Gaal Dornick arrives on Trantor to start a new job working for Hari Seldon, only to find that the job isn’t quite what he’d anticipated.
This story is the only Foundation short story not written for John Campbell’s Astounding. Rather, it was written for Foundation, to provide a beginning to the Foundation series rather less abrupt than was provided by “The Encyclopedists.”
It is, I think, easily the strongest story in Foundation. I'm a sucker for court-room dramas, and Asimov skillfully uses one here to introduce us to the basic structure and purpose of the Foundation (we think). Hari Seldon is introduced and is a fascinating, wily old man, always in control and working wheels within wheels within wheels. Gaal Dornick is delightful and used effectively as the reader’s surrogate through which the wonders of Trantor, the uncertainty for Seldon’s future, and Seldon’s final triumph can be vividly felt.
The real center of attention here, however, is Trantor itself, marvelously conceived and meticulously described. The planetary city nowhere else appears in the original Foundation series and even in the later Foundation books is somehow not as vivid.