During his last sunset on Earth, Hari Seldon watched gamma rays excite scintillations above Old Chicago. Ionized curtains glowed and rippled like polar auroras, only here the driving energy came not from a distant sun, but the ground itself. He thought he could almost see patterns in the luminous sheets — like the clever living artwork in the imperial gardens that day when Horis Antic offered him a data wafer filled with tempting clues. Then, as Hari watched, all semblance of organized structure vanished from the eerie horizon. Now the glow reminded him instead of Shoufeen Woods, where order had been banished and chaos was king.
Preparations for departure were complete. In a little while, Hari would board Wanda’s ship for the return to Trantor and his former life — hated by the men and women he was exiling to Terminus, feared by the present set of imperial rulers. and revered by a small cabal of psychics and mathists who felt certain they knew the future course of history.
Daneel would stay behind to settle matters with the Earthling inhabitants. There were arrangements to make. The cracked sarcophagus had to be buried so others could not misuse the fateful rift in the space-time continuum.
From his vantage point atop a pile of rubble, Hari could hear the voice of Horis Antic jabbering with excitement as he packed away his collection of soil types, acquired during this visit to a strange world. There could even be a scientific paper or two, something to brighten up his career profile, though nothing would erase the stigma associated with anyone who worked with dirt.
In any event, the fellow seemed happy. Daneel had done his job well.
Feeling tremors in his legs, Hari sat down again in the suspensor chair that Wanda had provided. He was needing it more, now that the rejuvenation treatments were wearing off. Soon he would be a frail old cripple again.
Soon I will be dead.
Seated, he could lean back, gazing toward the zenith where Earth’s radiation glow surrendered to a glitter of starlight-constellations that his ancestors no doubt knew by heart. Those stellar patterns had certainly changed in twenty thousand years, however, and he pondered how the sky might have looked if R. Gornon Vlimt had his way, sending Hari through time to a galaxy five hundred years older. Five hundred years more experienced with sorrow.
There were footsteps on the rubble path, too surefooted to be human. After a long pause, Daneel Olivaw asked, “What do you see up there, old friend?”
Hari felt a tautness in his throat.
“Indeed. Do you have a good view?”
“A comfortable chair...a high place to look from... and of course, my equations. Oh yes, Daneel. I can see quite a bit from here.”
“And you are not disappointed? About missing a trip into that future?”
“Not very much. It might have been interesting. But you had reasons for preventing it, and I understand them. I probably would have meddled.” Hari laughed again. “Besides, you’ll need a man who never makes mistakes, and I am anything but that.”
“Do you have any special regrets?”
“Just one. I can see it right now.” Hari gestured skyward, a bit to the left of zenith, but he wasn’t pointing to a constellation, rather, at a cluster of psychohistorical terms that floated in his sky, more real at this moment than the glittering stars.
“Please tell me,” Daneel entreated. “Explain what you see up there.”
Hari realized that his immortal friend, capable of extending his vision from X rays to the radio spectrum, was at the moment, envious. Hari derived a strange pleasure from that.
“I see my Foundation, right now being established on Terminus, beginning its bumpy path toward adventure and glory. The probabilities are strong for two centuries, at least. Psychosocial momentum has built up to a point where I can almost see the actors in this play. The Encyclopedists, politicians, traders, and charlatans will live in a time of great personal danger. And yet they’ll draw satisfaction from a sense of participating in something grand. Building a society that is preordained for success.”
Hari lifted his other hand, pointing toward a flickering in Earth’s ionized atmosphere.
“Ah! Did you see that? A perturbation! They are happening all the time, though most cancel each other out. Besides, we designed the Foundation to be robust, adapting to every flux and disturbance with great resiliency.
“And yet, with so much riding on the Plan, do we dare let human destiny depend on the reactions of a few million of our descendants? Can we trust them to respond with as much courage and determination as the equations predict?”
Hari shook his head. “No, we cannot. You convinced me of that, long ago, Daneel. Perturbations from the Plan must be corrected! The Plan must be kept on course. To do this, we shall need a guiding hand. A Second Foundation, using mathematics to track every swerve and deviation, then applying pressure here and there, at just the right points, so that the First Foundation stays on its assigned trajectory.”
