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Chapter 44
Seldon said, "I come from a world which lies out in the open, Sister, as all worlds do but Trantor. Rain comes or doesnt come, the rivers trickle or are in flood, temperature is high or low. That means harvests are good or bad. Here, however, the environment is truly controlled. Harvests have no choice but to be good. How fortunate Mycogen is."
He waited. There were different possible answers and his course of action would depend on which answer came.
She was speaking quite freely now and seemed to have no inhibitions concerning his masculinity, so this long tour had served its purpose. Raindrop Forty-Three said, "The environment is not that easy to control. There are, occasionally, viral infections and there are sometimes unexpected and undesirable mutations. There are times when whole vast batches wither or are worthless."
"You astonish me. And what happens then?"
"There is usually no recourse but to destroy the spoiled batches, even those that are merely suspected of spoilage. Trays and tanks must be totally sterilized, sometimes disposed of altogether."
"It amounts to surgery, then," said Seldon. "You cut out the diseased tissue."
"And what do you do to prevent such things from happening?"
"What can we do? We test constantly for any mutations that may spring up, any new viruses that may appear, any accidental contamination or alteration of the environment. It rarely happens that we detect anything wrong, but if we do, we take drastic action. The result is that bad years are very few and even bad years affect only fractional bits here and there. The worst year weve ever had fell short of the average by only 12 percent--though that was enough to produce hardship. The trouble is that even the most careful forethought and the most cleverly designed computer programs cant always predict what is essentially unpredictable."
(Seldon felt an involuntary shudder go through him. It was as though she was speaking of psychohistory--but she was only speaking of the microfarm produce of a tiny fraction of humanity, while he himself was considering all the mighty Galactic Empire in every one of all its activities.) Unavoidably disheartened, he said, "Surely, its not all unpredictable. There are forces that guide and that care for us all."
The Sister stiffened. She turned around toward him, seeming to study him with her penetrating eyes. But all she said was "What?"
Seldon felt uneasy. "It seems to me that in speaking of viruses and mutations, were talking about the natural, about phenomena that are subject to natural law. That leaves out of account the supernatural, doesnt it? It leaves out that which is not subject to natural law and can, therefore, control natural law."
She continued to stare at him, as though he had suddenly begun speaking some distant, unknown dialect of Galactic Standard. Again she said, in half a whisper this time, "Wharf."
He continued, stumbling over unfamiliar words that half-embarrassed him. "You must appeal to some great essence, some great spirit, some ... I dont know what to call it.&quo............
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