Young Arkady Darell is crazy about the history of the Foundation and her grandmother Bayta's historic duel with the Mule. When her father and friends conspire to uncover the hidden workings of the fabled Second Foundation, she finds a way to join the conspiracy by stowing away aboard a spaceship bound for the vacation planet of Kalgan along with the Foundation's foremost scholar of Muliana, Homir Munn.
Voices by Megan Skye Hale, Jon Blumenfeld, Amanda Kreitler, and Joel McKinnon
Theme Orchestration by Tom Barnes
Sound Design by Jeremy MacKinnon
Art by Mike Topping – despotica.com
Additonal music from Dream Protocol and Ashot Danielyan
Based on the novels of Foundation by Isaac Asimov.
Podcasts and other links for voice talent on this episode:
What is Seldon Crisis – The Podcast?
A personal exploration of Isaac Asimov's Foundation epic, including commentary and analysis.
[opening theme with voiceovers]
Welcome back, my friends, to Seldon Crisis, for the return to our story and the Search by the Foundation, Part I. What are they searching for, you may ask? Well, the same thing the Mule was searching for for those fivelong fruitless years until it found him instead. That would be the mysterious entity known as the Second Foundation. We will discover that the attitudes in the intervening couple of generations have shifted. It’s no longer taken without question that the Second Foundation is a natural ally of the First, even though they were both supposedly created by the originator of the Seldon Plan. In fact, as you might recall, dating back to the horrific rise of the Mule and the shocking fall of Terminus, there were many who felt betrayed by Seldon’s failure to anticipate the Mule’s rise. If he was wrong about something so important, how could they be sure this mysterious entity rumored to exist and have special mental powers be trusted to not have similarly nefarious intentions? Another thread of conjecture by now would have to be that it was all a fraud, as Seldon had proven to be capable of creating in the past. There had been no clear evidence of the Second Foundation whatsoever in the two and a half centuries since the First Foundation’s founding beyond unsubstantiated rumors.
So far, save for the sprawling and complex story of the Mule’s initial confrontation with the Foundation, the principle characters and basic plot of each story has been confined to at most a half a dozen characters and only a planet or two. We are about to enter into a far richer tale involving more than a dozen important figures, including one who is unlike any we’ve encountered in any of our actors upon this stage thus far. For one, this character is quite young at only 14 years of age, and for another, she is female. We’ve met only one principal female character so far in the woman who first emerged victorious over the Mule, Bayta Darell. Our newest protagonist is her granddaughter Arcadia, the precocious daughter of Bayta and Toran’s son. Dr. Darell is a highly placed academic on the home planet of Terminus specializing in electroneurological studies. In Amazov’s time the title wasn’t known, but I think we might call him a neuroscientist today.
Oh, one other thing. Don’t dare call our young hero “Arcadia” if you wish to remain on her best side. She thinks that is far too stuffy a name. She prefers Arkady and will be sure to let you know it! We meet her in her bedroom upon Terminus in the house of her father, working hard on a school project, an essay which she has just decided to grandly title “The Future of Seldon’s Plan.” Here we get into a story mechanism which I find quite ingenious. Asimov uses the essay Arkady is writing to serve two critical functions in setting up the story. One is the necessary recapitulation of the most important elements of Foundation history thus far and the other is to define Arkady’s personality that is so fundamental to her character. It seems that she is fascinated by the life story of her grandmother Bayta. The Encyclopedia Galactica actually claims that she is best known for writing her biography at a time long past the events of this story. This fascination explains her detailed knowledge of the events described primarily in The Mule, wherein Batya and her husband Toran along with the Mule’s supposed clown Magnifico and the psychologist Ebling Mis traveled to Trantor in search of clues to the location of the Second Foundation, and Bayta famously determined the true identity of the Mule to be Magnifico and shot Ebling at the moment when he was about to reveal the location to him. Arkady weaves these elements into her essay which allows a reader returning to the story – or even reading it completely out of context of the other chapters – to have enough of an idea of what’s going on to be able to enjoy the story on its own. Remember that this, like all other stories in Foundation to this point, first appeared as short stories or novellas in the monthly magazine Astounding Science Fiction.
There is a third purpose for this literary device as well, for it introduces a gadget that must have seemed fantastically futuristic at the time it was written, but is quite common in our day and age. It’s a speech to text transcription machine, which allows Arkady to write her essay by speaking into a microphone and have the words magically appear on paper. This also results in a couple of humorous moments when it writes out words she is saying aloud but didn’t intend to end up on the page and even some background conversation which follows. Asimov has not only predicted an inevitable future technology that has come to exist almost exactly how he described it, but imagined a likely side effect that we are all familiar with today in interacting with AI listening devices when they don’t understand what it is they’re supposed to be listening to.
