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60.

Linge Chen allowed Kreen to remove his judges robes. The servant undressed his master silently and swiftly, hardly disturbing the Chief Commissioners concentration. Chen stared blankly at the opposite wall as Kreen undid his long golden waist bands. Finally, dressed in a pale gray cassock, Chen raised a finger, and Kreen bowed and left the Commissioners chamber.

Chen touched his finger to his earlobe and turned slowly, as if in a trance, to the desktop informer. Hari Seldon, he said. Distillation of main sources.

The informer worked for several seconds, then responded, Two hundred and seventy-four reports on psychohistory, Seldon, sequestering of for trial, academicians concerned about Seldons treatment by the nonpublic tribunal, forty-two unsigned opinion pieces by meritocrats on Trantor alone advocating his release

Chen told the machine to stop. The coverage was comparatively light, as he had expected. He had not planned either to encourage or suppress any stories regarding Seldon, and saw no reason to change this approach now.

Chen actually had an aristocratic distaste for control of information sources-best to leave them unfettered and know how to obtain the results one wanted through manipulation of events deemed newsworthy. Anything more heavy-handed was usually far too obviously self-serving, and therefore less effective.

Seldon and robots, Chen said, his voice low and steady. He closed his eyes.

The informer droned on, Fourteen stories express concern over the creation of the Commission of General Security. There is mention in each of Farad Sinters interest in Eternals and his belief they are robots. There is also mention of Joranum and his downfall at the hands of Demerzel and Hari Seldon. Four speculate that Farad Sinter is behind the arrest and trial of Hari Seldon. Two link Seldon with the liger Woman, who was at times thought by extremists and political opportunists to be a robot, until her death. These last stories originated with the Commission of General security.

Key outlets?

All key.

Details on the first.

Highest profile outlet and story, Trantor Radiance, twenty-seven media types, saturation of all twenty-seven.

Chen nodded absently to himself, touched his lobe again. He called for Kreen to return. The Lavrentian seemed to appear out of nowhere, as if he had simply faded in place, never having left the room. Are Farads Specials on the move again?

Yes, sire. They are assigned to the Commission of General Security. Vara Liso is leading them on searches again. The Emperor is aware of their activities and seems to approve.

Sinter isnt wasting any time. After all these years, Kreen-this almost seems too easy. Summon General Prothon out of his retirement, Chen ordered, and send him to me. No communication once he arrives.

The Chief Commissioner stared at Kreen and broke into a broad, almost boyish grin. His servant returned the grin halfheartedly. The last time he had seen such a grin on Chens face, the Chief Commissioner had ordered General Prothon to escort Agis IV into an exile-an oblivion, actually-from which he had never returned. All hell had broken loose in the palace. Kreen had lost four family members in subsequent purges and political renormalizations.

Ever since, the name Prothon had carried a heavy freight of fear-as Chen no doubt intended.

Kreen retreated once more, his face pale. Yes, sire.

Kreen, like all Lavrentians, wished only for stability and peace and steady work, but that, apparently, was not to be.


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