by Isaac Asimov
Hari Seldon was old and tired. His voice, roared out though it was, by the amplifying system, was old and tired as well.
There were few in that small assemblage that did not realize that Hari Seldon would be dead before the next spring. And they listened in respectful silence to the last official words of the Galaxy's greatest mind.
"This is the last meeting," that tired voice said, "of the group I had called together over twenty years ago." Seldon's eyes swept the seated scientists. He was alone on the platform, alone in the wheel chair to which a stroke had confined him two years before, and on his lap was the last volume—the fifty-second—of the minutes of previous meetings. It was opened to the last page.
He continued : "The group I called together represented the best the Galactic Empire could offer of its philosophers, its psychologists, its historians, and its physical scientists. And in the twenty years since, we have considered the greatest problem ever to confront any group of fifty men—perhaps the greatest ever to confront any number of men.
"We have not always agreed on methods or on procedure. We have spent months and, doubtless, years on futile debates over relatively minor issues. On more than one occasion, sizable sections of our group threatened to break away altogether.
"And yet"—his old face lit in a gentle smile— "we solved the problem. Many of the original members died and were replaced by others. Schemes were abandoned ; plans voted down ; procedures proven faulty.
"Yet we solved the problem ; and not one member, while yet alive, left our group. I am glad of that."
He paused, and allowed the subdued applause to die.
"We have done ; and our work is over. The Galactic Empire is falling, but its culture shall not die, and provision has been made for a new and greater culture to develop therefrom. The two Scientific Refuges we planned have been established : one at each end of the Galaxy, at Terminus and at Star's End. They are in operation and already moving along the inevitable lines we have drawn for them.
"For us is left only one last item, and that fifty years in the future. That item, already worked out in detail, will be the instigation of revolts in the key sectors of Anacreon and Loris. It will set that final machinery in motion to work itself out in the millennium that follows."
Hari Seldon's tired head dropped. "Gentlemen, the last meeting of our group is hereby adjourned. We began in secret; we have worked throughout in secret; and now end in secret—to wait for our reward a thousand years hence with the establishment of the Second Galactic Empire."
The last volume of the minutes closed, and Hari Seldon's thin hand fell away from it.
"I am finished!" he whispered.
Lewis Pirenne was busily engaged at his desk in the one well-lit corner of the room. ...