Klayus jumped from his large seat in the Hall of Beasts as Sinter came into the room. The monsters from around the Galaxy loomed over them. The Emperor always came here when he felt uneasy, insecure. The beasts made him feel monstrously powerful himself, as indeed he should be, with the title of Emperor of the Galaxy.
Sinter hustled over to Klayus, arms folded into the long sleeves of his Commissioner’s robes.
“What’s going on?” Klayus demanded, his voice shrill.
Sinter bowed and looked up from under lifted brows. “I’ve begun a selective search for more evidence, as we agreed,” he said. “Sire, I’ve been in meeting with the planners for the expansion of our authority over the Commission of Public Safety-”
“You called out the Dragons, damn you! This is not a state emergency!”
“I have done no such thing, Your Highness.”
“Sinter, they’re allover Dahl and the Imperial Sector and Streeling, thousands of them! They’ve put on their guidance helmets, and General Prothon is directing them personally!”
“I know nothing about this!”
Klayus spluttered, “Why don’t you know…something? Anything! They’ve already arrested four thousand children in Dahl alone, and they’re bringing them to the Rikerian Prison for processing!”
“They would only-I mean, Prothon can only do this, has authorization to do this, if there is a general insurrection”
“I’ve talked with him, you fool!”
Farad’s brow creased and he stared at the Emperor with an expression of mixed dread and curiosity. “What did he say?”
“The Commission of General Security has issued a proclamation of imminent danger to the throne! The proclamation has your imprimatur, your sigil, as Chief Commissioner!”
“It’s a forgery!” Sinter cried out. “I have a select group of Specials searching for robots. Vara Liso, sire. Nothing more! We are concentrating in Streeling. We have a very suspicious group cornered in an old warehouse near the retail districts-”
Klayus almost shrieked with frustration. “I’ve ordered the general to pull back his troops immediately. He said he will comply-I still have that power, Sinter! But-”
“Of course you do, Your Highness! We must immediately find out who is responsible”
“Nobody cares by now! Dahl is seething-there’s been a lot of economic pressure, social pressure, and they’ve always been volatile. My social watchmen tell me they’ve never seen so much unrest-four thousand children, Sinter! This is extraordinary!”
“Not my doing, my Emperor!”
“It has your marks all over it. Paranoid delusions-”
“Sire, we have the robot! We’re having her memory checked now!”
“I’ve seen the report-Chen sent it to me fifteen minutes ago. She-it’s been in Mycogen for years, hidden in a private house, kept by a family loyal to the old rituals, the old myths…it’s thousands of years old, and its memory is almost a blank! The family claims she is the last functioning robot in the Galaxy! It has absolutely no memory of Hari Seldon!”
Sinter fell silent, but his lips worked, and his brow seemed almost to double up on itself. “There’s a plan…a plan at work here…” he gasped.
“Prothon insists he has your order, the imprimatur and sigil of the new Commission-he has offered his resignation as a Protector of the Empire, his suicide and the besmirching of the honorable name of his family, if anyone can prove otherwise!”
“Your Highness-Klayus, please, listen to me-”
But Klayus was beside himself. “I don’t know what will happen if-”
“Listen, my Emperor-”
“Sinter!” the Emperor shrieked, and grabbed his shoulders and shook him fiercely. “Prothon escorted Agis into exile! He has not conducted any official campaign since!”
Suddenly, Sinter’s face went blank, and he closed his mouth. The wrinkles vanished from his brow.
“Chen,” he said, almost too softly to be heard.
“Linge Chen is sequestered for Seldon’s trial! Public Safety has come to a standstill. It’s Seldon he’s after, not robots, not-”
“Chen controls Prothon,” Sinter said.
“Who can prove that? Does it matter? Does any of that matter? My throne is very fragile, Sinter. Everyone thinks I’m a fool. You told me we could make it strong-that I could make my reputation as the savior of Trantor, protect the Empire from a vast conspiracy-”
Sinter let the Emperor screech, and endured the spittle flying into his face. He was thinking furiously how to withdraw and regroup, how to dissociate himself from what was obviously a catastrophe in the making.
“Why didn’t I receive the report before you, sire?” he asked, and Klayus shut up long enough to glare at him.
“What does that matter?”
“I should have received the report first, to interpret it. That was my instruction.”
“I countermanded your instruction! I felt I should know as soon as possible.”
Sinter considered coldly what he had just been told, then squinted at Klayus. “Have you told anybody, sire?”
“Yes! I told Prothon’s adjutant that his orders were ridiculous, that we’d, that we’d just conducted our own investigation-I was grabbing at details, to get you off the hook, Sinter-I said that you would never have ordered such a large-scale police and security action-not when our evidence was as yet not definite” Klayus sucked in his breath.
Farad Sinter shook his head sadly. “Then Chen knows we don’t have anything-yet.” He pulled Klayus’s hands from his shoulders. “I must go. We are so close-I had hoped to corner an entire cell of robots-”
He ran from the Hall of Beasts, leaving the young Emperor standing with hands outstretched and eyes wild.
“Prothon! Sinter, Prothon!” Klayus screamed.
There is virtually no information regarding Hari Seldon’s so-called recantation, his “dark days.” They may be pure legend, but we have circumstantial evidence from a number of sources-including Wanda Seldon Palver’s autobiographical notes-to suspect that Seldon did indeed encounter a crisis of confidence, even a crisis of self.
This crisis may have begun immediately after the trial, in the chambers of Chief Commissioner Linge Chen, though of course we shall never know…
117th Edition, 1054 F.E.