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“Bridle and Saddle” by Isaac Asmiov


A deputation!

That Salvor Hardin had seen it coming made it none the more pleasant. On the contrary, he found anticipation distinctly annoying.

Yohan Lee advocated extreme measures. “I don’t see, Hardin,” he said, “that we need waste any time. They can’t do anything till next election – legally, anyway – and that gives us a year. Give them the brush-off.”

Hardin pursed his lips. “Lee, you’ll never learn. In the forty years I’ve known you, you’ve never once learned the gentle art of sneaking up from behind.”

“It’s not my way of fighting,” grumbled Lee.

“Yes, I know that. I suppose that’s why you’re the one man I trust.” He paused and reached for a cigar. “We’ve come a long way, Lee, since we engineered our coup against the Encyclopedists way back. I’m getting old. Sixty-two. Do you ever think how fast those thirty years went?”

Lee snorted. “I don’t feel old, and I’m sixty-six.”

“Yes, but I haven’t your digestion.” Hardin sucked lazily at his cigar. He had long since stopped wishing for the mild Vegan tobacco of his youth. Those days when the planet, Terminus, had trafficked with every part of the Galactic Empire belonged in the limbo to which all Good Old Days go. Toward the same limbo where the Galactic Empire was heading. He wondered who the new emperor was – or if there was a new emperor at all – or any Empire. Space! For thirty years now, since the breakup of communications here at the edge of the Galaxy, the whole universe of Terminus had consisted of itself and the four surrounding kingdoms.

How the mighty had fallen! Kingdoms! They were prefects in the old days, all part of the same province, which in turn had been part of a sector, which in turn had been part of a quadrant, which in turn had been part of the allembracing Galactic Empire. And now that the Empire had lost control over the farther reaches of the Galaxy, these little splinter groups of planets became kingdoms – with comic-opera kings and nobles, and petty, meaningless wars, and a life that went on pathetically among the ruins.

A civilization falling. Nuclear power forgotten. Science fading to mythology – until the Foundation had stepped in. The Foundation that Hari Seldon had established for just that purpose here on Terminus.

Lee was at the window and his voice broke in on Hardin’s reverie. “They’ve come,” he said, “in a late-model ground car, the young pups.” He took a few uncertain steps toward the door and then looked at Hardin.

Hardin smiled, and waved him back. “I’ve given orders to have them brought up here.”

“Here! What for? You’re making them too important.”

“Why go through all the ceremonies of an official mayor’s audience? I’m getting too old for red tape. Besides which, flattery is useful when dealing with youngsters – particularly when it doesn’t commit you to anything.” He winked. “Sit down, Lee, and give me your moral backing.

I’ll need it with this young Sermak.”

“That fellow, Sermak,” said Lee, heavily, “is dangerous. He’s got a following, Hardin, so don’t underestimate him.”

“Have I ever underestimated anybody?”

“Well, then, arrest him. You can accuse him of something or other afterward.”

Hardin ignored that last bit of advice. “There they are, Lee.” In response to the signal, he stepped on the pedal beneath his desk, and the door slid aside.

They filed in, the four that composed the deputation, and Hardin waved them gently to the armchairs that faced his desk in a semicircle. They bowed and waited for the mayor to speak first.

Hardin flicked open the curiously carved silver lid of the cigar box that had once belonged to Jord Fara of the old Board of Trustees in the long-dead days of the Encyclopedists. It was a genuine Empire product from Santanni, though the cigars it now contained were home-grown. One by one, with grave solemnity, the four of the deputation accepted cigars and lit up in ritualistic fashion.

Sef Sermak was second from the right, the youngest of the young group – and the most interesting with his bristly yellow mustache trimmed precisely, and his sunken eyes of uncertain color. The other three Hardin dismissed almost immediately; they were rank and file on the face of them. It was on Sermak that he concentrated, the Sermak who had already, in his first term in the City Council, turned that sedate body topsy-turvy more than once, and it was to Sermak that he said:

“I’ve been particularly anxious to see you, Councilman, ever since your very excellent speech last month. Your attack on the foreign policy of this government was a most capable one.”

Sermak’s eyes smoldered. “Your interest honors me. The attack may or may not have been capable, but it was certainly justified.”

“Perhaps! Your opinions are yours, of course. Still you are rather young.”

Dryly. “It is a fault that most people are guilty of at some period of their life. You became mayor of the city when you were two years younger than I am now.”

Hardin smiled to himself. The yearling was a cool customer. He said, “I take it now that you have come to see me concerning this same foreign policy that annoys you so greatly in the Council Chamber. Are you speaking for your three colleagues, or must I listen to each of you separately?” There were quick mutual glances among the four young men, a slight flickering of eyelids.

Sermak said grimly, “I speak for the people of Terminus – a people who are not now truly represented in the rubberstamp body they call the Council.”

“I see. Go ahead, then!”

“It comes to this, Mr. Mayor. We are dissatisfied-”

“By ‘we’ you mean ‘the people,’ don’t you?”

Sermak stared hostilely, sensing a trap, and replied coldly, “I believe that my views reflect those of the majority of the voters of Terminus. Does that suit you?”

