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Heretics of Dune, Page 2

Frank Herbert

  "Think of the cost!" Schwangyu said, glaring down at the ghola, who now squatted, pulling at tufts of grass.

  Cost had nothing to do with it, Lucilla knew. The open admission of failure was much more important. The Sisterhood could not reveal its fallibility. But the fact that an Imprinter had been summoned early--that was vital. Taraza had known the Imprinter would see this and recognize part of the pattern.

  Schwangyu gestured with one bony hand at the child, who had returned to his solitary play, running and tumbling on the grass.

  "Politics," Schwangyu said.

  No doubt Sisterhood politics lay at the core of Schwangyu's heresy, Lucilla thought. The delicacy of the internal argument could be deduced from the fact that Schwangyu had been put in charge of the Keep here on Gammu. Those who opposed Taraza refused to sit on the sidelines.

  Schwangyu turned and looked squarely at Lucilla. Enough had been said. Enough had been heard and screened through minds trained in Bene Gesserit awareness. The Chapter House had chosen this Lucilla with great care.

  Lucilla felt the older woman's careful examination but refused to let this touch that innermost sense of purpose upon which every Reverend Mother could rely in times of stress. Here. Let her look fully upon me. Lucilla turned and set her mouth in a soft smile, passing her gaze across the rooftop opposite them.

  A uniformed man armed with a heavy-duty lasgun appeared there, looked once at the two Reverend Mothers and then focused on the child below them.

  "Who is that?" Lucilla asked

  "Patrin, the Bashar's most trusted aide. Says he's only the Bashar's batman but you'd have to be blind and a fool to believe that. "

  Lucilla examined the man across from them with care. So that was Patrin. A native of Gammu, Taraza had said. Chosen for this task by the Bashar himself. Thin and blond, much too old now to be soldiering, but then the Bashar had been called back from retirement and had insisted Patrin must share this duty.

  Schwangyu noted the way Lucilla shifted her attention from Patrin to the ghola with real concern. Yes, if the Bashar had been called back to guard this Keep, then the ghola was in extreme peril.

  Lucilla started in sudden surprise. "Why ... he's ... "

  "Miles Teg's orders," Schwangyu said, naming the Bashar. "All of the ghola's play is training play. Muscles are to be prepared for the day when he is restored to his original self."

  "But that's no simple exercise he's doing down there," Lucilla said. She felt her own muscles respond sympathetically to the remembered training.

  "We hold back only the Sisterhood's arcana from this ghola," Schwangyu said. "Almost anything else in our storehouse of knowledge can be his." Her tone said she found this extremely objectionable.

  "Surely, no one believes this ghola could become another Kwisatz Haderach," Lucilla objected.

  Schwangyu merely shrugged.

  Lucilla held herself quite still, thinking. Was it possible the ghola could be transformed into a male version of a Reverend Mother? Could this Duncan Idaho learn to look inward where no Reverend Mother dared?

  Schwangyu began to speak, her voice almost a growling mutter: "The design of this project ... they have a dangerous plan. They could make the same mistake ... " She broke off.

  They, Lucilla thought. Their ghola.

  "I would give anything to know for sure the position of Ix and the Fish Speakers in this," Lucilla said.

  "Fish Speakers!" Schwangyu shook her head at the very thought of the remnant female army that had once served only the Tyrant. "They believe in truth and justice."

  Lucilla overcame a sudden tightness in her throat. Schwangyu had all but declared open opposition. Yet, she commanded here. The political rule was a simple one: Those who opposed the project must monitor it that they might abort it at the first sign of trouble. But that was a genuine Duncan Idaho ghola down there on the lawn. Cell comparisons and Truthsayers had confirmed it.

  Taraza had said: "You are to teach him love in all of its forms."

  "He's so young," Lucilla said, keeping her attention on the ghola.

  "Young, yes," Schwangyu said. "So, for now, I presume you will awaken his childish responses to maternal affection. Later ... " Schwangyu shrugged.

  Lucilla betrayed no emotional reaction. A Bene Gesserit obeyed. I am an Imprinter. So ... Taraza's orders and the Imprinter's specialized training defined a particular course of events.

