We begin the grand story of the unconsidered variable in Hari Seldon's equations, a mutant being of indescribable powers known only as the Mule. He conquers worlds overnight, including the honeymoon destination of Bayta and Toran Darrell. There they meet a clown fleeing from the planet's new lord, the Mule himself. They also encounter Captain Han Pritcher from the security forces, and eventually the Foundation's greatest scientist, Ebling Mis, the man who is the closest to understanding Seldon's psychohistory of any man in centuries. He knows another Seldon Crisis has arrived, and it directly involves the Mule. What will Hari Seldon proclaim in his long awaited return to the Vault?
Voices by Amanda Kreitler and Joel McKinnon
Theme Orchestration by Tom Barnes
Sound Design by Jeremy MacKinnon
Art by Mike Topping – despotica.com
Music by Scott Buckley (Ambush, The Old Ones, Hiraeth, Hunted, The March of Midnight)
Music by Brian Joseph Davis (Work for 20 DVD Players)
Based on the novels of Foundation by Isaac Asimov.
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Also, please visit the Seldon Crisis YouTube channel for the video trailer, intro promos, and video versions of the podcast episodes.
What is Seldon Crisis – The Podcast?
A personal exploration of Isaac Asimov's Foundation epic, including commentary and analysis.
[Theme music plays with voiceovers
Bayta Darell: "I think that a Seldon crisis is pending – and that if it isn't then away with the Seldon plan altogether. It is a failure."
Randu: "There has come word of a strange man whom they call the Mule."
Bayta: "The Mule?"
Magnifico Giganticus: "There is another that I flee, and he is a storm that sweeps the worlds aside and throws them plunging at each other."
Mayor Indbur: "By the dust-clouds of space, the Foundation will win – the Foundation must win!"
Hi friends, and welcome to the first of what I expect to be the most amazing set of episodes in the entire epic. Before getting into it, though, I want to explain something that may seem a little peculiar in my approach to exploring this story. I’ve said that this isn’t intended to be an alternative to reading the story, and I assume the vast majority of my listeners have read it at some time in their lives. If you still haven’t cracked open the original trilogy or listened to an audiobook, I suggest you get right on that. This is Asimov’s story, not mine, and the last thing I want to deprive you of is the joy of reading every single word the good doctor wrote.
So, if this is a reader’s companion and you already know the story, then why do I have a no spoiler policy? The answer has something to do with the way my brain works, and I assume I’m not unique in this respect. I have an ability to selectively forget what I want to in the service of enjoying the drama of a great story. Several decades had passed between when I first read it as a teenager and the time of reading it again last summer, and I had no trouble forgetting some really important revelations that occur in this story. I had no trouble because I really wanted to be surprised all over again, and it worked! If you’ve read this particular portion of the story fairly recently, you may have a hard time doing that, but I’m going to keep with the no spoiler policy regardless, for those who may not remember all of the big moments to come.
So… who is this Mule guy you may have heard something about? I’ll start by reading the very small entry from the Encyclopedia Galactica that begins the chapter.
Less is known of "The Mule" than of any character of comparable significance to Galactic history. Even the period of his greatest renown is known to us chiefly through the eyes of his antagonists and, principally, through those of a young bride....
Not much to go on there, is there? Let’s start then, with that young bride. Her name was Bayta, and she was raised on Terminus and went to the University there, where she met a man by the name of Toran Durell who would later become her husband. Toran was an off-worlder who had gone to Terminus for his education. He was from a trading colony called Haven and the story begins with the recently married young couple going to this remote planet to meet Toran’s grizzled, one-armed trader father Fran and his half brother Randu.
Perhaps before we get much further we should set a little context. It appears about a century has passed since the end of the Foundation’s great victory over the Empire, and some interesting developments have transpired in Foundation governance. We’ll hear more about this later, but suffice it to say that the democratic process under Salvor Hardin and Hober Mallow, corrupted as it may have been under those two benevolent despots, is long a thing of the past. The Mayor of Terminus is now effectively a king, if not an emperor himself. Why this is important is that Bayta and Toran were, like a lot of college kids, turned on by the thrill of activism against their oppressors and met through their mutual interests in a more enlightened and free society some day. This will play a major part in our story going forward.
As we begin, Toran is excitedly, and a little nervously, introducing his young bride to his homeworld for the first time, a trading colony called Haven, where it appears most if not all of the populace lives underground. He’s also a little nervous about introducing her to his dad. Bayta does her best to settle her husband’s anxiety upon first entering the main habitat, gushing, “Why, Toran, it's beautiful.”
Toran recipes, “Well, now, Bay, it isn't like anything on the Foundation, of course, but it's the biggest city on Haven II – twenty thousand people, you know – and you'll get to like it. No amusement palaces, I'm afraid, but no secret police either.”
Apparently the two lovers were active enough in the Foundation underground to be well aware and concerned about security personnel on Terminus.
Bayta: “Oh, Torie, it's just like a toy city. It's all white and pink – and so clean.”
Toran: “Bay – There's Dad! Right there – where I'm pointing, silly. Don't you see him?”
Bayta spots the one-armed trader and his brother Randu hurrying to meet them and introductions are made. Fran is the older of the two by several years and appears the worse for wear, as evidenced by his missing arm. He’s also a bit of a misogynist who doesn’t hide the displeasure he feels at his son going off and getting married. In his mind, a wife can only be a burden to a trader, and he’s happy to voice his opinion on this matter often.
Seeing Bayta, he appraises his son’s catch with a sharp eye and makes an effort at a civil introduction, saying, "Call me Fran. Till now I never did think my boy knew what he was ever up to. I think I'll change that opinion. Yes, I think I'll have to change that opinion."
Bayta sees Toran’s father’s sharp eye and responds, “I know what you're trying to estimate, and I'll help you; Age, twenty-four, height, five-four, educational specialty, history."
Fran’s brother Randu is introduced, and it seems he shares more in common with the young couple. It appears everyone on Haven is suspicious of those from Foundation, as the trading worlds are semi-autonomous and have to pay heavy taxes on their profits. Randu is one of the leaders of a group that would love to make connections with the Foundation underground and now has a chance to do just that.
After getting settled at the family home, while Bayta is off getting comfortable with her surroundings, Fran confides to his son, "Well, you're home, boy, and I'm glad you are. I like your woman. She's no whining ninny."
Toran: "I married her."
Fran: "Well, that's another thing altogether, boy. It's a foolish way to tie up the future. In my longer life, and more experienced, I never did such a thing."
Toran defends his decision to marry, and after Bayta rejoins them for the evening meal, Randu asks her, "You have studied history, my girl?"
Bayta: "I was the despair of my teachers, but I learned a bit, eventually."
Toran: "A citation for scholarship, that's all!"
"And what did you learn? What do you think of the Galactic situation?"
Bayta: "I think that a Seldon crisis is pending – and that if it isn't then away with the Seldon plan altogether. It is a failure."
"Indeed? Why do you say that? I went to the Foundation, you know, in my younger days, and I, too, once thought great dramatic thoughts. But, now, why do you say that?"
Bayta: “Well, it seems to me that the whole essence of Seldon's plan was to create a world better than the ancient one of the Galactic Empire. It was falling apart, that world, three centuries ago, when Seldon first established the Foundation – and if history speaks truly, it was falling apart of the triple disease of inertia, despotism, and maldistribution of the goods of the universe."