“Well, a statement like that is all the better for proof, but go on, anyway. You are dissatisfied.”

“Yes, dissatisfied with the policy which for thirty years had been stripping Terminus defenseless against the inevitable attack from outside.”

“I see. And therefore? Go on, go on.”

“It’s nice of you to anticipate. And therefore we are forming a new political party; one that will stand for the immediate needs of Terminus and not for a mystic ‘manifest destiny’ of future Empire. We are going to throw you and your lick-spittle clique of appeasers out of City Hall-and that soon.”

“Unless? There’s always an ‘unless,’ you know.”

“Not much of one in this case: Unless you resign now. I’m not asking you to change your policies – I wouldn’t trust you that far. Your promises are worth nothing. An outright resignation is all we’ll take.”

“I see.” Hardin crossed his legs and teetered his chair back on two legs. “That’s your ultimatum. Nice of you to give me warning. But, you see, I rather think I’ll ignore it.”

“Don’t think it was a warning, Mr. Mayor. It was an announcement of principles and of action. The new party has already been formed, and it will begin its official activities tomorrow. There is neither room nor desire for compromise, and, frankly, it was only our recognition of your services to the City that induced us to offer the easy way out. I didn’t think you’d take it, but my conscience is clear.

The next election will be a more forcible and quite irresistible reminder that resignation is necessary.”

He rose and motioned the rest up.

Hardin lifted his arm. “Hold on! Sit down!”

Sef Sermak seated himself once more with just a shade too much alacrity and Hardin smiled behind a straight face. In spite of his words, he was waiting for an offer.

Hardin said, “In exactly what way do you want our foreign policy changed? Do you want us to attack the Four Kingdoms, now, at once, and all four simultaneously?”

“I make no such suggestion, Mr. Mayor. It is our simple proposition that all appeasement cease immediately. Throughout your administration, you have carried out a policy of scientific aid to the Kingdoms. You have given them nuclear power. You have helped rebuild power plants on their territories. You have established medical clinics, chemical laboratories and factories.”

“Well? And your objection?”

“You have done this in order to keep them from attacking us. With these as bribes, you have been playing the fool in a colossal game of blackmail, in which you have allowed Terminus to be sucked dry – with the result that now we are at the mercy of these barbarians.”

“In what way?”

“Because you have given them power, given them weapons, actually serviced the ships of their navies, they are infinitely stronger than they were three decades ago. Their demands are increasing, and with their new weapons, they will eventually satisfy all their demands at once by violent annexation of Terminus. Isn’t that the way blackmail usually ends?”

“And your remedy?”

“Stop the bribes immediately and while you can. Spend your effort in strengthening Terminus itself – and attack first!”

Hardin watched the young fellow’s little blond mustache with an almost morbid interest. Sermak felt sure of himself or he wouldn’t talk so much. There was no doubt that his remarks were the reflection of a pretty huge segment of the population, pretty huge.

His voice did not betray the slightly perturbed current of his thoughts. If was almost negligent. “Are you finished?”

“For the moment.”

“Well, then, do you notice the framed statement I have on the wall behind me? Read it, if you will!

Sermak’s lips twitched. “It says: ‘Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.’ That’s an old
man’s doctrine, Mr. Mayor.”

“I applied it as a young man, Mr. Councilman – and successfully. You were busily being born when it happened, but perhaps you may have read something of it in school.”

He eyed Sermak closely and continued in measured tones, “When Hari Seldon established the Foundation here, it was for the ostensible purpose of producing a great Encyclopedia, and for fifty years we followed that will-of-the-wisp, before discovering what he was really after. By that time, it was almost too late. When communications with the central regions of the old Empire broke down, we found ourselves a world of scientists concentrated in a single city, possessing no industries, and surrounded by newly created kingdoms, hostile and largely barbarous. We were a tiny island of nuclear power in this ocean of barbarism, and an infinitely valuable prize.

“Anacreon, then as now, the most powerful of the Four Kingdoms, demanded and later actually established a military base upon Terminus, and the then rulers of the City, the Encyclopedists, knew very well that this was only a preliminary to taking over the entire planet. That is how matters stood when I … uh … assumed actual government. What would you have done?”

Sermak shrugged his shoulders. “That’s an academic question. Of course, I know what you did.”

“I’ll repeat it, anyway. Perhaps you don’t get the point. The temptation was great to muster what force we could and put up a fight. It’s the easiest way out, and the most satisfactory to self-respect – but, nearly invariably, the stupidest. You would have done it; you and your talk of ‘attack first.’ What I did, instead, was to visit the three other kingdoms, one by one; point out to each that to allow the secret of nuclear power to fall into the hands of Anacreon was the quickest way of cutting their own throats; and suggest gently that they do the obvious thing.

That was all. One month after the Anacreonian force had landed on Terminus, their king received a joint ultimatum from his three neighbors. In seven days, the last Anacreonian was off Terminus.

Now tell me, where was the need for violence?”

