Wienis shouted incoherently and staggered to the nearest soldier. Wildly,he wrested the nuclear blast from the man's hand-aimed it at Hardin, whodidn't stir, shoved the lever and held it contacted .
The pale continous beam impinged upon the force-field that surrounded themayor of Terminus and was sucked harmlessly to neutralization. Wienispressed harder and laughed tearingly.
Hardin still smiled and his force-field aura scarcely brightened as itabsorbed the energies of the nuclear blast. From his comer Lepold coveredhis eyes and moaned.
And, with a yell of despair, Wienis changed his aim and shot again ?andtoppled to the floor with his head blown into nothingness.
Hardin winced at the sight and muttered, "A man of 'direct action' to theend. The last refuge!"The Time Vault was filled; filled far beyond the available seatingcapacity, and men lined the back of the room, three deep.
Salvor Hardin compared this large company with the few men attending thefirst appearance of Hari Seldon, thirty years earlier. There had only beensix, then; the five old Encyclopedists ?all dead now ?and himself, theyoung figurehead of a mayor. It had been on that day, that he, with YohanLee's assistance had removed the "figurehead" stigma from his office.
It was quite different now; different in every respect . Every man of theCity Council was awaiting Seldon's appearance. He, himself, was stillmayor, but all-powerful now; and since the utter rout of Anacreon,all-popular. When he had returned from Anacreon with the news of the deathof Wienis, and the new treaty signed with the trembling Lepold, he wasgreeted with a vote of confidence of shrieking unanimity. When this wasfollowed in rapid order, by similar treaties signed with each of the otherthree kingdoms ?treaties that gave the Foundation powers such as wouldforever prevent any attempts at attack similar to that of Anacreon's ?
torchlight processions had been held in every city street of Terminus. Noteven Hari Seldon's name had been more loudly cheered.
Hardin's lips twitched. Such popularity had been his after the first crisisalso.
Across the room, Sef Sermak and Lewis Bort were engaged in animateddiscussion, and recent events seemed to have put them out not at all. Theyhad joined in the vote of confidence; made speeches in which they publiclyadmitted that they had been in the wrong, apologized handsomely for the useof certain phrases in earlier debates, excused themselves delicately bydeclaring they had merely followed the dictates of their judgement andtheir conscience ?and immediately launched a new Actionist campaign.
Yohan Lee touched Hardin's sleeve and pointed significantly to his watch.
Hardin looked up. "Hello there, ? What's wrong now?""He's due in five minutes, isn't he?""I presume so. He appeared at noon last time.""What if he doesn't?""Are you going to wear me down with your worries all your life? If hedoesn't, he won't."Lee frowned and shook his head slowly. "If this thing flops, we're inanother mess. Without Seldon's backing for what we've done, Sermak will befree to start all over. He wants outright annexation of the Four Kingdoms,and immediate expansion of the Foundation ?by force, if necessary. He'sbegun his campaign, already.""I know. A fire eater must eat fire even if he has to kindle it himself .