Bayta reminds them, and we the readers, of how Hari Seldon developed the science of psychohistory which could predict future events with great accuracy based on statistical probabilities, just as one could predict the behavior of a large enough aggregate of atoms using the laws of physics.
Bayta: “Seldon predicted a series of crises through the thousand years of growth, each of which would force a new turning of our history into a pre-calculated path. It is those crises which direct us – and therefore a crisis must come now. Now! It's almost a century since the last one, and in that century, every vice of the Empire has been repeated in the Foundation. Inertia! Our ruling class knows one law; no change. Despotism! They know one rule; force. Maldistribution! They know one desire; to hold what is theirs."
This little speech of Bayta’s finally gets Fran’s attention, and the old trader roars his approval,
Fran: "While others starve! Girl, your words are pearls. The fat guts on their moneybags ruin the Foundation, while the brave Traders hide their poverty on dregs of worlds like Haven. It's a disgrace to Seldon, a casting of dirt in his face, a spewing in his beard.
Fran: "If I had my other arm! If – once – they had listened to me!"
Toran does his best to calm him down, “Dad, take it easy!”
Fran: "Take it easy. Take it easy. We'll live here and die here forever – and you say, take it easy."
Randu tries to change the subject by referring to a figure well known from our last episode.
Randu: "That's our modern Lathan Devers, this Fran of ours. Devers died in the slave mines eighty years ago with your husband's great-grandfather, because he lacked wisdom and didn't lack heart–"
Fran: "Yes, by the Galaxy, I'd do the same if I were he. Devers was the greatest Trader in history – greater than the overblown windbag, Mallow, the Foundationers worship. If the cutthroats who lord the Foundation killed him because he loved justice, the greater the blood-debt owed them."
This is a fascinating little bit of lore to ponder for a moment. When we took our leave of Lathan Devers at the end of The General, he was, if anything, a genuine war hero. True, he and Ducem Barr didn’t really affect matters significantly on their frantic mission to Trantor to attempt to undermine General Bel Riose’s attack on the Foundation, but one would think he would have held a position of high standing for his noble and truly heroic efforts. Why then, would he have died in “the slave mines“ at the hands of “the cutthroats who lord the Foundation?”
Asimov seems to have a fondness for these sort of cryptic references. Recall Onum Barr’s daughter’s suicide and how it implied an entire, unexplained side story? In this case the consignment of a former war hero along with Toran’s great grandfather to a Foundation slave mine – let alone why the Foundation would have slave mines at all – could be the kernel at the heart of a great untold story. But, back to the one we must tell now.
Randu settles the old man’s passions by turning Bayta’s attention to the problem at hand.
Randu: "We've formed a little group, Bayta – just in our city. We haven't done anything yet. We haven't even managed to contact the other cities yet, but it's a start."
Bayta: "But towards what?"
Randu: "We don't know-yet. We hope for a miracle. We have decided that, as you say, a Seldon crisis must be at hand. The Galaxy is full of the chips and splinters of the broken Empire. The generals swarm. Do you suppose the time may come when one will grow bold?"
Bayta: "No, not a chance. There's not one of those generals who doesn't know that an attack on the Foundation is suicide. Bel Riose of the old Empire was a better man than any of them, and he attacked with the resources of a galaxy, and couldn't win against the Seldon Plan. Is there one general that doesn't know that?"
Randu: "Well, there is one – a new one. In this past year or two, there has come word of a strange man whom they call the Mule."
Bayta: "The Mule? Ever hear of him, Torie?'
Toran: “No - I haven’t. What makes him different, Uncle?”
Randu: "I don't know. But he wins victories at, they say, impossible odds. The rumors may be exaggerated, but it would be interesting, in any case, to become acquainted with him. Not every man with sufficient ability and sufficient ambition would believe in Hari Seldon and his laws of psychohistory. We could encourage that disbelief. He might attack."
Bayta: "And the Foundation would win."
Randu: "Yes – but not necessarily easily. It might be a crisis, and we could take advantage of such a crisis to force a compromise with the despots of the Foundation. At the worst, they would forget us long enough to enable us to plan farther."
We see here that the philosophy of Ducem Barr, as expressed in the General, that the unstoppable tide of psychohistory would always make the Foundation victorious over its enemies had now become popular wisdom. The stunning and complete triumph over the Empire one hundred years in the past has created a sense of manifest destiny for the Foundation.
In a nutshell, then, Randu's plan is to make an alliance with the Mule and encourage him to attack the Foundation. The ensuing battle would inevitably result in Foundation victory, but in the chaos resulting, Randu's underground could plan for a better future that resolves some of the structural problems of Foundation corruption and authoritarianism.
Randu and Fran enlist Bayta and Toran to go to a vacation world called Kalgan on a honeymoon. The Mule had recently taken control despite the opposition of a powerful warlord who claimed he would "blow the planet to ionic dust" rather than give up, but he mysteriously disappeared and the Mule took the planet without a fight. Their plan is for the honeymooners to get information, make contact with the Mule or his people if possible.
This is kind of funny if you think about it. We tend to think of a honeymoon as a time of total relaxation after the stress of preparing for a wedding and before all the work that goes into beginning a marriage. Honeymooners aren’t typically asked to be secret agents attempting to make contact with a mysterious, world-conquering general. It might help to remember that Asimov himself saw no value in vacations. First off, he hated traveling, or anything else that would disrupt his work of nonstop writing. He was known to never travel by air, and when reluctantly was coerced into taking a few ocean cruises, was known to stay on board the ship while it was in port while his wife, Janet, would explore the vacation sites so he could be left to his work. The stateroom became just a traveling office for him. We can see why he’d be a little out of touch with the societal understanding of what a honeymoon was supposed to be.
And so we leave the young couple to go off on their combined honeymoon slash secret agent adventure and turn our attention to the Foundation home world of Terminus.
In the anteroom within a stately and impressive edifice on Terminus, a young military officer, Captain Han Pritcher, awaits an audience with his eminence, the leader of all Foundation but who bears the simple title of Mayor Indbur of Terminus City, an affectation of pretended humility hearkening back to the days of Salvor Hardin. Despite appearances, Mayor Indbur is known by all to be the most powerful figure in the galaxy.
This particular Mayor Indbur was the last of three generations to bear this name. The first had been both brutal and capable, and had used these traits to presumably break the back of the trading plutocracy and establish an authoritarian style of government. We can assume that, if not he directly, his brutal policies had banished our old friend Lathan Devers to the slave mines.
The second Inbur had not been nearly as brutal, but had capably institutionalized the authoritarian structure bequeathed by his father. The third Inbur, as we shall see, was neither butal nor capable. He was, in Asimov’s words, “an excellent bookkeeper born wrong. To him, a stilted geometric love of arrangement was 'system,' an indefatigable and feverish interest in the pettiest facets of day-to-day bureaucracy was 'industry,' indecision when right was 'caution,' and blind stubbornness when wrong, 'determination.' And withal he wasted no money, killed no man needlessly, and meant extremely well."