In Arkady’s paper, she describes the major features of the larger story thus far; how Hari Seldon anticipated the downfall of the old Galactic Empire through his study of psychohistory and created two Foundations on opposite sides of the galaxy; the first to be composed of physical scientists who would be capable of inheriting the political power of the fallen Empire, and the second to be composed of mentalic specialists who would guide his plan through unanticipated problems such as the rise of the Mule and any other threats psychohistory couldn’t account for.
Arkady is just wrapping things up on her essay when she is surprised to hear someone urgently tapping upon her window and looks over to see the face of a man of apparently thirty years of age or so – which she considers “quite elderly” – and rather calmly opens the window and confronts him with a smug air.
Arkady Darell: “You can’t get in. The windows are all screened, and keyed only to people who belong here. If you come in, all sorts of alarms will break loose.”
“You look sort of silly balancing on that ledge underneath the window. If you’re not careful, you’ll fall and break your neck and a lot of valuable flowers.”
Immediately we see a strong element of Arkady’s personality. She is quite sure of herself and not easily flustered by the unexpected occasion of a strange man appearing at her window. The man in question, evidently in some degree of consternation, replies with a request.
Peleas Anthor: “In that case, will you shut off the screen and let me in?”
Arkady does not appear put off by the question, but is not ready to accept that it is anything like a normal situation either, and thinks it is important to educate the man on his obvious impropriety.
Arkady: “No use in doing that... You’re probably thinking of a different house, because I’m not the kind of girl who lets strange men into their . . . her bedroom this time of night.”
Peleas Anthor: “This is Dr. Darell’s house, isn’t it?”
Arkady refuses to answer at first and the man becomes flustered and says he will jump off the ledge and leave, whereupon Arkady threatens to sound the alarm if he does. He explains the contradiction in her argument; she’s not letting him leave or stay. She reluctantly informs him that it is indeed Dr. Darell’s house and she allows him to awkwardly enter. The man asks how she’ll explain herself.
Peleas Anthor: “And how do you intend to explain the shut-off protective screen?”
Arkady smiles with glee at the success of her deception and thinks the man really is a simpleton.
Arkady: “Poof! That would be easy. There wasn’t any there in the first place.”
The stranger delicately changes the subject.
Peleas Anthor: “Tell me, how did you know your father was expecting me?”
Arkady: “Oh, that was easy. Last week, he received a Personal Capsule, keyed to him personally, with a self-oxidizing message, you know. He threw the capsule shell into the Trash Disinto, and yesterday, he gave Poli—that’s our maid, you see—a month’s vacation so she could visit her sister in Terminus City, and this afternoon, he made up the bed in the spare room. So I knew he expected somebody that I wasn’t supposed to know anything about. Usually, he tells me everything.”
Anthor: “Really! I’m surprised he has to. I should think you’d know everything before he tells you.”
Arkady decides she wants to demonstrate further just how intelligent she really is..
Arkady: “I didn’t ask you to come in until after I saw you drop your briefcase.”
Anthor: “My what?”
Arkady: “Your briefcase, young man. I’m not blind. You didn’t drop it by accident, because you looked down first, so as to make sure it would land right. Then you must have realized it would land just under the hedges and wouldn’t be seen, so you dropped it and didn’t look down afterwards. Now since you came to the window instead of the front door, it must mean that you were a little afraid to trust yourself in the house before investigating the place. And after you had a little trouble with me, you took care of your briefcase before taking care of yourself, which means that you consider whatever your briefcase has in it to be more valuable than your own safety, and that means that as long as you’re in here and the briefcase is out there and we know that it’s out there, you’re probably pretty helpless.”
The intruder is fed up with being bested by a mere child and vents his annoyance.
Anthor: “Except, I could just knock you out and leave with the briefcase.”
Arkady: “Except, young man, that I happen to have a baseball bat under my bed, which I can reach in two seconds from where I’m sitting, and I’m very strong for a girl.”
The man decides there is no way of arguing with her and that it’s time to get on with the purpose of his visit.
Anthor: “Shall I introduce myself, since we’re being so chummy? I’m Pelleas Anthor. And your name?”
Arkady: “I’m Arca— Arkady Darell. Pleased to meet you.”
Anthor: “And now Arkady, would you be a good little girl and call your father?”
Arkady: “I’m not a little girl. I think you’re very rude—especially when you’re asking a favor.”
Anthor: “Very well. Would you be a good, kind, dear, little old lady, and call your father?”
Arkady: “That’s not what I meant either, but I’ll call him. Only not so I’ll take my eyes off you, young man.”
Just then, Arkady’s father opens the door having heard the commotion.
