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Asimov’s Future History Volume 20

Isaac Asimov

  Asimov’s Future History

  Volume XX

  All stories copyright Isaac Asimov and the Estate of Isaac Asimov, unless otherwise noted below.

  All other stories copyright by the respective authors listed below.

  Foundations' Resolve - By Stephen Collings. March, 2010

  After Earth - By Johnny Pez, September, 2001

  A Pleasure Doing Business With You - By Alexander J. Vincent, July, 2000

  The Imperial Conference -By Alexander J. Vincent, May, 2001

  Foundation’s Conscience - By George Zebrowski. First published in Foundation's Friends: Stories in Honor of Isaac Asimov, September, 1989

  ... No Connections - By Randall Garrett. First published in 1958.

  This ePub edition v1.0 by Dead^Man March, 2011

  Layout and design by Dead^Man

  Cover art “My Blue House” by Dinyctis of DeviantArt

  Future History inlay “Summer days” by Talros of DeviantArt

  Cover design by Dead^Man

  Chronology of events in Isaac Asimov’s positronic robot and Foundation stories, compiled by Johnny Pez.

  Table of Contents

  498 FE Foundations' Resolve

  498 FE After Earth

  729 FE A Pleasure Doing Business With You

  1000 FE The Imperial Conference

  1056 FE Foundation’s Conscience

  1302 FE ... No Connections

  Sources of Dates

  Johnny Pez’s Insanely Complete Fiction List

  An Unofficial Timeline By Attila Torkos

  Foundations’ Resolve

  498 F.E. (12566 G. E.)

  Chapter 6


  MAYOR BRANNO SAT alone in the empty chamber, her eyes lowered, as if gathering energy. It had been months since she had come here, months since she had been vindicated by the words of a dead man. Few people ever had the chance to enter the Vault, and few would even care to. Oh, it was famous enough. When something happened here, the entire course of the galaxy might change; it had, those months ago. But the rest of the time, it was just an empty room.

  Terminus had changed dramatically since its settlement, five centuries ago. It had begun as a single city on the largest of the world’s islands; a small city at that, with a mere hundred thousand people. Now there stood half a dozen cities, each with over a million people, and the capital was home to over ten million. Yet this simple room still stood under the heart of the Foundation. It had been built almost immediately after the settlers had arrived, though no one had paid it much attention at the time. It was simply an unimportant room in the basement of the capitol. It wasn’t until fifty years later that the true significance of the room had been discovered.

  Slowly, Branno looked up at the transparent holochamber that filled the front half of the Vault. There had appeared the image of Hari Seldon, almost fifty years after his death. He had recorded a message for the leaders of the Foundation, and left instructions for them to view it at the appropriate time. That message had changed the history of the Foundation. Until that point, the entire organization had been dedicated to compiling the Encyclopedia Galactica, thinking that the entire aim of the Foundation. Seldon had told them otherwise.

  Events in those fifty years had set the Foundation on its predetermined course to a new Galactic Empire. Seldon’s image had continued to appear at certain points, delivering more prerecorded messages, guiding the Foundation through the crises that arose in its path. Branno suspected that on some occasions, all the chairs in this room had been empty when Seldon had appeared. But not the last time. On that occasion, those months ago, Seldon had appeared to a crowded room, with his image transmitted all throughout the Foundation. The message he had brought had saved Branno’s career, and made her the most popular Mayor in recent memory.

  Damn him for it!

  There were dozens of empty chairs in the room, all facing the holochamber. Branno sat in a row towards the front, in the same seat she had sat in the last time she had been in this room. At first, she hadn’t known why she had returned here. Now, looking at the holochamber, she understood.

  “Damn you. Damn you, old man, this is your doing!” Branno’s hand tightened on the back of the chair in front of her, as she lashed out at the empty booth. Moments before she had been perfectly calm. Controlling her anger had gotten her far in politics. Not now. “What gives you the right? What gives you the right to control us? You and your psychohistory, your plan. Well, it’s our lives!” she spat. “You didn’t think about that, did you? You move whole worlds around like pieces in a game, but you never stopped to think that maybe you’d crossed a line somewhere; that maybe people wouldn’t want to be manipulated, no matter what the cause.”

  Branno knew there was irony in what she said. Without the Seldon Plan, the Foundation wouldn’t exist. She herself would never have been born, much less be the leader of a third of the galaxy. Humanity would be only beginning on the path to hundreds of centuries of chaos and misery, from which it might never return. But in this moment, it simply didn’t matter. “Maybe for a time you were necessary, old man. But not now.”

  “Are you sure?” a voice echoed from the walls.

  Branno fell silent, words dying on her lips. She actually wondered for a moment if Seldon-but then she turned to see the man standing behind her. She didn’t remember having stood, but regained her composure quickly. “What do you want, Liono?” she demanded, her ire shifting to him. The man was far too stealthy for his own good.

  “I apologize for interrupting, but I thought you might be here,” he said, as if he hadn’t noticed her present attitude. But Branno knew he’d seen. She tried to calm herself. “The general’s shuttle landed ten minutes ago,” Kodell told her. “I thought you would want to know.”

  “What did you mean, Liono?” Branno asked. She ignored his message. Kodell knew that she wouldn’t need to know immediately about Albian’s arrival. Her anger was controlled now, but not gone, only focused. Kodell never questioned her in such a direct fashion. “Am I sure about what?”

  The Director of Security did not answer immediately. Instead he looked at the holochamber beyond the Mayor. Branno resisted the urge to turn around and make sure it was still empty. Finally he spoke, though still looking at the transparent wall. “Are you sure about this course of action, madam Mayor?”

  “How can you ask that, after what they did to us? The Second Foundation has proved beyond any doubt how great a threat they are to us. I can barely function, Kodell. They must be destroyed, or we will never be in control of our own lives again. And we won’t even know it.”

  “Have we ever really been in control of our lives?” he asked. What has gotten into him? Branno wondered. Kodell had always been quite capable, and anything but a yes-man, but this was the first time he had ever carried on the disagreement this long. Kodell was silent for a moment more. Branno let him be. She was angry, but more, she was curious, and wanted to see what he would say.

  “What happens if we succeed, Harla?” he asked quietly, finally turning towards her.

  “Then we’re free,” she replied immediately. “Free from manipulation, free from outside forces. Free to choose our own destiny, whatever it may be.”

  “Free from t
his?” he asked, tapping his own head. She knew he meant the dissonance. “Even if we destroy the Second Foundation, will this change? Will anything? The Second Foundation was not the only work of Seldon’s Plan. We are, just as much as they.”

  Branno too had wondered if the dissonance she was still feeling would leave her once their mission was accomplished. She wondered if it would ever leave her. The thought that there might never be a cure was almost unbearable. Only sheer determination had kept her able to even continue their planning. Now that resolve had turned to anger, and Kodell was drawing it like a lightning rod.

  “And what do you suggest, Liono?” It was all she could do to keep from yelling, from threatening him. He had to know the line he was walking. It was almost as if he was doing it on purpose. And still he stood, calmly.

  “That our goals are not so different from theirs,” he said. “We want a new Galactic Empire. So do they.”

  “With themselves as the masters of it! As our masters!”

  “They can only remain our masters if they remain hidden,” Kodell said, “and we can ensure they can never hide again. No matter what happens to us, everything we’ve learned will be disseminated to certain agents in the government, people I trust.” Insofar as Kodell trusted anyone, Branno assumed. “If that information is spread far enough, even the Second Foundation can’t eliminate it. We may be able to pressure them into cooperating, instead of destroying them outright.”

  Branno’s anger was blunted. “Leverage.” Kodell said nothing. It was a good plan. They both knew it.

  “‘Violence is the last resort of the incompetent,’” Branno quoted. Kodell nodded once. “Do it,” she ordered him. “And tell the general I will meet him in my office in half an hour.” There was no use to further conversation. Kodell nodded again, as if nothing at all unusual had just happened, and turned towards the exit.

  Branno watched him leave. It was a good plan, if one intended to talk. But there would be no discussion with the Second Foundation, no need for leverage. She would accept no outcome but their utter destruction. Kodell’s plan would simply make that destruction all the more certain.

  This man was weakening. She would never have thought it of Liono Kodell, but he was feeling the same unbearable stress as she. It was enough to bend even the strongest. She would have to watch him closely in the days to come. He couldn’t be allowed to interfere. Nothing could. Soon the outfitting of the fleet would begin. And then, she would have her revenge.

  Mayor Harla Branno stepped out into the aisle and began to walk towards the door, never looking behind her at the holochamber. She exited the Vault, knowing she would never return. Seldon’s Plan had saved her career. And now she would destroy that Plan, once and for all.

  Kodell walked silently through the streets of Terminus City. The vault was not far enough from his office to justify using a vehicle. And he could use the walk. Kodell needed time to think.

  He knew what Branno was going through. Every day it was a little better, but the disconnect between his memories and what he knew to have occurred still tormented him. At this rate it would be years before he could function normally. His mind had been violated, and Kodell fully appreciated Branno’s desire for revenge.

  But revenge was not the answer.

  The Second Foundation was an unknown. There was no guarantee that attacking them would result in any sort of success. Any sort of all-out war could spell the end of what independence the Foundation still possessed. Kodell served the Foundation above all. He could not take that risk to serve his own desires. Branno obviously could. She had to be stopped.

  Kodell considered his options. Branno would not listen, he was now sure. And no individual had the authority to countermand her orders. The Council could remove her, in theory, but Kodell knew enough about politics to be certain they would never do it. Without Branno there was no figure that commanded enough respect to lead the charge against her. Only the exiled Golan Trevize had had that level of notoriety. If Kodell tried an end-run, the council would be mired in indecision. He would accomplish nothing.

  Could he kill her?

  No. Perhaps, when the moment came that he had no other option at all. Even knowing he would never escape, knowing that history would remember him as a traitor. Knowing that he would have to live with his actions for the rest of his, probably very short, life. Then he could do it. But only if any other course could lead to the destruction of the Foundation itself.

  There was nothing for it, then. Kodell would stay with Branno, assist her in her mission of vengeance. In a situation with this many unknowns, something would change. Something would occur, giving Kodell his opportunity.

  It had to.

  Chapter 7


  NOVI AWOKE SUDDENLY from her dreamless sleep, bolting upright. Looking around, she realized she was in a small room she did not recognize. There were no windows, and little furniture. Besides the cot she had been laying on, there was only a small Hamish-built wooden table in the corner next to the only door. This was a cell. And she was alone.


  The magnitude of the silence struck her harder than the drug which had rendered her unconscious. For the first time in her life, she could not feel the rest of Gaia. In Gaia she had experienced many things. The living world could feel all the emotions of any individual and more, and Novi could share in them all. But never in her life had she felt this.

  Her thoughts echoed in her head, with none of the comforting feedback she had been accustomed to all her life. She could not comprehend how most of humanity survived this way. Novi tried to reach out, to find the others, to reconnect. But as soon as she did, she reached a barrier. She tried harder, and was repulsed. Something was blocking her connection to Gaia.

  Memory of what had occurred returned to her. Gaia had expected Gendibal to return. All evidence of Gaia’s presence had not yet been eliminated; that would have been Novi’s task to complete, keeping Gaia safe. They had intended to wait until the Second Foundation found the evidence they sought, and then eliminate all traces of it from the minds of those involved. But they had underestimated Gendibal’s foresight. Fear began to rise in her.

  Novi tried to control the feeling. She resisted trying to open the door, knowing it would be locked. Nor did Novi bother trying harder to penetrate the mental barrier between her and Gaia. She breathed deeply, tried to find calm. She would not panic. Cut off or not, she was still Gaia. Her captors were aware that she was awake, and they would be coming soon. The fact that she was awake at all meant someone wanted to talk to her in person, and not for information. And the only one who would have reason to do that would be Gendibal. Novi forced down her fear, and lay back down on her cot to wait for him. She tried to think on her own, for the first time in her life.

  No interrogation would be necessary, she knew. The Second Foundation would have examined her mind while she was unconscious and learned everything they needed to know. They wouldn’t have learned everything about Gaia, of course. No one body could have held that much information. Even now, she realized that things she had known before were missing, inaccessible to her. Still, they would have found enough. There would be little chance of eliminating all the evidence now, even if she were still connected to Gaia with all its strength at her disposal.

  What were her options? Gaia must be protected, and the Second Foundation might still pose a threat at this point in Gaia’s development. Destroying them would be unconscionable, even if it were possible. If they could not be made to forget Gaia’s existence, only one choice remained: they had to be convinced of Gaia’s necessity. She, Novi, had to make the Second Foundation give up centuries of effort, using nothing but words. Impossible! Novi closed her eyes and tried to focu
s, considering what she would say. There was nothing for it but to try.

  The door opened and, as expected, Gendibal entered. Novi sat up again, waiting for him to speak, but he said nothing. Seeing him evoked feelings she had not expected. Novi found that she was glad to see him. She had not been herself when they traveled together to Gaia. An artificially constructed personality had been implanted in her mind, and her own buried. But now she remembered everything. Regardless of his social superiority to the Sura Novi he had known, he had been kind to her. She cared about him, and necessary as it was, he had been betrayed by her deception. Novi found that even if his compatriots couldn’t be convinced, she wanted him to understand.

  She wanted him to forgive her.

  “How do you feel?” Gendibal asked softly.

  “I’ll be fine,” she replied. She was glad. The question meant he still cared. “Thank you for asking,” she added quietly.

  Gendibal nodded. Silence again. “We weren’t sure you would wake up,” he said after a moment. His seemingly compassionate tone was gone, lost to the gulf between them. He might care, but he no longer trusted her. How could he? “We had no idea how what we did would affect you. We’ve never imagined anything like Gaia.”

  “You did what you had to,” Novi said, and she meant it. She bore no ill will, not even for this. She simply didn’t know how.

  “And you?” he replied. It had the wording and tone of a simple question, but it may as well have been an accusation. Gaia had altered his memories. For him, that violation wasn’t so different than her being cut off from Gaia. But it had been necessary, just like what he did to her.

  “We did what we had to do, Stor,” Novi replied, trying to make him understand. “You’ve seen my mind by now. You know that.” He had to understand.

  “We have. What we’ve seen has convinced us that Gaia is a threat.” Gendibal said. After a pause, he added, “Some of the others wanted to kill you before you woke.”