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The Dosadi Experiment, Page 2

Frank Herbert

  This thought inflicted her with a momentary sense of unfocused loss. How pervasive were the seductions of Dosadi’s power structure! How subtle! What she’d just done here introduced a flaw into the computer system which ruled the distribution of non-poisonous food in Dosadi’s only city. Food—here was the real base of Dosadi’s social pyramid, solid and ugly. The flaw removed her from a puissant niche in that pyramid. She had worn the persona of Keila Jedrik-Liaitor for many years, long enough to learn enjoyment of the power system. Losing one valuable counter in Dosadi’s endless survival game, she must now live and act only with the persona of Keila Jedrik-Warlord. This was an all-or-nothing move, a gambler’s plunge. She felt the nakedness of it. But this gamble had begun long ago, far back in Dosadi’s contrived history, when her ancestors had recognized the nature of this planet and had begun breeding and training for the individual who would take this plunge.

  I am that individual, she told herself. This is our moment.

  But had they truly assessed the problem correctly?

  Jedrik’s glance fell on the single window which looked out into the canyon street. Her own reflection stared back: a face too narrow, thin nose, eyes and mouth too large. Her hair could be an interesting black velvet helmet if she let it grow, but she kept it cropped short as a reminder that she was not a magnetic sex partner, that she must rely on her wits. That was the way she’d been bred and trained. Dosadi had taught her its cruelest lessons early. She’d grown tall while still in her teens, carrying more height in her body than in her legs so that she appeared even taller when seated. She looked down on most Gowachin and Human males in more ways than one. That was another gift (and lesson) from her loving parents and from their ancestors. There was no escaping this Dosadi lesson.

  What you love or value will be used against you.

  She leaned forward to hide her disquieting reflection, peered far down into the street. There, that was better. Her fellow Dosadis no longer were warm and pulsing people. They were reduced to distant movements, as impersonal as the dancing figures in her computer.

  Traffic was light, she noted. Very few armored vehicles moved, no pedestrians. There’d been only that one shot at her window. She still entertained a faint hope that the sniper had escaped. More likely a patrol had caught the fool. The Rim Rabble persisted in testing Chu’s defenses despite the boringly repetitive results. It was desperation. Snipers seldom waited until the day was deep and still and the patrols were scattered, those hours when even some among the most powerful ventured out.

  Symptoms, all symptoms.

  Rim sorties represented only one among many Dosadi symptoms which she’d taught herself to read in that precarious climb whose early stage came to climax in this room. It was not just a thought, but more a sense of familiar awareness to which she returned at oddly reflexive moments in her life.

  We have a disturbed relationship with our past which religion cannot explain. We are primitive in unexplainable ways, our lives woven of the familiar and the strange, the reasonable and the insane.

  It made some insane choices magnificently attractive.

  Have I made an insane choice?


  The data lay clearly in her mind, facts which she could not obliterate by turning away from them. Dosadi had been designed from a cosmic grab bag: “Give them one of these and one of these and one of these …”

  It made for incompatible pairings.

  The DemoPol with which Dosadi juggled its computer-monitored society didn’t fit a world which used energy transmitted from a satellite in geosynchronous orbit. The DemoPol reeked of primitive ignorance, something from a society which had wandered too far down the path of legalisms—a law for everything and everything managed by law. The dogma that a God-inspired few had chosen Chu’s river canyon in which to build a city insulated from this poisonous planet, and that only some twenty or so generations earlier, remained indigestible. And that energy satellite which hovered beneath the God Wall’s barrier—that stank of a long and sophisticated evolution during which something as obviously flawed as the DemoPol would have been discarded.

  It was a cosmic grab bag designed for a specific purpose which her ancestors had recognized.

  We did not evolve on this planet.

  The place was out of phase with both Gowachin and Human. Dosadi employed computer memories and physical files side by side for identical purposes. And the number of addictive substances to be found on Dosadi was outrageous. Yet this was played off against a religion so contrived, so gross in its demands for “simple faith” that the two conditions remained at constant war. The mystics died for their “new insights” while the holders of “simple faith” used control of the addictive substances to gain more and more power. The only real faith on Dosadi was that you survived by power and that you gained power by controlling what others required for survival. Their society understood the medicine of bacteria, virus and brain control, but these could not stamp out the Rim and Warren Underground where jabua faith healers cured their patients with the smoke of burning weeds.

  And they could not stamp out (not yet) Keila Jedrik because she had seen what she had seen. Two by two the incompatible things ebbed and flowed around her, in the city of Chu and the surrounding Rim. It was the same in every case: a society which made use of one of these things could not naturally be a society which used the other.

  Not naturally.

  All around her, Jedrik sensed Chu with its indigestible polarities. They had only two species: Human and Gowachin. Why two? Were there no other species in this universe? Subtle hints in some of Dosadi’s artifacts suggested an evolution for appendages other than the flexible fingers of Gowachin and Human.

  Why only one city on all of Dosadi?

  Dogma failed to answer.

