Children of Dune by Frank Herbert

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I saw his blood and a piece of his robe which had been ripped by sharp claws. His sister reports vividly of the tigers, the sureness of their attack. We have questioned one of the plotters, and others are dead or in custody. Everything points to a Corrino plot. A Truthsayer has attested to this testimony. -Stilgar’s Report to the Landsraad Commission

Farad’n studied Duncan Idaho through the spy circuit, seeking a clue to that strange man’s behavior. It was shortly after noon and Idaho waited outside the quarters assigned to the Lady Jessica, seeking audience with her. Would she see him? She’d know they were spied upon, of course. But would she see him? Around Farad’n lay the room where Tyekanik had guided the training of the Laza tigers — an illegal room, really, filled as it was with forbidden instruments from the hands of the Tleilaxu and Ixians. By the movement of switches at his right hand, Farad’n could look at Idaho from six different angles, or shift to the interior of the Lady Jessica’s suite where the spying facilities were equally sophisticated. Idaho’s eyes bothered Farad’n. Those pitted metal orbs which the Tleilaxu had given their ghola in the regrowth tanks marked their possessor as profoundly different from other humans. Farad’n touched his own eyelids, feeling the hard surfaces of the permanent contact lenses which concealed the total blue of his spice addiction. Idaho’s eyes must record a different universe. How could it be otherwise? It almost tempted Farad’n to seek out the Tleilaxu surgeons and answer that question himself. Why did Idaho try to kill himself? Was that really what he’d tried? He must’ve known we wouldn’t permit it. Idaho remained a dangerous question mark. Tyekanik wanted to keep him on Salusa or kill him. Perhaps that would be best. Farad’n shifted to a frontal view. Idaho sat on a hard bench outside the door to the Lady Jessica’s suite. It was a windowless foyer with light wood walls decorated by lance pennants. Idaho had been on that bench more than an hour and appeared ready to wait there forever. Farad’n bent close to the screen. The loyal swordmaster of the Atreides, instructor of Paul Muad’Dib, had been treated kindly by his years on Arrakis. He’d arrived with a youthful spring in his step. A steady spice diet must have helped him, of course. And that marvelous metabolic balance which the Tleilaxu tanks always imparted. Did Idaho really remember his past before the tanks? No other whom the Tleilaxu had revived could claim this. What an enigma this Idaho was! The reports of his death were in the library. The Sardaukar who’d slain him reported his prowess: nineteen of their number dispatched by Idaho before he’d fallen. Nineteen Sardaukar! His flesh had been well worth sending to the regrowth tanks. But the Tleilaxu had made a mentat out of him. What a strange creature lived in that regrown flesh. How did it feel to be a human computer in addition to all of his other talents? Why did he try to kill himself? Farad’n knew his own talents and held few illusions about them. He was a historian-archaeologist and judge of men. Necessity had forced him to become an expert on those who would serve him — necessity and a careful study of the Atreides. He saw it as the price always demanded of aristocracy. To rule required accurate and incisive judgments about those who wielded your power. More than one ruler had fallen through mistakes and excesses of his underlings. Careful study of the Atreides revealed a superb talent in choosing servants. They’d known how to maintain loyalty, how to keep a fine edge on the ardor of their warriors. Idaho was not acting in character. Why? Farad’n squinted his eyes, trying to see past the skin of this man. There was a sense of duration about Idaho, a feeling that he could not be worn down. He gave the impression of being self-contained, an organized and firmly integrated whole. The Tleilaxu tanks had set something more than human into motion. Farad’n sensed this. There was a self-renewing movement about the man, as though he acted in accordance with immutable laws, beginning anew at every ending. He moved in a fixed orbit with an endurance about him like that of a planet around a star. He would respond to pressure without breaking — merely shifting his orbit slightly but not really changing anything basic. Why did he cut his wrist? Whatever his motive, he had done it for the Atreides, for his ruling House. The Atreides were the star of his orbit. Somehow he believes that my holding the Lady Jessica here strengthens the Atreides. And Farad’n reminded himself: A mentat thinks this. It gave the thought an added depth. Mentats made mistakes, but not often. Having come to this conclusion, Farad’n almost summoned his aides to have them send the Lady Jessica away with Idaho. He poised himself on the point of acting, withdrew. Both of those people — the ghola-mentat and the Bene Gesserit witch — remained counters of unknown denomination in this game of power. Idaho must be sent back because that would certainly stir up troubles on Arrakis. Jessica must be kept here, drained of her strange knowledge to benefit House Corrino. Farad’n knew it was a subtle and deadly game he played. But he had prepared himself for this possibility over the years, ever since he’d realized that he was more intelligent, more sensitive than those around him. It had been a frightening discovery for a child, and he knew the library had been his refuge as well as his teacher. Doubts ate at him now, though, and he wondered if he was quite up to this game. He’d alienated his mother, lost her counsel, but her decisions had always been dangerous to him. Tigers! Their training had been an atrocity and their use had