Branno had been waiting for an hour, thinking wearily. Technically speaking, she was guilty of breaking and entering. What's more, she had violated, quite unconstitutionally, the rights of a Councilman. By the strict laws that held Mayors to account since the days of Indbur III and the Mute, nearly two centuries before - she was impeachable.
On this one day, however, for twenty-four hours she could do no wrong.
But it would pass. She stirred restlessly.
The first two centuries had been the Golden Age of the Foundation, the Heroic Era - at least in retrospect, if not to the unfortunates who had lived in that insecure time. Salvor Hardin and Hober Mallow had been the two great heroes, semideified to the point of rivaling the incomparable Hari Seldon himself. The three were a tripod on which all Foundation legend (and even Foundation history) rested.
In those days, though, the Foundation had been one puny world, with a tenuous hold on the Four Kingdoms and with only a dim awareness of the extent to which the Seldon Plan was holding its protective hand over it, caring for it even against the remnant of the mighty Galactic Empire.
And the more powerful the Foundation grew as a political and commercial entity, the less significant its rulers and fighters had come to seem. Lathan Devers was almost forgotten. If he was remembered at all, it was for his tragic death in the slave mines, rather than for his unnecessary but successful fight against Bel Riose.
As for Bel Riose, the noblest of the Foundation's adversaries, he too was nearly forgotten, overshadowed by the Mule, who alone among enemies had broken the Seldon Plan and defeated and ruled the Foundation. He alone was the Great Enemy - indeed, the last of the Greats.
It was little remembered that the Mule had been, in essence, defeated by one person - a woman, Bayta Darell - and that she had accomplished the victory without the help of anyone, - without even the support of the Seldon Plan. So, too, was it almost forgotten that her son and granddaughter, Toran and Arkady Darrell, had defeated the Second Foundation, leaving the Foundation, the First Foundation, supreme.
These latter-day victors were no longer heroic figures. The times had become too expansive to do anything but shrink heroes into ordinary mortals. Then, too, Arkady's biography of her grandmother had reduced her from a heroine to a figure of romance.
And since then there had been no heroes - not even figures of romance. The Kalganian war had been the last moment of violence engulfing the Foundation and that had been a minor conflict. Nearly two centuries of virtual peace! A hundred and twenty years without so much as a ship scratched.
It had been a good peace - Branno would not deny that - a profitable peace. The Foundation had not established a Second Galactic Empire - it was only halfway there by the Seldon Plan - but, as the Foundation Federation, it held a strong economic grip on over a third of the scattered political units of the Galaxy, and influenced what it didn't control. There were few places where "I am of the Foundation" was not met with respect. There was no one who ranked higher in all the millions of inhabited worlds than the Mayor of Terminus.
That was still the title. It was inherited from the leader of a single small and almost disregarded city on a lonely world on the far edge of civilization, some five centuries before, but no one would dream of changing it or of giving it one atom more glory-in-sound. As it was, only the all-but-forgotten title of Imperial Majesty could rival it in awe.
- Except on Terminus itself, where the powers of the Mayor were carefully limited. The memory of the Indburs still remained. It was not their tyranny that people could not forget but the fact that they had lost to the Mule.
And here she was, Harla Branno, the strongest to rule since the Mule's death (she knew that) and only the fifth woman to do so. On this day only had she been able to use her strength openly.
She had fought for her interpretation of what was right and what should be - against the dogged opposition of those who longed for the prestige - filled Interior of the Galaxy and for the aura of Imperial power - and she had won.
Not yet, she had said. Not yet! Jump too soon for the Interior and you will lose far this reason and for that. And Seldon had appeared and had supported her in language almost identical with her own.
It made her, for a time, in the eyes of all fine Foundation, as wise as Seldon himself. She knew they could forget that any hour, however.
And this young man dared to challenge her on this day of days.
And he dared to be right?
That was the danger of it. He was right? And by being right, he might destroy the Foundation!
And now she faced him and they were alone.
