Original release date: October 8, 2021
The Cleon lineage faces a threat to its legitimacy as Halima Ifa, a leading candidate to become the next Proxima of the major religion of Luminism, revives an orthodox, pre-Imperial dogma that asserts clones of an individual do not possess souls. This religious issue and a violent insurrection in the still-ruined lower levels of Trantor fulfill two key portents of the Empire’s decline that Hari Seldon related at his trial. Brother Day grows frustrated with Brother Dusk, feeling his elder seeded these problems decades ago by acting impulsively and refusing to heed Seldon’s warnings. While Day departs Trantor to attend the Luminist Conclave and back Ifa’s competitor, Dusk orders Imperial agents to visit the Foundation, which has fallen silent. On Terminus, Hardin outwits the Anacreons and captures their leader, Grand Huntress Phara Keaen, who claims to only want the colony ship’s navigation computer so her people can find a new homeworld. Anacreon soldiers surround Terminus City’s perimeter fence and assemble a cannon. The Vault also begins giving Hardin sporadic visions of a child in Trantor’s Imperial Library, where Seldon worked. In deep space, a ship encounters Gaal Dornick’s escape pod.
* * *
[Gaal narrating] Once, a man came to Hari Seldon and asked to be told his fate. He wanted to know whether the predictive models could chart the significance of his life. But Hari told him only the movements of masses could be predicted. The fate of one individual will always remain a mystery.
[Gaal] The clockwork of civilization… the rise and fall of cultures… causes and worlds… These were answers Hari Seldon had long since unriddled. Belief is a powerful weapon. That’s why the Empire feared Hari Seldon’s predictions so much. Empires govern worldly concerns, but what comes after? Our souls? These realms are the purview of faith. And faith is a sword forged in the fires of the infinite.
[woman] Empire? Do you seek different amusement?
You’ll do. For the routine pleasures in the routine manner.
Which pleasures do you prefer, Empire?
Do you offer the pleasure of nothing? Is that on the menu?
Is it true? No one’s allowed to touch you?
Bold, aren’t you?
I have only 24 hours of service to you. I want to make the most of it.
Then try to touch me. I said try.
The aura repels kinetic energy. I want you to try it again, with a softer touch. Slower. Slower.
…does the rest work?
You are required, Empire. I understand Empire has a physiological need for intimacy. But the current matter supersedes this need.
[Demerzel] Ambassador Thanwall.
Most esteemed Empire, glory to the light…
Out with it, Ambassador.
Proxima Opal has passed, Empire.
[Day, Dusk] Our condolences.
[Thanwall] Thank you, Empire. Proxima Opal will be missed and mourned by her flock.
And now the conclave will elevate her successor, Zephyr Gilat. A capable candidate. We like her.
Carry our condolences forward, Ambassador. And inform Gilat she’s always welcome on Trantor.
On the topic of a successor, Empire, there is some debate. Another candidate has been gaining support. Zephyr Halima. Halima Ifa does not adhere to accepted doctrine, as have our previous proximas. She is advocating for a return to the Primary Octavo.
Is she suicidal? Who is this woman to question our primacy?
A-A-Apologies, Empire. I-I…
Did you know about this?
Only moments ago.
When is Opal’s funeral?
Two days hence, Empire.
Say nothing of this conversation. We will contact you shortly.
I helped install the previous Proxima. I’ll leave for the conclave as soon as possible.
Is that really necessary? Can’t you just holo-cast yourself in?
[Dusk] Not this time. Luminism claims three trillion followers. This schism requires a personal touch.
What’s the Primary Octavo?
A heretical scripture. Pre-imperial. It directly links the soul to individuated sentience.
What does that mean…
Individuated sentience. Think, Brother Dawn. If a soul cleaves only to an individual being, that calls into question that which cannot be individuated. [sighs] All Cleons are perfect genetic copies of the first. And therefore…
We don’t have souls. So, this Halima woman is saying we’re, what? Not human?
And if the galaxy comes to believe their leaders are less than, rather than more than themselves, they may cease to follow. We are a glass vessel… spun with a fine hand. If the pressures inside start to swirl and we are not uniform… we may burst.