He sighed. “I was easy to persuade. After all, the Second Foundation is an extension of me. A form of immortality. A way I can keep poking and meddling after this physical frame has been eaten by worms and turned into the soil Horis admires so much. The Second Foundation might have been Yugo Amaryl’s idea — did you inspire him though? In any event, vanity alone was enough to make me agree to it.
“But then you started demanding even more, Daneel.
“Will mathematics suffice? You worried that my successors wouldn’t be strong enough. A society of secret guides will need something more potent than equations. A superhuman power, enabling them to sway kings, mayors, and scientists away from perturbing thoughts, diverting them back toward the tracks they had been assigned. And 10, no sooner did you make this suggestion, than such a tool appears!”
Hari gestured toward the horizon, where Old Chicago flickered with a steady glow. “Your gift to the Seldon Plan, Daneel — mentalics! We really had to do a major reformulation of the Plan when that came to light. Fortunately, the mutation only appeared where you wanted it to. Some of the psychics will help seed your great universal mind, while others breed with my Fifty mathists, creating a new race that is capable of both calculation and magic.”
There was silence atop the rubble mound. Finally, Daneel commented, “You see a lot up there, my old friend.”
“Oh yes, I see all the adjustments we had to make in the equations, in order to deal with this new aristocracy that will be inbreeding for the next several centuries, developing its power and influence, relying ever more on mentalic dominance, and less on mathematics. If they are left in charge, even with a tradition of duty and noblesse oblige, they will eventually become a ruling class. A ruling race. One that will make every prior priesthood or royal family seem like amateurs.”
Hari glanced up at Daneel.
“But what choice have we? Eventually the Foundation will stop being distracted by momentary crises, by galactic competitors and the challenge of expansion. In time, the civilization we establish on Terminus will reach a new height of confidence...and face its inevitable collision with chaos. At that point, our predictions grow more approximate. The psychohistorical equations show the Foundation’s odds of success will have winnowed down to only seventy percent or so.”
“That is not good enough, Hari. Not nearly good enough.”
“So you insisted, Daneel. The Foundation will be as strong, dynamic, and empathic as any human civilization could possibly be. If any culture could ever be prepared to take on chaos, survive the solipsism plagues, and burst through to the other side, this will be the one. And yet, if it fails...”
“That’s the rub, Hari.”
“Indeed. We’re left with a one-in-four chance that humanity itself might be destroyed. I can see why you wanted something better, Daneel. You were compelled to do anything in your power that might boost the odds.
“First, you demanded a secret mentalic society, to help guide the First Foundation. But that only altered a few percentage points. Worse, it actually introduced new perturbations. Resentment by common folk against a psychic aristocracy, for instance. And danger from rogue mentalics.”
Hari lifted both hands. “Quite a choice isn’t it? Either a hell-bent battle with chaos or a permanent mutant ruling class. No wonder you finally decided there must be a third solution! No wonder you’ve worked so hard to develop Gaia, as a way to replace the Seldon Plan.”
When he responded, there was deep respect and compassion in Daneel’s voice.
“Your work still has great importance, Hari. Humanity must be kept engaged during the next few centuries.”
“Engaged? You mean distracted, don’t you? The people of my Foundation will think they are bold explorers, holding destiny in their hands, winning a better future by their own efforts, though aided by laws of history. Then, abruptly, you’ll bring this new thing upon them. Already approved by some fellow who knows everything.”
“A man who is always right,” Daneel corrected.
Hari waved a hand. “Whatever.”
“I know you have reservations, Hari. But consider the long-range prospect. What if there are entities in other galaxies, similar to the meme-minds we encountered on Trantor? What if they are more powerful? Perhaps they have already assimilated all life-forms in their home galaxies. Their influence may even now be stretching this way, toward us. That outside force could be a terrible threat to humanity. Only if the human species is unified, powerful, and cohesive, a true Galaxia superorganism — can we be assured of your survival.”
Hari blinked for a moment. “Isn’t that a far-fetched scenario? Or at least a long way off?”
“Perhaps. But dare I take that chance? I am compelled by the Zeroth Law — and by my promise to Elijah Baley, to protect you all, no matter what the pains! No matter what the cost.”
