Saturday, February 11, 2006

11. Administration

The annunciator on Golan Trevize's desk buzzed, and the button next to Transportation Minister Mitza Lizalor's name lit up. Trevize punched the light and said, "Trevize here."

Lizalor's distorted voice spoke. "Come to my office, please, Director Trevize."

"On my way," Trevize answered, and switched off the annunciator.

In the weeks he had spent here, Trevize had noticed how rigid and formal the Comporellians were in comparison to Foundationers. He was a top advisor to Lizalor, and the director of her most important project. As in any bureaucracy, his importance was reflected by his proximity to power. Thus, his office was next door to Lizalor's in the Ministry building, and an inner door connected the two. On Terminus, an official in Lizalor's position would have simply stuck her head in the door of an official in Trevize's position and asked him to join her.

Of course, in this case the Comporellians' natural formality was strengthened by the fact that he and Minister Lizalor were having an affair. Their public relationship had to be kept scrupulously correct in order to prevent anyone learning of their private relationship. Again, on Terminus they would simply have gone public with their personal relationship, and nobody would think twice about it (although the more sensational periodicals might decide to highlight the relationship in order to increase their circulation). Comporellon, though, was a much more puritanical world than Terminus. Sexual relations outside of officially sanctioned marriages was deeply frowned upon here, and the discovery of their illicit relationship would have serious repercussions for Lizalor and himself.

Yet another reason for the pervasive formality was the fact that the Comporellian security forces monitored public conversations. Like most of the worlds in the Galaxy since the fall of the Empire, Comporellon was ruled by an elite organization with a restricted membership. On Comporellon, that organization was called the Emergency Policy Formulation Group, and it dated back to the time three and a half centuries earlier when the Empire had withdrawn from the Sirius Sector.

The Policy Group devoted itself to allocating the use of resources, maintaining contact with other successor-states of the Empire, and of course keeping itself in power. In the last century or so, the rise of the Foundation had ended the economic dislocations and endemic warfare that had accompanied the fall of the Empire, so these days the Policy Group tended to focus on the third objective.

To a Foundationer like Trevize, Comporellon's authoritarian government was uncomfortably similar to the Indbur era. The Indburs had used ruthless methods to maintain themselves in power, which had given them a bad name in the Foundation. They had also allowed the Foundation to be conquered by the Mule, which had given them an even worse name. Since then, the Foundation had become the Galaxy's most zealous proponents of democratic government, and even strong Mayors like Harla Branno were forced to be extremely circumspect about how they exercised their powers. (According to Trevize's historian friend Janov Pelorat, one of the central debates in Foundation history was whether the democracy movement sprang more from the Indburs' cruelty or from their failure to stop the Mule.)

Thus, when Trevize received his summons from Minister Lizalor, he responded by rising from his desk, walking over to the door, and entering Lizalor's office. In keeping with Comporellian standards of formality, he walked over to the front of Lizalor's desk, nodded to her, and waited for her to speak.

"Director Trevize," she greeted him.

"Minister Lizalor," he responded.

"Director, I have been summoned to the First Minister's office. I wish you to accompany me."

"Of course, Minister."

Lizalor rose from her own desk, and Trevize fell in behind her as she left her office. She led the way from the warren of offices that surrounded her own to her private elevator, which swiftly brought them to the vehicle park atop the Ministry building. He joined her in the back seat of her ministerial aircar, and they were soon flying across to the Comporellian capital building.

Most of the worlds Trevize had seen used the old Imperial administrative centers as their capitals, either out of tradition, inertia, or lack of funds to build replacements. On Comporellon, the Empire had been unpopular (understandably for a world which thought of itself as the oldest settled world in the Galaxy), and when the Governor and his staff had departed in GE 12,244, the Imperial Palace had been sacked, burned, and razed to the ground. The site was now a flat expanse of land called Independence Park, and the buildings that housed the Comporellian government were arrayed on a broad road called the Circle, which circumscribed the Park. The First Minister of Comporellon worked in a building called simply Administration, which was virtually identical to the various ministerial buildings. The Ministry of Transportation was about a third of the way around the Circle from Administration.

Minister Lizalor's aircar landed on the roof of Administration, and the Minister and Trevize were met by a group of men in the black uniforms of the Comporellian Security Service. The Captain of the Security squad saluted Minister Lizalor, and his men fell in around her and Trevize. Together, the group took a series of moving stairs downward through the labyrinth of Administration to the First Minister's office. In keeping with the requisite lack of ostentation within the Comporellian government, the door to the First Minister's office was a plain gray, with unobtrusive white letters that read: Dinnis Erkar, First Minister. The only clue to the importance of the person within was the presence of two black-uniformed guards flanking the door. Trevize glanced at Lizalor. Although her face was perfectly still and calm, Trevize could tell from the way she stared at Erkar's name that she was imagining her own there in its place.

The Captain of the security squad stood to attention and stated to one of the door wardens, "Minister Lizalor and Director Trevize to see the First Minister."

The door warden said, "Pass," and led them inside. They passed through an outer office with no less than six deskbound functionaries steadfastly ignoring their presence, and were escorted through another door to the office of First Minister Erkar himself.

There were three men waiting for them within the office, and Trevize recognized all three at once. One was Erkar himself, whom Trevize had met twice in his official capacity as Director of the Gravitics Project. The second was Antin Peskonik, the Foundation's Ambassador to the Comporellian Commonwealth. He was an ex-Councilman whom Trevize had seen in occasional trimensional broadcasts, but never met personally. The third was a man Trevize had met exactly once, shortly before his exile from Terminus.

He was Liono Kodell, Mayor Branno's Director of Security.

1 comment:

wolterstorff said...

Should be, "no fewer than six."