Saturday, February 11, 2006

18. A Sign from the Past

Ironically, now that Trevize was Minister of Defense, it made sense to keep the Gravitics Project where it was. Kuel Denrun was once again appointed Project Director, and the locks and guards were removed from the Project compound. Trevize wondered how many of the men on the Project would notice.

The Gravitics Project was now only one of the matters facing Trevize, though still the most important one. He had assumed responsibility for a vast government bureaucracy charged with the defense of the 37 worlds that made up the Commonwealth of Comporellon. He would be allocating resources, awarding contracts, and overseeing the implementation of strategic policies. True, Comporellon hadn't fought a war in nearly a century. With the rise of the Foundation, the chaos that had shaken the Sirius Sector since the fall of the Empire had gradually vanished, leaving the Comporellian military with little to do but maintain itself in a state of readiness and plan for various increasingly unlikely contingencies.

Fortunately, the Min-Def (as the Comporellians called it) largely ran itself, in the manner of established bureaucracies everywhere. Most of Trevize's work at first consisted of learning what each of the various subministries and subdepartments was involved in. There just weren't enough hours in the day to stay on top of it all, and Trevize joked to Lizalor that he was now more of a prisoner than he had been under Bek.

And at the back of Trevize's mind was the nagging sense of an approaching crisis. Ever since he had returned to Comporellon and begun work on the Gravitics Project, Trevize had had the feeling that he was racing the clock to prevent some sort of catastrophe. He didn't know what that catastrophe might be or when it might occur, only that Comporellon's drive to recreate the Foundation's gravitic drive technology was the key to dealing with it.

Another consequence of his new position was that Trevize no longer saw Lizalor every day. She was even busier dealing with her new duties as First Minister than he was dealing with the Ministry of Defense. What was more, there was the knowledge (or at any rate, strong suspicion) that Security Minister Banasek knew of their illicit liaison. Logically, they shouldn't have let the knowledge affect their relationship; after all, he could already ruin both their careers with what he knew. Adding a few more trysts to his files wouldn't make the situation any worse. Nevertheless, they knew they were being watched, and it made them more reticent with each other.

So it was that after calling it a day at the Min-Def, Trevize found himself at loose ends. He didn't socialize with his subordinates at the Gravitics Project, and he couldn't appear in public with Lizalor, and he didn't really know anybody else on Comporellon. He took the tubeway from the Defense Ministry to a large shopping district he had heard of a few kilometers away.

Once again Trevize felt as though he was walking in a historical book-film through the subterranean world of lost Trantor. Half a dozen levels rose above him, each one crowded with shops selling various goods and services, all covered over by a clear dome displaying a cloudy sky. Here at last the Comporellian preference for shades of gray had been set aside, and colors rioted everywhere he looked, with the drably-dressed Comporellians providing a kind of sober contrast. Trevize walked slowly along the concourse, stopping from time to time to look at kittens playing in the window of a pet store, displays of toys, art supplies, games, clothing, food from worlds across the Galaxy.

From the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of a symbol out of history, and he had to stop and search to make sure that he hadn't imagined it. Tucked in between a Rhodian restaurant and an appliance outlet, there was a maroon-colored storefront with no merchandise on display. Instead, above the door, there was a sign showing an open hand outlined against a rayed sun. There was a sign like that in the heart of Terminus City, carved into the permacrete of a four hundred year old building that had once served as the holiest shrine in the Galactic Periphery: the Temple School of the Church of Science.

This was the religion that Salvor Hardin had allowed to grow up in the Four Kingdoms, and which he used as an instrument of control against the ambitious monarchs of those distant days. It didn't merit any mention in the history books after Hober Mallow had ended its role as the Foundation's state religion, but Trevize knew in a vague sort of way that it had continued to spread across the Galaxy.

It was a tiny touch of home in the center of a vast, unfamiliar world, and Trevize found himself drawn to it. A red-robed priest emerged from the doorway, and he noticed Trevize gazing up at the sign. "Would you like to come inside, my son?" he said in a voice with the same Comporellian accent as Lizalor's.

Trevize was going to refuse, but a combination of curiosity and homesickness made him change his mind. "Thank you, Father," he said at last. "I'd like that very much."

1 comment:

Keith said...

Let me commend you on your style of writing sir, it is refreshing to see that in this age of quick gratification and CGI some people still have the capability to weave pictures of worlds and situations with mere words.

I thourghly enjoyed reading your chapters and encourage you to write more.

Yours in trust

Keith Bradley