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13


Trantor, the capital world-city of the Galactic Empire, had changed considerably since the day Hari first stepped off the hypership from his native Helicon thirty-eight years ago. Was it the pearly haze of an old man's memory that made the Trantor of old shine so brightly in his mind's eye, Hari wondered. Or perhaps it had been the exuberance of youth-how could a young man from a provincial Outer World such as Helicon not be impressed by the gleaming towers, sparkling domes, the colorful, rushing masses of people that had seemed to swirl through Trantor, day and night.

Now, Hari thought sadly, the walkways are nearly deserted, even in the full light of day. Roving gangs of thugs controlled various areas of the city, competing among themselves for territory. The security establishment had dwindled; those who were left had their hands full processing complaints at the central office. Of course, security officers were dispatched as emergency calls came through, but they made it to the scene only after a crime was committed-they no longer made even a pretense of protecting the citizens of Trantor. A person went out at his own risk-and a great risk it was. And yet Hari Seldon still took that risk, in the form of a daily walk, as if defying the forces that were destroying his beloved Empire to destroy him as well.

And so Hari Seldon walked along, limping-and thoughtful.

Nothing worked. Nothing. He had been unable to isolate the genetic pattern that set Wanda apart-and without that, he was unable to locate others like her.

Wanda's ability to read minds had sharpened considerably in the six years since she had identified the flaw in Yugo Amaryl's Prime Radiant. Wanda was special in more ways than one. It was as if, once she realized that her mental ability set her apart from other people, she was determined to understand it, to harness its energy, to direct it. As she had progressed through her teen years, she had matured, throwing off the girlish giggles that had so endeared her to Hari, at the same time becoming even dearer to him in her determination to help him in his work with the powers of her "gift." For Hari Seldon had told Wanda about his plan for a Second Foundation and she had committed herself to realizing that goal with him.

Today, though, Seldon was in a dark mood. He was coming to the conclusion that Wanda's mentalic ability would get him nowhere. He had no credits to continue his work-no credits to locate others like Wanda, no credits to pay his workers on the Psychohistory Project at Streeling, no credits to set up his all-important Encyclopedia Project at the Galactic Library.

Now what?

He continued to walk toward the Galactic Library. He would have been better off taking a gravicab, but he wanted to walk-limp or not. He needed time to think.

He heard a cry-"There he is!"-but paid no attention.

It came again. "There he is! Psychohistory!"

The word forced him to look up. Psychohistory.

A group of young men was closing in around him.

Automatically Seldon placed his back against the wall and raised his cane. "What is it you want?"

They laughed. "Credits, old man. Do you have any credits?"

"Maybe, but why do you want them from me? You said, 'Psychohistory!' Do you know who I am?"

"Sure, you're Raven Seldon" said the young man in the lead. He seemed both comfortable and pleased.

"You're a creep," shouted another.

"What are you going to do if I don't give you any credits?"

"We'll beat you up," said the leader, "and we'll take them."

"And if I give you my credits?"

"We'll beat you up anyway!" They all laughed.

Hari Seldon raised his cane higher. "Stay away. All of you."

By now he had managed to count them. There were eight.

He felt himself choking slightly. Once he and Dors and Raych had been attacked by ten and they had had no trouble. He had been only thirty-two at the time and Dors-was Dors.

Now it was different. He waved his cane.

The leader of the hoodlums said, "Hey, the old man is going to attack us. What are we going to do?"

Seldon looked around swiftly. There were no security officers around. Another indication of the deterioration of society. An occasional person or two passed by, but there was no use calling for help. Their footsteps increased in speed and made a wide detour. No one was going to run any risks of getting involved in an imbroglio.

Seldon said, "The first one of you who approaches gets a cracked head."

"Yeah?" And the leader stepped forward rapidly and seized the cane. There was a short sharp struggle and the cane was wrested from Seldon's grip. The leader tossed it to one side.

"Now what, old man?"

Seldon shrunk back. He could only wait for the blows. They crowded around him, each eager to land a blow or two. Seldon lifted his arms to try to ward them off. He could still Twist-after a fashion. If he were facing only one or two, he might be able to Twist his body, avoid their blows, strike back. But not against eight-surely not against eight.

He tried, at any rate, moving quickly to one side to avoid the blows and his right leg, with its sciatica, doubled under him. He fell and knew himself to be utterly helpless.

Then he heard a stentorian voice shouting, "What's going on here? Get back, you thugs! Back or I'll kill you all!"

The leader said, "Well, another old man."

"Not that old," said the newcomer. With the back of one hand, he struck the leader's face, turning it an ugly red.

Seldon said in surprise, "Raych, it's you."

Raych's hand swept back. "Stay out of this, Dad. Just get up and move away."

The leader, rubbing his cheek, said, "We'll get you for that."

"No, you won't," said Raych, drawing out a knife of Dahlite manufacture, long and gleaming. A second knife was withdrawn and he now held one in each hand.

Seldon said weakly, "Still carrying knives, Raych?"

"Always," said Raych. "Nothing will ever make me stop."

"I'll stop you," said the leader, drawing out a blaster.

Faster than the eye could follow, one of Raych's knives went sailing through the air and struck the leader's throat. He made a loud gasp, then a gurgling sound, and fell, while the other seven stared.

Raych approached and said, "I want my knife back." He drew it out of the hoodlum's throat and wiped it on the man's shirtfront. In doing so, he stepped on the man's hand, bent down, and picked up his blaster.

Raych dropped the blaster into one of his capacious pockets. He said, "I don't like to use a blaster, you bunch of good-for-nothings, because sometimes I miss. I never miss with a knife, however. Never! That man is dead. There are seven of you standing. Do you intend to stay standing or will you leave?"

"Get him!" shouted one of the hoodlums and the seven made a concerted rush.

Raych took a backward step. One knife flashed and then the other and two of the hoodlums stopped with, in each case, a knife buried in his abdomen.

"Give me back my knives," said Raych, pulling each out with a cutting motion and wiping them.

"These two are still alive, but not for long. That leaves five of you on your feet. Are you going to attack again or are you going to leave?"

They turned and Raych called out, "Pick up your dead and dying. I don't want them."

Hastily they flung the three bodies over their shoulders, then they turned tail and ran.

Raych bent to pick up Seldon's cane. "Can you walk, Dad?"

"Not very well," said Seldon. "I twisted my leg."

"Well then, get into my car. What were you doing walking, anyway?"

"Why not? Nothing's ever happened to me."

"So you waited till something did. Get into my car and I'll give you a lift back to Streeling."

He programmed the ground-car quietly, then said, "What a shame we didn't have Dors with us. Mom would have attacked them with her bare lands and left all eight dead in five minutes."

Seldon felt tears stinging his eyelids. "I know, Raych, I know. Do you think I don't miss her every day?"

"I'm sorry," said Raych in a low voice.

Seldon asked, "How did you know I was in trouble?"

"Wanda told me. She said there were evil people lying in wait for you, she told me where they were and I took right off."

"Didn't you doubt that she knew what she was talking about?"

"Not at all. We know enough about her now to know that she has some sort of contact with your mind and with the things around you."

"Did she tell you how many people were attacking me?"

"No. She just said, 'Quite a few.'"

"So you came out all by yourself, did you, Raych?"

"I had no time to put together a posse, Dad. Besides, one of me was enough."

"Yes, it was. Thank you, Raych."



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