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Chapter 5

Seldon had     an evening, a night, and part of a morning to get over his meeting with the Emperor. At least, the changing quality of light within the walkways, moving corridors, squares, and parks of the Imperial Sector of Trantor made it seem that an evening, a night, and part of a morning had passed. He sat now in a small park on a small plastic seat that molded itself neatly to his body and he was comfortable. Judging from the light, it seemed to be midmorning and the air was just cool enough to seem fresh without possessing even the smallest bite.
Was it like this all the time? He thought of the gray day outside when he went to see the Emperor. And he thought of all the gray days and cold days and hot days and rainy days and snowy days on Helicon, his home, and he wondered if one could miss them. Was it possible to sit in a park on Trantor, having ideal weather day after day, so that it felt as though you were surrounded by nothing at all--and coming to miss a howling wind or a biting cold or a breathless humidity?
Perhaps. But not on the first day or the second or the seventh. He would have only this one day and he would leave tomorrow. He meant to enjoy it while he could. He might, after all, never return to Trantor. Still, he continued to feel uneasy at having spoken as independently as he had to a man who could, at will, order ones imprisonment or execution--or, at the very least, the economic and social death of loss of position and status. Before going to bed, Seldon had looked up Cleon I in the encyclopedic portion of his hotel room computer. The Emperor had been highly praised as, no doubt,     all Emperors in their own lifetime, regardless of their deeds. Seldon had dismissed that, but he was interested in the fact that Cleon had been born in the Palace and had never left its grounds. He had never been in Trantor itself, in any part of the multi-domed world. It was a matter of security, perhaps, but what it meant was that the Emperor was in prison, whether he admitted the matter to himself or not. It might be the most luxurious prison in the Galaxy, but it was a prison just the same.
And though the Emperor had seemed mild-mannered and had shown no sign of being a bloody-minded autocrat as so many of his predecessors had been, it was not good to have attracted his attention. Seldon welcomed the thought of leaving tomorrow for Helicon, even though it would be winter (and a rather nasty one, so far) back home.
He looked up at the bright diffuse light. Although it could never rain in here, the atmosphere was far from dry. A fountain played not far from him; the plants were green and had probably never felt drought. Occasionally, the shrubbery rustled as though a small animal or two was hidden there. He heard the hum of bees.
Really, though Trantor was spoken of throughout the Galaxy as an artificial world of metal and ceramic, in this small patch it felt positively rustic. There were a few other persons taking advantage of the park all wearing light hats, some quite small. There was one rather pretty young woman not far away, but she was bent over a viewer and he could not see her face clearly. A man walked past, looked at him briefly and incuriously, then sat down in a seat facing him and buried himself in a sheaf of teleprints, crossing one leg, in its tight pink trouser leg, over the other.
There was a tendency to pastel shades among the men, oddly enough, while the women mostly wore white. Being a clean environment, it made sense to wear light colors. He looked down in amusement at his own Heliconian costume, which was predominantly dull brown. If he were to stay on Trantor as he was not he would need to purchase suitable clothing or he would become an object of curiosity or laughter or repulsion. The man with the teleprints had, for instance, looked up at him more curiously this time--no doubt intrigued by his Outworldish clothing. Seldon was relieved that he did not smile. He could be philosophical over being a figure of fun, but, surely, he could not be expected to enjoy it. Seldon watched the man rather unobtrusively, for he seemed to be engaged in some sort of internal debate. At the moment he looked as if he was about to speak, then seemed to think better of it, then seemed to wish to speak again. Seldon wondered what the outcome would be.
He studied the man. He was tall, with broad shoulders and no sign of a paunch, darkish hair with a glint of blond, smooth-shaven, a grave expression, an air of strength though there were no bulging muscles, a face that was a touch rugged--pleasant, but with nothing "pretty" about it. By the time the man had lost the internal fight with himself (or won, perhaps) and leaned toward him, Seldon had decided he liked him. The man said, "Pardon me, werent you at the Decennial Convention? Mathematics?"
"Yes, I was," said Seldon agreeably.
"Ah, I thought I saw you there. It was--excuse me--that moment of recognition that led me to sit here. If I am intruding on your privacy--"
"Not at all. Im just enjoying an idle moment."
"Lets see how close I can get. Youre Professor Seldon."
"Seldon. Hari Seldon. Quite close. And you?"
"Chetter Hummin." The man seemed slightly embarrassed. "Rather a homespun name, Im ............
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