The captain who has been summoned by Inbur is an intelligence officer with a stubborn streak - a firm belief in the value of insubordination in "the interest of the state." He expects nothing less than to be court martialed for his latest activities that had willfully defied his superior’s orders for what he believed to be essential reasons. Indbur makes him wait a little longer while he scribbles some annotations, then has him brought before him, where Pritcher respectfully bends to one knee before him.
Indbur: "Arise, Captain Pritcher!"
The Mayor goes on to refer to the disciplinary actions committed by the captain and asks if he is surprised to be brought to his audience.
Pritcher calmly responds, "Excellence, no. Your justice is proverbial."
Indbur proceeds to read off a detailed list of biographical details; age 43, born on Loris of Ancreonian parents, 310 years after Seldon’s exile to Terminus. All of this detail simply to impress upon Pritcher the Mayor’s thoroughness.
Indbur: "You see, in my administration, nothing is left to chance. Order! System!"
We are given one more detail of the Mayor’s fastidious nature, in that his only vice is the periodic ingestion of a tiny, pink, flavor capsule, as the Mayor does not smoke!
I’ve commented at length upon Asimov’s fondness for the use of tobacco products in this story, and I was quite surprised to find out upon reading his biography that he didn’t just not smoke himself, but detested the habit! This was a source of significant strain in his problematic first marriage to Gertrude. Perhaps he felt the need to give this rather odious character, Indbur, one small redeeming quality.
The mayor looks up from the report before him,"Well, captain, your record is unusual. Your ability is outstanding, it would seem, and your services valuable beyond question. I note that you have been wounded in the line of duty twice, and that you have been awarded the Order of Merit for bravery beyond the call of duty. Those are facts not lightly to be minimized."
Indbur: "However, you have not been promoted in ten years, and your superiors report, over and over again, of the unbending stubbornness of your character. You are reported to be chronically insubordinate, incapable of maintaining a correct attitude towards superior officers, apparently uninterested in maintaining frictionless relationships with your colleagues, and an incurable troublemaker, besides. How do you explain that, captain?"
Pritcher responds in what he hopes will be a respectful tone, "Excellence, I do what seems right to me. My deeds on behalf of the State, and my wounds in that cause bear witness that what seems right to me is also in the interest of the State."
When asked what gives him the privilege of disobeying the orders of a superior, Pritcher explains, “Excellence, my duty is primarily to the State, and not to my superior."
Indbur: "Fallacious, for your superior has his superior, and that superior is myself, and I am the State."
Where have we heard something like this before, why all the way back in The Encyclopedists, with the haughty attitude of the Anacreonian envoy, Anself haut Rodric.
Pritcher introduces an important finding of his work on behalf of the State, in his mission to examine the intentions of the warlord of Kalgan, an ambitious and powerful figure who had risen quickly to power and assembled a formidable military fleet, but had heretofore been essentially friendly to the Foundation.
Pritcher: "Excellence, I returned two months ago. At that time, there was no sign of impending war; no sign of anything but an almost superfluity of ability to repel any conceivable attack. One month ago, an unknown soldier of fortune took Kalgan without a fight. The man who was once warlord of Kalgan is apparently no longer alive. Men do not speak of treason – they speak only of the power and genius of this strange condottiere – this Mule."
Indbur: "This who?"
Pritcher: "Excellence, he is known as the Mule. He is spoken of little, in a factual sense, but I have gathered the scraps and fragments of knowledge and winnowed out the most probable of them. He is apparently a man of neither birth nor standing. His father, unknown. His mother, dead in childbirth. His upbringing, that of a vagabond. His education, that of the tramp worlds, and the backwash alleys of space. He has no name other than that of the Mule, a name reportedly applied by himself to himself, and signifying, by popular explanation, his immense physical strength, and stubbornness of purpose."
Indbur asks Pritcher of the Mule’s military strength and the captain says he hears of "huge fleets" but thinks these reports might be influenced by the results of his engagements more than any precise knowledge.
Indbur appears entirely uninterested in these reports, and brings the subject back to Pritcher’s insubordination. He is now ordering him to investigate the trader worlds that are refusing to pay their taxes, but Pritcher reminds him that they are unimportant and not a serious threat. Indbur differs, because these "rathole worlds" offend his sense of order and control.
Pritcher makes his earnest plea, "Excellence, I have been told all this. But as servant of the State, I must serve faithfully – and he serves most faithfully who serves Truth. Whatever the political implications of these dregs of the ancient Traders – the warlords who have inherited the splinters of the old Empire have the power. The Traders have neither arms nor resources. They have not even unity. I am not a tax collector to be sent on a child's errand."
Indbur reminds Pritcher of the previous Seldon Crises and how they proved the inevitability of Foundation success; that the warlords and remnants of Empire have proven their impotence. He seems only concerned about cleaning up these messy ratholes.
Pritcher reminds Inbur of the great cost of the battle against Bel Riose.
Pritcher: "Excellence, that is true. But this history you mention became inevitable only after we had fought desperately for over a year. The inevitable victory we won cost us half a thousand ships and half a million men. Excellence, Seldon's plan helps those who help themselves." Asimov does seem to love this phrase.
Indbur grows impatient. "Nevertheless, captain, Seldon guarantees victory over the warlords, and I can not, in these busy times, indulge in a dispersal of effort. These Traders you dismiss are Foundation-derived. A war with them would be a civil war. Seldon's plan makes no guarantee there for us – since they and we are Foundation. So they must be brought to heel. You have your orders."
Pritcher returns to his barracks to find a sealed order from the Mayor instructing him in the strongest terms to proceed to Haven to investigate the traders.
Asimov describes his response as follows, "Captain Han Pritcher, alone in his light one-man speedster, set his course quietly and calmly for Kalgan. He slept that night the sleep of a successfully stubborn man."
Now we return to the young lovers on their honeymoon, basking in the sun on the famous beaches at Kalgan. They’re enjoying themselves somewhat, but like the author, would prefer to be working, which in this case means making contact with the mysterious figure who has quietly overtaken this world. They’ve made no progress whatsoever in that regard.
Down the beach a little way they see a curious interaction. A thin and gangly acrobat is doing a handstand for the crowd's amusement. A beach guard tries to make him move off and the clown takes one hand, places his thumb to his nose while still upside down. The guard is enraged and approaches, only to be kicked forcefully in the gut by the clown, who then runs off protected by the crowd cackling with delight.
Bayta sees him approaching and says, "He's a queer fellow."
When the entertainer gets closer they get a better look at him. In Asimov’s words, "The clown was close enough now to be seen clearly. His thin face drew together in front into a nose of generous planes and fleshy tip that seemed all but prehensile. His long, lean limbs and spidery body, accentuated by his costume, moved easily and with grace, but with just a suggestion of having been thrown together at random. To look was to smile."
The clown comes directly to Bayta and earnestly proclaims, "Were I to use the wits the good Spirits gave me, then I would say this lady can not exist – for what sane man would hold a dream to be reality? Yet rather would I not be sane and lend belief to charmed, enchanted eyes."
Toran: "Oh, you enchantress. Go ahead, Bay, that deserves a five-credit piece. Let
him have it."
Magnifico: "No, my lady, mistake me not. I spoke for money not at all, but for bright eyes and sweet face."
Toran, maybe just a little peeved says, "Will five credits cure your trouble?"
