Stor Gendibal was edging toward Gaia almost as cautiously as Trevize had – and now that its star was a perceptible disc and could be viewed only through strong filters, he paused to consider.
Sura Novi sat to one side, looking up at him now and then in a timorous manner.
She said softly, “Master?”
“What is it, Novi?” he asked abstractedly.
“Are you unhappy?”
He looked up at her quickly.“No.Concerned.
Remember that word? I am trying to decide whether to move in quickly or to wait longer. Shall I be very brave, Novi?”
“I think you are very brave all times, Master.”
“To be very brave is sometimes to be foolish.”
Novi smiled. “How can a master scholar be foolish? – That is a sun, is it not, Master?” She pointed to the screen.
Novi said, after an irresolute pause, “Is it the sun that shines on Trantor? Is it the Hamish sun?”
Gendibal said, “No, Novi. It is a far different sun. There are many suns, billions of them.”
“Ah! I had known this with my head. I could not make myself believe, however. How is it, Master, that one can know with the head – and yet not believe?”
Gendibal smiled faintly, “In your head, Novi…” he began and, automatically, as he said that, he found himself in her head. He stroked it gently, as he always did, when he found himself there just a soothing touch of mental tendrils to keep her calm and untroubled – and he would then have left again, as he always did, had not something drawn him back.
What he sensed was indescribable in any but mentalic terms but, metaphorically, Novi’s brain glowed. It was the faintest possible glow.
It would not be there except for the existence of a mentalic field imposed from without – a mentalic field of an intensity so small that the finest receiving function of Gendibal’s own well-trained mind could just barely detect it, even against the utter smoothness of Novi’s mentalic structure.
He said sharply, “Novi, how do you feel?”
Her eyes opened wide. “I feel well, Master.”
“Are you dizzy, confused? Close your eyes and sit absolutely still until I say, ‘Now.”
Obediently she closed her eyes. Carefully Gendibal brushed away all extraneous sensations from her mind, quieted her thought, soothed her emotions, stroked – stroked. He left nothing but the glow and it was so faint that he could almost persuade himself it was not there.
“Now,” he said and Novi opened her eyes.
“How do you feel, Novi?”
“Very calm, Master. Rested.”
It was clearly too feeble for it to have any noticeable effect on her. He turned to the computer and wrestled with it. He had to admit to himself that he and the computer did not mesh very well together. Perhaps it was because he was too used to using his mind directly to be able to work through an intermediary. But he was looking for a ship, not a mind, and the initial search could be done more efficiently with the help of the computer.
And he found the sort of ship he suspected might be present. It was half a million kilometers away and it was much like his own in design, but it was much larger and more elaborate.
Once it was located with the computer’s help, Gendibal could allow his mind to take over directly. He sent it outward – tightbeamed – and with it felt (or the mentalic equivalent of “felt”) the ship, inside and out.
He then sent his mind toward the planet Gaia, approaching it more closely by several millions of kilometers of space – and withdrew. Neither process was sufficient in itself to tell him, unmistakably, which – if either – was the source of the field.
He said, “Novi, I would like you to sit next to me for what is to follow.”
“Master, is there danger?”
“You are not to be in any way concerned, Novi. I will see to it that you are safe and secure.”
“Master, I am not concerned that I be safe and secure. If there is danger, I want to be able to help you.”
Gendibal softened. He said, “Novi, you have already helped. Because of you, I became aware of a very small thing it was important to be aware of. Without you, I might have blundered rather deeply into a bog and might have had to pull out only through a great deal of trouble.”
“Have I done this with my mind, Master, as you once explained?” asked Novi, astonished.
“Quite so, Novi. No instrument could have been more sensitive. My own mind is not; it is too full of complexity.”
Delight filled Novi’s face. “I am so grateful I can help.”
Gendibal smiled and nodded – and then subsided into the somber knowledge that he would need other help as well. Something childish within him objected. The job was his – his alone.
