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Chapter 7
Seldon had tried to persuade Hummin to take him to his hotel room, but Hummin would have none of that.
"Are you mad?" he half-whispered. "Theyll be waiting for you there."
"But all my belongings are waiting for me there too."
"Theyll just have to wait."
And now they were in a small room in a pleasant apartment structure that might be anywhere for all that Seldon could tell. He looked about the one-room unit. Most of it was taken up by a desk and chair, a bed, and a computer outlet. There were no dining facilities or washstand of any kind, though Hummin had directed him to a communal washroom down the hall. Someone had entered before Seldon was quite through. He had cast one brief and curious look at Seldons clothes, rather than at Seldon himself, and had then looked away. Seldon mentioned this to Hummin, who shook his head and said, "Well have to get rid of your clothes. Too bad Helicon is so far out of fashion--"
Seldon said impatiently, "How much of this might just be your imagination, Hummin? Youve got me half-convinced and yet it may be merely a kind of ... of--"
"Are you groping for the word paranoia?"
"All right, I am. This may be some strange paranoid notion of yours." Hummin said, "Think about it, will you? I cant argue it out mathematically, but youve seen the Emperor. Dont deny it. He wanted something from you and you didnt give it to him. Dont deny that either. I suspect that details of the future are what he wants and you refused. Perhaps Demerzel thinks youre only pretending not to have the details--that youre holding out for a higher price or that someone else is bidding for it too. Who knows? I told you that if Demerzel wants you, hell get you wherever you are. I told you that before those two splitheads ever appeared on the scene. Im a journalist and a Trantorian. I know how these things go. At one point, Alem said, Hes the one we want. Do you remember that?"
"As it happens," said Seldon. "I do."
"To him I was only the other motherlackey to be kept off, while he went about the real job of assaulting you."
Hummin sat down in the chair and pointed to the bed. "Stretch out, Seldon. Make yourself comfortable. Whoever sent those two--it must have been Demerzel, in my opinion--can send others, so well have to get rid of those clothes of yours. I think any other Heliconian in this sector caught in his own worlds garb is going to have trouble until he can prove he isnt you."
"Oh come on."
"I mean it. Youll have to take off the clothes and well have to atomize them--if we can get close enough to a disposal unit without being seen. And before we can do that Ill have to get you a Trantorian outfit. Youre smaller than I am and Ill take that into account. It wont matter if it doesnt fit exactly--"
Seldon shook his head. "I dont have the credits to pay for it. Not on me. What credits I have--and they arent much--are in my hotel safe."
"Well worry about that another time. Youll have to stay here for an hour or two while I go out in search of the necessary clothing."
Seldon spread his hands and sighed resignedly. "All right. If its that important, Ill stay."
"You wont try to get back to your hotel? Word of honor?"
"My word as a mathematician. But Im really embarrassed by all the trouble youre taking for me. And expense too. After all, despite all this talk about Demerzel, they werent really out to hurt me or carry me off. All I was threatened with was the removal of my clothes."
"Not all. They were also going to take you to the spaceport and put you on a hypership to Helicon."
"That was a silly threat--not to be taken seriously."
"Why not?"
"Im going to Helicon. I told them so. Im going tomorrow."
"And you still plan to go tomorrow?" asked Hummin.
"Certainly. Why not?"
"There are enormous reasons why not."
Seldon suddenly felt angry. "Come on, Hummin, I cant play this game any further. Im finished here and I want to go home. My tickets are in the hotel room. Otherwise Id try to exchange them for a trip today. I mean it."
"You cant go back to Helicon."
Seldon flushed. "Why not? Are they waiting for me there too?"
Hummin nodded. "Dont fire up, Seldon. They would be waiting for you there too.
Listen to me. If you go to Helicon, you are as good as in Demerzels hands. Helicon is good, safe Imperial territory. Has Helicon ever rebelled, ever fallen into step behind the banner of an anti-Emperor?"
"No, it hasnt--and for good reason. Its surrounded by larger worlds. It depends on the Imperial peace for security."
"Exactly! Imperial forces on Helicon can therefore count on the full cooperation of the loc............
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