R. Daneel Olivaw took a step forward, motioning toward the heavens. “Besides, think of it, Hari! Every human soul in contact with every other one! All knowledge shared instantly. All misunderstandings erased. Every bird, animal, and insect incorporated into the vast, unified web. The ultimate of serenity and understanding that your ancient sages yearned for. And it can be achieved in just over half the time that you project for the Foundation’s final battle with chaos.”
“Yes, it has attractive features,” Hari conceded.
“And yet, my mind and heart keep pondering Terminus, at the opposite side of the galaxy. A small world very much like this one...this poor, wounded Earth. Despite everything, Daneel, the odds were in their favor. All the factors agreed. They would have had a good chance — ”
“Seventy percent is not good enough.”
“So you won’t let them try?”
“Hari, even if they do break through to that mythical other side, you don’t know what kind of society they will build afterward! You admit the socio-equations explode into singularities at that point. All right, the Foundationers may defeat chaos. They may achieve some great new wisdom, but then what? How about the next crisis to come along? Psychohistory offers no insights. Both you and I are blind. We have no idea what would follow. No ability to plan or protect them.”
Hari nodded. “That uncertainty...that inability to predict...has been my lifelong terror. It’s what I always fought against, and the bond that united me to you, Daneel. Only now, as I approach my end, do I see a strange sort of beauty in it.
“Humanity has been like a child who was horribly traumatized, and thereafter stayed in the nursery, where it could be kept safe and warm. You may differ with the Calvinians over many things, Daneel. But you both prescribed amnesia to help ease our collective trauma — a dull forgetfulness that could have vanished anytime our protectors chose to pull back the blinds and open the door. But you never did.
“Treating us that way would have been a horrible crime, except for the excuse of chaos. And even with that excuse, isn’t there a limit? A point at which the child must be untethered, letting her take on new challenges? Facing the future on its own terms?”
Hari smiled. “We can only ask that our descendants be better than we are. We cannot demand that they be perfect. They’ll have to solve their problems, one at a time.”
Daneel stared for a while, then looked away.
“You may be able to take such an attitude, late in life, but my programming is less flexible. I cannot take risks with humanity’s survival.”
“I see that. But consider, Daneel. If Elijah Baley were here right now, don’t you think he would be willing to take a chance?”
The robot didn’t answer. Silence stretched between them, and that was all right with Hari. He was still looking at equations painted across the stars, waiting for something to reappear.
Something he had glimpsed before.
Abruptly, several of the floating factors entered a new orbit, coalescing in a pattern that existed nowhere except in his own mind. No existing version of the Seldon Plan Prime Radiant contained this insight. Perhaps it was an old man’s hallucination. Or else, an emergent property arising from all the new things he had learned during this final adventure.
Either way, it made him smile.
Ah, there you are again! Are you real? Or a manifestation of wishful thinking?
The motif was that of a circle, returning to its origins.
Hari looked up at Daneel, no doubt the noblest person he had ever met. After twenty thousand years, struggling for the sake of humanity, the robot was undeterred, unbowed, as resolute as ever to deliver his masters to some destination that was safe, happy, and secure.
Surely he will keep his final promise to me. I will get to see my beloved wife, one last time.
Having lived more intimately with a robot than any human, Hari had some sympathy for Zorma and Cloudia, who wanted greater union between the two races. Perhaps in many centuries their approach would combine with others in some rich brew. But their hopes and schemes were irrelevant at present. For now, only two versions of destiny showed any real chance of success. Daneel’s Galaxia, on the one hand... and the glimmering figure Hari now saw floating in the sky above him.
“Our children may surprise you, Daneel,” he commented at last, breaking the long silence.
Pondering briefly, his robot friend replied, “These children — you refer to the descendants of those exiled to Terminus?”
Hari nodded. “Five hundred and some odd years from now, they will already be a diverse and persnickety people, proud of both their civilization and their individuality. You may fool a majority of robots with your ‘man who is always right,’ but I doubt many in the Foundation will accept it.”
“I know,” Daneel acknowledged with pain in his voice. “There will be resistance against assimilation by Gaia. Shortsighted panic, perhaps even violence. All of it unavailing in the long run.”