The young councilman regarded his cigar stub thoughtfully and tossed it into the incinerator chute. “I fail to see the analogy. Insulin will bring a diabetic to normal without the faintest need of a knife, but appendicitis needs an operation. You can’t help that. When other courses have failed, what is left but, as you put it, the last refuge? It’s your fault that we’re driven to it.”

“I? Oh, yes, again my policy of appeasement. You still seem to lack grasp of the fundamental necessities of our position. Our problem wasn’t over with the departure of the Anacreonians. They had just begun. The Four Kingdoms were more our enemies than ever, for each wanted nuclear power-and each was kept off our throats only for fear of the other three. We are balanced on the point of a very sharp sword, and the slightest sway in any direction – If, for instance, one kingdom becomes too strong; or if two form a coalition – You understand?”

“Certainly. That was the time to begin all-out preparations for war.”

“On the contrary. That was the time to begin all-out prevention of war. I played them one against the other. I helped each in turn. I offered them science, trade, education, scientific medicine. I made Terminus of more value to them as a flourishing world than as a military prize. It worked for thirty years.”

“Yes, but you were forced to surround these scientific gifts with the most outrageous mummery. You’ve made half religion, half balderdash out of it. You’ve erected a hierarchy of priests and complicated, meaningless ritual.”

Hardin frowned. “What of that? I don’t see that it has anything to do with the argument at all. I started that way at first because the barbarians looked upon our science as a sort of magical sorcery, and it was easiest to get them to accept it on that basis. The priesthood built itself and if we help it along we are only following the line of least resistance. It is a minor matter.”

“But these priests are in charge of the power plants. That is not a minor matter.”

“True, but we have trained them. Their knowledge of their tools is purely empirical; and they have a firm belief in the mummery that surrounds them.”

“And if one pierces through the mummery, and has the genius to brush aside empiricism, what is to prevent him from learning actual techniques, and selling out to the most satisfactory bidder? What price our value to the kingdoms, then?”

“Little chance of that, Sermak. You are being superficial. The best men on the planets of the kingdoms are sent here to the Foundation each year and educated into the priesthood. And the best of these remain here as research students. If you think that those who are left, with practically no knowledge of the elements of science, or worse, still, with the distorted knowledge the priests receive, can penetrate at a bound to nuclear power, to electronics, to the theory of the hyperwarp – you have a very romantic and very foolish idea of science. It takes lifetimes of training and an excellent brain to get that far.”

Yohan Lee had risen abruptly during the foregoing speech and left the room. He had returned now and when Hardin finished speaking, he bent to his superior’s ear. A whisper was exchanged and then a leaden cylinder. Then, with one short hostile look at the deputation, Lee resumed his chair.

Hardin turned the cylinder end for end in his hands, watching the deputation through his lashes. And then he opened it with a hard, sudden twist and only Sermak had the sense not to throw a rapid look at the rolled paper that fell out.

“In short, gentlemen,” he said, “the Government is of the opinion that it knows what it is doing.”

He read as he spoke. There were the lines of intricate, meaningless code that covered the page and the three penciled words scrawled in one comer that carried the message. He took it in at a glance and tossed it casually into the incinerator shaft.

“That,” Hardin then said, “ends the interview, I’m afraid. Glad to have met you all. Thank you for coming.” He shook hands with each in perfunctory fashion, and they filed out.

Hardin had almost gotten out of the habit of laughing, but after Sermak and his three silent partners were well out of earshot, he indulged in a dry chuckle and bent an amused look on Lee.

“How did you like that battle of bluffs, Lee?”

Lee snorted grumpily. “I’m not sure that he was bluffing. Treat him with kid gloves and he’s quite liable to win the next election, just as he says.”

“Oh, quite likely, quite likely – if nothing happens first.”

“Make sure they don’t happen in the wrong direction this time, Hardin. I tell you this Sermak has a following. What if he doesn’t wait till the next election? There was a time when you and I put things through violently, in spite of your slogan about what violence is.”

Hardin cocked an eyebrow. “You are pessimistic today, Lee. And singularly contrary, too, or you wouldn’t speak of violence. Our own little putsch was carried through without loss of life, you remember. It was a necessary measure put through at the proper moment, and went over smoothly, painlessly, and all but effortlessly. As for Sermak, he’s up against a different proposition. You and I, Lee, aren’t the Encyclopedists. We stand prepared. Order your men onto these youngsters in a nice way, old fellow. Don’t let them know they’re being watched – but eyes open, you understand.”

Lee laughed in sour amusement. “I’d be a fine one to wait for your orders, wouldn’t I, Hardin? Sermak and his men have been under surveillance for a month now.”

The mayor chuckled. “Got in first, did you? All right. By the way,” he observed, and added softly, “Ambassador Verisof is returning to Terminus. Temporarily, I hope.”

There was a short silence, faintly horrified, and then Lee said, “Was that the message? Are things breaking already?”

“Don’t know. I can’t tell till I hear what Verisof has to say. They may be, though. After all, they have to before election. But what are you looking so dead about?”

“Because I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. You’re too deep, Hardin, and you’re playing the game too close to your chest.”

“Even you?” murmured Hardin. And aloud, “Does that mean you’re going to join Sermak’s new party?”

Lee smiled against his will. “All right. You win. How about lunch now?”


