Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Encyclopedia Galactica

The Imperial Conference

Chapter One

IMPERIAL CONFERENCE, The: The highest point in the history of the Foundations, it also marked their downfall. The First Foundation had called it to start on the first day of 1000 F.E., to form the Second Galactic Empire which they had so eagerly awaited since Dr. Hari Seldon dispatched his First Foundation to Terminus, and his Second Foundation to Star’s End. Naturally, it was a sad time for the First Foundation’s government, as they expected they would give up power permanently to the Galaxy for its own leadership. "It was time to let the Galaxy grow up," one of Trantor’s delegates said afterward, "and leave our Foundation’s guidance behind."

The sad times were not without danger, however, danger which started two months before the Conference itself did…

Encyclopedia Galactica,
118th Edition, 1054 F.E.

 

"We’ve got a problem," Ione said. And when Ione said that, it meant it was a big problem. Ione classified small problems as "situations", implying that she could handle them. As the Deputy Governor of the Foundation, she had to handle them, and leave her Governor to lead the Foundation.

Hannor looked up from his desk, surprised to see his Deputy leaning forward, fists balled up on his black marble table. Her small size often belied the fact that she held great power, both physically and politically. She stood there, in a shiny grey jumpsuit, hardly the uniform of a Deputy Mayor. Of course, she’d just returned from Yrika, one of the Foundation’s noisier provinces. Hannor beckoned silently for her to continue.

"Yrika insists on providing ‘security’ for our event. For the Imperial ceremonies." She snorted, a snort of frustration. "Their king believes that security would help to ensure no one attempted to manipulate the finalization of our Empire."

"And you tried to dissuade him," Hannor’s deep voice rumbled. His beard was gray and complete – and he looked forward to retirement after the Empire replaced his Foundation.

"Well, of course I did! The Foundation is perfectly capable of defending Trantor from all comers. I’m just worried that we may have another Gilmer on our hands. The slimy bastard," she coughed. "He’s obviously a power-grabber, and he wants to be Emperor."

"Will he be here?" Ione glared at Hannor – of course he would. "Then there’s no danger," Hannor replied calmly. "We’ll just have to keep his ships away from everyone else’s. The Foundation is calling this Imperial Conference, and that’s what it’s going to be – not a Foundation conference, an Imperial one. We will have our Second Empire."

"And who to lead it?" Ione remarked bitterly. She stopped leaning on his desk and started pacing, her hands behind her back. "I tell you, Yrika’s just the first. And now that he’s made it public, other provinces like our own Smyrno will want to provide security as well – against their rivals, such as Yrika. I tell you, Hannor, we’re going to have our hands full just keeping these fleets from starting a war. It’s hard to build an Empire with guns blazing everywhere."

"History disagrees with you, Ione. The Mule certainly had an Empire, just not a stable one. A very violent Empire indeed."

If Hannor had been a bit younger, he might have appreciated the fine lines in her face, running from the bridge of her nose almost to the bottom of her ears. They certainly stood out as she shouted, "Violence is the last refuge!"

"Yes, yes, don’t go misquoting Salvor Hardin on me. We’ve still got time -- two months before the Conference. Don’t worry, the Second Foundation has been preparing, just as we have, for this for a thousand years. This may be our last Seldon Crisis, what you’re describing here. But it’s not a crisis yet."

"There you go, spouting about the Second Foundation again. They don’t exist!"

"Of course they do. I was introduced to their First Speaker last year." After Hannor’s election, Ione had heard him say before. She still didn’t buy it. She never would, Hannor knew. He attributed his upcoming retirement to that very event, when the Second Foundation told him they would be taking power. He just hadn’t told her that.

"Get it off. And besides, if there’s a Seldon Crisis, they won’t hold our hand for us. We have to do it ourselves," Ione said sourly.

Hannor smiled cryptically, "Yes, I know. Don’t worry. We’ll know when we have a Crisis. And as you’ve said, right now it’s a problem. I’ll let the Admiralty deal with security measures, but I’ll pass on your information about Yrika. That is something they’ll need to know. Anything else?"

Her face was still serious: That’s not enough, dammit. But she replied more respectfully, "Nothing for you. I can keep the Foundation together while you lead it."

Hannor stood up, in a fatherly way. "Don’t worry, Ione, I haven’t gone into retirement yet. When the time comes, I’ll lead. But not before. A lot of things can happen in two months, Ione. We don’t know when the Crisis will happen. We don’t even know if there will be a crisis. But one thing we do know: the Imperial Conference will go forward as scheduled. No matter who shows up, with what army."

