Foundation and empire, p.1
Foundation and Empire,
Part #2 of Foundation series by Isaac Asimov
B A N T A M B O O K S
PART I THE GENERAL
1. Search for Magicians
2. The Magicians
3. The Dead Hand
4. The Emperor
5. The War Begins
6. The Favorite
8. To Trantor
9. On Trantor
10. The War Ends
PART II THE MULE
11. Bride and Groom
12. Captain and Mayor
13. Lieutenant and Clown
14. The Mutant
15. The Psychologist
17. The Visi-Sonor
18. Fall of the Foundation
19. Start of the Search
21. Interlude in Space
22. Death on Neotrantor
23. The Ruins of Trantor
25. Death of a Psychologist
26. End of the Search
About the Author
Also by Isaac Asimov
To the memory of my father
The Galactic Empire was falling.
It was a colossal Empire, stretching across millions of worlds from arm-end to arm-end of the mighty multi-spiral that was the Milky Way. Its fall was colossal, too—and a long one, for it had a long way to go.
It had been falling for centuries before one man became really aware of that fall. That man was Hari Seldon, the man who represented the one spark of creative effort left among the gathering decay. He developed and brought to its highest pitch the science of psychohistory.
Psychohistory dealt not with man, but man-masses. It was the science of mobs; mobs in their billions. It could forecast reactions to stimuli with something of the accuracy that a lesser science could bring to the forecast of a rebound of a billiard ball. The reaction of one man could be forecast by no known mathematics; the reaction of a billion is something else again.
Hari Seldon plotted the social and economic trends of the time, sighted along the curves and foresaw the continuing and accelerating fall of civilization and the gap of thirty thousand years that must elapse before a struggling new Empire could emerge from the ruins.
It was too late to stop that fall, but not too late to narrow the gap of barbarism. Seldon established two Foundations at “opposite ends of the Galaxy” and their location was so designed that in one short millennium events would knit and mesh so as to force out of them a stronger, more permanent, more benevolent Second Empire.
Foundation has told the story of one of those Foundations during the first two centuries of life.
It began as a settlement of physical scientists on Terminus, a planet at the extreme end of one of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Separated from the turmoil of the Empire, they worked as compilers of a universal compendium of knowledge, the Encyclopedia Galactica, unaware of the deeper role planned for them by the already-dead Seldon.
As the Empire rotted, the outer regions fell into the hands of independent “kings.” The Foundation was threatened by them. However, by playing one petty ruler against another, under the leadership of their first mayor, Salvor Hardin, they maintained a precarious independence. As sole possessors of nuclear power among worlds which were losing their sciences and falling back on coal and oil, they even established an ascendancy. The Foundation became the “religious” center of the neighboring kingdoms.
Slowly, the Foundation developed a trading economy as the Encyclopedia receded into the background. Their Traders, dealing in nuclear gadgets which not even the Empire in its heyday could have duplicated for compactness, penetrated hundreds of light-years through the Periphery.
Under Hober Mallow, the first of the Foundation’s Merchant Princes, they developed the techniques of economic warfare to the point of defeating the Republic of Korell, even though that world was receiving support from one of the outer provinces of what was left of the Empire.
At the end of two hundred years, the Foundation was the most powerful state in the Galaxy, except for the remains of the Empire, which, concentrated in the inner third of the Milky Way, still controlled three-quarters of the population and wealth of the Universe.
It seemed inevitable that the next danger the Foundation would have to face was the final lash of the dying Empire.
The way must be cleared for the battle of Foundation and Empire.
BEL RIOSE. . . . In his relatively short career, Riose earned the title of “The Last of the Imperials” and earned it well. A study of his campaigns reveals him to be the equal of Peurifoy in strategic ability and his superior perhaps in his ability to handle men. That he was born in the days of the decline of Empire made it all but impossible for him to equal Peurifoy’s record as a conqueror. Yet he had his chance when, the first of the Empire’s generals to do so, he faced the Foundation squarely. . . .
SEARCH FOR MAGICIANS
Bel Riose traveled without escort, which is not what court etiquette prescribes for the head of a fleet stationed in a yet-sullen stellar system on the Marches of the Galactic Empire.
But Bel Riose was young and energetic—energetic enough to be sent as near the end of the universe as possible by an unemotional and calculating court—and curious besides. Strange and improbable tales fancifully repeated by hundreds and murkily known to thousands intrigued the last faculty; the possibility of a military venture engaged the other two. The combination was overpowering.
He was out of the dowdy ground-car he had appropriated and at the door of the fading mansion that was his destination. He waited. The photonic eye that spanned the doorway was alive, but when the door opened it was by hand.
Bel Riose smiled at the old man. “I am Riose—”
“I recognize you.” The old man remained stiffly and unsurprised in his place. “Your business?”