Bayta: "Let me talk to him, Torie. There's no use being annoyed at his silly way of talking. That's just his dialect; and our speech is probably as strange to him."
Speaking to the clown, she asks sweetly, "What is your trouble? You're not worried about the guard, are you? He won't bother you."
Magnifico: "Oh, no, not he. He's but a windlet that blows the dust about my ankles. There is another that I flee, and he is a storm that sweeps the worlds aside and throws them plunging at each other. A week ago, I ran away, have slept in city streets, and hid in city crowds. I've looked in many faces for help in need. I find it here… I find it here."
The beach guard that Bayta had dismissed so easily apparently had other ideas, for he suddenly reappears and with a red-faced snarl shouts, “Hold him you two!”
Toran: “What's he done?"
Beach Guard: "What's he done? What's he done? Well, now, that's good! I'll tell you what he's done. He's run away.”
Bayta: "Now where did he escape from, sir?"
Beach Guard: "Where did he escape from? Why, I suppose you've heard of the Mule, now.”
Asimov describes the moment. “All jabbering stopped, and Bayta felt a sudden iciness trickle down into her stomach. The clown had eyes only for her – he still quivered in the guard's brawny grasp.”
Beach Guard: “And who would this infernal ragged piece be, but his lordship's own court fool who's run away."
But Toran, so recently mildly annoyed at the clown’s intrusion, now found himself defending him.
Toran: "Now, my man, suppose you take your hand away for just a while. This entertainer you hold has been dancing for us and has not yet danced out his fee."
The guard ignores Toran and prepares to haul him away, at which point Toran decides the moment has arrived to play the Foundation card. He suddenly grabs the man’s stun pistol and shoves him violently aside. Standing firm with the pistol unwavering, he demands that the guard allow him to keep the entertainer with them and declares his rights as a citizen of the Foundation!
A new figure arrives on the scene, a tall lieutenant, who reminds Toran that his behavior is highly illegal and demands he turn over the clown immediately, claiming he could have Toran shot for failing to comply.
Toran holds his ground. "Undoubtedly. But then you would have shot a Foundation citizen and it is quite likely that your body would be sent to the Foundation – quartered – as part compensation. It's been done by other warlords."
The lieutenant pauses - realizing the statement is true, then asks for Toran’s name.
Toran: "I will answer further questions at my ship. You can get the cell number at the Hangar; it is registered under the name 'Bayta'."
When asked once more if he would release the runaway, he responds fiercely, "To the Mule, perhaps. Send your master!"
When the crowds had been dispersed and the lieutenant and the guard had withdrawn, Toran turned to Bayta as they made their way back to the hangar with their new acquaintance.
Toran: "Galaxy, Bay, what a time I had! I was so scared–"
Bayta: "Yes, it was quite out of character."
Toran: "Well, I still don't know what happened. I just got up there with a stun pistol that I wasn't even sure I knew how to use, and talked back to him. I don't know why I did it.”
The hangar in which Toran’s spaceship, the Bayta, was parked, was much more than the kind of facility referred to as such at a modern airport. Asimov describes it as more of a huge hotel in which each “room” was its own deluxe accommodation for spacecraft and crew, with all facilities to stay indefinitely or depart to space at will. It’s almost as if the travel-averse Asimov was describing his dream port. Makes you wonder if he and his wife had had the option of availing themselves of such a facility on their honeymoon if he would ever have left the hangar!
We find the travelers huddled in the security of their ship with their strange new acquaintance, who had introduced himself with the bombastically inflated name of Magnifico Giganticus. He was now gulping down provisions in the ship’s galley as if he had gone some time without a meal.
While the clown is thus distracted, Bayta asks her husband, "If the Mule comes, are we going to give him up?"
Toran: "Well, what else, Bay? Before I came here I had a sort of vague idea that all we had to do was to ask for the Mule, and then get down to business – just business, you know, nothing definite."
Bayta: "I know what you mean, Torie. I wasn't much hoping to see the Mule myself, but I did think we could pick up some firsthand knowledge of the mess, and then pass it over to people who know a little more about this interstellar intrigue. I'm no storybook spy."
Toran: "You're not behind me, Bay. What a situation! You'd never know there was a person like the Mule, except for this last queer break. Do you suppose he'll come for his clown?"
Bayta: "I don't know that I want him to. I don't know what to say or do. Do you?"
They are interrupted by the sound of the airlock buzzer. The clown now known as Magnifico immediately tensed and let out a frightened query, “The Mule?”
Toran: "I've got to let them in, Bay."
The door is opened, and it’s not the Mule or one of his men, but another standoff is initiated nevertheless. Toran keeps his blaster trained on the intruder and insists he identify himself. It is none other than Captain Pritcher, who’d tracked Bayta and Toran back to their hangar with their new accomplice.
Pritcher produces evidence of his authority and asks Toran to lower his blaster, at which point Bayta intervenes.
Bayta: "Put the blaster away, Toran, and take him at face value. He sounds like the real thing."
Toran reluctantly agrees, and asks why Pritcher is here. He is told that the news of the beach encounter traveled quickly – that the Mule had been embarrassed by two tourists from the Foundation. He wants to understand exactly what their motives are in taking such rash action. He turns to Batya.
Pritcher: "You're from the Foundation – by birth, aren't you?"
Bayta: "Am I?"
Pritcher: "You're a member of the democratic opposition – they call it 'the underground.' I don't remember your name, but I do the face. You got out only recently – and wouldn't have if you were more important."
Bayta: "You know a lot."
Pritcher nods matter of factly. "I do. You escaped with a man. That one?"
Bayta: "Does it matter what I say?"
Pritcher: "No. I merely want a thorough mutual understanding. I believe that the password during the week you left so hastily was 'Seldon, Hardin, and Freedom.' Porfirat Hart was your section leader."
Bayta’s cool front evaporates. "Where'd you get that? Did the police get him?"
Pritcher: "Nobody has him. It's just that the underground spreads widely and in unusual places. I'm a section leader myself – never mind under what name."
Pritcher goes on to explain that, though he sides with them as an enemy of the tyranny of the current Foundation leaders, he’s been investigating an even greater threat. This mysterious figure known as the Mule is not what they think he is.
Pritcher: “That clown is the key. That clown is one of the very few that have seen him. I want him. He may be the proof I need – and I need something, Galaxy knows – to awaken the Foundation."
Bayta: "It needs awakening? Against what? And in what role do you act as alarm, that of rebel democrat or of secret police and provocateur?"
Pritcher: "When the entire Foundation is threatened, Madame Revolutionary, both democrats and tyrants perish. Let us save the tyrants from a greater threat, that we may overthrow them in their turn."
Bayta: "Who's the greater tyrant you speak of?"
Pritcher: "The Mule! I know a bit about him, enough to have been my death several times over already, if I had moved less nimbly. Send the clown out of the room. This will require privacy."
After Magnifico retreats to the galley Pritcher quietly continues. “I don't know the Mule’s powers or the exact extent to which he is what our thrillers would call a 'superman,' but the rise from nothing to the conqueror of Kalgan's warlord in two years is revealing. You see, don't you, the danger? Can a genetic accident of unpredictable biological properties be taken into account in the Seldon plan?
Pritcher says he wants to speak to the clown now and they summon Magnifico. “Have you seen the Mule with your own eyes?"
Magnifico: "I have but too well, respected sir. And felt the weight of his arm with my own body as well."
Pritcher: "I have no doubt of that. Can you describe him?"
Magnifico: "It is frightening to recall him, respected sir. He is a man of mighty frame. Against him, even you would be but a spindling. His hair is of a burning crimson, and with all my strength and weight I could not pull down his arm, once extended – not a hair's thickness. Often, to amuse his generals or to amuse only himself, he would suspend me by one finger in my belt from a fearful height, while I chattered poetry. It was only after the twentieth verse that I was withdrawn, and each improvised and each a perfect rhyme, or else start over. He is a man of overpowering might, respected sir, and cruel in the use of his power – and his eyes, respected sir, no one sees."
Pritcher: "What? What's that last?"
Magnifico: "He wears spectacles, respected sir, of a curious nature. It is said that they are opaque and that he sees by a powerful magic that far transcends human powers. I have heard, that to see his eyes is to see death; that he kills with his eyes, respected sir."
It’s at about this point that Bayta and Toran realize they are way over their heads. They ask Pritcher if he wants to take over. He declines and asks them to return quickly to the Foundation with their prisoner. They expect the Mule to attempt to retrieve Magnifico, but that he is too valuable to lose. Once in space, they see that there has been no attempt to interfere with their departure and no one following them.
Toran looks at Pritcher. "Looks like he's letting us carry off Magnifico. Not so good for your story."
Pritcher: "Unless... he wants us to carry him off, in which case it's not so good for the Foundation.
While enroute to Terminus, a news report arrives stating that the new government of Kalgan has made an official complaint about the forceful abduction of a member of their leader’s court.
Pritcher’s face darkens. “He's one step ahead of us after all. He's ready for the Foundation, and he uses this as an excuse for action. It makes things more difficult for us. We will have to act before we are really ready."
We return to Mayor Indbur’s tidy office once again, and meet a new player in our drama. Ebling Mis is a renowned scientist of the foundation. In fact, so renowned he is known only as “the Scientist.” Due to the Foundation’s reliance on science and technology for their dominance, the position of the highest ranking scientist conferred significant privileges and Mis was the sort of guy to take advantage of those privileges when needed. I’ll let Asimov describe his entrance.
“...when Ebling Mis decided to allow Indbur to honor him with an audience, he did not wait for the usual rigid line of command to pass his request up and the favored reply down, but, having thrown the less disreputable of his two formal jackets over his shoulders and pounded an odd hat of impossible design on one side of his head, and lit a forbidden cigar into the bargain, he barged past two ineffectually bleating guards and into the mayor's palace.”
Apparently the guards had torn the scientist’s apparel in the scuffle and he was not at all pleased upon breaking into Indbur’s office. "Look here, Indbur, those unprintable minions of yours will be charged for one good cloak. Lots of good wear left in this cloak."
Indbur glares at the intruder with displeasure. "It has not been brought to my attention, Mis, that you have requested an audience. You have certainly not been assigned one."
Mis: "Ga-LAX-y, Indbur, didn't you get my note yesterday? I handed it to a flunky in purple uniform day before. I would have handed it to you direct, but I know how you like formality."
Indbur: "Formality! Have you ever heard of proper organization? At all future times you are to submit your request for an audience, properly made out in triplicate, at the government office intended for the purpose. You are then to wait until the ordinary course of events brings you notification of the time of audience to be granted. You are then to appear, properly clothed – properly clothed, do you understand – and with proper respect, too. You may leave."
Mis: "What's wrong with my clothes? Best cloak I had till those unprintable fiends got their claws on it. I'll leave just as soon as I deliver what I came to deliver. Ga-LAX-y, if it didn't involve a Seldon Crisis, I would leave right now."
The mention of a Seldon Crisis gets Mayor Indbur’s attention. It was well known that Ebling Mis knew more of Hari Seldon’s psychohistory than anyone else in the galaxy and the possibility of a Seldon Crisis was the sort of thing that could not be ignored. There hadn’t been a genuine crisis worthy of such designation in a hundred years and Indbur was determined that certainly he would never have to worry himself with anything so disruptive.
Indbur: "Now, in order, to make this unauthorized interview as short as possible, make your statement in the fewest possible words."
Mis: "You know what I'm doing these days?"
Indbur sighed and informed Mis that he had been reading his reports diligently. The scientist had been investigating Seldon’s work as closely as possible to attempt to understand the inscrutable science of psychohistory and to hopefully trace the predicted future course of the galaxy for the Foundation’s benefit. Indbur appreciated mostly that this would help him to avoid unpleasant surprises that could threaten the essential order of his world. This was the main reason he put up with the scientist’s oafish and disrespectful behavior.
Ebling Mis shocks Inbur by telling him the reports of his work have been useless because they are filtered through a bureaucracy that only knows a fraction of what he has discovered and tells him only what he wants to hear. He has made significant new discoveries that are heretofore unknown. Indbur is horrified and tells him he’s committed treason to keep his work secret while Mis ignores him and leaps up and sits on the corner of his desk and explains gleefully what he’s discovered.
Mis: "Officially I've been trying to rebuild the science of psychohistory. Well, no one man is going to do that, and it won't get done in any one century, either. But I've made advances in the more simple elements and I've been able to use it as an excuse to meddle with the Time Vault. What I have done, involves the determination, to a pretty fair kind of certainty, of the exact date of the next appearance of Hari Seldon. I can give you the exact day, in other words, that the coming Seldon Crisis, the fifth, will reach its climax."
The fifth? According to Mis, there were four previous appearances by Seldon in the Vault. The first two we are well aware of from the second and third episodes of this podcast. On the first of those occasions Seldon had shocked the scientists preparing the Encyclopedia that their work was essentially irrelevant to his aims. The second occasion was rather anticlimactic, as Seldon had pretty much validated Hardin’s strategy and sealed his victory over his political opponents. The last two appearances were even less exciting as “he was ignored – probably because he was not needed.” One would think that the whole idea of a Seldon Crisis was starting to lose its mojo. After all, the Foundation had faced its greatest moment of peril a hundred years previously and defeated the Empire against all odds. It seemed there was no real concept of a genuine crisis to get riled up about.
Mayor Indbur had heard just about enough at this point. In his estimation, what Mis was telling him was absurd. There had been no incidents of any kind of concern that would indicate a serious crisis was coming. He picks up one of the reports on his desk and lectures Mis with it.
Mis: "This is a short summary I prepare myself – weekly – of foreign matters in progress. Listen – we have completed negotiations for a commercial treaty with Mores, continue negotiations for one with Lyonesse, sent a delegation to some celebration or other on Bonde, received some complaint or other from Kalgan and we've promised to look into it, protested some sharp trade practices in Asperta and they've promised to look into it – and so on and so on. I tell you, Mis, there's not a thing there that breathes anything but order and peace–"
At that moment another disturbing intrusion appeared, which to Mayor Indbur was just about the last thing he could accept in his carefully ordered life, but here it was. His secretary had entered without being summoned.
The report was that the odiously erratic Captain Han Pritcher whom the mayor had had the unfortunate duty of reprimanding weeks before, had been apprehended and taken into custody for disobeying direct orders and now awaited execution. Those accompanying him were being held for questioning. Furthermore, Captain Pritcher had reported that the new warlord of Kalgan had engaged in “vaguely dangerous designs” and that a full report had been filed.
Indbur explodes, “A full report has been received. Well!"
The secretary, looking extremely uncomfortable, continued. New reports had just arrived that armed ships from Kalgan had been spotted entering Foundation territory and fighting had occurred.
Indbur was now nearly incapacitated in confusion at the rapid turn of events, so terribly injurious to his sense of decorum. Ebling Mis calmly hopped down from his desk and informed the secretary to send Captain Pritcher to them. He turned to the apoplectic mayor.
Mis: "Hadn't you better get the machinery moving, Indbur? Four months, you know."
We turn now, briefly, to a conference among the traders on a planet called Radole. I won’t go into a lot of detail about this conference, but I do want to share Asimov’s description of the planet it is held on.
“It was a ribbon world – of which the Galaxy boasts sufficient, but among which, the inhabited variety is a rarity for the physical requirements are difficult to meet. It was a world, in other words, where the two halves face the monotonous extremes of heat and cold, while the region of possible life is the girdling ribbon of the twilight zone. Such a world invariably sounds uninviting to those who have not tried it, but there exist spots, strategically placed – and Radole City was located in such a one. It spread along the soft slopes of the foothills before the hacked-out mountains that backed it along the rim of the cold hemisphere and held off the frightful ice. The warm, dry air of the sun-half spilled over, and from the mountains was piped the water-and between the two, Radole City became a continuous garden, swimming in the eternal morning of an eternal June.”
This description is fascinating to me for the fact that Asimov was so far ahead of his time. He was smart and knowledgeable enough to know that such tidally locked planets were possible and had the imagination to consider the possibility of it being settled and made into a very livable environment. It turns out that the search for exoplanets in recent years has turned up quite a few candidates for this kind of a world. This is the awesome power of science fiction. The combination of scientific principles with imagination to create scenes of exotic and majestic beauty completely unknown upon our own world.
The conference being held upon this world was one of a regular series of such events in which trade agreements would be worked out, news would be shared among the visitors of politics on their respective worlds, gossip shared, relationships established. The usual kind of stuff that accompanies regular political conferences. This one, though, was different. There was only one topic of conversation and it was an urgent one. The Mule had become a significant threat to the Foundation and there were actually reports of losses in combat, at a planet called Horleggor.
Meanwhile, Toran had found some way of getting reports out secretly, despite his captivity by Foundation authorities. The most disturbing of these reports implied that the Mule had developed technology beyond that of the Foundation. Specifically, Foundation forces were finding that at critical moments their nuclear devices were ceasing to function. No one could imagine how the Mule was achieving this, but it was obviously highly disturbing news.
There was a lot of fog of war type of talk at the conference. Where was the Mule getting his ships? Some shared rumors that they were being supplied secretly by trader worlds. Others wondered about the technology that had apparently been so successful in battle against the Foundation. No one doubted that the Foundation would ultimately prevail. Seldon had assured them this was the case. It was deeply ingrained in the conventional wisdom. Many hoped to take advantage of the confusion and chaos and undermine the Foundation’s tyrannical government. No one seriously entertained any question that the Foundation could lose. The possibility was laughable.
In the midst of the conference a representative brought shocking news. One of the trading worlds, Memnon, had been attacked with significant casualties. The Foundation, many immediately assumed? No. It was the Mule! Unprovoked and deliberate. Most of the fleet was away to back up the Foundation if needed. No landings had been reported, but the war had come to the trading worlds and their involvement was no longer a question.
Randu, one of the representatives of the Foundation, stood to make a statement. "I am afraid a monster is grown that will devour all of us. Yet we must fight him."
Back on the Foundation home world of Terminus, the situation had become tense. Toran had been separated from Bayta, who still retained Magnifico by her side. They had been taken to the home of Ebling Mis on the outskirts of the city. The clown was anxious and afraid of the man they were to meet here as they awaited his arrival.
Magnifico: "Surely, my lady, it would seem that even yet my body denies the knowledge of my mind and expects of others' hands a blow."
Bayta: "There's no need for worry, Magnifico. I'm with you, and I won't let anyone hurt you."
Magnifico was not assured. He had grown fond of both her and her husband and was upset about his absence. "But they kept me away from you earlier – and from your kind husband – and, on my word, you may laugh, but I was lonely for missing friendship."
Bayta: "I wouldn't laugh at that. I was, too."
Magnifico: "You have not met this man who will see us?"
Bayta: "No. But he is a famous man. I have seen him in the newscasts and heard quite a good deal of him. I think he's a good man, Magnifico, who means us no harm."
Magnifico: "Yes? That may be, my lady, but he has questioned me before, and his manner is of an abruptness and loudness that bequivers me. He is full of strange words, so that the answers to his questions could not worm out of my throat. Almost, I might believe the romancer who once played on my ignorance with a tale that, at such moments, the heart lodged in the windpipe and prevented speech."
Bayta: "But it's different now. We're two to his one, and he won't be able to frighten the both of us, will he?"
Magnifico: "No, my lady."
Ebling Mis entered carrying a large package. Unwrapping it revealed a strangely shaped musical instrument. He turned to Magnifico. "Know what this is, boy?"
Asimov describes the clown’s enthusiastic response. “Magnifico fairly hurled himself out of his seat and caught the multi-keyed instrument. He fingered the myriad knobby contacts and threw a sudden back somersault of joy, to the imminent destruction of the nearby furniture.”
While he was thus preoccupied, Mis whispered to Bayta of his hopes that the instrument might help to pacify him sufficiently so that he might allow the mild psychic probe to be used. Aloud, he asks Bayta, “Ever hear a Visi-Sonor?"
Bayta: "Once at a concert of rare instruments. I wasn't impressed."
Mis: "Well, I doubt that you came across good playing. There are very few really good players. It's
not so much that it requires physical coordination – a multi-bank piano requires more, for instance – as a certain type of free-wheeling mentality."
Mis suggests they turn out the lights since the visual aspects of the performance work better in the dark.
The performance is described from Bayta’s perspective, and for possibly the first time in the series, Asimov goes all out on a poetic adventure, describing a finely tuned and composed psychedelic trip of an experience engaging all of Bayta’s senses. It begins with a thin reedy sound quavering in the dark, and goes on to describe glowing blobs of color coalescing into flames and fountains and tiny figures, men and women with flaming hair, architectural wonders shooting upward, snow falling, glittering carpets, rich tones of strings and harsh cymbal crashes.
It seemed to be playing in three dimensions with sound and touch experience embedded within, almost as if the performance was playing in her brain and Magnifico was plucking at the neurons in her cerebral cortex directly, but it also felt wondrous and reassuring. It was a beautiful experience and when it was over, the sound and light effects diminished, Bayta felt transformed.
Magnifico grasped the instrument with delight and it seemed he had felt the same.
Magnifico: "My lady, it is indeed of an effect the most magical. It is of balance and response almost beyond hope in its delicacy and stability. On this, it would seem I could work wonders. How liked you my composition, my lady?"
Bayta: "Was it yours? "Your own?"