Darell: “Arcadia—” He glanced over in surprise to see the stranger in alarm. “Who are you, sir?”
Anthor: “Dr. Toran Darell? I am Pelleas Anthor. You’ve received word about me, I think. At least, your daughter says you have.”
Darell looks questioningly at Arkady with raised eyebrows, “My daughter says I have? Arcadia - You should have called me instantly —especially if you thought I was expecting him.”
Arkady: “It’s just as well if you didn’t see him—stupid thing. He’ll give the whole thing away if he keeps on going to windows, instead of doors.”
Darell: “Arcadia, nobody wants your opinion on matters you know nothing of.”
Arkady: “I do, too. It’s the Second Foundation, that’s what it is.”
Darell turns to Anthor, again surprised, in search of an explanation. Before proceeding to his business, however, he directs one more question to Dr. Darell’s precocious progeny.
Anthor: “Miss Arcadia—”
Arkady: “What do you want?”
Anthor: “Why do you think it is stupid to go to windows instead of to doors?”
Arkady: “Because you advertise what you’re trying to hide, silly. If I have a secret, I don’t put tape over my mouth and let everyone know I have a secret. I talk just as much as usual, only about something else. Didn’t you ever read any of the sayings of Salvor Hardin? He was our first Mayor, you know.”
Anthor: “Yes, I know.”
Arkady: “Well, he used to say that only a lie that wasn’t ashamed of itself could possibly succeed. He also said that nothing had to be true, but everything had to sound true. Well, when you came in through a window, it’s a lie that’s doesn’t sound true.”
Anthor: “Then what would you have done?”
Arkady: “If I had wanted to see my father on top secret business, I would have made his acquaintance openly and seen him about all sorts of legitimate things. And then when everyone knew all about you and connected you with my father as a matter of course, you could be as top secret as you wanted and nobody would ever think of questioning it.”
Anthor prepares to depart, but wants to settle one more item of curiosity with Arkady.
Anthor: “Wait! Just one last question. Arcadia, you don’t really have a baseball bat under your bed, do you?”
Arkady: “No! I don’t.”
Anthor: “Hah. I didn’t think so.”
Darell ushers his surprise guest out and tells Arkady to get back to her homework. She is obviously not pleased to be excluded from further discussion, as she had been enjoying herself immensely. As the two men descend the stairs, Anthor turns to his host.
Peleas Anthor: “Do you mind, sir? How old is she?”
Darell: “Fourteen, day before yesterday.”
Anthor: “Fourteen? Great Galaxy— Tell me, has she ever said she expects to marry someday?”
Darell: “No, she hasn’t. Not to me.”
Anthor: “Well, if she ever does, shoot him. The one she’s going to marry, I mean.”
Anthor: “I’m serious. Life could hold no greater horror than living with what she’ll be like when she’s twenty. I don’t mean to offend you, of course.”
Darell: “You don’t offend me. I think I know what you mean.”
At an undisclosed location, a conversation is overheard, or described, because it is largely silent. We are again, like in the previous two chapters of this story, witness to a discussion among mentalic beings. This one is much more lengthy than previous occasions and involves only two individuals. We have previously met the First Speaker, he who worked diligently under enormous pressure to outduel the Mule with the assistance of the agent Bail Channis, whose mind was nearly destroyed from his fierce battle with the Mule to avoid revealing the location of the Second Foundation. Channis, the Mule, and that particular First Speaker are long gone now, and a new First Speaker has called a student to query him on his knowledge of the current state of the Seldon Plan and to provide new instructions to him.
The student enters and is clearly uneasy to be in the immediate presence of such a respected and impressive authority as the First Speaker. Though he has been trained in mentalic gymnastics since birth, he is no match for his master, and must wonder how he can possibly avoid showing the entire contents of his brain to his elder like an open book. The First Speaker sets him at ease, pointing out that he is highly qualified for the purpose for which he has been selected or he would not be in this room presently to receive his instruction.
Before the student upon the master’s desk sits a black cube, apparently featureless. The student is informed, to his amazement, that this device is none other than the Prime Radiant. We have not met this artifact until now, but its purpose is central to the entire epic, for it contains Hari Seldon’s entire body of psychohistorical work underlying the fabled Seldon Plan in the form of mathematical equations. The student is instructed to observe, whereupon the room becomes darkened and the long walls of the chamber become dimly lit from an unseen source, growing gradually in brightness, and a string of equations become evident written upon every inch of the walls in a tiny script. This, he is told, is the Seldon Plan, and only a portion, as the equations of the plan would appear to be microscopic in size were the entire plan to be viewed at once. The Prime Radiant interacts with the viewer’s mind to only show the most relevant portion immediately being investigated. Among the black figures, a subset appears written in red, forming a long and winding line amongst the darker ones. The First Speaker explains that these are the changes introduced by the Speakers up until the current moment in the unveiling of the Plan throughout its working history.
The Speaker narrows his thoughts and a particular portion of the Plan is enlarged and a large number of red equations come into view. He explains that these are his own contributions to the Plan, his life’s greatest work, and that the student will be expected to introduce his own work at some time which, after rigorous analysis and testing, will become part of the final work. The student is asked a leading question, does he not appreciate this significant and perfected creation? He falls into the trap and answers in the affirmative. He is sharply upbraided by the Speaker that, no, it is far from perfect. In fact, the appearance of the Mule had caused enormous perturbations in Seldon’s predictions, and it is the work of the Second Foundation to correct for these errors and set it back on its proper course.
The student is given an assignment; to analyze in detail the current state of the Plan and determine its probability of eventual success. This is the test which will determine if he is truly qualified to become a Speaker, and to join the noble effort to modify and preserve the Plan to ensure it reaches its intended result. At one point the student is asked to explain why the existence of the Plan and its contents must be hidden from the population at large? The student answers with what we have already been told several times; that the Plan requires the ignorance of the workings of psychohistory among those whose actions contribute to its unraveling over time.
The Speaker again corrects the student – there is something significantly more. The existence of the Second Foundation itself must remain hidden because the leaders of the First Foundation would never be able to tolerate being led by beings that appeared to have evolved capabilities greater than their own. The adventure with the Mule had revealed to the First Foundation that the Second did indeed exist and was working in the shadows toward a day when they would lead the First Foundation to a new and profound destiny.
Asimov concludes this scene with the startling implications of this knowledge, ‘There was an appalled pause, as realization seeped into the Student. He said: “Then the Seldon Plan has failed!”
“Not yet. It merely may have failed. The probabilities of success are still twenty-one point four percent, as of the last assessment.”’
Some time later, five men gather in the home of Dr. Darell, the host himself, Pelleas Anthor, and three others, while Arkady remains upstairs in her room. The five men have a serious topic to discuss, and imagine themselves to be without outside observation. This was true to a point, if we could just assume that our child protagonist was dutifully unconcerned and doing her homework. We should know by now, however, that Arkady was not one to be shut out from the proceedings so easily.
Some time previously, Arkady had befriended a classmate by the name of Olynthus Dam. He was an avid student of electronics who loved to dabble and experiment and had created an interesting little piece of technology, another which we would find commonplace today. It was a listening device which could transmit in real time to a nearby location. He had told Arkady – a girl who he felt nervously attracted to – about the device, and she had immediately imagined a possible application. She skillfully befriended young Olynthus and wheedled him into providing her with a prototype of his little invention, and she quickly put it to use.
Returning to our story, suffice it to say that while there may be only five pairs of ears in Darell’s study this particular evening, a sixth pair is nearby and partaking equally in the content of the discussion.
Darell introduces the topic of the evening’s focus.
Darell: “You will notice that none of you have been invited with any attempt at secrecy. None of you have been asked to come here unseen. The windows are not adjusted to non insight. No screen of any sort is about the room. We have only to attract the attention of the enemy to be ruined; and the best way to attract that attention is to assume a false and theatrical secrecy.”
One of the three invited guests stirs impatiently, “Oh, get on with it. Tell us about the youngster.”
The impatient speaker was an elderly colleague of Dr. Darell, Professor Elvett Semic, a highly regarded physicist at the University of Terminus. Darell introduces his recent visitor.
Darell: “Pelleas Anthor is his name. He was a student of my old colleague, Kleise, who died last year. Kleise sent me Anthor’s brain-pattern to the fifth sublevel before he died, which pattern has been now checked against that of the man before you. You know, of course, that a brain-pattern cannot be duplicated that far, even by men of the Science of Psychology. If you don’t know that, you’ll have to take my word for it.”
Jole Turbor, a well known reporter and anchor of a popular newscast, speaks up. “We might as well make a beginning somewheres. We’ll take your word for it, especially since you’re the greatest electroneurologist in the Galaxy now that Kleise is dead. At least, that is the way I’ve described you in my visicast comment, and I even believe it myself.”
The last of those present also seems anxious to expedite the proceedings. Homir Munn was a lanky and chronically nervous librarian known to be the foremost expert on Muliana – that is, a collector and student of items of knowledge related to the infamous galactic conqueror.
Munn: “I . . . I wish you’d g . . . get started. I think everyone’s t . . . talking too much.“
Darell: ”You’re right, Homir. Take over, Pelleas.”
