation over the centuries. There was no way of evaluating every one of the quadrillions of human beings populating the Galaxy. None of them was likely to have had more promise than Trevize, however, and certainly none could have been in a more sensitive spot.
Gendibal shook his head slightly. Trevize should never have been overlooked, Terminus-born or not. – And credit to Observer Compor for seeing it, even after the years had distorted him.
Trevize was of no use to them now, of course. He was too old for the molding, but he still had that inborn intuition, that ability to guess a solution on the basis of totally inadequate information, and something – something. – Old Shandess – who, despite being past his prime, was First Speaker and had, on the whole, been a good one – saw something there, even without the correlated data and the reasoning that Gendibal had worked out in the course of this trip. Trevize, Shandess had thought, was the key to the crisis.
Why was Trevize here at Sayshell? What was he planning? What was he doing?
And he couldn’t be touched! Of that Gendibal was sure. Until it was known precisely what Trevize’s role was, it would be totally wrong to try to modify him in any way. With the Anti-Mules – whoever they were – whatever they might be – in the field, a wrong move with respect to Trevize (Trevize, above all) might explode a wholly unexpected micro-sun in their faces.
He felt a mind hovering about his own and absently brushed at it as he might at one of the more annoying Trantorian insects – though with mind rather than hand. He felt the instant wash of other-pain and looked up.
Sura Novi had her palm to her furrowed brow. “Your pardon, Master, I be struck with sudden head-anguish.”
Gendibal was instantly contrite. “I’m sorry, Novi. I wasn’t thinking – or I was thinking too intently.” Instantly – and gently – he smoothed the ruffled mind tendrils.
Novi smiled with sudden brightness. “It passed with sudden vanishing. The kind sound of your words, Master, works well upon me.”
Gendibal said, “Coed! Is something wrong? Why are you here?” He forbore to enter her mind in greater detail in order to find out for himself. More and more, he felt a reluctance to invade her privacy.
Novi hesitated. She leaned toward him slightly. “I be concerned. You were looking at nothing and making sounds and your face was twitching. I stayed there, stick-frozen, afeared you were declining – ill – and unknowing what to do.”
“It was nothing, Novi. You are not to fear.” He patted her nearer hand. “There is nothing to fear. Do you understand?”
Fear – or any strong emotion – twisted and spoiled the symmetry of her mind somewhat. He preferred it calm and peaceful and happy, but he hesitated at the thought of adjusting it into that position by outer influence. She had felt the previous adjustment to be the effect of his words and it seemed to him that he preferred it that way.
He said, “Novi, why don’t I call you Sura?”
She looked up at him in sudden woe. “Oh, Master, do not do so.”
“But Rufirant did so on that day that we met. I know you well enough now…”
“I know well he did so, Master. It be how a man speak to girl who have no man, no betrothed, who is – not complete. You say her previous. It is more honorable for me if you say ‘Novi’ and I be proud that you say so. And if I have not man now, I have master and I be pleased. I hope it be not offensive to you to say ‘Novi.”
“It certainly isn’t, Novi.”
And her mind was beautifully smooth at that and Gendibal was pleased. Too pleased. Ought he to be so pleased?
A little shamefacedly, he remembered that the Mule was supposed to have been affected in this manner by that woman of the First Foundation, Bayta Darell, to his own undoing.
This, of course, was different. This Hamishwoman was his defense against alien minds and he wanted her to serve that purpose most efficiently.
No, that was not true. – His function as a Speaker would be compromised if he ceased to understand his own mind or, worse, if he deliberately misconstrued it to avoid the truth. The truth was that it pleased him when she was calm and peaceful and happy endogenously – without his interference – and that it pleased him simply because she pleased him; and (he thought defiantly) there was nothing wrong with that.
He said, “Sit down, Novi.”
She did so, balancing herself precariously at the edge of the chair and sitting as far away as the confines of the room allowed. Her mind was flooded with respect.
He said, “When you saw me making sounds, Novi, I was speaking at a long distance, scholar-fashion.”
Novi said sadly, her eyes cast down, “I see, Master, that there be much to scowler-fashion I understand not and imagine not. It be difficult mountain-high art. I be ashamed to have come to you to be made scowler. How is it, Master, you did not be – laugh me?”
Gendibal said, “It is no shame to aspire to something even if it is beyond your reach. You are now too old to be made a scholar after my fashion, but you are never too old to learn more than you already know and to become able to do more than you already can. I will teach you something about this ship. By the time we reach our destination, you will know quite a bit about it.”
He felt delighted. Why not? He was deliberately turning his back on the stereotype of the Hamish people. What right, in any case, had the heterogeneous group of the Second Foundation to set up such a stereotype? The young produced by them were only occasionally suited to become high-level Second Foundationers themselves. The children of Speakers almost never qualified to be Speakers. There were the three generations of Linguesters three centuries ago, but there was always the suspicion that the middle Speaker of that series did not really belong. And if that were true, who were the people of the University to place themselves on so high a pedestal?
He watched Novi’s eyes glisten and was pleased that they did.
She said, “I try hard to learn all you teach me, Master.”
“I’m sure you will,” he said – and then hesitated. It occurred to him that, in his conversation with Compor, he had in no way indicated at any time that he was not alone. There was no hint of a companion.
A woman could be taken for granted, perhaps; at least, Compor would no doubt not be surprised. – But a Hamishwoman?
For a moment, despite anything Gendibal could do, the stereotype reigned supreme and he found himself glad that Compor had never been on Trantor and would not recognize Novi as a Hamishwoman.
He shook it off. It didn’t matter if Compor knew or knew not – or if anyone did. Gendibal was a Speaker of the Second Foundation and he could do as he pleased within the constraints of the Seldon Plan – and no one could interfere.
Novi said, “Master, once we reach our destination, will we part?”
He looked at her and said, with perhaps more force than he intended, “We will not be separated, Novi.”
And the Hamishwoman smiled shyly and looked for all the Galaxy as though she might have been – any woman.