The office’s high ceiling was supported by beams of Trantorian basalt, with intricate floral patterns spun-carved by tuned blaster beams. The major looked up at these beams, and when he looked down again, Farad Sinter stood behind the desk, wearing an irritated frown.
Major Namm, very blond and compact, was not used to private audiences at this social level, and in the Palace, as well. “Second report on the search for Klia Asgar, daughter of Sonden and Bethel Asgar. Survey of the father’s apartment.”
“What else did you learn?”
“Her early intelligence tests were normal, not exceptional. After the age of ten, however, those tests showed extraordinary jumps—then, by the age of twelve, they revealed that she was an idiot.”
“Standard Imperial aptitude tests, I assume?”
“Yes, sir, adjusted for Dahlite…ah…needs.”
Sinter walked across the room and poured himself a drink. He did not offer any to the major, who wouldn’t have known what to do with fine wine anyway. No doubt his tastes werelimited to the cruder forms of stimulk, or even the more direct stims favored in the military and police services. “There are no records of childhood illness, I presume,” Sinter said.
“Two possible explanations for that, sir,” the blond major said.
“Hospitals in Dahl typically record only exceptional illnesses. And in those cases, if the exceptions might reflect badly on the hospital, they report nothing at all.”
“So perhaps she never had brain fever at all…as a child, when almost everyone of any intelligence contracts brain fever.”
“It’s possible, sir, though unlikely. Only one out of a hundred normal children escape brain fever. Only idiots escape completely, sir. She may have avoided it for that reason.”
Sinter smiled. The officer was stepping outside his expertise; the number was actually closer to one in thirty million normals, though many claimed they had never had it. And that claim in itself was evocative, as if escaping conferred some added status.
“Major, are you at all curious about the Sectors you do not patrol?”
“No, sir. Why should I be?”
“Do you know the tallest structure on Trantor, above sea level, I mean?”
“The most populated Sector?”
“The largest planet in the known Galaxy?”
“No.” The major frowned as if he were being mocked.
“Most people are ignorant of these things. They don’t care to know; tell them and they forget. The larger vision is lost in the day-to-day minutiae, which they know well enough to get along. What about the basic principles of hyperdrive travel?”
“Sky, no…Pardon me. No sir.”
“I’m ignorant of that myself. No curiosity at all about such things.” He smiled pleasantly. “Have you ever wondered why Trantor seems so run-down nowadays?”
“Sometimes, sir. It is a nuisance.”
“Have you thought to complain to your neighborhood council?”
“Not my place. There’s so much to complain about, where to begin?”
“Of course. Yet you’re known as a competent and perhaps even an exceptional officer.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Sinter looked down at the polished copperstone floor. “Are you curious why I am so interested in this woman, this girl?”
“No, sir.” But the major thought it worth a small, conspiratorial wink.
Sinter’s eyes widened. “You believe I’m interested in her sexually ?”
The major straightened abruptly. “No sir, not my place to think anything of the sort.”
“I would be frightened even to be in her presence for long, Major Namm.”
“She never had brain fever.”
“We don’t know that, sir. No records.”
Sinter dismissed that with a shake of his head. “I know that she never had brain fever, or any other childhood disease. And not because she was an idiot. She was more than merely immune , Major.”
“And her powers can be extraordinary. And do you know how I know