Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, government tends more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class — whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy. -Politics as Repeat Phenomenon: Bene Gesserit Training Manual

“Why does he make us this offer?” Farad’n asked. “That’s most essential.” He and the Bashar Tyekanik stood in the lounge of Farad’n’s private quarters. Wensicia sat at one side on a low blue divan, almost as audience rather than participant. She knew her position and resented it, but Farad’n had undergone a terrifying change since that morning when she’d revealed their plots to him. It was late afternoon at Corrino Castle and the low light accented the quiet comfort of this lounge — a room lined with actual books reproduced in plastino, with shelves revealing a horde of player spools, data blocks, shigawire reels, mnemonic amplifiers. There were signs all around that this room was much used — worn places on the books, bright metal on the amplifiers, frayed corners on the data blocks. There was only the one divan, but many chairs — all of them sensiform floaters designed for unobtrusive comfort. Farad’n stood with his back to a window. He wore a plain Sardaukar uniform in grey and black with only the golden lion-claw symbols on the wings of his collar as decoration. He had chosen to receive the Bashar and his mother in this room, hoping to create an atmosphere of more relaxed communication than could be achieved in a more formal setting. But Tyekanik’s constant “My Lord this” and “My Lady that” kept them at a distance. “My Lord, I don’t think he’d make this offer were he unable to deliver,” Tyekanik said. “Of course not!” Wensicia intruded. Farad’n merely glanced at his mother to silence her, asked: “We’ve put no pressure on Idaho, made no attempt to seek delivery on The Preacher’s promise?” “None,” Tyekanik said. “Then why does Duncan Idaho, noted all of his life for his fanatic loyalty to the Atreides, offer now to deliver the Lady Jessica into our hands?” “These rumors of trouble on Arrakis . . .” Wensicia ventured. “Unconfirmed,” Farad’n said. “Is it possible that The Preacher has precipitated this?” “Possible,” Tyekanik said, “but I fail to see a motive.” “He speaks of seeking asylum for her,” Farad’n said. “That might follow if those rumors . . .” “Precisely,” his mother said. “Or it could be a ruse of some sort,” Tyekanik said. “We can make several assumptions and explore them,” Farad’n said. “What if Idaho has fallen into disfavor with his Lady Alia?” “That might explain matters,” Wensicia said, “but he –” “No word yet from the smugglers?” Farad’n interrupted. “Why can’t we –” “Transmission is always slow in this season,” Tyekanik said, “and the needs of security . . .” “Yes, of course, but still . . .” Farad’n shook his head. “I don’t like our assumption.” “Don’t be too quick to abandon it,” Wensicia said. “All of those stories about Alia and that Priest, whatever his name is . . .” “Javid,” Farad’n said. “But the man’s obviously –” “He’s been a valuable source of information for us,” Wensicia said. “I was about to say that he’s obviously a double agent,” Farad’n said. “How could he indict himself in this? He’s not to be trusted. There are too many signs . . .” “I fail to see them,” she said. He was suddenly angry with her denseness. “Take my word for it, mother! The signs are there; I’ll explain later.” “I’m afraid I must agree,” Tyekanik said. Wensicia lapsed into hurt silence. How dared they push her out of Council like this? As though she were some light-headed fancy woman with no — “We mustn’t forget that Idaho was once a ghola,” Farad’n said. “The Tleilaxu . . .” He glanced sidelong at Tyekanik. “That avenue will be explored,” Tyekanik said. He found himself admiring the way Farad’n’s mind worked: alert, questing, sharp. Yes, the Tleilaxu, in restoring life to Idaho, might have planted a powerful barb in him for their own use. “But I fail to apprehend a Tleilaxu motive,” Farad’n said. “An investment in our fortunes,” Tyekanik said. “A small insurance for future favors?” “Large investment, I’d call it,” Farad’n said. “Dangerous,” Wensicia said. Farad’n had to agree with her. The Lady Jessica’s capabilities were notorious in the Empire. After all, she’d been the one who’d trained Muad’Dib. “If it became known that we hold her,” Farad’n said. “Yes, that’d be a two-edged sword,” Tyekanik said. “But it need not be known.” “Let us assume,” Farad’n said, “that we accept this offer. What’s her value? Can we exchange her for something of greater importance?” “Not openly,” Wensicia said. “Of course not!” He peered expectantly at Tyekanik. “That remains to be seen,” Tyekanik said. Farad’n nodded. “Yes. I think if we accept, we should consider the Lady Jessica as money banked for indeterminate use. After all, wealth doesn’t necessarily have to be spent on any particular thing. It’s just . . . potentially useful.” “She’d be a very dangerous captive,” Tyekanik said. “There is that to consider, indeed,” Farad’n said. “I’m told that her Bene Gesserit Ways permit her to manipulate a person just by the subtle employment of her voice.” “Or her body,” Wensicia said. “Irulan once divulged to me some of the things she’d learned. She was showing off at the time, and I saw no demonstrations. Still the evidence is pretty conclusive that Bene Gesserits have their ways of achieving their ends.” “Were you suggesting,” Farad’n asked, “that she might seduce me?” Wensicia merely shrugged. “I’d say she’s a little old for that, wouldn’t you?” Farad’n asked. “With a Bene Gesserit, nothing’s certain,” Tyekanik said. Farad’n experienced a shiver of excitement tinged with fear. Playing this game to restore House of Corrino’s high seat of power both attracted and repelled him. How attractive it remained, the urge to retire from this game into his preferred pursuits — historical research and learning the manifest duties for ruling here on Salusa Secundus. The restoration of his Sardaukar forces was a task in itself . . . and for that job, Tyek was still a good tool. One planet was, after all, an enormous responsibility. But the Empire was an even greater responsibility, far more attractive as an instrument of power. And the more he read about Muad’Dib/Paul Atreides, the more fascinated Farad’n became with the uses of power. As titular head of House Corrino, heir of Shaddam IV, what a great achievement it would be to restore his line to the Lion Throne. He wanted that! He wanted it. Farad’n had found that, by repeating this enticing litany to himself several times, he could overcome momentary doubts. Tyekanik was speaking: “. . . and of course, the Bene Gesserit teach that peace encourages aggressions, thus igniting war. The paradox of –” “How did we get on this subject?” Farad’n asked, bringing his attention back from the arena of speculation. “Why,” Wensicia said sweetly, having noted the woolgathering expression on her son’s face, “I merely asked if Tyek was familiar with the driving philosophy behind the Sisterhood.” “Philosophy should be approached with irreverence,” Farad’n said, turning to face Tyekanik. “In regard to Idaho’s offer, I think we should inquire further. When we think we know something, that’s precisely the moment when we should look deeper into the thing.” “It will be done,” Tyekanik said. He liked this cautious streak in Farad’n, but hoped it did not extend to those military decisions which required speed and precision. With seeming irrelevancy, Farad’n asked: “Do you know what I find most interesting about the history of Arrakis? It was the custom in primitive times for Fremen to kill on sight anyone not clad in a stillsuit with its easily visible and characteristic hood.” “What is your fascination with the stillsuit?” Tyekanik asked. “So you’ve noticed, eh?” “How could we not notice?” Wensicia asked. Farad’n sent an irritated glance at his mother. Why did she interrupt like that? He returned his attention to Tyekanik. “The stillsuit is the key to that planet’s character, Tyek. It’s the hallmark of Dune. People tend to focus on the physical characteristics: the stillsuit conserves body moisture, recycles it, and makes it possible to exist on such a planet. You know, the Fremen custom was to have one stillsuit for each member of a family, except for food gatherers. They had spares. But please note, both of you –” He moved to include his mother in this. “– how garments which appear to be stillsuits, but really aren’t, have become high fashion throughout the Empire. It’s such a dominant characteristic for humans to copy the conqueror!” “Do you really find such information valuable?” Tyekanik asked, his tone puzzled. “Tyek, Tyek — without such information, one cannot govern. I said the stillsuit was the key to their character and it is! It’s a conservative thing. The mistakes they make will be conservative mistakes.” Tyekanik glanced at Wensicia, who was staring at her son with a worried frown. This characteristic of Farad’n’s both attracted and worried the Bashar. It was so unlike old Shaddam. Now, there had been an essential Sardaukar: a military killer with few inhibitions. But Shaddam had fallen to the Atreides under that damnable Paul. Indeed, what he read of Paul Atreides revealed just such characteristics as Farad’n now displayed. It was possible that Farad’n might hesitate less than the Atreides over brutal necessities, but that was his Sardaukar training. “Many have governed without using this kind of information,” Tyekanik said. Farad’n merely stared at him for a moment. Then: “Governed and failed.” Tyekanik’s mouth drew into a stiff line at this obvious allusion to Shaddam’s failure. That had been a Sardaukar failure, too, and no Sardaukar could recall it easily. Having made his point, Farad’n said: “You see, Tyek, the influence of a planet upon the mass unconscious of its inhabitants has never been fully appreciated. To defeat the Atreides, we must understand not only Caladan but Arrakis: one planet soft and the other a training ground for hard decisions. That was a unique event, that marriage of Atreides and Fremen. We must know how it worked or we won’t be able to match it, let alone defeat it.” “What does this have to do with Idaho’s offer?” Wensicia demanded. Farad’n glanced pityingly down at his mother. “We begin their defeat by the kinds of stress we introduce into their society. That’s a very powerful tool: stress. And the lack of it is important, too. Did you not mark how the Atreides helped things grow soft and easy here?” Tyekanik allowed himself a curt nod of agreement. That was a good point. The Sardaukar could not be permitted to grow too soft. This offer from Idaho still bothered him, though. He said: “Perhaps it’d be best to reject the offer.” “Not yet,” Wensicia said. “We’ve a spectrum of choices open to us. Our task is to identify as much of the spectrum as we can. My son is right: we need more information.” Farad’n stared at her, measuring her intent as well as the surface meaning of her words. “But will we know when we’ve passed the point of no alternate choice?” he asked. A sour chuckle came from Tyekanik. “If you ask me, we’re long past the point of no return.” Farad’n tipped his head back to laugh aloud. “But we still have alternate choices, Tyek! When we come to the end of our rope, that’s an important place to recognize!”

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Categories: Herbert, Frank