There are many epigrams attributed to Hardin – a confirmed epigrammatist – a good many of which are probably apocryphal. Nevertheless, it is reported that on a certain occasion, he said:

“It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.”

Poly Verisof had had occasion to act on that advice more than once for he was now in the fourteenth year of his double status on Anacreon – a double status the upkeep of which reminded him often and unpleasantly of a dance performed barefoot on hot metal.

To the people of Anacreon he was high priest, representative of that Foundation which, to those “barbarians,” was the acme of mystery and the physical center of this religion they had created – with Hardin’s help – in the last three decades. As such, he received a homage that had become horribly wearying, for from his soul he despised the ritual of which he was the center.

But to the King of Anacreon – the old one that had been, and the young grandson that was now on the throne – he was simply the ambassador of a power at once feared and coveted.

On the whole, it was an uncomfortable job, and his first trip to the Foundation in three years, despite the disturbing incident that had made it necessary, was something in the nature of a holiday.

And since it was not the first time he had had to travel in absolute secrecy, he again made use of Hardin’s epigram on the uses of the obvious.

He changed into his civilian clothes – a holiday in itself – and boarded a passenger liner to the Foundation, second class. Once at Terminus, he threaded his way through the crowd at the spaceport and called up City Hall at a public visiphone.

He said, “My name is Jan Smite. I have an appointment with the mayor this afternoon.”

The dead-voiced but efficient young lady at the other end made a second connection and exchanged a few rapid words, then said to Verisof in dry, mechanical tone, “Mayor Hardin will see you in half an hour, sir,” and the screen went blank.

Whereupon the ambassador to Anacreon bought the latest edition of the Terminus City Journal, sauntered casually to City Hall Park and, sitting, down on the first empty bench he came to, read the editorial page, sport section and comic sheet while waiting. At the end of half an hour, he tucked the paper under his arm, entered City Hall and presented himself in the anteroom.

In doing all this he remained safely and thoroughly unrecognized, for since he was so entirely obvious, no one gave him a second look.

Hardin looked up at him and grinned. “Have a cigar! How was the trip?”

Verisof helped himself. “Interesting. There was a priest in the next cabin on his way here to take a special course in the preparation of radioactive synthetics – for the treatment of cancer, you know

“Surely, he didn’t call it radioactive synthetics, now?”

“I guess not! It was the Holy Food to him.”

The mayor smiled. “Go on.”

“He inveigled me into a theological discussion and did his level best to elevate me out of sordid materialism.”

“And never recognized his own high priest?”

“Without my crimson robe? Besides, he was a Smyrnian. It was an interesting experience, though. It is remarkable, Hardin, how the religion of science has grabbed hold. I’ve written an essay on the subject – entirely for my own amusement; it wouldn’t do to have it published. Treating the problem sociologically, it would seem that when the old Empire began to rot at the fringes, it could be considered that science, as science, had failed the outer worlds. To be reaccepted it would have to present itself in another guise and it has done just that. It works out beautifully.”

“Interesting!” The mayor placed his arms around his neck and said suddenly, “Start talking about the situation at Anacreon!”

The ambassador frowned and withdrew the cigar from his mouth. He looked at it distastefully and put it down. “Well, it’s pretty bad.”

“You wouldn’t be here, otherwise.”

“Scarcely. Here’s the position. The key man at Anacreon is the Prince Regent, Wienis. He’s King Lepold’s uncle.”

“I know. But Lepold is coming of age next year, isn’t he? I believe he’ll be sixteen in February.”

“Yes.” Pause, and then a wry addition. “If he lives. The king’s father died under suspicious circumstances. A needle bullet through the chest during a hunt. It was called an accident.”

“Hmph. I seem to remember Wienis the time I was on Anacreon, when we kicked them off Terminus. It was before your time. Let’s see now. If I remember, he was a dark young fellow, black hair and a squint in his right eye. He had a funny hook in his nose.”

“Same fellow. The hook and the squint are still there, but his hair’s gray now. He plays the game dirty. Luckily, he’s the most egregious fool on the planet. Fancies himself as a shrewd devil, too, which mades his folly the more transparent.”

“That’s usually the way.”

“His notion of cracking an egg is to shoot a nuclear blast at it. Witness the tax on Temple property he tried to impose just after the old king died two years ago. Remember?”

Hardin nodded thoughtfully, then smiled. “The priests raised a howl.”

“They raised one you could hear way out to Lucreza. He’s shown more caution in dealing with the priesthood since, but he still manages to do things the hard way. In a way, it’s unfortunate for us; he has unlimited self-confidence.”

“Probably an over-compensated inferiority complex. Younger sons of royalty get that way, you know.”

But it amounts to the same thing. He’s foaming at the mouth with eagerness to attack the Foundation. He scarcely troubles to conceal it. And he’s in a position to do it, too, from the standpoint of armament. The old king built up a magnificent navy, and Wienis hasn’t been sleeping the last two years. In fact, the tax on Temple property was originally intended for further armament, and when that fell through he increased the income tax twice.”

“Any grumbling at that?”