Riose withdrew a step in a gesture of submission. “One of peace. If you are Ducem Barr, I ask the favor of conversation.”
Ducem Barr stepped aside and in the interior of the house the walls glowed into life. The general entered into daylight.
He touched the wall of the study, then stared at his fingertips. “You have this on Siwenna?”
Barr smiled thinly. “Not elsewhere, I believe. I keep this in repair myself as well as I can. I must apologize for your wait at the door. The automatic device registers the presence of a visitor but will no longer open the door.”
“Your repairs fall short?” The general’s voice was faintly mocking.
“Parts are no longer available. If you will sit, sir. You drink tea?”
“On Siwenna? My good sir, it is socially impossible not to drink it here.”
The old patrician retreated noiselessly with a slow bow that was part of the ceremonious legacy left by the aristocracy of the last century’s better days.
Riose looked after his host’s departing figure, and his studied urbanity grew a bit uncertain at the edges. His education had been purely military; his experience likewise. He had, as the cliché has it, faced death many times; but always death of a very familiar and tangible nature. Consequently, there is no inconsistency in the fact that the idolized lion of the Twentieth Fleet felt chilled in the suddenly musty atmosphere of an ancient room.
The general recognized the small black-ivroid boxes that lined the shelves to be books. Their titles were unfamiliar. He guessed that the large structure at one end of the room was the receiver that transmuted the books
Once he had been told that long before, during the golden ages when the Empire had been co-extensive with the entire Galaxy, nine houses out of every ten had such receivers—and such rows of books.
But there were borders to watch now; books were for old men. And half the stories told about the old days were mythical anyway. More than half.
The tea arrived, and Riose seated himself. Ducem Barr lifted his cup. “To your honor.”
“Thank you. To yours.”
Ducem Barr said deliberately, “You are said to be young. Thirty-five?”
“Near enough. Thirty-four.”
“In that case,” said Barr, with soft emphasis, “I could not begin better than by informing you regretfully that I am not in the possession of love charms, potions, or philtres. Nor am I in the least capable of influencing the favors of any young lady as may appeal to you.”
“I have no need of artificial aids in that respect, sir.” The complacency undeniably present in the general’s voice was stirred with amusement. “Do you receive many requests for such commodities?”
“Enough. Unfortunately, an uninformed public tends to confuse scholarship with magicianry, and love life seems to be that factor which requires the largest quantity of magical tinkering.”
“And so would seem most natural. But I differ. I connect scholarship with nothing but the means of answering difficult questions.”
The Siwennian considered somberly, “You may be as wrong as they!”
“That may turn out or not.” The young general set down his cup in its flaring sheath and it refilled. He dropped the offered flavor-capsule into it with a small splash. “Tell me then, patrician, who are the magicians? The real ones.”
Barr seemed startled at a title long unused. He said, “There are no magicians.”
“But people speak of them. Siwenna crawls with the tales of them. There are cults being built about them. There is some strange connection between it and those groups among your countrymen who dream and drivel of ancient days and what they call liberty and autonomy. Eventually the matter might become a danger to the State.”
The old man shook his head. “Why ask me? Do you smell rebellion, with myself at the head?”
Riose shrugged, “Never. Never. Oh, it is not a thought completely ridiculous. Your father was an exile in his day; you yourself a patriot and a chauvinist in yours. It is indelicate in me as a guest to mention it, but my business here requires it. And yet a conspiracy now? I doubt it. Siwenna has had the spirit beat out of it these three generations.”
The old man replied with difficulty, “I shall be as indelicate a host as you a guest. I shall remind you that once a viceroy thought as you did of the spiritless Siwennians. By the orders of that viceroy my father became a fugitive pauper, my brothers martyrs, and my sister a suicide. Yet that viceroy died a death sufficiently horrible at the hands of these same slavish Siwennians.”
“Ah, yes, and there you touch nearly on something I could wish to say. For three years the mysterious death of that viceroy has been no mystery to me. There was a young soldier of his personal guard whose actions were of interest. You were that soldier, but there is no need of details, I think.”
Barr was quiet. “None. What do you propose?”
“That you answer my questions.”
“Not under threats. I am old enough for life not to mean particularly overmuch.”
“My good sir, these are hard times,” said Riose, with meaning, “and you have children and friends. You have a country for which you have mouthed phrases of love and folly in the past. Come, if I should decide to use force, my aim would not be so poor as to strike you.”
Barr said coldly, “What do you want?”
Riose held the empty cup as he spoke. “Patrician, listen to me. These are days when the most successful soldiers are those whose function is to lead the dress parades that wind through the imperial palace grounds on feast days and to escort the sparkling pleasure ships that carry His Imperial Splendor to the summer planets. I . . . I am a failure. I am a failure at thirty-four, and I shall stay a failure. Because, you see, I like to fight.