[Anacreon woman] Who are you?
Salvor Hardin. Warden of Terminus. Anacreons aren’t allowed on imperial soil. What are you doing here?
That’s a lot of armor for scrappers.
We’re looking for the ship’s navigation module.
Any critical components were stripped from this hulk decades ago. But, again, a real scrapper would know that. You should leave. Before the Empire catches wind of this.
My people do not fear the Empire.
[both speaking Anacreon]
[shouts in Anacreon]
[Salvor] Look, I caught you by surprise and now you’re improvising. But if you were gonna kill me, you would have already. So what’s the play?
That tower. Take us there.
Let me be clear, Warden. We know how to use every resource we come across. The children we observed earlier, we’ve seen how they sneak away just before dawn, straying far away from the rest of your flock. If you won’t lead us to the tower, we’ll simply utilize one of them.
It’s not that simple. We have a fence.
We’re aware of your fence. We saw you perform maintenance on it earlier. Which makes you the perfect person to take us through it. To the tower then!
The fence uses DNA recognition. It’ll radiate anyone who isn’t in the database.
I might be able to get one of you in. If we walk through together, the fence should write off the second person as an error.
Then take us all through it.
This only works once. Maybe. The only thing I’ve ever dragged through this fence was already dead.
I can feel you tensing up. Don’t.
If she isn’t back within a watch, we’ll raze your city to the ground.
[in Anacreon] Go. Get the others.
Establish a perimeter and stay out of sight.
[shouts in Anacreon]
Wanna drive and I’ll hold the gun?
Tell me your name, at least.
Are we best friends now?
You’ve risked a lot coming here.
We’ve risked everything, Warden.
[shouts in Anacreon]
No. There was a boy in our path!
Don’t get cute. I have eyes.
The tower’s that way.
I’m taking a shortcut. Fewer watchmen this way.
What is that? Stop.
[vehicle powers down]
[Gaal] The stories about Salvor Hardin? They usually begin here.
The warden and the ghost, inexplicably bound together.
[Mari] How did they slip past our radar?
Flew in the nap of the earth. Maybe. Any sign of their ships?
Ugh. They claimed to be scrappers. Said they were after a navigation module. Obviously bullshit.
We need to contact the Empire. We can’t do anything without authorization.
Come on, Mom. We’re an imperial outpost in name only.
When was the last time they even contacted us? A decade ago? They won’t defend us. We need to do it ourselves.
Easy. Violence is the last refuge…
Of the incompetent, I know. That’s an old man’s doctrine.
It’s an observation I made when I was younger than you.
Would Hari’s plan have assumed we’d wait for help or act on our own?
Hari is not here, Mom. We need to help ourselves.
[muttering in Anacreon]
Welcome back, best friend. You left the conversation just as we were really getting to know each other.
[Salvor] Headache? Teeth feel like they’re falling out?
[in Anacreon] What was that cursed thing?
[in English] It was here when we colonized Terminus. Didn’t show up on any of our scans. I guess it didn’t show up on yours either.
Why did it not affect you?
Let’s just say I’m the last person on Terminus you wanted to come across.
[chuckles] So… what now, Warden?
[Salvor] She had a small army with her. An… And their tracks, some of them were deep. Shorter stride lengths. As if they were carrying heavy equipment. Like they’re planning on digging in, Dad.
Well, what do you wanna do?
I don’t know. I’ve been following my instincts, and… I don’t know, maybe it was just dumb luck.
Your instincts didn’t just lead you to the ships. They led you to her. And you stopped her. If you were better at math, you’d know that repeated luck was more than just luck, Salvor. Whether your mother wants to admit it or not, we have been following your lead from the moment you pulled yourself upright. It’s no accident the people made you warden. So lead us.
I have never had the pleasure, Empire. How may I be of service?
Captain Obrecht, is it?
Shadowmaster, Empire. Shadowmaster Obrecht. A fine likeness.
[Dawn] What’s the protocol for dealing with a problem palace attendant?