Yet it could not be his alone. The odds were climbing –
On Trantor, Quindor Shandess felt the responsibility of First Speakerhood resting upon him with a suffocating weight. Since Gendibal’s ship had vanished into the darkness beyond the atmosphere, he had called no meetings of the Table. He had been lost in his own thoughts.
Had it been wise to allow Gendibal to go off on his Own? Gendibal was brilliant, but not so brilliant that it left no room for overconfidence. Gendibal’s great fault was arrogance, as Shandess’s own great fault (he thought bitterly) was the weariness of age.
Over and over again, it occurred to him that the precedent of Preem Palver, flitting over the Galaxy to set things right, was a dangerous one. Could anyone else be a Preem Palver? Even Gendibal? And Palver had had his wife with him.
To be sure, Gendibal had this Hamishwoman, but she was of no consequence. Palver’s wife had been a Speaker in her own right.
Shandess felt himself aging from day to day as he waited for word from Gendibal – and with each day that word did not come, he felt an increasing tension.
It should have been a fleet of ships, a flotilla. No. The Table would not have allowed it.
And yet. When the call finally came, he was asleep – an exhausted sleep that was bringing him no relief. The night had been windy and he had had trouble falling asleep to begin with. Like a child, he had imagined voices in the wind.
His last thoughts before falling into an exhausted slumber had been a wistful building of the fancy of resignation, a wish be could do so together with the knowledge he could not, for at this moment Delarmi would succeed him.
And then the call came and he sat up in bed, instantly awake.
“You are well?” he said.
“Perfectly well, First Speaker,” said Gendibal. “Should we have visual connection for more condensed communication?”
“Later, perhaps,” said Shandess. “First, what is the situation?” Gendibal spoke carefully, for he sensed the other’s recent arousal and he perceived a deep weariness. He said, “I am in the neighborhood of an inhabited planet called Gaia, whose existence is not hinted at in any of the Galactic records, as far as I know.”
“The world of those who have been working to perfect the Plan? The Anti-Mules?”
“Possibly, First Speaker. There is the reason to think so. First, the ship bearing Trevize and Pelorat has moved far in toward Gaia and has probably landed there. Second, there is, in space, about half a million kilometers from me, a First Foundation warship.”
“There cannot be this much interest for no reason.”
“First Speaker, this may not be independent interest. I am here only because I am following Trevize – and the warship may be here for the same reason. It remains only to be asked why Trevize is here.”
“Do you plan to follow him in toward the planet, Speaker?”
“I had considered that a possibility, but something has come up. I am now a hundred million kilometers from Gaia and I sense in the space about me a mentalic field – a homogeneous one that is excessively faint. I would not have been aware of it at all, but for the focusing effect of the mind of the Hainishwoman. It is an unusual mind; I agreed to take her with me for that very purpose.”
“You were right, then, in supposing it would be so. Did Speaker Delarmi know this, do you think?”
“When she urged me to take the woman? I scarcely think so – but I gladly took advantage of it, First Speaker.”
“I am pleased that you did. Is it your opinion, Speaker Gendibal, that the planet is the focus of the field?”
“To ascertain that, I would have to take measurements at widely spaced points in order to see if there is a general spherical symmetry to the field. My unidirectional mental probe made this seem likely but not certain. Yet it would not be wise to investigate further in the presence of the First Foundation warship.”
“Surely it is no threat.”
“It may be. I cannot as yet be sure that it is not itself the focus of the field, First Speaker.”
“First Speaker, with respect, allow me to interrupt. We do not know what technological advances the First Foundation has made. They are acting with a strange self-confidence and may have unpleasant surprises for us. It must be decided whether they have learned to handle mentalics by means of some of their devices. In short, First Speaker, I am facing either a warship of mentalics or a planet of them.
“If it is the warship, then the mentalics may be far too weak to immobilize me, but they might be enough to slow me – and the purely physical weapons on the warship may then suffice to destroy me. On the other hand, if it is the planet that is the focus, then to have the field detectable at such a distance could mean enormous intensity at the surface – more than even I can handle.
“In either case, it will be necessary to set up a network – a total network – in which, at need, the full resources of Trantor can be placed at my disposal.”
The First Speaker hesitated. “A total network. This has never been used, never even suggested – except in the time of the Mule.”
“This crisis may well be even greater than that of the Mule, First Speaker.”
“I do not know that the Table would agree.”
“I do not think you should ask them to agree, First Speaker. You should invoke a state of emergency.”
“What excuse can I give?”
“Tell them what I have told you, First Speaker.”
“Speaker Delarmi will say that you are an incompetent coward, driven to madness by your own fears.”
Gendibal paused before answering. Then he said, “I imagine she will say something like that, First Speaker, but let her say whatever she likes and I will survive it. What is at stake now is not my pride or self-love but the actual existence of the Second Foundation.”
Harla Branno smiled grimly, her lined face setting more deeply into its fleshy crags. She said, “I think we can push on with it. I’m ready for them.”
Kodell said, “Do you still feel sure you know what you’re doing?”
“If I were as mad as you pretend you think I am, Liono, would you have insisted on remaining on this ship with me?”
Kodell shrugged and said, “Probably. I would then be here on the off chance, Madam Mayor, that I might stop you, divert you, at least slow you, before you went too far. And, of course, if you’re not mad…”
“Why, then I wouldn’t want to have the histories of the future give you all the mention. Let them state that I was here with you and wonder, perhaps, to whom the credit really belongs, eh, Mayor?”
“Clever, Liono, clever – but quite futile. I was the power behind the throne through too many Mayoralties for anyone to believe I would permit such a phenomenon in my own administration.”
“We shall see.”
“No, we won’t, for such historical judgments will come after we are dead. However, I have no fears. Not about my place in history and not about that,” and she pointed to the screen.
“Compor’s ship,” said Kodell.
“Compor’s ship, true,” said Branno, “but without Compor aboard. One of our scoutships observed the changeover. Compor’s ship was stopped by another. Two people from the other ship boarded that one and Compor later moved off and entered the other.”
Branno rubbed her hands. “Trevize fulfilled his role perfectly. I
cast him out into space in order that he might serve as lightning rod and so he did. He drew the lightning. The ship that stopped Compor was Second Foundation.”
“How can you be sure of that, I wonder?” said Kodell, taking out his pipe and slowly beginning to pack it with tobacco.
“Because I always wondered if Compor might not be under Second Foundation control. His life was too smooth. Things always broke right for him – and he was such an expert at hyperspatial tracking. His betrayal of Trevize might easily have been the simple politics of an ambitious man – but he did it with such unnecessary thoroughness, as though there were more than personal ambition to it.”
“All guesswork, Mayor.”
“The guesswork stopped when he followed Trevize through multiple Jumps as easily as if there had been but one.”
“He had the computer to help, Mayor.”
But Branno leaned her head back and laughed. “My dear Liono, you are so busy devising intricate plots that you forget the efficacy of simple procedures. I sent Compor to follow Trevize, not because I needed to have Trevize followed. What need was there for that? Trevize, however much he might want to keep his movements secret, could not help but call attention to himself in any non-Foundation world he visited. His advanced Foundation vessel – his strong Terminus accent – his Foundation credits – would automatically surround him with a glow of notoriety. And in case of any emergency, he would automatically turn to Foundation officials for help, as he did on Sayshell, where we knew all that he did as soon as he did it and quite independently of Compor.
“No,” she went on thoughtfully, “Compor was sent out to test Compor. And that succeeded, for we gave him a defective computer quite deliberately; not one that was defective enough to make the ship unmaneuverable, but certainly one that was insufficiently agile to aid him in following a multiple Jump. Yet Compor managed that without trouble.”
“I see there’s a great deal you don’t tell me, Mayor, until you decide you ought to.”
“I only keep those matters from you, Liono, that it will not hurt you not to know. I admire you and I use you, but there are sharp limits to my trust, as there is in yours for me – and please don’t bother to deny it.”