“None of serious importance. Obedience to appointed authority was the text of every sermon in the kingdom for weeks. Not that Wienis showed any gratitude.”

“All right. I’ve got the background. Now what’s happened?”

“Two weeks ago an Anacreonian merchant ship came across a derelict battle cruiser of the old Imperial Navy. It must have been drifting in space for at least three centuries.”

Interest flickered in Hardin’s eyes. He sat up. “Yes, I’ve heard of that. The Board of Navigation has sent me a petition asking me to obtain the ship for purposes of study. It is in good condition, I understand.”

“In entirely too good condition,” responded Verisof, dryly. “When Wienis received your suggestion last week that he turn the ship over to the Foundation, he almost had convulsions.”

“He hasn’t answered yet.”

“He won’t – except with guns, or so he thinks. You see, he came to me on the day I left Anacreon and requested that the Foundation put this battle cruiser into fighting order and turn it over to the Anacreonian navy. He had the infernal gall to say that your note of last week indicated a plan of the Foundation’s to attack Anacreon. He said that refusal to repair the battle cruiser would confirm his suspicions; and indicated that measures for the self-defense of Anacreon would be forced upon him. Those are his words. Forced upon him! And that’s why I’m here.”

Hardin laughed gently.

Verisof smiled and continued, “Of course, he expects a refusal, and it would be a perfect excuse – in his eyes – for immediate attack.”

“I see that, Verisof. Well, we have at least six months to spare, so have the ship fixed up and present it with my compliments. Have it renamed the Wienis as a mark of our esteem and affection.”

He laughed again.

And again Verisof responded with the faintest trace of a smile, “I suppose it’s the logical step, Hardin – but I’m worried.”

“What about?”

“It’s a ship! They could build in those days. Its cubic capacity is half again that of the entire Anacreonian navy. It’s got nuclear blasts capable of blowing up a planet, and a shield that could take a Q-beam without working up radiation. Too much of a good thing, Hardin.”

“Superficial, Verisof, superficial. You and I both know that the armament he now has could defeat Terminus handily, long before we could repair the cruiser for our own use. What does it matter, then, if we give him the cruiser as well? You know it won’t ever come to actual war.”

“I suppose so. Yes.” The ambassador looked up. “But Hardin -”

“Well? Why do you stop? Go ahead.”

“Look. This isn’t my province. But I’ve been reading the paper.” He placed the Journal on the desk and indicated the front page. “What’s this all about?”

Hardin dropped a casual glance. “‘A group of Councilmen are forming a new political party.'”

“That’s what it says.” Verisof fidgeted. “I know you’re in better touch with internal matters than I am, but they’re attacking you with everything short of physical violence. How strong are they?”

“Damned strong. They’ll probably control the Council after next election.”

“Not before?” Verisof looked at the mayor obliquely. “There are ways of gaining control besides elections.”

“Do you take me for Wienis?”

“No. But repairing the ship will take months and an attack after that is certain. Our yielding will be taken as a sign of appalling weakness and the addition of the Imperial Cruiser will just about double the strength of Wienis’ navy. He’ll attack as sure as I’m a high priest. Why take chances? Do one of two things. Either reveal the plan of campaign to the Council, or force the issue with Anacreon now!”

Hardin frowned. “Force the issue now? Before the crisis comes? It’s the one thing I mustn’t do. There’s Hari Seldon and the Plan, you know.”

Verisof hesitated, then muttered, “You’re absolutely sure, then, that there is a Plan?”

“There can scarcely be any doubt,” came the stiff reply. “I was present at the opening of the Time Vault and Seldon’s recording revealed it then.”

“I didn’t mean that, Hardin. I just don’t see how it could be possible to chart history for a thousand years ahead. Maybe Seldon overestimated himself.” He shriveled a bit at Hardin’s ironical smile, and added, “Well, I’m no psychologist.”

“Exactly. None of us are. But I did receive some elementary training in my youth – enough to know what psychology is capable of, even if I can’t exploit its capabilities myself. There’s no doubt but that Seldon did exactly what he claims to have done. The Foundation, as he says, was established as a scientific refuge – the means by which the science and culture of the dying Empire was to be preserved through the centuries of barbarism that have begun, to be rekindled in the end into a second Empire.”

Verisof nodded, a trifle doubtfully. “Everyone knows that’s the way things are supposed to go. But can we afford to take chances? Can we risk the present for the sake of a nebulous future?”

“We must – because the future isn’t nebulous. It’s been calculated out by Seldon and charted. Each successive crisis in our history is mapped and each depends in a measure on the successful conclusion of the ones previous. This is only the second crisis and Space knows what effect even a trifling deviation would have in the end.”

“That’s rather empty speculation.”

“No! Hari Seldon said in the Time Vault, that at each crisis our freedom of action would become circumscribed to the point where only one course of action was possible.”

“So as to keep us on the straight and narrow?”

“So as to keep us from deviating, yes. But, conversely, as long as more than one course of action is possible, the crisis has not been reached. We must let things drift so long as we possibly can, and by space, that’s what I intend doing.”