  To Schwangyu, Lucilla said: "There is someone who looks like me and speaks with my voice. I am Imprinting for her. May I ask who that is?"


  Lucilla held her silence. She had not expected revelation but it had been remarked more than once that she bore a striking resemblance to Senior Security Mother Darwi Odrade. "A young Odrade." Lucilla had heard this on several occasions. Both Lucilla and Odrade were, of course, in the Atreides line with a strong backbreeding from Siona descendants. The Fish Speakers had no monopoly on those genes! But the Other Memories of a Reverend Mother, even with their linear selectivity and confinement to the female side, provided important clues to the broad shape of the ghola project. Lucilla, who had come to depend on her experiences of the Jessica persona buried some five thousand years back in the Sisterhood's genetic manipulations, felt a deep sense of dread from that source now. There was a familiar pattern here. It gave off such an intense feeling of doom that Lucilla fell automatically into the Litany Against Fear as she had been taught it in her first introduction to the Sisterhood's rites:

  "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 permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

  Calm returned to Lucilla.

  Schwangyu, sensing some of this, allowed her guard to drop slightly. Lucilla was no dullard, no special Reverend Mother with an empty title and barely sufficient background to function without embarrassing the Sisterhood. Lucilla was the real thing and some reactions could not be hidden from her, not even reactions of another Reverend Mother. Very well, let her know the full extent of the opposition to this foolish, this dangerous project!

  "I do not think their ghola will survive to see Rakis," Schwangyu said.

  Lucilla let this pass. "Tell me about his friends," she said.

  "He has no friends; only teachers."

  "When will I meet them?" She kept her gaze on the opposite parapet where Patrin leaned idly against a low pillar, his heavy lasgun at the ready. Lucilla realized with an abrupt shock that Patrin was watching her. Patrin was a message from the Bashar! Schwangyu obviously saw and understood. We guard him!

  "I presume it's Miles Teg you're so anxious to meet," Schwangyu said.

  "Among others."

  "Don't you want to make contact with the ghola first?"

  "I've already made contact with him." Lucilla nodded toward the enclosed yard where the child once more stood almost motionless and looking up at her. "He's a thoughtful one."

  "I've only the reports on the others," Schwangyu said, "but I suspect this is the most thoughtful one of the series."

  Lucilla suppressed an involuntary shudder at the readiness for violent opposition in Schwangyu's words and attitude. There was not one hint that the child below them shared a common humanity.

  While Lucilla was thinking this, clouds covered the sun as they often did here at this hour. A cold wind blew in over the Keep's walls, swirling around the courtyard. The child turned away and picked up the speed of his exercises, getting his warmth from increased activity.

  "Where does he go to be alone?" Lucilla asked.

  "Mostly to his room. He has tried a few dangerous escapades, but we have discouraged this."

  "He must hate us very much."

  "I'm sure of it."

  "I will have to deal with that directly."

  "Surely, an Imprinter has no doubts about her ability to overcome hate."
r />   "I was thinking of Geasa." Lucilla sent a knowing look at Schwangyu. "I find it astonishing that you let Geasa make such a mistake."

  "I don't interfere with the normal progress of the ghola's instructions. If one of his teachers develops a real affection for him, that is not my problem."

  "An attractive child," Lucilla said.

  They stood a bit longer watching the Duncan Idaho ghola at his training-play. Both Reverend Mothers thought briefly of Geasa, one of the first teachers brought here for the ghola project. Schwangyu's attitude was plain: Geasa was a providential failure. Lucilla thought only: Schwangyu and Geasa complicated my task. Neither woman gave even a passing moment to the way these thoughts reaffirmed their loyalties.

  As she watched the child in the courtyard, Lucilla began to have a new appreciation of what the Tyrant God Emperor had actually achieved. Leto II had employed this ghola-type through uncounted lifetimes--some thirty-five hundred years of them, one after another. And the God Emperor Leto II had been no ordinary force of nature. He had been the biggest juggernaut in human history, rolling over everything: over social systems, over natural and unnatural hatreds, over governmental forms, over rituals (both taboo and mandatory), over religions casual and religions intense. The crushing weight of the Tyrant's passage had left nothing unmarked, not even the Bene Gesserit.

  Leto II had called it "The Golden Path" and this Duncan Idaho-type ghola below her now had figured prominently in that awesome passage. Lucilla had studied the Bene Gesserit accounts, probably the best in the universe. Even today on most of the old Imperial Planets, newly married couples still scattered dollops of water east and west, mouthing the local version of "Let Thy blessings flow back to us from this offering, O God of Infinite Power and Infinite Mercy."

  Once, it had been the task of Fish Speakers and their tame priesthood to enforce such obeisance. But the thing had developed its own momentum, becoming a pervasive compulsion. Even the most doubting of believers said: "Well, it can do no harm." It was an accomplishment that the finest religious engineers of the Bene Gesserit Missionaria Protectiva admired with frustrated awe. The Tyrant had surpassed the Bene Gesserit best. And fifteen hundred years since the Tyrant's death, the Sisterhood remained powerless to unlock the central knot of that fearsome accomplishment.

  "Who has charge of the child's religious training?" Lucilla asked.

  "No one," Schwangyu said. "Why bother? If he is reawakened to his original memories, he will have his own ideas. We will deal with those if we ever have to."

  The child below them completed his allotted training time. Without another look up at the watchers on the parapet, he left the enclosed yard and entered a wide doorway on the left. Patrin, too, abandoned his guard position without glancing at the two Reverend Mothers.

  "Don't be fooled by Teg's people," Schwangyu said. "They have eyes in the backs of their heads. Teg's birth-mother, you know, was one of us. He is teaching that ghola things better never shared!"

  Explosions are also compressions of time. Observable changes in the natural universe all are explosive to some degree and from some point of view; otherwise you would not notice them. Smooth Continuity of change, if slowed sufficiently, goes without notice by observers whose time/attention span is too short. Thus, I tell you, I have seen changes you would never have marked.

  --Leto II

  The woman standing in Chapter House Planet's morning light across the table from the Reverend Mother Superior Alma Mavis Taraza was tall and supple. The long aba robe that encased her in shimmering black from shoulders to floor did not completely conceal the grace with which her body expressed every movement.

  Taraza leaned forward in her chairdog and scanned the Records Relay projecting its condensed Bene Gesserit glyphs above the tabletop for her eyes only.

  "Darwi Odrade," the display identified the standing woman, and then came the essential biography, which Taraza already knew in detail. The display served several purposes--it provided a secure reminder for the Mother Superior, it allowed an occasional delay for thought while she appeared to scan the records, and it was a final argument should something negative arise from this interview.

  Odrade had borne nineteen children for the Bene Gesserit, Taraza observed as the information scrolled past her eyes. Each child by a different father. Not much unusual about that, but even the most searching gaze could see that this essential service to the Sisterhood had not grossened Odrade's flesh. Her features conveyed a natural hauteur in the long nose and the complementary angular cheeks. Every feature focused downward to a narrow chin. Her mouth, though, was full and promised a passion that she was careful to bridle.

  We can always depend on the Atreides genes, Taraza thought.

  A window curtain fluttered behind Odrade and she glanced back at it. They were in Taraza's morning room, a small and elegantly furnished space decorated in shades of green. Only the stark white of Taraza's chairdog separated her from the background. The room's bow windows looked eastward onto garden and lawn with faraway snowy mountains of Chapter House Planet as backdrop.

  Without looking up, Taraza said: "I was glad when both you and Lucilla accepted the assignment. It makes my task much easier."

  "I would like to have met this Lucilla," Odrade said, looking down at the top of Taraza's head. Odrade's voice came out a soft contralto.

  Taraza cleared her throat. "No need. Lucilla is one of our finest Imprinters. Each of you, of course, received the identical liberal conditioning to prepare you for this."

