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10.

As evening fell beneath the domes and the light outside his office windows dimmed, Chen sat in his favorite chair and called up the Imperial Librarys news service, the finest and most comprehensive in the Galaxy. Words and pictures flitted around him, all relating to the Sarossan disaster and the loss of the Spear of Glory .There was no sign of the ship, and not likely to be; the best experts said it was very likely swallowed by a discontinuity within its final Jump, a hazard associated with supernova explosions but rarely seen, for the simple reason that supernovas were rare on human time scales. In all the Galaxy, less than one or two occurred each year, more often than not in uninhabited regions.

Already the popular journals were calling on the Emperor (respectfully, of course) and on Councilor Sinter, more acerbically, to rethink the transfer of rescue ships. Chen smiled grimly; let Sinter chew on that for a while.

Of course, if he heard nothing from Mors Planch, he would need to replace Lodovik, and soon; he had four candidates, none of them as qualified as Lodovik, but all worthy of service in the Commission of Public Safety. He would choose one as his assistant, and put the other three in apprenticeship programs, saying that the Commission should never again be caught with no immediate backups for the loss of important personnel.

There were three Commissioners who owed Chen for a few choice and private favors, and Chen could use this as a pretense for putting loyal men and women into their offices.

He shut off the news-service report with a flick of his hand and stood, smoothing his robes. Then he went out on the balcony to enjoy the sunset. There was no real sun visible here, of course, but he had mandated the repair of the Imperial Sector dome displays on a regular basis, and the sunsets were as reliable here as they had been everywhere in Trantor in his youth. He watched the highly artistic interpretation with some satisfaction, then put away all these masks of pleasure and considered the future.

Chen rarely slept more than an hour a day, usually at noon, which gave him the entire evening to do his research and make preparations for the work of the next morning. During his hour of sleep, he usually dreamed for about thirty minutes, and this afternoon, he had dreamed of his childhood, for the first time in years. Dreams, in his experience, seldom directly reflected the day-to-day affairs of life, but they could point to personal problems and weaknesses. Chen had great respect for those mental processes below conscious awareness. He knew that was where much of his most important work was done.

He imagined himself the captain of his own personal starship, with many excellent crewmembers-representing subconscious thought processes. It was his task to keep them alert and on duty, and for that reason, Chen performed special mental exercises for at least twenty minutes each day.

He had a machine for that very purpose, designed for him by the greatest psychologist on Trantor-perhaps in the Galaxy. The psychologist had disappeared five years ago, after an Imperial Court scandal orchestrated by Farad Sinter.

So many interconnections, interweavings. Chen regarded his enemies as his most intimate associates, and sometimes even felt a kind of sorrowful affection for them, as they fell by the wayside, one by one, victims of their own peculiar limitations and blindness.

Or, in Sinters case, of aggressive idiocy and madness.


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