She said sadly, "Could you not have come to see me privately? Did you have to shout it all out in the Council Chamber in your idiotic desire to make a fool of me? What have you done, you mindless boy?"
Trevize felt himself flushing and fought to control his anger. The Mayor was an aging woman who would be sixty-three on her next birthday. He hesitated to engage in a shouting match with someone nearly twice his age.
Besides, she was well practiced in the political wars and knew that if she could place her opponent off-balance at the start then the battle was half-won. But it took an audience to make such a tactic effective and there was no audience before whom one might be humiliated. There were just the two of them.
So he ignored her words and did his best to survey her dispassionately. She was an old woman wearing the unisex fashions which had prevailed for two generations now. They did not become her. The Mayor, the leader of the Galaxy - if leader there could be - was just a plain old woman who might easily have been mistaken for an old man, except that her iron-gray hair was tied tightly back, instead of being worn free in the traditional male style.
Trevize smiled engagingly. However much an aged opponent strove to make the epithet "boy" sound like an insult, this particular "boy" had the advantage of youth and good looks - and the full awareness of both.
He said, "It's true. I'm thirty-two and, therefore, a boy - in a manner of speaking. And I'm a Councilman and, therefore, ex officio, mindless. The first condition is unavoidable. For the second, I can only say I'm sorry."
"Do you know what you've done? Don't stand there and strive for wit. Sit down. Put your mind into gear, if you can, and answer me rationally."
"I know what I've done. I've told the truth as I've seen it."
"And on this day you try to defy me with it? On this one day when my prestige is such that I could pluck you out of the Council Chamber and arrest you, with no one daring to protest?"
"The Council will recover its breath and it will protest. They may be protesting now. And they will listen to me all the more for the persecution to which you are subjecting me."
"No one will listen to you, because if I thought you would continue what you have been doing, I would continue to treat you as a traitor to the full extent of the law."
"I would then have to be tried.. I'd have my day in court."
"Don't count on that. A Mayor's emergency powers are enormous, even if they are rarely used."
"On what grounds would you declare an emergency?"
"I'll invent the grounds. I have that much ingenuity left, and I do not fear taking the political risk. Don't push me, young man. We are going to come to an agreement here or you will never be free again. You will be imprisoned for the rest of your life. I guarantee it.
They stared at each other: Branno in gray, Trevize in multishade brown.
Trevize said, "What kind of an agreement?"
"Ah. You're curious. That's better. Then we can engage in conversation instead of confrontation. What is your point of view?"
"You know it well. You have been crawling in the mud with Councilman Compor, have you not?"
"I want to hear it from you - in the light of the Seldon Crisis just passed."
"Very well, if that's what you want - Madam Mayor!" (He had been on the brink of saying "old woman.") "The image of Seldon was too correct, too impossibly correct after five hundred years. It's the eighth time he has appeared, I believe. On some occasions, no one was there to hear him. On at least one occasion, in the time of Indbur III, what he had to say was utterly out of synchronization with reality but that was in the time of the Mule, wasn't it? But when, on any of those occasions, was he as correct as he was now?"
Trevize allowed himself a small smile. "Never before, Madam Mayor, as far as our recordings of the past are concerned, has Seldon managed to describe the situation so perfectly, in all its smallest details."
Branno said, "Is it your suggestion that the Seldon appearance, the holographic image, is faked; that the Seldon recordings have been prepared by a contemporary such as myself, perhaps; that an actor was playing the Seldon role?"
"Not impossible, Madam Mayor, but that's not what I mean. The truth is far worse. I believe that it is Seldon's image we see, and that his description of the present moment in history is the description he prepared five hundred years ago. I have said as much to your man, Kodell, who carefully guided me through a charade in which I seemed to support the superstitions of the unthinking Foundationer."
"Yes. The recording will be used, if necessary, to allow the Foundation to see that you were never really in the opposition."
Trevize spread his arms. "But I am. There is no Seldon Plan in the sense that we believe there is, and there hasn't been for perhaps two centuries. I have suspected that for years now, and what we went through in the Time Vault twelve hours ago proves it."
"Because Seldon was too accurate?"
"Precisely. Don't smile. That is the final proof."
"I'm not smiling, as you can see. Go on."
"How could he have been so accurate? Two centuries ago, Seldon's analysis of what was then the present was completely wrong. Three hundred years had passed since the Foundation was set up and he was wide of the mark. Completely!"
"That, Councilman, you yourself explained a few moments ago. It was because of the Mule. The Mule was a mutant with intense mental power and there had been no way of allowing for him in the Plan."
"But he was there just the same - allowed or not. The Seldon Plan was derailed. The Mule didn't rule for long and he had no successor. The Foundation regained its independence and its domination, but how could the Seldon Plan have gotten back on target after so enormous a tearing of its fabric?"
Branno looked grim and her aging hands clasped together tightly. "You know the answer to that. There were one of two Foundations. You've read the history books."
"I've read Arkady's biography of her grandmother - required reading in school, after all - and I've read her novels, too. I've read the official view of the history of the Mule and afterward. Am I to be allowed to doubt them?"
"In what way?"
"Officially we, the First Foundation, were to retain the knowledge of the physical sciences and to advance them. We were to operate openly, our historical development following - whether we knew it or not - the Seldon Plan. There was, however, also the Second Foundation, which was to preserve and further develop the psychological sciences, including psychohistory, and their existence was to be a secret even from us. The Second Foundation was the fine-tuning agency of the Plan, acting to adjust the currents of Galactic history, when they turned from the paths outlined by the Plan."
"Then you answer yourself," said the Mayor. "Bayta Darell defeated the Mule, perhaps under the inspiration of the Second Foundation, although her granddaughter insists that was not so. It was the Second Foundation without doubt, however, which labored to bring Galactic history back to the Plan after the Mule died and, quite obviously, they succeeded. - What on Terminus, then, are you talking about, Councilman?"
"Madam Mayor, if we follow Arkady Darell's account, it is clear that the Second Foundation, in making the attempt to correct Galactic history, undermined Seldon's entire scheme, since in their attempt to correct they destroyed their own secrecy. We, the First Foundation, realized that our mirror image, the Second Foundation, existed, and we could not live with the knowledge that we were being manipulated. We therefore labored to find the Second Foundation and to destroy it."
Branno nodded. "And we succeeded, according to Arkady Darell's account, but quite obviously, not until the Second Foundation had placed Galactic history firmly on track again after its disruption by the Mule. It is still on track."
"Can you believe that? The Second Foundation, according to the account, was located and its various members dealt with. That was in 378 F. E., a hundred twenty years ago. For five generations, the have supposedly been operating without the Second Foundation, and yet have remained so close to target where the Plan is concerned that you and the image of Seldon spoke almost identically."
"This might be interpreted to mean that I have seen into the significance of developing history with keen insight:"
"Forgive me. I do not intend to cast doubt upon your keen insight, but to me it seems that the more obvious explanation is that the Second Foundation was never destroyed. It still rules us. It still manipulates us. - And that is why we have returned to the track of the Seldon Plan."
If the Mayor was shocked by the statement, she showed no sign of it.
It was past 1 A. m. and she wanted desperately to bring an end to it, and yet could not hasten. The young man had to be played and she did not want to have him break the fishing line. She did not want to have to dispose of him uselessly, when he might first be made to serve a function.
She said, "Indeed? You say then that Arkady's tale of the Kalganian war and the destruction of the Second Foundation was false? Invented? A game? A lie?"
Trevize shrugged. "It doesn't have to be. That's beside the point. Suppose Arkady's account were completely true, to the best of her knowledge. Suppose all took place exactly as Arkady said it did; that the nest of Second Foundationers was discovered, and that they were disposed of. How can we possibly say, though, that we got every last one of them? The Second Foundation was dealing with the entire Galaxy. They were not manipulating the history of Terminus alone or even of the Foundation alone. Their responsibilities involved more than our capital world or our entire Federation. There were bound to be some Second Foundationers that were a thousand - or more - parsecs away. Is it likely we would have gotten them all?
