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30


Wanda Seldon adjusted the waistband of her unisuit, pulling it a little tighter around her middle. Taking up a hand hoe, she attacked some weeds that had sprung up in her small flower garden outside the Psychohistory Building at Streeling. Generally Wanda spent the bulk of her time in her office, working with her Prime Radiant. She found solace in its precise statistical elegance; the unvarying equations were somehow reassuring in this Empire gone so crazy. But when thoughts of her beloved father, mother, and baby sister became too much to bear, when even her research could not keep her mind off the horrible losses she'd so recently undergone, Wanda invariably found herself out here, scratching at the terraformed ground, as if coaxing a few plants to life might somehow, in some tiny measure, ameliorate her pain.

Since her father's death a month ago and the disappearance of Manella and Bellis, Wanda, who had always been slim, had been losing weight. Whereas a few months ago Hari Seldon would have been concerned over his darling granddaughter's loss of appetite, now he, stuck in his own grief, seemed not to notice.

A profound change had come over Hari and Wanda Seldon-and the few remaining members of the Psychohistory Project. Hari seemed to have given up. He now spent most of his days sitting in an armchair in the Streeling solarium, staring out at the University grounds, warmed by the bright bulbs overhead. Occasionally Project members told Wanda that his bodyguard, a man named Stettin Palver, would badger Seldon into a walk out under the dome or try to engage him in a discussion of the future direction of the Project.

Wanda retreated deeper into her study of the Prime Radiant's fascinating equations. She could feel the future her grandfather had worked so hard to achieve finally taking shape, and he was right: The Encyclopedists must be established on Terminus; they would be the Foundation.

And Section 33A2D17-in it Wanda could see what Seldon referred to as the Second, or secret, Foundation. But how? Without Seldon's active interest, Wanda was at a loss as to how to proceed. And her sorrow over the destruction of her family cut so deep that she didn't seem to have the strength to figure it out.

The members of the Project itself, those fifty or so hardy souls who remained, continued their work as well as possible. The majority were Encyclopedists, researching the source materials they would need to copy and catalogue for their eventual move to Terminus-when and if they gained full access to the Galactic Library. At this point, they were working on faith alone. Professor Seldon had lost his private office at the Library, so the prospects of any other Project member gaining special access were slim.

The remaining Project members (other than the Encyclopedists) were historical analysts and mathematicians. The historians interpreted past and current human actions and events, turning their findings over to the mathematicians, who in turn fit those pieces into the great Psychohistorical Equation. It was long painstaking work.

Many Project members had left because the rewards were so few-psychohistorians were the butt of many jokes on Trantor and limited funds had forced Seldon to enact drastic pay cuts. But the constant reassuring presence of Hari Seldon had-till now-overcome the difficult working conditions of the Project. Indeed, the Project members who had stayed on had, to a person, done so out of respect and devotion to Professor Seldon.

Now, thought Wanda Seldon bitterly, what reason is left for them to stay? A light breeze blew a piece of her blond hair across her eyes; she pushed it back absentmindedly and continued her weeding.

"Miss Seldon, may I have a moment of your time?" Wanda turned and looked up. A young man-she judged him to be in his early twenties-stood on the gravel path next to her. She immediately sensed him to be strong and fearsomely intelligent. Her grandfather had chosen wisely. Wanda rose to speak with him.

"I recognize you. You are my grandfather's bodyguard, are you not? Stettin Palver, I believe?"

"Yes, that's correct, Miss Seldon," Palver said and his cheeks reddened slightly, as if he were pleased that so pretty a girl should have given him any notice. "Miss Seldon, it is your grandfather I'd like to talk to you about. I'm very worried about him. We must do something."

"Do what, Mr. Palver? I am at a loss. Since my father"-she swallowed hard, as if she were having difficulty speaking-"died and my mother and sister disappeared, it is all I can do to get him out of bed in the morning. And to tell you the truth, it has affected me very deeply as well. You understand, don't you?" She looked into his eyes and knew that he did.

"Miss Seldon," Palver said softly, "I am terribly sorry about your losses. But you and Professor Seldon are alive and you must keep working at psychohistory. The professor seems to have given up. I was hoping that maybe you-we-could come up with something to give him hope again. You know, a reason to go on."

Ah, Mr. Palver, thought Wanda, maybe Grandpa has it right. I wonder if there truly is any reason to go on. But she said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Palver, I can think of nothing." She gestured toward the ground with her hoe. "And now, as you can see, I must get back to these pesky weeds."

"I don't think your grandfather has got it right. I think there truly is a reason to go on. We just have to find it."

The words struck her with full force. How had he known what she had been thinking? Unless-"You can handle minds, can't you?" Wanda asked, holding her breath, as if afraid to hear Palver's response.

"Yes, I can," the young man replied. "I always have, I think. At least, I can't remember not doing it. Half the time I'm not even consciously aware of it-I just know what people are thinking-or have thought.

"Sometimes," he continued, encouraged by the understanding he felt emanating from Wanda, "I get flashes of it coming from someone else. It's always in a crowd, though, and I can't locate whoever it is. But I know there are others like me-us-around."

Wanda grabbed Palver's hand excitedly, her gardening tool tossed to the ground, forgotten. "Have you any idea what this might mean? For Grandpa, for psychohistory? One of us alone can do only so much, but both of us together-" Wanda started walking into the Psychohistory Building, leaving Palver standing on the gravel path. Almost to the entrance she stopped and turned. Come, Mr. Palver, we must tell my grandfather, Wanda said without opening her mouth. Yes, I suppose we should, answered Palver as he joined her.



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