“I won’t,” said Kodell dryly, “and someday, Mayor, I will take the liberty of reminding you of that. – Meanwhile, is there anything else that I ought to know now? What is the nature of the ship that stopped them? Surely, if Compor is Second Foundation, so was that ship.”
“It is always a pleasure to speak to you, Liono. You see things quickly. The Second Foundation, you see, doesn’t bother to hide its tracks. It has defenses that it relies on to make those tracks invisible, even when they are not. It would never occur to a Second Foundationer to use a ship of alien manufacture, even if they knew how neatly we could identify the origin of a ship from the pattern of its energy use. They could always remove that knowledge from any mind that had gained it, so why bother taking the trouble to hide? Well, our scout ship was able to determine the origin of the ship that approached Compor within minutes of sighting it.”
“And now the Second Foundation will wipe that knowledge from our minds, I suppose.”
“If they can,” said Branno, “but they may find that things have changed.”
Kodell said, “Earlier you said you knew where the Second Foundation was. You would take care of Gaia first, then Trantor. I deduce from this that the other ship was of Trantorian origin.”
“You suppose correctly. Are you surprised?”
Kodell shook his head slowly. “Not in hindsight. Ebling Mis, Toran Darell and Bayta Darell were all on Trantor during the period when the Mule was stopped. Arkady Darell, Bayta’s granddaughter, was born on Trantor and was on Trantor again when the Second Foundation was itself supposedly stopped. In her account of events, there is a Preem Palver who played a key role, appearing at convenient times, and he was a Trantorian trader. I should think it was obvious that the Second Foundation was on Trantor, where, incidentally, Hari Seldon himself lived at the time he founded both Foundations.”
“Quite obvious, except that no one ever suggested the possibility. The Second Foundation saw to that. It is what I meant when I said they didn’t have to cover their tracks, when they could so easily arrange to have no one look in the direction of those tracks – or wipe out the memory of those tracks after they had been seen.”
Kodell said, “In that case, let us not look too quickly in the direction in which they may simply be wanting us to look. How is it, do you suppose, that Trevize was able to decide the Second Foundation existed? Why didn’t the Second Foundation stop him?”
Branno held up her gnarled fingers and counted on them. “First, Trevize is a very unusual man who, for all his obstreperous inability to use caution, has something about him that I have not been able to penetrate. He may be a special case. Second, the Second Foundation was not entirely ignorant. Compor was on Trevize’s tail at once and reported him to me. I was relied on to stop Trevize without the Second Foundation having to risk open involvement. Third, when I didn’t quite react as expected – no execution, no imprisonment, no memory erasure, no Psychic Probe of his brain – when I merely sent him out into space, the Second Foundation went further. They made the direct move of sending one of their own ships after him.”
And she added with tight-lipped pleasure, “Oh, excellent lightning rod.”
Kodell said, “And our next move?”
“We are going to challenge that Second Foundationer we now face. In fact, we’re moving toward him rather sedately right now.”
Gendibal and Novi sat together, side by side, watching the screen.
Novi was frightened. To Gendibal, that was quite apparent, as was the fact that she was desperately trying to fight off that fright. Nor could Gendibal do anything to help her in her struggle, for he did not think it wise to touch her mind at this moment, lest he obscure the response she displayed to the feeble mentalic field that surrounded them.
The Foundation warship was approaching slowly – but deliberately. It was a large warship, with a crew of perhaps as many as six, judging from past experience with Foundation ships. Her weapons, Gendibal was certain, would be sufficient in themselves to hold off and, if necessary, wipe out a fleet made up of every ship available to the Second Foundation – if those ships had to rely on physical force alone.
As it was, the advance of the warship, even against a single ship manned by a Second Foundationer, allowed certain conclusions to be drawn. Even if the ship possessed mentalic ability, it would not be likely to advance into the teeth of the Second Foundation in this manner. More likely, it was advancing out of ignorance – and this might exist in any of several degrees.
It could mean that the captain of the warship was not aware that Compor had been replaced, or – if aware – did not know the replacement was a Second Foundationer, or perhaps was not even aware what a Second Foundationer might be.
