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83.

Hari had not seen such luxurious accommodations since his days as First Minister, and they meant nothing at all to him. These were the auxiliary quarters of Linge Chen himself, in the Chief Commissioners own tower bloc, and Hari could have had any treat he wished, asked for and received any service available on Trantor (and Trantor still, whatever its problems, offered many and varied services to the wealthy and powerful); but what he wished for most of all was to be left alone.

He did not want to see the physicians who attended him, and he did not want to see his granddaughter, who was on her way to the palace with Boon.

Hari felt more than doubt and confusion. The blast of Vara Lisos hatred had failed to kill him. It had even failed to substantially damage or alter his mind or personality.

Hari did have a complete loss of memory about what had happened in the Hall of Dispensation. He could recall nothing but the face of Vara Liso and, strangely enough, that of Lodovik Trema, who was, of course, missing and presumed dead in deep space. But Vara Liso had been real.

Trema, he thought. Some connection with Daneel. Daneels conditioning, working on me? But even that hardly mattered.

What had so profoundly altered his state of mind, his sense of mission and purpose, was the single clue, the single bit of contradictory evidence, that Liso had inadvertently provided him.

Never in all of their equations had they taken into account such a powerful mentalic anomaly. Yes, he had calculated the effects of persuaders and other mentalics of the class of Wanda, Stettin, and those chosen for the Second Foundation

But not for such a monstrosity, such an unexpected mutation, as Vara Liso. That small, gnarled woman with her intense eyes

Hari shuddered. The physician attending to him-all but ignored-tried to reattach a sensor to Haris arm, but Hari shrugged it off and turned a despairing face toward him.

Its over, he said. Leave me alone. I would rather die anyway.

Clearly, sir, you are suffering from stress-

Im suffering from failure, Hari said. You cant bend logic or mathematics, whatever drugs or treatments you give me.

The door at the far end of the study opened, and Boon entered, followed by Wanda and Stet tin. Wanda pushed past Boon and ran to Hari. She dropped to her knees by the side of his chair, clutched his hand, and stared up at him as if she had feared she might find him in scattered pieces.

Hari looked down in silence upon his dear granddaughter, and his eyes moistened. I am free, he said softly.

Yes, Wanda said. Were here to take you home with us. We signed the papers. Stettin stood beside Haris chair, smiling down on him paternally. Hari had always found Stettins stolid, gentle nature a little irritating, though he seemed the perfect foil for Wandas willfulness. Next to the outlandish mad passion of Vara Lisolike candles in the glare of a sun, both of them!

Not what I mean, Hari said. At last Im free of my illusions.

Wanda reached up to stroke his cheek. The touch was needed, welcome even, but it did not soothe. What I need is soothing, not sooth-entirely too much sooth has been afforded me.

I dont know what you mean, Grandfather.

Just one of her-one of her kind-throws all our calculations into the bucket. The Project is a useless failure. If one of her can arise, there can be others-wild talents, and I dont know where they come from! Unpredictable mutations, aberrations, in response to what?

Do you mean Vara Liso? Wanda asked.

Shes dead, Stettin observed.

Hari curled his lip. To my knowledge, until now, certainly not more than a century before now, there has never been anything like her, on all the millions of human worlds, among all the quintillions of human beings. Now-there will be more.

She was just a stronger mentalic. How could that make a difference? What does it matter? Wanda asked.

Im free to be just a human being in the last years of my life.

Grandfather, tell me! How does she make such a difference?

Because someone like her, raised properly, trained properly, could be a force that unites, Hari said. But not a saving forceA source of organization from a single point, a truly despotic kind of top-down order. Tyrants! I spoke to enough of them. Merely fires in a forest, perhaps necessary to the health of the forest. But they would have been moreThey all would have succeeded-if they had had what that woman had. A destroying, unnatural force. Destructive of all we have planned.

Then rework your equations, Grandfather. Put her in. Surely she cant be that large a factor-

Not just her! Others! Mutations, an infinite number of them. Hari shook his head vehemently. There isnt time to factor in all the possibilities. We have only three months to prepare-not nearly enough time. Its all over. Useless.

Wanda stood, her face grim, lower lip trembling.

Its the trauma talking, the physician said in a low voice to Wanda.

My mind is clear! Hari stormed. I want to go home and live the rest of my years in peace. This delusion is at an end. I am sane, for the first time-sane, and free!


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