“That’s why they sent me here. I’m too troublesome at court. I don’t fit in with the etiquette. I offend the dandies and the lord admirals, but I’m too good a leader of ships and men to be disposed of shortly by being marooned in space. So Siwenna is the substitute. It’s a frontier world; a rebellious and a barren province. It is far away, far enough away to satisfy all.
“And so I moulder. There are no rebellions to stamp down, and the border viceroys do not revolt lately; at least, not since His Imperial Majesty’s late father of glorious memory made an example of Mountel of Paramay.”
“A strong Emperor,” muttered Barr.
“Yes, and we need more of them. He is my master; remember that. These are his interests I guard.”
Barr shrugged unconcernedly. “How does all this relate to the subject?”
“I’ll show you in two words. The magicians I’ve mentioned come from beyond—out there beyond the frontier guards, where the stars are scattered thinly—”
“‘Where the stars are scattered thinly,’ ” quoted Barr, “‘And the cold of space seeps in.’ ”
“Is that poetry?” Riose frowned. Verse seemed frivolous at the moment. “In any case, they’re from the Periphery—from the only quarter where I am free to fight for the glory of the Emperor.”
“And thus serve His Imperial Majesty’s interests and satisfy your own love of a good fight.”
“Exactly. But I must know what I fight; and there you can help.”
“How do you know?”
Riose nibbled casually at a cakelet. “Because for three years I have traced every rumor, every myth, every breath concerning the magicians—and of all the library of information I have gathered, only two isolated facts are unanimously agreed upon, and are hence certainly true. The first is that the magicians come from the edge of the Galaxy opposite Siwenna; the second is that your father once met a magician, alive and actual, and spoke with him.”
The aged Siwennian stared unblinkingly, and Riose continued, “You had better tell me what you know—”
Barr said thoughtfully, “It would be interesting to tell you certain things. It would be a psychohistoric experiment of my own.”
“What kind of experiment?”
“Psychohistoric.” The old man had an unpleasant edge to his smile. Then, crisply, “You’d better have more tea. I’m going to make a bit of a speech.”
He leaned far back into the soft cushions of his chair. The wall-lights had softened to a pink-ivory glow, which mellowed even the soldier’s hard profile.
Ducem Barr began, “My own knowledge is the result of two accidents: the accidents of being born the son of my father, and of being born the native of my country. It begins over forty years ago, shortly after the great Massacre, when my father was a fugitive in the forests of the South, while I was a gunner in the viceroy’s personal fleet. This same viceroy, by the way, who had ordered the Massacre, and who died such a cruel death thereafter.”
Barr smiled grimly, and continued, “My father was a patrician of the Empire and a senator of Siwenna. His name was Onum Barr.”
Riose interrupted impatiently, “I know the circumstances of his exile very well. You needn’t elaborate upon it.”
The Siwennian ignored him and proceeded without deflection. “During his exile a wanderer came upon him; a merchant from the edge of the Galaxy; a young man who spoke a strange accent, knew nothing of recent Imperial history, and who was protected by an individual force-shield.”
“An individual force-shield?” Riose glared. “You speak extravagance. What generator could be powerful enough to condense a shield to the size of a single man? By the Great Galaxy, did he carry five thousand myria-tons of nuclear power-source about with him on a little wheeled gocart?”
“Is this all the story there is? Are the magicians born of maunderings of an old man broken by suffering and exile?”
“The story of the magicians antedated even my father, sir. And the proof is more concrete. After leaving my father, this merchant that men call a magician visited a tech-man at the city to which my father had guided him, and there he left a shield-generator of the type he wore. That generator was retrieved by my father after his return from exile upon the execution of the bloody viceroy. It took a long time to find—
“The generator hangs on the wall behind you, sir. It does not work. It never worked but for the first two days; but if you’ll look at it, you will see that no one in the Empire ever designed it.”
Bel Riose reached for the belt of linked metal that clung to the curved wall. It came away with a little sucking noise as the tiny adhesion-field broke at the touch of his hand. The ellipsoid at the apex of the belt held his attention. It was the size of a walnut.
“This—” he said.
“Was the generator?” nodded Barr. “But it was the generator. The secret of its workings are beyond discovery now. Sub-electronic investigations have shown it to be fused into a single lump of metal and not all the most careful study of the diffraction patterns have sufficed to distinguish the discrete parts that had existed before fusion.”
“Then your ‘proof’ still lingers on the frothy border of words backed by no concrete evidence.”
Barr shrugged. “You have demanded my knowledge of me and threatened its extortion by force. If you choose to meet it with skepticism, what is that to me? Do you want me to stop?”
“Go on!” said the general, harshly.
“I continued my father’s researches after he died, and then the second accident I mentioned came to help me, for Siwenna was well known to Hari Seldon.”
Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov / Science Fiction / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes