Mayor Harla Branno had every reason for satisfaction. The state visit had not lasted long, but it had been thoroughly productive.
She said, as though in deliberate attempt to avoid hubris, "We can't, of course, trust them completely."
She was watching the screen. The ships of the Fleet were, one by one, entering hyperspace and returning to their normal stations.
There was no question but that Sayshell had been impressed by their presence, but they could not have failed to notice two things:
one, that the ships had remained in Foundation space at all times; two, that once Branno had indicated they would leave, they were indeed leaving with celerity.
On the other hand, Sayshell would not forget either that those ships could be recalled to the border at a day's notice - or less. It was a maneuver that had combined both a demonstration of power and a demonstration of goodwill.
Kodell said, "Quite right, we can't trust them completely, but then no one in the Galaxy can be trusted completely and it is in the self-interest of Sayshell to observe the terms of the agreement. We have been generous."
Branno said, "A lot will depend on working out the details and I predict that will take months. The general brushstrokes can be accepted in a moment, but then come the shadings: just how we arrange for quarantine of imports and exports, how we weigh the value of their grain and cattle compared to ours, and so on."
"I know, but it will be done eventually and the credit will be yours, Mayor. It was a bold stroke and one, I admit, whose wisdom I doubted."
"Come, Liono. It was just a matter of the Foundation recognizing Sayshellian pride. They've retained a certain independence since early Imperial times. It's to be admired, actually."
"Yes, now that it will no longer inconvenience us."
"Exactly, so it was only necessary to bend our own pride to the point of making some sort of gesture to theirs. I admit it took an effort to decide that I, as Mayor of a Galaxy-straddling Federation, should condescend to visit a provincial star-grouping, but once the decision was made it didn't hurt too much. And it pleased them. We had to gamble that they would agree to the visit once we moved our ships to the border, but it meant being humble and smiling very broadly."
Kodell nodded. "We abandoned the appearance of power to preserve the essence of it."
"Exactly. - Who first said that?"
"I believe it was in one of Eriden's plays, but I'm not sure. We can ask one of our literary lights back home."
"If I remember. We must speed the return visit of Sayshellians to Terminus and see to it that they are given the full treatment as equals. And I'm afraid, Liono, you will have to organize tight security for them. There is bound to be some indignation among our hotheads and it would not be wise to subject them to even slight and transient humiliation through protest demonstrations."
"Absolutely," said Kodell. "It was a clever stroke, by the way, sending out Trevize."
"My lightning rod? He worked better than I thought he would, to be honest. He blundered his way into Sayshell and drew their lightning in the form of protests with a speed I could not have believed. Space! What an excellent excuse that made for my visit - concern lest a Foundation national in any way disturbed then and gratitude for their forbearance."
"Shrewd! - You don't think it would have been better, though, to have brought Trevize back with us?"
"No. On the whole, I prefer him anywhere but at home. He would be a disturbing factor on Terminus. His nonsense about the Second Foundation served as the perfect excuse for sending him out and, of course, we counted on Pelorat to lead him to Sayshell, but I don't want him back, continuing to spread the nonsense. We can never tell what that might lead to."
Kodell chuckled. "I doubt that we can ever find anyone more gullible than an intellectual academic. I wonder how much Pelorat would have swallowed if we had encouraged him."
"Belief in the literal existence of the mythical Sayshellian Gaia was quite enough - but forget it. We will have to face the Council when we return and we will need their votes for the Sayshellian treaty. Fortunately we have Trevize's statement - voiceprint and all - to the effect that he left Terminus voluntarily. I will offer official regrets as to Trevize's brief arrest and that will satisfy the Council."
"I can rely on you for the soft soap, Mayor," said Kodell dryly. "Have you considered, though, that Trevize may continue to search for the Second Foundation?"
"Let him," said Branno, shrugging, "as long as he doesn't do it on Terminus. It will keep him busy and get him nowhere. The Second Foundation's continued existence is our myth of the century, as Gaia is Sayshell's myth."
She leaned back and looked positively genial. "And now we have Sayshell in our grip - and by the time they see that, it will be too late for them to break the grip. So the Foundation's growth continues and will continue, smoothly and regularly."
"And the credit will be entirely yours, Mayor."
"That has not escaped my notice," said Branno, and their ship slipped into hyperspace and reappeared in the neighborhood space of Terminus.
Speaker Stor Gendibal, on his own ship again, had every reason for satisfaction. The encounter with the First Foundation had not lasted long, but it had been thoroughly productive.
He had sent back his message of carefully muted triumph. It was only necessary - for the moment - to let the First Speaker know that all had gone well (as, indeed, he might guess from the fact that the general force of the Second Foundation had never had to be used after all). The details could come later on.
He would describe how a careful - and very minor - adjustment to Mayor Branno's mind had turned her thoughts from imperialistic grandiosity to the practicality of commercial treaty; how a careful and rather long-distance - adjustment of the leader of the Sayshell Union had led to an invitation to the Mayor of a parley and how, thereafter, a rapprochement had been reached with no further adjustments at all with Compor returning to Terminus on his own ship, to see that the agreement would be kept. It had been, Gendibal thought complacently, almost a storybook example of large results brought about by minutely crafted mentalics.
It would, he was sure, squash Speaker Delarmi flat and bring about his own elevation to First Speaker very soon after the presentation of the details at a formal meeting of the Table.
And he did not deny to himself the importance of Sum Novi's presence, though that would not need to be stressed to the Speakers generally. Not only had she been essential to his victory, but she gave him the excuse he now needed for indulging his childish (and very human, for even Speakers are very human) need to exult before what he knew to be a guaranteed admiration.
She did not understand anything that had happened, he knew, but she was aware that he had arranged matters to his liking and she was bursting with pride over that. He caressed the smoothness of her mind and felt the warmth of that pride.
He said, "I could not have done it without you, Novi. It was because of you I could tell that the First Foundation - the people on the large ship..."
"Yes, Master, I know whom you mean."
"I could tell, because of you, that they had a shield, together with weak powers of the mind. From the effect on your mind, I could tell, exactly, the characteristics of both. I could tell how most efficiently to penetrate the one and deflect the other."
Novi said tentatively, "I do not understand exactly what it is you say, Master, but I would have done much more to help, if I could."
"I know that, Novi. But what you did was enough. It is amazing how dangerous they might have been. But caught now, before either their shield or their field had been developed more strongly, they could be stopped. The Mayor goes back now, the shield and the field forgotten, satisfied over the fact that she has obtained a commercial treaty with Sayshell that will make it a working part of the Federation. I don't deny that there is much more to do to dismantle the work they have done on shield and field - it is something concerning which we have been remiss - but it will be done."
He brooded about the matter and went on in a lower voice, "We took far too much for granted with the First Foundation. We must place them under closer supervision. We must knit the Galaxy closer together somehow. We must make use of mentalics to build a closer co-operation of consciousness. That would fit the Plan. I'm convinced of that and I'll see to it."
Novi said anxiously, "Master?"
Gendibal smiled suddenly. "I'm sorry. I'm talking to myself. - Novi, do you remember Rufirant?"
"That bone-skulled farmer who attacked you? I should say I do."
"I'm convinced that First Foundation agents, armed with personal shields, arranged that, together with all the other anomalies that have plagued us. Imagine being blind to a thing like that. But then, I was bemused into overlooking the First Foundation altogether by this myth of a mysterious world, this Sayshellian superstition concerning Gaia. There, too, your mind came in handy. It helped me determine that the source of that mentalic field was the warship and nothing else."
He rubbed his hands.
Novi said timidly, "Master?"
"Will you not be rewarded for what you have done?"
"Indeed I will. Shandess will retire and I will be First Speaker. Then will come my chance to make us an active factor in revolutionizing the Galaxy."
"Yes, Novi. I will be the most important and the most powerful scholar of them all."
"The most important?" She looked woebegone.
"Why do you make a face, Novi? Don't you want me to be rewarded?"
"Yes, Master, I do. - But if you are the most important scholar of them all, you will not want a Hamishwoman near you. It would not be fitting."
"Won't I, though? Who will stop me?" He felt a gush of affection for her. "Novi, you'll stay with me wherever I go and whatever I am. Do you think I would risk dealing with some of the wolves we occasionally have at the Table without your mind always there to tell me, even before they know themselves, what their emotions might be - your own innocent, absolutely smooth mind. Besides..." He seemed startled by a sudden revelation, "Even aside from that, I - I like having you with me and I intend having you with me. - That is, if you are willing."
"Oh, Master," whispered Novi and, as his arm moved around her waist, her head sank to his shoulder.
Deep within, where the enveloping mind of Novi could scarcely be aware of it, the essence of Gaia remained and guided events, but it was that impenetrable mask that made the continuance of the great task possible.
And that mask - the one that belonged to a Hamishwoman - was completely happy. It was so happy that Novi was almost reconciled for the distance she was from herself/them/all, and she was content to be, for the indefinite future, what she seemed to be.
Pelorat rubbed his hands and said, with carefully controlled enthusiasm, "How glad I am to be back on Gaia."
"Umm," said Trevize abstractedly.
"You know what Bliss has told me? The Mayor is going back to Terminus with a commercial treaty with Sayshell. The Speaker from the Second Foundation is going back to Trantor convinced that he has arranged it - and that woman, Novi, is going with him to see to it that the changes that will bring about Galaxia are initiated. And neither Foundation is in the least aware that Gaia exists. It's absolutely amazing."
"I know," said Trevize. "I was told all this, too. But we know that Gaia exists and we can talk."
"Bliss doesn't think so. She says no one would believe us, and we would know that. Besides, I, for one, have no intention of ever leaving Gaia."
Trevize was pulled out of his inner musing. He looked up and said, "What?"
"I'm going to stay here. - You know, I can't believe it. Just weeks ago, I was living a lonely life on Terminus, the same life I had lived for decades, immersed in my records and my thoughts and never dreaming anything but that I would go to my death, whenever it might be, still immersed in my records and my thoughts and still living my lonely life - contentedly vegetating. Then, suddenly and unexpectedly, I became a Galactic traveler; I was involved with a Galactic crisis; and - do not laugh, Golan - I have found Bliss."
"I'm not laughing, Janov," said Trevize, "but are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"Oh yes. This matter of Earth is no longer important to me. The fact that it was the only world with a diverse ecology and with intelligent life has been adequately explained. The Eternals, you know."
"Yes, I know. And you're going to stay on Gaia?"
"Absolutely. Earth is the past and I'm tired of the past. Gaia is the future."
"You're not part of Gaia, Janov. Or do you think you can become part of it?"
"Bliss says that I can become somewhat a part of it - intellectually if not biologically. She'll help, of course."
"But since she is part of it, how can you two find a common life, a common point of view, a common interest..."
They were in the open and Trevize looked gravely at the quiet, fruitful island, and beyond it the sea, and on the horizon, purpled by distance, another island - all of it peaceful, civilized, alive, and a unit.
He said, "Janov, she is a world; you are a tiny individual. What if she gets tired of you? She is young..."
"Golan, I've thought of that. I've thought of nothing but that for days. I expect her to grow tired of me; I'm no romantic idiot. But whatever she gives me till then will be enough. She has already given me enough. I have received more from her than I dreamed existed in life. If I saw her no more from this moment on, I have ended the winner."
"I don't believe it," said Trevize gently. "I think you are a romantic idiot and, mind you, I wouldn't want you any other way. Janov, we haven't known each other for long, but we've been together every moment for weeks and - I'm sorry if it sounds silly - I like you a great deal."
"And I, you, Golan," said Pelorat.
"And I don't want you hurt. I must talk to Bliss."
"No no. Please don't. You'll lecture her."
"I won't lecture her. It's not entirely to do with you - and I want to talk to her privately. Please, Janov, I don't want to do it behind your back, so grant me your willingness to have me talk to her and get a few things straight. If I am satisfied, I will give you my heartiest congratulations and goodwill - and I will forever hold my peace, whatever happens."
Pelorat shook his head. "You'll ruin things."
"I promise I won't I beg you..."
"Well, But do be careful, my dear fellow, won't you?"
"You have my solemn word."
Bliss said, "Pel says you want to see me."
Trevize said, "Yes."
They were indoors, in the small apartment allotted to him.
She sat down gracefully, crossed her legs, and looked up at him shrewdly, her beautiful brown eyes luminous and her long, dark hair glistening.
She said, "You disapprove of me, don't you? You have disapproved of me from the start."
Trevize remained standing. He said, "You are aware of minds and of their contents. You know what I think of you and why."
Slowly Bliss shook her head. "Your mind is out of bounds to Gaia. You know that. Your decision was needed and it had to be the decision of a clear and untouched mind. When your ship was first taken, I placed you and Pel within a soothing field, but that was essential. You would have been damaged - and perhaps rendered useless for a crucial time - by panic or rage. And that was all. I could never go beyond that and I haven't - so I don't know what you're thinking."
Trevize said, "The decision I had to make has been made. I decided in favor of Gaia and Galaxia. Why, then, all this talk of a clear and untouched mind? You have what you want and you can do with me now as you wish."
"Not at all, Trev. There are other decisions that may be needed in the future. You remain what you are and, while you are alive, you are a rare natural resource of the Galaxy. Undoubtedly there are others like you in the Galaxy and others like you will appear in the future, but for now we know of you - and only you. We still cannot touch you."
Trevize considered. "You are Gaia and I don't want to talk to Gaia. I want to talk to you as an individual, if that has any meaning at all."
"It has meaning. We are far from existing in a common melt. I can block off Gaia for a period of time."
"Yes," said Trevize. "I think you can. Have you now done so?"
"I have now done so."
"Then, first, let me tell you that you have played games. You did not enter my mind to influence my decision, perhaps, but you certainly entered Janov's mind to do so, didn't you?"