Verisof didn’t answer. He chewed his lower lip in a grudging silence. It had only been the year before that Hardin had first discussed the problem with him – the real problem; the problem of countering Anacreon’s hostile preparations. And then only because he, Verisof, had balked at further appeasement.

Hardin seemed to follow his ambassador’s thoughts. “I would much rather never to have told you anything about this.”

“What makes you say that?” cried Verisof, in surprise.

“Because there are six people now – you and I, the other three ambassadors and Yohan Lee – who have a fair notion of what’s ahead; and I’m damned afraid that it was Seldon’s idea to have no one know.”

“Why so?”

“Because even Seldon’s advanced psychology was limited. It could not handle too many independent variables. He couldn’t work with individuals over any length of time; any more than you could apply kinetic theory of gases to single molecules. He worked with mobs, populations of whole planets, and only blind mobs who do not possess foreknowledge of the results of their own actions.”

“That’s not plain.”

“I can’t help it. I’m not psychologist enough to explain it scientifically. But this you know. There are no trained psychologists on Terminus and no mathematical texts on the science. It is plain that he wanted no one on Terminus capable of working out the future in advance. Seldon wanted us to proceed blindly – and therefore correctly – according to the law of mob psychology. As I once told you, I never knew where we were heading when I first drove out the Anacreonians. My idea had been to maintain balance of power, no more than that. It was only afterward that I thought I saw a pattern in events; but I’ve done my level best not to act on that knowledge. Interference due to foresight would have knocked the Plan out of kilter.”

Verisof nodded thoughtfully. “I’ve heard arguments almost as complicated in the Temples back on Anacreon. How do you expect to spot the fight moment of action?”

“It’s spotted already. You admit that once we repair the battle cruiser nothing will stop Wienis from attacking us. There will no longer be any alternative in that respect.”


“All right. That accounts for the external aspect. Meanwhile, you’ll further admit that the next election will see a new and hostile Council that will force action against Anacreon. There is no alternative there.”


“And as soon as all the alternatives disappear, the crisis has come. Just the same – I get worried.”

He paused, and Verisof waited. Slowly, almost reluctantly, Hardin continued, “I’ve got the idea – just a notion – that the external and internal pressures were planned to come to a head simultaneously. As it is, there’s a few months difference. Wienis will probably attack before spring, and elections are still a year off.”

“That doesn’t sound important.”

“I don’t know. It may be due merely to unavoidable errors of calculation, or it might be due to the fact that I knew too much. I tried never to let my foresight influence my action, but how can I tell? And what effect will the discrepancy have? Anyway,” he looked up, “there’s one thing I’ve decided.”

“And what’s that?”

“When the crisis does begin to break, I’m going to Anacreon. I want to be on the spot … Oh, that’s enough, Verisof. It’s getting late. Let’s go out and make a night of it. I want some relaxation.”

“Then get it right here,’ said Verisof. “I don’t want to be recognized, or you know what this new party your precious Councilmen are forming would say. Call for the brandy.”

And Hardin did – but not for too much.


In the ancient days when the Galactic Empire had embraced the Galaxy, and Anacreon had been the richest of the prefects of the Periphery, more than one emperor had visited the Viceregal Palace in state. And not one had left without at least one effort to pit his skill with air speedster and needle gun against the feathered flying fortress they call the Nyakbird.

The fame of Anacreon had withered to nothing with the decay of the times. The Viceregal Palace was a drafty mass of ruins except for the wing that Foundation workmen had restored. And no Emperor had been seen in Anacreon for two hundred years.

But Nyak hunting was still the royal sport and a good eye with the needle gun still the first requirement of Anacreon’s kings.

Lepold I, King of Anacreon and – as was invariably, but untruthfully added – Lord of the Outer Dominions, though not yet sixteen had already proved his skill many times over. He had brought down his first Nyak when scarcely thirteen; had brought down his tenth the week after his accession to the throne; and was returning now from his forty-sixth.

“Fifty before I come of age,” he had exulted. “Who’ll take the wager?”

But Courtiers don’t take wagers against the king’s skill. There is the deadly danger of winning. So no one did, and the king left to change his clothes in high spirits.


The king stopped mid-step at the one voice that could cause him to do so. He turned sulkily. Wienis stood upon the threshold of his chambers and beetled at his young nephew.

“Send them away,” he motioned impatiently. “Get rid of them.”

The king nodded curtly and the two chamberlains bowed and backed down the stairs. Lepold entered his uncle’s room.

Wienis stared at the king’s hunting suit morosely. “You’ll have more important things to tend to than Nyak hunting soon enough.”

He turned his back and stumped to his desk. Since he had grown too old for the rush of air, the perilous dive within wing-beat of the Nyak, the roll and climb of the speedster at the motion of a foot, he had soured upon the whole sport.

Lepold appreciated his uncle’s sour-grapes attitude and it was not without malice that he began enthusiastically, “But you should have been with us today, uncle. We flushed one in the wilds of Sarnia that was a monster. And game as they come. We had it out for two hours over at least seventy square miles of ground. And then I got to Sunwards – he was motioning graphically, as though he were once more in his speedster -“and dived torque-wise. Caught him on the rise just under the left wing at quarters. It maddened him and he canted athwart. I took his dare and veered a-left, waiting for the plummet. Sure enough, down he came. He was within wing-beat before I moved and then -”


“Well!- I got him.”