But Hari reacted with a smile.
“I don’t think you quite understand, Daneel. It’s not resistance that you have to worry about. It will be a strange kind of acceptance that poses the greatest danger to your plan.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how can you be so sure that it won’t be Gaia that’s assimilated? Perhaps the culture of that future Foundation will be so strong, so diverse and open, that they will simply absorb your innovation, give Gaia citizenship papers, and then move on to even greater things.”
Daneel stared at Hari. “I...find this hard to envision.”
“It’s part of the pattern life has followed since it climbed from the ooze. The simple gets incorporated into the complex. For all of its power and glory, Gaia — and Galaxia — are simple beings. Perhaps their beauty and power will only be part of something larger. Something more diverse and grand than you ever imagined.”
“I cannot encompass this. It sounds risky. There is no assurance...”
“Oh, my dear friend. Both of us have always been obsessed with predictability. But sometimes you just have to understand — the universe isn’t ours to control.”
Though his body felt weak, Hari sat up higher in the flotation chair.
“I’ll tell you what, Daneel. Let’s make a wager.”
Hari nodded. “If you have your way, and Gaia assimilates everybody, eventually creating a vast unitary Galaxia, tell me this — will there be any more need for books?”
“Of course not. By definition, all members of the collective will know, almost instantaneously, anything that is learned by the others. Books, in whatever form, are a technique for passing information between separate minds.”
“Ah. And this assimilation should be complete, by say, six hundred years from now? Seven hundred, at the outside?”
“It should be.”
“On the other hand, suppose I am right. Imagine that my Foundation turns out to be stronger, wiser, and more robust than you, Wanda, or any of the robots expect. Perhaps it will defeat you, Daneel. They may decide to reject outside influence by robots, or human mentalics, or even all-wise cosmic minds.
“Or else, maybe they will accept Galaxia as a marvelous gift, incorporate it in their culture, and move on. Either way, human diversity and individualism will continue in some form. And there will still be a need for books! Perhaps even an Encyclopedia Galactica.”
“But I thought the Encyclopedia was just a ruse, to get the Foundation started on Terminus.”
Hari waved a hand in front of him. “Never mind that. There will be encyclopedias, though perhaps not at first. But the question that now lies before us — the subject of our wager — is this.
“Will there still be editions of the Encyclopedia Galactica published a thousand years from now?
“If your Galaxia plan succeeds, in its pure and simple form, there will be no books or encyclopedias in one millennium’s time. But if I am right, Daneel, people will still be creating and publishing compendiums of knowledge. They may share countless insights and intimacies through mentalic powers, the way people now make holovision calls. Who knows? But they will also maintain a degree of individuality, and keep on communicating with each other in old-fashioned ways.
“If I’m right, Daneel, the Encyclopedia will thrive... along with our children...and my first love. The Foundation.”
Hari Seldon lapsed into silence, a quiet reflection that R. Daneel Olivaw respected.
Soon, his granddaughter Wanda would come up this slope, a crumbling hill composed of rubble from past human civilizations, and collect him for the journey back to Trantor...and perhaps to a special reunion that he longed for.
But for the remaining moment, Hari admired a vista stretching overhead — the galactic starscape imbued with his beloved mathematics. He stared up at the radiation-flecked sky, and greeted Chaos, his old enemy.
I know you at last, he thought.
You are the tiger, who used to hunt us. You are winter’s cold. You are famine’s bitter hunger...the surprise betrayal...or the illness that struck without warning, leaving us crying out, Why?
You are every challenge humanity faced, and eventually overcame, as we grew just a little mightier and wiser with each triumph. You are the test of our confidence...our ability to persist and prevail.
I was justified in fighting you...and yet, without your opposition, humanity would be nothing, and there could never be a victory.
Chaos, he now realized, was the underlying substance out of which his equations evolved. As well as life itself.
Anyway, it would be pointless to resent it now. Soon, his molecules would join Chaos in its everlasting dance.
But up there, amid the stars, his lifelong dream still lived.
We will know. We will understand and grow beyond all limits that imprison us.
In time, we will be greater than we ever imagined possible.