Anthor nods, but holds up a hand. “Not for a while, because before we can get started—although I appreciate Mr. Munn’s sentiment—I must request brainwave data.”
The host frowns. “What is this, Anthor? What brainwave data do you refer to?”
Anthor: “The patterns of all of you. You have taken mine, Dr. Darell. I must take yours and those of the rest of you. And I must take the measurements myself.”
Turbor: “There’s no reason for him to trust us, Darell. The young man is within his rights.”
Anthor: “Thank you. If you’ll lead the way to your laboratory then, Dr. Darell, we’ll proceed. I took the liberty this morning of checking your apparatus.”
He was referring to a process that Darell had perfected along with his former and now-deceased colleague Kleise, a form of brain imaging similar to today’s fMRI, or functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, but imagined to be much more precise. In a roughly 15 minute session involving a non-invasive hood of electrodes, it could produce a fairly accurate analysis of brain data used for diagnosis of various mental conditions.
Darell is well-regarded in his field by all members of the assemblage, and with little reluctance agrees to the procedure. Upon completion of each session their data is analyzed by Darell and Anthor and pronounced to meet expectations.
Anthor: “And now… there is one more person in the house.”
Darell looks at him sharply.
Darell: “My daughter?”
Anthor: “Yes. I suggested that she stay home tonight, if you’ll remember.”
Darell: “For encephalographic analysis? What in the Galaxy for?”
Anthor calmly but firmly holds fast. “I cannot proceed without it.”
Arkady is summoned and happily submits to the procedure. She feels this makes her a legitimate participant to the discussion to which she has apparently been excluded thus far.
Upon the closing of her door, the young scientist states his findings.
Anthor: “The analyses, gentlemen, are all satisfactory. The child’s as well.”
With Arkady now presumed to be securely ensconced in her room, Anthor movsd on to the primary reason for the meeting. He pulls out a set of graphs from his briefcase, representing the previous analyses of several notable figures in present Terminus society and governance. He indicates the obvious anomalies present indicative of Second Foundation control. These were the end result of the work Anthor had performed under the leadership of his mentor Kleise. The others inquire of how he came to his end.
Anthor speaks, “He died. He thought he would. He told me half a year before that he was getting too close—”
Homir Munn fidgets nervously. “Now we’re too c . . . close, too, aren’t we?”
Anthor: “Yes, but we were, anyway—all of us. It’s why you’ve all been chosen. I’m Kleise’s student. Dr. Darell was his colleague. Jole Turbor has been denouncing our blind faith in the saving hand of the Second Foundation on the air, until the government shut him off—through the agency, I might mention, of a powerful financier whose brain shows what Kleise used to call the Tamper Plateau. Homir Munn has the largest home collection of Muliana—if I may use the phrase to signify collected data concerning the Mule—in existence, and has published some papers containing speculation on the nature and function of the Second Foundation. Dr. Semic has contributed as much as anyone to the mathematics of encephalographic analysis, though I don’t believe he realized that his mathematics could be so applied.”
Turbor, the journalist, breaks in, “How widespread is this Second Foundation infiltration?”
Anthor: “I don’t know. There’s a flat answer. All the infiltrations we have discovered were on the outer fringes of the nation. The capital world may yet be clean, though even that is not certain—else I would not have tested you.
Munn: “If you don’t mind, d . . . don’t see what you think you’re doing. We’re a p . . . poor bunch of conspirators, if we’re just going to talk and talk and t . . . talk. And I don’t see what else we can do, anyway. This is v . . . very childish. B . . . brainwaves and mumbo jumbo and all that. Is there just one thing you intend to do?”
Anthor: “Yes, there is. We need more information on the Second Foundation. It’s the prime necessity. The Mule spent the first five years of his rule in just that quest for information and failed—or so we have all been led to believe. But then he stopped looking. Why? Because he failed? Or because he succeeded?”
Munn: “M . . . more talk. How are we ever to know?”
Anthor suggests that the answer may lie on the planet Kalgan, where the Mule last ruled and now is ruled by a man named Stettin who calls himself First Citizen, as the Mule was titled. His former palace is maintained as a shrine where none are allowed to enter. Anthor suspects this might be the work of the Second Foundation, and someone should be sent to investigate the possibility. There is one in their company with the scholarly credentials to claim a legitimate interest in gaining entry to the palace.
Anthor: “...And you, Munn, are just the one to get the information we need.”
The librarian looks like he’s suffered an electric shock. “I? I can’t do such a thing. I’m no man of action; no hero of any teleview. I’m a librarian. If I can help you that way, all right, and I’ll risk the Second Foundation, but I’m not going out into space on any qu . . . quixotic thing like that.”