[Obrecht] What level of attendant, if I may ask?
Someone who works in the garden.
May I ask the nature of the problem?
You may not. I just want her name.
I can ascertain that, Empire. Along with anything else you may require.
That’s all for now.
I saw at least a dozen Anacreons outside the fence. Travik, take the southern loop. Kalin, cover the west. Yate, I want you on the east so you can spot anyone coming over that ridge.
And if we see any of these guys, what are we supposed to do?
Nothing. Don’t shoot at them, don’t speak to them. Just watch ’em and keep me informed.
What’s this about Anacreons on Terminus?
Calls herself Phara. Beyond that, nothing about her story adds up.
If anyone can tell whether somebody’s lying, it’s you.
That’s just the thing. I can’t tell if she’s lying or if she’s just not telling the truth.
Is there a difference? I’ve got a plan. But I’m gonna need your help.
What’s this? Torture?
He’s my manservant. Runs and fetches. Reseals my boots when they need it.
I’m thinking a watch has passed, as far as my weald-men are concerned.
Why are you really here, Phara?
Salvor has a talent for reading people. It’s uncanny, really. I was just telling her mother about it.
She doesn’t believe you.
Well, you told her you’re my boss. Now my praise rings hollow.
[Salvor] What’s your interest in the Foundation Tower?
The module. I already told you. You keep asking me the same questions.
I’m giving you a chance to give better answers. Crowns. I know you’re after something else. We don’t have any Anacreon artifacts, no heavy weapons, so what…
This is going in circles.
Explain it to her.
[in Anacreon] Just give her what she wants.
Your accent’s not terrible.
You were taught by someone in the port city, obviously.
Those lazy vowels.
I’m a trader.
I do business with your people now and then.
Thought I smelled a whiff of Thespin on you.
I want the navigation module. That’s it.
[in English] Another lie.
You speak Anacreon as well?
Not a word.
Yet you know I’m lying?
That was a 50-50 chance.
Cats again. Who are you really? Twenty-five percent chance there. Now it’s back to crowns. Twelve and a half percent. And another crown. Why are you here? Another crown again. I’d give you the percentage, but repeated luck is never luck. Who are you?
We’re scrappers. The module.
You’re not scrappers. And the navigation module’s a distraction…
[Phara] Enough of these child games. Take this Thespin thug off his leash and let him get on with it!
Your scars… keloids. Your left eye… nano-glass. You lose it when the Empire bombed Anacreon? I imagine you must have been, what, five, six at the time? Neutron bombs have a low explosive yield but a high amount of ionizing radiation. Now, I know about 50% of the population died off within a week, another 20 or 30 within the remaining year. Odds are you came out the other end an orphan, right? Probably lost a mom and dad. Boiled alive. Or maybe s-slower. Cancer. Thyroid for your mother. Her voice, it changed before she died. Who else did you lose? A sister? A brother. A little brother.
[shouting in Anacreon]
There’s a deadness inside her. It’s like a… It’s like a well with no bottom, just sucking everything in. She wants to die. She wants everyone to die. I felt it. [groans, breathing heavily] What she said when she broke, did you understand any of it?
Some, yeah. It’s archaic Anacreon, not the common vernacular.
Well, she slipped up. Because I understood something too. A name I remember from the holos. Larken Keaen. During the Anthor Belt dispute, Anacreon and Thespis brought gifts to the Emperor.
My people’s was the Book of Ablut…
And Anacreon’s was a bow carved for its greatest hunter. Larken Keaen.
Phara’s not just some junker. She’s the Grand Huntress of Anacreon.
[people yelling, screaming]
All this unrest, who’s responsible for it?
Sinkers. A nom de guerre. After the heat sink meltdown on level 77. It was caused when the Star Bridge fell. And 35 years later we’re still grappling with the aftereffects. The businesses of Empire is a cascade of competing priorities. Brother Day will need your support while I tend to the conclave.
For one man. Fortunately, there are three of us.
Bad tidings also come in threes. Have you heard the news, Brother? A communications buoy in the Arcturus Sector has come off-line.