  The Rim hordes huddled close, always seeking a way into Chu’s insulated purity. But they had a whole planet behind them. Granted it was a poisonous planet, but it had other rivers, other places of potential sanctuary. The survival of both species argued for the building of more sanctuaries, many more than that pitiful hole which Gar and Tria thought they masterminded. No … Chu stood alone—almost twenty kilometers wide and forty long, built on hills and silted islands where the river slowed in its deep canyon. At last count, some eighty-nine million people lived here and three times that number eked a short life on the Rim—pressing, always pressing for a place in the poison-free city.

  Give us your precious bodies, you stupid Rimmers!

  They heard the message, knew its import and defied it. What had the people of Dosadi done to be imprisoned here? What had their ancestors done? It was right to build a religion upon hate for such ancestors … provided such ancestors were guilty.

  Jedrik leaned toward the window, peered upward at the God Wall, that milky translucence which imprisoned Dosadi, yet through which those such as this Jorj X. McKie could come at will. She hungered to see McKie in person, to confirm that he had not been contaminated as Havvy had been contaminated.

  It was a McKie she required now. The transparently contrived nature of Dosadi told her that there must be a McKie. She saw herself as the huntress, McKie her natural prey. The false identity she’d built in this room was part of her bait. Now, in the season of McKie, the underlying religious cant by which Dosadi’s powerful maintained their private illusions would crumble. She could already see the beginnings of that dissolution; soon, everyone would see it.

  She took a deep breath. There was a purity in what was about to happen, a simplification. She was about to divest herself of one of her two lives, taking all of her awareness into the persona of that other Keila Jedrik which all of Dosadi would soon know. Her people had kept her secret well, hiding a fat and sleazy blonde person from their fellow Dosadis, exposing just enough of that one to “X” that the powers beyond the God Wall might react in the proper design. She felt cleansed by the fact that the disguise of that other life had begun to lose its importance. The whole of her could begin to surface
in that other place. And McKie had precipitated this metamorphosis. Jedrik’s thoughts were clear and direct now:

  Come into my trap, McKie. You will take me higher than the palace apartments of the Council Hills.

  Or into a deeper hell than any nightmare has imagined.

  How to start a war? Nurture your own latent hungers for power. Forget that only madmen pursue power for its own sake. Let such madmen gain power—even you. Let such madmen act behind their conventional masks of sanity. Whether their masks be fashioned from the delusions of defense or the theological aura of law, war will come.

  —Gowachin aphorism

  The odalarm awoke Jorj X. McKie with a whiff of lemon. For just an instant his mind played tricks on him. He thought he was on Tutalsee’s gentle planetary ocean floating softly on his garlanded island. There were lemons on his floating island, banks of Hibiscus and carpets of spicy Alyssum. His bowered cottage lay in the path of perfumed breezes and the lemon …

  Awareness came. He was not on Tutalsee with a loving companion; he was on a trained bedog in the armored efficiency of his Central Central apartment; he was back in the heart of the Bureau of Sabotage; he was back at work.

  McKie shuddered.

  A planet full of people could die today … or tomorrow.

  It would happen unless someone solved this Dosadi mystery. Knowing the Gowachin as he did, McKie was convinced of it. The Gowachin were capable of cruel decisions, especially where their species pride was at stake, or for reasons which other species might not understand. Bildoon, his Bureau chief, assessed this crisis the same way. Not since the Caleban problem had such enormity crossed the ConSentient horizon.

  But where was this endangered planet, this Dosadi?

  After a night of sleep suppression, the briefings about Dosadi came back vividly as though part of his mind had remained at work sharpening the images. Two operatives, one Wreave and one Laclac, had made the report. The two were reliable and resourceful. Their sources were excellent, although the information was sparse. The two also were bucking for promotion at a time when Wreaves and Laclacs were hinting at discrimination against their species. The report required special scrutiny. No BuSab agent, regardless of species, was above some internal testing, a deception designed to weaken the Bureau and gain coup merits upon which to ride into the director’s office.

  However, BuSab was still directed by Bildoon, a PanSpechi in Human form, the fourth member of his creche to carry that name. It had been obvious from Bildoon’s first words that he believed the report.

  “McKie, this thing could set Human and Gowachin at each others’ throats.”

  It was an understandable idiom, although in point of fact you would go for the Gowachin abdomen to carry out the same threat. McKie already had acquainted himself with the report and, from internal evidence to which his long association with the Gowachin made him sensitive, he shared Bildoon’s assessment. Seating himself in a grey chairdog across the desk from the director in the rather small, windowless office Bildoon had lately preferred, McKie shifted the report from one hand to the other. Presently, recognizing his own nervous mannerism, he put the report on the desk. It was on coded memowire which played to trained senses when passed through the fingers or across other sensitive appendages.

  “Why couldn’t they pinpoint this Dosadi’s location?” McKie asked.

  “It’s known only to a Caleban.”

  “Well, they’ll …”

  “The Calebans refuse to respond.”

  McKie stared across the desk at Bildoon. The polished surface reflected a second image of the BuSab director, an inverted image to match the upright one. McKie studied the reflection. Until you focused on Bildoon’s faceted eyes (how like an insect’s eyes they were), this PanSpechi appeared much like a Human male with dark hair and pleasant round face. Perhaps he’d put on more than the form when his flesh had been molded to Human shape. Bildoon’s face displayed emotions which McKie read in Human terms. The director appeared angry.

  McKie was troubled.


  “The Calebans don’t deny that Dosadi exists or that it’s threatened. They refuse to discuss it.”

  “Then we’re dealing with a Caleban contract and they’re obeying the terms of that contract.”

  Recalling that conversation with Bildoon as he awakened in his apartment, McKie lay quietly thinking. Was Dosadi some new extension of the Caleban Question?

  It’s right to fear what we don’t understand.

  The Caleban mystery had eluded ConSentient investigators for too long. He thought of his recent conversation with Fannie Mae. When you thought you had something pinned down, it slipped out of your grasp. Before the Calebans’ gift of jumpdoors, the ConSentiency had been a relatively slow and understandable federation of the known sentient species. The universe had contained itself in a shared space of recognizable dimensions. The ConSentiency of those days had grown in a way likened to expanding bubbles. It had been linear.

  Caleban jumpdoors had changed that with an explosive acceleration of every aspect of life. Jumpdoors had been an immediately disruptive tool of power. They implied infinite usable dimensions. They implied many other things only faintly understood. Through a jumpdoor you stepped from a room on Tutalsee into a hallway here on Central Central. You walked through a jumpdoor here and found yourself in a garden on Paginui. The intervening “normal space” might be measured in light years or parsecs, but the passage from one place to the other ignored such old concepts. And to this day, ConSentient investigators did not understand how the jumpdoors worked. Concepts such as “relative space” didn’t explain the phenomenon; they only added to the mystery.

  McKie ground his teeth in frustration. Calebans inevitably did that to him. What good did it do to think of the Calebans as visible stars in the space his body occupied? He could look up from any planet where a jumpdoor deposited him and examine the night sky. Visible stars: ah, yes. Those are Calebans. What did that tell him?

  There was a strongly defended theory that Calebans were but a more sophisticated aspect of the equally mysterious Taprisiots. The ConSentiency had accepted and employed Taprisiots for thousands of standard years. A Taprisiot presented sentient form and size. They appeared to be short lengths of tree trunk cut off at top and bottom and with oddly protruding stub limbs. When you touched them they were warm and resilient. They were fellow beings of the ConSentiency. But just as the Calebans took your flesh across the parsecs, Taprisiots took your awareness across those same parsecs to merge you with another mind.

  Taprisiots were a communications device.

  But current theory said Taprisiots had been introduced to prepare the ConSentiency for Calebans.

  It was dangerous to think of Taprisiots as merely a convenient means of communication. Equally dangerous to think of Calebans as “transportation facilitators.” Look at the socially disruptive effect of jumpdoors! And when you employed a Taprisiot, you had a constant reminder of danger: the communications trance which reduced you to a twitching zombie while you made your call. No … neither Calebans nor Taprisiots should be accepted without question.

  With the possible exception of the PanSpechi, no other species knew the first thing about Caleban and Taprisiot phenomena beyond their economic and personal value. They were, indeed, valuable, a fact reflected in the prices often paid for jumpdoor and long-call services. The PanSpechi denied that they could explain these things, but the PanSpechi were notoriously secretive. They were a species where each individual consisted of five bodies and only one dominant ego. The four reserves lay somewhere in a hidden creche. Bildoon had come from such a creche, accepting the communal ego from a creche-mate whose subsequent fate could only be imagined. PanSpechi refused to discuss internal creche matters except to admit what was obvious on the surface: that they could grow a simulacrum body to mimic most of the known species in the ConSentiency.

  McKie felt himself overcome by a momentary pang of xenophobia.

accept too damned many things on the explanations of people who could have good reasons for lying.

  Keeping his eyes closed, McKie sat up. His bedog rippled gently against his buttocks.

  Blast and damn the Calebans! Damn Fannie Mae!

  He’d already called Fannie Mae, asking about Dosadi. The result had left him wondering if he really knew what Calebans meant by friendship.

  “Information not permitted.”

  What kind of an answer was that? Especially when it was the only response he could get.

  Not permitted?

  The basic irritant was an old one: BuSab had no real way of applying its “gentle ministrations” to the Calebans.

  But Calebans had never been known to lie. They appeared painfully, explicitly honest … as far as they could be understood. But they obviously withheld information. Not permitted! Was it possible they’d let themselves be accessories to the destruction of a planet and that planet’s entire population?

  McKie had to admit it was possible.

  They might do it out of ignorance or from some stricture of Caleban morality which the rest of the ConSentiency did not share or understand. Or for some other reason which defied translation. They said they looked upon all life as “precious nodes of existence.” But hints at peculiar exceptions remained. What was it Fannie Mae had once said?