Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

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The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy. Elaborate euphemisms may conceal your intent to kill, but behind any use of power over another the ultimate assumption remains: “I feed on your energy.” -Addenda to Orders in Council The Emperor Paul Muad’dib

First Moon stood high over the city as Paul, his shield activated and shimmering around him, emerged from the cul-de-sac. A wind off the massif whirled sand and dust down the narrow street, causing Bijaz to blink and shield his eyes. “We must hurry,” the dwarf muttered. “Hurry! Hurry!” “You sense danger?” Paul asked, probing. “I know danger!” An abrupt sense of peril very near was followed almost immediately by a figure joining them out of a doorway. Bijaz crouched and whimpered. It was only Stilgar moving like a war machine, head thrust forward, feet striking the street solidly. Swiftly, Paul explained the value of the dwarf, handed Bijaz over to Stilgar. The pace of the vision moved here with great rapidity. Stilgar sped away with Bijaz. Security Guards enveloped Paul. Orders were given to send men down the street toward the house beyond Otheym’s. The men hurried to obey, shadows among shadows. More sacrifices, Paul thought. “We want live prisoners,” one of the guard officers hissed. The sound was a vision-echo in Paul’s ears. It went with solid precision here — vision/reality, tick for tick. Ornithopters drifted down across the moon. The night was full of Imperial troopers attacking. A soft hiss grew out of the other sounds, climbed to a roar while they still heard the sibilance. It picked up a terra-cotta glow that hid the stars, engulfed the moon. Paul, knowing that sound and glow from the earliest nightmare glimpses of his vision, felt an odd sense of fulfillment. It went the way it must. “Stone burner!” someone screamed. “Stone burner!” The cry was all around him. “Stone burner . . . stone burner . . .” Because it was required of him, Paul threw a protective arm across his face, dove for the low lip of a curb. It already was too late, of course. Where Otheym’s house had been there stood now a pillar of fire, a blinding jet roaring at the heavens. It gave off a dirty brilliance which threw into sharp relief every ballet movement of the fighting and fleeing men, the tipping retreat of ornithopters. For every member of this frantic throng it was too late. The ground grew hot beneath Paul. He heard the sound of running stop. Men threw themselves down all around him, every one of them aware that there was no point in running. The first damage had been done; and now they must wait out the extent of the stone burner’s potency. The things’s radiation, which no man could outrun, already had penetrated their flesh. The peculiar result of stone-burner radiation already was at work in them. What else this weapon might do now lay in the planning of the men who had used it, the men who had defied the Great Convention to use it. “God’s . . . a stone burner,” someone whimpered. “I . . . don’t . . . want . . . to . . . be . . . blind.” “Who does?” The harsh voice of a trooper far down the street “The Tleilaxu will sell many eyes here,” someone near Paul growled. “Now, shut up and wait!” They waited. Paul remained silent, thinking what this weapon implied. Too much fuel in it and it’d cut its way into the planet’s core. Dune’s molten level lay deep, but the more dangerous for that. Such pressures released and out of control might split a planet, scattering lifeless bits and pieces through space. “I think it’s dying down a bit,” someone said. “It’s just digging deeper,” Paul cautioned. “Stay put, all of you. Stilgar will be sending help.” “Stilgar got away?” “Stilgar got away.” “The ground’s hot,” someone complained. “They dared use atomics!” a trooper near Paul protested. “The sound’s diminishing,” someone down the street said. Paul ignored the words, concentrated on his fingertips against the street. He could feel the rolling-rumbling of the thing — deep . . . deep . . . “My eyes!” someone cried. “I can’t see!” Someone closer to it than I was, Paul thought. He still could see to the end of the cul-de-sac when he lifted his head, although there was a mistiness across the scene. A red-yellow glow filled the area where Otheym’s house and its neighbor had been. Pieces of adjoining buildings made dark patterns as they crumbled into the glowing pit. Paul climbed to his feet. He felt the stone burner die, silence beneath him. His body was wet with perspiration against the stillsuit’s slickness — too much for the suit to accommodate. The air he drew into his lungs carried the heat and sulfur stench of the burner. As he looked at the troopers beginning to stand up around him, the mist on Paul’s eyes faded into darkness. He summoned up his oracular vision of these moments, then, turned and strode along the track that Time had carved for him, fitting himself into the vision so tightly that it could not escape. He felt himself grow aware of this place as a multitudinous possession, reality welded to prediction. Moans and groans of his troopers arose all around him as the men realized their blindness. “Hold fast!” Paul shouted. “Help is coming!” And, as the complaints persisted, he said: “This is Muad’dib! I command you to hold fast! Help comes!” Silence. Then, true to his vision, a nearby guardsman said: “Is it truly the Emperor? Which of you can see? Tell me.” “None of us has eyes,” Paul said. “They have taken my eyes, as well, but not my vision. I can see you standing there, a dirty wall within touching distance on your left. Now wait bravely. Stilgar comes with our friends.” The thwock-thwock of many ‘thopters grew louder all around. There was the sound of hurrying feet. Paul watched his friends come, matching their sounds to his oracular vision. “Stilgar!” Paul shouted, waving an arm. “Over here!” “Thanks to Shai-hulud,” Stilgar cried, running up to Paul. “You’re not . . . ” In the sudden silence, Paul’s vision showed him Stilgar staring with an expression of agony at the ruined eyes of his friend and Emperor. “Oh, m’ Lord,” Stilgar groaned. “Usul . . . Usul . . . Usul . . . ” “What of the stone burner?” one of the newcomers shouted. “It’s ended,” Paul said, raising his voice. He gestured. “Get up there now and rescue the ones who were closest to it. Put up barriers. Lively now!” He turned back to Stilgar. “Do you see, m’Lord?” Stilgar asked, wonder in his tone. “How can you see?” For answer, Paul put a finger out to touch Stilgar’s cheek above the stillsuit mouthcap, felt tears. “You need give no moisture to me, old friend,” Paul said. “I am not dead.” “But your eyes!” “They’ve blinded my body, but not my vision,” Paul said. “Ah, Stil, I live in an apocalyptic dream. My steps fit into it so precisely that I fear most of all I will grow bored reliving the thing so exactly.” “Usul, I don’t, I don’t . . .” “Don’t try to understand it. Accept it. I am in the world beyond this world here. For me, they are the same. I need no hand to guide me. I see every movement all around me. I see every expression of your face. I have no eyes, yet I see.” Stilgar shook his head sharply. “Sire, we must conceal your affliction from –” “We hide it from no man,” Paul said. “But the law . . . ” “We live by the Atreides Law now, Stil. The Fremen Law that the blind should be abandoned in the desert applies only to the blind. I am not blind. I live in the cycle of being where the war of good and evil has its arena. We are at a turning point in the succession of ages and we have our parts to play.” In a sudden stillness, Paul heard one of the wounded being led past him. “It was terrible,” the man groaned, “a great fury of fire.” “None of these men shall be taken into the desert,” Paul said. “You hear me, Stil?” “I hear you, m’Lord.” “They are to be fitted with new eyes at my expense.” “It will be done, m’Lord.” Paul, hearing the awe grow in Stilgar’s voice, said: “I will be at the Command ‘thopter. Take charge here.” “Yes, m’Lord.” Paul stepped around Stilgar, strode down the street. His vision told him every movement, every irregularity beneath his feet, every face he encountered. He gave orders as he moved, pointing to men of his personal entourage, calling out names, summoning to himself the ones who represented the intimate apparatus of government. He could feel the terror grow behind him, the fearful whispers. “His eyes!” “But he looked right at you, called you by name!” At the Command ‘thopter, he deactivated his personal shield, reached into the machine and took the microphone from the hand of a startled communications officer, issued a swift string of orders, thrust the microphone back into the officer’s hand. Turning, Paul summoned a weapons specialist, one of the eager and brilliant new breed who remembered sietch life only dimly. “They used a stone burner,” Paul said. After the briefest pause, the man said: “So I was told, Sire.” “You know what that means, of course.” “The fuel could only have been atomic.” Paul nodded, thinking of how this man’s mind must be racing. Atomics. The Great Convention prohibited such weapons. Discovery of the perpetrator would bring down the combined retributive assault of the Great Houses. Old feuds would be forgotten, discarded in the face of this threat and the ancient fears it aroused. “It cannot have been manufactured without leaving some traces,” Paul said. “You will assemble the proper equipment and search out the place where the stone burner was made.” “At once, Sire.” With one last fearful glance, the man sped away. “M’Lord,” the communications officer ventured from behind him. “Your eyes . . . ” Paul turned, reached into the ‘thopter, returned the command set to his personal band. “Call Chani,” he ordered. “Tell her . . . tell her I am alive and will be with her soon.” Now the forces gather, Paul thought. And he noted how strong was the smell of fear in the perspiration all around.

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Categories: Herbert, Frank