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Dune dc-1, Page 2

Frank Herbert

  “But the pain—” he said.

  “Pain,” she sniffed. “A human can override any nerve in the body.”

  Paul felt his left hand aching, uncurled the clenched fingers, looked at four bloody marks where fingernails had bitten his palm. He dropped the hand to his side, looked at the old woman. “You did that to my mother once?”

  “Ever sift sand through a screen?” she asked.

  The tangential slash of her question shocked his mind into a higher awareness: Sand through a screen. He nodded.

  “We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.”

  He lifted his right hand, willing the memory of the pain. “And that’s all there is to it—pain?”

  “I observed you in pain, lad. Pain’s merely the axis of the test. Your mother’s told you about our ways of observing. I see the signs of her teaching in you. Our test is crisis and observation.”

  He heard the confirmation in her voice, said: “It’s truth!”

  She stared at him. He senses truth! Could he be the one? Could he truly be the one? She extinguished the excitement, reminding herself: “Hope clouds observation.”

  “You know when people believe what they say,” she said.

  “I know it.”

  The harmonics of ability confirmed by repeated test were in his voice. She heard them, said: “Perhaps you are the Kwisatz Haderach. Sit down, little brother, here at my feet.”

  “I prefer to stand.”

  “Your mother sat at my feet once.”

  “I’m not my mother.”

  “You hate us a little, eh?” She looked toward the door, called out: “Jessica!”

  The door flew open and Jessica stood there staring hard-eyed into the room. Hardness melted from her as she saw Paul. She managed a faint smile.

  “Jessica, have you ever stopped hating me?” the old woman asked.

  “I both love and hate you,” Jessica said. “The hate—that’s from pains I must never forget. The love—that’s….”

  “Just the basic fact,” the old woman said, but her voice was gentle. “You may come in now, but remain silent. Close that door and mind it that no one interrupts us.”

  Jessica stepped into the room, closed the door and stood with her back to it. My son lives, she thought. My son lives and is… human. I knew he was … but … he lives. Now, I can go on living. The door felt hard and real against her back. Everything in the room was immediate and pressing against her senses.

  My son lives.

  Paul looked at his mother. She told the truth. He wanted to get away alone and think this experience through, but knew he could not leave until he was dismissed. The old woman had gained a power over him. They spoke truth. His mother had undergone this test. There must be terrible purpose in it … the pain and fear had been terrible. He understood terrible purposes. They drove against all odds. They were their own necessity. Paul felt that he had been infected with terrible purpose. He did not know yet what the terrible purpose was.

  “Some day, lad,” the old woman said, “you, too, may have to stand outside a door like that. It takes a measure of doing.”

  Paul looked down at the hand that had known pain, then up to the Reverend Mother. The sound of her voice had contained a difference then from any other voice in his experience. The words were outlined in brilliance. There was an edge to them. He felt that any question he might ask her would bring an answer that could lift him out of his flesh-world into something greater.

  “Why do you test for humans?” he asked.

  “To set you free.”


  “Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”

  “ ‘Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind,’ ” Paul quoted.

  “Right out of the Butlerian Jihad and the Orange Catholic Bible,” she said. “But what the O.C. Bible should’ve said is: ‘Thou shalt not make a machine to counterfeit a human mind.’ Have you studied the Mentat in your service?”

  “I’ve studied with Thufir Hawat.”

  “The Great Revolt took away a crutch,” she said. “It forced human minds to develop. Schools were started to train human talents.”

  “Bene Gesserit schools?”

  She nodded. “We have two chief survivors of those ancient schools: the Bene Gesserit and the Spacing Guild. The Guild, so we think, emphasizes almost pure mathematics. Bene Gesserit performs another function.”

  “Politics,” he said.

  “Kull wahad!” the old woman said. She sent a hard glance at Jessica.

  “I’ve not told him, Your Reverence,” Jessica said.

  The Reverend Mother returned her attention to Paul. “You did that on remarkably few clues,” she said. “Politics indeed. The original Bene Gesserit school was directed by those who saw the need of a thread of continuity in human affairs. They saw there could be no such continuity without separating human stock from animal stock—for breeding purposes.”

  The old woman’s words abruptly lost their special sharpness for Paul. He felt an offense against what his mother called his instinct for rightness. It wasn’t that Reverend Mother lied to him. She obviously believed what she said. It was something deeper, something tied to his terrible purpose.

  He said: “But my mother tells me many Bene Gesserit of the schools don’t know their ancestry.”

  “The genetic lines are always in our records,” she said. “Your mother knows that either she’s of Bene Gesserit descent or her stock was acceptable in itself.”

  “Then why couldn’t she know who her parents are?”

  “Some do…. Many don’t. We might, for example, have wanted to breed her to a close relative to set up a dominant in some genetic trait. We have many reasons.”

  Again, Paul felt the offense against rightness. He said: “You take a lot on yourselves.”

  The Reverend Mother stared at him, wondering: Did I hear criticism in his voice? “We carry a heavy burden,” she said.

  Paul felt himself coming more and more out of the shock of the test. He leveled a measuring stare at her, said: “You say maybe I’m the … Kwisatz Haderach. What’s that, a human gom jabbar?”

  “Paul,” Jessica said. “You mustn’t take that tone with—”

  “I’ll handle this, Jessica,” the old woman said. “Now, lad, do you know about the Truthsayer drug?”

  “You take it to improve your ability to detect falsehood,” he said. “My mother’s told me.”

  “Have you ever seen truthtrance?”

  He shook his head. “No.”

  “The drug’s dangerous,” she said, “but it gives insight. When a Truthsayer’s gifted by the drug, she can look many places in her memory—in her body’s memory. We look down so many avenues of the past … but only feminine avenues.” Her voice took on a note of sadness. “Yet, there’s a place where no Truthsayer can see. We are repelled by it, terrorized. It is said a man will come one day and find in the gift of the drug his inward eye. He will look where we cannot—into both feminine and masculine pasts.”

  “Your Kwisatz Haderach?”

  “Yes, the one who can be many places at once: the Kwisatz Haderach. Many men have tried the drug … so many, but none has succeeded.”

  “They tried and failed, all of them?”

  “Oh, no.” She shook her head. “They tried and died.”


  To attempt an understanding of Muad‘Dib without understanding his mortal enemies, the Harkonnens, is to attempt seeing Truth without knowing Falsehood. It is the attempt to see the Light without knowing Darkness. It can not be.

  —from“Manual of Muad’Dib” by the Princess Irulan

  IT WAS A relief globe of a world, partly in shadows, spinning under the impetus of a fat hand that glittered with rings. The globe sat on a freeform stand at one wall of a windowless room whose other walls presented a patchwork of multicolored scroll
s, filmbooks, tapes and reels. Light glowed in the room from golden balls hanging in mobile suspensor fields.

  An ellipsoid desk with a top of jade-pink petrified elacca wood stood at the center of the room. Veriform suspensor chairs ringed it, two of them occupied. In one sat a dark-haired youth of about sixteen years, round of face and with sullen eyes. The other held a slender, short man with effeminate face.

  Both youth and man stared at the globe and the man half-hidden in shadows spinning it.

  A chuckle sounded beside the globe. A basso voice rumbled out of the chuckle: “There it is, Piter—the biggest mantrap in all history. And the Duke’s headed into its jaws. Is it not a magnificent thing that I, the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, do?”

  “Assuredly, Baron,” said the man. His voice came out tenor with a sweet, musical quality.

  The fat hand descended onto the globe, stopped the spinning. Now, all eyes in the room could focus on the motionless surface and see that it was the kind of globe made for wealthy collectors or planetary governors of the Empire. It had the stamp of Imperial handicraft about it. Latitude and longitude lines were laid in with hair-fine platinum wire. The polar caps were insets of finest cloudmilk diamonds.

  The fat hand moved, tracing details on the surface. “I invite you to observe,” the basso voice rumbled. “Observe closely, Piter, and you, too, Feyd-Rautha, my darling: from sixty degrees north to seventy degrees south—these exquisite ripples. Their coloring: does it not remind you of sweet caramels? And nowhere do you see blue of lakes or rivers or seas. And these lovely polar caps—so small. Could anyone mistake this place? Arrakis! Truly unique. A superb setting for a unique victory.”

  A smile touched Piter’s lips. “And to think, Baron: the Padishah Emperor believes he’s given the Duke your spice planet. How poignant.”

  “That’s a nonsensical statement,” the Baron rumbled. “You say this to confuse young Feyd-Rautha, but it is not necessary to confuse my nephew.”

  The sullen-faced youth stirred in his chair, smoothed a wrinkle in the black leotards he wore. He sat upright as a discreet tapping sounded at the door in the wall behind him.

  Piter unfolded from his chair, crossed to the door, cracked it wide enough to accept a message cylinder. He closed the door, unrolled the cylinder and scanned it. A chuckle sounded from him. Another.

  “Well?” the Baron demanded.

  “The fool answered us, Baron!”

  “Whenever did an Atreides refuse the opportunity for a gesture?” the Baron asked. “Well, what does he say?”

  “He’s most uncouth, Baron. Addresses you as ‘Harkonnen’-no ‘Sire et Cher Cousin,’ no title, nothing.”

  “It’s a good name,” the Baron growled, and his voice betrayed his impatience. “What does dear Leto say?”

  “He says: ‘Your offer of a meeting is refused. I have ofttimes met your treachery and this all men know.’ ”

  “And?” the Baron asked.

  “He says: ‘The art of kanly still has admirers in the Empire.’ He signs it: ‘Duke Leto of Arrakis.’ ” Piter began to laugh. “Of Arrakis! Oh, my! This is almost too rich!”

  “Be silent, Piter,” the Baron said, and the laughter stopped as though shut off with a switch. “Kanly, is it?” the Baron asked. “Vendetta, heh? And he uses the nice old word so rich in tradition to be sure I know he means it.”

  “You made the peace gesture,” Piter said. “The forms have been obeyed.”

  “For a Mentat, you talk too much, Piter,” the Baron said. And he thought: I must do away with that one soon. He has almost outlived his usefulness. The Baron stared across the room at his Mentat assassin, seeing the feature about him that most people noticed first: the eyes, the shaded slits of blue within blue, the eyes without any white in them at all.

  A grin flashed across Piter’s face. It was like a mask grimace beneath those eyes like holes. “But, Baron! Never has revenge been more beautiful. It is to see a plan of the most exquisite treachery: to make Leto exchange Caladan for Dune—and without alternative because the Emperor orders it. How waggish of you!”

  In a cold voice, the Baron said: “You have a flux of the mouth, Piter.”

  “But I am happy, my Baron. Whereas you … you are touched by jealousy.”


  “Ah-ah, Baron! Is it not regrettable you were unable to devise this delicious scheme by yourself?”

  “Someday I will have you strangled, Piter.”

  “Of a certainty, Baron. Enfin! But a kind act is never lost, eh?”

  “Have you been chewing verite or semuta, Piter?”

  “Truth without fear surprises the Baron,” Piter said. His face drew down into a caricature of a frowning mask. “Ah, hah! But you see, Baron, I know as a Mentat when you will send the executioner. You will hold back just so long as I am useful. To move sooner would be wasteful and I’m yet of much use. I know what it is you learned from that lovely Dune planet—waste not. True, Baron?”

  The Baron continued to stare at Piter.

  Feyd-Rautha squirmed in his chair. These wrangling fools! he thought. My uncle cannot talk to his Mentat without arguing. Do they think I’ve nothing to do except listen to their arguments?

  “Feyd,” the Baron said. “I told you to listen and learn when I invited you in here. Are you learning?”

  “Yes, Uncle.” the voice was carefully subservient.

  “Sometimes I wonder about Piter,” the Baron said. “I cause pain out of necessity, but he … I swear he takes a positive delight in it. For myself, I can feel pity toward the poor Duke Leto. Dr. Yueh will move against him soon, and that’ll be the end of all the Atreides. But surely Leto will know whose hand directed the pliant doctor … and knowing that will be a terrible thing.”

  “Then why haven’t you directed the doctor to slip a kindjal between his ribs quietly and efficiently?” Piter asked. “You talk of pity, but—”

  “The Duke must know when I encompass his doom,” the Baron said. “And the other Great Houses must learn of it. The knowledge will give them pause. I’ll gain a bit more room to maneuver. The necessity is obvious, but I don’t have to like it.”

  “Room to maneuver,” Piter sneered. “Already you have the Emperor’s eyes on you, Baron. You move too boldly. One day the Emperor will send a legion or two of his Sardaukar down here onto Giedi Prime and that’ll be an end to the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.”

  “You’d like to see that, wouldn’t you, Piter?” the Baron asked. “You’d enjoy seeing the Corps of Sardaukar pillage through my cities and sack this castle. You’d truly enjoy that.”

  “Does the Baron need to ask?” Piter whispered.

  “You should’ve been a Bashar of the Corps,” the Baron said. “You’re too interested in blood and pain. Perhaps I was too quick with my promise of the spoils of Arrakis.”

  Piter took five curiously mincing steps into the room, stopped directly behind Feyd-Rautha. There was a tight air of tension in the room, and the youth looked up at Piter with a worried frown.

  “Do not toy with Piter, Baron,” Piter said. “You promised me the Lady Jessica. You promised her to me.”

  “For what, Piter?” the Baron asked. “For pain?”

  Piter stared at him, dragging out the silence.

  Feyd-Rautha moved his suspensor chair to one side, said: “Uncle, do I have to stay? You said you’d—”

  “My darling Feyd-Rautha grows impatient,” the Baron said. He moved within the shadows beside the globe. “Patience, Feyd.” And he turned his attention back to the Mentat. “What of the Dukeling, the child Paul, my dear Piter?”

  “The trap will bring him to you, Baron,” Piter muttered.

  “That’s not my question,” the Baron said. “You’ll recall that you predicted the Bene Gesserit witch would bear a daughter to the Duke. You were wrong, eh, Mentat?”

  “I’m not often wrong, Baron,” Piter said, and for the first time there was fear in his voice. “Give me that: I’m not often wrong. And you kno
w yourself these Bene Gesserit bear mostly daughters. Even the Emperor’s consort had produced only females.”

  “Uncle,” said Feyd-Rautha, “you said there’d be something important here for me to—”

  “Listen to my nephew,” the Baron said. “He aspires to rule my Barony, yet he cannot rule himself.” The Baron stirred beside the globe, a shadow among shadows. “Well then, Feyd-Rautha Harkonne, I summoned you here hoping to teach you a bit of wisdom. Have you observed our good Mentat? You should’ve learned something from this exchange.”

  “But, Uncle—”

  “A most efficient Mentat, Piter, wouldn’t you say, Feyd?”

  “Yes, but—”

  “Ah! Indeed but! But he consumes too much spice, eats it like candy. Look at his eyes! He might’ve come directly from the Arrakeen labor pool. Efficient, Piter, but he’s still emotional and prone to passionate outbursts. Efficient, Piter, but he still can err.”

  Piter spoke in a low, sullen tone: “Did you call me in here to impair my efficiency with criticism, Baron?”

  “Impair your efficiency? You know me better, Piter. I wish only for my nephew to understand the limitations of a Mentat.”

  “Are you already training my replacement?” Piter demanded.

  “Replace you? Why, Piter, where could I find another Mentat with your cunning and venom?”

  “The same place you found me, Baron.”

  “Perhaps I should at that,” the Baron mused. “You do seem a bit unstable lately. And the spice you eat!”

  “Are my pleasures too expensive, Baron? Do you object to them?”

  “My dear Piter, your pleasures are what tie you to me. How could I object to that? I merely wish my nephew to observe this about you.”

  “Then I’m on display,” Piter said. “Shall I dance? Shall I perform my various functions for the eminent Feyd-Rau—”

  “Precisely,” the Baron said. “You are on display. Now, be silent.” He glanced at Feyd-Rautha, noting his nephew’s lips, the full and pouting look of them, the Harkonnen genetic marker, now twisted slightly in amusement. “This is a Mentat, Feyd. It has been trained and conditioned to perform certain duties. The fact that it’s encased in a human body, however, must not be overlooked. A serious drawback, that. I sometimes think the ancients with their thinking machines had the right idea.”