Anthor: “Now, look. Dr. Darell and I have both agreed that you’re the man… You’ve even been on Kalgan before. Don’t you understand that you need only act as you always have?”
Munn: “But I can’t just say, ‘W . . . won’t you kindly let me into your most sacred shrine, M . . . Mr. First Citizen?’”
Anthor: “Why not?”
Munn: “Because, by the Galaxy, he won’t let me!”
Anthor: “All right, then. So he won’t. Then you’ll come home and we’ll think of something else.”
We return to the mysterious unknown location of the Second Foundation and eavesdrop upon another silent conversation between the First Speaker and the student who had been challenged with analysis of the current situation. The Speaker notes the student looks angry and concerned, and asks him to summarize his analysis.
The Student explains that the situation seems to be potentially dire. The Seldon Plan has relied for some time on the ignorance of the masses upon the First Foundation of the existence and intention of the Second Foundation. As long as it was only a cryptic side note by Seldon there had been little reason to dwell upon it. The people had always had a sense of destiny due to the Plan and knew they could rely upon its accuracy and their ultimate success as long as they did what Seldon expected of them and worked steadily toward the ostensible goals of the Plan.
That had all changed with the Mule and the shocking downfall of the Foundation upon his sudden arrival and invasion of their capital city. They had become aware since then that the Plan had a serious flaw and had begun to desperately hope for intervention from the mysterious Second Foundation to save them. When the Mule was surprisingly halted from further advance many suspected that the Second Foundation had been aiding them from the shadows. The interest in this entity grew, and now there was a serious possibility that the leading thinkers of the First Foundation would attempt to become psychologists which would hastily undermine the very tenets of psychohistory and doom the Plan.
The First Speaker lets the student know that this fear has already been realized, as there are some within the Foundation who have been experimenting with this knowledge already.
The student is horrified and says that all is then lost. His master informs him that there is still some hope, but it relies upon untested assumptions and actions that have heretofore never been imagined; to take control of particular individuals and move the plan forward despite the knowledge that Psychohistory is unreliable when applied to individuals. This new initiative has been in progress for just over a decade and the chances appear slim indeed for its success, but there appears to be no alternative course of action available.
As in the past couple of episodes, the Second Foundation is not portrayed as a highly effective and assured agency, but is instead shown to be groping for solutions in a domain they have little mastery over. Their science is advanced, but far from perfect, and they have little confidence in achieving their preferred outcome. I will quote directly from Asimov a concluding line from the First Speaker when asked by the student if he believes that the Second Foundation is succeeding.
“There’s no way of telling yet. We have kept the situation stable so far—but for the first time in the history of the Plan, it is possible for the unexpected actions of a single ordinary individual to destroy it. We have adjusted a minimum number of outsiders to a needful state of mind; we have our agents—but their paths are planned. They dare not improvise. That should be obvious to you. And I will not conceal the worst—if we are discovered, here, on this world, it will not only be the Plan that is destroyed, but ourselves, our physical selves. So you see, our solution is not very good.”
A lot of mysteries remain unresolved. Who is this “single ordinary individual” and this “minimum number of outsiders” bent to “a needful state of mind?” Most mysterious of all, where are they speaking from? The Mule never discovered the answer. The answer will be revealed before too long, but first we must return to the Darrel home, where the scientist’s long-serving maid has just encountered something entirely unexpected in Arkady’s bedroom.
Darell is working in his study when he becomes aware of a commotion upstairs, and moments later his long-serving family maid Poli comes flying into the room in an evident state of consternation.
He looks up in alarm. “What’s wrong, Poli?”
Poli: “She’s gone, doctor.”
Darell: “Who’s gone?”
Darell: “What do you mean, gone? Gone where? What are you talking about?”
Poli: “I don’t know. She’s gone, and there’s a suitcase and some clothes gone with her and there’s that letter. Why don’t you read it, instead of just standing there? Oh, you men!”
Darell takes the sheet of paper from the quivering hand of his distraught maid and begins to read.
It would have been simply too heartbreaking to say good-by to you in person. I might have cried like a little girl and you would have been ashamed of me. So I’m writing a letter instead to tell you how much I’ll miss you, even while I’m having this perfectly wonderful summer vacation with Uncle Homir. I’ll take good care of myself and it won’t be long before I’m home again. Meanwhile, I’m leaving you something that’s all my own. You can have it now.
Your loving daughter,
Darell quickly realizes what has happened, but realizes that he cannot inform Poli of the truth of the situation. He thinks quickly.
Darell: “Have you read this, Poli?”
Poli: “I certainly can’t be blamed for that, doctor. The envelope has ‘Poli’ written on the outside, and I had no way of telling there was a letter for you on the inside. I’m no snoop, doctor, and in the years I’ve been with—”
Darell holds up a hand to interrupt her defensive harangue.
Darell: “Very well, Poli. It’s not important. I just wanted to make sure you understood what had happened. She’s a queer little girl, you know. Very romantic. Ever since we arranged to have her go off on a space trip this summer, she’s been quite excited.”
Poli’s breathing becomes a little more stable as she transitions into a righteous fury.
Poli: “And just why has no one told me about this space trip?”
Darell: “It was arranged while you were away, and we forgot. It’s nothing more complicated than that.”
Poli appears to accept Darell’s inventive deception, and now determines to give her employer a piece of her mind.
Poli: “Simple, is it? The poor chick has gone off with one suitcase, without a decent stitch of clothes to her, and alone at that. How long will she be away?”
Darell: “Now I won’t have you worrying about it, Poli. There will be plenty of clothes for her on the ship. It’s been all arranged. Will you tell Mr. Anthor that I want to see him? Oh, and first—is this the object that Arcadia has left for me?”
Darell points to the small mechanical object Poli is holding in her other hand.
Poli: “I’m sure I don’t know. The letter was on top of it and that’s every bit I can tell you. Forget to tell me, indeed. If her mother were alive—”
Darell recognizes the device and suddenly understands. It is a voice recorder and Arkady’s decision to place it on top of the letter was no accident. She had cleverly communicated to him a great deal by revealing its presence in this way. His daughter had surprised him on many occasions with her precociousness, and this time was no different. He now knew that she had never been out of the loop as he intended in his secretive discussions he’d had with his colleagues. She’d heard every word through the mechanism of this voice recorder and had taken action.
In a manner as calm as he could muster, he gently instructs his maid.
Darell: “Please call Mr. Anthor.”
In the cold and empty darkness of space, a small one-man cruiser flies silently, with the ever-nervous and excitable Homir Munn at the helm. He had managed, he thought with satisfaction, to appear to be on ordinary business and attract no unusual attention at the spaceport. His business and destination were quite logical. A flight to Kalgan, the last place of residence of the figure of his lifelong study, the Mule, for ongoing research engaged upon without any need for secrecy. Still, he was nervous. He was now not just a scholar, a vocation in which he felt comfortable, but an unwilling secret agent. This made him anxious, and he would have some time alone to attempt to get used to this unsettling new role he had been thrust into.
At least he thought he was alone. In the darkened luggage cabinet, another passenger huddled quietly, a fact of which Munn was entirely ignorant. She had cleverly found her way aboard undetected, and thought she was quite thorough in her preparations. She’d brought a small amount of rations to hold her over for the voyage and was careful not to stir or sneeze, like would always happen in the bookfilms she’d enjoyed. Somehow, however, she had forgotten one very important consideration – she has to use the bathroom! She waits until she is sure Munn has gone to bed and waits for her opportunity. When she has heard no sounds for several minutes she carefully creeps out and is almost in the clear when the lone occupant of the spacecraft looks up from his bunk in alarm and frantically stares into the darkness while reaching under his pillow.
Munn: “I’ve got a blaster, and I’m shooting, by the Galaxy—”
Arkady: “It’s only me. Don’t shoot.”
Munn: “W . . . wha . . . what—”
Arkady calmly responds. “Would you excuse me for a minute? I’ve got to wash my hands.”
Munn is on the verge of hysteria. “What the black holes of Space are you d . . . doing aboard this ship? . . . how did you get on here? What do you th . . . think I’m supposed to do with you? What’s going on here?”
Arkady: “Uncle Homir,Isn’t it obvious? I just wanted to come with you.”
Munn recalls the necessity for subterfuge. “Why? I’m not going anywhere.”
Arkady: “I know you’re going to Kalgan for information about the Second Foundation.”
He gasps in horror. “How did you get on?”
Arkady: “It was easy. I just came into the hangar with my suitcase, and said, ‘Mr. Munn’s baggage!’ and the man in charge just waved his thumb without even looking up.”
Munn thinks quickly. He can still fix this. “I’ll have to take you back, you know.”
Arkady: “You can’t, it would attract attention.”
Arkady: “You know. The whole purpose of your going to Kalgan was because it seemed natural for you to ask permission to look into the Mule’s records. And you’ve got to stay casual so you don’t attract extra attention. If you go back with a stowaway, it’ll most likely be on the tele-news reports.”
Munn is horrified. This child’s overactive imagination has hit terribly close to the truth.
Munn: “Where did you g . . . get those notions about Kalgan? These . . . uh . . . childish—”
Arkady: “I heard with a sound-recorder. I know all about it—so you’ve got to let me come along.”