  There was something almost insulting in Taraza's casual tone and only the habits of long association put down Odrade's immediate resentment. It was partly that word "liberal," she realized. Atreides ancestors rose up in rebellion at the word. It was as though her accumulated female memories lashed out at the unconscious assumptions and unexamined prejudices behind the concept.

  "Only liberals really think. Only liberals are intellectual. Only liberals understand the needs of their fellows."

  How much viciousness lay concealed in that word! Odrade thought. How much secret ego demanding to feel superior.

  Odrade reminded herself that Taraza, despite the casually insulting tone, had used the term only in its catholic sense: Lucilla's generalized education had been carefully matched to that of Odrade.

  Taraza leaned back into a more comfortable position but still kept her attention on the display in front of her. The light from the eastern windows fell directly on her face, leaving shadows beneath nose and chin. A small woman just a bit older than Odrade, Taraza retained much of the beauty that had made her a most reliable breeder with difficult sires. Her face was a long oval with soft curved cheeks. She wore her black hair drawn back tightly from a high forehead with a pronounced peak. Taraza's mouth opened minimally when she spoke: superb control of movement. An observer's attention tended to focus on her eyes: that compelling blue-in-blue. The total effect was of a suave facial mask from which little escaped to betray her true emotions.

  Odrade recognized this present pose in the Mother Superior. Taraza would mutter to herself presently. Indeed, right on cue, Taraza muttered to herself.

  The Mother Superior was thinking while she followed the biographical display with great attention. Many matters occupied her attention.

  This was a reassuring thought to Odrade. Taraza did not believe there was any such thing as a beneficent power guarding humankind. The Missionaria Protectiva and the intentions of the Sisterhood counted for everything in Taraza's universe. Whatever served those intentions, even the machinations of the long-dead Tyrant, could be judged good. All else was evil. Alien intrusions from the Scattering--especially those returning descendants who called themselves "Honored Matres"--were not to be trusted. Taraza's own people, even those Reverend Mothers who opposed her in Council, were the ultimate Bene Gesserit resource, the only thing that could be trusted.

  Still without looking up, Taraza said: "Do you know that when you compare the millennia preceding the Tyrant with those afte
r his death, the decrease in major conflicts is phenomenal. Since the Tyrant, the number of such conflicts has dropped to less than two percent of what it was before."

  "As far as we know," Odrade said.

  Taraza's gaze flicked upward and then down. "What?"

  "We have no way of telling how many wars have been fought outside our ken. Have you statistics from the people of the Scattering?"

  "Of course not!"

  "Leto tamed us is what you're saying," Odrade said.

  "If you care to put it that way." Taraza inserted a marker in something she saw on her display.

  "Shouldn't some of the credit go to our beloved Bashar Miles Teg?" Odrade asked. "Or to his talented predecessors?"

  "We chose those people," Taraza said.

  "I don't see the pertinence of this martial discussion," Odrade said. "What does it have to do with our present problem?"

  "There are some who think we may revert to the pre-Tyrant condition with a very nasty bang."

  "Oh?" Odrade pursed her lips.

  "Several groups among our returning Lost Ones are selling arms to anyone who wants to or can buy."

  "Specifics?" Odrade asked.

  "Sophisticated arms are flooding onto Gammu and there can be little doubt the Tleilaxu are stockpiling some of the nastier weapons."

  Taraza leaned back and rubbed her temples. She spoke in a low, almost musing voice. "We think we make decisions of the greatest moment and out of the very highest principles."

  Odrade had seen this before, too. She said: "Does the Mother Superior doubt the rightness of the Bene Gesserit?"

  "Doubt? Oh, no. But I do experience frustration. We work all of our lives for these highly refined goals and in the end, what do we find? We find that many of the things to which we have dedicated our lives came from petty decisions. They can be traced to desires for personal comfort or convenience and had nothing at all to do with our high ideals. What really was at stake was some worldly working agreement that satisfied the needs of those who could make the decisions."

  "I've heard you call that political necessity," Odrade said.

  Taraza spoke with tight control while returning her attention to the display in front of her. "If we become institutionalized in our judgments, that's a sure way to extinguish the Bene Gesserit."