[Dawn] They must go off-line all the time, right? We probably have thousands of them across the galaxy.
Tens of thousands. But only one that handles communications in the Outer Reach. I see that you fail to grasp the significance. It’s Terminus. It’s where Brother Dusk exiled Hari Seldon’s followers. The Reach. The conclave. Insurgency… Do you see a pattern forming here?
Sensing vulnerability, soon other players will begin to apply downward pressure. An exhortation from one of the galaxy’s major religions is a given. Or perhaps a homegrown insurrection here on Trantor.
If the fall can be accelerated, can it not also be slowed? Now look at you, Brother. So smugly self-assured atop the middle throne. I used to practice that smile in the mirror.
Enough. I know how the scene ends.
But have you embraced its lessons? Luminism. The Sinker insurrection happening now. Seldon all but drew you a to-do list. And you ignored him.
Because he was a charlatan.
You offer nothing new. Just a younger grape… from the same vine, destined for the same old bottle. You can’t save yourselves… but you can save your legacy.
Hari Seldon is long dead. Murdered by his protégé, no less.
The man was murdered. But what about the movement, Brother? Martyrs tend to have a long half-life.
Thanks to you, we are now staring down the barrel of a genuine diplomatic crisis.
What was I supposed to do, Lewis? Let Phara kill me and then move on to the kids?
You shouldn’t have questioned her without me.
Be glad I did. We know who she is now. We have leverage. We can bargain with her people.
If this choice inflames the city into violence, you have achieved elaborate suicide for us all.
Didn’t Hari say the Foundation survives the first crisis?
Yes, he did. But, as I’ve told you before, you are an outlier.
Meaning that you weren’t accounted for. You have a connection with the Vault which couldn’t have possibly have been predicted. You are not baked into the model.
You’re saying I’m not part of God’s plan.
I am saying psychohistory can’t account for individuals.
So you’re saying I’ve destroyed God’s plan?
It’s time to take a step back, Salvor.
Step back? I thought the whole damn point of the Foundation was preparing for the unthinkable. When I asked for more defensive weapons, you said the likelihood of an attack seemed remote. When I wanted to run more drills, nothing. So here we are now, not prepared. I might be an outlier, but I’m not the one screwing up the Plan, Lewis.
Lewis Pirenne, director. Now, why would the Anacreon Council send its highest-ranking military officer to an imperial outpost?
Is that what you’re pretending your little doomsday cult is? Because I don’t see the Empire anywhere. All I see are academics, laborers and very few guns.
You took down the comms buoy.
Of course. We wanted to operate in private, away from prying eyes.
You have to know the Empire will send someone to investigate eventually. Or is that the point?
Your women are so much sharper than your men.
The barbarian kingdoms are exiled. You have no business here.
“Barbarians.” Just a convenient slur for anyone not like you. Trantor left us all here to die. Your people and mine. We’re just dying at different speeds.
The Foundation isn’t dying. We are fulfilling the mission Hari Seldon entrusted us with.
Seldon also predicted that the fall would begin at the edge of the galaxy. Here.
The same science that saved the Imperial Palace when the Star Bridge fell protects Terminus City.
You mean your energy barrier?
A weapon’s only as good as the man who’s wielding it.
[shouts in Anacreon]
Kalin, what’s your situation?
It’s getting pretty crowded over here. I think I need backup.
Salvor saw a dozen. You’re telling me we’ve got Anacreons all over?
I’m telling you I’m seeing enough guns to take out the whole town.
[Obrecht] Empire. The matter we discussed? Her name is Azura Odili. A palace botanist since the age of 13. Her father, deceased, was also an agroecologist in the gardens. Her mother founded a school for the ikebana, now closed. You said there was a problem?
How are problems generally solved in this situation?
Any manner that achieves its goal. My job is to eliminate problems, Empire.
[Dawn] Azura Odili. Oh-dee-lee? Oh-dih-lee?
You were outside my chambers earlier. Want to know what you think you saw.
I saw nothing, Empire.
No. I believe you saw something.
I only see what Empire wants me to see.
I could have you removed from your station, sent to scrub the heat sinks on level 80. I could do worse to you. Much worse. You know all this.
[man] Empire, Brother Dusk has asked me to summon you.
Tell him I’m coming.
Remove this entire bed. From my chambers the smell of the blossoms is overbearing.
Empire, you needn’t bother with this…
It’s settled. You can go.
Wolvesbreath helps with the pain. The brownish-green leaves with the red stripe. They reduce the swelling and bruising…
I don’t recall asking for your medical advice. Which?
The pointed leaves.
What is it?
Lupi spiritus. Wolvesbreath, Empire. From our medicinal garden. It’s an analgesic and vasodilator.
Is it poisonous? No. Wolvesbreath is used in tea as well as tinctures. It stimulates the blood vessels, promotes healing…
If you’re not dead within the next few hours, have a kilogram of these sent to my quarters.
Of course, Empire.
Laylo Fulham, get your ass back home this instant!
Are they gonna get through?
Course not. Go back to your home, people. Please. It’s not safe out here. Back up. Back up.
You need to come out here. Now.
Kind of busy here, Yate.
I know, and I’m still calling. We’ve got Anacreon’s troops massing from the east, west, south, and presumably the north.
Remember how to hold a rifle, old man?
Barrel goes forward?
We’ve spotted Anacreons at multiple locations outside the fence.
I’ll go west.
We’ll head north.
I shouldn’t leave. Lewis is completely overmatched in there.
I’ll babysit him, I promise.
Is it true? You got some kind of Anacreon chieftain in there?
You been drinking, Muller?
It’s the end of the galaxy, isn’t it? Hari’s prediction’s coming true.
You got hold of a bad rumor, Muller. Local poacher’s all.
They’re already here, aren’t they?
Hey, why don’t you just take a break for a second.
Hey! I won’t hurt you. Just tell me who you are.
[Hugo] Sal. Sal. Sal. Hey, hey. What’s wrong?
I was just in the Imperial Library on Trantor.
What do you mean you were there?
I mean I was there. In the stacks. The ceiling was wooden, there were all these marble busts. And there was a boy with a knife. It was the same boy who led me to the Anacreons. It’s the Vault. I can feel it, Hugo. It’s trying to tell me something about the Anacreons and this crisis. Everything.
Okay, listen to me. I’ve always said you should let this planet shrug you off. But watching you work, where you could sense what Phara was feeling inside… that’s special. Other people can’t do that, Sal. I have absolute faith in you. [whispers] I have absolute faith in you.
Who among you is Master Statistician Tivole?
Empire. May the light never dim.
[all] May the light never dim.
You received my query.
[Tivole] I did, Empire. But I can’t say yet we have the results.
How long has it been since Dusk set you to this task? Three decades? What do you do in your mausoleum of calculus if not achieve results? Progress, then. What is your progress?
We believe the… the predictive models of Hari Seldon to be counterfactual.
And you believe this why?
In the 35 years since Seldon uttered his heretical proclamations, the Imperium has expanded, rather than contracted, by every critical metric…
Stop. Seldon’s prophecies. Speak to me of his math, this “ordinal analysis.”
It’s a spread of fortune teller’s cards which Seldon chose to interpret as divination.
The verification he found in the regression models is unsupported.
But what of these… these recent events? The conclave? Luminism?
Baseless conjecture. Again, vague and unsupported. [chuckles] I mean, anyone could predict a return to orthodoxy. [chuckles] Psychohistory is the fanciful work of an old man’s imagination.
If it weren’t the fanciful work of an old man’s imagination, what then? What is the likelihood that it’s all true? Every prophecy?
Vanishingly small, Empire.
But not zero. Correct? Not zero? What kind of idiots are you? A thousand imperial mathematicians…
…can’t parse the numbers of one man? So there’s nothing anyone in the galaxy can do? Is that what it is? Is that the best you’ve got? Tell me. Tell me! Tell me!
[Gaal] In the twilight of a man’s life…
…when his biography is nearly complete, he grows desperate to know the measure of his days… how his voice compares to the chorus of those who’ve come before. Do I matter? Are my choices my own? Or is my destiny governed by an unseen hand?
Brother Day. Come to see us off?
I was paid a visit by your statisticians. It’s remarkable how self-reinforcing their results are. I think it’s best that you stay and tend to matters on Trantor.
Empire, a primary Cleon has not left the bosom of Trantor since the dawn of the Genetic Dynasty.
Demerzel is right. We have these protocols in place for a reason.
And I say our protocols have made us complacent. When you sat on the middle throne, as I do now, and were debating what to do about Anacreon and Thespis, what our response should be, do you remember what you said? I do. Like it was yesterday. I was seven. Our eldest brother had argued for a bout of grace. You turned to me and said, “What do you think, Ascending Dawn?” I knew you were against grace, that you wanted to bomb the barbarian kingdoms. But I was scared. And I dared say so. Well, I’m not scared anymore. On your watch, the Star Bridge fell. And from that scar insurgency was birthed. On your watch, two worlds were incinerated with not a care to innocence or consequence. On your watch, Hari Seldon and his followers were allowed to flee. You have bequeathed me an Empire rent by impulsive action. The same will not be said of me. Not on my watch. I would save our legacy.
Brother… you are haunted by the ghost of a man long dead.
We all are, Brother. Your watch is over. You will stay on Trantor, tending to the wounds you have allowed to fester.
Return Brother Dusk’s belongings to the palace.
Certainly now the Empire will no longer be rent by impulsive action.
You summoned me, Empire?
A communications buoy has gone dark in the Outer Reach. Take your team and investigate.
At once, Empire.
Dorwin. Our dispatches from the Foundation have become sporadic. Pay them a visit. And remind the Foundation that Empire will not be kept in the dark.
[man speaking Anacreon]
Is that, uh…
Doesn’t look good, does it?
[man speaking Anacreon]
[man speaking Anacreon]
Who is in charge here, Lewis? You? Or is it the Warden with the coin tricks? Because it seems she’s managed to complicate matters.
Let me be clear, Huntress Keaen…
The only reason we have a crisis is because you trespassed on the Emperor’s personal domain.
If only Salvor had taken me to the tower and given me what I’d wanted, we’d already be off-planet.
The module from our slow ship?
[Phara] It’s not as if your people have any use for it. You’re marooned on Terminus. The Empire made sure of that.
Why do you need it?
[Phara] My people are technologically bankrupt. We’re dying, Director. We have been ever since the Empire set our atmosphere on fire. Half our population lost for a crime that we were innocent of. Unlike you, we have ships. We can leave our poisoned world, find another star system. If only we had the means to navigate the void.
The Empire would crush us for assisting you.
We’re forcing your hand, Director. Because we have nothing left to lose. You can’t play chess with someone who’s willing to set the board on fire.
[Salvor] Is that some kind of flak cannon?
[Hugo] Wasting their time if they think that’s gonna penetrate the fence.
None of this feels right. Phara is smarter than this. They took out the comms buoy, and they came in prepared. There’s a larger strategy here, and I am missing it somehow.
What if I take my ship, make a run for the stars, get help?
No, no. They’d shoot you out of the sky before you ever made it into orbit. Regretting you didn’t bug out when you had the chance?
Done a lot of foolish things in my life, Salvor Hardin. Sticking by your side is not one of them.
Best manservant ever.
The Vault isn’t Anacreon… or alien at all. It’s gotta be connected to Hari.
How do you know that?
Because the vision I saw when I blacked out, it was on Trantor in Hari’s library, with a boy holding a knife on me. What if it was a warning to stay away? What if Lewis is right? I’m an outlier, just like he says, barging around, knocking things over, screwing up Seldon’s plan?
Salvor, what if you are Seldon’s plan?
[Gaal] The fate of one individual will always remain a mystery.
Remember my promise, Warden? Razing your city to the ground?
[Gaal] But the movements of masses, the rise and falls of cultures, causes and worlds… These were answers Hari Seldon had long since unriddled.
[Gaal] And the beginning of the end, as befitting its name, took place on Terminus.