Or (and Gendibal intended to consider everything) what if the ship did possess mentalic force and, nevertheless, advanced in this self-confident manner? That could only mean it was under the control of a megalomaniac or that it possessed powers far beyond any that Gendibal could bring himself to consider possible.
But what he considered possible was not the final judgment. Carefully he sensed Novi’s mind. Novi could not sense mentalic fields consciously, whereas Gendibal, of course, could – yet Gendibal’s mind could not do so as delicately or detect as feeble a mental field as could Novi’s. This was a paradox that would have to be studied in future and might produce fruit that would in the long run prove of far greater importance than the immediate problem of an approaching spaceship.
Gendibal had grasped the possibility of this, intuitively, when he first became aware of the unusual smoothness and symmetry of Novi’s mind – and he felt a somber pride in this intuitive ability he possessed. Speakers had always been proud of their intuitive powers, but how much was this the product of their inability to measure fields by straightforward physical methods and their failure, therefore, to understand what it was that they really did? It was easy to cover up ignorance by the mystical word “intuition.” And how much of this ignorance of theirs might arise from their underestimation of the importance of physics as compared to mentalics?
And how much of that was blind pride? When he became First Speaker, Gendibal thought, this would change. There would have to be some narrowing of the physical gap between the Foundations. The Second Foundation could not face forever the possibility of destruction any time the mentalic monopoly slipped even slightly.
– Indeed, the monopoly might be slipping now. Perhaps the First Foundation had advanced or there was an alliance between the First Foundation and the Anti-Mules. (That thought occurred to him now for the first time and he shivered.)
His thoughts on the subject slipped through his mind with a rapidity common to a Speaker – and while he was thinking, he also remained sensitively aware of the glow in Novi’s mind, the response to the gently pervasive mentalic field about them. It was not growing stronger as the Foundation warship drew nearer.
This was not, in itself, an absolute indication that the warship was not equipped with mentalics. It was well known that the mentalic field did not obey the inverse-square law. It did not grow stronger precisely as the square of the extent to which distance between emitter and receiver lessened. It differed in this way from the electromagnetic and the gravitational fields. Still, although mentalic fields varied less with distance than the various physical fields did, it was not altogether insensitive to distance, either. The response of Novi’s mind should show a detectable increase as the warship approached – some increase.
(How was it that no Second Foundationer in five centuries – from Hari Seldon on – had ever thought of working out a mathematical relationship between mentalic intensity and distance? This shrugging off of physics must and would stop, Gendibal silently vowed.)
If the warship possessed mentalics and if it felt quite certain it was approaching a Second Foundationer, would it not increase the intensity of its field to maximum before advancing? And in that case, would not Novi’s mind surely register an increased response of some kind?
– Yet it did not!
Confidently Gendibal eliminated the possibility that the warship possessed mentalics. It was advancing out of ignorance and, as a menace, it could be downgraded.
The mentalic field, of course, still existed, but it had to originate on Gaia. This was disturbing enough, but the immediate problem was the ship. Let that be eliminated and he could then turn his attention to the world of the Anti-Mules.
He waited. The warship would make some move or it would come close enough for him to feel confident that he could pass over to an effective offense.
The warship still approached – quite rapidly now – and still did nothing. Finally Gendibal calculated that the strength of his push would be sufficient. There would be no pain, scarcely any discomfort – all those on board would merely find that the large muscles of their backs and limbs would respond but sluggishly to their desires.
Gendibal narrowed the mentalic field controlled by his mind. It intensified and leaped across the gap between the ships at the speed of light. (The two ships were close enough to make hyperspatial contact – with its inevitable loss of precision – unnecessary.)
And Gendibal then fell back in numbed surprise.
The Foundation warship was possessed of an efficient mentalic shield that gained in density in proportion as his own field gained in intensity. – The warship was not approaching out of ignorance after all – and it had an unexpected if passive weapon.
“Ah,” said Branno. “He has attempted an attack, Liono. See!”
The needle on the psychometer moved and trembled in its irregular rise.
The development of the mentalic shield had occupied Foundation scientists for a hundred and twenty years in the most secret of all scientific projects, except perhaps for Hari Seldon’s lone development of psychohistorical analysis. Five generations of human beings had labored in the gradual improvement of a device backed by no satisfactory theory.
But no advance would have been possible without the invention of the psychometer that could act as a guide, indicating the direction and amount of advance at every stage. No one could explain how it worked, yet all indications were that it measured the immeasurable and gave numbers to the indescribable. Branno had the feeling (shared by some of the scientists themselves) that if ever the Foundation could explain the workings of the psychometer, they would be the equal of the Second Foundation in mind control.
But that was for the future. At present, the shield would have to be enough, backed as it was by an overwhelming preponderance in physical weapons.
Branno sent out the message, delivered in a male voice from which all overtones of emotion had been removed, till it was flat and deadly.
“Calling the ship Bright Star and its occupants. You have forcibly taken a ship of the Navy of the Foundation Federation in an act of piracy. You are directed to surrender the ship and yourselves at once or face attack.”
The answer came in natural voice: “Mayor Branno of Terminus, I know you are on the ship. The Bright Star was not taken by piratical action. I was freely invited on board by its legal captain, Munn Li Compor of Terminus. I ask a period of truce that we may discuss matters of importance to each of us alike.”
Kodell whispered to Branno, “Let me do the speaking, Mayor.”
She raised her arm contemptuously, “The responsibility is mine, Liono.”
Adjusting the transmitter, she spoke in tones scarcely less forceful and unemotional than the artificial voice that had spoken before:
“Man of the Second Foundation, understand your position. If you do not surrender forthwith, we can blow your ship out of space in the time it takes light to travel from our ship to yours – and we are ready to do that. Nor will we lose by doing this, for you have no knowledge for which we need keep you alive. We know you are from Trantor and, once we have dealt with you, we will be ready to deal with Trantor. We are willing to allow you a period in which to have your say, but since you cannot have much of worth to tell us, we are not prepared to listen long.”
“In that case,” said Gendibal, “let me speak quickly and to the point. Your shield is not perfect and cannot be. You have overestimated it and underestimated me. I can handle your mind and control it. Not as easily, perhaps, as if there were no shield, but easily enough. The instant you attempt to use any weapon, I will strike you – and there is this for you to understand: Without a shield, I can handle your mind smoothly and do it no harm. With the shield, however, I must smash through, which I can do, and I will be unable then to handle you either smoothly or deftly. Your mind will be as smashed as the shield and the effect will be irreversible. In other words, you cannot stop me and I, on the other hand, can stop you by being forced to do worse than killing you. I will leave you a mindless hulk. Do you wish to risk that?”
Branno said, “You know you cannot do as you say.”
“Do you, then, wish to risk the consequences I have described?” asked Gendibal with an air of cool indifference.
Kodell leaned over and whispered, “For Seldon’s sake, Mayor…”
Gendibal said (not exactly at once, for it took light – and everything at light-speed – a little over one second to travel from one vessel to the other), “I follow your thoughts, Kodell. No need to whisper. I also follow the Mayor’s thoughts. She is irresolute, so you have no need to panic just yet. And the mere fact that I know this is ample evidence that your shield leaks.”
“It can be strengthened,” said the Mayor defiantly.
“So can my mentalic force,” said Gendibal.
“But I sit here at my ease, consuming merely physical energy to maintain the shield, and I have enough to maintain that shield for very long periods of time. You must use mentalic energy to penetrate the shield and you will tire.”
“I am not tired,” said Gendibal. “At the present moment, neither of you is capable of giving any order to any member of the crew of your ship or to any crewman on any other ship. I can manage so much without any harm to you, but do not make any unusual effort to escape this control, for if I match that by increasing my own force, as I will have to do, you will be damaged as I have said.”
“I will wait,” said Branno, placing her hands in her lap with every sign of solid patience. “You will tire and when you do, the orders that will go out will not be to destroy you, for you will then be harmless. The orders will be to send the main Foundation Fleet against Trantor. If you wish to save your world – surrender. A second orgy of destruction will not leave your organization untouched, as the first one did at the time of the Great Sack.”
“Don’t you see that if I feel myself tiring, Mayor, which I won’t, I can save my world very simply by destroying you before my strength to do so is gone?”
“You won’t do that. Your main task is to maintain the Seldon Plan. To destroy the Mayor of Terminus and thus to strike a blow at the prestige and confidence of the First Foundation, producing a staggering setback to its power and encouraging its enemies everywhere, will produce such a disruption to the Plan that it will be almost as bad for you as the destruction of Trantor. You might as well surrender.”
“Are you willing to gamble on my reluctance to destroy you?”
Branno’s chest heaved as she took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She then said firmly, “Yes!”
Kodell, sitting at her side, paled.
Gendibal stared at the figure of Branno, superimposed upon the volume of room just in front of the wall. It was a little flickery and hazy thanks to the interference of the shield. The man next to her was almost featureless with haze, for Gendibal had no energy to waste on him. He had to concentrate on the Mayor.
To be sure, she had no image of him in return. She had no way of knowing that he too had a companion, for instance. She could make no judgment from his expressions, from his body language. In this respect, she was at a disadvantage.
Everything he had said was true. He could smash her at the cost of an enormous expenditure of mentalic force – and in so doing, he could scarcely avoid disrupting her mind irreparably.
Yet everything she had said was true as well. Destroying her would damage the Plan as much as the Mule himself had damaged it. Indeed, the new damage might be more serious, since it was now later in the game and there would be less time to retrieve the misstep.
Worse still, there was Gaia, which was still an unknown quantity – with its mentalic field remaining at the faint and tantalizing edge of detection.
For a moment, he touched Novi’s mind to make sure that the flow was still there. It was, and it was unchanged.
She could not have sensed that touch in any way, but she turned to him and in an awed whisper said, “Master, there is a faint mist there. Is it to that you talk?”
She must have sensed the mist through the small connection between their two minds. Gendibal put a finger to his lips. “Have no fear, Novi. Close your eyes and rest.”
He raised his voice. “Mayor Branno, your gamble is a good one in this respect. I do not wish to destroy you at once, since I think that if I explain something to you, you will listen to reason and there will then be no need to destroy in either direction.
“Suppose, Mayor, that you win out and that I surrender. What follows? In an orgy of self-confidence and in undue reliance on your mentalic shield, you and your successors will attempt to spread your power over the Galaxy with undue haste. In doing so, you will actually postpone the establishment of the Second Empire, because you will also destroy the Seldon Plan.”
Branno said, “I am not surprised that you do not wish to destroy me at once and I think that, as you sit there, you will be forced to realize that you do not dare to destroy me at all.”
Gendibal said, “Do not deceive yourself with self-congratulatory folly. Listen to me. The majority of the Galaxy is still non-Foundation and, to a great extent, anti-Foundation. There are even portions of the Foundation Federation itself that have not forgotten their days of independence. If the Foundation moves too quickly in the wake of my surrender, it will deprive the rest of the Galaxy of its greatest weakness – its disunity and indecision. You will force them to unite by fear and you will feed the tendency toward rebellion within.”
“You are threatening with clubs of straw,” said Branno. “We have the power to win easily against all enemies, even if every world in the non-Foundation Galaxy combined against us, and even if these were helped by a rebellion in half the worlds of the Federation itself. There would be no problem.”
“No immediate problem, Mayor. Do not make the mistake of seeing only the results that appear at once. You can establish a Second Empire merely by proclaiming it, but you will not be able to maintain it. You will have to reconquer it every ten years.”
“Then we will do so until the worlds tire, as you are tiring.”
“They will not tire, any more than I will. Nor will the process continue for a very long time, for there is a second and greater danger to the Pseudo-Empire you would proclaim. Since it can be temporarily maintained only by an ever-stronger military force which will be ever-exercised, the generals of the Foundation will, for the first time, become more important and more powerful than the civilian authorities. The Pseudo-Empire will break up into military regions within which individual commanders will be supreme. There will be anarchy – and a slide back into a barbarism that may last longer than the thirty thousand years forecast by Seldon before the Seldon Plan was implemented.”
“Childish threats. Even if the mathematics of the Seldon Plan predicted all this, it predicts only probabilities – not inevitabilities.”
“Mayor Branno,” said Gendibal earnestly. “Forget the Seldon Plan. You do not understand its mathematics and you cannot visualize its pattern. But you do not have to, perhaps. You are a tested politician; and a successful one, to judge from the post you hold; even more so, a courageous one, to judge from the gamble you are now taking. Therefore, use your political acumen. Consider the political and military history of humanity and consider it in the light of what you know of human nature – of the manner in which people, politicians, and military officers act, react, and interact – and see if I’m not right.”
Branno said, “Even if you were right, Second Foundationer, it is a risk we must take. With proper leadership and with continuing technological advance – in mentalics, as well as in physics – we can overcome. Hari Seldon never calculated such advances properly. He couldn’t. Where in the Plan does it allow for the development of a mentalic shield by the First Foundation? Why should we want the Plan, in any case? We will risk founding a new Empire without it. Failure without it would, after all, be better than success with it. We do not want an Empire in which we play puppets to the hidden manipulators of the Second Foundation.”
“You say that only because you do not understand what failure will be like for the people of the Galaxy.”
“Perhaps!” said Branno stonily. “Are you beginning to weary, Second Foundationer?”
“Not at all. – Let me propose an alternative action that you have not considered – one in which I need not surrender to you, nor you to me. – We are in the vicinity of a planet called Gaia.”
“I am aware of that.”
“Are you aware that it was probably the birthplace of the Mule?”
“I would want more evidence than resides in your mere statement to that effect.”
“The planet is surrounded by a mentalic field. It is the home of many Mules. If you accomplish your dream of destroying the Second Foundation, you will make yourselves the slaves of this planet of Mules. What harm have Second Foundationers ever done you specific, rather than imagined or theorized harm? Now ask yourself what harm a single Mule has done you.”
“I still have nothing more than your statements.”
“As long as we remain here, I can give you nothing more. – I propose a truce, therefore. Keep your shield up, if you don’t trust me, but be prepared to co-operate with me. Let us, together, approach this planet – and when you are convinced that it is dangerous, then I will nullify its mentalic field and you will order your ships to take possession of it.”
“And then, at least, it will be the First Foundation against the Second Foundation, with no outside forces to be considered. The fight will then be clear whereas now, you see, we dare not fight, for both Foundations are at bay.”
“Why did you not say this before?”
“I thought I might convince you that we were not enemies, so that we might co-operate. Since I have apparently failed at that, I suggest co-operation in any case.”
Branno paused, her head bent in thought. Then she said, “You are trying to put me to sleep with lullabies. How will you, by yourself, nullify the mentalic field of a whole planet of Mules? The thought is so ludicrous that I cannot trust in the truth of your proposition.”
“I am not alone,” said Gendibal. “Behind me is the full force of the Second Foundation – and that force, channeled through me, will take care of Gaia. ‘What’s more, it can, at any time, brush aside your shield as though it were thin fog.”
“If so, why do you need my help?”
“First, because nullifying the field is not enough. The Second Foundation cannot devote itself, now and forever, to the eternal task of nullifying, any more than I can spend the rest of my life dancing this conversational minuet with you. We need the physical action your ships can supply. – And besides, if I cannot convince you by reason that the two Foundations should look upon each other as allies, perhaps a co-operative venture of the greatest importance can be convincing. Deeds may do the job where words fail.”
A second silence and then Branno said, “I am willing to approach Gaia more closely, if we can approach co-operatively. I make no promises beyond that.”
“That will be enough,” said Gendibal, leaning toward his computer.
Novi said, “No, Master, up to this point, it didn’t matter, but please make no further move. We must wait for Councilman Trevize of Terminus.”