Magnifico: "My very own, my lady. The Mule liked it not, but often and often I have played it for my own amusement. It was once, in my youth, that I saw the palace – a gigantic place of jeweled riches that I saw from a distance at a time of high carnival. There were people of a splendor undreamed of – and magnificence more than ever I saw afterwards, even in the Mule's service. It is but a poor makeshift I have created, but my mind's poverty precludes more. I call it, 'The Memory of Heaven.'"
Ebling Mis, also apparently deeply affected, shook himself to life. "Here, here, Magnifico, would you like to do that same thing for others?"
The clown drew back fearfully. “For others?"
Mis: "For thousands, in the great Halls of the Foundation. Would you like to be your own master, and honored by all, wealthy, and ... and– And all that? Eh? What do you say?"
When assured Bayta would stay close by Magnifico reluctantly agreed to perform. He was also persuaded to submit to a light probe, but only after Bayta told him it would help to keep the Mule far, far away, and that he could hold her hand during the procedure.
Later, we find Ebling Mis is paying another visit to Mayor Indbur, and if their relationship seemed strained on the first occasion, it is far worse now. Indbur has grown weary of the chaos and negative reports streaming in, such an unbelievable and repellant annoyance in his carefully manicured world. And here was the great scientist he had to treat with forbearance and respect. How he hated this oafish and uncontrollable demon, but how he needed him at the same time. He felt nauseous listening to Mis talk of this ridiculous clown and his freak abilities to play some strange circus instrument. And of course the fool had gotten almost nothing of value through a psychic probe. They revealed that the Mule wore special glasses and could kill with his eyes. Common knowledge already! Nothing of any strategic value.
Indbur: "So? And how long will all this take? Your word-rattling will deafen me yet."
Mis: "About a month, I should say, and I may have something for you. And I may not, of course. But what of it? If this is all outside Seldon's plans, our chances are precious little, unprintable little."
Indbur: "Now I have you, traitor. Lie! Say you're not one of these criminal rumormongers that are spreading defeatism and panic through the Foundation, and making my work doubly hard."
I see here echoes of a conflict long ago, back in the very beginning of our story. The high commissioner of the Empire at its peak, our old friend Linge Chen, confronting Seldon’s predictions of doom for the Empire with the same venom and with the strong temptation to snuff it out by killing the messenger. Hari Seldon had won him over with calm and rational explanations of the personal endangerment Chen faced if he were to ignore his science. Ebling Mis was no Hari Seldon by knowledge or temperament, and Indbur was not the calm and effective administrator Chen had been.
Mis explains in bursts and harranges that Foundation victory was no longer inevitable. They had suffered severe losses already at the hands of the Mule, and the Foundation had not found answers for his mysterious methods and unknown powers. Several ships had been lost at Horleggor due to the Mule’s nuclear suppression technology that was only beginning to be understood. Memnon was close to falling. The Foundation was in retreat across vast swaths of the regions they had easily controlled.
Indbur was sputtering, “By the dust-clouds of space, the Foundation will win – the Foundation must win!"
Mis: "Despite the loss at Horleggor?"
Indbur: "It was not a loss. You have swallowed that spreading lie, too? We were outnumbered and
Indbur claims the apparent loss was due to treachery behind the lines, secret cells of democrats, fed by trader lies. They were obviously trying to take advantage of the situation and improve their position in the aftermath of the Foundation’s inevitable victory. But his agents were already finding the leaders and snuffing out the treachery. And better than that...
Indbur: "Judge for yourself. Two days ago, the so-called Association of Independent Traders declared war on the Mule, and the Foundation fleet is strengthened, at a stroke, by a thousand ships.”
Indbur: “You see, this Mule goes too far. He finds us divided and quarreling among ourselves and under
the pressure of his attack we unite and grow strong. He must lose. It is inevitable – as always."
Mis remains skeptical. After all, Seldon could not have predicted a mutant. This throws all of psychohistory out of whack. Who knows the future now?
But Indbur is determined to spin the latest developments, desperate even, to believe that the Foundation would prevail and he could get his exploded life back under control. He reminds Mis that Seldon will appear in only nine weeks. This would obviously be timed with the resolution of the crisis. He tells Mis he is dismissed, but to return for the appearance in the Vault, so he could see what a fool he’d been.
Indbur: “Get out of here. And stay out of my sight for nine weeks."
Mis: "With unprintable pleasure, you wizened horror."
An appearance by Seldon in the Vault was always an auspicious occasion, but the occurrence had been met with varying responses. In the first such occasion, only a few representatives of the governing authority of Terminus were present when Seldon had informed the startled attendees of the true intention of the plan. In the second, the room was full to celebrate the great victory over Anacreon. The third and fourth visits, it is said, were to an empty room. Apparently the resolution to the corresponding crises were perfunctory, or the growing autocratic nature of the government had worked to eliminate any intrusions outside their control from affecting the political discourse.
On this occasion, however, Mayor Indbur decided the time had come to play it up. This would be a full government ceremony. I picture it like a State of the Union speech, for example. The appointed heads of state treated like royalty while the nobility jostled for seating representative of their power. Indbur had had a special raised chair brought in for himself, and planned a concluding speech to assure the public that all would be fully and most immaculately under his control going forward. The heads of the trader worlds were also present, as it would be necessary for them to feel the full force of the restored and confident Foundation as it recovered from the strain of this nearly disastrous encounter with the Mule.
Randu, as representative of the trading worlds, finds his way to Indbur’s heavily guarded chair and somehow succeeds in getting his attention. He is greatly displeased that the Mayor has ordered trading ships to be distributed among the fleets of the Foundation, and makes his complaint known. Indbur rages that he is in charge of how the war is to be fought, and his order would go forward without alteration.
Indbur: “It is dangerous to allow your people separate fleets in this emergency. Divided action plays into the hands of the enemy. We must unite, ambassador, militarily as well as politically."
Randu: "You feel safe now that Seldon will speak, and you move against us. A month ago you were soft and yielding, when our ships defeated the Mule at Terel. I might remind you, sir, that it is the Foundation Fleet that has been defeated in open battle five times, and that the ships of the
Independent Trading Worlds have won your victories for you."
Randu goes on to inform the tyrant that his admirals can no longer be trusted, as several have defected to the Mule in the heat of battle, and that no trader crews would submit to their authority.
Indbur rages and accuses Randu of treachery, and orders that he be placed under guard at the conclusion of Seldon’s appearance. Randu retreats to take his scene for the grand event and sees that Toran and Bayta have arrived, along with the clown who was always near her these days.
Randu: "You are here after all. How did you work it?"
Toran: "Magnifico was our politician, Indbur insists upon his Visi-Sonor composition based on the Time Vault, with himself, no doubt, as hero. Magnifico refused to attend without us, and there was no arguing him out of it. Ebling Mis is with us, or was. He's wandering about somewhere."
Toran: "What's wrong, uncle? You don't look well."
Randu: "I suppose not. We're in for bad times, Toran. When the Mule is disposed of, our turn will come, I'm afraid. "
Bayta looks up at another familiar figure and smiles. Captain Han Pritcher has arrived and greets them, bowing stiffly. He finds his seat as the crowd grows quiet, the expected moment close at hand.
