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Chapter 2
Hari Seldon did not make an impressive appearance at this time. Like the Emperor Cleon I, he was thirty-two years old, but he was only 1.73 meters tall. His face was smooth and cheerful, his hair dark brown, almost black, and his clothing had the unmistakable touch of provinciality about it. To anyone in later times who knew of Hari Seldon only as a legendary demigod, it would seem almost sacrilegious for him not to have white hair, not to have an old lined face, a quiet smile radiating wisdom, not to be seated in a wheelchair. Even then, in advanced old age, his eyes had been cheerful, however. There was that.
And his eyes were particularly cheerful now, for his paper had been given at the Decennial Convention. It had even aroused some interest in a distant sort of way and old Osterfith had nodded his head at him and had said, "Ingenious, young man. Most ingenious." Which, coming from Osterfith, was satisfactory. Most satisfactory.
But now there was a new--and quite unexpected--development and Seldon wasnt sure whether it should increase his cheer and intensify his satisfaction or not. He stared at the tall young man in uniform--the Spaceship-and-Sun neatly placed on the left side of his tunic.
"Lieutenant Alban Wellis," said the officer of the Emperors Guard before putting away his identification. "Will you come with me now, sir?"
Wellis was armed, of course. There were two other Guardsmen waiting outside his door. Seldon knew he had no choice, for all the others careful politeness, but there was no reason he could not seek information. He said, "To see the Emperor?"
"To be brought to the Palace, sir. Thats the extent of my instructions."
"But why?"
"I was not told why, sir. And I have my strict instructions that you must come with me--one way or another."
"But this seems as though I am being arrested. I have done nothing to warrant that."
"Say, rather, that it seems you are being given an escort of honor--if you delay me no further."
Seldon delayed no further. He pressed his lips together, as though to block of further questions, nodded his head, and stepped forward. Even if he was going to meet the Emperor and to receive Imperial commendation, he found no joy in it. He was for the Empire--that is, for the worlds of humanity in peace and union but he was not for the Emperor.
The lieutenant walked ahead, the other two behind. Seldon smiled at those he passed and managed to look unconcerned. Outside the hotel they climbed into an official ground-car. (Seldon ran his hand over the upholstery; he had never been in anything so ornate.)
They were in one of the wealthiest sections of Trantor. The dome was high enough here to give a sensation of being in the open and one could swear--even one such as Hari Seldon, who had been born and brought up on an open world--that they were in sunlight. You could see no sun and no shadows, but the air was light and fragrant.
And then it passed and the dome curved down and the walls narrowed in and soon they were moving along an enclosed tunnel, marked periodically with the Spaceship-and-Sun and so clearly reserved (Seldon thought) for official vehicles.
A door opened and the ground-car sped through. When the door closed behind them, they were in the open--the true, the real open. There were 250 square kilometers of the only stretch of open land on Trantor and on it stood the Imperial Palace. Seldon would have liked a chance to wander through that open land--not because of the Palace, but because it also contained the Galactic University and, most intriguing of all, the Galactic Library.
And yet, in passing from the enclosed world of Trantor into the open patch of wood and parkland, he had passed into a world in which clouds dimmed the sky and a chill wind rued his shirt. He pressed the contact that closed the ground-cars window.
It was a dismal day outside.
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