“I’m sure you did. Now will you attend?”

The king shrugged and gravitated to the end table where he nibbled at a Lera nut in quite an unregal sulk. He did not dare to meet his uncle’s eyes.

Wienis said, by way of preamble, “I’ve been to the ship today.”

“What ship?”

“There is only one ship. The ship. The one the Foundation is repairing for the navy. The old Imperial cruiser. Do I make myself sufficiently plain?”

“That one? You see, I told you the Foundation would repair it if we asked them to. It’s all poppycock, you know, that story of yours about their wanting to attack us. Because if they did, why would they fix the ship? It doesn’t make sense, you know.”

“Lepold, you’re a fool!”

The king, who had just discarded the shell of the Lera nut and was lifting another to his lips, flushed.

“Well now, look here,” he said, with anger that scarcely rose above peevishness, “I don’t think you ought to call me that. You forget yourself. I’ll be of age in two months, you know.”

“Yes, and you’re in a fine position to assume regal responsibilities. If you spent half the time on public affairs that you do on Nyak hunting, I’d resign the regency directly with a clear conscience.”

“I don’t care. That has nothing to do with the case, you know. The fact is that even if you are the regent and my uncle, I’m still king and you’re still my subject. You oughtn’t to call me a fool and you oughtn’t to sit in my presence, anyway. You haven’t asked my permission. I think you ought to be careful, or I might do something about it pretty soon.”

Wienis’ gaze was cold. “May I refer to you as ‘your majesty’?”


“Very well! You are a fool, your majesty!”

His dark eyes blazed from beneath his grizzled brows and the young king sat down slowly. For a moment, there was sardonic satisfaction in the regent’s face, but it faded quickly. His thick lips parted in a smile and one hand fell upon the king’s shoulder.

“Never mind, Lepold. I should not have spoken harshly to you. It is difficult sometimes to behave with true propriety when the pressure of events is such as – You understand?” But if the words were conciliatory, there was something in his eyes that had not softened.

Lepold said uncertainly, “Yes. Affairs of State are deuced difficult, you know.” He wondered, not without apprehension, whether he were not in for a dull siege of meaningless details on the year’s trade with Smyrno and the long, wrangling dispute over the sparsely settled worlds on the Red Corridor.

Wienis was speaking again. “My boy, I had thought to speak of this to you earlier, and perhaps I should have, but I know that your youthful spirits are impatient of the dry detail of statecraft.”

Lepold nodded. “Well, that’s all right-”

His uncle broke in firmly and continued, “However, you will come of age in two months. Moreover, in the difficult times that are coming, you will have to take a full and active part. You will be king henceforward, Lepold.”

Again Lepold nodded, but his expression was quite blank.

“There will be war, Lepold.”

“War! But there’s been truce with Smyrno-”

“Not Smyrno. The Foundation itself.”

“But, uncle, they’ve agreed to repair the ship. You said-”

His voice choked off at the twist of his uncle’s lip.

“Lepold” – some of the friendliness had gone -“we are to talk man to man. There is to be war with the Foundation, whether the ship is repaired or not; all the sooner, in fact, since it is being repaired. The Foundation is the source of power and might. All the greatness of Anacreon; all its ships and its cities and its people and its commerce depend on the dribbles and leavings of power that the Foundation have given us grudgingly. I remember the time – I, myself – when the cities of Anacreon were warmed by the burning of coal and oil. But never mind that; you would have no conception of it.”

“It seems,” suggested the king timidly, “that we ought to be grateful-”

“Grateful?” roared Wienis. “Grateful that they begrudge us the merest dregs, while keeping space knows what for themselves – and keeping it with what purpose in mind? Why, only that they may some day rule the Galaxy.”

His hand came down on his nephew’s knee, and his eyes narrowed. “Lepold, you are king of Anacreon. Your children and your children’s children may be kings of the universe – if you have the power that the Foundation is keeping from us!”

“There’s something in that.” Lepold’s eyes gained a sparkle and his back straightened. “After all, what right have they to keep it to themselves? Not fair, you know. Anacreon counts for something, too.”

“You see, you’re beginning to understand. And now, my boy, what if Smyrno decides to attack the Foundation for its own part and thus gains all that power? How long do you suppose we could escape becoming a vassal power? How long would you hold your throne?”

Lepold grew excited. “Space, yes. You’re absolutely right, you know. We must strike first. It’s simply self-defense.”

Wienis’ smile broadened slightly. “Furthermore, once, at the very beginning of the reign of your grandfather, Anacreon actually established a military base on the Foundation’s planet, Terminus – a base vitally needed for national defense. We were forced to abandon that base as a result of the machinations of the leader of that Foundation, a sly cur, a scholar, with not a drop of noble blood in his veins. You understand, Lepold? Your grandfather was humiliated by this commoner. I remember him! He was scarcely older than myself when he came to Anacreon with his devil’s smile and devil’s brain – and the power of the other three kingdoms behind him, combined in cowardly union against the greatness of Anacreon.”

Lepold flushed and the sparkle in his eyes blazed. “By Seldon, if I had been my grandfather, I would have fought even so.”

“No, Lepold. We decided to wait – to wipe out the insult at a fitter time. It had been your father’s hope, before his untimely death, that he might be the one to – Well, well!” Wienis turned away for a moment. Then, as if stifling emotion, “He was my brother. And yet, if his son were-”

“Yes, uncle, I’ll not fail him. I have decided. It seems only proper that Anacreon wipe out this nest of troublemakers, and that immediately.”

“No, not immediately. First, we must wait for the repairs of the battle cruiser to be completed. The mere fact that they are willing to undertake these repairs proves that they fear us. The fools attempt to placate us, but we are not to be turned from our path, are we?”

And Lepold’s fist slammed against his cupped palm.

“Not while I am king in Anacreon.”

Wienis’ lip twitched sardonically. “Besides which we must wait for Salvor Hardin to arrive.”

“Salvor Hardin!” The king grew suddenly round-eyed, and the youthful contour of his beardless face lost the almost hard lines into which they had been compressed.

“Yes, Lepold, the leader of the Foundation himself is coming to Anacreon on your birthday – probably to soothe us with buttered words. But it won’t help him.”

“Salvor Hardin!” It was the merest murmur.

Wienis frowned. “Are you afraid of the name? It is the same Salvor Hardin, who on his previous visit, ground our noses into the dust. You’re not forgetting that deadly insult to the royal house? And from a commoner. The dregs of the gutter.”

“No. I guess not. No, I won’t. I won’t! We’ll pay him back – but.. .but – I’m afraid – a little.”

The regent rose. “Afraid? Of what? Of what, you young-” He choked off.

“It would be. ..uh.. .sort of blasphemous, you know, to attack the Foundation. I mean-” He paused.

“Go on.”

Lepold said confusedly, “I mean, if there were really a Galactic Spirit, he…uh…it mightn’t like it. Don’t you think?

“No, I don’t,” was the hard answer. Wienis sat down again and his lips twisted in a queer smile. “And so you really bother your head a great deal over the Galactic Spirit, do you? That’s what comes of letting you run wild. You’ve been listening to Verisof quite a bit, I take it.”

“He’s explained a great deal-”

“About the Galactic Spirit?”


“Why, you unweaned cub, he believes in that mummery a good deal less than I do, and I don’t believe in it at all. How many times have you been told that all this talk is nonsense?”

“Well, I know that. But Verisof says-”

“Pay no heed to Verisof. It’s nonsense.”

There was a short, rebellious silence, and then Lepold said, “Everyone believes it just the same. I mean all this talk about the Prophet Hari Seldon and how he appointed the Foundation to carry on his commandments that there might some day be a return of the Galactic Paradise: and how anyone who disobeys his commandments will be destroyed for eternity. They believe it. I’ve presided at festivals, and I’m sure they do.”

“Yes, they do ; but we don’t. And you may be thankful it’s so, for according to this foolishness, you are king by divine right – and are semi-divine yourself. Very handy. It eliminates all possibilities of revolts and insures absolute obedience in everything. And that is why, Lepold, you must take an active part in ordering the war against the Foundation. I am only regent, and quite human. You are king, and more than half a god – to them.”

“But I suppose I’m not really,” said the king reflectively.

“No, not really,” came the sardonic response, “but you are to everyone but the people of the Foundation. Get that? To everyone but those of the Foundation. Once they are removed there will be no one to deny you the godhead. Think of that!”

“And after that we will ourselves be able to operate the power boxes of the temples and the ships that fly without men and the holy food that cures cancer and all the rest? Verisof said only those blessed with the Galactic Spirit could-”

“Yes, Verisof said! Verisof, next to Salvor Hardin, is your greatest enemy. Stay with me, Lepold, and don’t worry about them. Together we will recreate an empire-not just the kingdom of Anacreon-but one comprising every one of the billions of suns of the Empire. Is that better than a wordy ‘Galactic Paradise’?”


“Can Verisof promise more?”


“Very well.” His voice became peremptory. “I suppose we may consider the matter settled.” He waited for no answer. “Get along. I’ll be down later. And just one thing, Lepold.”

The young king turned on the threshold.

Wienis was smiling with all but his eyes. “Be careful on these Nyak hunts, my boy. Since the unfortunate accident to your father, I have had the strangest presentiments concerning you, at times. In the confusion, with needle guns thickening the air with darts, one can never tell. You will be careful, I hope. And you’ll do as I say about the Foundation, won’t you?”

Lepold’s eyes widened and dropped away from those of his uncle. “Yes – certainly.”

“Good!” He stared after his departing nephew, expressionlessly, and returned to his desk.

And Lepold’s thoughts as he left were somber and not unfearful. Perhaps it would be best to defeat the Foundation and gain the power Wienis spoke of. But afterward, when the war was over and he was secure on his throne- He became acutely conscious of the fact that Wienis and his two arrogant sons were at present next in line to the throne.

But he was king. And kings could order people executed.

Even uncles and cousins.

(Part 2)