Magnifico, beside Bayta, is extremely – even for him – ill at ease. “The picture of misery and heartsick depression. His body curled up, in his eternal effort at self-effacement. His long nose was pinched at the nostrils and his large, down-slanted eyes darted uneasily about.”
Magnifico: "Do you suppose, my lady, that all these great ones were in the audience, perhaps, when I ... when I played the Visi-Sonor?"
Bayta: "Everyone, I'm sure. And I'm sure they all think you're the most wonderful player in the Galaxy and that your concert was the greatest ever seen, so you just straighten yourself and sit correctly. We must have dignity."
As he straightens himself, one more figure arrives, in the very center of the chamber. An old man in a wheelchair with a book on his lap!
Seldon: "I am Hari Seldon!"
He paused as the room falls “silent, thunderous in its intensity.”
Seldon: “I do not know if anyone is here at all by mere sense-perception but that is unimportant. I have few fears as yet of a breakdown in the Plan. For the first three centuries the percentage probability of non-deviation is nine-four point two."
His familiar appearance – known to all from the famous tri-mensional recordings they all knew well – seemed to calm the crowd. Now the great master would explain the great moment in history. Everything would all make sense now.
Seldon: "Let us take up the problem of the moment, then. For the first time, the Foundation has been
faced, or perhaps, is in the last stages of facing, civil war. Till now, the attacks from without have been adequately beaten off, and inevitably so, according to the strict laws of psychohistory. The attack at present is that of a too-undisciplined outer group of the Foundation against the too-authoritarian central government. The procedure was necessary, the result obvious."
What… was… happening? The assembled crowd began to murmur. Indbur half rose from his chair… Bayta struggled to understand the confusing message Seldon was delivering.
Seldon: "–that the compromise worked out is necessary in two respects. The revolt of the Independent
Traders introduces an element of new uncertainty in a government perhaps grown over-confident. The element of striving is restored. Although beaten, a healthy increase of
Many voices begin to be raised. The confusion has risen to the edge of panic. Bayta whispers to Toran by her side, "Why doesn't he talk about the Mule? The Traders never revolted."
Seldon continues speaking, but his nonsensical words become drowned out by the increasing uproar in the chamber.
Seldon: "–a new and firmer coalition government was the necessary and beneficial outcome of the
logical civil war forced upon the Foundation. And now only the remnants of the old Empire
stand in the way of further expansion, and in them, for the next few years, at any rate, is no
problem. Of course, I can not reveal the nature of the next prob–"
Ebling Mis yells above the commotion to Randu, “Seldon is off his rocker. He's got the wrong crisis. Were your Traders ever planning civil war?"
Randu: "We planned one, yes. We called it off in the face of the Mule."
Mis: "Then the Mule is an added feature, unprepared for in Seldon's psychohistory. Now what's
The figure of Seldon had vanished from the chamber, but also the walls had lost their faint nuclear glow. In the distance a siren is wailing. Randu forms the impossible words, “Space raid!”
Mis holds his nucleics-based wrist watch to his ear and fails to hear its usual hum. He roars above the crowd, “Stopped, by the Ga-LAX-y, is there a watch in the room that is going?"
Many wrists are raised and all are stunned by the silence they hear.
Mis: "Then, something has stopped all nuclear power in the Time Vault – and the Mule is attacking."
A thin wail rose from Indbur’s chair, desperate to regain authority, "Take your seats! The Mule is fifty parsecs distant."
Mis: "He was a week ago. Right now, Terminus is being bombarded."
Bayta felt choked with despair. A strange and visceral sensation of something close and thick. She could barely breath and felt paralyzed by the force of it.
Suddenly a door was thrown open and an official ran in and hastened to speak with Mayor Indbur. The message was dire. Not a vehicle was running in the city, all outbound communications had been stopped, and a message had been received that the tenth fleet had been defeated and the Mule’s ships were in low orbit preparing to enter the atmosphere.
The crowd grows quiet to hear their leaders response, but Indbur had crumpled and could barely speak. His lips move and he mouthes the word, “Surrender.”
The crowd surges outward in panic. Ebling Mis reaches for Bayta and moves her bodily toward the exit. "Come, young lady– we're leaving, and take your musician with you."
Magnifico: "The Mule. The Mule is coming for me!"
Toran grabs the limp clown and throws him over his shoulder.
I will allow the master, Isaac Asimov, to conclude the chapter.
“The next day, the ugly, battle-black ships of the Mule poured down upon the landing fields of the planet Terminus. The attacking general sped down the empty main street of Terminus City in a foreign-made ground car that ran where a whole city of atomic cars still stood useless. The proclamation of occupation was made twenty-four hours to the minute after Seldon had appeared before the former might of the Foundation. Of all the Foundation planets, only the Independent Traders still stood, and against them the power of the Mule – conqueror of the Foundation – now turned itself.”
And with that, ladies and gentleman, we conclude the first portion of the Mule. The citizens upon Terminus, and soon enough throughout Foundation space, are in psychic shock. They had so strongly cultivated the illusion of inevitable victory based upon the near religious faith in the irrefutable predictions of their glorious patriarch Hari Seldon. Seldon had shown himself to be horrifically fallible at the crucial moment, and the Mule stood ascendant. Only the trading worlds remained free, and it seemed even they were doomed to fall under his authority before long. There was no guidance, no grounding, for anyone now. The impossible had happened and the citizens of the proud Foundation were now conquered and miserable. We will learn the fate of the principles of this great opera when we return for part II. I’ll leave you to ponder the possibilities as we move forward toward our conclusion.
It’s been a long episode and we’re only a third of the way through this great story, so I’ll wrap things up quickly. I want to thank our newest collaborator who contributed the voice of Bayta Darrel, Amanda Kreitler, so I didn’t have to spend half the episode [in falsetto voice] “talking like this” . I think we can all appreciate what horrors she saved us from. Her husband Zac did a wonderful job recording her parts, entirely remotely, and I look forward to their continuing contributions. Amanda has her own podcast, Severed Fate, which is associated with the Dimension Door RPG podcast where she also contributes her voice talents. I’ll include a promo for that podcast immediately after our closing music.
I’d also like to thank two more listeners who have graciously become patrons of this podcast, Natalie Smith and Ulysese Brown. I’m flabbergasted to receive your support while I am still procrastinating setting up my patreon page properly. I promise I’ll get to it soon. We’ve also received very nice reviews from NursingMama923 and Bookman Ben from Apple Podcasts USA. I really appreciate the kind words! Anyone else out there who is enjoying this podcast, please don’t hesitate to let me know how you feel about it. I continue to get really good engagement on twitter at my handle @joelgmckinnon and through occasional direct emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. All of these are fine options to warm a hardworking podcaster’s heart.
Once more I’d like to thank Jeremy MacKinnon for sound design. Jeremy has also started a new series of youtube renditions of the podcast and each episode is accompanied by a striking visual treatment he has carefully selected. Please have a look at the Seldon Crisis YouTube channel when you get a chance. If you subscribe and click on the bell icon you’ll be notified when new YouTube versions are released. Thanks to Tom Barnes as usual for the wonderful theme music orchestration and to Mike Topping for the great podcast logo. I still get a lot of wonderful comments about both of these. It takes some really talented people to put all this together. See you soon for part II of the Mule on Seldon Crisis!
[Dimension Door podcast promo]