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Chapter 17

Sleep eluded Seldon. He tossed and turned in the dark, thinking. He had have never felt quite so alone or quite so helpless as he did after Hummin had nodded, pressed his hand briefly, and left him behind. Now he was on a strange world--and in a strange part of that world. He was without the only person he could consider a friend (and that of less than a days duration) and he had no idea of where he was going or what he would be doing, either tomorrow or at any time in the future.
None of that was conducive to sleep so, of course, at about the time he decided, hopelessly, that he would not sleep that night or, possibly, ever again, exhaustion overtook him ...
When he woke up it was still dark--or not quite, for across the room he saw a red light flashing brightly and rapidly, accompanied by a harsh, intermittent buzz. Undoubtedly, it was that which had awakened him. As he tried to remember where he was and to make some sort of sense out of the limited messages his senses were receiving, the flashing and buzzing ceased and he became aware of a peremptory rapping.
Presumably, the rapping was at the door, but he didnt remember where the door was. Presumably, also, there was a contact that would flood the room with light, but he didnt remember where that was either.
He sat up in bed and felt along the wall to his left rather desperately while calling out, "One moment, please."
He found the necessary contact and the room suddenly bloomed with a soft light. He scrambled out of bed, blinking, still searching for the door, finding it, reaching out to open it, remembering caution at the last moment, and saying in a suddenly stern, no-nonsense voice, "Whos there?"
A rather gentle womans voice said, "My dame is Dors Venabili and I have come to see Dr. Hari Seldon."
Even as that was said, a woman was standing just in front of the door, without that door ever having been opened.
For a moment, Hari Seldon stared at her in surprise, then realized that he was wearing only a one-piece undergarment. He let out a strangled gasp and dashed for the bed and only then realized that he was staring at a holograph. It lacked the hard edge of reality and it became apparent the woman wasnt looking at him. She was merely showing herself for identification. He paused, breathing hard, then said, raising his voice to be heard through the door, "If youll wait, Ill be with you. Give me ... maybe half an hour."
The woman--or the holograph, at any rate--said, "Ill wait," and disappeared.
There was no shower, so he sponged himself, making a rare mess on the tiled floor in the washroom corner. There was toothpaste but no toothbrush, so he used his finger. He had no choice but to put on the clothes he had been wearing the day before. He finally opened the door.
He realized, even as he did so, that she had not really identified herself. She had merely given a name and Hummin had not told him whom to expect, whether it was to be this Dors Somebody or anyone else. He had felt secure because the holograph was that of a personable young woman, but for all he knew there might be half a dozen hostile young men with her.
He peered out cautiously, saw only the woman, then opened the door sufficiently to allow her to enter. He immediately closed and locked the door behind her. "Pardon me," he said, "What time is it?"
"Nine," she said, "The day has long since begun."
As far as official time was concerned, Trantor held to Galactic Standard, since only so could sense be made out of interstellar commerce and governmental dealings. Each world, however, also had a local time system and Seldon had not yet come to the point where he felt at home with casual Trantorian references to the hour.
"Midmorning?" he said.
"Of course."
"There are no windows in this room," he said defensively.
Dors walked to his bed, reached out, and touched a small dark spot on the wall.
Red numbers appeared on the ceiling just over his pillow. They read: 0903. She smiled without superiority. "Im sorry," she said. "But I rather assumed Chetter Hummin would have told you Id be coming for you at nine. The trouble with him is hes so used to knowing, he sometimes forgets that others occasionally dont know.--And I shouldnt have used radio-holographic identification. I imagine you dont have it on Helicon and Im afraid I must have alarmed you."
Seldon felt himself relax. She seemed natural and friendly and the casual reference to Hummin reassured him. He said, "Youre quite wrong about Helicon, Miss--"
"Please call me Dors."
"Youre still wrong about Helicon, Dors. We do have radioholography, but Ive never been able to afford the equipment. Nor could anyone in my circle, so I havent actually had the experience. But I understood what had happened soon enough."
He studied her. She was not very tall, average height for a woman, he judged. Her hair was a reddish-gold, though not very bright, and was arranged in shore curls about her head. (He had seen a number of women in Trantor with their hair so arranged. It was apparently a local fashion that would have been laughed at in Helicon.) She was not amazingly beautiful, but was quite pleasant to look at, this being helped by full lips that seemed to have a slight humorous curl to them. She was slim, well-built, and looked quite young. (Too young, he thought uneasily, to be of use perhaps.)
"Do I pass inspec............
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