been stupidity. How easy they were to trace! She should be thankful to suffer nothing more than banishment. The Lady Jessica’s advice had fitted his needs with a lovely precision there. She must be made to divulge the way of that Atreides thinking. His doubts began to fade away. He thought of his Sardaukar once more growing tough and resilient through the rigorous training and the denial of luxury which he commanded. His Sardaukar legions remained small, but once more they were a man-to-man match for the Fremen. That served little purpose as long as the limits imposed by the Treaty of Arrakeen governed the relative size of the forces. Fremen could overwhelm him by their numbers — unless they were tied up and weakened by civil war. It was too soon for a battle of Sardaukar against Fremen. He needed time. He needed new allies from among the discontented Houses Major and the newly powerful from the Houses Minor. He needed access to CHOAM financing. He needed the time for his Sardaukar to grow stronger and the Fremen to grow weaker. Again Farad’n looked at the screen which revealed the patient ghola. Why did Idaho want to see the Lady Jessica at this time? He would know they were spied upon, that every word, every gesture would be recorded and analyzed. Why? Farad’n glanced away from the screen to the ledge beside his control console. In the pale electronic light he could make out the spools which contained the latest reports from Arrakis. His spies were thorough; he had to give them credit. There was much to give him hope and pleasure in those reports. He closed his eyes, and the high points of those reports passed through his mind in the oddly editorial form to which he’d reduced the spools for his own uses: As the planet is made fertile, Fremen are freed of land pressures and their new communities lose the traditional sietch-stronghold character. From infancy, in the old sietch culture, the Fremen was taught by the rota: “Like the knowledge of your own being, the sietch forms a firm base from which you move out into the world and into the universe. ” The traditional Fremen says: “Look to the Massif,” meaning that the master science is the Law. But the new social structure is loosening those old legal restrictions; discipline grows lax. The new Fremen leaders know only their Low Catechism of ancestry plus the history which is camouflaged in the myth structure of their songs. People of the new communities are more volatile, more open; they quarrel more often and are less responsive to authority. The old sietch folk are more disciplined, more inclined to group actions and they tend to work harder; they are more careful of their resources. The old folk still believe that the orderly society is the fulfillment of the individual. The young grow away from this belief. Those remnants of the older culture which remain look at the young and say: “The death wind has etched away their past.” Farad’n liked the pointedness of his own summary. The new diversity on Arrakis could only bring violence. He had the essential concepts firmly etched into the spools: The religion of Muad’Dib is based firmly in the old Fremen sietch cultural tradition while the new culture moves farther and farther from those disciplines. Not for the first time, Farad’n asked himself why Tyekanik had embraced that religion. Tyekanik behaved oddly in his new morality. He seemed utterly sincere, but carried along as though against his will. Tyekanik was like one who had stepped into the whirlwind to test it and had been caught up by forces beyond his control. Tyekanik’s conversion annoyed Farad’n by its characterless completeness. It was a reversion to very old Sardaukar ways. He warned that the young Fremen might yet revert in a similar way, that the inborn, ingrained traditions would prevail. Once more Farad’n thought about those report spools. They told of a disquieting thing: the persistence of a cultural remnant from the most ancient Fremen times — “The Water of Conception.” The amniotic fluid of the newborn was saved at birth, distilled into the first water fed to that child. The traditional form required a godmother to serve the water, saying: “Here is the water of thy conception.” Even the young Fremen still followed this tradition with their own newborn. The water of thy conception. Farad’n found himself revolted by the idea of drinking water distilled from the amniotic fluid which had borne him. And he thought about the surviving twin, Ghanima, her mother dead when she’d taken that strange water. Had she reflected later upon that odd link with her past? Probably not. She’d been raised Fremen, What was natural and acceptable to Fremen had been natural and acceptable to her. Momentarily Farad’n regretted the death of Leto II. It would have been interesting to discuss this point with him. Perhaps an opportunity would come to discuss it with Ghanima. Why did Idaho cut his wrists? The question persisted every time he glanced at the spy screen. Again doubts assailed Farad’n. He longed for the ability to sink into the mysterious spice trance as Paul Muad’Dib had done, there to seek out the future and know the answers to his questions. No matter how much spice he ingested, though, his ordinary awareness persisted in its singular flow of now, reflecting a universe of uncertainties. The spy screen showed a servant opening the Lady Jessica’s door. The woman beckoned Idaho, who arose from the bench and went through the door. The servant would file a complete report later, but Farad’n, his curiosity once more fully aroused, touched another switch on his console, watched as Idaho entered the sitting room of the Lady Jessica’s quarters. How calm and contained the mentat appeared. And how fathomless were his ghola eyes.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank