Dune Saga by Rising Sun - HTML preview

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“Amasso has gone to collect Mick’N and Dax is on his way.” She informed him. He nodded in acknowledgement.

~*~*~*~*~

The Reverend Mother Zelron's buzzer sounded. "Yes!"

The Acolyte's voice came through "Reverend Mother I have the Mother Superior Sasha on the line."

"Put her though."

The Mother Superior's raspy voice came though. "Zelron, you've seen the horror on the AVU?"

"Yes, and I have been in contact with various people and the picture looks grim indeed." Zelron acknowledged.

"Your services will be required. As soon as you appoint someone to continue to monitor the exodus I want you to report to my office."

"Yes, Sasha." Zelron cut the communication and considered the candidates to replace her.

~*~*~*~*~

Ali Ben Knesset the Tleilaxu Governor of Caladan tightened the screw again. He was tired of this constant appealing to the Atreides for assistance. He would break this resistance once and for all.

~*~*~*~*~

Arista read the communiqué for a third time - just to be sure.

In true Tleilaxu form it was simple and straight to the point – “All persons of Caladanian or Budislamic extract arriving on Caladan will be taken aside, questioned, have their image taken and will be fingerprinted.”

91

The public howl had been instant: A'khil El Vikram of The Budislamics Minority Rights Association stated that this latest action must be seen as a new form of racial discrimination and contrary to the principle that one is innocent until proven guilty.

Now Arista was receiving reports that even before the new regulations were in place, that some ten thousand had been detained for questioning.

With the silent consent of the Landsraad, Atreides rulers, had for carefully considered reasons, tolerated the situation on Caladan, and had done so for generations. Maybe Amasso had been right - It was time that this generation dealt with the state of affairs on the Ancestral Home of House Atreides.

Now the Tleilaxu no longer seemed content to rule but were now tightening the screws of oppression. After analyzing the situation and weighing the advantages and disadvantages, Arista made her decision. She now had to decide just how to achieved the decision.

92

hapter 20

C

Que Sera Sera

What ever will be will be.

The future’s not ours to see.

Que Sera Sera

What will be will be.

Favourite Lullaby of Grand Dame Atreides

Grand Mother to the Emperor Dax

Dax stood on the outcrop and said simply. “Shai-Hulud – It is I, Dax. I need you. Come to me –

your humble servant.” There were no thumping, no regular noises just his voice on the wind.

Silence descended as Dax and Alexi waited.

He was about to test a theory. If he was right … IF HE WAS RIGHT! Then he was about to drag humanity into an era to challenge that of Maud'Dib and the Tyrant.

He contemplated his place in the Universe. He was either about to make history or a fool of himself in front of Alexi no less. Alexi, his thoughts drifted to her again. There was no doubt that she had been brought to Dune to be the consort of the Emperor – him. With every passing day he realized the wisdom in having the right partner. The role was a weighty one – the right partner could make it easier. His mother had his father and he wanted that. If he were to survive the future – he NEEDED that.

Dax confessed softly "Alexi, I dream of you and call your name for one reason only."

"I know."

He turned "You do?"

She nodded. "You hit your head when the elevator malfunctioned."

He chuckled. "You have no idea."

"It is nice for friends to appreciate each other." She baited him.

"No! No! No!" He wasn't getting through to her.

“Why?” She wanted to make sure that she had not misunderstood this conversation.

He watched her closely as he uttered the prophetic vision, “As I am to be father to a new epoch and you are to be mother.”

93

“Is that all?” She taunted. “Parents to a new epoch? Oh well why didn’t you say so from the beginning?” Then she got serious. “This is a serious commission, M’Lord – are you sure?”

“When my mother sat Amasso and I down for THAT conversation, you know the one – the one that explained the differences between the sexes. She told us that, regardless of the age it happens, we would only become men when we know the woman that we wanted. Till then we would remain mere boys. I have come to realize that to become the man I desire to be I will need you.”

A tear rolled down Alexi’s cheek at the honesty of his statement. He would never understand women. What was wrong now! He wiped her cheek with a caress. "I'm sorry, Alexi. The last few months have been a revelation to me. Being locked up in the elevator I had time to review aspects of my life and the results were life changing to say the least."

"I have wondered about that day." She revealed. “I would be honoured. M’Lord.”

“Dax.” He corrected. “My name is Dax.”

She tried out the name. “Dax.” Then she sort clarification, just to be sure. “… and what exactly will this new role entail?”

He nodded as he realized that he had to clarify his position a bit more. “In one word ‘Consort’ I am offering nothing less than for you to become my partner.” He was about to hold her and seal the shift in the relationship with a kiss when the ground rumbled.

He fell to his knees weak from the implications of what was about to unfold.

~*~*~*~*~

A somber Baron Vladimir arrived at the site of the disaster as he made his first trip to view the crumpled remains of The Tower of Strength. He arrived in the morning not wanting to be caught in the midday sun.

The Baron donned a personal shield configured for construction sites and toured the disaster location. Actually seeing the devastation wrought on the statue was too much; he was inconsolable - not for the loss of the lives of the citizens of Giedi Prime, but for the loss of the tribute to his ancestor.

He vowed to his ancestor and not coincidentally the press corps following him. "We will rebuild this tribute...“ Deep within his heart he completed the vow [ …and then the rest of the Universe will hear from House Harkonnen. ]

~*~*~*~*~

“Daaaax!” Alexi screamed. She’d never seen a wild worm before and certainly never been this close to one. She struggled to regain control by repeating the litany against fear…

94

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear. I will allow my fear to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone I will turn my inner eye to see its path.

And where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

Lost in the unfolding events Dax didn’t respond to her call. Remaining on his knees he felt the fast approach of the Goliath. Racing towards the man as if with no intension of stopping the worm zoomed along displacing mountains of sand as it approached. Finally with two meters to spare the Leviathan stopped before the man who had summoned it.

The sand worm reared up slightly and paused before the genuflecting man.

Alexi stared in amazement at the tableau of the kneeling man before the giant.

Realizing that first, the worm had no intension of devouring him or his Consort and second that it seemed to be waiting. Dax ventured to continue the test.

He stood “Oh, Great One. I am in need of assistance. I need to get to Arakkis City as we approach the brink of genocide. Will you consent to let me and my Consort ride the sands with you as our guide?” A double dose of presumption he knew, Alexi had not answered and the worm may yet devour him.

In response the worm lay down.

There was the proof. The Great Sand Worms of Dune responded to him! He was right! He was about to drag humanity into an era to challenge that of Maud'Dib and the Tyrant!

As he and Alexi mounted the waiting worm he said to her. “You must now decide where your loyalties lie. You cannot serve two masters.”

On that note the worm rose and headed for Arakkis City.

~*~*~*~*~

PETITION

TO: CHIEF JUSTICE - ICJ

FROM: THE BUDISLAMICS MINORITY RIGHTS ASSOCIATION OF KAITIAN

WE HEREBY FILE A PETITION TO CHALLENGE THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF THE

TLEILAXU MARRIAGE SEPARATIST ACT.

95

A'KHIL EL VIKRAM

CHIEF LITIGATOR

96

hapter 21

C A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.

"Manual of Muad'Dib" by the Princess Irulan

Wife of Emperor Paul Muad'Dib

Across the Planet special services were held by families to mourn the dead and pray for the missing. Vlad's visit had finished an Official Day of mourning and prayer on Giedi Prime, a mood that tended to lightened considerably when people returned to the relative privacy of their homes, as "The Give Me Strength" was no more.

Out on the site, however, the mood tended to be grim as the difficult weather of Giedi Prime combined with the occasional heavy rain slowed efforts to find survivors in the wreckage.

~*~*~*~*~

Duncan continued to coordinate the responses from his Arakkis base. “The Guild has grounded all flights both intra and inter planetary. Nothing is to move for the next twenty six hours that includes military.”

“Dax arrive yet?” Amasso walked in with Mick’N.

“No.” Arista replied. “I will need to address the Empire.”

“You will need to visit the sites.” Mick’N added.

“If the Guild maintains the grounding then we are going no where.” Arista replied. “Amasso, Your father is mobilizing the Military I need you to coordinate with him with the Emergency Services. I need an investigation stared. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED!”

She turned to Mick’N, “Mick’N, I need you – I need to compose my thoughts and what to say.

Not to mention the formation of a policy on this – there is bout to be significant fall out.”

“I can just hear Vladimir.” Amasso snorted.

Mick’N followed Arista and added. “We will need to convene the Landsraad.” He paused long enough to grab Amasso and growl “And no spice wine for you.”

~*~*~*~*~

The buzzer sounded. "Yes!"

97

The Acolyte's voice came through "Excuse me, Mother Superior Sasha, but I have Ambassador Olaf of Caladan requesting an audience."

Zelron glanced at Sasha. “You were expecting him?”

“No. But he is not unexpected.” She then instructed the Acolyte, “Send him in.”

The tall lean man walked into the room with great confidence. “Mother Superior.” He greeted her.

“Ambassador…” She replied, this is Reverend Mother Zelron.” The man bowed to Zelron.

“How may the Sisterhood be of assistance to you?”

“I shall be blunt. The Empress has again refused you permission to evacuate your sisterhood from Caladan. Caladan remains in the grip of the Tleilaxu yet. Fremen have landed on Selusa Secundus, attacks are now launched against Kiatian and Giedi Prime. I suggest Superior that the Bene Gesserit leaves en mass. While we use the opportunity with a combined force of Buddislam and Bene Gesserit to send the Tleilaxu back to whence they came.”

There was silence.

Sasha’s next words surprised the Ambassador. “How did you get here? There is an embargo on all flights.”

The man blinked at the change of topic. As she scratched an itch he answered. “What goes up must come down and as we were near our destination we were allowed to land. The flight will not continue; so many are stranded here.”

Zelron answered Sasha’s inquiry via the same hand signal language. “Though we may want to examine this proposed alliance with the Buddislamics he is, however correct the opportunity presented by this present chaos cannot be allowed to pass.”

Sasha replied to the Ambassador. “This is an offer that must be discussed. As you are stranded here for an unknown period of time we shall have a chance again to speak of this.”

Taking the cue he stood to leave. “Of course. I look forward to meeting with you again.”

98

hapter 22

C

Three may keep a secret if two of them are dead.

Fremen Lesson

With the inspection tour cut short, and a Sand Worm at his command, a ride that would have taken Dax three days, now took three hours.

Alexi took the time to reflect on Dax’s words. [ You must now decide where your loyalties lie.

You cannot serve two masters. ] She hid her smile [ But I *can* I am Bene Gesserit. ]

No sooner had the journey began than Dax had made himself comfortable on the surface of the worm confident that he would come to no harm. He then opened his arms to her inviting her to lean against him and she did.

Her reason for being on Arakkis had been to mate with this man. The Reverend Mother Farrah was impatient that time was wasting and they were no closer to that aim -- Then suddenly this.

She felt his strong arms around her, keeping her safe and secure. There was really no choice, she loved him and she now understood the Atreides ability to bind people to them. The voices within urged caution but not flight and so she placed her foot on the path to follow that of her predecessor The Lady Jessica Atreides.

Her decision made she relaxed against Dax and she prepared to enjoy the ride.

Feeling the moment that her decision was made Dax tighten his arms around the woman he considered his Consort.

His reference to her earlier seeped in. “Consort?” she asked.

“Consort.” He confirmed.

~*~*~*~*~

OFFICIAL MEMO

THE CABINET HAS INSTRUCTED ALL PLANETS TO OBSERVE THREE MINUTES OF

SILENCE IN HONOUR OF THE VICTIMS OF THE TERRORIST ATTACKS ON KAITAN

AND GIEDI PRIME.

THE HONOUR IS TO TAKE PLACE THE 15TH DAY OF THE MONTH OF MAUD'DIB IN

THIS THE YEAR 39,176 AT THE HOUR OF LUD.

99

THE EMPRESS HAS ALSO DIRECTED THAT ALL FLAGS ON PUBLIC BUILDINGS BE

FLOWN AT HALF-MAST THAT DAY.

~*~*~*~*~

Tho'Ma Kyens finally got his window of opportunity to present his theory when he was invited to be a key note speaker at " The Universal Summit on Sustainable Development and Climate Change: From Kaitian to Salusa Secundus. - A Lost Decade", to be hosted by the Climate Change Secretariat and sponsored by the Humanitarian Assistance Program of the Military.

The Conference was being held at the Climate Change Secretariat Headquarters on Salusa Secundus and by all accounts it was a resounding success and it was not even completed yet.

Then the attacks had occurred. Now, understandably every thing was in the air and running late.

It was agreed by the delegates that the conference would continue. What else could be done? But all were warned that there would be mass disruptions to flight schedules as the Spacing Guild had locked down all travel for the first time ever.

Kynes had presented the paper; dealt with questions and all in all had defended his theory flawlessly and successfully. A draft resolution was passed by a majority of only sixty percent based on his findings, but he had his proviso and that was what mattered. Measures needed to be taken to mitigate the problem and this was a first step.

The draft resolution also made a call for Giedi Prime to reconsider their position of noncompliance. The resolution would eventually be delivered to Empress Arista, when the document was finalized.

As a true Kynes, fanatical in his crusade, Tho’Ma had all intension in speaking with the Empress, finished document or not. For now though he was stuck on Salusa Secundus.

He walked into the Command and Control room. "Major!" he addressed the Soldier.

"Sir."

"Where is Colonel Clarke?"

"Not here, Sir, I'm in charge may I assist?"

"I seriously doubt that you are in charge, Major. Where - is - Colonel Clarke!"

The Major regarded her "Mr. Kynes... " He said placatingly.

He pulled out his ID. "Dr. Kynes, Imperial Planetologist."

The Major read the card and handed it back.

100

"Now, Major, I say again. Where - is - Colonel Clarke!"

"Packing, Sir. The Guild has conceded to exception for Military only. He has orders to return ASAP to the Kaitina. Transport is on its way as we speak to collect the Colonel."

"Book me on that transport Major. For I have to reach the Empress in quick time."

"No can do, Sir. This is for Military only. All civilians have to remain put." The Major would not be budged and so Kynes was stranded on Kaitian.

~*~*~*~*~

The rhythm of the worm as it glided along was hypnotic and it wasn’t long before Alexi had dropped off to sleep.

Dax himself found the whole experience electrifying. He had summoned a worm at will and it was complying with his request! He had mounted and now rode the Giant with no need of tools and to top it all he had Alexi with him for the ride – literally. As these thoughts and feelings coursed through him his eyes looked at everything and he drank in the sights. Instinctively his hold on Alexi tightened, she adjusted herself in response.

As the ride continued he noticed the growth on the worm. Trying not to awaken Alexi he reached out and gently touched what looked like a tumor. The worm reacted violently and almost threw them off.

“What!” Alexi awoke.

“Nothing…” Dax assured her as he filed the information away in his mind. “My fault.

Nothing.” He lightly kissed the top of her head to reassure her.

101

hapter 23

C

Quod Erat Demonstrandum

“Where is Dax!” Amasso looked out the window in frustration for the millionth time. This time he saw something that required witnesses. “Mother! Father!”

The squeal that they had not heard from their son since he was six brought them running. All he could do was point.

Before their eyes and that of Arakkis City, Dax Atreides lowered the shield and rode the worm up to the doorstep of the Palace. The worm was obviously under his control and when he and Alexi stepped down and he spoke to the worm, it nodded, turned and left – there was no doubt.

“Great Maker. He controls the worms!” Arista shuddered.

~*~*~*~*~

The Lady Alexi reported to the Reverend Mother Farrah as ordered. It would be the last time.

She had just ridden a sand worm and lived to tell the tale, she was the Cabinet Secretary but most important she was Consort to the NaEmperor.

Farrah sensed the change. “What was the result of that walkabout in the desert?”

“He has named me Consort.” Alexi reported.

“Indeed?” This was beyond Farrah’s expectations. “Then we expect the female offspring soon.”

She noted Alexi’s hesitancy and probed. “Alexi?”

“I have reason to suspect that the breeding program may face a set back.” She replied.

“Explain.” Farrah ordered.

“He may be the Kwisatz Haderach.”

“Dax?” Farrah stated the obvious to be sure. “Great Mother.”

Alexi nodded. “Be warned Moth…”

“Warned!” Farrah cut across her.

“Warned.” Alexi confirmed. “It is not the modus opperdani for an Atreides male to marry his Consort. I expect the same here, but as the bound concubine of the NaEmperor it is my duty to ensure to best of my ability, his safety.”

102

She turned to leave but not before adding. “In future you will come to me.”

~*~*~*~*~

Alexi entered her quarters; she rounded her desk and there it was.

A single long stemmed red rose.

She involuntarily looked up to see if anyone was observing her. They were not. She picked up the rose to sniff. There was something about the scent of a rose. She smiled to herself; apparently Dax was wasting no time. She was convinced it was him who else could it be? She spotted the card and read it.

My mother will have my water for raiding the arboretum,

but only the best for the best.

Love Dax.

She went in search of a vase before heading for the latest Cabinet Meeting.

~*~*~*~*~

Dr. Thalmas Sanchez was the physician to House Atreides. As with all Doctors to the Royal Houses he was trained in the Suk way, guaranteeing his conditioning for not being capable of harming the clients he was assigned to. That promise being manifest by the diamond tattoo that all Suk graduates carried on their forehead.

The Suk Medical Society had taken a thousand years to recover from the treachery shown by Dr.

Wellington Yueh who had been assigned to House Atreides in the time of Maud'Dib. The Harkonnens had broken Yueh’s conditioning and the fact that a Suk Doctor's training could be broken had been a shock to the Suk Medical Society and the entire Landsraad.

With five years of service to House Atreides, Thalmas still thought of as the new Physician, the previous one having died of Spice Addiction. He was a tall man with spider-black eyes and full, pouting lips. At certain angles he called to mind Al Samoud Harkonnen, but a background check had cleared him for service. He carried his long, black hair in a "Suk School" silver ring down the center of his back.

Having been quickly briefed by Lord Dax, the Doctor was now in search of the Lady Alexi. He finally caught up with the Cabinet Secretary. “My Lady!”

Alexi turned vase still in hand. “Yes, Dr. Sanchez?”

“May I speak with you privately?”

“Of course this way.” She led him into her office. “Now, how may I assist?”

103

“My lady, Lord Dax has informed me of your change in designation and before the household move you into his quarters I must conduct a physical.” He wasn’t the least uncomfortable with the topic. Seemed that Suk training prepared one for anything, well Bene Gesserit training was good as any, if not better.

“Will now suit you, Doctor?” She prepared to strip.

~*~*~*~*~

As Giedi Prime sought to resume its normal pace, the Guild reopened the Spaceports.

104

hapter 24

C

"The single biggest problem in communication

…is the illusion that it has taken place"

George Bernard Shaw – Ancient Terran Philosopher

FROM: BARON VLADIMIR HARKONNEN IV

TO: EMPRESS ARISTA ATREIDES V

MESSAGE:

NOW THAT THE GUILD IS ALLOWING INTER AND INTRA PLANETARY

MOVEMENT, WE REQUEST AN IMMEDIATE CONVENING OF THE GREAT HOUSES

OF THE LANDSRAAD BOTH MAJOR AND MINOR TO DISCUSS THIS ACT OF

TERRORISM.

HEAD

HOUSE HARKONNEN

~*~*~*~*~

INTERNAL MEMO

FROM: KWISATZ MOTHER

TO: MOTHER SUPERIOR

AS YOU ARE AWARE DAX ATREIDES HAS DEMONSTRATED PUBLICLY HIS

ABILITY TO CONTROL THE WORMS OF ARAKKIS.

THE LADY ALEXI HAS BEEN MADE CONSORT TO THE NAEMPEROR.

WE ARE INVESTIGATING THE POSSIBILITY THAT HE MAY BE A KWISATZ

HADERACH. GREAT MOTHER HELP US, FOR IF HE TAKES THE WATER OF LIFE WE

MAY HAVE A REOCCURRENCE OF THE ERA OF MAUD'DIB.

KWISATZ MOTHER

~*~*~*~*~

INTERNAL MEMO

105

FROM: MOTHER SUPERIOR

TO: REVEREND MOTHER MO’HADIN

BE ADVISED OF THE FOLLOWING:

THE GUILD IS ONCE AGAIN ALLOWING INTER AND INTRA PLANETARY

MOVEMENT, AS SUCH THE EXODUS OF THE BENE GESSERIT SHALL COMMENCE

FORTHWITH.

WE HAVE ACCEPTED THE OFFER OF ASSISTANCE FROM THE AMBASSADOR OLAF

OF CALADAN.

YOU ARE TO ATTEND THE MEETING OF THE LANDSRAAD, WHENEVER

CONVENED.

MOTHER SUPERIOR

~*~*~*~*~

FROM: PRINCE RAMMEN CORRINO

TO: TERRAN GROWTH INC

I HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE THAT I SHALL SOON HAVE NEED OF MY TROOPS.

PLEASE STAND BY FOR DEPLOYMENT AT SHORT NOTICE.

HEAD

HOUSE CORRINO

~*~*~*~*~

FROM: EMPRESS ARISTA ATREIDES V

TO: ALL MAJOR AND MINOR HOUSES OF THE LANDSRAAD

MESSAGE:

YOUR PRESENCE IS REQUIRED AT AN EXTRAORDINARY MEETING OF THE

LANDSRAAD TO BE CONVENED AT THE GRAND PLACE, ARAKKIS ON THE 21ST

DAY OF THE MONTH OF MAUD'DIB AT THE NINETH HOUR IN THIS THE YEAR

39,176.

THERE WILL BE ONE AGENDA ITEM – THE RECENT TERRORIST ATTACKS ON

KAITIAN AND GIEDI PRIME.

106

HEAD

EMPRESS ARISTA ATREIDES V

~*~*~*~*~

CONFIDENTIAL MEMO

FROM: THIRD STAGE GUILD NAVIGATOR

TO: ALL MEMBERS OF THE SPACING GUILD

MESSAGE:

THE SPICE MUST FLOW.

THIRD STAGE NAVIGATOR

THE SPACING GUILD

~*~*~*~*~

MEMO

FROM: IMPERIAL PLANETOLOGIST

TO: HRH ARISTA

MESSAGE:

HIGHNESS, I HUMBLY REQUEST AN AUDIENCE WITH YOU ON A MATTER OF

GREAT URGENCY.

THO’AM KEYENS

IMPERIAL PLANETOLOGIST

107

hapter 25

C The cloning of humans is on most of the lists of things to worry about from Science, along with behaviour control, genetic engineering, transplanted heads, computer poetry and the unrestrained growth of plastic flowers.

Lewis Thomas (1913 - 1993)

It was not often that Family Atreides gathered as Family. They could usually be found in a variety of combinations but it was becoming rare to see all gathered together except for formal occasions. The worm ride changed the status quo.

The four gathered in the living quarters of Arista and Duncan. They were set up in the Ancient Roman style of a circle of chaise longues. Each member was perched on one and the family was profiting the opportunity to have dinner at the same time. Once the provisions had been laid out and the wine poured, the assistants were dismissed.

“THAT was some ride.” Amasso teased his sibling then sipped his wine.

Dax didn’t know where to start so he said nothing.

Duncan frowned at Amasso’s action but he too remained silent.

Arista cleared her throat and gently encouraged her son. “Dax, what happened out there?”

“As you well know there is always worm sign around me, but I never get attacked. There has to be something going on between me and the worms.”

“Something?” Duncan prompted one son as he eyed the other.

“Well, I really can’t explain it more than that.” He continued, “I had an insight that if I called; that one would come and more than that do my bidding.”

Arista sat up. “Your bidding?” she exchanged glances with Duncan.

Dax nodded.

Amasso refilled his glass. “You are trying to tell us that you are controlling the Sand Worms of Dune?”

“I’m telling you that the Worms did my bidding beyond that I don’t know WHAT is happening!”

He was getting distraught.

“Enough!” Duncan ordered; would these two ever settle down? “…anything else to add, Son?”

108

“Well. I think the worms may be falling ill.” He proceeded to tell them of the growth he had seen on the worm that he had ridden.

Arista became quiet as she remembered the memo from Kyens. She mentally groaned [ This is a year designed to test me. Will it never end? Is that what Keynes wants to see me about? ]

She put on her ‘family’ face and returned to the present to enjoy the infrequent pleasure of dining with her family. She needed the semblance of this normality to give her the breathing space.

Despite her best efforts her mind churned. [ I need to analise the possibilities this situation presents. The power potential here is astronomical. This meal will have to be over with soon.

With Dax making that display in public the Bene Gesserit and Landsraad reactions to a possible repeat of history is sure to come. ]

She barely heard the chatter about her. [ If I was them I'd be plotting the assassination of Dax. I need to be plan how to protect this House and my sons! ]

She gave up the charade of family time. She was about to end the dinnertime, when Dax dropped the bombshell. "I have named the Lady Alexi as my Consort." He was standing behind his mother where there was a wider range of drinks were available.

"WHAT!" Amasso demanded. "Just who the hell do you think you are?! You just walk in and claim as you see fit? Give me a break?”

Arista paused in midaction. She had been about to reach for an olive when her para-bindu reflexes kicked in. In a blur she rolled over and landed on the floor as Amasso flung his goblet at Dax. Despite his having been drinking he moved with lightening speed but not great accuracy.

The goblet missed his mother and imbedded itself in the wall behind her.

The crash brought staff running into the room. Duncan spotted them and they looked to him for guidance him. He waved then away. When the guards hesitated he glared at them. At that point they left the room but remained within earshot.

Meanwhile Dax was dodging Amasso’s every move, an action that was only serving to infuriate his brother, a fact that Dax knew all too well and used constantly to great effect. Though Dax was emerging unscathed the same could not be said for the furniture. There was no telling what now had Amasso so angry: Dax’s announcement or his bobbing and weaving.

“Stay still!” Amasso ordered.

“I’m younger, not more stupid!” Dax replied.

Leaving the Guards to Duncan Arista dealt with her sons; she was not in the mood for a battle of the Twins. She was already distracted by thoughts of Empire and nightmares of an assassinated son. She hurled the voice at them "ENOUGH!" She roared shattering the mirror that hung in the room. It froze the two, before they could do any damage.

109

Duncan took over. He strode up to the two men “Gentlemen! And I use the term loosely what the hell were you thinking!” he roared. “Fedeykin! …and Majors at that! Both of whom should KNOW better!”

“I would like to hear the answer to that myself!” Arista added. "Since when do Atreides men brawl over bound concubines?!" They stood facing their parents, while Arista decided to moved away and stand to the side to watch the proceedings. This had been too much. The imbedded mug caught her eye. She growled sofly.

“Answer your Mother’s question, gentlemen!” Duncan demanded.

Both were silent

“Mmm” Their father muttered. “I need to cool down before I deal with you two. In the meantime you will be getting a bill for the collateral damage.”

“Understood, sir!” they responded.

“I doubt that you do.” Duncan snarled. “Fedeykin! … Officers no less! … My own sons brawling like some trainee Officer!” He paused. “The evening and the meal is shot. Go home report tomorrow … I’ll tell you my decision then… DISMISSED!”

“Aye, sir!” They snapped to attention and left.

Duncan looked at Arista who just shrugged her shoulders.

"Has she even agreed?" Duncan sighed.

"More important has the Bene Gesserit agreed." Arista slid onto the sofa, exhausted.

~*~*~*~*~

Prince Rammen Corrino strolled through the gardens of the Palace of House Corrino. They really were spectacular. He had seen vidpics of the pre-Butleran gardens of Versailles on Earth and that was a mud patch compared to what lay outstretched before him. Every colour ever conceived by God and Man was represented here.

He glanced at Xavier Mehda'in his Mentat. He had presented the walking computer with a projection to formulate. Who was behind the attacks on Kaitain and Giedi Prime? Once the result was pronounced the Prince then wanted to know the likelihood of a Military Force of the nature and scale of the Sardaukar being needed.

As the Mentat computed, Rammen attended to the important matter of the moment and proceeded to stroll around… and encountered the Reverend Mother Kardon.

110

“Kardon!” He called. “Walk with me.”

“Highness.” She fell into step with him.

“Spectacular Flora – no?” They walked along.

“Indeed, in nature however, Highness the more spectacular the creature the more deadly the bite.”

“Sound’s like a description of the Bene Gesserit.”

“As all are aware we monitor power: pure, corrupt, absolute. Once manifest we monitor and maintain the progress in the archives of authority.” She replied.

He burst out laughing. “Oh Kardon! That was priceless, the Bene Gesserit observers or power!

When was that?” He chuckled. Then he spotted that his Mentat was ready. “If you will excuse me.”

She bowed as he walked away.

He got sober and then serious as he approached Mehda'in. “Well?”

“There is a ninety percent probability that House Atreides will be accused of the act of terrorism at the convening of the Landsraad and a sixty percent probability that Military Force will be required at some point.”

“It should make for an interesting Convocation.”

~*~*~*~*~

Mother Superior Sasha had yet another representative on her doorstep. This time she faced a Novice Guild Navigator.

The guttural grunts and whistles were translated for her to understand. “The Landsraad has been convened, we foresee problems. We foresee a threat to spice production.”

“This cannot be allowed to happen.” She agreed. “We suspect that idiot the Baron has set in motion a plan that can have serious implications.”

“We concur.” The translating machine wheezed. “This Convocation of the Landsraad cannot be allowed to jeopardize spice production.”

“Our Mentats project that there is an ninety three point one percent probability that House Atredies will be accused of Terrorism.” She revealed.

The navigator took a sharp breath. “The Spice MUST flow! With out it space travel will cease!”

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“We concur.”

“The path is cloudy.” He admitted.

“Thus making it a dangerous one.” She replied.

“Then we understand each other.”

“Indeed we do.”

112

hapter 26

C

"Govern a family as you would cook a small fish - very gently."

Pre Butleran Chinese Proverb

Dax opened the door in response to the knock to find Amasso standing there. “Mas!” he used the childhood nickname.

“May I come in?” he asked.

“Sure.” He stood aside to allow his brother to enter. “You OK?”

“The fight has been running through my mind like a recording.” he said.

“I know. What a mess.” Dax agreed. “What do you think the Dad will do?”

Amasso shrugged. “He was REALLY angry. After he’s cooled down I think we’ll be lucky to get a punitive letter of reprimand, one month’s forfeiture of pay and a bill for damages to the room. That would be my recommendation if asked. We should consider ourselves damn lucky if there’s no Article 32, Sword Master’s mast or demotion.”

“I know, I know.” Dax groaned. "Amasso, do you want Alexi?"

"Me? No." Amasso confessed.

Dax was shocked. "Then what… why?"

Amasso shrugged his shoulders. "It’s the principal little brother. You can't waltz in and just announce that 'Oh by the way I'm claiming the most beautiful woman in the Court' its just not done. Besides... it was a good fight, wasn't it."

Dax grinned. "One of our best."

"Mad at me?" Amasso grinned back.

"Never for long." Dax confessed.

~*~*~*~*~

Baron Vladimir Harkonnen examined the documents. He had commissioned the forgeries and yet he could not tell the difference. He dropped the report on the table. “Excellent!”

The report fell face up. It read:

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Transplanetorial Threats From the Planet Arakkis: Crying Wolf or Crying Havoc? Under the leadership of House Atredies

"Excellent!" The Baron repeated and subtly signaled to Piter. "Then to the author. You wish now to be paid, is that right?"

"This was the agreement."

Vlad smiled and said "Piter, pay the man!"

Piter moved in on the academic the needle glistening in his hand for a split second before he buried it in the man's back.

A silent gasp escaped the victim, and then he fell unconscious.

“Is he alive, Piter?”

“Yes, my Baron.”

"Then take him away, Piter." The Baron ordered with much scorn.

Piter signaled to the slaves who came in to take the man on a lengthy visit at the Baron's expense... in his private dungeons.

As he watched idly he informed his Mentat. “It would have been a shame to lose a great artist like that. Never know when you might need him again.”

“Yes, M’Lord.” Piter replied, failing to point out that he was the one who had recommended the dungeon over the knife. Death had been the Baron’s first choice.

~*~*~*~*~

Arista groaned. The weight of the Throne felt extra heavy recently, the latest between Amasso and Dax wasn’t helping either.

She stood at a window with a document in her hand and observed the water sellers going by.

She actually envied them. Their one concern was selling water. She on the other hand had crisis after crisis to deal with. She read again the latest that had cropped up. A communiqué from Planet Kaitan had arrived to inform her that due to the attack on the Sardaukar Headquarters there was need to enhance the security of Kaitian. As such House Remus of Kaitian had responded by passing the Bio Terrorism Preparedness and Response Act, which had already been signed into law.

~*~*~*~*~

114

Duncan stood on one of the parapet walls. It was his favourite spot as it faced the setting sun.

Inevitability he ended up there when his mind was troubled. This evening he was distressed.

He had finally to face the fact that Amasso had relapsed. He had received the reports but had refused to accept the fact. After all that they had been through as a father he had not wanted to believe. Even when charges had been laid against Amasso, Duncan had held fast. He had been vindicated when Amasso had been acquitted. But not anymore, now there was no escaping that actuality. The unreasonable outburst had been the proof.

Years before when times were more tranquil he had had the luxury of being more father to his troubled teen than Master Swordsman/Commander in Chief to the Fedeykin.

He looked at the setting sun but never saw it as he relived the moment when he and Amasso had gone into the hills to face his demon and through the effort they had become closer.

EIGHT YEARS EARLIER

SAHARA MESA - ARAKKIS

Duncan had warned his sixteen-year-old son that he was about face the bowel of hell, the bottom of the pit as it were. That this was the end of the road. If he did not stop his alcohol consumption he’d become mentally ill or die a slow, painful death.

Amasso didn’t need to be told twice. Faced with his friend’s recent death from alcohol poisoning, he was ready to change. It had been the wake up call that he had required.

Duncan had not exaggerated the fact that the next two months would make or break Amasso.

He’d either walk out of the Mesa under his own steam or die with the effort. By the time Duncan got him up into the mountains and settled into a cave the battle was already raging.

Amasso had been drinking on and off for over six years and constantly for the last three. His dependence on the liquid was complete and without the crutch he was collapsing. He was in no condition to appreciate the result of three hundred and fifty million years of tireless erosion that had produced the dramatic rock formations of canyons, buttes and spires that towered at almost one thousand feet above desert level. He was barely aware of the world around him.

Amasso had entered what was called the stabilization period of recovery where he was detoxifying brought on by the abstinence. As painful as it was Duncan drove his son. “You need to eat Mas.”

He shook his head, licked his lips. “I need a drink, Dad!”

“Why?!” His heart went out to him. “Think Amasso focus why do you need that drink? Go past the need of your body. Why do you need that prop?”

The bead of sweat on his brow intensified. He swallowed hard. “I need it!”

“WHY, AMASSO?!”

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“BECAUSE!”

“NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” He roared then more gently “Not good enough, son. Now why do you need that drink?”

“I just do.” He sobbed. The crying turned into a wail “You prefer Dax!”

“If I did I wouldn’t be here. I am here for you son and I’m not leaving. When I do walk out you will march out with me. Come you need to eat.” And so it continued with Duncan holding up a mirror to Amasso’s soul and he having to face it.

+ + +

The day finally came that he was able to keep food down. He’d been vomiting everything that he had swallowed.

“There has to be a better way.” Amasso groaned.

“You think?” Duncan asked. “That was only the first hurdle.”

Amasso was sitting on the floor of the cave with his back against the wall. “Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m an alcoholic.” he confessed simply.

“Yes, you are.” Came his just as simple response.

“Thanks for bringing me here.”

“You are welcome. I love you, Mas, you are my son and I’d do it all again.” He assured the teen.

“I think I can do this.”

“I know you can.”

+ + +

Duncan returned from gathering firewood and knew something was wrong. Amasso was out cold on the cave floor.

He kneeled by his side “Mas?” He used the childhood nickname. “Mas!!!”

116

He groaned as the whiff of alcohol came though. Duncan groaned then checked his bag. “Damn it!!” He cursed. He’d brought rubbing alcohol as part of the first aid kit and Amasso had drunk it!

He held his son close and rocked him. “Oh, Mas!” He sighed “How bad you were I didn’t realize!”

They had to start all over again.

+ + +

Over the weeks the two had struggled with Amasso’s demons and he was finally human enough to be aware of the grandeur that surrounded them. This day the two were at Cathedral Rock.

“Makes you think doesn’t it.” Amasso said as he watched the works of God.

“About?”

“That there is life out there. That for every action there is a reaction that I must accept that from this time forward I can no longer drink... That sort of stuff.”

“Profound.”

“Well when faced with the handiwork of God.” He waived her hand outward at the desert. “That tends to happen.”

“I’m proud of you, Son.” His father praised him.

He smiled with embarrassment. “I realized what you have been saying is true. I heard you but it really hit home when I drank the rubbing alcohol. The consequences of my continued drinking will become more severe until I accepted that my drinking is not normal. After that episode I couldn’t hide anymore.”

“That’s my boy. Duncan put his arm around him and they sat still enjoying the simple pleasure of being together.

+ + +

The drying out was almost complete. Duncan had one more item on his agenda. As a true Swords Master he tackled it head on. “Come sit with me, Son.”

“Sure what’s up?”

“We’ll be leaving soon.” He informed Amasso.

“Already? We’re done?” he was shocked.

117

“It’s been almost two months and you’ll never be done.” He corrected.

“I know.” He sighed.

“What are your plans, Mas?” He asked.

The question took him by surprise. “Plans?”

“Yes.” He grinned. “Now that your be all and end all is no longer in a bottle you will be seventeen soon what are you going to do with the rest of your life?”

“Weeel.” He paused.

“Well?” He prompted.

“I once had a dream to join the Fedaykin, together with Dax.”

“The Military is a good idea I’m in it and I love it. You should pull that idea out of the cobwebs and seriously consider it.”

Amasso shrugged his shoulders.

“If you want I can get you into a program.” Duncan offered.

"No!" came the instant reply. "If I do this I do it as Amasso and not the son of anyone!"

"OK!" Duncan placed his hands up in surrender. "So be it!"

~*~*~*~*~

The boy had been as good as his word. He'd signed up and done all the training rising to the rank of Major on his own merit.

Then he'd met Shar'Leem and fallen in love. They had been like two peas in a pod. Inseparable.

Then Shar'Leem had been sent on a mission only to return in a body bag. Amasso had taken it badly and he'd returned to the bottle for comfort. Duncan suspected that had she lived Shar'Leem would have become a member of the family.

But she hadn’t and here they all were - back where they started.

What was a man to do? Should he take him up to dry out again? Amasso was no longer a child; he had to make his own decisions.

"DAMN IT!" Duncan said out loud. He had family concerns and affairs of state and both were all tugging at him, now this! He struggled with his need to be a good father and allow Amasso to 118

make his own decisions, but Amaso was an Atreides and the second heir. At this crucial time, allowing him the luxury of being an alcoholic just wasn't possible. Duncan needed to take action.

"Damn it." He repeated then turned to descend to his quarters.

119

hapter 27

C

To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order;

to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our heart.

Confucius

Dax had never really appreciated the privileges of being Royalty until now. It had always ‘just been a part’ of his life, until now. As plans progressed for the Convocation, he had the Natural History Museum of Pre Butleran Earth opened so that Alexi and himself could enjoy the exhibits in private.

Alexi was like a child in a candy store. The life of a Bene Gesserit was a stark one. For sure there were eventual benefits. She was well educated, multi-lingual, had the ability to control her body in a manner that many could not and her sexual prowess was matched only by fellow Sisters. The lessons that had been hammered into her had made her even more superior when complimented by her awakening with the water of life. Her indulgencies had been few and today she was given the run of a museum!!! She ooed and ahhed and dragged him from one pile of bones to another.

Dax had never seen this side of her. He didn’t even know that she had liked this kind of stuff.

They were now standing before a Pterodactyl "Can you imagine that thing taking to the air?" She was in awe.

"As long as I wasn't lunch." He grinned.

"You could very well have been." She replied with laughter in her voice. "Oh look a T-Rex!"

and off she went dragging him after her.

Then she spotted Giantgantasorous "Oh my God! Dax they’ve got it!"

"Got what?" he was lost.

"That!" And she pointed. "It was native to a place called Argentina and so far the largest dinosaur known to man." She began to rattle "The claw of a Velocirapter was a centimeter while the claw of Giantgantasorous was over a meter! And it was just as intelligent as man! When that thing swiped it left a cut off a meter and a half. It disemboweled its victims with one slash.

When it walked the planet shook. It was the terror of the neighborhood!"

"Alexi, breathe… breathe!" Dax begged teasingly.

120

She suddenly launched herself at him and hugged him "Oh thank you Dax this is great!" She released him just as suddenly.

"Uh-oh awkward moment..." Dax grinned. He stood close to her and whispered, "May I?"

Alexi really saw no need to reply verbally. She was on a platform that had her at eye level with him; all she needed to do was turn and grant their wish and she did. She kissed him. It felt like an electric charge was coursing through them.

The kiss finally broke leaving both breathless. "Alexi." He murmured.

All she was able to do was smile. Suddenly he looked sad. “Dax?” She prompted.

“Alexi.” He prepared to confess. “I’m having dreams.”

“Dreams? I don’t understand.”

He sat on the ledge of the display case of a large dinosaur skeleton and she stepped down and joined him. “Well… maybe not dreams – visions?”

“They are coming true?” She asked. He nodded. “Often?”

“Of late, yes.”

“But something has happened or you would not tell me this now.” She may be younger than him but she was shrewd.

He recited to her: WE ARE INVESTIGATING THE POSSIBILITY THAT HE MAY BE A KWISATZ HADERACH. GREAT MOTHER HELP US, FOR IF HE TAKES THE WATER

OF LIFE WE MAY HAVE A REOCCURRENCE OF THE ERA OF MAUD'DIB.

Alexi kept a straight face on and filed away the fact that she was correct in her assessment that he could be the Kwisatz Haderach. There were somethings she was not ready to share… not yet.

But this man of her’s bore close watching, of that she was now convinced more than ever.

“What scares you?” She carved straight to the point. “That your visions are coming true? That you may be a Kwisatz Haderach? That you may drink the water of life? What?”

“It’s not only the future. I see the past too.” He expanded.

Suddenly he got a blank look on his face as a waking dream came to him: THE DUKE

RICHA’ARD STOOD, “HIGHNESS, I AMEND MY RECOMMENDATION. INSTEAD OF

WEAPONS INSPECTORS I SUGGEST THAT THE INSPECTORS BE ALLOWED, TO

SEARCH FOR THINKING MACHINES.”

“Dax!” Alexi called him back. “Did you have a vision?”

121

All he could do was nod, bury his head in her lap and mumble, “We are in for trying times.”

~*~*~*~*~

It was pure twist of fate that had Al Samoud and Samir Harkonnen disembarking when Samir spotted his father heading for another shuttle that would take him to a Heighliner. Samir poked his brother and then pointed at his father.

Al Samoud grabbed his travel bag and headed after Vlad. “… get over and done with.” He explained.

Shrugging his shoulders in surrender Samir followed.

~*~*~*~*~

Dax had had enough revelations through dreams and visions to know that a significant number of them were accurate in what they revealed. He summoned Mick’N and Alexi.

“I need you to take Alexi away from the Palace.” He requested.

“Why.” The old Naib demanded.

“I don’t care for the why of it; I’m not going.” Alexi announced adamantly.

“You will go!” Dax ordered and glared at her. She stared angrily back at him but remained silent for the moment. He turned to Mick’N. “House Atreides is about to be assaulted. My mother and I may be the only ones who can stand against what is to come. I need Alexi far away from the center of conflict.”

The argument had the opposite effect.

“Then that is more reason to be at your side, My Lord.” Alexi surged gently. [ How can you ask me to leave you at a time like this my Love? ] She thought.

“She is right.” Mick’N agreed, “…you do not weaken your House just before an assault.”

Dax explained his position with patience. “It will be a domino effect my friend. If House Atreides is to fall Arakkis will soon follow. The Sietchs are to be prepared and protected. You are Naib – go protect your Sietch. Arista is head of House Atreides she will take care of hers.”

He turned to Alexi. “Before my Naib, I tell you that I love you, Alexi. Go with Mick’N do not weaken me now. If you are here I cannot do what must be done for my mother or my House.”

When the argument was couched in such a manner neither could object.

~*~*~*~*~

122

Vlad may have been elated to see his sons but he was not about to relay that emotion. He raged and demanded an explanation as to their belated appearance and they lack of reporting on Amasso. “… and you appear in time to attend a Convocation of the Landsraad?! Explain yourselves!”

The two exchanged looks; this was not going to be easy. Al Samoud fidgeted and gave a weak smile.

In an effort to steer his father’s wrath, Samir posed a question, “Any word from Thalmas?”

“The action at Mojave Electric was a unmitigated disaster. Still a third of the Planet was plunged into darkness through no effort of his. We remain on schedule for the next step. Unlike you!”

Vlad replied. “I require a reason not to exile you both or even execute you. SPEAK UP!”

123

hapter 28

C

As for the unbelievers, their works are like a mirage in a desert.

The thirsty traveler thinks it is water, but when he comes near he finds that it is nothing.

He finds Allah there, who pays him back in full. Swift is Allah's reckoning.

24:36 Qu’ran

Arista had convened a meeting of the chief elements of CHOAM: The Combine Honnete Ober Advancer Mercantiles. Controlled by the Empress and Great Houses, with the Spacing Guild and the Bene Gesserit as silent partners. CHOAM as the development corporation was set along the lines of Ancient Chambers of Commerce, and had as its mandate the improvement the fortunes of the Houses both figuratively and literally, of its members.

Today they were all in attendance. She had had enough of the petty plays of the various factions and she was about to exert the force of the Throne upon matters. She really was not in a mood for negotiations or even the suggestion of one. She would eat this delegation, hoof, hide and all if she had too.

"Members this meeting is not convened for your approval. I am here to insist that the SOLIS be enforced." She launched. "Two years ago CHOAM hammered out and presented to me the

'Safety of Life in Space Protocols' and NOT ONE HAS BEEN IMPLEMENTED!"

The members around the table remained silent.

"Now here we are. Faced with terrorist activities that clearly could have been avoided had they been enacted as agreed." She looked at each member. "Well enough. With immediate effect I expect members to commence implementation of the protocols to be in place. In particular..."

She read the protocols from the PDA.

"That the automatic identification system be fitted to all ships both passenger and cargo.

That the ID Numbers be permanently marked on the hull and be highly visible.

That the Master/Captain of the vessel be allowed to execute their professional judgment in the areas of security and that the owner is not to intervene.

That all vessels should have security alert systems for ship to shore contact.

That there be increased restriction to Port areas, with the attendant enforcement of ID tags to persons and to vehicles.

That there be confirmation of the security level at which the ship operated in any previous port where it has conducted relevant ship/port interface."

She slammed the PDA on to the table making some members jump. "Questions?"

"Sire." The Landsraad Representative said, "This will take time. We will require a multi-disciplinary task force. There will be Financial Implications."

124

"You have six months." She replied stone faced.

The Guild Navigation blanched. "That is impossible! We could never meet that deadline."

"You will or I will cut spice production in half." She advised.

"NO! The Spice MUST flow!" The Navigator beseeched.

"Be reasonable, Highness." Reverend Mother Mo'Hadin resident Ambassador to the Court asked.

"Reasonable?" Arista echoed in the same calm tone as the Reverend Mother. "The death toll from the twin attacks is three-quarter million and rising. The protocols will be enforced or the supply of the spice will be stopped." She had upped the stakes, and then stood to leave. "Six months people." She left a stunned CHOAM.

"Six months!" The Landsraad Liaison wailed. "It cannot be done!"

"It can be done in four." The CHOAM President, Nemac spoke for the first time. She looked at the Navigator "And well you know it."

"Indeed I do." He conceded. "But one must always negotiate."

"So you will try to act in accordance with the directive?" The Landsraad representative asked.

"No, we will not try." Mo'Hadin said, "We WILL conform."

"For the Spice must flow." The Navigation ended.

"Why do I feel like saying 'Amen' when he says that?" Nemac asked no one in particular.

"We must report to our people." Mo'Hadin said. "There is much to do." With that observation they disbanded.

A messenger intercepted the Chair of CHOAM; the Empress had summoned her to a private meeting. NOW.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The Reverend Mother Zelron had been reassigned to the Exodus. So much for a fifty-year projection, the only place at Chapter House that had the potential to accommodate ten million plus or minus sisters was the southern pole.

And so as the Ships headed off Caladan the Bene Gesserit prepared the cold barren wasteland to receive their own.

125

~*~*~*~*~*~

The Lady Alexi was grumpy and had been for the past two weeks. Dax was, ‘Maud'Dib knew where’ with an Inspection Team. Of late they were living under less than ideal circumstances and she missed him. Added to which she really saw no reason why she could not return to Arakkis City – she was the Cabinet Secretary after all. She supposed that it could have been worse - that is until she looked up and saw Bastagen, the Water Accountant and Sietch Gossip, heading her way. She hid the sigh.

“Good evening, M'Lady.” She was chipper.

“Evening.” She grumbled she had no idea what was good about it. She understood why he was away but she still missed Dax.

“Excuse me, M'Lady, but I’m having trouble with my computer and I need to tabulate the water rings. Could you assist?” She asked sweetly.

Alexi grimaced. “I’m no tech.”

“I realize that, M'Lady, but it’s late and I need to finish the work.” She said.

So she conceded, “OK!” anything for peace. Alexi followed her to her quarters, clicked a couple buttons and solved the problem. As she was walking away, Bastagen called after Alexi, "So, what was wrong?"

She replied, "It was an "ID ten T" error."

A puzzled expression ran over Bastagen's face. "An "ID ten T" error? What's that? … In case I need to fix it again?"

She gave her a grin... "Haven't you ever heard of an "ID ten T" error before Bastagen?"

"No, M'Lady," she assured Alexi.

"Write it down," she said, "and I think you'll figure it out."

Bastagen wrote... I D 1 0 T and produced a weak smile as she read it. “Funny.” She growled softly.

Alexi returned to her quarters. Well, maybe life wasn’t that bad after all.

~*~*~*~*~*~

It was a morning like any other. Not the way of the ancestors but a day like any other and folks were in the fish market haggling over prices and the weight being claimed on the catch.

126

Then the morning got dark.

People stopped what they were doing. Some tried to remember if there was an eclipse scheduled.

Not really sure some headed out for a better look and froze.

At first it looked like an approaching swarm of locusts. As they got closer it was evident that this was no insect invasion. An invasion yes but not by anything in nature. One by one the aircrafts landed and with similar precision they lifted up loaded.

Loaded with Bene Gesserit. The Bene Gesserit had arrived on Caladan to collect their own.

It was not long before the collective shock of what was happening wore off and bedlam broke loose in the street followed closely by the military, but it was proving to be an exercise in futility.

The Bene Gesserit apparently had taken the decision to leave and that that was that.

There was an explosion as some one threw a makeshift bomb at the soldiers. Still the Bene Gesserit loaded wave after wave. Everywhere across the planet the scene was the same. Riots as the Buddislamics fought the Tleilaxu and the Bene Gesserit loaded their people.

In the midst of it all some could only wonder at the blatant violation of the Empress’s edict.

~*~*~*~*~*~

The President of CHOAM reported to Arista as ordered.

Nemac was a charismatic and knowledgeable leader that had made the members of CHOAM

even wealthier - if such a thing were possible. The two women had known each other from childhood and the rare business meeting was more class reunion than Commercial Summit. Not this day. There were shifts in the economic sector to be considered.

They were here to discuss the latest announcement on the Bio Terrorism Preparedness and Response Act.

"Arista, this act is a serious threat to the member’s exports due to the fact that Kaitain is one of the major export markets." The CHOAM President produced the opening salvo. "Under the act, agriculture and food-related companies who want to export their goods to the Kaitain must register themselves to Kaitain Chamber of Agriculture... the COA. After registering, the exporters are also obliged to give prior notice to the COA over the arrival of their goods, otherwise the products will not be allowed to enter the Planet exporters will bear the cost of storage or re-export."

Arista replied, "I understand that The COA itself has estimated that the twenty six percent of manufacturers exporting seven or fewer line entries to the Kaitain, would stop exporting rather than incur the expense of registering, hiring an agent, and providing prior notice...”

127

"... and that is not the half of it!" Nemac produced the icing for the cake "Do you KNOW what the transportation costs are with the Spacing Guild? If an item is denied entrance into Kaitain that cost is now doubled if one is to re-export. We have not even factored the cost if the whole consignment is lost due to the produce rotting!"

Arista took a deep breath. "Suggestions Nemac."

"You are the Empress! Overturn the order."

Arista snorted. "You are the President of CHOAM. Kaitain is a member of CHOAM..."

Nemac grimaced.

A thought occurred suddenly "Tell me, has Kaitian formally notified CHOAM about the new ruling?"

"Not yet."

"Is there not a protocol to be followed here?"

"They are to inform CHOAM, and within three months then we would decide whether... the...

Bio-Terrorism... Act... complies... with... CHOAM... laws." With every word she uttered Arista's idea germinated in Nemac's mind. She grinned at her friend.

"Now you know why you are President and I am Empress." Arista teased. "I suggest that you ensure that Kaitian submits."

"Indeed. Indeed." Her friend agreed.

128

hapter 29

C

“Believe nothing. No matter where you read it,

Or who said it,

Even if I have said it,

Unless it agrees with your own reason

And your own common sense.”

Buddha, The Dhammapada

Dax stood before the full-length mirror and adjusted the collar to his uniform. Like his twin he was a Major and like his twin there was nothing honourary about it. He was Fremen, son of a Sword Master and an Empress – that alone meant that he had had the best of training.

There was a knock and Ammaso entered.

Dax turned from the reflection in the mirror to the reflection in the room. They really did look alike and had had enough good times fooling all as to who was whom.

Dax took one last look into the mirror as Amasso spoke. “One way or another this is going to be an historic day.”

Not bothering to turn to look his way, Dax replied “And then some.”

“Know something I don’t little brother?” He probed.

This time Dax returned his twin’s gaze. “House Atreides will stand or fall this day.”

Amasso studied Dax. “You know something.”

“I know what can be. I don’t know what will be.”

“And there in lies the difference.” Amasso conceded.

“And there in lies the difference.” Dax echoed. “Time to go.”

Amasso hesitated.

“Mas?” Dax called. “Something wrong?’

“Shar’Lem, liked to see me in my dress uniform.”

Dax got sober too, he had liked the woman, he had been good for his brother and now he was without her, Amasso seemed to have no direction. He stood mute. What could one say?

129

“I miss her, Dax.” Amasso whispered.

“I know. I know.” He really did, for he missed her too. Oppressed by the feeling of loss the two brothers walked out the door.

~*~*~*~*~

It was the rare occasion that brought every member of the Landsraad to a meeting. Dependant upon the agenda a percentage of the membership was the norm. Not this day - they all were all there, the Major Houses, the Minor Houses and the Houses awaiting admittance and thus only conferred with observer stauts. Also in attendance were: The Bene Gesserit, The Bene Tleilaxu, The Spacing Guild, The Supreme Sword Master of Ecaz and many others, this afterall promised to be a historic meeting.

It had not taken long for the convening of the Landsraad to disintegrate into near chaos.

Emotions were running high.

Arista with her Royal Cabinet, less Mick’N and Alexi sat on the elevated stage. As her heir, Dax was the closest to her and by projection; the two were maintaining vocal contact even as speaker after speaker took to the floor and condemned the twin acts of terrorism.

The Telauxu informed them that Urban Warfare had increased and accused the Bene Gesserit Exodus for the groundswell.

House Richa’ard demanded the creation of a weapons inspection team to examine every transport in the Empire.

The Spacing Guild had but one concern: The Spice Must Flow.

So far the gathering had gone through the motions. Speaker after speaker said basically the same thing; Arista could have conducted the meeting in her sleep.

Then the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen stood to address the assembly.

“Mother…” Dax alerted her. “Here it comes.”

Vlad talked for his allocated sixty minutes and as it drew to an end he produced a report entitled Transplanetorial Threats From the Planet Arakkis: Crying Wolf or Crying Havoc? Under the leadership of House Atreides and slapped it down for dramatic effect. “Within this report, Highness with all due respect, there are allegations that House Atreides was involved if not responsible for the acts of terror and that it was done with thinking machines!”

The hall went instantly silent. THINKING MACHINES! Delegates reached eagerly for their copy of the report as Aides distributed them. Thinking Machines had enslaved the human race under animalistic conditions. They were unfeeling, uncaring collection of circuits that had nearly eradicated the species. Every one knew that if it were not for the Butlerian Jihad named for 130

Serina Bulter the human race would have ceased to exit millennia ago. And now House Atreides was breaking cardinal rule number one!!!! Thou Shall Make / Own No Self Aware Machine.

The Duke Richa’ard again stood. “Highness I amend my recommendation. Instead of weapons inspectors I suggest that the inspectors be allowed on Dune, to search for thinking machines.” He stopped short of suggesting the Inspectors start with the Atreides holdings.

“House Atreides is not harbouring Thinking Machines.” The Empress stated.

“This is a new day.” Rammen Corrino took to the floor. “… and you saying so is not good enough... Highness.”

“You forget yourself.” Dax warned.

The room was on borderline hysteria.

Two roads had opened up before House Atreides. The first; allow the inspectors and weaken the Throne or second resist and lose the Throne. Dax was communicating rapidly with his mother.

They had discussed this before. The choice however was hers alone.

Dax was not the only one advising The Empress. Like all Reverend Mothers she too had access to the inner voices and today they were out in full force. Out of the bedlam one came out loud and clear. [ What have you got to loose? ] It was the voice of the old Baron. Arista had always suspected that he lurked in all of them after the experience of Alia.

She stiffened her back. “I will allow the inspectors under the guidance of the NaEmperor… but understand this - any dishonorable action will answer to me.” With that threat she left the throne room. She had heard and seen enough, she needed air. Let Dax feel some of the weight of this Empire, she had other work to do.

As she swept by she called “Amasso – walk with me.” He fell into step with his mother. “Can you stay sober long enough to prove the Baron’s report a forgery?”

He couldn’t stop himself “Not Dax? The NaEmperor?”

She stopped and so did he. She just stared at him. He eventually crumbled. It was amazing how Arista’s lack of the use of the voice could be just as effective as if she had used it. “Consider it done.” He said.

As she walked away he heard her say, “I never had a doubt.”

House Atreides would not fall this day.

~*~*~*~*~

131

Naib N’Gai as had many others had received the news that the Fremen were to move into deep desert. There were storms approaching and even if House Atreides was to deflect the storm one could not stop one. He gave the order to move out.

The most difficult of the members to move was the usual one. Tho’Ma Kynes. In a similar obsession to his work like his ancestors Pardot and then Liet Kynes, Tho’Ma did not want to leave. He didn’t understand the need to.

It took much begging, pleading, beseeching, imploring, entreating and a threat imbedded in ultimatum but what finally moved the scientist was the promise that they would move him to an Ancient Imperial Observatory Station set up in the days of Shaddam IV, where he could be alone to do his work. Even after all these eons the stations were still functional.

~*~*~*~*~

The Hazard Inspectors as Dax called them would not be ready for a few days. Hazard Inspectors was really easier to say than “The Landsraad Inspection Team for Thinking Machines on Arakkis” Yes, Hazard Inspectors would do just fine.

With time on his hands he went to visit Alexi.

On his arrival he made inquiries as to where she was, Bastagen seemed to know the movements of all that occupied the Sietch. Today was no different. Alexi had gone cave exploring. So that's where he headed.

He pulled the transport up to the entrance of the cave and got out. He entered but a quick search revealed that it was empty. He paused for a moment to contemplate his next move. Down a path that led deeper into the cave a light caught his eye. He followed it.

Alexi heard the rustling as someone approached. They were making no attempt to hide their approach. She braced for defense watched, waited and then stared as Dax rounded the corner.

“Dax?” She had not expected him.

"I had some time before the inspections started." He explained.

She snorted. "I saw that farce on the AVU. Thinking Machines indeed."

He changed the topic. “I didn't come here to talk about Imperial matters."

“You didn't?”

“I didn't.” He assured her.

She smiled. "Isn't this place just so beautiful? I've been trying to occupy myself by learning the ways and places of your people.”

132

“I’ve seen more beauty than this.” He said.

“Where!” She disputed.

“I’m looking at her.”

She looked at him to see if he was teasing her. He was not. He pulled her towards him and laid her down. He initiated a deep kiss and his hands began roaming freely over her body. Suddenly he stopped.

“What?” Alexi asked, confused.

“Any time you want me to stop just say so.” He announced.

“Dax. If you stop I guarantee you that I will inflict grievous bodily harm.” His reply was to kiss her again. She ran her fingers through his thick hair. The kiss began to lead to more as Dax began to gently caress her body and explore her form, she giggled and broke the kiss. "You're ticklish!" He chortled in delight.

He was just so happy being with her.

"Mmmm" she replied as she too continued to explore his body. With each caress, whisper and kiss Alexi felt her soul sing.

She was torturing him with pleasure and eventually like all victims of torment Dax broke and he begged for mercy. She had pity on him. Dax’s intension had been to gently make love to her, but he had miscalculated her skills as well as his need for her or her need for him.

Alexi lay outstretched and happy. She glanced down at her mate who had sprawled out with his head in her lap. "Comfortable, Sir?" She smiled.

He just grinned his contentment and replied with only an "Mmmm".

“Mmmm?” She moved a shapely leg and his head bobbed up in response. “Mmmm?”

“I’m the strong and silent type.” He turned and crawled over her.

“Hey!”

With her under him Dax leaned in and nibbled at Alexi's ear he then graduated from her ear to her jaw line and finally found her lips. He had planned butterfly kisses all the way, but when he got to her mouth she changed the mood and deepened the kiss and what began, as a brief kiss became a language of its own.

133

hapter 30

C

Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heav’n.

Milton

Not satisfied that six weeks of searching the Desert Planet had revealed not one Thinking Machine the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen and the Prince Rammen Corrino continued to push the Landsraad into an increasingly hard line on the Thinking Machine issue.

The Harkonnens accused the Atreides of not complying. While House Atreides countered that the Harkonnen Observer on the team was not making life easy for anyone as he repeatedly trampled on people's rights who he considered were are not complying. Rammen Corrino insisted that the observer was within his rights when the obstructions were deliberate.

The inspectors suggested that there was nothing to be found; yet the team of Harkonnen and Corrino stood firm in the face of no proof. Increasingly House Atreides found itself on the defensive. The Inspector’s begged for more time, instead the two Houses got a resolution pushed through by the two Great Houses.

Landsraad resolution 1441 on Thinking Machines

The 20th Day of Lud, in the year 39,177

The Landsraad,

Recalling all its previous relevant resolutions,

Recognizing the threat Arakkis's noncompliance with Landsraad resolutions on Thinking Machines poses,

Recalling its resolution to uphold the premise of the Butleran Jihad regarding Thinking Machines,

Deploring the fact that Arakkis has not provided an accurate, full, final, and complete disclosure, as required, of all aspects of its programmes to develop Thinking Machines, and of all holdings of such Machines, their components and production facilities and locations, as well as all other Thinking Machine programmes,

Deploring further that Arakkis repeatedly obstructed immediate,

unconditional, and unrestricted access to sites designated by the Landsraad Inspectors,

134

Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the Landsraad,

1. Decides that Arakkis has been and remains in material breach of its obligations under relevant resolutions,

2. Decides, while acknowledging paragraph 1 above, to afford Arakkis, by this resolution, a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations regarding Thinking Machines,

3. Recalls, in that context, that the Landsraad has repeatedly warned Arakkis that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations;

4. Decides to remain resolute on the matter.

~*~*~*~*~

As soon as they arrived in the City, Dax headed for his mother's offices. So far they had found nothing. He was being accused of being obstructionist but he assured the Empress that this was not so.

The Inspectors needed time to assemble their report. He had already given his and so he headed for the Sietch to visit Alexi. Arista gave him the new coordinates as Mick'N had moved them again.

He arrived at the Sietch and was faced with a wedding reception in full swing. There was a massive stage were there was a live band and the hundreds of tables and chairs had been swept aside for the dance floor. It looked as if every Fremen on the Planet was on the floor.

The song finished and without a pause or missing a beat the next song started.

The popular song pumped out and the infections beat gripped the crowd. In one voice the dancers threatened to start a rock slide. “La La La La Le La La Lal La.” The lyric was easy enough to remember as unconsciously Dax began taping his foot.

Dax’s pulse rate had adjusted to match the animated drumbeat. A female Fremen grabbed his hand and commanded, “Dance with me!”

Already under the spell of the beat, the lead singer had the dancers gyrating. Dax followed her.

They twirled round and where Dax led she followed. He was a good dancer and they got lost in the rhythm.

The singer had a powerful voice and belted out verse one.

135

This is a simple calypso

The words doh rhyme but sing it so

All you really have to know

Sing de chorus as you go

Good Lord!

Just start to jam you feet

An you must get de swing just remember to sing

Again in one voice the assembly sang the chorus and the lead singer had a commentary for every line. “That’s right! - Stamp you feet - Jam de ting - You looking good you looking nice - Come again – Hey! - I like dat I like dat - Leh we go - Hey! - You know what to do now? - Listen to this.”

The singer began issuing instructions and as obedient slaves to the beat they all followed. She called Alexi’s name and Dax scanned the crowd and located her with Amasso's friend Savan. He moved to intercept.

He tapped Savan. “Switch?” The young man moved aside and Dax took his place. Alexi turned and came face to face with her mate.

He enveloped her in a bear hug and began to move to the frenetic beat. The singer cranked up the beat. Alexi hugged Dax back and followed every twirl that he executed.

The ritual unfolded and the chorus rang out the chorus.

They sang it again and again and finally Dax guided her off the floor and out the door. In the relatively cooler atmosphere he directed her toward a boulder. She leaned against it breathing heavily. They hadn’t really spoken since they’d began the dance. He leaned toward her and kissed her deeply, a kiss she returned in full.

“Hey.” He said finally.

"Hey" She replied.

"Who got married?" He asked.

"Ta'Mal." She replied.

His eyebrows flew up. "Really? I never thought he’d marry."

She nodded.

"Want to get away from here?"

Again she nodded.

136

~*~*~*~*~

CONFIDENTIAL MEMO

FROM: PRINCE RAMMEN

TO: XAVIER MEHDA'IN – MENTAT

MESSAGE:

COMMENCE CLANDESTINE TRANSPORT OF FIRST SARDAUKAR ARMY.

HEAD

HOUSE CORRINO

~*~*~*~*~

Amasso approached the assignment handed to him by his mother. It may seem obvious but Amasso decided that he’d try the obvious. After all Shar’Lem had always advocated that there was only one way to solve a problem and that was with logic. The Baron Harkonnen of Giedi Prime had presented the report and so that was to be his first stop. He booked a Heighliner for the grim planet.

~*~*~*~*~

Lying in their bed Dax exposed what lay unspoken between them. “The wedding has you wondering, doesn’t it?”

Alexi felt her heart stop.

He continued. “Marriage is a political tool. It is a lever by which one consolidates power.”

“I…” She coughed to find her voice and tried again. “I know.”

“My father is considered Consort in all ways except legally.” He expanded. “That leaves my mother free to make a political concord if needed.”

“I understand the concept.” She assured him.

He lifted himself above her so as to look her in the eye. “So it will be with us. Atreides mate with one person for life. You are bonded to me and me to you. No political treaty will change that. You will be the mother of my children and the one in my bed. She will have only my name.” He chuckled “… even that will not be solely hers for already you are referred to as the Lady Alexi Atreides.”

137

“I knew the conditions for this relationship. I love you and my loyalty to House Atreides is unbending.” She assured. “Let not your heart be troubled, my love. I’d rather spend one life time with you than all eternity alone.”

He hugged her close. “I love you.” He declared before they made love again.

~*~*~*~*~

The Imperium was about to split at the seams; everyone could feel it and the Tleilaxu attempted to profit from a distracted Empress by cracking down on the people of Calanda.

Witnessing their abandonment by the Bene Gesserit a desperate population shifted into a

‘nothing to lose’ position and with no apparent leadership they began a revolt.

The Exodus of the Bene Gesserit continued as they cut down any Tleilaxu who stood in their way.

~*~*~*~*~

True to their word the Fremen had left Kynes to his own devices. They were used to the antics of the Planetologists and every one that gone before. They left food and water at the door and that was the extent of the contact.

It was late but Kynes was still pouring over samples and experiments, when he heard the howl.

It was not the sound of the desert and the scientist in him compelled him to investigate.

The second indication that something was wrong was the smell; it came through the nosepiece he was wearing. Something was not right. He followed the smell. The closer he got to the source the worse it became. He gagged but forged on, he finally threw up the contents of his stomach, but remembering the story of the student Mo'Hal and his sister he continued on.

Suddenly there it was a Giant Sand Worm, and it was dead. The wail he heard must have been the worm in its dying throes.

He said a silent prayer. “Bless the Maker and his water... Bless the coming and going of him.

May his passage cleanse the world.”

Then he moved in closer to conduct an analysis. The quicker, the better, or the stench would surely kill him. He was bursting with questions.

What had caused this?

It was confirmed worms were not only sick, but also dying!

Who had ever heard of a sick worm? This was unheard of!

The skin looked diseased as it oozed a thick foul liquid. The pus was what stank so badly.

138

On the verge of collapse from the vile odor Kynes crawled away. He then hurried back to collect his tools and sample vials, and to switch his present still suit mask with one equipped with a filter.

139

hapter 31

C

It is always disagreeable

when a person we consider our inferior likes or loathes the same things we do, thereby becoming our equal.

Maxim Gorky - Harkonnen Dramatist

Valcyn curled up before his AVU. He was a hermit not a masochist - there was no reason for him not to have all the comforts of home.

The spokesperson for House Harkonnen was making a statement on behalf of two Great Houses: Harkonnen and Corrino. "The new Interplanetary Court of Justice should not expect any cooperation from Giedi Prime or Kaitian. The Houses have declared non-compliance and non-extradition. The prosecutors of the ICJ will not be given any information from the Governing Great Houses to help them bring cases against any of its citizens."

"Well there you go." Valcyn muttered. “Harkonnen mentality, why cooperate when conflict is such fun?” He sipped his spiced coffee.

"If the prosecutor of the ICJ seeks to build a case against one of our citizens, then that prosecutor should build the case on his or her own effort and not be dependent or reliant upon Giedi Prime or Kaitian for information or cooperation."

There was more…

“Legal Counsel has indicated that we are not in contravention of any inter-planetary treaties that we are signatory too. This is a matter of National Security and in natural justice this takes precedence.”

Valcyn was fascinated by the power play.

“We have issued diplomatic letters to fellow Great Houses soliciting their cooperation for immunity from the ICJ.”

~*~*~*~*~

Dax and Arista were the only ones in the Chamber. Amasso was still on the mission for his mother and it had taken him off world. Mick’N was with Alexi and his father Duncan was prepping troops for the inevitable.

Arista switched off the AUV halfway through the statement from House Harkonnen and House Corrino on the ICJ. Then there was the infernal resolution 1441, which she threw down in 140

disgust. She was getting a glimpse of what was to be, the House had to fall to be built up. She looked at her son as he studied her.

“Was überhaupt ist, seien Sie” he said.

She agreed.

~*~*~*~*~

Dax had three days before the leader of the Hazard Inspectors Dr. X'Ilb was due to present his fourth quarterly report to the Landsraad. He did a quick calculation – half a day travel to the Sietch, two days with Alexi, and half a day travel back. That gave him one day to spare.

He eagerly headed for the Sietch.

+ + +

Dax found Alexi in the gymnasium.

He froze for a myriad of reasons. First: She was practically naked and bathed in sweat and sparring with a fighting droid - a glistening prismoid dervish of blinking lights and razor sharp swords spitting out at unexpected moments from unexpected sources, some real, some illusory.

Second: She was beautiful in her athleticism. He could watch all day as she brilliantly parried the droid's thrusts, countering its moves gracefully, expertly. But each time she did... The droid increased speed and maneuverability, with its weapons emerging at a faster tempo.

This was no game. A misstep could be fatal. His grew anxious and edgy as he knew what a wrong move could result in.

The third reason was just as disturbing for as he watched he experienced another genetic memory. [SEVERAL TIMES ALIA WAS DRIVEN BACK...OFF BALANCE... HER

DEFENSIVE MOVES BARELY KEEPING PACE WITH THE DROID'S ATTACK...UNTIL

SHE FINALLY COUNTERED WITH AND EXTRAORDINARY DISPLAY OF

ATHLETICISM AND FINESSE. SHE DODGED THE DROID'S TRUE WEAPONS,

SLIPPING THROUGH THE COUNTERFEITS TO TOUCH THE KILL TARGET.

THE DROID'S LIGHTS FLASH WILDLY...AND THEN DIMMED. IT THEN RETREATED

INTO PEACEFUL REPOSE. THAT'S WHEN; SHE BECAME AWARE OF PAUL,

STANDING IN THE DOORWAY STARING AT HER, HIS EXPRESSION STRAINED AND

TENSE.]

Alexi was concerned. “Dax?” she called. No response. She hardened her voice slightly to snap him out of his blank state. “Dax!”

He focused on her. “Alia! Do you know how dangerous that was?” Dax demanded.

141

“Alia?” She asked. “Who’s Alia?”

Dax gathered his scattered wits about him. In the mean time Alexi continued to heave from the exertion but managed to exclaim. “Twenty one lights! Twenty-one! The finest swordsmen in the Imperium have never gone against more than eleven.”

“Impressive.” He replied sarcastically. “Do you know how dangerous that was?”

“You said that already.” She replied. “Nice to see you too.”

Without warning he reached for her and enveloped her in a bear hug. “Do you know how dangerous that was?” he said for the third time.

She sighed and said, “Is that why you came? To tell me just how dangerous that was?”

“No.” he confessed.

Already in his embrace, she purred. “No?”

He began to relax. He bent his head and kissed her. “Better.” She said.

“Do you know how dangerous that was?” he said.

She growled in frustration and tried to disentangle herself. “I’m not some child, Dax!” He held on tight as she wiggled in his embrace attempting to free herself.

“Alia! Stop!” He said. “Alexi! I was teasing.” He was laughing and having trouble holding on.

“Alexi, I swear that last one was a joke!”

She stopped “Not funny.”

“I know. I know.”

“… and just who is Alia.” She insisted then paused. “St Alia of the Knife?”

He got sheepish. “Sorry about that.” Then tried to cover. “But look so much like an Atreides.”

He kissed her on he forehead. “Sometimes I get mixed up.” He kissed her eyes. “I do.” He said and then kissed her on the lips.

He was up to something, she knew that, but the kiss was distracting her. She slipped her arms around his neck and responded to her mate.

+ + +

142

Refreshed physically and emotionally Dax returned to Arakkis City just in time for the Convocation of the Landsraad

Events were occurring at a rapid pace and he didn’t have the luxury of dwelling on the implications of visions and memories. The latest one had been intense so much so that he had confused the name of Alexi with Alia. He didn’t know if this was good or bad and he didn’t have the time to find out.

~*~*~*~*~

Convocation of the Landsraad

The 15th Day of Lud, in the year 39,178

EXTRACT FROM

Oral introduction of the fourth report of “The Landsraad Inspection Team for Thinking Machines on Arakkis”

Executive Chairman Dr. Sans X'Ilb

Mr. President,

For two months, the team has been coming to the Landsraad presenting updates on the inspection. They have described our many preparations for the inspections on Arakkis. The report was finalized two days ago. Today’s statement will supplement the circulated report on these points to bring the Landsraad up-to-date.

Arakkis, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed Machines programs.

Only a few new such documents have come to light so far and been handed over since we began inspections. When proscribed items are deemed unaccounted for it is above all credible accounts that is needed – or the proscribed items, if they exist.

Members of the Landsraad may relate most of what I have said to resolution 1441 (39,177), but The Machine Team is performing work under several resolutions of the Landsraad.

Let me conclude by telling you that The Machine Team is currently drafting the supplementary work programme, which we are required to submit this month. It will obviously contain our proposed list of key remaining inspection 143

tasks; it will describe the reinforced system of ongoing monitoring and verification that the Landsraad has asked us to implement; it will also describe the various subsystems, which constitute the programme, e.g. for aerial surveillance, for information from governments and suppliers, for sampling, for the checking of road traffic, etc.

Bearing in mind the Arrakeen mindset of being wary of off worlders - How much time would it take to resolve the key remaining tasks? While cooperation can and is to be immediate, dismemberment and at any rate the verification of it cannot be instant. Even with a proactive Arakkis attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it would still take some time to verify sites and items, analyse documents, interview relevant persons, and draw conclusions. It would not take years, nor weeks, but months. Neither governments nor inspectors would want dismemberment inspection to go on forever. However, it must be remembered that in accordance with the governing resolutions, a sustained inspection and monitoring system is to remain in place after verified dismemberment to give confidence and to strike an alarm, if signs were seen of the revival of any proscribed Thinking Machine programmes.

It should be noted by the Landsraad that after one year of inspections that no evidence of the manufacturing of Thinking Machines have been found, and that if they are to be uncovered the work program will indicate the time lines recommended.

Thank you

~*~*~*~*~

With another two months of searching the Desert Planet still not revealing a Thinking Machine the Baron Harkonnen and the Prince Rammen Corrino were in no mood to hear the leader of the team ask for more time or even hint at there being nothing to find.

The whole endeavour was proving prohibitive to House Harkonnen and Corrino, with their agitators continually demanding increased payments. They were however seeing successes for with the mood of the Empire decidedly against the making of Thinking Machines, they were able to declare that they would no longer wait upon the Landsraad while House Atreides did as it pleased.

Rammen Corrino announced the build up of his military along the space borders of Arakkis and took the opportunity to unveil the new Sardaukar.

144

~*~*~*~*~

The Viscount Smyrna was the head of a minor house and the request from House Harkonnen for immunity from the ICJ was causing him sleepless nights.

A decision had to be made. He knew what that decision needed to be, but did he dare make it?

He sent for his Mentat.

"Sire." The Mentat reported in.

"Chaz, You are aware of the 'request' of House Harkonnen and House Corrino regarding the ICJ?"

"I am, Sire."

"Compute and project for me the outcome if one - House Smyrna agrees or if two House Smyrna disagrees."

The Mentat moved away slightly and chanted the hymn to induce computation. "It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed - The lips acquire stains - The stains become a warning - It is by will alone I set my mind in motion." After that he fell silent with the effort of the concentration.

~*~*~*~*~

Statement from the Landsraad Commission on Humanitarism

"The Landsraad Commission has taken note that the Tleilaxu Marriage Separatist Act is about to be enforced and that it establishes a discriminatory regime to the detriment of Budislamics in the highly sensitive area of family rights," The Landsraad special representative read.

"The Commission will examine the compatibility of this legislation with regard to interplanetary law and basic standards of human rights."

145

hapter 32

C

Good artists copy, great artists steal

Pablo Picasso

Life went on and as her world crumbled around her, Arista continued with her duties.

She wiped the tears from her eyes struggled to regain some decorum or Royal control, even managed for a moment to breath normally UNTIL she read the invitation again and lost complete control AGAIN.

It read…

Tula Belch, a missionary from Planet Rhianon, will be speaking tonight at Monticello Sietch.

Come hear Tula Belch all the way from Rhianon.

It least things were not so bleak that she had lost her sense of humour.

~*~*~*~*~

It had taken time, but finally – finally Amasso had tracked down the author of the Report. Last seen entering Palace Harkonnen, he hadn’t been seen again. Rumors abounded, however that he was enjoying the ‘hospitality’ of the Baron’s dungeons.

Now Amasso stood at the Paxtang Grave Yard, looking at the tombstone of the known forger.

He didn’t know what disgusted him more the waste of the time, the fact that the man was dead or that he had failed to get any closer to proving the fraud.

It had been difficult tracing the man without being caught himself. With the forger dead the quiet, frightened faces who had talked before would all snap shut now. Frustrated he left and headed for the nearest spaceport. He’d return home, regroup and start again.

~*~*~*~*~

Dr. Thalmas Sanchez emerged from the Command and Control room and ran into Amasso who had just returned – not a soul knew the Atreides was back. Thalmas was surprised to see him in fact he seemed uncomfortable.

Amasso’s senses sharpened from months of sobriety picked up on the man’s discomfort. But his guard remained down this was the Doctor to the Empress he had top security clearance – there was no danger. “Thalmas, what’s wrong?”

146

“Wrong?” The older man squeaked and began to sweat.

The younger spotted the bead of moisture and then realized where the other had emerged.

Seeing the pieces of the puzzle fall into place for Amasso, Thalmas suddenly pulled out a hand weapon.

The para-bindu reflexes kicked in and Amasso dodged the shot. Thalmas held the trigger down and just kept shooting. The inevitable finally happened and he shot the Atreides. He stepped over the body and said “Sorry, you’re Bene Gesserit trained – I can’t afford for you to use the Voice on me.”

He could hear running footsteps as the encounter brought security to the spot. They would soon find Amasso’s lifeless body and the others in C and C. Having wasted time with the encounter, Sanchez’s window of opportunity was getting too narrow for comfort. He set off running as the explosive devise he’d set detonated.

~*~*~*~*~

A ripple of energy woke Dax. As he contemplated the emptiness that he suddenly felt; the explosion threw him from his bed, and the warning that the house shields were down sent him running. His route to his mother’s private chambers took him past C and C; there he came across the body of his Twin.

The emptiness now explained Dax knelt to hug the corpse. The moment the two hearts touched the vision of what happened coursed through his psyche like an electric bolt.

Reaching for Amasso’s communicator Dax barked, “All stations this Lord Dax – you are to stop Dr. Thalmas Sanchez at all costs, if he resists shoot to kill. He is not to leave the Palace or the planet!”

He gently laid his brother down, kissed his brow, took one last look and set off running heading for his original destination.

~*~*~*~*~

The Fedaykin heard the command and needed no second urging. “STOP! Dr. Sanchez or I will shoot!” The officer called.

Thalmas stopped in his tracks and put his hands up in surrender. He turned and said, “Tell your masters to address me by my proper name – that of Lord Thalmas Harkonnen.” He bit on the cyanide tooth and collapsed dead.

~*~*~*~*~

Dax entered his mother’s chambers at a dead run. “Amasso is dead! The bastard killed my brother!” he skidded to a halt.

147

“You are sure, Fedaykin?” Duncan said ignoring Dax for the moment.

Arista had been standing next to Duncan listening to the one sided conversation. Upon Dax’s unceremonious announcement her legs gave way and she sat abruptly on the near by bench.

Duncan turned to report to her. “Sanchez is dead. Announced that he was Harkonnen before he bit on the poison capsule.”

“He killed Amasso!” Dax pronounced.

Duncan’s demeanor hardened and he resolved that Arista would mourn her loss later. He shook her. “Arista! We need to get you out of here.” He looked at Dax. “Take what clothes you need here and get dressed we need to get your mother out of here.”

“But Amasso is off-planet!” She resisted.

Dax assured her. “I saw him myself, Mum... He's dead.” He watched her keenly. His heart broke. His twin was dead and he Dax was in a struggle to avoid the same fate.

Duncan wavered then rallied. “ARISTA!!! We need to get you out of here!” He ordered his Empress. “Dax! Did I not tell you to get dressed?! The shields are down – now MOVE!”

~*~*~*~*~

A Sardaukar Colonel reported, “General, The Palace shields are down.”

Rammen heard. “Deploy you troops, General. Take back that planet and give me back my throne.”

The General nodded and the invasion by one million Sardaukar began.

~*~*~*~*~

Duncan went in search of the body of his son while he still had the time. He took a long lingering look then incinerated the body with his weapon. “Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, sand to sand and water to water return in peace.” Duncan chanted and added “Rest assured that though you can get not ceremony now, no Harkonnen will have you.”

On that note Duncan went in search of battle and revenge.

~*~*~*~*~

Chaz, the Mentat to House Smyrna emerged from his contemplation. "Sire."

"Your conclusions."

148

"Nothing less than House Smyrna's access to the spice is at stake. House Harkonnen is the means by which we procure the product. Compared to other markets our purchases are small, yet vital to us, as such we procure through the Harkonnens. Support the request and the market is secured.

Deny the request and access to the spice will be cut. Abstain and the result will be the same -

lack of spice. The planetary reserves available are for two million persons for one month.

Woefully inadequate if House Smyrna is to face a Melange Embargo." The Mentat fell silent.

Faced with the facts of the matter the Vicount knew what had to be done. House Smyrna would endorse the request.

~*~*~*~*~

The Bene Gesserit Mother Superior was in conference with the Upper Six - a collection of her closest advisors. They gathered when the Mother Superior needed to discuss matters of policy.

With the Mother Superior making the final decision after exhaustive debate.

Today there was only one agenda item: The request of Houses Harkonnen and Corrino for immunity from the ICJ. They had discussed the request till they got to the point of repetition...

"They will suspend support of the Bene Gesserit "

"They never cooperated voluntary; always under duress."

"What is at stake is not just an ICJ but the fundamental principles of interplanetary law with Landsraad relations being in jeopardy!"

"The concerns of the two Houses are based in their similar laws on the Military Service Members Protection Act (MSPA), which requires the Head of the Royal House Hold to issue a waiver in order for their citizens to be prosecuted for war crimes."

"This is not the first Royal House to protect its citizens. Look at the arrangements that were required before took control was taken of, for example, the ISAF on Planet Kabul by House Ra'af."

Mother Superior Sasha had heard enough. She raised her hand and silence descended. "As the situation stands, there can be no advantage in this for the Bene Gesserit. We shall abstain." With the decision made all debate on the topic ceased.

"Mother..." A sister called her attention "... may I suggest contingency plans?"

"What did you have in mind?" Sasha inquired.

"That we consolidate our position and guarantee spice flow with our own Sand Worm." Came the suggestion.

149

Out of the heated discussions that ensued; three themes emerged.

- Remember Salusa Secundus with Princess Wensicia Corrino all those years ago?!

- Look at what happened on Salusa Secundus just recently!

- The Fremen are busy right now and will not notice the kidnapping of a worm.

Again the final decision fell to the Mother Superior. The decision was made - the Bene Gesserit would make the attempt to host two worms on the desert of Wallach IX. That meant that two worms had to be secured. One extra... just in case.

With the decision taken all energies now focused on the task before them.

150

hapter 33

C

As scarce as truth is,

the supply has always been in excess of the demand.

Josh Billings/Humorist

TO: HOUSE HARKONNEN

FROM: HOUSE SMYRNA

WE ARE PLEASED TO ENDORSE THE RECOMMENDATION THAT HOUSE

HARKONNEN AND HOUSE CORRINO BE GRANTED IMMUNITY FROM THE

INTERPLANETARY COURT OF JUSTICE.

HEAD

HOUSE SMYRNA

~*~*~*~*~

Similar communiqués were received from Salusa Secundus and most of the Landsraad.

~*~*~*~*~

TO: HOUSE HARKONNEN

FROM: HOUSE RICH’ARD

HOUSE RICH’ARD DOES NOT AGREED TO THE REQUEST FOR IMMUNITY FROM

THE ICJ.

WE FIND THE REQUEST IMMORAL AS WELL AS ILLEGAL. IT VIOLATES THE

OBLIGATIONS OF ALL MEMBERS OF THE LANDSRAAD TO ENSURE THAT PEOPLE

ACCUSED OF THESE CRIMES, AS THE MOST SERIOUS CRIMES UNDER

INTERPLANETERLA LAW, ARE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE.

THE FACT THAT TWO GREAT HOUSES CAN MAKE SUCH A REQUEST IS

DISTURBING TO THIS HOUSE.

HEAD

HOUSE RICH’ARD

~*~*~*~*~

151

Similar communiqués were received from House Ha’Gan and the Tleilaxu.

~*~*~*~*~

TO: HOUSE HARKONNEN

FROM: THE SPACING GUILD

REFERENCE YOUR REQUEST FOR IMMUNITY FROM THE INTERPLANETARY

COURT OF JUSTICE. THE GUILD AT THIS PRESENT MOMENT, RESERVES

COMMENT ON THE MATTER PENDING MORE INFORMATION.

SPACING GUILD

~*~*~*~*~

Similar communiqués were received from Bene Gesserit, and Planet Kaitian.

152

hapter 34

C

Anytime things appear to be going better, you have overlooked something.

Murphy’s Law

Like his father, Dax had braced himself and dealt with the matter at hand. Leaving Duncan with the Fedykin, Dax called a Sand Worm.

Sand Worms reared up obviously lurking just beyond the shield. Dax instructed them. “My mother and I will go with you.” He pointed to the middle one. Immediately it bowed to allow them to mount.

His mother safely on the leviathan Dax turned to the remaining worms that were bigger than the one he had chosen. They had to be for the task he had in mind.

“Great Makers. My father remains in there with brave Fedaykin. I need you to be here when they retreat. Carry them to me – you know where to find me.”

He then joined his mother. As they sped away the remaining two worms lay in wait and Dax called he father on his communicator to tell him of the Gods awaiting House Atreides.

~*~*~*~*~

It had all boiled down to this. Amasso and the war crimes ploy that had not worked, the terrorists attacks that would never be traced to them, the fake report on the Thinking Machines -

it had all brought them to this point. The chess game was soon to be over.

Vlad could barely contain his excitement and confidence. His namesake had lost this Planet and HE would be the one to restore glory to their House. The jockeying for position had been incessant, the slow investment of spies in the right place had been expensive, while the cultivation of cooperation between the two Houses -- never an easy thing had been achieved, together with the inexhaustible patience needed as each piece fell into place had all been for the retaking of Dune.

Now it was so close he could almost taste the victory.

~*~*~*~*~

The first wave of Sardaukar landed and the Fedaykin found themselves in an evenly matched battle. Explosions shook the ground and lasers flashed as the forces cut each other down.

Personal shields clashed, as the battle got close enough for hand-to-hand combat.

153

Blood flowed like the rivers of Caladan and Sword Master Duncan was in the thick of it.

Above battle the Houses of the Landsraad hovered.

Then the fifth, sixth and seventh waves of Sardaukar landed and the Fedaykin found themselves beginning to be outmatched.

Duncan called for a retreat and eventually ordered a full pull out. The Fedaykin headed for the awaiting worms; and even with the Sardaukar in pursuit, they hesitated. Catching a ride on passing worm was one thing, climbing onto the back of one that was willing was something else while facing this multitude of Worms was intimidating.

Duncan roared, “Fedaykin! Mount!”

They did as ordered.

~*~*~*~*~

The prescience of the Atreides manifested as the mother and son perceived the unfolding events.

[DUNCAN ROARED, “FEDAYKIN! MOUNT!”

THE COMMANDER IN CHIEF RAN BETWEEN THE WORMS ENSURING THAT THEY

ALL GOT ON BEFORE THE ENEMY FORCES ARRIVED. A LASER TRAINED ON HIM

AND A HOLE APPEARED.

THE TWO WORMS REARED UP WITH ALL BUT DUNCAN ON BOARD. ONE OF THEM

SCOOPED UP THE BODY OF THE CONSORT SWALLOWED IT WHOLE AND RACED

TOWARD DEEP DESERT. THE SARDAUKAR GAVE UP THE CHASE. DENIED THE

BODY OF DUNCAN OR ANY PRISONERS OF WAR – THEY RETURNED TO THE

PLACE TO OCCUPY THE COMPOUND.]

~*~*~*~*~

“If it ain’t broke… don’t fix it.”

Ixian Philosophy

Using Ixian philosophy as a guide the Bene Gesserit set about procuring themselves the needed worms. The Princess Wensicia Corrino in the time of Maud’Dib had managed to get a worm off planet. Using thumpers a small worm had been summoned to a specific place of the kidnappers choosing. Once at the target site the system of trenches, which had been pre-dug, were flooded with water. The old cliché of “water and worm don’t mix” was a true one and the conspirators had ‘caged’ themselves a Sand Worm of Dune. Once in place it was a matter of airlift and Guild Transport.

154

It had worked for Wensicia and her cronies. Twenty thousand years later… it worked for the Bene Gesserit.

~*~*~*~*~

The High Guard that governed the Spacing Guild convened an extra ordinary meeting. There were no names called here only numbers assigned.

"The erosion of the ozone layer on Planet Arakkis and others in the system is of no direct threat to us." Three said.

"This I concede. It, however, has the potential to be a threat to spice production and anything that threatens spice production threatens us." Said Five.

"When ozone in the ozone layer decreases by one percent, UV-B increases by one to two percent, the sand worms of Arakkis will not be able to withstand an increase over three percent.”

One pointed out.

Four added, "This increase in rumours of worms dying and tumours being seen on them must be monitored. Skin cancer is caused by radiation damage to the genetic structure of the epidermic cells."

"This is the reason that the Fremen will be the last to feel the effects. The caucasoid off-worlders are more liable to skin cancer than the negroid Fremen, who have more melanin pigment in their skin." One said.

"And what does this have to do with the price of spice!" Three demanded.

"Under the Treaty of Maud'Dib the Fremen have the exclusive rights to mine the spice. If they cannot withstand the changes in conditions no one else will be able to." Five explained.

"Not if the worms of Arakkis die first." One added.

"I do not like this." Three was concerned. They all were - the spice was under threat.

There was a pause in the conversation as the worst-case scenario played out in their minds.

One broke the silence. "We need to monitor the situation closely and act if required." There was a collective shudder as the modus opperandi of the Spacing Guild was not one of direct interference. They preferred to negotiate in the background. With the spice in jeopardy extraordinary actions may be called for.

The strategy was agreed.

~*~*~*~*~

155

An acolyte brought the message to the Mother Superior. It was simple – the most far-reaching messages usually were. Sasha read the one line from the Reverend Mother Mo’Hadin…

“The parcel has been posted.”

156

hapter 35

C

Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings,

they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

Roman Saying

Arista reared up like a sand worm that had had its rings opened and exposed to sand. “He’s dead! Duncan is dead!” she sobbed. [Oh God how can I bare this! First my son and now the Love of my life! Damn this Atreides duty that binds us in a grip more surely than death! If I could have them back I’d renounce my Throne in an instant! ] Arista was inconsolable. Being on the back of a traveling worm gave her the precious moments she needed to be wife, mother, woman, and human. She would have to shed all soon enough to emerge as Empress.

Her initial wave of grief indulged she spoke to Dax in a low throaty grim voice, her eyes had sunken into a pale face and met those of her equally stricken only-remaining son. "Duncan is dead," she repeated with. “These Harkonnens will pay.” With every vow her resolve hardened.

“They MUST pay! Blood will soak the desert for the destruction of my husband and son! I, Empress Arista of the House of Atreides, of the lineage of Maud'hib, swear this!"

Dax reflected his mother’s determination. “I know.”

He pulled out his communicator and called upon Mick’N to relay the news, as they continued to ride the worm. [ Why am I so numb? My father is dead. My brother – my TWIN is dead.] All he could feel was the rhythm of the Worm that carried them to safety. [I will avenge the death of my family. This is promise you Amasso. Then, maybe I will weep. Till then I must remain focused and protect our mother… and my mate. This I promise you, Amasso. ]

~*~*~*~*~

The Sardaukar Captain saluted. “Emperor, reports indicate that both Lords Amasso and his father Duncan are dead, Lord Dax and the Empress have escaped as have a significant number of their military.

“Damn!” Rammen was not happy.

“Patience.” Vlad cooed. “They too will fall before us.”

“Sire!” A Sardaukar reported, “A Bene Gesserit is requesting an audience.”

The two conspirators exchanged glances. “Send her in.” Vlad ordered.

157

Reverend Mother Mo’Hadin entered. “M’Lords.”

“What do you want, Witch.” Rammen demanded.

Vlad was smoother. “Your name, Sister?”

“Mo’Hadin”

“Ah, yes. Reverend Mother Mo’Hadin as you can well understand there is much to be done –

this is an auspicious day. We have liberated the people of Arakkis. So – what may we do for you?”

“It is I who have come to serve. To present our Ambassadorial credentials to the New Ruler…

and that is?” She slipped in the thin edge of the wedge.

Before Rammen could comment, Vlad replied. “Thank you.”

~*~*~*~*~

Paxtang was a Sietch deep in the uncharted territories. Habit, distrust and caution were attributes that Fremen found hard to give up and the Fremen had never allowed the Planet to be charted.

That is where Mick’N and his people awaited Dax.

Mick’N announced to the members “House Atreides has fallen, both Lords Amasso and his father Duncan are dead, Lord Dax and the Empress are riding a worm towards us. With the balance of the Fedaykin to follow.”

Alexi didn’t know if to laugh with relief that Dax was safe or to cry at the loss of Amasso and Duncan.

~*~*~*~*~

Vlad insisted on seeing the body of his son Thalmas’ where it lay. He had issued instructions that the body not be moved – and it was not.

The older Harkonnen stood looking at the lifeless body of the younger. He was almost catatonic he just stood there and burned the image into his mind and soul.

[ They have killed my son. ] Was the white-hot thought that burned in his brain, [ They have killed my son and they will pay. ]

He stormed out not having uttered one word. The Captain who had brought the news of the discovery of the body to the Baron shuddered involuntary. He had served the House and this Baron for a long time. He had quickly learned the moods of the Head of the House. Some one was going to pay and he was glad that it was not him.

158

~*~*~*~*~

The rioters on Caladan continued to run amok. Nothing was sacred. With official Tleilaxu buildings burning the masses turned to other matters.

They targeted Museums and other places of Cultural significance.

~*~*~*~*~

Al Samoud and Samir Harkonnen sat. Just sat, observing their father. The Tleilaxu together with House Rich’ard and House Ha’Gan had responded to the request for immunity from the Interplanetary Court of Justice. And while House Ha’Gan had simply said no in their accustomed emphatic manner; House Rich’ard had seen fit to add a few choice words to the communiqué.

Vlad was in no mood to postulate or hypothesize on the course of action. He issued the simple orders with no emotion. It seemed that since the death of Thalmas that he had withdrawn and become even more ruthless. “Cut the supply of spice to House Rich’ard, House Ha’Gan and the Tleilaxu.”

The sons stood to execute the order.

~*~*~*~*~

INTERNAL MEMO

TO: ALL MEMBERS OF THE SPACING GUILD

THE ANNOUNCED EMBARGO IS OF CONCERN TO US. STOCKPILES WILL ONLY GO

SO FAR. VLAD IS COURTING ANARCHY! WE MUST MAKE CONTACT WITH DAX

ATREIDES.

THE SPICE MUST FLOW!

THE GUILD

~*~*~*~*~

Al Samoud entered his father’s chambers and whiped a bloody dagger on the sleeve of a slave.

“Have an accident?” Vlad asked.

“Some one did... Highness” He grinned at his father.

~*~*~*~*~

159

Not one word was uttered. None was needed

Alexi stood she had been expecting him since his message to Mick’N.

Dax had left his mother with the Naib and gone in search of his mate, such was his hurry that he still he his communicator in his hand, he dropped it.

They each took a step forward then Alexi flung herself at Dax, he caught her and held on with all his might. His world was falling apart and she and Arista were his only anchors in this storm. He breathed deeply - yes that was the smell he associated with her. As he held on tight she hugged him with the same intensity, as she knew she could have lost him too. [ Thank you… He's Safe!

Great Mother Thank You! ] She prayed.

He leaned in and kissed her unlocking the time they had spent apart. Finally they came up for air. She had to say it. "I heard about Amasso and Lord Duncan."

His grip tightened around her. “Time Alexi, that’s all I need. Once my people are ready I will take back this planet and rid the world of Harkonnens!”

~*~*~*~*~

Kynes finally managed to disentangle himself from the constant interruptions to his quest to get to wherever House Atreides was located. First there was the shut down by the Guild on Space Travel then when he finally landed there seemed to be no one in control as the Houses battled for control, then there was the shift of the entire Sietch into deep desert.

This time there would be no stopping him. He had a resolution to deliver and deliver it he would.

It made no sense heading for House Harkonnen they were interested in Solaris and Spice; anything else was a distraction. So House Atreides it would have to be.

~*~*~*~*~

Al Samoud Harkonnen made the announcement.

“It is with great sorrow that must announce the assassination of the Head of House Corrino Prince Rammen Corrino. He was the beloved ally of House Harkonnen in particular of Baron Vladimir Harkonnen. The evidence indicates that it was a plot of elements with in House Atreides and we ask that these assassins be handed over for judgment. We realize that the Empress had no hand in this but she is responsible for the actions of her House. In the meantime the Baron will reluctantly assume the throne that Prince Rammen could not. Thank you.”

Truthsayer and Reverend Mother Shakira was far away on Wallach IX and watched the statement on her AVU and still she was able to discern the lie. “Knowing Harkonnens, they probably helped Corrino on his way.” She observed.

160

hapter 36

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If it jams ... force it!

If it breaks, it needed replacing.

Lowery's Law

The first order of the day had been to secure the spice production. That done the next on the agenda was to subjugate the population.

The Harkonnens were masters at subjugation.

Vlad unleashed his sons Al Samoud and Samir onto an unsuspecting population. It wasn’t long before they were being compared to the Beast Rabban.

~*~*~*~*~

The natives of Caladan were hunting the Tleilaxu like game, while the Imams issued an order to the Budislamic – return the cultural heritage of the planet or be refused at prayers.

The artifacts were returned.

The guerilla warfare being waged against the Tleilaxu Armed Forces was swinging the momentum in favour of the Caladans. The Tleilaxu had been trained for an all out encounter.

This was not part of their operating procedure. Of course efforts were made to adjust to the new tactic but the locals were in a desperate battle for freedom, while the Tleilaxu were attempting to maintain a regime.

The motivations were different enough to be a deciding factor in the war.

~*~*~*~*~

Alexi, the history connoisseur, had described an ancient race of warrior women called Amazons, to him. Trained in the arts of war, they were fearless and expert warriors, on horseback or as foot soldiers. Of late His mother his mother reminded him of these women.

Arista had thrown herself into the war with grim fury. The formerly beautiful woman withered, dwindling to a shadow of her former self, and still she drove herself on. She was finally killed when Harkonnen forces overran the small battle headquarters where she was directing the Fremen strategy.

161

The new Emperor was delighted and claimed it as a great victory against the usurper of Harkonnen legacy and the murder of his son.

In the space of three months House Atreides had been reduced to one. Leaving Dax to lead the Fremen.

The Fremen grieved and redoubled their efforts to destroy the invaders and paused only on the day his mother’s water was placed into the commune. That dealt with, Dax stepped out into the desert. A worm instantly appeared.

“Shai-Hulud! The pain! What am I to do? Guerrilla warfare can only go so far!” He was in turmoil “ …if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

The earth shook so much so that Dax fell to his knees. The Sietch half a kilometer away came tumbling out and bore witness to the awesome scene. There was Dax in the middle of an increasing presence of Sand Worm after Sand Worm after Sand Worm. Worms are highly territorial creatures; only once before had they ever gathered and that had been for Maud'Dib.

Some one whispered “Maud'Dib”

Another picked up the call “Maud'Dib”

Soon the desert trembled under the mantra “Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib!” With the chant ricocheting off the desert dunes Dax drank in the sight of the worms around him.

Finally the Worms left, but one stayed behind with him. From now on it would always be so.

Like a bodyguard; Dax would always be under the watchful eye of the Great Worms of Arakkis.

~*~*~*~*~

A Secret Report Within the Spacing Guild

Four Players have come to our attention.

1 – The Bene Gesserit: responsible for the split between the Great Houses of Harkonnen and Corrino.

2 – The House Harkonnen: author of the report: Transplanetorial Threats From the Planet Arakkis: Crying Wolf or Crying Havoc? Under the

leadership of House Atredies now widely suspected to be a work of fiction.

Also suspected to be the instigator behind the death of Lord Rammen Corrino.

162

3 – The Tleilaxu: as a result of the sanctions against them by Vlad Harkonnen for their lack of ratification of his request for immunity from the ICJ, there are indications that their ability to produce a synthetic spice shall be unleashed. This product is untested. There are implications –

Scientific, Economic as well as Sociological.

4 – The Lord Dax Atreides: It has been three months since the “Liberation of Dune” and still the Harkonnens cannot produce The Thinking Machines. It is suggested that the present guerilla activities taking place are on the instructions of Lord Dax. Projections are that this will escalate.

It is too quiet.

The spice is in jeopardy.

~*~*~*~*~

“I don’t understand it!” Dax confessed to Alexi.

“What?”

“Why I am the one.”

“The one.” She didn’t understand.

“Amasso and I were twins, so why me and not him? I understand that the worms will obey me.

But it still does not explain why me.”

“You don’t know?” She was surprised.

“You know?”

“Even your mother did.” Alexi replied.

“Alexi!” He was getting irritated.

“You are the genetic reincarnation of Paul Maud'Dib.”

“Genetic reincarnation.” He took a deep breath. “… and how is it that you know and I don’t?”

“Ce que vous ne savez pas est plus grand que vous.” She replied.

He made a face at her, and then said, “That explains much. I must think on this.”

163

“While you think on that – maybe Shai-Hulud will give you a name for our baby?” she left him to his thoughts.

Two seconds later it registered “Baby?”

~*~*~*~*~

Some time during the Liberation of Dune War, the Bene Gesserit completed the evacuation of Caladan.

The population of Wallach IX had now increased significantly.

~*~*~*~*~

PUBLIC DECLARATION

WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT ANY NON-HARKONNEN FOUND WITH A WEAPON IN

THEIR POSSESSION REGARDLESS OF REASON WILL BE SHOT ON SIGHT.

SIGNED

EMPEROR OF THE KNOWN UNIVERSE.

VLADIMIR HARKONNEN IV

~*~*~*~*~

The stench of rotting Melange permeated the holding bay. The Spacing Guild had just delivered the contraband.

Reverend Mother Di'ix who had been placed in charge of the arrival gagged. She had not expected such and so had not adjusted her biorhythms. She made the correction and approached the cage.

She stared transfixed at all that remained of the majestic beast. The Sand Worm kidnapped with such precision from Arakkis had not survived the trip. It had died and decomposed in transit.

She walked away. There were two things to be done. One was to dispose of the evidence and the other was to inform the Mother Superior that the fortune they had just spent on the enterprise had been for naught.

164

hapter 37

C

I never told my own religion nor scrutinized that of another.

I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another's creed.

I am satisfied that yours must be an excellent religion to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness.

For it is in our lives, and not from our words that our religion must be judged.

Thomas Jefferson - Politician

Dax stepped out on to the outcrop and the sand rippled revealing the presence of his protector.

Next to him stood Mick’N and Alexi. “I will return.” He promised.

The two nodded in agreement.

Dax reached and touched Alexi’s stomach, “And I will return with a name.”

Her eyes bored into him and he could resist her no more, he bent and kissed her. That done he descended to the sand where he boarded the worm. “Show me.” He said and the worm obeyed.

~*~*~*~*~

A Bene Gesserit Mentat reported to the Mother Superior. “The Spice is in jeopardy. It is projected that these last three months of silence from the Fremen and Empress Arista, is the calm before the storm. Lord Dax controls the Worms of Arakkis of that there is no doubt. Such a force cannot be expected to crawl away and die. A storm is approaching. We must position ourselves to survive it.”

~*~*~*~*~

Kyens arrived at the Sietch and stopped the first person he encountered, this happened to be Bastagen.

“Excuse me.” Kynes addressed the young woman. “I’m Dr. Tho’Ma Kynes. I’m looking for Lord Dax Atreides. Can you direct me to his quarters?” Kynes had decided that Dax would have more time to listen than a busy warrior Empress.

Bastagen directed him to where he could find Dax then added, “… but he’s not here.”

Kynes stopped dead in his tracks. “Not here?”

“No… he’s gone on a pilgrimage into the deep desert.”

165

Kynes felt himself deflate. “Thank you.” He said and prepared himself to wait for the return of Dax. He had no intention of addressing the Harkonnens on this matter. They were not interested in long-term planning only short-term gain.

No, Dax was the one he needed to see.

~*~*~*~*~

It had been a five-thumper ride, except that a thumper was not needed. Dax was passed like a baton from Sand Worm to Sand Worm until finally they delivered him wherever it was they needed him to be. They arrived at the post spice blow just as the second moon rose. There was melange all over the place and the raw smell of cinnamon was everywhere.

Dax descended and looked around. He knew this place! He hadn't been here in years but he remembered like it was yesterday. He, Amasso and their father had come here soon after Amasso had come back from the Mesa that time he had gone to face his drinking problem... the pleasant memory soured - now Amasso was dead.

He looked around.

This was Abu Simbel - a set of two temples constructed by Ramesses Atreides II who reigned for two hundred and sixty seven years, approximately four thousand years ago.

Ramesses had seen the data file on the original Abu Simbel and had proceeded to replicate it in the desert. By coincidence he already had the name of the ruler. Why not his Temple?

The work had withstood both the test of time and the onslaught of the desert.

The Great Temple was dedicated to Ramesses II and a statue of him seated could still be seen though severely weathered. He was seated within the innermost part of the rock-cut temple - the sanctuary. Four enormous seated statues of the Emperor dominated the temple’s façade, each over twenty meters high.

There was a smaller Temple, which Ramesses' had dedicated to his favourite wife, Alexandria.

And should anyone doubt his devotion, at the entrance stood six ten-meter-high rock-cut statues -

two of Ramesses and one of Alexandria on either side of the doorway.

The intense proximity of the spice was affecting him. He slid off his last ride and lay down on the warm sand. His consciousness began to expand as new horizons exploded before him.

Again Shai-Hulud heard his call and they came. Thousands of Sand Worms surrounded him as the Planet and the Spice exerted their grip over him.

He stretched out on the bare sand and slipped into a coma-like state as the worms of Dune began to congregate and conduct a vigil around him.

166

Oblivious to what was happening around him, Dax faced his own unique world within. The kaleidoscope of colours swirled to form a tunnel of light and he floated through. He emerged into a white light in what looked like a room – again all in white. The effect was stark yet dramatic. In there he came face to face with Leto Atreides II, God Emperor, The Tyrant in human form.

“Yes.” Leto addressed him. “I am all that and more. I set humans onto the Golden Path and I am your ancestor.”

“What is happening to me?” Dax didn’t even know how to address Leto. Maybe Uncle would do.

“Yes. Uncle will do fine.” Leto replied.

“You can hear my thoughts?” Dax asked.

“You can hear mine if you listen.” Leto assured him. “Just listen.”

Dax did as he was urged and a myriad of images, experiences, emotions and information flowed.

It was awe-inspiring. It all happened in a flash. The overwhelming revelation revealed the link.

The connection from Leto to the Worms to Dax to Climate Change to Ozone Erosion to Worm Kill to Spice Production to Dax.

“Every worm to follow me has my consciousness in them.” Leto stated. “They – we have waited Millennia for someone to come along to ‘link’ with us. You are that man.”

“Why me?!” Dax demanded. “I’ve a twin, why not him.” He corrected, “Had a twin.”

Leto shrugged “I was a twin too. Looked what happened to me! I found myself turned into a worm.”

“That was your choice you could have turned from it.” Dax said.

“No more than you can turn from your destiny.” Leto snapped. “I heard you pray for the cup to pass, but in true Atreides form – you will not dodge this. Dune is in need of House Atreides, to hell with the Spice – the Worms of Dune are in need of House Atreides. We are the only ones with the Fremen to care for them and see past the by-product. This you must do, Dax.”

“I know.” Dax surrendered. “I had hoped…”

“I know. I know.” Leto empathized. “Be aware that they will call you The Maud’Dib”

“THE Maud’Dib?” Dax was perplexed.

“As in saviour. You are not Maud’Dib, that was my father” Leto explained as Dax chuckled.

“But it will be conferred upon you as a title. Accept it with grace… Now it is time to leave.”

As Dax prepared to leave Leto had one last word. “Dax.”

167

“Sir?”

“House Atreides is vulnerable right now. Until your daughter is born and grows to stand at your side you ARE House Atreides. I know you will do right by us.”

Dax nodded. “I’ll do my best … Uncle”

Leto smiled and waved his descendant away.

~*~*~*~*~

House Harkonnen had no interest in restoring schools, museums, or basic infrastructure. As such the basic amenities ravaged by the invasion were allowed to remain in their dilapidated condition.

They were there for one thing and one thing only – The Spice and it would flow!

~*~*~*~*~

Valcyn had been drifting along as he usually did. This night had brought him to a wondrous sight – The birth of The Maud’Dib. Of that Valcyn was sure. Who else caused worms to converge in peace?

He watched as Dax stood.

He listened as in one voice of praise the thousands of Shai-Huluds that had gathered roared their blessing and approval. They had The Maud’Dib – now there would be balance in the Universe or there would be Jihad!

168

hapter 38

C

The probability of failure is directly proportional

to the number and importance of the people watching.

Zumwalt's Law

Dax had returned.

He had given all Fremen two days to gather at Sietch Paxtang. Now hundreds of thousands of his people, some would say a million had gathered here. No matter, the fact remained that they had come.

The Naibs were gathered at the front of the throng and Mick’N indicated to Dax that he had the floor.

“Once again we find our home world under the control of the Harkonnens.” His voice carried to all corners. “He who can kill a thing controls it - We must stop spice production. And…” He paused for dramatic effect. “We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arrakeen air.”

As had occurred once before they chanted: “Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib!” They had The Maud’Dib – now there would be balance in the Universe or there would be Jihad!

He held up his hand and silence descended. “I have no need for the Water of Life. I have been given the Essence of Life by Shai-Hulud and this time the Universe will understand that one does not go against the will of God!”

~*~*~*~*~

Dax made a simple statement to Shai-Hulud. “Spice production must stop.” It was a mere statement, there was no emotion behind it, just pure resolve, but the worms had come to him and they would do the will of The Maud'Dib.

~*~*~*~*~

Any Fremen who had fought two battles with Dax was familiar with the modus operandi. The soldiers would return whether victorious or beaten and Dax would find his way to Alexi. Like a piece of metal to a magnet; there was no turning left or right or pausing or shedding of still suits.

He would head for the Command Room where she would be waiting for him.

She never met him out in the open always in the Command and Control Room. If his lifeless body came back to her she wanted a moment’s peace. If he came back alive she wanted a modicum of privacy for his return.

169

This day was no different. The militia arrived – victorious and Dax went in search of Alexi.

Kynes had chosen that moment to intercept Dax for his interview. Dax sidestepped him. Kynes kept following. Finally a Fremen grabbed him from behind. “It will wait.” He was told. He attempted to object. The eyes of the man hardened. “IT WILL WAIT!”

Dax entered the C and C and spotted Alexi with the Naibs N'Gia and Mick’N. “Good.” She said, she had not seen him yet, so intent was her focus. “But we need to adjust the spacing. Make them a meter closer that way the cascading effect will be more effective.”

She turned suddenly. She had sensed his arrival. She moved to meet him halfway. In one motion he slipped his arm around her waist and kissed her. A kiss she returned with equal passion. That done they returned to the maps on the desk. No words were ever exchanged – none were needed.

He was home and alive, all further demonstrations were conducted in private.

“It was a victory Maud’Dib.” N'Gia wasn’t asking.

“A victory.” Dax confirmed.

“I still say that you should not be out there.” Mick’N “If something happens to you then that is the end of House Atreides.” The old man could not bring himself to express his concerns any more bluntly than that.

“We discussed this.” Alexi reminded him.

“I must be out there.” Dax said gently. “ I am the eye around which this tempest swirls.” Mick’N

nodded to say ‘I know. I know.’ “If I am not there as the rallying point Arakkis will remain Harkonnen.” Dax ended.

N'Gia came to his friend’s defense. “We know… it’s just that it is a risk.”

“For the ultimate prize one must take the ultimate risk.” Dax replied.

~*~*~*~*~

A Third Stage Guild Navigator arrived unannounced.

Vlad quickly rallied his sons and they appeared before the Navigator.

The translation device kicked into action as the Navigator spoke. “You have found no Thinking Machines…”

“Time…” Vlad oozed. “These things take time…”

“SILENCE!” The Guild Representative stopped him. “You are clear to us. The throne is yours as long as the Guild’s Spice supply is guaranteed.”

170

“Oh it is! It is!” The former Baron assured the Navigator.

“Do not let me return for this matter.” He was warned. The Navigator left, he had no confidence in the man’s ability to guarantee the flow of the spice. Alternate allegiances were needed.

~*~*~*~*~

Finally Dax and Alexi had arrived in their quarters. Unless there was an emergency they would not be disturbed further that night.

By this time they had both clean up, shed their day clothes and never got into their nightclothes.

It seemed that with every venture out onto the battlefield that their lovemaking became more intense.

Completely relaxed Alexi sat up with Dax’s head in her lap. Idly she ran her fingers though his hair. “I could stay like this forever.” Dax announced. “Just you and me – no Empire and no family to avenge.”

“A recipe for getting fat.” She teased.

“May be.” He said and fell silent.

The silence hovered for a while then she broke it. “What did Kynes want?”

“You know him?” Dax was intrigued

“One cannot help but know Dr. Tho’am Keyens, Imperial Planetologist.” She replied. “He’s been hovering about try to met with you - no one else but you. The Fedaykin had been delaying him but I see he caught up with you.”

“Do I detect sarcasm there, M’Lady?” he teased.

“Only love I assure you, M’Lord.” She shook him by moving her legs. “Well?”

Dax got serious. “He may have the answer as to why the worms are sick. Remember I told you?”

“You are not the only one. There are stories everywhere about it.” She said. “…and?”

“He is linking it to the increased heat. He suggests that there is a climate change occurring and that the heat and the sick worms are the indicators of the change.”

She began to scrutinize the hypothesis. “Did this not happen when Dune was green in the time of the God Emperor? Climate Change I mean.”

171

“In a way… but that time the worms didn’t get sick.” Dax replied.

“No they just died. If it were not for Leto there would be no Dune Revenant.” Alexi pointed out.

“So what is his solution? The Convention?”

“He did mention it.” Dax admitted.

“The Landsaard Framework Convention on Climate Change.” She rattled. “Yet to make any difference anywhere – in my humble opinion.”

“Not so humble when you consider that the good Doctor is of the same view.”

“So now what?”

“Now nothing.” He admitted. “I am a Fremen in the desert with his mate. If I ever ascend the Throne ask me again.”

~*~*~*~*~

Bastagen entered the Command Quarters. “Maud'Dib…” She said.

Dax sighed. Would they never stop calling him that? Even if Leto had predicted it, it still felt odd. “Yes, I will meet the Guild Representative, have him wait.”

“And that is why they will continue to call you Maud'Dib” Alexi answered his unspoken question.

He grimaced at her in reply. She stood. “I will meet with him.”

“He came to see me.” He pointed out though he did not object.

“You have much to do. Besides you cannot be expected to meet all who want to see you and I am curious as to how the Guild knows where to find us. Where they go others may yet follow.”

“My thoughts exactly.” He confirmed.

Alexi left to meet the Guild Liaison while Dax headed out on a mission, he and a platoon were going out to hunt some Harkonnen.

~*~*~*~*~

With each Harkonnen defeat the production of the vital melange dwindled and with it the Baron’s power base.

172

In a desperate attempt at consolidation Vlad gave his sons cart blanche to squeeze the spice out of the planet. The rumours that production had stopped did not help matters. The Universe evolved around the spice, which was now affecting the political stability of the Empire.

In his growing desperation, there were increased cruelties by his sons.

173

hapter 39

C

God created Arakkis to train the faithful.

One cannot go against the word of God.

Paul Maud'Dib – Coronation Day

MEMO

FROM: TERRAN GROWTH INC

TO: THE EMPEROR VLADIMIR HARKONNEN I

HIGHNESS.

THE TERRAN GROWTH INC HAS AVAILABLE FOR PURCHASE FIVE HUNDRED

THOUSAND SARDAUKAR, WITH A POSSIBLE FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND

AVAILABLE EVERY FIVE YEARS FOR THE NEXT TWENTY YEARS, EVEN LONGER

SHOULD YOU DESIRE.

SHOULD YOU BE INTERESTED WE ARE WILLING TO NEGOTIATE A MUTUALLY

BENEFICIAL CONTRACT.

J’TU

CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD

~*~*~*~*~

The Maud'Dib had spoken and the Worms rushed to obey.

Their fist priority was to relay the message. An accurate census of humans had proved a constant impossibility. A count of Fremen was equally daunting. A study of the Worms of Arakkis had never been contemplated or attempted. It was universally agreed that there were thousands.

It wasn't long before results were being seen and felt.

Fremen conducted raids on every vulnerable Harkonnen site that they could think of. While in the Desert - the domain of the Sand Worm - nothing was safe.

'Thopters hovered over sand miners constantly on the look out for worm sign so as to signal the carryall that would come and carry the miners and the machinery to safety. Suddenly there was no longer any worm sign. Usually the tell tale sign of shifting sand and miniature bolts of 174

lightening could be spotted for kilometers - now a worm just emerged from the bowels of the planet and consumed miners, 'thopters, machinery, spice and all.

Mining for spice had always been a hazardous undertaking now it was deadly. It wasn't long before there was no more machinery to mine with. Even if there had been there was no longer anyone prepared to venture into the Desert to mine for it. Except for the people who had always been there - the Fremen.

In the mean time Spice production came to a grinding halt.

~*~*~*~*~

Having returned from his latest foray Dax entered the Command Room and greeted his ‘wife’.

“We need to talk.” He said to her. She followed him to a private corner.

“What did the Guild Representative have to say?” he was anxious to know.

“They are prescient – they had no difficulty finding us.” She snorted.

“…and?”

“The Guild have not the time for Religion or Politics together or separate. They have one burning concern…”

“THE SPICE MUST FLOW!” he finished. “And that means what for us.”

“Now that manufacturing has stopped the Guild had a most interesting message; they propose a coup. They will pledge the safety of House Atreides if we guarantee spice production.”

Weary as he was, Dax got alert. “And your answer?”

“We guarantee spice production.” She grinned.

“Have I told you lately that I love you?” He reflected her smirk.

“Yes but a woman can never hear it enough.”

~*~*~*~*~

MEMO

FROM: HOUSE RICHA’ARD

TO: ALL MEMBERS OF THE LANDSRAAD

SPICE PRODUCTION HAS STOPPED.

175

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU HOARDED?

HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?

HEAD

HOUSE RICHA’ARD

~*~*~*~*~

It had taken an amount of bribery, which only a Fremen could demand, for the Bene Gesserit to obtain the latest coordinates to Dax’s site. Even then the person supplying the information had been instructed by Dax to take a Sister hostage to guarantee the safety of the camp. There was no doubt that they would relocate as soon as the representative had been dealt with.

So it was that the Reverend Mother Farrah found herself awaiting an audience with Lord Dax.

A warrior entered and announced. “The Lady Alexi Atreides will be with you shortly.”

Expecting no answer the fighter had left her alone.

Two minutes later Alexi entered. Farrah had been mulling over the confirmation of Alexi’s position in the eyes of the Fremen when she had entered.

The change in their relationship was established with the first words. “Farrah. It is good to see you.” Aleix greeted her former teacher.

The Reverend Mother bowed her head in respect. “M’Lady.”

“How may I be of assistance to the sisterhood?” Alexi asked. Her mind took her back to their last encounter and her parting remark that the next time they would come to her.

Farrah’s thoughts were not that different. She looked at the woman who had once been her protégé and now was Consort to the deposed NaEmperor. To date she had fulfilled all the expectations of the Bene Gesserit, now was the time to see just where her main loyalty lay. They all served multiple masters and agendas but which was primary?

“The Emperor.” Farrah said.

“Lord Dax?” Alexi played the ignorant.

“Do not play the fool with me.” Farrah snapped.

“The same may be said of you.” Alexi retorted. “… and so I ask again – What do you want!?”

“The power game is as like a that of Terran Chess. Move and counter move. Strike and counter strike.” Farrah parried.

176

“All with the timeless objective.” Alexi responded. She had a fair idea what it was the Bene Gesserit wanted but they would have to say it.

“The achievement of the objective is based on cooperation.” Farrah continued.

“As is the cycle of life… the cycle of the Spice.” Again Alexi waited.

“The stronger the ally the better the chances of success.” The dance was constant. “The Bene Gesserit have been trained to play the game.”

[ The question is which game? ] Alexi silently contemplated. “You offer to join in this game?”

“We do.” The former mentor replied.

“The fact that you are here indicates that the Bene Gesserit will play on the side of the Fremen.”

Alexi began to focus the discussion.

“A safe assumption.” The Reverent Mother replied.

“This would manifest how?” Now the younger wanted details. The Sisterhood was known for exploiting loopholes in agreements.

“Intelligence when available, but most important – support when needed.” Farrah pledged.

“All necessary to a chess game.” Alexi resumed with the metaphor.

“In any game of power.”

“Then we understand each other.” Alexi wanted this ended.

“We do.” Farrah confirmed. “As in any power game – communication is vital.”

Alexi smiled. “We know where to find you.”

Now they were ready.

~*~*~*~*~

Guarantee or no, under the guidance of Dax the Fedaykin had infiltrated the City and the Place for what was about to unfold.

The offers from the Guild and then the Bene Gesserit had been too much to resist and it had brought House Atreides to the Throne Room in Arakkis City. To confirm who controlled the planet Dax had arrived with a token number of Soldiers riding two thousand worms.

177

Alexi knew that the Throne room was capable of holding one hundred thousand; she estimated that this day they were at capacity.

“Vladmir Harkonnen... there are Guild Heighliners above us containing many Great Houses of the Landsraad.... SEND THEM BACK!”

The Reverend Mother Mo’Hadin recognized the words, even if she had not been there in person.

“I will not!” Vlad had the throne and he’d die before he gave it up.

The Guild Representative stepped forward. “The Spice must flow - Name your conditions.”

“The life of every member of House Harkonnen.” He had not forgotten who had cost him his family.

He spotted the Reverend Mother Mo’Hadin. “It has been many moons since I felt the gom jabber of Shakira and that of Gaius Helen Mohiam; now all will feel mine.”

Mo’Hadin gasped as she realized that he indeed had genetic memory.

He projected his voice to ensure that all heard. “I am called THE Maud'Dib. I have come to re-establish balance in the Universe and harmony with the Spice or there will be Jihad!”

No one spoke.

“As a people we have evolved into viruses that feed and feed until we kill what feeds us. This will cease or Spice Production will stop and not by the hand of THE Maud'Dib, but by yours!”

“He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.” Mick’N quoted.

Dax continued, “My mother the Empress Arista warned that should there be dishonorable behaviour found within the Great Houses you would deal with her. Look at me and see her!”

He glared at the Harkonnens. “House Harkonnen shall not leave this Planet – Dead or Alive!

Their water is not to be mixed with ours. They are not fit for their bones to feed Shai-Hulud place their lifeless bodies on a pre-spice blow and leave them.”

Vlad roared in objection as the Fedaykin dragged the household away and no one intervened.

No one dared.

The pronouncement was met with the approval of those who mattered as the Fedaykin cheered.

Amidst the chanting of Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib! Every worm on the Planet, every Guild Member and every Reverend Mother thoughout the Universe heard the echo of Alia as clear as the day that she first said it, as clear as if she stood there in person…

“And how can this be? For... he is the Kwisatz Haderach!”

178

~*~*~*~*~

Valcyn sat perched on a hill that gave him a bird’s eye view of Arakkis City. He didn’t need to be in the hall to know what was happening. His angle was just fine.

He watched as millions of Fremen had assembled in the city to the point that humans eclipsed the cityscape. All one could see from his vantage point were people – and still they came. They would soon spill out into the desert if the worms would move.

Valcyn had witnessed much in his wanderings, recently, but the spectacle unfolding before him would be burned into his mind till the day he died. Shai-Hulud had come. They had not come for Maud’Dib in his day, but they had come for this man. As with the humans they just kept coming.

Then Valcyn heard the chanting. It came like a wave. Far at first as it seemed to have come from the hall. Then the crowd outside picked it up. Soon the entire city as one voice was calling. “Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib!”

The Convocation heard the roar of fifty thousand Giant Sand Worms as they gave their approval to the arrival of Dax – The Maud'Dib. Valcyn shuddered.

The Fremen continued to chant Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib! Maud'Dib! Now there would be balance in the Universe or there would be Jihad!

~*~ THE END ~*~