The librarian sputters desperately. “What about your father? For all he knows, you’re kidnapped . . . dead.”
Arkady: “I left a note, and he knows he shouldn’t make a fuss, or anything. I’m guessing you’ll probably get a spacegram from him any moment now.”
[sound of a message arriving]
Arkady: “That’s my father, I bet.”
Munn, stunned, absently reads the message aloud. “Thank you for your lovely present, which I’m sure you put to good use. Have a good time.”
Arkady brightly interprets it for him. “You see, that’s instructions.”
And with that, we will leave our adventurous young protagonist and the nervous and reluctant secret agent for the Foundation, Homir Munn, on their passage to Kalgan,. This is only the first of three parts of this final story, and there have been several characters introduced and a fair amount of exposition. Let’s sum up what’s happened so far and who has graced our stage.
Firstly, of course, is our young protagonist, Arkady Darell, granddaughter of the famous woman who temporarily frustrated the Mule’s plans several episodes ago, Bayta Darell. Arkady’s father is the son of Bayta and Toran and shares his father’s first name, though he is almost always referred to simply as Dr. Darell. He is an expert electroneurologist and has developed a means of identifying individuals who may be under the control of the fabled Second Foundation, a secretive group of mentalics founded by Hari Seldon on “the other end of the galaxy.”
The story begins with Arkady doing her homework while an impertinent young man named Pelleas Anthor arrives at her window to see her father and after much haggling, is allowed to enter. Arkady is left in her room, but takes advantage of a hidden voice recorder to monitor the conversation between the visitor and her father.
We then visit the Second Foundation itself in its secret location and eavesdrop on a silent mentalic conversation between the First Speaker – a descendant of the one who held that title in our previous episodes – and a young man only referred to as the student. They introduce the Prime Radiant, the technology capable of displaying the plan and progress of psychohistory as developed by Hari Seldon. We see how they have been adjusting the plan as needed over the course of generations, and how the arrival of the mutant Mule had caused an enormous crisis in the Plan that has only partially been rectified.
We also get a glimpse at the ultimate goals of this group, how they see themselves as the eventual benevolent masters of the galaxy. Long time listeners of this podcast may recall my first guest episode way back at the conclusion of season 1, when I hosted the philosopher Nathaniel Goldberg, who had been teaching a college level course comparing Foundation with Plato’s great masterpiece, The Republic, which presents Plato’s concept of an ideal city and government structure. One of the main elements of this was the idea of “philosopher kings” who would benevolently guide the populace through their advanced understanding of human nature. Could the Second Foundation be aiming to become the philosopher kings of the galaxy? We’ll talk a little more about this later.
Next we return to Dr. Darell’s home where a series of events transpire. He hosts a gathering of conspirators including the young man Anthor, who turns out to be another electroneurologist in training, a journalist named Jole Turbor, and fellow scientist in a related field, Elvett Semic, and a high-strung librarian named Homir Munn who happens to be the foremost scholar of Muliana - the study of The Mule and all that is known of him. While Arkady listens upstairs with her secret listening device, the conspirators discuss the evidence of a wave of citizens of Foundation who appear to be under Second Foundation control, and it is decided to send Homir Munn to the pleasure planet of Kalgan, where the Mule finished the last days of his rule, in order to investigate the Second Foundation and attempt to find where they are hidden. Munn nervously accepts his mission and departs, unaware that he is taking along a stowaway in the person of the precocious teenager Arkady, determined to play an important role in these heady proceedings. Dr. Darell finds out about her plan when the family maid, Poli, finds a letter from Arkady and brings it in to Darell.
That brings us up to the current moment aboard Munn’s spaceship, and I’d like to thank my collaborators who have helped me to voice some of the significant characters thus far in the story. Arkady is played by Megan Skye Hale, an aspiring actress and stage director, and our familiar friend Amanda Kreitler of the Severed Fate and Dimension Door podcasts returns as the voice of Poli. Homir Munn is played by another podcast host, Jon Blumenfeld, of the Stars End podcast, an excellent analysis and discussion show covering the Foundation series in books and on AppleTV. Links to all of these wonderful podcasts will appear in the shownotes.
My usual bounteous thanks also goes to the usual suspects; my long-time musical collaborator Tom Barnes, sound editor Jeremy MacKinnon, and logo designer Mike Topping.
Please join us next time as we revisit the vacation planet of Kalgan seen on two previous occasions; first when Bayta and Toran met Magnifico on the beach, and then later when the Mule held audience with Han Pritcher and Bail Channis in his lonely palace. We’ll meet several more important characters in this story and see how Arkady and Homir navigate the challenges of their mission to find the Second Foundation. I hope you will join me for Search by the Foundation, Part II, here on Seldon Crisis!