Ione’s mouth turned upward. "By Seldon, I love that confidence you have. I often wish I had it myself."

"You built it in me, Ione. You’ve served me all these years, and faithfully. I’ve never had to get wrapped up in the administrative details. I ask for something, and you give it to me. That’s how I can be so confident – whatever I want to happen, happens. One way or another, you make it happen. Now go on – we have a lot of planning to do for this Conference."

Ione turned away, a bit of regret in her face. Yes, a lot of planning… towards the end of all they had known. Where would she fit into the new Empire? She wanted to be near the top – not at the top, just near it. A nice, cozy job, organizing everything for the Emperor, that’s what she wanted. But a lot of changes were going to happen, and she might not survive it politically. And she’d be damned if she retired! Ione walked out into the hallway, back to her main office from his. It was quite a walk.

She’d settle for being another Linge Chen. She’d be perfectly happy in such a role. Chen may have been the most hated of men in history, but he sure was a capable leader and administrator, behind the scenes. Ione simply decided she’d be better off serving the Empire than herself, as opposed to Chen.

At the time Ione was thinking these thoughts, another conversation was taking place. It was a conversation in a language less than a thousand understood – a language of hand signals, facial signals, and the occasional bit of telepathy. A conversation between mentalics, members of the Second Foundation.

They paused their conversation as Ione walked by, giving her the respect she was due as Deputy Governor. The only reason we know the conversation existed at all was because security holotapes of the conversation were made. They were not made specifically to capture such conversations – indeed, members of the First Foundation’s security forces wouldn’t have even noticed it, nor would members of the future Empire’s, had not a Second Foundationer found the tape several years later and translated it for posterity, and the Encyclopedia Galactica. Instead, the tapes were routine security measures for the First Foundation government.

Thus here do we have one of the few transcripts of a conversation between two Speakers of the Second Foundation. It would do no good to replay the tape itself – so many nuances of the conversation happened so fast that to really analyse it and break it down would take a non-Speaker several years. Even the translation is fairly "flat" in comparison to what was actually communicated between them, the translator reported – humans have so much more capability and emotional intensity than written or spoken words provide.

The two Speakers were walking down the hallway, stopping only to note the thoughts running across Ione’s face, while ostensibly stopping to bow and pay their respects to the Deputy Governor. They were playing tourist today. The junior one expressed he had something to say.

The senior noticed this and waived her right to speak before her junior. The junior one continued on: "She is a most dedicated individual. Fortunate, since her particular abilities would serve our Empire greatly. I would see her in a position of great authority, but not one where she would be visible to the public. She is anxious, wondering what her future will bring. Perhaps leadership of a military arm of the Empire."

The senior replied, "She is a firm believer in using violence with extreme restraint. More a position suited to diplomacy than military, in my opinion."

"True. But she won’t be happy shuttling from one planet to another resolving disputes. Remember she’s still bitter about the Yrika decision, one we foresaw centuries ago."

"Where else would she best serve the Empire?" The senior disagreed. "No, a trouble-shooting position between Zones of our Empire is ideal for the Empire."

A security guard motioned them aside threateningly. Apparently, the area they were entering was restricted. His body language was clear and loud: Move away! They nodded acquiescence.

Then the junior had a flash of inspiration: "What about leadership of internal security? Not the military, but of the Emperor’s security? She’d hunt down corruption within her own department, simply couldn’t tolerate it. And we’re going to need that kind of devotion, especially since we’ll be seriously threatened in 1082 F.F.E. (Fall of the First Empire) Military, but in a sense. Still a trouble-shooter, in a sense. And a restrained position in violence, certainly! She’d be a fine model to build a code of devoted security forces upon."

The senior took but a moment to consider it. The junior could see her tasting the idea, rolling it over in her head, considering all sorts of ramifications, generally becoming more and more pleased with the suggestion. Finally, she answered, "Yes, a splendid idea. You should bring that up at the next meeting. I have no doubt the other Speakers would agree with you, as I do."

At this point, the two Speakers move out of the range of the holocamera, and the translation stops. Many efforts have been made to find tapes of those two elsewhere in the building, but without success. They have not, to this day, been positively identified.

The conversation described above lasted less than three seconds, more than half of which was encompassed in the consideration of the junior Speaker’s idea.

To be continued...

Alexander J Vincent

 

Copyright 1997-9  Mike Carlin Last Modified: