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Foundation's Edge f-6

Isaac Asimov

  Foundation's Edge

  ( Foundation - 6 )

  Isaac Asimov

  At last, the costly and bitter war between the two Foundations has come to an end. The scientists of the First Foundation have proved victorious; and now they return to Hari Seldon’s long-established plan to build a new Empire on the ruins of the old. But rumors persist that the Second Foundation is not destroyed after all—and that its still-defiant survivors are preparing their revenge. Now two exiled citizens of the Foundation—a renegade Councilman and a doddering historian—set out in search of the mythical planet Earth . . . and proof that the Second Foundation still exists.

  Meanwhile, someone—or something—outside both Foundations seems to be orchestrating events to suit its own ominous purpose. Soon representatives of both the First and Second Foundations will find themselves racing toward a mysterious world called Gaia and a final, shocking destiny at the very end of the universe.

  Foundation’s Edge

  by Isaac Asimov

  To the memory of Judy-Lynn del Rey [1943–1986], a giant in mind and spirit


  The first Galactic Empire was falling. It had been decaying and breaking down for centuries and only one man fully realized that fact.

  He was Hari Seldon, the last great scientist of the First Empire, and it was he who perfected psychohistory—the science of human behavior reduced to mathematical equations.

  The individual human being is unpredictable, but the reactions of human mobs, Seldon found, could be treated statistically. The larger the mob, the greater the accuracy that could be achieved. And the size of the human masses that Seldon worked with was no less than the population of all the inhabited millions of worlds of the Galaxy.

  Seldon’s equations told him that, left to itself, the Empire would fall and that thirty thousand years of human misery and agony would elapse before a Second Empire would arise from the ruins. And yet, if one could adjust some of the conditions that existed, that Interregnum could be decreased to a single millennium—just one thousand years.

  It was to insure this that Seldon set up two colonies of scientists that he called “Foundations.” With deliberate intention, he set them up “at opposite ends of the Galaxy.” The First Foundation, which centered on physical science, was set up in the full daylight of publicity. The existence of the other, the Second Foundation, a world of psychohistorical and “mentalic” scientists, was drowned in silence.

  In The Foundation Trilogy, the story of the first four centuries of the Interregnum is told. The First Foundation (commonly known as simply “The Foundation,” since the existence of another was unknown to almost all) began as a small community lost in the emptiness of the Outer Periphery of the Galaxy. Periodically it faced a crisis in which the variables of human intercourse—and of the social and economic currents of the time—constricted about it. Its freedom to move lay along only one certain line and when it moved in that direction, a new horizon of development opened before it. All had been planned by Hari Seldon, long dead now.

  The First Foundation, with its superior science, took over the barbarized planets that surrounded it. It faced the anarchic warlords who broke away from the dying Empire and beat them. It faced the remnant of the Empire itself under its last strong Emperor and its last strong general—and beat it.

  It seemed as though the “Seldon Plan” was going through smoothly and that nothing would prevent the Second Empire from being established on time—and with a minimum of intermediate devastation.

  But psychohistory is a statistical science. Always there is a small chance that something will go wrong, and something did—something which Hari Seldon could not have foreseen. One man, called the Mule, appeared from nowhere. He had mental powers in a Galaxy that lacked them. He could mold men’s emotions and shape their minds so that his bitterest opponents were made into his devoted servants. Armies could not, would not, fight him. The First Foundation fell and Seldon’s Plan seemed to lie in ruins.

  There was left the mysterious Second Foundation, which had been caught unprepared by the sudden appearance of the Mule, but which was now slowly working out a counterattack. Its great defense was the fact of its unknown location. The Mule sought it in order to make his conquest of the Galaxy complete. The faithful of what was left of the First Foundation sought it to obtain help.

  Neither found it. The Mule was stopped first by the action of a woman, Bayta Darell, and that bought enough time for the Second Foundation to organize the proper action and, with that, to stop the Mule permanently. Slowly they prepared to reinstate the Seldon Plan.

  But, in a way, the cover of the Second Foundation was gone. The First Foundation knew of the Second’s existence, and the First did not want a future in which they were overseen by the mentalists. The First Foundation was the superior in physical force, while the Second Foundation was hampered not only by that fact, but by being faced by a double task: it had not only to stop the First Foundation but had also to regain its anonymity.

  This the Second Foundation, under its greatest “First Speaker,” Preem Palver, managed to do. The First Foundation was allowed to seem to win, to seem to defeat the Second Foundation, and it moved on to greater and greater strength in the Galaxy, totally ignorant that the Second Foundation still existed.

  It is now four hundred and ninety-eight years after the First Foundation had come into existence. It is at the peak of its strength, but one man does not accept appearances—




  “I don’t believe it, of course,” said Golan Trevize, standing on the wide steps of Seldon Hall and looking out over the city as it sparkled in the sunlight.

  Terminus was a mild planet, with a high water / land ratio. The introduction of weather control had made it all the more comfortable and considerably less interesting, Trevize often thought.

  “I don’t believe any of it,” he repeated and smiled. His white, even teeth gleamed out of his youthful face.

  His companion and fellow Councilman, Munn Li Compor, who had adopted a middle name in defiance of Terminus tradition, shook his head uneasily. “What don’t you believe? That we saved the city?”

  “Oh, I believe that. We did, didn’t we? And Seldon said that we would, and he said we would be right to do so, and that he knew all about it five hundred years ago.”

  Compor’s voice dropped and he said in a half-whisper, “Look, I don’t mind your talking like this to me, because I take it as just talk, but if you shout it out in crowds others will hear and, frankly, I don’t want to be standing near you when the lightning strikes. I’m not sure how precise the aim will be.”

  Trevize’s smile did not waver. He said, “Is there harm in saying that the city is saved? And that we did it without a war?”

  “There was no one to fight,” said Compor. He had hair of a buttery yellow, eyes of a sky blue, and he always resisted the impulse to alter those unfashionable hues.

  “Have you never heard of civil war, Compor?” said Trevize. He was tall, his hair was black, with a gentle wave to it, and he had a habit of walking with his thumbs hitched into the soft-fibered sash he always wore.

  “A civil war over the location of the capital?”

  “The question was enough to bring on a Seldon Crisis. It destroyed Hannis’s political career. It put you and me into the Council last election and the issue hung—” He twisted one hand slowly, back and forth, like a balance coming to rest on the level.

  He paused on the steps, ignoring the other members of the government and the media, as well as the fashionable society types who had finagled an invitation to witness Seldon’s return (or the return of his image, at any rate).

  All were
walking down the stairs, talking, laughing, glorying in the correctness of everything, and basking in Seldon’s approval.

  Trevize stood still and let the crowd swirl past him. Compor, having walked two steps ahead, paused—an invisible cord stretched between them. He said, “Aren’t you coming?”

  “There’s no hurry. They won’t start the Council meeting until Mayor Branno has reviewed the situation in her usual flat-footed, one-syllable-at-a-time way. I’m in no hurry to endure another ponderous speech. —Look at the city!”

  “I see it. I saw it yesterday, too.”

  “Yes, but did you see it five hundred years ago when it was founded?”

  “Four hundred ninety-eight,” Compor corrected him automatically. “Two years from now, they’ll have the hemi-millennial celebration and Mayor Branno will still be in the office at the time, barring events of, we hope, minor probability.”

  “We hope,” said Trevize dryly. “But what was it like five hundred years ago when it was founded? One city! One small city, occupied by a group of men preparing an Encyclopedia that was never finished!”

  “Of course it was finished.”

  “Are you referring to the Encyclopedia Galactica we have now? What we have isn’t what they were working on. What we have is in a computer and it’s revised daily. Have you ever looked at the uncompleted original?”

  “You mean in the Hardin Museum?”

  “The Salvor Hardin Museum of Origins. Let’s have the full name, please, since you’re so careful about exact dates. Have you looked at it?”

  “No. Should I?”

  “No, it isn’t worth it. But anyway—there they were—a group of Encyclopedists, forming the nucleus of a town—one small town in a world virtually without metals, circling a sun isolated from the rest of the Galaxy, at the edge, the very edge. And now, five hundred years later, we’re a suburban world. The whole place is one big park, with all the metal we want. We’re at the center of everything now!”

  “Not really,” said Compor. “We’re still circling a sun isolated from the rest of the Galaxy. Still at the very edge of the Galaxy.”

  “Ah no, you’re saying that without thinking. That was the whole point of this little Seldon Crisis. We are more than the single world of Terminus. We are the Foundation, which sends out its tentacles Galaxy-wide and rules that Galaxy from its position at the very edge. We can do it because we’re not isolated, except in position, and that doesn’t count.”

  “All right. I’ll accept that.” Compor was clearly uninterested and took another step downward. The invisible cord between them stretched farther.

  Trevize reached out a hand as though to haul his companion up the steps again. “Don’t you see the significance, Compor? There’s this enormous change, but we don’t accept it. In our hearts we want the small Foundation, the small one-world operation we had in the old days—the days of iron heroes and noble saints that are gone forever.”

  “Come on!”

  “I mean it. Look at Seldon Hall. To begin with, in the first crises in Salvor Hardin’s day, it was just the Time Vault, a small auditorium in which the holographic image of Seldon appeared. That was all. Now it’s a colossal mausoleum, but is there a force-field ramp in the place? A slideway? A gravitic lift?—No, just these steps, and we walk down them and we walk up them as Hardin would have had to do. At odd and unpredictable times, we cling in fright to the past.”

  He flung his arm outward passionately. “Is there any structural component visible that is metal? Not one. It wouldn’t do to have any, since in Salvor Hardin’s day there was no native metal to speak of and hardly any imported metal. We even installed old plastic, pink with age, when we built this huge pile, so that visitors from other worlds can stop and say, ‘Galaxy! What lovely old plastic!’ I tell you, Compor, it’s a sham.”

  “Is that what you don’t believe, then? Seldon Hall?”

  “And all its contents,” said Trevize in a fierce whisper. “I don’t really believe there’s any sense in hiding here at the edge of the Universe, just because our ancestors did. I believe we ought to be out there, in the middle of everything.”

  “But Seldon says you’re wrong. The Seldon Plan is working out as it should.”

  “I know. I know. And every child on Terminus is brought up to believe that Hari Seldon formulated a Plan, that he foresaw everything five centuries ago, that he set up the Foundation in such a way that he could spot certain crises, and that his image would appear holographically at those crises, and tell us the minimum we had to know to go on to the next crisis, and thus lead us through a thousand years of history until we could safely build a Second and Greater Galactic Empire on the ruins of the old decrepit structure that was falling apart five centuries ago and had disintegrated completely by two centuries ago.”

  “Why are you telling me all this, Golan?”

  “Because I’m telling you it’s a sham. It’s all a sham.—Or if it was real to begin with, it’s a sham now! We are not our own masters. It is not we who are following the Plan.”

  Compor looked at the other searchingly. “You’ve said things like this before, Golan, but I’ve always thought you were just saying ridiculous things to stir me up. By the Galaxy, I actually think you’re serious.”

  “Of course I’m serious!”

  “You can’t be. Either this is some complicated piece of fun at my expense or you’re out of your mind.”

  “Neither. Neither,” said Trevize, quiet now, hitching his thumbs into his sash as though he no longer needed the gestures of hands to punctuate passion. “I speculated on it before, I admit, but that was just intuition. That farce in there this morning, however, has made it suddenly all quite plain to me and I intend, in turn, to make it quite plain to the Council.”

  Compor said, “You are crazy!”

  “All right. Come with me and listen.”

  The two walked down the stairs. They were the only ones left—the last to complete the descent. And as Trevize moved slightly to the fore, Compor’s lips moved silently, casting a voiceless word in the direction of the other’s back: “Fool!”


  Mayor Harla Branno called the session of the Executive Council to order. Her eyes had looked with no visible sign of interest at the gathering; yet no one there doubted that she had noted all who were present and all who had not yet arrived.

  Her gray hair was carefully arranged in a style that was neither markedly feminine nor imitation masculine. It was simply the way she wore it, no more. Her matter-of-fact face was not notable for beauty, but somehow it was never for beauty that one searched there.

  She was the most capable administrator on the planet. No one could, or did, accuse her of the brilliance of the Salvor Hardins and the Hober Mallows whose histories enlivened the first two centuries of the Foundation’s existence, but neither would anyone associate her with the follies of the hereditary Indburs who had ruled the Foundation just prior to the time of the Mule.

  Her speeches did not stir men’s minds, nor did she have a gift for the dramatic gesture, but she had a capacity for making quiet decisions and sticking by them as long as she was convinced she was right. Without any obvious charisma, she had the knack of persuading the voters those quiet decisions would be right.

  Since by the Seldon doctrine, historical change is to a large degree difficult to swerve (always barring the unpredictable, something most Seldonists forget, despite the wrenching incident of the Mule), the Foundation might have retained its capital on Terminus under any conditions. That is a “might,” however. Seldon, in his just-finished appearance as a five-century-old simulacrum, had calmly placed the probability of remaining on Terminus at 87.2 percent.

  Nevertheless, even to Seldonists, that meant there was a 12.8 percent chance that the shift to some point closer to the center of the Foundation Federation would have been made, with all the dire consequences that Seldon had outlined. That this one-out-of-eight chance did not take place was surely due to Mayor Branno.
  It was certain she would not have allowed it. Through periods of considerable unpopularity, she had held to her decision that Terminus was the traditional seat of the Foundation and there it would remain. Her political enemies had caricatured her strong jaw (with some effectiveness, it had to be admitted) as an under-slung granite block.

  And now Seldon had backed her point of view and, for the while at least, that would give her an overwhelming political advantage. She had been reported to have said a year earlier that if in the coming appearance Seldon did back her, she would consider her task successfully completed. She would then retire and take up the role of elder statesperson, rather than risk the dubious results of further political wars.

  No one had really believed her. She was at home in the political wars to an extent few before her had been, and now that Seldon’s image had come and gone there was no hint of retirement about her.

  She spoke in a perfectly clear voice with an unashamed Foundation accent (she had once served as Ambassador to Mandress, but had not adopted the old Imperial style of speech that was so fashionable now—and was part of what had been a quasi-Imperial drive to the Inner Provinces).

  She said, “The Seldon Crisis is over and it is a tradition, and a wise one, that no reprisals of any kind—either in deed or in speech—be taken against those who supported the wrong side. Many honest people believed they had good reason for wanting that which Seldon did not want. There is no point in humiliating them to the point where they can retrieve their self-respect only by denouncing the Seldon Plan itself. In turn, it is a strong and desirable custom that those who supported the lost side accept the loss cheerfully and without further discussion. The issue is behind us, on both sides, forever.”

  She paused, gazed levelly at the assembled faces for a moment, then went on, “Half the time has passed, people of the Council—half the thousand-year stretch between Empires. It has been a time of difficulties, but we have come a long way. We are, indeed, almost a Galactic Empire already and there remain no external enemies of consequence.