"And if we failed to get them all, could we say we had won? Could the Mule have said it in his time? He took Terminus, and with it all the worlds it directly controlled - but the Independent Trading Worlds still stood. He took the Trading Worlds - yet three fugitives remained: Ebling Mis, Bayta Darell, and her husband. He kept both men under control and left Bayta - only Bayta - uncontrolled. He did this out of sentiment, if we are to believe Arkady's romance. And that was enough. According to Arkady's account, one person - only Bayta - was left to do as she pleased, and because of her actions the Mule was not able to locate the Second Foundation and was therefore defeated.
"One person left untouched, and all was Lost! That's the importance of one person, despite all the legends that surround Seldon's Plan to the effect that the individual is nothing and the mass is all.
"And if we left not just one Second Foundationer behind, but several dozen, as seems perfectly likely, what then? Would they not gather together, rebuild their fortunes, take up their careers again, multiply their numbers by recruitment and training, and once mare make us all pawns?"
Branno said gravely, "Do you believe that?"
"I am sure of it."
"But tell me, Councilman? Why should they bother? Why should the pitiful remnant continue to cling desperately to a duty no one welcomes? What drives them to keep the Galaxy along its path to the Second Galactic Empire? And if the small band insists on fulfilling its mission, why should we care? Why not accept the path of the Plan and be thankful that they will see to it that we do not stray or lose our way?"
Trevize put his hand over his eyes and rubbed them. Despite his youth, he seemed the more tired of the two. He stared at the Mayor and said, "I can't believe you. Are you under the impression that the Second Foundation is doing this for us? That they are some sort of idealists? Isn't it clear to you from your knowledge of politics - of the practical issues of power and manipulation - that they are doing it for themselves?
"We are the cutting edge. We are the engine, the force. We labor and sweat and bleed and weep. They merely control-adjusting an amplifier here, closing a contact there, and doing it all with ease and without risk to themselves. Then, when it is all done and when, after a thousand years of heaving and straining, we have set up the Second Galactic Empire, the people of the Second Foundation will move in as the ruling elite."
Branno said, "Do you want to eliminate the Second Foundation then? Having moved halfway to the Second Empire, do you want to take the chance of completing the task on our own and serving as our own elite? Is that it?"
"Certainly! Certainly! Shouldn't that be what you want, too? You and I won't live to see it, but you have grandchildren and someday I may, and they will have grandchildren, and so on. I want them to have the fruit of our labors and I want them to look back to us as the source, and to praise us for what we have accomplished. I don't want it all to fall to a hidden conspiracy devised by Seldon - who is no hero of mine. I tell you he is a greater threat than the Mule - if we allow his Plan to go through. By the Galaxy, I wish the Mule had disrupted the Plan altogether - and forever. We would have survived him. He was one of a kind and very mortal. The Second Foundation seems to be immortal."
"But you would like to destroy the Second Foundation, is that not so?"
"If I knew how!"
"Since you don't know how, don't you think it quite likely they will destroy you?"
Trevize looked contemptuous. "I have had the thought that even you might be under their control. Your accurate guess as to what Seldon's image would say and your subsequent treatment of me could be all Second Foundation. You could be a hollow shell with a Second Foundation content."
"Then why are you talking to me as you are?"
"Because if you are under Second Foundation control, I am lost in any case and I might as well expel some of the anger within me and because, in actual fact, I am gambling that you are not under their control, that you are merely unaware of what you do."
Branno said, "You win that gamble, at any rate. I am not under anyone's control but my own. Still, can you be sure I am telling the truth? Were I under control of the Second Foundation, would I admit it? Would I even myself know that I was under their control?
"But there is no profit in such questions. I believe I am not under control and you have no choice but to believe it, too. Consider this, however. If the Second Foundation exists, it is certain that their biggest need is to make sure that no one in the Galaxy knows they exist. The Seldon Plan only works well if the pawns-we-are not aware of how the Plan works and of how we are manipulated. It was because the Mule focused the attention of the Foundation on the Second Foundation that the Second Foundation was destroyed in Arkady's time. - Or should I say nearly destroyed, Councilman?
"From this we can deduce two corollaries. First, we can reasonably suppose that they interfere grossly as little as they can. We can assume it would be impossible to take us all over. Even the Second Foundation, if it exists, must have limits to its power. To take over some and allow others to guess the fact would introduce distortions to the Plan. Consequently, we come to the conclusion that their interference is as delicate, as indirect, as sparse as is possible - and therefore I am not controlled. Nor are you."
Trevize said, "That is one corollary and I tend to accept it - out of wishful thinking, perhaps. What is the other?"
"A simpler and more inevitable one. If the Second Foundation exists and wishes to guard the secret of that existence, then one thing is sure. Anyone who thinks it still exists, and talks about it, and announces it, and shouts it to all the Galaxy must, in some subtle way, be removed by them at once, wiped out, done away with. Wouldn't that be your conclusion, too?"
Trevize said, "Is that why you have taken me into custody, Madam Mayor? To protect me from the Second Foundation?"
"In a way. To an extent. Liono Kodell's careful recording of your beliefs will be publicized not only in order to keep the people of Terminus and the Foundation from being unduly disturbed by your silly talk - but to keep the Second Foundation from being disturbed. If it exists, I do not want to have its attention drawn to you."
"Imagine that," said Trevize with heavy irony. "For my sake? For my lovely brown eyes?"
Branno stirred and then, quite without warning, laughed quietly. She said, "I am not so old, Councilman, that I am not unaware that you have lovely brown eyes and, thirty years ago, that might have been motive enough. At this time, however, I wouldn't move a millimeter to save them - or all the rest of you - if only your eyes were involved. But if the Second Foundation exists, and if their attention, is drawn to you, they may not stop with you. There's my life to consider, and that of a number of others far mare intelligent and valuable than you - and all the plans we have made."
"Oh? Do you believe the Second Foundation exists, then, that you react so carefully to the possibility of their response?"
Branno brought her fist down upon the table before her. "Of course I do, you consummate fool! If I didn't know the Second Foundation exists, and if I weren't fighting them as hard and as effectively as I could, would I care what you say about such a subject? If the Second Foundation did not exist, would it matter that you are announcing they do? I've wanted for months to shut you up before you went public, but lacked the political power to deal roughly with a Councilman. Seldon's appearance made me look good and gave me the power - if only temporarily - and at that moment, you did go public. I moved at once, and now I will have you killed without a twinge of conscience or a microsecond of hesitation - if you don't do exactly as you're told.
"Our entire conversation now, at an hour in which I would much rather be in bed and asleep, was designed to bring you to the point of believing me when I tell you this. I want you to know that the problem of the Second Foundation, which I was careful to have you outline, gives me reason enough and inclination to have you brainstopped without trial."
Trevize half-rose from his seat.
Branno said, "Oh, don't make any moves. I'm only an old woman, as you're undoubtedly telling yourself, but before you could place a hand on me, you'd be dead. We are under observation, foolish young man, by my people."
Trevize sat down. He said, just a bit shakily, "You make no sense. If you believed the Second Foundation existed, you wouldn't be speaking of it so freely. You wouldn't expose yourself to the dangers to which you say I am exposing myself."
"You recognize, then, that I have a bit more good sense than you do. In other words, you believe the Second Foundation exists, yet you speak freely about it, because you are foolish. I believe it exists, and I speak freely, too - but only because I have taken precautions. Since you seem to have read Arkady's history carefully, you may recall that she speaks of her father having invented what she called a 'Mental Static Device.' It serves as a shield to the kind of mental power the Second Foundation has. It still exists and has been improved on, too, under conditions of the greatest secrecy. This house is, for the moment, reasonably safe against their prying. With that understood, let me tell you what you are to do."
"You are to find out whether what you and I think is so is indeed so. You are to find out if the Second Foundation still exists and, if so, where. That means you will have to leave Terminus and go I know not where - even though it may in the end turn out, as in Arkady's day, that the Second Foundation exists among us. It means you will not return till you have something to tell us; and if you have nothing to tell us, you will never return, and the population of Terminus will be less one fool."
Trevize found himself stammering. "How on Terminus can I look for them without giving away the fact? They will simply arrange a death for me, and you will be none the wiser."
"Then don't look for them, you naive child. Look for something else. Look for something else with all your heart and mind, and if, in the process, you come across them because they have not bothered to pay you any attention, then goods You may, in that case, send us the information by shielded and coded hyperwave, and you may then return as a reward."
"I suppose you have something in mind that I should look for."
"Of course I do. Do you know Janov Pelorat?"
"Never heard of him."
"You will meet him tomorrow. He will tell you what you are looking for and he will leave with you in one of our most advanced ships. There will be just the two of you, for two are quite enough to risk. And if you ever try to return without satisfying us that you have the knowledge we want, then you will be blown out of space before you come within a parsec of Terminus. That's all. This conversation is over."
She arose, looked at her bare hands, then slowly drew on her gloves. She turned toward the door, and through it came two guards, weapons in hand. They stepped apart to let her pass.
At the doorway she turned. "There are other guards outside. Do nothing that disturbs them or you will save us all the trouble of your existence."
"You will also then lose the benefits I might bring you," said Trevize and, with an effort, lie managed to say it lightly.
"We'll chance that," said Branno with an unamused smile.
Outside Liono Kodell was waiting for her. He said, "I listened to the whole thing, Mayor. You were extraordinarily patient."
"And I am extraordinarily tired. I think the day has been seventy-two hours long. You take over now."
"I will, but tell me. Was there really a Mental Static Device about the house?"
"Oh, Kodell," said Branno wearily. "You know better than that. What was the chance anyone was watching? Do you imagine the Second Foundation is watching everything, everywhere, always? I'm not the romantic young Trevize is; he might think that, but I don't. And even if that were the case, if Second Foundational eyes and ears were everywhere, would not the presence of an MSD have given us away at once? For that matter, would not its use have shown the Second Foundation a shield against its powers existed - once they detected a region that was mentally opaque? Isn't the secret of such a shield's existence - until we are quite ready to use it to the full - something worth not only more than Trevize, but more than you and I together? And yet..."
They were in the ground-car, with Kodell driving. "And yet..." said Kodell.
"And yet what?" said Branno. " - Oh yes. And yet that young man is intelligent. I called him a fool in various ways half a dozen times just to keep him in his place, but he isn't one. He's young and he's read too many of Arkady Darell's novels, and they have made him think that that's the way the Galaxy is - but he has a quick insight about him and it will be a pity to lose him."
"You are sure then that he will be lost?"
"Quite sure," said Branno sadly. "Just the same, it is better that way. We don't need young romantics charging about blindly and smashing in an instant, perhaps, what it has taken us years to build. Besides, he will serve a purpose. He will surely attract the attention of the Second Foundationers - always assuming they exist and are indeed concerning themselves with us. And while they are attracted to him, they will, perchance, ignore us. Perhaps we can gain even more than the good fortune of being ignored. They may, we can hope, unwittingly give themselves away to us in their concern with Trevize, and let us have an opportunity and time to devise countermeasures."
"Trevize, then, draws the lightning."
Branno's lips twitched. "Ah, the metaphor I've been looking for. He is our lightning rod, absorbing the stroke and protecting us from harm."
"And this Pelorat, who wilt also be in the path of the lightning bolt?"
"He may suffer, too. That can't be helped."
Kodell nodded. "Well, you know what Salvor Hardin used to say. 'Never let your sense of morals keep you from doing what is right.'"
"At the moment, I haven't got a sense of morals," muttered Branno. "I have a sense of bone-weariness. And yet - I could name a number of people I would sooner lose than Golan Trevize. He is a handsome young man. - And, of course, he knows it." Her tact words slurred as she closed her eyes and fell into a light sleep.